Civility breaks through the blogosphere

I do hope people will read through the comment section of the previous post (see here) — as I think we are getting down to defining the (serious) differences between me and Shellenberger and Nordhaus.

I will be doing a longer post today when I get back from speaking at ACEEE’s Energy Efficiency Finance Forum, April 10-11, 2008.

I will also be completing my debunking of the Pielke et al. Nature piece over the next few days. It has taken me quite some time to figure out the best way to explain all the reasons the piece is wrong. And it will take me three posts, not two as I had said.

Readers appear to be as happy as Ted and I are that civility has broken out on the blogosphere. But you know what they say about the lion laying down the with lamb — the lamb doesn’t get much sleep! Just kidding.

13 Responses to Civility breaks through the blogosphere

  1. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:

    Joe- I look forward to your critique. If you can write it without loaded terms like “debunk” and “delayer” then the breakout of civility will have taken another step forward. I’d even be happy to ask Tom and Chris to respond to your critiques, in addition to my own response.

  2. Joe says:

    Roger — delayer has been dropped since you endorsed 450 ppm. But I’d still love to know if you support Obama’s climate plan as your Breakthrough colleagues do.

    I don’t consider “debunk” loaded. It means “To expose and disprove false or exaggerated claims.” It is shortest word I know for “explain why something or somebody is wrong.” But if you feel it is loaded, I won’t use it.

    I will be explaining as clearly as possible why I believe the Nature article’s analysis is wrong, and its conclusion is mistaken, in three posts.

  3. Sam says:

    Joe: A question about your “What Price Carbon?” question. Why worry about deciding “what’s reasonable”- Why not just have the market decide?

    All climate policies try to fix the carbon market failure by either reducing the “supply” of carbon dumping space (capping) or by reducing the “demand” for carbon (carbon taxes or finding a cheaper alternative through massive publically funded research).

    Capping makes sense because it allows science to drive the market, rather than letting politicians fumble around finding the right carbon price.

    The right answer is that it’s going to cost what it’s going to cost.

    By the way the EU price hasn’t really triggered reductions, so you might want to find another price…

  4. Ronald says:

    I always have a hard time to know how big a chessboard everybody else is on. Are they really arguing or is something else going on.

    There’s this immoveable object, greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Everybody is trying to find this irresistible force that can move it. It’s going to get testy sometimes.

  5. JCH says:

    Improved technology would be great, but a policy that is highly reliant upon it seems imprudent. Oil and gas and coal are easy to use. They’ve been abundant, so they’ve been cheap. Game’s over.

    There are countless examples where technological advancements have been hard in coming, if at all. It’s easy to sell Americans on this notion that alternatives are going to boil out laboratories, but the reality is the low hanging fruit have been plucked. There are huge hurdles between us and the rest. The alternatives to fossil fuels will always be expensive.

    It’s time for economists to finally figure out that our economy never was fueled by cheap energy. All cheap energy meant was the energy sector suffered the consequences of low prices. Business in the other sectors was determined by the business climate in those sectors, not the low cost of energy.

  6. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:


    I support Obama generally, including his climate plan.

    But I’m sure that you’ll also appreciate that I have been writing on climate change for a long time and have put forward a range of options that go well beyond anything currently being discussed, including increased attention to some of your favorite things, adaptation and technology, and the need to align costs and benefits in time. (My 2002 and 2006 Congressional testimonies might be a good place to start reading to see what I actually say).

    And yes, like many of my colleagues I think that the whole debate over targets and timetables is a complete distraction. Asking people to swear allegiance to a candidate or a political target is ultimately empty , and I have written extensively that the climate debate needs more policy debate and less political witnessing., especially among people who profess to want to discuss policy.

    There are many different ways for policies to be implemented, and there are legitimate differences in view as to what those options are. You may have completely certainty that your views are the one true way, but I am less certain about even my own views — hence I see the need for open debate and discussion, and why we should resist demonizing others who may happen to hold a different view. One point that we can probably all agree on is that mitigation and adaptation policies implemented to date have been woefully inadequate with respect to the challenge.

    So if it makes you more comfortable, I am happy to share my political views with you. But ultimately what matters more is not which candidate I back or what target I like, but what actions might be taken that are both practical and politically feasible. And the only honest answer to that is that the collective community is still muddling through on developing those options, so we should discuss them, find where we agree and disagree, and leave it at that. I hope this helps to explain my views a bit.

  7. Joe says:

    Sam — I’m just trying to get real here. Ted said he supported a “modest” price. That implied not letting the market set the price. I wanted to know the ballpark.

    Also, the “real” damage price of CO2 is obviously much higher than the U.S. political system could bear right now. So I think one must accept that reality.

  8. Joe says:

    Roger — I am sorry if I wasn’t clear. I didn’t want to know your political views (i.e. do you support Obama). I only wanted to know if you supported Obama’s climate plan — because it is exceedingly detailed in the US policy measures he would take and because your colleagues and I had a back and forth on that earlier in which we both agreed we liked the plan.

    This post discusses my views on that matter:

    I don’t believe my views are the one true way — but I do believe it is 450 ppm or bust, and that means averaging below 5 GtC/yr this century — and that means immediate action is needed.

  9. Roger Pielke, Jr. says:


    There are some things in the Obama plan that make great sense (increasing investments in technology, yes, including deployment), some things that are boneheaded (corn-based biofuels), some things that are impossible (80% reduction via cap and trade), some things that are poorly developed (how efficiency gains will actually occur), and some things that are left out (adaptation). But as a starting point it is better than the alternatives, and far better than what is currently in place.

    That being said, I am happy to support it as a starting point for discussing what policies make sense for the next administration. I’m not sure what my “support” tells you other than something about my politics, but if it useful info, great.

  10. Paul K says:

    I am very glad adulthood has prevailed in this matter. Replacing fossil fuel in this century is a complex undertaking and a focus on a particular component of the problem should not be taken as a deterrent to efforts on other components. A few posts back, Joe wrote about the confusion caused by mixing carbon and CO2 metrics in the discussion. Separating them in terms of policy proposals is useful. For example; do you tax carbon or CO2 or both? Do you regulate carbon or CO2 or both. Joe supports cap/trade for CO2 and regulatory standards for % of alternative sourcing, but not a direct tax on carbon. Pielke and BI seem open to a carbon tax.

    Much has been made of setting a carbon price to induce efficiencies and alternatives. BI makes a good case the high prices will not necessarily bring rapid deployment. It is entirely possible that raising the cost of carbon will only serve to make both it and alternatives unaffordable. Remember, all increases in cost are ultimately borne by the consumer both in direct energy purchases and in higher costs of goods and services. It has been noted that consumer savings from efficiencies are quickly wiped out by rising rates – public utilities are, by law, guaranteed a certain profit – so the consumer treads water at best. BI is correct that to maximize deployment, the focus must be on bringing the price of alternatives down rather than on simply increasing the cost of fossil fuel use and hoping for the best.

    On a previous thread John Mashey, to help in understanding various proposals, cited the need for a simple table, preceded by:
    2007 average/range of prices for gasoline, diesel fuel, electricity, therm.
    Carbon tax level
    $ increase for gallon gas
    $ increase for gallon diesel
    $ increase for KWh
    $ increase per therm
    Pick 5-10 tax levels, including the current EU
    I hope someone with the skill to create such a table will.

  11. Jim Bullis says:


    Perhaps in the present civil climate I can ask my question about the ocean again.

    Ocean water below 70 meters is less than 4 degrees C. Most of the oceans are deeper than 3000 meters. We know from underwater sound research that wind effects commonly act to mix water down to below 70 meters, and we know from reports of oil pipeline damage at over 1000 meters from hurricanes that winds of this strength have a powerful mixing capability. Global warming of 1 to 2 degrees C would result in ocean surface temperature increase of a similar magnitude. Temperature increases less than this range are said to be the cause of intense hurricanes. Thus, would not global warming tend to cause such mixing of ocean water such that the deep reservoir of cold water would be tapped into to cause the ocean surface water to cool? It seems that we would see just enough increase in storm activity to keep the temperature control effect in operation.

    This process would show up as slight warming of deeper water. Of this warmer water that gets into the thermohaline circulation process, we would expect to see ice melting effects. However, air temperature should not increase by much, and the discussed effects of the ocean being less capable of absorbing CO2 should not be that much of a problem.

    This would be an interesting twist in climate science. As near as I have been able to find out, it is not something that has been factored into the models.

  12. Sam says:

    As this discussion points out the process of “finding a reasonable price” is beside the point- and exactly backward. If we’re going to get to 350 ppm, it’s going to cost a lot and we should be talking about how to make it politically viable not the other way around.

    The truth is we can’t afford half measures.

  13. Al says:

    Re Sam’s comment on cap and trade.
    I have always been a fan of Both Tax and C&T, starting with the tax at a relatively low level, and then replacing it with cap and trade once ready.

    This allows a clear price signal to be sent to the market long before C&T can be set up (usually several years) and also helps avoid giving away permits rather than selling them. It also provides a guaranteed fund which can be used to drive research at the earliest point.

    As an aside it seems that the answer to almost every either or question in this business is an emphatic “Both”