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Apocalyptic Claims About Climate Change Are Wrong (forbes.com)
298 points by hsnewman 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 341 comments





Apocalyptic claims about climate change from both sides are wrong.

As the article says, climate change won't destroy human civilization.

Halting climate change won't destroy the economy, nor would it significantly affect it. It'd cost on the order of a trillion dollars. That's a crazy amount of money, but the US can and will spend that kind of money regularly. For instance, it's comparable to the Iraq War or the Apollo project. It's less than WWII.

And it's not like the trillion would disappear; it's being spent in the economy. And via the broken windows measurement fallacy of economics, it would likely increase our GDP rather than decrease it.


I usually argue against conservative colleagues that are primarily business minded that climate change is demonstrable risks to our private sector economy and national security. Is there a private sector solution towards a global problem that's possible when it's an international policy problem? No, there isn't, especially when so many interests are disincentivized to do anything about the problem.

I hate to use increasing GDP arguments either - GDP is a measure of activity and _what_ it's used for is completely out of the picture. If every American was on payday loans and would be dying immediately after having spent their last dollar on basic needs and capital efficient goods & services our GDP would soar - this is clearly not something that should be optimized for except it's the path we're heading toward right now.


> If every American was on payday loans and would be dying immediately after having spent their last dollar on basic needs and capital efficient goods & services our GDP would soar

While the GDP per capita might soar, the GDP itself would plummet. When you kill off productive workers (all else being equal) you lower your GDP.


Yeah, this is the most frustrating part of all this. Halting climate change isn't even that hard and would clearly benefit billions of people. It just affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people, so we can't do it, and instead spin our tires with dumb nit-picking articles like this one.

Please elaborate on why stopping c.c. isn't hard. I think it's very hard in terms of what we need to do out in the world, and very hard politically.

We are spending more than $5T annually on fossil subsidies. All you have to do is divert that elsewhere.

https://www.imf.org/en/Publications/WP/Issues/2019/05/02/Glo...


I've seen some very expansive definitions of "subsidy" that include, for example, not taxing carbon emissions. In that case, you couldn't just divert the money, because it never existed in a budget.

You could implement a carbon tax, and I'd be all for that, but it wouldn't be in the same policy class as diverting an existing stream of budgetary money.


Yeah, in the cited study is almost all externalities. Only something like $500B is attributed to direct subsidies or foregone tax revenue.

"only" 500 BILLION. How is that small change

It's not small change, but when it is ~10% of the claimed figure I think "only" is the proper adjective.

It's what upsets me about these sorts of papers- "civilian" climate change skeptics/deniers point to them as evidence of the dishonesty of consensus community. They are able to take away the wrong message- that consensus community is stretching and manipulating the data, rather than there are $300-600B of subsidies for fossil fuels out there.


If the author of that article had to misrepresent in order to pump the number up by 10x we can assume that they didn't think 500 billion was a compelling enough number.

> Yeah, in the cited study is almost all externalities.

Negative externalities are a type of subsidy.


I think the point is it’s not a subsidy that could instead be spent somewhere else.

Closing the loophole of a negative externality absolutely would generate revenue that could be spent elsewhere. Carbon taxes are a perfect example.

It is counted as a valid means of subsidy by both the EU and WTO. The UK was singled out for increasing fossil fuel subsidy by the EU, when UK gov reduced the VAT rate on domestic fuel bills. As the grid moves to renewables the level of subsidy declines.

The UK kept that reduced rate on domestic fuel when they brought in a low carbon price floor (another bonus of EU membership). That managed to take almost all coal out of UK power generation - there's only three plants left, all marked to close in the next couple of years. It's already starting to have impact on gas's viability.

As different rules apply to vehicle fuel, and domestic fuel, individual behaviour hasn't been much affected, and cities are still full of dirty air from internal combustion. UK has been particularly weak at improving air quality in the last decade or so.


Definitions are contextual. I think it's 100% reasonable for the EU and WTO to define subsidy in such a way that it can include untaxed externalities. I'm comfortable with that definition myself. I still think it was deceptive for imglorp to transplant that definition into a context where it wasn't mutually understood and then leverage the misunderstanding to promote an incorrect picture of reality.

> We are spending more than $5T annually on fossil subsidies. All you have to do is divert that elsewhere.

"Spending" and "divert" imply a cash flow, not a flow of value in the form of a collection of externalities. That's relevant. Redirecting funds is a different political beast from increasing taxes. To be clear, I want a carbon tax. Let's promote it with logic, not with clumsy attempts at deception.


Sure, it's more accurate to note fossil receives $5t in visible and invisible subsidy, but as more nations start to move to carbon pricing, their absence becomes a far more overt policy-driven subsidy.

So I'm a little more flexible in a web discussion than I would hope for from a finance minister. Except actual politicians, of all colours, are even more creative in the hoops jumped to imply wholly incorrectly their own tax raising policies are not a tax hike such that it becomes a logic and fact free zone.

Personally, I want the same as you, perhaps a little further as I'd like those externalities baked into the price of everything, and required to be picked out before sale. Maybe required on every label like how calories or salt content is picked out on food. Then I can choose logically or at least knowingly. I don't think politicians are ever willing, after a little industry lobbying, to give us that... Which applies to far too many issues, not just climate.


> Sure, it's more accurate to note fossil receives $5t in visible and invisible subsidy

No, that's absurd way to put it. It's like saying that shipping industry receives trillions of dollars of invisible subsidy due to not having to rent the ocean water the container ships float on. Yes, if oceans didn't exist, shipping would be quite a bit more expensive, and you can even do the math and put a number on that, but the fact is that if you tried to "divert" these "invisible" subsidies from shipping companies, and taxed them for the trillions of imputed income, you'll soon find that those trillions do not line up shipping companies pockets.

The only reason to call it "subsidy" is to imply that the companies are "unfairly" benefiting, but unless these externalities have actual cost to the economy instead of just imputed carbon/water tax, you'll find no resources to divert.


Of course they have an actual cost the economy. In health impacts from polluted air, in impacts from changed climate, increasing intensity storms, floods and such. There's been more than enough studies showing impacts.

The ocean analogy isn't such a far stretch either - the increasing levels of pollution and emissions from container traffic, using a particularly dirty fuel and an industry that flushes tanks and oil rich pollutants in international waters has an impact on water quality, fish stocks and other ocean life. Roads are a subsidy on cars as they are paid for by general taxation rather than specifically on vehicle use.

Those externalities should all be priced in to discourage impactful behaviour, and encourage truly sustainable behaviour, on the sole viable planet we currently have. At the very least we can make a poor choice knowingly.


> The only reason to call it "subsidy" is to imply that the companies are "unfairly" benefiting, but unless these externalities have actual cost to the economy instead of just imputed carbon/water tax, you'll find no resources to divert.

It very much does have actual cost, just not today or tomorrow, so it's a bit harder to calculate.

If I break your bike in the middle of winter, the cost won't actualize until spring when you would have used it, and instead have to pay for the bus. So sure, it's not a Q4 cost, but it is real nonetheless.


As someone who believes in action on climate change and is very willing to take the consumption and taxation hits that that implies, this is what frustrates me most about the climate conversation: I've already "priced in" the existence of stubborn skeptics and greedy people, but the fact that even the "good guys" compulsively lie and distort the facts when it comes to climate change makes changing public opinion seem insurmountable (and this is how you change policy in a democracy). It's at times like these when the criticism of my fellow leftists as religious adherents[1] sounds the most uncomfortably true: people talk in terms of facts but think in terms of dogma and heresy. There's no claim in support of the dogma that should be suppressed and no claim in favor of the heresy that should be acknowledged.

It reminds me of nothing so much as the tenor of criticism of Trump, especially early in his term. The man is already a monster! You don't need to keep lying to make him look like one, and all it does is turn of people who mightve agreed with your legitimate criticism!

[1] To be clear, I have no reason to think that our counterparts on the right don't do this too. It just makes more of an impact to realize that everyone around you is dishonest and stupid than it does to realize that everyone in a relatively alien subculture is.


For it to be quite so left/right is uniquely American. In the UK a majority of supporters of both main parties want more dramatic action on climate. The right have yet to respond with a credible policy - going with "ignore it whilst talking loudly about their having committed to carbon neutral 2050", i.e. all mouth and no trousers.

Why the heck would climate get a uniquely honest political conversation? Politicians of all colours lie, obfuscate and distort the facts on all issues all the time, whilst continuing to hurtle in a direction most of the country's voters would prefer not. Unless the US experience has been very different, most votes will be for least worst, not in favour of either as tribal loyalties mostly died last century, only really remaining tribal with the elderly. It's one of the reasons for such a deep mistrust and disillusionment of politics and may have contributed to some of the world's "surprise" results lately, along with so many polls being proved wrong.

Honesty and politics are oil and water. The honest discussion is usually elsewhere.


About ~1 Billion of that cited number is from global warming costs. The larger portions is from health costs associated with air pollution which accounts for ~2 Billion. You can find a break down of the sources of that subsidy at the bottom of page 21 of the linked article.

Do you mean trillion here?

Haha, yup

There’s some tricky accounting going on with this number: https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.theatlantic.com/amp/article...

> Then the report adds that there is actually another kind of subsidy, which it calls a post-tax subsidy. This subsidy reflects the difference between “actual consumer fuel prices” and the full societal and environmental costs of a fuel.


sounds like the same math tesla used in pricing their vehicles (subtracting how much an average person spends on gas from the advertised total)

>We are spending more than $5T annually on fossil subsidies.

Ok, but China is adding millions of brand new drivers to the roads every year, they've had to institute a lottery system just to determine who can apply for a license. They're building roads, bridges, gas stations etc as fast as they can to accommodate all of the new drivers and you can see this documented in the China episode of Grand Tour last season. This is going to happen with or without subsidies (Besides, I highly doubt China is subsidizing their citizens petrochemical purchases in any meaningful amount).

China is going to have more drivers than the United States has people in the country in the near future and that will only continue to grow. Are you going to tell more than a billion people to never get a car and to only walk places?

What about the fact that China is actively constructing hundreds of coal power plants? Or the fact their middle-class is rapidly growing which will mean more energy demands (which will mean more fossil fuel consumption) and more consumer goods (more plastics, from fossil fuels)?

>Since the early 2000s, China's middle class has been among the fastest growing in the world, swelling from 29 million in 1999 (2 percent of population) to roughly 531 million in 2013 (39 percent of population).

https://chinapower.csis.org/china-middle-class/


But China is weaning itself off fossil fuels?

China has over 400,000 electric buses (99% of the world) and the longest high speed rail in the planet. High-speed rails carry twice as many passengers each month as the country’s airlines.

4.2% of new car purchases in China were electric vehicles in 2018. China has 250 million electric motorcycles/scooters (99% of the world's). These numbers are growing rapidly every year.

China is also the world's largest producer of photovoltaic power not to mention the world's leading installer of solar panels. Their literal stated goal for 2050 is to reach 1,300 GW of solar capacity, which is enormous. That would make it the source with the largest installed capacity in China.

China has a lot of problems, but fossil fuel addiction is not one of them.


Just by virtue of them being big, it is still a problem. Also said started goal is less than used for consensus "current" climate change target by IPCC which is considered optimistic and nets some 3.5 C rise as per model.

2050 is too late as well. To make a big difference the timetable for that capacity would have to be 2030 and all the baseline would have to be hydro or nuclear. This is unlikely to happen even if they really want to do it.

Now consider that we also have USA to handle who are notorious about ignoring climate change targets...

Now, even 5 C is not a cataclysmic event but it will be very bad on a global scale - mostly water availability and farming, related price shocks and social upheaval.


Have you read the study? It isn’t behind a paywall or anything - it’s free to read.

with under-charging for domestic air pollution accounting for about half of the total subsidy and global warming about a quarter.

I’m not completely against calling the huge unpriced externality of carbon emissions a “subsidy”; but markets are reactive and once we start charging a carbon tax, we’ll start emitting less carbon dioxide (good!) But we’ll lose out on much of this “subsidy”, too.


> we’ll start emitting less carbon dioxide (good!) But we’ll lose out on much of this “subsidy”, too.

You mean we will have to pay less to deal with the health effects of air pollution and and the economic effects of global warming? I'm not clear what subsidy we "miss out on" here.


I agree that pricing the externalities is fairly counted, but the GP comment framing it as a subsidy is still dishonest: someone could easily read that Stat and decide that you can add the $N trillion from carbon tax revenue to the $5T in removed subsidy, and they'd end up overcounting by about $4.5T

It wasn't hard back in 1989 when we knew it was a problem that needed addressing. It's getting increasingly hard.

Technically, carbon pricing at $100 would probably do it. I agree politically that's hard.

You'd have to do that globally to be successful. Otherwise you'll just drive producing industries to countries that don't care (Russia, for example).

Effectively what would happen is high CO2 parts (such as concrete) would be manufactured in a country that doesn't tax it. If you say "Oh, well we'll just tariff it!" then the next step would be to ship it to a country without said tariff. That country could then move the goods directly to the taxed nation or it could ping pong a bit till it reaches it's end goal.

Would that raise prices? Absolutely, but probably less than the $100 tax would. All the while increasing the amount of CO2 emitted due to all the shipping that would occur.

And, if you don't think that would happen, just look at how it's worked out with child labor laws.

The balancing act would be to tax hard enough to make industries want to decrease their emissions, yet low enough that importing isn't more economically viable. As a bonus, you could spend that revenue in building out clean energy sources to effect change faster.


>If you say "Oh, well we'll just tariff it!" then the next step would be to ship it to a country without said tariff. That country could then move the goods directly to the taxed nation or it could ping pong a bit till it reaches it's end goal.

Duties are based on the country of origin, a middleman country would have to do something substantial to the goods to change the country of origin (for example taking wafers and manufacturing them into bare printed circuit boards).

Even with a country doing something significant they could still be subject to counterveiling and/or anti-dumping duties for another country. For example the tariff 8517700000 which is frequently used for parts of mobile phones like the screen/keypad/bezel/antenna from say Vietnam are still potentially subject to ADD/CVD for China. Or photo-voltaic cells/panels universally flag as potentially subject to ADD/CVD regardless of the declared country of origin.

In examples like the above two part of the scope of the investigation involves companies in those countries known to use things from CN, such as aluminum extrusions for the 8517700000, that are subject to ADD/CVD so they have to disclaim it on a case by case basis or pay the ADD/CVD charges.

Source: this is what I do for a living and the 8517700000 VN example is actually from this morning with some mobile phone displays.


Country of origin works when the goods themselves are relatively complex. However, the goods with the highest carbon footprint (concrete, steel) don't really have a "looks like it was made in russia" sort of badge that couldn't be easily removed/replaced.

Take food as an example. With the recent china soybean tariffs the way that some manufactures got around it was first shipping the goods to Thailand.

From there it is either processed or re-exported.

https://www.scbeic.com/th/detail/product/4730

So long as the middleman country/countries have lax regulations and the actors aren't pushing heavily on them, then goods can flow (all be it at increased cost due to additional shipping/repackaging).


>However, the goods with the highest carbon footprint (concrete, steel) don't really have a "looks like it was made in russia" sort of badge that couldn't be easily removed/replaced.

Yeah, except people have tried to do this with aluminum by bringing it through Mexico and it doesnt' really work. This is partly why say 8517700000 from Vietnam like in my example is potentially subject to anti-dumping as if it were from China.

https://fortune.com/2016/09/09/chinese-aluminum-giant-is-tie...

Sure, it works for some handbags or sunglasses, even a few cargo containers of product, but any meaningful amount and forget about it.


Regarding the tariffs. These are usually country of origin based, so shipping to a third country first doesn't help.

That works when everyone is being honest about the country of origin. That doesn't help if Russia makes the product, slaps "made in Turkey" on it, and then ships it to Turkey to get it to the US.

That's the reason why customs reserves looong periods for reviews. They are currently prosecuting a couple of companies and people for that kind fraud that concerned solar module imports into the EU between 2015 and 2016. Customs are sticky with that. Black imports like drugs are, IMHO easier to hide than falsely declared goods as the latter leaves a paper trail.

You'd have to try to make countries like Russia play along, probably by trade sanctions.

Every human exhales about a half ton of CO2 per year. How would a $50 per year breathing license fit into your plan?

Taxes on the food we convert probably exceed $50 already. I get you can't account for every little thing but approximately right may be better than doing nothing.

I'm pretty sure we can simply not put a price on our own exhaling. It doesn't have to be like (the opposite I guess) of Total Recall.

Mostly not from fossil sources though.

The CO2 exhaled by humans was already in the air when they inhaled. Conflating that with CO2 actively created from industrial processes is disingenuous at best.

It was definitely not. It was in the food we interested.

Trees and other plants take carbon from air, energy from the sub, and use it to build themselves. We take carbon from them and put it back into the air, using the excess energy to move and think.


>It was in the food

Which was in the air in the past few months to handful of years depending on how fresh the food is and what it is (plant, animal). Unlike the CO2 from fossil fuels which was sequestered for millions of years. And had that not been harvested for food, it would have sat their being decomposed in a field somewhere returning that carbon right back into the atmosphere via animals and bacteria snacking on it as they broke it down.


Actually even worse as it would get converted into much more potent GHG - mostly methane.

The oil and coal only happen when organic matter is subjected to pressure and non-porous geological layers. Otherwise you get peat fields and those emit methane.


$100 per what?

per metric ton (a.k.a. tonne) of CO2

The hard part is international collaboration. Getting China and India on board has been a non-starter so far, and they're far and away the largest contributors.

Measuring per capita carbon footprint makes more sense for climate science as the effects don't limit themselves to artificial borders.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...

Per capita carbon emissions of US are 8 times as of India and 2 times as of China. And which country is withdrawing from the Paris agreement?


With regards to

> Measuring per capita carbon

being better...

It is not clear to me why this makes sense.

If person A drive 2 miles per day in an SUV, and another person B drives 100 miles per day in a sedan -- person B pollutes more.

Why would driver A considered to pollute more ?


Because supposedly it is self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. The amount of emissions correlate strongly to that pursuit of happiness at least for now — you only see extremely low per-capita emissions in extremely underdeveloped countries.

Meanwhile, “all miles driven are created equal” said no one ever.


I am not sure that 'dividing' amount of pollution a given geographical region produces, on to number of people there -- is the only righteous and effective measure of international accountability).

In my view, measuring delta in total greenhouse gasses produced, would a better measure for international accords, and their subsequent corruption-free enforcement.

This is why I brought the pollution-per-mile vs pollution-produced analogy.

With regards to > "The amount of emissions correlate strongly to that pursuit of happiness at least for now..."

I think, you are also averaging out to-per-capita that, might not be appropriate...

Say there is energy-demanding and mineral demanding manufacture process, that causes deforestation, pollutes rivers, mows down beautiful mountains to get coal, produces lots of green house gasses.

You are claiming that this benefits, at least, economically, 'every' per-capita person on that country.

But if same manufacture used more renewable energy, and produced more expensive goods. Would the 'per-capita' be worst off?

Perhaps it would not be. Right?

In other words, we really need to measure what that manufacture is doing.

And that's why I think measuring changes in pollution (due to changes in policy of a given country), and changes in preservation of natural habitats -- is a much more effective way to measure policies of governments.

Another way to look at it is this way:

Performance indicators should be relevant to the individuals or institutions that are actually accountable for the execution of what's being measured.

In this case, we are measuring government policies, not individuals. Therefore dividing per capita, should not be used as 'first-order' measure.


What does that have to do with anything? You've completely ignored the concept of what "per capita" even means in this context. Person B could be in Country 1 with low per capita emissions, or Person B could be in Country 2 with high per capita emissions. It doesn't change the fact that on average, individual people in Country 2 emit more CO2 emissions than people from Country 1...

Also, deciding to not do something positive because other people are still doing something negative somewhere else is a shitty argument.


@gttghh, your "... is a shitty argument ... " critique, is insulting.

This is also against HN guidelines

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

>" When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. "That is idiotic; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 + 1 is 2, not 3."

"


I called their argument shitty, not them personally. I stand by my statement.

Not at all. Both signed up to the Paris -- and previous agreements, but unfortunately Paris is a pretty weak, almost voluntary agreement that gives particular leeway to developing nations.

Up to and including Kyoto they differentiated between developed and developing world. That differentiation was lost at Paris so the developed world could evade their "historical responsibility" (a key phrase of the differentiation). The intent was, I think, that the developed world would assist via subsidy the developing world to shortcut past the mucky phase of fuel use. An intent that goes all the way back to the eighties, and has come and gone in terms of visibility. That would have cost actual money. Needless to say that didn't happen. Or come remotely close to happening.


china and India are large contributors only because they have large populations. Even then the US is a larger total contributor than India.

India, yes, but China emits more per capita than some European countries (e.g. Sweden, Switzerland and France).

China surpassed the EU average already in 2012.

https://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=booklet2018&ds...


Rephrased: “You gotta stop, we gotta continue our wasteful lifestyle.”

> Getting China and India on board has been a non-starter so far

China is ahead of schedule in reducing its emissions. Consider also that being the first to switch to renewables or other energy sources means we develop technology to replace existing infrastructure that we can then export. The first-mover advantage on this is obvious.


I'm going to copy-paste a comment I wrote a year ago because I get tired of hearing this BS. As far as I can tell, "on board" is just code for "remain poor while we keep the status quo".

India and China both have leadership that acknowledge the existence of anthropogenic climate change and is taking active measures. That would seem like table stakes but unfortunately we live in a world where that's not a given.

India produces 20% of electricity from renewable sources, not including large hydro[1]. Including large hydro, it's 29%. In comparison, the US produces only 15% from renewable sources including hydro[2] which, of course, has lots of environmental costs before any energy generation begins. This is admittedly a meaningless factoid but still kind of cool - India has 5 of the 10 largest solar power stations in the world, more than any other nation.[5] The Delhi city government has made it mandatory for government and public institutions to install rooftop solar[6]. This is on top of a government program that provides subsidized loans for rooftop solar on factories.[7] There's plenty of other renewable energy, rainwater harvesting, and recycling programs at various levels of the Indian government - federal, state, and city. I'm not saying all of them will work (it's the government, after all) but it's solid effort, and hard cash being put in.

Gasoline costs USD 4.55/gal in Mumbai today[8] - compared to around USD 3.50 in California, which already has the highest gas prices in the continental US. Due to the lower average disposable income in India, this means motorists prioritize fuel economy over comfort, and even safety.

India's annual population growth rate is 1.10% - a shade above the global average of 1.09%[3]. It's also been steadily dropping for decades and that trend is expected to continue.[4] China's population growth rate is 0.41% - lower even than the US.[3]

The only way India and China can keep from increasing their emissions is by stopping their economic progress. This would effectively keep their respective populations poor, undernourished, and lacking modern amenities such as healthcare, transportation, or entertainment. So what do you mean by "on board" exactly? What other shining exemplars of environmental rectitude can one point at to persuade India and China? What other nations have made, or committed to make, similar lifestyle sacrifices?

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_India

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_energy_in_the_United....

3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_populatio....

4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_India#Fertilit....

5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_photovoltaic_power_sta....

6. https://www.ndtv.com/delhi-news/government-announces-policy-....

7. https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2017/12/07/india-t....

8. https://www.mypetrolprice.com/3/Petrol-price-in-Mumbai

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18164816


Please don't copy/paste comments here. I know it's tempting on complex contentious topics, but it's not how conversation works, and HN threads are supposed to be conversations. Boilerplate is the extreme opposite of curiosity.

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

https://hn.algolia.com/?dateRange=all&page=0&prefix=true&que...

If you want to bring an earlier comment into the conversation, the way to do that is to explain what it is and link to it.


That's a feature I didn't know you had, the first time I ever saw dupe on a comment! :)


No, they aren't. India's per capita CO2 output is tiny. China's is middle of the road. Per capita is the only way we can talk about CO2, because otherwise we get true absurdities, like Denmark or Ireland being allowed to pollute as much as the US. (The world will not support 200 countries polluting ad much as the US.)

There's also a simple solution to getting trade partners on board. It's called a carbon tariff.


When talking about global action, you need to involve the political organizations of populations where effective action can be practically enacted. Per capita isnt as useful a measure as you think when talking about large scale change.

> India's per capita CO2 output is tiny.

being tiny now implies incredible room for growth given growth rates of those countries, which is actually an arugment for more action not less.

> Per capita is the only way we can talk about CO2

Wouldn't it also mean India and china won't have to do anything for decades till they get to same per capita as USA ?


India is already doing plenty. See my comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18164816

It would mean China needs to stop emitting more per capita and the US (and other developed countries) needs to reduce its emissions per capita.

> It would mean China needs to stop emitting more per capita

No it doesn't following GP's chain of logic. It doesn't need to do anything till the point it hits US per capita.


"doesn't need to do anything" is a qualifier that _you_ added, apparently based on a gross misunderstanding of the conversation. We're talking about defining an ideal target here, with deference paid to the fact that the status quo poses some inertia. If we're talking about an idealized frictionless vacuum, everybody would snap to the same emissions per capita, at the level required to forestall the negative effects of climate change. This would imply a substantial reduction of US emissions and perhaps an increase or small decrease in Indo-China emissions; increasing China to US levels doesn't make sense in any model, idealized or otherwise. Given that inertia means that the US reduction can't be immediate and drastic, it still suggests that mroe of the burden for emission reduction falls on the US than on India and China.

I admit don't really understand what target would china and india have per capita under this model.

Why would any burden fall on china/india given they are already on the low end of per capita.

Can you define what burden falls on them under your per capita model?


No, China emits more than the greener European countries so they should act, just like we should. The US being way worse is not an excuse for Europe or China to do nothing.

I also agree with this. Even greener European countries are not particularly close to a sustainable level of emissions.

China's per-capita output is a problem. But it's not the kind of problem where we can just point fingers at it, and using that as a justification to ignore the mess we're making. (As we range from 'just as bad' to 'much worse'.)


> Wouldn't it also mean India and china won't have to do anything for decades till they get to same per capita as USA ?

If the US does not reduce it's emissions, yes. (In China's case, it's emissions are currently per-capita similar to most of the EU).

This is a great argument for the US, and the EU to reduce their emissions, instead of sitting around, pointing fingers are China.

Again, if you aren't using per capita metrics, you will get absurd conclusions. If a country splits in half, does that mean it should be allowed to emit twice as much?


> EU to reduce their emissions

Why would EU need to reduce if they are currently 'middle of the road' like you said.


Because "middle of the road" isn't good enough. If we want to avoid disaster than the EU needs to cut emissions massively, and the US needs to cut even more.

The EU is in a much better position to cut emissions too: their cities are generally denser and have far better public transit than the US's sprawling cities and suburbs. All the EU needs to do is increase the price of auto fuel more to discourage private vehicle usage, and further build out their public transit systems.

The US is in a terrible position, however, because everything is car-based. It would help if they'd push for more dense development and extending public transit, but there's really no sign of that at all.


The US could also increase the price of petrol. This would encourage the use of more fuel-efficient cars. Most European cars are way more efficient than American cars. Admittedly, this is a cultural, not a technological, problem in the US.

>The US could also increase the price of petrol.

No, it really can't. The voters would immediately vote for the candidate that promises to reverse this. Gas prices are a huge political issue in the US, to an irrational extent. Americans cling irrationally to their gigantic SUVs and will do anything to keep them.

>Most European cars are way more efficient than American cars.

Not really, no. Cars these days are all pretty efficient; it's the trucks and SUVs that guzzle gas. Tiny cars really don't get much better fuel economy than mid-size cars any more, and no one buys full-size cars these days (I don't think there's even any made any more). A Prius is way more efficient than some tiny European car like a Smart.

Now if you're talking average fleet economy (which takes into account that so many Americans buy trucks and SUVs instead of cars), then you're correct, but that's because of buying choices. If we all switched to Priuses, we'd easy double (or more) our average fuel economy.

>Admittedly, this is a cultural, not a technological, problem in the US.

Exactly, which is why I was complaining about the sprawl and car culture of the US. Just telling people to buy more efficient cars isn't going to change anything; it's a product of a culture where there's sprawl and too much low-density development and a mindset that everything should be optimized for car-based travel. It's naturally going to lead to many people being selfish and buying larger vehicles than they need. This is the case everywhere where there's private vehicles, including Europe and Japan. I've seen huge SUVs, vans, etc. in Japan and Europe. Of course, they're not that common in those places because fuel prices are high and public transit is good, but if those two factors weren't true there, they'd be full of giant SUVs just like the US.


> Gas prices are a huge political issue in the US, to an irrational extent.

Is there a country where this isn't an issue? I know its a super big deal here India. There are protests, strikes and political agigatioins on regular basis on this issue. It might actually be the number one issue here.


Gas in India is more expensive than gas in the US, yet the average American earns 30-50 times more money.

If gas were $200/gallon, then the amount of attention Americans pay to it would be rational.


That's one of the reasons why I argue countries India will electrify their transportation and no ones going to have a say in it. Least of all what an 'merican in a big truck' thinks. I don't think India wants have to worry about the political fallout of oil price swings. Chafes at being dependent on potentially hostile countries. And has to breathe the same air as everyone else.

Per capita may not be the best metric. China’s population isn’t going to shrink any time soon. If the environment is the concern the total emissions seems like the appropriate figure.

Don’t see how that would make sense. Comparing the emissions of China vs that of Iceland just doesn’t make sense.

We can talk about total global emissions, but then bring it down to the total per capita contribution per country. e.g. China has 20% of the worlds population so are “allowed” 20% of the worlds total emissions.


Careful there. That would incentivize unscrupulous nations to breed vast populations and keep them barely alive in cages, just to be "allowed" more emissions.

That's quite the jump.

"Yeah, this is the most frustrating part of all this. Halting climate change isn't even that hard and would clearly benefit billions of people. It just affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people ..."

I note, with interest, that France enacted the most modest of modest steps toward this goal and the result was nationwide riots in the streets that continue to this day.

I, also, would like to live in the Star Trek future I always dreamed of where we drive electric cars and generate power in new and elegant ways ... I'm not sure how easy it will be.


He also did it on the backs of the same protesting working people, while cutting taxes on the rich - hence the protests.

Nope, France's president E.Macron tried to pull a fast one, raising tax on fuel and diverting the income towards financing the state, which was most needed because he also removed the ISF: Impôt sur la Fortune...

Well, yes, all taxes divert income towards financing the state. That's rather the definition of a tax.

That isn't an argument against rsync's point, which is that raising fuel taxes in France triggered months of nationwide rioting by people wearing yellow vests, symbolic because French people have to have them in their cars by law. That is they literally made the symbol of their protests a symbol of car driving.

The UK is less prone to riots. However the government abandoned its fuel tax escalator policy ("automatic" fuel tax increases) after a series of protests by truckers who blockaded ports and threatened to bring about a collapse of supply chains.

The conclusion I draw from all this is simple but brutal:governments have nothing they can do about climate change. Nor do protestors, nor do most people. The only people who can make any difference at all are a small group of scientists (not climate scientists), and (primarily) engineers. It's only engineers who develop better cars and power generation techniques who shift the needle. The rest of us might as well forget about it.


The underlying policy predates Macron, as it was decided under Hollande (albeit Macron was his economy minister). The policy is to raise taxes on gas little by little to reduce its usage, and that of diesel even more quickly so that the prices of "normal" gas and diesel would converge by 2022. [1]

Macron decided to go faster than initially decided by Hollande. I would not call that a "fast one", especially given that IIRC it was announced during his electoral campaign. Macron electors are mostly urban middle class, so are not affected by taxes on gas that much...

[1] Here is a graph (the article is in French): https://www.ledauphine.com/economie-et-finance/2018/10/24/pr...


The fast one was, sorry I forgot to mention: the tax was justified as financing green initiatives, but a small oart of the proceed went that way... Also some leaked emails about this being an actual scheme, look it up.

The change in sentiment toward climate change feels nearly as slow. It is moving in the right direction and picking up, so it's only a matter of time before it becomes the new hot thing like autonomous vehicles or space travel and everyone wants to do it. The faster the general populations perceive it as good, important and exciting, the more those in positions of influence will tie their images to it. I welcome more "who does more to fight climate change" pissing contests like Elon Musk's $1,000,000 tree planting.

> Yeah, this is the most frustrating part of all this. Halting climate change isn't even that hard and would clearly benefit billions of people. It just affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people, so we can't do it, and instead spin our tires with dumb nit-picking articles like this one.

It's frustrating to me to read comments like this. I will try my best to elaborate.

> Halting climate change isn't even that hard and would clearly benefit billions of people.

This is a simplification of course - I'm in no way implying you're not aware of that, or that this is a flaw in your argument. I think we can agree on this well enough.

> It just affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people, so we can't do it

"It affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people...."

This seems factual.

"It just affects the pocketbooks of a couple of rich people...."

This seems non-factual, due to that seemingly innocuous additional word: just. A multi-trillion dollar initiative and the corresponding policy changes would ripple through the incredibly complex system we call the economy, affecting everyone, and not in a completely proportional and "fair" manner. From my years of close observation of the behavior of the various actors in democratic political systems, I predict this could affect sentiment and therefore voting patterns, to a consequential degree. Keep in mind though, this is only a prediction, I am unable to see into the future.

"...so we can't do it..."

This on its own seems factual, but not for the reason you stated. At the very least, it is speculative.

"...and instead spin our tires with dumb nit-picking articles like this one."

I strongly disagree that this article is "stupid", but rather, I think it is right on the money, and is drawing attention to an incredibly important and incredibly overlooked underlying (potential) cause of our inability to move the ball forward on the climate change initiative.

FTA:

> Journalists and activists alike have an obligation to describe environmental problems honestly and accurately, even if they fear doing so will reduce their news value or salience with the public. There is good evidence that the catastrophist framing of climate change is self-defeating because it alienates and polarizes many people.

....who then often proceed to vote, illogically, in a "fuck you" manner. [0]

I often read sentiments about climate "deniers"[1] being "the children in the room", and people like[2] yourself being "the adults". I can agree that there is some truth to this, but I would argue less than meets the eye.

My intuition tells me a more accurate description would be something like: the "deniers" are the children, "people like you" are the teenagers, "people like the author" are "the young adults", and the people that recognize that what we're doing just isn't working, decide to calm down and start looking deeply at details, taking into consideration the infinite complexity of the numerous inter-related systems involved (one of which is the human mind), paying close attention to the nature of conversations and making note of where things may be going off track, come up with some new ideas, and try to get those ideas out into the meme war.....these are the actual adults in the room.

To me, tackling climate change with science and facts is similar to bringing a knife to a gunfight. People don't think in facts, because that isn't how we evolved. Purely factual thinking mutations are culled from the herd by evolution, because it doesn't produce results. Historically for sure, but the same argument could be made today, at least within most domains.

We can deal with reality as it "should" be, or we can deal with it how it is. That choice is up to each and every one of us, each and every time we interact with these and similar issues.

(I speculate that) We all think we're worried "just" about the climate change, because our senses tell us that. But is that all that's going on here? The intense emotions we each feel when reading such discussions, are those emotions purely derived from pure logical thinking about the future state of the climate, or might they be in part a result of reactions to subconscious heuristic interpretations of the words others are writing, resulting in a subconscious classification of the person into an in-group or out-group categorization, which in turn results in signals being sent up to the conscious mind to react in a certain manner, which sets off a chain of events which are hilariously counter-productive to our conscious, logical, intended goals. (An example of this curiously complex behavior would be the brain sending signals to the hand to move one's mousepointer over top of one of two available diamonds beside this comment, and then a signal to depress the left mouse button, as an expression of...something, but exactly what is not discernible to an outside observer. It may not even be accurately discernible to the person operating the mouse, such is the beautiful complexity of the human mind).

My proposal is that we cool our jets and realize what is actually going on here, and use the substantial intellectual power that exists within the HN hivemind to start to come up with some better ideas. Battling climate change is a multi-dimensional problem, but we seem to be aware of only a subset of these dimensions. Scientists, politicians, "journalists", and media celebrities are helpful (at times at least), but I believe there are many crucially important disciplines that have been excluded from the conversation - in part because we're thinking about the problem wrong, in part because we often think of those disciplines as "stupid" or trivial.

This thinking may be right, or it may be wrong. But at the end of the day, we are going to find out one way or the other. Let's hope we've guessed right, because that's what we're doing here so far: guessing. Educated guesses perhaps, but still guesses.

As the saying goes: as we sow, so shall we reap. This statement is true regardless of humanity's current collective agreement on the matter - the universe will unfold as it will. We can let this process occur randomly, or we can intervene and attempt to shape it more to our liking, but being successful in that endeavor requires a proper analysis, and proper action.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMm5HfxNXY4

[1] "deniers" are often not actually that, but let's not get hung up on trivialities like facts.

[2] I say "like" here as a generalization, but am reserving judgement on whether you are actually such a person - this footnote is to make it explicitly clear that my statement is speculative.


For sake of argument, is there any evidence that people voted differently before catastrophist framing? It seems to me that Republicans have always voted against addressing climate change.

I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with you that the discourse of many activists isn't great, but I think that's because they have lost confidence that the other side will argue in good faith or even can be reached.


> For sake of argument, is there any evidence that people voted differently before catastrophist framing?

Perhaps one could find some "evidence" that hints at it, but the unfortunate reality is that some things are beyond our ability to know. However, it does not logically follow that we should then assume one way or the other and categorize that conclusion as true or false. An objective approach would be to classify the idea something along the lines of: "Status": "Uncertain - needs further investigation", "Importance":"Potentially High". Of course, this isn't how we evolved to be, but it's worth pointing out.

> It seems to me that Republicans have always voted against addressing climate change.

This may be true (or "true enough", to be pedantic), but is it useful? It's likely useful sometimes, but at other times might thinking and speaking in such terms be harmful (counter-productive to our goals)?

These seem like worthwhile questions to me, and the point the author is trying to make if I'm not mistaken.

> I guess what I'm saying is that I agree with you that the discourse of many activists isn't great, but I think that's because they have lost confidence that the other side will argue in good faith or even can be reached.

If you speak to the other side and you are not reaching them, it may be worthwhile to examine the manner in which you are speaking to them and consider new strategies. The fields of psychology, psychiatry, communication (conflict resolution), etc have a fair amount of expertise in this area, yet I don't recall any of them being consulted on this matter.[0]

[0] EDIT: Based on voting, I infer that my theory above is not considered popular by readers. Perhaps this style of thinking is common across those who have influence over what disciplines shall be included in the public persuasion initiative that has been underway for several years now, which would explain why the initiative is limited to only a subset of the plausibly relevant intellectual disciplines, which may in turn be a root cause of why the initiative seems to be falling well short of the desired success rate, that logic indicates should be an expected outcome.

Oh well, what can ya do! I'm probably taking this whole climate change thing way more seriously than the circumstances call for.


The reason we haven't done these things is because of a "couple rich people"? We have a consensus and viable solutions that would clearly benefit billions of people, but we aren't because it affects a couple rich people? Seriously? Who are those people?

No, halting climate change is actually impossible. All you need in order to understand this is elementary physics (conservation of energy, etc) and critical thinking.

This isn’t my opinion, we have known this —by this I mean, science, not voodoo— for many years, probably a decade or more.


You're making a claim but you're not substantiating it, could you elaborate what you're referring to exactly?

Well when you take the words climate change literally and ignore what it means in context, yeah, you're absolutely right.

But then you're also revealing yourself as a dishonest participant who is probably not worth discussing this issue witb


The climate is not static. The conclusion that manmade factors are accelerating it does not perclude the slow warming phenomenon already in effect.

Nonetheless, you are arguing past each other. The answer, is no matter how much is, or is not man-made, we stand to profit as a species if we combat what we can without causing greater harm by proxy.


I've written about this before. Substantiating my claim is easy. Here you go:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21649195

BTW, this IS NOT my opinion. We have known this for probably a decade, if not more. The problem is that the masses are being brainwashed with lies on both ends of the spectrum. One end claims there is no such thing as human-caused climate change (which is false) and the other that we can actually fix it (which is also false).


You're assuming passive measures only (stop producing more atmospheric carbon) and ignoring active measures (carbon scrubbing, carbon recapture).

I haven't examined your math in detail, but I'm willing to stipulate that you're right that passive measures are wholly inadequate to address climate change. But then you may still be wildly wrong by not addressing active measures.


Active measures will not work either. Again, Conservation of Energy. It takes more energy and resources to change something than what went into creating the problem in the first place. Once again, the data shows this clearly; without humanity around it took twice as long for a 100 ppm drop than the same increase.

This is common sense, requiring only basic physics principles.

Simple analogy: Burn a cubic meter of wood inside a warehouse large enough that the flames will not burn it down. How much energy is required to clean the warehouse from all the particulate matter on every surface, shelf, box, counter, light, crevice, etc?

The answer is: Far more than the energy that went into creating the mess in the first place.

This is not meant to be a perfect analogy, of course. All it is meant to illustrate is that we cannot “clean” the atmosphere with less energy than what created the problem. In fact, we need more energy, lots more. Given that we are talking about an unimaginably large amount if energy and resources it is easy to conclude this is nowhere near possible.

My concern is that we are going to cause more damage than good.

BTW, this does not mean we should not clean-up our act across the board. It simply means we need to stop using climate change as a political battering ram to push these things through.


Note: The planet’s approach to carbon sequestration is far from passive. Storms, cyclones, hurricanes and rain capture CO2. This and vegetation growth is how it CO2 regulation has worked for likely millions of years.

There is no need to substantiate it, it is plain pure logic. The climate will always change. We can influence it a bit, but definitely a lot less than we having giving ourselves credit for. More than that, we don't have enough data to understand how the climate would change by itself, without human influence. The same way there is night and day, winter and summer, planet Earth might be subject to other climate variations that we don't have a clue.

One thing I know for sure: if the population is growing, the Earth is becoming better for human-life, not worse. I'll be concerned about climate change when the population starts to shrink but we are way far from that.


> if the population is growing, the Earth is becoming better for human-life

That isnt logical, casting doubt on your absolute claims. Population growth in animals is relative to available resources not some mythical quality that can be interpreted as "better environment".


Population growth in animals is not just available resources, climate, location, and many other factors play their parts. Stating that the person to whom you were replying to was equating "mythical" qualities to their brief description is as much of a stretch as your "available resources". What I mean is, in their brevity they were not 100% detailed on what "Earth becoming better" actually is. Just as your "available resources" falls short. What kind of resources are you meaning? We can all pick nit's but lets try to be civil.

I disagree. Earth becoming better, would be ludicrously tested by removing all but a small population of humans and comparing survival rates between a given time period and now. The Earth, itself, is not "becoming better" in any human sense. The statement was a fantastic statement, which also meant it was unqualified.

> Population growth in animals is not just available resources, climate, location, and many other factors play their parts.

Habitable area is a resource, which species compete for. There is a generous interpretation of my statement, but there isn't one of a "Earth is better", that makes sense. The commensurate appeal to logical thought was rightly pointed out as hypocritical. I stand by it.


> Population growth in animals is relative to available resources

You said the same as me, with different words. That's it. When did humans have so much spare time to be discussing imaginary problems online? And getting so offended when someone disagree that these imaginary problems will cause our doom.


== We can influence it a bit, but definitely a lot less than we having giving ourselves credit for. More than that, we don't have enough data to understand how the climate would change by itself, without human influence. ==

This logic seems completely contradictory. At first you argue that we can’t really influence climate, then you concede that we have no idea of our impact on it. Can you further explain?



That's a great page but I didn't see this particular objection covered. Maybe your point was it's "yet another false argument"?

Obligatory (for you) xkcd: https://xkcd.com/1732/

Here in Germany we have an airport that has so far cost 5 Billion to build, and it doesn't even work yet.

So you are saying, for just the cost of 200 of those airports, climate change could be halted?

I find that extremely unlikely. I mean for the price, you could basically only build 200 things that are the size of that airport (granted, you can build them cheaper, but apparently it is not a given that it works out).

I think you need to change far more things than just 200 airports to halt climate change.

New power plants or solar energy thingies or whatever. New cities so that people don't have to commute with energy sucking cars. New cars, so that people don't need to burn fossil fuels for driving (and we are talking millions of cars). New factories, new farming methods, and so on and so on. And not just in one country, but world wide.


It's not the absolute cost, it's the incremental cost. For example, the world has about a billion vehicles; just replacing those with electric vehicles would cost tens of trillions. But you don't count the whole cost of the car, you count the price differential between an ICE vehicle and equivalent electric one. And that differential is dropping rapidly -- the most shocking thing about the Tesla Cybertruck announcement wasn't it's ugliness, it's that it is at price parity with a comparable ICE truck even without a subsidy. Similarly wind power is now cheaper than gas.

But that would not halting climate change now, but in a few decades when all the current vehicles have been replaced? Also afaik the CO2 difference between electric vehicles and fuel based vehicles is not even that great?

The scary part is that I think many things climate activists propose actually produce a lot more CO2 in the short term. Factories to build those new cars. Building housing to shorten the commutes. Many other things. Wouldn't it be better to use the existing infrastructure for as long as possible, rather than build new things to replace it?

I wonder how much of a proxy for CO2 output the cost of things is, anyway (since oil price affects so many things). If "cleaner" new products cost more, it makes me suspect they actually consume more CO2 in production. Of course you have to factor in CO2 production in use (fossil fuels vs battery powered cars for example). But often the advantage is not so clear cut. If the new things were better, there would be no need for political intervention to make people use them.


Re: "Apocalyptic claims about climate change from both sides are wrong."

Indeed! Don't listen to pundits and politicians. They are generally blowhards, not experts. Even some experts make outlier predictions, and those who want to make a case that there is too much exaggeration glom onto such. If you go looking for exaggeration or nuts, they are easy to find.

In any subject, listen to multiple opinions and find the original source of claims or studies, not paraphrased or re-construed summaries.

The most accurate voices are rarely the loudest.


Can you cite the $1 trillion cost? Sources I've read seem more in the tens of trillions (https://www.thejournal.ie/paris-climate-agreement-costs-heal...)

I'm not sure what the top poster's "plan" is, but if we wanted to switch to significant amounts of solar+wind, that would require batteries costing thousands of trillions. Practically impossible.

However if he meant planting trees and switching the world to nuclear, that might be doable for a few trillion.

Every government project goes over budget, so it's probably much higher than that.


Li-ion batteries cost ~$145/kWh (new), can last >4,000 cycles. That’s <$0.03625/kWh when adjusting for product lifetime.

World electricity production is ~5 TW, assume that you need to store half of it to cover nighttime (seasonal adjustments exist, but I think that’s more a problem for production than storage when the storage itself is effectively a stockpileable consumable), 2.5 TW-years of battery production per year @ $0.03625/kWh = $729.4 billion/year worldwide.

And that’s even ignoring things like a worldwide power grid as an alternative to batteries, as I agree that government projects are often over budget: batteries can be done at a household scale and every kWh helps.

I really should write up a long form blog post about this, these conversations keep circling around the same points.


That's still a pretty pessimistic view of what the costs would actually be like. We've got pure renewable generation costs that are now pushing $0.015 LCoE. While high efficiency batteries (90% efficient round trip) might cost around your estimate, it would actually be much cheaper to use other forms of energy storage that might be less efficient, but then overprovision on generation to make up for the loss in efficiency.

Yes. My calculations assume the wind does not blow at night, that night-time power use is the same as daytime power use even though most people will be asleep, and that storage costs will not continue to decline despite anticipated improvements.

It also has the imperfect assumption that storage becomes totally worthless after 4000 cycles instead of gradually degrading, but that degradation starts at the first use and I don’t know the curve so I can’t integrate it to find the total lifetime stored energy, which might be higher or lower than the simplified model I’m giving here.


Taking your numbers for granted, that would be just the ongoing replacement costs, not the capital costs.

Current capital costs are about $200/kWh. Daily global energy use is about 400 TWh. That would be an 80000 trillion dollar battery.

The number is so large we just can't build it, so it's actually infinite. It also doesn't take into account land costs, because these batteries will take huge amounts of space. It's also only for 1 day, and there will surely be multiple days where wind and sun are below 20% output, so you'll need to accept periodic blackouts.


1. It’s $145/kWh

2. You’re counting all energy use, I’m just counting electricity

3. $200/kWh * 400 TWh is $80 Tr not $80,000 Tr

4. That’s not “just one day”, it is >4,000 days because the battery can be recharged that many times

5. Even if you forced everyone to accept blackouts until this would be completed (won’t happen), they would occur at night.


You're right about #3 - it would be hundreds of trillions, not thousands.

6. Your 400 TWh number is for 24 hours, not “simultaneous no wind and nighttime”, so even if you include all power and not just electricity (even though power intended for non-electrical use can be stored in other things than batteries) you’re now talking $40 Tr, worldwide, spread over however many years you want to build this collection of batteries.

Except that’s $29 Tr when using the cheapest currently available batteries that I’ve seen.

7. The lifetime cost of the battery and a PV cell is cheaper than the fuel in a coal plant even when the cost of the coal plant itself has been written off, so each incremental step of that combination is still profitable compared to that particularly fossil fuel.

I’m not sure about the cost of wind or other fossil fuels, but the combined cost of PV+battery that anything else has to beat is 5¢/kWh.

EDIT:

8. Land costs. The energy density of LiIon batteries is “250-693 Wh/L”. A high efficiency 1 m^2 sun-tracking PV panel with the lowest energy density battery would produce up to 400 W * 12 hours = 4800 Wh = 19.2 litres = a layer behind the PV panel of 1.92 cm thickness. Why is this supposed to be a criticism?


> that would require batteries costing thousands of trillions.

Hilariously disconnected from reality. That would be tens of petawatt-hours. The world uses tens of petawatt-hours of electricity annually.


> That would require batteries costing thousands of trillions.

Overprovisioning is a much cheaper solution.


The benefits from stopping burning of coal and oil on just the air quality are immense.

You don’t need broken windows for economic growth from action against climate change. We’re going to see numerous core technologies of civilization becoming significantly cheaper than the incumbent technologies.

We’ve already seen that with LEDs and lighting. Likewise opportunistic electricity use (which doesn’t depend on time and location) derived from wind or solar is already perhaps half to a third of the cost of the cheapest fossil fuel source.

Electric vehicles will also end up significantly cheaper per mile, and in fact are already cheaper at the right levels of utilization.

Fossil fueled electricity and road transport are going to be progressively undercut by the zero carbon alternatives, and that’s going to make the global economy vastly more productive.

That’s to say nothing of the economic benefits of reducing air pollution and the massive costs associated with its impacts on human health.


It's going to cost us trillions more if we keep doing nothing so it's actually a savings.

It's going to cost the next generations trillions more. Most people making those decisions are hoping that they'll have checked out by the time shit really hit the fan.

> As the article says, climate change won't destroy human civilization.

It will devastate part of the population. Climate change is just an inevitable change. To cope with the change, certain portion of people will be sacrificed and certain people's position will be leveraged. So the view depends on the perspective. If you looking at humanity as every one together and equally, then it is apocalyptic. There is little hope that we can sustain. If you are looking at human civilization as something carried on by elites (as we always have), then such changes may even be welcomed -- all the reason that one need be prepared.


This isn't true and is exactly the kind of fear mongering the author is trying to discredit.

It's obvious that many currently inhabited areas are going to become uninhabitable.

Not only will coastal areas be inundated but previously relatively temperate areas will suffer from regular inundation, storm damage, and/or droughts, or possibly all of the above in alternation.

This is already happening in Europe, California, Australia, and elsewhere. And we haven't even had significant sea level rise yet.

Anyone who doesn't understand what this means for developed countries - never mind rest-of-world - isn't thinking straight.


> And we haven't even had significant sea level rise yet.

Miami and Venice, as two easy examples, are already suffering annually recurring issues from higher sea levels than they were previously accustomed to.


It's not not true though. Climate change is absolutely an existential risk. Maybe it would not be on it's own, but we have nukes. Even a "small" nuclear skirmish could dramatically destabilize all of human economics.

Perhaps the framing needs tweaking. It is inaccurate to say "if we don't fix climate change, it will end humanity". But "unmitigated climate change could spell the end of the world as we know it. Do you like the world as it currently is, or do you wanna roll the dice and risk apocalypse/Mad Max/ etc?" is completely plausible.

Is there a semantic and ontological difference between "er'rybody gonna die!" and "[almost] er'rybody might die!"? Of course. Is there a difference in terms of expectation value of human quality of life in the future? Not a very big one if you ask me.


> Climate change is absolutely an existential risk.

So are sleeping volcanoes and space asteroids

The point is that the "end of the world as we know it" has already happened in history, more than a few times already.

I'm sure either we stop it or not that things are going to be vastly different after .

But it doesn't mean is gonna be worse


You're trying to compare random acts of nature with predictable and avoidable man-made disaster.

They're not even remotely comparable.


> As the article says, climate change won't destroy human civilization.

I think most reasonable people agree with this statement. I've personally never heard about the collapse of human civilization in the near future due to climate change. Having said that, this article sounds a bit too optimistic.

Some people attribute the Syrian civil war to long droughts and climate change [1]. The science is disputed but regardless of the cause, we can all see the backlash against the flood of refuges in Europe. Now imagine the scale of mass migration is one or two orders of magnitude larger; do you really believe you can persuade voters by saying that the solution is less expensive than WWII?

I think the real danger of climate change will be political. Who is going to pay for it? The countries which are most affected don't necessarily have the resources to manage it and the countries which have the resources might have a hard time convincing their citizens to bear the cost of it. This requires a coordinated international effort.

[1] https://www.wired.com/2015/03/global-warming-helped-cause-sy...


Or twice the amount to prop up failed lending businesses in 2008.

That is terrific news; any sources?

It's incredible you could change enough with "only" that many resources, even limiting the scope of discussion to the U.S.'s 15% contribution [1] to the global total.

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



> $300 billion. That’s the money needed to stop the rise in greenhouse gases and buy up to 20 years of time to fix global warming, according to United Nations climate scientists.

Wow, I'm surprised the claim isn't more widely circulated.


What is a bit alarming, is how human-centric the discussion is, while ignoring what rapid temperature change may mean to life and nature as we know it.

> it's not like the trillion would disappear; it's being spent in the economy. And via the broken windows measurement fallacy of economics, it would likely increase our GDP rather than decrease it.

Wait, what? You're correctly calling out the broken windows fallacy as a fallacy, but saying that it's _true_? Wealth is tied to value/utility in a way that isn't fully captured by spending, and the broken-windows phenomenon shows up in GDP figures too (it just trades short run for long run, at unfavorable exchange rates).


He's saying that GDP is a measure of activity frequently misunderstood as a measure of wealth, and the broken windows fallacy is a conflation of an increase in economic activity with an increase in wealth. Same thing. Put another way, arguments about GDP growth are frequently fallacious, which I agree with.

Wars are literally about destroying things until the other side gives up.

The new money goes into the economy yes, but wherever you replace things instead of adding things, any 'value' of the defunct equipment is pretty negligible, isn't it?

Let's say we decommission a coal plant. On the one side you have the human support materials (furniture, office supplies, etc). On the other side you have the equipment for power grid tie-in. All of these could be redistributed into non-coal related businesses.

Isn't there a lot of stuff in the middle that's scrap? It had more value than that. Both objectively and subjectively (sunk cost fallacy), there's going to be some loss associated with the process.


> climate change won't destroy human civilization.

But this people still have a problem

https://www.kgou.org/post/five-years-after-tornado-moore-ret...

Looks a pretty finished work to me... If is recoverable or not would depend on the interval of time between each reconstruction.


You are wrong and the author of that article, too, is wrong. Some scientists the author claims do not exist even made this handy chart for y'all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doomsday_Clock

Assuming the trillion dollar claim is true, there would still be a huge amount of disagreement on how it is best to spend it.

Of course it will be spent on financial markets and derivatives. Why else do you think Al Gore is pumping out teenage enviromental activists?

The US currently has a 1 trillion dollar annual budget deficit. So clearly, such a borrowed cost is not unreasonable.

>Halting climate

Halting or mitigating? I don't see climate change halting when 3/4 of the world are still clawing out of developing status. Whatever projections we have now we should triple it. Though I agree it's worth investing in engineering solutions now if only because we need proven solutions later as conditions gets worse.


> I don't see climate change halting when 3/4 of the world are still clawing out of developing status.

The article suggests that is a good thing and we should help this 3/4 of the world to acheive afluence

>> “If you want to minimize carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 2070 you might want to accelerate the burning of coal in India today,” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel said.

>> “It doesn’t sound like it makes sense. Coal is terrible for carbon. But it’s by burning a lot of coal that they make themselves wealthier, and by making themselves wealthier they have fewer children, and you don’t have as many people burning carbon, you might be better off in 2070.”

>>“You’ve got to come up with some kind of middle ground where you do reasonable things to mitigate the risk and try at the same time to lift people out of poverty and make them more resilient,” said Emanuel. “We shouldn’t be forced to choose between lifting people out of poverty and doing something for the climate.”


> As the article says, climate change won't destroy human civilization.

And why are we so sure about that?

As far as I can tell by what's happening in the oceans, climate change may very well destroy all surface-dwelling multicellular life.


There are no models from standard institutions that I'm aware of in which projected climate change destroys all multi-cellular life, that's exactly the kind of absurdly over the top claim the article is arguing against. Go look at long term temperature graphs over time and then look at current temperature trends as measured by satellites:

https://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/

They show a slight warming trend, but still quite under the projections and nowhere near enough to cause more than economic disruption, let alone destroy humans, let alone all multi-cellular life. The climate has had far greater extremes in the past and multi-cellular life was just fine.


Actually you can ignore economy.

tl;dr; Futurama was right: nuclear winter cancels global warming

1. At high humidity max temperatures humans can survive for more than 30 minutes are not that high.

2. During a heatwave (peak 46C at ~50% humidity) in India 30% of Ahmedabad all cause mortality was connected to temperatures https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4024996/

3. Temperature increase is not going to be the same across the globe. Many models predict with a 2C global avg temp increase a 4C increase of average temperatures in India and Pakistan with peak temperatures during heat waves going up by as much as 10C.

4. That temperature increase pushes conditions beyond what most people can acclimatize to. In large areas of India, Pakistan and China (among other places) physical labor and maybe even survival without access to cooling will not be possible for as much as 20-60 days per year.

5. A significant chunk of 3.9B people living in India, Pakistan and China will be displaced with nowhere to go. All 3 countries have nuclear weapons to make sure they have somewhere to go :P


> Futurama was right: nuclear winter cancels global warming

I'm not sure it does (I'd love to read an accurate model of it) but I get your point. It's a very compelling point.

I wish humans didn't need the threat of nuclear weapons to keep the basic needs of other humans in mind, but since they do... there you go.


The US can spend any number of trillions, without affecting India and China emissions.

That's kind of a childish argument to make - "why should we do it when x doesn't anyway? Hmph!"

The US has always presented itself - through media, propaganda, etc - as exemplary, greatest country in the world, home of the free / brave, leaders of innovation, technology, economics and warfare. So why not be better than the others at reducing emissions? It's a huge financial opportunity too, as exemplified by e.g. Tesla that sells cars, batteries, battery technology and solar all over the world, bringing a lot of money back to the US (in theory, assuming it's not whisked off to a tax haven like e.g. Apple and Google do).

What I'm saying here is that someone has to take the moral high ground. The US already pretends to do this, but they have the means to put it into practice.


> That's kind of a childish argument to make - "why should we do it when x doesn't anyway? Hmph!"

Well it’s a _global_ problem. The US isn’t the only party here. Emissions in the US have been going down and in India and China they’ve been going up[1] like crazy. And yet the US is constantly harangued about reducing emissions and concerns about India and China are hand waved away.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_fossil_carbon_dio...


So to be fair, it makes much more sense to talk about per capita in this context as there is also just more consumers in China than the US [0] And then it is also important to look at Consumption-based vs. production-based emissions. Ultimately less emissions are less emissions even if others don't follow.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_...


Per-capita is great and all but two things:

1. There’s 3x as many people in China as the US but the US emits about 2x as much per capita as China (and decreasing!). So it isn’t that far off in per capita terms. What will the talking point be once that changes?

2. When it comes to pollution it absolutely does matter who the largest overall polluter is. If the world were two countries and one was responsible for 90% of carbon emissions and the other was responsible for 10% at a higher per capita rate, who would it make more sense to go after first?

This is really where climate alarmists lose me. Too many contradictory policies. Harass the US, who has both a declining birth rate and declining CO2 emissions while giving a pass to other countries who are exploding in population and total emissions. And don’t even get me started on how we in the west are told to have fewer children but are simultaneously told that we must import enormous numbers of third world immigrants, who by the way will have their carbon footprint boosted dramatically.


> who would it make more sense to go after first

Both as the effect is global, and if the differential is 2:1 both have much room for improvement. Though you must not conveniently forget that much of China's emissions stem from being the world's manufacturer. A hell of a lot of European and US emissions have been globalised to China, rather simply a billion Chinese adopting a Texan lifestyle. I'd be interested to see per capita global emissions after someone accounted for globalisation of manufacturing and services, and brought all those imports back home, emissions wise.

Yet even after outsourcing all that heavy industry and manufacturing, the US has, by far, the worst per capita emissions on the planet. It is completely beyond my understanding when numbers sometimes come up on HN, how they are able to use so much for a family. The lifestyle isn't 2x UK, France or Germany. Not just CO2, but water use too. It beggars belief to be so wasteful for so little gain.

Everyone should be doing more, whether tiny or the largest. It really should be a race to the bottom - for national, and global pride.

I'd encourage you to harass my country all you like - decidedly mid tier on climate action and emissions, precisely because they are mid tier on a globe that is not doing nearly enough. Complaining it's worse elsewhere just reeks of trying to evade or ignore the issue.


>That's kind of a childish argument to make - "why should we do it when x doesn't anyway? Hmph!"

Whoa there, settle down. That’s not the sentiment behind the argument.


> That's kind of a childish argument to make - "why should we do it when x doesn't anyway? Hmph!"

That is not my argument at all.

To spell it out, I'm saying that the US alone lowering emissions will not solve the problem, as the name implies, Global Warming can not be solved locally.

From the rest of your comment, it sounds like solving the problem isn't really your main concern. You're more focused on your country being seen as a moral leader. That might explain our differences.


If India and China want to continue to export to the US & Europe than we have lots of power to make them.

https://issues.org/climate-clubs-to-overcome-free-riding/


87% of Chinese emissions are attributable to domestic consumption. https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-worlds-largest-co2-import...

But without the 13% much of the 87% would disappear. Each dollar received from an export ends up getting spent 5 to 10 times internally.

...as opposed to Yuan, which is spent once and then immediately destroyed?

If our spending includes researching sand scaling low-emission technology, that will affect India's and China's emissions.

When electric cars are competitive, and solar and storage cheaper than coal, no one's going to keep throwing away money on the dirtier alternatives..

China isn't building coal because it's hip. They do it because it's cheap, so long as you don't account for its externalities. If solar + storage were significantly cheaper and met demand just as well, why would they keep throwing away money on coal?


As late as 2012, 800 billion people in India were choking on the flumes of biomass stoves[1]. They aren't exactly in the position to stop global warming. The best we can do is to provide a framework to achieve a comfortable standard of living without completely destroying the environment.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3945541/#B1-ije...


Turns out India and China will be more affected by climate change than the US so they're actually doing something about. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18164816

> As the article says, climate change won't destroy human civilization.

It's likely climate change itself won't destroy human civilization. Food shortages, massive wildfires (which climate change contribute to), rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns will have huge and unpredictable effects on global politics. What the downstream effects of those changes will be is extremely hard to predict, but the chances of a nightmare outcome are far greater than the chances civilization will remain largely unchanged over the next 20-30 years.

The good news is the most likely scenario is things will just keep getting shittier slowly and we'll avoid any sort of apocalypse. We'll just leave our grandkids a super-shitty world. Yay Us!


>We'll just leave our grandkids a super-shitty world.

But just think of GDP as people continually try to patch the super-shitty world!


Is this a Broken Windows Theory thing?

That would make sense. You'd measure GDP, which is a gross figure. But making your life livable again doesn't help your net.

Just like if you feel you need bodyguards, are you as well off as someone who spends the same on something he doesn't feel compelled to buy?


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Is this like saying that hard working people come out of traumatic childhoods, so we should be sure to throw some trauma into all children's experience? I think they deserve as much of a chance as we had. Here we are almost 80 years after WWII and we're still seeing the effects of that calamity. This stuff doesn't just go away, it goes away with a lot of work, work that we may not be able to afford. That is pretty bleak.

If you want others to suffer as you've suffered because you turned out alright, you did not turn out alright.

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>> Did you actually READ the article.

Something else that is useful to read are the Hacker News posting guidelines:

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

In particular the following suggestions:

Please don't comment on whether someone read an article. "Did you even read the article? It mentions that" can be shortened to "The article mentions that."

Please don't use uppercase for emphasis. If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, put asterisks around it and it will get italicized.


This doesn't contradict warnings that our current agricultural systems are prone to sudden collapse. Soil erosion, water pollution, changing weather patterns, and over reliance on fertilizer and pesticides in a monoculture environment could cause a precipitous drop in yields over just a few years. We may be over spending from the credit card, so to speak.

Your point seems to be that so long as we can keep shoveling food into people's mouths, the rest of the effects of climate change are irrelevant.

That's bullshit. As the climate shifts "natural disasters" increase and make many places less habitable. We're already seeing this now and it's only getting worse. As these places slowly become uninhabitable, people immigrate or die and poor people are on the cusp of that.

I suppose this article is from Forbes so it's all about how fairly wealthy people will fair so the chipper attitude makes sense.


The article states that fewer people die of natural disasters. If you want to go to a pre-industrial state, I certainly support your decision. But, please, do not condemn billions of people to death.

Of course, I will call out you "climate shifts ... make many places less habitable". Name one. Anywhere on the planet.


Stop the stupid hyperbole. Suggesting climate change is going to have massive negative impacts does not mean "Go to a pre-industrial state", not even remotely. It's likely the only way we'll get through this mess right now is through the use of technology.

The region most at risk of famine-driven political change is North India - if the wheat growing belt shifts far enough because of climate change there will be massive disruption.

African agricultural productivity is so low that proper technical (and institutional) investment can easily cover the expected (large) population growth in the 21st cent.

Climate change will be catastrophic if we don't decarbonize sufficiently, but it will not be apocalyptic.


Hopefully there's more to life than having enough food to eat.

The FAO report says, roughly, that climate change will have strong adverse effects on crop yields but this will be offset by growing industrialization. In short, that once you fill Kenya and India with a bunch of GPS-controlled John Deere tractors and factory farms so that it looks like Iowa, they'll produce more food than they are now even though climate change will hurt them badly.

Food shortages aren't going to happen as long as seed companies are still creating GMOs to cheaply grow crops in places that they have no right existing in combined with world superpowers are still subsidizing the hell out of agriculture for bread & circus reasons. You'd lose the small independent farmers growing organic avacodas or whatever but the big staple crops aren't going at risk at all from climate change.

Not to say our food production couldn't collapse from a superbug decimating a monculture of wheat or something, but that happening would be completely independent of how healthy Earth's climate is


acidification of the Ocean was involved in the last animal and plants extinction where over 50% stuff GONE!

Simple science CO2 is the root cause of such things..

Its very freakling real folks despite money people not willing to protect our futures!

Does anyone every pay attention to the chemistry and biology we had in hs anyo0mre?


"Halting climate change"? Please -- the climate changes. It has ALWAYS changed. To think that we can "halt climate change" is hubristic.

Are you being deliberately obtuse?

It's certainly easier than actually thinking about the issue.

Halting the change that we've caused that is outside the scope of normal changes is obviously what they mean. Why are you pretending to not understand

It may be better for Elizabeth Warren to commit to spending an additional 1.5 Trillion to address global warming than to forgive student debt.

I think many more people would be amenable to addressing the problem if it can be demonstrated that it could be solved for a fixed, one-time cost.


I'm assuming you mean Elizabeth Warren. Here's her stated plan for addressing climate change: https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/climate-change

Relevant snippet:

> Her green manufacturing plan would invest $2 trillion over the next ten years in green research, manufacturing, and exporting

It then breaks that down with slightly more detail ($400 billion for clean energy research, $1.5 trillion to "purchase American-made clean, renewable, and emission-free energy products", $100 billion to increase clear energy tech exports.)

It also links to https://elizabethwarren.com/plans/green-manufacturing for (a little) more details on that section.

She's not necessarily my first choice, but the claim that she's not talking about "paying a similar sum to fix climate change" is wrong.


Bernie Sanders is more popular than Warren, will also forgive student debt, and has great plans for addressing climate change.

>student loans taken out by bright college students who surely knew what a loan is

That's not quite fair. First, universities are free in modern, first-world industrialized nations. Second, the university fees are so prohibitively expensive that a loan is necessary for anyone bright but not born wealthy. In other words, it's a predatory mechanism geared to any bright student who wants to get an education to have a better life. It needs to go.

You might want to read this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt:_The_First_5000_Years


I don't agree having free Universities, nor having prohibitively expensive fees, is the solution. University education has to be paid, but affordable (and yes, I realize this is the catch -- defining "affordable"). But a "modern, first world indusrialized nation" like America should be able to assign a $ value to that variable, and make Uni education accessible.

> how they are to be paid back

There is one crux where forgiveness makes sense. You cant pay back a loan with a job you cant get because the school was sued into oblivion for fraud.

> bright college students

College for all ensures that the majority of students trying to pay for college are below average, while graduates may align more with your assessment. Im not sure how you can characterize a bright student as someone who took out loans in lieu of scholarships.


Certainly, anyone who scored in the top 10% on the SAT shouldn't get loan forgiveness....

Why would they? They need that the least.

One promises free money to voters of a certain age. The other just (silently) benefits everyone. I wonder which is more useful for getting into office? Its all posturing.

This is the sixth time the carbon cycle has extincted life on earth. Why will this one be different? It's as inevitable as the water cycle or the citric cycle.

> one estimate published in 2004 expected that some 90% of the currently spoken languages will have become extinct by 2050.

What is that, but the destruction of human civilization?

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

There is no stopping it. We must accept that fact and choose to adapt if humans are to survive as a species on this planet.

Otherwise, I don't think there will be humans 100,000 years from now.

I don't know what timeline you're thinking, but we are doomed on some scale assuredly if we don't get over our hubris.

This planet is not under our control.


The threats of climate change are not that some biblical flood rises up to swallow humanity.

The danger of climate change is that incremental sea level rise would put tens of millions of people underwater.

Could they move? Absolutely. And we clearly have enough land to move people around, both globally and in many countries.

The danger is whether we can make those migrations without civil unrest. What land is taken for them to move to? What about Vietnam, where most of the country is projected to be underwater by 2050? We’re going to just move millions of Vietnamese and no one is going to be upset?

If we look today at the relatively tiny migration of people into the United States and Europe, we can see how quickly voters swing far right as The Other settles in.

The trickle down of these effects is tremendous.


Not to mention famine; it's not so much natural disasters that'll kill a lot of people (after all, we're pretty good at moving out of the way, building shelters / dikes, etc), but it's going to be failed crops. This is already happening, and has happend in the past - all it takes is one hot / dry summer for a country and millions of people to be at risk.

Climate change means the chance of a hot / dry summer (or long / cold winter) will increase. Sure, at the time it seems like a fluke, and sure especially the more wealthy countries will be able to survive well enough, but at the same time it will cost lives. The poorest and disadvantaged will likely be the first to go, those that can't afford the gradually increasing prices of food.

And the problem will become bigger as the climate change becomes more widespread. We can (as a collective) survive a year of famine well enough, but what if crops fail two or three years in a row?


Agreed. Some studies link climate change as the trigger of famine/conflicts that lead to the Arab Springs [1].

Those events also generated few millions refugees and, here in Europe, we are already unable to act. I can see that when this phenomenon will get 100s or 1000s time more severe wars will be fought for securing food/land (IMHO likely it will happen in south-east Asia at some point [2]).

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S095937801...

[2] https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/8/e1603322


The more probable cause of disrupted agriculture and widespread famine is a volcanic eruption with a rapid, dramatic cooling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_winter

> but what if crops fail two or three years in a row?

A small majority of grains grown world-wide are fed to animals. During crop failure the price of grain rises making it unprofitable to feed animals. These animals are sold, depressing the price of meat. People adjust to rising grain prices and falling meat prices by eating more meat in the short term. In the medium term the fewer number of animals available mean the animals eat less grain, depressing the price of grain again. In the long term a new equilibrium is met (if crop failure is the new normal) or the cycle reverses (if crop failure was only temporary).

It's not quite as rosy as I depicted above. Those price adjustments are massive changes, and change disproportionately affects the vulnerable. So lots of people will die. But it won't be because of lack of food, it'll be the lack of food in the right places, caused by the failure of capitalism to sell things to people who don't have any money.


Right?? I thought the author was making somewhat reasonable points until they just shrugged off a prediction that sea level will rise 2 feet in the next 80 years or so with "Well 1/3 of the Netherlands is below sea level and they are ok soo......". Like that is even remotely equivalent to the sea level of entire planet rising by 2 feet.

It's also very quietly dismissive of centuries of engineering work that has gone into the Netherlands. Doing that over a couple of decades instead of a century? That's going to be a lot more work. (And likely the straw to break the camel's back on such already heavily burdened engineering projects like The Netherlands and Venice.) I saw one breakdown of the inflation-adjusted engineering costs once somewhere that the Netherlands has invested over the centuries and I recall it being a stunning amount of money in today's dollars.

I think what most people forget is... It's not like Vietnam is going to be fine, and then like a light switch in 2050, it's completely underwater... And oh, shit! Where do we put these people?

Vietnam probably already has thousands of climate refugees, and as 2050 gets closer, more and more people will leave, and by 2050, probably a lot of people will still be there, having figured it out somehow.

So, yes, I believe this is a huge problem. But I think most people have this idea that there's going to be some set time where it suddenly becomes HUGE. Maybe there will be some Black Swan moment. But it's just going to progressively get worse, slowly not suddenly.

The problem with things like that is, progressive problems have a track record of going unsolved.


This comes from action movies where there is always some fixed deadline, and nothing happens until the deadline. It even happens in movies where people are being irradiated, and they'll die if not saved before two hours is up. They are saved with ten minutes to spare, so suddenly they're fine, not 90% dead.

Right, the "boiling the frog" problem; "It's always been this bad, no reason to fix things now until they get worse."

> What about Vietnam, where most of the country is projected to be underwater by 2050?

For that matter, what about the Netherlands, where 21% of its population is underwater today? Or rather, 21% of its population is below sea level. They manage to keep the land above water. The article addresses this. ctrl+f "400 years ago"


sea-level rise

+ wild fires

+ tropical storms

+ pollinator die-off and pest booms

+ crop failures

...all adding up to migration pressure, food supply shocks, and infrastructure losses.


See also:

+ ocean acidification

+ fisheries collapse


We can't even figure this out in dry landlocked areas. Like Jackson Hole, where people live in their cars while Harrison Ford privately owns half the land, and the other half is protected preserves.

In 2018 alone 70.8 million people were forcibly displaced by war, persecution and conflict. The most recent number I recall seeing regarding climate change displaced estimated 143 million by 2050 which is about 4.6 million a year. While certainly not ideal, it doesn't strike me as a particularly significant increase in overall displacement. So the question is: why would climate displacement have such an outsized impact on civil unrest and global societal breakdown?

Pollution is also linked, among other things, to fertility issues and lower avg intelligence, far from a biblical flood but in the long run that's no bueno.

Forbes is a hosted blogspam platform. You pay them, they publish you, and folks permanently stuck in the 90s think they're reading something that legitimate journalists and editors were involved in. In this case, we have the pleasure of reading an anti-renewable campaigner's entirely siloed views of the impact of climate change and an argument for how everything will be ok and all the scientists are wrong.

But articles involving mis-targeted casual skepticism make us feel nice and ok with the status quo so we share them, because articles about the need to act are uncomfortable to digest.


All of that may be true, but I think doesn't address the claims of the article.

The article says " Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ... said, “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change.” " That's unscientific claim by Cortez. I think the point that exaggeration undermines your credibility is an important fact.

I believe that those of us who push a cause so hard that we lose sight of facts actually hurt the cause, because we alienate all the objective-truth-seekers.


Objective truth seekers aren't alienated by hyperbolic comments from individuals. If they were then by definition they wouldn't be objective truth seekers.

Sure they are.

Every now and then somebody says something so hyperbolic I have to ask "Am I really a democrat?"

If somebody asks do I believe in global warming I want to be able to answer "Yes" not "Yes but"


If we don't lock in the difficult to start climate mitigation efforts in 10 years, then yes, the world as we know it will locked in the opposite way for change in irreversible in our lifetime ways. For one spending to realign infrastructure will cost massive amounts, crop yields will be lower than before due to extreme weather this will be locked in in 10 years if we don't act.

I'm not sure why this comment is downvoted (at the time I started writing this) without any comments at all.

To me it presents an alternative view and interpretation on the article. Even if I don't necessarily agree with some of the sentiments and/or how opinions are phrased, they do remind me that I should read things with caution, which is probably something that even the most cautious of us need to be reminded of every now and then.

I'm not entirely sure at what point one can start downvoting but I vaguely recall that it's a privilege that's given for having been recognised for a certain amount of contribution (presumably due to points). For this reason it seems irresponsible to downvote something, without commenting, just because it doesn't match your worldview and that you are too lazy to think of it as an opportunity to at least think about why there are people thinking differently.


The post doesn't engage with the article, dismissing it as "blogspam" and claiming that the author is a "anti-renewable campaigner". It also pushes the claim that all scientists agree about the consequences of global warming, which is clearly not the case.

What I find really irritating, though, is the idea that the media should make people scared and angry and push them toward action. That seems cynical, manipulative, and will probably backfire.


I suspect it is downvoted due to tone and lack of actual informative content. The comment doesn't bother to challenge any of the assertions of the article but to attack the author and the publication. Those attacks would be much less likely to garner downvotes if informative counter points were also made.

>we have the pleasure of reading an anti-renewable campaigner's entirely siloed views of the impact of climate change and an argument for how everything will be ok and all the scientists are wrong.

The author explicitly quotes scientists and says that climate change is a problem.


Scientists are not saying we'll all die in 12 years. What they are saying is that if we're not rapidly reducing emissions by then, we're unlikely to avoid a tipping point where the planet is emitting its own greenhouse gases, and will take things several degrees further with no more help from us.

A great book on the effects of climate change is Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, who read 3000 peer-reviewed papers on climate change and summarized them, with extensive references. It was published in 2007 but from what I've seen it's holding up well. Four degrees is grim; it won't make us go extinct but it's a horrible mess nonetheless.

One claim in the article was that food production will be fine. In fact, there are agricultural areas feeding hundreds of millions of people which are dependent on glacier melt during dry seasons. Those glaciers are going away. Another issue is that prime areas for growing grain are moving towards the poles; the new "best" areas are smaller and have poorer soil. We're also losing topsoil, from a combination of droughts with occasional torrential rainfalls.

I can't think of any other problem that people think is fine because it's not bad enough to make us go extinct. "Bad healthcare system? Well, it won't wipe us all out, we're fine." And we're experiencing effects of climate change already, e.g. with the forest fires in California.


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The strawmaning is obvious. ie "scientists say".

I didn't think it was necessary to google up a source for something so widely reported, but ok. I did oversimplify a bit, and corrected that in the comment above.

Here's an article on the 12-year limit: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/27082019/12-years-climate...

And here's some information on the "tipping point" being somewhere between +1.5C and +2C: https://climatenexus.org/international/ipcc/ipcc-1-5c-report...

Right now we're around +1C, though we hit +1.2C in 2016: https://e360.yale.edu/digest/2016_hottest_year_on_record_wmo...


Ah, the modern approach to climate change denial: OK, climate change is real and caused by people [ya think?], but it's more of a problem of koalas and gorillas and not a big problem for people. And what we really need to do is burn more coal.

Complete BS.

E.g. the rationale of burning coal is that if India burns more coal they'll become wealthier faster and that will push the birthrate down, which will result in fewer people using less energy. That obviously makes no sense since wealthier nations have much higher per-capita carbon emissions which far more than offsets lower population growth. E.g. the US has ~8x the per-capita carbon emissions of India. (Now a constant change in the rate of population growth will overcome that difference in enough time -- but there's no reason to expect the difference to be constant. In fact, no exponential phenomenon holds a constant rate of growth for long since it must soon outstrip the environment that allows it.)

The only reason an intelligent person would make such a easily refutable untrue claim is because it's in their personal self interests to do so... It's a con and they are making money. (It's not too hard to guess where the money might be coming from, BTW)

Of course these guys love the environmentalist lunatic fringe. They are easy to dislike and easy to argue against. And as long as you can keep the focus on them you don't have to address real objects.

The idea that climate change will have a minor impact on GDP is also terribly wrong. The essential dynamic of the climate change crisis is that we are "borrowing from the future" -- we're emitting a lot of carbon now for short term gain vs costs that won't come due for the long term. But the GDP projections are based on the effect of climate change on our GDP in the recent past. It's like taking cash advances on a 40% no-minimum payment credit card and saying: "this won't screw up my financial future, look at how much money I've had in my pocket over the last week... At this rate, I'll always have money in my pocket." But the reality is the bill is going to come due.


> E.g. the US has ~8x the per-capita carbon emissions of India.

Thank you for pointing out the very obvious elephant in the room: both China and India, nearly 3 billion people, cannot live like the United States, but they are on a trajectory to do so, and we in the west have no moral high ground to tell them no. This is the #1 reason we are totally hosed in the long run.


That's not even remotely sound. Any country can live like the US. The technology is there, it has been there for 50 years. Nuclear energy, electric vehicles, better insulation and building heat/energy management, and so on.

Plus, it's not like those countries would even want to live like the US. No, they want better. Public transportation, affordable healthcare and education, and so on.


After reading Merchants of Doubt, I always read any article about the environment with a pinch of salt. Going through the author list of articles published on Forbes: he definitely has a clear pro-nuclear bias, and a strong anti-renewable bias. Digging further, his organization, Environmental Progress, is indeed largely considered to be little more than a pro-nuclear lobby group. Michael Shellenberger himself is largely perceived as a nuclear salesman.

At a personal level I used to be rather pro-nuclear, but certainly not anti-renewable. In any case, I think it can be helpful for the readers to have a little bit of background when reading such articles.


His background doesn’t qualify him to speak on environmental issues anyway, in my opinion. No more than any well read layman anyway.

Shellenberger was raised in Greeley, Colorado and attended college at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Richmond, Indiana.[79][80] He went on to receive a master's degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz.


Indeed, Shill-enberger's articles attack a straw man. No-one is reasonably claiming the world will end due to climate change, or even that climate change is directly causing fires etc. But it is helping alter habitats and will over time have quite large impacts on habitat and diversity, and particularly the water cycle, to which humans and agriculture are particularly sensitive.

And we are at a point where it could get quite out of control, with positive feedback loops kicking in (permafrost, clathrates, etc), unless we take serious action now. Simply counting the (human) economic impact of climate change seriously ducks our moral responsibility to take care of the planet.


>But in saying so, the XR spokesperson had grossly misrepresented the science. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide,” notes IPCC, “but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause”

This has been bothering me a lot lately, journalists/reporters are running wild, blaming all kinds of droughts, wildfires, and migrations on climate change, particularly on NPR, but the truth is that these claims are no more valid than deniers claiming unusual snowfall to be evidence against climate change. Only long term, aggregate statistical data is a valid proxy for the effects of climate change - one cannot cherry pick events for a phenomenon which really has relatively tiny observable features on local time and space scales.


> Only long term, aggregate statistical data is a valid proxy for the effects of climate change

It's not like it's hard to find. You can quibble about how certain media outlets or stories make the point, but the overall point is both true and important: climate change is real.


> but the overall point is both true and important: climate change is real.

That doesn't excuse bad reporting, which is my point.


Yes. The gloom and doomers hurt “the cause”, some of us have been saying that this for years. There are many in this thread.

And YES, it’s crazy frustrating when “weather is not climate - unless I’m trying to prove climate change”. Many religious believers who argue they’re interested in “the science” are just as stubborn and bull headed as the deniers. But, anyone who questions whether a global tax designed to keep a specific group in power and really just call for global socialism is the only solution is automatically “a denier”, so there is that too.

I’m with you, I find the die hards on the topic to be highly ineffective in convincing me of their point let alone actual skeptics.


IPCC itself is conservative, but IMHO there have been scientific studies establishing the link. Of course you cannot attribute a single event to it, but a single event can still serve as a warning.

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