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Lindzen Illusion #3 and Christy Crock #5: Opposing Climate Solutions

Posted on 3 May 2011 by dana1981

Christy Crocks (200 x 70 pixels)Recently, "skeptic" climate scientist John Christy testified before U.S. Congress, and both Christy and fellow "skeptic" Richard Lindzen have been interviewed on an Australian radio talk show regarding the country's proposed carbon tax. 

In each situation, these two scientists spoke out against efforts to address climate change by reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Tragedy of the Commons Once Again

Their main argument seems to be becoming a favorite amongst "skeptics": "CO2 limits will make little difference."  In his radio interview, Christy applied the argument to California (which is attempting to implement a carbon cap and trade system), Australia (with the aforementioned proposed carbon tax), and in his congressional testimony, to the USA:

"We’re talking about less than a hundredth of a degree [if California cuts emissions by 26% by 2016]. It’s just so miniscule; I mean the global temperature changes by more than that from day to day. So this is what we call in Alabama “spitting in the ocean”."

"On the climate front, [Australia cutting its emissions by 5% by 2020] will be imperceptible or minuscule compared to what the rest of the world is doing."

"you're looking at most at a tenth of a degree [reduction in global temperature] after 100 years [if USA imposes CO2 limits]"

Lindzen attempted to apply the argument globally:

"The evidence is pretty good that even if everyone [cut emissions] in the whole world it wouldn't make a lot of difference."

We have previously addressed this argument as applied to Australia by Chris Monckton and David Evans, and applied to the USA by David Montgomery.  However, given that the USA is the largest historical CO2 emitter, the second-largest current emitter, and high on the list in terms of per capita emissions, it may be worthwhile to evaluate these claims.  Let's run the numbers using CO2 emissions data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration

Current global CO2 emissions total approximately 30 billion tons (Gt) per year, with the USA contributing approximately 20% (5.8 Gt per year).  US emissions have risen approximately 15% since 1990, so let's assume in a business as usual scenario, they will continue to rise at that rate.  In this case, total US CO2 emissions between now and 2050 will total approximately 275 Gt.  The IPCC projects that in business as usual, global CO2 emissions will total approximately 2,200 Gt over that period.

If the USA were to follow through with proposals to reduce CO2 emissions 83% below 2005 levels by 2050, the result would roughly cut the country's emissions over that period in half, to 140 Gt, reducing global emissions to approximately 2,060 Gt.

Approximately 55% of human CO2 emissions currently remain airborne (the remainder is absorbed by carbon sinks), and each 7.8 Gt CO2 emitted corresponds to roughly 1 part per million by volume (ppmv) increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration.  Thus the US cuts would reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration to approximately 540 ppmv compared to 550 ppmv in business as usual in 2050.

Assuming the IPCC most likely climate sensitivity value of 3°C for doubled CO2 (incorporating only fast feedbacks - remember, long-term sensitivity is even higher) is correct, these US emissions cuts by themselves would reduce the amount of equilibrium warming by 0.08°C, from roughly 2.9 to 2.8°C surface warming above pre-industrial levels.  And of course Australia and California's cuts would have even less effect on global temperatures, as they have smaller populations and thus lower total emissions.  So Lindzen and Christy have a point here, right?

Well, no.  In particular, Lindzen claims that global emissions cuts "wouldn't make a lot of difference."  But let's say international negotiations succeeded in convincing countries all around the world to reduce global CO2 emissions by 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.  Now suddenly instead of 2,200 Gt CO2 emitted in the next four decades, it's only about 820 Gt.  Now instead of 550 ppmv in 2050, we're looking at about 450 ppmv. 

Instead of committing ourselves to 2.9°C warming above pre-industrial levels as in business as usual, we're only committed to 2°C, which keeps us right at the cusp of the global warming "danger limit."  Plus rather than blowing past the danger limit with CO2 levels continuing to rise rapidly, we'll have set up the technologies and infrastructure necessary to continue reducing emissions to safe levels.  Remember, the last time atmospheric CO2 was at current levels, global temperatures were 3 to 4°C warmer than pre-industrial, and sea levels were around 25 meters higher than current sea level.  So we really should aim to eventually stabilize atmospheric CO2 at no higher than 350 ppmv, and the more CO2 we emit now, the more difficult that will be.  We're currently adding another 2 ppmv  CO2 to the atmoosphere per year, continually moving further away from that 350 ppmv target.

So clearly Lindzen is wrong that global emissions cuts won't make a difference.  And the only way we're going to achieve large global emissions cuts is if major emitters like the USA and Australia lead the way in reducing their emissions.  And the USA is more likely to proceed if states like California demonstrate that CO2 limits can be implemented successfully.  Thus although these individual cuts won't have a significant direct impact on global temperatures, they can have a major indirect effect by triggering more widespread emissions cuts.

Costs vs. Benefits 

In his Australian radio interview, Lindzen also claimed that the costs of CO2 limits would outweigh the benefits.

"[CO2 limits are] a heavy cost for no benefit, and it's no benefit for you, no benefit for your children, no benefit for your grandchildren, no benefit for your great-great-great-great-grandchildren. I mean, what's the point of that?"

Christy made a similar argument both in his US Congressional testimony and his Australian radio interview.

"this issue has policy implications that may potentially raise the price of energy a lot, and thus essentially the price of everything else."

"I would think a couple of things will happen [if Australia cuts its emissions by 5% by 2020]. One is that your energy prices will rise and your economy then will begin to turn downward. And you will provide opportunities for other nations to take up the slack that Australia used to provide the world."

It's true that carbon limits would likely cause a modest rise in the market price of energy.  However, the funds from selling carbon emissions permits could be used to offset this price increase through improved energy efficiency and other measures.  Economic studies showed that the proposed CO2 limits in the USA would have virtually no impact on average electricity bills, for example.  It's important to distinguish between prices and bills – an increase in the former doesn't necessarily cause an increase in the latter, if other measures are taken to prevent bills from rising.

Moreover, the true cost of coal energy, on which Australia and the USA rely heavily, is approximately triple the market price, which does not account for factors like impacts on public or environmental health.  Thus a carbon price more accurately reflects this true cost in the market price, and also aids in the transition to other energy sources whose true cost is actually lower than fossil fuels.  So although market prices may rise, the total cost paid by Australians, Americans, etc. will actually fall.

This is one of the reasons that contrary to Lindzen's claims, the benefits of carbon limits outweigh the costs several times over.  This is something that economic studies and economic experts consistently agree about.  You could even call it an economic climate consensus.  A recent survey of 144 of the world's top economists with expertise on climate change found that 88% agreed that the benefits of carbon pricing outweigh the costs, and over 94% agreed the US should reduce its GHG emissions if other major emitters also commit to reductions (which many already have, particularly in Europe):

should US reduce emissions

 

NYU IPI survey results when asked under what circumstances the USA should reduce its emissions

Stick to What You Know

In their comments dissuading Australian and American efforts to address the threats posed by global warming and climate change, Lindzen and Christy made a number of erroneous and false statements.  Perhaps these climate scientists should leave the economic arguments to, you know, economists.  And they should certainly stop promoting the Tragedy of the Commons.  If the USA can argue that its emissions cuts won't make a difference, then every country can make the argument.  And if everyone makes it, we'll fail to achieve even modest emissions cuts, and as a result we will all doom ourselves to increasingly dangerous global warming and climate change.

A good scientist should not encourage us to play Russian Roulette with the climate, all the while adding more and more bullets to the chamber.

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Comments 51 to 100 out of 110:

  1. "Nobody likes being told what they can and cant do." And sadly, noone likes paying for the mess they have created either.
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  2. Dana1981 writes "seems to also have missed this part of the article: ...Instead of committing ourselves to 2.9°C warming above pre-industrial levels as in business as usual, we're only committed to 2°C, which keeps us right at the cusp of the global warming "danger limit." Apparently you missed the ENTIRE following article that suggested that "goals of limiting human made warming to 2°C and CO2 to 450 ppm are prescriptions for disaster" And that Hansen says that even 350ppm is too much. Well we missed the boat on that one. And then Tom Cook believes, not in your article dana1981, but instead that we can effectivel reduce emissions to zero AND sequester ourselves back to 350ppm. And you think I'M ignorant of whats real?
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  3. TTTM, nature soaks up half of our emissions at moment. We dont have to go to zero. But you do have to start! The kill the subsidies, proposed at moment would be something. Extend it coal would be even more important. Real leadership in my opinion would be kill all subsidies on anything industrial, ban construction of new FF power unless emission sequestered and then let market figure out the best solution going forward. However, so far any attempt to wean off subsidied energy (which obviously means a hike in FF price) gets strenuously opposed. Let anyone pay (especially non-westerners and grandchildren) except us is catch-cry.
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  4. TTTM, please work on your reading comprehension. I don't like having to repeat myself.
    "Plus rather than blowing past the danger limit with CO2 levels continuing to rise rapidly, we'll have set up the technologies and infrastructure necessary to continue reducing emissions to safe levels."
    450ppm likely isn't immediately disastrous. It's dangerous if we remain at that level for many decades, allowing ice to continue melting. We first need to stabilize at 450ppm before we can work on reducing CO2 below that level.
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  5. "'Nobody likes being told what they can and cant do.' And sadly, noone likes paying for the mess they have created either." TTTM's response is a complete straw-man. By his perverted logic, I could say that no-one should have to pay for destroying someone else's personal property, or pay the price for physical assault, or murder, or rape....you get the picture. Yes, people don't like to be told what to do but, in a civil society, people also recognize that they have certain Rights & Responsibilities. We know we live in a land of laws & that sometimes we're required to make recompense for the the messes we make-except, apparently, in Denial land-where everyone just does as they please without any responsibility, & apparently where magical fairies maintain the infrastructure of their entire society.
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  6. "TTTM, please work on your reading comprehension. I don't like having to repeat myself." I would prefer it if you didn't attack me like that. Afterall my posts are censored for far less. Somehow I dont think your post has a snowball's chance in hell of being removed. I dont have a problem understanding. Emissions haven't stopped by 2050 under your ideal global scenario. We wont be stabilised at 450ppm we'll still be increasing at 50% the rate in 1990. Thats hardly stabilised is it. Sequestering is a whole other ballgame for which we currently have no technology. I would prefer to invest heavily in fusion rather than sequestering technology.
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  7. "Sequestering is a whole other ballgame for which we currently have no technology." Shows how little you know, TTTM. There are already a number of highly successful trials where they are able to sequester carbon dioxide in various kinds of biomass (mostly algae & bacteria). These micro-organisms are highly useful for the production of bio-plastics, high protein feed & fertilizer. Yet though the technology exists, its not being adopted because the Deniers still insist that there isn't a problem with CO2 or they still insist that the highly inefficient Geo-Sequestration technique is the way to go.
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  8. "These micro-organisms are highly useful for the production of bio-plastics, high protein feed & fertilizer." Thats not sequestering is it. "Yet though the technology exists" No it doesn't. The "technology to grow stuff" isn't technology. The sequestering bit is doing something effective with it afterwards to lock the Carbon up. And at any rate, there is a WORLD of difference between a trial and reducing global CO2 levels by 40+ ppm.
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  9. "Thats not sequestering is it" Why not? As long as the carbon is taken out of the air and kept out of it. Any solid using atmospheric carbon as building blocks is a mean of sequestering. What is done with it does not matter the least, provided it is not oxydized in a way returning the carbon to the atmosphere. "And at any rate, there is a WORLD of difference between a trial and reducing global CO2 levels by 40+ ppm." And of course, "skeptics" are working as hard as they can for that difference to never be reduced.
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  10. "Why not? As long as the carbon is taken out of the air and kept out of it." Because "high protein feed & fertiliser" doesn't keep it out of the air. It returns quickly. Same for plastics albeit over a longer period. A tree that dies and rots returns its carbon back too... Compare these to oil and coal stored deep underground for millions of years. Now thats sequestering. The carbon is removed from the carbon cycle. Growing stuff is simply having a larger portion temporarily out of the atmosphere but still in the Carbon cycle. It helps but its not sequestering.
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  11. TTTM believes that sequestering carbon is an unproven technology. However, the simplest method of sequestering carbon is to turn plantation timber into charcoal. The technology to to that was in wide spread use several thousand years ago. The charcoal can be buried in abandoned mines (if ploughing it into fields is considered unwise. Other technologies are available if less proven. In fact, so long as we actually achieve zero emissions, the increase in CO2 levels will reduce to a quarter of its highest value just as a result of the natural "sequestration" in the ocean abyss. That process will take one to two centuries, so waiting for it my be a bit reckless. However, given sufficient time, this process will reduce 560 ppm to 350 ppm, ignoring the risk of triggering a runaway effect. (It takes around ten thousand years for the remainder of the CO2 to be eliminated by natural means.) The key point is, the sooner we stop emitting Carbon, the more time we will have to evaluate the risk of our then current CO2 levels in the atmosphere, and to take extra steps to reduce it if necessary. The alternative of following a path of adaption only is an experiment in seeing how well humans can survive in the face of massive ecosystem collapse and (if continued long enough) anoxic oceans.
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  12. So if I have this right Tom would tie up vast tracts of land for the purposes of growing trees to be buried in mines. Is that really your plan? Where would we do this, Tom? Ploughing charcoal into fields isn't sequestering it. And why are you now worrying about a runaway greenhouse effect? Surely if the earth could runaway then it would already have done so when we had thousands of ppm and no permanent icecaps in the past.
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    Moderator Response: (DB) Read up on the faint young sun hypothesis for a correction to your last statement.
  13. Wow Tim, you really have *no clue* about the carbon sequestration potential of soil biomass, if you don't think that putting organic carbon into the ground isn't sequestering it. The initial point of bio-sequestration, though, is to significantly *reduce* the trajectory at which CO2 emissions are rising-& both bio-char & algal biomass represent a relatively cheap & easy way to do that-certainly much cheaper & easier than building dams & massive pipelines, or moving tens of millions of people to higher ground. It is also much cheaper & more effective than liquefying CO2 & burying it under ground. The reality is that pilot projects have shown that algal biomass can absorb between 55% to 80% of the CO2 released by a 1000MW coal power station. As I said above, once you've tied up that CO2 in biomass, you can use it to make petroleum substitutes (thus displacing the CO2 emissions produced by burning petroleum products directly), you can use it as a fertilizer or high protein feed (again, displacing the emissions that would normally be generated from manufacturing these products), you can use it to make bio-plastics (again, displacing the CO2 emissions that would be generated if you made those plastics directly from fossil fuels), you can also gasify it & burn it for heat & electricity (again, displacing the CO2 that would normally be generated if you mined the coal or natural gas & used that for electricity). Heck, you can shove some of it down into a empty mine-shaft for all I care. The point is that you're effectively *re-using* the CO2 emissions generated from the burning of fossil fuels, thus significantly reducing the rate at which CO2 levels in the atmosphere continue to rise. Now, if you couple that with greater energy efficiency (Demand Management), greater use of non-carbon based energy sources, greater use of bio-gas for base-load energy(from landfill, sewerage plants, forestry sites & farm residues) & reforestation, you could get the trajectory of CO2 emissions to flatten out completely, even *fall* slightly. It can be done, & at a fraction of the total cost of your extremely lame, & hideously expensive "adaptation" approach.
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  14. TTTM#40: "Nobody likes being told what they can and cant do." True enough. But many learn in childhood that's the way of the world. We drive on the correct side of the road, stop at red lights and don't get to throw our waste products out into the street. Oh, sorry, exception for the last one of those: we've been throwing our fossil fuel waste into the collective street for years.
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  15. #62 TimTheToolMan at 20:59 PM on 5 May, 2011 Ploughing charcoal into fields isn't sequestering it. It is. Carbon content of charcoal has an extremely long halflife in soil. But it is not a big deal in itself. Carbon sequestration for its own sake is plain silly and prohibitively expensive like turning plantation timber into charcoal then burying it in abandoned mines. However, adding charcoal to tropical oxisols makes perfectly good sense. With the help of some bacteria abundant there it turns them into extremely fertile terra preta. Even if you can't "save the Planet" this way (I don't think it needs saving), you can certainly save people (from poverty & famine). The method does not work so well for soils found in temperate regions, although it may depend on finding the right kind of bacteria that would serve as an interface between plant roots and nutrients adsorbed on the (huge) surface of charcoal particles in that environment. Also, you do not need timber to produce charcoal powder. Just about any agricultural waste suffices if it is burnt in a low oxygen environment. If it is done properly, you can even extract some energy during the process, because hydrogen contents of organics have to be oxidized anyway (to water) and the carbon monoxide should be trapped and burnt fully (unlike CO2 it's a poison).
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  16. BP@65 Can you give a reference for carbon (in the form of charcoal) having a long half life in soil. I ask as your terra preta example seems to suggest otherwise (terra preta is rapidly degraded and you have to maintain it or it doesn't stay fertile). It seems more likely that increasing the carbon content of the soil will just increase soil respiration (i.e. those abundent bacteria).
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  17. TTTM @62, my plan is curtail CO2 emissions before wide spread sequestration becomes necessary. It's cheaper that way. In the event that sequestration becomes necessary I will defer to the experts, of which I am not one. I am, however, knowledgeable enough to recognise a claim that sequestration technologies are unproven to be nonsense. Some are, certainly, but your argument requires that all are uproven, which is simply false.
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  18. #66 Dikran Marsupial at 23:08 PM on 5 May, 2011 terra preta is rapidly degraded and you have to maintain it or it doesn't stay fertile It explains why hundreds of thousand square kilometers of the Amazon basin are still covered by (yes, fertile) terra preta after the natives, decimated by European plagues, abandoned it five hundred years ago. Or does it? Soil Biology & Biochemistry Volume 41, Issue 2, February 2009, Pages 210-219 doi:10.1016/j.soilbio.2008.10.016 Black carbon decomposition and incorporation into soil microbial biomass estimated by 14C labeling Yakov Kuzyakov, Irina Subbotina, Haiqing Chen, Irina Bogomolova & Xingliang Xu "Considering about 10 times slower decomposition of BC under natural conditions, the mean residence time (MRT) of BC is about 2000 years, and the half-life is about 1400 years. Considering the short duration of the incubation and the typical decreasing decomposition rates with time, we conclude that the MRT of BC in soils is in the range of millennia".
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  19. Marcus #28 Marcus, I will be the first to buy your PV Solar panel when it can re-produce itself without the help of relatively cheap fossil fuels. { - snip - } their democratically elected governments back to 1900 who started the electricity generation industries with (except for hydro), the only feasible, abundant and cheap fuel available - fossil fuel - chiefly coal.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Accusations of ignorance and conspiracy theories are deleted. You know better than that.
  20. BP@68 I meant that terra preta rapidly looses its fertility if you carry on using it without maintenance. However, thanks for the reference (although your manner left a bit to be desired), it is both interesting and surprising that carbon in that form should be so long lasting.
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  21. KL #69: "Marcus, I will be the first to buy your PV Solar panel when it can re-produce itself without the help of relatively cheap fossil fuels." Solar PV power is now cheaper than fossil fuel power in Hawaii and parts of Italy and California. Ergo, any solar panels produced there (and lots are made in California) can do so without the help of relatively expensive fossil fuels. Most estimates put global average 'grid parity' for solar PV some time before 2020... though now that the IEA says we passed 'peak oil' back in 2006 we're likely to see sustained large increases in oil prices and consequently in coal transport costs/final prices.
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  22. Black carbon is pretty inert stuff. It does not get oxidized easily at ambient temperature.
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  23. TTTM # 56 -
    "Emissions haven't stopped by 2050 under your ideal global scenario. We wont be stabilised at 450ppm we'll still be increasing at 50% the rate in 1990."
    As noted in the article,
    "Approximately 55% of human CO2 emissions currently remain airborne"
    Thus reducing global emissions by ~50% will be sufficient to stop the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, unless natural carbon sinks become saturated in the meantime. I also think that throwing money at a technology (fusion) which is perpetually 50 years away from a breakthrough is a major waste.
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  24. All, And the thread has now been hi-jacked and derailed. Convenient, b/c now Lindzen's and Christy's failings are not being highlighted/underscored while we are debating a steady stream of red herrings and strawmen. What I find totally hypocritical of people like Lindzen, Christy, Michaels and Spencer is that they have the gall to accuse their fellow scientists who (are rightly concerned about AGW) of engaging in politics, when it fact it is the contrarian crowd who is politicizing this issue more than anyone. For goodness' sakes we have Christy and Lindzen speaking on right-wing talk radio shows, and speaking to the economics and politics of AGW, something that they are not qualified to do, yet something that they accuse others of doing as if it were a crime. What is worse, Christy and Lindzen are misrepresenting the facts and the science, and engaging in rhetoric and hyperbole. Finally, "skeptics" here are suggesting that they want to move away from FFs and towards sustainable energy-- great, but that does not appear to be what Lindzen is advocating. So on that issue you are apparently in disagreement.
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  25. Good point, Albatross. At the congrssional hearing, Emanuel was referred to as an "advocate" (I've never heard Emanuel advocate anything other than good science). Meanwhile Christy and Lindzen are going on conservative talk shows and advocating inaction, talking about economics, etc. Major double standard.
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  26. A worldwide zero emissions isnt required. The Matthews and Weaver 2010 diagram was this . Holding emissions at current level doesnt look too dangerous from this diagram. Of course, this doesnt address the equity issue which would propose that west reduced emissions heavily so developing countries can increase their's but that is a different issue.
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    Moderator Response: [muoncounter] Please restrict image width to 500.
  27. BP, Seriously, please do email and tell Lindzen and Christy and Spencer to stick to the science, and to stop talking through their hats about economics, politics and socioeconomics--then there will be no need for others to make the observation I did above. Until then, it is not political to call them on their politicization of science.....
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  28. scaddenp @78, I would be very dubious of Matthews'and Weaver's result. It is widely believed, and with good reason, that thermal inertia alone would result in an additional 0.5 degrees C warming if CO2 levels where held constant. M&W show only half of that, and show no additional warming for zero emissions. Even allowing that CO2 levels would decline with zero emissions, they would do so on a decadal time scale which would ensure a significant early warming with zero emissions. M&W is behind a pay wall, so I cannot discuss their methods, and they may be correct. However, their paper does require close scrutiny before accepting its results.
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  29. Its a letter to editor, but discussed (along with Hare and Meinshausen) at RC. Go here. Includes pointer to discussion of Matthews and Weaver.
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  30. scaddenp @79, thanks for the link. From it I find the following graph by Hare and Meinshausen whose zero emissions trajectory is much more like what I would expect. Most of the initial rise in temperatures is, of course, due to the loss of aerosols, but some rise would still be expected with out that. However, given the example of the Eemian, it is plausible that both of these constant forcing scenario's are wildly optimistic and that constant forcing would result in a two plus degrees C increase.
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  31. I cant find anything more recent published on commitments that really adds to Hare and Meinshausen, though results from AR5 full carbon cycle will be interesting. However, I think a zero emissions is interesting only from a theoretical point of view. Best we can hope is to see what commitment we have with a cap though progress towards that isnt really happening either. If getting reductions is tough now as a policy sell, imagine how difficult it could be for our grandchildren selling really tough emission control and seeing NO results (in terms of slower climate change) from those efforts for decades. I dont think humans work well on those time scales.
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  32. KL - "I will be the first to buy your PV Solar panel when it can re-produce itself without the help of relatively cheap fossil fuels." Yeah! Good to know we have a customer for a project under consideration...
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  33. scaddenp @81, actually I think it will be a very easy sell to our grandchildren simply because they will be able to see the consequences of our inaction. There will undoubtedly be climate change deniers in fifty years time, but I do not expect them to be more numerous, nor more influential than modern day geocentrists. The problem is, if we don't act effectively now, the cost to our grandchildren of acting then will be much steeper. They will also have lost much that is irreplaceable including, major ecosystems such as the Amazon and Great Barrier Reef.
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  34. "Marcus, I will be the first to buy your PV Solar panel when it can re-produce itself without the help of relatively cheap fossil fuels." What a completely bogus argument. It took fossil fuels around 60 years, & massive State support, to reach the relatively cheap prices they are today-& even then only with ongoing, often well hidden, government "subsidies". Most renewable energy technologies are already approaching parity with fossil fuels, in about half the time & with far less State support than what fossil fuels received-& continue to receive. Also, as scaddenp rightly points out, future PV's probably *will* increasingly be made without the help of fossil fuels, as relatively cheap *alternative* energy sources-like bio-diesel, solar-thermal, geo-thermal, bio-gas, tidal & wind power-become the mainstay of the manufacturing industry (as is already the case in California, for instance). So again, Ken, your argument really is quite weak, & getting weaker with each new posting.
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  35. "heir democratically elected governments back to 1900 who started the electricity generation industries with (except for hydro), the only feasible, abundant and cheap fuel available - fossil fuel - chiefly coal." What's your point here Ken? I never argued that fossil fuels should *never* have received government support-in their infancy. I was merely pointing out how fossil fuels *continue* to enjoy State subsidies, in spite of their apparent maturity. Yet mention *any* kind of government funding for renewable energy-especially ones which cut into the profits of the big energy suppliers, like rooftop solar-& the usual suspects cry foul. I call that *hypocrisy*!
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  36. Tom " ...actually I think it will be a very easy sell to our grandchildren simply because they will be able to see the consequences of our inaction." I think it will be more than that. Our grandchildren, and their descendants, will have quite a lot of "What the ..!" responses. In a society which values carbon fibre products as a necessity (along with other products we've not yet developed), there'll be a lot of head scratching along the lines of "You mean they used to *burn* this stuff. Burn? Seriously? Talk about primitive!" (Or brainless, or silly, or stupid, or choose your own word.)
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  37. "You mean they used to *burn* this stuff. Burn? Seriously? Talk about primitive!" Yep, they'll say that the way people today say "they used to think the Earth was *flat*? Seriously?"
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  38. Marcus #84, #85 "It took fossil fuels around 60 years, & massive State support, to reach the relatively cheap prices they are today" That type of comment betrays a lack of understanding of the history of electricity generation in Australia and most of the first world. What technologies were available 100 years ago for large scale central generation? Answer - fossil fuel and hydro. In the absence of hydro resources and the availablity of relatively cheap coal - the choice of was one of necessity - coal. Such large investments by State Utilities (ie owned by the taxpayer) with 25-40 year lives were bound to remain a mainstay of our generation until nuclear arrived after WW2. You all know what has happened to nuclear. Oil gas coal hydro and nuclear are there because of economics. If there were better cheaper technologies, they would take over. When you talk of PV Solar being economical in boutique applications now - that is not new. PV Solar has been the best choise for powering remote area small scale applications for many years. I was playing around with Solar brine ponds in 1984 - the technology looked simple and effective but did not fly for cost reasons, chiefly maintenance in a very corrosive environment.
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  39. Self-pwnage from Christy (NPR interview recorded in between the tornado outbreaks):
    WERTHEIMER: So, John Christy, we're looking at the wild weather continuing? Mr. CHRISTY: The wild weather is part of what happens in the United States in spring. I would certainly say somewhere in the United States, you will see some more wild weather coming this year. However, I think the tornado outbreak that we experienced last weekend, you know, is a fairly unusual event. You just don't see those happening more than once a year. (emphasis added)
    Oops. So, in addition to his long record of poor scholarship, Christy neatly demonstrates his poor physical intuition. Unfortunately, as a reliable contrarian he is as sh*t to the media flies.
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  40. And here he is still at it after the second outbreak:
    "That's as big as it gets; that occurs rarely in the history books," climatologist John Christy said. "It's one of those systems that only comes along every few decades."
    Hmm, you'd hardly know that this was a record event. Headline:
    April's tornado outbreaks the two largest in history
    If Christy ever visits Oz, perhaps someone should take him to see the black swans.
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  41. "That type of comment betrays a lack of understanding of the history of electricity generation in Australia and most of the first world." I've spent the better part of 15 years studying the history of the electricity industry, Ken, & the only one displaying ignorance here is *you*. When the first coal-fired power plants came online, in the US, the cost of power was about $3/kw-h in today's money. It really wasn't until the post-war era that the relatively "cheap" fossil fuel energy we know today became available. Yet, in spite of this, the global fossil fuel energy sector *still* receives enormous direct & indirect subsidies courtesy of the government, subsidies which dwarf those received by the *entire* renewable energy sector (not just PV's). As much as you desperately deny the truth, Ken, grid-interactive PV's, Wind, Solar Thermal bio-gas & Tidal Power are already cost-competitive with natural gas & coal, & are cheaper than nuclear (in spite of receiving equally large subsidies from governments) in a shorter time frame, & with far less dependence on tax-payer funded subsidies. So, in closing Ken, I'll take you more seriously on the subsidy issue only if you admit that the fossil fuel industry should have *all* its current subsidies stripped away. Otherwise I can only assume (correctly) that your real fear re: renewable energy subsidies is that it will eventually make them *more* cost-competitive than coal or natural gas-& thus force their demise. I'm afraid that your latest argument simply reveals your pro-fossil fuel bias Ken.
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  42. "What technologies were available 100 years ago for large scale central generation? Answer - fossil fuel and hydro. In the absence of hydro resources and the availablity of relatively cheap coal - the choice of was one of necessity - coal." Again, at what point did I *ever* say that hydro & coal shouldn't have been invested in at the start of the 20th century Ken? Your comprehension skills seem awfully weak if you haven't figured that part out yet! My point is that (a) as a mature technology & (b) given what we know about the environmental damage it does, it no longer makes sense to keep funneling tax-payer money into the coal-fired electricity sector, especially when other, viable technologies now exist which-with a far smaller amount of government support-can produce a significant proportion of our electricity in a cost-competitive fashion. Of course, this fact flies in the face of the desire of people such as yourself who'd rather we continue our unhealthy addiction to a non-renewable source of electricity.
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  43. #91 Marcus, if you ended fossil fuel subsidies, would you also end state production taxes (e.g. 7.5% http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/nat_gas/) and federal royalties (e.g. 12.5% http://www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=2695&type=0&sequence=2)? If you think that question is off topic, that is fine by me, but your analyses appear to ignore some revenues when you only talk about subsidies. Also it would be good to have subsidies compared per kWh instead of gross amounts.
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  44. Eric, plenty of businesses & industries pay State & Federal governments money-in taxes & leases-even when they don't receive a single cent in tax-payer funded subsidies. I don't receive any money from my government, so maybe I shouldn't have to pay income tax? No, you don't agree with that assessment? So why should the fossil fuel industry be somehow exempt? My point still remains-that the fossil fuel industry is supposedly a highly profitable & mature industry, & so does not really *deserve* such large subsidies in the current age. Subsidies are only really meant to be available to help industries get off the ground, yet the fossil fuel lobby routinely decries such subsidies for the renewable energy sector whilst still quite happy to take money from the government themselves. That's hypocrisy, pure & simple.
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  45. "When you talk of PV Solar being economical in boutique applications now - that is not new. PV Solar has been the best choise for powering remote area small scale applications for many years." Shows what you know Ken. Grid interactive PV's have a generation cost of about $0.33c/kw-h, even with the application of an unnecessarily harsh Discount Rate (much harsher than the ones applied to new coal-fired power stations). Even though this cost is much higher than the supposed $0.06c/kw-h for generating electricity from coal, it is *not* that different to the $0.26c/kw-h I currently pay for electricity from fossil fuels. Of course, the latter cost is predicted to rise over the coming decades due to increases in fuel & grid maintenance costs, whilst the cost of the former is expected to continue to fall as the cost of panels drops, the efficiency increases & the amount of power that can be stored increases. So you see, Ken, this is yet another bogus argument on your part.
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  46. Marcus, thanks for the rapid response. Your point does remain, but your argument is not strengthened by leaving out the money flow directly back to the government. We get lease payments in exchange for the public or formerly public fossil fuels in the ground. We don'y get payments for use of wind and sunshine. We add production taxes like we add sales or excise taxes, for revenue purposes Income tax is irrelevant in this argument. I pay auto excise tax mainly in proportion to the services required for that property (emergency services and some road maintenance). The fossil fuel companies pay production taxes for no comparable services or benefits.
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  47. Well Eric, according to what I've read the amount of US subsidies for the oil & gas industry alone rank around US$10 billion per annum. Other reports suggest that simply cutting-not completely removing-the subsidies for Coal & Oil will save about $40 billion over a roughly 8 year period (so around $5 billion per annum). So based on the stuff you've shown me, I'd argue that taxes-subsidies, in the US at least, leave State & Federal Governments *out of pocket*. Given that its usually Governments who need to clean up the messes left behind by the fossil fuel industries when the resources dry up, I'd say that the fossil fuel industry gets a very good deal.
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  48. Additionally, from what I've read, depending on what you count as a subsidy, the US government pays out between $6 billion & $40 billion per annum to the entire fossil fuel industry. Globally, governments gave out more than US$300 billion in 2009 alone-compared to only US$19 billion for the far less mature Renewable energy industry. Does that sound fair to you Eric? Especially given the environmental cost that we're going to have to foot in the future, I'd say that's an emphatic *no*.
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  49. Marcus I must be in a parallel universe lately. Apart from the personal derogation: "Your comprehension skills seem awfully weak if you haven't figured that part out yet!" and "Shows what you know Ken" and "I've spent the better part of 15 years studying the history of the electricity industry, Ken, & the only one displaying ignorance here is *you*." Such comments made by me about you would surely have been snipped by moderators. I am happy to engage you on the numbers Marcus, not florid claims about 'subsidies' by governments who seem to be hell bent on helping out vested interests in the 'fossil fuel' industries rather than serving the people. That alone is a conspiracy theory of sorts - and accusations of conspiracy are banned on this site.
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  50. Marcus #95 "Shows what you know Ken. Grid interactive PV's have a generation cost of about $0.33c/kw-h, even with the application of an unnecessarily harsh Discount Rate (much harsher than the ones applied to new coal-fired power stations). Even though this cost is much higher than the supposed $0.06c/kw-h for generating electricity from coal, it is *not* that different to the $0.26c/kw-h I currently pay for electricity from fossil fuels." Whereever you are Marcus - tell us what the life cycle costs of coal fired generation are compared with PV Solar. That includes the capital cost of the plant, fuel costs, maintenance and running costs divided by the total energy generated over the plant life.
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