Recapitulation of some Lukewarm beliefs, ideas and occasionally knowledge

I leave soon for three months and will not be able to post. I’ll put up an open thread right before I go, but I wanted to go back to the beginning of this blog and grab some of the basics of why Lukewarmers are Lukewarmers and why we are different from either the most skeptical of skeptics or the most concerned of the climate concerned.

(The short answer is that we believe global warming to be real and potentially quite serious, but that ‘when offered an over/under bet on 3C sensitivity, we’ll take the under’–Steve Mosher)


The theory of global warming is solid, staid and uncontroversial. All things considered, if we double the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, temperatures should increase by 1.1C over what they otherwise would have been.

The theory of atmospheric sensitivity is a different story. The political controversy that has raged since 1988 centers on the idea that our atmosphere is sensitive to changes and that changes produced by humanity–in particular our emissions of greenhouse gases–will cause more warming than just the 1.1C from the emissions themselves.

Everybody’s tired of the climate wars.

But not tired enough to quit fighting. This weblog is an attempt to differentiate some of us involved in the discussion from people at the extremes, those who hold either unwarrantedly skeptical views of what really is basic science or those who have let their imaginations run wild with apocalyptic visions of a future that the science does not predict.

We are Lukewarmers. We’re not organized. There is no motto, no creed, no manifesto. We don’t meet, we converse infrequently and we don’t have a secret handshake.

What we seem (so far) to have in common is an understanding that the basic underpinnings of climate science are understandable, well-grounded and not controversial, plus the growing realization that one of the key components of an extended theory of climate change has been pushed too far.

That component is the sensitivity of our atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2. The activists who have tried to dominate the discussion of climate change for more than twenty years have insisted that this sensitivity is high, and will amplify the warming caused by CO2 by 3, 4 or even 10 times the 1C of warming provided by a doubling of CO2 alone.

Lukwarmers, for  a variety of reasons, think it’s lower.

We don’t know what sensitivity is. In fact, there is more than one type of sensitivity and more than one definition. That doesn’t help matters.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, highlighted recent work by Nic Lewis, who used observational data to postulate that a doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6°-1.7°C (2.9°-3.1°F). Ridley’s piece was also published in the Wall Street Journal. The articles (and a vehement, if knee-jerk, response by Joe Romm, was discussed at Bishop Hill’s blog hereherehere and elsewhere.

My own contribution to the debate, published in my other weblog here, is based on decidedly lower math. I noted that during the recent (hotly debated) plateau in temperatures, humankind has managed to emit one third of all the greenhouse gases they have ever spit into the atmosphere–without any tangible effects on temperatures. Now, climate science allows for uneven steps in temperature change, and I am perfectly comfortable with that. The current warming period is certainly characterized as a sawtooth form imposed on a rising trend. It is conceivable that this is just another pause that will be followed by another period of temperature rises.

But this pause in the temperature rises has lasted longer than previous pauses. Since 1998 there has been little if any net rise in temperatures. Should this pause continue for just a few more years it will mathematically invalidate many of the climate models’ predictions.

And it almost beggars belief that the sheer quantity of emissions since 1998 can have so little effect–if sensitivity is high. On the other hand, if sensitivity is as low as Nic Lewis postulates (as have others before him), it would make more sense that a massive outgassing of CO2 in a short timeframe could still have a small effect.

What we’re left with is the realization that this period will be the proving ground for the various theories of sensitivity. Global emissions are hardly likely to go down–indeed, they will probably continue to increase, as developing countries continue to burn incredible quantities of coal in their race to provide modern lifestyles to their citizens. By the end of the decade humanity will have emitted one half of their historical total of greenhouse gases since 1998.

The results will be interesting. If the current temperature plateau holds, the climate activists will have to maintain that the lag between emission and response is so great that previous temperature rises were quite possible linked to other phenomena than human CO2–or else revise their sensitivity figures.

If, on the other hand, temperatures begin once again to rise quickly, many skeptics will have to acknowledge many uncomfortable conclusions of the climate scientists they have been fighting so bitterly.

In either case, this decade will provide something the debate has sorely needed for 25 years–answers.

I’ve said it often enough, but I’ll repeat what I think we should do while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science:

1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for climate change that has occurred in the interim.
2. Spend a global total of $100 billion for the transfer of technology to the developing world for the purpose of reducing the impact of development technologies, in hopes that they can leapfrog one or two generations of energy development.
3. Commit to spending over the course of this century on moving roads inland, removing permission for construction on threatened coasts and flood plains. The EPA found that this would cost about $400 billion for the United States about 20 years ago–adjust for inflation. But that’s a one-time cost.
4. Continue Steven Chu’s investment strategy for reducing costs in renewable energy, storage and transmission. Continue with ARPA-E at full funding. We may have another Solyndra–probably will, in fact. But we may also have another Tesla, which didn’t technically come from that program, but serves as an inspiration.
5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to maintain nuclear power’s percentage of electricity at 20% in the U.S.
7. Uprate existing hydroelectric plants to take advantage of advances in turbine technology.
8. Mandate uptake of GPS within the air traffic control infrastructure and controlled and one-step descent on landing.
9. Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.
11. Support introduction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
12. Force existing coal power plants to meet best available technology standards or close.

Okay–last post for three months on Wednesday…

This is for Willard:


56 responses to “Recapitulation of some Lukewarm beliefs, ideas and occasionally knowledge

  1. I am almost of a mind to say do nothing while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science.

    The United States has met and exceeded the obligations we would have had had we signed Kyoto – but we did so because of things that no one could have predicted: the recession, the shift to natural gas because of fracking, savings due to more stringent CAFE standards and efficiency gains.

    Technology is changing. Our culture is changing. As competition heats up for energy, prices will rise and efficiencies will grow.

    The history of imposed solutions to global warming and energy problems are marked by more failures than successes. Wind energy is joke. Solar is a non-starter. Biofuels are a disaster.

    Having said that, some things worked: LED lighting is about to take off, telecommuting shows great promise, cars are getting better mileage and new technology for power plants show great promise.

    • Hiya Greg–did you read the article on cars in last week’s Economist?

      • I did and was impressed.

        Imagine the efficiency of car-trains during rush hour. Since a car on auto-pilot can react faster than a driver and even synch with other cars, it is possible to create a much better (laminar) flow of traffic.

        Interesting stuff.

        I have no problem with government sponsored research and things like the Darpa prizes to move these advances along – but when politics and subsidies are involved, I get very skeptical.

        Anyone who has a lot of faith in government should spend a day or two at the legislature. Like they say, there are two things a person should never see being made, sausage and laws. 🙂

      • IIRC it’s just solar and wind. It was a Western Regional Study done around 2007 or 2008.

  2. You had me nodding with agreement for virtually the whole of this post. Especially the line “The results will be interesting.” No kidding – though I think those on both sides infused with True Belief will continue to ignore any evidence contrary to that True Belief.

    Sadly, you lost me on some of your 12 steps: too many of them rely on big governmental intervention. Nice in theory, but terrible in practice. In order:

    1) I could support this, if it were a punitive tax (not revenue neutral), and if it were adopted by enough nations with enough output to make it work. Neither of those conditions is gonna happen anytime soon.

    2) Yes, but it must be targeted! A simple wealth transfer to the kleptocracies of the third world does nothing. So, don’t involve the UN in any fashion!

    3) As seas rise slowly (even at the accelerated pace some are predicting), the infrastructure will be moved piecemeal anyway, without government intervention. A better solution would be for the government to simply warn everyone that they will no longer be held responsible for bailing out anyone foolish enough to build on the coast. And then carry through with the warning.

    4) No, no, no! Becomes – under any party – simple cronyism. If your #1 works, the market pressure will drive development of new technology. Allowing the government to pick the winners just ensures that their friend will be the winners.

    5) Why only large emitters? Why not rice farmers, dairy farmers, and your average citizen driving to work or heating her house? Allowing a not-very-answerable bureaucracy to make decisions of this type is worse than getting politicians to do it.

    6) Agree with you here, but why stop at 20%? Why not go for 75%?

    7) Agree.

    8) Already seems to be happening, if slowly. (Having some training as an ATC in a past life, I can tell you that reliance on technology in ATC can be very dangerous – it doesn’t always work. The separation standards are there for the times it doesn’t work, not for when it does. They should go slow on introducing this.)

    9) Yes to the first, eliminate the second. Again, if #1 could be made to work, the subsidies would not be necessary. And if #1 doesn’t work, you’re just throwing other people’s money away.

    10) Not sure how you would do this without mandating it – if it was economically viable it would expand on it’s own. It also seems incremental in nature – expansion of nuclear would do far more for co2 reduction.

    11) Let manufacturers and private industry do this! Was government necessary to build up the nation-wide network of gas stations? Or the stables that preceded them?

    12) Agreed. (Hey, I breathe the air too!) The standards need to be realistic, though – not some trumped up standards designed to put them out of business. I would ask if this would be really needed if #1 could be implemented.

    So there you have it – one libertarian’s perspective on your approach. At least there’s something we can agree on. 🙂

    Given my view of the intractable nature of the problem (too much co2 vs. too much government, with not a lot to choose between them), I’m throwing my faith in the direction of human ingenuity in the guise of technology. Hopefully we’ll let that work for us…

    • Actually, as long as we don’t talk domestic politics I get along with people of all stripes, as common sense isn’t really party-specific.

      • Certainly agree with that – most of my friends could best be described as liberals. Some subjects to avoid, but good people in the main. What I’ll never get is why they put up with me…

      • You actually seem pretty easy to put up with. You must have your axe well-hidden…

      • Not at all hidden They just know that here in Canada there’s zero chance of them ever having to deal with a government of my political stripe…

  3. I am truly sorry to see you leave because this post raises issues I would like to discuss with someone on the “other” side who will listen and respond. For example, you recommend that we continue to subsidize wind and I have concluded that we simply cannot afford to continue that subsidy. I believe that it is time to end the production tax credit for wind energy for the very simple reason that society cannot afford it. After thirty years of failed promises about the impending competitiveness of wind power, it is time to face the fact that it will never be competitive with fossil fuel and cannot meaningfully supplement our energy requirements except at unreasonable cost levels.

    The ultimate requirement for any electrical energy source is the capability to provide dispatchable (i.e., electric energy generating units that provide power when requested as opposed to intermittent power like wind and solar that only provides power when the wind is blowing or sun is shining) energy and there is a current need to invest in new electric generation facilities that must be evaluated against that criterion. Let me give a specific example why I think that wind energy fails this test.

    There is a proposal to replace the existing coal-fired Dunkirk, NY generating units with a new combined cycle natural gas fired turbine with a capacity of 440 MW. It is not unreasonable to expect that new unit will be able to provide electricity 90% of the time (the capacity factor is 90%) so we expect that it can provide 90% of 440 MW 8760 hours per year for a total of 3,468,960 MWhr of dispatchable power. The facility can schedule maintenance activities when loads are projected to be low and easily replaceable by other sources of power so we can expect that it will be available when we need it.

    There are individuals that will oppose this re-powering proposal because it will “enable” hydro-fracking natural gas development and propose replacing the facility with wind and solar energy. Those proponents of renewable power will present their comparison of costs as levelized cost per Mwh for similarly sized capacity. In other words they will propose 440 MW of wind or solar. If that approach is used then the cost is for all intents and purposes the same and maybe even cheaper for the renewable power.

    However, what we really need when we repower a facility is 3,468,960 MWhr of dispatchable power each year when the new facility is on-line. The capacity factor for wind is around 30% so in order to produce the same amount of power customers would need to invest in 1320 MW of wind capacity. Assuming that those wind turbines are in the same general area as the existing power plant means that all the turbines would have the same pattern of windy and calm periods because the wide area driver of wind speed is low and high pressure systems that are hundreds of miles across. That means that customers also have to pay for storage of the wind and it is not unreasonable to assume that two thirds of the wind capacity would have to have storage capability.

    As a result, using wind power to replace a new combined cycle unit will require three times as much installed capacity plus storage for around two thirds of the capacity. But it gets even worse. Dispatchable power will be available for the seasonal peak loads. Those are generally very hot or very cold periods caused by high pressure systems when the wind resource is even worse. The New York Independent System Operator assumes that wind energy capacity during those periods is only 20% so that means to completely replace dispatchable load you need five times as much wind capacity.

    Unfortunately there is even another reason why wind is uneconomic. Dr. Paul Joskow’s paper “Comparing the costs of intermittent and dispatchable electricity generating technologies” ( demonstrates that levelized cost comparison is a misleading metric because it fails to take into account the large variations in the market value of electricity. On a daily basis the highest value of electricity is during the day when the winds are light and the value is low at night when the winds are higher. Market value of electricity also varies by season. In the spring and fall, electricity demand and value is low, but it peaks in the high demand periods of the summer and winter. Again the wind resource is highest in the low demand periods and lowest in the peak demand periods. This means that the payments to cover the cost of wind development are not in synch with the highest value of electricity generated. Dr Joskow proposes that be taken into account when the costs are compared and it significantly de-values wind development.

    When the total costs of wind energy (keep in mind that the life expectancy of wind turbines is roughly half the life expectancy of a gas turbine) are compared to the total costs of a dispatchable technology such as nuclear, gas combined cycle or coal, wind is a loser. Moreover, it will always be a loser because of the pattern of intermittent wind against electricity peak needs. We cannot continue the charade that somehow someday wind can be competitive.

    • Hiya Roger–hey, don’t worry, there are a lot of people here who can discuss this with you.

      I’ll note that the (?) $22 billion we forked out in renewable subsidies a few years ago was about 0.5% of GDP. We didn’t get a lot from it, I’ll grant you, but the solar and wind we built is producing energy used in the grids today. Dispatchable is kind of a recent buzzword. Think Patchable instead. The NREL said the current grid can accommodate up to 25% renewable energy without a problem. Obviously, I hope we plan a bit better and use more appropriate technology for wind–but you can talk to Marty about that!

      We’re not spending that much on it and it is basically a proving ground for a better generation of wind generation. You’ll find lots of support for you POV here–but also a few who can argue the other side–honest!

      • Tom –

        Is that 25% renewable figure from the NREL for solar and wind alone, or does it include hydro, biomass, geothermal, etc?

      • rogercaiazza

        Dispatchable may be a recent buzzword but maybe that is because the original argument , such as the current grid can accommodate 25% renewable, did not address the specific concern. Sure the grid can accommodate renewable energy but we are talking about greater penetrations now and substitution for specific fossil facilities.

        When confronted with a choice between replacing a new combined cycle natural gas unit with renewable dispatchability has to be considered. In that context wind will always be a loser. Solar has promise in the future grid because it can shave peaks and the potential for a significant breakthrough in efficiency or implementation (solar panels integrated into structural elements?) is possible. I would argue that wind is a loser again for the likelihood of a technological breakthrough that would matter. I would however like to see development of wind turbine design that cuts down on direct bird and bat fatalities. If any other industry had the avian fatality track record of the wind industry they would be shut down.

      • Well now, see, I don’t get this. The only plans I ever saw were for wind and solar to get up to 30%. I know a lot of people have talked about solar powering the world, but the actual plans were for far less. Don’t get me wrong–solar could and probably someday will power most of the non-transportation needs of the world. But not this century. 30% is enough.

      • rogercaiazza

        The local environmental advocates have already come out opposing coal unit re-powering with a new combined cycle unit because it will “enable” hydro-fracking natural gas development and propose replacing the facility with wind and solar energy. When they make their economic arguments they don’t address the distpatchability issues and cling to levelized cost comparisons. If you want to get into the weeds check this out. Dr. Paul Joskow’s paper “Comparing the costs of intermittent and dispatchable electricity generating technologies” ( demonstrates that levelized cost comparison is a misleading metric because it fails to take into account the large variations in the market value of electricity.

        Maybe we should be luke warm on renewable development too. There is an upper bound on just how much renewable we can integrate and afford.

  4. I got to say, I am not a fan of wind. In the good old days, I could view a night sky free of red blinky lights, now it is windmills from horizon to horizon. Our electric rates have gone up accordingly.

    The sad thing is, we are in southern Minnesota, just a short pipeline away from a lot of cheap North Dakota gas.

    • I don’t get that. The scam is not government subsidies. The scam is ratepayers subsidizing technology they didn’t ask for.

  5. Hi Tom, ” Now, climate science allows for uneven steps in temperature change, and I am perfectly comfortable with that”

    I’ve heard this repeated before, but was never successful in located a good source. On what reference do you base this statement.

    After perusing your 12 points, I come to the conclusion you really are a socialist, just as you say. Anyway, safe travels to the Land of the fried dumpling.

    • Thanks Bob–not quite at the socialist mile marker, but not really that far off. Have fun here in the land of fried everything else! I’ll send postcards…

  6. Tom –

    I tried to find the renewable vs. transmission number that you pointed me at, but got lost in a welter of government EIS reports – why can’t these people write even a summary in clear English? It does look like they take hydro out to get that 25% (yea!), but leave in biomass and geothermal (boo!). Kind of makes that 25% meaningless, as those are renewable, but aren’t intermittent – which is what is important, no?

    My point here is that it seems to me the 25% figure seems too optimistic for intermittent renewables, and even to get to the 20% wind that Denmark is incapable of properly using would require a major (and expensive) upgrade to the grid – yet another hidden cost. Kind of a negative externality, if you will. Similar to the bird/bat kills in that regard.

    I just don’t see how wind can ever be an affordable major player in the primary energy game. Like Roger, I don’t see where the technology breakthrough is going to come from to make it one. This is something that makes no economic sense to flog with tax dollars.

    Admittedly, I haven’t looked at the transmission issue in any depth. If someone wants to point me at a discussion of this, I wouldn’t object…though please God, let it be in English, not bureaucratic acronym.

    • Google ceramic superconductors and behold the future… or Tesla wireless transmission of power…

      It’s all going to be great fun.

      • Sorry Tom, but I know enough about both of those to know that there is more chance of wind becoming economic than of either one being useful for the grid stability problem. If either of these is going to be the technological breakthrough I’m hoping for, it’ll be by random chance, not any planned research and implementation program.

  7. Awesome- no one has posted this yet:

  8. I hope you all click on Cannonball’s song–I love that.

    • It is really good. Thanks.
      And tomorrow is it for months on end?
      How can we keep this level of civility going without ya?

      • Find a way–please.

      • Tom,
        But how will we get new topics of excellence.
        The role is challenging, but I see from you that is possible to be an excellent host and still hold strong opinions. But it is your hospitality combined with your strong writing that makes this a reality.

      • Well, we’ll see–I will still be able to comment by email–maybe we can have an extended discussion on the open thread I’ll put up tomorrow. That way you can also brief me on what’s going on in the blogosphere–we can defeat censorship! Hooray for us!

        We can beat governmental repression but are powerless in front of Real Climate and the Tobitians…

  9. This indeed looks like a subset of the standard liberal wish list. I read this and ask, why would a Republican vote for most of these? I very much doubt you had this in mind when you wrote it, but you should if you want results.

    Bigger government, Expanded powers. Expanded control. Restrictions on the markets. “Guilt” money sent overseas today for climate crimes that might happen 50 years from now. I think we can adapt to rising sea levels in real time, no need to budget that 50 years ahead of time.

    There *** must ** be some sort of grand bargain here or you might as well throw this list in with all the other green fantasy lists which currently reside in the dust bin. If the left / greens are not going to slay any sacred cows, then this will get no support from the right. This has been the MO to date, propose policy that no one really supports (even Democrats), blame the obstructionist Republicans for failure, and then drive the 2 ton SUV back to the 3000 sf air conditioned home and feel satisfactorily smug. Repeat.

    I have zero point zero confidence that a carbon tax will be able to be maintained revenue neutral in an era of choking deficits and debt. Look what happened to the Social Security trust fund. It’s like throwing a boat load of heroin into the middle of a junkie convention.

    Tax carbon and use the proceeds to phase in 80% nuclear power over 50 years. I could support that.

    Doing almost nothing via government policy has gotten us below the Kyoto thresholds.

    I guess I missed the part where you stated what all this pain and suffering would achieve exactly. Relieving wealthy liberals of guilt? It’s an honorable list of concrete actions without concrete goals, or concrete benchmarks.

    I don’t really mean to be so critical here, it’s just that it seems so anti-climatic that I’ve seen a 100 similar forms of this progressive policy wish list offered up as “solutions”.

    Expand nuclear.
    Expand hydro.
    Expand fracking.

    When solar/wind/thermal/etc.become economically competitive, deploy them.

    If climate armageddon starts to look more likely, revise the plan.

    • Mmm, Tom, I don’t know what post you’re reading but I support expanding nuclear, hydro and (if it proves safe) fracking. Solar is right now economically competitive in a lot of places. I do think it is appropriate for government to provide support as well… Is that the root of our differences on this?

      • I do think it is appropriate for government to provide support as well…

        Support is a tricky word. It is one thing to fund R & D, another to market technology and quite another to foster dependent constituencies.

        Energy is the wrong domain for rational politics. For example, a rational response to increased green-house gases would be to reduce them. Simple, right? So any initiative that reduces CO2 emissions should have broad-based political support and be easy to implement.

        So why no national (or state) campaign to encourage telecommuting?

        It is the quickest, easiest way to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. You’d think the greens would love it. You’d think Obama would jump on board. You’d think the Republicans would embrace it.

        So why the sound of crickets chirping when the subject of telecommuting is raised?

        Because there is no constituency for it. No one makes a dime on it. In other words, it is great policy but lousy politics.

      • “Is that the root of our differences on this?”

        Mostly. We have a significantly different threshold of when government support should be provided. There is a theme of “we must do something” running in most of these wish lists. I’m only interested in providing *** effective *** support for established problems. I don’t see taxpayer funds as free money, I look at it as my money.

        I’m also in the “wait and see” camp as far as climate problems go. So spending cash now other than R & D into making clean energy cheap seems like a waste to me. I’m all for low regrets policy.

        My main criticism is lack of objective goals and benchmarks. When you sell someone something, the buyer expects something in return. What am I, the taxpayer, getting back here? Are you really stating this solves the (non-existent?) problem?

      • Hiya Tom

        I actually think government investment in renewable energy is part of a partial solution to more than one problem.

        First, yes, it is in the short term contributing to a lowering of unemployment. I don’t have a problem with that, if it isn’t permanent. Labor is a cost in green energy and making green energy viable involves lowering costs.

        Second, a long term view of green energy warrants our support for it from the standpoint of energy security as a national policy. Not because we will run out of oil or gas, but because it will get more expensive as time goes by.

        Third, given what I believe about CO2 emissions from the developing world, I honestly believe that innovation in green energy will be greatly appreciated and highly valued in the medium term future.

        Despite being a progressive liberal, I do not think government is the answer to every question. But I think it should be a major player in finding the answer to one important question: What will our energy future look like?

      • Tom F, I like your three points. Let’s take them one at a time:
        First, lowering of unemployment. mass installation of solar panels or windmills is too ineffective to expect much employment in the US. Also mass production of windmill blades and solar panels is more likely to happen in China than the US. What would promote employment in the US and Europe is a focus on specialized, educated jobs, like those found in nuclear power plants and design companies, and the construction of very precise equipment, like that used in nuclear power plants. Also, the development of natural resources located in the US, like shale gas.

        Second, energy security as a national policy. Energy security means energy production that is reliable (Germany and UK face grid stability concerns right now) and energy security means energy production that is affordable. Jack up the price of energy in your country to the point where you are no longer competitive and you have a real security problem.

        Third, the developing world. The developing world has been admirably consistent in it’s demands- they want systems that produce plentiful energy reliably hour after hour, day after day, at the lowest cost possible. We do the developing world no favors by subsidizing unreliable, expensive power and, in fact, I doubt China is all that pleased about the money blown on plants designed to feed cheap solar panels to the European subsidy bubble that is now bursting.

        In short, progressive policy right now is to ship jobs overseas, destabilize the energy grid and economies locally, and pick the energy mix the developing world is least likely to use at scale.

      • Yeah, but apart from that… 🙂

        Most green jobs are in installation, not manufacturing.

        Energy security is far more complex than you suggest. Even having green alternatives as a bargaining chip has some value.

        Green energy is perhaps most important for the developing world. The case I cite repeatedly is the use of solar in rural areas without access to a transmission grid. This is up. It is working. It is helping. In my mind this alone justifies all the mistakes, runarounds, outright deception and general fooling around that has always accompanied the introduction of new energy technologies.

      • #1. This is basically Keynesian economics. I’m sympathetic to this on paper, but in practice we don’t have the discipline to stop spending in good times. Witness the economic armageddon warnings we got during the sequester. Most of the greens don’t won’t temporary spending, they want it forever (like most special interest groups). Look how hard it is to stop subsidies on bio-fuels, even when almost everyone agrees it doesn’t make sense.

        #2. I’m all for alternative energy solutions. When they make economic sense. Let’s call “economic sense” as within 10% unsubsidized. Deploy when ready. Money is better spent on R & D until then. The market will make this work anyway if fossil fuels gets too costly. You are arguing for early adoption at increased cost. I don’t see wind power as having established this as good policy.

        #3. By all means, let them decide how they want their money spent (errr…especially if it is their money). If they want solar panels, give it to them. If it’s a choice between coal power and clean water, or solar power and dirty water, I think we know where that should end up. They do like to eat on regular basis too. Intermittency is still a fatal flaw here. It needs solved.

      • Installation jobs would also come from building nuclear power plants, gas wells and pipelines. And would be more plentiful and would require more specialists. Which is more to produce high-paying jobs in the US and has the best chance for long-term success- a firm that produces self-contained nukes for export, or a shop that bolts Chinese solar panels to Connecticut roofs in December?
        Ditto security. If you were worried that the US was attempting to become self-sufficient with energy, would you be more worried about a plan that has the ability to do it (gas, nukes) or one that doesn’t (solar, wind)? I like your focus on the massive energy needs of the future- if wind/solar can handle maybe 20% of today’s need, what do you need in a future where we have electrified transportation? There is a big-government component even to nukes and gas- How do you plan an electrified transportation infrastructure off a policy that calls for conservation (less juice) and higher prices for electricity? Answer, you can’t.
        I think solar panels to run a radio, cell phone chargers, and lights in rural areas is great. Really. Of course those areas don’t just want a light, radio and cell reception. They want factories.

      • Even in developing countries it costs more than $1 million a mile to put up a transmission grid–and a lot of villages are more than a mile away from a hook-up point. Putting in ground mounted solar arrays provides a lot more power than for radios and cellphone chargers. This has been working since the 1980s and it’s working so well that India is going all in on this. It’s changing lives out there in the real world.

      • everything I’ve seen is that the solar arrays in remote villages run lights, radios, cell chargers and occasionally, and briefly, a small appliance like a laptop, sewing machine or tv and serve homes that can’t pay more than 5-10 dollars a month. There’s also some small-scale “drip” irrigation.
        Don’t get me wrong, that’s huge for people who have had nothing, But you and I both know that the question is whether those folks will be content to stay in this relative poverty forever or will they want more. More requires more electricity, which means the poor will move to cities or larger villages where power is available for factories and other economic enterprises that need electricity at levels solar won’t meet.
        In short- a future of marginally happier poverty or something else.

  10. Nullius in Verba

    “1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for climate change that has occurred in the interim.”

    The problem with Pigou taxes is setting the right price. You really need to find a way to get the market to do that.

    I had an idea based on the futures market, which is the usual free-market way of dealing with an uncertain future. You set up a market in climate bonds, which are long term contracts that pay out at a high rate if some climate outcome does or does not happen, and are void on a certain expiry date. For example, you can sell bonds that pay out 5% above inflation compound on face value the day sea level rise exceeds one metre, or are voided in 2100.

    If you think the seas are going to rise, it’s worth a lot of money. If you think they’re not, it’s worthless. And given all these people who disagree on the value, they can trade perceived risks until a market price is set collectively. Both the bonds and the obligations that back them can be traded continually.

    Now, charge you Pigou tax in climate bonds. Those who believe in the catastrophe cannot argue, because they consider them to have a high price. Those who don’t believe anything is going to happen can’t complain, because they think they’re paying in worthless paper. Everybody’s happy!

    You can also use climate bonds to fund adaptation and research, pay companies to switch to renewables, insure yourself against future disaster, and all the rest of it. Some bonds will pay out if disaster strikes, others will pay out if it does not, so both sides can play. It gives the future a present-day market value, internalises the externalities, and gives people a personal financial stake in the outcome.

    And over time, as more information arrives and we see what the seas actually do, the price will converge on the true value. It will either rise to a 5%/yr profit, or it will drop to zero. And in the end, whoever turns out to be wrong will pay the price for it all.

    • Climate bonds – brilliant!

    • Forcing environmentalists to price the risk with their own money is a great way to determining how serious they really are. I’m sure Hansen would be enthusiastic. But we all know this is only a thought experiment as the greens would never allow this of their own free will.

      I’d personally be quite interested to find out how many out there are true believers, AND would put their own money where their mouth is. Chevy Volt sales continue to languish…and it is actually a great car, clearly about $20K too expensive though. There are green funds and oil and gas divestiture campaigns out there that have gained little traction.

      RPJ’s Iron law is still unbroken in my view.

  11. Ah well Mr. Fuller off again on your peregrinations. I trust that the new venture will prosper and you will flourish like the green bay tree.

    And perhaps we shall see you back again with your civilised discourse.

    Kindest Regards

  12. All the best Tom, we’ll hear from you again in a couple of months. I’m gonna miss you. This is the only climate blog on either side of the line that I could read “cover to cover” without once executing a facepalm grande supreme.

  13. Update on bet with Joe Romm at one third of the way.

    2000 41 2001 53 2002 62 2003 60 2004 52
    2005 66 2006 59 2007 63 2008 49 2009 59
    2010 67 2011 55 2012 56 2013 monthly 61 52 58 51

    Target is +15, 2000 to 2010 is +26, 2001 to 2011 is +2, 2002 to 2012 is -6,
    for a cumulative +22 vs a target of +45. This means that Romm has to make up 23 points over the last seven years of the bet, making the new target over +18. So far 2013 is at 55.5, which is 4.5 below 2003. IF that holds up, then Romm falls another 23 points behind, with 6 years to make it up, and the new target would be +.22C. Of course a warmist like Romm should be OK with that number, and a lukewarmer should feel pretty good about it too, unlike the original .15C.

    If you compare to the coolest numbers in the previous decade, then you have 2010-2000 is 26, 2011-2008 is 6, 2012-2004 is 4, and 2013-2001 is 2.5. 38.5 instead of +60, with remaining numbers all at least .59C, warmer than the last two years. A sustained jump of over .2C would be required. These have happened about once every twenty years, last time nearly so from 2001 on.

    • Romm will renege on the bet, and then blame the winners.
      BTW, They are still ice fishing in Minnesota on May 12, 2013.

      • Tom Fuller

        They’re kind of looking around and waiting for the summer heat to start in Shanghai, too.

      • Will he blame the winners or the winters?
        Or perhaps he will claim that last volcano in Iceland is one of his outs.
        Of course, you are just assuming things stay as they are. If Romm ends up winning, will that change your mind on the issue?

  14. Tom,
    If the cold extends for another few days, we will hear/read serious sounding reports about how delayed spring/summer is ‘consistent with AGW’.

    • It certainly did! Lucky me–I came back to San Francisco where it’s freezing cold. One place sizzles and another place chills. That’s the way of the world…

  15. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog.
    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this
    one nowadays.

  16. Thanks in support of sharing such a fastidious opinion, piece of writing is
    fastidious, thats why i have read it completely

  17. Hi, You had me onboard until you wrote “Another Tesla”. The largest campaign bundler in 08 and 12 have been rewarded with Teflon and allowed to pilot not 1, but 3 industries on an unsustainable, always bankrupt course for the aggrandizement of one person. Musk. Musk is a showman devoid of any engineering… or business skills, his ideas rebranded, tired, worn, dysfunctional. When the final chapter is written, this will have been the largest US fraud of taxpayer dollars in our history. no need to debate. By 2016, all three will be in BK status.

    • Doreen,
      These are interesting times indeed. Sadly they are the kind of interesting times meant as a curse in the ancient proverb about “may you live in interesting times”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s