Commenters on this blog — and a joke — explain things better than I do!

Two of the comments on my too-long piece on the Pielke Nature article have really boiled it down. And then I remembered an old joke that says it best of all.

John writes:

Joe’s vehemence over this Pielke paper, I think, comes from the fact that unlike some of the commenters here, he is looking at it in the context of Pielke’s past work. In many of his previous writings, Pielke (like other delayers/deniers/skeptics) has worked to convey the messages that global warming might not be the crisis that the IPCC report suggested. His criticisms of global warming activism have tended to be that their recommendations might be too extreme, and so more scrutiny was required. Given that history, it is amazing that Pielke can turn around now and with a straight face argue that the recommendations of the IPCC and activists weren’t radical enough.

It’s the height of irony for skeptics to argue that the IPCC wasn’t alarmist enough on global warming. And it’s the depth of perversity for them to even imply that because global warming is so bad, we shouldn’t bother with the efficiency and decarbonization measures we can actually take now.

And Tyler writes:

I’m tired of calls for more R&D. I can’t count the number of technologies I come across daily that are off-the-shelf, have decent payback, and make a serious dent in emissions by either improving energy efficiency or reducing energy requirements. Based on what I’ve seen in Canada, our universities and startups up humming with R&D, but we’re seriously lacking demonstration and deployment, and programs that assist large-scale deployment in industries that stand to benefit in the long run. It’s a sad situation, and I don’t think government gets this. Articles like the one in Nature put too much emphasis on human ingenuity, like some silver bullet is going to come along and save the day if we simply throw more dollars into R&D. It’s simply foolish.

Precisely. Tyler’s comment reminded me of one of my favorate old jokes, which I’ll reprint from here:

So there’s this huge flood one day, and an entire town looks like it’s going to be swallowed up by the waters. And the Police and Rescue Agencies are running all over the place trying to get people to safety.

So they send the rescue boat over to this house where a guy’s sitting on the roof with the water lapping around his ankles and they say “Come on, quickly, there isn’t much time”

To which he says “Nah, it’s ok, God will Provide”

So about an hour later they’re zooming past in the boat again and they notice the guy’s still there, only the water’s up to his waist, almost at the top of the roof.. “Quick” they say, get in the boat, it’s going to get worst before it gets better.

“Nah, don’t worry – God will Provide”

An hour after that a rescue helicopter flies over the area and notices the guy, who must be standing on the peak of the roof now, with only his head and shoulders out of the water. “GRAB THE ROPE!” they cry “IT’S YOUR ONLY HOPE!”

“Don’t worry” he replies calmly “God will provide.”

So he gets drowned of course. And he goes to heaven, and is a little ticked off with god for drowing him like that, and expresses his concern saying “I had FAITH, I BELIEVED in you – and still you didn’t help me”

“HELP YOU?!” God replies “What MORE did you want – I sent you two boats and a helicopter!”

We’ve been sent energy efficiency and cogeneration, we’ve been sent windpower and solar thermal electric and PV, and hybrid vehicles, and even plug ins — and we haven’t even begun to use those anywhere near the extent that could make deep reductions in national and global emissions. But people are still waiting and waiting and waiting for new technology to save us…..

12 Responses to Commenters on this blog — and a joke — explain things better than I do!

  1. I think it comes down to money.

    The existing clean technologies are still more expensive than polluting technologies. To deploy these on a massive scale we need to pay more money for energy and energy efficiency. Feed in Tariffs are one way to do this.

    We have to have the guts to ask for SOME more money for these technologies. If we were willing to spend 20 cents/kWh or less, wholesale, for clean generation in the next decade, we could see a massive roll out of clean fossil replacement generation technologies that along with fuel efficiency should account for a number of wedges depending on how quickly we can electrify ground transport.

    The technology fans like Pielke and Hoffert are looking for the technological homeruns that are both clean and cheaper. They overemphasize the need for long-term R&D. We DO need long term R&D but it is not the leading edge of a mitigation strategy.

  2. matt says:

    Have any of you guys hear what the New Jersey Nets are doing to in the fight against global warming? Not only are there games now carbon-neutral, but they traded Jason Kidd to the Dallas Maveriks for the a “better environment” also. Julianne Waldron explained to the media that Kidd was giving off to much Carbon dioxide. “Jason Kidd always hustles when he is on the basketball court, and we all admire that greatly. But all of that running up and down the court, pushing the team out on fastbreaks, expending extra energy just to make a few extra points and possibly win a game, caused all of the players to breathe a great deal more heavily and thereby expel extra amounts of carbon dioxide into the air, and we all know that is bad for the environment. We made the difficult decision to trade Kidd in order to save the planet.” Check out this article I found on it Environmental Activism is the Key to the Current Success of the New Jersey Nets

  3. John Mashey says:

    A lot of calls for R&D are from people who don’t have the foggiest idea about:

    – Pure research, applied research,exploratory development, development, pilot, scaleup, deployment [or pick your favorite labels], i.e., Progressive Commitment in R&D.

    – R&D portfolio management in general, including numbers of projects, investment patterns, selection for further funding, roles of government versus existing companies versus VC+startups, universities.

    – Typical time frames required, including conversion times for various kinds of installed bases of infrastructure, vehcicles?

    Joe: how about a tutorial on this for people, with examples from the energy/efficiency turf?

    [There are numerous parallels with computing, but some of the time constants are rather different, and there are less battles with Laws of Thermodynamics. Performance tuning of microprocessor design in particular is similar to the:
    10% here
    1% here
    2% there
    thing where there’s no one silver bullet to be had, just a lot of effects that add up.]

  4. Joe says:

    John — I will do something on R&D. I have a lot on my plate for the next week. But after that, I’ll update my “breakthrough myth” post.

  5. Robert says:

    Joe, The more I read your blog the less clear I am about where you are coming from. Your really do not make your proposed stragegies at all obvious and most of your recent posts seem to be little more than point-scoring playground politics.

    In my view, for fossil fuel use to be reduced and eventually phased out the market has to be “rigged” so that the external costs are internalised. Do you agree?

    Everything else would follow from this simple starting point.

  6. Joe says:

    Robert — “Rigged” is a loaded word. But yes we need a price for serious carbon. That is by far the most important thing — an aggressive clean tech deployment is the second most important thing. A price is not, however, the most important thing to the Breakthrough Institute. So that is where I’m coming from.

    You must be a very new reader. I think my position on targets and how to reach them are more clearly stated than most people who write on this (let me know if you can find Pielke’s or Breakthrough’s — I can’t). I have spelled the solutions more than most — buy my book! But I am working on spelling them out in more detail on the blog over the next few months.

    I don’t waste time point scoring. If I do a post, it is because I think it is important topic to understand for people who want to be ahead of the curve. I was actually asked by a bunch of people I respect to debunk Pielke. I also think the issue of tech deployment versus technology breakthrough has become one of the central climate issues.

    This is a good place to start if you want to know my core strategy for this country:

  7. John Mashey says:

    Thanks, Joe.

    regarding breakthroughs:

    Bell Labs, at its height, was one of the greatest industrial R&D labs in the world, with a time-span as far as 20-years ahead, and deployment expectations of 40. It’s hard to think of one that has produced more real breakthroughs over many decades.

    But there was a rule:

    Never *schedule* breakthroughs.

  8. Paul K says:

    You see that there is no benign authority to impose a climate solution. Individual governments take years to implement anything with often unintended results. If we rely on a government, even one that had J. Romm in charge, we are the ultimate delayers. Oddly, most people reading this do think success can and must be had. I agree climateprogress often strays far from the path. The core strategy article Joe wrote for Salon really is a good summary even though it lies about John McCain. You may notice among the many paragraphs predicting the end of creation percentages of necessary emission reductions reached by raising the price of carbon plus alternatives and efficiency incentives. Joe’s strategy relies on the widespread application of at the moment overly expensive and/or not quite ready for the mass market technology. The regulatory and cap & trade regimes attempt to make alternative competitive by artificially raising the price of carbon energy. The thought is that the U.S. economy can absorb and even prosper from these higher costs, but in the near term it could be very rough on below medium income families.

    Imagine my surprise when I read this in your Salon article:”we must accelerate the development and introduction of the next generation of clean technologies, which can ultimately take global emissions as low as possible by century’s end.” Sounds like you are also looking for a Breakthrough.

  9. Paul,
    I will take the liberty of answering your question of Joe: accelerating the deployment of existing and prototype stage clean technologies is not the same thing as more R&D. R&D implies that pre-prototype ideas and un-built ideas are the focus. Commercialization of existing technologies will yield benefits in the next 5 to 10 years while we don’t know when R&D will yield benefits….that’s waiting for the breakthrough

    R&D is a good idea but it is not a substitute for accelerated commercialization of existing clean technologies. There’s no reason we can’t do both.

  10. Paul K says:

    I don’t think it’s an either or situation. Reading John Mashey’s comments, it is clear that breakthrough R & D is a whole other world funded in a way that has little or no impact on applying current technology. R&D is not competing with venture capital. They play in different leagues. In the applying technology league, the only thing holding it back is the high initial cost versus long term benefits.

  11. Robert says:


    Thanks for the link – at least I see where you are coming from now. I am also clear that I fundamentally disagree with your train of thought, assumptions and projected solution.

    You start the article with a long description of the problem, then link it to the solution with this:

    So we must sharply reduce emissions even as the population keeps growing, and do it in a way that increases, rather than hinders, economic development, particularly in undeveloped nations already wracked by poverty, disease, dirty water, hunger and other scourges.

    Err… no. It sounds harsh, but the planet will not be able to support a fraction of its current population on a sustainable basis if they successfully aspire to US living standards. Bush said “the American way of life is not negotiable”. He was wrong. Nature does not negotiate and if you step over her limits will take swift action. This is already happening.

    If we were not all so close to it we would see that the only goal worth chasing is the global setting of hard and reducing limits on fossil fuel extraction. If that goal cannot be agreed then nothing else much matters. Best of all, such limits would be very simple to negotiate and easy to monitor, unlike all the complex carbon tax, carbon market, cap-and-trade and other mechanisms that are bounced around.

    Technological progress allied to better healthcare, ever-increasing economic growth and an ever-expanding population is what got us to where we are at now. How can you possible advocate more of the same? The emphasis is quite wrong.

  12. ari2525 says:

    Very funny jokes Thanks for sharing this funny jokes!!