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Yes, it is possible for us to avert the worst of global warming.  Our children and grandchildren have a right to a livable planet, and we can deliver it to them.  It can be done.

A prior diary started a discussion about what it would take to set up the conditions for a "Cronkite Moment" on climate, being the moment when the mainstream population of couch potatoes begins to get it; that there is something we can do, and must do, about carbon pollution and global warming.

That diary was about liberating facts that are already widely understood in the business and scientific communities, and especially about removing barriers for individuals to enter the conversation.  

That diary lists high-level ideas that have to make it into mainstream consciousness in order to spur real action on global warming, paraphrased here, but only the first item was discussed:

1: Yes, it is happening, and it is going to get worse
2: Yes, it is feasible to solve it

Gloom without solutions will motivate absolutely no action.  "Alarm", after all, is a call to action, not a call to get depressed and drink alone in the dark.

So, here we go on high level idea #2 required to create a Cronkite Moment with respect to acting on global warming: Yes, it is possible to stop the worst of global warming and carbon pollution.

The extended section describes reasoning behind a plan to move new capital investment rapidly in the direction of renewable energy, without excessive costs or dislocation.  The heart of it is that all new energy-related capital investment should pay for all of its resulting health impacts.  It's a plan that a majority of Americans can get behind, if the full set of facts were made available.  

In the absence of leadership from our government on that education task (and just forget the media), it is up to every one of us to communicate not only on the urgency of addressing global warming, but also on solutions.  One person, one post, one email, one LTE, one dinner at a time.  Whatever it takes to get the message out.

"Possible" immediately divides itself into two parts:

Physically possible    and     Socially possible

Physically possible is about the very basic questions of whether solutions exist, or can be developed quickly enough to avert the worst of the crisis.  

Socially possible is about whether there is any chance that people will decide to do what's physically possible.  It's the rub.

It's actually pretty easy to show that it is physically possible to greatly reduce future global warming.  For this first step, we have to completely set aside the question of social possibility (which includes the very central question of "cost").  This has been studied a lot, and the answers are there.

A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the World with Renewables describes how it is possible to put in place enough renewable electricity to power not only current, but continued growth in demand.

Supplies of wind and solar energy on accessible land dwarf the energy consumed by people around the globe.

The authors’ plan calls for 3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations worldwide.

The cost of generating and transmitting power would be less than the projected cost per kilowatt-hour for fossil-fuel and nuclear power.

The real question, of course, is what is socially possible.  Can we rouse to action to get fit instead of just eating more Cheetos?.

Here's what's categorically unacceptable "reasoning" to me:

1. People are not smart enough to do what will save themselves
2. So even if there are solutions, they won't be adopted
3. So don't even bother unless you can find some way to lose weight by eating more     Cheetos, which doesn't exist.

The only workable path is:

A. Determine what can be done
B. Prove that it's worth the cost and effort
C. Don't take no for an answer

The question of what's socially possible all boils down to, or is proxied by, the question of affordability.  Can we afford to do it?

It's absurd on the face of it.  Can we afford to, you know, avoid catastrophic collapse?  Pure crazy.  But, it's reality because on a day to day basis people (governments, companies, ...) will only do something that they can either afford or borrow funds for.  So here is Lemma 1:

The solution must involve a strong financial component where people, companies, and governments make everyday decisions that are reasonable and affordable.

Strange that saving the planet could come down to accounting.  But after all, if we could go to war over accounting errors, perhaps we can use also accounting for a higher purpose.

The need for solutions that work within the immediate term, as well as a theoretical long term, is illustrated by a story my brother told me from when he was studying soil conservation in Niger:

It was clear that the range was being overgrazed, and this was killing productivity.  If they could just let the grass grow a few centimeters, they would get literally double the feed value.

The problem was that, at any given moment, they didn't have a few days or weeks to get that growth.  The stock needed to eat right now, every day.  Even worse, there was the prospect of someone else's stock eating that same grass.

The next issue of affordability is the ultimate hostage crisis: The cost of energy for poor people.  Yep, this one boils down to:

Let us pollute or the poor people get it.

It's the standard naysay to many proposed financial structures - anything that increases the price of energy will disproportionately hammer the least fortunate.  It leads to Lemma 2:

Costs must not be imposed regressively on the less wealthy

And let's go right to Lemma 3:

It's about capital investment choices, not immediate consumption

For everyone who makes the little changes every day to save energy and reduce pollution, this may seem a heresy.  Does none of that effort matter?

Of course it matters.  But what will really move the needle is the set of big decisons, capital investments, both in energy production and energy consumption.  A new power plant will be expected to operate for at least 50 years.  So a decision to build a new coal-fired power plant, as opposed to renewable sources of the same scale, will have consequences that last for decades.

What's even more amazing is that a difference of a few pennies can swing that huge decision, having decades of impact.  The decision on which power source to build is ultimately based on an expected cost of energy, measured in cents per kilowatt-hour.  In the current market, coal and gas power plants can create power for fewer cents per kilowatt-hour than competing renewal sources.

Except they can't.  Combustion sources only appear cheap because the costs do not consider health effects, incluiding but not limited to global warming.  Adding these costs will make any new combustion power source inherently infeasible compared to new renewables.

So here's a really key component of changing the course of our energy ship:

All new capital investments that produce or consume substantial amounts of energy must pay for the full health effects of the energy production or consumption, including but not limited to global warming.

That's it.  If we can get the United States to commit to that action, then it will set a course in the right direction, from which we can then make further adjustments (and BTW discover that the economic sky did not fall when we took real action).

It's not the entirety of the solution, but it's a cornerstone.  Consider the benefits, both in achieving GHG reductions and in stepping past the hostages:

- It swings the biggest decisions for the least cost.
- It positions people to routinely make good decisions for the climate.
- It creates visibility for the non-climate health effects of combustion power.
- It affects large shiny new things, for lowest direct impact on the least wealthy.


I've been unable to fund a good number for the replacement rate of electricity generation, but my sense is that it is something like 2% to 2.5% a year of the current electricity portfolio.  That is, 2% or so of existing sources go off line and are replaced each year.  An additional 2% per year goes on line for increased demand.  So each year, about 4% of electricity usage is in play as to its type.  Amazingly, a majority of new capacity is still combustion.  If this is shifted in the new few years to 100% renewable, it replaces an annual increase in GHG emissions with a decrease.

Fast enough?  That's a hard numbers question that I can't answer.  But, there's no question that replacing an increase in GHG emissions with a decrease is the urgent first step, and it can only be achieved by redirecting capital investment.

[Note, the round numbers above focus only on energy generation, and even more narrowly on electricity.  That's for brevity.  The same concept applies to all major energy generating and consuming capital investments.  Since we import most of our crude oil, the assessment should be done there mostly on new fuel-using equipment, including vehicles.]

Please:

- Never, ever be afraid to talk about global warming, in any setting.
- Bring solutions to the discussion.  If you don't like this one, bring your own.

The Cronkite Moment will come, and we can help make it sooner.

Originally posted to Climate Hawks on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:25 AM PST.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, SciTech, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  People have, in the past, worked together (16+ / 0-)

    to do great things.

    We have in the USA, most notably in WWII.

    What we need is an attitude of "we have work to do, let's get on with it."

    Great diary.

    As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed - Naomi Klein

    by mightymouse on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:23:46 AM PST

  •  nice analysis, (18+ / 0-)

    regarding your bottleneck, trigger point:

    All new capital investments that produce or consume substantial amounts of energy must pay for the full health effects of the energy production or consumption, including but not limited to global warming.


    I see a few political/social hurdles here, along the lines of:

    a) "but there is no proof Cigarette Smoking is directly linked with lung cancer, second hand or otherwise. Please show me the proof."

    b) "but that's Job Killing Regulation, and is bad for status-quo Business."

    c) "but that's Socialized Health Care, and the Govt must not go there."


    I agree that this is the right Economic bottleneck, trigger point, to motivate long-run changes.

    But think the Rationale needs to be made a bit more vanilla, along the lines of an "Apollo Tax" --

    We need an "Apollo Tax" on point-sources of CO2, that will eventually move us from the unaffordable, obstolete Energy Sources of the Past, to the cheap, clean Energy Sources of the Future.

    That is generic enough to blunt the inevitable stonewalling critiques, I think,

    And gives us this additional "patriotic leverage" too --

    We MUST not let China get there first.


    A similar rationale, got America to the Moon, back in the day.

    It could strike a chord, across demographics, today as well.


    Thanks for the post James Wells,
    I like your analysis and your dedication,
    to see this solved.  Great SciAm link too.


    What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
    -- Maslow ...... my list.

    by jamess on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:54:04 AM PST

    •  not so long ago, other leaders (10+ / 0-)

      were thinking along these lines ...
      (back before Koch Industries went to town -- that town called Disinformation):


      New Apollo Energy Act contrasts sharply with “Jurassic” GOP energy bill

      by Rep. Jay Inslee
      grist.org -- 18 May 2005

      On April 21, Congress stepped back in geologic time when the House of Representatives passed an energy policy of the dinosaurs, by the dinosaurs, and for the dinosaurs. This energy bill is truly a "Jurassic" piece of legislation that relies on a limited energy source derived from creatures and plants that died millions of years ago. In fact, 93 percent of the $8 billion in tax incentives in the bill go to oil, gas, and other traditional energy industries.

      Shortly before the House debate, one national leader said, "I will tell you with $55 oil we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore. ... What we need is to put a strategy in place that will help this country over time become less dependent." Incredibly, that leader was President George W. Bush.  [...]


      New Apollo draws its inspiration from President Kennedy's original "Apollo" plan, which in 1961 challenged the nation to put a man on the moon within the decade and return him safely to Earth. Kennedy recognized that Americans love a good challenge and are the most creative people in human history. In a similar way, New Apollo challenges Americans to harness their legendary ingenuity and technological prowess to build a clean, economically beneficial energy system on our own planet -- a planet we want to keep comfortably fit for human habitation and free from global warming and conflicts arising over the control of petroleum.

      Our New Apollo Energy Act will provide $49 billion in government loan guarantees for the construction of clean-energy generation facilities that will produce power from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, oceans, coal with carbon-sequestration technology, and other sources. The legislation will also commit $10.5 billion to research-and-development investment tax credits for clean energy-producing operations. In addition, it includes a 10-year extension of the current credit for electricity generated from clean sources. Making these clean energy sources cost-effective for citizens will require this type of bold infrastructure investment by the federal government.
      [...]



      What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
      -- Maslow ...... my list.

      by jamess on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:09:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Part of my theory is (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jamess, RunawayRose, Miss Jones, DawnN, G2geek

      that applying a tax (to pay for health impacts) on large capital energy projects is something that expressly does NOT create a big up front cost at a national level.  If we turn over 2% of our electricity generation each year, and let's say that renewables cost 20% more (totally excluding huge health benefits), then in a given year, the upward pressure on energy prices could be as much as 0.4%.

      This premium would start small and decrease over time as renewable prices converge on combustion.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:14:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree "economically" speaking it's Open and Shut (10+ / 0-)


        Those corporations that profit from, freely exporting their pollution into our common spaces,

        should be made to "pay for" the collateral damage that their negligence eventually causes,

        be that Emphysema in L.A.,

        or washed-out Bridges in Vermont,

        or drought-ravaged Corn in Dubuque.


        But making that 2% argument understandable, and the direct causal links provable,

        well that will be a very heavy lift.  


        Economically, it's simply smart long-term investing.

        Socially, it's Big Govt trying to Raise your Taxes.


        Bridging THAT gap, so that the average Joe gets it,
        is where the "social acceptability" problem will be solved,

        or not.


        Remember your average Joe, is not much of an Economist,
        and tend to get their "info" from people like Rush and OReilly.

        So the simpler the rationale, the better, for such paycheck-to-paycheck critics.


        What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.
        -- Maslow ...... my list.

        by jamess on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:32:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  internalizing the externalities. (3+ / 0-)

        What you're talking about boils down to internalizing the costs that were formerly externalized.

        As it turns out, that arguement also works with libertarians, because externalities violate their core principle of voluntary transactions between consenting adults.  All you have to do is bring up that principle and then demonstrate that externalities are not voluntary transactions but instances of "force or fraud," the standard libertarian test for the legitimacy of criminal law.

        It works with progressives and it works with libertarians.  The only crowd it doesn't work with are those who have a direct stake in externalizing costs (that would be the plutocrats) and their tribal hangers-on (the Fox News brainwashed).  

        We can get majorities this way.  

        And the way to do it is by making a moral issue out of externalized costs: put that issue on the agenda, and its application to climate change will logically follow.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:33:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Working together is good. (9+ / 0-)

    I'm pinning my hopes on faster than expected adoption of solar power, both by individuals and by businesses, and unexpectedly rapid development of electric vehicles.
       The problem with a central plan for reducing greenhouse gases is the costs, whatever they are, are upfront and the benefits will be, from the perspective of the public, far in the future.
       To quote Ronald Reagan, "What have future generations ever done for us?"
        There is a whole industry dedicated to confusing the issue and preventing people from working together.
     

    •  I don't think this is so (9+ / 0-)
      The problem with a central plan for reducing greenhouse gases is the costs, whatever they are, are upfront and the benefits will be, from the perspective of the public, far in the future.

      The public only needs a few dots connected to understand that we are suffering from climate change right now, and that we have to do something.

      What you describe is a perception. That can be changed with better messaging.

      As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed - Naomi Klein

      by mightymouse on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:34:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Central "anything" is a high fastball... (6+ / 0-)

        ...over the middle of the plate for those who oppose a strong activist government that executes...well, you name it: Health Care, Redistribution of Income and Wealth, Basic Research, Building Codes, Air and Water standards, etc.

        The specter of "Big, Evil Government controlling our lives" far too often obscures the current, functioning reality: a very small number of Private Sector entities who are for all intents and purposes controlling our lives with frighteningly few protections.

        Of course, Mitt Romney calls this "Capitalism"...oh, wait: it's now "Free Enterprise". Forgot to check the most recent Luntz memo.

        When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

        by Egalitare on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:01:07 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Working together implies WORKING (11+ / 0-)

    The "3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants, and numerous geothermal, tidal and rooftop photovoltaic installations" can neither build nor install themselves. And no matter how much the cheerleaders for "race to the bottom wages" assert otherwise, the Asian and European nations (also many African nations, much sooner than later)  are going to have their own backlogs of these items to fill for their own needs.

    We'll have to build most of this ourselves.

    We'll have to install ALL of it ourselves.

    And that has the very positive collateral effect of putting millions of us to work for a very, very long time.

    And this is separate and apart from transportation, water management and other towering infrastructure needs we have.

    When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative. --Martin Luther King Jr.

    by Egalitare on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:47:01 AM PST

  •  I'm with you on the objective (9+ / 0-)

    James, I'm totally with you on the objective.  And I want to believe that the solutions as described are actually that---that they're capable of meeting today's energy use with renewables.  But I have two concerns with this:

    1. The renewable plans (both the one linked, and others like I've seen) ignore substitutability.  I'm a broken record, but anyway: oil is the key near-term bottleneck, and no renewables that can be built at any scale (solar PV / thermal are really it) can replace oil directly or even indirectly.

    2. The plans ignore the The Energy Trap as described by Tom Murphy.  This has more to do with the social factors you're discussing.

    I see three options going forward, but I think only one is being pursued, and it's the wrong one: a) go all-out in building renewables, and devote substantial societal resources to an energy transition, b) prepare Americans for a transition back to a low-energy lifestyle as oil depletes and renewables don't replace them quickly, or c) do neither---i.e. pursue business as usual and also don't mentally prepare people.  Unfortunately we're doing c).

    contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

    by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:12:29 AM PST

    •  Oh yes, I know (6+ / 0-)

      I read your excellent columns with a lot of interest.  It is not as simple as I presented here.

      There are various versions of the energy trap, but I think that there is one constant, being that the sooner we aggressively transition away from combustion, the less severe the trap will be.  [Conversely, the later means the more severe].

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:29:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  So I went back and read the Energy Trap column (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ozsea1

        as referenced (but none of the others, lots to read there).

        My takeaway is that it's a real effect, that it will matter, but it's not definitive.

        One of the most important mitigating points is that renewable investment is occurring before total energy goes into decline.  That investment, it logically follows, will mitigate the decline by party or fully replacing the fossil fuel decline.

        As stated in the column, it's as if non-fossil investment has to start from zero at the moment that fossil fuel decline starts.

        It certainly leads directly to a strong case for amping up renewable energy investment right now - so that the process is well established before the fossil fuel decline.

        Lots to read there, thanks for the reference,
         

        We shall not participate in our own destruction.

        by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:57:11 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Definitely. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Wells

          You're right that every year in advance the renewable energy transition starts in that simulation, the easier it is to escape the trap.  And it's not definitive, you're right.  (Though I think we're basically at the point where total fossil fuel energy starts decreasing---I'm not sure if anyone has done the calculation of what global net available energy looks like, but I think we may have already seen it given that the sources we're using to keep the liquid fuels supply up are lower EROI sources.  I think I may do that calculation at some point...)

          I think it's probably not going to be an all or nothing thing.  I can imagine us doing it in fits and starts.  i.e. Obama pushing renewables, so we invest in it, then the GOP congress shuts off the tap, so we don't, then we do again, then we don't, etc.  So we sort of try for a little while and then exactly what Murphy describes happens---people argue that we'd be better off without that investment---and the trap gets us again.

          Eventually I can see us stabilizing and stopping the overall energy decline, but I think it's going to be at a much lower level of per-capita energy consumption that most people (even most readers of this site) would be comfortable with.  I'm thinking that we'll probably stop declining in energy consumption in the 2030s, if not later, and that mostly that decline will be involuntary.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:23:43 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The outcome question (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            barath

            is not so much maintaining energy use as much as maintaining quality of life based on non-GDP measures.

            Can there be a transition that maintains or even improves health, longevity, communication, and other things that matter, even as gadgets and toys decline?

            We shall not participate in our own destruction.

            by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:35:20 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That's what I wish for. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              James Wells

              I wonder if we have enough sanity to pursue it.

              I'm reminded of a talk I gave that discussed how much energy our gadgets use and suggested that the easiest way to save energy was to not buy a new gadget.  One of the audience members told me that I was advancing a "luddite point of view".

              Maybe it comes down to this: will we give up our gadgets, cars, etc. or will they die while we're still clinging to them?

              contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

              by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:00:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  btw, that's what I'm posting on tomorrow (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              James Wells

              I'll be posting about the question of what do we need vs. what do we just want vs. what do we just like to have, and how can we give them up one by one without affecting our lives too much?

              contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

              by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:02:20 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  Tm Murphy is way off base (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ozsea1

      He is right that we need to do  before things run out, but this idea that energy density Is far o vet simplified, not least because technologies change and he vastly underestimates the energy achievable from solar and wind

      Physicists have a terrible track record in this area.   Better to leave it to the professionals, like engineers and climate scientists.  

      •  Hmm.. (0+ / 0-)
        He is right that we need to do  before things run out, but this idea that energy density Is far o vet simplified, not least because technologies change and he vastly underestimates the energy achievable from solar and wind

        I'd be interested to hear what you mean in more detail.  Would you be able to expand on specifically why you see his argument as being wrong?

        contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

        by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 04:49:44 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  A lot of his (0+ / 0-)

          Argument focuses on energy density, but seems to grossly underestimate the lifetime energy that comes from solar panels.  He seems to think they don't pay for themselves, but in fact most panels do within two years.  Secondly his analysis is really in corroborated by anyone else, leaving him as a sole physicist assuming a spherical cow while getting his facts wrong.  Physics as a culture has a strong tendency toward arrogant approaches based on over simplification.  Remember Mueller complaining about how terrible the temperature record, assuming he could do a better job than the pros?  Guess what, his results showed that the professionals got it right.  

          So he has his facts wrong on the EROI and he takes such a broad range of oversimplifying assumptions that he really has assumed away a whole bunch of energy dynamics, especially the fact that the machinery for manufacture already respesents sunk energy input he apparently ignores.  Also his accounting utterly fails to notice that photons pack a tin of energy, he misses tidal wind and geothermal as well.  He also ignores technological advances such as yet more advances in solar efficiency.

          So, until engineers corroborate his conclusions that's a whopping chunk of salt. Ultimately I have to wonder if he is funded by Koch

          •  I'd like to see the data. (0+ / 0-)
            He seems to think they don't pay for themselves, but in fact most panels do within two years.

            Do you have data on that?  (Not in terms of cost as in dollars, but data on the EROI?)  The best I've seen is a theoretical return of 40:1, and that's for lab prototypes and doesn't factor in installation, maintenance, etc.  Btw, Murphy didn't do any of those EROI calculations - he's using standard values.

            especially the fact that the machinery for manufacture already respesents sunk energy input he apparently ignores

            It's not suck energy because we'd have to massively scale up manufacturing, at which point we'd have to build new infrastructure.

            Ultimately I have to wonder if he is funded by Koch

            I don't think it reflects well to question his motives in such a fashion.

            contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

            by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:38:41 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  That should be ample (0+ / 0-)

              I am uncertain why a back of the envelope calculation of a physicist with no background in the area gets as much credence as he seems to. After all, a lot of people have look at the question of feasibility and reached utterly different conclusions.  So this trikes me as Mueller II. Convenient fodder for denialists, but probably not much more than that

              •  So...? (0+ / 0-)

                So I guess if they're ample, it'd be nice if you cited some in your rebuttal to Murphy.

                But I'm not sure that matters anyway, since as I mentioned, he didn't do the EROI calculations himself.  The whole point of his post on the Energy Trap isn't dependent upon specific EROI numbers anyway.  It's about general trends.

                And again, you went back to attacking the messenger instead of the message (with no real reason to do so).

                contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

                by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:18:15 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  Also... (0+ / 0-)
                Convenient fodder for denialists, but probably not much more than that

                Exactly what are these "denialists" denying?

                Murphy doesn't deny climate change or energy problems---just the opposite, his entire purpose for blogging is to shine a spotlight on those issues and talk about how to address them, and how peak oil and other constraints may bring us to the long-forecasted limits to growth.  If anything, it's people who deny the limits to growth that seem to be denying something fundamental.

                contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

                by barath on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:22:14 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

  •  I'm afraid I can guess.... (7+ / 0-)

    ....what will trigger the "Cronkite moment."

    Half the population of Bangladesh floating face down in the Bay of Bengal. Or some equivalent mega-disaster in the Third World.

    Those who deserve it least are going to get it first and worst.

    When we are no longer children, we are already dead. (Constantin Brancusi) And whoever gave it, thanks for the gift!

    by sagesource on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:16:21 AM PST

  •  I'm glad someone has hope (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, mightymouse, SolarMom, DawnN

    Barring a miracle or a serious scientific breakthrough, I can't  see anything but dark clouds on the horizon. History seems to indicate to me at least that - Humans are much better at fighting each other than we are at cooperating.

    Not all - but far too many people are self-centered, greedy sons of bitches with no thought of any future beyond their own. Combine that with religious nutcases looking forward to the apocalypse and we may just have the perfect storm.

    I'd be glad to have my pessimism proven wrong.

    Effective activism requires Activists -- Effecting radical change demands Radicals

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 12:10:51 PM PST

  •  One of the most frustrating things about (12+ / 0-)

    blogging on climate change is the fact that stopping it (or, at least, hitting the arguably safe 2 degrees C target) is, or has been, so physically possible while socially impossible.

    Unfortunately, I fear that replacing 2 - 4% of our electricity per year is simply not fast enough. From David Roberts on the brutal logic of climate change:

    After all, to hit 4 degrees C we would "only" have to peak global emissions in 2020 and decline thereafter at the relatively leisurely rate (ha ha) of around 3.5 percent per year.

    Sadly, even that cold comfort is not available to us. The thing is, if 2 degrees C is extremely dangerous, 4 degrees C is absolutely catastrophic. In fact, according to the latest science, says Anderson, "a 4 degrees C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond 'adaptation', is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable."

    The phrase "high probability of not being stable" refers to the idea that at 4 degrees C, various amplifications or runaway positive feedbacks kick in (e.g., melting methane, dying Amazon, etc) and we can't keep the climate at 4 degrees C.

    Recommending this diary because we can't give up hope.

    The world is on pace for 11 degrees F warming. Nothing else in politics matters. @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 12:16:01 PM PST

    •  Physically possible while socially impossible (8+ / 0-)

      That is the craziest thing I have ever heard.  Too bad it's a very possible outcome.

      I see results on a spectrum, and also want to avoid looking at the world monolithically.  Let's say 4C.  Well, that's bad.  But it's unevenly bad.  Areas with distributed power and a strong local food supply as well as other social resources will be much better off than other areas.  

      So the extent of local distributed renewable power as well as other local resources will affect more than the global climate picture.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 12:25:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There is really no solution outside a carbon tax (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mightymouse

    Building a new power plant of any sort whatsoever means more burning of fossil fuels not less.

  •  This Diary... (0+ / 0-)

    ...is good, but it's missing data on costs.

    If we are going to convince people to change, we must get them to understand what the cost of climate change will be.

    Unfortunately, the jury is out on that one. Nobody knows if global warming will be a net gain or a net loss for the human race. What we lose in coastline we could gain back in lower heating bills and crop yields, for instance.

    The only thing we know is that change will be a risk. The Dick Cheneys of the world are confident that they and their loved ones can survive that risk. They are actually willing to tough out whatever hurricanes and floods might come.

    We need more data on the cost of warming. Will it make people migrate, causing wars? Could it make Kansas into a desert? Could it flood Manhattan? Are these costs unacceptable?

    •  I don't see how there could be a net gain (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ManhattanMan

      for any period of time. Once weather becomes so unstable that large areas can't do agriculture, things will get very chaotic very quickly. We saw what happened with food price increases a few years ago...the price of grain goes up a little and suddenly people in Haiti are eating mud cookies. Or the rice shortage...rice crops in some countries don't do so well and various rice exporting countries, which had plenty of rice, halt exports. Look what happened with the Arab spring...food prices go up suddenly, and that old dictator just isn't so beloved anymore.
        The weather disasters over the past few years have been very costly. But what happens when there's no more water for Sydney, or Atlanta?
        What happens to all those power plants when rivers dry up?
         No way a warmer world is anything other than a disaster.

      •  But agriculture... (0+ / 0-)

        ...(for example) my get better in some places.

        What if changing weather patterns make the Sahara desert fertile, or lengthen the growing season in Siberia and Canada?

        I am not saying this is likely. I'm just saying that nobody knows what the outcome will be.

        •  On the contrary, the basic outlines are clear (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          James Wells, ozsea1, FishOutofWater

          The principal effects of warming (other than things getting warmer) is that dry areas all get drier, all areas experience more extreme rainfall, and water for agriculture disappears from areas that depend on snowmelt to keep rivers flowing through the end of the growing season.

          Existing deserts will expand. Dry but presently farmable expanses like the American plains will desertify. Where crops can still be grown, they will be more often wiped out by floods.

          The finest level details may vary, but that's the picture all the climate models show.  Under a business as usual scenario, food insecurity becomes massive well before the century is out.

          Acidification, meanwhile, will likely bring on a vast reduction in biomass in the oceans. Sea level rise is a long range threat. Collapse of fisheries will begin happening in fairly short order.

          Elimination of 40 to 60 percent of all species by the end of the century is also predictable, on the current path. Trust the ecologists on this: there's no way that is a net benefit.

          Oh, and small increases in CO2 can result, given identical temperatures and H2O availability, in more rapid crop growth. But those things won't be identical, and the growth benefits tail off fairly rapidly as concentrations increase.

          There's a lot scientists don't know; there always will be. But we're well past the point where on-the-other-hand-ism has any rational basis. There's a reason why national scientific societies from every major nation have told us action is imperative.

          •  I don't think... (0+ / 0-)

            ...that we have the science to model specific geographic effects.

            Also the fishery collapses and mass extinctions are happening anyhow -- we are doing this without climate change.

            As for snow melt, I've even heard of models that predict increased snowfall. The warmer air can carry more moisture north -- hence more snow.

            If we start predicting specific outcomes, i.e., "The great plains will become deserts", we'll just lose credibility. Everyone knows we don't have a model that can predict anything that specific.

        •  It will lengthen growing seasons up north (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1, mightymouse, James Wells

          The current limit of agriculture is not determined by climate, but by soil.  There are a few clay belts in Ontario and Alberta that may be able to diversify from canola and barley and maybe there are a few other pockets of rich soil in the Northwest Territories, Labrador and Siberia.  In exchange, we lose half the US breadbasket, most of Australia's, China's wheat belt and India's breadbaskets.  

          "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

          by Yamaneko2 on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:03:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  That is what my undergrad prof said - in 1986 (0+ / 0-)

            Yes 1986.

            In my undergrad Geography of North America class, professor Conrad Moore of Western Kentucky explained (paraphrase):

            You would think that global warming would open up all these new agricultural lands up here (N Canada).  But those lands don't have the soil which has developed over thoudsands of years in our midwest.  So you'll have the right climate and wrong soil up here, and the right soil and the wrong climate down here.

            He also made what I think is a really big point about the huge cost of moving humans and their constructs to match the new climate.  Even if the new climate was nominally "just as good", the effort to move to adapt to the new climate will vastly exceed the resourcing available to many millions of people.

            We shall not participate in our own destruction.

            by James Wells on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 08:15:29 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  When methane begins to outgas (0+ / 0-)

      in an ever increasing amount from the permafrost and from the oceanic hydrates, I would think that the resulting runaway greenhouse effects will moot your question.

      Nobody knows if global warming will be a net gain or a net loss for the human race.

      "the jury is out on that one", indeed.

      “Fair? Fare is what you pay to ride the bus. That’s the only ‘fair’ I know.” ~ Heylia James, from Weeds - 1st season

      by ozsea1 on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 12:32:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Costs to the U.S. will be enormous (0+ / 0-)

      Possible improvements in Siberia will not offset the profound and costly effects of the drying of the southwest and south.

      The costs to insurance companies have already been huge. They have published the costs of  losses.

      look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening.

      by FishOutofWater on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 07:52:36 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is the data we need... (0+ / 0-)

        ...to talk about.

        If we can say "We will have to relocate NYC, DC, Miami, and New Orleans, and the cost is $X" then we have something worth talking about.

        We have won the debate over whether warming is happening. We now need to quantify why it's bad.

  •  A Way Forward (7+ / 0-)

    Amory Lovins and Rocky Mountain Institute have a new book out called Reinventing Fire that has some practical ideas about the way forward:

    Making these energy changes - and thus getting the needed emissions reductions - quickly enough is a challenge.  But it is manageable, just as it was in 1977-1985 when U.S. oil intensity fell 5.2% per year.  Today, based on standard economic-growth and decarbonization forecasts, cutting global energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) by about 3-4% a year, versus the historic 1%, could more than offset net carbon growth and rapidly abate further climate damage.  This looks feasible.  The U. S. has long achieved annual intensity reduction s of 2-4% without national focus or concerted effort, while China achieved more than 5% for a quarter century through 2001 and 405% in the past few years.  Some firms have even achieved 6-16%.  So why should 3-4% be hard - especially when most of the growth is in countries like China and India that can make their new infrastructure efficient the first time rather than fixing it later as we must do?  And since virtually everyone who does energy efficiency makes money at it, why should this be costly?

    Sustained effort pays off.  Using figures from before the Great Recession of the late 2000s to avoid distortions, in 1990-2006.  California shrank greenhouse-gas emissions per dollar of GDP by 30%.  IN 1980-2006, Denmark shrank its energy intensity 39% and its carbon intensity 50%, made its electricity 28% renewable and three-fourths micropower, and created a world-class renewables industry.  Now it's heading for 100% renewable energy to enhance its economy and security.

    Of course, Amory is an optimist and two of the five wealthiest people in the world (the Koch Bros) have thrown their considerable weight behind not doing anything substantial about greenhouse gases.  Very hard to break a billionaire's rice bowl.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 02:11:54 PM PST

  •  Politically I don't think it can be done (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, SolarMom

    in enough time.   First thing that needs to happen is that Obama needs to be reelected for a more favorable political climate.   That is not assured but let's assume it does. If things are favorable for the Dems. in 2012 then possibly in 2013 we can get laws like this on the books.  Investment for businesses being built at that time have already been arranged so they would be grandfathered in.  Any new captial investments beginning in 2013 would be planned 2-3 in future taking us to 2015-6.  In 2011 we heard that we had 5 years to avoid runaway climate change.  Don't think we have time to do this even assuming the best in the election and politically which I don't think is wise.  
    http://strategiesforsustainability.blogspot.com/...

    I think it needs to be a grassroots movement to reduce short lived climate forcers by drastically reducing meat consumption.   If you have another idea re reducing short lived greenhouse gases that doesn't require political consensus I would love to hear it.

    •  It's a daunting timeline (4+ / 0-)

      And I agree about the latency.  Just a couple of hopefully positive points:

      Let's imagine such a program was passed on 2013.  And that takes a whole lot of imagination, I'll grant.  The fact of setting a better trajectory, even with physical effects starting in 2-3 years further, is something that I think can liberate people to get away from the belief that any effort is futile since the big picture is going so badly the wrong way.

      I think that a lot of the requirements for action in the next 5 years are not so much about the emissions that occur in the next 5 year, but rather about decisions made in the next 5 years (like this one), and their emission effects over decades to come.  By the math, the actual number of our 2013 GHG emissions don't matter nearly as much (say in 2030) as decisions made in 2013 that then affect emissions during every year from 2013 through 203 and then beyond.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 03:00:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Re-electing Obama? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      mightymouse

      He might be slightly better on climate change than the T-pubs, but he sure seems to be in the pocket of the fossil fuel companies.

      •  He needs to be a leader on this (0+ / 0-)

        I don't know whether he will.

        But a lot rides on him doing that.

        Can we get enough leverage on him to get him going?

        As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed - Naomi Klein

        by mightymouse on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 07:39:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Obama needs to be reelected for a more favorable.. (0+ / 0-)

      political climate - yikes - the US can't go it alone, even if it were possible to change the outcome at this point. China is busy flushing their environment right down the toilet in ways that even the most rapacious republican in the US ever dreamed about. In fact, we might want to thank them for busily off-shoring manufacturing for the mere fact it has lessened on-shore pollution to some extent - ironic as that may sound.

  •  Okay ... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, SolarMom, DawnN

    Obviously, I agree ...

    A challenge / issue: the 2% / 4% turnover doesn't occur in a perfect distribution across the country at any time.  There are areas with 100+ year generation systems (e.g., traditional hydro) and there are areas with rapid growth. And, there are areas which have to replace 1 of 3 generating plants. Etc ... Thus, the 'hit' for extra capital investment costs will come fell swoop on one place that is doing its once in 20 years major investment.  Something to consider.

    Intersting angle / wording / etc ...

    Thanks.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 03:58:35 PM PST

    •  It's a great point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      Perhaps it's too much to ask that people would be willing to pay some more in order to reduce all kinds of pollution related illnesses, even setting aside global warming and other cabon pollution effects.

      But, on the scale of things I would accept the challenge of mitigating local cost increases in some areas.

      I think this plan would only work in an environment of continued cost decreases for renewables, shrinking the cost gap and any related issues.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 04:26:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  A version of this is ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        James Wells

        Feed-In-Tariff, which addresses the issue another way: to help foster lowering clean energy prices.

        Note that your discussion doesn't address the best, near-term clean energy path: efficiency (and, well, conservation).  These are reasons to price in pollution (and other 'externality') costs on existing generation systems.

        Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

        by A Siegel on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 05:12:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Totally concur with all, the reason that (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          A Siegel

          I focused on future capital investment is because I think it's the decision point that has the greatest potential for long term improvements at the lowest current cost.

          Bottom line is: Determining the most cost-effective way to entirely stop building combustion power sources.

          As for current sources, I would certainly be willing to pay more (and do, actually) to accelerate deployment of renewables, but am really wary of the hostage crisis.  Steep energy cost increases across the board not only would impact the least wealthy, but also have the potential for a big backfire along the lines of: suffering => backlash => repeal of everything even non-contentious conservation measures.

          I see step one (with regard to stationary energy sources) as stopping all new combustion deployment.  That can be followed by progressively looking at the worst offenders in existing sources, very much the way the New Source Performance Standards for air pollutant sources were followed by MACT standards.

          There is absolutely nothing in that approach that detracts from concurrent conservation and efficiency measures.

          We shall not participate in our own destruction.

          by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 05:39:29 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  The Scientific American article is a load of crap (0+ / 0-)

    Read the commenters.  They raise a lot of valid points.  

  •  I want to believe there's still hope (5+ / 0-)

    ..and I want to believe we can change direction.  It'll take an enormous effort.

    I think an all-out effort on energy efficiency is needed, to prevent new coal plants and as few new gas plants as possible. There are EE standards in a bunch of states, but a national clean energy standard with an efficiency component would help.

    Oil consumption needs to go way down - a much higher gas tax, which isn't going to happen (smaller increases at the state level are happening but won't cut it).  We need many, many more dollars for public transit and walkable communities.

    I'm skeptical that we can change enough, soon enough, but we have to try.

    “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” -- FDR, 1936

    by SolarMom on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 04:28:20 PM PST

    •  Yeah, we are probably screwed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DawnN, SolarMom, mightymouse

      but there is no future in giving up.

      I'm truly sorry Man's dominion Has broken Nature's social union--Robert Burns

      by Eric Blair on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 05:29:15 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  btw... (0+ / 0-)

        ...awesome screen name, dude.

        “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” -- FDR, 1936

        by SolarMom on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:24:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  It is absolutly not too late to change the outcome (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JayDean, SolarMom, mightymouse

      Now, is it too late to get the outcome you wished for?  Probably.

      There is still plenty that is in play, in the extent and pace of change and also unfortunately in our ability to adapt to it.

      For instance, local distributed renewable energy systems not only matter for the extent of global warming, but are also a crucial adaptation.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:40:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  It'll take an enormous effort (0+ / 0-)

      = more carbon, no matter which why you slice it.

      Only way to not create more carbon would mean literally stopping all human activity... to a dead stop... no more eating, no more consumption of any products... no more moving about. Not likely to happen. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the growing impoverished population cares not a whit and sees expenditure of pollution and environmental degradation as the only hope of improving their lot.

  •  It's the Elephant in the room (0+ / 0-)

    that no one is willing to talk about which is the underlying crux of the matter - population.

    Between 1960 and 2010, the world population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion. In other words, there has been more growth in population in the last fifty years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed.  - Population Media Center

    In physics, when the math explaining a theorum starts to produce answers that skew towards infinity one knows that they are one the wrong path.  A graph of polulation growth (and global warming temperatures, for that matter) look like the proverbial hocky stick, J curve.  Enough said.....

    There is one solution that will sequester 12-15% of yearly carbon emissions - bio char.  Research it.  It's also known as terra preta - an interesting story coming back from aboriginal Amazonia.

    Problem is that I have yet to find a way to make its production work in an economy that doesn't put a fee/reward on carbon production/sequestration.

  •  Thanks, James Wells. Needed to hear: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, JayDean
    It can be done.

    Gives me the strength to continue the effort of making climate change and mitigation the only conversation worth having; with family, at the office (for those who still have jobs), at the grocery store. Can't worry about the message until the topic is on the table.

    “Wall Street owns the country. The parties lie to us, and the political speakers mislead us.” - Mary Elizabeth Lease, 1890. It's late. Occupy everywhere.

    by DawnN on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 05:52:48 PM PST

  •  just the oil that would be needed to manufacture (0+ / 0-)

    3.8 million large wind turbines, 90,000 solar plants would amount to further devastation.

    The oil needed to install it: yikes

    Meanwhile the population continues to climb.

    Only solution: 3 more earths

  •  Never, never, never (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, mightymouse

    give up!
    Winston Churchill

  •  beach babe in fl (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells

    has a good idea for buying some time: Spreading the word about Meatless Mondays (or better yet no meat no dairy at all) for reducing methane, which has a much shorter life in the atmosphere than CO2. Check out her winning  climate colab proposal and her Meatless Monday diaries, appearing right here on Daily Kos each Monday, if you're not already a fan.  

  •  Population: (0+ / 0-)

    I would prefer to see population numbers become lower by rational people and rational governments making rational decisions, rather than the inevitable and catastophic crash which will occur with 4 degrees C temperature elevation.   This topic has become so taboo, it is barely whispered about. People used to talk about openly.   Conversation was shut down about population well before it became improper and unacceptable to talk about climate change.

    •  We are where we are re population (0+ / 0-)

      I agree that reducing and then stopping further population growth matters.  We also know how to do that - by providing a stable and healthy living situation.  Many developed countries only maintain their population through immigration (I think the US may be such a country).

      The question is whether there is a path for developing countries to get to a stable and healthy living situation without going through the full gamut of conventional development, with the attendant pollution.  I don't know the answer to that question.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:09:20 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Full-scale revolution. (0+ / 0-)

    It's the only answer.  And it will come.

    Your suggestion, "don't take no for an answer."  What does that mean?

    Your comment, "Costs must not be imposed regressively on the less wealthy."  How are you going to accomplish this?

    By your own reckoning, when is it too late?  400 ppm?  450 ppm?  500 ppm?  1000 ppm?

    Down here where I live in Texas, our town's record for 100 degree days was 46 days.  This past summer we had 82 days.  The lakes are still dry.

    If we have 4-5 more summers of 80+ days, my area will be completely desert.  Trees will all be dead.  Tap roots will find no water.

    Mass migration from parts of Texas will -- must -- occur.

    And the OP says, "we must not take no for answer"?  This is so incredibly naive.

    Truth is James Lovelock is right.  It's already too late.

    In the short-term -- the next 10 years -- global warming will destroy whole parts of America.  The political system will crumble.  Vast numbers of people will die.

    And then the revolution will come.  Not with a bang.  With a whimper.

    To a Democrat, "democracy" means "free elections." To a Republican, "free markets."

    by XOVER on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:37:58 PM PST

  •  Great diary! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells

    Thanks as always for your work!

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:19:51 PM PST

  •  Nothing less than an Energy New Deal is needed (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells, mightymouse

    and it can happen!!  We can make it happen!!  Thank you for this diary!

    "There is nothing new in human affairs. It is only history with ignorance in between." - Harry Truman

    by John Crapper on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:29:04 PM PST

  •  You're really proposing 'true cost' for energy. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    James Wells

    I love the true cost model for pricing of products and services, because it's so conceptually simple and cuts through so much of the bullshit.

    Simply put, much of the world's problems (from global warming to working class poverty to environmental degradation) are due to distorted pricing. Giant corporations are able to socialize their costs; for example, the bill for the long term environmental devastation wrought by coal mining and burning is not factored in to the price of a ton of coal or a kilowatt hour of electricity. Those costs have been dumped on our grandchildren, without their knowledge or consent, so Massey Energy can make more money per year.

    Our entire economic and political system is poisoned through and through with the same problem. The price of a car doesn't factor in the cost of the resulting carbon dioxide pollution, the cost of a colossal military to help keep the oil coming, the cost of an immense network of roads/bridges/parking lots, the cost of disposing of its dead carcass 20 years hence, and a lot more. That's why public transportation, whose costs are right up front for all to see, looks so high at first glance. But if all the soclal, military & environmental costs were added to the purchase price of your next Prius or (God forbid) Hummer, you'd never be able to afford it. You'd take the train.

    So a 'true cost' model for energy pricing would very rapidly compel energy companies to move smartly to renewables, because it would simply be more profitable.

    •  Exactly so (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ralphdog

      Now, the proposal I describe is a narrow version of full true cost pricing, since it focuses only on new capital investment and also is focused on energy intensive producers and consumers.

      I'm a huge believer in true cost pricing and I see this as an opportunity to introduce it into a part of the economy.

      So a 'true cost' model for energy pricing would very rapidly compel energy companies to move smartly to renewables, because it would simply be more profitable.

      What I really like about your last statement is that it captures the heart of the matter - set the rules and let individuals (people, companies, ...) make decisions that work well in that framework.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 07:54:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  this is, in a sense, a crisis of the Left (0+ / 0-)

    The obvious solution to the climate crisis is to switch immediately to atomic energy, which is already competitive with fossil fuels anyway- France switched over 40 years ago, but for political reasons as well as the fact of cheap fossil fuels most other countries didn't.

    What political reasons?  On the Left, people witnessed the destructive power of atomic weapons and realized that humanity could not afford to use them.  Early atomic energy programs were run by the same people with the same secrecy as the weapons programs, in fact, the first few British nuclear power plants were designed to produce plutonium close to weapons grade (creating weapons plutonium that can be used for weapons as a waste product from a power reactor is very difficult, no one else has ever attempted it).  Perhaps it was inevitable that people would get confused and protest everything nuclear instead of just the weapons.  Even now, weapons research is done under the Department of Energy.

    But we are now in the 70th year since Enrico Fermi built the first nuclear reactor the Earth had seen is 1.7 billion years.  The civilian nuclear industry has cemented an impressive track record of safety and reliability, with the AP1000 that just received approval from the NRC designed to withstand a passenger jet crashing into it.

    But the really cool new designs that have everyone talking, like the LFTR and TWR, aren't going to wait for us to develop them first.  China is already planning to test them.  

    Global warming is the inconvenient truth, nuclear power is the inconvenient alternative.

    by eigenlambda on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 05:26:27 AM PST

    •  Cool new designs (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eigenlambda

      In the true cost model proposed in the diary, nuclear could contend, and presumably would get a boost from significant true costs associated with combustion sources.

      What's hard to do is to account for low probability of catastrophe.

      To be competitive, I think there are two standards that new designs need to meet:

      1. If left unattended, they will not blow up
      2. The fuel cannot be used for fission weapons, either  before, during, or after use.

      The Fukishima disaster is basically a result of failing standard #1 - that current designs requires constant attention in order to not have a very serious problem.

      Like many people (many lefties?), I'm leery of new nukes.  But I'll grant that nukes have the potential to be a lot, lot better than the collapse of civilization.  So, I'm all ears.

      We shall not participate in our own destruction.

      by James Wells on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 08:07:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  both of those are in the bag (0+ / 0-)

        but, as always, the solution to fear is knowledge.  Here's the most relevant Wikipedia article about safey:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/...

        And concerning weapons, there's a wonderful article here:

        http://depletedcranium.com/...

        The other issue is waste.  It's not really solved, so I don't have any one link about it.  Still, there are many reasons to believe that waste isn't as big a deal as it's often said to be, starting with Oklo, but getting activism from me isn't nearly as good as finding your own understanding XD

        Global warming is the inconvenient truth, nuclear power is the inconvenient alternative.

        by eigenlambda on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 02:45:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  people actually believe in man made (0+ / 0-)

    global warming?

  •  Public 'Sea Change': Example: Nuclear Power (0+ / 0-)

    Can public opinion swing toward protecting the climate? A recent example says yes: Nuclear power's future was essentially abandoned following the Japanese meltdown. Fear can be a strong motivator, dispite apparent economic loss.
       My two cents is that those concerned about global warming need to up the ante and use the language of danger. Thermogeddon, Thermal Hell, droughts, famines, floods, underwater costal cities, extreme storms are all vocabulary that we should be shoving in front of the public.  Scientists tend to be cautious, but the rate of CO2 rise and warming is far faster than the worst IPCC scenario.  Time to sound the alarm loudly.  
       Mother nature and extreme weather,if you ask me, are already helping.  Everyone should know that the weather is getting weird.  If not, check out NOAA.
      When the public gets the sense that global heating is worse than nuclear fallout, then (and maybe only then) they will value protecting the climate and recognize it is in their long-term economic interests.

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