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On How Does the People's Climate March Stack Up Against the Largest Protest Rallies in U.S. History?

Well stated comment by Donough.

What is notable about the various demonstrations Jesse lists is how little impact they had.

Not mentioned by Jesse is that big turnouts tend to be correlated with favorable weather. Rarely are such events organized during winter months.

A notable exception is the annual March for Life, an anti-abortion rally which takes place in Washington in January on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision. Wikipedia reports: "The march has previously drawn around 250,000 people annually since 2003,[2] though estimates put both the 2011 and 2012 attendances at 400,000 each.[3] The 2013 March for Life drew an estimated 650,000 people.[4]"


September 22, 2014    View Comment    

On Are Carbon Capture and Storage and Biomass Indispensable in the Fight Against Climate Change?

Joris, I'm not sure what Jesse meant by "combining CCS with biomass." But biomass can be harvested to be used for durable materials. At the moment, this actually is an effective way -- maybe the only cost-effective way -- to remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it for a long time.

One obvious example is the use of wood as a construction material. Buildings made of wood have been around for a long time. If they do not burn -- and fireproofing methods have improved -- they keep carbon secure indefinitely. Advanced forms of wood can now be used to construct skyscrapers -- replacing steel skeletons with engineered wood beams.

Biomass also can be used to make plastics, fibers, and other synthetic materials that be used in durable applications.

September 12, 2014    View Comment    

On Lessons from Kyoto: A Vision for Effective Global Action on Climate Change

"You'd think they woul by now realise they must take notice of the pragmatists, the realists and the economic rationalists."

The "they" you refer to for the most part make a living (often lucrative) pushing climate protection schemes that have no chance of working. Collateral players who are not remunerated directly, are driven by social or other incentives. As long as the proponents are rewarded for that activity, they are likely to keep it up, regardless of the sentiments of the larger majority of the population. They seem to infer that decades of failure warrant redoubling of effort rather than rethinking of strategy. 

Indeed, some seem to consider their efforts to "save the planet" too urgent to be hindered by inefficient democratic processes; dismiss lack of public support as the product of oil company conspiracies; and look admiringly to more authoritarian solutions.

As for your comment below that carbon pricing won't work (at least to change behavior to the extent demanded), that conclusion is bolstered by Jesse Jenkins' recent 3-part assessment elsewhere here in TEC.

September 7, 2014    View Comment    

On Lessons from Kyoto: A Vision for Effective Global Action on Climate Change

I largely agree.

The UNFCCC has been a comprehensive failure, not least by starting with a scientifically erroneous definition of "climate change" as equivalent only to AGW. As Roger Pielke Jr. has explained at length, the result of that has only served to politicize science and intensify polarized political conflict.

In attempting to be pragmatic, Schecht implicitly concedes the failure of the UN framework: "As progress is made in pockets outside of the international climate dialogues, the UNFCCC has the potential to become a forum for sharing best practices and will allow pathways towards cooperation that are not yet realized. Furthermore, the discourse should not be stifled by the traditional Global North versus Global South arguments."

There are ample forums for knowledge sharing and collaboration already. The UNFCCC adds nothing to that. To say that persistent North-South arguments should be avoided is to say that the UN should be avoided.

September 6, 2014    View Comment    

On Greenland And West Antarctic Ice Sheet Loss More Than Doubled In Last Five Years

In relation to geological history, a trend during the relatively brief span since 2009 is meaningless.

The Greenland ice sheet is at least 400,000 years old. Per Wikipedia:

"Interpretation of ice core and clam shell data suggests that between 800 and 1300 AD, the regions around the fjords of southern Greenland experienced a relatively mild climate several degrees Celsius higher than usual in the North Atlantic,[21] with trees and herbaceous plants growing and livestock being farmed. Barley was grown as a crop up to the 70th parallel.[22] What is verifiable is that the ice cores indicate Greenland has experienced dramatic temperature shifts many times over the past 100,000 years."

Reference for that conclusion is here:

The gist of the latter is instructive:

"In short, the ice cores tell a clear story: humans came of age agriculturally and industrially during the most stable climatic regime recorded in the cores. Change—large, rapid, and global—is more characteristic of the Earth's climate than is stasis."

In other words, a short-term period of ice melting is not necessarily abnormal or atypical of Greenland's climatic history.

Nor is atmospheric temperature necessarily the cause of increased melting. Researchers have found evidence of geological "hot spots" under Greenland's ice sheet that may be contributing to the loss of ice:

As for West Antarctica, researchers also have found that geothermal heat from the land under part of the ice sheet is causing ice to melt:

And note that the melting of floating sea ice does not affect sea level.

All that said, melting of terrestrial ice does contribute to sea level rise. If more rapid melting were to continue, which is uncertain, it could increase the rate of sea level rise.

The practical problem is to design infrastructure that is sufficiently adaptable -- yet also affordable -- to adjust to uncertain future environmental conditions.

August 31, 2014    View Comment    

On The Missing Oil Crisis of 2014

[duplicate deleted]

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On The Missing Oil Crisis of 2014

Jessie, I read the material. I said what I thought about it. Beyond that we may just agree to disagree.

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On The Missing Oil Crisis of 2014

In his classic work, "The Entropy Law and the Economic Process," Nicolas Georgescu-Roegen attributed the flaws of mainstream economics to what he called the "arithmomorphic fallacy": the notion that economic activities could be usefully expressed in mathematical form. Rather, Georgescu-Roegen argued, "you cannot be in the economic world without considering the enjoyment of life."

That is the fallacy at the root of your mathematical abstractions.

The economy is not a physical machine, although it has physical inputs, processes, and outputs.

Obscuring your subjective value judgments in mathematical myst does not make them less subjective. Politically, your calculus has no useful way to be applied other than to attempt to bolster an argument that others will dispute in any case. It does not solve the reality of conflicting political/economic interests.

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On The Missing Oil Crisis of 2014

Styles does a good job showing that fracking etc. have tempered what otherwise would have been a sharp rise in petroleum costs. This buying time to develop better alternatives. But more needs to be done to accelerate energy innovations to meet rising demand within environmental constraints. (For more on that, see:

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On The Missing Oil Crisis of 2014

Jessie, as I have often pointed out here, internatlizing externalities is one of those academic nostrums that is far easier to pose in theory than it is to implement in practice. The too-common flaw in your argument is the use of "we." In the real world, there is no "we" to make collective decisions. Society is plural, fragmented among many political constituencies and interests that agree about nearly nothing. The problem with accounting for externalities is that being outside any market, their valuation is ultimately subjective. And value judgments about what constitutes a cost and what a benefit vary among different factions.

August 22, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 3: Why Carbon Revenues are Just as Important as "Putting a Price on Carbon"

You raise an important issue. The distribution of investments across a portfolio of alternatives makes a big difference. Yet there is no analytical, provably correct way to do it. Venture capitalists know it comes down to gut feel. But in the public sector, allocations are skewed by intense political pressures.

I discuss this problem in more detail in my book, Energy Innovation.

August 8, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 3: Why Carbon Revenues are Just as Important as "Putting a Price on Carbon"

Bob, I was hoping that "putting aside" would divert just the sort of comments you started with. However your last paragraph offered an answer to the question.

Too simple though. 

Re discussion here of public preferences and willingness to pay, without referenda on every proposal, it's evident that the public doesn't get to choose among particular policies. They vote for parties or particular candidates to represent general preferences. In elections, voters approve or reject the overall acceptability of the program -- the portfolio of policies -- a party/candidate represents.

If as the column suggests the portfolio of the incumbent regime imposes overall more costs than benefits, I suggest the evaluation of any particular policy should reflect that. In practice, that is the way the electorate is going to evaluate it -- especially in parliamentary governments.

Related to that, the viability of any carbon tax scheme depends on its continuity. As noted by Jesse and others here, Australia's carbon tax was finished when the party that imposed it was rejected as a whole and replaced.

The column also suggested a spillover effect of policies across jurisdictions. The author suggests that the viability of one policy adopted in BC was negatively affected by policies in California to which it was connected.

There's an analogy in healthcare: A patient with multiple conditions often has to take several medications, each prescribed by a different doctor for a particular illness. Medications often interact in ways that may block effectivenss of some or even have toxic effects. Only recently has an increased effort been made to coordinate care to make sure that all the treatments the patient receives work together to heal rather than to harm. We don't congratulate the doctor for prescribing the pill that cured the patient's skin rash but that, in combination with another medication, destroyed his liver.

August 7, 2014    View Comment