Climate Questions That Never Get Answered

Let’s take a mini-test. I will discuss the results in another post. All are invited, all are welcome. Good faith is urged.

child taking test

Let’s say we knew without a doubt that anthropogenic influences meant that temperatures were going to rise 2C over the course of this century. Please take a minute to marshal your list of what we would do to either prevent it or adapt to it before, during and after. Order your list–what’s the first thing you would have us do? What’s next?

Now let’s imagine that we learned that our treatment of the planet meant that temperatures were going to rise by 3C over the same period.

What would we do differently? I have asked this question repeatedly without anyone ever giving an answer.

And for 4C–same question.

It is my working hypothesis that if we ordered a list of adaptation and mitigation processes, the first 10 things we would do would be absolutely the same for each level of rise.

If true, that would mean that a lot of the squabbling going on between various factions is not strictly necessary. We could actually just start doing the first 10 things on the list and by the time we had finished we might even know whether or not number 11 was appropriate.

For bonus points on this exercise, please indicate which items on your list are things we should do whether or not there is any global warming for the rest of this century.

26 responses to “Climate Questions That Never Get Answered

  1. Having learned, from places like Dr. Curry’s website, about the deep uncertainties accompanying all things climatic, I have to admit to a real difficulty in responding to your questions. It’s not just the uncertainty of the degree of the temperature rise that causes difficulty, it’s the incredible range of the predicted disasters, so great, for instance, that I might not be able to flee to the mountains from rising sea levels as the melted glaciers would leave any new mountain home without water at all. What to do?

    With that in mind, my number one answer for all temperature ranges would be “do nothing at all.” Surely, over the rest of the century (the end of which I will not live to see), I, or my successors, will be able to figure out a response to whatever arises as a consequence of temperature change.

    I live deep in south Louisiana, just a very few feet above sea level, so as sea levels rise with rising temperatures (at what rate no one seems to know for sure), I guess I could raise my house, as many here have done. But, more likely, I’d simply move to higher ground. I moved here from elsewhere, I can easily do so again. And, should this cause me some hardship, well, I faced real hardship when I first moved here, so many years ago. Reckon I can deal with that.

    As for what our society should do, surely we go on doing what we always do and always have done: whatever it takes. Even in my lifetime I’ve come to realize that everything changes, nothing stays the same. So, we’ll change. We’ll come up with remarkable new ways to deal with the new climate. Shucks, folks much less well-equipped than us (though with the same intelligence and spirit) have dealt with much, much worse and done just fine.

    And, by “remarkable,” I don’t necessarily mean “technologically astounding.” Maybe our whole civilization will collapse, but that kind of thing has happened many times before and will most certainly happen again, even without rising temperatures. What I’m sure of is that it won’t happen overnight, and, also, that those who live in whatever takes the place of our civilization will be quite happy in theirs. We needn’t worry about those folks living in the future. They’ll get along just fine, I’m certain.

    Surely, there are no responses that can be given that would in any way hope to be representative of what will actually occur in the future. No one ever gets that right, do they?

    • Paul,
      One of the tells that the climate obsessed are playing games is how how all of their catastrophes depend on people just sitting there doing nothing. Like in a disaster movie.

      • Paul just said do nothing at all.

        So, the answer is two-fold. Do nothing but act when needed. Just do what needs to be done. Don’t play with eco-french fries and bioplastic etc.

  2. When you ask, what is the first thing, I take that literally, what can we do in the next hour to mitigate adverse greenhouse gas emissions.

    1) The president goes on television and announced a goal of having 10% of the workforce telecommute. The ripple affect would be tremendous, anyone who lives in a metro area knows the difference between summer (vacation time) driving and the traffic when school is in session.
    2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
    3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
    4) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
    5) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

    1) Workforce telecommuting goal of 30%
    2) Conversion of all coal-fired power plants to natural gas. accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
    3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable).
    4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
    5) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity.
    6) Beefed up funding for alternative energy R & D.

    1) Restriction on all unnecessary travel. Workforce telecommuting goal of everyone who can. Banning of all unnecessary air travel.
    2) Conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas, accelerated roll-out of nuclear.
    3) CAFE standard of 70 MPG (Yes, it is doable). Removal of all vehicles that do not comply with CAFE standards within 5 years.
    4) Modification of protection for specified patents, like hybrid technology, to allow licensing but not competitive advantage.
    5) Incorporation of solar technology into building materials.
    6) Energy standards for all devices powered by electricity. Restrictions on air conditioning.
    7) Manhattan project-type funding for alternative energy R & D.

    • I think your suggestions are quite good. I’d add a few (uprating turbines on all hydroelectric plants, community solar initiatives in the SW, modernizing air traffic control, etc.) but I think you have well-defined what the U.S. response should be.

      I wonder if it would be fair to ask you to scale this outwards to a global version…?

      • As I was putting this together, I began thinking of what to do about developing countries, specifically, what should we do about Bangladesh or South Sudan? Can the world expect them to build an LNG import facility? Forget about the cost, what about the logistics?

        I am of a mind to say, let Europe, Japan, North America and the BRICs go one direction and the rest of the world go another.

      • AI,
        The BRIC’s are going in one direction: progress and improvement. The climate obsessed countries are going in an entirely different, uencessary, direction.

    • I like #1 under the 2C scenario because it actually challenges people to think about the issue creatively.
      Others along those lines- challenge local suburban governments to reduce traffic lights by 50%.
      What would traffic patterns and speed limits look like if you set them to accommodate low-cost golf-cart style electric vehicles in urban/suburban spaces?
      Any publicly supported university that divests from fossil fuels must close and landscape all on-campus parking lots with the exception of a small number of strictly enforced handicapped spaces. Those universities must not provide parking passes for students, faculty or staff to any off-campus lots as well.

      #s 5 and 6 fascinate me- the fact is that with accelerated rollout of nuclear power you don’t need enforced energy conservation or to blow money on renewables that are little more than window dressing. Yet those items always show up on lists.

      • Any publicly supported university that divests from fossil fuels must close

        IMHO, the campaign to divest from fossil fuels is misguided and counter-productive. Here is a true story that explains my reasoning:

        In the late 1880’s, John D. Rockefeller called an emergency meeting of Standard Oil’s board.

        “Gentlemen,” he said, “our company is in crisis. Within a few short decades we will no longer exist as a major corporation.”

        The board of directors were dumbfounded. Standard Oil controlled the oil market and had vanquished all of its competitors.

        “The reason,” Rockefeller continued, “is Edison’s light bulb.”

        Again, the board of directors did not get it. “What does a light bulb have to do with oil?”

        “Gentlemen!” he thundered, “we are NOT in the oil business, we are in the illumination business.”

        Energy companies are in the energy business. They, better than anyone and everyone else, know the energy market and can marshal resources to solve energy problems. Denying them capital is denying humanity the ability to solve its energy challenges. The reason energy companies do not spend a lot of money, they do spend some, on renewables is that renewables are not economically viable. When that happens, they will be the first to invest.

      • the fact is that with accelerated rollout of nuclear power you don’t need enforced energy conservation

        Nuclear, like coal, takes time to ramp up and ramp down for power. You still need load balancing plants that can come quickly on-line. These will most likely be combined power natural gas turbines. The more energy efficient appliances become, the lower the peak demand of power will be.

      • agree on the divestment, though I don’t see Exxon getting into the solar business even if it somehow becomes cost-effective. Batteries maybe.

        Nuclear, today’s nuclear anyway, takes time to ramp up. Natural gas turbines have a relatively small CO2 footprints. My point is somewhat more straightforward- we’re talking about the choice between 1. Peak with gas or 2. figure out how to peak with nuclear or 3. “restrictions on air conditioning” and other electronics or 4. something else.
        Folks are going to choose 1 or 2 or 4, but never 3.
        I also think we’re stuck trying to fit a 21st century tech (nuclear) with a mid-20th century distribution grid thinking and we need to broaden our horizons. Right now I’m sitting in an office with 150 people using laptops and desktops that all have battery back up. You could literally turn off the outlets in the building at peak times of day and nobody would notice it.

  3. The telecommuting goal is the one I find most interesting. IMHO, it is a tell on the entire climate-change enterprise. It is the one thing we can do, and do now, that does not cost anyone a dime, yet would have a tremendous impact on our GHG foot print. Why didn’t Obama announce a goal of 10% telecommuting on his first day in office? Why don’t we do it now?

    The answer is simple: it doesn’t cost a dime, but no constituency makes a dime.

    • Worse, it never shows up on one of my lists and it should. I don’t blame Obama–he’s a lawyer and community organizer. I have no excuse.

      • I don’t blame Obama–he’s a lawyer and community organizer.

        That speaks to the man – but a president, even a presidential candidate, is an organization (a system) that should include a wide range of expertise. Abraham Lincoln was not a general – but he knew how to hire generals – at least in the end.

        A good leader knows what he/she doesn’t know and knows how to wade through the BS to get the best advice.

    • Telecommuting works, it is family friendly, and companies that try it do well.
      If we had a President who actually cared about real soutions, and actually had work experience, he would have promoted it. But Obama insiders hustling money for government handouts and special incentives don’t give a hoot. And the NGO parasites don’t believe in actual work so it is not an idea that appeals to them at all.

  4. Another thing to think about…

    I have worked in city, county, state government and in partnership with the federal government for three decades, while this has given me an appreciation of what government can do, it has shown me what it cannot or should not do.

    Government functions best when it establishes goals then steps back. IMHO CAFE standards and appliance efficiency standards are an excellent example. On the other hand, subsidies and tax breaks that attract constituencies (who will never let go) are counter-production and actually inhibit the development of new solutions.

    Government is at its worst when it mandates specific solutions. In almost all cases, it quickly become captured regulation whereby special interests tailor the regulation to their competitive advantage.

    I am not of the same mind as many libertarians, I am far to practical for that, but their critique of government is spot on. I have no faith in the free market to solve any crisis on its own… its only incentive should be to make money.

  5. One thing I’ve wondered for a while is whether a better emphasis on traffic flow would have much difference. What does a Stop sign do to fuel efficiency compared to a yield system? What’s the point of a Stop sign when traffic is so sparse there are rarely any other cars at the junction? Most frequently used routes could be given right of way and feed in’s have to yield. How would more intelligent traffic lights, which don’t stop traffic “just because”, help fuel efficiency etc?

  6. Seattle Steve

    1) Enjoy my nice car and drive it fast.
    2) Take lots of long trips with the car and fly all over the world.
    3) Commute 30 miles a day to work and back.
    4) Enjoy heated bathroom floors, long hot showers, and a comfortable house.
    5) Eagerly anticipate all the technologies that will enhance my enjoyment of the above and life in general.
    5) Not get in the way of anyone else’s access to the above pleasures.
    6) Do what I can to increase energy consumption of every person on the planet.
    7) Watch all the worry-warts with increasing amusement.
    8) Enjoy our ever cleaner and healthier planet and people.
    9) Eat strawberries from New Zealand, grapes from Chile, rushed to me in 747 jets.
    10) Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • Which, with very few exceptions, is what the majority of us will be inclined to emulate.

      And any attempt to prevent us will not be passively received.

    • Seattle Steve,
      My only concern is that the climate extremists will do something even more desperate as their dogma fails the reality test.

      • Seattle Steve

        There is that worry, but on the whole, they seem relatively harmless, as individuals. I think we are already seeing their acts of desperation as the term of the current president nears completion.

  7. So another thought experiment:
    We find out the climate is going to change due to solar output fluctuation in a way that increases temperatures 4.0o C in 100 years (*Big* assumptions all over that scenario).
    Humans have nothing to do with it.
    What do we do?

  8. Pingback: Meditation on Mitigation | The Lukewarmer's Way

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