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Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise Like a ‘Speeding Freight Train’ in 2018 (nytimes.com)
160 points by gigama 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 176 comments





It seems to me we are truly and globally fucked:

1. There were just massive protests and riots in France (a relatively ecologically-aware country) due to an increase in the diesel tax of about 8 cents a liter meant to help wean the country off carbon. As a result of the riots, the tax was cancelled.

2. Current US administration is going 180 degrees in the other direction, i.e. doing everything it can to support coal.

3. Even if places like China and India go all out to try to reduce their reliance on carbon, their huge populations and still relatively low level of development mean that there is a tidal wave of new "carbon users" coming.

It's pretty clear to me that the short/medium term incentives to cheap energy are just much too great to counter the long(er) term impact of climate change. Major change (i.e. in the 3-4 degree range or more) appears completely inevitable to me, and we should at least start recognizing and dealing with that fact. The only thing that can possibly counter this is if the economics change drastically in favor of non-polluting sources, but given the timescale in which that would be necessary and the natural equilibrium economic forces fighting against this (e.g. if wind and solar get much cheaper, could lower demand for oil, but that would also lower price for oil - some alternative oil sources might become uneconomic but I'm certainly betting that all the carbon under Saudi Arabia is eventually going to be in the air), at best we're just extending the inevitable a little bit.

Drastic climate change is coming, and it is unavoidable. The planet (and I believe humanity) will most definitely survive, but sunken cities, mass starvation, climate-change induced wars, stronger and more powerful storms and fires are coming, and at this point there isn't much we can do to stop it.


Protesters are not protesting just the taxes on fuel.

They protest the fact that taxing fuel is not the solution if you don't provide an alternative mode of transport.

Some people live far from the cities, Should they be the ones paying for everybody else and let the people living in the cities without a car not pay their fair share of the burden?

The problem with taxing the diesel is that you are telling people that they are criminals and should stop polluting, but at the same time, airline companies, and freight transporters don't pay the same taxes.

Rich/urban people don't care, they just rent an Uber or get a Lime and I guess that's ok, but lately, it seems that the only ones paying the price of carbon are the lower and middle classes.

Surely, you can understand that people are tired of paying when they can't even feed their families properly?

Should I remind you that there are 9 million people living close or below the poverty line in France? And half of those people are actually working or looking for work but can't find any, yet the government is asking those people with the least amount of disposable income to foot the bill for the entire country.

Sounds like a shitty deal to me.


I understand your argument, but the people living in rural areas are bigger contributors to pollution since they tend to drive more and live in single family dwellings. Why shouldn’t the actual road users pay the cost of using the road? I agree any industry using fuel should pay an equal tax though.

Some people have no choice but to live in the countryside.

I don't live in France anymore but in the village that I used to live in which was 40km from Paris, the rent for a decent size apartment i.e, not a broom closet was around 700 euros per month.

Many people in France make less than 1800 euros per month.

Which means that in the best case scenario they are left with 1k euro before any basic necessities such as food, electricity, water insurance, phone bill and what not.

The result is that the end of the month they got nothing or barely anything.

So what do people do, they move further away so they can save a few hundred euros in rent, even if that means paying more for fuel because they just want to live a little not just survive!

And guess what, there is a reason that the rent is lower further away from Paris. The reason is that there are no trains, very little buses, so where does that leave those people, they are stuck!

Yet the government comes around and says, you guys are polluting? Well Fk me, what do you want those people to do about it, they just want to survive!

Do you think people are actually waking up in the morning and saying: "Today I am going to spend 60euros to fill up my tank and I am just going to drive in circles for hours to screw up the climate!"

The governments have known about climate change for DECADES, now that it's actually threatening the economies of the world, they decided to react by making people pay their own lack of foresight?

As always, the little guy is getting shafted while the biggest polluters in this world, the freighters, and the airline companies are spared. And for what?


Isn't this all the point though? People live further out and travel more because it's cheaper. The goal is to change behaviour by making more polluting choices less cheap.

If the problem is the poorest, why not use the fuel duty raised to help them? They're surely not using all the fuel, so this could be a net benefit to them.


> Isn't this all the point though? People live further out and travel more because it's cheaper. The goal is to change behaviour by making more polluting choices less cheap.

The problem I have is that those incentives are driving people to kill themselves as they cannot afford to live anymore. I guess that's what the government wants though, less pollution.

Can't pollute if your dead.


This is massively cynical but I do see your point. I think a more viable solution is probably for the government to build low cost high rise public housing (NOT targeted at the homeless) near major cities, to reduce transportation word.

Housing is energetically expensive to build... the balance sheet is not favorable for the energy investment.

Better yet to build electric vehicle infrastructure (trains, trams, charging stations - cheap compared to housing) which could also be used by some business, tax non-train freight. Replace buses with electric ones.

Farming cannot be done in the middle of the city and you probably do not want factories there either... Your move would likely kill the remaining parts of this business if successful.


> The problem I have is that those incentives are driving people to kill themselves as they cannot afford to live anymore.

Which is why I added the other paragraph.


People have to live far outside of the city because housing costs are too high in the city. How does it possibly make sense to make gas cheaper rather than adopting policies that create more housing so that more people can afford to live in the city?

If rents go down, the poor get to pay less to landlords. If gas prices go down, the poor have to pay more to oil companies (because it "allows" them to live further away) and spend more of their lives commuting. Which policy actually helps the poor, which one helps the oil companies?


The people in the cities benefit from the things the rural people produce (i.e.food). Why shouldn't they shoulder the cost of at least some of the the externalities also?

Usually this would be accomplished by farmers passing on higher food prices on to the supermarkets and the consumer.

Unfortunately this doesn't work in a globalized race to the bottom. People can go buy a cheaper item that was shipped around the world 3 times before landing on supermarket shelves.

> People can go buy a cheaper item that was shipped around the world 3 times before landing on supermarket shelves.

This is a very good argument for higher carbon taxes -- they would make the shipped item more expensive.

And if transported goods are much cheaper than locally produced even after paying a transportation cost including taxes, then maybe it's time for some producers to try something else. Or to convince the government that there's a value in producing food in that specific area and get more subsidies.


That is a completely separate problem. If country X can produce food cheaper than yours, your farmers will be unprofitable and you'll end up importing food (or subsidizing local food somehow). If both countries impose a carbon tax in the same amount, nothing about that has changed.

Moreover, the best way to do a carbon tax is to just give the money back to people -- use it to fund a UBI. Then the amount can be as high as you want because the higher you make the tax, the more progressive it is, because it increases the amount of the UBI. Let corporations pay more for diesel with the money going to individuals. Paying $900/month in additional fuel tax to get $1000/month in UBI would be great for the poor. Not so much for the oil companies.


No, you've got comparative advantage crucially wrong. If country X can produce food a bit cheaper/better than you, but produces shoes much cheaper/better, then you end up growing at least some of your own food and importing shoes from X. https://www.econlib.org/library/Topics/Details/comparativead...

Comparative advantage has nothing to do with it. The market price of a global commodity has the opportunity costs already priced in. It's the reason more prosperous countries have higher labor costs.

If you and some other country are producing food for the same cost (e.g. because you pay more for an hour of labor but have better automation), adding the same cost to each doesn't affect your competitiveness. You both still have the same costs as each other.

The same amount of fuel tax only affects you differently if you require a different amount of fuel to produce the same amount of food. Then the party using less fuel has the advantage and may end up producing more food while the party using more fuel produces less. But that's what we want to happen -- having the other country produce food in that case is the desired outcome, because it can do it for lower cost once the externalities of burning carbon are priced in.


That does not work because most of the food transportation is by ship freight and truck, which have enough range to evade your tax.

And the local transport costs are identical between local and export farmer, while local production is more expensive on labor and fuel.

The only thing to do is to raise duties on food and... it is risky politically. Alternatively, subsidize much more. Good luck!


> That does not work because most of the food transportation is by ship freight and truck, which have enough range to evade your tax.

Solution: If the carbon tax for the product's production and transportation is not collected by the country of origin, it is collected by customs on import.

> And the local transport costs are identical between local and export farmer, while local production is more expensive on labor and fuel.

If it's more expensive on labor, it was the whole time. If it uses more fuel, discouraging it is the intended outcome.


> If country X can produce food cheaper than yours, your farmers will be unprofitable and you'll end up importing food

It really depends on where the tipping point is, country X might have a slight advantage but measures like this can widen the gap, then secondary factors like economies of scale kick in.

> If both countries impose a carbon tax in the same amount, nothing about that has changed.

Most international agreements are (rightfully) trying to give developing countries a reprieve and let the developed ones shoulder must of the short term burden for the renewable transition. But it's happening at the same time that we're reducing tariffs and developing countries get a double advantage while the working class in developed nations get a kick in the guts.

> Moreover, the best way to do a carbon tax is to just give the money back to people -- use it to fund a UBI

I'm all for both, but using a carbon tax to fund UBI would invert the incentive, governments would want companies polluting more to fund their welfare commitments. We see the same with high cigarette taxes, the government gets dependent on them for general revenue.


> It really depends on where the tipping point is, country X might have a slight advantage but measures like this can widen the gap, then secondary factors like economies of scale kick in.

For most markets with behaviors like that you're already doomed, because the other country will figure it out and borrow some money so they can operate temporarily at a loss or convince the government to provide temporary subsidies until they achieve the economies of scale. More likely a marginal cost increase would only result in a marginal reduction in demand.

Notice also that this is the exact argument used against anything that increases costs on local businesses. France might have some candidate regulations nearer to the front of the line than the carbon tax if they were actually interested in taking that seriously.

> Most international agreements are (rightfully) trying to give developing countries a reprieve and let the developed ones shoulder must of the short term burden for the renewable transition.

But then it's doing what it's supposed to do. Why volunteer for a burden and then complain when it comes?

> But it's happening at the same time that we're reducing tariffs and developing countries get a double advantage while the working class in developed nations get a kick in the guts.

Which is why all the money should be going to a UBI.

> I'm all for both, but using a carbon tax to fund UBI would invert the incentive, governments would want companies polluting more to fund their welfare commitments. We see the same with high cigarette taxes, the government gets dependent on them for general revenue.

This is a generic anti-tax argument. If the government collected tax revenues from American tech companies, they would become dependent on the money and become unwilling to resist their privacy invasions, therefore they should subject all those companies to no taxes.

The thing about that argument in this case is that it only applies as long as the carbon tax exists, which will make it continue to exist, which is good. Moreover, the easiest way for the government to placate recipients and give them more money isn't to get people to burn more oil (which is pretty hard if you're taxing it heavily), it's to raise the carbon tax rate. Which is also good.

At some point people will actually stop burning oil and the UBI would have to be funded some other way if you want to keep it, but so what? Having that problem implies having solved the original one. And having a population that has seen the benefits of a UBI and wants to continue having it seems like a pretty good problem to have too.


The thing is, nobody can afford a reasonable UBI. US even if they'd put all the military spending into it would do about $200 per month and person. Without a lot of social services, this does not work.

Poland cannot afford 200 PLN (about $60) if we put the whole budget into this which is impossible. It gets strained even with child bonus...

Those are back off the envelope calculations and an unfixable problem.

If you introduce a cutoff it's no longer universal and you still probably cannot afford it.


A UBI doesn't work like a normal spending program, because it's cash. If you're at the median and to fund the $1000/person UBI you have to pay an additional $1000 in tax, you aren't paying $1000 more, you're net of zero. The above-median person who pays $1200 in tax isn't paying $1200, they're paying $200. The below-median person who pays $800 in tax isn't paying $800, they're receiving $200.

This is also why a cut off saves you nothing. If the person at the 85th percentile would have been paying $2000 in tax and receiving a $1000 UBI, and you eliminate their UBI so that they only pay $1000 in tax, zero real difference has been made to anyone. A phase out only changes anything if the nominal tax reduction it allows goes to a different income level than the people subject to the phase out -- but if that's what you wanted, you could do it by just changing their respective tax rates to begin with. Which is a lot easier to reason about, so that you don't do dumb stuff like impose a 35% UBI phase out plus a 25% marginal tax rate (effectively a 60% marginal tax rate) on middle income people, while charging a lower tax rate to higher income people.

More to the point, the context here is using a carbon tax to fund the UBI, which makes the point succinctly. If the average person is paying $100/month in carbon tax, it funds a $100/person/month UBI. A carbon tax is quite regressive -- more even than sales tax -- but the UBI is at least as anti-regressive, so it cancels. The only difference it makes is to the people with a higher or lower than average carbon footprint, so it gives everyone the incentive to be on the below average side, which is exactly the purpose.


They do when they pay for the food.

Is that what prices are for?

I think you're confusing rural areas and suburban areas.

It's the suburban wastelands that are saturated with families of daily-driven automobiles and commuters.

I live in a rural area, most of my neighbors only drive to a grocery store ~10 miles away once a week. The rest of the time is spent at home.

Then on the weekends a bunch of city folks blast through disrupting everything on their way to/from Las Vegas and/or to hike in the national park. It's absolutely nuts, the small town becomes a microcosm of LA via weekend tourism, every weekend.

The rural folks I know are mostly poor, they can't afford to be burning fossil fuels like it's going out of style. They live relatively frugal lives, they're not the problem.


I live in a rural area, I love it when I go days at a time without leaving. I'm very strategic about my trips into town, and with few exceptions won't leave unless I have a minimum of two things I need to do. I definitely did WAY more driving when I lived in the city and the burbs, but out here it's just so inconvenient/time consuming to run into town that I avoid it at all costs.

"Should they be the ones paying for everybody else and let the people living in the cities without a car not pay their fair share of the burden?"

A carbon tax, which taxes carbon, taxes the people who use carbon less, does not sound like users aren't paying "their fair share". They ARE paying their fair share, because they use less.

The problem of use-based taxes affecting the poor disproportionately is well-known, but a use-based tax is the most effective at causing user behavior change. The point of the tax isn't the revenue, the point is to make stuff cost more.


The reason that people in cities won't pay the tax is that they have buses and trains available.

That is not available to the people from the countryside.

You can't just say stop polluting but not give any alternative mode of transport for this people.

What about the rest of the people of this the planet who don't live in a city? Should they just shut up and take it?

Easy to say when you are not the one who has to pay.

The NIMBY syndrome in all its splendor.


People in cities pay higher costs for housing and sacrifice space, comfort and privacy for the amenities of city life. They also suffer the most from localized pollution.

The entire point of the tax is to incentivize people to use less fuel. How they accomplish that is their own prerogative. They can move, travel less, buy a more fuel efficient vehicle, look to increase their earning, or any of a number of alternatives not listed here.

This is precisely why usage taxes are so effective. Rather than prescribing a solution to a problem, you let people figure out the best way to minimize how much they are effected.


You can't just say stop polluting but not give any alternative mode of transport for this people.

Part of the reason they don't have alternative modes of transport is because driving is so (artificially) cheap that other modes have a hard time getting off the ground & staying operational.

Yes, I know it's chicken & egg.


Consider a road. As use of it increases, repairs to it are costing more and more. In response to that, the government puts a use tax on it, to pay for the repairs.

In response, all the people who need to drive on it to get to work get outraged. Why don't we charge the people who don't drive on it???!? It's unfair that we have to pay for it just because we use it!

Hopefully you can see how that's ridiculous. And that directly parallels the carbon tax.

The solution is to encourage behavior patterns that generate less carbon. That can mean moving to cities. It can also mean localities providing more public transit. Or labor negotiating more telecommuting options.

A nice, non-distortionary way to deal with the problem is to take the tax, and either reduce other taxes equivalently (for every euro the carbon tax pulls in, reduce the VAT by one euro) or to just hand out the total proceeds of the carbon tax to everyone directly. The disincentive to pollute remains, so you still end up with a fairer economic system.


It's not even a tax on cars. It's a tax on fuel for cars. They could: Drive less. Just go other places less. Increase fuel efficiency, such as with a smaller vehicle. Switch to a hybrid or electric car.

These are all choices that otherwise, they would not make, because it's cheap enough and easy enough to run a diesel car that alternatives aren't important. The point of a carbon tax is to change that equation, such that people start looking for alternatives.


The way to make fuel taxes palatable is to have corresponding tax reductions in other taxes that hit the poor, such as the VAT.

How is a tax on a bad behavior akin to calling someone a criminal? Their choice to have a diesel car and live where they did means they are poisoning the atmosphere for the rest of us. That's a negative externality to their behavior that is not being accounted for. Should they get to pollute the air for free? If we're so worried about the poor, why not levy new taxes on the rich with super yachts and palatial estates? Why not use a revenue-neutral carbon tax with a progressive rebate of some kind. Let's not destroy our atmosphere to support poor polluting individuals. Let's protect our atmosphere and reward poor individuals whose choices are better for our planet, biosphere, and the future wars and devastation bad behaviors like this will surely lead to.

> 2. Current US administration is going 180 degrees in the other direction, i.e. doing everything it can to support coal.

And apparently failing miserably in this effort:

https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/oct/17/epa-cheers-...


I think this article helps me clarify a great point, mainly in these sentences: "The yearslong decline in U.S. emissions has been widely credited to the oil and gas boom. Power plants increasingly turned from coal to natural gas as innovations in extraction technology resulted in lower prices."

Lots of people talk about carbon emission reductions, but there is a much simpler way to think about it. There is a lot of carbon stored in the ground in the form of coal, natural gas and oil. What's the probability that a great deal of that carbon will be left there, permanently? The only way this will happen is if the production costs of non-emitting forms of energy (mainly solar, wind and nuclear) are fundamentally less than the extraction costs of the carbon forms in the ground. That may be possible for some high-cost carbon sources like coal, but the cost of production of some traditional oil sources (like Ghawar field) are ridiculously cheap, and tech like fracking has made other carbon sources like natural gas also cheaper.

Thus, the idea that reducing the production cost of natural gas is good for the environment is ridiculous. At the end of the day you've made another huge carbon source that much cheaper to extract. It may temporarily switch from some more polluting source, but at the end of the day all of that (now cheaper) gas is coming out of the ground and going into the air.

So instead of looking at emission rates, we should be asking "What is the probability that non-carbon-emitting forms of energy will eventually be made cheaper than carbon-emitting forms of energy". If you do the math on this one, even leaving a lot of uncertainty that tech on one side or the other will change the equation a bit, the only conclusion you can come to is that there are still huge amounts of carbon to be released. We're inevitably fucked.


If gas reserves are exploited along with coal reserves, your conjecture holds. If gas reserves are exploited in lieu of coal reserves, it does not.

If the cost per Joule of carbon-free energy goes down over time, carbon-free energy will eventually dominate the energy economy. This is generally expected to happen "too late" because of how much carbon will be released before we get there.

If burning oil and gas instead of coal reduces carbon emissions prior to carbon-free sources taking over, overall carbon emissions are reduced and the amount of warming is reduced.


> If gas reserves are exploited along with coal reserves, your conjecture holds. If gas reserves are exploited in lieu of coal reserves, it does not.

If we exploit all the fossil fuel resources, in currently operating mines and wells, we will blow through the 2 C 'safe' warming budget.

Unless for every new fracking well, we shut down a coal mine, the conjecture absolutely holds.


That's exactly what the parent is saying. We're not shutting down coal mines - they're just being made noncompetitive but in the long run that amounts to the same thing.

Opening new coal mines may be uncompetitive. Nobody's stopping work in existing ones.

It does not amount to the same thing. To avoid catastrophic warming, we need to stop all development of new fossil fuel resources, and stop exploitation of some active fossil fuel resources.

We're not doing that. We're not even close to doing that.


So instead of looking at emission rates...

Lowering the emission rates does buy us time to tackle the problem. It's hard to solve something right away & all in one go. But if you can put our friend Zeno to work, you might have a chance.


It is unlikely that countries with oil and gas will leave it in the ground. However, quite a bit of the coal is in countries that are prosperous and which should be able to muster the political will to leave the coal in the ground. That would be a great improvement.

It's not just China and India. It's nations in Africa that are prime for (re)industrialization.

Keep an especially close eye on African countries in which China has made infrastructure investments. Those roads, railways, and ports will be pumping raw resources in the near future, but I'd be willing to bet that eventually export of finished goods will be a major component as China's labor force demands more higher wages.

At that point Africa's carbon emissions graph will start to look very familiar.


The protests in france are a little more nuanced than a simple reaction to a new gas tax. They are in the context of a larger budget debate. There is an air in all western countries that the highest earners aren't being treated fairly. New policies that favor the rich have become a norm. The people of france are rebelling against that trend, as they have done dozens of times in France's past.

The graph in this story is the heart of the matter. Look at who benefits most from the latest changes to France's budget. The disposable incomes of the vast magority of people are unchanged (+/- 1%) with a massive benefit to the very wealthy. In that context, fuel taxes become a far bigger deal.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46437904


Also, a reform of the school system means that fewer students will be going to college, so the students are out protesting that too.

Really these protests are an amalgamation of various groups that have almost nothing in common with each other other than being upset with the current government. And some of the goals are even opposing... presumably those students want something done about climate change, but they've joined pro-global-warming protests and are about to throw out a government trying to do something about climate change, just because they're upset about college.

They're probably correct that taxes should be going up on the wealthy. And it's also probably correct that taxing energy consumption is the wrong approach to take when you have industrial mega-polluters that can individually put out more carbon than whole countries. Maersk going carbon-neutral is the best climate news I've heard in a long time.

On the other hand, it's easy for the young to demand in front of the UN that something be done about climate change... it's harder when the changes you demand begin to impact you personally (says a person who has felt no real impact himself).


I also would not underestimate the significance of the yellow jackets. They symbolize many things beyond the gas tax paid by drivers. They are a thing that the government says you have to carry in your car. They are a thing that can be inspected by a cop that pulls you over. They are also the symbol of someone who actually drives a car. Driving a car is where people are most policed by their governments (see all traffic laws). Anyone who has ever been pulled over by a cop, or saddled with a massive parking ticket, understands what it means to be a driver as opposed to someone like a politician who is driven.

(One of the big dislikes of Hillary Clinton is/was her admission that it had she hadn't driven a vehicle in decades. That means something to everyone on the political spectrum.)


also, the riots in france (and other european nations aswell by now) is mostly about the fact that the economy is doing great, but wages and funding of the social safety net have not been increased.

People are mainly angry because after a decade of austerity, they are not getting the spoils of a good economy.


Nuanced or not is pretty irrelevant. At the end of the day there is extremely little tolerance for making carbon sources of energy more expensive. It's certainly not just France - in the US the gas tax was last raised 25 years ago, it is not indexed to inflation, and there is 0 substantive political discussion about raising that tax in the US.

I'm reminded of Stein's Law. It is not exactly right, but it is how I feel this will likely play out. At least if reduction in carbon emissions is the only card we have in our hand. I.e. we will stop emitting carbon when (for all practical purposes) we run out. Not before.

At some point I do expect people will start having more serious discussions about how much climate engineering we are willing to undertake. Certainly the upper atmosphere sulfur dioxide injection has some plausible utility, in addition to being short-lived should it prove counterproductive. Collectively, humans seem to have more appetite for engineering our way out of problems than conserving.


Option two, we can stop emitting when it becomes obsolete. That means two unforeseen technical miracles could save us, as opposed to just the one of climate engineering that works. I bet it would be a lot easier to organize a "moon landing" program for fusion or something like it than it would be to talk the entire world into reducing economic activity.

Actually, I think this is a great point. I think the only thing that will keep us from being "truly and globally fucked" is if we develop economical fusion power in the next 30 years or so.

It looks to be a self-correcting problem. Eventually the side-effect of burning hydrocarbons will kill off the creatures who insist on burning hydrocarbons.

No, it kills off creatures who burn relatively little hydrocarbons per capita because they lack the resources to adapt, while the largest consumers of hydrocarbons survive because they can afford to adapt.

For France it's better to delay judgement, it's a messy protest movement. I despised it at first because why "defend cars" but these people don't care about cars or fossil fuels. It's just that they have no other way to find and go to a job.

ps: no other way as in other modes of transportation worsen badly, they did use train but it's too unreliable and a lot more expensive than a few years ago. This is the kind of things that made them go crazy.


We will all have no way to find a job when the planet is destroyed.

Planet ain't going anywhere. Only us.

> It seems to me we are truly and globally fucked

Yep. I'd say that's clear. My only consolation will be all those "told you so" opportunities. And I have moved north, uphill, and into a region of small farms. So hey.

Maybe it's aliens who are using humanity to "terraform" Earth into a climate that's more favorable to them. That makes about as much sense as anything else.


Who exactly is behind this yellow jacket stuff, though? How about everybody else goes on the streets? We're talking about the survival of hundreds of millions of people, even billions of people, and a few thousand people engaging in vandalism make gas tax increase not an option, just like that?

Why do we so easily accept mass starvation and wars in the future, but not harsh laws now? And no, I don't mean tax the middle class and the poor, by all means tax private jets to hell, too. But don't "non-tax" our future to hell and just shrug it off.

> Current US administration is going 180 degrees in the other direction

So fight it. It's not like everybody started "grabbing women by the pussy" just because Trump was elected, how could you care what he and his interest groups want when it comes to something even more important? Is that's what anyone wants to tell their children, that there was this guy, and so nobody could do anything?

> Even if places like China and India go all out to try to reduce their reliance on carbon, their huge populations and still relatively low level of development mean that there is a tidal wave of new "carbon users" coming.

Okay, that's but that's then, and there. Saying "we can't do anything" just excuses everybody not doing anything, and it worsens the example we set, to boot. How about we do something out of principle, for once, because it's the right thing to do? Even if it's "inevitable" as you say, it's not like we're not doing other things, who knows what inventions or discoveries we can still make - so every year we buy, is better.

We are the generations with the least excuses. We know more than those before us, we can be certain it's happening, and we have more options than those after us. Our lack of using those options will further restrict their options.

First we did nothing (serious) because it wasn't clear if it would so bad, it was "controversial". Then suddenly it jumps over to "inevitable". There is the middle part that's missing, where people act, and don't excuse their present inactions with predictions how it would not matter if they acted, knowing full well they will never have to face the people they condemned, or how their predictions turned out, what could have happened if they had chosen differently.


More than. 70% of French citizens sympathize with the yellow jackets, so no one is really gonna go out and oppose them. Unfortunately I think that unless you have a completely authoritarian government, it will be hard to convince your citizens to accept short term loss for long term benefits such as preserving the environment.

Reducing carbon emissions sounds good until you consider that you could actually just save up some money, move somewhere away from the shore, and live out the rest of your life.

What incentives are the carbon-reducing crowds providing for the common man? Are they going to finally get it together and build affordable housing in our coastal cities? Are they going to let us park electric vehicles or do we have to ride the bike? Can we still use cash or does every business have to be cash free? Are they going to assure that my water is safe to drink or just ban plastic water bottles and let me die? Can we be responsible for our own safety or do we have to live in a police state?

There is there no semblance of choice on the opposing side. It's all or nothing "REDUCE WASTEFUL BEHAVIORS NOW" (but look the other way as we allow business to do whatever they like). Who would ever submit to that? I'd rather plan my contingency now than become a slave to whatever future the bureaucrats decide for us.


you seem to vastly underestimate how impossible "moving somewhere away from the shore" would be for the majority of the world's population.

For instance, my country would be over 50% flooded with a 2 meter searise.

also, countries like bangladesh are truely screwed, and it has a population of 150 million people!

not to mention that climate change would make our global economy collapse and high yield argriculture impossible.


Bangladesh's problem isn't that it's so close to sea level it's that it's poor. California's problem isn't that droughts make forest fires it's that they're aren't quite so rich that they can live in the middle of a tinderbox.

An entire country being wiped out from sea level rise is a problem that is pretty specific to Bangladesh. It only takes 9m of sea level rise to flood more than 70% of Bangladesh.

If you need to provide incentives for doing the right thing it suggests that you haven't won the argument yet about what the right thing is.

What does everyone think about an open source project to find and eliminate all personal nonrenewable carbon emissions? Something like a spreadsheet across all features that can be optimized, possibly with machine learning. For example:

* Best/cheapest/easiest rooftop solar parts and suppliers

* Best/cheapest/easiest electric/hybrid cars

* Most practical home greenhouse and hydroponic kits (for growing all non-grain fruits and vegetables at home)

* Most sustainable and local sources of free-range and grass-fed meat and dairy products

* Most feasible carpool/ride sharing services

* Most feasible group living arrangements

Etc etc etc (I'm sure I'm forgetting a few). I know that all of these services exist in various forms, but we need a plan yesterday that people can just jump onboard with. I have friends installing amortized solar panels paid for by the installer, others with backyard chicken coops, some with hybrid and electric vehicles, and so on.

Things are changing but not nearly at the speed they could be if we made this all more accessible. I used to be blocked by lack of income, now it's lack of time. For most people it's probably lack of information and willpower. None of these are technology reasons. Which suggests to me that these are logistical problems that we could finally solve relatively quickly.


These things are a lot more complicated than that, with a million permutations across all the zip codes of the world. You're better off focusing on tools to help people find what suits them, rather than a ten line list "best solar panel, best car, best rideshare..."

For solar, try: https://www.energysage.com/


Great idea and an easy one to start

I cannot take any of these reports seriously unless they are comparing emissions from each country on a per capita basis.

This is an easy way to make US look like a responsible polluter compared to India and China.

Its a different ball game, if you factor in the total emissions per capita over last 100 years, in which case, US emissions are probably a few multiples over China and India combined (that's my guess. I'm too lazy to calculate these numbers).


Earth's atmosphere doesn't care about per-capita emissions - it just cares about absolute concentrations of greenhouse gases. If you want to solve the problem, largest (in absolute terms - not per capita) emitters need to cut back. Somewhere in the world one human emits more CO2 per capita than everyone else in the world. If they stop emitting, we haven't solved anything.

Earth's atmosphere doesn't care about geo-political boundaries either

Countries won't solve it. If Americans can own up to the fact that per capita reduction in co2 emissions by them, will have a huge effect on co2 emissions in the world (because that means practices/regulations/technology that'll trickle down to largest polluting countries.), then it'll mean genuine difference.

American media has no right to point fingers at countries that has never been among the highest per capita polluters in the world, and has been so historically. Sadly, Americans (those who are into virtue signaling) are too hung up on stuff fed by NYT to realize that they have been polluting the most, and them pontificating to others will help no one.


You have some good points. I personally think we still would have an unacceptably large problem w.r.t. climate change regardless of what happens in the USA. And the U.S.'s potential for emissions growth is just so much smaller than other large countries - and ones that have strong, independent governments to boot. The US is definitely a big player. I think it is still most useful to look at this in terms of emissions per geo-political entity rather than per capita since that will be the mechanism by which the problem is addressed (or not).

I agree with you on the "U.S.'s potential for emissions growth is just so much smaller".

But my POV (as someone who spend 1/3 of my life in US and rest in India) is that US has huge potential to cut down on unnecessary emissions in terms of HVAC, lighting, using efficient cars, subsidizing public transport systems. Hence I have this huge bias against the energy consumption habits of Americans in the US.

Main problem is that the economy of US and many developed nations run on fuel burning carbon emitting industries (crude oil, car manufacturing, gas/electric utilities, car dealerships selling IC engine cars, HVAC equipment). That is why lobbies in US scuttle any govt moves toward encouraging solar/wind power, electric cars (It's a surprise for me that Tesla has survived this far), public transport systems.

I also agree that emissions as a geo-political entity helps in driving global policies to reduce emissions. But beyond that, if US is not setting an example like recently GM shut down many sedan making plants in US and Canada (and POTUS gives an excuse that he'll get rid of subsidies for GM's electric cars while Americans are moving back to their SUV craze), it's only going to mean tougher choices for India and China to make, with costs born by those citizens, and a price will be paid by the current heads of state in the respective countries because they capitulated to US's pontificating (Eg: Canada PM has a growing anti incumbency for the next round of elections).

India is making the right moves as of now (crazy huge solar fields and alliances, massive investments in public transport infra, LPG and electricity connections / supply to more households etc), but it'll take a decade at least for any of this to materialize into reduced emissions.

(None of this is even factoring the pollution in China because of US's consumption of goods manufactured in China and transported to the US, which gives US kind of a free ticket to pontificate saying they are not the most most polluting country.)


I personally think we still would have an unacceptably large problem w.r.t. climate change regardless of what happens in the USA

It might be too late now, but the US has set the example & led the way for the rest of the world on certain things for decades. Soft power. We can do it again, but we have to lead from the front.


Obviously both are important. The biggest absolute polluters must cut back. But the highest per capita emitters have the biggest room for easy improvement.

It's like the debate over water in the West. 80% of water goes to agriculture, so they make the biggest splash and there's no way to cut water usage in half without improving agriculture. But of the 7-20% that goes to residential, half is used on lawns, which is a luxury good. And speaking of lawns, we generate quite a lot of emissions taking care of them.


That person sounds Despicable. :)

Damn, downvoted for a lighthearted Gru joke :(. I mean, c'mon, have you seen the 'car' that Gru drives? Aside from being fictional, he sure does look like he has a claim to the most carbon emitted by a single individual.

Eh, that doesn't necessarily provide fair statistics. Lets use this contrived example with made up numbers where the US has a population of 500 million and China 1 billion.

US per capita: 1000 tons of CO2 per year

China per capita: 1000 tons of CO2 per year.

Looks like China is twice as good. But if you break out population statistics and 500 million of them live in mud huts and produce almost no CO2, then the other half that have moved to US like living conditions produce US like carbon.


If US and China both produce 1000 tons of CO2 per capita per year, then China is twice as bad as the US, not twice as good.

The measure you're looking for is carbon intensity of economy. How many tons of CO2 are produced per, say $1000 of economic output.

> But if you break out population statistics and 500 million of them live in mud huts and produce almost no CO2, then the other half that have moved to US like living conditions produce US like carbon.

That's not really indicative of anything other than a wealth disparity, which I'm sure can happen both in high and low per capita polluters.


How much of China's CO2 is emitted to produce things for the US to consume?

China's GDP is 13.5 trillion nominal USD and their annual trade deficit with the US (their largest export) is 335 billion USD. So not much.

Carbon Brief has data on this on a worldwide basis

https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-worlds-largest-co2-import...


Exactly, China emissions are also the result of European and American companies producing products in China for all the world.

The planet will be just as warm if one person emits all the carbon as ten billion.

Also, reducing your population growth rate is a great way to reduce carbon emissions. A world with 500 million people living in luxury is arguably better than one with 15 billion where the living envy the dead.

Though you get to some key points. The most annoying issue is perhaps that China's emissions are largely a result of building crap for rich people in the US and Europe.


It looks like exports from China are about 20% of GDP:

https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NE.EXP.GNFS.ZS

It's possible but does not seem particularly likely that exports are more than 2.5x as GHG-intensive as the rest of the Chinese economy; that's what would be required for Chinese exports to account for the majority of Chinese GHG emissions.

"They're just giving buyers what they demand" is not a good reason to shift blame from American corporate polluters to the consumers that buy their products. I don't see why export-oriented Chinese corporations should face less criticism for the same pollution. Both the benefits (increased market share) and the detriments (increased pollution) come from the same decisions these companies make about using dirty cheap energy.


Relatively ignorant observer here. I thought things were looking pretty good on this front.

How does this headline square with "The U.S. Leads All Countries In Reducing Carbon Emissions" (Oct 2017)? [1]

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/rrapier/2017/10/24/yes-the-u-s-...


> The U.S. Leads All Countries In Reducing Carbon Emissions

I guess that's technically not false (depending on the definition of "leads"), but it's like saying "Flint, MI leads all US cities in reducing the amount of lead in tap water".


The article states that China accounts for twice as much emissions as the United States:

> The world’s largest emitter is still China, which produces 27 percent of global carbon emissions, according to the report. The United States accounts for 15 percent of emissions, the European Union 10 percent and India 7 percent.

> China’s emissions are projected to rise 4.7 percent in 2018, the report said. The country is stimulating manufacturing to counterbalance its slowing economy, allowing more coal-based manufacturing that it had avoided in the past, Dr. Jackson said.

> United States emissions are expected to rise 2.5 percent this year after several years of declines, and despite a shift away from coal toward cleaner sources of energy. Dr. Jackson attributed part of the increase to a colder-than-normal winter in some parts of the country and a hotter summer in other parts, which inflated demand for heating and cooling.


EU seems to be doing way better than the US on a per capita basis - 10% for 512 million people versus 15% for 325 million in US.

Population density (people/km2)

- EU: 116

- US: 33

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_dependen...


And Sweden has a density of 23 while having lower carbon emissions than the EU average.

The US's problems include relatively heavy coal (30% still) and a heavy automobile culture (due to low density of cities, not the country)


We can't conclude the US's low density cities are entirely to blame for a heavy automobile culture. The auto companies are pumping out gas guzzlers by the millions, people are buying souped-up F-150's to drive solo to their office job, they're buying shiny Escalades to take their chihuhua to the groomer, it's not just about density. There's a real problem with the consumers themselves demanding these polluting products, with around 40% of the country thinking climate change is no big deal, and with the corporations all bowing down to this carbon culture.

You didn't explain, but I assume your point is that it's easier to reduce emissions per capita when populations are more dense. E.g. less transportation required.

Yes, its the "we have so much space that we are doomed" argument.

If they believe the EU is cheating through higher population density, just move your population closer together?


No one is talking about "cheating".

They are talking about tradeoffs. One tradeoffs of elbow room is longer transit and more emissions.


Canada has density of 4 people/km2, and somehow manages to have less per capita CO2 than the US.

IMHO, makes sense to adjust per GDP, not per capita. In a hypothetical world, where George Hotz would produce 50% of all world's products at the expense of 20% of total emissions, he shouldn't be the one to focus on.

> The article states that China accounts for twice as much emissions as the United States:

Don't forget that china is also making a comeback in CFC emissions.


The article directly addresses the US:

> United States emissions are expected to rise 2.5 percent this year after several years of declines, and despite a shift away from coal toward cleaner sources of energy. Dr. Jackson attributed part of the increase to a colder-than-normal winter in some parts of the country and a hotter summer in other parts, which inflated demand for heating and cooling.

October 2017 was before the cold winter and hot summer. Not to mention that the US output falling 1% per year is not nearly as big of an impact as China's growing by 5% per year. As the article mentions, US emissions are only 15% of global.


Yeah, this is a new development:

> United States emissions are expected to rise 2.5 percent this year after several years of declines

> “We thought oil use had peaked in the U.S. and Europe 15 years ago,” he said. “The cheap gasoline prices, bigger cars and people driving more miles are boosting oil use at rates that none of us expected.”


That's the result, and we can probably see the cause here with the number of environmental rollbacks we've had. Read them, especially the ones related to oil/coal. I'm sure there will be even more to come now that Andrew Wheeler is the new head of the EPA (a former coal lobbyist): http://environment.law.harvard.edu/policy-initiative/regulat...

Pretty scary that it seems to have happened this fast!

The were, from the article though: "United States emissions are expected to rise 2.5 percent this year after several years of declines." Also, the article you sourced is about what Scott Pruitt said, and he's not exactly unbiased!

It means the natural means of sequestering carbon are being overloaded

US comments are pretty staggering: "We're probably not the biggest problem so we won't do anything."

Let's see how many decades it will take before we all find out that this isn't a country but a world problem.


“Fuck you, got mine”

The article offhand mentions that we're on track for RCP 8.5, or 8.5 W/m^2 additional heat in 2100. That should fucking terrify you. That's 4 C global temperature rise, a .75 meter sea level rise, and a doubling of ocean acidity. Page 82 of the IPCC report[1] has some fast facts- at RCP 8.5 most of the wild animals on earth will start dying out from lack of freshwater. Corals and molluscs will die out, and all ocean species will be affected. All coastal settlements will need extensive protection from higher sea level, and some will just be overwhelmed by the ocean. By 2300 they will all be overwhelmed by rising sea levels. Human food supply is greatly affected in the next 20+ years under RCP 8.5:

> All aspects of food security are potentially affected by climate change, including food production, access, use and price stability (high confidence). For wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions, climate change without adaptation is projected to negatively impact production at local temperature increases of 2°C or more above late 20th century levels, although individual locations may benefit (medium confidence). Projected impacts vary across crops and regions and adaptation scenarios, with about 10% of projections for the 2030–2049 period showing yield gains of more than 10%, and about 10% of projections showing yield losses of more than 25%, compared with the late 20th century. Global temperature increases of ~4°C or more above late 20th century levels, combined with increasing food demand, would pose large risks to food security, both globally and regionally (high confidence)

The accompanying chart shows that human food yield is expected to decrease by ~25%.

> By 2100 for RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity in some areas for parts of the year is expected to compromise common human activities, including growing food and working outdoors (high confidence).

What the report doesn't talk about is that by 2200, global temperature rise would be 6 C. 8 C by 2300. Those are both apocalyptic. The earth has only been that hot once before[2], and the warming period occurred over 20,000 years, caused by CO2 being released 20 times more slowly than we add it. Unlike the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum, species would not be able to adapt to this change. The mass die-offs would wipe out everything but the most resilient and isolated disaster species, and the Earth would enter an anoxic event. Methane and levels of other toxic gases would skyrocket and oxygen levels would suddenly plummet. Humans would need sealed shelters to survive. There would be no natural ice anywhere on earth.

Any worse than RCP 8.5 and the earth enters a runaway greenhouse. At that point the atmosphere turns into Venus, and life on Earth really would be over.

[1]: https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/SYR_AR5_FINA...

[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene%E2%80%93Eocene_Therm...


A decade or two ago I was pretty optimistic. The world came together to phase out CFCs after all, albeit a problem an order or two of magnitude smaller.

Unless things like Extinction Rebellion somehow become mainstream (https://rebellion.earth/) in short order I think we're fucked. I think we have to actually accept we're fucked to start doing enough substantive about it. When we can see that wall we're about to hit in 20 seconds. For fuck knows how many individuals and species that will be too late.

If we were somehow able to provide CO2 free generation and industry for the top 5 emitting countries tomorrow, we'd simply use the glut of oil we now have for additional plastics, chemicals or consumer products. Just like happened with the extra production from fracking in the US. Apparently humanity are simply not capable of leaving it in the ground.

At this point we may as well simply start heating the outside, and buy a bigger car, to use the oil up faster. Why do anything else? Politicians are still wanting continual growth, are still taking pride in the new fracking site, the extra plastic industry that's started up, or their country's record coal exports. Banning a few carrier bags and exporting "recycling" to the developing world is fucking hilarious. The world's political reaction to the IPCC report was predictable.

> At some point I do expect people will start having more serious discussions about how much climate engineering

I figure the point where a substantive reaction will start will be when it's so far gone even the deniers have come around. When it's no longer possible to claim there's no connection between smoking and health. I don't really want to imagine the state of the world when we might achieve that. Maybe that's after the oceans have had the 95% extinction event.

Even HN threads on the topic seem to be increasingly questioning whether it's a problem at all, and "climate's always been changing" etc etc.

Meanwhile the only thing UK govt cares about for the last 2 years is making ourselves an insignificant global laughing stock via Brexit. I think I'm all out of optimism now. :(


> A decade or two ago I was pretty optimistic. The world came together to phase out CFCs after all, albeit a problem an order or two of magnitude smaller.

ps we started releasing CFCs again


s/we/China

Doesn’t matter who when the ozone layer is gone.

> Any worse than RCP 8.5 and the earth enters a runaway greenhouse. At that point the atmosphere turns into Venus, and life on Earth really would be over.

I don't see how that would be possible (and at least the scientists at the ICPP don't believe it would be possible either, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_greenhouse_effect).

At the end of the day, it is believed that all or almost all of the oil, coal and natural gas we use comes from biogenic sources, meaning it used to be in the atmosphere at some point in the past. We're basically taking what was once in the air, then stored underground, and putting it back out in the air again. Much (if not most?) of Earth's history has been without any ice caps, so it's not like this state will lead to a Venus-like Earth.

Of course, a 4-8 degree hotter Earth without ice caps still means the deaths of billions of people, so I'm not saying it's not a total disaster, but I just don't see how a runaway greenhouse effect is possible just from burning fossil fuels.


> I don't see how that would be possible (and at least the scientists at the ICPP don't believe it would be possible either

That's down to the fact that emitting more than 8.5 RCP requires some insane choices. Like, as you say, burning pretty much everything. A low-end runaway greenhouse can happen with 12 W/m^2 forcing[1], which would mean temperature changes ~20 C compared to 4-8, and multiple times more CO2.

> At the end of the day, it is believed that all or almost all of the oil, coal and natural gas we use comes from biogenic sources, meaning it used to be in the atmosphere at some point in the past.

That is a very, very silly way to look at it. The total weight of carbon in the air is 870 gigatons. There are 1000 gigatons in ocean life, 2000 gigatons in the terrestrial biosphere, and 4000 gigatons in fossil fuel reserves. The fact that it was in the atmosphere at one point is irrelevant; I've drunk thousands of gallons of water in my lifetime. If you were to return those to my body all at once, I would explode.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runaway_climate_change


> Much (if not most?) of Earth's history has been without any ice caps, so it's not like this state will lead to a Venus-like Earth.

But much of Earth's history has been without land plants too. They appeared only after 90% of Earth history already passed: only 450 million years ago. Earth exists for 4.5 billion years.

(Also to compare, we started burning gasoline after 99.999997% of the Earth history already passed, and managed to burn during that small time period the half of all easily reachable oil in the Earth crust! For which the Earth needed... effectively all 4.5 billion years to manage to accumulate there. The size of what we did is mind-boggling on so many levels. Ah, yes, also during much of the Earth history there was effectively no oxygen in the atmosphere: it appeared in "breathable" quantities only after 77% of the current Earth's age already passed, if the Earth would be a 90-year-old lady: the oxygen exists only since she was 70, plants since she's 81, and we burned the half of easily reachable oil in only the last 1 minute 34 seconds)


The sun was dimmer in the past, so similar co2 levels as then mean more warning.

https://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-higher-in-past.htm


This really needs to be the top comment. I don't understand how anyone is worried about any. other. problem. at this point.

The solution is to dump money into R&D and figure out how to "scoop" the C02 out of the air and then break it apart into carbon and oxygen. A series of solar powered drones could hopefully do this. This may sound far fetched, but I think global political action before its too late is even more far fetched.

Send the money into DARPA and call it increased defense spending to appease the elephants.



And for fuel synthesis, seawater is a vastly more viable source, and the research more than a half-century old:

https://old.reddit.com/r/dredmorbius/comments/28nqoz/electri...


Things are just fucked. It's already too late, the drastic changes are needed for mitigation at this point - not prevention - and we as a species can't even accomplish that. Things are going to get much, much worse.

It kills me how many people think the debates that are going now are to "prevent" climate issues. The time to prevent passed, and now the time to dampen the blow is passing.

I feel terrible for kids being born right now. They're inheriting an absolute disaster of a planet.


That is a pretty staggering amount of uncertainty. The US for example looks like it could be anywhere from 0.5% to 4.5%. That is something I would like to know with more certainty before undertaking any major public policies.

From a simple triage standpoint it would seem that focusing on developing economies would hold the most promise. China and India are the likely leaders and given the population and current state of development could get much worse.


Per-capita emissions are the highest in the US, Canada, and Australia [1]. The US is also the second-largest emitter of CO2. There is much to be gained by focusing on emissions in the US. Unfortunately, most USians would like a large house with yard, 2+ large cars, etc.

Also think about cultural projections -- Hollywood often depicts wealthy people shuttling around in large, inefficient SUVs. These images and aspirations are then transmitted to the rest of the world.

https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/sc...


Per capita is a BS way to look at it. If US emissions are growing at 0.5% per year then there is nothing to do. It will take 140 years to double and the natural progression of technology will easily solve the problem. Solar and other renewable technologies are advancing so fast that economic factors will take over and there will be much less need for fossil fuels very shortly. On the other hand if a country with a large population is growing emissions at 8% then that is less than a decade to double which is a huge problem.

On another note, why do resent the lifestyle of average people? Not everybody wants to live in an urban hellscape with millions of other people. You speak about it with such contempt.


What is the lifestyle of the average person? It’s certainly not that of a USian

The average salary worldwide is 10k USD.

I agree that many people would like to live in some sort of idyllic rural or suburban setting. Indeed, that is what I prefer myself.

However, with 7 billion of us in this planet, we may have to rethink what is feasible.


From a simple standpoint massive multigigaton reductions are needed in all sectors and countries.

Which was true 10 years ago, 5 years ago, and remains true now with little change. Fracking has been pretty much the biggest net reduction in carbon (nat gas has half the emissions of coal). So far solar, wind, etc has made little dent.

This isn’t a political issue and politicizing it by claiming sudden urgency is an error - merely changing leadership won’t matter. Major changes are needed yesterday, and so far neither party in the US has ever proposed anything resembling the scale of change needed.


> Major changes are needed yesterday, and so far neither party in the US has ever proposed anything resembling the scale of change needed.

No, but at least Democrats proposed and passed something.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Clean_Energy_and_Se...


Yes with little actual impact. Something far more courageous is needed

I am not sure how you or I or US can focus on developing economies. We should focus on ourselves. Do our part first and negotiate with the rest of the world second.

How is it the string "corporat*" only shows up twice (in the same comment) in all these (as of writing) 103 comments.

I checked it out 17 hours later, yours is the third mention. Compa* is not much better.

What do we do nategri? Hard not to feel hopeless about it all.


I know cryptocurrencies are popular here but IMHO crypto should be immediately banned before they start generating more and more emissions.

Does that have to be the case? Crypto mining can be done in areas with surplus hydroelectric power that can't be efficiently distributed elsewhere.

But in reality, this by and large isn't what's happening. Some mining is done with surplus hydroelectric power. A lot isn't.

I don't think crypto should be banned because I don't know how you'd enforce that effectively, but it's a real issue.


> I don't think crypto should be banned because I don't know how you'd enforce that effectively, but it's a real issue.

You can't think of how cyrpto could be clamped down on but i assume your onboard with taxing carbon?

Because i can't think how you would enforce that effectively.


This is a great point.

That's a very ignorant opinion, considering that proof-of-stake cryptocurrencies have insignificant emissions.

Sure, there are probably nuances to account for like how much energy generation is used.

Not sure if you're understanding what he's saying, but just in case:

Bitcoin and similar are Proof-of-Work currencies, which have you do arbitrary hashes to prove that you deserve a vote on the blockchain. The cost of that computing energy makes it infeasible to generate bad votes when the entire community is voting against you.

Ethereum and similar are Proof-of-Stake, which require you to own coins to vote on the blockchain. That doesn't require any computational effort since it's easy to verify that you actually own the currency. Given that it's distributed, it still requires more energy to reach consensus than a centralized system, but it's basically infinitesimal. For all practical purposes it can be ignored.


Oh I see, thanks for pointing that out.

For Bitcoin at least, that's already happening simply because of market forces. It now costs (very roughly) twice as much to mine a Bitcoin as one is worth, so mining is no longer economical.

How do you propose we ban them?

Begin tracking and disrupting the node networks via which blocks are propagated. Run tainted nodes which track IPs submitting transactions or full-clients requesting blocks, use Tor traffic analysis to work back to any cloaked users. Disrupt the IRC channels that allow bootstrapping, poison P2P listings. ISP-level/backbone-level deep packet inspection to identify nodes (doesn't need to be unencrypted, you can fingerprint connections from deep-learned traffic analysis and connection characteristics, see: Great Firewall). Then traffic/network analysis working from known nodes to identify other likely nodes in the network. General attacks on any crypto services or infrastructure advertised in public fashion (eg light-client providers, exchanges, tumblers).

(the NSA has all these cool toys... it'd be a shame not to use them!)

You can also make it virtually impossible to interchange cryptos into real cash, which guts the utility of it for most users. Ban exchanges from operating or offering services to customers in first-world countries, extradite those who persist. Sting operations on local-btc transactions. Apply RICO/war-on-drugs style roll-em-up tactics on those who persist - you're going to jail for 20 years unless you give up someone worth knowing or help us break some network worth breaking. The achilles' heel of the crypto world is that it's anonymous until you try and do something in the real world, and the financial system is an obvious point to attack from.

If we can take down Silk Road, we can take down other things in the crypto-world as well. I'd much rather our law enforcement concentrate on fighting a War on Cryptocurrency than a War on Drugs. Would certainly take cooperation from most of the first world as well as China, but China already imposes some pretty draconian stuff on their internet users. They're not thrilled with people using it to move money offshore, they're not thrilled with all the crypto users stealing electricity, they'd probably be down for cracking down too.

Oh yeah, legalize a bunch of drugs and decriminalize everything else, and you pretty much gut the crypto-economy. A massive amount of the crypto-economy centers around Silk Road-style operations and you can easily gut those with the stroke of a pen. Most users stop caring and the crypto-economy then largely collapses. The number of people who actually want murder markets or kiddie porn and are willing to do shady cash-for-bitcoin deals in a van in a Wal-Mart parking lot is not enough to actually sustain the market on their own.

Crypto only works because there's a veneer of legality, drug markets that people want to access, and relatively easy interchange to and from FILTHY GOVERNMENT FIAT, and we can nuke all three of those. Then you just clean up anyone still stupid enough to participate.


The same way you ban carbon emissions.

Part of me hopes there's some strange conspiracy theory like the US is sitting on some amazing new battery tech, but won't release it until the trade spat with China is over with. I know I sound like a loon, but a revolutionary new durable battery will be the holy grail of this century.

If you want proof as to how taboo climate science skepticism has become, look at how quickly (less than ten minutes) my sourced, rational comment in this thread was down voted and flagged.

Flagged! For skepticism!


> Please don't comment about the voting on comments.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


The evidence is overwhelming.

There is no way to be a "rational" and "sourced" climate skeptic because all roads lead to the same conclusions.

People like you will cause millions of deaths over the next 100 years.


[flagged]


Only to people who assume science is only about proving something wrong rather than expanding to a better understanding.

How do you improve understanding if you've decided that something is true and forbidden any questioning of the subject? Science cannot exist without skepticism - otherwise it's just dogma.

Please comment in good faith and don't weasel around with wording.

You know plenty of scientific discovery happens because scientists are further investigating the mechanisms of something.

Nobody is studying cancer trying to prove it doesn't kill people. You don't have to be a "cancer skeptic" to further our understanding of the problems.


Your flagged post began with an allegation of bad faith against the entire field of climate science.

edit: looks like it's not even flagged anymore.


My "allegation of bad faith" is a regular topic on HN, because it is plaguing most soft sciences in modern academia. Climate science is not immune - especially because of it's practical unfalsifiabity. If science is broken then it's conclusions must be treated with skepticism - even if researches are on average well meaning.

[flagged]


Let's try applying the same logic to another field.

"Without another solar system to act as a control, and astronomical timescales in which to perform the experimentation, the science is bunk. Our understanding of the solar system must rely on models which are constantly being tweaked to better fit the observations (first Newtonian gravity, now special and general relativity too!)"


>> Even as coal has fallen out of favor in some markets, the rise in emissions has been driven primarily by stronger demand for natural gas and oil

This is interesting. If you care about CO2 emissions, you don't want to use coal because it's mostly carbon. But if you care about the greenhouse effect, you probably want to burn coal rather than gas or oil because those contain a lot of hydrogen which forms water vapor when burned. And water vapor is a far stronger greenhouse gas.

Either way I'd prefer if planes burned coal so they wouldn't produce contrails. Yeah, I know why that's not going to happen.


Water vapour from burning fuel does not contribute to climate change:

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas#Role_of_water_v...



It's hard for me to take climate science seriously when

1. We know of the state of crisis that all other soft sciences are in (p-value abuse, publish or perish, institutional bias, replication crisis) [3]

2. We know that the earth has been substantially warmer in the past (with accompanyingly higher CO2 levels) and life thrived [2]

3. We know that we've been coming out of an ice age since long before the industrial revolution [1]

4. It is nearly impossible to find studies for possible benefits of a warmer earth, because the subject is, frankly, taboo. For example, expansion of arable land from melting permafrost.

5. We are extrapolating a ~hundred year old trend in a system which normally evolves on scales of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, and sudden historic shifts are likely beyond the resolution of geologic records (ice cores only get you ~<1ma, older records have substantially lower temporal resolution)

Modern climate science is extremely biased, does not allow for skepticism, and is therefore bad science.

Of course, none of that precludes erring on the side of caution. But dogma is bad for everyone.

1.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holocene_glacial_retreat

2.https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phanerozoic_Climate_Cha...

3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S001632871...


I'm just a layman, not a climate scientist, but I don't think the magnitude of the warming is our big issue. The issue is how quickly it's changing. Previous warming events happened very slowly; even the quickest ones occurred over thousands or tens of thousands of years. Ours is happening a couple orders of magnitude faster.

We can look back, not at the geological record, but at the biological record. Large, fast shifts like this one cause big extinctions. The biosphere cannot react quickly without huge, unpredictable changes.

I'm sure there are conceivable benefits to a warmer earth, but we have to get from here to there without dying and that's what everyone is chiefly concerned about.


>Previous warming events happened very slowly; even the quickest ones occurred over thousands or tens of thousands of years

Here's the problem - we don't actually know how quickly historic shifts have occurred, because our evidence comes from geologic and fossil records that simply do not have good resolution past 1Ma or so.

Especially consider all the doomsday runaway scenarios like the clathrate gun and melting permafrost - did these conditions not exist hundreds of millions of years ago during other shifts? If these hypotheses are true, then surely historic warming has occurred with similar rapidity.


That's what I'm saying. Historical changes to the climate have occurred, maybe with similar rapidity, maybe slower, and they caused huge extinctions. The best case, I guess, is that the shift is slow AND life is hardier than we expected, and we get through it ok, maybe with just a few species disappearing.

But the downside risk is the extinction of a huge swath of life on Earth. (The first species to go, historically, have been big animals with high metabolisms--things with similar volume/surface area ratios as us)


> because our evidence comes from geologic and fossil records that simply do not have good resolution past 1Ma or so.

That's not true. For any point when oceanic life was common, their sediments give WAY better resolution than that.


Not even close.

Fossil dating is based on whether or not certain marker species exist in a particular rock sample. The very same species that gradually evolve and become extinct on scales of millions of years. The resolution is piss poor, and so unreliable that most wells in petroleum forgo biostratigraphic dating altogether.


You seem to be conflating the duration of a geologic event (i.e. rate of change, which is the subject of discussion) with the absolute age.

You're talking out your ass.[1]

> Annually laminated (varved) lake sediments offer considerable potential as high-resolution archives of palaeo-environmental conditions where other high-resolution proxy indicators are not available (e.g., arid terrestrial regions), and latitudes poleward of the treeline (Lamoureux and Bradley, 1996; Wohlfarth et al., 1998; Hughen et al., 2000). When annual deposition of the varves can be independently confirmed (e.g., through radiometric dating), they provide seasonal to interannual resolution over centuries to millennia. Varved sediments can be formed from biological processes or from the deposition of inorganic sediments, both of which are often influenced by climate variations. Three primary climate variables may influence lake varves: (a) summer temperature, serving as an index of the energy available to melt the seasonal snowpack, or snow and ice on glaciers; (b) winter snowfall, which governs the volume of discharge capable of mobilising sediments when melting; and (c) rainfall. Laminated lake sediments dominated by (a) can be used for inferences about past high latitude summer temperature changes (e.g., Overpeck et al., 1997), while sediments dominated by the latter two influences can be used to estimate past drought and precipitation patterns (Section 2.5.2.2).

> Ocean sediments may also be useful for high-resolution climate reconstructions. In rare examples, annually laminated sediments can be found (e.g., Hughen et al., 1996; Black et al., 1999) and it is possible to incorporate isotope and other information in climate reconstructions, much as varved lake sediments are used. Otherwise, sedimentation rates may sometimes still be sufficiently high that century-scale variability is resolvable (e.g., the Bermuda rise ocean sediment oxygen isotope record of Keigwin, 1996). Dating in such cases, however, must rely on radiometric methods with relatively poor age control.

Biostratigraphic dating isn't how these things are dated. The existence of a species before or after an event isn't how the event is dated. It's not even really that relevant; it relies inherently on species that are not well represented. Instead well represented species, usually ones that didn't die out, are used.

Not to mention that biostratigraphic dating is a secondary evidence source... those fossils themselves are dated by far more accurate methods. Near as I can tell, you're basing this opinion off the resolution of radiometric rock dating, which is accurate to about a million years. That has nothing to do with measuring fast changes, which are measured via properties of the rock itself.

[1]: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:5WiaJ3...


The Siberian Traps massive igneous province (translation: near-continent-scale volcanic eruptions) have been dated to within 13-130ky. Still long by human timescales, but a geologic eyeblink, and well below 1My resolution.

The incident waas also associated with dramatic increases in atmospheric CO2 and mass extinctions.

https://www.skepticalscience.com/Burgess-Bowring-2015-Siberi...


Coming from a geologist, you're exactly right!

As a fellow geoscientist, you especially should be aware of the dating limitations of rock and fossil records. We simply do not have the resolution currently to know whether this kind of warming speed is truely unprecedented.

Hell - a huge part of petroleum exploration is understanding conditions of the surface during deposition of sediment. We're lucky to get 10Ma uncertainty for 100Ma old formations.

I've witnessed firsthand the degree of non scientific handwaving that plagues petroleum geoscience - in both geology and geophysics; and this is in a practical, applied field, where there is some degree of [loose] validation in the form of exploration success/failure. In an unfalsifiable field like climate science, where "validation" consists of retroactively adjusting models with hundreds of variables that can quite literally be tweaked to show almost any outcome? It is simply irrational to not be at least somewhat skeptical.


> We're lucky to get 10Ma uncertainty for 100Ma old formations.

Maybe a few decades ago. Ironically, much of my background is in U-Pb CA-ID-TIMS geochronology. The current state of the art in my community is between 0.05 and 0.01 % two-sigma relative, i.e. 10 to 50 ka at 100 Ma. To give one example, the chronology of the P-T extinction (the big one) is now constrained to the decamillenial level even though it we're talking about an extinction 252 million years ago [1].

Of course, 50,000 years is still quite long compared to modern anthropogenic effects, but the timescale bias of the geologic record is neither poorly known nor taboo (there are well cited papers about this exact problem [2]).

I should probably also reiterate that many records of interest to climate science are (1) much younger, so absolute precision is much higher than at 252 Ma and (2) may come with a built-in relative chronometer with annual resolution, as in ice cores, tree rings, varves, and some speleothems.

Imputing incompetence or bad faith to the entire field of climate science is not productive. While I'm not a climate scientist myself, I know many of them, and find them to be both honest and competent.

[1] http://www.pnas.org/content/111/9/3316.short [2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5227093/


It's hard for me to take your comment seriously when you're a layman dismissing the findings of thousands of highly trained scientists. The scary reality is that views like yours are not uncommon amongst the Fox News crowd, meanwhile IF you are wrong and the 1000's of climate experts are correct, we are headed for a global catastrophe. So, there is really very little benefit to your viewpoint, and very little from qualified individuals to support its skepticism.

1. Do you discard all sciences then?

2. Were there mammals living on Earth at these times?

3. Did temperatures rise this fast after the previous ice ages? If so, how did the most complex organisms adapt? Did they survive?

4. Is global warming taboo enough for the fossil fuel industries to look for benefits in all directions?

5. Maybe we're studying the effect of climate change on a shorter time period because the current trend is much faster than previous shifts?


1. No, but one must be aware of limitations before making decisions

2. Yes, of course, and thriving, e.g. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretaceous

3. One of my points is that because of limitations of time resolution of our current data sources, we really don't know.

4. I'm not sure what you mean

5. Again, we don't know. More importantly to this point, you're looking at less than <.001% of time series data and treating it as a trend. This could very easily be a transient spike.


Not unreasonable, but what about the mass animal extinction we are currently undergoing?

Is that something that routinely happens? And in the precise historical moment of peak human activity?


Correlation does not equal causation. We have plenty of other ways of harming the environment that can explain mass extinctions, like contamination from pesticides, plastics, antibiotics, etc.

Not that bleaching isn't a problem, but CO2 based ocean acidification should not be conflated with climate change.


2. We know that the earth has been substantially warmer in the past (with accompanyingly higher CO2 levels) and life thrived

Nobody is worried that all life on Earth will end for good. We're worried it's going to be a pretty miserable place for humans to live, and that it will take a couple million years for diversity to return.

Life can handle +10F (silver bullet ants anyone?), but humans have a temperature limit.


In response to #2 and #3: https://xkcd.com/1732/

Also, yes. Earth has been substantially warmer in the past. Earth's atmosphere also had higher oxygen levels in the past[1], but it would be very bad for most life on earth if we suddenly returned to those conditions[2].

1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geological_history_of_oxygen

2. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_toxicity


>Exposures, from minutes to a few hours, to partial pressures of oxygen above 1.6 bars (160 kPa)—about eight times normal atmospheric partial pressure—are usually associated with central nervous system oxygen toxicity

You need 8 times current oxygen levels. This is a non issue.




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