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02/11/2007

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Graeme Bird

Look Richard.

You've been led astray.

Find me evidence for the likelihood of catastrophic global warming.

Whereas we have mountains of evidence for the likelihood of catastrophic COOLING.... there is no evidence whatsoever for the likelihood of catastrophic warming.

http://graemebird.wordpress.com/2007/01/27/continental-layout-and-ice-ages/

CO2 won't increase the amplitude of climactic fluctuations. If anything it will act like a buffer to the extent that it acts at all.

CO2 won't just help agriculture in Northern Climates. It will help agriculture everywhere.

The political motives are very important because in this field things are as corrupted as the post-Keynes world of economics was until some good Chicago boys and some Austrian types fixed things up a bit.

Every constituent part of the alarmist argument is ridiculous, false, and unscientific.

Relocation costs of agriculture pressupose a soothsaying prediction of sorts. But the UN junketeers and cocktail drinkers don't have a single model that backtests and do not include a solar-cycle prediction in any one of them.

The sun has been more active in the last century then it has in 1000 years at least and perhaps in as long as 8000 years.

And since its activities oscillate up and down it ought to be obvious that if we were taking bets we ought to bet on weaker cycles headiing our way pretty soon which translates to cooling and not warming.

I could go on.

But you appear to have missed the dire state in which that part of the scientific world is in.

Jack

I found Prof Posner's response excellent... but I would question the following assumption:

"One comment questions how heavy gasoline taxes could reduce our reliance on imported oil, since the cost of production of Middle Eastern oil is lower than that of oil produced in the United States. Depending on how stiff the taxes were, however, our total consumption of oil would fall, including consumption of foreign oil, though the mix would indeed shift (as I said in my post) toward imported oil. Another effect would therefore be to conserve our own oil--it would remain in the ground, available for future pumping, and a check on the behavior of foreign producers, such as threats by Iran to embargo oil."

......... I've been an advocate for shifting a portion of our income tax burden to taxes on our non-renewable resources for at least three decades. While it would be impossible to make it neutral for all tax payers, what could be better policy than lowering the taxable aspect of transaction costs involving labor and creativity, and hiking them on that which we'd rather conserve? I include in these benefits some lowering of our utterly unsustainable trade deficit.

Now what would be likely to happen if we did impose a tax stiff enough to lower, or at least flatten the demand curve from the country that is consuming a quarter of all the production? We have some history to review; after the 70's "crisis" we did lower demand, and increase supply by hastily building the Alaska Pipeline. The result? OPEC's hold on the market was cracked, and prices fell, in fact they fell so low that it was difficult to get OPEC members to abide by their agreed upon pumping quotas.

During this era the Pipeline ran at near peak capacity even though with oil in the $10 range it was only marginally profitable. I assume other us producers did the same. Of course the low price did prematurely shut down marginal stripper wells, and dramatically slowed exploration and development efforts. So, absent binding long term contracts for foreign oil I'd expect one, or a mix of two senarios:

We'd dampen world wide demand enough to tend to lower oil prices. But, the world has changed since the 70's and growing demand from the emerging giants would have a countervailing tendency to sop up the now more affordable "excess". In light of softening prices, OPEC would probably move to "stabilize" oil prices somewhere near the 40's (which I'd guess is the "new" $20's)

As for "lower production costs" "WE" don't get Saudi Oil for their sub-ten buck production costs, just as we don't get Alaskan oil for its less than $20 production costs, so there seems little incentive for refiners (even those owned by international producers) to import foreign oil over domestic.

But, even if I'm wrong about whether OPEC takes the drop in sales, and we do as Posner speculates, burn their's and save our own, I think it would be very wise policy. In rough numbers an increase of $1 per gallon would raise $300 billion which should be offset with a 10% - 15% percent reduction in income taxes. Long due!

TommyK

Richard,

I have been a big fan of your for a long time and realize that you are not one normally to sign on to left wing or luddite causes. After reading all the comments to your global warming/discount rate piece, I was curious to see how you were going to respond to them all. I was generally disappointed how you lumped all the various skeptics' responses into one mass category of "denying human activity causes global warming" and waved them off with the same combination of name calling (again referring to cigarette addiction deniers) and assertion of consensus (number of deniers dwindling) that made your original piece less persuasive than I normally expect from you.

I am not a climatogolist and do not purport to have any expertise in this area, but I would like a more specific refutation of the following questions, all of which seem fair to me:

(1) whether varying solar activity is the primary cause of global warming/cooling;
(2) whether human contribution to global warming in the form of CO2 emissions is a relatively minor contributor to the overall problem of global warming (as opposed to, say, bovine/methane contribution and the aforementioned variation in solar output)
(3) whether the reduction to CO2 emission implementing Kyoto-protocol style reductions will markedly slow/ameliorate the warming trend
(4) why adaptation to temperature change is not the best strategy, particularly given that most problems are probably 50 or more years away and there is a considerable chance that man will develop a better/less blunt instrument to address the problem in the future (and will have more data at his disposal to guide him).

Finally, as an overarching point, even if we assume that there is now consensus on the "fact" that the globe is warming as a result of human contribution in the form of excess CO2 emission from burning fossil fuels, I still don't see why the best solution is government controls on fossil fuel burning.

I was hoping your comments would shed more light on this topic. Maybe you will address this topic again at some later date and show more of the intellectual rigor and pithy writing for which you are famous.

John Humphreys

I think we have probably seen human-caused global warming over the past half century. However, it is a very long bow to say that the government should necessarily act. I am still marginally skeptical of our ability to correctly forecast the future and very skeptical of the net benefit of the policies that have so far been promoted to solve global warming. I'm also a technology optimist.

Also, I find your comments about moving agriculture quite strange. Those adjustment costs are the same adjustment costs that exist when we remove trade barriers or when a country finds a new (and popular) natural resource. When comparative advantages change then production and trade flow change.

Graeme Bird

"But, even if I'm wrong about whether OPEC takes the drop in sales, and we do as Posner speculates, burn their's and save our own, I think it would be very wise policy. In rough numbers an increase of $1 per gallon would raise $300 billion which should be offset with a 10% - 15% percent reduction in income taxes. Long due!"

Look if this were done in conjunction with further tax cuts elsewhere and if it were done as part of a concerted push against Jihadia.... and came along with the opening up of oil drilling everywhere....

Well under those circumstances I'd be fine with it.

But if instead of it being an oil tax its a generalised carbon tax. And if instead of it being an anti-Jihadia tax its an anti-CO2 tax....

Then its a lie. Its a compromise with the unscientific alarmists. And no good can come of it.

ben

I wait in hope that Posner will discuss the mix of climate change policies he thinks governments can be trusted with.

Jack

Graeme comments:

"Look if this were done in conjunction with further tax cuts elsewhere and if it were done as part of a concerted push against Jihadia.... and came along with the opening up of oil drilling everywhere....

Well under those circumstances I'd be fine with it.

But if instead of it being an oil tax its a generalised carbon tax. And if instead of it being an anti-Jihadia tax its an anti-CO2 tax....

Then its a lie. Its a compromise with the unscientific alarmists. And no good can come of it."

......... with some of the terms flung around here, I'm not sure how you are using "anti-jihadia". As for "compromising with alarmists?" being somewhat lazy and having spent some of my youth among the pragmatists of New England I kinda favor elegant solutions that deal with several birds with a single stone.

Thus, since I think it VERY wise to shift tax incentives from labor and creativity to scarce, costly and non-renewable resources, I don't have to hang my favorite hat on the conclusions of the scientific community as I get the reduction in CO2 footprint thrown in for free. I'm VERY convinced that as "global competition" gets even more ugly at the behest of our nationless corporations that there WILL be advantages to nations that drive down their costs of mfg in terms of the amount of energy consumed/wasted. I can't think of a better, or more market based means of providing incentives to industry and individuals than that of shifting the tax burden in a manner consistent with the realities of our era.

(I see nothing sacred in today's income tax policy, and recall that in earlier times customs tariffs were the main tax, later it was thought that land should bear most of the burden, today as we DO approach the limits of our non-renewables it seems only rational to take some of the burden off the renewable energy of labor/creativity and put it on non-renewable resources.)

From you posts and your concern about "opening up drilling everywhere" can I assume you're pretty much of a right wing ideologue? In any case the decisions of where and when to drill are not closely related to my cost-free incentive to reduce our fossil fuel consumption and dependence on others for its supply.

As the Prof points out it's certainly a valid debate for us, or the Saudis to consider pumping national reserve tanks dry as fast as fast as possible at today's prices. The Saudis know, and commented on the outlook for their nation once all their oil has been sold and the US, likewise should consider the future worth of its reserves as we approach a mountain of world-wide demand that is likely to outstrip supply. In such a debate I'd expect principled conservatives to lean toward conserving and today's rather strange set of "conservatives" (cum spoiled boomers?) to insist on their "god-given right" to as much as they want to burn in a top heavy rig that uses a gallon to cover ten miles, and name it "freedom" or some such?

So, we have a choice (sort of!) one is to start right away behaving a bit more like Europe, Japan and others who have no cheap and abundant energy supply today. Or, continue gaily on our wasteful way until "The Market" dictates that we MUST behave much more like Europe and Japan....... with little notice and many "crises", high costs and loss of ability to compete.

CO2? It's interesting that the problem has matured just as the tip of "peak oil" is rising on the horizon anyway. They both combine to tell us we're nearing the limits of the fossil fuel era and that we're much closer to the end of the whole era than we are to its beginning a century ago.

In the interim the CO2 will have to be dealt with. In addition to the methods being discussed today, I can't help wondering if the winner of the Gore-Branson prize will go to someone who can turn a negative into a positive by making it into a useful solid or liquid? or growing algae to provide protein for a starving world?

Graeme Bird

"being somewhat lazy and having spent some of my youth among the pragmatists of New England I kinda favor elegant solutions that deal with several birds with a single stone."

Me too. Those are the only public policy solutions that are worthwhile.

"I don't have to hang my favorite hat on the conclusions of the scientific community as I get the reduction in CO2 footprint thrown in for free."

Well thats where you've gone off the beam. Since the scientific evidence is clear: CO2 emissions are a POSITIVE EXTERNALITY.

But your basic approach is right.

Its just not appropriate for carbon tax.

Oil tax maybe if done right.

"They both combine to tell us we're nearing the limits of the fossil fuel era..."

Well thats not right but I'm enjoying your basic approach. Even if you have the wrong idea about CO2.

"In the interim the CO2 will have to be dealt with."

We are drooling madmen to even think about spending $1 reducing emissions since CO2-emissions are a positive externality.

Bill

I don’t play a scientist on TV, and don’t know much about atmospherics and global warming, but I have worked with carbonic acid’s corrosive potential on fancy machinery in a salt-water environment. I’d like to comment on the argument that an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere will cause massive ‘evolution’ of the ocean environments or a massive die-off of marine life. I have no financial interest these days in any of this. The numbers come from Wikipedia because I’m lazy, but they sound right.

The atmosphere today contains about 0.035% CO2. If water is saturated with air with 0.035% CO2, as it might be at the surface of the ocean, the corresponding pH is 5.65. A few feet below the surface of the ocean, water is no longer saturated with air, and the pH is higher. As a datapoint, a typical raindrop is about 93% saturated. Most water has a pH of around 7.0 because carbonic acid, the agent which causes the drop in pH, is unstable. Try it with a pool testing kit and glass of water if you want.

If the oceans were to magically become saturated with air, which would never happen, and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere were to triple, to 0.1%, the ocean’s pH would drop from 5.65 to 5.42. Variations of 0.2 in pH are pretty small. Realistically the variation in the ocean’s pH from a TRIPLING of the amount of CO2 in the air would be, about, roughly, um, zero. This whole thing smells bad.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbonic_acid

Dmitri

It seems to me that predicting climate change over the long run isn't a very scientific business. I am not a climatologist, but is it possible that the rising trend in higher temperatures is due to a backlash from earlier, less efficient industrial production? It is a known fact that air pollution is at its highest in midrange real GDP per person countries, the prime example being Mexico City. More emphasis should be placed on addressing these governments, instead of placing blame squarely on the shoulders of the US.

Graeme Bird

Well Dmitri thats an excellent thesis. But not for the entirety of the global warming.

Just for the anomaly of the last two decades of the twentieth century.

You see if you take an ocean-centric approach, as I do, then all this pollution is stopping the spectrum from penetrating deep into the ocean.

I think that not all Joules are equal and the ones that get imbedded deep in the ocean are the only ones that can lead to cumulative warming, since the energy that the ocean holds is far more then a 1000 times the energy that the air holds, and also the atmosphere is above the air and not the other way around.

Now the suns irradiation and air temperatures usually run lock step with eachother.

But the two graphs parted in the last two decades of the twentieth century.

And I think you are probably right. In that all that time all this CO2 was being released after World War II the air pollution would have been very strong.

But then when that clears up the combined force of the accumulated CO2 but more particularly the now clearer air from (lets say) the late-sixties onwards could have had this delayed reaction.

Its that two one-tenths of one degree in the last two decades that needs to be explained.

The rest is quite adequately explained by the sun.

But a word of caution.

I'm not sure, and its very hard to find out, whether the data includes the ocean air and the Antarctic. And whether it is weighted towards the Northern Hemisphere, or whether it adequately factors out the island-heat-effect of the growth of cities.

All I'm saying is that the effect you are talking about is likely way underated by the people who have a mindset that is sort of land-and-atmosphere based.

Whereas since I think the ocean is so important I would think your effect is far more important then these guys are giving it credit for.

Graeme Bird

"If the oceans were to magically become saturated with air, which would never happen, and the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere were to triple, to 0.1%, the ocean’s pH would drop from 5.65 to 5.42."

Right.

But what we really want to know is the rate-of-change...

For example I figure if a species cannot hand a drop of 1 click in 100 years it really doesn't deserve to live.

I mean a drop from 5.6 to 5.5 in 100 years.

I'm sorry. But if the critter can't adapt to that I've just no sympathy for it.

The thing is the alarmist will get some of these critter. They'll stick them in a lab.

Then they'll overnight drop the PH from 5.8 to 5.4 and they'll report that the coral will reduce its growth from between 5% and 30%.......

SCIENCE?

I.....don't ..... THINKso?

Then there is the other thing. The scare stories are contradictory. In a much warmer world the Ocean will be quits with the CO2 and won't absorb it. And so the problem doesn't arise because warm water won't absorb all the CO2.

And then a third problem that these people point to when you debate with them.

They will tell you that at a certain PH the ocean won't absorb any more CO2 and that is held to be a catastrophe for yet other reasons.

But now that solves the PH dropping problem then doesn't it?

See the reason why these guys are always turning out wrong is they aren't interested in being right in the first place.

They will grab anything that is to hand.

In any case as long as we are very careful and look after that Plankton what develops is a sort of CARBON-RAIN that rains down endlessly to the bottom of the ocean.

Plant-Plankton dies and the organic matter just drops.... Zoo-plankton eats plant-plankton and craps out stuff fairly rich in carbon and that carbon drops.....

Creatures that are deep-sea creatures at night migrate a kilometer up to eat the plankton and other things and like vampires are back down in their dark coffin of deep sea before the dawn.

So in that way potentially the ocean can deal with any amount of carbon you throw at it.

In the end it rains down past the photic-zone and is taken right out of the climatic system entirely for hundreds of millions of years.

So all we really want to know is:

1. Are we looking after our Plankton and

2. What is the rate-of-change.

And the presumption would be that unless there is this massive rate-of-change there isn't a great deal to worry about.

Jack

Graeme... thanks for the response, but now you have me wondering if your general mode is that of denial??

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

"They both combine to tell us we're nearing the limits of the fossil fuel era..."

Well thats not right but I'm enjoying your basic approach.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

......... If you doubt we're past the mid-point of the fossil fuel era I'd urge taking a look around.

........ US oil production peaked in the late 70's while our demand for oil has not been dampened at all. Then, we used 70% US oil, today we import 60% and demand continues apace.

..... As for peak oil world wide, I doubt it matters whether we agree its a few decades out or much more as the increased demand from the emerging giants will combine with our own to force the pumping out of the last half at a pace vastly higher than even the current rate of 90 million bbls a day.

........ Note that you're calling to frenetically, "drill everywhere" and that we're already going further and deeper with a resulting drop in our "well to wheel" efficiency which is a miserable 14% today.

........ lastly? Note the utter stupidity of how the nation using-wasting one quarter of the world's oil is going about "conserving it." Our largest response thus far is that of burning one gallon of fossil fuel to get 1.3 gals of ethanol and mandate we put it in our cars which will then get even worse mileage than they do today. An absolute, tax-subsidy sucking make-work program embraced by both parties that does absolutely nothing to address any of the energy problems "Twice burned fuel" anyone?

Lastly? China is about to become the world's largest market for automobiles and trucks. Jack

Bill

Graeme; Thanks for the kind words, but the change is not even as large as you imply. Carbonic acid will only be present in the top few inches, or maybe feet of the ocean. It is unstable and will quickly break down into dissolved CO2 and water. Over a hundred years; the ocean’s pH will drop from around 7.0 to around 7.0 a couple of yards below the surface. Try it in your swimming pool. Regards;

Graeme Bird

Thats great news Bill.

Thanks for that.

So just another scare story by these lunatics hey?
>>>>>>>>>>

Now Jack you said the FOSSIL FUEL ERA.

You didn't say the OIL ERA.


And the fossil fuel era isn't coming to an end. The oil era might be. But not the fossil fuel era because we have tons of coal.

So no denial on my side fella. I leave that to the alarmist-denialists.

n.e.hat

Graeme, The fossil fuel era is far from over. There are at least 200 years of coal reserves in the U.S. alone. But a large percentage of it is contaminated with sulphur which converts to SOx during combustion and is an emission along with NOx's and CO2. This (SOx reacts with water vapor to produce sulphurous acid. Which also reduces pH. How come no one has looked at that side of the equation yet?

And where is the critical tipping point in the system (remember titration curves-this is real science and not rhetorical science)? Those who "believe" there is no problem and nothing should be done, don't even believe that any and all superfund sites are real and simply are a hoax to defraud the public and extort money from corporations. So any "science" done is to protect the belief system and corporate profit (i.e. rhetorical science).

Alan

Judge Posner writes, "Anyone familiar with our work would know that we are conservatives."

Well, no, that's quite simply wrong. Anyone familiar with Judge Posner's work would know that he's a libertarian. That's not leftism, to be sure, but there's simply no point in making stuff up just to show you're not a liberal.

Jack

Graeme. Ah! coal! great! Let's switch over right now!

BTW a few hundred miles from my home and hard by Denali Park and giant Healy coal mine, there lies the remnants of a "clean coal" experiment. This thing was TRIPLE subsidized by state, Feds and some private. Despite the monstrous costs the thing was SUCH a flop that only the structure was salvaged, and the discussion now is that of whether it's worth it to rip out the entire "clean coal" flop and rejigger it as a traditional coal generation plant.

Cheers! and may your gardens and trees soon become acid tolerant! Oh, and for those not in deep denial, there's still those pesky CO2's and CO's to deal with. My guess is that "we'll" find even nuclear energy less objectionable, thus among "our" problems will be that of increasing numbers of nations having to resort to nuclear power; in fact, the poorer they are and the less able they are to bid on increasing scarce fossil fuels the more attractive is the option of nuclear power. It's a bit humorous to find the places where denialists hang their hats..... and tinfoil pyramids! Jack

Eric Baum

Unfortunately, you did not take my suggestion to actually read the independent summary for policy makers of the draft report. Your belief in AGW appears to be founded solely on your belief that dissenters' ranks have thinned over time. I'm not sure what your evidence for that is. Lord Monckton claims the draft report is more skeptical now than it used to be. The fact that the UN keeps upping its assessment of the likelihood of global warming does not imply that scientists are developing more consensus, at most it might indicate a selection effect in whom the UN polls; or alternatively it might indicate that dissenters are being driven from the field or dissuaded, as Richard Lindzen has provided examples. But in fact, I don't see any evidence at all that (among scientists who have actually looked at the data) the ranks of dissenters are thinning at all. I'd appreciate if you would provide some.
I suggest that it is apparent that the events and data of the last 5 years indicate that confidence in AGW should decrease (as Monckton argues it has done among scientists). Among those events are the following:
(1) The hockey stick graph has been debunked. The hockey stick graph provided such strong evidence for AGW it was featured in the summary for policy makers in 2001. It has since been discredited, most recently by the US National Academy of Sciences. It is now widely recognized that there was a little ice age and a medieval warm period that may have been warmer than the present, and that the striking features of the hockey stick graph were due to invalid data analysis, capable of producing hockey-stick-like graphs from literally random data with no trend. One would expect that removing the centerpiece argument for AGW would tend to lower confidence, and that finding that a key scientific paper on which one had relied was wrong would by itself
lead to some crisis of confidence. The latest summary doesn't mention the hockey stick or its demise, nor offer any graph showing temperature trends far enough back to put the current rise in any kind of perspective. Such a graph would today look rather like the one featured in 1990's report, which made it seem that the current run of warming is not particularly more pronounced than the last run of warming leading into the medieval warm period, nor than the run of cooling leading into the little ice age.
(2) Since 2001, figures from the US National Climate Data Center show the world has warmed by .03 degrees, within the range of measurement error and thus consistent with no warming at all. Since 2003 the oceans have cooled significantly. Since 2001 (in fact, earlier) atmospheric methane has mysteriously declined.
(3) A recalibration has brought the satellite data into better agreement with warming, but it remains true that none of the satellite data sets show warming in the tropical troposphere, and only one shows warming higher above the tropics. The tropics are not of fringe importance- they account for half the world's atmosphere, and GHG models predict strong warming in the upper troposphere over the tropics. The fact that the data has recently been recalibrated might itself be some cause for alarm- is this the last recalibration?
(4) The antarctic has not warmed in 40 years. The southern hemisphere has not warmed much, if at all, in 25 years.
Points 4 and 5 taken together indicate that half the globe's surface and half the atmosphere are not in fact warming. In what sense is there global warming if half the world is left out?
(5) Since 2001, alternative theories of climate changes have made considerable advances. There is now a substantial, peer reviewed, and in many cases compelling literature proposing other explanations for climate change. For example, fluctuations in cosmic ray background have been argued to be much more highly correlated with climate moves over earth's history than atmospheric CO2 concentration
(which seems to be a trailing indicator). And recent laboratory experiments have indicated a mechanism for this by demonstrating that increased cosmic rays can cause increased clouds. Interestingly, these authors claim they predict some of the features of the current climate, such as antarctica not warming, and the warming turning over and flattening out.

OregonGuy

"As for improving agricultural yields in northern climes, the transitional costs of relocating agriculture from (at present) tropical to arctic climes would be immense."

Huh?

Denying best use/utilization doesn't have costs?

Is this a hypothetical "Well, we continue to have barren fields here because growing corn would make me money" argument?

Are only explicit costs important to the economist? Can't you take into account the cost of wrong/bad economic decisions?

bill

Isn't it true that nuclear power is the only technology that will actually reduce so-called harmful emissions, other than draconian economy depressing rationing in it's various forms.

Another point, the USA has actually held our increases down to levels which are much lower than the other countries have been able to obtain. Proves that technology applied to the problem is far better than government solutions, like regulating fuels and imposing stricter CAFE standards.

If the alarmists actually wanted to do something why not go nuclear? With new technologies like PBMRs this can be safely accomplished. To suggest otherwise exposes the real agenda.

Still waiting for real proof that CO2 increases cause global warming. For instance, what melted the last ice age 15,000 years ago?

Graeme Bird

"Isn't it true that nuclear power is the only technology that will actually reduce so-called harmful emissions, other than draconian economy depressing rationing in it's various forms."

CO2 is good. Good for the climate if it warms a little bit. Good for us and nature.

They want to destroy Coal energy.

They want to destroy Nuclear as well.

Don't dwell on it they are the enemy.

Anonymous

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