Friday, September 27, 2013

"We don't insist that fire trucks cost less than a chevy"

A great comment in the NY Times by Hugh01890:
It continues to baffle me why we so often insist that the solution to climate change must be less expensive than burning carbon. If sustainable energy costs more, then so be it. Work on reducing the costs, but please don't wait for the magic bullet of a technology that is sustainable AND cheaper than our current destructive practices. We don't insist that fire trucks cost less than a chevy.
By the same token, we don't say "I'm not going to eat fruits and vegetables until they're cheaper than a Big Mac."

9 comments:

Unknown said...

From what I've read, reducing mankind's CO2 emissions sufficiently would be fantastically expensive. It would involve building many thousands of nuclear reactors all over the world, in order to replace fossil fuel based electricity. It would require replacing most of the worlds gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles.

All this would cost many trillions of dollars. Where would that money come from? Health care? Education? Food?

The topper is that CO2 might not be the only cause of global warming. During the last 15 years, atmospheric CO2 went up sharply, but global temperature was level. It would be ironic if the human race impoverished itself in order to reduce the carbon footprint, but the globe kept warming for some other reasons.

Therefore, I think it makes more sense to deal with the consequences of global warming as they arise. Strengthen our infrastructure. Build strong dikes. Et.c

David in Cal

David Appell said...

CO2 didn't stop being a greenhouse gas 15 years ago.

What will it cost not to act on CO2? In seawalls, crop failures, species loss, ocean acidification, extreme weather?

The money to solve it should come from those causing the problem, especially the West. The affluent, even in the US, cause far more of the problem than do the poor. So charge a carbon fee and distribute it via dividend to everyone on an equal basis. Most Americans would actually money.

Unknown said...

I disagree with several points here.

1. To date there have been no sufficient proposals to act on CO2. Carbon trading schemes, Kyoto, carbon tax, etc. would produce negligible impact. To really cut atmospheric CO2 would require unthinkably radical action.

2. Increased CO2 and increased temperature are both beneficial to agriculture. That's part of the reason why world production of food is booming today.

3. There's no evidence that global warming causes extreme weather. If anything, the evidence goes the other way.

Worldwide total hurricane and typhoon energy have been unusually low for the last two years. We are currently in a record length of time for having no "serious" hurricane make landfall in the US. (In weather jargon, "serious" means Class 3 or greater on the Saffir Simpson scale.) Nor are tornadoes or droughts unusually prevalent worldwide.

David in Cal

David Appell said...

To really cut atmospheric CO2 would require unthinkably radical action.

Not really. A carbon fee-and-dividend would, according to a study mentioned by James Hansen, cut US emissions by 30% in 10 years, with most Americans getting back more in dividends than they pay in fees.

And what if radical action *IS* what's called for? Are we really going to note stop climate change that could be very serious because the action required is "too radical?"

Sometimes stopping a disease DOES require radical action and therapies.

David Appell said...

Increased CO2 and increased temperature are both beneficial to agriculture. That's part of the reason why world production of food is booming today.

No it's not.

This is facile, simplistic thinking. Plant production is complex and many climate factors can impact it adversely -- heat stress, changes in water cycles, drought, extreme weather, pests.

Plus, more CO2 means weeds grow better (all else being equal) as well as crops.

There is already evidence that warming is counteracting the CO2-fertilization effect for some major crops:

“Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming,” David B Lobell and Christopher B Field, Environ. Res. Lett. 2 (2007) 014002 (7pp)
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/2/1/014002

David Appell said...

Worldwide total hurricane and typhoon energy have been unusually low for the last two years.

What data shows that? I've seen data that suggests the opposite:

http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-new-hurricane-metric.html

Numbers?
http://policlimate.com/tropical/north_atlantic_hurricane.png

Note: "ACE" is not a measure of energy.

David Appell said...

There's no evidence that global warming causes extreme weather. If anything, the evidence goes the other way.

The IPCC disgrees; this is from the IPCC SREX SPM (2012):

"There is evidence from observations gathered since 1950 of change in some extremes."

David Appell said...

Nor are tornadoes or droughts unusually prevalent worldwide.

That is not what the SREX says. From the SPM, pg. 6:

"There is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts, in particular in southern Europe and West Africa, but in some regions droughts have become less frequent, less intense, or shorter, for example, in central North America and northwestern Australia.."

Nor does it come to your claimed conclusion about tornadoes; it says (pg 6) there isn't adequate data to answer the question:

"There is low confidence in
observed trends in small spatial-scale phenomena such as tornadoes and hail because of data inhomogeneities and
inadequacies in monitoring systems."

Unknown said...

One conclusion from the current IPCC report:

"There is not a strong scientific basis for claiming a discernible effect of human-caused climate change on hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought"

David in Cal