Mar 07 2017

Phasing Out Coal

coal_waterIt seems clear that if we are going to make significant progress in reducing global CO2 emissions, we are going to need to phase out the burning of coal to generate electricity. The UK may serve as a demonstration of this fact.

In recent years UK coal burning has plummeted – in 2016 the UK burned 18 million Metric Tonnes (Mt) of coal, which is less than it has burned since before 1860. At its peak in 1956 the UK burned 221 Mt of coal.

As a result, overall carbon emissions from the UK have also dropped, from its peak of 685 Mt of carbon in 1970 to 281 in 2016. That is the lowest annual carbon emission from the UK since 1894 (not counting two years in the 1920’s during massive strikes).

Power from coal is being replaced by power from gas, oil, and renewables. Last year the UK generated more power from wind than from coal. Some are crediting the precipitous drop in coal burning to a doubling of the carbon tax in the UK in 2015.

Coal burning in the US has also been decreasing, down to 731 Million short tons (MMst – same as the Mt, 1 short ton or metric tonne is 1,000 kg) in 2016. That’s 18 Mt of coal for the UK vs 731 for the US. Obviously the US is a much larger country and uses more energy, so the percentages and trends are more telling. US energy production is still 33% from coal burning, while it fell to 11% in the UK in 2016. Worse, coal burning is set to increase over the next two years in the US.

This is all dwarfed by China, which produces 73% of its energy by burning coal, and consumes 3.2 billion metric tonnes of coal per year in recent years – that is over 4 times the amount of coal burned by the US. Since 2013 coal burning has decreased a bit in China, displaced by renewables, but China says to expect increases as their urbanization continues.

Burning coal is perhaps the worst way to generate electricity. It is only relatively cheap because the externalized costs are ignored. Even before we consider the consequences of global warming, coal burning causes significant pollution and health effects:

A 2010 study by the Clean Air Task Force estimated that air pollution from coal-fired power plants accounts for more than 13,000 premature deaths, 20,000 heart attacks, and 1.6 million lost workdays in the U.S. each year. The total monetary cost of these health impacts is over $100 billion annually.

That $100 billion a year is an externalized cost that those who burn coal for profit do not have to pay. If we tax coal burning (either directly or through a carbon tax) to cover the health impact alone, that would make coal cost-ineffective.

Despite all this, worldwide coal burning is expected to increase through 2040.

If we add to this even the conservative estimates of the negative impacts of global warming from carbon release over the next couple of centuries, it seems insane to continue to burn coal. There should be a global plan to phase out coal as quickly as possible, and to leave remaining coal reserves sequestered in the ground.

In the short term coal can be displaced by gas and oil, which release less CO2 and are less polluting overall. These are still fossil fuels, however, and so this is still only a stop-gap measure.

Many experts think that if we are going to rapidly wean ourselves off coal we will need to build more nuclear plants. Even with the negatives of nuclear in terms of waste storage and cost, it is still far better than coal. We should prioritize the development of next generation nuclear power plants that produce less waste, and may even be able to burn the waste of older plants. We can also develop thorium nuclear power plants.

And of course, renewable energy sources are going to have to play an increasing role. This will likely mean that we need efficient grid storage to help match production with use, as wind and solar are intermittent and not on-demand energy sources.

This would mean displacing coal mining jobs, but that is the nature of technological advance. No one is entitled to the preservation of 19th century technology (and costing society $100 billion per year) to preserve their job. But, if we do embark on a mission to rapidly displace coal it would be reasonable to include programs to help transition coal miners to other work. We can minimize the human cost of the creative destruction of the market, without inhibiting advance by preserving old tech.

88 responses so far

88 Responses to “Phasing Out Coal”

  1. michaelegnoron 07 Mar 2017 at 8:57 am

    [“This would mean displacing coal mining jobs, but that is the nature of technological advance. No one is entitled to the preservation of 19th century technology (and costing society $100 billion per year) to preserve their job.’}

    Pretty casual dismissal of the livelihoods of a couple of hundred thousand people and their families, especially in service to fake science.

    How about this: let’s “displace” neurologists’ jobs (and start at Yale). It’s always a lot easier to destroy other people’s lives, especially if they’re blue collar, lack ivy league degrees, and aren’t nearly as sophisticated as the elites who call the shots.

    And doing it in the name of junk science is the icing on the cake.

  2. David Pritchardon 07 Mar 2017 at 9:15 am

    Steve, that should be millions of (metric) tonnes, not metric tonnes, according to the BBC article.

    michaelegnor: Needless to say, climate change science is not “junk science”. Just because you don’t like the conclusions doesn’t mean they’re invalid.

  3. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 9:17 am

    Nice selective quoting. My next sentence is:

    “But, if we do embark on a mission to rapidly displace coal it would be reasonable to include programs to help transition coal miners to other work. We can minimize the human cost of the creative destruction of the market, without inhibiting advance by preserving old tech.”

    No casual dismissal at all.

    And this is justified by the health care costs alone. 13,000 premature deaths each year is a high price to pay to maintain obsolete jobs.

    Or, doctor, are you casually dismissing the health care burden of the coal industry?

  4. Nareedon 07 Mar 2017 at 9:59 am

    And not to mention the adverse health and environmental effects of mining coal. Both on the people involved in mining, and the surrounding communities.

  5. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 10:49 am

    Steve, as a physician what is your opinion of the EPA’s linear no-threshold approach to regulation, i.e. that emissions unsafe at a certain level are unsafe at any level? As the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. There is evidence that the LNT approach is flawed. It was developed in the early 20th century by studying the effects of radiation on fruit fly spermatozoa. The problem was that the sperm were immature, lacking the DNA repair machinery to recover from the exposure. When the experiment was repeated on mature sperm, a threshold response relationship emerged.

    If there is a reasonably safe threshold for exposure to coal emissions such as SO2 and particulate matter (CO2 is not a pollutant) then there is no reason to phase out coal fired power plants. There is a body count attached to the price of electricity. Incubators, bypass machines, vaccine refrigerators all need reliable power. We need to consider the opportunity costs of forgoing an energy source in addition to its risks. Two things can be true at once: that coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel and yet entirely worthwhile to use, in both monetary and human costs.

    China’s renewable program is a PR gesture to appease the UN. They know perfectly well how worthless it is (1.1 intermittent watts per square meter for wind). Even if you are concerned about global warning, CO2 taxes and quotas on US energy companies are empty symbolism against third world demand for fossil fossil.

    I would love to liberate nuclear power and see whether it could outcompete coal on the free market, however. In the early 70’s it was the cheapest form of electricity.

  6. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 11:01 am

    “global warNing” That’s a typo not a Freudian slip lol

  7. TheGorillaon 07 Mar 2017 at 11:08 am

    I mean it’s a pretty casual dismissal, including the follow up paragraph (Which makes it even worse, in a way). This whole attitude that people aren’t entitled to jobs and should be laid off when technology makes things more efficient, and then the “they need retraining” attitude effectively ignores the actual *hardships* of the job loss — these aren’t wealthy people, and a paycheck often represents feeding the family for the next two weeks.

    There is an implicit devaluation in treating human beings as cogs that should be replaced at first opportunity, and to then talk about retraining displaces the blame onto the individuals (they need education or whatever, it’s their capabilities at fault for unemployment), protecting from critique the actual system in which more efficient technology ruins lives.

    It’s an afterthought at the end of the post that doesn’t speak to the massive suffering involved, but focuses on ‘pragmatics’, for lack of a better term — that’s nothing if not casual dismissal. “Not entitled to an archaic job” is literally a euphemism for “stop whining, retrain yourself to become useful.” Plus, I think we all know that the government creating effective transition programs is more than a tad idealistic.

    Tldr it’s not just what you said, it’s what wasn’t said and the afterthought role it played in the post.

  8. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 11:38 am

    @TheGorilla: I presently don’t want to see coal workers lose their jobs because they create value for me as an energy consumer. Let me be the first to stress, however, that there is no such thing as the right to a job, and it’s the responsibility of the individual to keep his claws sharp. If someone can do my job better than I can, I encourage him to apply for it.

  9. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Gorilla – It was not an afterthought. What makes you even say that other than subjective perception? I very intentionally included that statement because I am sensitive to the issue of the plight of coal miners and think we can invest in smoothing the transition to another industry.

    New technology displaces old technology which displaces jobs. That is a fact, and I think it is highly misguided to keep obsolete industries or technologies simply because it will turn over jobs.

    This is also not just about retraining, Other industries can strategically move into these locations to provide jobs, unemployment can be extended or supplemented for displaced workers.

    Coal mining jobs have already decreased from a peak of 178k in 1985 down to 56k. This trend will continue. This is partly through decreased demand and partly through changes in practice and technology.

    The question is – are we going to spend our resources trying to prop up this industry to save the remaining jobs, and get all the negatives that come along with it, including $100 billion in health care costs per year. Or are we going to spend our resources transitioning to other technologies and taking care of those who are displaced by a failing industry? I vote for the latter. The former is insanity.

    Further, it is completely unfair and disingenuous to try to frame this as me not caring about coal miners, even to the point of dismissing the fact that I addressed it directly in the article. That is just propaganda.

  10. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 12:08 pm

    BTW – over that same period of time millions of jobs have been lost in the US. Why are those 56k jobs so privileged above the millions that are lost to the normal churning of the economy? It makes no sense.

  11. BillyJoe7on 07 Mar 2017 at 12:29 pm

    The Wolf Pack arrives, salivating at the mouth:

    Michael Egnor, who has lost every argument against Steven Novella on this blog and elsewhere, now resorts to personal attacks like the true Christian that he is not; TheGorilla who takes the most uncharitable reading of what Steven Novella has said in order to do some pathetic virtue signalling about the plight of coal miners; and Atlantic Idol who apparently has some expertise in economics and thinks therefore that he has expertise in climate change that exceeds that of actual climate scientists.

    Well Steven, one consolation: when what you say brings out the wolves it means you must be having an impact.

  12. Lightnotheaton 07 Mar 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Using emotionally loaded terms like “casual dismissal” and “afterthought” is intellectually lazy. Dr. Novella could just as easily talk about his critics “casually dismissing” health or environmental concerns because they emphasize coal jobs too much.

  13. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Atlantic Idol who apparently has some expertise in economics and thinks therefore that he has expertise in climate change that exceeds that of actual climate scientists.

    @BlowJob7: You’re a mind reader! This is exactly what I think! You should take Randi’s Psychic Challenge!

  14. Lightnotheaton 07 Mar 2017 at 1:12 pm

    “Blowjob7”? Come on!

  15. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 1:20 pm

    What’s wrong with a little wordplay? He can call me “Asinine Idiot” for all I care – It’s fun!

  16. Babbyon 07 Mar 2017 at 2:28 pm

    virtually every single job or industry that exists now replaced some older, outdated one. For example – Manufacturers displaced trades workers. The dialogue back then was – lazy manufacturers who do not have to have a single skill are replacing trades workers who learned their craft from generation to generation…all for greedy profits attained through “mass production”. History certainly does rhyme.

    Why don’t we just invest in buggy whips while we are at it.

    And we should definitely care about those displaced. Most importantly to not leave anyone behind, but also to ensure they don’t get disenfranchised and vote for Trump.

  17. BillyJoe7on 07 Mar 2017 at 3:46 pm

    Well, if that’s the quality of the opposition, we don’t have much to worry about.

  18. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 4:03 pm

    Atlanten Idol,

    ‘China’s renewable program is a PR gesture to appease the UN’.

    Reference please. China is actually in the habit of doing what China thinks is in its best interests. It’s claim to the South China Sea including the construction of artificial islands is a case in point.

    I have a suspicion that like most, if not all, AGW deniers you make unwarranted assertions for political reasons, such as your ‘CO2 is not a pollutant’.

  19. SFinksteron 07 Mar 2017 at 4:28 pm

    egnor is such a insipid, moronic troll.

  20. DevoutCatalyston 07 Mar 2017 at 4:33 pm

    Steven Novella, have you looked into the Allam cycle idea (aka NET Power cycle) ?

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S187661021300221X

    Some in the coal industry are jumping up and down as if they have found their savior.

  21. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 4:55 pm

    DevoutCatylst,

    And their progress? I looked at the NET power website and they claim that they started construction of their demonstration plant on March 9, 2016, and since then – nothing. The Science Direct article claimed that it was going to be ready for testing in 2014.

    I think I’ll wait until they’ve made more progress.

    Even if it’s economic, there’s still the problem of what to do with the CO2.

  22. michaelegnoron 07 Mar 2017 at 5:10 pm

    One of my high school friends and I got together many years ago for dinner. He had just gotten into law school, and we began discussing politics. He was liberal, I was conservative, and he emphatically supported affirmative action in law school admissions. I told him that it seemed unfair to the white students who were denied admission, despite better qualifications, because of their race. He (who was white) said that the greater good–the social policy that gave minorities a hand up–was more important.

    So I asked him why he hadn’t informed his law school that he wouldn’t be matriculating, and asked them to admit a minority student in his place. Why was he demanding that other innocent people pay the price for his morality.

    My former friend, I should say…

    I see the same thing here. Greenie climate hysteria means greenie social engineering–‘We gotta get rid of people’s jobs’–not because coal is no longer economically feasible, or no longer needed (it produces a major share of our energy), but because greenie scientists and greenie ideologues and greenie politicians say so.

    And it’s always someone else’s job that has to go down the drain. Never greenies’ jobs.

    In my 50 years of political awareness, I’ve never seen an environmentalist offer his own job on the chopping block. I’ve never seen an environmentalist give himself, rather than some poor guy in the third world, malaria by banning DDT. I’ve never seen an environmentalist give his own daughter a forced abortion to enforce a one-child policy.

    Greenies preen and proclaim, and other people pay for it with their livelihoods or their lives.

    How about this, Steven: offer your salary to the families of the several coal miners your salary would support, and put your own family on welfare.

    You pay for your ‘morals’. For the sake of the planet, of course. Stop making others pay for them.

  23. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 5:24 pm

    DC – The Allam cycle is interesting. Of course, technology can always be a game changer.

    Right now I am taking a wait and see approach. The have yet to build and test an actual plant. Also, they need to figure out what they are going to do with all that carbon they are capturing.

  24. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Michael – Sure, right after you and the coal industry pay the extra $1 billion a year extra health care costs burning coal produces. You could also pay the families of those who lost loved ones to premature death from coal burning related illness.

    I am not asking anyone to sacrifice anything. Millions of jobs are created and destroyed in the normal cycle of our economy and the slow advance of technology. You are the one who needs to come up with a compelling reason why those 56k coal mining jobs are so special and so privileged that they should be protected and prioritized above the millions of other jobs that have been and continue to be lost.

    It is inefficient for our society to protect obsolete jobs. It is misguided, however well meaning it may be. It costs more jobs in the long run.

    Coal is no longer competitive to natural gas, and is becoming progressively less competitive to other energy sources.

    Further – society is waking up to the fact that the fossil fuel industry has been subsidized by a massive externalized cost to society. Even if we only consider the well-established health care costs, that is at least a billion dollar a year subsidy. It also negatively affects quality of life and causes premature death, which is hard to put a price on.

    You want to kill 13,000 people a year and stick the taxpayer with a $1 billion price tag every year in order to save 56,000 jobs, while letting a million other jobs go away through the same basic process. You cannot justify this by trying to play the guilt card.

    You have failed to address any of my actual points. You just reiterated your ridiculous narrative.

  25. pingjeon 07 Mar 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Steve, I just have a quick correction. A short ton is 2,000 lbs. The metric ton is 1,000 kg, or about 200 lbs. heavier than a short ton. The figure of 731 million US tons of coal would go down slightly to 665 million metric tons.

    (It doesn’t change your argument, but changes the short ton to tonne paragraph.)

    https://www.nist.gov/pml/weights-and-measures/approximate-conversions-us-customary-measures-metric

  26. DodgerKingon 07 Mar 2017 at 5:51 pm

    As technology advances, the job field changes. We no longer have a need for blacksmiths, for example. Those jobs were replaced by automechanics. Even within the auto-mechanic job fields, the requirements have also changed through the years.

    It makes no sense economically to hold on to jobs that no longer field a market need just because these jobs used to be important.

  27. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Michael,

    ‘One of my high school friends and I got together many years ago for dinner. He had just gotten into law school, and we were discussing politics. He was liberal, I was conservative, …’

    I’d thought you’d previously claimed that you were a liberal when you were young, but that evidence and reasoning caused you to become a conservative? I don’t want to have to reread the many threads on your now defunct blog ‘Egnorance’ to find the references (it’s just too painful for the tedium).

    You’re telling stories to justify your ideology. Point to one environmentalist who has banned DDT for malaria control. Banning DDT in agriculture is another matter (it’s persistent in the environment with a half life of around 11 years, and the target crop pests develop resistance anyway).

  28. michaelegnoron 07 Mar 2017 at 6:05 pm

    [You want to kill 13,000 people a year and stick the taxpayer with a $1 billion price tag every year in order to save 56,000 jobs, while letting a million other jobs go away through the same basic process.]

    So let’s talk numbers.

    The DDT ban has killed at least 30 million people in poor countries, who have died of malaria needlessly.

    http://egnorance.blogspot.com/2012/11/in-effect-then-this-effort-to-eliminate.html

    China’s One Child policy and coerced sterilization and abortion in India have left Asia with a deficit of 100 million (that’s with an “m”) girls and women. Total deaths of aborted and infanticided girls and boys in China and India total into the hundreds of millions, not to mention the countless millions of families devastated and women maimed physically and psychologically by forced abortions.

    http://egnorance.blogspot.com/2013/08/maggots-in-rice.html

    All of this crap greenie science–psychotic anti-pesticide panic and “overpopulation” hysteria–comes with a price tag, and it’s hundreds of millions of lives, not to mention livelihoods.

    The least you could do, Steven, is pay for your greenie ideology with your own treasure, instead of the lives and sustenance of other people.

  29. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 6:14 pm

    What’s wrong with a little wordplay? He can call me “Asinine Idiot” for all I care – It’s fun!

    Although I think blowjob is more apt in his case because if the state had but one dick he’d definitely be swallowing it right now.

    @buttfiend: In the Tucker thread you went so far to deny improvement in climate safety that you actually attempted to argue that one flood in 1931 is equivalent to 145 in 2016. Here you smear me as an AGW denier. Your dishonesty knows no limits.

    This slimy tactic of lumping skeptics of climate catastophism together with deniers of the greenhouse effect is getting real old.

  30. Atlantean Idolon 07 Mar 2017 at 6:31 pm

    I have a suspicion that like most, if not all, AGW deniers you make unwarranted assertions for political reasons, such as your ‘CO2 is not a pollutant’.

    If CO2 is a pollutant then stop exhaling.

  31. Fair Persuasionon 07 Mar 2017 at 6:48 pm

    China’s predicted increase in the use of coal is directly related to the U.S. business contracts which call for increased manufactured goods in China and importation to the U.S.A. Could we export knowledge and expertise to China for cleaner air initiatives? In the U.S, job development and retraining in a part of state, county, and local governments. Do we ask the states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania to care about 56,000 citizens who reside and live poorly within their boundaries?

  32. RickKon 07 Mar 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Michael and Gorilla are right. We have to get away from these notions of creative destruction in pursuit of economic and technical progress. We should ban Amazon and put clerks back to work in brick&mortar stores. It’s too much to ask a stock exchange floor broker to retrain because his job’s been automated away – we need to get rid of electronic exchanges and put those poor folks back to work. And what about the welfare of insurance salespeople and travel agents? How many people were employed making and selling record albums and renting videotapes?

    In fact, construction projects don’t do nearly as much as they should for employment. Let’s stop spending government money on heavy equipment and just hire more people and give them shovels. Or hire even more people and give them spoons.

    Or, maybe, we could view this from some perspective other than that of aging, bigoted, scared white men and deal with the realities of a world different than the one they fantasize they were born in. Maybe we could consider taking billions out of building walls and bombing poor people and put it toward education and training. Maybe we could mandate that half of every high school football team budget be redirected to hiring top notch science and math teachers. And maybe instead of worrying about losing a few thousand coal jobs, we should be focused on gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs in renewable energy development and launch a modern nuclear energy industry to power the next century.

  33. Steven Novellaon 07 Mar 2017 at 7:36 pm

    Michael – seriously?

    Please point to the article I have written, out of the thousands in the last 10 years, in which I approved of either the banning of DDT or coerced sterilization and abortion.

    You think in simplistic terms, such as labeling people “greenies.” I do not conform to whatever cardboard vision you have of a “greenie.” It is a straw man.

    The banning of DDT for malaria control was a mistake, due to anti-pesticide hysteria and bad science.

    Further, these issues have nothing to do with the coal mining issue. You just completely dodged my arguments, by lumping this issue in with unrelated issues and then painting them all with an imagined ideological broad brush – but the ideology is your own.

    Try responding to my actual points. I suspect you can’t, because the fact and logic are not on your side, only name calling and ideology.

  34. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 8:00 pm

    Atlantean Idol,

    I asked you to justify your claim that China’s renewable energy program is just a PR exercise to gain points with the UN. You haven’t done so.

    China has very good reasons for its renewable energy program. Last October, I went to Beijing for the Beijing Music Week. The first week I was there, the air was breathable (industry was closed down for the national holidays, which run over a full week). The last 2 days, with industry in full swing, the level of particulates in the atmosphere (a large proportion of which would come from coal power plants) was abysmal, with visibility of less than a kilometre.

    You’re an AGW denier. You deny that human induced global warming is happening. That’s all ‘denier’ means. Claiming that CO2 isn’t a pollutant is an AGW denialist trope (although, if the CO2 level is high enough it can kill by asphyxiation). The concern about increasing atmospheric CO2 is its physical property of blocking the exit of IR radiation from the Earth causing increasing warming.

    In the previous thread, you admitted that you’re an AGW denier because you stated that you don’t think that humans or CO2 have any role in the current global warming.

    The one flood in 1931 wasn’t one flood. It was a number of floods in China affecting both the Yangste and Yellow Rivers, with different causes including melting of an abnormally thick snow pack and a typhoon going further inland than normal.

    The International Disaster Database might list just one flood in 1931 and 145 in 2016, but it certainly doesn’t mean that there weren’t other floods in 1931 not mentioned. There are very good reasons for the disaster of the 1931 China floods, such as the extremely poor governance in China at the time, which was being regarded as a tempting target by the increasingly militaristic Japanese government.

    I’ve asked, and continue to ask you, to justify your claims, in particular your claim that climate related deaths have decreased 98.8% from 1900-04 to 2012-16 due to improving technology, whereas most of your deaths in 1900-04 was due to a drought induced famine in 1900 during which the rich countries weren’t able or willing to put excess food on ships to send to the afflicted regions (not particularly high tech), whereas nowadays we’re much better at mitigating famines. Not so good at mitigating the effects of floods and hurricanes (think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy – the high technology of the affected cities didn’t help much).

  35. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 8:12 pm

    Steven,

    Was DDT ever banned for malaria control?

    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants came into effect in 2004, banning the use of DDT in agriculture, but allowing its use in malaria control.

    I don’t think that you should ever concede anything to Michael Egnor’s claims, without checking whether there’s any factual basis to them. If Egnor claimed that the sun was going to rise in the east tomorrow, I’d want to actually check it for myself.

  36. michaelegnoron 07 Mar 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Steven:

    [The banning of DDT for malaria control was a mistake, due to anti-pesticide hysteria and bad science.]

    It’s good that you get it, and admit it.

    [Further, these issues have nothing to do with the coal mining issue. You just completely dodged my arguments, by lumping this issue in with unrelated issues and then painting them all with an imagined ideological broad brush…]

    It has everything to do with the coal mining issue. Both the DDT ban and AGW hysteria are ideologies pushed by the same greenie crowd. The same folks who pushed (and push) ‘population control’, the same people who swoon at GMO’s. It’s the same enviro-loon organizations, same ideologues, just slightly different agendas tailored to the times. The rubric is this: “We scientists have discovered a crisis that nobody has seen that endangers the earth, and we need unprecedented money and power to radically transform humanity, no questions asked. Only Deniers would doubt us.”

    Same sh*t. Next it will be ‘acidification of the oceans’ or some other greenie panic.

    And I’m perplexed by your casual attitude to the DDT ban. Banning DDT was one of the seminal crimes against humanity in history–tens of millions of people have needlessly died.

    Have you, a Skeptic, ever posted on it?

  37. Lightnotheaton 07 Mar 2017 at 10:08 pm

    Sheesh, Michael Egnor sure is giving a good demonstration of heat not light. Galloping Gish, ridiculously caricatured strawmen, cherry picking, insults and ridicule, extreme motivated reasoning, etc.

  38. michaelegnoron 07 Mar 2017 at 10:13 pm

    RickK:

    [We should ban Amazon and put clerks back to work in brick&mortar stores…]

    I don’t advocate protecting old industries from genuine market advances. Civilization changes, as do jobs.

    What I object to is eliminating jobs on the basis of bulls*t science and batsh*t ideology, the modern iteration of which is global warming hysteria. Coal is still very much needed and affordable and a good energy source. The enviro-loons want to get rid of it for ideological and junk-science reasons, not for genuine economic or genuine scientific reasons.

    [Or, maybe, we could view this from some perspective other than that of aging, bigoted, scared white men and deal with the realities of a world different than the one they fantasize they were born in.]

    Old white men built modern civilization.They are the most productive creative people in human history.

    [Maybe we could consider taking billions out of building walls and bombing poor people and put it toward education and training.]

    [I like walls around my country, just like I like doors in my house. Security, privacy, etc.

    Maybe we could mandate that half of every high school football team budget be redirected to hiring top notch science and math teachers.]

    We sure could use better scientists, given the assh*les we have now in science.

    [And maybe instead of worrying about losing a few thousand coal jobs, we should be focused on gaining hundreds of thousands of jobs in renewable energy development and launch a modern nuclear energy industry]

    Renewable energy is mostly economically non-viable and can only be sustained with massive subsidies. It is ideologically driven, not practical or affordable.

    Nuclear energy is very smart and very important, and we should be getting most of our energy from nuclear. It was you greenie a**holes who hysterically quashed nuclear power in the US. Thanks a lot.

  39. bachfiendon 07 Mar 2017 at 10:53 pm

    Michael,

    DDT was never banned for malaria control. Didn’t you read my comment?

    You persist in oversimplifying a complex history in order to justify your ideological preferences.

    I have just 8 solar panels and for me they’re both practical and affordable. They supply all the energy I need (along with solar hot water) for most of the year with only 2 months – June and August – usage being marginally higher than production. And I don’t get the subsidisation for producing excess energy I’m putting into the grid for the 10 months of the year.

  40. RickKon 07 Mar 2017 at 11:21 pm

    Michael,

    Here’s what’s crazy – thinking we can pump 500 million years of sequestered carbon into the atmosphere in a couple centuries and nothing will happen.

    Here’s what’s crazy – claiming renewables don’t work when solar technology is making amazing advances and is powering more of the world every day.

    Here’s what’s crazy – thinking it is environmental concerns and not just plain old economics and automation that is killing coal mining jobs. Our peak coal production was in 2012, with 7% of the coal miners that we had in the 1920s. You can try to blame the environmentalists if it gets your rocks off, but you’d be lying to yourself.

    Here’s what’s crazy – thinking the Earth has an infinite carrying capacity for humans.

    Here’s what’s crazy – watching the Arctic melt and the Northwest Passage open up and claiming nothing’s happening because your ideology doesn’t allow it.

    Here’s what’s crazy – repeating (and exaggerating) the DDT propaganda created by the same people that brought you “smoking is good for you”, simply because it suits your tribal ideology.

    Here’s what’s crazy – thinking Trump’s wall is anything more than a symbolic boondoggle – a very expensive one.

    Funny how my pro-nuclear stance doesn’t fit my “Enviro-loon” tribe. Too bad you can’t step out of your tribal bubble long enough to get a glimpse of reality.

    I’m seeing that lying to yourself is really a specialty of yours. Is it from training or just natural talent?

  41. chikoppion 07 Mar 2017 at 11:31 pm

    A 2011 study by the consulting firm Management Information Services, Inc. (MISI) estimated the total historical federal subsidies for various energy sources over the years 1950–2010.

    70% = Oil $369B, Natural Gas $121B, Coal $104B
    12% = Hydro power $90B
    09% = Nuclear power $73B
    09% = Non-hydro renewable energy (primarily wind and solar) $74B

    A 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute assessed the size and structure of U.S. energy subsidies in 2002–08. The study estimated that subsidies to fossil fuel-based sources totaled about $72 billion over this period and subsidies to renewable fuel sources totaled $29 billion. The study did not assess subsidies supporting nuclear energy.

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

    Damn those market-distorting greenies!

  42. Lightnotheaton 07 Mar 2017 at 11:54 pm

    chikoppi-
    But of course we can totally diregard studies by any group called the Environmental Law Institute because they’re greenie ideologues using junk science! Everyone who disagrees with me, it’s because of ideology and bias snd biased info sources, while my view is based on logic and evidence alone and my info sources are either bias-free, or, I can perfectly filter out the real truth, unlike you elitist tree huggers!

  43. BillyJoe7on 08 Mar 2017 at 5:26 am

    bachfiend,

    “The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants came into effect in 2004, banning the use of DDT in agriculture, but allowing its use in malaria control”

    Yes, and the use of DDT for malaria control was limited by a combination of social resistance and insect resistance:

    “…the effectiveness of DDT can be compromised by insecticide resistance and social resistance to DDT indoor spray. Because of the irritating, excito-repellent nature of the DDT residue, some mosquitoes tend to leave before they have absorbed a lethal dose, or tend to avoid entering the house or resting on the wall at all. By the end of Global Malaria Eradication Campaign, some mosquito species had developed resistance to DDT, especially in India and Sri Lanka. In 1968, high amounts of resistance to DDT in Anopheles gambiae was reported in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso); shortly thereafter, DDT had no effect on mosquito mortality, biting frequency, or resting in houses in trials undertaken in Togo and Senegal. In the 1980s when DDT was judged to control the resurgence of malaria in Zanzibar after the DDT spraying programme finished in 1968, resistance was found in A gambiae ss and A arabiensis. In 2002, 2 years after DDT residual spraying was reintroduced in KwaZulu-Natal to control the increase of malaria cases, resistance was recorded in A arabiensis, although A funestus was still susceptible to DDT. Social resistance to DDT indoor sprays occurs because bedbugs are resistant to DDT, and DDT leaves stains on walls, which residents then replaster. In practice, the efficacy of DDT spraying for vector control depends on the coverage of spraying, mosquito species, and resistance to DDT. Climate—especially rainfall, temperature, and latitude—could affect the stability of transmission, and thus also affect DDT efficacy. WHO points out that DDT spraying is “most effective in reducing the overall malaria burden in unstable transmission areas, areas with marked seasonal transmission peaks and disease outbreaks, and highland areas”.

    The Lancet by Walter Rogin and Aimin Chen

    Michael Egnor prefers to get his facts from fiction novels like Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear”
    That is the measure of the man.

  44. BillyJoe7on 08 Mar 2017 at 5:40 am

    The members of the wolf pack are not happy with just their own opinions, they want their own facts as well.

  45. RickKon 08 Mar 2017 at 7:40 am

    Egnor: “Damn, those Greenies will ruin us all.” (paraphrased)

    Facts: Global coal consumption fell by 1.8% in 2015 while global solar energy production rose by 28%

    The source of those statistics is a far-Left, radical environmental group called British Petroleum.

    Maybe those Harvard guys were right – for a fraction of what we spend cleaning up after the coal industry in a single year, we could retrain every single coal miner to be productive in an incredible global growth industry.

    But, as Egnor said in the Immigration thread, if the facts disagree with his narrative, then the facts are wrong. Has there ever been a clearer definition of a closed mind?

  46. tder2012on 08 Mar 2017 at 8:32 am

    This tweet shows the detailed stats of UK coal reduction, basically gas up significantly and nuclear up slightly from 2015 to 2016 (coal large decrease, wind slight decrease) https://twitter.com/DavidLawrenceUS/status/839286097532243968. Also, an important read here “DEEP DECARBONIZATION OF THE ELECTRIC POWER SECTOR
    INSIGHTS FROM RECENT LITERATURE” https://twitter.com/JesseJenkins/status/839215394552496129

  47. Atlantean Idolon 08 Mar 2017 at 9:28 am

    In the previous thread, you admitted that you’re an AGW denier because you stated that you don’t think that humans or CO2 have any role in the current global warming.

    Quote?

  48. Steven Novellaon 08 Mar 2017 at 9:35 am

    Michael – see how your narrative distorts everything you see. I “admit” that phasing out DDT was a mistake? I never had a different opinion. The story has been discussed on blogs I write for. I never took it on personally because others covered it well and it is not exactly a hot topic. We discussed it recently on SBM because of the recent Zika outbreak.

    You have your anti-“greenie” narrative and you see everything through that filter. I don’t fit into that narrative, because I am not a “greenie” nor do I fit the boogeyman image you have, nor the far right libertarian narrative you apparently follow. So you desperately try to shoe-horn me in, and distort everything to make it fit.

    In reality, you should look at each issue on its own rights. If you are going to characterize the overall approach that an individual is taking, you have to justify it by that individual’s actions, not by assigning them to a group (whether or not that group actually exists and you are characterizing it fairly). Otherwise you are just an ignorant bigot.

    So, DDT does indeed have a complex history. Its use decreased due to a combination of insect resistance, but also significant public resistance that was stoked by unreasonable fears that went beyond the evidence. I don’t have to “admit” this – this is my understanding of the historical facts.

    You may also note that I vigorously attack anti-GMO pseudoscience. I don’t have to “admit” that GMOs are safe and effective. That is the science-based position.

    I also support nuclear energy, because that is what the evidence supports. That also does not fit into your greenie boogeyman narrative, does it.

    I gave lots of data and arguments with regard to coal. You have not countered a single one of them. You simply resorted to assuming that my opinions fit into your “greenie boogeyman” narrative, and attacked that narrative, not the facts or my actual position or arguments.

    You have yet, for example, to address the fact that coal burning costs $1 billion annually in the US alone of extra health care costs. This is entirely independent of global warming, but you keep just railing against global warming.

    Do you see how you keep dodging facts and arguments? You just keep repeating your narrative.

    Coal is massively subsidized, in part due to the externalized health care costs. All I am saying is, if you remove the overt and externalized subsidies, it is actually old dirty tech that is not cost effective for society. Saving the remaining coal mining jobs is not worth the expense to the rest of society, and there is no reason to privilege those 56k jobs over the millions that are lost through technology changes. This is not a greenie conspiracy, and it is independent of global warming (which does add the icing on the cake, if you accept the scientific consensus).

    We should focus our resources on transitioning coal miners to more modern jobs. Not protecting an obsolete and harmful industry.

  49. tmac57on 08 Mar 2017 at 10:18 am

    If Egnor were really concerned about jobs in the US, he would be supporting renewable energy since that’s where the real growth is going on:

    “WHEELING — West Virginia lost 7,296 coal mining jobs from 2012 to 2015, the same period during which the number working in the solar power industry across the U.S. nearly doubled.

    As West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania continue losing coal jobs, the number of solar power workers jumped by about 51,000 in 2016 to reach 260,077 — a number that dwarfs the 65,971 total U.S. direct coal mining jobs throughout the nation in 2015, which is the last year for which the U.S. Energy Information Administration has complete information.”

    http://www.theintelligencer.net/news/top-headlines/2017/03/solar-jobs-up-coal-jobs-down-in-ohio-west-virginia/

  50. chikoppion 08 Mar 2017 at 10:23 am

    Rick Perry’s Texas energy legacy:
    https://www.texastribune.org/2016/12/13/recap-rick-perrys-texas-energy-legacy/

    Including the following…

    The state’s wind power sector hardly existed when Perry took his oath of office, but Texas became the nation’s leader in wind energy generation during his tenure — and he helped steer that boom.

    In 2000, wind farms generated just 116 megawatts of capacity on the state’s main electric grid. That number soared to more than 11,000 megawatts under Perry, with wind fuels about 10 percent of all generation. (On average, one megawatt-hour can power 260 typical Texas homes for an hour.)

    Marston, of the Environmental Defense Fund, said much of the renewable expansion wasn’t Perry’s idea but that he also supported it. That was likely because of job growth, not global warming, noted Smitherman, the former Texas energy regulator.

  51. BillyJoe7on 08 Mar 2017 at 1:24 pm

    Hmmm…seems the wolf pack has been muzzled by the facts after all.
    The leader of the pack has been slaughtered, and the little guys have sauntered off tail between legs.

  52. Kabboron 08 Mar 2017 at 2:09 pm

    I finally understand the true purpose of this blog. Steven Novella is using it to farm experience points. Like the crafty gamer he is, he creates well reasoned and logical posts that consistently summon hostile trolls. He then soundly defeats them and earns experience points.

    It seems his skeptical skill tree has been filled out long ago.. so what hidden powers is he farming experience for? Time will tell, but know you have been warned!

  53. erickatarnon 08 Mar 2017 at 2:21 pm

    From the texas tribune quote above by #chikoppi
    ” wind farms generated just 116 megawatts of capacity on the state’s main electric grid. That number soared to more than 11,000 megawatts under Perry, with wind fuels about 10 percent of all generation. (On average, one megawatt-HOUR can power 260 typical Texas homes for an HOUR.)”

    That’s some weird use of units. Why use megawatts and then, in a parenthetical, for some reason point out that one megawatt HOUR can power 260 homes for ONE HOUR? Just say one megawatt can power 260 Texas homes.

  54. trumpproctoron 08 Mar 2017 at 3:06 pm

    “No one is entitled to the preservation of 19th century technology (and costing society $100 billion per year) to preserve their job.”

    Steve.. I would expand on this to include that also no one is entitled to the preservation of a job that just happens to be within 30 minutes of the middle of no where town that one happens to have grown up in.

    I just recently read a lengthy emotional expose about a machinist deep in one of the red states in some small town that is about to loose his job because the company is about to move the jobs down to Mexico. The story overall sort of prodding Trump for not doing ENOUGH to keep jobs, but sticking with Trump’s ideology that we need to save and “bring back” these types of jobs. This was an article that was trying to tug on the reader emotionally to empathize with this machinist who is about to lose his job and how will he support his wife and kids, and at least support Trump’s ideology of “bringing back/keeping certain types of jobs”.

    The entire time I was reading this expose, I was shaking my head because I don’t even live in a booming area of the country. I live in a swing state that happened to vote red this time, but within 30 minutes of where I live, there are probably at least 100 companies that would hire a skilled machinist tomorrow. Some of the larger companies around here probably hire 20 at a time. And it’s not just that particular job, I don’t know a single company where I live, in any field, that isn’t constantly in a state of hiring. Any company, large or small, that isn’t hiring, if you checked back in a month, they would be.. even if just due to loosing employees that left to take other jobs.

    I simply couldn’t empathize with this machinist, because he’s somehow expecting that because he happened to work at the one large company in the tiny town that he grew up in that is moving jobs elsewhere, that he’s for some reason entitled to another company moving in that would employ him in the same field for $30 an hour. Or somehow the government should pay/force/coerce that company to stay there. That for some reason he shouldn’t have to move elsewhere, even though by doing so, he could have a job tomorrow.

    On a grander scale, I think the deeper issue is that too many people (Trump in particular) believe that there are simple answers to society’s woes, and the only reason these simple answers haven’t been tried, is because the elites (academic, political, etc.) have lost touch with the common sense of average everyday folk.

    This type of thinking leads us to slap band aids on problems to try to temporarily patch them, rather than deal with the more realistic, but much harder, much more complex, and much longer to implement solutions.

    Take this whole idea of “bringing back jobs”. Trump and his supporters seem to think that simple solutions using tariffs, offering tax breaks, getting rid of all regulations, etc. is the answer. Ignoring the consequences of higher prices for consumers, retaliatory tariffs, making up for lost tax revenue elsewhere, bringing back the problems any regulation was put in place to solve, angering trading partners, etc. When the bigger issue is that all these manufacturing type jobs that Trump wants to save, worldwide, will eventually be replaced through automation. China realizes this and is doubling down on automation. So not only will the US eventually loose most manufacturing jobs to automation, we will be buying the robots from China instead being a world leader in designing and manufacturing automation technology.

    So what is the solution to this? The real problem isn’t loosing jobs, we have ALWAYS been loosing jobs. At the start of the 1900’s about 40% of the labor force worked in agriculture. Now it’s about 2%. And those 2% produce more than that 40% could ever have dreamed of. Should we have fought to keep all those agriculture jobs? I think not. Innovation has always been our greatest resource. We need to offer incentives for innovation. When we innovate, we discover and create new things. When we do that, entire new industries and new high paying jobs are created. When we keep innovating, no one else can do what we do, so there is no where for those jobs to go. Then the “problem” is, can a workforce keep up with the new skills required for new innovation. When innovation happens over a lifetime, yes. When it happens over a decade, it’s harder for some workers to keep up. I don’t know what the answer for that is, but I know the answer is complex, it’s multi-pronged, is much harder and will take a long time to implement and monitor outcomes and adjust. And I know the answer isn’t a simple band aide that will eventually fall off on it’s own due to failure because it’s not a long term solution.

    Another example is religious extremist terrorism. Trump stated that he had a “super double secret probation plan” to defeat ISIS within 30 days. I’m still waiting on him to unveil this plan, because technically it’s past 30 days and we should be living in an ISIS free world already. The most extreme of his supporters (like those from Brietbart news) seem to think that the simple solution is to simply nuke the middle east and wipe all people there off the face of the planet.

    But again, this simple thinking, even if ISIS is defeated, would only leave a gaping hole of hatred that would be filled with the rise of something else even worse. I don’t now what the answer is either, but I do know that the real problem isn’t ISIS.. it’s the radical extremism mindset of any kind. Rational people don’t want to kill anyone. To get to the heart of the solution, you have to get to the heart of why would any groups of people would desire to kill others at all. That’s the real problem that needs to be solved. Whatever the solution is, it’s difficult, complex, hard, and will take generations to solve.

    With a demagogue in charge with a trove of supporters that thinks he has the solutions to all these societal woes, with simple fixes, we can’t even get to a point where we can agree upon simple demonstrable facts, let alone have the difficult discussions and debates upon what actual solutions to these problems might be.

    As long as Trump is in office, him and his policies set us that much farther back from even beginning the discussions to even attempt to find real solutions to these (and many other) issues.

  55. bachfiendon 08 Mar 2017 at 3:26 pm

    Atlanten Idol,

    “‘In the previous thread, you admitted that you’re an AGW denier because you don’t think that humans or CO2 have any role in the current global warming’. Quote?”

    ‘At this point there is really nothing that convinces me that current global warming, to whatever extent it’s man-made, isn’t something humans can adapt to’.

    In reference to the review of the Energy Law Journals’s review of ‘the Moral Case for Fossil Fuels’:

    ‘It ignored the problem of error propagation throughout climate models, the dubiousness of speculative feedback loop factors and perhaps most importantly the sublinear relationship between CO2 and temperature’.

    The relationship is actually logarithmic. Going from 0 to 270 ppmv gets 33 Kelvin warming. Doubling it again gets another 1.9 to 2.9 Kelvin warming. The feedback loops aren’t dubious or speculative, and are actually occurring now, including release of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost and reducing Arctic summer albedo due to declining Arctic sea ice volume and mass.

    Now justify your claim that China’s renewable energy program is just a PR exercise to score points with the UN.

  56. Atlantean Idolon 08 Mar 2017 at 4:35 pm

    So being open to the idea that current warming is less than 100% human-induced is denial?

  57. tmac57on 08 Mar 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Atlantean Idol- So we know for sure that an increase in greenhouse gasses will cause warming. We know for a fact that greenhouse gasses are increasing.
    Now what other factor do you know for sure that can increase warming, is currently doing so?

  58. Atlantean Idolon 08 Mar 2017 at 5:23 pm

    Earth has been warming since the Renaissance. Are you saying that 0% of the post industrial revolution warming is a continuation of an existing natural trend?

  59. bachfiendon 08 Mar 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Atlantean Idol,

    AGW denial denial takes several forms. There’s those who deny global warming is happening. There’s those who agree global warming is happening, but that humans and CO2 have little or no effect on global temperatures. There’s those who agree global warming is happening, it’s largely due to human activities, but it’s going to be wonderful.

    I put you somewhere between the second and third groups of AGW denial, with your expectation that in 50 years you’ll be able to enjoy a well-stocked fridge in an air conditioned apartment.

    Now, justify your claim that China’s renewable energy program is just a PR exercise to score points with the UN.

  60. Steven Novellaon 08 Mar 2017 at 5:40 pm

    AI – that’s quite a straw man there. Scientists don’t typically throw around “0%” and “100%”. Evidence generally doesn’t work that way.

    But, what we can say is that there has been recent rapid warming. No natural forcing that scientists have investigated can explain the warming (not solar, volcanic, or known climate cycles). There is some extra forcing not accounted for by any known natural phenomenon.

    Further, the records show that previous changes in average temperatures changed slowly, over centuries and thousands of years. Now we see rapid increase over decades.

    The only effect that fits the rapid persistantly upward forcing measures in the last 50 years is manmade increases in greenhouse gases. Whatever the underlying natural trends, they are dwarfed by this manmade forcing.

    If you are using the fact that there are natural climate trends or other things affecting climate in order to case doubt on the scientific conclusion that there is recent rapid upward manmade forcing, then that is climate change denial.

  61. bachfiendon 08 Mar 2017 at 5:47 pm

    AtlanteanIdol,

    ‘An existing natural trend’ is not a cause of anything (with the exception of Newton’s laws of motion). Global warming and cooling have causes, whether they’re changes in greenhouse gases, changes in Earth’s albedo or changes in solar activity.

    The Little Ice Age has many possible causes, including a drop in atmospheric CO2 levels resulting from depopulation produced by the Black Death and other pandemics, more than an average number of large volcanic eruptions increasing albedo and producing cooling, and reduced solar activity due to the Maunder Minimum.

    Can the current global warming be explained by any of the causes of the Little Ice Age disappearing?

    No.

  62. Atlantean Idolon 08 Mar 2017 at 8:01 pm

    @Steve By rapid you refer to the 1.5 F degree increase over the past 50 years? I agree that is rapid on a geologic scale. I’m not going to pull a Tucker Carlson here and demand an exact percentage, but is there any consensus among climate scientists on the approximate range of human contribution? 30-50%? 70-90%?

    @BF

    There’s those who agree global warming is happening, it’s largely due to human activities

    This is AGW acceptance, not denial. One’s opinion on climate livability, which is what is ultimately relevant to me, is a separate issue. I live in currently frigid New England, which experiences annual temperature ranges of over 100 degrees. What’s a few degrees mean increase in comparison? In general, life loves warmth. Biodiversity increases toward the equator (the temperature of which remains relatively stable over time compared to the poles). The elderly in the US tend to move south when they retire. Growing seasons are longer in warmer climates. Ceteris paribus, increasing atmospheric CO2 promotes plant growth. My beef with the IPCC is not so much with their models (though I think those of the NIPCC are more plausible), but their deliberate omission of any discussion of the benefits of global warming. It casts doubt on their objectivity, especially in the context of the UN’s bias toward interventionism.

    My position is that we need to take a full-context, fully pro-human approach to energy issues. We can quibble all day over the quality of historical climate disaster data, but it is perverse to claim that technology is anything but our best protection against climate danger. Technology requires cheap, plentiful, reliable energy, which is currently supplied overwhelmingly by hydrocarbons and nuclear. Renewables are presently not up to the task and are unlikely to ever scale within our lifetimes. I’m not for or against any particular source, what matters to me is using the best energy portfolio at the best price on the free market in perpetuity. Whatever your opinion on the Earth’s climate is, I think we can all agree that the present political climate in the supposedly civilized world is overheated. Please don’t exacerbate it by denouncing someone who expresses the opinion that a properly regulated coal industry might still be cost competitive in the context of non-catastrophic global warming as an AGW denier. Men of science are better than that.

  63. tmac57on 08 Mar 2017 at 8:21 pm

    AI- “Are you saying that 0% of the post industrial revolution warming is a continuation of an existing natural trend?”
    I’m asking you what constitutes this “natural trend” that you (and other climate change skeptics) keep referring to? What is the physical mechanism?
    Just saying “natural trend” amounts to handwaving.

  64. chikoppion 08 Mar 2017 at 8:32 pm

    I would argue that taking climate change seriously is the full-context, fully pro-human approach.

    The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the United States should advance a comprehensive policy for addressing the risk. The recommendations, released earlier this year, were developed by the Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands.

    The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/military-leaders-urge-trump-to-see-climate-as-a-security-threat/

    An agressive effort to transition away from fossil fuels can be managed with marginal economic impact. That cost may be far less disruptive, and far more sustainable, than failure to mitigate the worse-case scenarios.

    You may live in New England, but billions of people, together with their crops, livestock, and wildlife, live in regions wherein the climate is far less forgiving. The cost of perpetually offsetting increasing climate stressors will eventually far overshadow a marginal near-term cost differential in energy prices.

  65. Willyon 08 Mar 2017 at 8:46 pm

    I wonder if Dr. Egnor agrees with Obama that ATMs were bad and cost bank tellers jobs. OTOH, it’s nice to see a “conservative” decry technological improvements.

    Just think of all the jobs that spinning looms, autos, and electricity displaced. Oh, for the good old days of whale oil and buggy whips.

    You can give a neurosurgeon books but you can’t make him comprehend.

    Dr. Egnor–are you a follower of Trump’s Twitter rants?

  66. tmac57on 08 Mar 2017 at 9:20 pm

    chikoppi- Well what else would you expect those ‘libitard’ military types to say?
    After all, they are known to be a bunch of stupid lefty, socialists, hippies…right?

  67. trumpproctoron 08 Mar 2017 at 11:23 pm

    Atlantean Idol –

    “What’s a few degrees mean increase in comparison? In general, life loves warmth. Biodiversity increases toward the equator (the temperature of which remains relatively stable over time compared to the poles).”

    I believe you are mistaking weather for the climate. The temperature increases we are discussing are for GLOBAL averages. A couple degrees F increase in global temperature is a HUGE amount of energy. This means that LOCAL weather is going to be increasingly wacky. It does NOT mean that on average your local weather might just be a couple degrees above historical norm. For example, where I live, the entire month of January 2017 was 15 F above historical 1960-2000 norms. There were many days that were way above that. While there can always be a wacky day here or there in the past, these “wacky days” were practically the entire month of January. And this extended into Canada all the way to the north pole. Previous record highs were being shattered by as much as 30-40 degrees!

    The debate is no longer is global climate change happening due to human influence, the debate is what model best predicts where we are headed and what we should be doing about it. I personally believe we are beyond just cutting CO2 emissions and should be investing into technologies to capture CO2 out of the atmosphere and sequester it.

    Why? Because while the debate may still be ongoing of how bad things might get, we already know what the climate was like when the average global temperature was -12F below 20th century averages. By your logic, -12F below normal would just mean it gets a tad colder in the winter and the summers are a little cooler. Nothing could be farther from the truth, at average global temperatures at -12F below 20th century norms, the a big part of the Northern United States (including your New England home) and all of Canada was buried under a MILE of ice!

    This isn’t speculation.. or from models or anything else. This is what we know to be true. So how bad might things get if we hit +12F above normal? Could all of the United States become a desert with summer temperatures in excess of 150F? If -12F below normal buried many of us under a mile of ice, there no telling how bad things might get if we hit +12F above normal. Guess what, as you stated we are already at about 1.5F above global normal, and some models show that we may hit +12F above normal as soon as 2100.

    Whatever may happen, I don’t think we should wait to hit +12F above normal to do something about it.. the time to do something about this started 60 years ago.

    XKCD did a great job illustrating what the climate has been like over the past 22,000 years with just a 12 deg F global climate change fluctuation (notice the drastic shift in global temperature from 1900 to 2016): https://xkcd.com/1732/

  68. Lightnotheaton 09 Mar 2017 at 12:00 am

    trumpproctor-
    You make some great points about the difference between climate and weather. But I think there is a lot more room for reasonable debate regarding the severity of the climate change problem than there is regarding whether it exists and is mostly caused by human activity. Regarding severity, one point I haven’t seen addressed much on this site is the fact that even the most severe, rapid climate changes that have been modelled will occur over a period of decades, not weeks or months. Would such a change over such a period of time be any more disruptive than, say, the industrial revolution? That also drastically changed living conditions for millions within decades, and many people such as the urban proletariat suffered greatly, but the point is, we adapted, we had time to do so, and most would agree that in the end the advantages of industrialization outweighed the disadvantages. While we are right to be concerned about the disruptions climate change may bring, shouldn’t human adaptibility and possible benefits of this change be considered? I brong this up not because I necessarily think concern about climate change is overblown, but because I haven’t seen these points about adaptibility and possible upsides talked about much here. Enlighten me.

  69. trumpproctoron 09 Mar 2017 at 12:31 am

    Lightnotheat –

    The point I was trying to illustrate is that while “how bad can it get” is debatable, if you look at what we DO know the climate was like when it was -12F below 20th century norms, the northern United States and all of Canada was permanently (for that geological period) buried under a MILE of ice.

    Um, i’m not sure about you, but I don’t see any benefits to being buried under a mile of ice. Yes, humans existed at this point in the earths history, but there were far fewer humans, and of course the entire northern United States and all of Canada was pretty much unlivable. We know what this looks like.. Antartica, and last I checked, not a sole permanently lives in Antarctica.

    So what could happen if we hit +12F above normal? That’s up for scientific debate, but going by what we KNOW happened when we were -12F, it’s reasonable to speculate that it could be just as bad, but in the opposite direction. Entire United States becomes a barren desert w/ temperatures between 150-200F? It would be unlivable, not to mention you could not grow crops, nor could you afford to a/c a building down to a livable temperature. All the ice on the planet melts? That what raise global ocean levels by 200 feet! Say goodbye to all coastal areas world wide. All of Florida would be underwater. Could we see tornadoes and hurricanes so strong that we have to increase the scales they are measured by?

    Again, those outcomes are up for debate, but they are not unreasonable conclusions… and things might even become worse than our worse predictions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any upside to those changes. And something that usually isn’t discussed as much with global climate change, but should be, is the refugee crisis it could create. If people now think that refugees are an issue, what happens if large swafts of the planet where people currently live become uninhabitable? Think of BILLIONS of people needing to be relocated. That’s why even the defense department has labeled global climate change as as on of the major threat multipliers.

  70. Lightnotheaton 09 Mar 2017 at 1:47 am

    Mostly playing devil’s advocate here, but couldn’t you argue that places like Siberia and Antarctica would be more habitable and pleasant to live in than now, and since we would have decades to adapt there would just be a gradual migration to places that are too cold now. Meanwhile, technological advances could make new desert areas advantageous to us. Solar farms providing all the energy we need, etc. The main point I would like to see addressed is the one about having decades to adapt. Florida’s not going to be underwater next week! One of my own answers to the argument that we could adapt to gradual change is that, yes we can adapt, but the adaptations take decades to fully implement too, so we need to get started now, both with slowing the change and adapting to it.

  71. trumpproctoron 09 Mar 2017 at 2:49 am

    Lightnotheat –

    You’re very optimistic. As I’ve said, we don’t know how bad it may get, and we can’t say that we know the timeline (80 years? or 500?), not to mention how much we may be able to slow down the warming by switching to renewable electricity (which certainly isn’t going to be helped by Trump).

    But think about this, if the worst comes to pass, we may be talking about having to rebuild hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of world wide infrastructure from where it currently is to where it would need to be. Several orders of magnitude more than what it’s would cost to try to mitigate AGW by sudden drastic elimination of fossil fuels and developing carbon capture and sequester technology. Then not to mention moving billions of people from where they currently live to new places. Yes, if that happened over 1000’s of years, might be a manageable issue… but a couple hundred years? That’s an issue. Again.. think of how Europe and the US are freaking out over a couple million refugees now.. imagine putting billions of people of different countries/cultures suddenly thrown together onto Antarctica or Siberia, etc. Not to mention other problems like suddenly does anyone have any wealth at all anymore? Someone’s $250K home suddenly isn’t going to be worth squat if it’s now in a desert or underwater.

    Again, it’s debatable about what’s going to happen and when, but we do know for certain how extremely different the earth is at a -12F global temperature difference, and I believe we need to do everything we can to try to prevent even the possibility of hitting +12F (or more)!

  72. bachfiendon 09 Mar 2017 at 2:54 am

    Lightnotheat,

    Siberia, the Antarctic (during the Mesozoic, despite the Antarctic not being far from the geographical pole managed to be habitable by non-avian dinosaurs who survived the darkness of winter) and northern Canada might replace the agricultural land near the equator, but don’t forget; the Mercator projection distorts land area as you go closer to the poles. There’s not as much land towards the poles as there is nearer the equator, considerably so.

    There’s also the problem that to use currently non-arable land, that might become arable with global warming, would take a lot of construction of new infrastructure such as roads, harbours, power plants, towns, etc, which isn’t a trivial task. And the soil in the new areas mightn’t be particularly fertile, requiring a lot of work.

    Decades mightn’t be enough time.

    BTW – when the Antarctic was ice free, during the Mesozoic, sea levels (and global temperatures) were much higher than today. And much of North America was under water.

  73. diessolion 09 Mar 2017 at 4:27 am

    @AI: “but their deliberate omission of any discussion of the benefits of global warming.”

    Try AR5 WGII Part A which discusses possible consequences and includes potential benefits.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg2/WGIIAR5-PartA_FINAL.pdf

    D.

  74. Bill Openthalton 09 Mar 2017 at 11:08 am

    bachfiend —

    BTW – when the Antarctic was ice free, during the Mesozoic, sea levels (and global temperatures) were much higher than today. And much of North America was under water.

    Actually, this is not very relevant, because at the beginning of the Mesozoic there was Pangea, which during the era broke up due to plate tectonics. The fact that the area on the planet currently taken up by the North American landmass was water at that time had nothing to do with the level of the oceans, and everything with bits of crust being shoved around.

  75. bachfiendon 09 Mar 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Bill,

    I was actually referring to the Western Interior Seaway during the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Paleogene (of the Cenozoic), which split North America into three. At the end of the Mesozoic, not at the beginning.

  76. Bill Openthalton 10 Mar 2017 at 6:55 am

    bachfiend —

    At any time during the Mesozoic the situation and the configuration of the landmasses was sufficiently different from today’s situation to make any comparison between sea-levels at a specific location utterly irrelevant and misleading. The statement

    when the Antarctic was ice free, during the Mesozoic, sea levels (and global temperatures) were much higher than today. And much of North America was under water.

    suggests that today “much of North America” could be again under water if and when the Antarctic will be ice-free again, and this flat-out wrong.

    The Mesozoic goes from about 260 to 65 million years ago. The Laramide orogeny that raised the Rocky Mountains happened between 80 and 55 million years ago, so during most of the Mesozoic, North America as we know it just didn’t exist. A lot of the tectonic activity that shaped North America took place towards the end of, and after the Mesozoic.

    What the Mesozoic does teach us is that life (granted, it was dominated by reptiles and conifers) is possible when the average temperatures are substantially higher than what they are now.

  77. bachfiendon 10 Mar 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Bill,

    I’m not certain how much of the Western Interior Seaway was due to tectonic plate subduction 100 mya and how much was due to the higher sea levels.

    But regardless. Lightnotheat was arguing that the Antarctic could be a pleasant place to live in and a possible replacement for arable land we could be losing. I have my doubts.

    And no one doubts that Life on Earth will survive a return to a climate similar to the Mesozoic. It managed to survive the mass extinction at the end of the Permian.

    Whether a single species (such as Homo sapiens) will survive a sufficiently large episode of rapid global warming is another matter. Or whether a very large number of that species might die off or be forced to migrate if the climate in large areas changes too much not allowing survival.

  78. Bill Openthalton 10 Mar 2017 at 6:53 pm

    bachfiend —

    It’s one of those things we do not have enough data about, but it’s reasonable to guess that the raising of the Rockies implied raising the foothills, as well as the larger hinterland.

    It is anybody’s guess how long it would take for naked rock (which is likely what Antartica would be if ice-free) to be covered with sufficient vegetation to be called “a pleasant place to live”, and when it could be used to grow crops.

    A higher average temperature isn’t a cataclysmic event, and some areas might indeed become more habitable — we just don’t know. I think humanity will survive, but many humans might experience significantly shorter lives than we’ve gotten used to recently. But it’s an illusion to think that without global warming the current situation could perdure forever. Civilisations come and go, and periods of stability alternate with instability and upheavals. Let’s be grateful we live in stable times, and enjoy it whilst it lasts. Nothing is forever on this planet, just ask the dinosaurs.

  79. bachfiendon 10 Mar 2017 at 7:44 pm

    Bill,

    A higher average temperature WILL be a cataclysmic event at some places for some time.

    A higher average global temperature will increase the probability of heatwaves, such as France in 2003 and Russia in 2010, which also led to crop failures and a rise in world prices of wheat causing strife in food importing countries such as Egypt.

    An average hides times when it’s hotter or colder in some places for varying periods of time.

    As an example (in the opposite direction) the 1815 eruption of Tambora (the largest volcanic eruption in recorded human history) resulted in the 1816 Year without a Summer, in which it snowed in New England in June, crops failed in North America east of the Appalachians, Western Europe and China and possibly caused the cholera outbreak in India leading to the first pandemic.

    And average global temperatures were 1 Kelvin less.

    Agreed. Nothing lasts forever. But that’s no reason for committing suicide. Or homicide, which is what the rich developed countries are doing to the poor less developed countries.

  80. Bill Openthalton 11 Mar 2017 at 7:25 pm

    bachfiend —

    We use a different definition of cataclysmic. A megavolcano eruption or a huge asteroid are cataclysmic, and might be the end of the human race. Several hunderd million humans living shorter lives than their ancestors is not nice for the individuals in question, but meaningless as far as the continuation of the species is concerned. Nature doesn’t give a shit about individuals anyway.

    Given the fact that nothing lasts forever, we could ask the question what our purpose should be — make the lives of the people who are currently alive as “good” as possible (which means making sure their experiences match their expectations, knowing that these expectations are determined by the experiences of childhood, and thus eminently relative), or should we try and ensure there are similar circumstances to those we know today for the hypothetical future generations?

    Homicide is an individual human killing another human. Nations cannot commit homicide — groups of people commit genocide. What happened is that a couple of centuries ago people fixed their problems (like deforestation, or ill health) by developing technologies that lead to unintended consequences. It took a while for these consequences to be understood (effective medical care means more people on the planet, and replacing wood by coal meant more pollution, etc.), and it will take a while for solutions to the current problems to be found. Meanwhile, some people will die earlier than if they would have lived in other places, but later than when they would have lived in other times. This is not genocide. Unless you feel guilty for having a full stomach while someone else goes hungry and cannot be bothered to share your bounty — there are poor, hungry people everywhere.

  81. bachfiendon 11 Mar 2017 at 7:58 pm

    Bill,

    It seems as though you and I disagree about whether it’s ethical for the rich developed countries to continue their habits of wanting to have cheap energy and causing problems for the poor less developed countries, which didn’t cause the problem of AGW in the first place. And which are also less able to cope with them.

    A cataclysm is just another name for catastrophe. It need not be global.

    Several hundred million people living shorter lifespans as a result of AGW does mean that several hundred million people are being killed. Which is homicide – the death of people as the result of the actions of other humans.

    It mightn’t get to the legal definition of murder, manslaughter or genocide. Certainly bot genocide, because it’s being committed out of indifference rather than deliberation, but it’s still homicide.

    And it may also turn out to be suicide.

  82. Bill Openthalton 12 Mar 2017 at 11:07 am

    bachfiend —

    People die all the time — it’s part of life. If you decide that your morality extends to ensuring humans everywhere on the planet are enjoying the same statistical life expectancy as you, be my guest, but don’t expect agreement.

    “Rich, developed countries” will be instantly poor with incredible loss of life (think millions living in cities that become hellholes the moment the power goes off and police vehicles no longer have gas) when there is not enough affordable energy. At this moment, the “problems of poor less developed countries” are that their inhabitants are poor at governance more than direct effects of AGW. In addition, the global (telecoms) village means inhabitants of (relatively) poor countries know where it is a lot better, so their best and brightest try to migrate to the “rich, developed countries” instead of busting their butts improving their conditions at home. I’m not sure I wouldn’t do the same, if I were in their shoes.

    This is not a simple question of “rich, developed countries” able to decide to stop burning fossil fuels but refusing to do so for purely selfish reasons.

  83. chikoppion 12 Mar 2017 at 2:39 pm

    [Bill Openthalt] “Rich, developed countries” will be instantly poor with incredible loss of life (think millions living in cities that become hellholes the moment the power goes off and police vehicles no longer have gas) when there is not enough affordable energy.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting making energy unaffordable. A modest 5% increase would raise a lot of capital we could put toward modernizing our energy infrastructure while keeping us near the historical average. (A kWh costs .088 today vs. .097 in 1960.)

    https://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/annual/showtext.php?t=ptb0810

    There are more severe costs associated with mitigating the effects of rapid climate change. We’re going to have to spend that money one way or another. It seems more reasonable to make a forward-looking investment that will pay dividends well into the future while avoiding increasingly disruptive economic shocks.

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/economy/article136813158.html

  84. bachfiendon 12 Mar 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Bill,

    No one is arguing that rich developed countries should be decarbonising their economies immediately, so that’s a straw man argument.

    No one is arguing that poor developing countries are poor because of AGW. But because they’re poor and less developed they’ll be less capable of adapting to AGW. So that’s another straw man argument from you.

    Congratulations.

  85. Lightnotheaton 12 Mar 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Poor countries are poor mostly because theyre not industrialized. Consequently with countries like India which are rushing to industrialize there is very little political will to slow it down. One of the many reasons the main burden of fighting climate change must fall on the developed countries. At this point it seems to me that the biggest contribution India and China can realistically make is developing new, greener tecnologies.

  86. Bill Openthalton 12 Mar 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Lightnotheat —

    Which China is doing, not because of concerns for the future, but very immediate concerns of air pollution.

    bachfiend —

    I did not say rich countries should decarbonise immediately. You were comparing not wanting to give up on cheap energy to homicide (“the rich developed countries to continue their habits of wanting to have cheap energy and causing problems for the poor less developed countries” and “Several hundred million people living shorter lifespans as a result of AGW does mean that several hundred million people are being killed. Which is homicide – the death of people as the result of the actions of other humans.”). I am merely pointing out that people in countries and societies that depend on technology for their survival run a far greater risk of untimely death when their societies collapse than subsistence farmers (I live in a farming community, and my farmer neighbour can do diddly squat without his machinery).

    I am also pointing out that the people in poor countries often unhappy because they’re comparing their situation with ours, and not with the situation of their parents or grandparents. In those places where there isn’t strife or war (most often caused by religious or tribal conflict), people are much better off than 50 years ago (certainly in Africa, where I grew up and which I know well [as well as one can know a huge continent :)] ).

    chikoppi —
    Agreed. The best we can do to cope with change (AGW or other) is to have strong, vibrant economies with lots of innovation. Unfortunately, I am not seeing that in Europe.

  87. bachfiendon 12 Mar 2017 at 9:34 pm

    Bill,

    It’s still homicide if hundreds of millions of people are living shorter lives as a result of unrestrained AGW.

    If you kill someone with endstage lung cancer with just months to live and without a legal justification and with malice, then it’s homicide. And also murder.

    China is investing in renewable energy because of concerns with the future – with AGW – in addition to immediate pollution concerns.

  88. chikoppion 12 Mar 2017 at 10:21 pm

    @Bill Openthalt

    It seems as though everyone is in agreement that an initiative toward sustainable energy is desirable and that the industrialized nations should lead that initiative. The question is perhaps the degree of investment?

    Fossil fuels are currently subsidized over renewables at about a 5:2 ratio (a very rough estimate). Would you be OK with changing that ratio to 1:1 if it meant energy costs increased by 5-10%? Alternately, what do you think about market-based solutions like a carbon tax (assuming a similar cost increase)?

    I assume the additional revenue would be invested in modernizing the grid to be more efficient, subsidizing renewable infrastructure (as we did for carbon-based fuels), and funding renewables research.

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