The concept of a Lukewarm view of climate change is actually entering a somewhat wider range of discourse these days, as witness Tamsin Edwards’ recent Guardian article, Matt Ridley’s adoption of the term, Clive Hamilton’s rant against the concept, etc. We’re not the popular kids yet, not by any means, but the idea is getting enough traction to merit a disparaging perversion of the term (‘luckwarm’) and considerable gnashing of teeth in the usual places by the usual people. Heck, they’re gnashing their teeth because Tamsin Edwards didn’t gnash her teeth. (Tamsin, be careful–they will cheerfully throw you under the bus if you don’t start harping on how evile we are. Case in point, Eli Rabett saying Tamsin is just a careerist)
They’ve also introduced a new term–‘mitigation skeptic’–with which to objectify us. I suppose it’s better than denier or delayer. A mitigation skeptic apparently is someone who accepts the basic tenets of climate science but doesn’t think we should do anything to mitigate human-caused climate change. It is being hurled at all the usual suspects–Lomborg, Ridley, The Breakthrough Institute, Roger Pielke Jr. and myself, at the low end of the totem pole.
Of course it’s not accurate, but since when have Alarmists ever been accurate? Truth for them is over-rated and outdated.
Take The Breakthrough Institute. Reviled by the Alarmists for not being on board with centrally mandated emission reductions, they are now accused of being mitigation skeptics. Of course, they are still called deniers and delayers too. (Maybe we should just think of the term as another arrow in the quiver of insults always at the ready for the Konsensus Brigade.)
Back in 2008 The Breakthrough Institute published policy recommendations in Harvard Law and Policy as part of an essay titled ‘Fast, Clean and Cheap.’
1) Establish a Price for Carbon Dioxide That Is Consistent With What Present Technology Can Accomplish
2) Establish a Dedicated Source of Public Funding for Clean Energy Investment That Can Rapidly Drive Down the Deployed Cost of Clean Energy Technologies
3) Ramp Up: Invest $300 Billion in Research, Development, and Deployment of Clean Energy Technologies
4) Insulate Federal Clean Energy Investments From Pork-Barrel Politics
5) Buy Down the Price of Solar Technology Like We Did With Microchips
6) Play the Field: Make Strategic Investments in Key Energy Sectors and Technologies
7) Create a Framework for Global Carbon Regulation Tied to Living Standards
And the Breakthrough Institute has been working to realize these goals ever since.
Perhaps opponents can disagree on certain points. Perhaps they can say it is insufficient. What they cannot say without lying is that The Breakthrough Institute doesn’t think we should do anything about mitigation.
In the Hartwell Paper the easy opportunities that they highlight include getting rid of a lot of black carbon (atmospheric soot) and ozone in the lower atmosphere; both are responsible for a lot of harm independent of the warming that they cause, and thus easier to act against than carbon dioxide. Others have made this point, but it doesn’t hurt to repeat it, since it is a good one. They approve of reducing deforestation, too, which is a completely mainstream view.
Those are part of what is now being called ‘Fast Mitigation.’ Not No Mitigation.
As Roger Pielke Jr. is part of The Breakthrough Institute we’ll skip over him for the moment.
As Bjorng Lomborg is author of a book called ‘Smart Solutions for Climate Change’, (endorsed by both Bill Gates and Rajendra Pachauri), one would think it obvious that he has a mitigation strategy. And he does, including repeated calls for phaseout of all fossil fuel subsidies. He also advocates putting a price on carbon. The central thesis of his mitigation strategy is to make green fuels cheaper than fossil fuels.
As for me, you can call me a denier, delayer, luckwarmer, mitigation skeptic, whatever. You can butter my bum and call me a biscuit.
But as I wrote 5 years ago,
“Although there is only one supremely important question regarding the science of climate change (sensitivity—remember?), when it comes to the potential impacts of climate change a host of issues appear. Both the Alarmists and the Skeptics tend to ignore the sober comments about uncertainty that accompany almost every scientific paper and they actively twist scientific comments to better make their case.
But even though I believe sensitivity is lower than what Alarmists claim, it is scant comfort when I have also projected that our planet will consume six times more energy in 2075 than it did in 2010. The brute force emissions of both CO2 and conventional pollution is almost certain to cause significant problems for regions of the world that don’t have the resiliency (for which you can almost substitute the word wealth) to prepare for it and adapt to it.
One of the common criticisms of Lukewarmers is that we advocate doing nothing, that we are delayers. It isn’t true. So here is 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 observed climate change that has occurred in the interim. Where possible (especially in the U.S., to offer some hope that conservatives may eventually support the concept) the carbon tax should be arranged so as to be revenue neutral. In the U.S. that might involve reductions in Social Security taxes for both employers and employees.
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. If nothing else, donating scrubbers for Asian coal-fired power plants will reduce conventional pollution and black soot that degrades the Arctic snows.
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. Institute high value X Prizes to reward innovation in these areas.
5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to continue to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to restore nuclear power’s percentage of electricity to 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 to make it easier to gain approval. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities in the U.S. 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.”
As is consistently the case, the Konsensus is wrong about this. I do not know a single professed Lukewarmer that does not support mitigation in one form or another. Not one.
But it doesn’t matter. Truth is just another obstacle to be overcome on the long, weary road to Climate Jerusalem.