For years now global warming skeptics have been using satellite measurements to argue that global warming isn’t happening, For example (from 1998):

Surface-based temperature records are too few in number and too unevenly spaced to generate accurate global temperature maps. Only 30 percent of the world’s surface is land, so land-based temperature stations measure less than one-third of the Earth’s climate. Urban stations, which are influenced by city heat anomalies, are over-represented; deserts, mountains, and forests are under-represented.

The global temperature record produced from satellite data has none of the problems faced by surface-based thermometers. Orbiting satellites cover 99 percent of the Earth’s surface, not less than a third, and measure a layer of the troposphere that is above the effects of urban heat islands.

Satellite measurements are accurate to within 0.001 C. Because new satellites are launched into orbit by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) before old ones are retired, overlapping data sets are created, ensuring that the new satellites are calibrated correctly. …

According to Dr. Roy Spencer, meteorologist and team leader of the NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, “The temperatures we measure from space are actually on a very slight downward trend since 1979 … the trend is about 0.05 C per decade cooling.”

Then other scientists analysed the satellite data and found that it showed warming similar to the surface record. Global warming skeptics didn’t miss a beat — obviously the scientists who got results the skeptics didn’t like were guilty of fraud:

atmospheric data from both satellites and weather balloons show only a trifling rise in temperature over the past couple of decades, while the surface temperature has been rising steadily. In 2000, a National Research Council study confirmed the data’s discrepancy with the model.

The proper scientific response would be to reexamine the models and adjust them to fit reality. But that hasn’t happened in climatology. Instead, there have been repeated attempts to manipulate the satellite data fit the models. Recently, a study published in the journal Nature tries to hammer the square peg of the satellite data into the round hole of the theory, using a method that satellite temperature experts John Christy and Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama at Huntsville had considered and rejected as incorrect in 1991.

So I’m wondering how the skeptics will spin the latest development. Spencer and Christy have revised their numbers and now they seem to agree with the surface record. William Connolley
has a nice plot of the new numbers.

Update: Connolley has posted some more graphs and links.

Comments

  1. #1 Louis Hissink
    July 1, 2005

    Based on what data? url’s please

  2. #2 Louis Hissink
    July 1, 2005

    Tim,

    Your reference is indeed impressive, impressive in that the variations and trends are less than the accuracy of the instruments measuring the data used.

    As they might say, you are mesmerised by some misapplications of statistics.

  3. #3 Ender
    July 1, 2005

    BTW Loius I am still waiting for that heat flow data. I’ll add it to the list of the CO2 in ice and the biomarkers in oil.

  4. #4 caerbannog
    July 1, 2005


    Based on what data? url’s please.

    From the horse’s mouth: http://climate.uah.edu/may2005.htm

  5. #5 Scott Church
    July 1, 2005

    Louis,

    The URL’s were provided. Tim links William Connolley’s plot of the new UAH trend. UAH Version 5.2 dated June 30 is referenced there as the source. Caerbannog provides a link to UAH’s HTTP graphic version of MSU TLT trends through May 2005: climate.uah.edu/may2005.htm. The trends shown there represent MSU TLT (lower troposphere synthetic channel based on MSU Channel 2). The data are at vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/uahncdc.lt. William obtained the data for his plots from UAH’s FTP Site where it is listed as Ver. 5.2 (I don’t have the URL yet).

    You’re welcome, even encouraged, to examine this data. Note that these are TLT trends, so they won’t compare directly with current versions of RSS MSU trends which are for the middle troposphere (the corresponding UAH trends for an RSS or Prabhakara comparison will be TMT). These data now bring UAH into good agreement with the corresponding products from RSS and Prabhakara (the latter only through 2000 though, so UAH Ver. 5.2 would have to be retrended to that period accordingly for a valid comparison). This pretty much unifies the MSU upper-air record, and the reults are well within the range of what can be accomodated by the latest generation of general circulation models such as GISS SI2000 or HadCM3.

    I’d say an explanation is in order Louis–from you and the whole skeptic community. The MSU record,UAH products in particular, has been your great sword excaliber for some time now. It seems you’re about to lose it. If you want to continue making a credible case for global warming skepticism, you’d better come up with something quick, and it better be a whole lot better than anything you’ve come up with to date. All the best.

  6. #6 Steve Bloom
    July 1, 2005

    Louis could become a non-skeptical skeptic like Pat Michaels: Adopt the IPCC low-end estimate (+1.3C by 2100) and argue that the benefits of that amount of warming will outweigh the costs. This leaves the contradiction of arguing for inaction when it’s clear that very strong action indeed will be needed to keep things to such a minimum level, but of course that’s just a quibble.

  7. #7 ben
    July 1, 2005

    What exactly are these costs associated with global warming and how do you know this? I can see obvious costs in trying to prevent or delay global warming, but I don’t see any benefit.

  8. #8 William
    July 1, 2005

    Tim – the capmag piece seems to be based on a Heartland inst piece: http://www.heartland.org/pdf/gwscience.pdf. It must have been written in about 1997/1998. It quotes Spencer from his website, dated early 1997. But… the S+C trend never reached as low as -0.05 oC/decade. By end 1996 is was “up” to -0.007. So Spencer is being a teensy bit misleading, even for then. And to say “Satellite measurements are accurate to within 0.001 C” is rather amusing, in the light of the numerous corrections the record has undergone!

  9. #9 coop
    July 1, 2005

    ben:

    One cost of global warming is that people that depend on winter snowpack for their summer water (like most of the Western United States) are going to have to find another source. Probably within the next 50 years.

    Not the end of the world, but its going to cost a pretty penny to remedy.

  10. #10 guthrie
    July 1, 2005

    Another problem with changes in weather/ climate, is that ranges of plant species will change somewhat. I’m no ecologist, but I am somewhat worried by hotter summers that lead to drought and losses in food crops. France a couple of years ago apparently had lower yields of wheat than normal.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4633681.stm

    Then this BBC article highlights the dangers of ocean acidification by CO2. ONe of many problems we really dont know much about. It may be not so much trouble at all, or maybe it will. I’d rather not do nothing in the meantime.

  11. #11 Scott Church
    July 1, 2005

    William and all,

    I haven’t looked at the Heartland piece yet, though I doubt it’s any different than any of the hundreds of other similar screeds on the MSU record I’ve reviewed over the last 18 monyhs. But the stated “error” of +/- 0.001 deg C is in the range of some of the RMS errors on UAH’s merge calculations for TLT trends since Version D (Christy et al., 2000). These of course, are simply estimates of the scatter in their residuals, but says nothing about the accuracy of their merge methods themselves. In particular, they say nothing about the amount of sampling noise inherent in the off-nadir data they based the TLT Channel on, their diurnal drift calculation methods, or the methodology by which their merge itself was done as opposed to the methods of RSS for the middle troposphere (Mears et al., 2003). So yes, it IS misleading to say they’re “accurate” to within this range. There’s a big difference between statistical error in someone’s math and the error resulting from whatever assumptions or measurements went into that math in the first place!

  12. #12 Ian Gould
    July 1, 2005

    What exactly are these costs associated with global warming and how do you know this?

    1. Well for a start, the rain-forests of North Queensland will almost certainly be wiped out. They’re remnants from an earlier cooler period and exist only at high altitude.

    Shift the average temperature by a degree or two and they’re gone.

    Likewise we know from the coral bleaching incident of 1998 that a rise in sea water temperatures of a degree of two will wipe out the Great Barrier Reef (eventually it’ll recover but not for centuries or millenia as warm-water-adapted species replace the dead coral.)

    Wipe out the rain-forests and the Great Barrier Reef and you wipe out most of the Queensland tourism industry which is worth around A$8 billion a year.

    Remember that heat wave in Europe that killed tens of thousands? Increase the average temperature by a small amount and, given a normal distribution, you increase the number of extreme temperature events by a much larger amount.

    Increase the thermal energy contained in the atmosphere and the ocean and you increase the average strength of storms and cyclones.

    Increase summer temperatures and you increase air conditioning energy demand. In most developed countries, even temperate ones, peak energy demand now occurs in summer not winter. So you’re talking about increasing peak demand – meaning you need expensive peaking supply units which are unused most of the time.

    Want me to go on?

  13. #13 Ian Gould
    July 1, 2005

    Further information on global warming costs.
    (In case anyone is inclined to dismiss this out of hand because it was published at commongrounds.com, please note that the information is sourced to Swiss-Re the planet’s largest insurer.)

    In a report revealing how climate change is rising on the corporate agenda, Swiss Re said the economic costs of such disasters threatened to double to $150 billion (82 billion pounds) a year in 10 years, hitting insurers with $30-40 billion in claims, or the equivalent of one World Trade Center attack annually.

  14. #14 ben
    July 1, 2005

    Increase the thermal energy contained in the atmosphere and the ocean and you increase the average strength of storms and cyclones.

    Are you refering to cyclones such as hurricanes and monsoons? As far as I know, these are not driven by mean global temperature, but by temperature differences between the two hemispheres.

    And as for the insurer, where’s your pointing to the money on this one. Sounds like they’re just hedging their bets so they can “gouge the little guy” with higher premiums and point to global warming as the excuse. See, we’ll find out in a few decades that the global warming scare was promoted by big insurance or some such stupid thing. end sarcasm.

    The Great Barrier Reef can’t stand a degree or two in temperature change? Wow, that’s not very robust is it. I doubt Australian tourism will dry up just because the reef is gone anyway. Think of all the environmentalists who will show up to make documentaries about the destruction of the reef by man’s greed and all that. It gives them more subject material.

    Finally, increasing the summer temperatures will stimulate the economy. Think of all the lemonade stands and snow cone kiosks that will pop up. Not to mention warmer winters so less money spent on heating oil. Heck, we’ll all only need one wardrobe and we’ll save on winter jackets and skis. Finally, since we’ll have all that extra water from rising sea/lake levels, the water sports will take off. We’ll be waterskiing to work and I’m going to open a Bass Pro Shop.

    Sounds good to me!

  15. #15 Ian Gould
    July 2, 2005

    As far as I know, these are not driven by mean global temperature, but by temperature differences between the two hemispheres.

    Then your knowledge is severely deficient. The strength of hurricanes, cyclones and monsoons (which are all names for the same phenomena) are determined by the surface temperature of the water, wind speed and the temperature differential between the surface and the altitude at which precipitation is occurring.

    If Swiss Re were simply interested in the increase in premiums they wouldn’t be pushing heavily for measures to reduce CO2 emissions – hell they’d be fundign the skeptics along with the oil companies. Swiss Re and other insurers recognise that the economic damage doen by global warming will far outweigh the benefits from higher premiums, espeically since most insurers make money off their investment portfolios not their underwriting activities.

    The Great Barrier Reef can’t stand a degree or two in temperature change?

    Google “Indian Ocean” and “Coral bleaching”

    Finally, increasing the summer temperatures will stimulate the economy.

    Yes and Auschwitz did wonders for the German railway and soap industries.

    You know, we all make mistakes and take untenable positiosn some times – admitting that is a sign of strength not weakness.

  16. #16 the commenter formerly known as anon
    July 2, 2005

    You know, we all make mistakes and take untenable positiosn[sic] some times – admitting that is a sign of strength not weakness.

    You’re fond of saying that aren’t you Ian? You have used it on me before.

    Disagreeing with someone, and then following up with that line is about as patronizing as you can get.

    You know Ian, many of the things I’ve seen you write are in my opinion untenable – but that’s ok, we all make mistakes. Just admit it and I’ll consider it a sign of strength, not weakness.

  17. #17 Glen Raphael
    July 2, 2005

    For years now global warming skeptics have been using satellite measurements to argue that global warming isn’t happening

    A more charitable way to characterize it would be to say that skeptics have used the measurements as evidence that global warming was not yet proven. Alarmists seem to want to skip a lot of steps along the way; skeptics want to be sure each step in the proof is solid before they accept it.

    In the field of technology, there are “early adopters” and “late adopters”. Early adopters want to try to use new tech – eg, robot vacuum cleaners – the second it goes on the market. Late adopters prefer to hold back and make sure all the bugs have been worked out first. Wait until the case for buying is really compelling. Until then, they reserve judgment.

    You, Tim, are an “early adopter” when it comes to global warming theories and claims of evidence. Following your links, we see that S&C have apparently revised their numbers due to what Connolley calls “an unexplained revision”. Me, I’d want to wait and see why they revised those numbers, how much confidence they had in the new numbers, and what others had to say about the revisions, before declaring that utter and total victory had been achieved for my side and only a complete buffoon could argue with any of our claims from this point forward. But hey, maybe that’s just me… :-)

    If the numbers on all these minor skirmishes bear out for your side, skeptics will eventually concede that some warming seems to be occurring. Many have already done so. Even if all had, we’re still a long way from demonstrating that any particular proposed intervention is likely to have benefits that exceed costs, right? So that might be the next big battle.

  18. #18 Meyrick Kirby
    July 2, 2005

    And as for the insurer, where’s your pointing to the money on this one. Sounds like they’re just hedging their bets so they can “gouge the little guy” with higher premiums and point to global warming as the excuse.

    Now that’s an interesting comment. Seems to suggest that Ben does not believe in efficient insurance markets.

    I thought all GW skeptics were greater supporters of the free-market … funny how things change!

  19. #19 Meyrick Kirby
    July 2, 2005

    A more charitable way to characterize it would be to say that skeptics have used the measurements as evidence that global warming was not yet proven. Alarmists seem to want to skip a lot of steps along the way; skeptics want to be sure each step in the proof is solid before they accept it.

    First of all, strictly speaking there is no such thing as “proof” or of theories being “proven” in science. From a practical point of view most people are convinced of a theory after sufficient testing. Certainly the major scientific bodies appear to be convinced that the GWT has been tested sufficiently to suggest governments act. One can of course continuely argue for more tests of a theory, Darwinism being a good example of how skeptics can in practice never be satisfied.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the above is a nice way of framing this to make the skeptics look good! It suggests that the skeptics are the responsible ones who want the t’s crossed and i’s dotted before we undertake the costs of CO2 reduction.

    Of course one can turn this whole thing around and argue that the responsible thing is to reduce CO2 straight away in case we are indeed messing things up on a global scale, on the grounds that if we wait for proof we may do more damage.

    And before anyone says it, the costs of reduction are not necessarily that certain. Even the Economist has been arguing recently that carbon trading could be a way to reduce emissions at relatively low costs.

  20. #20 Meyrick Kirby
    July 2, 2005

    Oh BTW Louis, where’s that data on underwater volcanoes SUDDENLY (over the last century) increasing CO2 output?

  21. #21 Glen Raphael
    July 2, 2005

    Secondly, and more importantly, the above is a nice way of framing this to make the skeptics look good! It suggests that the skeptics are the responsible ones who want the t’s crossed and i’s dotted before we undertake the costs of CO2 reduction.

    That was my intent. From a certain point of view, skeptics are merely erring on ths side of caution. It’s still an error — the truth likely likes somewhere in the middle between the two camps — but it’s an understandable and even sensible position. Why do they do it? Because skeptics are unusually aware of the benefits of economic progress.

    A vibrant, unrestricted economy tends to grow exponentially. If we do something to hamper that growth today – even by a tiny bit – that has a vast negative impact on the standard of living a hundred years from now. One could imagine scenarios where it might make a life-or-death difference for the entire human race. For example, suppose we reduce global GDP growth by .5% for the next few years now and therefore don’t have the resources and technology to divert a swarm of incoming asteroids we discover in 2200.

    I’m not saying we should start spending on asteroid protection now — that was just an example. It would be as big a mistake to fritter away excess resources on that hypothetical risk as any other. The point is that we don’t know what big threats might loom in the future, and overprotecting against any single hypothetical threat today means we’re diverting resources from growth, which makes us less able to defend against other threats.

    Any time somebody proposes assuming any large cost we need to make damn sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Otherwise we’re eating our own seed corn.

  22. #22 Meyrick Kirby
    July 2, 2005

    Any time somebody proposes assuming any large cost we need to make damn sure the benefits outweigh the costs. Otherwise we’re eating our own seed corn.

    Again, trying to frame it the wrong way! We need to play the probable benefits against the probable costs. You assume the costs are a certainty (that there will be costs is certain, but the size of those costs is not). And you assume that the benefits are highly uncertain.

    I know enough of economics to know you can analyse until the cows come home. Instead of waiting for the economists to make up their mind (and they rarely do) I’m going to adopt my accounting rule of thumb. It’s usually cheaper to make sure you’re not messing things up, than hope you aren’t and then clean up after you find that you were.

    For example, suppose we reduce global GDP growth by .5% for the next few years now and therefore don’t have the resources and technology to divert a swarm of incoming asteroids we discover in 2200.

    I doubt if .5% of GDP growth would amount to the funds to stop a swarm of asteroids. Again you up play the costs by implying that the costs are almost infinite.

    BTW there is no large totally unrestricted economy in this world, on the contrary, capital markets for instance (often seen as the most efficient) need regulations to work … find me one industrialist who thinks we should get rid of mandatory audits (a regulation) of company reports.

  23. #23 Meyrick Kirby
    July 2, 2005

    I wonder if George Bush should have waited for a detailed cost benefit analysis before invading Iraq?

  24. #24 ÐanØ
    July 2, 2005

    Yes, Meyrick, good point: according to the septics’ logic, BushCo should have demanded the computer code of the CIA when they analyzed where the WMD were. Then The UN should have been able to perfectly replicate that code and find the WMD to prove that Eye-rack was a threat before we pulled the trigger to go to war.

    We then should have amateurs test the found WMD to prove what chemicals were present.

    That’s a keeper, sir.

    an

  25. #25 ben
    July 2, 2005

    I doubt if .5% of GDP growth would amount to the funds to stop a swarm of asteroids. Again you up play the costs by implying that the costs are almost infinite.

    Meyrick, .5% now compounded for 200 years is a GIGANTIC PILE of economic resources. As Glen pointed out, you have to consider the opportunity cost. We might be able to make a small dent in global warming, but possibly not even a significant one. What could we have done with the resources used or economic output given up to fight global warming, especially when the results of the massive 0.11 deg C/decade probably won’t make the earth melt and dogs and cats love each other?

  26. #26 Ian Gould
    July 2, 2005

    You know Ian, many of the things I’ve seen you write are in my opinion untenable – but that’s ok, we all make mistakes. Just admit it and I’ll consider it a sign of strength, not weakness.

    The difference is I don’t rely on my unsupported opinion.

    If I have time this morning, I’ll be admitting to Ben that I was mistaken in claiming that the comparison between Seattle and Vancouver in terms of gun deaths was an example of “cherry-picking”.

    I’ve also, for example, revised my opinion on concealed-carry laws in the US and on Australian gun-laws when the evidence demonstrated I was incorrect.

  27. #27 Ian Gould
    July 2, 2005

    I thought all GW skeptics were greater supporters of the free-market funny how things change!

    Yes, except when it comes to the market for GHG reductions.

  28. #28 Ian Gould
    July 2, 2005

    I’m not saying we should start spending on asteroid protection now ? that was just an example. It would be as big a mistake to fritter away excess resources on that hypothetical risk as any other. The point is that we don’t know what big threats might loom in the future, and overprotecting against any single hypothetical threat today means we’re diverting resources from growth, which makes us less able to defend against other threats.

    Question: was it a mistake for the US and other devedloepd countries to enact clean air laws in the 50’s and 60’s?

    After all, the link between the Great London Smog of 1952 and the 8,000 additional deaths in the city that year was only probabilistic not definitive.

    Clearly they should have let unrestricted economic growth and technological development solve the problem.

    Ditto for Minamata disease.

  29. #29 Glen Raphael
    July 2, 2005

    was it a mistake for the US and other devedloepd countries to enact clean air laws in the 50’s and 60’s?

    The case for those laws was a hell of a lot stronger than the case for CO2 reduction now. Some such laws might have passed a sensible cost-benefit analysis.

    Yes, the argument I’m making implies some criticism of antipollution laws in general, but advocates for such laws could likely have met that criticism in many, if not all, of the past cases.

    The format of your argument is that intervention A (which successfully passed through the political vetting process) seems not to have been a complete disaster, and therefore detractors should stand aside and allow intervention B (which we are currently considering) to pass unhindered. The flaw in that argument is that A was able to pass only because (1) its advocates were able to make a good case for it, and (2) compromises were made with its detractors, such that A’, the measure that passed, was different from A, the measure that was proposed.

    So feel free to assert that B’, the political compromise proposal that eventually will result from the global warming debate, might be less than a disaster. That says nothing about whether we should object to B, any proposal currently being made on that subject.

  30. #30 Glen Raphael
    July 2, 2005

    Oh, and for what it’s worth, I do apply the same reasoning to Iraq, and reach much the same conclusion you do. I was against invasion both when that was fashionable and when it was unfashionable. Most of all, I wish Congress had the balls to actually declare war when circumstances suggest the need for that course, rather than passing the buck to the White House and writing the president a blank check. I also wish we’d remove all troops from every country with which we are not at war (or in which we have “declared victory” as in Iraq) rather than leaving them in place indefinitely as a tripwire and security blanket.

  31. #31 Ian Gould
    July 2, 2005

    Actually Glen I’m a former environmental economist who sat down and did a detailed analysis of Warwick McKibbin’s GE modelling of the costs and benefits to the Australian economy of ratifying Kyoto.

    I’m quite comfortable with the concept of cost-benefit analysis.

    In the case of the McKibbin study the conclusion was that in the short term there would be a net economic BENEFIT to Australia from ratifiying Kyoto.

    This study was commissioned by the same government that refused to ratify Kyoto and undertaken by a very eminent economist who is on record asopposing Kyoto.

  32. #32 Glen Raphael
    July 2, 2005

    Ian:

    My quick googling failed to find the study to which you refer; can you give me the upshot as to why there was a short-term net economic benefit to austrailia? Was AU one of the countries that had unusually low emissions in 1990 so the cost of getting back there are low? Or was it expected to benefit from the cross-subsidies?

    Of course, the big question is what happens in the long term. If, a century hence, the planet is a small fraction of a degree cooler than it would otherwise be, does that somehow translate into huge savings for Australia? Enough to overcome the net present value of the economic growth foregone from now until then?

  33. #33 david
    July 2, 2005

    “A more charitable way to characterize it would be to say that skeptics have used the measurements as evidence that global warming was not yet proven.

    You, Tim, are an “early adopter” when it comes to global warming theories and claims of evidence. “

    Glen, ain’t the enhanced greenhouse affect a 100+ year old theory? As for the realism of global warming, this became accepted fact in climate change science around 1990.. that’s about 15 years ago…

    Now that the MSU2 trends have finally been corrected, do you think it is time for action? or do we wait for a little more evidence to accumulate…

    BTW, how many climate scientists have you witnessed questioning your economic models and theory?

    David

  34. #34 ben
    July 3, 2005

    David, you still do not answer the question of why we have to act, even if the earth is warming. Your last post strongly begs that question.

  35. #35 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    Ben,

    You feel that tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars a year in economic costs aren’t enough?

  36. #36 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    Meyrick, .5% now compounded for 200 years is a GIGANTIC PILE of economic resources.

    200 hundred years, the original comment was for a few years, not 200 hundred.

  37. #37 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    Yes, except when it comes to the market for GHG reductions.

    Ian, out of interest, what is your opinion of the carbon trading proposals advocated by, amongst others, the Economist?

  38. #38 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    I think it’s an extremely good idea – and it’s the main reason I think most fossil lobby estimates of the cost of addressing global warming are vastly overstated.

    The best model for carbon trading is the sulphur dioxide trading mechanism in place for US power-stations.

    Before it was introduced, industry claimed it’d ruin them. now if you tried to revoke the scheme industry would scream ble murder because it proved so much cheaper than other control mechanisms.

    Similarly, industry claimed an average cost for CO2 emission reductions/sequestration of well over US$100 per tonne of CO2.

    Government and academic ecoomists (and the Clinton administration) claimed costs of US$20-30 per tonne.

    The latter group look like they were closer to being correct – the actual traded price on the European market is currently around Eu27 per tonne. However that’s a big increase from where it was trading even a motnh ago – under Eu19.00 per tonne.

    Now you could argue that prices with rise with rising demand – but if so you’d be betting against history.

    Ignoring short-term fluctations (such as the cost rise in Chinese demand) real prices for virtually all commodities have been falling essentially for as far back as we have reliable records – roughly 200 years.

    That’s due primarily to technical innovation and to improved business practices arising from competition between firms.

    That’s why I expect the real price of carbon reductions to fall over time.

  39. #39 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    Almost forgot – my source for carbon credit prices:

    http://www.pointcarbon.com/article.php?articleID=7342&categoryID=390

    An example of earlier, much higher estimated costs:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/neic/press/press109.html

    In this case, it was noted that the cost woudl equate to an increase 9in US oil price of between 14 and 66 cents per gallon (in 1996 dollars).

    Well oil prices have increased by much more than that in the last couple of years and yet civilisation doesn’t appear to have come crashing down.

  40. #40 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    While checking for the above information I ran into the ever-execrable junkscience.com’s “Kyoto Count-up”.

    http://www.junkscience.com/MSUTemps/KyotoCount_Up.htm

    They claim Kyoto costs will be $150 billion a year.

    The reduction commitments for the Kyoto signatories come to around 100 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

    A similar maths check, of the type of which they’re obviously incapable, shows that their implied cost is US$1500 per tonne.

    That’s 50 times the current market price.

  41. #41 Glen Raphael
    July 3, 2005

    Meyrick, suppose you put $1000 in a savings account that earns 5% annually. The value in the account after 200 years is over 17 million dollars. That’s where the “GIGANTIC PILE of resources” comes from – it’s compound interest applied to an initial modest sum.

    Let’s be more conservative and say that the economy only grows by an inflation-adjusted 3%. US GDP is about $12 trillion. .5% of that for three years is 1.5% total, or $180 billion. Now grow that amount at 3% for 200 years and it becomes worth $66 trillion, or roughly 5.5 times the current entire US GDP. That’s how much poorer we’ll be in 200 years for each $180 billion we blow today on Kyoto (or on Iraq, for that matter).

    I suspect one could buy quite a lot of asteroid defense for $66 trillion dollars using the science and technology available 200 years from now.

    One could also buy quite a lot of global warming defense for that amount. Whatever is involved in mitigating the harm 200 years from now, it’ll be a lot easier to do if we have an extra $66 trillion to spare than if we do not. That’s an argument for not spending the money now if we can possibly help it.

  42. #42 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    However the cost of global warming, which will have to include the insurance premium that I believe are going up right now, will also be affected by the same compound interest.

  43. #43 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    Furthermore as Ian has helpfully shown, the initial cost of Kyoto with carbon trading might be considerably less. What, $3bn a year? So if we assume that is for the next, say 10 years, that gives a present value of $26bn, which compounded for 200 years is $9.5tr, roughly 80% of todays US GDP.

    I might add Glen, you said .5%, not 5%.

  44. #44 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    But Glen, in 200 years WE’LL all be dead – and our descendants will be so rich from the other 99.5% of current GDP also compounding at 3% that they’ll wonder at the fuss we made over a mere $180 billion.

  45. #45 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    Oops, I should take back that last bit.

  46. #46 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    Hummm, this is fun. I had forgotten my old finance maths. Lets say the cost is .5% of the US economy, or $60bn (20 my/Ian’s estimate). Again for te next ten years gives a present value of $512bn, or in 200 years, $189tr. But since the US economy will have grown by the same 3%, that means the cost will be roughly 4% of the US economy in 2205, leaving 96% of the US economy to pay for that asteroid protection system.

    If Ian & I are right about the initial costs, then that jumps to 99.8% of the US economy left.

  47. #47 Eli Rabett
    July 3, 2005

    The world economy is about 20 trillion per year. So even at the junk science’s rather exaggerated Kyoto cost of 150 billion per year that is 0.75 percent. Well within the noise using an upper limit for the cost and a lower limit (if any) for the benefit. That, my friends is a good deal. We should grab it.

  48. #48 Glen Raphael
    July 3, 2005

    Ian: if the economy is growing by 3% per year that means that 100/103 = 97% of the GDP is current consumption, required simply to stay where we are. So we only have 3% to work with in terms of growth. 97% of the harvest is the corn we eat to live, 3% is the seed corn we plant for future generations. You’re saying that if we eat 1/6th of our seed corn (0.5/3.0) we’ll probably still survive. And that’s true. The problem is that everybody ELSE with a pet cause uses the same argument you do. They say “We can afford this, it won’t totally eliminate economic growth if we do it so long as we’re frugal in other matters.” But we probably won’t be frugal in other matters, this expense we’re considering might be larger than we think, and the margin of error is really small. The only way we can be SURE our descendents will be that wealthy is if we err on the side of caution and leave the seed corn alone. Call it “the economic precautionary principle”

    The good news is that if we do nothing now, our descendents will indeed be that rich. Rich enough to build machines to sequester all the excess CO2, rich enough to raise cities and build breakwaters, rich enough to change the albedo of the planet if that’s what it takes. The people of the future, the people who live a hundred years or more from now, will be in a far, far better position to do something about global warming than we are now. All we have to do is not screw it up and leave them an economy that has been allowed to grow unhindered.

  49. #49 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    if the economy is growing by 3% per year that means that 100/103 = 97% of the GDP is current consumption, required simply to stay where we are. So we only have 3% to work with in terms of growth. 97% of the harvest is the corn we eat to live, 3% is the seed corn we plant for future generations. You’re saying that if we eat 1/6th of our seed corn (0.5/3.0) we’ll probably still survive. And that’s true.

    Glen, aside from confusing the notions of consumption and investment, your argument appears to assume that the .5% is paid in perpetuity, that is every year. But that wasn’t the argument, it was for a finite time. Yes the compound value of that increases over time, but the relative value compared to GDP (assuming it resumes its full growth after the finite time) remains the same.

    Your argument only holds if there is a perpetual cost of .5% every year, forever. This is a truly astronomical value (actually it’s infinite).

  50. #50 Meyrick Kirby
    July 3, 2005

    I might add, as Ian has shown, the cost of Kyoto for a finite time would be about $30 per tonne, for 100m tonnes, or $3bn per year for the whole of the developed world until the end of the Kyoto agreement. Your estimate of $60bn per year for the US alone is at least 20 times greater.

    Even if the $3bn was paid in real terms in perpetuity, the present value would be $100bn (assuming real growth of 3% otherwise).

  51. #51 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    If the economy is growing by 3% per year that means that 100/103 = 97% of the GDP is current consumption, required simply to stay where we are. So we only have 3% to work with in terms of growth. 97% of the harvest is the corn we eat to live, 3% is the seed corn we plant for future generations.

    Glen, you’re confusing investment and growth.

    A typical developed country invests around 20% of GDP per year – that goes into retirement savings and into business investment. (Developing countries such as China invest moe – up to 40 or 50%). The bulk of that investment goes into replacing existing plant, equipment and infrastructure as it depreciates.

    So if the US economy is worth, in round terms, US$10 trillion per year probably $2 trillion of that is invested. (I need to check US investment figures I haven’t looked at them for some time.)

    So a hypothetical investment of $60 billion a year in carbon control technology – even if was a dead-weight loss – would represent a reduction of 0.3% (not 16.66% as you suggest) in investment.

    In practice, if you accept there’s ANY net return on investment in carbon reductions the economic loss is smaller still.

    Your argument about dumping our problem on future generatiosn has a coupel of flaws:

    1. it assumes the cost of fixing the problem in a century will be the same (as a percentage of GDP as fixing it now);
    2. it assumes that GDP growth in the interim won’t be impacted by global warming;
    3. the people in 2100 will be able to make the same argument about future economic growth – let the people in the year 2200 fix it.

    If Ferdinand and Isabella had followed this logic, they would have turned away Columbus on the grounds that they should wait for better ships and better navigation techniques.

    If Teddy Roosevelt had followed this logic he would never have set up the first national parks – let future generations do it. They’ll be richer.

    Presumably too you feel that the Apollo project was a bad idea.

  52. #52 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    The US could more than meet it’s Kyoto commitments with three measures that would probably be either economically neutral or increase economic growth.

    1. End the preferential tax treatment of SUVs and make them compete on an equal footing with other passenger vehicles.

    2. Impose a national petrol tax of around 20 cents a gallon – use the revenue from that to reduce other taxes which are more economically harmful (such as capital gaisn tax)

    3. Require all new coal-fired powerplants to use the latest IGCC coal gasification technology which produces 1/4th as much CO2 per unit of power generated. Require existing plant to be retired at the end of their economic life and repalced with IGCC plants. IGCC plants cost around 10% more to construct than conventional plants but have lower operating costs (because they use coal far more efficiently). Provide utilities with an investment allowance/accelerated depreciation to offset the additional capital cost.

    Because IGCC plants produce much less air pollution of all sorts (not just CO2) that last measure would probably more than pay for itself through reductions in health costs from mercury and SOx and NOx emissions.

  53. #53 Ian Gould
    July 3, 2005

    http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/print/us.html

    Total US invesment is 15.7% of GDP as of 2004.

    That’s around $1.6 trillion per year – blowing our hypothetical and almost certainly overstated $60 billion expenditure out to a massive 4% of total US investment (not GDP – investment).

    Assuming that investment is the principal dirver of economic growth (as a simplifying assumption) we’re talking about a reduction in the GDP growth rate from around 3% to around 2.9%.

    Of course, similar logic applied to the cost of the war in Iraq implies its reducing GDP growth by around .2% of GDP.

  54. #54 frankis
    July 3, 2005

    Glen writes >The good news is that if we do nothing now, our descendents will indeed be that rich …. the people who live a hundred years or more from now, will be in a far, far better position to do something about global warming than we are now. All we have to do is not screw it up and leave them an economy that has been allowed to grow unhindered.

    It’s really not even wrong Glen. You’re a pie-eyed optimist where it suits you but a black as the devil pessimist otherwise. As has been well demonstrated to you by examples given above, there never has been such a creature as you dream of, the unhindered economy, and nor should there ever be. I think you’re also going too far in presuming you know enough about any of the environmental or climate science involved in this discussion to blandly make the kind of statements you’ve made above.

    Other than this I won’t pile on because Meyrick and Ian have done more and better above, particularly including Ian’s constructive proposals toward reducing carbon intensity in a particularly economically sensible fashion. Let’s not go too far in attempting to simplify things Glen. I’m sure we’d all agree that economics and the physical sciences are complex fields of study.

  55. #55 frankis
    July 3, 2005

    Pity that spell checker doesn’t also check formatting; sorry for my clueless formatting failure(s).

  56. #56 Meyrick Kirby
    July 4, 2005

    it assumes the cost of fixing the problem in a century will be the same (as a percentage of GDP as fixing it now)

    I can think of plenty of examples in other fields where it is cheaper to catch problems as soon as possible.

    1. In software development, the sooner changes or errors in the requirements are found the better. Changes to software in the final stages of development are often sighted as being 100 times more expensive than in early stages.

    2. In contract pharmaceutical work, the sooner problems are communicated to the contractee the better. Pharmaceutical companies can spend a long time finding CRO’s and developing trusting relationships where the latter feels confident to admit problems.

    3. Contracts for large building projects are worked out to the smallest detail. If changes are made after the contract is signed then the builders tend to take the client to the cleaners, as the Scottish Parliament have recently found out.

    Now I’m only guessing this same logic applies to GW, but I just can’t shake my suspicions.

  57. #57 Meyrick Kirby
    July 4, 2005

    I might add, that Ian’s nice piece of work assumes that the whole $60bn is coming out of investment expenditure, and not from reducing consumption.

  58. #58 Glen Raphael
    July 4, 2005

    I admit to using sloppy terminology. I was using “consumption” in more of a metaphoric sense. I agree that quite a lot of the GDP is called investment, but investment that merely replaces existing depreciating capital does not contribute to growth; it merely maintains the status quo. If we invest less than that, the society gets poorer every year as things run down; if we invest more, it gets richer. I don’t know what to call that marginal excess – the amount of extra productive capacity that in a healthy economy goes into making each generation richer than the previous one. The margin of growth, perhaps? I do know that that amount is small, merely a few percentage points. A few percent of GDP is the difference between a society where things are getting better each year and one where things are stagnant or getting worse. So when people talk about changes that would reduce our GDP by anything approaching a percent per year, even if it’s only for a decade or so, that scares me. Because I can’t help thinking of Bastiat’s “what is not seen” – the benefits that would have come about if we hadn’t frittered away all this money and reduced a margin of growth that was tiny to begin with.

    I never claimed GW will be exactly as cheap to fix in the future as now. It might be more expensive due to accumulated damage, less expensive due to improved technology, more data and improved understanding of the problem, or anything in between. Probably it’ll be more expensive, but not enough more to make up for the economic benefit of waiting. Economic progress, like environmental degradation, is path dependent – what we do now changes our production possibilities frontier in the future. And isn’t it just barely possible that this isn’t the most important problem we’ll need to solve in the next century, that other emergencies will come up and we’ll be glad we waited?

    In 2100, people will have a much better grasp on what’s going on and what the real costs are, and I trust them to make the right decision then. Don’t you? If they decide then that it’s still not worth addressing, isn’t that their choice to make? Yes, it’s possible they’ll decide that the amount of warming they’ve seen or expect is of net benefit or neutral and they can safely put it off further. It’s more likely that technological change will render the whole debate moot between now and then — the problem will disappear or change into something else entirely. Just like the “running out of whale oil” problem or the “too much horse manure” problem.

    Ferdinand and Isabella were in a race — they needed to discover and exploit new resources ASAP before some other country did. Yes, of course the Apollo program was a horrendous waste of money. As has been just about everything NASA does.

  59. #59 Meyrick Kirby
    July 4, 2005

    but investment that merely replaces existing depreciating capital does not contribute to growth; it merely maintains the status quo

    Not really, since new capital tends to incorporate the latest technology. Ian has already given the example of replacing the old coal stations with CO2 improved ones. Plus I did point out the costs do not need to come exclusively from our other investments, but partly from reduced consumption

    Probably it’ll be more expensive, but not enough more to make up for the economic benefit of waiting.

    I’ve just given you three examples from other disciplines where this is not true. What makes you so sure you’re right?

    It’s more likely that technological change will render the whole debate moot between now and then

    Surely trying to reduce carbon emissions is a way to encourage such technological change/improvements? However I’ll admit to the possibility that it maybe better to invest the resources directly into searching technological improvement to energy production now and leave the CO2 reductions for later.

    I think you’re looking at this from a either/or position. But the idea of carbon trading provides a mechanism to guage (if imprefectly) the costs of CO2 reductions. If prices remain fairly low we can continue with reductions as planned. If we find it’s too costly (prices go up to high) we can pull back on the reductions, or if the science surrounding GW as it improves suggests that the problem is worse, then we can increase the reductions. We certainly don’t need to sink a large amount of resources immediately into the problem.

  60. #60 Meyrick Kirby
    July 4, 2005

    Oh god, back to economics, such a long time since I did this sort of thing (Ian you better check my thinking here). I believe Glen is arguing that the elasticity of growth to investment is very high, thus small changes in the change in capital will result in large changes in growth. The old way to think about this is a Cobb-Douglass function, logged and then taking the changes:

    DGln = a + bDKln + cDLln + e

    Where D means delta, i.e. change.
    Gln is logged GDP
    Kln is logged capital
    Lln is logged labour
    e is an error term

    If Glen is right, the coefficient on DKln, b, is high, above 1. But my dim recollection of running such regressions was that b was less than 1.

  61. #61 Eli Rabett
    July 4, 2005

    It seems to me that the examples Meyrick Kirby points to have a commonality, momentum, that is the change implied by the forcing is not fully realized immediately. In climate this is called the oceans.

  62. #62 Ragout
    July 4, 2005

    Looking at the links, I didn’t see much of anything about “significant errors” in anybody’s study. It seems like the main point is that the shorter satellite time series showed global cooling, while as more data has come in, the longer series now shows global warming.

    That doesn’t seem all that surprising. There is obviously a lot of serial correlation in the series, and so ten or twenty years of data really isn’t all that much.

  63. #63 Ian Gould
    July 4, 2005

    Glen,

    I’m not going to go into detail as to why you’re incorrect. Meyrick pointed out one of the key points – there aren’t two neat buckets of money labelled “consumption” and “investment”. The proportions of the economy spent on consumption and investment fluctuate from year to year by much more than the amounts you’re concerned over.

    You also seem convinced that any money spent on addressing global warming is a dead-weight loss. That’s probably incorrect. To take the example of the space program, which you describe as “a horrendous waste of money”, weather anc communications satellites contribute hundreds of billions if not trillions of dollars to the global economy every year. Leaving aside the trivialities that get tossed around all the time like teflon, Apollo led to a couple of major technical developments. The integrated circuits developed for computations on the Lunar modules led directly to the personal computer. The medical monitoring equipment used to track the astronauts’ health led to improved monitoring equipment for ambulances and intensive care units which have saved millions of lives.

    I’m assuming that you’ve never studied economics.

    I’m trying to avoid sounding like a sanctimonious jerk here who falls back on claims of special knowledge but I think a quick read through some of the articles on wikipedia might be in order.

  64. #64 Glen Raphael
    July 4, 2005

    The first real satellites (TELSTAR, RELAY, and SYNCOM, launched by or on hehalf of RCA, AT&T and Hughes Aircraft, respectively) were all up and running by 1964; the Apollo missions didn’t really get going until a few years later.

    Weather and communication satellites don’t fundamentally require human beings to be up there. We put people up there anyway because it’s exciting and gives good publicity to politicians. I’m sure there have been a few actual benefits from the buckets of money being poured in – how could there not be? – but overall “the space program” is a form of entertainment more than it is useful engineering. A boondoggle. Others have described the problem better than I could (read this article if you didn’t earlier: The Folly of Our Age).

    I took econ as an undergrad and have read a few textbooks on the subject on my own, but I’m pretty rusty at the moment. I’m not a fan of Macro, but I like Micro quite a bit. And, of course, Public Choice Theory. Most claims that the space program was of net benefit constitute a form of the Broken Window Fallacy.

    Addressing C02 now won’t all be deadweight loss, but a lot of it will. One could imagine a world in which new carbon taxes would replace older taxes that had more deadweight cost of taxation, but in the world we actualy live in I expect the new taxes will merely augment the old ones, with government growth sopping up the extra revenue. (there’s me being a pessimist again!)

    I think one fundamental difference between most skeptics and non-skeptics is a matter of religious perspective: Skeptics tend not to have adopted the religious tenets of environmentalism. Primarily, the idea that human-caused equals evil. So let me toss out a thought experiment: Imagine that everybody agreed the earth were currently warming for reasons that had nothing to do with human activity. The predictions of the IPCC with regard to world temperature trends were all true, but not caused by us. Suppose that we knew the planet is getting warmer for various natural reasons and we could either spend a hundred billion dollars or so trying to reduce some tiny fraction of that future warming, or we could wait and live with it and try to adapt to it and mitigate the harm in various ways when and as it becomes a problem for human society.

    Does your intuition change? Do you still advocate spending the money to modify human activity in such a way as to slightly reduce world warming trends, or do you now regard proposals to “air condition the planet” as a dangerous technological boondoggle?

  65. #65 Eli Rabett
    July 4, 2005

    Ragout (and others) might benefit from the discussion of satellite measurements at http://www.scottchurchimages.com/enviro/docs/MSU-Troposphere-Skeptic01.pdf

    There are actually informative posts on the situation going well back in sci.environment, made by people who understand microwave sounding. Of course the S/N is ~1 or less, but one can learn to pick out the people on both sides with a clue.

    There are major issues with the S&C reconstructions, some of which have resulted in their constant revision (not a bad thing), including orbital decay, problems of joining the results from one satellite to that of a preceeding one (especially bad in the case when the two satellites did not have overlapping times in orbit. Then there are issues with the algorithms.

  66. #66 ben
    July 4, 2005

    I wonder if anyone will be alive and still stuck on this planet when the sun finally runs out of gas. If there are, that will be interesting.

    They’ll look back on the billions of years of issues and maybe, just maybe, out of the billions of events that could be remembered, global warming of the 21st century might register a blip.

    This comment certainly won’t, and yet, here it is just the same.

  67. #67 Ian Gould
    July 4, 2005

    The first real satellites (TELSTAR, RELAY, and SYNCOM, launched by or on hehalf of RCA, AT&T and Hughes Aircraft, respectively) were all up and running by 1964; the Apollo missions didn’t really get going until a few years later.

    Yes, using launcher technology derived from government research on ICBMs and the Apollo precursors such as Mercury and Gemini.

    I expect the new taxes will merely augment the old ones

    Why?

    The insistence by skeptics that those who disagree with them are driven by irrational, quasi-religious motives is simply offensive.

  68. #68 Eli Rabett
    July 4, 2005

    After the 1957 launch of Sputnik I, many considered the benefits, profits, and prestige associated with satellite communications. Because of Congressional fears of “duplication,” NASA confined itself to experiments with “mirrors” or “passive” communications satellites (ECHO), while the Department of Defense was responsible for “repeater” or “active” satellites which amplify the received signal at the satellite–providing much higher quality communications. In 1960 AT&T filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch an experimental communications satellite with a view to rapidly implementing an operational system. The U.S. government reacted with surprise– there was no policy in place to help execute the many decisions related to the AT&T proposal. By the middle of 1961, NASA had awarded a competitive contract to RCA to build a medium-orbit (4,000 miles high) active communication satellite (RELAY); AT&T was building its own medium-orbit satellite (TELSTAR) which NASA would launch on a cost-reimbursable basis; and NASA had awarded a sole- source contract to Hughes Aircraft Company to build a 24-hour (20,000 mile high) satellite (SYNCOM). The military program, ADVENT, was cancelled a year later due to complexity of the spacecraft, delay in launcher availability, and cost over-runs.
    http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/satcomhistory.html

    So much, as they say for private industry. Personally I liked ECHO the best. You could see the damn thing with your own eyes. Made me feel like Tycho Brahe.

  69. #69 Glen Raphael
    July 4, 2005

    Ian,
    On rockets: We apparently agree that some past military spending on rockets (say, developing the Atlas) helped the nascent satellite industry. And we apparently agree that Apollo itself didn’t do much identifiable good to offset the ludicrous expenditure.

    On taxes: I expect the old taxes to survive, because of the incentives politicians face. Old programs, including taxes, almost never expire when their time has passed. The Rural Electrification Agency hung around long after all rural areas had gotten electrified; the Tennessee Valley Authority survived long past the crises that spawned it; the Wool and Mohair subsidy, the Board of Tea Experts, and the Strategic Helium Fund (for ensuring we could launch war zeppelins against Germany – really!) all lived long past their appropriate time. Whenever a new bridge or highway is built, it is sold to voters with the assurance that the toll booths are “temporary” and will go away once the bonds are paid off, but this never actually happens. There is a predictable disconnect between what gets proposed and what actually gets implemented.

    That dynamic is why it is so important to oppose a new program that is wrongheaded. Because no matter how stupid it is, once you create that program you have created a constituency for its continuance. People will come to rely on its presence; like the broken window, it will present seen benefits and unseen costs. The only time it is politically practical to stop a boondoggle is before it really gets started, before it comes to be seen as “normal” (like the postal monopoly or government-run schooling) or “beneficial” (like the space program).

    Thus, people who are aware that something might become a boondoggle and are aware of the relevant political incentives will tend to demand an extremely high level of proof that a proposed new program is actually necessary, in order to offset the downside risk that if it’s not working from the start we may be stuck with it continuing to not work – or even make things worse – indefinitely.

    Ian, it’s impossible to entirely avoid being influenced by the culture one grows up in. Environmentalism is the primary secular religion of the west; it influences us all, often positively. I don’t see why it should be offensive to suggest that there’s a bit of a religious shism that accounts for some of the unusual fervor behind these arguments. My contention might be wrong, or it might not apply to you in particular; that’s why I said “most” rather than “all”. Maybe it’s more of a US thing.

    I appreciate your generally measured tones in this discussion. (and, while I’m at it, I appreciate Tim’s patience in putting up with our often tangential digressions.)

  70. #70 Steve Bloom
    July 5, 2005

    Re #69: “Environmentalism is the primary secular religion of the west” Say what? Last time I checked, the short-term drive to profit was the primary secular religion. For evidence, all one has to do is consider the state of natural resource exploitation. Environmentalism is only a little more mainstream than the Gnostic gospels.

  71. #71 Dano
    July 5, 2005

    Steve:

    you’ll notice some folk have to fall back on religion when all else fails (else make a thought experiment) because that’s all they have. No empirical evidence, no alternate hypothesis, no weight of scholarly papers in journals. Just hair-splitting, nitpicking, and stalker-type/opinion web sites.

    D

  72. #72 Urinated State of America
    July 5, 2005

    Meyrick, suppose you put $1000 in a savings account that earns 5% annually. The value in the account after 200 years is over 17 million dollars. That’s where the “GIGANTIC PILE of resources” comes from – it’s compound interest applied to an initial modest sum.”

    Err, but the cost in the future is discounted by the discount rate. The net present value of $1,000 per year into eternity, discounted at a 5% p.a. discount rate is $20,000. After about twenty or so years, the terminal value is minimal. Even if countering increasing CO2 atmospheric levels cost as much as 2% of GDP, it is not the end of the world; we’re not talking about going back to flint tools here. If anything, the opposite; there’s a whole bunch of currently dormant technologies (gasification, synfuels, and nuk-kul-ear) that would be revived.

  73. #73 Glen Raphael
    July 5, 2005

    Steve: let me know when the public grade schools teach the Gnostic Gospels alongside Earth Day and recycling and the wisdom of the American Indians. :-)

    USA: The reason we apply a discount rate to investments is that current resources are worth more than future resources. I don’t mind you discounting the cost of addressing warming as long as you also discount the cost of /not/ addressing it.

    (The “put $1k in a savings account” argument was meant to illustrate /why/ we use discount rates. If you already accept the need for a discount rate, and are suggesting a rate of 5%, it’s hard to see why you would think it was worth doing anything about Global Warming.)

    From the relevant wiki page

    One of the major issues in economics is what is an appropriate discount rate to use under various circumstances. For example, in assessing the impact of very long-term phenomena such as climate change, use of any discount rate much more than 1% per annum renders long-term damage (occurring in, say, 200 years time) of negligible importance now, and therefore entails (implausibly) that there is no need to take preventative action.

  74. #74 david
    July 6, 2005

    ben Says:
    July 3rd, 2005 at 2:07 pm
    David, you still do not answer the question of >why we have to act, even if the earth is >warming. Your last post strongly begs that >question.

    Ben, you head is obviously in the economic sand. On current trends, we will melt greenland (the tipping point at which this become inevitable is about 50 years from now), swamp our coastal cities, render countries like Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Maldives, etc etc uninhabitable, not to mention see the tropical forests revert to savana, bleach the worlds coral reefs, and the oceans acidify to a level which will lead to a mass extinction of shell life in the oceans. All these things are discussed extensively in the literature, and inevitable with we do not stablise atmospheric CO2 levels. They are not based on the fantasy of unlimited economic growth, they are based on biology, physics, chemisty, and history.

    If these are not enough reasons to consider the need for action, then consider the inevitability of litigation through the courts, as the victims of climate change extract redress for the harm done by those who wrongly think it is their god given right to pollute.

    David

  75. #75 Ian Gould
    July 6, 2005

    Even quite small increases in sea level will be sufficient to render coral atolls like Niue and Tuvalua uninhabitable as sea water will infiltrate the fresh water lens under the island’s on which their inhabitatnts depend.

    In the case of Niue this isn’t a hypothetical – its expected to happen in the next few years and the New Zealand government is already making plans to relocate the entire population to New Zealand.

  76. #76 Glen Raphael
    July 6, 2005

    David: and by your estimate Kyoto will do what, exactly, to stop any of these potentially scary things from happening? Or will it just postpone them by a few years so they happen, say, in 2104 instead of in 2100?

  77. #77 Meyrick Kirby
    July 6, 2005

    USA, please read my posts carefully.

    Glen, the cost of CO2 reductions are essentially unknown, but I’ve already proposed a machanism, if imperfect, that would allow the costs to be contained. The costs of not reducing CO2 are also uncertain, they maybe small, or they might be huge (there are plenty of examples on smaller scales of older societies buggering it up, Easter Island being a good example). I suppose the question is, how lucky do you feel?

    And remember one of the ways we make progress is by identifying problems and solving them.

  78. #78 Jeff Harvey
    July 6, 2005

    Glen,<>

    Methinks you’ve been reading too much bilge from the likes of Bjorn Lomborg. For the zillionth time, KYOTO IS A FIRST STEP. There’s no way it will be possible to get governments to sign up to something immediately more draconian. As Stephen Schneider said, there’s no way we’ll make it to the end of the street if we aren’t willing to take the first steps to get to the front door. Its projected that Kyoto will be followed by further measures to curb greenhouse gfas emissions.<>

    Lomborg made the same inane analogy. I can’t understand why its still being wheeled out, several years after it was initially demolished.

  79. #79 Dano
    July 6, 2005

    Lomborg made the same inane analogy. I can’t understand why its still being wheeled out, several years after it was initially demolished.

    ’cause that’s all the Googlers have, Jeff.

    D

  80. #80 Glen Raphael
    July 6, 2005

    The way you do cost-benefit analysis is to compare the costs to the benefits. Of that proposal. You can’t count the benefits of some future expected proposals that have yet to be specified.

    The reason Lomborg’s argument is still around is that as far as I know it’s never been satisfactorily answered. Everybody agrees that the direct benefits of Kyoto itself are nil; it’s only “a first step”. Well, I can’t support a policy whose primary purpose is to – at rather large cost – desensitize the public to unspecified future policies that are even more expensive and still have unclear benefits.

    If you’re motivated by the dangers of warming, propose a policy that deals with global warming. Then we can debate it. But Kyoto is essentially a sneak attack. The alarmists are saying “Ooh, look! Big scary problem over here! Trust us, we can fix it. No, we won’t tell you how. You can’t be trusted with the details, they would scare you. We won’t tell you what the eventual plan is. We might not even have a plan. But whatever The Plan will be, Kyoto is definitely a good, surprisingly cheap, and necessary first step towards it! Really! What, you’re not convinced yet? Don’t you realize how scary the problem is? Scary! Eek! Booga booga booga!”

    In the war of metaphors, your side favors the image “when you’re in a hole, stop digging.” Mine thinks you’re “closing the barn door after the cows have gone.” Wake me when you have a real plan. Even if you don’t think it’s politically palatable, I need to know what the whole plan is before I can sign off on some subset of it. If Kyoto is “a first step”, we need to be sure it’s a step in the correct direction, and we can’t know that unless we know what destination you have in mind.

  81. #81 Meyrick Kirby
    July 6, 2005

    Big scary problem over here!

    Most of the relevant scientists seem to think there is. I’ve already given you my reasons for suspecting there is a problem from an economic perspective.

    Trust us, we can fix it.

    No guarantees, just an attempt to make the right decision with the information available

    No, we won’t tell you how. You can’t be trusted with the details, they would scare you. We won’t tell you what the eventual plan is. We might not even have a plan. But whatever The Plan will be, Kyoto is definitely a good, surprisingly cheap, and necessary first step towards it!

    The plan is simple: Gradually reduce CO2 emissions to point where levels stop going up. I’ve already given you a proposal (which is already being discussed seriously, even The Economist seems to like it) to keep costs down.

  82. #82 Meyrick Kirby
    July 6, 2005

    Come on Glen, lets be honest, you don’t think this is about environmental issues … you think this is about SOCIALISM!

    The irony is that a certain Professor of Accounting claimed not that long ago I was part of the “Dark Side”, that side of evil capitalists, etc. Somedays I get the impression I can’t win!

  83. #83 Ian Gould
    July 6, 2005

    Glen,

    1. As I have explained here, the cost of Kyoto is not particularly large.

    2. The purpose of the Kyoto is not to desensitise the public – it is to prove the mechanisms (emission trading, joint implementation, clean development mechanism) for additional future reductions.

    3. If you think Kyoto doesn’t do enough blame Clinton and Bush Sr.. From the first it was the United States that argued to weaken the agreement and raise the emissions targets.

  84. #84 Ian Gould
    July 6, 2005

    I need to know what the whole plan is before I can sign off on some subset of it.

    It’a a damn goiod thing you weren’t in the US Congress when Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war on Japan.

  85. #85 Dano
    July 6, 2005

    I need to know what the whole plan is before I can sign off on some subset of it.

    We would have enjoyed an exit plan from Eye-rack over here in the states…

    D

  86. #86 Glen Raphael
    July 6, 2005

    The scariness of the problem is irrelevant to the question of whether we should implement a particular proposed solution. What is at issue is the effectiveness of the solution at hand. The writers of Yes, Minister amusingly described the “something” falacy of government as a chain of reasoning that goes like this:

    1. There is a problem.
    2. Something must be done!
    3. This is something.
    4. Therefore this must be done!

    Every time I see someone harping on the seriousness of a problem, I suspect a bit of that sort of misdirection is at hand.

    Emission trading permits can of course be a big improvement over command-and-control limits, but deciding who gets to sell them is likely to be a big mess. As I understand it, the first few passes at Kyoto seemed designed to produce – whether deliberately or as an accidental byproduct – a vast third-world subsidy; the practical upshot would be that rich, growing countries (especially those that had grown since 1990) would end up paying huge fees to poor stagnating ones (especially those that had been in recession since 1990) to buy their permits, as a cost of continuing to do business. Yes, this would reduce pollution. But it’s also effectively a tax on economic success and a subsidy of economic stagnation. Incentives being what they are, the predictable result would be less worldwide economic development and more poverty.

    Dano: I agree! (BTW, I also am “over here in the states”. San Francisco, to be exact.)

  87. #87 Glen Raphael
    July 6, 2005

    On the one hand, Kyoto doesn’t do enough, but on the other hand, it does too much.

    If, as some have argued here, it is merely a proof of concept designed to test institutions and help us refine the mechanisms and make governments, companies and people more familiar with it, it shouldn’t need to be worldwide. Any single country state or small set of them could unilaterally try it. That way if it turns out to be a disaster we haven’t sacrificed much. We can make it global after it’s been proven on a smaller scale.

    On the other hand, if it’s expected to fix the problem, it’s woefully inadequate.

    My alternative suggestion is that we focus on the goal – cool the planet – rather than the mechanism by which it gets done. If the fundamental problem is that the planet is getting warmer, let’s spend the next few decades figuring out the cheapest way to cool the planet. Why focus on CO2 alone? If extra CO2 is like graffiti painted on a wall, we need to come up with the equivalent of sandblasting. An actual cure.

    I’m picturing a giant thermostat with annual arguments over what global temperature to set for the upcoming year… :-)

  88. #88 Ender
    July 6, 2005

    Glen – Thats great however one of the most powerful tools to cool or warm a planet is by greenhouse gases. Because of the huge amount of energy the earth receives from the sun, changing the concentration of key greenhouse gases is the most cost effective and efficient methods of heating or cooling because of the enormous feedback loops that come into play from a tiny change in the greenhouse gas.

    To stop the rise in temperature the easiest thing to do is reduce the rise in greenhouse gases.

  89. #89 Glen Raphael
    July 7, 2005

    Ender: Speaking of easy things to do, I rather liked the idea of giving the ocean an iron supplement to sequester more CO2. This is an especially promising notion since it should be possible to do quite a bit of it at a profit rather than it all requiring a subsidy or loss – the profit comes from increasing local fish production (fed by the algae that result from the seeding).

    I’ve also heard some interesting ideas about changing the albedo of the planet. Making more clouds, changing the sky or the water or the snow so as to reflect more energy…

    Environmentalists tend to disapprove of these sort of ideas because if we had a really cheap and effect way to counteract CO2 growth, there’d be no incentive to limit industrial production of CO2, and they think this is a bad thing. Me, I don’t see why it’s a bad thing.

    Meyrick: No, the underlying obsession involved in the branch of environmentalism that annoys me really doesn’t feel like socialism to me — it’s something much closer to puritanism. The attitude that essentially all growth and development is bad and we should live more like primitives, more “in tune with nature” certainly doesn’t come from modern socialism. Socialism was rabidly in favor of growth and development (much to the detriment of nature, incidentally); it just wasn’t very good at either.

    Suppose scientists invented a pill that let you eat all you want and never exercise and still be fit. Some people would say that pill is bad because, well, man is supposed to suffer. Being fat and out of shape is the proper and expected punishment for gluttony, you’re messing with nature to change that, and messing with nature is bad. I don’t sympathise with this point of view, but I recognize it. The same people who think like that tend to believe “cheap, safe nuclear power” would be a bad thing because it would enable more development and “wasteful” use of energy.

    Many old-time religions thought it was wrong to mess with God’s will – that the world is the way it is for reasons we don’t quite understand because we aren’t smart enough to know what God had in mind for the place. Some new environmentalists – not all – think it’s similarly wrong to mess with Nature’s will. Anything that lets us overstep prior limitations – GM food, new forms of power production, that sort of thing – is a form of heresy. That’s the essence of the Precautionary Principle – a powerful bias in favor of leaving everything “the way Nature intended” that is justified by a fear of bringing down punishment in the form of plagues, floods, fire, and famine. Nature substitutes directly for God in that story and we are all doomed, because we are all sinners against Nature.

    Ehrlich is like that. But not all environmentalists are like Ehrlich.
    (Thank God!)
    (or Nature, as the case may be).

  90. #90 Meyrick Kirby
    July 7, 2005

    But it’s also effectively a tax on economic success and a subsidy of economic stagnation.

    Only if there is an inherent & unalterable connection between progress & CO2 emissions. But the idea is to disprove that connection.

    Suppose scientists invented a pill that let you eat all you want and never exercise and still be fit.

    I’d say there are no free lunches. There’s a cost to everything. In principle I’m not against nuclear power, fusion power, GM food, and a number of other things. Actually I think nuclear power is one of the ways to reduce CO2, which is seems as the main (but not only) cause of global warming. Furthermore I’m glad that they’ve got round to deciding on the location of ITER. GM food does have potential, although I’m in a country where intensive farming has had some rather noticable adverse affects, thus I’m a bit more cautionary on that one.

    1. There is a problem.

    Yes, the consensus is that there is a problem

    1. Something must be done!

    Yes, solving problems one of the ways we make progress, as I’ve already pointed out

    1. This is something.

    And what is your alternative. You haven’t mentioned any apart from dumping loads of iron in the oceans.

    1. Therefore this must be done!

    Yep, that’s the argument. There is nothing wrong with the chain of logic other than the exploration of althernative solutions at point 3. But I’ve seen no credible alternatives.

    So if this isn’t about socialism, does that make me a socialist or an environmentalist or other?

  91. #91 Dano
    July 7, 2005

    Environmentalists tend to disapprove of these sort of ideas because if we had a really cheap and effect way to counteract CO2 growth, there’d be no incentive to limit industrial production of CO2, and they think this is a bad thing.

    Nooooo, people familiar with the natural sciences disapprove of the implementing the idea because we’ve only just begun testing the idea and the jury’s still out.

    Your arguments are full of holes based on false premises. This is the top fish on the barrel.

    D

  92. #92 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2005

    As I understand it, the first few passes at Kyoto seemed designed to produce – whether deliberately or as an accidental byproduct – a vast third-world subsidy;

    No it isn’t – I suggest you widen your sources of information.

  93. #93 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2005

    it shouldn’t need to be worldwide.

    Except that the concept it’s intended to prove is the international trading of emission credits.

    Question – do you think, in general, that larger markets with more participants and larger trading volumes tend to be more liquid and effiicent than smaller ones with fewer participants?

  94. #94 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2005

    Why focus on CO2 alone?

    Kyoto doesn’t focus on CO2 alone. CO2 is one of a half dozen greenhouse gases covered by the treaty.

    Given that oneo f the most cost-effective ways to reduce GHG emissions is to trap fugitive methane emissiosn from coal mining and waste decomposition and use them as fuel, it’s conceivable that the initial Kyoto targets could be met without ANY reductions in CO2 emissions.

  95. #95 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2005

    the practical upshot would be that rich, growing countries (especially those that had grown since 1990) would end up paying huge fees to poor stagnating ones (especially those that had been in recession since 1990) to buy their permits, as a cost of continuing to do business. Yes, this would reduce pollution. But it’s also effectively a tax on economic success and a subsidy of economic stagnation. Incentives being what they are, the predictable result would be less worldwide economic development and more poverty.

    Americans, at least those von the right, have this obsession with carbon emissiosn as a sign of economic success.

    This every bit as irrational as the Soviet Union’s obsession with overfulfilling the latest 5 Year Plan in the output of bobby-pins or monkey-wrenches.

    The US has high per capita and per-unit-of-GDP emissions of CO2 for two very simple reasons – successive US governments have chosen to keep taxes on petrol use low and you make less use of nuclear power than the Europeans or Japanese.

    The main reason for this is simple – Japan and Western Europe have no significant domestic petrol reserves (except for the North Sea which was discovered after the pattern of taxation was set and which was, in any case, always a high cost resource).

    The Europeans and Japanese set taxes on petrol high to reduce dependance on imports – for strategic as much as economic reasons.

    Take a look at Canada, Australia and New Zealand – we use 10-20% less petrol than the US per capita and yet our economies have been growing roughly on par with the US for the past several decades. This is despite lower population densities and high dependance (at least in the case of Australia) on long-distance road transport for most heavy freight.

  96. #96 Glen Raphael
    July 7, 2005

    Meyrick: the other flaw in the reasoning is at step 2: not all problems require that something must be done. If the something you are considering doesn’t pass a cost/benefit analysis, it isn’t, in fact, something that must be done; rather it is something that must /not/ be done, because it is an action which causes more harm than good.

    If the best proposed solution is sufficiently flawed, the fact that the person pointing out the flaws doesn’t have a /better/ solution to propose does not constitute an argument for the motion on the floor. The best course might be merely to live with the problem, adapt to it, accept it, and keep looking for some as-yet undiscovered solution that might in the future be found to address it.

    Here’s a more complete chain of reasoning:

    1. There is a problem.
    2. Something must be done!
    3. This is something.
    4. This provably would solve the problem.
    5. This passes a cost/benefit analysis.
    6. No better plan than this is available or likely to become so in the forseeable future.
    7. Therefore, this must be done!

    Kyoto-style solutions miss on #4 so long as it’s only a “first step” and miss on #5 if a discount rate is applied.

  97. #97 Ian Gould
    July 7, 2005

    2A. How do we determine what should be done?

    2B. Let’s conduct an experiment.

  98. #98 Yelling
    July 8, 2005

    Glen:

    You should keep up to date on your readings.

    Environmentalists don’t favour iron-induced blooms because they don’t work. With iron added the organisms run into other limits. Read “The Decline and Fate of an Iron-Induced Subarctic Phytoplankton Bloom” Nature April 2004.

    Regards,
    Y.

  99. #99 Steve Bloom
    July 8, 2005

    Yelling, that’s just science that shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way of such an appealing idea. Very likely Glen has the wherewithal to afford a row boat, some iron filings and a trip to the nearest ocean, so I say we do everything we can to encourage him in this course of action. May I suggest the Florida coast just now as a good place to start? A little churning of the water column should do wonders in terms of getting the iron properly distributed.

  100. #100 Yelling
    July 8, 2005

    Steve: I think that is a great idea and I would be willing to support it with about 6 tons of iron filings if we are talking about a standard row boat!

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