The Tyranny of Tautology

A response to A conversation with Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.

Guest essay by Scott Bennett

Willis Eschenbach described the Kaya Identity as being “trivially true”, his opinion is uncontested by Dr Pielke Jr., whose only retort in its defence was, ‘the math is simple’.

The Kaya is a simple Identity, used as a tautological instrument. To deny this, would be to deny the very heart of its utility. The algebraic cancellation and isolation of its terms is de rigueur for its use.

clip_image002

Fig. 1. The “Kaya Identity” as depicted in the lecture by Dr Roger Pielke Jr. : Climate Policy for a High Energy Planet4

I really wanted to understand how the Identity was actually applied, both mathematically and as a “tool” of policy discourse. To that end, I spent several days grappling with Kaya, as demonstrated by Dr Pielke Jr. .

When I felt I fully understood its application, I turned to the real world, from whence the model was presumably derived.

It doesn’t take very long to see why the Kaya is being used as an instrument of policy. Examining the real world, makes it abundantly obvious, just what a stake-to-the-heart, reality is, for policy wonks!

The Kaya’s real value is in its use, as a claim to authority. It is a construct, designed to frame the debate and thus isolate and compartmentalise contradiction.

Everywhere I looked, the terms as factors of total emissions where erroneous. But how could this be, I wondered? It seemed reasonable to suppose that the factors as given in the Kaya, according to Dr Pielke Jr., are the ‘only levers available in the tool box’.

I spent some time gathering data and comparing real places. More and more I began to see, that there was a fundamental factor missing. How is it possible that emissions weren’t a direct measure of the energy intensity of GDP and the efficiency of its energy production? Clearly there was a missing factor that was making the proportionality of the Kaya’s terms aberrant. Some hidden input was providing efficiencies that oddly, reduced the size of real world terms, making their ratios, counter intuitive!

But before I reveal what it is, I will tell you why it was left out! It was censored because it exposes the fact that the relationships of the Kaya are not universally applicable (Across the countries of the world). The inclusion of this important term renders the Kaya impotent as a tool of national policy.

Truly, the phrase “one size does not fit all” could never be ascribed more applicably than to the Kaya Identity!

Land area1 is the missing term and including it makes it very difficult to compare economies directly, and at the same time keep a straight face!

Ratios like, population density and emissions per km, would seem to be, essential aspects of any genuine and realistic analysis. Without this quantity it is irrational to compare national emissions and their individual contribution to the global total.

Singapore, with the world’s highest population density, is 11,000 times smaller than Australia. Australia’s land area represents 5% of the Earth’s surface, while its emissions are just 1% of the global total. The entirety of Europe2 fits inside Australia with room to spare.

Singapore’s population is 4 times smaller than Australia, its GDP is 5 times smaller, its emissions are 3 times smaller and its total energy usage is 45 times smaller. Yet, using the ratio of Emissions/GDP3, we find that Singapore produces 1.7 times more CO2 emissions for every dollar of GDP than Australia. This isn’t a real mystery, when you realise that not all GDPs are equal, of course!

It is probably safe to say that the resources in Australia’s vast land area, something Singapore lacks, is the missing factor in this case. The numbers are also strongly at odds with the assumptions spruiked by Kaya devotees, because Singapore produces all its electricity from natural gas while Australia is coal fired!

It is also probably not a surprise, that with such a small land area, Singapore produces 3,500 times the CO2 per km compared to Australia’s tiny contribution of just 5.5 kt/km.

This is the weakness of the Kaya. It can’t be universally applied. As soon as you compare figures across countries you discover the logical fallacies inherent in it.

Australia’s ratio of, emissions to GDP, is just double that of France. If emissions per square kilometre are compared however, France emits 12 times that of Australia.

It is clear why governments around the world aren’t rushing to embrace the logic of the Kaya. They understand, that they would be ill advised to do so. The Kaya is a tool of the global minded, useless for national policy, that reveals with perfect clarity, the hubris of groupthink and the latent stupidity of collectivist ambitions.

=============================================================

Notes:

1. Absolute values are given here, rather than “Real Land Area” which is of less relevance to the geography of climate.

2. Western Eurasia excluding Asia and Russia. The West or Western Europe.

3. This ratio is demonstrated in Dr Pielke’s lecture! The intent here, is to highlight that its “usefulness” also extends to invalidating the relationships between all four terms of the Kaya itself 😉

4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QTUE5Ue6Z38

UPDATE: Dr. Roy Spencer has a nice simplification of the terms cancelling issue here in The Kaya Identity Crisis

UPDATE2: Elevated from a comment.

The problem with the Kaya identity is in its application, not in its arithmetic or ability to produce a bit of understanding about the real world. It is being used to help generate policy; long term policy that will be around for decades. It is being used to generate a meme; a way of thinking that will influence decision makers for many years to come.

The Kaya identity begins with the assumption that CO2 emissions MUST be reduced. RPjr stated in his video that it wasn’t even worth talking about the science of climate change anymore. He implied that there was absolutely no point in even discussing climate sensitivity to CO2 emissions and that such discussions are actually harmful. (I was gobsmacked!) The Kaya identity is part of the meme that proclaims “The science is settled!” He argues that it doesn’t matter what the science says about CO2′s impact. The Kaya identity is valid regardless. While that may be true for the identity, it is just stupid to carry that thinking over to the process of making policy. There is nothing more important than the science in making good policy decisions.

The Kaya identity ends with disaster. It is inherently linear in every aspect. The world is inherently non-linear in every aspect. The Kaya identity gives an illusion of knowledge and wisdom to decision makers; convincing them that they will be making good choices. In reality, there is a near zero chance that policies resulting from the use of the Kaya identity will be positive. The outcomes from such policies will range from bad to disastrous.

The Kaya identity gives decision makers the idea that they actually have a control knob. A half turn to the right gives a certain result every time. A half turn to the left gives another result, but just as predictable and dependable as the half turn to the right. This is a complete illusion!

Using the Kaya identity to make policy is like deciding to paddle your raft with two strokes on the right, followed by two strokes on the left, for the entire duration of your trip down the Colorado river. Such a strategy will not get you very far and may actually kill you. They way to paddle your raft down the Colorado river is by constantly assessing your current situation and deciding the best possible paddle strokes for that moment.

The same is true for climate change policy. There is no need to implement solutions today that will solve all climate change problems for the next 100 years. In fact, that would be impossible, and any attempt to do it would almost certainly cause more harm than good. In order to make good decisions, those decisions should be focused on the short term, and the main objective should be the strengthening of the position of future decision makers. That means the current policies should promote adaptability in all areas while enhancing the financial strength of future generations to deal with their issues; issues that they will certainly understand far better than we do today. It means the science is constantly assessed, along with the current state of the population and their needs. It means the UN should be concentrating on potable water for all of humanity today and not on the average global temperature 100 years from now.

The use of the Kaya identity rationalizes the bad decision making process. It allows decision makers to ignore the vital importance of adaptability and weaken the financial strength of future generations. It is the height of hubris and the antithesis of wisdom to use the Kaya identity in the manner it is being used by the United Nations and other bureau-crazies; and apparently promoted by Roger Pielke, Jr; a man I admire and respect, but strongly disagree with on this topic.

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Interesting.
Can you point to where Pielke compared the Kaya identity of two countries? My impression was that it was intended to describe a single economy not to compare them.

A bit of a pedantic question. Should that be km^2 rather than km?

Greg Goodman

“When I felt I fully understood its application, I turned to the real world, from whence the model was presumably derived.”
Well you still have not understood what an identity is in mathematics.
Kaya is NOT a model. A model would be represented by an equation and would bring added information. An identity does not add any information, it is just a series of factors as Pielke explained.
If you want to bring in land area, I suspect you could come up with a similar identity with different factors, some of which included land area.

M Courtney

One wonders if the significance of land area will change as new technologies (like Skype) are adopted.
That still won’t destroy the practical utility of the Kaya Identity. As the Kaya Identity’s utility is in framing debate and thus getting the desired policy answer (whether sceptic or alarmist).
It is not used to get the best policy answer.

Greg Goodman

“Australia’s ratio of, emissions to GDP, is just double that of France. If emissions per square kilometre are compared however, France emits 12 times that of Australia.”
Largely because France 75% nuclear powered , if you are interested in carbon bean counting that seems to be an reasonable result.
Your own example shows how irrelevant the land area idea is.
“The Kaya is a tool of the global minded, useless for national policy, that reveals with perfect clarity, the hubris of groupthink and the latent stupidity of collectivist ambitions.”
Ah, so now we get the heart of your argument. It is nothing to do with the maths which you understand so poorly, it is motivated by the usual anti-progressive anti-communist rant.
If you want an anti-commie rant just come up front about it, skip the maths, about which you have no idea.

Fred Colbourne

If KAYA is an identity then the problem in proving it true is a mathematical problem, not an empirical problem. (An identity is signified by not by “=” but 3 horizontal bars.)
KAYA is obviously not an identity but an equation that purports to describe a law of nature or at least a relationship among physical variables–a theory. As such it cannot be proven, but only falsified by empirical means.
I believe this is obvious.

joshv

Ummm, Kaya makes the assumption that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are produced by human activity, not land, thus the inclusion of population as a factor. The fact that the factors in the Kaya identity vary from country to country doesn’t matter.
“Australia’s ratio of, emissions to GDP, is just double that of France. If emissions per square kilometre are compared however, France emits 12 times that of Australia.”
And so what? Should Australia change it’s land area? Should France? Nonsense. The point of the Kaya identity is to account for the things that can be changed via policy intervention. One can conceivably slow population growth, GDP growth, decrease energy intensivity, and increase energy production efficiency.

Fred Colbourne

It really does not matter if the first line is written as a trivial algebraic manipulation. What counts is the final expanded version of the equation that is subjected to empirical tests.
If you doubt this, I suggest you examine Einstein’s 1905 papers where he proceeds in this manner. I suggest Einstein’s paper because he wrote in a clear manner that is understandable to non-physicists.

JPS

why is everyone trying to make this so complicated??? the Kaya Identity is simply a way for laymen to understand some of the real world variables associated with anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Any engineering or physics class would simply write CO2 = f (population,gdp,energy,efficiency) but most laymen dont understand what that means. I dont think it is any more complicated than that.

Don K

Clear presentation. That’s good. I need to go off and think about it, but my initial reaction is that surely a policy instrument should reflect emissions per person rather than emissions per square km.
A couple of minor points:
1. I think that the where in “Everywhere I looked, the terms as factors of total emissions where erroneous.” should be were?
2. No argument with not slowing down the paper with a sidetrack illustrating examples of “erroneous terms”. That’s an editorial decision and quite possibly a good one. But maybe a footnote or afterword or something with some examples might be appropriate.
3. Let me cast a vote here for redesignation the “Kaya Identity” as the “Kaya relationship” it looks to be an approximation. That’s fine. Engineers use approximations all the time without dire consequences — after making sure the approximation is appropriate for the purpose at hand. What we are discussing is whether the approximation is appropriate and what its limitations are.

Greg Goodman said:
July 24, 2014 at 3:50 am
In the the words of Dr Roger Pielke Jr., the Kaya Identitiy:
“Was first preposed as a tool to help climate modellers, if you want to drive a climate model, you want to run it, one of the things you have to know about the future, is what emissions will be…”
The Kaya models relationships in the real world. It was conceived as systems analysis behind the algorithms of climate models (Apparently ;-).
cheers,
Scott

Kaya again ?
Please stop. It is not that the formula is (or isn’t) an identity, or that it would need another term (is this serious?). It is that it contains, by construction, _no information_ whatsoever about _relationships_ between GPP, CO2, Population or whatever.
As a (counter)example (quickly coming to my mind), please consider this identity: “center of mass = center of gravity in an uniform gravity field”. This is an identity (not an equation, not a definition). It contains information. Kaya formula doesn’t.

Lord God please stop these warmists from driving us insane with their insanity.

JJM Gommers

Assume full conversion to nuclear and everything electric, the equation becomes zero.
So population density doesn’t count as well as km*2.
This story is ad acta.

jhborn

JPS: “why is everyone trying to make this so complicated???”
Indeed. Perhaps I’m missing something, but all I get from the head post is that the Kaya identity doesn’t include a quantity from which one could compute emissions per unit area, as opposed to emissions per unit population. In other words, if you have a country’s total emissions, you’d have to divide by total area to get its emissions per unit area.
It takes over 800 words to say that?

Greg Goodman says:
July 24, 2014 at 3:59 am
The point of mentioning France for me, was precisely because it is nuclear powered. It also happens to be only 14 times smaller than Australia, in terms of land area. Interestingly (And probably coincidently.) Australia’s emissions are exactly 14% larger than France.
Show me how the mathematics actually adds up for you and I’ll drop my silly idea that the Kaya might be more of a globalist notion than a nationalist one 😉
cheers,
Scott

The Kaya is a tool of the global minded, useless for national policy, that reveals with perfect clarity, the hubris of groupthink and the latent stupidity of collectivist ambitions.

I agree with this. I further would point out that most all “national policy” is deluded, collectivist error. Once upon a time, many “leaders” were worried about how to feed all the horses in the growing young country. My god! Think of the millions of horses we need to get around. Fortunately this period of time came when the dominate philosophy of the people was Classically Liberal (1) and hence it was left to the people to work out the problem. Innovation came up with a solution. (I drive one myself)
The anthropogenic CO2 leads to catastrophic warming myth is a tool to control the economies of the world for the benefit of the rulers. Unfettered and voluntary mutual cooperation is seen by our overlords as unacceptable. The Kaya is just another tool to aid in “planning”. (planning is a euphemism for draconian control)
(1) Classical Liberalism explained … http://mises.org/daily/4596/What-Is-Classical-Liberalism

Keith Willshaw

Greg Goodman Said
>>“Australia’s ratio of, emissions to GDP, is just double that of France. If emissions per square
>> kilometre are compared however, France emits 12 times that of Australia.”
> Largely because France 75% nuclear powered , if you are interested in carbon bean
> counting that seems to be an reasonable result.
Trouble is Greg the only emissions that 75% nuclear generation reduces is electrical power.
The emissions per capita of France are around 25% lower than EU nations with comparable GDP per capita. The French are just as keen on their cars, AC and gas heating as everyone else.
If you make the comparison Roger produced for Germany to Australia then you would find that emissions per sq km from Germany were around 15 times that of Australia. Since Germany has a similar GDP per capita to France but a smaller area. This discussion of course has nothing to do with communism.

RobertInAz

Kaya addresses the “tools in the toolbox” for managing carbon.
Land area is of interest to reasons why large countries are less carbon efficient than small countries. Land area it is not a tool in the sense the other terms of Kaya are tools.

I’m pleasantly surprised by most of the reactions so far. For the most part, “the KAYA identity / equation” discussion has always been a “non-issue”.
In IPCC’s own words: the Kaya identity’s one and only purpose is to organize discussion of the primary driving forces of CO2 emissions. And IPCC add: “the four terms on the right-hand side of the equation should be considered neither as fundamental driving forces in themselves, nor as generally independent from each other.”
If someone thinks that “land area” is a main driving force of CO2 emissions, than by all means he should add it. Not quite sure though what kind of policies he would suggest to increase or decrease land area. Then again, in that respect, “population” is also a controversial driving factor that at the very least poses some moral issues (as pointed out by Pielke jr.)

JJ

OYG WUWT’s experiment in communal embarrassment continues. Each post inexplicably more asinine than the last.

Scott Scarborough

I remember in college when I was not solving a math problem improperly I would end up with all of the terms cancelling and be left with V=V or M=M. That was proof positive that I did not yet understand what the teacher was talking about!

Scott Scarborough

Typed it right the first time… “properly” not “improperly”

Jason Calley

Consider a very useful equation, something like F=MA, or perhaps PV=NRT. They are useful because they allow us to calculate some unknown term (like F) if we know what the other terms (like MA) are. In fact, we can calculate any of the terms if we know what the other terms are. That is what they are used for. That is why they are helpful. Now consider the Kaya Identity. Can you use it to calculate “C”? Well, no, not unless you already know both what “C” is and what “TE” is.
An equation like PV=NRT gives us some insight into the relationship of pressures,volume, temperature and gas molecules. The Kaya Identity gives no real insight; it is the mathematical equivalent of “Weekly income” = “Number of days in a week” X “Income per day”. The Kaya Identity can only give you the number for “C” if you already have numbers for “C”, and as the author says, those numbers vary from location to location.

Joe Born said:
July 24, 2014 at 4:54 am
All the words were required to make a complex point in an elegant way. If you spell out every premise then it is no longer prose but a just a list.
Take the time to relax, take a deep breath and think about what has been written, because a great deal of thought and research has been given to every line of its premises.
The conclusions presented, are a direct response to a particular post, bounded by the context and precedent of two very long threads.
cheers,
Scott

Forrest Gardener

I don’t post often, but I’d like to understand how this identity is useful.
What it says to me is that it doesn’t matter whether P, GDP or TE are changed, carbon emissions will stay the same.
It’s not like carbon emissions are said to be proportional to population squared or something.
What am I missing?

Ted Clayton

Angels on the head of a pin.
Lumpers vs Splitters.
It’s the contestants, not the content.
“Framing” is a tool of conflict, not erudition.

First, looking at Fig. 1, is that C = Carbon or should it be Carbon Dioxide emissions?
Either way, “Carbon/Carbon Dioxide emissions + Carbon/Carbon Dioxide emissions” seems perfectly reasonable to me.
However, determining world-wide total C/CO2 emissions, or a specific countries C/CO2 emissions, should be by direct observation and measurements, (or well-established methods of estimation) not by some odd machination of GDP, People, Energy usage and efficiency,

Uh, typo above –
“Either way, “Carbon/Carbon Dioxide emissions = Carbon/Carbon Dioxide emissions” seems perfectly reasonable to me.”

Brock Way

If anyone lost some superfluous commas, I think they can be found above.

John West

Land area is not a “knob” that can be significantly adjusted to effect CO2 emissions and therefore rightfully not in the Kaya Identity.
If you want to reduce CO2 emissions, what are your options?
1) Reduce Population,
2) Reduce the standard of living,
3) Increase economic/production efficiency,
4) Reduce CO2 emission intensity of energy production,
5) Increase transportation efficiency wrt CO2 emissions.
(#5 is not well covered in the Kaya Identity due to the use of GDP in the GDP/Energy factor since GDP is calculated with net import/export. For assessing CO2 emissions gross import/export would be more appropriate.)

Doug

Change in Kaya Identity of the world = change in Kaya Identity of Australia + change in Kaya Identity of France + change in Kaya Identity of Singapore + etc……
Since the area of these places can’t change, area is an irrelevant term in the change equation. And how CO2 production might change is the whole point of the discussion.

Edim

“What it says to me is that it doesn’t matter whether P, GDP or TE are changed, carbon emissions will stay the same.”
How does it say that?
C = P*(GDP/P)*(TE/GDP)*(C/TE)
Even if you cancel it all out, which makes no sense, you will have:
Before the change:
C1 = C1
After the change:
C2 = C2
C2 may be unknown this way, but it doesn’t equal C1, unless the carbon intensity (C/TE) changes exactly as much, to make C2 equal C1, in spite of the changes in P, GDP and TE.

Climate Heritic

Hundreds of comments on this Kaya identity, really.
Using the Kaya identity from Wikipedia and assuming that all the variables have the same units
The LHS of the Kaya identity can be represented as a fraction.
The RHS of the Kaya identity is just an equivalent fraction of the LHS
In other words the Kaya identity is useless.

Geckko

It is invariably people who are weak mathematicians who are drawn to such gobbledygook.
Why not just say the amount of carbon produced will be be higher for:
Larger populations
Higher output
Less efficiency use of energy and
The carbon intensity of the energy used
The pseudo-maths is a weak attempt to make it look more “sciency”.
However it just makes it look simply weak.
Note that Dr Pielke is an advocate for lower carbon emissions, because. Just because.

The primary factor in GDP disparity, is that all governments are not created equal.

Geckko

What this does remind me of is the basic national accounting identity in economics:
Y=C+G+I+X-M
Which of course is only an identity representing the equivalence of output and income (approximately simplified)
However mathematically or economically illiterate people treat it as as formula explaining how income is created and the relationship between different variable . It doesn’t

For all those who hate KAYA so much, here is some food for thought.
What KAYA (also) says is that to increase anthropogenic CO2 emissions, there are two important things you can do:
1) Replace all the new energy efficient technologies with older energy inefficient technologies. For example, in cement production, why use the dry process rotary kiln equiped with multi stage cyclone preheaters that uses only 3.0 GJ energy per tonne of clinker; if you might just as well use the wet kiln process that uses 7.0 GJ energy per tonne of clinker?
2) Only use fossil fuels as primary energy resources, ever. Under any circumstances do not, I repeat, do not use any primary energy resources such as uranium/thorium (nuclear) or renewables. Do not even consider investigating nuclear fusion as a possibility in a (far) future – its CO2 emissions (if any) would be far too low.
KAYA really does say that (too).

jhborn

Scott Wilmott Bennett: “Take the time to relax, take a deep breath and think about what has been written.”
Done.
I’ll take your word for the fact that “a great deal of thought and research has been given to every line of its premises,” but the logic between those premises and your main point–whatever that is–is obscure.
If you’re saying that certain parameters, like energy per unit GDP, encompass a lot of factors that for good reasons differ among countries, that’s true; Dr. Brown and others have made that point well in another thread. If you thence conclude that the Kaya identity can be misused, well, yes, I think we’ve covered that.
What you added to the discussion–and what you emphasized–is land area. But your logic connecting its absence from the equation to whatever point you were trying to make remains obscure even after one has taken the time to “relax, take a deep breath and think about what has been written.”
Perhaps you could expand on why dividing by land area is so crucial.

Ted Clayton

The Kaya Identity appears to be intellectual toast, for a simple reason: It poses population – “Humans” – as a negotiable variable. It provides a plausible context in which to hold “people” culpable, simply because they exist.
Placing population “on the table” has been a goal of some, for quite some time. There are those who resent humans (who salivate at great tragedies that will eliminate them), and sit up late formulating contexts in which to place them on the bullseye.
This enterprise – to condemn people per se – is a bust because ‘the populace’ is already wise to it, and to the extent that the Kaya algebra serves as a wedge or foot in the door for it, it is too.

Scott,
Of course countries differ in their CO2 emissions per GDP! This is neither a new discovery nor a challenge to the Kaya Identity.
It is already very well known, and acknowledged by Pielke. He calls the reason a difference in technology, but I and (I think) most economists would call it a difference in economic structure. Land area is only one of many differences among Australia, Singapore, and other countries that lead to different economic structures.
When countries like Australia and Singapore produce their GDP in different ways, they have different levels of energy use per unit of GDP, and they gain their energy from different sources with different CO2 emissions. As I replied to you yesterday (7:22 a.m., right after you posted these same thoughts during the Pielke conversation),

… no one denies that the values of the ratios in the Kaya Identity may differ for different countries. It is not meant to be ‘universally applied’ in the sense that bothers you. It is not a scientific law with universal constants — and no one claims that it is.

Have I understood your difficulty with the Kaya Identity? I think that I have, but perhaps not.
I hope that we can wind up this thread quickly without wading into the swamps of incomprehension that made the last three threads on this topic so frustrating.

Joe Born says: July 24, 2014 at 6:20 am
Perhaps you could expand on why dividing by land area is so crucial.
Including “land area” would simply give the following identity/equation:
CO2 = L * P/L ¨GDP/P * E/GDP * CO2/E; where L = land area (km²) and (P/L) would be population density (population per km²). In other words, one symply replaces “population” in the original KAYA by “land area” times “population density”.
Given that:
a) Kaya originally interpreted P as global population, GDP as world GDP etc, it seems to me L should be interpreted as Earth’s total land mass
b) humans have a huge impact on the Earth’s total land mass
I would conclude, very crucial indeed.

Some corrections
“symply” is “simply”
b) I addes (/sarc) somewhere, but that got lost in translation

Jim Clarke

The problem with the Kaya identity is in its application, not in its arithmetic or ability to produce a bit of understanding about the real world. It is being used to help generate policy; long term policy that will be around for decades. It is being used to generate a meme; a way of thinking that will influence decision makers for many years to come.
The Kaya identity begins with the assumption that CO2 emissions MUST be reduced. RPjr stated in his video that it wasn’t even worth talking about the science of climate change anymore. He implied that there was absolutely no point in even discussing climate sensitivity to CO2 emissions and that such discussions are actually harmful. (I was gobsmacked!) The Kaya identity is part of the meme that proclaims “The science is settled!” He argues that it doesn’t matter what the science says about CO2’s impact. The Kaya identity is valid regardless. While that may be true for the identity, it is just stupid to carry that thinking over to the process of making policy. There is nothing more important than the science in making good policy decisions.
The Kaya identity ends with disaster. It is inherently linear in every aspect. The world is inherently non-linear in every aspect. The Kaya identity gives an illusion of knowledge and wisdom to decision makers; convincing them that they will be making good choices. In reality, there is a near zero chance that policies resulting from the use of the Kaya identity will be positive. The outcomes from such policies will range from bad to disastrous.
The Kaya identity gives decision makers the idea that they actually have a control knob. A half turn to the right gives a certain result every time. A half turn to the left gives another result, but just as predictable and dependable as the half turn to the right. This is a complete illusion!
Using the Kaya identity to make policy is like deciding to paddle your raft with two strokes on the right, followed by two strokes on the left, for the entire duration of your trip down the Colorado river. Such a strategy will not get you very far and may actually kill you. They way to paddle your raft down the Colorado river is by constantly assessing your current situation and deciding the best possible paddle strokes for that moment.
The same is true for climate change policy. There is no need to implement solutions today that will solve all climate change problems for the next 100 years. In fact, that would be impossible, and any attempt to do it would almost certainly cause more harm than good. In order to make good decisions, those decisions should be focused on the short term, and the main objective should be the strengthening of the position of future decision makers. That means the current policies should promote adaptability in all areas while enhancing the financial strength of future generations to deal with their issues; issues that they will certainly understand far better than we do today. It means the science is constantly assessed, along with the current state of the population and their needs. It means the UN should be concentrating on potable water for all of humanity today and not on the average global temperature 100 years from now.
The use of the Kaya identity rationalizes the bad decision making process. It allows decision makers to ignore the vital importance of adaptability and weaken the financial strength of future generations. It is the height of hubris and the antithesis of wisdom to use the Kaya identity in the manner it is being used by the United Nations and other bureau-crazies; and apparently promoted by Roger Pielke, Jr; a man I admire and respect, but strongly disagree with on this topic.

Roberto

The devil here is in the assumptions. What this identity seems to accomplish is to nail everybody’s attention to carbon. It is tantalizing enough to make that carbon seem really, really important. Let’s drop everything else and reduce that carbon, because that’s the obvious puzzle. That’s what we are all staring at.
But real life is nearly always about a mix of goals, not just one fixation. Not just improving things short-term, but also long-term,and so on. It is common for different aspects to pull in different directions.
OK, this is one aspect. But why are we forgetting about the other aspects?

Jim Clarke says: July 24, 2014 at 6:46 am
That is by far the wisest I have read in all the threads on the KAYA identity / equation.
It is your post that deserves to be a blog post, and really, all discussions should end there.

Daniel G.

This doesn’t seem to be problem. co2 3x less, gdp 5x less.
co2’/gdp’ = (co2/3) / (gdp/5) = co2/gdp * 5/3 = co2/gdp * 1.67
So what is the matter? You are focusing too much on absolute quantities.

Australia’s ratio of, emissions to GDP, is just double that of France. If emissions per square kilometre are compared however, France emits 12 times that of Australia.

That is not very good ratio, emissions to GDP. I’m sorry to say that.

Daniel G.

The Kaya identity begins with the assumption that CO2 emissions MUST be reduced.

See above, if you want to increase co2 emissions, it is fine as well.

Willis uses the identity in every argument he makes
About carbon policy and the poor. He just never uses
It explicitly.

Gary

Dial back, the commas, partner, they are, not really, needed in, all those many places, where you put them. It makes, your article, somewhat, difficult, to read, by making it, jolting, and halting, and blocky, to the reader. Thank, you. (grammar n@zi strikes again! lol)