These kinds of problems are not factored into the economics of energy so coal and oil will remain economically viable without getting any kind of penalty.
Governments will attempt to tackle these issues (too late most likely) and it will be largely public funds that go towards restoration but oil and gas and coal companies will pocket all the profits and contribute little to the repercussions.
If we factored in the total costs of our energy sources renewable would be even more attractive. Given the fact that the energy companies have known about climate change for decades , at what point is it expected that they use some of the incredible profits made at the planets expense to mitigate those costs? It is adding insult to injury that these companies are able to avoid a lot of taxes  that would at least contribute to public funds being used to combat climate change. That isn't even counting the millions (billions?) that have been spent on misinformation.
We would have to trust that our governments actually did something with the money though, not just put it in with general revenue and let the future deal with the problems it was supposed to be paying for.
I read the National Review from time to time for a conservative perspective on the news. Most of the time I enjoy it even when I disagree because it's usually thoughtful and well written, but their climate change pieces are abysmal and infuriating. We will do nothing substantial about climate change until it is far too late to actually prevent disaster.
Not with that attitude :-P
Actually, climate change action does have support on the Right, e.g., in the Republican Climate Resolution. I don't believe we're at the political tipping point, but getting there is possible, the same way we did with tobacco and chemical pollutants. Who can say what is needed to get there: unfortunately misinformation campaigns are better funded than pro climate action campaigns.
Chance of this happening, IMO: 0%
As I said in another comment a long time ago and thus sparking an argument with a conservative commentator: this has become a political issue where the majority of people do not understand it. Laypersons are arguing with scientists. There is a tribal sense of which side is correct that is totally unrelated to the facts, and until that is pierced it doesn't matter how urgent the warnings or how win-win the proposals. In the mainstream conservative view, this is firmly in the realm of hysterical, liberal bullshit and does not merit further negotiation. I mean, people actually argue that "the climate is always changing" as though that in any way counters what scientists are saying - fucking asinine.
It breaks my heart that we're going to play chicken with the habitability of our planet just as I'm preparing to bring children into the world.
I think it's important to acknowledge some role of the Left in alienating the Right in their framing of climate change: Greedy, evil corporations are polluting the environment, and the solution is massive public spending or restructuring of society. Of course I'm exaggerating.
To me the most important questions are: How has science communication failed to convince the public of the danger, and what can be done memetically to counter corporate misinformation campaigns?
I can't attest as to who is better funded. But the "pro-climate" camp has cornered the market on childhood indoctrination. You know, the whole "green" movement, "save the planet", "extinct species", "pollution", "recycling", etc. It's all neatly packaged and pawned off in classrooms and children's cartoons. You would think then that as adults we'd stick with that; yet there are people out there that have had to go back on everything they've been taught in order to get into the anti-climate-change camp.
I think the problem being created/presented is state-promoting and reinforcing propaganda, rather than a left/right one. I.e. a problem that conveniently has only one easy & short-term solution: more state intervention/legislation.
Now, if it comes to the general well-being and usefulness of an immense natural resource such as the ocean? I think humanity deserves what they're causing & not-preventing. They put it simultaneously in the hands of everyone and no-one in the form of "public property", then complain when the problem of pollution is unfixable because of state-governments not implementing enough legislation and enforcement.
Then again, I probably have a very narrow view of what should be taught to children by educators. Simple facts and techniques, that's all. Otherwise, the classroom is just another battle front that opinionated teachers can use to push their version of politicized topics that haven't been agreed upon completely by the scientific community. E.g. religion, evolution, climate-change, etc.
This is not a matter of pushing politics.
> the classroom is just another battle front that opinionated teachers can use to push their version of politicized topics that haven't been agreed upon completely by the scientific community. E.g. religion, evolution, climate-change, etc.
One of these things is not like the other. It does however explain your bizarre mindset that teaching basic facts of ecology is some kind of politicization of children. I would think of all populations, children have the most stake in the future of the planet.
Sure, teaching ecological principles as facts and history, yes. I would agree with your wholeheartedly there. But that is not how it's presented in the classrooms of younger-grades. It is loaded with guilt and fear, along with suggestions/instructions about what must be done. At least in the case of global-warming, desertification, deforestation, pollution, ozone-layer depletion, etc. It's the ever-present boogey-man of society's bad choices. That's not teaching. Perhaps young children are simply not ready to hear some of these things, and know of the possibly impending disasters that humanity as a whole is causing. Almost entirely out of the child's control.
>"I would think of all populations, children have the most stake in the future of the planet."
Just as much as the parents, I would argue. They want what's best for their children. Still, doesn't mean you need to burden the children with thoughts/worries of such things.
Additionally, each one person in these companies probably optimizes for their role in particular. A tragedy of the commons affect takes place and the company as a while is misguided and immoral even if the people themselves are not.
How can you avoid problems like this? legislation?
They're playing the game to the best of their abilities by the rules set by the government. It's most convenient to think about this game-theoretically: assume companies will always optimize their profit, and then adjust public policy until unilateral economic self-interest aligns with the public / environmental good.
That said it's true that corporations have political clout through lobbying and media campaigns. Some of this is necessary to negotiate regulations with governments. In my opinion a more efficient system / more pure democracy would come by having democratically elected leaders evaluate the positive and negative externalities of various activities independently of industry, and then taxing to internalize these costs.
Not that you said otherwise.
The economic argument is messed up because $1 Trillion is not that much money. It's one years GDP for Australia or Mexico (or less if purchase power parity is considered). It's a quarter of the annual Federal budget of the United States. It's the annual revenue of Exxon-Mobile.
In other words, some people will look at $1 trillion and be grossly unimpressed in an Austin Powers/Dr. Evil sort of way. And they'll miss the point of non-fungibility between money and ecological systems...there's no undeading the coral reefs with cash.
You could also protest/campaign/write-letters to your states public utilities boards and maybe make a small difference... but the states are incentivized to keep energy cheap for its citizens, first and foremost. They also have to listen to the various lobbies of the various energy producers.
You might, if you own your own home and have enough income and the right sort of roof and a home-owners association that allows (because some consider them ugly or anti-historic preservation and ban them), install solar panels on your home.
As an individual consumer there are many ways to control your personal carbon footprint (drive less/use less gas, eat less meat especially beef), but consumers don't have a choice for which energy they consume.
If you are arguing that consumers use less energy: the average household is more efficient than it has ever been... and any individual household is still a drop in the overall energy bucket compared commercial and industrial usage. (The energy expenditure of the average office building far exceeds the average home. Imagine if we could all work from home...)
In places where you do have the option there are companies that very aggressively market w/ door-to-door salespeople to attempt to get consumers to lock in a static rate over X sum of years. Which, as far as I can tell... generally confuses/scares consumers so they don't even consider switching suppliers at all.
While my liberal guilt has me constantly evaluating my own carbon footprint and side-eyeing my neighbors and their SUVs, I also know that as much as I want to be a part of the solution as a consumer, at the end of the day it is corporations, industries, and maybe even the entire system of capitalism that needs to be help culpable for climate change.
Blaming consumers for climate change, statistically, is about like blaming the shape of a hill on the ants and the distribution of their ant hills. It's a bit backwards, and it very much avoids any interest in dealing with real solutions.
The marketing "Other" is not unicorn droppings or whatever, its nuclear. I think nuclear is cool but their marketing firm thinks otherwise so its called "other".
Because the only thing better than one standard, is two standards, in addition to signing up for renewables at your power company, there is a new option which I haven't tried where you sign up at arcadiapower and I think they pay your bill for you and you pay them a bit more and they sell 100% wind power to your local power co along with paying your bill. I would imagine this is greased with some tax credits but this is pure speculation. The extra cost or surcharge of 100% wind provided power in Wisconsin at this time is an extra 1.5 cents per KWh (a bit more than 10% extra).
My parents did energy for tomorrow since honestly I donno when, probably the 90s. I have no personal experience with the Arcadia power alternative. I know E4T does commercial power accounts because every vaguely progressive signally retailer or office has their poster up proudly celebrating 100% powered by renewables, its not unusual.
I do have a lot of money invested in energy stocks, I'm honest about that. I believe everything about to be factually correct and unimpacted by my investments, however.
some people frame climate change as an "emergency". politically, it is only an emergency if enough people think it is an emergency and are prepared to vote along these lines. i'd agree it is an emergency. but i don't think a majority of people do - so politically, it isn't an emergency.
Saying people benefit from the status quo of energy is like saying mammals benefit from the status quo of needing oxygen. You don't blame individual mammals for needing oxygen and having no other choice. Especially when other extremely wealthy, organized, and networked mammals are actively working to make sure that that's always the way it's going to be, that status quo being their bread and butter for dominance.
You seem to be pointing out what you perceive to be a solution, the political process. Others are saying that that's not a path because it's too much to expect dumb humans (humans in groups of disparate communities, professions, race, religion, etc etc) to be that smart and organized, especially with the adversarial human forces involved.
In other words, what point are you trying to make by pointing out that the consumers are benefiting from the arrangement. It's very clear that they are not benefiting, they are only barely getting by, while these companies are drowning in wealth.
Expected? None at all. People will argue that that's not the place of companies nor the regulations imposed upon them, and they'll win that argument because they are fundamentally correct.
The lesson to be learned here is that relying on a corporatocracy to save you and "patching it" with regulations (or etc) every time something comes up will not work.
In such a system, companies will separate themselves one way or another from regulations that try and bring 'the bottom line' in line with some non-capitaist ideal. There's always some way to do so to increase "the bottom line." (And no, private companies won't save you either, because it's basically relying on a benevolent dictatorship or parliament you have no way of knowing will remain with the same ideals long-term.)
Do you believe internalizing these costs into the price of energy is sufficient to reach a sustainable equilibrium between the environment and the economy?
If the cost of fossil-fuel based energy are artificially low because they don't take environmental damage into account, we have to adjust it and that adjustment might make fossil-fuel based energy more costly than renewable sources.
Alternatively if we tax fossil fuel energy highly, we can use those revenues to combat the problems as well.
The earlier we start the less drastic our measures have to be. Unfortunately aside from pure market forces you can just about write off the USA for the next 4 years (in fact, maybe assume that we are a hostile actor as far as climate change is concerned) which means in 4 years we may not even have as many options and measures will get increasingly drastic (ie, potential energy limits on actual consumers).
I think oil in Norway is taxed at something like 80%. Not for environmental reasons, though.
Edit: Illogical because while you may be making money now, your actions will cause you to loose your assets in the long term.
If you can compete better right now by doing X, at the cost of your business 30 years down the road, the incentives, long and short, probably line up with doing X. As an individual, you do it, and hope that in 30 years, you've earned enough to retire or transition to another revenue form. If you go the sustainable route, as someone else pointed out, you likely get out-competed by someone who didn't, and have to find an alternative livelihood even sooner. It's a snowballing issue, where even modest benefits in the short term actually result in massive benefits in the long term, despite a long term penalty.
So, the only way to align incentives with long-term, is for penalties to be applied short-term for behaviors that will impact an industry long-term. Otherwise every individual decision-maker has to weigh whether they are better off making their money and moving on versus trying to compete with a handicap long enough for the long haul.
Let's say that you have 'sustainability', fill in that word however you want, in mind when building your business. But a company who's primary concern is growth will most likely surge ahead of you, possibly squeezing them out of the market. That company can't just retrofit those 'sustainability' practices as by this time they are expected to continue their revenue and company culture is extremely difficult to change.
Like if you want to develop a running habit then eat a cake after every run and then after a while stop eating the cake. Then you start looking forward to the run because you anticipate eating cake which after a while becomes a running habit. Substitute whatever you like for the cake. It's all hacks though.
Humanity is basically doomed. At some point the thinking that we can innovate ourselves out of every dilemma we got ourselves into will stop working because the complexity of the dilemma keeps growing and technology will stop being the panacea it is at a certain level of complexity.
We're not all automatons that think alike and share the environmental ideas that you do.
Sorry, didn't mean to pick on you. I just get frustrated when people saw anything remotely "save the planet" and then tell me about their massively polutting air travel to distance lands.
> It turns out that oxybenzone can be toxic to baby coral at levels as low as 62 parts per trillion. In plain English, that's equivalent to one drop in 6.5 Olympic swimming pools. Dr C. Downs surveyed reefs in Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands. His team measured levels as high as 1,400,000 parts per trillion. That's more that 20,000 times higher than the toxic levels.
In the case of cosmetics there are many ingredients that should just be illegal, whereas in the case of air pollution it's an issue of goods and services that should be legal, but where the total levels of various pollutants aren't currently capped and then priced accordingly.
In my case this was our honeymoon, so we would have gladly (or at least begrudgingly) paid an extra couple hundred bucks or whatever. Whereas someone else just wanting to go to some conference might instead choose to participate remotely.
In any case, the issue is with other types of biologically active sunscreen ingredients.
Google search: zinc oxide nanoparticles free radical
The larger particle, and thus opaque versions of these sunblocks seem to behave as you'd expect, they stay on the surface of the skin pretty much entirely wash off and don't interact with the environment. But they're visible light opaque so you look like you've been painted.
I'm speaking as someone who is horrified at the loss of coral reefs, both because of the ecological implications as well as the loss of a truly stunning natural beauty (I'm PADI certified and love Scuba).
Basically, if you do not make a monetary estimate of the worth of some feature of nature, it's assumed worth is $0 when governments are making decisions about policy and land use.
However the need for assessment if there is a reasonable means to correct the issue or prevent future occurrence. I doubt we can correct it and do we know if this has ever occurred without possibility of man's activities? I would be curious as to the evolution of coral reefs, what is their historic variability?
(Edit: I can see by the downvotes that no one appreciates the sarcasm. The serious way to express this point is that by demanding rigor and precision of this kind of analysis, you are applying a standard that you very much DO NOT apply to the other important issues in your life. Squishy, hard-to-quantify risk management is pervasive in retirement planning, insurance purchases, education decisions, career choice, marriage... So why are you insisting that climate and ecological decisions be held to a higher standard?)
I dislike very much to put a price on things just to be aware we need to protect them. Coral reefs have more value, it is not just about money.
That's why the economic argument is a good way to communicate the importance of these resources. Someone who has never left Kentucky in their entire life may not care about The Grand Barrier Reef in Australia, but they may care about the global economic impact of losing it.
Same argument with fresh water : some people think that if you put a price on it, then people will be more careful when using it. That value price. Now, let's compute how much it takes to clean water (in a way it doesn't taste the chemicals used to clean it).
Nevertheless, teaching people to appreciate the value of things by reducing these to an amount of money is absolutely destroying the so-many-axis-of-values one may envision for one simple thing... It's blinding people to the richness of what they may encounter.
How much dollars are you worth ?
The point is that is that people along with the environment and the species we share it with have value that is outside of their economic contributions.
Burying your head in the sand and refusing to understand that the world is full of trade-offs, which can most easily be expressed via economics, doesn't help at all.
A nation's education system should be responsible for raising the next generation of citizens, propagating our national identity and cultural values to the next generation while imbuing them with the ability to think critically to ward off corrupting ideas. Successful nations, especially empires like the US, needs a common world view to glue citizens together... social cohesion, progress, and economic success go hand in hand.
In contrast, our dismal K-12 system is built to churn out 20th century factory employees rather than educated 21st century citizens. We treat school like a glorified day care rather than a vital cultural institution, leading to a tremendously wasteful and inefficient K-college system. It's ludicrous that most Americans would fail our citizenship test... which requires getting 6 out of 10 multiple-choice questions right. Ludicrous.
The goal should be training new citizens to be unbiased critical thinkers by exposing them to a flood of new ideas while teachers emphasize socratic questioning, debate, communication skills, research, and related skills (eg statistics). Disagreement is absolutely fine, that's the American way... as long as students have the tools and mindset to effectively research and debate new ideas, with the humbleness to change positions.
Ideally, education also would involve a mandatory exchange program to expose students to other lifestyles and subcultures while continuing to work through their school program.
Terribly inefficient. The whole system warrants refactoring.
K-12, tradeschools, internships/apprenticeships, college, med/law schools, adult retraining, enlistment, officer training... it's a ball of spaghetti. We need to review each component and the overall system through the lens of modern societal and economic needs.
You cannot make decision based on your economic value. Should we destroy an animal race just because we think their economic value is low? What about the side effects we don't know? what about everybody has the same rights? what about fucking up the environment in some countries because they are poor? What about the poor child that wont have access to proper education? We just don't care because their economic value is low?
$100k : 1000 micromorts
$300k : 100 micromorts
$500k : 10 micromorts
$1m : 8 micromorts
$2m : 6 micromorts
$10m : 4 micromorts
$1b : 2 micromorts
$100b : 0.5 micromorts
Practically speaking, there is a need to make decisions which involve tradeoffs between money and other forms of value. Making these kinds of decisions rationally means quantifying non-economic forms of value.
Also, as more food for thought, consider the death penalty, in which a society deems that the true "value" of a person -- distinct from their economic value -- is negative.
It would be like saying: Lack of breathable air could cost $76 Trillion Globally
We need some sort of karma for good deeds. I can up vote comments on hn without spending "votes", I don't run out of them. Using them as a sort of currency would be interesting. Would this solve problems that aren't profit making? Like fixing the climate.
In addition, let's say I get lots of these "votes". What good are they to me? What value to they possess/represent? Do we treat them as magical brownie points that are monetarily value-less, in which case, only those that care for the prestige of having many of them would chase them. The rest would ignore it.
Do we punish individuals for having too little? How about punishing those individuals that misuse them? Sell them?
Anywho, playing a bit of devil's advocate there. But sounds like what you're suggesting is money. It's available right now, and yet people don't go around donating ridiculous-enough amounts of it to make an appreciable difference in "karma" regarding the environment. That's why we're having this discussion, even.
I have no money, I have little spare time, limited range of travel.
We see these unfixable problems with climate and no real way of tackling them.
I spent an hour picking up plastic from the beach, could I turn that time and effort into something? Like money or karma or something else.
I can't do it for free as I need money for food. No one wants to pay me to do it. How do we solve this?
> “This isn’t just an environmental issue. The Great Barrier Reef is one of Australia’s greatest economic assets. It’s responsible for bringing in more than $7 billion each year to our economy, while also supporting the livelihoods of around 70,000 people.”
The irony is that in order for these tourists to visit, they have to fly overseas in planes creating significant carbon emissions.
Even ignoring the CO2 produced by flying, what evidence is there that enviro-tourism itself reduces CO2 emissions?
I admittedly lack evidence on the enviro-tourism aspect, but it seems logical that tourists from heavily industrialized 3rd world countries return with some desire to improve their home environment.
"Coral reefs are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral reefs support more species per unit area than any other marine environment, including about 4,000 species of fish, 800 species of hard corals and hundreds of other species. Scientists estimate that there may be another 1 to 8 million undiscovered species of organisms living in and around reefs (Reaka-Kudla, 1997). This biodiversity is considered key to finding new medicines for the 21st century. Many drugs are now being developed from coral reef animals and plants as possible cures for cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, viruses, and other diseases.
Storehouses of immense biological wealth, reefs also provide economic and environmental services to millions of people. Coral reefs may provide goods and services worth $375 billion each year. This is an amazing figure for an environment that covers less than 1 percent of the Earth’s surface (Costanza et al., 1997)."
"The IPCC has estimated that aviation is responsible for around 3.5% of anthropogenic climate change." [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_aviati...]
This is terrible for Queensland, but it doesn't support the $1T global cost. Most of these tourism dollars will go to other attractions that are slightly worse on the margin--they won't just disappear.
And heres how:
We’ve also seen reports that 35 per cent, or even 50 per cent, of the entire reef is now gone. However, based on our combined results so far, the overall mortality rate is 22 per cent — and about 85 per cent of that die-off has occurred in the far north between the tip of Cape York and just north of Lizard Island, 250km north of Cairns. Seventy-five per cent of the reef will come out in a few months time as recovered.
I also urge anyone who is sick of this kind of science scaremongering to follow junkscience.com 
Thinking that the loss of coral reefs only affects a few rich playboys is... naive.
These reports must be taken with grain of salt. Not only the study is dubious but it essentially talks of all coral reefs across the world doing extinct. There is good chance that coral reefs will reduce in their size over next few decades but they are unlikely to totally disappear. Neither will the jobs and other opportunities disappear with it. A rare coral reef is a bigger tourism destination.
Also $1T is a figure I will totally ignore. If we have to protect coral reefs it is because it is an important part of ecosystem that I would like to conserve for my kids and grand kids (and I would like to pay for the conservation efforts too).
I think the probability that US will go into another recession over either war or some other government scheme gone wrong is much higher over next 30 years. We will likely lose lot more that $1T that time.
As far as fossil fuels go, I'm not aware of states defending their internationally recognized claims against other states... but there is growing tension behind unrecognized claims.
The South China Sea issue is largely driven by China using their navy to project borders beyond internationally recognized limits. Their official justification is reclaiming historical territory, which suspiciously became a priority when oil was discovered in the area.
Russia may be in a similar position. They've been building up their Arctic military force, presumably with the intent of claiming Arctic oil fields as the Northwestern Passages opens up due to climate change. However, again, they haven't claimed anything officially.
Humans are exceptionally intelligent, that is obvious. At the same time, we still hold most of the evolutionary baggage that has, up to a few thousand years ago, allowed us in no small part to succeed.
For example: given two events, A and B, where A is a bad event and B is a good event, of equal magnitudes, we will almost always far more clearly remember event A, the bad thing, than B.
Bad things making a deeper and longer lasting psychological impression is an excellent and effective evolutionary characteristic, until relatively recently.
Now, I think it's making us crazy.
That's just one example. A more direct example would be how much more important short-term thinking is to us than long-term thinking. Again, historically, a huge evolutionary advantage. Now, well, here we are.
Now its basically impossible to change this democratically - any initiative would be bend, distorted and defused long before it would reach the capital. The only feasible option - is to alter consumer behaviour. For this, the real economic footprint needs to be visible on all products, with the easy scan of a app. All of it. Meaning, you need to pay people all along the supply chain to spy on the origins and processes that produce something. You could then really see what in your life is destroying that reef - and what alternatives there are.
And then you could vote with your feet. And to add incentive for those who do not care (we are all dead in the long term), some publicly visible environmental kharma point system, could be the final incentive. Maybe- something aking to jewelery- you only get, if you sacrifice part of your lifestyle for the planet.
I like to say "climate change will create the first trillionaire". I can't help but imagine the powerful technologies and systems that will be developed out of this. Eco-friendly tourism, environmental sensors, synthetic biology reef protectants.
I don't want to give lessons, but I have probably 5% of the average impact people do to environment in my country