Delayer-1000 v. Climate Progress Smackdown

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"Delayer-1000 v. Climate Progress Smackdown"

Okay, so the idea of calling the non-skeptical climate disinformers and deniers by the name Delayer-1000’s is not going to take the world by storm [Note to self: Duh!].

Still, I thought you might be interested to see how a back and forth might go, if some hypothetical well-informed delayer-1000 who worked at a hypothetical well-known conservative think tank sent you (and some bloggers and journalists) a hypothetical email explaining the value of the recent delayer-1000 conference:

Second, the conference showed (to those open-minded enough to actually come and listen) the reality that most so-called “skeptics” have been mischaracterized by climate-policy activists. Most (if not all) of the scientists gathered in Manhattan accept the fundamental science of non-enhanced GHG warming, and acknowledge that human GHG emissions have caused and will cause some amount of atmospheric warming, sea-level rise, and ocean acidification. The science debate is (and always has been) about how extensive anthropogenic warming is; whether it will be enhanced by water vapor; whether it will be negated by feedbacks; whether it is overwhelmed by non-anthropogenic forces at work in the climate system; whether climate projections have planning value; and whether the claimed benefits of various climate policies can be validated based on the underlying science of climate change.

Third, the conference was a morale booster for those who suspect that climate change is being exaggerated in order to ram through a political agenda that is basically socialism dressed up as climate policy, and that is being promoted through scare tactics. Such people face an uphill battle because the eco-socialist types have managed to con much of the political classes and mainstream media into the insane belief that their favored policies are the only possible responses to climate change, as endorsed by some authoritarian “big science” that must be obeyed and never questioned. There is a value in pep-rallies - that’s why people hold them.

Just as an aside, this email shows 1) Most of the delayers have moved beyond being pure deniers and 2) what they really hate is the solution — “eco-socialism” (!) — much more than anything else. Now someone like me might reply:

A pep rally for people who apparently want CO2 concentrations to hit 1000 ppm. What a concept!

I would be interested to know your answer to the most important climate question — if you were running national and global climate policy, what level of global CO2 concentrations would be your goal and how would you achieve it?

If you have no answer, or propose no serious policies other than a continuation of business as usual — then I am going to put you down as a “1000 ppm’er” or a Delayer1000 — I’m still working out the kinks for my new naming system….

If I have misunderstood you, if you have a plan for keeping annual carbon emissions this century from coming close to averaging 11 GtC/yr, a plan that does not involve either a deus ex machina or all those hated “socialistic” policies that historically are the only ones that have ever succeeded at achieving serious reductions in a widespread pollutant, then I am all ears….

By the way, the feedback ship sailed a few years ago, and while you may still be at the dock waving, the rest of us know that far from there being any chance that feedbacks could negate the impact of anthropogenic emissions — which would be contrary to all the paleoclimate data in any case — all of the recent observational evidence and scientific analysis makes clear that there are multiple amplifying feedbacks already at work….

Yes, I’m aware this is pointless. But I’m trying out my new naming system, and I wanted some reaction from a geniune delayer-1000. Here is that reaction:

Ah, the uncivil tone of the true believer. If you don’t want their policies, by gum, then you must want the world to burst into flames and for the next 50 generations to suffer! If you don’t answer their question the way they want, by golly, they’re going to come up with a new label to slander you!

Joe, I’m not going to respond to your sneering dismissal of the feedback issue in depth, I’ll only to say that if you actually think the water vapor, cloud, and albedo-change feedback questions are settled, you haven’t read the body of AR4, much less the technical summary.

For the record, I’ve proposed starting with a modest revenue-neutral carbon tax of $15.00/ton of CO2, ratcheted upward in coming years as a domestic policy. We modeled that would cut 11% of CO2 emissions out on an annual basis….

[Better than nothing. It would raise gasoline prices 14¢ (less than 10% of what a few years of George Bush energy policies have accomplished, though). And it won’t come close to stopping 1000 ppm, of course.]

As for your 1,000 ppm world, I doubt very much it’ll happen. You’re assuming that nothing will be done for 150-200 years in terms of progress on low-carbon energy, and that China and India will do nothing even as they choke themselves to death on conventional pollutants, which is exactly the opposite of what history tells us is most likely. Extrapolating trends forward into the far future, while assuming an absence of response is the favored method of alarmists. Such thinking is rubbish. Had I continued to grow at the rate of my first 6 months, I’d be 20 feet tall by now. I’m not.

So the exchange was useful. He has no concentration target, and he clearly identified his policies (though I would like to have seen how quickly he ratchets up the carbon price). So someone like me might still reply:

So it is civil to repeatedly call those who disagree with you “socialists” and suggest we are exaggerating the science because we have a political agenda? My agenda is the health and well-being of the next 50 generations, which will be gravely threatened at 550ppm and ruined irreversibly at 1000 ppm. You seem focused on not overly inconveniencing the richest people on the planet.

I have read AR4, including the first report, which I think you missed. It is the carbon-cycle amplifying feedbacks they — and everyone else but true non-believers — worry about. The AR4 says we face 1000 ppm if we keep emissions rising at current levels for maybe 15 years and somehow manage to freeze them for the next 7 decades, which is far more emissions control than your policy would achieve.

I make no other assumptions. Certainly not waiting 150 years for some deus ex machina (which is a century too late anyway), or expecting China and India to do more than you think the richest country in the world should do.

So I’m gonna put you down as a 1000 ppm’er — since your “doubts” it will happen, sadly, will not weigh much against the force of unconstrained greenhouse gas emissions.

The few people who have kept reading this far can stop anytime you want. But I found his response informative, anyway:

Describing an activist’s agenda is not uncivil, it’s simply accurate. To assign a proper label to a thing is how one communicates clearly. To assign some ludicrous slander-tag like “denier,” “delayer,” and to imply that someone you disagree with has basically malicious intentions and is unconcerned about future generations is the politics of personal destruction, and yes, uncivil.

As to the accuracy of the labels, well, I figure that “by their ends ye shall know them.” While a few a very few climate activists are focused on reducing carbon through technological and other approaches that allow for the survival of capitalism, the vast majority – including yourself, if I understand your position rightly – are only willing to allow policies that are socialist in nature, and involve “perfecting humanity” by legislating the primacy of ecological values; massively redistributing wealth, and putting the means of production into the hands of eco-commissars at the UN. You want these policies even as they’ve been shown to fail spectacularly in Europe, and cause major economic damage. Adaptation, sequestration, nuclear power, geo-engineering are all off the table as solutions as far as most climate alarmists are concerned. So yes, I’d say that ‘eco-socialism’ is an accurate label for such policies.

Well, again we see 1) the problem is the delayer-1000s hate the solution [if hate is even a strong enough word — maybe “despise with ever fiber of their being”], and, worse still, 2) they don’t read my books or blog! So someone like me would reply [and everyone but my mother can stop reading now, seriously]:

Nice try. But you questioned my scientific integrity. Nothing is worse than that. And you are a Delayer. That is the most innocuous term able to come up with that retains a semblance of the truth.

I very much doubt that most delayers have malicious intent — but sadly for future generations, intent is irrelevant. The world’s top scientists and governments have issued their warnings. Pretending they are all part of some conspiracy to exaggerate because they supposedly share a political agenda will not save future generations from the harsh reality of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions.

I have spent my life pushing technological solutions — they don’t reduce emissions (let alone concentrations) absent strong regulations.

… Adaptation is an utterly meaningless term. Of course we’ll “adapt” just like the citizens of New Orleans “adapted” to Katrina. Forcing future generations to “adapt” to 700 to 1000 ppm is morally unconscionable and is an Orwellian use of the word.

“fail spectacularly in Europe”
What are you talking about? The real curbs only kick in this year. Everything before was just an experiment. It is incredible they have gone as far as they can without US participation. If the situation were reversed (U.S. ratified, but not Europe), people like you would be demanding immediate withdrawal.

“and cause major economic damage”
Here you’ve got me very puzzled. Have you looked at the dollar recently? In the last few years, Europe has grown significantly wealthier compared to us. So much for your analysis.

If you’re wondering why any even semi-sane person without a blog to fill up would reply — fear not. This is the end of the email exchange. And of this post.

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8 Responses to Delayer-1000 v. Climate Progress Smackdown

  1. Paul K says:

    Joe, Allow me to speak for your hypothetical delayer-1000 as it prety much describes where I am in this discussion.. I do not have the fear of “climate socialist” takeover, but I understand why some do. I started to answer “If you were running national and global climate policy, what level of global CO2 concentrations would be your goal and how would you achieve it?” on another thread. I’ll repeat some of it here to get the discussion going. To make it really interesting, I will attempt to show true delayer is, in fact, you.

    Contention over the effects of CO2 is the major obstacle to action. Therefore, I recommend an approach that focuses on replacing carbon fuels. This has a much broader base of support, is the ultimate desired end and will eliminate CO2 emissions perforce. My thoughts are not about CO2, but in the percentage of fossil fuel use (carbon intensity). My Action Plan for replacing carbon based energy has the goal of a 5 -10% per decade replacement by alternatives to achieve 80% replacement by century’s end. The first governmental action I recommend is the elimination of capital gains taxes on alternatives investment to maximize the infusion of venture capital. Subsidies for grid expansion and improvement will be needed to allow for the enormous increase in transmission capacity required in an “all-electric” future. Each energy use sector, manufacturing, transportation, residential and commercial electrical power, and heating and cooling should have its own focus. You have said that transportation is the most problematic, but I think the greatest challenge will be replacing heating oil and natural gas in the Northeastern and Midwestern large cities. I have no idea how this can be accomplished and welcome input from anyone who does. There are so many components to this both macro and micro. This comment is intended to merely begin the conversation. If you are willing to engage, I will be more than happy to explore all the areas in which we disagree and more importantly those in which we can find common ground.

  2. tidal says:

    Paul K,

    Obviously I’m not Joe, but I cannot even follow your metrics. If we are talking “intensity”, are we assuming GDP growth?

    Let’s say we are not. So we just run the global economy flat for 92 years, and reduce the carbon intensity by 5 – 10% per decade… My math indicates that this would not lead to close to an 80% reduction by 2100… Rather somewhere in the range of .95^9.2 = .62 = a 38% reduction and .90^9.2 = .38 = a 62% reduction.

    Or perhaps you weren’t talking percentages. Perhaps you meant that the reduction would just be a raw reduction of ~ 9% per decade, to get to an 80% reduction. Good luck in that last decade, by the way…

    Was there any CO2 capture and sequestration assumed? It’s not made clear, but I wouldn’t assume so since “My thoughts are not about CO2, but in the percentage of fossil fuel use”, nor do you suggest that there would be any incentive for anyone to implement CCS.

    Finally, you provide no perspective on how large the subsidies would be, how much venture capital you anticipate, etc.

    So there is so much missing, and we then we don’t even get to hear exactly “what level of global CO2 concentrations would be your goal”.

    The most generous rough guesstimates I can make from your scenario indicate that in all cases we would be well past 525ppm CO2 (perhaps as high as 800ppm if I assume some GDP growth and “intensity” reductions) and rising by 2100… Not that you care about CO2…

    Oh, and where is it again that you showed that Joe is the true delayer? I seemed to have missed that part.

  3. Joe says:

    Paul K:
    I am very confused by “intensity.” Intensity reduction are not absolute. You and I care about GDP, but the climate does not. Please give me the absolute carbon emissions in GT (billion tons) this century. We are at 8 now and rising >3% per year. You can put provide GDP too.

    You need to AVERAGE 5 GtC per year to stabilize at 450 (with feedbacks). Averaging 11 GtC/yr gets you 1000 ppm and the end of life as we know it.

  4. Ronald says:

    One problem with doing something about global warming is understanding the math, the new jargon and goals about the thing.

    I haven’t heard that we need to get to 80 percent reductions by 2100, I thought it was 80 percent reductions by 2050 and zero carbon release by 2100. Since the economy and population will grow by then, the reductions have to 86 percent by 2050.

    I have read that what we are doing by saying we need reduction cuts of 80 percent by 2050, but can’t get even 1 percent cuts now is like worrying about where you are going to park on a cross country drive.

  5. Ronald says:

    Joe,
    Trying to tag responsibility and consequences onto the delayer-1000’s I understand. It’s amazing to me how easily and quickly the dangers of global warming-climate change are dismissed by some. And even not considered by others. What a world.

  6. RhapsodyInGlue says:

    “While a few a very few climate activists are focused on reducing carbon through technological and other approaches that allow for the survival of capitalism, the vast majority – including yourself…”

    This to me shows that either this guy is uninformed or disingenuous. Not to argue the merits of different GW solutions at this point… but there certainly are lots of climate activists that believe in pro-business approaches to address it, that believe in technology solutions… even many that support nuclear development. For every “AGW alarmist” that is promoting a socially oriented solutions package there is at least one that is trying to figure out how to make a million while solving the problem with good old capitalism.

    Unless he has some concrete evidence about the scientists being politically biased, there is no validity in discrediting the science merely by pointing at one set of activists promoting a particular solution. The effectiveness or appropriateness of the proposed solution in no way reflects on the accuracy of the science.

  7. David B. Benson says:

    RhapsodyInGlue said “there is at least one that is trying to figure out how to make a million while solving the problem with good old capitalism.”

    The spot prices for coal are so high that it may well now be profitable to produce biocoal to sell to coal consumers, both here and abroad.

    That alone won’t solve the problem, but it would be a small bit that helps. Go for it!

  8. Sensible Centrist says:

    As someone trained in economics, and as an avowed free market capitalist, I find the idea that those who warn of the impending catastrophe if we fail to act against climate change are anti-capitalist to be, simply, absurd. Any rational individual who studies the data we have available must conclude that the potential damage to our economy is dramatically greater from inaction than it is from action (carbon pricing). Indeed, action serves to protect the world economy from the severe disruptions that climate change will bring. If one applies simple quantitative decision analysis to the problem, and even if one assigns absurdly low probabilities to the various negative outcomes, one can only conclude it is FAR cheaper to address the issue with either a carbon tax or a cap and trade approach. To refuse to do so is akin to refusing to buy insurance against fire damage for your house on the basis that it isn’t on fire right now.
    These anti-action folks are not capitalists, they clearly don’t even understand economics or capitalism, which are based on rational decision-making.