How Difficult Is The Climate Change Issue?

In 1945 there were 5 million cars on the planet. Now there are more than 1 billion. The first coal-fired  power plant was built in 1882. Now there are 23,000 planet-wide.

How difficult is it to say plainly that the 1C rise in average temperatures since 1880 probably have a human component? I’ve seen many ‘skeptic’ scientists acknowledge this, but not so many in the climate conversation carried out on weblogs. There are obvious follow-up questions (How much? To what effect? How much of that rise was before industrial scale emission? So what?) but we rush on to the follow-up questions without answering the first.

France gets about 76% (down from 85% a few years ago) of its energy from a fleet of nuclear power plants, most of which were constructed in one decade, a decade that saw some of the strongest economic growth in the country’s history. The safety record of these plants is admirable and their performance has been exemplary.

How difficult is it to say plainly that the solution to human contributions to climate change is well within our grasp? Nuclear power can not only provide us with electricity for homes and factories, it can power a renovated rail network and recharge the batteries in our electric cars. I’ve seen some activist scientists acknowledge this, but not many here in the climate conversation on weblogs. There are obvious follow-up questions (What will we do with the waste? Who will insure us against potential disasters? Where will the plants be located?) But again, we rush into the follow-up questions without addressing the primary point.

I’m all in favor of solar power. I am a strong advocate of reforestation. I accept that we don’t know what atmospheric sensitivity is and that human contributions consist of more than CO2 emissions. Our emissions may not be the dominant driver of the temperature change we have seen.

So what to all of that? The problem is clear–our emissions have helped raise temperatures and we know our emissions will increase. We don’t know where the off switch is on the climate control machine. Nuclear power can solve this problem.

Not wicked. Not wicked enough to justify the turmoil. If only Pachauri had written a different book…

Not wicked enough



15 responses to “How Difficult Is The Climate Change Issue?

  1. “France gets about 76% (down from 85% a few years ago) of its energy from a fleet of nuclear power plants” No, they get that percentage for electricity. Not the same thing. To replace transport, industry and heating countries like the UK would need to treble their electricity output.

    Each side sees the other as stocked with unsuitable members and if they give an inch, it will be used against them by evil people. Stalemate. Sceptics can afford to wait for what reality brings, warmists can’t.

  2. I agree temperature is up around 1o
    I agree CO2 is a part of that. I ask “so what”? The world is greener since 1880 and temperature and CO2 plays a part in that as well
    Which you over look. Why? One of the tells that the climate issue is not rational is the refusal of do many to look at it rationally: costs AND benefits; honest historical reviews; refusal to accept nuclear; ignoring the impact plentiful energy has on life quality, etc etc etc. Not to mention the apparently corrosive impacts CO2 obsession has on intellectual and political elites.

  3. By the way, let’s do hope we never find the off switch to climate change.

  4. Tom you are not a lukewarmer, as you clearly preach the neomalthusian alarmist gospel. Warm is good.

    • Going for the hat trick here. On two other threads I’ve been called both an alarmist and a denier. Let’s see if we can go for the glory here, too.

      • Gee Tom, you’ve been called a neomalthusian. Just bask in its glory rather than fishing around for more complements. (some people can’t get enough) 🙂

      • Push a little harder for nuclear and someone might call you a “corucopian”.

      • Well Thomas,then please explain what is “lukewarm” about your 5000 Quads scary scenario.

        If I combine an RCP 8.5 emission scenario with a sensitivity of 1.3 and a continuing growing co2 sink, then I end up with a lukewarm temperature rise of 1.5 degreesC relative to 1990.

      • Tom, you do buy into the idea that human population growth is going to lead to disaster despite the massive evidence to the contrary. That is one of the central tenets of Malthus’ delusion.

      • Hiya hunter,

        Not at all. I think population drives energy consumption along with economic growth. I don’t think the planet is even close to being over-populated. We just have to deal rationally with the consequences of more people here.

  5. “…but we rush on to the follow-up questions without answering the first.”

    Really? Vanishingly few people seem to dispute that there has been a global temperature rise, or that human actions have played some part in this. I think that acknowledgement of this does not get much play in the blogosphere not because it is difficult, but because it is so obvious.

    The difficulties are *all* in the follow-up questions, and those are – due in large measure to the uncertainties of quantification of the rise and of the impact of human actions on it – indeed wicked.

    “How difficult is it to say plainly that the solution to human contributions to climate change is well within our grasp?”

    You also seem to feel that this question is a simple one. I would sharply disagree: we do not know (and might never know) the totality or complete path of human contribution to global warming. I am pretty certain any solution is much more than just changing electricity production methods.

    To me, the most important questions – and the drivers of much of the fierceness of the debate over your follow-up questions – are these: what are our beliefs about our responsibility towards other humans and the environment? What levels of importance do we place on these? How far will we go to coerce others to carry out our wishes? What price are we willing to pay?

    • I don’t think we can say the average surface temperature did increase C since “preindustrial”. We have to wait and see what happens as La Niña starts influencing the weather over late 2016 and 2017. We may not know for sure more (?) until 2020.

      • I don’t disagree – the exact amount is part of the problem of quantification. That there has been some rise since preindustrial times, though, seems pretty clear – and pretty clearly accepted – even if it’s entirely natural. How much that rise is, and the attribution thereof, are follow-up questions, not the basic one.

  6. Tom,

    The problem I have with your post is that you assume not only that there is a problem but that the problem is easily identified. CO2/climate is indeed a wicked puzzle. We don’t know what warming we have produced, or what our emissions might be in the future, or what warming those emissions might produce even is we could predict emissions, or what the knock-on effects might be. But we also don’t know what would have happened if not for our emissions, or what would happen in future, or what effects that might have. A tangled mess. It is quite possible, perhaps even plausible, that the main anthropogenic effect on climate to date has been to stop the next glacial period in its tracks. And we stop emitting CO2, the planet might tip into an ice age. Even if we are inclined to worry, we really don’t know what we should be worrying about.

    Some of the alarmists like to go on about possible “black swans”. What limited thinking. Why should swans be only black or white? Perhaps we should be worrying about zebra stripped swans, or purple polka dot swans, or ice blue swans.

  7. Reflecting on your central question a bit more and what seems interesting would be to ask the climate obsessed the question. Why do they see the climate as an all consuming issue that requires every aspect of life to revolve around their concerns?

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