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The Bizarro World of Bjorn Lomborg and the NY Times’ “Post-Pollution” Solution to Climate Change

By Joe Romm  

"The Bizarro World of Bjorn Lomborg and the NY Times’ “Post-Pollution” Solution to Climate Change"

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http://boards.420chan.org/sport/src/1318996821525.jpgThe NY Times, through blogger Andy Revkin, is pushing Bjorn Lomborg’s alternative-universe “Post-Pollution” solution to global warming — more research and development (R&D).  Revkin is also misrepresenting a Center for American Progress report, which is why I am going to debunk this too-little, too-late strategy for the umpteenth time.

As Andrew Light, the lead author of the CAP report, explains, “I think Andy read our piece too quickly” and “I’m disappointed to see once again here the false dichotomy” that “somehow an agreement on CO2 is mutually exclusive with a mechanism to grow clean technology and sustainable development solutions.  It’s a completely uninformed view.“  I’ll repost his statement in full at the end.

False dichotomy is what the do-little crowd traffic in, sadly, and it mucks up the debate — see Study Confirms Optimal Climate Strategy: Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research and Develop, Deploy, Deploy, DeployNo, that abbreviated description of the optimal strategy has never been my suggestion for the sequence of investments [!] but for the ratio of spending needed!

See also this post by a leading journalist and climate expert, Robert Collier, noting “The basic message of all these reports is akin to Romm’s mantra: Deploy, deploy, R&D, deploy, deploy — but all simultaneously.”  Precisely.

We do need a vast increase in clean energy R&D spending, as I have been arguing for more than two decades.  But averting catastrophic warming requires spending several times more on deployment than on R&D.

I would have thought that the recent International Energy Agency report would have made clear to all that aggressive deployment, not R&D, must be where we put most of our money ASAP:

On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change.

… we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F]….  Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”

The IEA is one of the few credible international bodies with a combined global economic and energy model that allows them to come to quantitative conclusions rather than just the hand-waving that dominates most discussions.  And by handwaving, I specifically mean this nonsense from Lomborg (Revkin’s comments are in italics at the end):

“In reality, the COP17 negotiations missed an important opportunity to change tracks. Instead of following the same path, that has failed since Rio in 1992 — prescribe large, immediate and implausible carbon cuts to unwilling nations — it should focus on the main problem. As long as green energy is much more expensive than fossil fuels it will always be impossible to get significant reductions. If we instead focused on innovating the green energy price down below fossil fuels. If we could achieve that, we would have solved global warming. Therefore we should rather spend 0.2% of GDP on research and development of green energy. This would be a massive increase of green R&D, have much greater long-term impact and yet much cheaper than any standard climate deal.”

I largely agree, noting that developed countries (the United States particularly) should, of course, be doing far more within their borders with efficiency standards, innovation, education and, where appropriate, tightening regulations.

This Lomborg “solution” is bizarre bizarro on so many levels.  First off, it is BS handwaving to simply assert with no supporting analysis that a big ramp-up in R&D would have a “much greater long-term impact” and be “much cheaper than any standard climate deal.”  Real analysis, by the IEA and others, makes clear that delay is costly.  While it’s true that future clean energy will be cheaper, the cost of building all the wrong infrastructure year after year is staggeringly unaffordable.

Indeed, if we keep listening to the Lomborgs and Revkins, then by 2017, we’ll have locked in 450 ppm “unless emitting infrastructure is retired before the end of its economic lifetime to make headroom for new investment. This would theoretically be possible at very high cost, but is probably not practicable politically,” according to the EIA.

As many people have pointed out, absent a CO2 price, we’re not going to get the cost of new renewables below the cost of existing coal in any plausible timeframe, if ever.  So the R&D-centric strategy means building lots of polluting infrastructure that can only be shut down at great cost.

Second, the “long-term impact” of having emissions keep rising is enormous because of the very long lifetime of carbon dioxide and the increasing evidence that removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will be very expensive – far, far more expensive than mitigation.

Third, renewables have  been dropping sharply in price — but aggressive deployment programs have played a large role, arguably the dominant role, along with huge investments by the Chinese that go far beyond R&D.  It is a false dichotomy to say that a big ramp up in R&D by itself is the key to continuing down the learning curve of renewables.  Many of the keys to cutting costs in renewables come from economies of scale, learning what works in the real world, and non-technological innovations that require large-scale the appointment.  In short, cutting costs requires deployment — see “The breakthrough technology illusion.”

It’d be great to spend 0.2% of GDP on clean energy R&D.  I’m all for it.  But we need to spend some 2% of GDP (or more) on clean energy deployment if we want to have a shot at averting catastrophe.

Revkin’s piece is titled “A Post-Pollution Path to Global Climate and Energy Progress.”  For the foreseeable future, however, we live in a pollution-filled, rapidly-warming world and efforts to minimize that warming will necessarily have to focus on that pollution, particularly carbon dioxide.  As climatologist Ken Caldeira famously said, “Carbon dioxide is the right villain, insofar as inanimate objects can be villains.“  As he wrote me in 2009:

Every carbon dioxide emission adds to climate damage and increasing risk of catastrophic consequences. There is no safe level of emission.

Revkin, however, seems to think that there is somehow a movement away from focusing on CO2 — and that CAP is part of it.  Not!

Revkin writes:

This shift away from CO2-centric emissions debates is also evident in a group blog post by analysts at the Center for American Progress, who propose a “multiple multilateralism” approach on climate that, among other things, seeks quick steps on sources of warming other than carbon dioxide – particularly sooty Arctic pollution and gases already considered under the existing ozone-protection treaty. As with President Obama’s efforts outside the treaty, this prescription echoes policies pursued in President George W. Bush’s second term.

No, that isn’t an accurate representation of CAP’s analysis.  What echoes policies pursued in Bush’s second term is not CAP’s strong push for stabilizing at 2°C, including a high and rising carbon price, strong deployment programs plus, of course, big increases in R&D.

Ironically, what echoes policies pursued in President George W. Bush’s second term is the R&D-centric approach of Revkin and Lomborg — see my 2007 post, Bush climate speech follows Luntz playbook: “Technology, technology, blah, blah, blah.” In Bush’s 21-minute speech on climate he used the word “technology” 19 times.  He stated Lomborg’s basic do-little message well:

Our investments in research and technology are bringing the world closer to a remarkable breakthrough – an age of clean energy where we can power our growing economies and improve the lives of our people and be responsible stewards of the earth the Almighty trusted to our care.

Sound familiar?

And here’s Bush in 2008: “We must all recognize that in the long run, new technologies are the key to addressing climate change.” Lomborg could have been his speechwriter.

CAP Senior Fellow Andrew Light sent me this response to Revkin’s post:

Unfortunately, I think Andy read our piece too quickly.  He’s correct that reducing CO2 is certainly not the only thing we’re after but it’s clearly on both ends of our analysis.  Our path forward to close the international ambition gap this decade wouldn’t work at all if it were not for the CO2 pledges which came out of the Copenhagen Accord in January 2010 and then were solidified into the UNFCCC system a year later in Cancun.  It’s those pledges which make the ambition gap remotely small enough to be  addressed  by temporarily focusing more effort on other forcers.

On the other side of it, our analysis doesn’t only focus on getting other reductions this decade from non-CO2 sources but also anything we can do to get CO2 reductions from the Major Economies Forum (MEF), the G20 and anything else available.  Some of those mechanisms will be technology driven just because some of those forums are more likely to see traction through a more technology focused agenda because they’ve already been aimed in that direction — such as the MEF’s Clean Energy Ministerial process that has now spun off from State and the National Security Council to DOE.  The sweet spot here is that so long as the UNFCCC remains — which is sacrosanct to the developing countries who are most at risk right now to climate change — alternative international solutions outside of it can’t step on its toes.  So whatever agreements you get outside of it have to be either on specific sectors or otherwise smaller piece of the emissions pie.

Finally, I’m disappointed to see once again here the false dichotomy, which is ubiquitous in the analysis of Breakthrough affiliated scholars, the Hartwell Paper and elsewhere, that somehow an agreement on CO2 is mutually exclusive with a mechanism to grow clean technology and sustainable development solutions.  It’s a completely uninformed view. As we argued in multiple columns and forums throughout the year the most important thing that could emerge from Durban was not the grand bargain about a future climate treaty but pulling the trigger on the governing instrument for the new Green Climate Fund and the associated Clean Technology Center and Network.

The fund will do the bulk of the lift for fulfilling the Copenhagen-Cancun pledge to mobilize $100 billion annually for mitigation and adaptation by 2020.  Obviously, what this money will pay for is not new climate treaties but projects on the ground in efficiency, renewables, and land use change, in other words exactly the kind of technology and development focused agenda that the academic “experts” Andy cites in this post say the UNFCCC is not doing.  If Durban would have blown up over the future of the Kyoto Protocol the Green Climate Fund would have been put on shelf for at least another year and perhaps for good as you drew out the possibility that 194 parties could open up the implementing agreement and pick it apart undoing the work of the 40 finance ministries that cooperated in creating it over the last year.  In part due to the hard line the U.S. took on negotiating this document it now has a larger mandate for mobilizing private finance, which if successful gets you well over $100 billion a year, and the fund will have independence from the UNFCCC so that climate negotiators aren’t controlling its agenda.  Nonetheless, those who think the UNFCCC is useless might ask themselves why no other forum was capable of creating something like the Green Climate Fund when the need for something like it is obvious.

In any event our approach to this will all be clearer when we publish our full multiple multilaterialism report early next  year.  As we indicate in the post, the piece Andy is reacting to is just a teaser so you can’t see all the different mechanisms we’ll unpack.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Revkin continues to push his vague R&D-focused “energy quest” and criticize those of us (including the National Academy of Sciences) who push for strong emissions reductions starting now.  Since Revkin refuses to tell us what level of concentrations he thinks the world should aim for – even a broad range, say 450 ppm to 550 ppm — he retains the luxury of attacking those who are willing to state what their target is while maintaining a faux high ground that they are being politically unrealistic while he can pretend his do-little strategy is scientifically or morally viable, which it ain’t.

Let me end with the words of Jigar Shah, a solar-industry rock star who founded the pioneering solar company SunEdison and has led the Carbon War Room.  In the first Climate Progress podcast, he candidly shared his views on why doubters of today’s renewable energy technologies are so wrong:

It depends on the person … but often they’re just too ignorant to know better. For some people, technology is not their sweet spot. They have other skills. And so when someone tells them, “technology is not ready,” they just eat up those words … hook, line and sinker and then decide that’s what their talking points are going to be. And with those people it’s just sad that they don’t read more.

Then there are actually people who are diabolical…  This is by far the most interesting way to foil the progress of new technologies. That is, by saying that they’re not ready. You know, you see this with the big oil companies. They’ll say: “we need all of the above.” Or they say: “we are huge supporters of solar and wind if only their costs would come down by 20%. Then, you know, if there were big breakthroughs in the technology, we’d be huge supporters.”

No, that actually just means that they don’t love solar and wind. It actually means that they hate those technologies and that, in fact, they are trying to figure out, using white lies, how to undermine those technologies. So we just have to call their bluff, as opposed to saying: “oh my god, they’re our friends because they said something that seems to resonate with me.” They’re not your friend. They’re actually trying to figure out how to play a nice PR trick to marginalize you.

Jigar actually thinks we could reduce CO2 emissions about 50% cost-effectively with existing technologies, but that by the time we finished doing so in a couple of decades, we’d have another array of cost-effective strategies to take us down another 50%.

The time to act is now.  Anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what they are talking about — or is intentionally deceiving you.

Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, Research & Develop, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy.  Simultaneously.

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45 Responses to The Bizarro World of Bjorn Lomborg and the NY Times’ “Post-Pollution” Solution to Climate Change

  1. Peter Mizla says:

    I wonder why Revkin refuses to take a stand on C02 levels- has he ever committed himself on this?

    The NYT continues its corporatist policies of catering to its big advertisers. Revkin seems to be part of the Times unethical coverup.

    When will the NYT accept the science of AGW, dump Revkin, and begin to tell the public the truth?

    That day will come perhaps when we begin to see catastrophes begin to occur like dominoes falling- way to late for the Times to unload Exxon-Mobile, and Revkin.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      In my opinion Mr Revkin and the other denialati need to carve out individual niches, to make themselves a purchasable prospect for potential patrons in the denialist business hierarchy. A lot of people are leaping aboard the denialist gravy-train, and each needs an individual shtick to differentiate themselves from the mob. Lomborg has been a real chameleon, moving to and fro with real chutzpah, changing his positions to suit the times (and confect believable alibis for the dread time when the public finally awakes).

    • Joe Romm says:

      yes.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      Game over, and reassuring to see the stupefying imbecility and arrogance of the denialists in the Comments section. They will never, can never, learn.

      • BA says:

        Just read a “cute” piece on Grist that refers to the Independent article. Unfortunately it seems from where I sit that there has been a tacit agreement among the global warming/science community to not get all worried over a potential methane release. Grist quotes a Science article by David Archer:

        “CO2 is plenty to be frightened of, while methane is frosting on the cake. Imagine you are in a Toyota on the highway at 60 miles per hour approaching stopped traffic, and you find that the brake pedal is broken. This is CO2. Then you figure out that the accelerator has also jammed, so that by the time you hit the truck in front of you, you will be going 90 miles per hour instead of 60. This is methane. Is now the time to get worried? No, you should already have been worried by the broken brake pedal. Methane sells newspapers, but it’s not the big story, nor does it look to be a game changer to the big story, which is CO2.”

        This is a mistake because a methane release on top of CO2 is added risk that is not fully accounted for. We have collectively been behaving like a cocky 16 year old (who missed the day they showed the films about highway carnage) driving a sports car that is over confident that he can brake before running into the cars in front of him. This is an understatement of the risk problem. It is a failure of imagination by Revkin and others because they have not fully thought through the implications of delay. We need to take our foot off the accelerator right now so that we can slow our momentum—the part we can control. I think there needs to be a global stand-down in CO2 emissions at once. Never mind the old saw about temperatures will still keep rising. We need to stop our forward momentum so we can begin adjusting to a post carbon world.

      • fred says:

        “Game over, and reassuring to see the stupefying imbecility and arrogance of the denialists in the Comments section. They will never, can never, learn.”

        What you don’t seem to learn is that your so called “solutions” do not add up or make any dent at all in the problem, yet you continue down the same path of feel good environmentalism, bashing folks like lomborg that simply reveal the ugly truth of how little you know, and how truly impotent you are because of this.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          It takes a certain type, ubiquitous on the misanthropic Right, to describe an awareness of our current, avoidable, predicament, brought about by elite greed and mass stupidity and self-satisfaction as ‘feel-good environmentalism’. Lomborg is a professional nay-sayer, a denialist who peddles his wares to suit the fossil fuel business, and he is well rewarded for it. How do you get your rewards-by ‘feeling bad’?

    • Joan Savage says:

      BA posted the link on CP on 12/12/11

      http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/12/12/387811/2011-sets-us-record-for-wet-dry-extremes-wettest-philadelphia-wettest-december-day-in-dc/#comment_link

      I followed up there with some other information such as a 2010 peer-reviewed article in Science.

      We really do need to see more than what was carried in The Independent. It wasn’t clear from the news media version if Semiletov was referring to hundred-fold increases in methane emissions in particular hot spots or more broadly, and a calculation of total tons of C-CH4 emissions per year is critical.

      • Joan Savage says:

        Basically it’s really bad, but.

        One of the great benefits of Climate Progress is the dedication of Joe Romm and Steve Lacey to keeping facts straight even when emotions are pumping.

  2. Mike Roddy says:

    Somehow I am still shocked that Andy pays attention to Lomborg, whose reputation among actual scientists is somewhere close to that of Lord Monckton. For several years now, Lomborg, BTI, and Dot Earth have contorted themselves around the Energy Quest dream, implying or even stating that serious political and economic action to effect global warming solutions is futile.

    This is both ignorant and irrational, as this blog has pointed out in detail. Peter Mizla, I agree that if the Times is to salvage its reputation it must hire a climate reporter who is interested in changing fossil fuel business as usual. Unless they don’t want to.

  3. “…0.2% of GDP on clean energy R&D…”
    would go to ‘Grant Writers’ NOT ‘tinkers’ in garages throughout the land!
    A ‘Boxed-in’ ‘Buddy System’ dispenses the funds, and little results are reaped!
    Far flung ‘Garage tinkerers’ with brilliant minds . . . don’t know and don’t care about ‘writing Grants’!
    What If Hewlett-Packard had turned a ‘cold shoulder’ to Steven Jobs, and his ‘garage projects’?

    Roy J Stewart,
    Phoenix AZ
    Creative Autist

  4. nyc-tornado10 says:

    It is an american response to do research, remember all those years general motors was doing research into electric cars, until finally, toyota began mass producing the prius. GM would always have an electric car in 10 years, and when the energy crisis came to a head in 2008, GM could no longer sell it’s gas guzzlers, sending into bankruptcy.

    Now america is following the old general motors stratagy of doing research, while the rest of the world is implementing the already existing technologies. China will have high speed rail powered by solar and wind, and americans will still be driving old pick up trucks on an outdated interstate highway system in 2020.

  5. Celia Schorr says:

    R&D is the new denial.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      It’s a straw man, like nuclear-anything that delays the evil hour when renewables replace fossil fuels and render them less than worthless, will be promoted and rewarded by the capitalists who have trillions in anticipated profits at stake.

  6. Andy Revkin says:

    For starters: Joe, and Andrew, given that there is nothing in the Durban outcome stating a willingness to have a price on carbon applicable (outside Europe) later in this decade, I can’t understand how you (Joe) can write this — “As many people have pointed out, absent a CO2 price, we’re not going to get the cost of new renewables below the cost of existing coal in any plausible timeframe, if ever” — and still see renewables supplanting coal where it matters (China and India) in your lifetimes (you’re younger than me, so that’s a good long while).

    As for pollution, I’ve expressly noted that, in developed countries, there’s a role for every tool (including regulation). But my guess is Andrew (Light) would agree that you won’t see that extend to CO2 in developing countries through this decade and beyond (this is different than plans in China to burn coal more efficiently; the atmosphere will see see that climate burden in the end).

    There’s more over at Dot Earth: http://j.mp/dotRommReply

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Andy, your fatalism about action in China and India is largely driven by American refusal to do anything. We’re still the largest historical emitter, and due to tech prowess are still (unjustifiably) looked up to. Many countries’ leadership see little point in acting if American policy continues to be driven by hillbillies like Mitch McConnell and his friends from Koch and Peabody.

      Your basic I-give-up on effecting serious change or a carbon price attitude is defeatist and dangerous.

      • fred says:

        Fatalism about china is based on the numbers. Massive increase in outputs year in and year out, you simply cannot deny this. Without a break through in energy technology this will continue unabated and nullify and then some even the most heinous regulations the west could possibly muster to cripple itself.

    • Mike Roddy says:

      Here’s why we can’t give up, and continue to use India and China as excuses:

      http://www.flipdocs.com/showbook.aspx?ID=10004692_698290

    • Kevin says:

      The “more R&D” position is sound as long as it is married to deployment. People don’t understand that in the energy sector, you do R&D through incorporating the new techs incrementally w/in the existing massive system. The energy sector will not make the big investments needed — utilities at least are tech buyers, not developers.

      Finally, you need to deploy the new techs in order to learn by doing. Think of the flat screen TV market — initial sets were very expensive — only as they began to sell and volumes increase did manufacturers learn to drive out costs and prices come down. This was not caused by lab-bench R&D.

      How do you get firms to deploy the big new techs to begin driving down costs? Governments either provide cash grants or subsidies for the projects (and you’re talking billions of dollars for each project, some of which will not go all that well — we ain’t talking smartphones or garage scale projects here) or you create a price incentive — a carbon price, so that private investors take the risk. In this political environment, which is more likely?

      • fred says:

        Doesn’t work, initial tv sets were expensive, but not widely deployed, initial solar/hydrogen fuel cell were deployed by military/space in small numbers. Government can ignore cost in certain narrow situations where deployment is limited, with energy this equation fails, the energy production MUST be economical or it breaks the system.

        • Kevin says:

          “Government can ignore cost in certain narrow situations where deployment is limited, with energy this equation fails, the energy production MUST be economical or it breaks the system.”

          That’s a pretty big statement. Must be economical or breaks the system — we could begin transforming the energy system with CO2 prices between $15 & $30/ton — 15 to 30 cents/gallon gasoline — well within normal price movements these days. Allowance allocations and border tax adjustments would have mitigated household and industrial impacts.

          This would not have broken any economic system. In fact, analysis of the past 10 years shows that it is not the absolute level of energy price that matters to an economy, but rather price volatility. The real “job killing machine” is when energy price volatility knocks an economy into recession.

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          Well that’s bollocks. The energy produced must exceed the energy expended in obtaining it, but when it comes to money, subsidies can go on forever. After all nuclear has been subsidised in the billions for decades, as have hydrocarbons. Moreover mass production will soon bring prices down, as we are seeing already, and dramatically, and there is that lovely ‘externality’, in not destroying human civilization. What ‘price’ do you put on that?

  7. Steve Bloom says:

    Great post, Joe, although I suspect this won’t be the last time you’ll have to write it again.

    Re “CAP’s strong push for stabilizing at 2°C,” well, all I can do at this point is sigh. Elsewhere, the new scientific consensus that 2C is a guarantee of disaster seems to be building momentum.

    In a lighter vein (that won’t take much), I have to admire your boldness in reviving the Bizarro metaphor given your, shall we say, synchronous representation in the masthead. :)

  8. Anne van der Bom says:

    We can thank the germans and their EEG for the recent advances in PV. The growing market has spurred a huge amount of investment in R&D. R&D follows deployment, not the other way.

    A second observation that I’d like to bring to the attention of the ‘breakthrough crowd’ is the fact that the bulk of solar PV is crystalline silicon, the same technology as the very first PV cell created in the Bell labs in 1954. No breakthrough was needed for this advance, just a lot of small, incremental improvements in technology and production.

    • Nichol says:

      hear hear! Let’s acknowledge that Germany did the right thing, and all the rich co2 producing countries cannot do much better than follow the lead of Germany right now!

      .. and China has at least started large PV production, which we should hope they will sell for cheap to the developing world, which has lots of sun. So they can grow on solar energy, largely without even needing to build big centralized power grids. Let’s see if we can develop some smart grid ideas to link up all the private solar PV.

      • fred says:

        Germany has done nothing more than guarantee their total carbon output will go up thanks to closed nuclear reactors. They will subsidize massively inefficient solution of solar and the redundant base power it requires to go along with it, and do nothing in the end to fix the “global” warming problem. again, you forget this is a global issue. their solution is vastly expensive, does not apply to most of the world and thus is not workable at all, it is green wash. They are bailing out their own room in the titanic, and you praise them?

        • John McCormick says:

          What’s your plan, solution, remedy, Fred?

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          What a really daft argument. So Germany is only responsible for Germany, not the entire world, so it should do nothing? What, are you yearning for global German hegemony? By developing technology and financial incentives Germany acts as a laboratory for other countries, or are you against global collaboration?

  9. Spike says:

    His approach seems to be akin to vigorously researching cancer, whilst not treating any patients with the best we currently have available.It isn’t sensible, tenable or moral.

    • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

      A very apt analogy.

    • Joan Savage says:

      On the mark.
      The tragedy of Steve Jobs’s delayed response to his own pancreatic cancer came to mind.

      Another example of tragic procrastination is the Civil War General McClellan, popular with his men but fearful of committing to a strategy. McClellan sat in camp, making repeated requests for more troops, while General Lee deployed the Southern army.

      After much exasperation, Lincoln replaced McClellan with others who knew how to use what was available.

      • Dennis Tomlinson says:

        And McClellan ran for president as a Peace Democrat against Lincoln in 1864. The neighbor is a gr-gr-granddaughter of McClellan. She was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, when I told her he was a Democrat.

    • fred says:

      Poor analogy, if your current treatment of cancer only gave you minutes more to live at great cost, and did nothing for most people in the world you’d have a point.

      At this point you are trying to deploy solutions that are feel good, and have zero effect on the problem. Witch doctor behavior which takes your eyes off the ball, and pretends that solutions are simple.

      • John McCormick says:

        Fred, give us your best shot. What’s your plan, solution????

        • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

          That’s not his role. That is to spread confusion, negativity and pessimism. Whether professionally or out of misanthropic impulse, who knows?

      • Mulga Mumblebrain says:

        Not trying hard enough, fred. You should have said ‘seconds’ more life, at ‘infinite’ cost. You will be replaced by someone more keen. Your analogy is witless. Every step in technological advance has come at great cost, often progressing only incrementally. Occasionally a big advance appears, often serendipitously, but without the effort we get nowhere. Treatments for disease are often harmful, and not all that beneficial, but they have to be tested, and the balance of harm and good assessed. And that is in the fight against disease and death, where we must lose in the end. With climate destabilisation we have to prevail, and the ‘cost’ is utterly irrelevant. Nitpicking might feed egos, but it is just another delaying tactic, and a discreditable one.

  10. fj says:

    lots of great stuff in this post though seems kind of conservative since memory serves that we had something like 40% reductions in 70s during oil crisis . . .

    extreme truth! “the cost of building all the wrong infrastructure year after year is staggeringly unaffordable”
    . . . to the tune of $1.5 trillion reported by Grist (I believe) with for an estimated $12 trillion fossil-fuel-supporting transportation infrastructure

    and well no mention about how bikes can save the world http://bit.ly/sSQdwd from the Guardian with rapid 25% emissions reductions &

    how bikes can save us http://bit.ly/t4qcAn from fast company with lots of info graphics

  11. Anne van der Bom said it right some posts above mine. Thanks to the germans and their EEG for the recent advances in PV.

  12. More string theory won’t help, nor the usual academic non-scalable research projects involving membranes, exotic catalysts, and unconscionable water consumption (e.g. chemical CO2 capture). So in these cases I’m with you. But regarding sequestration — a massive “clean coal” deployment project that has consumed most of the available cleantech money in the stimulus package — I would respectfully suggest that you take a closer look, as you did with hydrogen. Wind and solar baseload is another deployment disaster, viz. Solyndra. Which technologies to deploy is the question, and the answer seems to be political more than technical because there is no reliable examination of the proffered solutions. DOE does no technology assessment and is resolutely deaf to public input despite the scolding of the PCAST.

  13. Peter Mizla says:

    Revkin and the NYT still live under the false altruistic ideals that ‘capitalism will save us all’.

    In 1933 FDR had his doubts this was true. Now when we are facing a catastrophe of huge proportions as a civilization Revkin still vainly tries to give the ‘Party line’.

    Too late Andy- the science which you and your bosses seem to be in denial of becomes more clear and refined with each passing day.

    Safe face and begin to tell the truth- there is still time left for you. Have James Hansen come over from Columbia- do an interview- do something.

  14. sailrick says:

    I couldn’t agree with Joe more. Andy Revkin needs to lose Lomborg, who has nothing new or helpful to add. Just the same delay delay, delay, but now with a different excuse.

  15. J4zonian says:

    Look at ads carefully, at the images they associate with logically-unrelated objects being sold. Bicycles give a feeling of freedom, youth, carefree mobility—to car ads. Nice clothes, friends, smiles and romantic pairs give specific associations to specific kinds of booze.

    I think a huge part of the problem we face is our unconscious associations and symbols. Oil and gasoline have come to be associated with the archetypes of blood (and by analogy, water)—that is, lifeblood, concentrated essence of life with apparently magical powers to sustain, power, animate, revive… This is how it seems to a child and to our earliest ancestors who set our indelible psychological patterns, and so how it seems to us, though we’re unaware of it. Coal is similar, a solid and powerful rock source–like stone axes, arrowheads, or iron. Sunlight and wind, on the other hand, are diffuse, pleasant-but-not-remarkable, apparently ethereal and abstract sources by comparison. The place oil, coal, sun and wind have played in our lives and energy sources for effective memory echo those relative positions, reinforcing those impressions. Likes and dislikes come from these deep patterns; they are made into (more or less) rational-seeming, or at least consistent, conscious beliefs after the fact, bringing our political choices in line with our deepest, non-rational sensations, emotions, and structures.

    Since we’re unconscious of these images and meanings, they’re largely unaddressed by tech-oriented, engineeric or policy-wonkish liberals and climate scientists and activists. Since archetypal patterns are very deep, powerful and hard-to-influence, our associations with these particular ones are bollixing up the shifts we need to make in society far more than we realize. We need to find ways to link solar and wind energy–and efficiency, an even harder job, I think–to deep, trusted and powerful sources–of energy, life, mind… and…”spirit”. conscious or not, conservatives do this well with the more established associations with oil, coal and nuclear.

    If we can use art, language, (not just argument but music, poetry, fiction…) and other means of communication to shift the meanings and associations of both fossil fuels and renewables, we can help dissolve the intransigent opposition we find ourselves facing. We need to task artists of all kinds, psychologists and psychologically-intuitive people with making these shifts. It’s not a magic bullet but combined with other psychologically-aware approaches could go a long way to transforming society.

  16. Joe Romm says:

    Working on a story, but it’ll be next week.