MIT op/ed says do “very little, if anything at all” on global warming

From MIT’s campus newspaper, The Tech:

Not worth the fight huh? Them’s fightin’ words to some people.

Opinion: Global warming not worth the fight

The United States would gain little in trying to forestall climate change

STAFF COLUMNIST
October 15, 2010

Global warming is real. It is predominantly anthropogenic. Left unchecked, it will likely warm the earth by 3-7 C by the end of the century. What should the United States do about it?

Very little, if anything at all.

As economists, we are inclined to take the vantage point of the benevolent dictator, that omnific individual with his hands upon all of the policy levers available to the state. When placed in such a position, the question of how to respond to global warming is answered by performing a simple comparison: does x, the cost of optimally mitigating carbon emissions, exceed y, the benefit of that carbon mitigation? Where the answer is yes, the global carbon mitigation effort remains rightfully nascent, where the answer is no, it springs up and becomes law with a just and sudden force.

H.L. Mencken once wrote, “Explanations exist; they have existed for all times, for there is always an well-known solution to every human problem ­— neat, plausible, and wrong.” Such is the economist’s explanation of climate change.

Global warming is a tragedy of the commons, carbon emissions are a negative externality, and reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is a global public good. These types of problems have been well-studied by economists, and solutions to them are known. Unfortunately, these solutions require a sovereign power to enact them, and in this world there is no global power to enforce economically optimal solutions, no benevolent dictator, no organ of international government capable of superceding national sovereignty and its attendant self-interest. The international system is not cooperative — it is best defined as anarchic and follows the Thucydidean maxim: the strong do as they can… the weak suffer as they must.

Instead of thinking as economists, we should think as international relations realists. In the realist school of thought, a man comports with another’s will only in proportion to the cudgel wielded over his head. We will not, solely through moral suasion, convince others to act against their own national interests.

Countless man-hours of scientists and economists have gone into trying to estimate the costs and benefits of climate change mitigation. Yet the real question is not whether y is greater than x, but rather whether it is greater than x + z, where z is the cost of enforcing an agreed upon reduction in carbon emissions. This is the minimum threshold that must be passed before any action is possible, and the chances of passing it in the near future are slim: not in least part because we lack the technology to monitor the emissions of other countries. But even if we did have the technology, the nature of the problem makes the challenge nearly impossible. Suppose two nations Alpha and Beta, agree to limit their emissions, and suppose further that it is cheaper for Alpha to reduce its emissions in the present while it is cheaper for Beta to limit its emissions in the future. What prevents Beta from reneging on its agreement after Alpha has already committed to a reduction? The act of punishing a defector, whether it comes in the form of a trade sanction or other action, is itself a public good that carries some cost to the punisher.

The sound and the fury that has characterized the public discourse on global warming often obscures a basic economic fact: we are in the situation we are in because it requires fewer resources to generate electricity with coal or propel automobiles with petroleum than it does to accomplish those same goals with solar cells and biofuels. The “green economy” our politicians have placed on a pedestal is not an improvement over our existing one — there is no gain to be had in producing with the effort of three men what we previously accomplished with two. We should tolerate this inefficiency only insofar as it helps us avoid some other, greater harm.

Full story here

h/t to WUWT Jimbo and Climate Depot

About these ads

58 thoughts on “MIT op/ed says do “very little, if anything at all” on global warming

  1. I like the common sense conclusion but the position on temperatures is untenable. No economist nor any climatologist for that matter can phrase a valid projection of average temperatures in the next century. We simply do not know or understand enough, so please be a little patient before jumping to conclusions.

  2. I’d love to hear what an Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences of MIT would say to this. A guy by the name of Richard Lindzen?

    Of course, he’s not a STAFF COLUMNIST or anything fancy like that…

  3. I’ve been trying to explain this to people for years.

    The carbon crisis of the commons is a b$tch, but the governing system that would have to be created to enforce an international carbon cap would be the mother of all b!tches.

  4. Interesting, but is based on GCM output. Probably irrelevant except as an exercise in acting as a lightning rod for Warmista sound and fury. He’s right, of course. Doing nothing is the optimum policy, but not for the reasons he states.

  5. Not sure about the “MIT professor” claim. Perhaps…

    This from a 2008 article:

    “Keith Yost is a graduate student in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering and the Engineering Systems Division.”

    REPLY: Thanks, my incorrect assumption. I’ll make a change to the headline. – Anthony

  6. vboring says: “…The carbon crisis of the commons is a b$tch, but the governing system that would have to be created to enforce an international carbon cap would be the mother of all b!tches.”

    No problem. We’ll just put Barbara Boxer in charge.

  7. Romm is blowing a gasket and it does heat the atmosphere. His current target of wrath is the Koch oil family. also loyal MIT grads.

  8. Silly economist – trying to invoke reality into a climate issue … /sarc off

    IMO humans do not mitigate well at all but indeed show a great propensity for adapting. Why not stay with our strengths by adapting to warmer climate with no loss of global economic power rather than the absolute certainty of some loss for a very small gain from mitigation if any? Adaptation drives efficiency ( and vice versa) and efficiency will be the driving force behind our adaptation of cleaner, cheaper energy.

  9. Anthony, In the interest of truth in post-titles … I’m not sure that Yost is a faculty member at MIT … he appears to be a recent alumnus, though.

    [From the about page:]

    “The Tech is published by the students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Our staff is composed of undergraduate and graduate student volunteers, although a number of alumni lurk around our offices from time to time.”

    Nonetheless it is most refreshing to see a member of the younger generation who has not permitted climatically correct dogma to overcome that which anyone’s critical thinking skills would lead him/her conclude.

    Yost’s conclusion is worth noting:

    “More to the point, unilateral action will not mitigate climate change. The U.S. is only a small fraction of total emissions. Even if all of the Annex I countries of the Kyoto Protocol agreed to binding constraints, they would account for less than half of the world’s total emissions, and a far smaller fraction of the expected growth in emissions between now and 2100. To act unilaterally, or even in conjunction with the rest of the developed world, would mean paying the full measure of mitigating climate change while receiving only a fraction of its benefit.

    “It is tempting to play the crusader, to make some moral, if futile stand in defense of our current thermostat setting. But we must be realistic. There is little hope of creating an enforceable global carbon constraint, and without the existence of such a regime, there is little point in surrendering our national economy to green adventures.”

    REPLY: Hit refresh- Anthony

  10. Innovation to improve our energy resources is good; exclusion of energy options because of an unproven theory is not. Wind and solar are not necessarily bad, but we need to evaluate the whole system, not just focus on carbon as the silver buller.

  11. What an utter load of tosh. 3-7degrees C of a rise this century? In his dreams.

    Have these people not considered what will happen if they are wrong. Joe and Jill Sixpack have been so brainwashed into thinking that CO2 causes temperatures to rise, that when temperatures do fall, they’ll be leaving their cars and their lawn mowers running in the driveway to “save the world from global cooling”. Never mind the other nasties that get emitted alongside. You’ll get other people demonstrating at Wind Farms because they don’t create enough CO2. At the extreme end, you might even see people climbing up onto other peoples’ rooves to rip their solar panels off. We’ve already seen the plane stupidity in the name of being “green”.

    I just hope I live to see the day when these people are held to account for their alarmism.

  12. “Not worth the fight huh? Them’s fightin’ words to some people. Romm explosion in 3…2…1.”

    Is that what you want though, Anthony? Of course Romm will explode, if not before you posted this opinion piece, then surely now that you have.

    What’s up with this? I remember fondly how WUWT used to pride itself on taking the highroad in civility, but now it seems that you’re settling on taunting your opponents with meaningless op/ed pieces?

    This isn’t positive.

    REPLY: Mr. Romm has pulled no punches in denigrating me on a weekly basis, sometimes biweekly, and I almost never respond. What most never see is that I’ve written several responses, but then decided “why bother?” and put them into the bit bucket. – Anthony

  13. “reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is a global public good.”

    Is it?

    I posed these questions to a “warmist” friend, just as a “thought experiment”: Suppose I invented a Magical Machine which would suck all that “excess” CO2 out of the atmosphere – overnight (it’s a really big Magical Machine!). Tell me what you want and I’ll set the dial. 250 ppmv? You got it. No charge.

    Do you believe that the temperature would drop by 0.7C? (or whatever number you believe)

    Do you believe that storms, tornados, and other extremes of weather would become less frequent and/or less intense?

    Do you believe that agricultural production would decrease from the decreased CO2? (if not, why not?)

    If so, do you believe that this would starve billions of people?

    If so, is this okay with you?

    I just got weasel-words from my friend (he’s a good guy, and not normally an idiot, he’s just delusional on this point).

    Anyone (lurking “warmists” in particular) have any thoughts on these questions?

    Best,
    Frank

  14. carbon emissions are a negative externality, and reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is a global public good This from MIT, confusing carbon and CO2, think they would know better.

  15. Tamara says:
    October 15, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    Not to mention that scarcity will drive us to alternative energy, no enforcing body required.

    Scarcity of what? The oil that would supposedly have run out by the year 2000?

  16. “Countless man-hours of scientists and economists have gone into trying to estimate the costs and benefits of climate change mitigation.”

    As industry becomes ever more efficient, mankind sees itself in the situation that it can expend a larger and larger percentage of total man-hours available into entirely vain and futile enterprises, like guarding sunbenches, parking lots or shopping malls, or sending delegates to UN conferences, endlessly quibbling about imaginary dangers, conferencing from here to eschaton, in ever-growing numbers, until entire nations find their whole raison d’etre in servicing assemblies of delegates, like Belgium already does. UN Climate Conference delegates together with all the traveling pressure group delegates are the true green jobs (and yobs); giving rise to more jobs – policemen, prostitutes, taxi drivers, journalists, cameramen, an endless procession of nonproductive laborers of a neverending carnival of fear.

    What we need to get rid of are the breaks between the conferences. Let every major city on Earth have its yearly Climate Week like we have Fashion Weeks. What amount of air travel we could generate.

  17. “Mr. Romm has pulled no punches in denigrating me on a weekly basis, sometimes biweekly, and I almost never respond.”

    Hi Anthony.

    I can certainly sympathise with your position, and I do. I just like to think that part of the reason WUWT has become so popular over the years is that it has so very rarely resorted to the kinds of attacks that so often characterise other blogs on climate. Honestly, it has had its moments, sure… but admittedly they have been rare, and as you point out- it’s probably a further testament to your character that stuff like this doesn’t get posted more often, considering the pressures you’ve had to endure from other quarters. You seem to do pretty well under the circumstances :)

    I just wanted to express, as a reader with an opinion, that this post isn’t a positive one. Imo it puts WUWT in a bad light, however much fun it might have been to post it (and I feel I understand your reasons). You have an enormous amount of support now from lots of different people, it may be better to perhaps focus on this rather than on what a few people may be saying about you on other blogs.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. It’s your blog after all.

    REPLY: Thanks, you make a good case. I’ve removed the reference to Mr. Romm. – Anthony

  18. Well, a lot of silliness in the article, but silliness based on the idea that global warming is a significant problem that needs to be dealt with, and various assumptions underlying that. As a result, the conclusion is in some ways even more important.

    In other words, even assuming a huge rise in temperature and a significant environmental problem from global warming, it doesn’t make sense to try to do much about it on the enforcement side.

    Interesting quote: “there is no gain to be had in producing with the effort of three men what we previously accomplished with two.” In the old Soviet days, bureaucrats would sometimes break up one person’s job and divide it among two or three persons to create more jobs for the masses. Resulted in tremendous inefficiencies, but, hey, at least everyone was employed.

  19. Whoa! – While Yost might be accepting the warming line, he does something that means something to the most dedicated believer – he reaches for their wallet. Gov’mnt is good at reaching for someone else’s money and a considerable number of folks approve, especially because they benefit from the theft. But Yost puts the expense at an individual as well as national level.

    The pause he creates with his argument – ie you can’t afford it! – is the opening needed for more data to be looked over, determined to be bogus, and even perhaps for reason to begin to dawn.

    One can hope.

    Mike

  20. —Do you believe that the temperature would drop by 0.7C? (or whatever number you believe)—-
    Most likely about half that.

    —-Do you believe that storms, tornados, and other extremes of weather would become less frequent and/or less intense?—-
    Yes, less energy would be would be taken into the system, less intense El Nino, much less water in the atmosphere.

    —-Do you believe that agricultural production would decrease from the decreased CO2? (if not, why not?)—-
    No, there is plenty of CO2 at 250ppm from the natural cycle to maintain agriculture.

    —-If so, do you believe that this would starve billions of people?—-
    No.

    —-If so, is this okay with you?—-
    No.

  21. Anthony, I kind of agree with Stu, at least insofar as it relates to gratuitious comments about specific individuals. (Generalized gratuitious comments and comments about specific individuals that are not gratuitious are less problematic, IMHO). Romm is clueless and mean-spirited. Just ignore him . . .

  22. More global warming nonsense from educated people who haven’t done their homework. (I can’t believe the authors trotted out the old saw about a 3 – 7 degrees C temperature increase this century.) We could pump up atmospheric CO2 concentration two to three times, and it’s doubtful the temperature rise would show up as little more than background noise.

    What the “brains” at MIT should be worrying about is the onset of global cooling. Most data — declining solar activity, negative PDO, historical solar trends — point to a coming Dalton Minimum or, perhaps, Maunder Minimum. Heck, we could be on the cusp of a Bond event (it’s been around 1,470 years since the last one, and they occur at approximately 1,470 intervals).

    Ten years from now no one will be talking about global warming. They’ll be complaining about heating bills and bitching about skyrocketing food prices as cold weather shortens the growing season and freezes out wheat production in Canada and other northern climes.

  23. “Global warming is real. It is predominantly anthropogenic. Left unchecked, it will likely warm the earth by 3-7 C by the end of the century.”
    _______________________________________

    The author’s opening paragraph leaves no doubt about his position on AGW, does it?

  24. Stu says:
    October 15, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I think us regulars share some of the blame for this too. In having this wonderful platform to voice our opinions, we sometimes don’t give enough credit for the amazing amount of work that is put into providing it.

    Thank you, Anthony for your wonderful blog, and thank you moderators for the great work that you do.

  25. Of course I like the general statement that it’s best to do nothing.
    Hoewever, in regard to the science it’s a too easy way to get out of the woods that have been created by the cooked data.

    In fact it is totally unacceptable.

    You can’t leave the shoddy science at the table and walk away.

    Some very basic steps need to be undertaken.
    We need the correct science instead of cooked books.
    We need a very, very big public apology and a very serious proposal how we can stop the multi trillion dollar runaway train of legislation and measures taken on the basis of this failed science currently underway and how we get our tax dollars back.

    And we need a fail safe solution to protect our societies from getting screwed over by the scientific and political establishment ever again.

    No heads to role just a role back and some gestures of well intended remorse.

    That’s my opinion.

  26. Decent article, its right on some things and what was he smoking on others. He right that it would be cheaper to adapt than spend bill. or trill. on something thats going to happen “weather” we like it or not. Pun intended! Off topic but i have a question for you Anthony and i wanted your thoughts on it. I have seen and heard on this site and others people say that weather is not climate and vice versa, mainly from the warmist crowd, of course i know that climate is weather over the long term any way you look at it. My question is, and i hope it brings in a slew of opinions, Who better to be a “climate scienctist” than a meteorolgist, a person who studys it . As compared to the other guys who clame to be climate scienctist but whos degrees are in everything but climate or weather? what say you Anthony. I get so tired of hearing the warmists say that if you are not a climate scienctist then you do not know what you are talking about, and thats to anybody not just you. And i wonder what DR. Lindzen thinks too considering that his doctorate is in meteorolgy. Thanks Gray

  27. “there is no gain to be had in producing with the effort of three men what we previously accomplished with two”

    May I make an old-fashioned suggestion that we strive to produce from two men what we previously accomplished from three. It is based on a little heard concept nowadays of efficiency. Specific fuel consumption, waste heat recovery, thermal insulation, mechanical losses, aerodynamics, hydrodynamics ………. the list of technologies that can and are being further refined goes on. We do stupid things like using gas as fuel in power stations when it used to be only piped to the user directly without transmission loss other than initial low compression. If you ask an engineer to design a wind turbine he will but it does not follow that he considers it a good idea in comparison to other generation means. Instead, ask him for efficiency and you will get noticeable improvements. Produce incentives that attract experimentation and development. Let the market weed out snake oil salesmen that prey on the gullible. I for one have had enough of stridency overcoming logic, of celebrity overcoming stature and belief overcoming logic. Tired of having to revert to humour to call-out charlatans and sick of received wisdom in the name of education.
    (Rant off)

  28. “Firstly, it misunderstands international trade. Our economic well-being is independent of Chinese productivity.” and “The belief that another country’s rise or fall impacts our economic well-being in any appreciable way is unsupported by economic theory and disproven by empirical evidence…”

    Statements like that are why Economists are laughed at much in the same way that the CAGW crowd are laughed at by the average person. To wit: delusional and self-important.

  29. This is precisely the point made by Lord Lawson in the UK House of Lords review about 2-3 years ago in response to Stern.

    The only way that Stern could provide a “benefit” from mitigation measures was by assuming the worst possible scenarios from the IPCC and also committing a cardinal sin in economics and not discounting future values. By doing this he was roundly dismissed by economists at the time, but this seems to have been forgotten now.

    In order to facilitate discussion (as opposed to name-calling), I commonly point this out to warmist colleagues and ask them to address adaptation as the only possible response. And since no-one can tell which parts of the globe will get warmer/colder, wetter/dryer from “global climate disruption” the only proper course for adaptation is to increase our level of development at the most rapid speed possible since it is well understood that increased development is the best way to increase our ability to adapt.

    Yes, it is also a somewhat cowardly approach – I could argue the science for little anthropogenic effect on climate – but getting into a slanging match is certainly not going to change their opinions. They can believe in AGW all they want as far as I am concerned – just so long as they don’t screw up the global economy doing ****-all about it!

  30. The author writes:
    “Global warming is a tragedy of the commons…”

    Earth is not a commons. The idea that there is some universal agreement among nations about uses of the world’s resources is a total fiction. Yes, there are particular treaties, but the sum total do not and could never make of Earth a commons. The proof is obvious. Today Iran wants to assert more control over the Middle East through attaining nuclear weapons. Some nations wish to stop Iran. If those nations do not succeed, many other nations will suffer because of Iran’s newfound control. Clearly, that part of the Earth that we call the Middle East is not part of a commons.

  31. The consequences of warm are bigger plants. Why do you think they add CO2 to greenhouses?

    Hey I have a question, can you have a greenhouse without a roof?

  32. I remember comments of some Russian Scientists after Kyoto. Two reasons for demonizing CO2. To get the U. S. to reduce its industrial might for commercial reasons amd to control people. Control of people has come too close for comfort. Definitely sour industrial might has decreased. Seems both reasons were valid.

  33. The “green economy” our politicians have placed on a pedestal is not an improvement over our existing one — there is no gain to be had in producing with the effort of three men what we previously accomplished with two.

    My grandfather (one of the wisest men I ever met) told me a a joke that went around during the great depression in Germany in the 1930s:
    A guy continued to move his firewood from one side of his property to the other. He moved it back to the original site the next day. And moved it again the following day. When asked why by a neighbor, he said: “At least I have work, and you don’t”

    Perfect description of the “green jobs” fallacy today. Isn’t it?

  34. Apparently you changed some things after being called out on it, but you definitely sank to previously unreached lows with this one.

    The Tech is the student’s newspaper at MIT, and the guy is an EE graduate student. Neither the paper, not the author can be considered authorities on the subject, yet you quited them as such…

    Not good for your credibility…

    REPLY: Fixing an error in the title, and leaving them and my personal the admission of an error in open comments isn’t a good thing? Since when? – Anthony

  35. REPLY: Fixing an error in the title, and leaving them and my personal the admission of an error in open comments isn’t a good thing? Since when? – Anthony

    A thumbs for fixing the error. Two thumbs down for committing it in the first place.

  36. Surely this is just the AGW crowd preparing another back-door escape route? A quick glance at the pilot to make sure he’s not looking, and then the parachutes are packed and the bomb bay doors kicked open. “Sorry we couldn’t do anything about warming, but that was all the fault of the Chinese/Indians/Europeans/Russians/Aliens. We tried — doesn’t that entitle us to keep our jobs and our grants?”

  37. #1, the Earth will not warm 3-7C by 2100, it will mainly warm in the UHI affected cities, but there is a limit to even that warming. UHI works like an air inversion, is manmade, and most places with a long history of it are already maxed out. It’s an urban problem. Over time, a city may or may not wish to cope with UHI via long range planning. To each thier own as needs be.
    So, yes, the USA needn’t shoot its collective feet over an urban problem, nor should it light its economy on fire and run screaming down the road in tortured agony.
    The USA has a much larger problem: One of entrenched multi-level bureaurocracy strangling productivity and progress.
    If people like John Holdren and Lisa Jackson want to light themselves on fire and run screaming down the road, hey, it’s America.

  38. It is a very well thought out essay. There a couple of mistakes. Yost assumes “we lack the technology to monitor the emissions of other countries.” It is a serious and complex issue. But work has been done on it and the problem is not insurmountable. See:

    http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=12883

    Yost states “the National Resource Defense Council estimates that if left unchecked, global warming will cost the U.S. 1.8 percent of its GDP by the year 2100. Meanwhile the Stern Review estimates the cost of carbon mitigation to total 2 percent of world GDP by the year 2100.” Why is it valid to compare US and world GDP? Let’s see what the NRDC actually said.

    “Global warming comes with a big price tag for every country in the world. The 80 percent reduction in U.S. emissions needed to stop climate change may not come cheaply, but the cost of failing to act will be much greater. New research shows that if present trends continue, the total cost of global warming will be as high as 3.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Four global warming impacts alone — hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs — will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today’s dollars) by 2100. We know how to avert most of these damages through strong action to reduce the emissions that cause global warming. But the longer we wait, the more painful — and expensive — the consequences will be. ”

    See: http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/cost/contents.asp

    And, not all of the cost of AGW can be quantified in to monetary terms.
    See: http://www.nrdc.org/globalWarming/fcons.asp

    Yost is disingenuous. He is not engaging in honest debate. He is picking out facts selectively to back up his thesis.

    No doubt a global climate control treaty would be very complex. But would it be that much harder to enforce then the WTO?

    How come you “skeptics” don’t do the basic fact checking when you like the conclusion?

  39. jonjermey says:
    October 15, 2010 at 4:20 pm
    Surely this is just the AGW crowd preparing another back-door escape route? A quick glance at the pilot to make sure he’s not looking, and then the parachutes are packed and the bomb bay doors kicked open. “Sorry we couldn’t do anything about warming, but that was all the fault of the Chinese/Indians/Europeans/Russians/Aliens. We tried — doesn’t that entitle us to keep our jobs and our grants?”

    As usual, people are talking without knowing what they’re talking about. The problem with MIT is that while it is the greatest place for science in technology in the world, it also has one of the best business and economics departments, and it prides itself on its successful integration of research with industry. What this means is that you get some of the most hardcore scientists doing the best science in the world on one side, many of which take an absolutely uncompromising position on issues like AGW (uncompromising in the sense that they stick to the real science), but on the other side, the economics, industrial application of research results and the $$ signs have gotten a firm grip on many people’s thinking. So it is absolutely no surprise that you can find plenty of people thinking the way the author of that essay does.

    Of course, to the outsider, all that is known are the three letter associated with the person taking, with all the weight of their 150 years of glorious history, so it is absolutely no surprise that too much authority is given to people that should absolutely not be listened to.

    If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be very funny how people will trust Lindzen, yet the fact that the original Limits To Growth report was written by MIT faculty is completely forgotten. If you are to trust people just because they are MIT professors, why do you trust Lindzen and you distrust Meadows???

  40. Mike says:

    “How come you “skeptics” don’t do the basic fact checking when you like the conclusion?”

    Mike, you have no credibility. Sorry about your own abysmal “fact checking,” but when you quote the anti-science National Resource Defense Council your credibility goes up in smoke.

    The NRDC is nothing but a green propaganda organization like the World Wildlife Fund. In fact, google’s “Searches Related to National Resources Defense Council” lists the following:

    Greenpeace
    Sierra Club
    Enviro Defense Fund
    World Wildlife Fund
    Defenders Of Wildlife

    …and so on.

    Posting an eco-wacko NGO as your Authority probably works on alarmist echo chambers like realclimate. But here, we know the playas.

  41. GM says:
    October 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm
    “As usual, people are talking without knowing what they’re talking about. The problem with MIT is that while it is the greatest place for science in technology in the world, it also has one of the best business and economics departments, and it prides itself on its successful integration of research with industry.”
    ===========================
    Ok, get that “best business and economics departments” to break down the final costs of the green revolution.
    Oh, I forgot, they were always given money. They never had to earn it.

  42. gryposaurus says:
    October 15, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    [we're discussing my hypothetical question, "if CO2 could 'by magic' be cut back to 250ppm, would that be a Good Thing?"]

    —Do you believe that the temperature would drop by 0.7C? (or whatever number you believe)—-
    –Most likely about half that.–

    Okay. I live in a cold climate, so I’d just as soon see it stay the same, or a bit warmer, but I guess that wouldn’t kill me.

    —-Do you believe that storms, tornados, and other extremes of weather would become less frequent and/or less intense?—-
    –Yes, less energy would be would be taken into the system, less intense El Nino, much less water in the atmosphere.–

    Yeah? We’re lacking in quantifyable evidence of “how bad” the extremes were, back when CO2 was 250ppm. There’s anecdotal evidence that we (they) had extremes. God didn’t need to explain to Noah what a “flood” was. Some mention of “drought”, too, I think. “Storms”? Yeah… Plagues of Locusts, even.

    I don’t have any evidence that it’s any “worse” now than back in the “good old days” of 250ppm. Do you?

    —-Do you believe that agricultural production would decrease from the decreased CO2? (if not, why not?)—-
    –No, there is plenty of CO2 at 250ppm from the natural cycle to maintain agriculture.–

    Any evidence for that? AFAIK, increased CO2 (in the ranges we’re talking about) increases plant growth. This is measurable and replicable. I have no reason to believe that it isn’t happening as we speak. How would cutting back *not* be bad for agriculture? You mention “much less water in the atmosphere”… Can that be good for agriculture.? I’ve got a bad feeling about this!

    —-If so, do you believe that this would starve billions of people?—-
    –No.–

    —-If so, is this okay with you?—-
    –No.–

    Well, okay, as long as we’re not killing people, I guess we’re in agreement. Since we can’t do it, it doesn’t matter, but I’m afraid that it would turn out to be a big mistake!

    Best,
    Frank

  43. I applaud the realistic economic analysis. However, there is still work to do regarding honest science. And the issues started long before AGW, e.g. ozone, DDT, etc.

  44. “Global warming is a tragedy of the commons, carbon emissions are a negative externality, and reducing CO2 in the atmosphere is a global public good.”

    Of these three statements in this sentence I say that is is unproven to be a tragedy, that is an assumption; carbon emissions [as CO2] are a negative externality is also assumed as the sign is unknown; and reducing CO2 is a global good is likewise assumed to be a good when plants are starving for additional CO2. All based on the increase in global temperature which is also assumed but not proven. I guess I have to reject the whole article if the premises are not proved valid.

    John Andrews

  45. I would be curious what the economic conclusion would be if a temperature rise of 1.5C was used rather than the 3 to 7C, if one added increased plant yield due to higher CO2, if one added reduced desertification, and if one added increased precipitation due to slightly higher temperatures.

    Increasing atmospheric CO2 is one of the few changes humans are making that is clearly beneficial to the biosphere as whole. (The biosphere expands and is more productive.)

    There is limited funds to spend on any cause. Economic policy needs to be based on facts.

    Elevated CO2 increases plant growth and yield (including all cereal crops) and reduces the plants requirement for water. Plants eat CO2. When CO2 levels rise plants produce less stomata which reduces transpiration (water loss as the plant gasps for CO2.) Less transpiration also leaves more moisture at the roots which enables synergistic nitrogen fixing bacteria to create more nitrogen components which increases plant growth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transpiration

    http://www.advancegreenhouses.com/use_of_co2_in_a_greenhouse.htm

    “Carbon dioxide is one of the essential ingredients in green plant growth and is a primary environmental factor in greenhouses. CO2 enrichment at 2, 3 or four times natural concentration will cause plants to grow faster and improve plant will quality.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/05/030509084556.htm

    “Greenhouse Gas Might Green Up The Desert; Weizmann Institute Study Suggests That Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Might Cause Forests To Spread Into Dry Environments

    The Weizmann team found, to its surprise, that the Yatir forest is a substantial “sink” (CO2-absorbing site): its absorbing efficiency is similar to that of many of its counterparts in more fertile lands. These results were unexpected since forests in dry regions are considered to develop very slowly, if at all, and thus are not expected to soak up much carbon dioxide (the more rapidly the forest develops the more carbon dioxide it needs, since carbon dioxide drives the production of sugars). However, the Yatir forest is growing at a relatively quick pace, and is even expanding further into the desert.

    Plants need carbon dioxide for photosynthesis, which leads to the production of sugars. But to obtain it, they must open pores in their leaves and consequently lose large quantities of water to evaporation. The plant must decide which it needs more: water or carbon dioxide. Yakir suggests that the 30 percent increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the start of the industrial revolution eases the plant’s dilemma. Under such conditions, the plant doesn’t have to fully open the pores for carbon dioxide to seep in – a relatively small opening is sufficient. Consequently, less water escapes the plant’s pores. This efficient water preservation technique keeps moisture in the ground, allowing forests to grow in areas that previously were too dry.”

    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090731-green-sahara.html

    “The green shoots of recovery are showing up on satellite images of regions including the Sahel, a semi-desert zone bordering the Sahara to the south that stretches some 2,400 miles (3,860 kilometers). Images taken between 1982 and 2002 revealed extensive regreening throughout the Sahel, according to a new study in the journal Biogeosciences. The study suggests huge increases in vegetation in areas including central Chad and western Sudan. In the eastern Sahara area of southwestern Egypt and northern Sudan, new trees—such as acacias—are flourishing, according to Stefan Kröpelin, a climate scientist at the University of Cologne’s Africa Research Unit in Germany.

    “Shrubs are coming up and growing into big shrubs. This is completely different from having a bit more tiny grass,” said Kröpelin, who has studied the region for two decades “Now you have people grazing their camels in areas which may not have been used for hundreds or even thousands of years. You see birds, ostriches, gazelles coming back, even sorts of amphibians coming back,” he said. “The trend has continued for more than 20 years. It is indisputable.” “

  46. The point about ‘sovereign government’ is well made. Here in the UK, our politicians are WAY ahead of the curve when it comes to beating themselves up, tearing their hair out and wearing sackcloth and ashes, rushing around shouting ‘We MUST tax energy more – cover the country with wind farms – send out more propoganda – otherwise we won’t meet our green targets…’
    So – basically, making our country’s industries (such as still remain) less and less competitive, while the rest of the world goes: ‘Yeah, right…’

  47. History will record that for one brief moment, a species thought it was the root of all evil AND the answer to every problem in the Universe. Then they went the way of all flesh and evolved.

    PS: Interesting to note, it happened during an Ice Age.

  48. I thank the MIT grad student Keith Yost for bringing up the subject of economics, and Anthony for posting it.

    It gives me an opportunity to post quotes that I think are applicable to climate issues from my favorite economist.

    Quotes from Von Mises [ http://mises.org/quotes.aspx ] :

    Action is purposive conduct. It is not simply behavior, but behavior begot by judgments of value, aiming at a definite end and guided by ideas concerning the suitability or unsuitability of definite means. . . . It is conscious behavior. It is choosing. It is volition; it is a display of the will.

    Human life is an unceasing sequence of single actions.

    Economics, as a branch of the more general theory of human action, deals with all human action, i.e., with mans purposive aiming at the attainment of ends chosen, whatever these ends may be.

    If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.

    John

  49. The significance of this piece is that it comes from a supporter of AGW who anticipates a temperature rise above the standard projection. His very persuasive analysis and recommendation have all the more force as a result. Eric and Stu may be hostile to it because they think it is provocative and will upset some of the other bloggers! Sound opposing arguments are usually provocative . . . in the sense that they merit and demand a logical response. . . . the collision of opinions allows us to develop sounder opinions. An important posting imv Anthony.

  50. The author eliminates emotion as a driving factor. His reasoning might work if all governing actions were based on Good science and solid logic. They aren’t.

    Sometimes (often) emotion trumps all.

  51. Given that we do not know:

    1 Whether global temperatures are truly rising and if so to what extent and at what rate.
    2 If global temperatures are rising whether they will continue to rise and if so to what extent and at what rate.
    3 What is causing any rise in global temperatures, and in particular whether the rise in temperatures (if any) is natural or anthropogenic.
    4 Whether a reduction in CO2 emissions will have any significant effect on reducing the rise in global temperatures (if any).
    5 Whether a rise in global temperatures would overall be a good or a bad thing.
    6 To what extent the negative effect of a rise in global temperatures would cause serious problems.

    It is obvious that rather than wasting money in an attempt to mitigate a thread that we do not know is real, nor whether it is capable of mitigation, it is more sensible to adapt if serious problems eventually manifest themselves.

    Any sensible person would readily appreciate that it is better, at this stage, to do nothing but merely to monitor the situation and stand ready to adapt if a serious problem truly manifests itself.

  52. The part of the article you quote sounds less like a call for inaction on global warming than a lamentation about the lack of a world government through which such action might be enforced. This led me to suspect the authors of merely seeking a backhanded way of pursuing the same goal as many jolly green giants, through a bit of reverse psychology.

    But reading the rest of the piece (somewhat) laid my concerns to rest. They do indeed understand the basic facts of international commerce. They are not arguing that world government should be pursued as this would reduce the cost of “mitigation”, but they do, perhaps unwittingly, provide a template for making such an argument.

Comments are closed.