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Global Warming

All articles with the "Global Warming" tag.

Published: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:23:32 -0400


We Broke the Climate and We Can Fix It

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0400

It's way past time for humans to start devising an emergency back-up planetary cooling system.

Should man-made global warming turn out to be faster and more intense than currently projected, we need a plan for how to respond. Geoengineering offers one possible answer.

Broadly speaking, climate geoengineering proposals fall into two categories: carbon dioxide removal and solar reflection. The first involves diverting carbon dioxide from power plant emissions or soaking it up directly from the atmosphere and then burying it underground. The second category—the chief focus of some surprisingly informative congressional hearings in November—entails marine cloud brightening or stratospheric aerosol dispersal.

Marine cloud brightening would involve spraying saltwater into the air as a way to make low-level clouds over the ocean, thus reflecting back more incoming sunlight. As Kelly Wanser, the principal director of the Marine Cloud Brightening Project at the University of Washington, testified during those November hearings, experiments using natural materials, and with localized effects lasting only a couple of days, could "be highly controlled and performed under existing regulatory and jurisdictional frameworks."

The other method involves injecting tiny bright particles 7 to 31 miles up into the stratosphere. The 1991 eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines, which hurled 22 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the air, created a natural solar reflection experiment. The resulting global haze reflected enough sunlight to lower the average temperature of the planet by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit for two years.

To offset man-made warming, a group organized by former Microsoft executive Nathan Myhrvold has proposed constructing a set of five 18-mile hoses held up with helium balloons to pump liquefied sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The group estimated 10 years ago that the project would cost a mere $150 million to build and $100 million a year to operate, highlighting the fact that climate interventions don't necessarily have to come from the U.S. government.

Sunlight reflection methods could provide humanity with more time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But deploying them is a long-term commitment, since a halt would lead to an immediate steep increase in global temperatures. Given these considerations, the time to explore the risks and benefits is now.

Climate Change Problems Will Be Solved Through Economic Growth

Mon, 12 Mar 2018 14:45:00 -0400

"It is, I promise, worse than you think," David Wallace-Wells wrote in an infamously apocalyptic 2017 New York Magazine article. "Indeed, absent a significant adjustment to how billions of humans conduct their lives, parts of the Earth will likely become close to uninhabitable, and other parts horrifically inhospitable, as soon as the end of this century." The "it" is man-made climate change. Temperatures will become scalding, crops will wither, and rising seas will inundate coastal cities, Wallace-Wells warns. But toward the end of his screed, he somewhat dismissively observes that "by and large, the scientists have an enormous confidence in the ingenuity of humans....Now we've found a way to engineer our own doomsday, and surely we will find a way to engineer our way out of it, one way or another." Over at Scientific American, John Horgan considers some eco-modernist views on how humanity will indeed go about engineering our way out of the problems that climate change may pose. In an essay called "Should We Chill Out About Global Warming?," Horgan reports the more dynamic and positive analyses of two eco-modernist thinkers, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker and science journalist Will Boisvert. In an essay for The Breakthrough Journal, Pinker notes that such optimism "is commonly dismissed as the 'faith that technology will save us.' In fact, it is a skepticism that the status quo will doom us—that knowledge and behavior will remain frozen in their current state for perpetuity. Indeed, a naive faith in stasis has repeatedly led to prophecies of environmental doomsdays that never happened." In his new book, Enlightenment Now, Pinker points out that "as the world gets richer and more tech-savvy, it dematerializes, decarbonizes, and densifies, sparing land and species." Economic growth and technological progress are the solutions not only to climate change but to most of the problems that bedevil humanity. Boisvert, meanwhile, tackles and rebuts the apocalyptic prophecies made by eco-pessimists like Wallace-Wells, specifically with regard to food production and availabilty, water supplies, heat waves, and rising seas. "No, this isn't a denialist screed," Boisvert writes. "Human greenhouse emissions will warm the planet, raise the seas and derange the weather, and the resulting heat, flood and drought will be cataclysmic. Cataclysmic—but not apocalyptic. While the climate upheaval will be large, the consequences for human well-being will be small. Looked at in the broader context of economic development, climate change will barely slow our progress in the effort to raise living standards." Boisvert proceeds to show how a series of technologies—drought-resistant crops, cheap desalination, widespread adoption of air-conditioning, modern construction techniques—will ameliorate and overcome the problems caused by rising temperatures. He is entirely correct when he notes, "The most inexorable feature of climate-change modeling isn't the advance of the sea but the steady economic growth that will make life better despite global warming." Horgan, Pinker, and Boisvert are all essentially endorsing what I have called "the progress solution" to climate change. As I wrote in 2009, "It is surely not unreasonable to argue that if one wants to help future generations deal with climate change, the best policies would be those that encourage rapid economic growth. This would endow future generations with the wealth and superior technologies that could be used to handle whatever comes at them including climate change." Six years later I added that that "richer is more climate-friendly, especially for developing countries. Why? Because faster growth means higher incomes, which correlate with lower population growth. Greater wealth also means higher agricultural productivity, freeing up land for forests to grow as well as speedier progress toward developing and deploying cheaper non–fossil fuel energy technologies. These trends can act synergistically to ameliorate man-made climate change." Horgan concl[...]

Global Warming Less Likely to Be Catastrophic, Says New Nature Study

Fri, 19 Jan 2018 17:30:00 -0500

(image) Probably the most vexing problem in climate change science is determining how hot the planet would become if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles from it pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million. Known as equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report put the likely range of ECS as being between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius.

The current level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is around 403 parts per million. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now increasing annually at about 3 parts per million. If that rate of increase keeps up, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will double by the end of the century.

As bad as an increase of 4.5 degrees Celsius would be - and it would be really bad considering that the difference between now and an ice age is 4 to 7 degrees Celsius - a big concern has been that researchers have not been able to rule out that future temperatures might exceed the 4.5 degrees Celsius. In a new study published in Nature, University fo Exeter mathematician Peter Cox and his colleagues claim that they have constrained ECS to a lower range of values. From the abstract:

Here we present a new emergent constraint on ECS that yields a central estimate of 2.8 degrees Celsius with 66 per cent confidence limits (equivalent to the IPCC 'likely' range) of 2.2–3.4 degrees Celsius. ... [Their procedure] enables tighter constraints to be placed on ECS, reducing the probability of ECS being less than 1.5 degrees Celsius to less than 3 per cent, and the probability of ECS exceeding 4.5 degrees Celsius to less than 1 per cent.

To greatly simplify, Cox and his colleagues compared how climate models handled year-to-year variations in surface temperatures with the historical temperature record. In doing so, they found that the climate models that yielded higher ECS values failed to replicate what has been happening to actual temperature trends.

In his perspetive article in Nature, Leeds University climatologist Piers Forster explains, "Their analysis revealed that only climate models that produce relatively small values of ECS match the variability seen in the historical temperature record." Forster adds, "If the upper limit of ECS can truly be constrained to a lower value than is currently expected, then the risk of very high surface-temperature changes occurring in the future will decrease. This, in turn, would improve the chances of keeping the temperature increase well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, the target of the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change."

That would be good news indeed.

2017 Was the Second Hottest Year Since 1880, Says NASA

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 16:08:00 -0500

2017 was the second-warmest year since 1880, according to NASA. Only 2016 was warmer. More specifically, NASA reports that globally averaged temperatures last year were 0.90° Celsius warmer than the mean temperature from 1951 to 1980. The three other major institutions that track global temperature trends find that 2017 is the third warmest year in their records. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports: The average temperature across the globe in 2017 was 1.51 degrees Fahrenheit (0.84 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit (13.9 degrees Celsius). 2017 marks the 41st consecutive year (since 1977) with global land and ocean temperatures at least nominally above the 20th-century average. "The six warmest years on record for the planet," the agency adds, "have all occurred since 2010." Researchers at the Met Office Hadley Centre and the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit report that the global average temperature in 2017 was about 0.99° Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and about 0.38° Celsius above the 1981–2010 average. The climatologists at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who oversee the satellite temperature data report that the average temperature in the lower troposphere over the globe in 2017 was 0.375° Celsius warmer than seasonal norms. These temperature trends are calculated relative to a 30-year average (1981–2010). The Huntsville satellite record trend, often cited by folks who are less concerned about climate model projections, is basically identical to the Hadley Centre's conclusions. Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) also uses satellite temperature data to calculate global temperature trends. It reports that 2017 was the second warmest recorded since satellite observations began in 1979. Last year, 2016, was the warmest ever recorded. The near-record warmth of 2017 is notable because an El Niño event did not occur in 2017. The other 3 warmest years, 1998, 2010, and 2016, were El Niño years. Except for 1998, all of the warmest years occur after 2000, providing clear evidence of global temperature increase in the troposphere. RSS notes that the although the recent warm years have brought climate model projections and measured temperature trends closer, it is still the case the "the troposphere has not warmed quite as fast as most climate models predict." The Huntsville researchers find that the globe is warming at 0.13° Celsius per decade, while RSS reports a warming trend of 0.18° Celsius per decade. The surface data trends fall within this range. It is generally agreed that the earth has warmed by about 1° Celsius since the 19th century. If the Huntsville rate of temperature increase is maintained for the rest of this century, the world would end up just a bit over 2° Celsius warmer than it was around 1900. If the RSS trend is sustained, that would yield a further increase of nearly 1.5° Celsius, resulting in a global average temperature that's 2.5° Celsius warmer than it was in 1900. It is worth noting that the temperature difference between now and the last ice age is between 4 to 7° Celsius. That increase occurred at a much slower pace.[...]

Global Temperature Increases Are Lower and Slower, Says New Study

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 17:15:00 -0500

A new study using more than 38 years satellite and weather balloon temperature data hypothesizes that global temperatures are going up more slowly than projected by most climate models. And right on time, these results were challenged by other researchers who defend the scientific climate consensus as embodied in Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. The new study done by University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologists John Christy and Richard McNider published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Science argues consensus models may not have accurately captured how storms in the tropics expel excess heat back into space and/or that they have failed to account for how heat is absorbed by the world's oceans. Christy and McNider took into account the effects of volcanic eruptions (cooling) and El Nino (heating) and La Nina (cooling) perturbations on global temperatures during the past 38 years. What they found was warming in the lower troposphere where the bulk of our planet's atmosphere is located at a rate of about 0.096 degrees Celsius per decade. This trend implies that global temperatures will be about 1.1 (± 0.26) degrees Celsius warmer at the time carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels and land use changes doubles in the atmosphere. This is about half of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) estimate of 2.31 (± 0.20) degrees Celsius warmer for a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. "From our observations we calculated that value as 1.1 C (almost 2° Fahrenheit), while climate models estimate that value as 2.3 C (about 4.1° F)," Christy said in a press release. "Again, this indicates the real atmosphere is less sensitive to CO2 than what has been forecast by climate models. This suggests the climate models need to be retooled to better reflect conditions in the actual climate, while policies based on previous climate model output and predictions might need to be reconsidered." John Abraham, a professor of thermal and fluid sciences at the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering in Minnesota, asserted in The Daily Mail that Christy and McNider have "manipulated the raw measurements to decrease warming by about 38 percent." If by manipulate, Abraham means that Christy and McNider have tried to take into account the effects of volcanic eruptions sending cooling sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere and the large swings in global average temperatures caused by the natural El Nino and La Nina phenomenon, then yes. They have done nothing underhanded or wrong. It is hard not conclude that Abraham is being disingenous when he accuses Christy and McNider of data manipulation. Abraham must know the surface temperature datasets relied upon by IPCC are also "manipulated," using homogenization procedures to take into account weather station moves, instrument changes, time of observation changes, and urban heat island biases. If the amount of warming expected from a doubling of carbon dioxide is much lower than most climate models project that implies that catastrophic climate outcomes are less likely and that humanity will have extra time to adjust to whatever warming eventually results from the increase in the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.[...]

Destroy Capitalism to Save the Climate, Argues New York Times Op-Ed

Tue, 21 Nov 2017 12:45:00 -0500

The New York Times is running an op-ed by Benjamin Y. Fong, essentially reprising progressive simpleton Naomi Klein's 2014 screed, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. In "The Climate Crisis? It's Capitalism, Stupid," the solution to anything Fong dislikes, just like Klein, is the abolition of private property and the imposition of socialism. Fong argues: The real culprit of the climate crisis is not any particular form of consumption, production or regulation but rather the very way in which we globally produce, which is for profit rather than for sustainability. So long as this order is in place, the crisis will continue and, given its progressive nature, worsen. This is a hard fact to confront. But averting our eyes from a seemingly intractable problem does not make it any less a problem. It should be stated plainly: It's capitalism that is at fault. In my review of Klein's book I explained: Canonical Marxism predicted that capitalism would collapse under the weight of its class "contradictions," in which the bourgeoisie profit from the proletariat's labor until we reach a social breaking point. In Klein's progressive update, capitalism will collapse because the pollution produced by its heedless overconsumption will build to an ecological breaking point. "Only mass social movements can save us now," she declares. Fong, faculty fellow at Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University and the author of Death and Mastery: Psychoanalytic Drive Theory and the Subject of Late Capitalism, similarly observes, "As an increasing number of environmental groups are emphasizing, it's systemic change or bust. From a political standpoint, something interesting has occurred here: Climate change has made anticapitalist struggle, for the first time in history, a non-class-based issue." Klein dismisses the possibility that advances in modern science and technology incentivized through free markets can solve whatever problems that man-made climate change may pose as the 21st Century unfolds. Klein sneers that such thinking embodies the attitude that "We will triumph in the end because triumphing is what we do." Fong likewise asserts that as long as capitalism exists it is vain to expect intelligent people to come up with technical solutions to climate change. "The simple fact that the work of saving the planet is political, not technical," he argues. "For anyone who has really thought about the climate crisis, it is capitalism, and not its transcendence, that is in need of justification." As a guide to the glorious post-capitalist climate-stable future, Fong actually recommends, Communism for Kids by social theorist Bini Adamczak. "Once upon a time, people yearned to be free of the misery of capitalism. How could their dreams come true?," reads the MIT Press promotional copy. "This little book proposes a different kind of communism, one that is true to its ideals and free from authoritarianism." The book is accompanied "by illustrations of lovable little revolutionaries experiencing their political awakening." You really can't make this stuff up. It's hard to believe in the 21st century that folks like Fong seem totally unaware of the massive humanitarian, ecological, and economic disasters caused by communism. In contrast, the spread of free markets over the past two centuries causes people to live flourishing lives. In my 2012 article. "Free Markets = Sustainable Development," I point out: There is only one proven way to improve the lot of hundreds of millions of poor people, and that is democratic capitalism. It is in rich democratic capitalist countries that the air and water are becoming cleaner, forests are expanding, food is abundant, education is universal, and women's rights respected.... By vastly increasing knowledge and pursuing technological progress, past generations met their needs and vastly increased the ability of our generation to meet our needs. We shou[...]

Trump Did Not 'Suppress' the New National Climate Science Special Report

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 16:15:00 -0400

Despite the fears of some climate activists, the Trump administration did not suppress any of the conclusions in the National Climate Assessment program's new Climate Science Special Report. The new report essentially bolsters the climate change consensus that the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere derived chiefly from burning fossil fuels is warming the planet at a relatively rapid rate. The new report is being issued just as the latest United Nations climate change conference gets ready to start up next week. So what does the report find? (1) Global annually averaged surface air temperature has increased by about 1.8°F (1.0°C) over the last 115 years (1901–2016). (2) Based on extensive is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century [emphasis in report]. For the warming over the last century, there is no convincing alternative explanation supported by the extent of the observational evidence. (3) Global average sea level has risen by about 7–8 inches since 1900, with almost half (about 3 inches) of that rise occurring since 1993. Human-caused climate change has made a substantial contribution to this rise since 1900, contributing to a rate of rise that is greater than during any preceding century in at least 2,800 years. (4) Relative to the year 2000, global mean sea level is very likely to rise by 0.3–0.6 feet (9–18 cm) by 2030, 0.5–1.2 feet (15–38 cm) by 2050, and 1.0–4.3 feet (30–130 cm) by 2100. (4) Annual average temperature over the contiguous United States has increased by 1.8°F (1.0°C) for the period 1901–2016; over the next few decades (2021–2050), annual average temperatures are expected to rise by about 2.5°F for the United States, relative to the recent past (average from 1976–2005).... (5) The frequency of cold waves has decreased since the early 1900s, and the frequency of heat waves has increased since the mid-1960s (the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s remains the peak period for extreme heat in the United States). Over at The Wall Street Journal, physicist Steven Koonin, who served as undersecretary of energy for science in the Obama years, describes the new report as "deceptive." He acknowledges that "much is right in the report" but thinks its tone is misleading in some important areas. Specifically, he notes that the recent rate of sea level rise is just as fast as during various periods in the 20th century, and that heat waves are no more frequent than they were in 1900. Koonin suggests: These deficiencies in the new climate report are typical of many others that set the report's tone. Consider the different perception that results from "sea level is rising no more rapidly than it did in 1940" instead of "sea level rise has accelerated in recent decades," or from "heat waves are no more common now than they were in 1900" versus "heat waves have become more frequent since 1960." Both statements in each pair are true, but each alone fails to tell the full story. Koonin wants to remedy what he thinks are deficiencies in the way climate science is assessed by "convening a 'Red/Blue' adversarial review to stress-test the entire report." Given the thorough politicization of climate science, I doubt that the results of such a review would satisfy either alarmists or deniers.* Watch this space next week for a more detailed analysis of the report. *The epithets that global warming partisans use to denounce their opponents.[...]

California Wants to Ban All Gas-Powered Cars

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 13:00:00 -0400

California Gov. Jerry Brown is reportedly considering a ban on all gas-powered cars. No, seriously. Mary Nichols, head of California's Air Resources Board, told Bloomberg News this week that Brown has been pestering her about getting a gas-car ban on the books. "I've gotten messages from the governor asking, 'Why haven't we done something already?'" she said, adding that Brown is particularly worried that his planet-saving efforts might be outshined by those of other countries. The United Kingdom and France have both said they will ban the sale of gas and diesel by 2040. Norway's transportation plan calls for all new passenger vehicles to be zero-emission by 2025. India wants to make the switch to electric by 2030. But it's the People's Republic of China, currently drafting its own ill-defined ban on the production and sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, that is giving Brown the most grief. Says Nichols, "The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California." Apart from envying the autocratic powers of a communist dictatorship, Brown has not said what a ban on gas and diesel vehicles might look like. Nichols herself offers scant detail, other than saying that a complete ban on the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles could arrive as early as 2030 and that all combustion would have to be phased out by as early as 2040. That's...optimistic. California currently has a goal of getting 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) on the road by 2025, and the prospects of reaching even this far more modest goal are in question. Despite generous subsidies, purchases of ZEVs still hover below 3 percent of new vehicles sales. Only 13,804 were sold in California in the first quarter of 2017, out of 506,745 in total new vehicle sales. Only 300,000 "clean vehicles," of which roughly half are partially gas-powered hybrids, have been sold in California. Purely electric vehicles are about .4 percent of the nearly 35 million registered vehicles on the state's roads. To achieve Brown's goals, he will have to compel 99.6 percent of California drivers to trade in their gas guzzlers for electric vehicles that they currently find too expensive or too impractical. And that doesn't even touch on the issue of providing enough charging stations for these vehicles, or of generating enough electricity to power those stations. Nor does it cover the issue of affordability. Right now, electric cars are the domain of the well-to-do. A 2016 Berkeley study found that 83 percent of those making use of California's electric vehicle subsidy program made over $100,000. Getting the rest of the state into these cars would require massive subsidies. Even then, many might end up going without personal transportation. How any of these practical considerations might be addressed is unknown. Right now, the ban is still just talk. But it's talk that Brown and his subordinates are taking seriously.[...]

Brickbat: Stifling Intellectual Competition

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) Following a 14-month investigation, Canada's Competition Bureau has closed a probe of three groups accused by environmentalists of making misleading claims about global warming. But the bureau says it may reopen the investigation if it receives new information.

Climate Models Run Too Hot: Settled Science Again

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 10:30:00 -0400

Climate computer model projections of future man-made warming due to human emissions of carbon dioxide are running too hot, says a fascinating new study in Nature Geoscience. Consequently, researchers reckon that humanity has more time to prevent dangerous future climate change than had been suggested earlier by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is really good news. This new article shows that climate science is not yet "settled science." Of course, this is just one article among many thousands addressing aspects of man-made climate change. While its authors are members in good standing in the climate science establishment, they could be wrong. In fact, on the same day as the Nature Geoscience study was published, the United Kingdom's Met Office issued a report that says this: "After a period during the early 2000's when the rise in global mean temperature slowed...the long-term rate of global warming has now returned to the level seen in the second half of the 20th century." The Met Office attributes the temperature slowdown in the early 21st century to natural climate variations. Specifically, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation had flipped to its cool phase, thus masking ongoing man-made global warming between 1999 and 2014. If true, this would suggest that the climate models are right after all about the long-term temperature trends and that the carbon budget is smaller than the new study calculates. So what did the Nature Geoscience researchers do? They began by calculating what the global carbon budget should be in order to keep future temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial average. Why that level? Because the signatories to the Paris Agreement on climate change committed to "holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels." The researchers next pointed out that the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report, from 2013, estimated that cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since 1870 would have to remain less than 2,260 gigatons of carbon dioxide to stay below the 1.5 C threshold. But as of 2014, cumulative emissions stood at just over 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Since humanity is currently emitting about 36 gigatons of carbon dioxide annually, that implies that humanity would blow through the remaining IPCC carbon budget around 2021. Here's where it gets interesting. The average global temperature now stands at about 0.9 C above the pre-industrial baseline, which implies that global temperature would have to increase by 0.6 C between now and 2021 if the IPCC carbon budget calculations were right. This is highly implausible since such an increase would be about 10 times faster than than what has actually heretofore been observed. "Taking an average across ESMs [Earth systems models] suggests that our cumulative emissions to date would correspond to about 0.3 C more than best estimates of human-caused warming so far," lead author Richard Millar concludes at CarbonBrief. In the London Times another author of the paper—Myles Allen, a professor of geosystem science at the University of Oxford—said, "We haven't seen that rapid acceleration in warming after 2000 that we see in the models. We haven't seen that in the observations." In other words, climate computer models projected the global average temperature should be about 1.2 C above the pre-industrial baseline for the 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide already emitted. Instead, global average temperature is only 0.9 C higher. Running the models forward from a 2015 baseline yields a carbon budget of around 880 gigatons of additional carbon dioxide before passing through the 1.5 C threshold. That amounts to about 20 years of emission[...]

Climate Change Will Reduce Incomes in 2100 from $97,000 to $95,000

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 11:05:00 -0400

(image) The Yale economist William Nordhaus has spent decades using a combination of econometric and climate models to estimate global warming's future effects. He isn't the only researcher who's been attempting to make such projections, and Nordhaus' latest study considers a range of different estimates. (Get your salt shaker ready.)

In a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Nordhaus and his colleague Andrew Moffatt survey 36 different estimates (derived from 27 studies) of climate change's impact on gross world product by the year 2100. Nordhaus and Moffatt note that "there are many studies of theoretical temperature increases in the 2 to 4°C range, and that they cluster in the range of a loss of 0 to 4% of global output." After crunching the numbers, they report:

The estimated impact from the preferred regression is 1.63% of income at 3°C warming and 6.53% of income at a 6°C warming. We make a judgmental adjustment of 25% to cover unquantified sectors....With this adjustment, the estimated impact is -2.04 (+ 2.21)% of income at 3°C warming and -8.16 (+ 2.43)% of income at a 6°C warming.

The authors note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report declined to make an estimate of future losses, but in the Fourth Report, the panel stated that "Global mean losses could be 1 to 5% of GDP for 4°C of warming." This means that Nordhaus and Moffatt's findings are broadly in line with the climate change consensus.

So what do these findings portend for people lucky enough to be alive in 2100? Let's consider the best-case scenario first. Annual gross world product is currently somewhere around $75 trillion, which without adjustments means that global income stands at around $10,000 per capita. Assume 3 percent economic growth from now until 2100, and a global population that year of 9 billion. Without climate change, world GDP would rise to $872 trillion and income would be $97,000 per capita. Assuming a 3°C increase in average temperature, that would reduce global GDP from $872 trillion to $854 trillion, and income to $95,000 per capita. At 6°C, the figures would be $800 trillion and $89,000 per capita.

In the unlikely event that global economic growth dawdles along at only 2 percent per year for the rest of this century, gross world product would rise to only $388 trillion and income to $43,000 per capita without warming. A 3°C rise in average temperature would reduce global GDP to $380 trillion and income to $42,000 per person; a 6°C increase would cut global GDP to $360 trillion and income to $40,000 per person.

The Nordhaus and Moffatt survey of studies also found "no indication from the damage estimates of a sharp discontinuity or high convexity." In other words, the studies do not identify threshold effects in which damages from climate change accelerate in the future.

These calculations bring up this question: How much should people living today making an average of $10,000 apiece spend in order to prevent the future incomes from falling from $97,000 to $95,000 per capita?

Now is the time to get out your salt shaker and liberally apply the sodium chloride to these calculations.

Calm People vs. the Apocalypse [Podcast]

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 17:35:00 -0400

"Maybe the way of thinking about discourse in America is not about right and left, or liberal and conservative, or green and carbon belcher," says Reason's Nick Gillespie, "but are you an apocalyptic or not?"

On today's podcast, Gillespie joins Katherine Mangu-Ward, Matt Welch, and Andrew Heaton to talk alarmism—over the debt ceiling and the causes of Hurricane Irma. They also discuss misguided policy responses to September 11th by liberals and conservatives.

Plus an abundance of economic fallacies, from the notion that natural disasters spur economic growth to prosperity through war.

Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

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The Administrative State Strikes Back: Federal Climate Change Draft Report Leaked

Tue, 08 Aug 2017 14:25:00 -0400

A draft version of the U.S. Global Change Research Program Climate Science Special Report has been leaked to The New York Times. Notwithstanding the Times' alarmist headline suggesting "drastic" climate impacts on the U.S., a glance through the 545-page report finds that it is essentially an aggregation of climate change studies that support the scientific consensus that man-made global warming is occurring. According to the report, the global annual average temperature has increased by more than 1.6°F (0.9°C) from 1880 to 2015; the average annual temperature of the contiguous U.S. has increased by about 1.2°F (0.7°C) between 1901 and 2015. Climate models project increases of at least 2.5°F (1.4°C) over the next few decades, which means that recent record-setting years in the U.S. will be relatively "common" in the near future. The report concurs with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's conclusion that it is "extremely likely that most of the global mean temperature increase since 1951 was caused by human influence on the climate." The report also finds that extremely cold days in the U.S. have become fewer while the number of extremely hot days has increased. In addition, extreme percipitation events have become more common in the U.S. The report notes that there is still considerable controversy among researchers when it comes to future trends in hurricane frequency and intensity. Politicians, like most people, don't want to hear bad news that appears to contradict their views. The saga of how the the first National Climate Assessment fared under the George W. Bush administration is cautionary tale. Basically, Bush administration officials edited the report in ways that suggested greater uncertainty about scientific findings than the researchers who put together the report thought were warranted. That effort backfired when the administration's artful editing was leaked to and reported by the media. The new report states that "it does not include an assessment of the literature on climate change mitigation, adaptation, economic valuation, or societal responses, nor does it include policy recommendations." This appears to be accurate, though the report does note that "significant reductions in global CO2 emissions relative to present-day emission rates" would be needed to meet the Paris Agreement on Climate Change's goal of limiting future warming to below 2°C. Scientific data can identify a problem, but they do not tell policy makers the right way to handle a problem. Maybe the best thing to do is to let emissions increase while growing the economy as fast possible, so as to create the wealth and technologies that will enable future generations to deal with whatever problems climate change may generate. Or perhaps more research needs to be directed toward developing cheap low-carbon energy technologies. The report was no doubt leaked by someone with an agenda, and I don't blame anyone in the Trump administration who thinks a shadow science group of Obama leftovers is trying to thwart what it perceives as the president's climate and energy policies. In any case, since that the draft report is available to anyone with an internet connection, it would be ridiculous for officials to try to "suppress" it now. Update: Climate report found over at Internet Archive. Fox News cites several researchers who assert that that means it's been public for months. When the National Academy of Sciences released its report evaluating the process for how the draft Special Report was put together, I did a fairly extensive online search for the draft report and could not find it. Even now over at the official federal U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) website the link to any copy of the repo[...]

Why the Left Can't Solve Global Warming

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:55:00 -0400

Environmentalists have been waxing apocalyptic about global warming for several decades now. But what do they have to show for it? America's president just pulled out of the Paris climate accord, leaving a rudderless and bereft global movement. And even if he hadn't, the nation has little appetite for meaningful political action on climate change. Why have environmentalists failed so utterly to push their cause forward after all this time? Because they've gone about it all wrong. Instead of treating global warming like a problem that needs to be addressed regardless of what caused it, the green left has been more obsessed with establishing humanity's culpability and embracing ever more extreme and painful mitigation steps, as if they were more concerned with punishing the perpetrators than solving the problem. Global warming guru Al Gore in 1992 called for the elimination of the internal combustion engine from the planet in 25 years. But the accursed engine is nowhere close to going away given that auto sales (and not hybrids and electrics) are projected to grow for decades to come. Many environmentalists want to eradicate fossil fuels. This will never happen—or at least won't happen for a long, long time—especially in emerging economies that need cheap fuel to spur development and deliver decent living standards. Undeterred, liberals are now saying that we should save the planet by having fewer kids, each of whom creates 58 tons of carbon dioxide each year (more for American parents). This is a ludicrous suggestion that will further drive a wedge between middle-class Americans who live for their families and yuppie, green Americans who live for the enviroment. But the further problem with all these remedies is that they suffer from what's called the collective action problem. Take, for example, forgoing children: If some people forgo but others don't, the former will suffer a deep personal loss and the planet will be no better off. Hence everyone waits for someone else to go first and the "solution" doesn't even get off the ground. If environmentalists want to succeed, they'll have to begin by transforming their own attitudes, focusing less on asking people to sacrifice to save the planet, and focusing much more on smart technological solutions that solve our climate problem without asking so much from us. Morally shaming people into voluntary action doesn't work. And the more attached people are to the things that they are being shamed into giving up, the less effective this strategy. Environmentalists' other strategy to overcome the collective action problem is government coercion to force polluters to cease and desist. But governments, especially democratic ones, don't have carte blanche to inflict endless pain on their citizens without being booted out. That's why Europe's cap-and-trade scheme—under which each industry got a free carbon quota beyond which it had to buy offsets from less polluting companies with permits to spare—has shown pathetic results. Countries simply gamed the program to give their industries a reprieve. A global carbon tax, though in theory a less messy solution, has even less chance of ever being embraced for all kinds of reasons, including that poor countries will expect rich countries to impose a higher tax because they caused the problem in the first place, while rich countries will expect poor countries to shoulder more of the burden as they are currently the bigger polluters. (Given that many global warming warriors fancy themselves to be progressives fighting for the underdog, they should bear in mind that in this battle, might will prevail over right and poor countries will have to face the brunt.) If the environmental movement i[...]

What the Left Is Doing Wrong in Fighting Global Warming: New at Reason

Fri, 28 Jul 2017 09:55:00 -0400

After three decades of trying, the environmental left is nowhere close to solving global warming. For reasonable people that would be time enough to(image) fundamentally rethink their strategy.

But not for this movement, notes Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia.

It keeps demanding ever more outrageous sacrifices on the part of its fellow humans, the latest being that they should have fewer children. But if the movement hasn't succeeded in forcing people to give up their cars and ACs, how in the name of Gaia will it ever get them to give up kids? It's whole approach is riddled with the collective action problem.

There are ways to overcome it and avert planetary catastrophe. But that'll require the greens to give up the blame game and think of global warming more like a meteor strike: An event humanity didn't cause but from which it has to be saved.