Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Climate change: IPCC report is 'code red for humanity' (bbc.com)
1465 points by perfunctory on Aug 9, 2021 | hide | past | favorite | 1532 comments

If anyone actually believed it was "code red for humanity" they'd be pushing nuclear power. There is zero chance of moving off carbon energy sources without causing catastrophic mayhem, unless we use massive amounts of nuclear.

For instance, the last 4 years my state has averaged 37% production of total possible installed wind generation capacity. This is a very windy state which is in the top 2 for installed wind capacity and number one per capita. But throughout a day wind power can very from nearly zero to close to max capacity. Those periods of near zero production can last non-trivial amounts of time no realistic battery could provide for.

The only solutions are continue with our gas turbine/wind power mix where we build enough gas turbines to handle 100% of the load for when the wind production is bottoming out, or replace everything with nuclear.

Nuclear gets us to net carbon zero fastest and with technology easy to export to developing countries in desperate need of plentiful, reliable, cheap electricity.

I see this take a lot, and it’s kind of misinformed. The primary drawbacks of nuclear are: 1) incredible slow to build. A typical plant takes ~20 years from decision to productionized 2) extremely expensive, with a massively frontloaded cost. By contrast, solar and wind are fast to install and now cheaper.

> wind power can be zero at some parts of the day

There are a few solutions to this actually. First, having a more nationalized grid can amortize variant weather conditions (very unlikely it’s not windy everywhere, for example). Second, there actually are long-duration battery solutions coming out. Look up “energy tower” for a very weird one, and “form energy” for a more traditional model.

Finally — I will agree that nuclear is probably some piece of the pie in the future. But analysts think we can get to 80% renewables with currently existing tech: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.technologyreview.com/2012/0...

Nuclear power can be fast to build. It would need to be constructed in volume, with immutable designs. Right now, America builds so few nuclear plants that they are essentially all one-off designs. Mass production is key here.

Vis-à-vis costs, the government can poof into existence trillions of dollars with no ill effects. Cost is an easily overcome obstacle.

If a mandate came down to produce 1000 new nuclear reactors by 2030, I think it could be achieved. The country just needs the political will to make it happen.

> Nuclear power can be fast to build. It would need to be constructed in volume, with immutable designs.

Exactly. You need look nowhere further than the french nuclear timeline for that to be clear: the country grew from 4.5GWe capacity to 49.5GWe between 1977 and 1987. 900MWe class reactors took 5~6 years to build, and the 1300MWe 7 to 8. And when you've worked out the kink, this can be parallelised massively (as long as you have sites to put them on), for about 20 years the country had a dozen reactors being built concurrently, the slowdown in construction times really started as the number of plants being built decreased: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/24/Chrono-p....

The design got more complex and there were teething issues with the N4, but Chooz took 16 years to enter service where the P3s took 8 years at most.

In 2020, nuclear energy accounted for 70.6 percent of France's total energy production what is stunning, if you take into account its one of the G7 countries:


It gets 70% of its electricity from nuclear, but electricity is only a minority of the energy we use, so France still gets most of its energy from fossil fuels:


Thanks for the correction. I meant to say 70% of electricity not 70% of the energy use. The link was clear about it, but my post not.

Between this, and their track record with rail transport, it seems like the French are really good at building stuff. We should learn whatever we can.

I had the privilege of watching a bunch of (6 or 7) French engineers make an impromptu visit to the ticket desk (of the airline I worked for) at Charles de Gaulle airport and work their magic, running comms and power with no fuss, just teamwork and that brilliant "why not now?" European attitude.

Meanwhile back at Heathrow that would have taken months of permits and planning and dealing with useless subcontractors.

State monopolies FTW.

Were, things have gotten way less great since the 80s, it’s mostly coasted.

Too bad really: nuclear power was a way to gain independence (from the US and the oil) but then it kinda fell by the wayside as the country largely went with oil anyway (though the grid is both powerful and rather clean owing to the high ratio of nukes).

Would have been interesting for the country to ride the contrarian gallic spirit and decide to go all in on electricity and renewable way back then.

Maybe we’d have working large-scale SMR too.

Also include Airbus. Indeed an impressive bunch!

Nuclear power could have been fast to build if we had kept building it. We did not, and most of the people who knew how to do it are now retired or dead. Because nuclear power had no future for decades, few young people chose to make a career in it. The workforce needed for designing, building, and operating nuclear power at scale no longer exists and cannot be trained quickly enough. That alone would take 10+ years, which we do not have.

And thus, we will spend the next 10 years playing around with building piddling amounts of renewable power generation and storage instead of actually having a solution in 20 years.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.

> the government can poof into existence trillions of dollars with no ill effects

This is because the federal reserve's printed money goes basically into treasuries and stocks.

The rich save basically all of their money. If they decided to spend it on real-world goods, there would be huge inflation.

But it's probably all nil. The cost of building enough nuclear power plants with economy of scale is probably near the same as building enough solar and wind farms.

Except that you miss the part where solar and wind need normal power plants to provide power when they aren't running.

Balancing systems do exist - I used to swim in Smith Mountain Lake[1] as a kid and that entire lake is a gigantic battery. During low demand periods they pump water into a reservoir to then run the turbines during peak demand hours. None of these systems are perfectly efficient - but we've got a lot of options in our tool belts for ways to balance peak demand that don't require more continuous production capacity.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_Mountain_Dam#Hydroelectr...

Yes, pumped storage does exist, but to provide a nation sized battery using pumped storage, you would need to use two of the Great Lakes and pump one of them up by 200 feet.

The power needs of the occasional cold wind still winter week are fairly large.

Fun fact: Nixon actually wanted 1000 new nuclear reactors by 2000.

Beyond the fact that electricity-generation is once again only part of our emissions issue, there's about ~450 reactors worldwide and the uranium ore reserves give us around ~120 years of operation on current 3rd (/3+) gen reactors (short of having fast neutron reactors basically). Having 1000 in the US (or rather 900 more or 3 times as many globally) would have brought that deadline closer by the inverse ratio, and we'd likely already have tensions on nuclear fuel sourcing. Agree with you on the role of government spending though, but there also needs to be a radical paradigm shift in how we view the economy and what needs to happen in each sector (not just within energy in fact).

There are 100 years of uranium reserves available. Nobody is looking for more. If they were, they're probably going to find it.

Exploration programs are expensive.

Yes, sure, we can go mine the bottom of the oceans and extract it by centrifuging ocean waters, that probably would give us marginally more than a doubling of margin. Point remains: reserves are exhaustible, an exponential consumption may not be desirable. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_uranium#:~:text=As%20of%2....

Recent studies found that re-using a design made nukes cost more & take longer to build. Reason being each site is different, and so the design always needs to be tweaked, and at this scale changes are more expensive than from-scratch.

SMR's made in a factory seem like the only way to address that, but I have no idea if we can ramp SMR's to national viability in the next ten years.

The very successful reuse of a few fixed designs on many sites in France seems to quite heavily counter this statement.

A good point of reference, but that was also 20-40 years ago.

In a healthy civilization, as technology improves, things get easier over time, not harder.

The only reason it would have worked in France 40 years ago but not today is institutional malaise and bureaucratic capture.

"Why Nuclear Power Has Been a Flop" [0] apparently does a good job of explaining exactly how our civilization has regressed in this sense over the past 50ish years. In short, it's the principle of "As Low (risk) As Reasonably Achievable". Well, they minimized nuclear risk, but sure as hell didn't minimize global warming risk in the process.

Roots of Progress has an interesting review here [0], which is what I base that on. (It's on my list to read, just haven't gotten to it yet)

0: https://gordianknotbook.com/

1: https://rootsofprogress.org/devanney-on-the-nuclear-flop

> long-duration battery solutions

This isn't practical everywhere, but on the island of El Hierro (Canary Islands) there is a wind-and-battery solution in the form of a wind-pumped hydro-electric station. In effect there is a big pool of water acting as a battery and the wind turbine "charges" it.

When I ran across it on a trip to the island I was really impressed. Very original solution!


https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plik:Zar_zbiornik.jpg https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elektrownia_Por%C4%85bka-%C5%B... - another one from Poland, likely one of the largest batteries in the world (build in 1979 - 2 000 000 tons of pumped water, 440m height difference, typical working duration is 4 hours and 5.5 hours for pumping water back)

https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plik:Dlouhe_strane_horni_nadrz... and another one

General concept: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricit...

If it would be actually climate emergency then we would be building in mountains all where reasonable. No matter the damage to some rare species, panorama and tourism.

Don't forget the substantial costs to clean up. Just think about growing up in a world full of EOL nuclear plants left by generations before you that need to be cleaned up... In a political unstable world due to an ongoing climate crisis.

Even today we as a whole struggle with decommissioning nuclear plants, and the costs are astronomical this is already a huge problem now, let alone in a post climate change world


Just think about a world full of EOL toxic waste ash ponds left by coal power plants, each of them vastly more toxic and teratogenic than any nuclear plant, let alone a decommissioned one.

In fact, you don’t need to imagine it, you are living the dream.

The report talks about hypothetical setup with smart girds and customers reacting on price change. This configuration was never tried at 80% scale. It might or might not work.

People did try decarbonise industrial economy to 70% - it worked with technology existing not now but in the eighties. And it did not put any limitations on consumers, while taking just 10 years to implement.

Surely at code red we should be looking at things that were shown to work?

If people believed that global warning is an extinction threat for humanity / code red / critically important...

Then waiving almost all regulations on nuclear power and accepting some meltdowns would be reasonable.

And also waiving nearly all regulations on solar power, wind power, massive construction of hydropower etc.

That I would guess is exactly the strategy China is adopting.

And the west IMO will reel in horror at even a single meltdown there and back off any plans to adopt nuclear the day that happens, wasting precious time we really don't have.

It isn't all about electricity generation: how areagriculture, land use, global logistics (to a good extent) affected by electricity generation ?

>A typical plant takes ~20 years from decision to productionized

If this were truly "code red" and people really believed that, we would find a way to push the bureaucrats out of the way and build nuclear capacity way sooner than 20 yrs. Humans can do amazing things under dire stress.

This is not happening, so I will assume "code red" is hyperbole, something that the IPCC is not entirely known to shun.

> This is not happening, so I will assume "code red" is hyperbole

If you take the current pandemic as an example of what we do when under dire stress, I don't think we should be that confident. Yes, some people can perform astonishing feats, and yet other people can deny there's even a problem even when it's obvious.


I take it you haven't talked to any medical professional recently.

Yes it may be dire stress on some overworked doctors, but not on the country or the world.

Humans don't always react rationally in code red situations though. Right now the irrational fear of nuclear power is stronger than the fear the average person or politician has of climate change. Doesn't mean that the climate change situation isn't dire.

> people really believed that

> we would find a way to

In this case "people" and "we" just doesn't refer to the same cohort.

> I will assume "code red" is hyperbole, something that the IPCC is not entirely known to shun.

I'm not sure that’s the case and I would encourage you to dig into what the worst or medium range scenario would mean. As I understand it, the _middle_ scenario predicts that a billion people would either die in a climate-related catastrophe or be displaced before 2050. That means that several ethnic or cultural groups would go through essentially genocide.

There are details like loss of water reserves in California and the impact on food access in the US, fish population collapse, climate-related migration from the densest populated areas in the world that are very concerning.

I’ve seen scientist give very clear alarms on several global issues (usually my father was making the point); I’ve personally made several myself, and every single time, the reaction was… dumbfounding: trying to minimise, negotiate, taking the most optimistic scenario as a worst case, delaying…

I have, unironically, witnessed several conversations that literally went:

“If you do that, you, your family and your way of life will die forever.

— You are exaggerating, that’s too scary.”

They did nothing, and soon later: exactly what the prediction said.

This is not only the most common scenario, it is the only scenario I’ve seen, with one exception: CFC and the Ozone layer. And that was because there’s a handful of industrials, who had clear alternatives that proved cheaper.

“Other people do nothing; I’d rather believe the reassuring story than evidence” is exactly how we end up with the bystander effect.

Small modular nuclear reactors could be an answer to your primary concern: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_modular_reactor https://www.nuscalepower.com/

Yeah I hear this every time, but very few small modular reactors (SMRs) have actually been built on account of economic and safety barriers to building them [1].

Now, I'm sure these are soluble problems. I'm by no means anti-SMR. But most of the actual serious proposals I've heard discussed for decarbonization lean much more heavily on already-existing technologies such as solar panels, which are getting cheaper and more efficient every year and which we are putting in the grid right now.

Most of the time, when I hear people talking about SMRs, it's as an excuse to do nothing. "This research tech will solve the climate problem, so all we need to do now is wait for it to pay off." Like the original poster in this thread, who claimed that a lack of investment in nuclear somehow proves that things aren't really that bad.

Apparently, the IPCC does expect and hope for substantial increases in nuclear power as a portion of our energy supply [2][3], but "[a]chieving a rapid decarbonization of the electricity sector will require, at first, deploying proven technology," presumably because nuclear on its own is not enough, and because SMRs are too experimental to lean on in any substantial way.

[1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036054422...

[2]: https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/10/1048732

[3]: https://www.world-nuclear.org/press/press-statements/the-ipc...

If it was actually code red, we would waive literally all safety regulations and environmental policy reviews, and break ground on new plants tomorrow. And cost would be no object.

Cost being no object doesn't mean you should choose unnecessarily expensive solutions...

I suspect you mean if the west believed it was actually code red...

Good luck with that...

Yes. I do actually think it is critical, but it's clear that most people are using "code red" as a semantic device, not out of belief that we should act with _true_ urgency.

I think we're also forgetting that adoption of nuclear power is also dependent on a stable government. Geopolitical risks probably outweigh all the drawbacks mentioned.

> A typical plant takes ~20 years from decision to productionized

500 days for a small modular reactor (450MW) https://www.rolls-royce.com/innovation/small-modular-reactor...

At least, that's what the brochure says.

Yes it's slow to build today, though it hasn't always been the case: France once built 56 reactors over 15 years [0]. Yes it's expensive, but once again, this isn't a feature of Nuclear power, but one of the capitalist (or at the very least neoliberal) system it is built into: 60% of the Hinkley point C costs are due to the mode of financing (not 100% public) [1]. The real question is not whether this or that type of electricity generation is better (although it's also an important question), but rather how we can completely redesign our socio-economic system to quickly wean ourselves off of fossil fuels (hint: global logistics are far from electrified), reduce emissions from the agricultural sector (we do need to eat), etc.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France#Messme... [1] https://www.nao.org.uk/report/hinkley-point-c/

To me this makes so much sense. But when you look at the costs involved it's far cheaper and less risky to deploy 2x in renewables and a bunch of energy storage plus some gas plants and long distance transmission.

New innovations in nuclear maybe have a chance to change this, but renewables are still getting cheaper so even if they succeed they must still beat the moving target.

In another world where we had embraced nuclear long ago and kept innovating it would have made so much sense. It still will be a part of the solution, but the economics really aren't there and the private sector isn't dumb. Markets will allocate capital according to risks and returns and nuclear will continue to be overlooked until it can compete.

Nuclear is able to compete on merit and has been forever, but we chose to create a legal environment in which one or two dedicated NIMBYs could stall a project indefinitely. That's the entire reason why "the economics aren't there." We aren't talking about costs of building a reactor or risk of it melting down, we're talking about the cost and risk of 1001 strategically sequential ground squirrel environmental impact studies pushing the project duration out to infinity. Allowing this is a political choice, not an evaluation of the technology.

I tend to agree with you that the ship has sailed, though. If we had just kept building at the same pace as 40 years ago (linear extrapolation, not exponential) then we'd recently have celebrated the completion of a zero-emission grid. Unfortunately, we chose to pump the atmosphere full of CO2 instead. Ugh.

It's not really the ahead of time NIMBY complaints but the potential for future liability shifts which existing plants will not be exempt from. A good number of plants constructed in the 60s and 70s hit their EOL (after getting a a bunch of lifetime extensions from governments) and then had their nice glittering warchest of profits eaten away by cleanup expenses (which sometimes exceeded the cash left in those contingency funds with the deficit falling on state & local governments). There have been issues with water contamination due to poor holding pool sealing and due to unforseen natural disasters.

Nuclear power requires millions in its initial investment. It has a not-insignificant profit margin over other power sources, but it also has a significant chance for large liabilities (more often due to changing laws than meltdowns). The result is an investment with an extremely high investment threshold (you don't build small nuke plants) with a decent short term prospect and a poor long term prospect that's extremely hard to get out of. This makes nuclear a really bad option for private investors when held up in comparison to tech and the like.

Meltdowns can happen and they're catastrophic but the bigger impediment is the unpredictable legal and fiscal liabilities involved. And, honestly, it's my personal opinion that a fair amount of these post-de-facto fiscal liabilities are extremely just and fairly applied - they're externalities we were ignoring decades ago.

This is a segment of the market where we need government funding and guarantees to get things done - and we should do so since nuclear is an extremely safe and clean option for power generation.

I wonder if any improvements could be made to mitigate some of these risks considering we’ve had 50-60 years to learn.

The unfortunate thing is that the extreme lack of investment in nuclear energy means we don't have a ton of experts in this area.

Let's ask the ad engineers. :) I don't like the historical alternatives but our current society (in general) approach for social-economical organization reached it's threshold and made us waste human potential tackling artificial problems while ignoring those that were right in front of us. But who knows as those "blind investments" generated knowledge that might be critical for the next decades.

> Nuclear is able to compete on merit and has been forever

Hmmm https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49823305

"Hinkley Point C nuclear plant to run £2.9bn over budget"

> Last week, prices for new wind power delivered by 2025 were set at prices as low as £40 per megawatt hour. By comparison, power from Hinkley Point C is expected to cost £92.50 per megawatt hour.

I don't think NIMBYs are the only problem. Nuclear is just too expensive to build and maintain, especially with dirt-cheap renewables and storage coming down too. I have some hope that SMRs or something will end up working out, but like you say, I think it's mostly too late.

> Nuclear is able to compete on merit

If that were the case, then this would not be required: https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF10821

Only because any accidents, while rare, are incredibly high profile.

Where's the compensation for all the deaths due to coal plants? Unlike nuclear, they spew carcinogenic crap in the atmosphere by design. And some radioactivity too.

"Markets will allocate capital according to risks"

Like you know, the risk to end organised civilisation through climate change. Haha, funny

Unfortunately markets are not good at accounting for those kinds of external risks (but they could be with the right incentives, like a carbon tax.)

It's a tragedy of the commons scenario. I don't understand why politicians don't just do the hard/right thing. Supposedly that's why we have them. If they always just do the popular thing we could cut them out of the picture and go to direct democracy. I'm not advocating for that, but we need politicians to step up and do their jobs competently.

The way in which markets properly account for climate change is to suffer so much damage from the effect that the market collectively agrees to internalize the costs to the climate into prices of exchange - this price adjustment might not happen before cataclysmic levels of deaths or a tipping point that makes climate recovery infeasible and coping as our only recourse.

Additional taxes, in the US at least, as currently seen as being contrary to the American experiment by a large enough segment of the population that consensus won't be gained when, while driving on the highway, we see the bridge out ahead sign - nor when we see the cliff in the distance - nor even when we feel the front walls fall off into air. We'll reach consensus when we look out the front windshield and see the earth racing up to give us a kiss... At least that's my pessimistic opinion.

Their premise assumes humans are good at estimating risk. I’m not so sure that assumption holds

> deploy 2x in renewables and a bunch of energy storage plus some gas plants and long distance transmission

Is it actually sufficient? Feel free to link even technical sources (as long as it is not paywalled without way of checking quality).

My impression is that right now "bunch of energy storage" is 100% unfeasible to provide power from renewables without blackouts. And existing ones work thanks to nearby countries with scalable non-renewable on demand power, with rare exception of countries with low population density and great opportunity for hydropower that is available on demand.

I'll turn that around and ask specifically why that's not possible.

It would require a better interconnected grid, overbuilt renewables, and plenty of storage with some level of on demand generation like gas. A good percentage of baseload power like hydro and nuclear certainly help, but it's not required.

It's just a matter of how much are you willing to spend as opposed to something that's physically impossible.

I believe renewables + grid scale batteries are already cheaper than new nuclear and much lower risk and much faster to deploy. The momentum is in favor of widening that gap.

Currently power storage is tiny, even largest hydropower projects would be insufficient to provide backup power in most places.

And just 2x renewables overbuilt would regularly run below demands - sadly solar/wind is not acting on demand. And during drought also hydropower may be unable to work.

And in most places hydropower, geothermal is unable to provide enough power.

(please correct me if I am wrong! But last time I checked nearly no place can run on renewables without relying on importing fossil-based power, and places that succeed have ideal places for hydropower/geothermal)

The big unknown to me here is the impact of the interconnects. It's obvious that the intermittency problem gets smaller with better transmission infrastructure. What I can't recall seeing is actual studies of how much transmission capacity would be needed to average the renewable input over large enough an area so that existing storage solutions are adequate.

Also, not all renewables are intermittent. Apart from hydro, geothermal comes to mind. (Although with climate change-induced changes in rainfall it's not clear that hydro will be reliable on the timescales we talk about either....)

> renewables + grid scale batteries are already cheaper than new nuclear

I wish this were true, but it’s not. There aren’t competitive grid scale batteries.

I think this is a question of what is grid scale. Is the Tesla facility in Australia grid scale? Why not? What about the large facilities being planned currently with lithium ion batteries?

My source for my previous comment is Bill gates’ book.

Aside, I think a big battery in Australia makes a lot of sense because they have lots of sun year round and lots of unused space. So you are pretty much just storing for night time and can easily build solar panels.

In many other places, you have to store for much longer term which means you need much bigger batteries (and bigger generating plants).

This is to say I think the cost in a place like Australia may be 100s of times less than places in most of the USA (which is where I live).

> In many other places, you have to store for much longer term.

Yeah, that doesn't make sense. Overbuild and interconnect rather.

You can't do things like store summer solar energy for the winter. But there are plenty of places in the US where the sun is nearly always shining. If you can share that energy across the county you're in good shape. Likewise with the wind.

Again it helps you have solid baseload power. It's just nuclear is so expensive and takes so long to build that you can build twice the capacity in solar and wind plus a battery, plus a gas plant for a backup in less time and for a similar price.

I don’t think you can interconnect over very long distances. I know of experimental projects, but nothing proven

There are five existing transmission lines in the world of 2000km and up (all in Brazil and China.)

I think a cross USA interconnect is within the reach of current technology.

> "bunch of energy storage" is 100% unfeasible to provide power from renewables without blackouts

Telsa’s prototype in Australia was able to prove you can stabilise a grid at scale, profitably and with simple enough technology. In addition to Li-ion (that provides good response) you can have gravity-based capacity (essentially a crane), heat-storage (rocks kept at 4000ºC feeding a thermal power plant) and liquid-metal batteries. Two of those are mostly century-old tech redesigned for a word with cheap intermittent energy; the third seems like the best, most reliable, simplest, most scalable idea out of MIT from the last decade.

I have the impression that these represent enough options, with enough evidence that it will be profitable within a short lifespan, so I’m not even sure you want government support. But if they can facilitate permits, access to the grid, etc. why not get the help? All those will stabilise the grid no matter what source of power we have, so why not implement what we can at scale, see how it helps, and double it six months later if it works? After five years, we should have enough to tell how much wind and sun it can cover but I can’t see why it wouldn’t handle 100% of demand. All of those ideas can be any size, from a hand to a large city; all have many alternative elements to adapt to circumstances, price point; there are complementary and work well together.

Are you sure that any of them is feasible at grid scale? How much it would cost to store 451 GWh (one day of electricity production in Poland if I read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_Poland right)?

How large overbuilt of renewables would be needed to avoid blackouts during windless snowy winter months?

Individual projects? No idea. But Poland has a lot of mines, so a lot of room for gravity-based storage.

My suggestion is to build: * 1 GWh capacity of those gravity-fed; and * 1 GWh of concentrated solar heat storage — it won’t be as effective in winter but let’s try; and * 1 GWh of Li-ion batteries; and * 1 GWh of hydro-storage; and * 1 GWh of liquid metal storage.

And see which one scales, and what cost, with what retention, reactivity, how is the maintenance. All should, there’s no reason a larger pile of rocks doesn’t retain heat any less well than a smaller pile, or that what you can’t get from one mine shaft doesn’t work in another mine shaft. If you think that’s too much for Poland, let’s try one in Arizona, Iceland, Australia, Kazakstan, Hawaii, and see which one works best and adapts to Polish climate.

I’ve never seen an inventor that didn’t iterate from a working prototype (which we have for all these) to a larger one, to a larger still, until they hit scaling issues. And I don’t know of currently salient scaling issues in any of those (that haven’t been addressed recently — there were targeting problems with concentrated solar that found a solution recently for instance).

“Will it scale?” isn’t the questions that an engineer would ask on any of those at this stage of the project, but rather: "How fast can we make one twice bigger?" When we hit roadblocks that can’t be fixed, we can ask about scale, but right now, all those have a clear path.

"Overbuilt" assumes that renewable capacity doesn’t adapt to winter condition but it might: cooler external temperature could mean that geo-power, or heat stored from the summer represent a higher differential, and more energy. Or it assumes that capacity is expensive, which has never really been the case with variable prices: not for gas plants, not for renewables that are not constrained by context.

If you are worried about European winter overall, that makes sense, but the solution for that is rather obvious — enormous, but so much cheaper than anything else comparable: giant capacities in North Africa, big cable through Spain and France. From there, the extra capacity in Europe can serve Northern Europe. Scandinavia continues enjoying their massive boost in renewable hydro in winter, and the winds in the North Sea will definitely need exporting too. “Windless winter” isn’t apparently a common thing there. That might require more international solidarity, but people will do that quite keenly if there’s money to be made.

While I agree Nuclear is the most probable solution it's not easy to build and fuel is very sparse. France who is leading the way is 100% depend on other countries, I'm not sure it will play well in the coming years

> 85% of uranium is produced in six countries: Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia.

And the second issue is to focus on electricity production, while there is a ton a other things creating pollution. You won't save the planet if you still have thousands of ships on the sea and planes in the air; meat and clothes production too...

There are a dozen of topics to be addressed, with multiple solutions and I would say none of them are being really tackled. (except energy in the less efficient way = no green worldwide grid)

> You won't save the planet if you still have thousands of ships on the sea and planes in the air

Aviation contributes only 2% of global air pollution, though maybe 5% of global greenhouse effect (due to the high altitudes airplanes operate at). Textile production, indeed, contributes more to climate change than aviation and maritime shipping combined [1].

However, with abundant electricity you can switch many transportation modes to electric, and (where technical constraints don't allow that yet, eg intercontinental aviation) maybe utilise synthetic fuels.

> I would say none of them are being really tackled

I would say many challenges are being tackled, and the intensity will increase even further.

[1] https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/headlines/society/202...

According to these guys, industrial process heat accounts for larger emissions than electricity and transportation: https://www.absolicon.com/

The nice thing is that it's easy to make heat with higher efficiency than going through electricity.

Synthetic aviation fuels are effectively a fuel-air battery as long as you pull in CO2 from the air making it.

The altitude thing makes it a little more complicated than that, but… yes, essentially:

1. any flight that could be a train journey, make it so; if anything, luxury high-speed train is so much more enjoyable that whatever flying allows at the same cost; there will be electric short-distance planes soon, but we probably want to use those for over-seas journeys;

2. no matter what source of CO2 will remain after we address ICE cars, coal, red meat, dairy, cement and much more, we will need to go negative to restore sanity to the climate, so pulling CO2 will be essential.

The message is: all hands on deck, starting by the big stuff. Flying isn’t huge, but it needs addressing.

BTW, there are already quite a few electric planes in "production" use in the form of electric self-starting gliders:


Basically, some gliders do have an auxiliary engine they can use to avoid ditching it the fields or possibly even to self launch from an airfield without the need for another place to tow them aloft or a glider winch.

Traditionally this engine used to be petrol powered and most still are, but electric ones are proliferating quickly as they have quite a few advantages.

For one they are much more likely to actually start if needed during flight, as there is much less moving pieces and oil/fuel that can go bad during prolonged periods of not being used. The startup is basically instant so you can keep lower margin before deciding you will not find that next thermal and engine power is needed.

The limited range is not much of an issue for a glider as its build to fly between thermals without an engine anyway, this being very efficient with insane glide ratios. The online just needs to compensate the few meters per second of height lost before you find the next upwards going column of air or to reach the next airport, so that your friends don't have to fetch your from the middle of the field + you can avoid the field disassembly of the plane to a the trailer.

For self-starting gliders electrical power also makes sense, as they really need a lot of power for just a few minutes to get to height and can then shut the engine down. A compact battery & electric motor provides just that.

I know, it’s awesome. The best part is that they are trialling the commercial options where I am (Northern Sweden) so I should be able to fly soon in one of those and go to Stockholm under one hour without polluting.

A lot more complicated than that in fact [0]. CO2 is only causing 1/3 of the radiative forcing. High atmosphere chemical interactions and contrails have a massive impact. [0] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135223102...

> Aviation contributes only 2% of global air pollution Whataboutism, one of the identified discourses of climate delay [0]. Besides, the proportion of radiative forcing (what actually matters) caused by aviation is more than twice that [1].

[0]https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/global-sustainabilit... [1]https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S135223102...

0. It's not Whataboutism, though. I don't point to an entirely different problem and say, what about that. I say, if we want to tackle climate change, we ought to target the most effective and cost efficient reductions in order to get the most results with the least cost. And there I say that aviation is just a small part of the problem, so, say, even entirely dismantling aviation would not solve the problem.

1. Yes, as I said immediately following the part you quoted: > though maybe 5% of global greenhouse effect

From the article linked above: "(...) We call this whataboutism. Actors advancing this discourse often deploy statistics demonstrating their own small contribution to global emissions, or they point to large emitters such as China – “We are a nation that produces 1.8 per cent of global carbon dioxide, so I do not get closing down our aluminium smelters, most of our steel production, and now our refining industry …” "

Either we start giving get out of jail free cards to specific sectors and so on or we agree that everything needs to reduce its emissions by ~8%/year from now on, regardless of their share in total emissions, and of how hard it is technically to decarbonize.

Third is the political problem. The international community has some tight limitations on who can refine Uranium. That's reasonable in a lot of ways as an effort to limit nuclear proliferation, but countries don't exactly like being put in the position that they can produce nuclear energy but only if 100% of their supply chain is outsourced to current Western powers.

> > 85% of uranium is produced in six countries: Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia.

What about thorium? Other elements?

> 85% of uranium is produced in six countries: Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia, Namibia, Niger, and Russia.

So there is a major uranium producer in every corner of the world? That's better than oil and many elements critical in electronic. Like whats your benchmark" it cant be as common as dirt.

This is definitely a non-exhaustive list - for example a lot of initial Soviet Uranium stock was mined in the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) and contributed to it being forced to the Soviet sphere of influence.

Some references: https://www.osti.gov/etdeweb/servlets/purl/20224726 https://www.suro.cz/cz/vyzkum/vysledky/strategie-rizeni-napr...

While most of the mines are no longer active I'm sure there are still reserves that could be mined by modern methods (ideally without political prisoners doing the mining this time) and I'm sure there are more places like this.

Greatly reducing meat production, particularly beef and other ruminants, will have a smaller effect than many people expect. Even if we don't eat them, vast numbers of ruminants will still need to exist because they are a critical part of natural ecosystems.

Humans made space for their preferred ruminants, like beef, by displacing vast populations of other ruminants which have similar climate impact. I don't think most people fully appreciate just how large the natural population was before we started raising beef at scale. Even if we eliminated the beef herds, other ruminant species would immediately start filling the vacuum.

> Humans made space for their preferred ruminants, like beef, by displacing vast populations of other ruminants which have similar climate impact. I don't think most people fully appreciate just how large the natural population was before we started raising beef at scale. Even if we eliminated the beef herds, other ruminant species would immediately start filling the vacuum.

The problem with beef farming is that vast amounts of forest are burned or clear cut to allow cattle to graze. That alone raises the carbon footprint of beef. Grass on the pasture definitely doesn't sequester much carbon.

When we talk about wild ruminants, some regions that are used for cattle didn't have a bunch of ungulates on it before. South America for example didn't have huge herds of llamas roaming the lands.

In North America Bison herds were estimated to number about 10 million, but right now there's somewhere around 90 million cattle in the US. Even if cattle farming was drastically reduced, it's unlikely Bison numbers would return to their historic amount. Deer are the other part of the picture, and their numbers would sky rocket, given the opportunity. But that's where managing their numbers and reintroducing predators comes in.

I don’t know where you are getting data for ruminants in North America. Historical estimates for bison are 60 million prior to systematic extermination, at least 10 million for elk, 50-100 million for deer, plus pronghorn, moose, etc in the many millions each.

Bison may not rebound very quickly but something needs to fill the bison niche in the ecosystem. It is well-understood that several other native species undergo population declines and reducing biodiversity when beef herds are moved out of a region long-term. Cattle and bison are very substitutable for this purpose (and are related species). Deer fill in much faster than most other species of ruminants in North America, usually detrimentally.

I was going off my memory of Bison populations, was way off there, thanks for the correction.

Either way, we'd still be better off if we dramatically reduced cattle farming and restored some or all of that habitat, particularly in South America.

Agreed - if the situation is as dire as presented then nuclear fission is the only clear solution today for baseload power. All the rebuttals I usually read seem to present hypothetical alternatives that may very well come to fruition but we have nuclear as a well-tested and known solution to the problem ready for us to begin using today should we simply decide to act.

Meanwhile California is busy decommissioning Diablo plant: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diablo_Canyon_Power_Plant

I don’t see a path forward without Nuclear. Europe and China has done better in this area than US. There is a bunch of fear mongering in liberal California circles about Nuclear. Well informed and technically minded people I know in Bay Area all support Nuclear power.

Frankly the media has done an awful job of fear mongering with the term “Nuclear” and “Radiation”.

New York just decommissioned the Indian point nuclear plant [1] due to some shady politics. The largest planned solar installation in the US was defeated by environmental groups because it would be an eyesore [2].

At some point we’re going to have to grapple with the fact many “concerned” groups don’t actually care about climate change. Instead they use it as a stalking horse for other political projects.

[1] https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47776

[2] https://apnews.com/article/technology-government-and-politic...

Did you read article #2?

The group that stopped the solar installation was something called "Save Our Mesa":

> But a group of residents organized as “Save Our Mesa” argued such a large installation would be an eyesore and could curtail the area’s popular recreational activities — biking, ATVs and skydiving — and deter tourists from visiting sculptor Michael Heizer’s land installation, “Double Negative.”

The group itself is not in any way an environmental group, they claim to be locals who want to save their tourism industry.

Their own website: http://www.saveourmesa.org

> The majority of our community’s revenue comes from tourism. We lost a lot of tourism and businesses when the shrinking lake levels of Lake Mead occurred closing a nearby beach. We have struggled but built back our economy through OHV tourism. When people come and camp/hotel for a week, they buy our gas, our groceries, eat in our restaurants, use our mechanics and parts stores. This allows these businesses to thrive thus keeping us self sufficient. Feedback from many of our Snowbirds was that they would look for new places to go, that’s lost revenue. People would not come to recreate, that’s lost revenue.

I did read the article. Specifically, I read the second to last paragraph which states,

> Although a majority of the state’s voters approved an energy transition ballot question last year, large-scale projects like Battle Born Solar have drawn backlash from conservationists, endangered species advocates and local businesses that cater to tourists.

But you don't need to take anyone's word for it. Here is a local group very proud to assist Save our Mesa to kill the project [5][6][7].

If you would like to read more about how environmental and conservation groups sometimes oppose renewable energy projects, you can do so [1][2][3][4].

[1] http://archive.today/2021.06.15-141516/https://www.wsj.com/a...

[2] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-solar-wars/special-report...

[3] https://www.nevadacurrent.com/2021/06/16/true-impact-of-high...

[4] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-07-29/san-franc...

[5] https://twitter.com/BasinRange/status/1418497834949636098?s=...

[6] https://twitter.com/BasinRange/status/1323327146585022465?s=...

[7] https://twitter.com/BasinRange/status/1418665885263228928?s=...

edit: spacing

It seems like you're conflating several things:

1) Save Our Mesa is the group that pushed back, successfully, against this project, to further the tourism interests in their town, according to the article and according to them.

2) Some infrastructure projects "like this" (i.e. not necessarily this one, but simply projects "like this") draw backlash from environmental groups for whatever local reason. (also, this does not mean Save Our Mesa, the group responsible for stopping this project, is an environmental group.)

3) A local group (Basin and Ranch) was happy that "grass roots killed this project" and they were "happy to help" (in an undisclosed way) -- this also does not mean that "environmental groups" stopped the solar installation "because it would be an eyesore," which is what you said in your original post.

Look, I get that environmental groups sometimes behave in ways that seem irrational, too focused on some small local issue (Basin and Ranch likes the tortoise habitat more than they like solar), but this kind of sliding different issues, takes, positions, etc., together is dishonest and shitty, whether intentional or not.

> I don’t see a path forward without Nuclear. Europe and China has done better in this area than US

Germany hasn't, unfortunately (it decided in 2011, shortly after Fukushima, to decommission all its nuclear power by 2022).

But wasn't the German nuclear situation a mess to begin with ? Looking at the list:


It's a whole bunch of dissimilar designs - maintaining all that must have been nightmare.

In comparison here in Czech Republic & in Slovakia we have a bunch of upgraded VVERs and that's it, providing a good chunk of our electricity with reasonable commonality.

But hey, it could be worse than in Germany! You can build a complete nuclear power plant with all the expense it entails and then newer run it! ;-)


I really wonder what all the China talking point sorts will do the day China not only beats us on emissions per capita but also on total emissions? What excuse to continue doing nothing will they pivot to then? India?


> Those periods of near zero production can last non-trivial amounts of time no realistic battery could provide for.

Interestingly not the case. New Zealand is currently considering what would become the largest battery in the world, Lake Onslow.

Consisting of a giant artificial lake and hydro dam it could store ~12 terawatt-hours.

This would be enough to smooth over any variations in renewable load and remove the need for fossil fuel peaker plants.

>Those periods of near zero production can last non-trivial amounts of time no realistic battery could provide for

There are many options (electrochemical, gravity etc) for grid-scale energy storage of various durations that are commercially-viable today. 0-8 hours tends to be the most needed duration in the US but there are solutions that can store power for days or weeks without losses. Even in a 100% nuclear or gas-fired world storage is critical. During the Texas blackout both nuclear and gas assets failed due to the cold temperatures.

Besides the fact that electricity generation is merely one aspect of GHG emissions (hello agriculture, land use, transportation, etc). The ultimate argument against the "let's not radically change our ways and only retool the engine" view is the following: we have ~120 years of known reserves for the current fission reactors, with a potential 10x multiplier with fast neutron reactors should anybody (other than the russians and the chinese) bother to invest into researching the field. How many more doublings in our economy (and hence energy use) does it take to consume it all ? At a measly (by economists and politicians standards) rate of 2%/year, you get a doubling every 35 years. in 350 years (yeah I know this sounds very far in the light of the current news) we'd have increased our demand by 3 orders of magnitude...

While it's true that the state has to backstop the externalities of nuclear through insurance guarantees, the obvious and present externalities of carbon burning massively outweigh these guarantees. The state picks up a huge ROI by covering nuclear risks while taxing the living shit out of carbon pollution.

> If anyone actually believed it was "code red for humanity" they'd be pushing nuclear power

In theory. I used to say the same thing until recently. Now, I'm not sure.

Let's say we decide that yes, nuclear is the way to go, as it provides a lot of energy with barely any pollution (other than mining and construction). The 'waste', while a problem, is inconsequential compared to spewing crap in the atmosphere.

Let's also assume that the designs will not cause proliferation concerns (we have such designs, as well as more plentiful fuels). In fact, let's assume we will use the best designs we have in general.

Even then, what's the turnaround time to construct new power plants? The figures I've seen suggest it takes almost a decade until a plant is operational. Do we still have the time do build them in enough numbers to make a difference?

No we don't.

We have to reduce comsumption, and not just a bit but by a lot.

I'm tentatively in favor of more nuclear power plants, but I'm not convinced it's the only solution. We definitely need more electricity that comes from non-carbon-emitting sources, but solar and wind seem to be winning on cost.

In order to rely more heavily on wind and solar, we will need either enormous batteries or better power distribution across the grid.

Lithium iron phosphate cells should be pretty cheap in mass quantities, and they don't require nickel or cobalt. They can also last a very long time, so cost is amortized over many years. If the batteries cost $100 per kwh and a typical household needs 30 kwh to get through a 24 hour cycle, then that's $3000 worth of batteries per household. The real cost would be higher when you add in battery management systems, chargers, inverters, and so on, but if it's centrally managed it doesn't seem like the manufacturing, installation, and operation cost would be insurmountable.

In terms of the energy grid, I think it would be a good idea to look into constructing major transcontinental high voltage DC lines so the United States can buy solar power from, say, Algeria when the sun is shining there and sell surplus power to Europe and Asia when it's daytime in the U.S..

To sum up: I think nuclear could be a part of the solution, but it isn't the only option. We do have alternatives.

I'd love to see new reactors come on line, but I remain skeptical that nuclear power will be widely used in the US as long as it remains so scary to so many people.

It's scary because disasters stay on the front page for months if not years, it's associated with civilization-ending weapons, radiation and the illnesses it causes are mysterious, we don't really have a great plan for dealing with waste, and nuclear advocates are (by-and-large) a bunch of energy nerds who actually believe some new reactor design or statistical analysis will finally convince the American public to go pro-nuke.

The scarier climate change becomes, the more people seem willing to accept nuclear power. But that could be too little too late.

Nuclear is an especially sensible option in my country (Australia) IMO; we have an abundance of uranium ore, a geologically stable continent, a high-quality interconnected electrical grid (over most of the population), and a reliable political/governance environment. It would be an enormous improvement over our current reliance on coal-fired generation for base loads.

Let's not forget that there are many regions in the world (say in the middle East or Africa) where the situation is constantly volatile to put it mildly and where a nuclear power plant would be impossible to be secured properly against insurgency.

Wasn't Bill Gates going to build a new type of reactor [0] before Trump became president and shut down US/China collaboration [1]?

It seems there's some movement from Mr. Gates around nuclear again, but not sure if the Natrium stuff is the same as the TWR (travelling wave reactor) of 5 years ago. [2]

0. https://www.terrapower.com/

1. https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/a25728221/te...

2. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/jun/03/bill-gates-w...

It's not about "belief" ... short termism is what will do for humanity.

There are storage possibilities beyond batteries, e.g. hydrogen/methane

hard pass on that, way too many issues in disaster zones. also, not good for you at all if it gets anywhere near people

As pointed out in he comments below, the climate crisis will reduce political stability. And stability is essential to ensure that there will be a strong enough society left to properly decommission a nuclear plant when it will be EOL in 50 years. Decommissioning is likely to be vastly more expensive than initial construction, and after that you still need to figure out how to make sure no one will want to touch the waste for the next few thousand years.

For the current crisis we need to put a cap on carbon extraction now, and quickly bring extraction rates down to zero. Let the price of oil rise and capitalism should sort it out. Only when fossil fuel prices rise to say 500 USD per barrel will people and industries start effectively reducing consumption. Other than on extremely energy intensive activities (transatlantic flights) fossil fuel prices are just a rounding error.

If you can't sell people on nuclear power, there is no way in hell you're gonna sell people on extreme taxes on oil. And even if you could, the base load problem will still be there.

Maybe if carbon were heavily taxed it would incentivize energy storage solutions but as of right now cost effective solutions are no viable yet.

"capitalism should sort it out"

Oh, you sweet summer child!

We can at least try putting a price on fossil fuels. Actually the 1973 oil crisis had a profound effect on behavior, so yes a capitalistic system is perfectly capable of responding to something being (artificially) scarce. OPEC should really get their shit together and start another oil crisis "in order to save the world"

Can you kindly edit your comment to remove the accusation that people worried about nuclear power don't believe in the severity of climate change? These people are just looking at a different risk assessment.


Just. Tax. It.

We have warmed the earth because we love comfort and money. We will never stop loving those things. So instead let's use the same systems to fix this (or at least slow things down).

As an individual my largest carbon impact is air travel. I like to go places, it's one of the main things I work to afford. Every single plane ticket I take should have a tax which is used to offset or capture the carbon emissions of my flight. I will pay it. Anyone not willing to pay it will have to fly less. Any airlines that can't operate under the tax will not operate.

Now do the same thing for corporate polluters, packaging waste, etc. If a country won't do this for domestic goods we can at least impose climate tariffs at borders.

The only other thing that could work is some fantastic new technological solution, but let's not wait for that.

Taxation of carbon totally works. British Columbia has a $50/tonne tax, which increases the cost of unleaded gas by about CAD $0.996/L and natural gas by $0.0882/m^3 [1]

Revenue from the tax goes into the government's general revenue, which allows BC to have among the lowest rate of income tax of any province in Canada. Meanwhile, BC has the highest rate of electrical vehicle purchasing in North America [2]. One study showed that employment increased by 0.74% as a result of the carbon tax [3]. Finally, research shows that the tax is highly progressive, having a smaller impact on poor households than rich ones [4].

[1] https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/taxes/sales-taxes/publicat...

[2] https://vancouversun.com/opinion/mark-zacharias-and-ian-nevi...

[3] https://contacts.ucalgary.ca/info/econ/files/info/unitis/pub...

[4] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S09287...

The lower income tax actually offsets the premium I pay to live here vs other provinces. Or at least that's how it worked out when I had a job last March. The rent keeps coming, but the money ain't.

You’ll be poor, but happy.

There's a threshold of savings under which things start getting very risky, that encroaches on my happyness, but on the flipside there's no amount of money I can think of that would make me work endlessly, because it doesn't make me happy beyond that

I always say "Money doesn't buy happiness, but a severe enough lack of money can certainly cause unhappiness"

I've been saying this for years, but I finally get why "Just. Tax. It." doesn't work. The voters. They turn out in droves when it comes to taxes on something as visible as the price they pay at the pump or when it comes to the oil patch in Alberta.

It's politically easier to create import duties or to go into debt and subsidize things. The level of taxation we need to stop a complete catastrophe is higher than people will put up with in most of the world.

That's a fundamental problem with any regulatory measure intended to reduce carbon emissions. Cheap energy is good for the economy. Fossil fuels are cheap. Any attempt to reduce the use of fossil fuels is going to hurt voters in the short term no matter how you package it.

Sure, you can try to be sneaky about it, implementing policies that only indirectly impact fossil fuels and hoping the voters don't notice you're the one to blame for the rising price of energy. Or you can be honest, bite the bullet, and try to convince the public a carbon tax is necessary to avoid something even worse down the line. Either way you're fighting an uphill battle.

You really should not be sneaky about it - some of the populist-or-worse parties here in Europe are already full into "eco-fashist EU is taking away your cars!" together with their usual drivel.

True, Switzerland (who I view as a "green" and progressive country) recently voted against those taxes in a referendum. I think it would be much worse in other countries.


Switzerland, like California, is a direct democracy. Taxes that touch the assets of voting demographics fail while taxes that burden non-voting demographics pass.

Nit: Switzerland as a country is a semi-direct democracy not a direct democracy. Only 2 cantons fulfil the criteria for the classical definition of direct democracy.

They are direct and indirect, since both also have legislatures in addition to their referendum / initiative laws.

Switzerland is very conservative, I'm not all that surprised if it didn't pass.

I am not an expert on Swiss politics/demographics, but if you search for "the most liberal countries in the world" they consistently come up in top 10 (for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_of_World_Liberty_Index)

Prostitution is legal, abortion is legal, and they have pilot trials for "cannabis clubs"

Indeed, Switzerland is very conservative. Like in every other country you have a divide between the progressive/liberal/young-ish big cities (Zurich, Bern, Lausanne, Basel, ...) and the conservative/old-ish rest of the country (great skylines, very low population density).

And then you look at the actual rules (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popular_initiative_(Switzerlan...): "A double majority of people and cantons is required to change the constitution."

--> Swiss cantons are split up historically, not by population, similar to US states. The conservative, low-pop cantons can hold the progressives hostage on anything they don't like because even if you get the liberal cities behind you that is still way beyond the majority of cantons.

Comment you're responding to probably didn't mean American conservative. Most conservatives support abortion in the EU, it's the far-right that doesn't.

It seems like you could make it popular with a carbon dividend to every citizen. If you use less carbon than average, by god you make money!

But most times the tax is proposed, special interests on the left insist the revenue must be spent on <pet cause> & sink the whole effort.

Even when people propose this type of dividend it still doesn't usually work because the people that live in the cities already vote for the measures to curb climate change while the people that live in the sticks aren't going to see enough of a dividend to make up for the extra cost at the pump. Even allocating it by region (i.e., the taxes of a region go to paying for the dividend of the region, and there are larger dividends per person in a region with higher GHG taxes) don't work because too many people are retired or essentially non-commuting, and there are a host of issues around balancing out incentives. For example, a person may move across the street just to get a higher dividend.

To be fair, if people living in cities tend to have much lower GHG emissions than people living in rural areas, we probably want to have an extra incentive for people to live in cities, right? And even with that, there is a pretty wide variation of emissions levels between consumers in each of these types of regions.

You can have a very small town of 100 people that is designed so people can get around without a car. Small towns in Ireland, for example, look very different from small towns in the US -- but we used to build like that, and we can again. If you live out in the sticks, you probably make a lot of unnecessary trips because fuel is cheap, where there is potential to wait and do lots of shopping at once. You can probably insulate your house better, buy an electric water heater, stick solar panels on your house, etc.

Farms depend on a lot of machinery that uses fossil fuels right now, which is difficult to change, but could gradually be converted to more efficient energy sources. And actually, the Energy Innovation Act, which is Citizens' Climate Lobby's preferred carbon tax, has an exemption for agriculture -- it's a very small part of emissions, and it's worth it to get more people on board with the bill and get it passed sooner rather than later.

And we shouldn't compare an imperfect but still good tax to some unachievable ideal, we should compare it to other real-world solutions, and in that comparison, I think a carbon tax with dividend is probably the fairest and most cost-effective way to quickly cut carbon emissions.

lol the nba lottery tax but for carbon

I agree with you for cars, which is why I think the appropriate approach is to:

1. tax flying, or rather shame airlines who do not compensate aggressively until they all do, and monitor compensation schemes because at the moment, too many are non-sensical blackmail-like counter-factual arguments around cutting forests;

2. ban industrial releases of CO2: all has to be captured and stored; storage is cheap now, so industrials will rather do that than lobby (until storage price go up, but at that points, things will have gotten much uglier);

3. ban new ICE cars, or make those excessively expensive to build: second-hand cars price will explode subsidising current car owners, and opening a wider gap for electric cars. Guarantee loans on electric cars to make them unaffordable cheaper, until the resell value takes over. No need to make gas more expensive: electric cars are cheaper to maintain today. You just have to make it more obvious to buyers.

Start by taxing the big polluters, not individuals. Less than 1/3rd of pollution comes from individuals (and mostly from ICE cars, so incentivize EVs to tackle that), the rest comes from industry so go after the big piece of the pie first.

The industry will R&D ways to cut pollution since they'll be financially incentivized to do that, the resulting technology will be later adapted for other applications.

Taxing big polluters is taxing consumers. Granted, the indirection should make such a measure more politically feasible.

>We will never stop loving those things

Did we just tax tobacco? People loved tobacco. At some point, with the right information (e.g media not bought by big business), we can realize that things that are bad for us are just bad for us.

We can avoid telling us that and have someone take money from our wallet to prevent us from buying the things that kill us, but why not just better inform ourselves about the way we're killing us?

Anywhere I go now, I'm overwhelmed by ads telling me to buy a big SUV, go flight somewhere every weekend, buy something new because I deserve more, etc.

Of course, those paying for the ads say they're advertising because I want those things... but why are they advertising, then? If I wanted a bigger SUV/picker so much, they would not keep the ad spend and keep that as profit for their shareholders.

The whole system wants more, more, more stuff and they know the more addictive are the bigger/larger/shinier/louder/anything-er and that takes energy and pollutes. They need that more than the consumers.

I stopped loving this shit (no car, no flight, small flat, etc), and I'm still flooded with "BUY" orders. Employers will do everything to have me buy a car (I don't need) instead of taking the money of that car for myself.

It isn't a problem of wish or desire but we're told it is, because the consumption system keeps playing with these desires. I should just watch Century of the Self again...

I'm not sure tobacco is a good comparison here. Tobacco was a relatively easy thing to tax/restrict/ban as it serves no real purpose beyond individual enjoyment.

And about the time governments started taxing the shit out of tobacco is also about the time tobacco use was starting to become quite unfashionable. Why would I or my friends care about not being able to smoke in a bar if we find smoky bars annoying? Hypothetically try passing such taxes in the 60s, see how far that would have gotten.

Point being: carbon tax? That hits everyone to some extent, and arguably hits those least likely to care about climate change the most.

Denying climate change is also becoming unfashionable, while vegetarianism and electric cars become fashionable. These are good trends that have been slowed down for many years by corporate campaigns such as Global Climate Coalition [1]. The same thing happened with tobacco.

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

The problem is, just taxing CO2 emissions doesn't let you control who gets hit by the price increases. It could very well lead to increases in food and transportation costs that would be disproportionately burdensome to the poorest part of the population. Raising the cost of those items is politically very unpopular since it tends to cause unrest.

So I think what we'll get instead is some complex system of first taxing everything and then subsidizing some forms of consumption (again, food and transportation), while trying to incentivize switching over to renewable energy sources.

The earnings of the CO2 tax could be equally distributed to all citizens on a monthly basis. That way, while consumer prices would increase, all those citizens who contribute below average to the country's CO2 emissions (and those are the vast majority and especially includes people who are poor) would, in sum, have more money available than before.

There's no guarantee that a "CO2 tax" would be equally distributed itself. For an extreme case, imagine if we put a universal CO2 tax on all products. A producer might chose to slash the price of luxury goods, instead funneling the cost to lower end options. That would cause the prices the poor pay to rise more than the you subsidy would offset.

Distributing the cost equally to the producer doesn't mean they carry over equally to consumer cost.

Why wouldn’t another producer undercut them in that case, winning the lower end share of the market?

If you use carbon tax to fund ubi, it will only hit above average emitters, who will be incentivised to emit less.

I don't think that's true. No matter how much you emit, you can still end up with more money if you emit less.

…which, seems like a good thing?

>So I think what we'll get instead is some complex system of first taxing everything and then subsidizing some forms of consumption (again, food and transportation),

or just tax everything, then giving it back to everyone via a flat dividend?

> Every single plane ticket I take should have a tax which is used to offset or capture the carbon emissions of my flight. I will pay it.

So what you're saying is that it won't change your behavior. Why don't you just donate $1000 or whatever to a charity? (I dunno, maybe you already do). I don't mean to attack you, but encoded in your very language is the exact problem. No one is willing to change their own behavior, they want other people to change. Repeat this x 7 billion and suddenly you understand what the inertia is.

We live in the fading dream of a world that we sold to us that we could do whatever we want with absolutely no consequences; worse, that everything that we did that "made money" and contributed to GDP growth was good for everyone. Turns out that that was bullshit greed talking and the God of consequences is visiting its revenge on us through the same lesson every petri dish full of bacteria learns: you will choke to death on your own waste products.

Pardon me, but your post is just about virtue signalling or you're missing the point entirely.

If you increase the taxes for something, you will drop the demand and, therefore, consumption. It doesn't matter whether OP will change his/her behaviour, it matter that we, as a planet of people taking X flights per year, will reduce our flights by Y% due to tax.

I don't want to change my behaviour because that doesn't fix anything. I want to be forced to changed my behaviour, along with everyone else on the planet, through taxation for which I am happy to vote for and support with all my being.

> I want to be forced to changed my behaviour, along with everyone else on the planet, through taxation for which I am happy to vote for and support with all my being.

I agree with you, and do so with my fiat (EVs, solar, no air travel unless absolutely necessary, vegetarian, etc). There are billions of global citizens who likely don’t agree with you (or us), who will happily consume regardless of the consequences (and either can’t or won’t pay for the per ton emissions).

The challenge is in changing the behavior of disinterested or adversarial parties in the face of political apathy. It’s going to get uncomfortable.

I was by no means implying that people want this, I know categorically that almost nobody wants this.

But it doesn't matter what people want, I have already lost hope because nothing in our system is geared towards helping out with this. The incentives are completely misaligned and nothing will really change for a long, long time.

As far as I see it, you have the following: - Our entire world economy is based simply on consuming as much as possible. This is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen in order for us to have a chance, the exact polar opposite. - People are willing to protest even a few cents in tax increases, even in Europe. In the USA, everything required for climate action will be seen as communist by half the country. - You have so many other countries coming from behind that will simply want the standard of living you see in the West. (China, India, Brazil, Africa etc.). - Emissions are actually rising, even though we knew about climate change for decades. - Politicians have their career in 4 year chunks. Nobody wants to rock the boat by increasing taxes on their constituents and get voted out. - People have somewhat short lives. Most people who are alive now will not worst of the consequences.

You have very large forces pushing towards maintaining the status quo.

What needs to happen in order to fix our planet will just not happen because it cannot happen. We might be able to limit the damage, but that's about it. If science and technology don't solve this by some sort of miracle, it will only get worse.

I actually completely agree with what you wrote, so it's weird that we disagree about the carbon taxes. Sure, carbon taxes are going to reduce the demand for certain types of goods due to basic economics. But taxes also bless certain things as acceptable, as long as you pay your indulgences. It puts the onus on the rubes, the masses, to stop doing that.

People talk about eco-fascism and really heavy-handed things like outright bans on certain activities. Frankly, I think what is coming will be worse. It will be eco-anarchy. Mad max style where billionaires and ex-oil executives will be hunted.

It really isn't the rubes' fault. If you give a monkey a banana, he will eat the banana and throw the peel over his shoulder. If you give a monkey a bag of chips, he will eat the chips and throw the bag over his shoulder. Who's responsible? The monkey or the craven bastard who cooked up plastic chip bags to expand their market to every monkey in the world? Same principle. The bastards who are responsible are those producers who set the menu of choices and slip crack into their products on the sly so the monkeys get addicted. And then they blame monkeys and think monkeys should pay a chip-bag tax while they fuck off to New Zealand. Yeah, they will he hunted.

Well, I actually I agree with a lot of the stuff you write, but definitely disagree on taxes.

The main point I disagree with is that adding taxes somehow makes your choices seem okay. I don't really think that's the way to look at it, though I do understand there is some merit to the idea.

I'm not saying adding a carbon tax should be the only solution or even the best longterm solution. But the issue is that we cannot ban cars or flying or oil or plastics without seriously disrupting the whole world. So that's a nonstarter for me, we just can't do it, even if it would, in fact, be the best solution if you only consider the environment.

So we're down to mitigating damage at this point, since we can't directly fight the root cause. So maybe there are other solutions, but taxation is a pretty obvious way to reduce demand. Is it true that rich people will still be able to pay the tax and just indulge? Sure, we can maybe compensate for that somewhat, but rich people will always be better off. Should we all dig a deeper hole just in order to prevent some rich people having more than the rest of us?

> I'm not saying adding a carbon tax should be the only solution or even the best longterm solution. But the issue is that we cannot ban cars or flying or oil or plastics without seriously disrupting the whole world. So that's a nonstarter for me, we just can't do it, even if it would, in fact, be the best solution if you only consider the environment.

Oh, we can totally ban plastic, or at least all plastics that are not biodegradable. We lack political courage to do so, and it will cost money. I pick up a lot of litter and by far the bulk of it is one-time packaging for snack items. (It's hard not to conclude, as if studying humans as animals, that we're a bunch of fat little monkeys that can't stop eating and must carry food with us everywhere we go.)

I don't think we can ban flying though. What we need is not electric jets, because batteries will not compete with liquid fuel for energy density. We need carbon-neutral production of jet fuel, either through a process like biodiesel or a chemical process that takes electrical energy as input, e.g. from solar or nuclear.

> So we're down to mitigating damage at this point,

Oh, we are so fucked that it's almost pointless. Literally every thread of our economy is not sustainable. Crank the handle of time 1000 years, even with no growth, and every single thing we do goes off the rails. We're depleting all the resources on this Earth and even if we halt the CO2 crisis, there's a hundred thousand minor crises vying to metastasize into something as bad or worse. A thousand years, ten thousand years of modern tech living, and this planet is a tech junkyard with precious little biosphere. Humans will either go back to being monkeys eating bananas or Earth is going to be a desert hellscape pocked with nuclear-powered Arcologies.

>I don't want to change my behaviour because that doesn't fix anything. I want to be forced to changed my behaviour, along with everyone else on the planet...

That first sentence is the problem with this world. Everyone says that they want to fix a problem until it comes time to take action. You're just lying to yourself and virtue signaling to everyone else if you're not making steps in your own life to actively make a change in your own behavior.

That second sentence will be the downfall of all free people. It's weak willed people like you who won't make changes in their own lives literally begging for government to take more power. Asking the government to force you to change your own behavior.

You're very naive to think this power you would give so freely will be used benevolently. You needn't look any further than the government's inaction to punish those big companies who are destroying our oceans, our economies, our rivers. No big company CEOs ever go to prison for destroying our planet because our politicians are bank rolled by them. There is the ruling class, then there is you me, and everyone else. These are the people you will surrender your freedoms to so cheerfully.

> No one is willing to change their own behavior, they want other people to change.


A tax is a practical way to address this. Internalizing the externalities is the way the wiki puts it.

It’s not practical if there isn’t the political will to implement it.

Following up: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/07/obituary... (Carbon Tax, Beloved Policy to Fix Climate Change, Is Dead at 47)

Actually I do personally offset my personal carbon footprint by taxing myself, via Klima: https://klima.com/

However that's not an efficient way for 8 billion people to get out of this problem.

Carbon taxes are political suicide in the US. In fact, we know that oil companies push for them exactly because they know how unpopular they are.

In Washington state, one of the more progressive states, they've failed over and over again to pass a carbon tax. Nothing they can do makes it work politically. In France, a carbon tax kicked off the yellow vests movement.

Like it or not, the Green New Deal framing works better, because it emphasizes the benefits, rather than the costs.

I think Washington state did manage to pass a carbon tax?


That's great news, looks like my info was out of date.

It seems a strategy that might work is pairing the carbon tax with a universal refundable tax credit such that it's revenue-neutral. That way people can pocket the difference if they want to use less carbon.

One of the failed referenda in Washington included this feature. It lost 60-40.

The more time passes, the more people support a carbon tax. A carbon tax and dividend is actually supported by a majority of Americans of both parties, now. But Congress is lagging behind popular support a bit, and needs people to let them know that we do support it.

Exactly. America is structurally dependent on cars. The working poor have been forced into increasingly long commutes to find affordable housing. We need big structural changes: densification, massive investment in sustainable transit systems and urban design.

Where would that money go though?

Do you honestly believe that given enough money politicians can come up with a viable solution for climate change? Mind you those are the same people who want to end privacy on the Internet[1].

Same people who came up with European Union’s biofuel mandate which caused deforestation of Indonesia for palm-oil plantations. Across the pond, it's the same people that subsidized ethanol fuel which, more or less, benefited only corn farmers.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28115343

> Where would that money go though?

It doesn't really matter. Even if the tax revenue was piled up and set on fire, the planet would still be better off for it

I might be too cynical but what's most likely to happen is that corporations will find a way to avoid paying the tax and it will hurt people who struggle the most already.

For example, in EU car manufacturers have to keep average CO2 emissions of new car sales below 95 g/km. VW buys a large amount (I believe it was around 37%) of their ID.3 electric car to reduce the average emissions of their newly sold cars.

So what you suggest is we take money from poor people and burn it. I fail to see how that will help.

I suggest we take money from anyone who wants to pollute. At source. Yes, some poor people will be impacted (though not as many as continuing to ignore the problem).

By "at source", I mean that car makers should not be taxed.

Instead, fossil fuels should be taxed as close as possible to when they are pulled from the ground. Not when they are used (like a car does).

Then if car makers decide to build big diesel chugging vehicles, of course their market will be severely limited because not many people will want to pay the cost of running them.

Car makers are therefore still incentivized by market forces. to build efficient vehicles, but we don't need artificial and easily gamed regimes about what proportion of their production is fuel efficient.

Presumably, VW buying their own cars to offset their CO2 emissions redistributes some of their profit from more-CO2-emitting cars into their supply chain, thus incentivizing them to sell fewer of those cars.

Economists have been saying this for years. Really it's the only way to let market forces decide. Make it a publicly listed company that collects the tax, and distribute dividends equally to all citizens. Such things should be possible with digital currencies.

> Economists have been saying this for years

Maybe with this track record, they should reconsider their ideas? https://noahpinion.substack.com/p/why-has-climate-economics-...

That _publicly listed company_ sounds like... the government.

And the digital currency sounds like fiat direct deposit :)

Carbon taxes disproportionately hurt low income people. Rich folks will still drive their cars, fly on jets, and use tons of energy in general. Carbon taxes also make your nation less competitive in a global economy. That’s not good when enemy states have zero compunction about using fossil fuels to overtake you economically and militarily. Carbon taxes also incentivize industry to move production to nations with little or no carbon tax. In general I find it extremely foolish to think that carbon taxes would be a good way of going about this.

> Carbon taxes disproportionately hurt low income people.

If the carbon tax collected was re-distributed uniformly as a tax credit (each person gets the same tax credit), would it still hurt low income people?

I Googled this and it seems like it should help people with low incomes, but maybe there's something wrong with the underlying reasoning.


No, but every proposal so far hand waves the specifics of both what the tax will go to along with all the other technical details that would actually make the tax work. We could have a utopian world where the true value of carbon is consistently taxed equally across all industries and then distributed efficiently to those unfairly affected by it. We could also have an unholy bureaucrtic nightmare where the actual tax varies violently depending on which party in power, has exemptions for every industry big enough to have lobbyist, and instead completely burdens the middle class while all profits go towards filling the desert with enough tanks to fight WWII sixteen times over while still having enough left over to think really, really hard about building high speed rail in a place that isn't useless.

Don't forget that the people that would be implementing this are the same people who are currently voting to criminalize every element of the cryptocurrency ecosystem (including development of more efficient standards) while still leaving an exception for PoW miners.

Maybe check out the energy innovation act-I think it's a pretty good counterexample to what you're describing. https://energyinnovationact.org/section-by-section-analysis/

All the money has to go to the dividend, minus the admin costs which should be very small. The bill does include exemptions for the military and agriculture, so it's not perfect, but it is necessary to make some concessions to make it politically viable. I'd rather have this bill now than one without those exemptions in 15 years or whatever.

A carbon tax with dividends would solve that problem. It would be a net positive for the first 6 or 7 decile of the population while still sending a strong signal to the markets to switch to greener alternatives to stay competitive.

Regarding moving production abroad, the carbon tax should work hand in hand with a border adjustment mechanism.

You can look at how it has been implemented in Canada: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_pricing_in_Canada

Climate change disproportionately hurts low income people even more.

Those who rely on crop yields and fish stocks to survive every year and don't have the money to become refugees will have a much harder time than the first world folks who might need to start carpooling.

Yeah well that’s because poor people (in America) are hella carbon inefficient for economic value creation. They’ll drive like 100 miles each way to work a $16/hr job as a McDonalds worker.

That shit is not sustainable.

Taxing it is still pretty hard to do. It's often hard to know exact emissions or what to test. I agree its probably an easier solution, but the accounting of "who is actually producing the carbon" is incredibly complicated, and will become more incredibly complicated as soon as literally billions of dollars are at stake.

It doesn’t actually seem that complicated at all. Tax crude oil and coal. That’s seems pretty simple. Maybe there’s something I haven’t thought of.

Thousands of other things also have carbon emissions: beef production for instance. Or deforestation -- while it doesn't have a positive CO2 benefit, it removes a CO2 sink. The fishing industry has massive CO2 costs that aren't from fossil fuels.

That's 1 thing (the meat industry) whose carbon emissions are both direct (not supply-chain based) and wouldn't be captured by a petroleum+coal producers tax. Not thousands.

Meat production is about 15% of our global carbon emissions, so certainly it can't be ignored - but when the other 85% is coming from activity fueled by petroleum+coal, it doesn't make a lot of sense to throw up your hands to reject a carbon tax because there's "thousands" of emissions source (which ones?) which collectively amount to less than a percentage point of our carbon footprint.

We mustn't let the best be the enemy of the very, very good. A straight-forward carbon tax on fossil fuels is both enforceable, linear, and not that complicated. Can we ignore ranching and meat production? Of course not. So let's tax both.

National carbon taxes for the US are politically infeasible. Best we can do right now is big climate-tied infrastructure spending packages, sector-specific targets, R&D investments--whole mess of things. That is the stuff that can pass for the foreseeable future. Carbon taxes as the exclusive solution is a naive dream of economists.

Carbon taxes are pushed by the fossil fuel industry precisely because they are politically untenable. They push for the solution they know isn't going to happen.

How do you make the major polluters pay the tax?

By reducing the “freedom” of corporations. (Of course, this requires your country to not have surrendered to regulatory capture.)

I don't understand the question.

China is the largest CO2 producer in the world and is growing. The US is second but our emissions are actually decreasing and likely to continue decreasing. Taxing Western companies may reduce the West's carbon footprint but hardly helps the overall picture while being essentially austerity.

Oh it very much helps. Non western country also have a right to develop economically. It's not that by being first to pollute the atmosphere. By reducing the incredible irresponsible per capita emissions of the USA other countries can develop within a fixed CO2 budget.

How do you define what an appropriate per capita CO2 budget is? Is it different for someone from China, India, and the US? What about the difference between individuals from rural agricultural communities vs a large city? If non-western countries have the 'right' to increase carbon emissions why don't poorer people in Western countries have the 'right' to increase their emissions?

What is the target level for developing economics? How does it make sense to mandate Western countries go to net-zero while all developing countries continue to dramatically increase per capita emissions?

Since it would be impossible to force China or India to meet the same standards the West self-imposes in this scenario, you are essentially asking Western individuals to pay a higher cost of living for NO net carbon reductions. This mandate will disproportionately affect poor people.

As a result I don't see how anyone expects radical carbon reduction policies to receive support from the Western world. I do not see how this is a rational course of action for an individual voter or for any developed economy.

> How do you define what an appropriate per capita CO2 budget is?

Negotiation of elected represenatatives constraint by a total budget.

> Is it different for someone from China, India, and the US? Yes.

> What about the difference between individuals from rural agricultural communities vs a large city?

This is something that should be respected when the country allocations are made. However the distribution in the country itself is subject to decisions in the country.

> If non-western countries have the 'right' to increase carbon emissions why don't poorer people in Western countries have the 'right' to increase their emissions?

Because countries with unequal wealth distributions shouldn't be rewarded or allowed to externalize (by taking up more CO2 budget) their societal wealth distriubtution. However in terms of allocation of the budget in the country i would find poorer people getting more a workable solution.

> What is the target level for developing economics?

Being able work afford cost due to climate change. Being able to live a live without deprivation. Such that people won't need to be prevented at gun point from fleeing into the richer countries. That be a good start.

> How does it make sense to mandate Western countries go to net-zero while all developing countries continue to dramatically increase per capita emissions?

Because the consequences otherwise are ugly. The western countries could of course invest heavily to into developing countries with the goal to direct their growth. However i am not sure collolianlist meddling will be appreciated by people in developing countries.

> Since it would be impossible to force China or India to meet the same standards the West self-imposes in this scenario, you are essentially asking Western individuals to pay a higher cost of living for NO net carbon reductions. This mandate will disproportionately affect poor people.

If the mandate will disproportionately affect poor people it was implemented badly on a inner country basis. Inside your country you can do redistribution to make it less impactfull on poor people.

> I do not see how this is a rational course of action for an individual voter or for any developed economy.

Yeah, it is a case of a tragedy of the (unmanaged) commons. I don't think that this approach is feasible but i adopt this position none the less as any compromise which i am a part of will be pulled in a direction i find preferable for all mankind according to my ethics. I choose my position to optimize the resulting compromise.

Let’s say I’m from Netherlands and create dozens of companies, local, nearshore and offshore to both reduce the taxes I pay and to top up my carbon emission quota.

Clearly we're talking about different interpretations of "taxing carbon". I'm quite uninformed, but the simplest thing would be to tax fossil fuel companies per unit of raw fossil fuel they extract from the ground. That's it. They can't lie about how much they extracted: that's securities fraud. Splitting into smaller companies, offshoring, IP licensing or other elaborate tax avoidance mechanisms don't work because you aren't taxing "net income" or anything else that can be gamed.

If a country refuses to impose the same tax on its domestic fossil fuel extractors, tariff or embargo all of its exports until it complies.

This will only work if the biggest importers start doing this right away.

each company doesn't get it's own quota. There is one quota, and companies bid to buy parts of it; higher demand, higher prices.

Boycotts and import duties.

But airlines by itself is only responsible for 2.3% of global emissions.

Who enforces the taxes? The same parties who are doing most of the polluting. The military, government, the technocrats in control of the systems.

Just. Tax. It. puts more power in the hands of the people causing the problems.

On the other hand, what if the climate change was primarily driven by natural cycles? Taxing everybody would have a negative impact on the populations' readiness & survivability to these changes. Many people already do not trust big government to be beneficial & responsive to their needs, for good reason. Making living even more difficult for the population by increasing taxes would only cause more to reject the systems that bind them.


It seems like the downvotes, are related to some Epistimological blind spots on the part of the downvoters.

I recommend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAqOMGnJ2MQ&ab_channel=Actua...

As an alternative, you can all just pay me Trillions of dollars, & I will solve all of the climate issues. We are in this together, after all...

>what if the climate change was primarily driven by natural cycles?

What if climate change was perpetuated by giant sloths who want to drive humans to extinction? We can play the “what if” game and I think it’s important to keep an open mind in science, but to quote Walter Kotschnig, not so open that our brains fall out.

We can use a bit of Bayesian inference here. Given the current data, the probability of natural cycles (or ground sloths) being the root cause seems low. Given the potential risk, hanging our hat on that small chance seems like an irrational choice. Or a potential one that just reduces our cognitive dissonance so we feel better about ourselves.

I know there’s many people who bristle at the thought of any authority outside of themselves but that can become an epistemological bias in its own right.

Likewise, the comment adds very little to the discussion because the compliment can be said with equal validity.

”-The free market- puts more power in the hands of the people causing the problems.”

Can easily extend to individual consumers just as your statement points the finger at government

> What if climate change was perpetuated by giant sloths who want to drive humans to extinction?

Then we should question the assertion & by directly seeing giant sloths, one can know that giant sloths are indeed destroying the climate. However, we don't have any direct evidence that humans are causing the climate to change. We have direct evidence that solar cycles, geomagnetic field effects, & the general naturally occurring cycles do affect the climate directly, and always have throughout Earth's history. Instead, we have institutional funding directly incentivizing an opinion, which is "humans are the primary driver in climate change". If many scientists don't have that opinion, those scientists don't have a career.

We can use Bayesian inference to understand that the climates in other planets in the Solar System is also changing. Given that humans, to my knowledge, do not populate other planets in the Solar System, that makes the probability of natural cycles are the primary driver of climate change quite high. Given the potential & historically validated risk of tyrannical governments & class warfare causing genocide & mass effects on the broader population, hanging our hat on the small chance that the same people who lie all the time are now telling the truth in this one case, despite their contradictory actions, seems like an irrational choice.

I know that there's many people who want us all to just follow the self-imposed authority figures because they benefit from that arrangement, but that can become an epistemological bias in it's own right.

Likewise, this comment above adds very little to the discussion, because it seeks to distract from the central point, which is about people of power & wealth using lies, fear-mongering, shaming, & pseudo-intellectual arguments to gain even more power over everybody else.

> Can easily extend to individual consumers under a completely free-market solution.

Can also easily extend to the institutions directly responsible for the social conditions, such as the military, banking establishment, political figures, bureaucrats, technocrats, etc. The increasing consumptive behavior of these classes of people directly contradicts the "crisis" we are all facing.

If the people in power who caused these problems really are concerned about the "crisis", they should give up ALL of their power over others so the broader spirit of humanity can solve the problems that they have caused.

And my offer still stands. Give me Trillions of dollars of wealth & liquid cash and I will gladly save you from the problems that I say you created. I'll even include some statistics & Science in that package deal!

Which do you think we have more robust data about, Earth or other planets in the solar system? The amount of data has a large impact on Bayesian inference…

What, in your opinion, would be the correct way to measure direct human impact on climate? Until very recently, we didn’t have direct measurement of the Higgs particle and yet we were able to do wonderful things inferring the strength of gravity by other means. Point being, I’m not yet convinced your bar for knowledge is appropriate.

And my comment is not meant to distract from your point about central government but rather to question the strength of the basis of the claim. On the contrary, I felt your comment was a classic misinformation tactic but I was trying to employ the tack that every downvote deserves a response

> Which do you think we have more robust data about, Earth or other planets in the solar system? The amount of data has a large impact on Bayesian inference…

This is not a question of robustness of data. This is a question of commonalities. If there is significant climate change occurring on other planets, one can infer that there are influences outside of the planet.

> What, in your opinion, would be the correct way to measure direct human impact on climate?

Well, we can measure water pollution due to run-offs of industrial waste. These measures are well established, obvious, & there is a history of direct evidence & scientific consensus that mercury and pesticide run-off causes problems to the ecosystem & human health. CO2 in the atmosphere & it's direct effects, not so much. There has been plenty of credible scientific opposition. The problem is there is too much money riding on the opinion that CO2 is the #1 existential problem facing humanity so the credible voices in opposition are drowned out on an institutional level.

> we didn’t have direct measurement of the Higgs particle and yet we were able to do wonderful things inferring the strength of gravity by other means

What makes you so sure that physical reality is composed of particles. This is an atomist bias. Fields are another way of looking at physical reality. For example, our electrical equations are based on fields & can be applied to unify different phenomona.

> being, I’m not yet convinced your bar for knowledge is appropriate.

If I had $Trillions of wealth, I could easily hire people & even peer groups who have a reasonable "bar of knowledge" & incentivize them to have the "appropriate" opinion; meanwhile push out the non-believers, I mean those who have the "inappropriate" opinion, from key roles while filling those roles with people of "appropriate" opinion. In the meantime, a series of propaganda, I mean PR, campaigns through the various organs that $Trillions could influence would convince you to think "appropriately" as well. My offer still stands...

> And my comment is not meant to distract from your point about central government but rather to question the strength of the basis of the claim. On the contrary, I felt your comment was a classic misinformation tactic but I was trying to employ the tack that every downvote deserves a response

According to your view, which is biased, any opposition & questioning of Epistemology is considered "misinformation". Yes, do not think outside the narrow confines of your worldview, or it's "misinformation". I bet if you took my offer, gave me $Trillions, you would not think what I say is "misinformation" within at most a couple of years.

But. Just. Tax. It. Very credible. Begging the question is "not appropriate", only the tax money is flowing my way...

>This is not a question of robustness of data.

Hard disagree. Especially when you double down on the Bayesian part. Robustness of data is directly proportional to the strength of a belief in Bayesian inference. Your point here reads as someone looking for confirmation bias. After finding one “commonality” of data, one can exclaim “Eureka” and not have to confront uncomfortable and conflicting data. That’s not good science.

>There has been plenty of credible scientific opposition.

A strong claim that should probably be backed up with citations. And balanced against the credibly of data against the claim. Because, after all, science is almost never in 100% agreement. There are still credible scientists who disavow the link between HIV and AIDs; would that be enough for you to roll the dice on that issue?

>What makes you so sure that physical reality is composed of particles.

Who said I am? Or, for that matter, that I believe fields and particles are mutually exclusive? This is another one of those seemingly purposeful digressions from the actual point of inference and precisely why I thought you were treading the well-worn tracks of misinformation tactics. In a similar vein, you never actually said what your bar for changing your mind is, you just redirected into attempts sowing doubt. So I’ll ask again, more directly: what information would you need to change your mind? My experience is that when people are unable to clearly articulate their position here, it’s because they are overly dogmatic and it almost becomes a faith issue rather than a reasoned one.

>In the meantime, a series of propaganda...

There's a certain amount of skepticism that is healthy but there is also a tipping point where one becomes so skeptical of everything that it just becomes more convenient to wear a tin-foil hat because one can never be 100% certain. To circle back, I think it's wise to go with the preponderance of data when in doubt and try as hard as we can to resist irrational bias.

>According to your view, which is biased...

Yes, every human view is biased to a certain extent. That's part of being human. Which is more to the point that it's better to err on the side of the data. Even if it flies in the face of what you want the conclusion to be. I'd encourage anyone to think outside the confines of one's worldview, but that maverick-i-ness doesn't absolve one from needing data to back it up.

>But. Just. Tax. Very credible.

This was read as a pragmatic argument and I don't find pragmatism to lack credibility. I’m not sure your point here; is your stance that taxes are immoral or illegal?

>Begging the question is "not appropriate"

(Not really begging the question in the literal sense of the phrase unless I'm failing to see the circular argument related to taxation) Bringing up a question is fine, but it came across more as making a statement without any actual convincing argument or data is not

> Hard disagree. Especially when you double down on the Bayesian part. Robustness of data is directly proportional to the strength of a belief in Bayesian inference. Your point here reads as someone looking for confirmation bias. After finding one “commonality” of data, one can exclaim “Eureka” and not have to confront uncomfortable and conflicting data. That’s not good science.

If you care about data, why are temperatures falling in many places on Earth? Why is there increased volcanic activity? What about the Grand Solar Minimum? What about the Geomagnetic excursion? Did you know that Greenland has been gaining ice mass into this summer? Even with temperature stations being placed in the middle of asphalt parking lots & next to AC vents, the temperature data still needs to be manipulated to fit the narrative. Why has measured global temperature fallen despite CO2 rising in the past decade? How has technological change affected CO2, temperature, & astronomical measurement over the past few centuries?

> A strong claim that should probably be backed up with citations

You can do your own research on this. The late Freeman Dyson has some excellent analysis over his skepticism. With the current batch of scientists, it's about having a career. There is no scientific career in being an APGW skeptic, because the market is flooded with grant money going to APGW proponents. Even the incumbent oil companies want to corner the market using regulations. The skeptics are mainly grass-roots. It's David (skeptics) vs Goliath (the Industrial Complex).

> what information would you need to change your mind?

I want to be paid $Trillions to change my mind, like how your system is being fed with $Trillions to perpetuate your lies. I want all of the money returned to & compensation to the tax-payers, consumers, & people adversely affected by policies, taxes, & loss of freedom. I want action to protect the public against naturally occurring climate change, which includes the Grand Solar Minimum, Geomagnetic Excursion, increased Solar & Cosmic ionic bombardments, increased volcanic activity, supply chain disruptions. I want decreased regulation & decreased taxation. I want regional & redundant food production grown by the people, free from binding laws & regulations, some of which prevent fruit trees & crops from being grown. I want the environmental movement to focus on clean water, clean air, regenerative practices, holding industry accountable for pollution, not this CO2 canard which only funnels wealth to the powerful, while serving polluting & monopolistic industrial interests. I want poverty to be a thing of the past. There is no reason for scarcity among so many people in the world, other than hoarding & systems of impoverishment by the few so-called elites.

> There's a certain amount of skepticism that is healthy but there is also a tipping point where one becomes so skeptical of everything that it just becomes more convenient to wear a tin-foil hat because one can never be 100% certain. To circle back, I think it's wise to go with the preponderance of data when in doubt and try as hard as we can to resist irrational bias.

False & misleading data should be discarded from the conversation. Just because one worldview has captured some institutions, does not mean that the worldview is correct. It's easy to cherry-pick & not be transparent with data-collection when there's group-think backed by money. The IPCC has been wrong with their predictions. The global average temperature is cyclical & has already crested. How many times has snow being a "thing of the past" been proclaimed? There's been many doomsday prognostications by APGW proponents over the decades which never come to pass. At what point do we say "enough, leave us alone, no you can't have my money, fuck off"?

> Yes, every human view is biased to a certain extent. That's part of being human. Which is more to the point that it's better to err on the side of the data. Even if it flies in the face of what you want the conclusion to be. I'd encourage anyone to think outside the confines of one's worldview, but that maverick-i-ness doesn't absolve one from needing data to back it up.

The data needs to be interpreted. The raw data should be available. The data needs to be put in context. There good reason why grass-roots skepticism has been growing despite $Billions being poured into APGW propaganda & overwhelming institutional lock-step agendas. Your favorite institutions can flood the public with false, manipulated, & inconsistent data and some people will be convinced. However, not everybody will be convinced, especially those who are adversely affected by the increased regulations. If there was no reason to be skeptical as you seem to imply, there would not be so many people being skeptical.

> This was read as a pragmatic argument and I don't find pragmatism to lack credibility. I’m not sure your point here; is your stance that taxes are immoral or illegal?

How is stealing money from the public to benefit the powerful for duplicitous reasons "pragmatic"? Are the powerful ever held accountable for their actions or will they continue to jet-set, yacht, & own/utilize multiple mansions around the world in plain view?

> Bringing up a question is fine

Bringing up a question is never fine with you people because you have an agenda to take money from the public to enrich yourselves. I get it, it's the law of the jungle or something like that. Take from others to enrich yourself. Just don't expect us to comply with your edicts, no matter how much false & inconsistent data you throw our way.

It’s just so hard to know what actions have what impact on CO2 production. Some are high-pain, low-gain (switching devices off instead of standby?), some are opposite (cycling instead of driving when possible etc).

For that if for no other reason, I’d rather if consumer prices included an explicit CO2 tax. The here can be a rebate for poorer people, or personal allowance, whatever, but there would be a fixed yardstick for measuring your personal impact.

Off the top of my head, I have no idea which if my activities generates the most CO2. My car? Energy use? Diet? Going skiing once a year? No idea.

Newspaper articles only help a little, they usually present an incomplete picture, and optimising against an incorrect utility function is often counterproductive.

I’m imagining something like VAT, where “value added/carbon” adds up over the lifetime of product/service production.

> It’s just so hard to know what actions have what impact on CO2 production

Not really. For some reason the actually quite simple problem is needlessly complicated in the discussions.

Stop digging up ANY carbon from below ground where it was safely buried.

Any carbon above ground is part of the cycle that includes atmospheric CO2. You need huge effort to change how much of it is in CO2 form at any time while still having no certainty that it won't change very quickly (into CO2 atmospheric form), e.g. through fires (like the many burning forests just now).

The earth's solution to removing the CO2 from the atmosphere was to bury it deep underground. Getting it back out from there is the BIG problem. The details of the above-ground carbon cycle are a small problem with very little impact compared to the big issue of getting more and more of the ancient carbon back up into the cycle.

Of course, it's no use discussing the stop of all coal, gas, and oil digging, because there is zero chance of it happening. Coal at most and not even that looks likely, globally.

It's like not caring about the huge hole in the hull of the ship while arguing about how to "safely" store all the water coming in.

You're not really disagreeing with the previous poster.

We need to do what you suggest as quickly as possible. That means some things that depend on that carbon downstream should be stopped, replaced with alternatives or at the very least heavily discouraged while a market for substitutes created. But how do we decide which ones to do first? Ideally the cheapest and biggest impact. Our best tool for doing so is probably a well regulated market with a carbon fee.

Unfortunately, the same groups that caused the problem, then tried to cover up the problem, then attacked all the solutions continues to talk about how great a carbon tax will be, while also funding the politicians who will never let it happen.

But, if you want to know what the most sensible answer is then just look at what vaguely sensible countries are doing. What they're doing today is probably what we should all have been doing 20 years ago.

This usually involves putting some kind of financial incentive on electricity producers to move to low carbon alternatives (gas is fine as a short term substitute, but if we'd started 20 years ago we'd no longer need it today) and other CO2 emitters to use electricity rather than fossil fuels (e.g. cars).

Other basic elements are carbon tariffs to stop other countries undercutting your efforts.

It's not rocket science. The whole "this is impossible" stuff is just bullshit from the people who don't want to do it. EVs, Solar and Wind Turbines were all impossible according to the same people. Most of the moonshot stuff is trying to come up with a technical solution to the political issues, and that's hard.

Agreed, except:

> It's not rocket science. The whole "this is impossible" stuff is just bullshit from the people who don't want to do it. Most of the moonshot stuff is trying to come up with a technical solution to the political issues, and that's hard.

If all recorded history is anything to go by, the moonshots are probably our best realistic hope, because technology is easier than politics. The "people who don't want to" use existing solutions have all the power and it's going to be very hard to convince them to change their minds; they're protected by the common folk because they have the "high ground" of having their interests be aligned with short-term interests of regular people, while the required changes will necessarily inconvenience everyone in the short term.

No, we shouldn't be counting on new technologies to get us out of this, but it's still by far the most likely outcome out of possible futures where we do get out of this.

So it's easy if all countries agree. If that is not the case you need to find out how much carbon from the ground was used in each item at your border. At that points it becomes rocket science?

You just have to add a country wide tariff until they implement a carbon fee. Gives them the option of disadvantaging all their exports or joining a global collaboration to meet goals they actually agree with and will benefit from as long as everyone does it together.

As I said, look at what the more sensible countries are doing today and you'll see what we all should have been doing 20 years ago. No magical technology required:


Not simple, but still politics rather than technical in nature.

Alternatively, stop making babies. The maths is compelling.

> Birth rates are falling across the board

The UN projects that the global population increases from a population of 7.7 billion in 2019 to 11.2 billion by the end of the century. [1]

> but stopping it faster either requires severely authoritarian measures or increasing economic safety, which counters the benefits.

Sounds like you really don't want to consider this solution at all, because you feel it can only be accomplished by a decree that would be constraining people's liberty?

Have you considered the possibility that some people might want to contribute more to sustainability of their own free will?

For each American couple who reads this post and decides to have one less baby, over the next 79 years the world will be spared from 1,562 metric tonnes (1,722 tons) of C02 emissions. [2, 3]

> And reducing birth rates too fast sets us up for disaster too.

Are you saying humans aren't capable of living with zero population growth? If that's what you are saying, could you explain the nature of the difficulties you project?

[1] https://ourworldindata.org/future-population-growth

[2] https://slightlyunconventional.com/much-co2-average-person-c...

[3] https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/life...

The developed world is already below replacement. Heck even China is below replacement. Maybe you should be preaching your message in Africa instead?

And stop growing around there and fall after that.

Birth rates are falling across the board, but stopping it faster either requires severely authoritarian measures or increasing economic safety, which counters the benefits. And reducing birth rates too fast sets us up for disaster too.

All it requires is education. I'd say a quarter of the over educated I know do not have kids, myself included. After a certain level of education, our society strikes one as no place moral to bring more people.

To allow education of enough people requires a significant economic lift. Not going to happen fast enough.

UN projections puts the end of population growth at some point within the next century, but accelerating that change fast enough to have an impact on climate change would require dramatic interventions, and also will not happen because it would be absolutely politically untenable for most politicians to stunt growth that way (you'll note, politicians many places are encouraging more children, and China has kept loosening up their own policies because current birth rates are causing concerns - politicians would in general rather encourage more children than open up for more immigration, and opening up for more immigration is in any case a stopgap).

So, while reducing growth is absolutely part of it, we're already doing that pretty much at the rate we can expect to be politically tenable. There are parts of Africa we could encourage a faster reduction in (e.g. some of the absolute worst, like Niger, would likely fall off a lot faster with more economic development assistance), but it's not going to do enough to speed up population reversal in time.

Remember that changes in birth rates has a trailing effect of a couple of decades, typically. So even if we could make changes now to education for example that will drastically cut birth rates eventually, it'd not affect population size enough in time.

With zero birth rates we will have saved the planet but there will be noone left to appreciate it.

Not nearly fast enough.

Also, the problem countries for CO2 emissions aren't those with the high birth rates.

I really like your post!

It's not rocket science. Too many interest groups are convoluting the issue.

But, I think to clearest, easiest way is to just ban "coal, gas, oil". Then let the lack of it "tickle" through the economy.

Not by tomorrow, mind you, have it gradually reduce. Where there are problems, help with tax money.

We've done it before, with asbestos, lead in gas, ..

Of course, many problems have fairly obvious physical solutions you ignore all costs of said "solutions". Containing a pandemic is also not rocket science. Just have everybody stay at home simulataneously for 2 or 3 months.

It's not even that simple: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-species_transmission

With pathogens that jump between species, as SARS-CoV-2 has with several populations, including white-tailed deer[1] in the US, you potentially need to isolate all reservoir species from each other as well.


Cross species transmission is rare and while some cases have been reported, they're really the exception rather than the norm.

If there was really that big of a risk where we'd need mammals to isolate as well, then veterinarian services the world over would have collapsed under the weight of house pets contracting the virus.

edit: curious about the downvotes. Perhaps you have proof that has eluded the virologists researching SARS-CoV-2. Please do speak up ;)

Why would they get severe disease when they get infected? Even most humans don't, let alone other species with different receptor setups. The virus is absolutely in non-human animal populations almost everywhere, and is not a candidate for eradication.

> Just have everybody stay at home simulataneously for 2 or 3 months.

You probably wrote this half-jokingly, but actually… this is exactly what Australia tried last year and … well it’s still trying.

It's not possible to have everyone in the whole world stay home for 2 months. That was never an option.

Asbestos and lead in gas were things that had suitable replacements. What you're asking people to do is give up personal transportation, which is to some their sense of freedom and in some cases the ability to head and cool their homes.

This isn't going to be easy not because it's technically difficult but because you're going to end up asking humanity to give up much the lifestyle it's grown accustomed to over the last 150 years.

You illustrate precisely why I'm confident that humanity will never make any meaningful progress on the problem. People will talk about it, but when it comes right down to it they not only won't give up their comfort, they'll think it is ridiculous or impossible to do so.

Progress is easy - nuclear power.

> What you're asking people to do is give up personal transportation, which is to some their sense of freedom

This is an unusual POV unique to the US when compared with the rest of the world. When I lived in San Francisco, I didn't drive a car for ten years, and didn't miss it for one minute. There's also an incredible amount of recaptured freedom available when you stop driving, as most commuters are aware. This equates to having more time to walk and enjoy the world, more time to listen to podcasts and music and read, and less stress rushing and worrying about getting into an accident.

The vast majority of the world is not accustomed to a car-forward culture like the slowly decreasing majority of the U.S. is.

No, but it's primarily the US and other rich western countries that need to change. Those countries where few people drive a car to this day aren't the problem.

The top 5 CO2 emitters (2017)

% of world emissions, emissions per capita [t/person/annum]:

  China          29.34%    7.7
  United States  13.77%   15.7
  European Union  9.57%    7.0
  India           6.62%    1.8
  Russia          4.76%   12.3
  Japan           3.56%   10.4

This is misleading because it does not represent outsourced production nor accumulated emissions, which is related to building up wealth to a point where greener solutions can be afforded.


The US is supposed to do more given the damage it has done, but has been and still is dragging its feet. Same applies to the EU.

That graph depicts cumulative (historical) emissions, which is interesting, but not pertinent to the question of how to fix up things for the future.

It is not "only" the West that is a problem here. The biggest current polluter is China. If you look at per capita data, you have among the biggest polluters the US, definitely, but also Russia, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada. That's not "the West". Per capita, China emits more than the EU.

Sure, "the West" needs to clean up its act (the US in particular), but this is without doubt a global problem.


The parent also ranks the countries by % of world emissions rather than by emissions per capita, which tells a very different story.

There realy wasn't. Engines switched to fuel injection, which made the octane number less critical, and catalytic converters were mandated that made lead destructive to the car itself.

> give up personal transportation

Wtf? Nearly every human has personal transportation built in. It's called having legs.

>you're going to end up asking humanity to give up much the lifestyle it's grown accustomed to over the last 150 years.

Which is a totally reasonable ask considering the climate.

The issue is that you're asking young people to give up a lifestyle that their parents considered normal, in order to compensate for the pollution that past generations have caused.

>you're asking young people to give up a lifestyle that their parents considered normal

Which has already happened for every generation for the past few centuries. Peoples lifestyles change all the time. There's no need to ask, it is an inevitable thing that happens, you can't freeze time.

CFC gasses where a big one. They were hugely useful for many things but were found to be breaking down ozone and were very rapidly banned effectively.

These are good but also poor examples. The solutions to those were much much easier. If carbon reduction were that easy we would have done it already.

The problem with carbon reduction is that carbon production is a multi-billion dollar global industry whereas CFC production was not.

Quite often in human history the hard problems are only hard because people profit from those problems not being solved.

Can you support your reasoning here?

Do you mean easy as in "technically possible" or easy as in "the people with the current political power and wealth will benefit from this change and will suffer the consequences if they dont?"

Climate change is the second type of hard.

As was, for example, "freeing the slaves", "giving people the vote" and other such problems that often needed bloody wars and revolutions to be settled.

Technically possible. There were alternatives developed quickly to the CFC problem that worked about as well and were only slightly more expensive. This lead to support for them politically because it was a no-brainer to switch over.

On the other hand, alternatives to oil and gas are much more expensive and require significant sacrifices compared to just using oil.

Electric cars are more expensive than ICE. They have less range and there is a lack of equivalent charging infrastructure. Those are being solved but it’s taken 30 years or more of working on battery technology and efficiency to match ICE cars for convenience.

Solar panels and wind has been similar. Years of development and billions of dollars to optimize it and still has downsides compared to oil and gas.

Things like airplane fuel and plastics there are no easy solutions to still.

Even the things that have solutions like electric cars, solar panels, etc require tons of new infrastructure to switch which is expensive both in dollars and carbon cost.

Just look at the total dollar amount of replacing all oil-using cars/trains/planes/power plants/factories/etc and compare to all CFC-generating devices it’s a lot more.

Possibly I missed it, but you don't seem to have listed a single technical reason why it's harder than the CFC issue?

When you say something is "much more expensive" you're mostly talking politics since basically everyone agrees it's cheaper to deal with climate change.

Well, the alternatives for CFC-generating are already developed and in the marketplace. There are still no equivalent alternatives for many oil-using products. Kind of indicates that it is technically easier.

The fact that there are CFC replacements but not oil replacements for all use-cases indicates that it's more difficult, no?

> basically everyone agrees it's cheaper to deal with climate change

I'm not sure that's the case. Seems like a lot of people are either hoping that it's not going to affect them that much, or that some miracle technology will be developed which will fix the problem more cheaply and not require any change in behavior on their part.

I think we're still talking past each other.

My thesis is that the reason there are not sufficent oil alternatives, is that the people who benefit from oil being burned for fuel have made sure that is the case.

The quick and simple way to a) make use of all existing alternatives where feasible and desireable and b) ensure a market exists for people to develop new alternatives is to introduce a carbon tax that accounts for the externalities.

That has been a hard task (though we've made some limited headway) and it was not technical challenges that held us back but political.

Your argument is the equivalent of a King saying, "Well, that sounds great in theory but democracy is too technically difficult", "No it's not" "Well if it's so easy why hasn't it already happened yet" "Because you murdered anyone who suggested it" "Oh yes, so I did".

I think it's you that need to support your reasoning. It is true that the capitalist elite wants to maximise profits for themselves with no regard other concerns, and since they don't have to pay for the gruesome externalities they inflict, then they will continue to happily make bank out of gassing the world if they are not forced to stop.

On the other hand, it's ridiculous to say that the solution is "just stop bro". It's anything but technically simple. If you outright ban all fossil fuels, how do you make electricity? How do you stock supermarkets? How do all goods get transported? How do people move about? Obviously it's not so simple as that. You need a plan to transition to sustainable energy and a sustainable economy in general. For instance, you need a massive Green New Deal to fund this transition, you need carbon price+cap schemes to force the transition, etc.

Which part of adding a tax to a product or a government investing in stuff are you saying is technically difficult?

I can't really think of anything related to this that anyone has ever said "even if the entire human race worked together on this for 3 decades we dont know how to achieve it" (actually, I've seen people say that a lot e.g. modern civilization isn't possible without fossil fuels because of EROEI, but those people are wrong and/or lying)

> But, I think to clearest, easiest way is to just ban "coal, gas, oil".

Doing this would result in mass deaths. Food transportation would collapse within hours. And mechanized farming would be unfeasible anyway. Death toll would be in billions.

That is nonstarter.

And that is without part "people would freeze to death in unheated homes" applying in many places.

If you mean "reduce dependency on them slowly over years/decades" then it would more reasonable but it is not "just ban".

The error with lead was the opposite one. It was a moral panic that's lead to the current health crisis, both mental and physical. People need heavy metals, they are essential.

I’m going to assume for the sake of discussion that you aren’t trolling. Do you have links to some papers explaining why you think this?

They’ve been advocating heavy metals for a while. IT’s a really bizarre infatuation, but far enough from reality that it’s unlikely to make any difference and harm anyone.

It’s interesting in that I can’t think of any political or cultural conflict it ties into? They just enjoy their daily cadmium, it appears.

It isn't motivated politically. It just seems to be true and declaring them toxic seems like an error.

Anyway, give me a better explanation why people don't look like they did only a few decades ago.

Are you talking about the obesity epidemic? There was a recent paper discussed on HN talking about how it was probably an environmental change, but I don’t think they mentioned heavy metals. I think they mentioned plastics and lithium as possibilities. Was lead widespread in the environment before the 20th century? I don’t remember pre-20th century photographs showing widespread obesity.

The reason why I think so is that the versions of proteins with heavy metals seem to be superior to those with the supposedly "correct" metal, as well as the heavy metal being extremely strongly preferred by the metabolism.

In the case of lead, it seems to be necessary for glucose transport, and seems to have effects similar to Rapamycin. It seems that Rapamycin basically only works by compensating for lead deficiency to some degree.


That's not super helpful to the individual.

Take an individual that bikes everywhere. What other changes can he make in his life that would reduce the demand of "digging out carbon"?

As it turns out, he's relying on rubber wheels for his bicycle, he's relying on synthetic clothing for comfort, and numerous in his life products are made with plastic. What are the highest impact changes he can make?

I realized this additional perverse thing about trying to improve the world by riding a bike, as an individual:

In our market economy designed to get people to consume cars, your foregoing car ownership actually just makes it a little more comfortable for all the car owners out there sharing the road with you. You reduce traffic for them, reduce the wear on the infrastructure, you drive down the price of cars and gas, and you free up a parking space.

Of course this is all on the infinitesimal scale of your own individual influence on the world, its ecosystem, and the economy you live in, but so is your actual reduction in fossil fuel consumption if you give up driving.

Point is, there needs to be something a lot bigger than your individual choice as a consumer. We need an economy that prices in the environmental impact of cars, and I’m pretty sure we need the state for that.

The other ironic thing about bikes is all the technology that enabled cars was invented for bikes. Chains, inner tubes, spokes the quality of the steel.

Sometimes I think the worst mistake we made with cars was making the refueling process so easy. If people still had to lift buckets of gasoline to fill their tanks, they'd have a much better idea about the massive quantities of fuel that are needed for small amounts of car use.

Rubber, synthetic clothing, plastics, do not get used up and ejected directly into the atmosphere. There is some energy use in manufacture, probably some chemistry that may emit some CO2. But it is absolutely dwarfed by the massive amount of gasoline fuel ejected directly into the atmosphere by driving.

The store in a bike frame is probably the most carbon intensive part of a bike. For every pound of steel, two pounds of CO2 is currently emitted in manufacture (but this will probably go to zero in the future).

For a 20-60 pound bike frame, that's the equivalent of only three gallons of gasoline. Three gallons. Because as a gallon of gasoline combusts, it picks up extra oxygen atoms and ends up being 20 pounds of CO2.

Think of a 20 pound plate for weight lifting, and that's a gallon of gasoline once it's burned.

All the other stuff in life--rubber, clothing, plastics--are almost a rounding error compared to the daily commutes we make in cars in the US.

Lesson: get on that bike as soon as possible, and if you can't, at least get an EV.

Get fewer of his calories from animal products, for one thing - not necessarily go vegetarian/vegan, but cutting down by 50-75%, and switching to grass-fed, organic meat (which doesn't require petrochemical derived fertiliser in its production) makes a significant difference.

But be mindful that not all plant calories are equal, especially those that are air freighted (more of a problem in NW Europe which airfreights a lot of fresh fruit and veg in from African countries than the US).

Take trains not planes wherever possible, and avoid long haul flights entirely if you can: one return long-haul flight can undo all the good of a year's worth of biking.

He can convince someone who uses a 2+ ton car for hauling their ass around to stop doing that.

> Stop digging up ANY carbon from below ground where it was safely buried.

If a country does this today, they will be at a severe economic disadvantage compared to a neighbouring country which continues using coal. All their manufactured goods will end up more expensive, nobody will buy their exports, and their population and economy will suffer.

Only a few countries have done this to any extent, and they are countries who either don't have many fossil fuels, or whose main exports don't involve energy.

The only real solution is for all countries to agree to limit/stop digging up coal/oil/gas at the same time, and to apply punitive sanctions to countries who do not adhere to the agreement.

There isn't really any other way. OPEC could do it if it had a few more members. The US could do it if they were prepared to threaten sanctions or millitary force. Nobody else can really do it.

That may have been true a decade ago, but today renewables provide the cheapest electricity.

We have a clear tech path that leads to cheaper and more abundant energy, we just need to choose it and stop listening to the fossil fuel interests that don't want the transition to happen.

Technology development accelerates the more we produce it. Accelerate the purchase of storage and renewable tech, and the quicker we will get to a future of abundant clean energy.

> That may have been true a decade ago, but today renewables provide the cheapest electricity.

I think that depends on where you are. Certainly in the US I’ve seen articles claiming that new wind is cheaper than running already built coal plants, and fully believe it. That seems unlikely to be true everywhere, though. Why would China be building expensive coal burners if renewables are so cheap?

Planning processes from five years ago or ten years ago don't always get updated. And corruption is still a problem in China. Perhaps not as bad as, say, India, but still an issue. Which is to say, that not everywhere makes cost optimal decisions all the time.

Even the IEA, a huge skeptic of renewables, that consistently makes ridiculous claims limiting the potential for solar and wind, acknowledged that solar is cheapest:


Decision makers often have huge biases from past data and cultural influences. The bias against renewables and storage in the energy industry is absolutely oppressive. And in most infrastructure decisions, decision makers don't have to answer to shareholders about getting outcompeted by a smarter decision maker that made a better choice.


But it certainly isn't the cheapest way to heat houses, run cars, or make steel & concrete.

It is most definitely the cheapest way to heat houses and run cars. At least on raw economic costs; some utilities inflate electrical costs relative to natural gas costs in a way that makes a heat pump more expensive than natural gas heating, but that's just a distortion of the underlying economic costs, and only for some people.

We don't yet have electrically driven steel or concrete production methods, but this is a great opportunity for startups and new technology.

Steel will be more straightforward to decarbonize, but even if decarbonized steel is 50% more expensive, it will have negligible impact on the cost of downstream projects. And the industry can then apply their profit margins to a higher base cost. It's likely that either electrolyzed hydrogen, or with more direct electrical application with new methods that are more like aluminum refinement.

For concrete, it will be far more difficult, as a base chemical reaction to produce concrete releases carbon. However, there's significant room for improvement and new chemistries other than Portland cement, but worst case we will need to do carbon capture and sequestration. This will be more expensive, but it remains to be seen by what factor.

In any case, the extra expense of these most difficult to decarbonize areas will be offset by new opportunities from abundant, cheaper electricity.

The suggestion I've seen is that key countries will put a price on carbon, and then add tariffs to imports from countries that lack a carbon price. That at least goes some way to removing the economic disadvantage.

There is unfortunately still a lot of scope to game such a system.

A country can sign up to the carbon pricing scheme, but then subsidise disadvantaged industries by almost the same amount as the carbon taxes they pay. See the EU carbon trading scheme for example - companies are given (for free) credits representing the carbon they emitted in past years.

A multi-country carbon taxation scheme gives every country a strong incentive to either collect the tax badly on their own companies, or make policies to effectively reimburse companies the tax collected.

It's probably still the best approach despite this shortcoming.

> The US could do it if they were prepared to threaten sanctions or millitary force.

… in the 1990s, not today. Doing that today would just hand the world to China.

The Iraq disaster and electing a humiliating clown and con man as president have taken quite a toll on US power.

Meanwhile the rest of the world has grown.

The US is just no longer what it was, and doesn’t have nearly the “soft” power it once did. The huge military is of little help on this issue.

The US Military runs on fossil fuels.

I think the broader problem is the human mental condition. One of the largest contributors to global emissions is large scale factory farming but how many people are going to stop eating at McDonalds?

Point being: people’s habits need to change across the board, but yet they argue that policy makers have no right dictating what they can/can’t do…

If you ask a big business owner to halt production in the name of climate change, will they? Hell no.

The government can squeeze people financially though so it literally is up to them to force businesses to comply lest they will exhaust their finances for non compliance.

I dunno it’s a pretty interesting dilemma though…

> One of the largest contributors to global emissions is large scale factory farming

Unlike digging up carbon from below ground any activity involving only the carbon already above ground does not make the problem nearly as much worse, if at all.

Unless you mean the energy cost for that farming, which is mostly based on using fossil fuels? Which I don't think is a problem specific to animal farming (which of course should be reformed for ethical and health reasons alone) but to almost all farming all over the world. "Plant farming" is not carbon neutral either because it too requires a lot of fossil fuel input. So I don't think mixing problems and targeting only and specifically animal farming, which should be targeted for different reasons, is not helpful because it misdiagnoses the hearth of the problem of current farming techniques relying on ancient deeply buried sun energy instead of only using current sun energy (like the plants themselves do, but our processes don't).

> One of the largest contributors to global emissions is large scale factory farming but how many people are going to stop eating at McDonalds?

McDonald's process is likely also one of the most energy-efficient ways of producing these foods - they have incentives set right for that.

This is where things get a bit tricky: people like to paint a dichotomy between factory farming and small family operations, and God knows factory farms are indeed strip-mining the soil. But if we were to suddenly replace them with family operations, how much would we need to still feed everyone? I suspect the answer is, "way too much", and thus any working solution will have to be somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.

There are extreme efficiencies coming from the methods and the scales at which industry operates - we can't, and shouldn't, throw that all away. This conversation begs for being zoomed into, details cry out for consideration. Is industrial farming energy-efficient? Yes. Emissions-efficient? No. Can the former be improved without sacrificing the latter? Probably. Can large-scale farming be done sustainably with respect to soil use, without destroying efficiency? It's possible. Definitely worth looking into.

> Point being: people’s habits need to change across the board, but yet they argue that policy makers have no right dictating what they can/can’t do…

Yeah, that's part of why we are in this mess. I don't see a democratic way out of this; people won't vote for the right things until we're already all falling off the cliff, and marketers can no longer confuse regular people with disinformation.

Currently, I think our options boil down to one or more of:

- Governments getting more authoritarian and forcing businesses and consumers alike to adopt a much less carbon-intensive lifestyle;

- New technologies pop up that allow politicians and/or businesses to have their cake and eat it too - offer less carbon-intensive way of doing the things that are already being done. Renewables and electric vehicles are two examples of this - despite initial troubles and active resistance, they crossed the threshold after which the market wants them, and it's politically safe to mandate them.

That's why I'm very much bullish on all technological projects in climate space, and very angry at the "you can't solve social problems with technology" bullshit - new technology is a tried and true method of solving problems which are economically or politically untenable. New inventions offer new options to politicians and shareholders - which is what we need to have when our combined incentives paint the social process into a stalemate.

I’m also bullish about tech; and the more I think about it, I expect any attempt by a government to force uneconomical solutions would result primarily in that government being outcompeted by others, so I see techno-cake as the only solution rather than one of two.

OK, stop digging up any carbon from below ground, but let's do it slowly. Turn off all the oil extractors and coal mining equipment tomorrow and I'm guessing we'd have at best a month before chaos erupts in the streets. One ransomware attack caused panic buying and chaos on the east coast for a few days. I'd argue that we need some oil production, for plastic if nothing else. But on a much smaller scale than how we use it now.

You'd have to get this done globally, though. It doesn't matter if one country stops if others double down. It would be best to be done in concert with the other oil extracting countries so that prices wouldn't destabilize. This is probably what climate agreements should target rather than reducing consumption.

Oil isn't extracted from the ground because people like it's color or something, it's what runs our industrial civilization presently. And I don't want to start looking for a piece of land in the mountains tomorrow that I can defend and start ammo-ing up because we suddenly decided oil wasn't going to be extracted anymore :)

I do like the idea of looking at the problem at it's source, quite literally. Turn that tap off in a way that doesn't cause massive instability and the carbon in the atmosphere will eventually take care of itself. It's a perspective I never thought to look at the problem from. Not sure why, it seems obvious in retrospect.

You're describing the objective function, but ignoring the constraints. Stop digging up coal - fine. Cut off power to people who have no other power sources? Erm... What about emergency diesel generators for hospitals, diesel use for shipping goods (lowest-carbon-emitting means of transport). It's just not that simple.

I am pretty sure emergency diesel generators use a tiniest fraction of energy used by tankers moving goods around.

Indeed. But simply closing down everything that pumps fossil fuel out of the ground breaks things we like and need. It's not that simple.

Or is the medicine still better than the disease? I don't know anymore.

We have more than enough oil in storage now to fuel diesel generators alone for a long time.

Emergency generators is not where the demand comes from.

The medicine is still likely better than the disease, but it really entirely depends on how much you choose to downweight the worth of the lives of future generations.

But yes, it is very likely that a solution will have to render formerly inhabited, far-flung areas as uninhabitable or at least much more expensive.

Diesel demand comes from shipping goods primarily. How do we replace the 4 million trucks on the road quickly? How do we get rid of container ship emissions? How do we solve backup generation problem? Go look at what's happening in South America right now because of low water levels -- lots of diesel generation.

We need to wean off fossil fuels but governments need to subsidize and support alternatives which they are doing bare minimum today.

Thing we need? Let's list them and figure out solutions

Things we like? Sorry? I like living. I like this planet. Things we like very seriously need to take a back seat to needs right now.

I've heard the same thing from a family member when I ask why they eat certain items while they are morbidly obese. Because they like them. Come on now, we're literally killing the planet with likes.

Here is a list

99% of all the products you take for granted are using fossile fuels.

Medicin, contact lenses, paint, textiles, electronics, windmills, solar cells, concrete, asphalt, heavy machinery, most industrial manufactoring, all types of lubricants, plastic, mining, food production and I could go on.

If you like living you are going to need most of the above. In fact if it wasn't for fossil fuel usage the likely hoood of you being alive let alone as rich as you are today would be very small.

Energy is the industry that powers all other industries. You make that more expensive you make everything more expensive which means more people go hungry, less people can afford medicine, food production becomes more expensive and more people will die. It's really that simple.

If you really believe we can do without all these things I would urge you to live without anything that has been made possible by fossil fuel industry for a month. Then you will realize just how live giving fossile fuel actually is.

Numbers and quantities are important here.

Also, it's important to realize that just because something uses fossil energy now, it doesn't have to in the future.

Very good start for separating like from need, thank you! You're correct that these thing use fossil fuels, but that doesn't mean that's the only way of making them

I like living too. I'm 100% confident that if we change absolutely nothing related to climate change, I'll keep living just fine.

On the other hand, I'm also 100% confident that if fossil fuels are banned tomorrow, my life will be much worse.

The choice seems pretty easy.

and that's why we have this mess: because of people like you in the governments of this world only thinking about theur personal, short-term gain... it's fucking ridiculous. don't you care about future generations and the way they'll inhert your planet?

At least he’s honest about it. 99% of the developed world has this mindset but pretends like they want to change.

Sure. You are rich, living in a rich country. The poor living in poor countries will pay the price.

> What about emergency diesel generators for hospital

Use carbon capture to generate fuel from the air. Yes it's expensive compared to regular diesel, but for use-cases with low consumption like emergency generators that really shouldn't be a huge issue.

Making energy more expensive is going to kill people today.

Continuing carbon emissions is going to kill more people in the future.

No it's not and you have not a single scientifically demonstrated foundation for that kind of claims.

Using fossil fuels is saving more lives, in fact it's making it possible for billions of people to live today. That wouldn't be possible without fossil fuels. In fact most of us wouldn't be here.

> No it's not and you have not a single scientifically demonstrated foundation for that kind of claims.

There's pretty clear scientific consensus that climate change will result in more hurricanes, wildfires, heat waves, cold spells, floods, droughts and especially that there will be shortages of clean water and land suitable for agriculture. All of those things kill humans.

> In fact most of us wouldn't be here.

And everyone, everything would be better off.

How so? Please be explicit.

If the cost of fuel for your emergency generators results in people dying, you have much bigger issues.

Besides, the cost could be born by others similar to how we have duty-free fuel here for farm equipment and similar.

I did not tell anyone what they should or should not do!

Also see my reply here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=28127454

Diesel generators run on any kind of oil including kitchen oil.

For emergency generators, that would be enough. For everything else we use oil for, not so much.

You do not mention methane at all, isn't that oversimplifying things?

Definitely! Vegetarian food is a big part of the solution. Methane from the absurd amount of meat produced is really bad, and also contributes around 10x CO2e.

Ah, so we just eliminate low-cost transportation, agriculture, textiles and consumer goods and consequently starve billions of people. A modest proposal for such an ill-specified problem with unfalsifiable causes. I like it.

I did not propose anything. I pointed out what the actual problem is. If you want to refute that, feel free.

Just because the problem is practically unsolvable does not equal it cannot be said out loud. Carbon above ground is going to increase and at most we can lower the speed of extraction, and until we have (sun-based energy) methods at scale to bring carbon back underground we will have to live with ever increasing CO2 levels.

A change in trend to more getting buried than brought up (full stop first is impractical, plus methods will have to be developed and tested step by step) is not even on the horizon of the most optimistic scenarios.

There are lots of people equating making the statement with "you say we should just do nothing" (I did not tell anyone about what they should/can/cannot do?) or with comments like yours, which is strange but very human.

low cost now, high cost for grandchildren. if money is the problem, just print more, it isn't as important as habitability of this moist rock.

> low cost now, high cost for grandchildren.

[sarcasm] so, why transfer this "high cost" to grandchildren, let THEM solve whole problem of "habitability of this moist rock" [/sarcasm]

It’s only low cost to you because you are making other people pay most of the costs. It’s a good trick.

It is too late for everything, there are cascading effects that are completely out of control like the permafrost melting and releasing methane. What are you going to do about that?

There is no evidence we have reached runaway warming yet, and while there are positive feedbacks, there are also negative ones as well. We have not accounted for all of them, which means we should keep trying.

The evidence is not there to suggest fatalism yet, and even if it were, the impacts occur on a spectrum.

> There is no evidence we have reached runaway warming yet

There is evidence, which the various papers on the issue point to. It is not irrefutable evidence, but the nature of the question is such that there cannot be irrefutable evidence. For some reason, confusing “not irrefutable evidence” with “no evidence” is common on HN in both scientific and legal discussions.

> We have not accounted for all of them

Which ones, specifically, are not accounted for?

Here's a small parametric projection you can adjust to get a rough idea[1]. The conclusion is that we need to work on all ends, starting with heavy carbon taxing.

We have pretty much squandered the time for anything but a drastic 180 degree turn.

The best thing you can do as an individual is to be vocal about those concerns and put pressure on your political representatives to take action, CCL[2] being one example of that.

I'm not a big proponent of the individual carbon footprint thing, it's mostly an attempt to shift responsibility to the individual when the ones that can actually get meaningful action on the way are corporations and governments. Despite that, avoiding meat (if you can't avoid all, focus on beef), buying local produce and avoiding flights where possible are still beneficial things to do and the biggest contributions you can make. I would add not driving a 20 year old car, but a lot of time you not driving it just means someone else will be driving that car instead.

[1] https://en-roads.climateinteractive.org/scenario.html

[2] https://citizensclimatelobby.org/

I love how corporations can pollute the absolute shit out of the atmosphere, but when it comes to me having a steak, I’m the bad guy, this is one of the biggest cons of our time.

Could you imagine how much more damage cheap air travel, coal fired power generation etc has done compared to people eating food ?

Do you know who eats all the beef they like ? Oil company executives.

The steak one is usually more nuanced. Not all land that raises cows can be productive for crops. I tend to buy beef that is locally sourced, which also reduces a carbon footprint.

To be very specific -- if you want a carbon fee & dividend, which is strongly supported by both economists and scientists as the most efficient, effective way to get the USA to net zero carbon emissions by 2050, call and write your senator as soon as you can using this link which will help you out with instructions (as well as explain more details if you're interested):


It only takes about 10 minutes! Right now we have the best chance we've had in a long time to get meaningful climate legislation passed.

There were a study done in Sweden a few years ago that looked at the question about an individuals actions and the corresponding CO2 production.

No car > skipping flight > buy green energy > Get a electric car > diet.


Of course the biggest emitters are industrial. Anything we attribute to individuals pales in comparison to the transport industry, production of goods like steel and concrete, resource extraction, power generation and production of consumer goods.

Telling consumers to cut back on X is essentially passing the back and making consumers feel bad without actually addressing the bulk of emissions.

Aren’t industrials working to sell things to individuals ?

You are the customer of the transports industry, you live in a concrete and steel building, you buy the devices made with extracted lithium or gold, power generators are running for every one of those … and for heating your house.

The problem is difficult because no one is responsible, but our entire civilization as such is responsible.

Yeah, we could probably make marketing people accountable for over consumerism. But they are just materialization of the ugly side of our civilization.

Show me where I have consumer choice about which transport company my goods are shipped on (as well as a shipping company that isn't a huge polluter), and I'll happily wield my influence.

There are many places where there are consumer choice (eg. electric cars, carbon offset credits for flights, renewable energy electricity providers, organic foods at the supermarket[1]), and the uptake there is tepid at best. The critical mass of demand is just not there.

[1] I'm not saying that organic food helps climate, but it captures a similar idea. People complain that industrial food production is bad because of pesticides/hormones, organic mostly solves these problems, but people strangely aren't taking up on it.

The problem with Organic food is the same with carbon emissions; the cost of is generally too high compared to the perceived individual benefits of the organic/low-emissions alternative.

Dunno, as someone who cares deeply about food (and really enjoys it) organic, if nothing else, tastes better (usually). Especially if it's local, small-production organic. Plus has organic pesticides (or no pesticides) so it's probably healthier.

In my experiece organic doesn't taste better for most things because the varietals are the same. Alternative varietals of fruits and veggies tend to be organic, and of course those often taste better or have more complex flavor, but its not because they are organic.

It's actually better with organic food, because you can benefit yourself by not ingesting pesticides/hormones/whatever, whereas with carbon emissions the most you'll achieve is save the earth from 0.00000001 degrees of warming.

My point is not that your personal benefit isn't potentially good with organic, but like reducing carbon emissions, there is a deferred, nebulous benefit to consuming organic which is hard to value against the immediate increased cost.

>Telling consumers to cut back on X is essentially passing the back and making consumers feel bad without actually addressing the bulk of emissions.

That's not quite true. Individual action leads to societal change. Climate change will never be treated as an emergency until we believe that it is, and until it makes us change our individual behavior to show that it is. The other problem is that this behavior change needs to start at the top. We need to see that our elected leaders are treating this like an emergency. Unfortunately that will never happen because of a certain political party in the US that ignores science and delights in human misery.


  Psychologists Bibb Latane and John Darley tested this exact scenario in a now-classic study. Participants filled out a survey in a quiet room, which suddenly began to fill with smoke (from a vent set up by the experimenters). When alone, participants left the room and reported the apparent fire. But in the presence of others who ignored the smoke, participants carried on as though nothing were wrong.

Yes, but those things do not exist in a vacuum, they are produced based on demand. If we care so much about our own convenience that we are unwilling to change the things we can on an individual level, how will we ever be willing to sacrifice things as a society? Are you going to give up your 2-day prime delivery because we no longer ship things by truck? Or a wide variety of items at your grocery because we stop gathering food from the four corners of the earth?

Come on, it's not that GP, or me, or you willed 2-day prime delivery into existence. It's something Amazon, and other companies, offer. It can be "given up" by everyone, without any objection, by said companies deciding not to offer it anymore. People will grumble and adapt, because they can't really do much about it.

The leverage over this, and all other conveniences, rests squarely with the companies offering them. People choose out of what's available on the market, not from the space of possible offerings.

Sure, Amazon could stop offering it, and that may be a good thing. However people are not used to the convenience and will stop using them and use Walmart's two day shipping. Or just drive to the store themselves, which is likely even worse for emissions.

Although I am not certain it would be a good thing. It is my understanding that delivery services like USPS, UPS, Amazon, etc. are better for emissions than making little trips to the store. Its dozens or hundreds of deliveries aggregated into a single highly optimized trip that keeps many other people off the road. If you give people the convenience of having it within a day or two, it may actually save entire round trips to the store. Without it, I think you have more cars on the road with more emissions.

There could be some good in more incentives around Amazon Day deliveries. Where all your goods show up on the same day each week. Reduced packaging and potentially reduced emissions. It would actually be cool of they did something and produced routes, where each neighborhood gets the same day, rather than individuals get to pick and change their own. That might make some decent impact. But you still have to convince people to wait a week.

Although that is not getting into the consumerism that Amazon fuels, and the extra plastics and trash that are produced because of it. Which are bad. But that I don't think you can put that entirely on Amazon, that's a society problem.

Fair enough. Delivery services are perhaps not the best topic to talk about in this context - there's a strong argument for them being net better for climate than brick&mortar shops, particularly in car-centric cultures.

My comment was less about the particulars of 2-day delivery, and more about the general problem of punting the responsibility to consumers for things they're structurally unable to affect. The concept of "voting with your wallet" is one of the biggest modern-day scams.

And Amazon will stop offering it if people stop using it. It seems to me that people are using this argument to put all the blame on corporations and big industry while ignoring that their own actions are the reason such entities exist in the first place.

You can tell every consumer to check every purchase they make, and put an enormous burden on them which will not happen. Or you can legislate companies and actually get it done.

That's the point of legislation: when the free market doesn't solve something, you add rules and enforce them. That's why food products must be edible and you wouldn't ask consumers to research and pick the right ones.

> Or you can legislate companies and actually get it done.

Politicians write legislation, and are elected by the people. If the people are unwilling to sacrifice any amount of their comfort then they won't elect politicians who will make them. And let's not kid ourselves, forcing industry to be more green will come at a cost to everyone: things will be more expensive, less readily available, and possibly of lower quality.

but if Amazon did that, a competitor would start to offer it and soon replace Amazon as the Status Quo.

Amazon knows this, and thus won't stop offering it. Consumer Responsibility isn't the whole picture, but it is part of it.

Pollution-based taxes is the only realistic solution to the problem IMO, but they seem far away from being implemented anywhere.

Even last mile delivery isn't that polluting... We're talking things like steel and concrete production, massive ocean container ships, coal plants, the extraction of every type of ressource, etc...

Again, the things you mention are putting the onus on the consumer and are relatively small.

Everything consumers and non-industrial businesses do accounts for only 13% of global emissions. The entire global agriculture system accounts for only 10% of emissions and of that, 80% occurs during the production stage.

By contrast, concrete alone is 8% of global emissions. Forestry is 10%. Steel production alone is 9% of all emissions. Simply producing these base products creates more emissions than absolutely everything consumers do. Energy production is 25% and of that, industrial producers use most of it.

> Even last mile delivery isn't that polluting... We're talking things like steel and concrete production

Right, but reducing consumption has knock-on effects across the board. Less need for ocean shipping when we demand fewer non-local goods, less need for concrete and steel when we build less stuff with it, etc.

> Everything consumers and non-industrial businesses do accounts for only 13% of global emissions.

Until you account for how many industries would exist if there were no consumers for their products. This whole argument stinks of trying to push the blame away from ourselves, just like the corporations are doing. We are all responsible for this, but we're all too self-centered to ever do anything about it because our comfort is much more important to us than the future of the world.

> massive ocean container ships, coal plants, the extraction of every type of ressource

but all these things... serve consumers. Container chips contain goods that people buy, that required resource extraction and transport.

That steel and concrete builds new buildings, it doesn't get sent down to the dump to rot. This is a common refrain I hear against individual action, but those industrial emitters aren't doing it because they love how CO2 smells. They are producing consumer goods or in a supply chain to produce consumer goods.

>Of course the biggest emitters are industrial.

Can industry exists without consumers? If you don't buy any cars then you have an impact. If you don't buy a new laptop/phone each year you have an impact on electronic industry. If you don't order online a 1$ gadget daily you have an effect.

Your individual effect is a rounding error. It's not even measured. Meanwhile, the fact that everyone else buys new laptops/phones/cars/gadgets makes it hard for everyone to individually forgo these things.

On the other side of the table, the choices made by the industrial players have immediate, large scale impact. A single board can decide to shut off some of the operations - stop making a gadget, stop making 100 different models of the same thing to try and segment the market, etc. - and, while they will have to convince dozens of other influential people to approve, if they succeed, the effect will be immediate and greater than a million consumers voluntarily changing their purchasing patterns.

> Your individual effect is a rounding error. It's not even measured. Meanwhile, the fact that everyone else buys new laptops/phones/cars/gadgets makes it hard for everyone to individually forgo these things.

No raindrop is responsible for the flood eh? This is why the problem will never be dealt with.

> No raindrop is responsible for the flood eh?

Indeed. Have you ever seen meteorologists appealing to raindrops? Have you ever seen a hydrologist counting water in fraction of CCs? A flood management system where individual droplets mattered?

No, a flood is a bulk event. It's managed like a system, using means with leverage over whole flows. Measurement starts with cubic meters. Nobody gives a damn about single raindrops, they're immaterial.

Same applies here. Focusing on regular individuals, and trying to get them to change their life style one by one, against the gradient of economic incentives controlling all of our lives, is like trying to pluck individual raindrops from rushing flood water. It's insane to even try. The answer is in redirecting the water stream; the droplets sort themselves out.

> This is why the problem will never be dealt with.

No, the problem will never be dealt with for as long as we focus on attempts to brow-beat everyone into self-sacrifice - to which people naturally react by ignoring the beating and resenting the beaters.

I am not demanding you to "self sacrifice" in the sense I don't think you should stay in the dark to use less electricity but more on turn off the lights you don't need.

Similar, don't buy shit you don't need, do a bit of effort to research if maybe you can "sacrifice" a bit of money to buy a greener product or that will be shipped from a closer location etc. The industry is burning fuel to give you the shit you want, for you whims , you can't just blame them.

> No, the problem will never be dealt with for as long as we focus on attempts to brow-beat everyone into self-sacrifice - to which people naturally react by ignoring the beating and resenting the beaters.

And if people are unwilling to make sacrifices, and people elect their government, then who will make the changes?

>Your individual effect is a rounding error.

Correct, but now imagine you have a large number of individuals not only 1 .

Have you seen just this last week the Blizard/Activision responding to just individual action??? If just a random dude would have protested they would have done nothing, but when "influencers" and communities got involved shit happened, those bastards lost money and they had to do something.


Industrial is the largest energy consumer by sector, but doesn't pale in comparison to transportation, commercial and residential. If anything C19 has brought residential up to industrial levels.

Yes, and this needs to be the top comment, and should be in every article about climate change.

That one for Sweden. In countries that neglected it in building codes, before buying green energy there's an "greenify your home" bit. Mostly heat insulation and removal of fossil fueled heating.

Also note that some of them are easy and you can simply do them today. Buying green energy might not be as good as ditching your car altogether, but it's a lot easier so you might as well start with the quick wins.

And the category of buying shiny new stuff is missing. It's a big part of consumer-influencable emissions, though it's admittedly even harder to make a significant impact on than ditching cars after you bought your essentials second-hand (where possible/reasonable of course). Pushing for products to be produced in a climate-neutral fashion (voting with your wallet) would definitely be something though.

Edit: wait, Sweden. How is space heating not on that list? Surely where the majority of the Swedes live is not too cold for heat pumps with perhaps a bit of aid from pure electrical heat creation for a few days per year, is it?

The highest bar in the chart says "have one fewer child". It actually exceeds any others by extremely large margin [0]. How is that even considered as the option? One child less means halving population after every generation. Eliminate the population and problem solved?

[0] https://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/drimage/1120/630/4832/fourc...

> One child less means halving population after every generation

I really don't see the problem here? It's not like having a large population is in itself a noble goal that makes life better for people.

All of our economics relies on having new people. Pensioners, ie people who cannot produce anymore, are effectively upkept by the younger generations, in exchange for their savings.

We don’t know how to run economies without young people. Look at the demographic issues in Japan, and lesser extent now in China.

They appear to be suggesting exactly that, if you read the asterisk:

"Cumulative emissions from descendants, decreases substantially if national emissions decrease."

So doing all the other ones actually lowers that one.

And even then it only makes sense if no-one else has more kids to compensate, so it's a personal action that will cut your personal carbon, but like most things in this area not something that works unless we all do it (globally)

> Eliminate the population and problem solved?

Why would we have to reduce the population below a number which is sustainable? Nobody is advocating that.

The actual number could be fine tuned through tax breaks. Give childless couples an X% tax break. Single child families a Y% tax break. 2 child families no tax break. 3 child families a tax penalty. 4 child families a larger penalty.

One child less means halving population after every generation.

Only if you assume the average is two children per couple and a replacement reproduction rate, which doesn't fit the reality I know. We have a huge population in the billions precisely because that's not what is going on.

If we drop to something below exponential growth rates, this is not a tragedy.

Massive population reduction (I don't think any serious person is suggesting elimination) would be the single most effective advancement we can make in reducing our environmental problems. It's definitely a tough sell for politicians, and environmentalists seem dismissive of it -- which makes me doubtful of their policy prescriptions. If population reduction isn't on the table of things to achieve, then the other arguments are lost on me. Nothing is sustainable when scaled up to an ever increasing population size.

It's true tho. On a world with limited resources and limits to the amount of pollution our planet can deal with, less people means a longer runway.

One fewer doesn't mean 2 -> 1 necessarily, does it? There's no sustainable way to maintain a greater-than-replacement birth rate long term (excepting self-supporting space colonies or something).

You can't fault the logic, fewer people means less demand for the things that create the carbon emissions in the first place.

> Get a electric car Chart says "Switch eletric car to car free". Text says car free is 2.4 tonnes a year, diet 0.8 a year.

How could you leave out the one with the biggest impact, which is basically "less humans"?

That's not actionable advice on a timescale that will affect co2 emissions any time soon. Are you suggesting we kill people to reduce the population?

> That's not actionable advice on a timescale that will affect co2 emissions any time soon. Are you suggesting we kill people to reduce the population?

Your second sentence is an overreach. The natural death rate in the United States is about 0.9% of the population. [1]

[1]. https://www.macrotrends.net/countries/USA/united-states/deat...

Okay, so how many years would it take to halve the world population through natural death rate, and how do you stop all people on earth from having children without a world war?

> Okay, so how many years would it take to halve the world population through natural death rate

If the natural death rate is 0.9%, the population would decline by about 9% each decade.

The drop doesn’t have to go to 50% - just down to whatever the sustainable limit is.

> how do you stop all people on earth from having children without a world war?

I’m not sure that even a world war would achieve that. And again, it’s not necessary or desirable to go to that extreme. If the goal is sustainability, we just need to rightsize the population for sustainability. The actual population depends on the prevailing per capita emissions from whatever energy technologies we are using at any given time. The more carbon neutral the technology, the higher the population can be sustained, at least with respect to greenhouse gases.

To reduce the birth rate, rather than force everyone to stop, we could just reward those who are willing with tax breaks. X% tax break for zero children. Y% tax break for 1 child. 0% tax break for 2 children. And extra taxes for >2 children.

Just like the idiots vote in a moron, and they kill themselves.

Because most of the developed world (if not whole) is already there. How do you plan to implement it in less-develop states?

No, even not having children has lower impact than not doing these things. Especially that environmental costs of them ramp up slowly.

Humans tend to be on their own barring social pressures carbon neutral. The biggest expenses being food and water, if these aforementioned practices are applied. It gets even better if these young can work to reduce the impact of the warming.

We'll need a lot of manpower to pull off the necessary changes. Just due to the scale of it. Well educated people too. We're on at least one to two generations of lag in education related to physics, chemistry, agriculture, material science, civil engineering, process engineering, general ecology, social engineering... And the old will start to wear down and think in old patterns.

Additionally further down the list is "live together in higher density" and "buy locally made things" bits.

I have a hard time believing that "humans tend to be on their own barring social pressures carbon neutral." Can you find some of these carbon neutral humans in first-world countries to show me, as an example? Or when you say "barring social pressures", do you just mean "if you don't count this whole society thing"?

And what’s your solution to this? And has any study said explicitly the number of humans is the main problem? Or their actions and consumption that’s the problem?

pretty hard to influence for individuals


I wonder how much energy we waste on pedantry.

Probably not as much as we waste on resolving confusion caused by playing fast and loose with shared rules/understanding of things.

Sometimes it has its place. Can you imagine a public speaker making errors like this? I think it detracts from the message. Public, and especially popularly read stuff should be as correct as humanely possible. Good grammar is a habit, improved by repeat exposure.

I appreciate this, I want my snappy sentences to be grammatically correct.

Some would disagree with this on the moral point that its basically a call for genocide, whether that is intentional or not is hard to tell.

I'd disagree on the facts though. There's already such a wild difference in carbon intensity between two humans, that it would be ridiculous to suggest that the first step would be to remove humans rather than the activities that make that difference (and are sometimes wasteful, inefficient or counterproductive)

How does this differ if the majority of your electricity is zero carbon?

Coal electricity is 60% of emissions. Aviation is less than 5%. How is skipping a flight that highly ranked of you are burning a ton of carbon just being at home (if you have coal fired power).

Actual rankings have to be energy mix dependent.

Because that 60% from coal is more or less shared across everyone, but flights are, on the global scale, a luxury item. In many cases, taking a transatlantic flight emits more CO2 equivalent than your average person commuting for a year.

So even though aviation is a small part of it all, it is one of the individual actions able to have outsized impact, usually for leisure or at least often for non-essential reasons.

That's quite false.

I live in Southwestern Ohio and get probably 75% of my power from coal. My pot of coffee emits far more CO2 than someone in Portland, who gets 0% from coal and most of their power from hydro. It's the same pot of coffee. Our cost of energy is similar and our standard of living is similar.

Where you get your power greatly affects how much CO2 you emit doing the exact same things. All energy is not created equal.

There are two huge barriers to doing anything about this problem. The first is denialists and those with vested interests in fossil fuels promoting denialism. The second is well-intentioned people who understand that there is a problem over-complicating the issue, promoting misunderstandings, or promoting the idea that this can't be solved without massive decreases in standard of living.

The latter, which I term "abstinence based environmentalism" by analogy with abstinence-based sex ed, will work about as well as politely telling teenagers not to have sex. If you tell people they need to become poorer to save the planet, they'll ignore you... especially if they are already poorer than you in which case you look like a hypocrite.

This problem is actually pretty simple. The following steps won't solve it 100% but they'll go pretty far.

(1) Phase out coal for electricity generation in favor of... almost anything else except maybe oil shale.

(2) Push electric vehicles, not because all EVs categorically emit less carbon than gasoline cars but because it's a hell of a lot easier to replace a few point source power plants than it is to replace a vast fleet of millions of internal combustion engines. (That and your typical EV is indeed better... even if your electricity is 100% coal an EV is generally no worse than an ICE car due to the superior efficiency of large power plants and the high embodied energy of gasoline.)

(3) Continue to subsidize renewable energy and grid-scale storage.

(4) At least stop shutting down perfectly good nuclear power plants before renewables are in place to replace them, and at best put some serious funding behind next-generation nuclear efforts. Fusion is also grossly under-funded. Ignore the "it'll always be N years away" idiots. There has been substantial progress even with very limited funding available.

There is no point in quibbling about small contributors like aviation (<5%) while we are still burning shitloads of coal and coal is far easier to replace than jet fuel. You don't solve a problem like this by making the solution maximally inconvenient.

I'm aware of this. I'm living in a place where power is over 99% renewable and makes use of no gas for utilities, work from home and drive fewer than 5,000km/y as a household, and eat a low-meat diet.

The biggest gains to be had are obviously systemic, and what I do as a consumer is far more limited in its scope and impact. I still limit my flights, no longer attend in-person conferences, try to travel more local, because what else am I going to do? I'm aware this is like putting out a cigarette when the whole town's already on fire, but I can't deal with the dissonance otherwise. It's still an individual luxury that can have an oversized impact compared to everything else I do.

Advocating for it is not going to be sufficient at all, but it's still the most impact I can have when all the big stakeholders who have to fix their powergrid are not even in countries I live in.

  > It's still an individual luxury that can have an oversized impact compared to everything else I do.
as an individual, isnt that plane going to fly wether im on it or not...?

ive ridden on many long intercontinental flights where a huge amount (almost half) of seats were unfilled..

The unit of capital allocation in airlines is one plane, and cancelling a flight or adding a new one probably requires some advance notice to airports and other agencies not to mention time for maintenance, flight crews, etc. to ready it or take it out of operation. Then there's pilots' unions etc.

So no, your decision does not immediately affect the number of planes flying, but if many people fly less the net effect will be fewer planes in the air after some time delay.

The inability of the US to pass a carbon tax will be one of humanities great tragedies. That they are the theoretical champions of the free market is just piling cruel irony on top of that.

It's not just US. Is there a real carbon tax anywhere at all?

It is. EU has CO2 emissions trading at about 50 EUR per ton and rising.

Even China has just recently established a national CO2 trading scheme.

This is infuriating for me as an Eastern European… they keep piling taxes and adding expenses. Soon steel and no more ICE cars.

Who do you think absorbs the 50€ / ton and rising shock better, a German making 4000€ / month or an East European making 300€ / month?

We either go at this together, in a thought out way, or we don’t go at all. The EU distrusts nuclear energy; we’ve been advised against nuclear energy projects. The EU dislikes coal; we’ve been advised against coal. So what can we do? We can’t build nuclear, we can’t work with coal. What do our workers do? Do we just continue to be meat for the betterment of the west?

I can’t even imagine the difference between the American standard of living and someone in Africa barely hanging on by a thread.

I don’t have a point, I’m sick and tired of being late to the western party (industry? services? startups?) and then we can’t even catch up because the persons in the high castle know better… and now, after burning the world for tens of years, the west is still the saving grace swooping down and imposing global restrictions in order to further protect their lifestyles. Sickening…

I can understand your frustration, but I still don't think you understand how this CO2 tax scheme works.

The money raised from the CO2 tax does not leave your country, but is gathered in a climate fund, that the EU member country generally uses to grant subsidies for energy efficiency and renewable transition. So, more tax should mean more grants for renewables, but that depends how your country sets up the conditions to grant the subsidies.

The biggest emmiters also generally get a certain amount of CO2 emission coupons for free. If they go over their allotment, then they need to buy coupons on market, which is where the money can leave your country.

That the EU dislikes nuclear is IMHO a poor decision. Generating electricity from nuclear fission is one of energy miracles. No fuel gets such energy density.

I don't understand your argument, can a western salary better absorb these taxes? Sure but how does imposing CO2 tax "protect their lifestyles"? The tax is based on how much CO2 you produce so rich people who consume more also end up paying more. Furthermore the tax aligns incentives to actually decrease CO2 production by finding greener alternatives. Last but not least pointing fingers at each other for past transgressions does very little to actually help the do or die situation that climate change is rapidly turning into.

> I don't understand your argument, can a western salary better absorb these taxes?

Yes. And their lifestyle should absorb more of these taxes then just part of the money they produce at present time. We have dozens of nations each with their contribution scheme, it’s not so easy to measure opportunity and lifestyle. My Danish friend pays 60% of his salary in taxes and enjoys a great life, like most of his conationals. In other EU countries, taxes are more lax and personal wealth is maybe higher but the infrastructure holding it together less consuming…

> Sure but how does imposing CO2 tax "protect their lifestyles"? The tax is based on how much CO2 you produce so rich people who consume more also end up paying more.

EVERYONE needs a home. When the EU increases tarrifs on coal and steel without encouraging local production, they are in fact reducing the housing availability for low income people… such as in Eastern Europe. Economically forcing some of us to move westward so we can produce more money so we can afford certain lifestyle options thus building the great pyramid of western economies.

> Furthermore the tax aligns incentives to actually decrease CO2 production by finding greener alternatives.

We have insanely lucrative European Projects that could be used to encourage this. We don’t need taxes to innovate, we need oportunities… which are not as evenly spread out as one might expect.

> Last but not least pointing fingers at each other for past transgressions does very little to actually help the do or die situation that climate change is rapidly turning into.

Neither is imposing taxes on my great grandma that has the CO2 imprint less than my cat. And I wholeheartedly disagree that pointing fingers does not help. Are we supposed to just forget that countries have built their whole wealth on exploiting others and now SHOULD work harder and reduce their lifestyle in order to compensate for the hundreds of years of global resource extraction? A new clean pass? It’s exactly what I find horrendous about this approach.

re your last paragraph, if you expect to have happy grandchildren, you should really start focusing on the future, not on the past. i'm from an eastern eu country, too, and frankly it's disgusting how deep in the past some people live here. it blinds them to future challenges.

I am focused on my future, and the future of my family and of my children, and making sure they will have enough to handle what I believe the future to look like.

At the current rate of brain drain, and innovation investment, my children will either find it very hard to build here, but realistically, as 3 / 4 people I’ve met in my life, they will have to move to the west and start a new life there.

I’m not sure why I come of as past oriented, I don’t think I’m that kind of person, but I’ve certainly passed a point in life where I can’t look through rose-tinted goggles anymore.

You do have a point, all these middle class western fuckers unironically calling for more taxes on basics like food and electricity are completely out of touch. Not to mention the upper class, who don't give a flying fuck.

The poor in their own countries struggle, it will come to a point where they've had enough. We can already see it with electing more and more authoritarian leadership that doesn't care about "woke" stuff.

They will rely on the police for protection, but there's only so many pigs around.

> You do have a point, all these middle class western fuckers unironically calling for more taxes on basics like food and electricity are completely out of touch. Not to mention the upper class, who don't give a flying fuck.

So, to be clear, what are said western fuckers supposed to do? Go "oh well, guess we're too detached from reality, may as well give up" and 100 years from now humanity has been driven to near-extinction by climate change?

Although one should mention that raising that CO2 tax in EU seems to always be an uphill battle against lobbyism and corruption in the EU as well and according to many the CO2 tax is laughably low still. We have a long way to go before we can pat ourselves on the shoulder for a working CO2 tax.

I believe the EU has an allowance program too, largely handed out on the basis of CO2 emission, so that would be a bit of a wash.

Road tax (levied on road-worthy vehicles) in the UK, and I'm sure elsewhere, has been tiered by emissions for decades. London also has had the congestion charge and now ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) for driving through with inefficient (and now with almost anything) per day.

I know that's not quite what you meant, but I think it's probably more feasible to have multiple specific things like that than an overall tax somehow?

Even for companies, forcing them to account for their carbon footprint, auditing it, etc. just seems like it'd be more 'busywork' and open to loopholes to me than 'just' taxing specific purchases or activities.

There was in Australia for a short time. The topic has become poisoned though and it will be very hard to bring back with newscorp still running things.

It is, for example in Switzerland, but it's a bad joke in many ways, the most important for me is:

If you have make a carbon emission high product, you rather change the production country (to a less controlled country, where you even can trow your waste water into a river) then to research the next 20 years on new technology.

And the income from the tax goes to insurance company's and Rent rather then to green projects..it's just another tax without any meaning:


Reading the linked document, why do you think it goes to insurance and rent?

AFAICT, 1/3 is used for renovations and renewables. 2/3 is redistributed to residents and companies. Residents get their share via health insurance companies, though that shouldn't make a difference.

AHV = rent

>via health insurance companies, though that shouldn't make a difference.

The difference is huge, in the time between income and give it to the citizens you can make huge amounts of money with it.

AHV - quoting from your linked article:

"in proportion to the settled AHV payroll of their employees"

I'm not sure how you equate AHV with rent, as it seems to be a social security / retirement system, and furthermore I'm under the impression that it's only used for the payroll data, with the money going to employers.

As for making huge amounts of money while holding money (around 87CHF * 8M for <1 year?) - is it really that huge and aren't they already holding orders of magnitude more money?

British Columbia implemented one with redistribution of revenue to the population in 2008.

Canada implemented it at the federal level in 2018.

It is probably the closest implementation to the bill proposed to the congress this fall:


What’s with the hyperbole when this topic is discussed every time? It doesn’t add weight to your argument after a certain point. With the US being no where near China and India in CO2 production I think it’ll be fine. You can sleep safe and sound at night.

>With the US being no where near China and India in CO2 production I think it’ll be fine.

Until you look at per capita consumption.

The per capita argument makes sense from a human perspective, even for any culture globally, as it is an appeal to fairness and equality.

However, the natural phenomena governing the planet's weather does not care about anything other than absolute CO2.

Fair or not, absolute CO2 is the number that matters for the planet.

We can come up with a mitigation or fairness mechanism, but in the end the planet works just like a virus or a script, it's a complex mechanism that you cannot negotiate or reason with.

The planet also doesn’t care about political borders; it doesn’t make sense to say “this arbitrary geographic area has more CO2 than this arbitrary area, so therefore the latter area is ‘fine’”.

This seems so obvious I can’t understand why people continue to compare country emissions. Break China into two countries and suddenly they are no longer at the top. Or look at the US by individual states instead and each state is way down the list, so no problem.

> We can come up with a mitigation or fairness mechanism, but in the end the planet works just like a virus or a script, it's a complex mechanism that you cannot negotiate or reason with.

From the perspective of humanity, particularly on this topic, the planet (and reality itself) runs on the human mind (a collection of them), and the human mind to some currently small degree, can be negotiated and reasoned with.

Even if every person on the planet did what you reasonably expect of yourself, we would still not even be close to reducing CO2 production.

By all means do those things. But if you want to make a real difference you need to look beyond your own activities.

Change your community, your company, your industry. What can you do that changes the defaults for everyone else? Try and find low-hanging fruit.

Join your local climate activist group e.g. 350.org — they'll be full of people with solutions.

It's a start though. It makes the CO2 use visible and transparent. I reckon so many people would care a lot about carbon in electricity if their itemised power bill included a fat slice of 'carbon'. Suddenly there would be pressure to decarbonise etc. Large companies could optimise their (significant at scale) bill for carbon use. Do the PCs really have to run 24/7 for example?

It's the old 'you cannot improve what you cannot measure'.

Totally. For me it's a matter of credibility. Nobody wants to listen to the climate activist who flies around in a private jet.

Yes, sure, make it visible!

I think the GP was that many things happen outside the normal consumer flow and the choices of impeach individual have a minimum direct impact.

Also, I’m not sure just forwarding the CO2 tax to the consumer is the best way to go, it still puts to responsibilities with the consumers instead of everyone.

Passing the CO2 tax to the consumer is exactly the solution.

In the UK we had a sugar tax. Soft drinks were taxed by the amount of sugar inside. Practically overnight it became impossible to buy drinks containing more sugar than the tax minimum limit. It wasn't illegal to sell them, but no corporation would waste money on a silly thing like taste.

The point is that the profit motive that has got us into this mess, can get us out of it too. Price in the externalities.

> Practically overnight it became impossible to buy drinks containing more sugar than the tax minimum limit. It wasn't illegal to sell them, but no corporation would waste money on a silly thing like taste.

Oh yes. Poland introduced a sugar tax recently, and I've never seen so many low-sugar offerings in the shops in my life. Marketing people of course got to work spinning this; a well-known brand of fruity beverages that advertises to children suddenly started highlighting how their products are healthy for children because they're sugar free. That's despite the fact that until few months earlier, they were the symbol of sugar-full beverages for children.

This is to say, profit motive is reality and sanity-bending, it should definitely be put to use through carbon taxation.

Yes, there it worked because there is a good alternative, healthier and same price, readily available.

There are many products on which society depend where the alternatives will have a similar CO2 footprint. Taxing these products will only serve to increase the base price.

Edit: I suppose what I mean to say is that adding a co2 tax shouldn’t become an issue for the lower incomes by raising prices while more well off persons can circumvent it somehow, further increasing the gap between poor and rich.

Small changes to personal consumption are not the best way to contribute to fighting climate change. A significantly more effective actionstep would be to donate a small portion of your income to highly effective climate charities [1].

I'm not against changing personal consumption - for example, I went vegan. But this is not where the majority of my impact on the world lies, as even a small donation vastly outweighs the effect that my veganism has.

[1] https://founderspledge.com/stories/climate-and-lifestyle-rep...

Not sure what solutions that group is supposed to be espoucing but they're mostly just a political lobbying group.

Frankly until the shouting and arguing stops and someone who can make a difference comes to the table I'm out. There is was too much posturing which makes no difference and is bad on both sides from plastic signs complaining about pollution to politicians who travel from ecological disaster to ecological disaster via private jet, and that's even before you realise just how in the pocket mainstream politicians of both sides are to the current status quo.

What a disingenuous comment.

Of course they are a political lobbying group! No shame in that, if they weren't they would be stupid.

Shouting and arguing is how human beings deliberate since the beginning of our species - and it's how plenty of things have gotten done historically.

Waiting until your age of enlightened and reasoned debate around climate issues comes ensures that you never have to take action at all, which, I suspect, might be your point.

Action is worth a thousand words. Take it and sensible men will follow. Be the change you want to see in the world not the people arguing about it.

Take public transport. Repair rather than discard. Take up a new skill and improve a thing rather than buying a new one.

Reduce you own energy footprint (frankly given how at turns into more money in your pocket this should be common sense not a talking point among midwits).

I'm not talking about going off the grid and living off turnips. Make 90% changes and then share these with others to enable and empower them to do the same.

> Shouting and arguing is how human beings deliberate since the beginning of our species - and it's how plenty of things have gotten done historically.

What if humanity has run into a problem where that is not enough to solve the problem? What if the true (but unknowable) state of affairs is that our traditional ways of communicating, even at their best, are not enough?

What if it's even worse, what if our traditional ways of collective decision making are also not enough? Or even more worse, what if the very way we traditionally think must be improved adequately in order to adequately address this problem?

As a thought experiment, imagine that these premises are literally true...what shall we do? What are some plausibly adequate responses to this set of problems?

350.org have done a bunch of stuff — as for plastic signs complaining about pollution. Yes that's annoying, (it annoys me that 350.org's website is incredibly bad for environment https://www.websitecarbon.com/website/350-org/)

If you want to make a difference, do something local. That's where the biggest shifts are happening — and you're unlikely to encounter any real arguments. People tend to only have those arguments when they have an audience, e.g. Twitter, TV

The world collapsed but on the bright side user rob_c managed to uphold their principles

My principles on this are:

Recycle and reduce your energy use at home.

Reuse, repurpose and repair everything that just requires some effort or to learn a new skill.

Buy less plastics and vote with your wallet.

Use public transport (big one here which America seems reluctant to adopt)

Focus your effort on 90% changes that make the 90% impact for the 10% time, rather than wasting time searching for the 10% that costs the 90% of time and effort.

Be the change you want to see. Back groups who aren't being controversial and getting famous for shouting at idiots and back the companies developing new useful tech to turn a profit based on the above.

Nothing changes people's minds better than clear action and benefit. It's louder and better than hundreds of hours of arguing.

So. Yes. My principles are intact. My money and foot are behind them. And yes, with popularists in charge who will avoid talking about China except to cover their own failings yes, we're all doomed.

Just look for me, I'll be one of the last ones with the light still on making soup in the end.

I think we all have a fairly good idea of some things that would help, it's the scale we struggle to comprehend. But even if you could find out the magic threshold for what it would take, if there's anything that lockdown and covid restrictions in the UK have taught me in the past 18 months, it's that we all need to follow the rules or it's pointless.

It's so disheartening to see others not pay these taxes, to not restructure and restrict their lifestyles.

It seems that unless things change globally, why are we even considering making changes? 1000 people in Quatar generate over seven times as much CO2 as 1000 people in the UK. Luxembourg, the US, Canada, Australia (and more) all generate three times as much CO2 as the UK per 1000 residents. The US has no carbon taxes. They've long been able to buy fuel and fly domestically for ridiculously low prices. Yeah, I'm having a whinge, but this is my point. If we're not all in this together, what's the point?

> If we're not all in this together, what's the point?

The point is that while we are squabbling over the most fair division of the burden, we are screwing future generations.

Qatar has 0.03% of the worlds population. We can't let climate renegade states preclude us from taking action, and we can't sit around until we have a world government.

Yes, they're a bad absolute example but there are others in that list that are still many times more destructive, yet are physically and culturally close to the UK. If we're ever going to sell the idea of investing in the future by sacrificing what we do, we need our neighbours to, too.

Another reply talks about sanctions and I think I broadly agree that tariffs and levies could be applied but I'm not sure how this amounts to much more than "normal" protectionism. It makes everything more expensive locally, and local sacrifice increases.

To ignore public buy-in will only breed another generation of malcontents. I don't want an "ecological Brexit" where half the populations gets swayed into giving up... Sorry. "Taking back control" [from an unelected environment].

Yes, but what if the biggest empire in the world, the USA, is the renegade state?

Long past time to start enforcing carbon tariffs on non-compliant countries.

I'm not sure how that would work. One country's power to enforce anything like that would —I think— just look like trade tariffs. This can be effective, but they sometimes just make things more expensive (and in doing so, seem like yet another sacrifice).

But maybe there are enough countries to form a pact, with enough alternative producers available to make this effective.

Make things more expensive for both sides and meanwhile incentivize producers to switch to more carbon neutral methods.

Yes, it requires sacrifice, but it would also require sacrifice if the other unilaterally switched to more carbon neutral production methods without a tariff.

The attempt to force people into limiting their lives for CO2 concerns falls into environmental authoritarianism. That’s why. Lots of people see it that way and when you mix hyperbolic environmentalist doomsday predictions that never actually happen people stop taking this seriously.

Additionally, the US is built on the foundation of personal freedom and autonomy. We would be the last country where people would willingly restructure and restrict their lives for someone’s agenda.

> We would be the last country where people would willingly restructure and restrict their lives for someone’s agenda.

You've have thought stopping the country from burning, sinking under the sea and being ruined by drought might be higher on the US populations agenda but perhaps they all want to go the way of the dinosaurs…

> environmental authoritarianism

What's the name for the epistemic dark arts practice of attaching an ominous-sounding label to an argument, so it can be dismissed without consideration?

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be wary of problems slipped under the rug. The climate change issue is backed by hard evidence, and the eventual result of the current situation if unchanged is dire.

If we wait to act until the eventual result is in our face, then we are no different than animals that try to outrun a flood, if so then what is the purpose being self aware? Freedom eh?

The impacts will be extreme, and it is not alarmism to say so.

The issue is that the impacts (lots of death) will be for generations down the line and will not really affect us today at all.

Personal choice effectively means screwing the future generations, because most people don't actually care about them. But those future generations are never given any choice at all.

This sort of commenter is what I'm afraid just forcing people into change will create. People so disillusioned with what we can do if we all do it that they're afraid to even try. Too afraid to even attach their name to it.

Climate deniers aren't new, but I suspect once people start experiencing what carbon tariffs actually mean, there will be a surge.

People like this are lost. I'm sure there's a way back, but seeing the recent damage of Brexit, Trump, QAnon, seeing how far people can disassociate from simple logic, it's probably a better use of resource to stop more people following them than try to convert them back.

> Additionally, the US is built on the foundation of personal freedom and autonomy.

What a… onesided view of the world. Do you think other countries are built on the foundation of being under the boot and up for restructuring themselves for someone’s agenda?

Should we stop calling out Saudi Arabia and China because they are built in a certain way? Are we Europeans not allowed to say no to a tax, because we were built on serfdoms?


The easiest way to approach this is to "stop burning stuff". Is a material being burned? Then it almost certainly emits CO2. Do you call it fuel? Stop using it or use it as little as possible.

Most personal energy use is for heating living spaces and transportation. EVs are great for transportation, e-bikes are even better. Heat pumps are great for heating and cooling living spaces. Using these one can drastically reduce direct personal CO2 emissions. Sure, you're then buying electricity and part of electricity is produced by burning stuff. If possible, you should then get solar panels, to at least offset the amount of electricity used.

With regard to purchasing one should regard objects that have been over temperature of boiling water as things that took a significat amount of energy to be created: food is cooked, metals and glass are melted, and so on. Is there a way to reuse them, or at least recycle?

Cows and concrete don't involve burning things, but they do produce a large percentage of total CO2 emissions.


1400 degree to make the cement part of concrete.

You could may be reach this by solar concentration, but currently we do burn stuff to make concrete.

Could you not use resistive heating powered by solar/wind/hydro?



With meat the important thing is to know the turnaround time, eg. how much time does it take for an animal to reach adult size. Bigger animals tend to have longer lives. More lifetime means more food, water, energy.

Beef has really long turnaround time, pork is not much better, poultry is quite good, insects are really hard to beat. Eggs are also a great source of protein. Having your own chicken coop is not a bad idea, if you have the space for it.

Cement is problematic because the CO2 comes from the process even if you use non-CO2 emitting fuels for heating up the raw materials, which eventually become cement. Alternative to cement is to use wood for construction, which I think is quite popular in the US.

A long way behind heating homes and transport though.

> It’s just so hard to know what actions have what impact on CO2 production

To a first approximation, every time you pull out your wallet, you're emitting carbon. The bigger the $ sign, the more carbon you're emitting.

New car > used car

New furniture > used furniture

High energy bill > low energy bill

High grocery bill > low grocery bill

Big house > small house

Long commute > short commute

Expensive vacation > cheap vacation

After you've gotten past the big stuff, there are nuances. Burning your trash is cheaper than paying for trash removal but obviously worse for the environment (better yet; generate less trash). A diet of Twinkies is cheaper than a diet of leafy greens but it'll cost you on healthcare in the long run, so likely worse carbon emissions.

Try to run your household budget as lean as you can, and vote for politicians who support collective action against climate change. I think that's as much as any individual can do.

How about makign a masive push to gen 4 nuclear reactors that can burn what we today call "waste" and then dump coal?

Do what we do in Vic, Australia: Add usage tax for EVs, with only a narrow timed limited vehicle discount for standard range EVs. And not a single ICEV co² tax in sight.

That'll help (the oil companies).

I think others have mentioned CCL already, but if you live in the USA want a specific, concrete, easy action you can take RIGHT NOW to move us toward a carbon tax & dividend, check this out:


Right now we have the best chance in a long time to actually get a carbon tax passed, but it depends on lots of us calling and writing our senators to make sure they know we want one! If you support this, please do it as soon as you have a chance.

And I very much agree -- even for people who are willing to take individual action, without including environmental impact into the price of things, it's very hard to figure out where you can best make a difference.

Carbon tax is a scam. It is exactly what economists not worried about the environment would invent

  > Carbon tax is a scam.

There will be companies exempt, banks making "carbon tax loans", the rich will be paying it easily, while the poor, and small companies, as always, will have to make the most concessions.

Why give even more money to the people that lead the world here

what should we do instead?

That is a good question, which I can't exactly answer

There is this link from other comments, which I am not sure how good it is: https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions

But in general if you create regulation for companies to produce less trash, explore all natural resources responsibly. Invest all public money and outsource contracts to the most environmentally friendly companies...

You don't need to punish the market If you just keep the current public investment in environmental R&D and eventually you'll have the better product, and who invested will be rich... just standard stuff really

Also people in general were always in favour of clean and green. The only issue has been and will be corporate greed

A Corporate carbon tax would be interesting if all profits went local first. And people decided where it should go

  > But in general if you create regulation for companies to produce less trash, explore all natural resources responsibly. Invest all public money and outsource contracts to the most environmentally friendly companies...
hmm yea, that make sense, but i guess lobbying makes that difficult...

my pipe dream is, companies to be taxed base on all the pollution they generate in general (everything from how much excess plastic, cardboard they use in boxing/packaging to the sources of electricity they use (renewable or coal etc) to how much chemical waste they may make... no pollution, no tax!

(yes i know its unfeasible, but its a nice pipe dream)

For anyone concerned about climate change, the most important thing you can do is cast a vote for a political party that the issue seriously.

I think the reality is that even parties who take the issue seriously know the solutions are difficult. Making difficult decisions is a great way to get voted out in the next term.

An example from the US:

During discussions for the recent bipartisan infrastructure deals, Republicans wanted to raise the gas tax to help pay for the bill. Progressives felt it would affect the middle class too much so they pushed it out.

Gas tax isn't exactly a carbon tax. But it is close. So here's a case where the party on the Right wanted a "CO2 tax" but the party on the Left scuttled it. (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/24/us/politics/what-is-in-th...)

I think France saw something similar with the "Yellow Vest" movement. I'm definitely not knowledgeable about French politics, but I think a lot of that protest was around an increase in gas tax.

In the US, any party that takes the issue seriously does not get elected in an meaningful capacity. Maybe a city representative, even state representative here and there, but that's about it.

And until that changes there will be very little in the way of action on climate change as the problem is just kicked down the road.

However all that delay just makes the problem harder to fix.

So the choice really is simple.

Find a way to make your government representatives take the issue seriously, or accept the 'catastrophic train wreck' that is just some decades away.

This helps, but there's a time lag, and the person you voted for does not know why you voted for them over the other party. Letting your congressperson know that you care about it by calling them or writing them directly is much, much more effective at getting policies you care about implemented. You should vote (in every election!) because they know who votes and who doesn't, and want to make voters happy -- but you also need to know that this is an issue of interest to you.

Right now, here's a very straightforward way to do that for climate change: https://citizensclimatelobby.org/senate/

The rebate-for-poor-people thing is really the main issue. the West is already on its way towards reducing CO2 emissions and it's accelerating with new technologies, without austerity forcing the hand. Meanwhile the developing world (the poor people) are growing CO2 dramatically. It's irrelevant where CO2 comes from. That's why this is so damn hard.

In France and in Europe we have online emissions calculator. If you happen to live in France, you can make the simulation on the « Mes Gestes Climat » website.

I don’t know if it exists in USA (since those things are highly country-dependent) but I suppose it may exists. Those are interesting tools to get actionable feedback.

This is good, but ultimately opt-in. I think you need something much wider-ranging than this.

The most impactful thing you can do as an individual is devote yourself to improving clean energy resources and carbon sequestration technologies.

If you're here there's a good chance you have the ability to help engineer these techs. That's going have way, way more impact than riding your bicycle.

Do you have any suggestions on how to get started on this?

Not sure if I’ll get voted down as a conspiracy theorist, but some kind of mobile app “passport” or “digital ID” would be a great way of tracking your carbon budget. Especially with a bit of big tech surveillance supporting the whole programme.

I wonder how they could get something like that adopted quickly?

The dividend from the taxes should be evenly distributed to everyone. This would compensate people who have good environmental lifestyle and allow local business that produce low carbon (due low distribution) to be more competitive

Fair point, it's blurry

From the top of my head, most cited ones are

Concrete production

Heating / cooling (unless designed to be physically smart)

Beef production

Worldwide transportation (fruits all year long)


If you eat a Mediterranean die, move by foot or bike and have a well insulated house with no AC you're good

Why pick on AC? How about adding no heat?

Heat is necessary, AC is not necessary (I realize this is not entirely true, but I think it's fair to say a lot more people would die without heat than without AC).

Living in inhospitable environments is a choice, not a necessity, that is causing environmental degradation. Let’s say an ideal human environment temp is around 60-80 degrees. In 110° weather, you just need to move 30°. In freezing weather you’ve gotta move 48°. That’s 50% more delta.

I think trying to fit the populations of North America, Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Korea, the Stans, Mongolia, the Baltics, New Zealand, Chile, and Argentina, not to mention alpine countries like Nepal, into the ideal human habitability zone would go poorly.

I found Project Drawdown's Solutions Table quite good:


> It’s just so hard to know what actions have what impact on CO2 production. Some are high-pain, low-gain (switching devices off instead of standby?), some are opposite (cycling instead of driving when possible etc).


But the tax is probably more important still. Also, political action.

If you fly to go skiing then it's the vacation. Jet fuel isn't clean burning by any means. Car is next.

Depending on how your power is generated, that energy use may be carbon neutral.

We don't even need a carbon tax per se; we just need consumption based tax system (as the US had until 1913), instead of a productivity based tax system.

Agree, though the ability to add a tax to goods/services for carbon seems unlikely in the US. I suspect people might be more agreeable if they knew there was a direct relationship between carbon tax and carbon abatement-and couldn't be squandered on something else (like cutting taxes for wealthy/multi-national corps). i.e. $1 of tax means $1 toward sequestration, or something like that.

Surveys have shown Americans have basically 0 inclination to pay more than $10/mo even if it would completely solve climate change for sure.

It's a good thing we don't live in a real democracy, because hopefully elites will wake up faster than that.

It's not hard to know what actions impact CO2 production. Like nosianu else said, just stop taking carbon fuel out of the ground. Anything above ground is part of the carbon cycle and is fair game - manure, trees (to a point), etc.

But I think what's hard about this is not understanding what causes CO2 production, but understanding what it means to stop burning buried carbon fuel. It means no more computer, cel phone, cars, no flying, no 2-day shipping for [ANY PRODUCT!], no container ships and planes shipping food and products all over the world. It might mean abandoning air-conditioning and having to hand-wash your clothes. It means abandoning modern comforts (not necessities). It means abandoning a hyper-consoomer lifestyle and becoming more localist, which most of us simply cannot fathom doing.

Actions everyday people can take are a drop in the bucket. The answer is in stopping major polluting corporations. And it's also the one thing America will never do, because that's who has the money.

Only people are final consumers in every production chain, not corporations. (Even if indirectly, say, by driving on a freshly built highway.) So people’s everyday decisions could have a major impact, if collective. Often it’s very hard to understand how CO2 emissions flow along the production chains though.

I don't think conscious customers can steer the economy quickly enough. If we stop emitting any greenhouse gases today, global warming will still accelerate for more than a decade. (And I don't believe very much in boycotts anyway - when a customer decides to switch to a different product, marginal price changes are likely to cause another customer to switch the other way, simply speaking.)

I think at this point we need an international coalition that slams the breaks and sets a strict deadline for ceasing CO2 emission. If there are not severe shortages, it means we are not strict enough and can go faster. And then let the market work. If a steak costs $100 or you have to wait 3 years for a car, that's sucks, but so be it.

If you have children, then that is probably the most impactful. They will need/want the same living standards as other people. They get the full package of other impactful things you mention plus some more like house building. For example a young family does no longer live in the same small 2 person flat, but instead builds a house (or lets build). Especially in first world countries and developing to first world countries, where everyone wants to have the high living standard, having children will be the most impactful action.

Perhaps there should be a high CO2 tax on having children, which one needs to continue to pay, while the children live?

If we are going down that line of commentary-- Large families with lots of children are usually more efficient than small single or two child families, since large families tend to spend less per person and the children learn to make do and be resourceful. Resources are pooled, everything is used, hand-me-downs are used multiple times. Reducing, reusing and recycling are parts of daily life out of necessity. More activities and entertainment are undertaken in the house and less vacations/travel are used. Things like boardgames are more feasible on a daily basis, etc. Home production is also more economical.

The wealthy people with one child lavished with entertainment, travel, and resource expenditure learn to be wasteful and buy every new fashion and gadget.

Of course, I believe we should generally leave people alone and let them go about their business instead of imposing arbitrary government requirements; but if we go down that road, then the poorer families with lots of children should just get a free pass since they are more efficient by nature.

Good point, I guess. But what is the consequence of it? Do we allow only some families to have more children, while others are not allowed to have any, to get this effect of more efficiency of resource usage? How do we get there in a fair way?

I think the point is that we don’t specify how many children people can have at all. In addition to being ethically dubious, it has a high chance of backfiring as it had in China, and likely will be ineffective, as most population growth is currently relatively localized to a few areas of the world like the Middle East and Africa. Places like the US or Europe or East Asia have already largely stabilized population wise. What remains to be done is making the emissions per person sustainable, which isn’t true especially in the West. This in turn will make the technologies required for reducing emissions cheaper and more widespread for those countries that are still growing to utilize before their emissions per capital grows to that of current rich nations. Population control is a non-starter.

Just wanted to be clear that I think everyone should have the number of children they want to have. I don't think the government should interfere in that decision and it should be up to the couple whether they have lots of children, one or two, or none. Just wanted to point out an interesting point about efficiency of some families as a response to the parent. And I'm not even definitively saying that I'm right, but it is a perspective.

I think even families with only a few children _can_ be more efficient, but it is not the natural thing to do, and people with fewer children often do so because they prioritize higher resource consumption from a perception of quality of life or other factors.

I guess the main point is that these things aren't clear cut, there are reasons for both depending on a person's perception of life and pursuit of happiness. That's the tricky thing, even when we believe a problem is simple from out perspective, it usually isn't.

It is funny, how one gets downvoted for asking someone to elaborate their point on HN.

Children are part of the goal. I mean, what's the point of preserving the planet for the future generations if we don't make future generations?

If you follow your logic to the extreme, the most beneficial actions would be things like euthanasia or just plain suicide.

> If you follow your logic to the extreme, the most beneficial actions would be things like euthanasia or just plain suicide.

Absolutely. Any logic followed to the extreme will yield extreme results. It could, however, be argued without much difficulty that people that exist have more rights than people that never will exist, so expecting someone to commit suicide (an extremely angst filled action that is also likely to cause an incredible amount of suffering within the person's close social circles) is not really at all comparable to asking them to not procreate - something that may not happen anyway for a number of reasons, and which does not inflict any particular amount of extra suffering.

It could also be argued that we don't really need to be eight billion, so some/most of us not procreating does not imply that there will be no future generations.

And, it could also be argued that all other life forms on earth are not worthless, and their well being alone - sans humans - could be worth preserving a reasonable climate for.

Wouldn’t those rights include the ability to have the number of children they see fit?

Did I say it didn't? Advising against something is not the same thing as forbidding it.

In either case, this "right" doesn't change the fact that the most significant (non) action you can do to lessen environmental impact is to refrain from procreating. No matter how much you argue that this is everybody's "right" (which is ethically questionable other reasons anyway), assuming that your children won't miraculously have a significantly smaller environmental footprint than you do, it is the single action you are likely to perform that will have the largest impact.

Of course, you can say "screw the environment, I want kids". I didn't say you can't. I do suggest, though, that producing more people until we've figured out how to lessen the environmental footprint of each one is incompatible with caring significantly about the environment (including climate). You can lie to yourself and say "but I do other things...", but in the end, those other things will not add up to a fraction of the impact a single (let alone multiple) child has.

Then don't follow "to the extrem"? Why do you think that it has to be taken to an extreme?

There are many ways in between reproducing ever more humans and not reproducing at all. For example if people really want to have children, they can adopt children instead of making even more ones. There are sooo many children in the world, who do not have a bright future, whom one could adopt. If one really loves children for the reason of seeing them grow up, develop, learn, become good human beings, then adopting one should not be a big problem compared to making one.

Then there could be a rule similar to the following: First child is OK to make, second child needs to be adopted. If the second child is not adopted, but instead made, then there are financial penalties for that.

In any case, how do you propose to get back to perhaps half of current population?

Given the state of the world, and a desire to be as helpful as possible, the latter feels quite appealing to me right now.

We're living through a strange time but please do not be defeatist and try not to let alarmist (it's trying to push certain actors into action quite rightly) make you feel that like that should ever be appealing.

I remember in the UK when a think tank asked do you need a family pet like a dog which lives 10+years which is almost exclusively a carnivore and needs specialist things bought for it. Turns out over a lifetime that's worse than a 2nd family car for the environment (who's have thought)...

The group was attacked for being heartless. Not to mention that they did mention family size and population growth in the same report without suggesting that be tackled. (They tries to be taken as not a doomsayer)

Then again British policy over the last 2 years has been based on a promise from a liar that 20M+ people will die in Britain alone. So if someone goes to the British govt promising the climate will kill 40M+ over all time maybe they'll listen...

> one needs to continue to pay, while the children live?

Can you kill them if you no longer afford the tax?

(any answer to this question should suggest how ridiculous a tax like this would be)

I guess the GP's suggestion is to let people think twice before getting any? Children are expensive without this tax but most people don't think 1 second about that because it is somehow a right to have them so the state will provide (and in many countries here, indeed they will). If you can clearly see that you and your better half will never be able to support them until they are 18 (which goes for many people already, without any ridiculous taxation), you might think twice about having any at all?

If you want to go to jail for many years and screw up your life significantly, possibly never be happy again, perhaps.

Is this supposed to be any kind of counter argument? "Parents could simply kill their children."? Seriously?

It was supposed to make it obvious that your tax proposal is absurd. If you don't plan to make murdering children legal, then what you are de facto proposing is making some people slaves. From X children forward, poor people become slaves, having to do forced labor just to pay the "child tax" that they can no longer avoid.

If you think that there are circumstances that justify slavery (they should've thought about it before having that many children!! It's a reasonable punishment for their deeds!) then, sure, I guess.

That is quite a far fetch you are making there, from implementing a financial penalty for not taking responsibility for ones actions (getting more than one child) to "slavery". I think you are mispainting or misinterpreting the picture in an extreme way. No one is suggesting slavery here. That's a strawman,

And yes, people should think before putting a child into this world. I don't know how that is even debatable.

But, how is that not the logical conclusion?

I agree on "people should think before putting a child into this world". Will you agree also on the following:

* Despite the should, some people will not think before doing X. So the punishment you propose will not just be an abstract thing that convinces people to "not do X", it will be something you actively inflict on people (otherwise it's completely meaningless, if not enforced).

So let's go back to the tax. Statistically speaking, who are the people who have lots of kids? Those who are rich (and might be deterred by an additional tax) or those who are poor and can barely feed said kids? Now, if you enforce an additional "kid tax" (and not just as a temporary thing, but as a perpetual lifetime punishment), what exactly is the effect that you think it'll have? Won't you de facto withdraw or limit "social security" exactly from the people who need it the most?

Just look at the data. Population doesn't increase when people become wealthy, on the contrary, it decreases. Rich people just don't have that many kids. Your tax could only serve the opposite purpose, while making the poor even more miserable.

Instead of trying to control people's lives and their very personal decision to have children and how many, we should be ensuring every women in every country in the world is provided at least basic education. A vast amount of benefits including an 'automatic' birth rate drop.

The population in the first world is dropping. Immigration from less wealthy countries is the reason for the growth.

If I do all of the things that I can do to reduce my families CO2 output, and I mean really dig into sacrificing our quality of life, how much CO2 will I prevent for all of that hardship and sacrifice? How much CO2 was put out in service of President Trump's endless rallies? How much CO2 was put out in service of President Obama's birthday bash this last week?

As long as the elites, including the goddamn political elites, are living in opulence and emitting immensely more CO2 than my family could ever hope to save with even a barebones existence, I will choose to be damned to hell with the rest of humanity before I make one more sacrifice of my family.

Carbon needs to be taxed and it needs to be fair. There will be no future for us if we continue down this opt in path. That much is crystal clear.

The emphasis many countries take is to focus on car owners and drivers by taxing private commuters to death, with dubious environmental gains outside of increasing state income. Meanwhile one cargo ship or cruise liner arguably pollutes way more than millions(!) of cars. I'm not sure that's a great route to take politically, no pun intended. They seem to go for the lowest hanging cash grab before going after those where it's actually the easiest to get the biggest gains in terms of environment and actually lowering of negative emissions.

> The emphasis many countries take is to focus on car owners and drivers by taxing private commuters to death, with dubious environmental gains outside of increasing state income.

There was a study that came out a while ago that showed the majority of pollution in Los Angeles came from commercial trucks, likely involved in shipping and delivery. I think I also read that those trucks and the type involved in construction have extremely loose pollution controls and requirements. Many of them might be exempt or grandfathered in to current regulations.

Is that true? I’m seeing that cruise ships emit a lot of particulates (namely sulphur dioxide), but the actual co2-equivalent numbers I’m seeing are 0.8t/passenger for cruise ships - which is bad, but not quite as bad as described in your post.


It's the cargo ships. They usually use dirty fuel and there are so many of them. Cruise ships are a problem, but there aren't nearly as many.

Cargo ships "pollute" as much as millions of cars, but that pollution is sulphur, not carbon.

Shipping is responsible for lots of noise pollution which is extremely detriment to marine wildlife.

Let's not muddy the waters. Right now, we are talking about GHG and we have to be focusing on that with an eagle eye.

Same with garbage bags and plastic straws. Stuff comes in stores absolutely wrapped in tons of plastic and they go and ban plastic straws. Not to mention stuff that's triple wrapped (sweets for example).

Plastic straws are social media outrage about a tortoise and has no significant impact on global warming. People upset about plastic in the ocean should be focused on ghost fishing nets.

I'm pretty sure plastic straws were a trash problem, not a climate problem. Related, but not the same thing.

Plastic straws were never a trash problem in Norway, where I live. Yet restrictions and incentives were still implemented. It's viewed by most people as a rather hypocritical and annoying token move, leading to lower enjoyment of life for most people, with little if any gain, to the point of pushing people away from the green movement. Or perhaps that was the point all along? Sure paper straws deteriorate far better in nature. Except most plastic straws aren't thrown into nature. They're thrown in the bin, since it's mostly used in an urban setting and in cafés. Besides Norway already has a pretty well-functioning recycling strategy for plastic. Moreover, if someone were to drive off with a plastic cup and throw it at the side of the road – which most Norwegians would never do – it's still far more plastic in that cup than in the straw. So what's the point of banning just the straw? It boggles the mind, unless it's just silly posturing!

Coal is 60% of all carbon emissions. Phase out coal for electricity production. Just doing that would go far.

Switching what devices ?

High pain to me is no more transport, overheat, empty shelves.

Reducing devices seems like a freebie

If the premise is that it is caused by humans, then start by reducing them

The day true environmental costs are embedded in every item, is the day capitalism will come to an end. The nature of the system is to underpay for items that are not helping certain groups. Take just the example of food. 90+% of the price you pay go to middlemen. Real producers make close to nothing on each food item. But food contributes to a large percentage of global warming. Suddenly you will have to start paying lots of money to producing countries of most food consumed in the world. And this is just one item of the things we consume every day.

And why would that make "capitalism" "come to an end"?

It opens up new niches for food production. Especially more capital intensive ways (eg vertical farming).

The trend of less and less people being employed in food production continues.

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact