Shareholders of the big oil and gas companies have started to recognize the long-term threat of climate change. There were 87 shareholder proposals last year that asked firms to adopt emission reduction targets, disclose lobbying expenses, or take other action that would result in lower emissions.
Most of these failed, largely because the big institutional investors voted against them.
Shameless plug: I'm trying to solve this problem by creating a governance-first index fund .
0 - https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/exxon-knew-about-...
And not by Joe Schmoe who it would make sense to ignore, but by Svante Arrhenius.
> Svante August Arrhenius (19 February 1859 – 2 October 1927) was a Swedish scientist. Originally a physicist, but often referred to as a chemist, Arrhenius was one of the founders of the science of physical chemistry. He received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1903, becoming the first Swedish Nobel laureate. In 1905, he became director of the Nobel Institute, where he remained until his death.
I have recently been made aware of relatively inexpensive massive high density tree planting projects as a way to potentially solve the CO2 "problem" I personally find ideas such as these are far better for world's ultra-poor then raising the price of energy thru carbon taxes, as pretty much the only way people can move into a significantly better living situation is thru the use of energy.
But it's important, since it could buy us a few more years to implement more permanent solutions.
*Younger forests pull the most out over a given period of time. The bulk of the carbon stays locked up as long as the wood doesn't decay/isn't burned. It's one reason some architects are starting to look at structural wood for larger buildings again, as long as the building stands you keep the carbon locked up in the framing. If we had a magic wand we could create a few super-fast growing species and plant massive amounts of forest of complimentary species that provide the soil with nearly everything needed to grow one another and simply harvest the lumber, drag it out to anoxic depths at sea and sink it not unlike the commonly accepted theory of the azolla event doing similar with aquatic ferns in our planet's past.
The best trees can manage about 48lbs of CO2 per year, that's 46 trees per metric tonne and healthy forest is 40-60 trees per acre. Just to go carbon neutral last year that would mean you would have needed at LEAST 53 million square miles of optimal forest. For reference, there are 196.9 million square miles of land on earth, effectively 1/4 of the land mass on earth would need to be 100% optimized decade or two old forest.
Roughly 31% of the earth is forest, however it's far from the above optimal conditions. In reality we'd need probably 50% (if not more) of the earth to be forest to manage what we did last year.
Coincidentally, pre-industrial era the earth was about 48% forest and current estimates are we lose something like 28,125 square miles annually to human operations. We're producing more and more while reducing the planet's ability to sequester.
Sadly planting more trees isn't even going to equate to a bandaid, it's going to be like loosing a limb to a wood chipper and gently blowing on the wound. It's purely a "this makes me feel good" thing.
Yes, but they also require other things to grow, so the scaling of their growth with rapidly increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration isn't as impressive as some people imagine, and it's only been empirically demonstrated in the short term. As far as I've read, the main uncertainty as to what happens in the medium-long term relates to how much nitrogen is available in the soil, and how the nitrogen-fixing topsoil ecosystem adapts. If it can thrive in such a way as to fix more nitrogen, that could lead to further plant growth. But it's also plausible that the rapid shift in the environment disrupts that system and leads to a regression in plant growth rates.
It is even true that the CO2 was at this point before. If it had shifted at geological timescales even if it was from human activity it would be more or less fine as the ecosystem could adapt to it like previous epoches.
Certainly there would be extinctions but would give time to adapt and speciate.
Tree planting helps some but it isn't comparable at scale at all - as in running out of available landmass bad.
Tree planting would help the ultrapoor if they maintained it locally given things like impact on soil erosion and rainfall but those are only localized effects
Of course. Nobody is saying there should be no CO2. But if your implication is that higher CO2 means better growth, it is generally wrong. Some plants do grow better, some don't, in a higher CO2 environment. But more importantly, it isn't as if CO2 is an independent variable. Along with it comes significant changes that plants are not adapted to -- higher average and peak temperatures, more or less rainfall (depending where in the world it is). Yes, given enough time, the plants that make it through the stresses of climate change will adapt and thrive, but in the near term (a few generations of humans) it will cause problems.
> I am not sure it was immediately obvious to people 120 years ago that CO2 was such a "dangerous" thing.
In short: Joseph Fourier (of the Fourier transform) advocated for the idea of atmospheric gasses causing a greenhouse effect. It was advanced along the years, in 1896 Arrhenius even calculated the effect on the climate due to a doubling of CO2.
There were scientific papers published in the 50s using the terms "climate change" in the 50s, well before the Mariner 2 spacecraft.
Long term carbon sequestration via forests is extremely expensive as you can’t then use the land for anything else. Not extracting carbon is by far the cheapest option for long term sequestration.
PS: Sequestration of biomass underground is a viable long term option, but it’s again expensive.
Not sure how any of that is expensive, as it fulfills our requirements for food, housing, and luxury goods.
This land is not already being used for forests because other uses are simply more useful or less costly. The net loss of utility then needs to continue for as long as the carbon is sequestered.
Finally, if you want to sequester carbon somewhere else you need to collect and transport it which adds more costs. Further, if that’s the goal forests are simply slow carbon sinks in comparison to other plants.
You're correct, nothing comes for free, but the alternative is to leave this dead standing wood on forest floors to be later fuel wild fires. Or in the case of agricultural waste, to be composted or burned directly. Seems like a waste, as composting produces methane and CO2, which unless captured in an anaerobic digester just goes into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming, and burning does similar harm.
Small scale gasification reactors can run equipment, and are easily transported on trailers to the site of waste if it is not already easily centralized (in which case a dedicated cogeneration plant is usually a better option). A 20kW reactor can produce enough electricity to run 16 US homes, so situating one on every block is also a viable option that we should be considering.
"Carbon tax hurts the poor" is oil industry propaganda. The poor use less carbon than average -- especially the "ultra poor" -- but everyone receives the same dividend. It's a net transfer to the poor.
On top of that, the underlying cost (after accounting for tax, subsidies and regulations) for oil in poorer countries is higher than in richer countries because they have worse infrastructure for delivering fuel. You can put solar panels and batteries on a shack in the middle of a field and have electricity for decades. To do that with a gas generator you need gas stations, vehicles to deliver it, roads to drive them on etc. They don't have those things, and won't get them overnight, but meanwhile you can give them electricity today and they immediately get running water and electric light and wireless telecommunications etc. So oil is garbage for them and they're better off never burning a drop of it while the people who do are paying a carbon tax that funds a dividend they can use to buy solar panels.
It's true all over the place.
Suppose you live in a country which gets 80% of its energy from fossil fuels. Well, that sucks, so now your average energy costs go up by $1000 a year. You can't afford that! Only you get it all back. You get a $1000 dividend, use it to pay for the same energy you did before, and nothing changes.
Except for one thing. When your country continues its path to industrialization, nobody is ever going to build a new coal fired power plant again. All the new capacity will be non-fossil fuels, because now they're much cheaper relative to coal -- no carbon tax.
The only cost you're really paying is the relative price difference between fossil fuels and alternatives. But that's already close to zero and has non-cost benefits for your country like air quality and energy independence.
Moreover, the idea that this is some cost for developing countries that developed countries didn't have to pay is also a lie. The cost of renewables is driving the cost of fossil fuels down through competition. The carbon tax is only needed to prevent that -- to keep their price back up around their traditional cost, which makes them uncompetitive with the falling price of renewables, so that they die out instead of the lower demand causing their price to fall to the point that they still end up as 20-50% of generation capacity.
Hindsight is 20/20. Even now, because of the nature of what amounts to an empirical science who's primary effects will only be measured in the future, we haven't unambiguously proven that climate change is occuring, and cannot do so without additional decades or centuries of data, at which point it may be too late.
It is similarly fallacious to accuse oil companies of knowing about this problem and failing to act. 30 years ago this was similarly a theory with even less evidence than today, and only a handful of scientists even considered it.
There's no social or economic cost to the world for acting to prevent climate change. The costs are all negative - we save vast amounts of money and societal damage by acting.
There hasn't been any serious scientific dispute over whether climate change was occurring for at least 50 years.
And of course it's completely accurate to note that the oil companies knew about the problem and have not only refused to act, but have spent massive amounts to prevent action. Many of their own documents are available on the internet for your inspection.
You're describing catastrophic terraforming on the scale of about 100 years. That's a huge claim with enormous ramifications and given the current expense of mitigation, it rightly warrants scrutiny, both in probability of occurance and scope of change.
>Simple math from the very beginning of the fossil fuel era made it obvious we would eventually run into problems.
Absolutely nothing about climate change is simple. Which is why it took decades to establish any kind of consensus. Global climate is a chaotic function of various positive and negative feedback mechanisms - simply noting that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gasses may cause climate change is not nearly enough to conclude that there is a problem without considering the hugely complex system in it's entirety.
>It has been extremely obvious for decades that the predicted problems were here, now.
We've been collecting the very data necessary to prove the "obviousness" of climate change over the same decades in which you claim the problem was already evident. You need time series data to establish a trend with any kind of certainty, and climate changes at a minimum over hundreds of years.
>There's no social or economic cost to the world for acting to prevent climate change. The costs are all negative - we save vast amounts of money and societal damage by acting.
Like the rest of your post, your perspective is biased by your assertion that climate change is happening. You need to view this from the perspective of a society which has not had time to perform the necessary data gathering and analysis to make such conclusion - in which case, there are now and were decades ago current costs to switching off of fossil fuels, which it would only be reasonable to incur given a minimum degree of certainty in future climate change. It is simply infesible to make drastic policy changes for every sounded alarm - one must obviously consider the expected value of the change, which is (disaster cost)*(probability of disaster)-(cost of change). The value of this probability is difficult to model and has been steadily increasing with recent climate science.
>There hasn't been any serious scientific dispute over whether climate change was occurring for at least 50 years.
Just decades ago the consensus was that of global cooling. Again, you underestimate the complexity of determining whether the climate is actually changing and, in particular, how it will change in the future.
>And of course it's completely accurate to note that the oil companies knew about the problem
Again, oil companies did not "know" of the problem, they were aware of the possibility of the problem. The very documents which you mention state that additional modeling was required to determine anything with certainty.
Not everyone of course, but I just want to point out that “they know about it and are hiding it” isn’t always accurate. There is a lot of denial
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I tried adding a similar caveat to my message, but my feeble attempts muddied my simple message. Even your caveat is slightly over-simplified because there's a significant time component: most ecosystems would probably be OK if the oil was burned over a few million years rather than a few decades.
...but the real kicker is that proven reserves are just a small fraction of total likely recoverable reserves long-term. Proven reserves basically assumes no tech improvement and no exploration, two things we’re continually doing. So proven reserves have actual GROWN over time and likely will. There are truly vast amounts of fossil fuels available that could be tapped if we had to tap them.
For instance, there’s over a trillion barrels of kerogen/oilshale oil (which is expensive to extract, like Canada’s oil sands) in JUST the Green River formation in Colorado/Wyoming, more than all the world’s proven oil reserves combined. But it sits untapped because oil prices are so low. And practically all of northern Alaska has coal underneath it if you drill to the right depth, 5 trillion tons (~18 trillion tons of CO2), more than four times all the world’s coal proven reserves combined. Source: https://pubs.usgs.gov/dds/dds-077/
America alone has enough fossil fuels in the ground to single-handedly double or triple or sextuple the CO2 level. Add in similar fossil fuel amounts in much of Africa, South America, Russia, Canada, Antarctica, Australia, and the world’s oceans, and the planet would be unrecognizable.
There’s enough fossil fuels (if we tried hard enough) to get the CO2 levels in the 10,000 ppm range where there are serious long term health effects from just breathing the stuff. And psychological effects start becoming apparent at just 500-1000ppm, which we will see by the end of the century or so.
So yeah, we’ll run out of atmosphere to dump the CO2 into before we run out of fossil fuels.
To simply assign resistance to how humanity uses and consumes energy to oil and coal and car industry and tax income is absurd. General economics is the only surefire way to get the changes we are told are necessary entrenched in society and our way of life. And that means it's technology, not government control and regulation, that is the solution that should be pursued.
Carrots might work. Sticks won't.
1) A carbon tax is perhaps the most common proposed solution to the climate change problem. It would increase quality of life, not reduce choice nor induce rationing. Currently, burning carbon imposes externalities that are not paid by the emitter. This means that some of the carbon emitted is emitted even though it provides more costs than benefits. A carbon tax and dividend INCREASES economic efficiency by ensuring that CO2 is generated only when benefits exceed costs.
2) oil & gas are extremely useful for a lot of different things, and there's still a lot of it left in the ground. Technology improvements will only shift usage; it will still be used for something. Only a "stick" such as a carbon tax can ensure that such usage is efficient.
Right now, we pay for plastic or carbon expensive goods without caring about the cost of dealing with the costs of clean up, or forest fires/storms that cause huge damage.
Right now, it’s a lottery - cheap goods, no information, and everyone in the population is hoping their disaster ticket doesn’t get punched.
However, people prefer making choices intelligently - knowing what it costs to actually deal with a product means people can immediately make choices.
Things are already expensive, we just don’t know how much so.
At least this way, we can make informed choices about how we want to live our life- it empowers us.
Carbon emissions are mostly from transportation and energy production - neither of which are goods. Both have more sustainable alternatives that a carbon tax would easily push people to use via market forces.
The relationship between tailpipe carbon emissions and temperature, and then sea-level rise, is absurdly strong scientifically speaking. Energy accounting is a very hard science. We know what IR bandwidths CO2 gas absorbs, and that translates directly to an additional heat flow. We are watching the northern sea ice disappear because of carbon emissions, and we will witness much more. The most stinging effects will be reduced agriculture output, direct temperature rise consequences, and sea-level rise. The consensus science on sea-level rise (see IPCC) results in extremely quantifiable economic damage within this century, and those are low-ball numbers. The confidence level is simply "confident". There is no reasonable question that things will be as-bad or worse than the consensus predictions. There are reasonable questions about low-probably chances that things will get much, much, worse.
We're going to have to engineer the climate directly if we still want to have an industrial society in 200 years. We will probably do it much sooner. The effects of the combination of more CO2 + artificially decreased sunlight are going to be bad, but are not well understood.
It is true, it's not a question of whether we have consequences or not, just a question of "how bad". That is extremely strongly a function of how much emissions we emit until, say 2050. It's hard for me to even imagine how we can continue using fossil fuels for energy much beyond then, so not reducing emissions also strikes me as kind of... needless self-inflicted harm.
When you say 'It is not a question of whether we have consequences or not, just a question "how bad"', it sounds like 100% confidence, but then you say that it is not 100%. So is it more like >99%? Or 70%? Or 10%? Or <1%?
And more specifically, what is the probability that reducing anthropogenic emissions to a certain target would result in us averting the predicted catastrophic scenario that otherwise would not have been averted?
Sea levels are rising due to the melting of land ice. That's a historic fact, but predicts are concerned with how much it will rise. There is a chance that it will reverse, and before 100 sea level will actually fall. How much probably depends on what factors you allow yourself to consider. For example, I think the most likely reasons this would happen would be due to human geo-engineering or nuclear war. For that, maybe I'd give 0.01% chance. But for it to change course due to natural factors... I'll give 1.0e-6%. Because you know, about every 100M years sounds reasonable for a sudden violent and unprecedented climate movement in Earth's history. The reason this is so tremendously unlikely is because the climate is already hot enough to melt most of the ice, only reason it hasn't is because it takes time. It's a system that's moving on (an abstract form of) inertia.
> reducing anthropogenic emissions to a certain target would result in us averting the predicted catastrophic scenario that otherwise would not have been averted?
I honestly can't read this. Rising sea levels affects people... the more it rises the worse it is. At some point, the rise is catastrophic. The English language is not going to help say "at exactly 1.65 meter rise it becomes catastrophic".
Climate scientists can, and do, connect emissions scenarios to a sea level. It's a much more human activity to connect the change in environment given by a numerical metric to a moral judgement.
This paragraph strikes me as falling somewhere between wishful thinking and absolute gibberish.
Perhaps a carbon tax is a good idea but it only "increases economic efficiency" if you perform some sleight of hand by saying "if we keep emitting carbon economic production will drop off due to climate change". That kind of externality is highly theoretical.
The linked article identifies $50 - $100 / tonne in local & immediate "co-benefits" that aren't linked to climate change.
But I see this article, and your post, as people promising free lunches. And when people start offering free lunches, I get real skeptical. I am also skeptical of the ability of committees of experts to make decisions about economic efficiency. To me, this article has a disingenuous ring to it. It reads like people who've made up their mind and are inventing arguments to support their decision.
If there's so much money in "green living" then all of the people on the committee should quit their jobs and go into business. They can improve the world and make money at the same time instead of telling other people how to spend their money.
You are others are also comparing apples and oranges. A carbon tax redistributes wealth, it does not destroy wealth, except (speculatively) in 1st or 2nd derivative effects.
If you had to pay $1,000 more per year on energy and got that much more back as a refund check, then yes, you are worse off. Presumably, you re-balance to use less energy. This leaves your spending in a more constrained state. That reduction of economic freedom might be worth -$50 to you, but not -$1,000.
There are quite a few studies that show that this actually happens. You can have a look at Google Scholar if you want.
Don;t forget, its not just 'will drive less', it is 'will prefer lower carbon alternatives', etc. Fee and dividend basically makes it expensive to pollute and puts cash in consumers' pockets so that they can afford cleaner alternatives.
The problem with using consumer taxes to fund these things is that the consumer has to consume the planet in order to save the planet. If I don't pay enviro-levy taxes at the cash register, my district can't afford waste removal. If I don't buy enough gasoline, we won't collect enough carbon tax to pay for these wetlands we need to build.
Gasoline costs twice as much in India as the US, and the average income is far less. People drive a lot less, use public transport, build more densely, and purchase more economical vehicles - small cars, motorcycles, scooters. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) kits are very popular even on passenger cars (LNG being cheaper).
An SUV is virtually unheard of as a family car (unless you're a powerful politician, movie star, or other bigwig) and even a full-size sedan marks you out as rich. I've never seen a pickup truck being driven for passenger transportation.
Why do you think prices don't change behaviors? It's a pretty fundamental facet of human behavior.
> It's like changing the interest rate and hoping the economy will improve.
Don't central banks do exactly that? They cut rates in recessions (to promote spending) and increase them in boom times (to tamp down inflation).
People keep saying this. I am not really sure what they mean by "quality of life" any more.
"But when you type hangers into Amazon’s search box, the mega-retailer delivers “over 200,000” options." 
I don't think that if the number of options was reduced to a handful my quality of life would go down significantly.
I think it's mostly about aspirations to hyper consumerism and reduction of choice. The choice argument very quickly drops to some very US grounded freeeeeeeeedom argument about constraints and the role of society. Once you realise the complainant had no intention of buying a gas guzzling rolls royce or washing their hair in pure benzine, it becomes clearer to me it's opposition to the idea of having to accept limitation, not their impact. It also denies the very high likelihood of increased harms to others by refusing to agree on a middle path. We might need to have less choice to allow Africa and Bangladesh to have more life choices is hugely unpopular.
I don't want to be king btw, or a member of the death committee. But I also know effectively health rationing exists right now. We are not living in nirvana and life affecting choices and decisions are made about us every day.
Deciding to put a twenty year end of life on current oil economics and ending exploration right now feels like a basis for discussion. We have enough sources to get feedstock for pharma and plastics. We might have a huge problem in agriculture and the dependency on artificial fertilizer and insecticide.
Your quality of life would presumably improve due to cleaner air and less pollution. If you take public transit you are also lowering your carbon footprint and alleviating congestion, improving quality of life for you and everyone else in town. If you walk or bike (I bike every day and find it faster to get to work than driving in rush hour traffic, in fact), you are getting a little cardio out of the deal and improving your quality of life. And presumably if enough people opt to walk/bike/transit, investment in that infrastructure will follow and quality of life in that department will also improve.
The true costs of our luxury goods like a personal car are completely hidden to us. It's important to realize how harmful to quality of life certain luxuries we are accustom to really are.
It's not approve or disapprove it's afford or not afford in a wider sense than your personal affordability.
I don't disapprove of you or your life choices. I disapprove of a system which necessarily hangs up on this individualistic story against aggregates.
Not wanting to drive (hah) too far on this, the road system you drive on is a state and federal investment. If the heavy goods went by rail andnot road, and we did focus on deisel abatement and NO and particulates reduction you might have upsides.
Your life is going to change. Slowly at first then not so slowly. Your kid's life is definitely going to change. Your grandkids lives will for sure be different from what your life is.
Do we want to start mitigating changes now and avoid the worst case scenarios? Or do we say !@#& the next two generations, no one can tell me my life has to change.
My point is not that the people who are likely to be caught up in mass migration are bad in any way. My point is that the impact of migrations of dozens of millions will absolutely impact housing, healthcare, jobs, transportation, politics, everything. If the current turmoil we've seen with relatively minor migrations from central America and from Syria are anything to go from, we are in for turbulent times.
Mitigating the impacts of climate change has nothing to do with virtue. It's eminently prudent
Maybe true. But also maybe not true. Your individual state in this is distinct from mine (lifelong user of public transport and cycling) and your neighbours and doctor would very probably disagree about the up and downsides. But I won't deny you feel this now, or that millions of people would feel this. I probably over empathise with different millions of people who don't experience your life and cannot do what you do, but economics say could do better and a lot better if you did a bit worse. How do you feel about that?
- use the dividend to pay the carbon tax, and keep driving.
- buy a new car, keep part of the dividend
- walk/bike/transit, keep the whole dividend
Why are you defending a system which makes low paid workers sleep in their cars?
That poor person isn't taking multiple flights per year, buying lots of stuff, et cetera. So even with driving to work he's probably still keeping a small fraction of the dividend.
The current situation will cause widespread mortaility in person years counts if continued. Particulate matter and NO and effects on asthma and childhood mortality are well understood. Simply replacing charcoal with more efficient fuel in rural settings had massive upsides to life expectancy. So, while I absolutely agree your and my life experience will have a smallish decline in choices and quality in some senses, at the levels of populations and nation states it's less clear.
What's your problem with rationing? Didn't it actually improve overall diet and health in the UK in The 1940s?
You've driven to an extreme. Reductionist arguments imply an inability to hypothesize alternates on the path. What about median path reductions in plastics and oil consumption and replacement of individual transport with mass transport? I don't recall a car being in the constitutional rights list.
> The survey results also suggest that the amount that people are willing to pay monthly varies. Fifty-seven percent are willing to pay at least $1 per month. The share declines with the monthly cost: 23 percent would pay at least $40 monthly, and 16 percent would pay at least $100 each month. However, the fact that 43 percent are unwilling to pay anything underscores the polarization about climate change. Party identification and acceptance of climate change are the main correlates of whether people are willing to pay, with Democrats being consistently more inclined to pay a fee.
Overall there may be net positive effects for all generations, never in the history of the humanity have masses sacrificed for the whole of the humanity.
Estimates for the externalities caused by carbon emissions vary widely, but a median estimate is around $100 / metric tonne, so we'll pick that. Gas prices double. Beef, cement and the usual suspects go up in price substantially, although likely gas is the only thing that doubles. Every family gets a cheque in the mail every month for a few hundred dollars (the dividend).
The carbon tariff means that imports from non-cooperating nations go up in price substantially, but imports from nations that have their own carbon taxes or equivalent are not impacted.
What dramatic sacrifices have you made? Normal families will be able to pay their share of the carbon tax with the dividend.
Carbon tax would not be Pareto optimal. nobody is claiming it is are as far as I know and there is no reason to assume it is. Some people would lose big.
Large scale disruptions and frictions when economy adapts. Value of various investments will sink when taxation changes. People lose their jobs, some can't find new jobs with similar wage or with less wages. Even house prices will drop outside accessible public transport. Demand for electric cars would increase their price. For example tourism would suffer dramatically when people stop flying.
People in poor countries would suffer the most because their economies are very CO2 intensive.
Sure there would be losers, but there would also be winners. You claimed "reduce living standards for a generation with several percentages", I claim there would be a balance between losers & winners and the economic impact would be minimal.
The dividend goes a long way to ensuring that the losers are concentrated among the rich and the average poor person benefits.
We can fund them with taxpayer money, which means the average Joe pays, and politicians pick winning (or losing) technologies.
Or we can make the polluters fund them, and let the invisible hand pick the best technologies.
I find the second option much more attractive. And Nobel-prize winning economists agree: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/08/business/economic-science...
In a polarized world looking both good and bad sides of generally good thing is seen as being against.
My point is that if we want to make a real change, we can't realistically expect to fix all negative side effects that even the best solution has. If the overall solution becomes politically possible, we must hammer it trough even if we must throw many good people under the bus.
(1) It's not a dream, it's the physical world around you. If you like the way it is then action needs to be taken now.
(2) If you will not not willingly reduce your standard of living for a green world, then you will forcibly have your standard of living reduced by a shittier planet. Massive specie die-offs, expensive food, droughts, more frequent bad weather, heat and violence that comes with hotter temperatures, countries panicking and fighting for resources, people panicking and fighting for resources, etc.
Growth should just be a byproduct of increased productivity and that would allow for population increases. But our current resources just aren't enough, especially for people in first world nations.
Unilaterally installing public infrastructure for renewable energy would remove all of the other concerns - forcing the 'vested interests' above to get in line.
Effective governments are already doing this.
The costs have to be high enough to change people's behaviors, and will probably fall on the people who are currently consuming the fossil fuels.
Financial games can do all sorts of things as we work out who is going to be formally treated as responsible for the write-down of lots of assets. However there is no escaping the physical costs of climate abatement; where things that could be done easily with fossil fuels get a little bit harder to achieve.
There are entrenched interests that don't like climate change, but if the alternatives are even in the same ballpark from a financial perspective there would be a stampede of bankers investing for the reduced political risks.
The real vested interest is Washington, DC - what is being confronted here is not a few oil companies and their lobbying power; that could easily be overcome, there is a ton of public interest and pressure in fighting climate change. The real barrier is that Washington's imperial power is tied to fossil fuels.
Starting as early as the 1920s there was the recognition that US oil supplies were dwindling (they peaked in 1969 and have been falling ever since), and that the bulk of remaining oil was in the Middle East. This remains the case, although Venezuela is an important new source in the era of not-so-cheap oil. Since that moment, Washington has used control over the Middle East not as a way to get oil, but as a way to exercise imperial control over world affairs.
This is why our foreign policy includes a close, bizarre, and to most Americans anathema, alliance with the repressive, dictatorial, feudal monarchy in Saudi Arabia; one of Obama's signal achievements was selling this regime $115 billion in weaponry. All of this effort, along with the effort of the Iraq War, the Afghanistan war, and the 70-year long campaign to control Iran, was organized to ensure the continuation of American power by maintaining dominance over the global oil supply.
None of this power is possible without this concentration of oil resources. If the world, instead, moves to a decentralized system based on cheap, accessible technologies, the result would be an instant loss of control for Washington. All of the military power arrayed to dominate the Middle East would become irrelevant. This is intolerable.
It is THIS vested interest that we must overcome to fight climate change. Few activists appreciate this; little of our rhetoric around climate change is organized around the war machine. It continues to be along the lines of, "This is just good sense, why can't we have a technology transition, screw the oil companies?"
Without confronting the war machine, without aiming at the real organized power that stands behind our use of fossil fuels, we're unlikely to win.
There is also vested interest at the nation state level. No nation wants to be the only nation to do something serious about climate change. If they were, they would take all the downside, and get none of the benefit.
Some countries are already seeing this. The UK is leading on some emissions control measures, and it's already contributed to bankruptcy of large chunks of it's steel industry.
That isn't the case. There is a third option: "Attempt to set up a different club with different rules".
When you model that, the smart move is to be a member of a club which is both big and inexpensive (ie. not many carbon restrictions). Over time, the stable position in this model is no action on anyone's part.
Let's be kind to O&G industries that employ and support the livelihood of billions and have helped advance civilization more than any other industry. Their time is coming for disruption - the timeframe is at least a generation.
Nutrition is not a solved equation. We simply do not know how exactly various foods affect our health, the extent that human genetics and microbiome affect “proper” nutrition for a person, what all the essential nutrients are, what the immunoresponse to various foods are, and any number of unknown unknowns about diet. Any claims to the contrary are irresponsible at best.
You mention biodiversity but seem to be glossing over the role of ruminants in the ecological system, and the severe lack of biodiversity which can be the consequence of large scale crop production.
These and other reasons lead me to be concerned that this viewpoint is to some degree tainted by ideological blind spots.
That is true, but it's very likely the meat you buy was not grazing freely, and instead was stuffed with feed in a feedlot space or sometimes let to graze on a tiny plot to be "grass-fed". This is how the scale of our industrial animal agriculture is met.
> While doing research for his book Pig Tales, author Barry Estabrook visited a farmer in Iowa who raised 150,000 pigs a year. What he saw at this factory farm -- the way 97 percent of pigs in the U.S. are raised -- is a far cry from Old MacDonald's.
> "[The pigs] never see the light of day," he says. "They never set foot on anything but a bare, hard floor. They breathe that poisoned air 24/7."
>According to the latest Sentience Institute analysis, the percent of U.S. farmed animals living on factory farms is…
* Broiler chickens (99.9%) live on factory farms
* Turkeys (99.8%) live on factory farms
* Egg chickens (98.2%) live on factory farms
* Pigs (98.3%) live on factory farms
* Cows (70.4%) live on factory farms
Nevertheless the same applies to the way we changed our diets in relatively recent times, and yet that hasn't stopped us.
To resolve this cycle let me propose a radical idea: Tell us when you would change your mind! Then we have something to work towards to.
What is the level of evidence and rigor that you require until you accept that plant based diets generally have better consequences for all beings involved and should be promoted over „western“ heavy meat based diets?
Yes, the expansion of agricultural land is almost always bad. Unless its expansion into desert, and isn't depleting water (which is almost never the case).
But, sheep, cattle and especially pigs provide useful products in the farming cycle, essential if you want to cut out oil based fertilisers.
Thats not to mention that most of the country side of Europe looks the way it does because if farming sheep or cattle.
Pasture has its own biodiversity. Simply stopping all animal consumption would leave us more dependent on fertilisers in the short to medium term. It would also cause rapid local environmental changes, that would have interesting side effects.
Some of that cost could be offset by incentivizing carbon capturing farming practices like silvopasture and agroforestry. But while healthy pastures can sequester a lot of carbon, it’s nowhere near the numbers of a healthy forest. Ultimately we need to reforest a lot of land, which will reduce the grazing carrying load of the planet, and again make beef more expensive.
I get it: beef is easy, and people love it. So are fossil fuels. You can make a strong argument that both have done a lot of good in bringing the world out of poverty. But, where things stand today, it’s unsustainable.
People tend to focus just on the methane emissions of cows, but that’s probably somewhat solvable with changes to their diets — adding seaweed, etc. The real carbon cost is in land use change, chemical fertilizer production, transport, etc. The majority of our food system is set up to produce feed for animals. And the EPA numbers for agricultural emissions only focus on direct emissions from things like tilling, or gas burned by tractors. The true carbon cost of farming is likely to be much, much bigger than conventional estimates suggest.
There seems to be a fear that a mostly vegetarian / vegan diet is somehow less healthy. I’d argue that there’s plenty of contemporary science on the subject to suggest that it’s just as healthy a way to live, and perhaps even more so. But even if it’s a tossup, there’s an undeniable fact: global warming is happening, and the health effects of that greatly outweigh the health effects that can probably be solved with a couple of supplements. (Anecdotal evidence, but my kids are vegan due to allergies, and they’re thriving. It’s never been easier to be vegan. My parents were for a time when I was a kid, and let me tell you, things have come a long way.)
We are on the right track with getting people to switch red with white meat, a single weekly day without meat, ect. But it is with all likelihood not something that we can do over the next decade. It's something we instill in the younger generations and as they grow up it will happen.
Eventually, the ground will become depleted of phosphorous and potassium. Other trace elements tend to take a really long time to deplete, especially in clay.
For every product that leaves the farm, it takes something from the ground. Some can be amended with legume plants, but minerals will deplete at some point - adding them yearly is responsible farming.
That said it still could run into problems with other requisite elemental depletion in soil even with assistance of things like bacteria. If the plants need calcium and it is all extracted then thr farm would be limited to simpler life that doesn't need any trace elements. If say algae can get by on just atmospheric gas components, water, and sunlight indefinitely then a hypothetical algae farm could run indefinitely. But there isn't much of a market for algae.
I like meat, in fact I love it. I used to contribute to a food blog reviewing steak restaurants. I love the smell and (the thought of) the taste. I haven't eaten meat for about five years because of environmental reasons, not because I dislike it.
Not eating meat is such an easy thing for most people to do, the facts are in front of us and it would make a significant difference. It does not fill with me with optimism that most are unwilling to do even this.
> "A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork"
Seriously though, the top thing in our control is eating plant based food!
Even if you factor in the fertilizer, fuel, electricity used for those cattle and double the number, it still wouldn't come close to putting us carbon negative.
The United States gets roughly 30% of its power from coal, China roughly 70%.
Commercial aviation last year was responsible for at LEAST 0.55 gigatonnes of CO2 last year and in a decade the fuel use is up 30.5%. That's also a low figure for the CO2, it could be as much as 13% higher as there are various types of aviation fuel, it also does not include military figures. By the time you factor in all of electricity and fuel use supporting aviation by non-aircraft sources, commercial aviation is likely as bad as the cows of the world.
Last year in the United States 142.86 billion gallons of gasoline was sold. If it was all consumed that is 1.3 gigatonnes. That doesn't include diesel or kerosene, and that's just the United States... keep in mind China is adding so many new drivers to the road annually that they have a lottery just to decide who gets to sit for a license. As of last year China alone has 369 million registered drivers. If each of them averages 7.45 gallons of gasoline a week they're using as much as the United States.
An estimate that is several years old puts the world at 3 BILLION hours of video games a week. Assume an average of 50w per hour (to factor in handhelds as well as modern consoles on giant televisions and hardcore gaming rigs) and that is 7.8TWh of electricity just for video games, using U.S. electricity source averages, thats' 1.77 gigatonnes of CO2.
Another older figure puts U.S. gamers over the age of 13 spending 6.3 hours a week playing games, this was before games like fortnite so may be higher now. imagine just shaving that in half and reading library books, gardening, taking a walk, using a reel mower instead of a gas powered mower, riding your bike to a friend's house instead of driving, walking to go get your food instead of uber eats... a small change in lifestyle and we could save a quarter or a half a gigatonne of carbon.
Now what if we could get lots of people to make lots of changes!
People, however, generally don't like change and when you have a lot of startups marketing things that rely heavily on fossil fuels - Cyrpto companies rely on massive amounts of processing directly or indirectly (exchanges), cloud-based services have gobs of power hungry servers with data often kept in multiple copies, food delivery services, subscription box services, even more established companies like Amazon encourage impulse buying instead of planning out what you need to buy and getting it once a week or month when you go to the store "get it in 2 hours!" "same day delivery!" "next day delivery!" "free shipping!".
We need a radical shift in companies and consumers or our energy demands, and our greenhouse gas emissions, are only going to continue to climb. Air travel fuel use for example is up 30% in a decade because travel is 'in' and 'influencers' are pushing it with their curated lifestyles and we're just shipping a whole lot more by air, now look at a dozen of other industries and you see similar. When I was a kid in the early 90's it was "4-6 weeks delivery" standard for everything, now you can get a stranger to go to the grocery for you and drive it to your house without leaving your couch because you want some chips and dip.
And vegetarians struggle quite a bit with getting proper dietary nutrition, not just with iron, but also Vitamin B12, Zinc, Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin D, Calcium, Protein and Riboflavin. So it is not quite just "simply" adjust your diet you lazy meat eater.
All of those listed able to be met easily by plant based sources with a well balanced diet.
And it's not like the average meat American is eating a healthy diet. I would be shocked if the standard American diet actually met all recommended nutritional intakes.
B12 is only in significant amounts of meat because it is heavily supplemented and present in the soil, today's clean produce strips most of those bacteria from the food supply.
The solution is really simple, though: eat less meat. We don't need meat every day. Once or twice a week is more than enough, and if everybody did that, it would greatly reduce this problem.
I checked Wikipedia though, and it agrees with you, which makes me wonder even more why I've heard this exact same experience from several unconnected vegetarians.
Although I do wonder, if we're wrong about B12 only coming from animals, is it possible that we, or possible even Dutch physicians, are under-informed about our options?
I'm a vegetarian (yes, not a vegan yet) living in India and I'm not deficient in any of these. Also, never have been.
e.g. take the case of protein, I eat pulses almost daily (and a variety of) with rice, never felt I have less protein than required.
Vit B12 - you can get from fermented foods like Idli etc. Also, from the water soaked overnight in rice (actually rice is soaked in water).
Vegetarianism had been practised in India since time immemorial. One can say the food has been perfected here to stay healthy.
Vegetarians are self-selected. We can have reasonably high confidence it would be fine, but we can't be sure, and some people literally will not be able to tolerate it.
> I am not aware of have any health problems that are most efficiently solved by adding meat.
Depends how you define "efficient". There are plenty of nutrients that are most concentrated in meat, such that small portions of meat can replace the need to consume large portions of plant matter.
It runs in my family. My poor mother is so bad that she has had to have a couple of blood transfusions because nothing else would bring her back from a bad state when she got there (the alternative being just lie down and die). Supplementation hasn’t helped her many times†. They also rarely eat red meat.
Here’s hoping I or my sister don’t end up the same way. My sister has already devolved to anemic and has had her own complications with that.
† edit: Rereading this it sounds confusing. I meant that supplementation has not helped her either prevent or recover from those cases until after the transfusion where her doctor stressed diet.
Even if meat is super healthy, I sill doubt factory produced meat is good - with all its chemicals.
I’d guess that most people eat meat because of its taste and because they were raised by their parents to eat meat, and not because they truly believe it is superior to vegetarian food
In the end, there are hugely interconnected issues and most people take one small facet, extrapolate it to infinity and ignore all the ripple effects and consequences of even the smallest change.
Where do those animals get their calories from? And how efficient are they at converting those calories into consumable flesh?
The problem is not eating meat. It's the amount of meat people eat that's unsustainable.
1. That's the most popular diet, and foods have been fortified to add vitamins and minerals the diet tends to be deficient in.
2. Well, they're not exactly beacons of health, anyway.
There are billions of vegetarians in the world. They tend to live longer and have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than their meat-eating counterparts. "Thinking" seems like worthwhile effort.
If we take India, which is the country with more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined. It's estimated that 30-40% are vegetarians. A country with a strong cultural history of vegetarianism, religious beliefs that vegetarianism is "right", have the most developed vegetarian cuisine, and a system that makes it super simple to see if something is vegetarian or not - 60-70% still eat meat. If you move to the coast less than 5% are strictly vegetarians.
The issue is not consumption of meat - it's the amount. If you add nuts, beans, and protein heavy vegetables - a family of 4 can get by with 1-1.5kg of meat weekly and make sure all their micro nutrient needs are met without even trying. 1 day with fish, 1 day with red meat, and 1 day with white meat. It's a significantly more achievable goal than cutting meat all together, and it would probably result in a more healthy population than cutting meat all together because it covers all nutritional needs.
> They tend to live longer and have lower rates of cancer and heart disease than their meat-eating counterparts
As far as I've read it's not the meat that causes this, but the lack of vegetables, browning of meat, and addition of processed meat - so while a vegetarian diet solves the problem, you can retain meat in the diet and get the benefit anyway. If you have some peer reviewed scientific papers that show otherwise, I would like to see them because I have papers showing the opposite in abundance.
Which is very unfortunate, in my opinion. It might get people to switch to a more animal-friendly diet, but I simply can't think of how meat replacements are healthier than real meat.
And they're certainly healthier for the environment.
My point is that food is the one thing that's globally almost evenly distributed part of economy. And even if we all change diet's, it wont safe anyone's climate, if the rest is catching up with "western" lifestyles at their current emmisions footprint. Pretty much anything else is easier to change technically, if it wasnt for lobbyism.
I grew up in GDR and still had livestock of our own, this not just about food ethics, but also diversity/robustness of food supply in any more fragile economy.
There are dozens of crops that we can and absolutely should dispense with. The problem with agriculture is farmers don't farm what uses the least resources and brings about the most nutrients per land area, they farm what returns the most. We also subsidize a lot of these crops.
Go and look at a decent resource like nutrition data and compare what you get with milk vs the alternatives. Milk is far more nutritionally dense, and I'm not just referring to calories/macros. It has vitamins, a lot of minerals, and even omegas.
This is the first I’ve heard of this, how strong is the link?
>Limited evidence means that a positive association has been observed between exposure to the agent and cancer but that other explanations for the observations (technically termed chance, bias, or confounding) could not be ruled out.
## Bonus content on processed meats ##
>Processed meat was classified as Group 1, carcinogenic to humans. What does this mean?
This category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.
>In the case of processed meat, this classification is based on sufficient evidence from epidemiological studies that eating processed meat causes colorectal cancer.
They classified coffee, mate, and "very hot beverages" the same way. I'll worry about red meat the exact same way I worry about coffee: not at all, and enjoy every bit I consume.
I'm going to go with the Canadian Cancer Society on red meat.
They also, as a matter of fact, say alcohol is carcinogenic and to use alcohol in moderation.
"Other people give up their SUVs" is easy sell to people who don't drive SUVs.
So with the help of tech, we'll find less and less excuses not to switch, at least partially, to a plant based diet.
Then we have the problem of 1.3-1.5 billion cows. An average cow produces 70 and 120 kg of methane a year. That's 91,000,000 metric tons of methane. Methane is roughly 30x more potent at trapping heat. So conservatively that is 2.73 gigatonnes CO2 equivalent which doesn't include the fuels used to transport them and their feed, the fertilizer manufacturing to fertilize the fields that grow the grain they eat, the cost of refrigerating/freezing their meat...
Over-fishing and acidification is killing off large seaweed and kelp 'forests' in coastal waters, those 'forests' handle a good deal of carbon sequestration.
Let's just look at a hypothetical. Say we outright banned ALL air travel:
Something like 95 billion gallons of aviation fuel was used last year, that has gone up every year without fail for a decade - it was only 66 billion in 2009. Depending on the type of fuel you're looking at 0.55+ gigatonnes there last year.
A tree, highly dependent upon species, can absorb as much as 48 pounds of CO2 per year. That means you need at least 36.3 million trees.
Healthy forest has 40 to 60 trees per acre. That means at least 946,031 square miles of forest, just to offset last year's commercial air travel.
There's nothing easy about fighting climate change. :(
According to that pdf we can offset all human emissions for $250 billion per year by mining/crushing/spreading olivine rocks.
I know planting trees has been in the news lately but if we want to tackle climate change and especially ocean acidification we should accelerate the same natural process that brought the earth back into equilibrium after mass extinction events occurred. In the past it wasn't trees that did it, it was weathering of exposed limestone/olivine rocks that sucked up excess carbon.
Tell them to stop satisfying their taste buds? Tell them that much of the developing world will have to suffer? Does not compute. Can't we just make the rich pay for it somehow?
Environment is now an emotional, political, and identity issue, not a rational one.
“It is worse, much worse, than you think.” - David Wallace-Wells, The Uninhabitable Earth
There's a reason all of these emissions are produced - it's pleasant to imagine that it's all about things that don't really matter - does some rich guy get a sports car or an econobox - but I genuinely don't believe it's that simple. Instead it's a series of complicated decisions about productivity, value and risk.
The article can be safely ignored - nuclear is the only feasible solution regardless of your position on global warming.
Like seriously, parent commenter, tell me how new build nuclear is doing in the USA. How about South Carolina's massive debacle? You think that is the only feasible path forward?
The other poster is correct that this is a regulatory issue. Other countries can bring nuclear power plants online in under 5 years, where it takes almost 15 in the US IIRC.
We’ve already seen two successful Green New Deals - France in the ‘70s and Sweden in the ‘80s. Both deals were built on a backbone of nuclear power.
We all want clean, limitless energy to grow the economy and protect our environment. If California and Germany had spent $680 BILLION on nuclear instead of “renewables”, they’d already be living in the future.
The article is about unrelated beneficial side effects of climate change mitigations, so you're essentially reiterating the articles point.
And that is the point, the people that are benefitting from the current system wants to do so as long as possible and are powerful enough that governments listens mostly to them.
Also it is a coordination problem Moloch style:
1. The enormous amount of low-hanging fruit for energy savings in the US - huge poorly insulated houses, fuel guzzling cars and development patterns, ancient fossil fuel plants subsidized past their useful lives
2. Tens of trillions spent on Iraq and Afghanistan.
If we were somehow ok with that money going up into smoke (or the pockets of the defense industry), then surely we should be able to spend the same amount transforming the economy into a sustainable one and rebuilding our infrastructure, with the bonus of a huge domestic stimulus and job creation and technology program.
We have the technology today, we know the solutions, the problem is political.
If we spend it on fighting climate change instead someone else will get that money, and the people currently getting it is not going to let them happen without a fight.
I don't think that's true. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parable_of_the_broken_window
There's an opportunity cost being paid and it's going to no one.
I mean, apart from the whole not dying in a mass extinction event within our lifetimes...
e: I'm aware of the Holocene extinction. And as far as I'm aware there are no credible predictions that Humans will share the same fate within our lifetimes, which the parent was implying.
Each of as will die anyway so I doubt if anyone can treat not dying in mass extinction as a real benefit.
But clean air, fresh water, free energy, bike paths in place of roads, walking in a forrest, less trash, diving in reefs that ain't bleaching to death - this is more motivating for me.
Why limit yourself to climate change? You can apply this to anything. Work safety, seat belts, you name it.
> Each of us will die anyway, so I doubt if anyone can treat not dying in a car accident/ work related accident / fire as a real benefit.
Also many people are motivated by visible change rather then abstract concepts I think.
They are too rich for that, it's not like humanity will be wiped out. Only the billions unable to move from disaster-stroken areas will.
As for bike paths in place of roads please watch this short movie about Utrecht https://vimeo.com/344373585
Also my country is a transit country between East and West of Europe. And for last 30 years we only hear will be replaced by rail (trucks loaded on rail cars on the border and unloaded on another). Nothing gets done.
Electric cars still pollute cities with 2.5PM, plus need parking space etc. Cities ain't no place for private cars in my opinion.
I've read that the oceans end up absorbing majority of the CO2 emitted, if that's the case, I haven't seen anything (to my knowledge) that goes towards accelerating this in a sustained way for the marine ecosystem.
The oceans are far larger and I suspect will have less issues with rolling out methods of coping with CO2 i.e won't disrupt jobs or or ways of life.
Does it make sense to attack the problem that way? It has the potential to scale much more quickly. Is there a company attacking this sorts of issues like SolarCity?
I vaguely remember a carbon capture scheme that takes advantage of this. I think it basically accelerates the act of carbon settling in the bottom of the ocean as a particulate matter.
(Granted, I'm not an expert and someone who knows more can probably explain more.)