Climate Change: how can we adapt?

On Monday, the Crawford school at the ANU ran a symposium on whether or not the government policy on carbon emissions was good policy. The video of the event should shortly appear here.

The main surprise for me was to see how clearly some of  the other economists speaking there, like Warwick McKibbon, David Pierce, and Henry Ergas, were skeptical about the prospects of serious coordinated international efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

The message of my presentation was that it is time to get more serious about adaptation. The synopsis of my presentation is over the fold.

 

The world is getting warmer and wetter, almost undoubtedly due to the fact that we are burning up fossil fuels at an incredible rate. Whilst this change in our climate will lead to some positive opportunities, such as wine growing in Tasmania, our natural and social habitat is not accustomed to changes that are this rapid and we should hence expect a significant loss of biodiversity and human infrastructure if we cannot halt climate change.

There are those that believe that we can avert climate change by repenting of our sinful energy-guzzling ways. They advocate an increased cost of activities that lead to carbon emissions in the expectation that this will gradually become normal throughout the world, eventually leading us to new technologies that will make humans more carbon neutral. They expect small-step policies, like the one the Australian government is planning to implement in 2012, to be instrumental in getting towards long-term changes in our use of energy.

Then there those like myself who see no hope whatsoever in reducing emissions. Most of the rest of the world simply doesn’t worry enough about the climate in coming decades and centuries to make the radical adjustments asked for. The scenario I see unfold is for the world to more or less go through the cheapest means of energy first, only using the cleaner energy as the more polluting but cheaper forms have run out. For sure, I also hope for technological breakthroughs, but having seen no major new technology in the last 50 years that comes close to out-competing coal and oil, I am not holding my breath that the magic technological fix is around the corner.

So if you fully expect the climate to change and think of policies surrounding carbon emissions as feeble symbolic gestures, does this mean you want to do nothing? The answer is no. If you are desperate enough, you try geo-engineering fixes that do not require massive and sustained coordination. Otherwise, what you do if there is a problem you can’t fix is that you learn to live with it and adapt to it such that you minimize the loss and maximize the gain.

Let us remind ourselves what we are adapting to. As a rule of thumb, in the course of 10 years we are talking about a warming of 0.1 degree Celsius, an increase in sea levels by 5 centimetres, and about a 0.5% increase in rainfall per 10 years. Ocean acidification and the melting of the ice caps make up even slower changes in our climate. On reflection, these anticipated changes in climate are very fast from a geological point of view, but from a human point of view they are painstakingly slow. You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime, which is of course precisely why I deem it folly to expect the world to really get anxious about this.

For any investment that is usually written off in a matter of decades, which includes most existing housing and nearly all business investments, the slow change in climate means that taking account of climate change is irrelevant since there will be plenty of time in the future to redirect such investments when the climate is actually noticeably different. One can think of making building codes take account of a greater likelihood of floods and storms, but that is about it.

The things to really worry about are public investments with payoffs measured in centuries rather than decades. Where governments have a particular role is in fishing stocks, biodiversity, nature parks, coastal lands, and other public goods that get given down via the generations.

How can governments react to the collapse in the stocks of those fish that would disappear due to acidification of the oceans? That acidification is a serious problem, to the extent that if it goes on unchecked, we’d be in the situation in a century or so time that the shell of many marine animals would dissolve, which means the end of them and things that feed on them.

One question is whether acidification can be reversed by pumping more alkaline substances into the ocean or churning alkaline rock beds in the ocean itself. Given the amount of fossil fuels we dig up, one would need an awful lot more chalk into the oceans to balance the acidity. My understanding is that this is an active area of research where we don’t yet know if acidification can be countered by things like mixing up shelves of chalk under the seabed.  A ‘coalition of the willing’ could try to churn enough calcium in the oceans to prevent further acidification and Australia could lead research and international efforts that way.

If it turns out that acidification is unavoidable, we should think of ways of preserving the biodiversity. Governments can extend the conservation areas in the oceans, can set up ‘artificial reefs’ on land that preserve some of the current marine diversity, can set up gene banks for the many current marine life species, and in various other ways can preserve as much of the marine life diversity as possible in the cheapest way possible. Some of these things, like in-land reefs, could be tourist attractions.

Apart from conservation, governments can also be more pro-active: if you take the warming and acidification of the oceans as inevitable, you can turn to the question how to re-stock the ocean with fish and other organisms that do well in warmer and more acid waters. Of course, nature itself will experiment with this, but governments can give nature a helping hand. We can try to genetically engineer new fish species or mass-raise those species which we know are more suited for the new climate. Such initiatives would of course greatly benefit from having a database of ocean life conserved somewhere. And it of course will be a case of hit-and-miss as the long history of introducing new species in Australia has shown. Learning how to engineer the fish and other marine life we want is not something we can do overnight and there is a government role in coordinating a knowledge base in that area.

Analogue to how governments have a role to play in maintaining and increasing the stock of fish, there is a role for government in maintaining biodiversity and nature parks on land. Gene banks, artificial species, artificial habitats, etc. are obvious things governments can get involved in. To some extent, we already are involved in such thing. The Australian National Botanic Gardens for instance already stores seeds of over 5000 different  plants and such programs would seem worth expanding.

The main areas in which active government intervention specific to Australia would seem desirable are hence in terms of our unique natural habitats and waters. One would want to invest in our ability to re-stock habitats and to engineer species and plants capable of thriving in the new conditions. The two tasks, habitat conservation and habitat experimentation, are both long-term enterprises where the 10 billion dollars currently spent on symbolic measures would go a long way to helping us prepare for the climate changes ahead.

 

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127 Responses to Climate Change: how can we adapt?

  1. Ken Parish says:

    “in the course of 10 years we are talking about a warming of 0.1 degree Celsius …”

    My non-expert understanding is that median estimates in the more moderate IPCC “scenarios” are around 3 degrees C warming over the next century i.e. about 0.3 degrees C per decade. No doubt it would be slower at first then accelerating as the century progresses, but it’s still a fair bit larger than what you’re suggesting. You seem to be basing your estimate on the historical record, in that global mean temperature rose by around 0.8 degrees C through the twentieth century. Modelling indicates a rather faster pace of warming through the 21st century. I’m not arguing against your case, which sadly may well be spot on, just pointing out that the picture is probably gloomier than you’re suggesting and the adaptation effort required correspondingly greater.

  2. Paul Frijters says:

    Ken,

    A month-by-month account of the world temperature can be seen here:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_current.gif

    starting from 1850, the temperatures have risen between 0.5 and 0.9 degrees, translating to 0.04 per decade. If we look at just the last 50 years, you get the mentioned 0.1 degrees per decade. There are indeed a whole set of possible temperature increases bandied around for the next century and I took the one closest to actual real experience in living memory.

    No need to be only doom and gloom about these changes though. The IPCC expects agriculture to improve with a 1 to 3 degree increase in temperature, which means in terms of food this century will be a winner of climate change. Stern similarly expects benefits of 2 degrees warming so in our lifetime and that of our grandchildren the clouds have silver linings. It is an odd aspect of this debate that doom in gloom scenarios dominate the public debates whilst a lot of good things are projected during the next 2 generations’ lifetime.

  3. wilful says:

    Why on earth would you be looking at the past to anticipate the future? And, if you’re not a climate scientist, why wouldn’t you look at the authoritative voices in climate science, such as the CSIRO or IPCC, rather than a professional contrarian? Unless you’re actually pushing some non/anti-science barrow, in which case you’re not being an economist, just an ideologue.

  4. paul frijters says:

    wilful,

    what a question!
    The IPCC reports have many scenarios, ranging from 1.1 degrees increase to 6.4. I choose the lower bound because it relates to the upper bound of what we have been recently experiencing and it thus puts it in context as to what the last 2 generations have experienced. If you want to exchange 0.1 with 0.2 or even 0.6 in your own mind, be my guest.

  5. wilful says:

    Paul, you are essentially advocating “A1F1”, which is more like 2.4 – 6.5 degrees (from memory), with a median consensus around 4 degrees. if you accept that, then your statement

    “from a human point of view they are painstakingly slow. You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime, which is of course precisely why I deem it folly to expect the world to really get anxious about this.”

    is invalidated. And I don’t accept that there is plenty of upside in the meantime, in a slightly warmer world. Sure, if you live in Siberia you might enjoy a longer growing season But compare that to drought in the horn of Africa, to flooding the Gangetic delta, it’s pretty clear which way the scales are weighted.

  6. rog says:

    The proposition is flawed if you have to rely on Roy Spencer for evidence.

  7. paul frijters says:

    rog,

    you want to explain what is wrong with the linked graph? The temperatures there overlap almost perfectly with other available temperature series. Is this some kind of fetish whereby you have no right to use the pretty pictures of X?

    wilful,

    you seem to pick and mix your prefered scenarios and implications. On the whole, I was picking the ones that made my main argument less salient. As Ken pointed out, if I pick a quicker pace of change the rationale for adaptation only strengthens.
    Care to explain to me whether and why you disagree with the mainstream line on the (agricultural) benefits of warming 1-3 degrees?

  8. rog says:

    Paul, the very fact that you referenced Roy Spencer indicates that you are out of depth.

  9. paul frijters says:

    rog,

    ah, you are a fundamentalist. Once someone is tainted, anything they do or make available is shunned, whether the particular item in question is actually useful or not. No wonder you hide behind a pseudonym.

  10. hc says:

    Apart from some factual errors the basic claim here is logically sound. If no one will act to mitigate their emissions by reducing their carbon emissions then the only thing left is to adapt to climate change or rely on some geo-engineering option. But Paul offers no support for his premise and there is clear evidence that the politicians of almost all countries are interested in addressing climate change. Certainly Europe but also developing countries like China and India where the drastic effects of climate change are being felt. The US is having problems now with the GFC but its current President wants action on climate change as to many Americans. So too did George Bush 1. So too apparently does the Australian Liberal Party.

    Paul you cannot reconstruct natural environments from seed banks and it is clearly better to try to mitigate carbon emissions than to adopt an unproven defeatist attitudes that only permits leaves the adaptation option.

    If as many now suggest we do experience catastrophic climate change then the dangerous options of geo-sequestration and neutralising the acidity of the oceans might be employed as last ditch efforts to avoid oblivion but why raise these issues now when with moderate carbon pricing, and plausible policies we can certainly at least limit the extent of warming.

    Social scientists like to be different and to sound radical – most academics (I don’t exclude myself) crave recognition. But when there are important issues of public policy at stake – and there seem to be few more important than the potential survival of the human and other species – then it is important to also be sensible even if it is all a bit boring. Saying that we should give up on climate mitigation on the basis of the unproven premise that policy will fail does not seem sensible. The stakes are too high.

  11. conrad says:

    “but having seen no major new technology in the last 50 years that comes close to out-competing coal and oil, I am not holding my breath that the magic technological fix is around the corner.”

    I’ll bet against you here — I reckon we’ll have nuclear fusion in 20 years (of course then would come the process of changing over, which would take another 30), since the market is gargantuan and you have lots of really smart people working on it, getting somewhere. Of course, that doesn’t mean we will get it, so I still think it is worthwhile trying to think about the things HC mentions.

  12. rog says:

    Paul, you appear to be keen on referencing economic authorities but when it comes to climate change the choice appears to be one of a DIY adaption.

    Climate change is complex and the IPCC attempt to describe the range of options. No one really knows how it will affect an individual in a particular location at a certain point in time but the consensus is that the overall trend will generate significant and costly damage. The considered scientific opinion is that carbon emissions are the major contributor to climate change and it is the economists task to meet the challenge of reducing carbon emissions in a cost effective manner.

  13. wizofaus says:

    “You would be forgiven for not noticing any changes in your lifetime”

    I gather someone born in Hobart today, expecting to live a good 80 years, assuming BAU, is probably going to see something close to 3 degrees warming in their lifetime – enough to change its climate to something closer to Sydney’s. One would think they’d notice that.

  14. Peter Patton says:

    I simply do not understand what all the bed-wetting WAS – and let’s face it, popular ‘concern’ over global warming has come and gone like the pet-rock fad – all about it. If it gets too hot, then just MOVE. If your bed really is a wetlands, why don’t you buy land in Tasmania, or Alaska, or Finalnd, or Siberia?

  15. wizofaus says:

    Peter, polls from earlier this year showed over 50% of Americans worrying “a great deal or a fair amount” about global warming. In Europe and Australia the figures are somewhat higher. I fail to see how that compares with a ‘pet-rock’ fad. Yes there has been a slight downturn in support for action since a couple of years ago, but given the economic woes in the intervening period that’s hardly surprising.

  16. Peter Patton says:

    As I did not connect my post to any of your “polls”…

  17. Peter Patton says:

    And your polls are either completely fucked, or misunderstood by you. You seem very gullible to so quickly conflate ‘concern’ with support for ‘action’. I notice your silence on whom that alleged 50% expects to ‘act’, that is, ‘pay’. Not them.

  18. JJ says:

    Paul

    Firstly, thank you for posting on this very important subject. Given that human’s interaction with the environment is the greatest challenge facing our species’ survival, contributions to this debate should all be welcomed.

    Secondly, economics carries great weight in our society and it is very important that discussion between economists and relevant experts contributes to increasing our chances of survival. I have been waiting for more discussion of this subject on economics websites (after all the economy is part of the environment).

    That said, I am definitely noticing warming changes in my life-time (I’m 47) and while I’m no expert, from my understanding of what relevant experts say, the scenario you portray would appear to be very optimistic.

    I propose that Club Troppo invite people with expertise in relevant areas (weather, changes in complex environmental systems etc) to discuss this topic.

    JJ

  19. observa says:

    How can we adapt? By getting rid of this toxic Gillard and her lunar future ETS to ultimately enrich the Morgan Sachs MacQuarie crowd or Nigerian businessmen and achieve nothing. Then we have to piss off the entrenched watermelon mentality (including Abbott’s direct intervention sop) and go for a level playing field market based approach the world has to follow or else!

    As I’ve said before we need total reliance on straight level playing field fossil fuel taxing plus resource taxing to drive an environmentally smart marketplace and the country needs a circuit breaker before Gillard locks Labor into self destruct mode. The MRRT is popular for the obvious so that’s a no-brainer but Labor need to put the toxic ETS to bed and quickly. That means Crean as leader and his first announcement as PM that he’s ditching the ETS for a straight British Columbia model of fossil fuel taxing, with offsetting income and company tax cuts and the offer to work with Abbott on the details of that. The perfect wedge and circuit breaker for Labor and an offer Abbott can’t refuse now. It also sidelines the Greens without getting their noses out of joint. Of course in doing so Labor has to abandon the notion of raising more taxes and building their evil empire, for reliance on level playing field price to promote better environmental outcomes. That bedded down, border security could be addressed in a bipartisan way and then a broader shift to environmental pricing and resource taxing can be addressed, without the need for any other Govt intervention at all.

  20. Yobbo says:

    Certainly Europe but also developing countries like China and India where the drastic effects of climate change are being felt.

    Like what, Harry?

  21. conrad says:

    Yobbo,

    I think you’ll find that apart from a small number of countries, most governments actually accept climate change exists and is happening. A quick search of the government controlled and censored Chinadaily suggests even the Chinese government does: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2009-06/18/content_8296959.htm .

  22. Patrick says:

    I think you’ll find that there is an overwhelming massive consensus that climate change is mad bad and real. This view was first promulgated by Al Gore and he has successfully converted a large percentage of the world.

    I know you’ll find a crushingly dominant consensus that it is SEP – somebody else’s problem. This view was also first promulgated by Al Gore and he has also successfully converted an even larger percentage of the world.

    I too have serious concerns about HC and wiz if those comments about public opinion and global political leadership were made other than in jest.

  23. wizofaus says:

    Patrick I can’t help but wonder if there’s been any time recently that you’ve actually understood me correctly in almost any post on this blog. You know perfectly well my post wasn’t in jest – but nor was it claiming anything particularly controversial. As it is I largely agree with Paul that there simply isn’t sufficient public and political support for global action for mitigation measures to be likely to achieve much any time soon – I’m just slightly more optimistic that this might change in the coming decades than he and others are.

  24. observa says:

    The main areas in which active government intervention specific to Australia would seem desirable are hence in terms of our unique natural habitats and waters. One would want to invest in our ability to re-stock habitats and to engineer species and plants capable of thriving in the new conditions.

    Paul you don’t need central planners in Canberra to do that, nor a heap more in Brussells doing more of the same. Central planning has failed the environment on every measure and all we need to do is unleash a heap of John Walmesley Earth Sanctuary types with a free market. Watermelon policy-making is on the nose everywhere and Sportsbet have just suspended betting on Crean as Labor Leader. QED

  25. wilful says:

    you seem to pick and mix your prefered scenarios and implications. On the whole, I was picking the ones that made my main argument less salient.

    how do I do this? The scenario you outline will have grave, easily discernable impacts, as described in IPCC AR4. These effects will be felt soon.

    As Ken pointed out, if I pick a quicker pace of change the rationale for adaptation only strengthens.

    And the rationale for mitigation too.

    Care to explain to me whether and why you disagree with the mainstream line on the (agricultural) benefits of warming 1-3 degrees?

    care to provide any evidence that that is the mainstream line? From my wide reading, there will be some areas that will benefit, but overall (globally) the impacts on agriculture and food production will be severe.

    Oh, and your understanding of ecological restoration is quite apparently non-existent.

  26. Yobbo says:

    Yobbo,

    I think you’ll find that apart from a small number of countries, most governments actually accept climate change exists and is happening.

    I’m not interested in what governments “think” is happening, I want to see examples of the “Drastic Effects” of Climate Change that Harry says are already happening in China and India.

  27. conrad says:

    “I’m not interested in what governments “think” is happening”

    I imagine that governments (and the people) referred to in the China Daily article think that the things like flooding and so on are pretty drastic. They do kill people, wipe out villages etc. after all. Those that get relocated probably think that is pretty drastic also, despite the government’s ridiculous claims of giving them a better life (haha!).

  28. wizofaus says:

    I hate to say it, but I’d’ve thought whatever effects climate change has had on China’s environment so far would be lost in the noise of far more direct impacts from its rapid industrialisation. If anything the aerosol pollutants generated by China in the last decade or so have probably done more than anything else to reduce the degree of warming we would have experienced otherwise. But ask the average resident of Beijing or Shanghai when was the last time they saw a blue sky or clear water. There’s surely far more direct motivation to clear up the generation of aerosol pollution, and I’d certainly expect to see that happen in the next couple of decades, with consequent impacts on global temperature averages.

  29. hc says:

    Yobbo, Severe long term droughts in northern China, acute water supply issues in Beijing. Similar water supply issues in India.

    The Chinese themselves attribute these phenomena to climate change and are serious in their attempts to combat it. they recently achieved their 20% energy intensity reduction target and target a 40 % reduction intensity reduction target by 2020 which they will achieve.

    The Chinese have huge renewable programs and large numbers of CCS research plants.

    The Indian government is also serious about climate change and says it will not exceed per capita emissions of western countries.

    Neither China nor India will cut absolute emissions while their per capita emissions and their per capita energy consumptions are so low relative to the developed world but they are addressing climate change. Developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions and in offering technology and aid to developing countries.

  30. Peter Patton says:

    Developed countries should take the lead in cutting emissions and in offering technology and aid to developing countries.

    Shorter hc:

    Take up the Developed World’s burden–
    Send forth the best ye breed–
    Go bind your sons to exile
    To serve your captives’ need;
    To wait in heavy harness,
    On fluttered folk and wild–
    Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
    Half-devil and half-child.

  31. Yobbo says:

    How is drought possibly a result of increasing temperature Harry? Even schoolchildren know that warmer temperatures result in more rainfall, not less.

    You are full of it. You just assign anything bad that happens to Climate Change, the same way that primitive people blamed everything on evil spirits.

  32. JC says:

    Harry,

    No kidding but are you running propaganda for China? China is doing nothing to address climate change other than cosmetics.

    If they were serious, they would have signed the Copenhagen Accords, which expected a 4% annual reduction in carbon intensity, while the sky was the limit for absolute emissions projected then to rise 4.5 times US base levels by 2050. The US was prepared to give them an 80% cut in absolute emissions with one proviso. The US wanted inspection and verification. The Chinese walked.

    So that raises two questions.

    If China walked from the trust but verify agreement, why would you trust any of their stats? Secondly if absolute emissions are going to 4.5 times US 2006 baseline why does it really matter what their carbon intensity is.

    they recently achieved their 20% energy intensity reduction target and target a 40 % reduction intensity reduction target by 2020 which they will achieve.

    Really? Where is your starting point to determine the 20% cut in intensity? How is this number verified and by whom? The 40% cut is a compound reduction of 4& per annum from 2007 to 2020. There is nothing startling about this. However what is more startling is they didn’t sign the accord that simply asked for the same with verification.

    Meanwhile, absolute emissions are exploding to the upside for both China and India.

  33. conrad says:

    “Even schoolchildren know that warmer temperatures result in more rainfall, not less.”

    Well I’ll look forward to more 45c days in Melbourne then and the rain it brings.

  34. JC says:

    Well I’ll look forward to more 45c days in Melbourne then and the rain it brings.

    Funnily enough it does follow that pattern, Conrad. But why is micro climate even up for discussion when AGW is a long term global event.

  35. wizofaus says:

    It follows that pattern in some regions sure…specifically at high latitudes and in the tropics. Pretty much everything in between (including Melbourne and much of China) is expected to experienced less precipitation, a trend that many would argue has already started.

  36. wizofaus says:

    Not just Melbourne of course – most of Australia falls in the region expected to receive less precipitation. Which has in fact been the trend over the last 50 years, despite (as per Yobbo’s schoolchildren theory of climate) the associated warming in the same period:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/extremes/trendmaps.cgi?map=R__1&period=1950

  37. hc says:

    I hesitated in responding to Yobbo’s question because I expected a moronic response and that was exactly what resulted. Not just from Yobbo but from his co-cretin, moronic Catallaxy mates. Pathetic, imbecilic and wrong.

  38. Ken Parish says:

    Why are you being so tentative Harry? Tell us what you really think.

  39. hc says:

    Sorry Ken, I’ll try to make my position clearer in future.

  40. JC says:

    I don’t believe that’s the case wiz. There may have been changes in seasonal patterns but most of Australia over a long term period has not received less rainfall. Also from what i recall reading, our rain patterns seems to operate in 30 to 40 years cycles. The guy at niche modeling blog more or less made that claim and essentially refuted the CSIRO’s some years ago actually using the CSIRO data.

    Even if our rainfall is lower, it is impacted through a global event and there is nothing we can do about it.

    Lets be open eyed here. The two giga economies, China and India have basically taken a strategic view that they will accept AGW as a cost of industrialization against higher living standards. They do not see AGW costs outweighing a large rise in living standards for their massive populations. Their decision is made and seeing that India and China will account for perhaps 9 times (each 4.5 times) the US 2006 level by 2050 (add in the rest of the emerging world as equal to one China/india) and the growth in emissions over the next 40 years is an emerging economies tale.

    The entire western world could go to zero and wouldn’t be meaningful by 2050 in terms of what these dudes will be cooking up and dumping in the atmosphere.

  41. JC says:

    Harry

    I’m sorry, but I’m not wrong about the claims I’m making. You are. You are simply incorrect and don’t seem to know the difference between carbon intensity and absolute emissions.

    1. My claim that China walked away from Obama’s deal is correct.

    2. My claim that if China walked away from the verification deal and is now suggesting they will meet those intensity guidelines is suspect is also valid.

    3. My claim that China/India absolute emissions will be around 9 times US 2006 levels is probably right if they continue growing at a fast pace- even if slower from their current pace. Add is the rest of the emerging world as equal to one of those.

    If you think these claims are moronic, then refute them one by one, however your abuse doesn’t equal refutation.

    This a chart that shows various nation’s intensity and absolute emissions. China is and will continue to be a laggard. Mind you for all the bluster that Australia is a huge polluter, we’re at the extreme top end of carbon intensity, which means the industries we have are extremely efficient in terms of carbon intensity (carbon per unit of GDP), as we look like the US in those charts.

  42. Yobbo says:

    I hesitated in responding to Yobbo’s question because I expected a moronic response and that was exactly what resulted.

    Moronic response in this case meaning “not accepting my fairy tales”.

    Please Harry, link us to something that defends your ridiculous claim that droughts in China are caused by global warming.

  43. wizofaus says:

    JC, it may not be what you *believe*, but it’s what every chart I can generate from the BOM site shows. If you pick your dates carefully it is possible to find a few spots (mostly in the tropics) that have experienced a slight uptick in rainfall over a particular multi-decadal period, but the overall trend in precipitation for Australia as a whole is indisputably downward.

  44. conrad says:

    “Funnily enough it does follow that pattern, Conrad.”

    Well I’ll look forward to El Nino then, and the extra rain that it must bring.

  45. wizofaus says:

    Hmm, I guess I have to retract that…using another page on the site (http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/climate/change/trendmaps.cgi?map=rain&area=aus&season=0112&period=1900) it does appear that it’s really only if you measure since 1970 that there’s a clear downward trend in rainfall patterns for most of Australia, though for the eastern seaboard (from about Cairns downwards) it’s been true since 1950. If you go back to 1900 it appears rainfall has increased slightly for most of Australia. So maybe 1950-70 was just an unusually wet period.

    From my layman’s perspective it would seem to the only definite conclusion is that there’s no reason to suppose that rainfall will either decrease or increase as temperatures rise. But I’m quite prepared to defer to the expertise of climate scientists with far more understanding than I, who appear to be in agreement that the south-eastern parts of Australia will generally become drier in the coming decades.

  46. rog says:

    Putting things into perspective

  47. Pedro says:

    Conrad, we are once again on la nina watch, which is not surprising as they are more common during the current phase of the 20-30ish year cycle of the PDO. Wiz, the last time we were in the current PDO phase ended in the mid 70s.
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast15sep_1/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pacific_decadal_oscillation

    And just for rog! http://www.drroyspencer.com/global-warming-background-articles/the-pacific-decadal-oscillation/

    There either is or is not evidence of a long term increase in drought in India or China, so anybody making that claim should just provide a link. Water shortages are not the same a drought, especially in places with high population growth and fast rates of industrialisation and other development.

    The claims about more and worse cyclones have proved to be a fairy tale, that has been disavowed by the relevant scientists yet still gets run by pollies and pundits.

  48. Tel says:

    I imagine that governments (and the people) referred to in the China Daily article think that the things like flooding and so on are pretty drastic. They do kill people, wipe out villages etc. after all.

    Well there’s your answer to the adaptation problem right there: good quality drainage systems, maybe a well-built dam, don’t use mud as the primary foundation for your house (especially if you live on a steep hillside). Given the way China can build sky scrapers, coal power plants, nuclear power plants, fast rail, bridges, etc. etc. you would think that they could spare a bit of concrete for shoring up some of these villages… that’s what central planning is supposedly good for? Helping the guys at the bottom of the heap?

  49. wizofaus says:

    Pedro, what specifically are you referring to with regards to cyclones?

  50. Tel says:

    Mind you for all the bluster that Australia is a huge polluter, we’re at the extreme top end of carbon intensity, which means the industries we have are extremely efficient in terms of carbon intensity (carbon per unit of GDP), as we look like the US in those charts.

    I’m reasonably sure that all the statistics showing Australia as a huge polluter allocate our coal exports to China against the Australian per-capita carbon quota. That was the way the Kyoto Protocol did its accounting, and the reason was to force exporting countries to buy emission certificates from other countries, and thus push up the price of fossil fuels on the international market.

    Australian householders are on the whole, fairly wealthy by international standards, so we buy more stuff. We could prevent this by making ourselves poorer, and if we blocked all of our coal exports to China we would simultaneously solve both “problems”.

    But it seems kind of strange to be on an economics blog figuring out how to make ourselves poor. Anyhow nothing a bit of gree jobs stimulus money can’t fix. Block the coal exports, and plant a couple of trees in your yard — job’s done!

  51. wizofaus says:

    I’d also say Pedro that while the PDO appears to have played some role in affecting Australia’s rainfall patterns over the last few decades, it’s not as well understand as it should be, and is only one factor among many (the Southern Oscillation Index is probably a bigger factor). But it would seem at least plausible to suggest that the decrease in eastern seaboard rainfall since 1950 has been largely due to natural factors. I suppose if those natural factors reverse in the coming decades we may well see increased rainfall in some areas despite whatever drying out is predicted to be generated by AGW-induced temperature shifts.

  52. rog says:

    The claims about more and worse cyclones have proved to be a fairy tale, that has been disavowed by the relevant scientists

    You have a link?

    so anybody making that claim should just provide a link

  53. rog says:

    Read the BOM statement in its entirety.

  54. murph the surf. says:

    Just wanting to provide yet more reading material – I checked at Real Climate by searching for “future agriculture”.
    There are many links but few with specifics about changes to agriculture.
    This article was a useful reminder of the limitatiosn to such speculations.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/03/what-we-do-not-know-in-terms-of-adaptation/

  55. murph the surf. says:

    Just wanting to provide yet more reading material – I checked at Real Climate by searching for “future agriculture”.
    There are many links but few with specifics about changes to agriculture.
    This article was a useful reminder of the limitations to such speculations.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/03/what-we-do-not-know-in-terms-of-adaptation/

  56. wilful says:

    The main bit of nonsense in the article is that “we can just adapt in 50 years time”, as if there is some steady state for the climate at +2 or +4 degrees. there isn’t. Unless we do stuff now, it keeps getting hotter, forever into the future!

    And the idea that “oh we can build better houses in 50 years”, we how long do large stationary energy plans last? Hazelwood’s been going 60 years now…

    The main issue is stopping burning coal. This is going to take a long time.

  57. wizofaus says:

    Thanks for that link rog, but it is from 5 years ago…I understand that since then further research has been suggesting that hurricanes/cyclones are indeed expected to increase in intensity with further warming (http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n3/abs/ngeo779.html)

    And Pedro, I’m curious, would you say that Newton’s theory of gravity has proved to be ‘fairy tale’?

  58. observa says:

    Amazing rog that science now has to prove the null hypothesis that storms and cyclones aren’t increasing in frequency and intensity when warmist propagandists belt out the message that they are with SFA evidence just suspicions and innuendo (fairy tales) but since you ask try a roundup here-
    http://joannenova.com.au/2011/09/do-tropical-storms-correlate-with-co2-in-a-word-no/
    Scroll down for my comments and you’ll find a link to the TC capital of Oz and you can view for yourself the 1910-2006 graph of Onslow when Gaia even slept through the 80s.

  59. Pedro says:

    wiz
    http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/05pielke.pdf
    http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/global-warming-and-21st-century-hurricanes
    http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/07/060728-hurricane-warming.html

    Newton was wrong, we now know, but not by so much that it matters much to you or I. Clearly rog’s hurricane assertions are at a much different level of uncertainty.

    Yes, we don’t know so much about the PDO, it seems, or the Atlantic equivalent, or the Indian Ocean dipole. What does that tell you about the value of GCMs?

    rog, it would be nice if some day it appeared you were engaging in a discussion in good faith.

  60. observa says:

    As for that Nature propaganda wizofaus-

    “Whether the characteristics of tropical cyclones have changed or will change in a warming climate — and if so, how — has been the subject of considerable investigation, often with conflicting results. Large amplitude fluctuations in the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones greatly complicate both the detection of long-term trends and their attribution to rising levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases. Trend detection is further impeded by substantial limitations in the availability and quality of global historical records of tropical cyclones. Therefore, it remains uncertain whether past changes in tropical cyclone activity have exceeded the variability expected from natural causes. However, future projections”…fairy tales, tea leaf readings, iridology and consulting the Dalai Lama….Sheesh!

  61. wizofaus says:

    Pedro I don’t think anybody’s disputing that GCM’s have some way to go before they can help better predict whatever changes in behaviour we might see from hurricanes in the coming decades. So sure, if hurricanes were the only thing they provided predictions for, I’d say “not yet as valuable as we’d like”.
    But one would hope that as scientific understanding and computing power improves, we might be able to get to a point that hurricanes cause less damage even while potentially growing in intensity, due to our ability to better predict where they’re likely to strike and what sort of damage they might do.

  62. observa says:

    And to rephrase TEAM response to a certain Remote Sensing peer-reviewed article getting it’s foot in the door-

    “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming articles at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.”

  63. JC says:

    Can I ask anyone to offer an answer.

    If the vast, vast amount of C02 spewed into the atmosphere is an emerging economies story for the next 40 years, seeing 2050 seems to be an important date, why is anyone talking about hurricanes etc. as though we can stop it and when I say we, I mean the western economies.

    This is needs to be well understood. There is nothing the west can do about it. The only time something can be done is when China/India/Emerging economies decide they will act. It’s totally and completely out of of our hands even if we took emissions down to zero in the west it wouldn’t matter a cracker.

    CO2 growth is 1:1 with their GDP.

  64. Pedro says:

    wiz, maybe the lack of understanding about the PDO is relevant to other aspects of the GCMs and not just hurricanes. The reasons I became as sceptical as I am are:

    1 when I see people clearly dissembling I stop trusting them;

    2 a hell of a lot of assumptions seem to go into those models and models are not evidence anyway;

    3 the current climate does not appear to be unusual.

    Climate change is a given, the only issue is the probability of future warming and its effects.

    What has happened in the past is not evidence for the claims about the future because nothing in the past is equivalent to what is claimed about the future. Paul f mentioned the rate of change over the last 150 years earlier on. That rate is not evidence for the future claims.

  65. Pedro says:

    Exactly jc, I never understand the hopeless optimism that something can be done to meaningfully reduce co2 emissions. I reckon that religion exists because people have a natural impulse to do penance.

  66. wizofaus says:

    JC, that assumes that cutting back on emissions comes at a significant cost.
    FWIW, I largely agree with you that if China and India decide this cost is not worth paying, and there’s no significant international pressure for them to pay it, they won’t, and hence CO2 levels are destined to rise significantly no matter what Western economies do. However it’s not completely unrealistic to believe that as more and Western economies demonstrate that emissions reductions can be achieved at minimal economic cost (and ideally, with the right technology, at a saving), the pressure on China and India to act will ultimately force their hand.
    And of course we’re not going to *stop* global warming, but there’s a lot we can do to keep the damage to a minimum.

    Pedro – what people clearly dissembling? As for the current climate not being ‘unusual’ – in which previous 100-year period in the last 50,000 years have global temperatures been a) anywhere near as high as they are currently and more importantly b) rising as fast?

  67. wizofaus says:

    Just saw your “natural impulse to do penance” comment. As I’ve commented before, by far the most interesting changes we can make are those that are net beneficial regardless of the degree to which we can reduce CO2 emissions. So I’m struggling to see where the ‘penance’ comes in.

  68. JC says:

    Wiz

    The cost of materially reducing our emissions is where the Greens suggest it is. This is around 70 to 100 bucks a ton.

    The Emerging bloc is not going to accept this cost and they will obviously continue on with industrialization as fast as they can. Their constituencies simply demand it and to be honest I agree with them. Every human being deserves a better life in those places.

    The only way emissions can be reduced is through technology that brings the cost of energy production below coal and other cheap sources. We may actually get there in which case everyone is better off.

    You often hear the argument on the Right that no matter what we do in Australia it won’t make any difference. They’re wrong. The truth is that no matter what we do in the West won’t make a shred of difference.

    Unless we can come up with technology that produces abundant energy cheaper than coal or we can filter coal plant emissions through new processes, we’re basically going to have to live with what the emerging economies do.

  69. observa says:

    Or more likely when people no longer believe in God they’ll believe in anything, not least in the divine power of Mann. In a heathen world of tree ring worshippers we need to be very wary of the false profits and Goracles preaching they are the only true light and way for us all-
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904900904576554063768827104.html

  70. wizofaus says:

    “The cost of materially reducing our emissions is where the Greens suggest it is. This is around 70 to 100 bucks a ton.”

    You seem to show extremely little faith in human ingenuity then – not just in the likelihood of technology emerging that will allow cleaner energy to be generated more cheaply, but in the likelihood that people will find other ways to generate wealth once it becomes expensive to do so via emissions-intensive means.

  71. JC says:

    You seem to show extremely little faith in human ingenuity then – not just in the likelihood of technology emerging that will allow cleaner energy to be generated more cheaply, but in the likelihood that people will find other ways to generate wealth once it becomes expensive to do so via emissions-intensive means.

    Not over the next 10 years, perhaps 20 to 30 years the future looks bright.

  72. wizofaus says:

    I’d agree with that then. However in the next 10 years I’d hope most of the reductions could come from efficiency gains.

  73. john walker says:

    ‘Even schoolchildren know that warmer temperatures result in more rainfall, not less.’

    The soil moisture index is a important measure to agriculture . It is determined by two elements, one is rainfall, the other is evaporation. Evaporation is driven up by hot winds ,the warmer the Air and the more rapidly it is replaced by new hot dry air, the more moisture sucked out of the landscape. In SE Australia (where most live) wind patterns have been changing exactly in line with predictions made decades ago. Where I live average rain fall have dropped a bit…. but evaporation rates have gone up by 150 mills a year.

    Observa

    Dostoyevsky understood the danger that you are referring to. However I think he would have placed quite a few skeptics amongst the inferno of those who have replaced humility before the unobtainable-the unknowable , with worship of the obtainable. ‘ The worst are filled with a dread certainty”.

    I have read accounts of a ‘skeptics’ conferences in US- ‘Preserve our bodily fluids’ lunacy stuff .

  74. Pedro says:

    Wiz:

    Michael Mann and co.

    MWP, RWP are two, I expect there are more. I read recently that sea levels in cornwall were significantly higher than now during roman times.

    I call it penance when you punish yourself by reducing future growth for zero effect on the environment. You might say it is not cost much, but you don’t have to do the whole rosary for penance, 10 hail marys is enough.

    If emissions reductions will be cheaper in the future then we should wait for the future before bothering.

    I heard some dick on the radio yesterday claiming that solar is now the same cost as coal power once you factor in the cost of transmission. She obviously wants to go to bed at sundown. Another example of the stupid statements that this subject attracts.

  75. Pedro says:

    http://judithcurry.com/2011/07/12/historic-variations-in-sea-levels-part-1-from-the-holocene-to-romans/

    rog will probably discount anything from Curry. Perhaps she is married to Roy Spencer, still it is an interesting read

  76. rog says:

    I read recently that sea levels in cornwall were significantly higher than now during roman times.

    The good news is that Pedro can read, the bad news is that he can’t comprehend.

    I hope that Pedro does not represent the majority. Clutching at straw has never been a good business plan.

  77. Peter Patton says:

    The even better news is that since Roman times, English people have learnt the wisdom of moving house when you tire of where you are. Folks here would do well to learn from that wisdom.

  78. Pedro says:

    rog, I wish I had your talent. I read something and see remarkable continuing uncertainty and you have the clear vision of faith. How do you do it? But tell me, what clever conclusions am I missing when I read that nearly 2000 years ago, the sea level was higher than now areas?

  79. wizofaus says:

    Pedro…seriously…the MWP? I really thought debate here was a little more sophisticated and grown up than that.

  80. Pedro says:

    Wiz, if you are saying that there was no such thing then perhaps you need to look around a bit harder. I remember learning about it at school in the 70s. It is not childish or stupid to raise questions like that. Nor is it childish or stupid to look askance at apparent dishonesty by scientists. No fair minded and questioning person can look at the climate gate story without thinking WTF. Don’t put yourself into rog’s simpleton category.

  81. wizofaus says:

    No, pedro, *you* go and read the wikipedia article on the MWP and come back and explain to me why it doesn’t even come close to being an example of the global climate being anything like it is currently.

  82. wizofaus says:

    I’ll confess I hadn’t heard of the RWP, by the way, not surprisingly, as it appears to be entirely an invention of Ian Plimer, with virtually no scientific support. At any rate, I don’t believe he claims this period had global temperatures as high and as fast-rising as they are today. At best there may have a multi-decadal period in Europe where temperatures were somewhat higher than average. OTOH, sea level information would indicate, if anything, the global mean temperature was slightly lower than the longer term average around the same period.

  83. wizofaus says:

    I did find a bit more information, and I’d accept the phrase ‘entirely an invention’ is probably unwarranted. But at best I’d accept that what limited information researchers have been able to glean about likely climate differences during Roman times around the start of the first millenium and how they dealt with them gives us a bit more confidence that humanity, for the most part, will probably do just fine if we can keep global mean temperatures stable at ~2 degrees above the longer term average. Unfortunately that’s not the current trajectory.

  84. Fyodor says:

    Dostoyevsky understood the danger that you are referring to. However I think he would have placed quite a few skeptics amongst the inferno of those who have replaced humility before the unobtainable-the unknowable , with worship of the obtainable. ‘ The worst are filled with a dread certainty”.

    Dostoyevsky understood the danger, alright, though not in the way that you think.

    Demons shows very clearly what he thought about ideological fanatics, of which the climate catastrophists are merely the latest iteration.

  85. Pedro says:

    Wiz, you missed the bit where sea levels were higher than now in the roman period? The question is whether past unrecorded temperatures were such that current temperatures are not unprecedented in the holocene. If you think there is not much doubt one way or the other then I suggest you read more than wikipedia. I’ve never read plimer so I don’t know what he was saying back when I was in high school in the 70s and learned about stuff in history that only recently has come to be challenged by people who go to some lengths to hide their data. When I see people dissembling I tend to distrust them.

    How many climatologists do you think have been working on reconstructions? 100s, 1000s?

  86. wizofaus says:

    Yes, Pedro, sea levels are higher now in the Roman period – hence indicating global temperatures were lower then.
    And there is no literature I can see references to about the RWP that exists before the 90’s. As far as I can tell the term was first used in 1995.

    And no, it doesn’t appear there is any serious doubt among mainstream climatologists that at very the least, the last two decades have seen global mean temperatures unprecedented in the Holocene era. Mind you, it’s not even technically logically relevant – any hypophetical periods of non-anthropogenically-induced warming in the past do very little to help us understand the current climate conditions, except in terms of realising that we truly are entering unknown territory, and taking a substantial risk with an historically unstable climate system, one that is entirely responsible for allowing humankind to flourish as it has so far.

  87. Sanjeep says:

    We ought to adapt to the oncoming cold weather the way we always have. One wardrobe at a time.

  88. Mel says:

    Fyodor:

    “Demons shows very clearly what he thought about ideological fanatics, of which the climate catastrophists are merely the latest iteration.”

    Nah. The ideological fanatics (and fantasists) are the ones who say a carbon price will roon the economy, the scientists are involved in a conspiracy just like they were when they faked evolution and even if it does warm up we can all move next door to Nailin’ Sarah Palin up thar in Alaska.

  89. Fyodor says:

    Nah. The ideological fanatics (and fantasists) are the ones who say a carbon price will roon the economy, the scientists are involved in a conspiracy just like they were when they faked evolution and even if it does warm up we can all move next door to Nailin’ Sarah Palin up thar in Alaska.

    Nope. Those are called “strawmen”.

  90. FDB says:

    You wanna hold that position Fyds, you’rna hafta stop eatin’ straw.

  91. KB Keynes says:

    Nah FDP he isn’t eating it he is smoking it

  92. wizofaus says:

    Fyodor, if accepting mainstream scientific opinion makes me an idealogue, then it’s a pretty respectable and well-justified ideology to have if you ask me.

  93. john walker says:

    Foydor
    @84

    Demons come in all
    ‘colors’.

  94. john walker says:

    The continental plates are always moving up and down as well as horizontaly .On top of the the northern headlands of Jarvis bay, hundreds of feet above current sea levels, are are fossil beaches, the lake George escarpment rises up at about a centimeter per year , most of the SE of England is sinking.
    Also the Oceans of the world are not a perfect sphere some pars are more concave and some parts are more convex.

    Measures of Sea levels are made relative to a fixed datum point.

  95. wizofaus says:

    john, sure, on its own the information we have about sea levels during the Roman period probably isn’t enough to make any definitive conclusions. But if global temperatures in that period were as high as they are now for any period of time, it’s probably fair to assume there’d be reasonably solid evidence of it. I gather paleoclimatologists have put a fair bit of time attempting to construct past global temperatures, and as yet I don’t believe any convincing case for an extend period of global temperatures being as high as they are currently has been made, except of course if you go back several 100 thousand years or so.

  96. Mel says:

    Overheard at a Fanatics Anonymous Meeting somewhere in Kansas …

    “It has been 3 months, 6 days and 2 hours since I last believed in evolution, plate tectonics and climate change. “

  97. john walker says:

    Wiz

    I was not disagreeing .

  98. Fyodor says:

    You wanna hold that position Fyds, you’rna hafta stop eatin’ straw.

    Wieso, Strohwwelpeter?

    Fyodor, if accepting mainstream scientific opinion makes me an idealogue, then it’s a pretty respectable and well-justified ideology to have if you ask me.

    That you defer to authority goes without saying. However, there is no “mainstream scientific opinion” on the future of the climate. There is merely uncertainty and conjecture. Anything more than that is unscientific, by definition. I’m happy for you that you feel your chosen ideology is “respectable” – clearly that’s important to you. In this you are no different from most people – and scientists, even – who prefer “respectable” orthodoxy to uncomfortable doubt.

    Demons come in all ‘colors’.

    There are no demons, any more than there are opinionated strawmen. The demons Dostoyevsky referred to were men. Monstrous as they were, his fictional creations were far milder than Russia’s real deal. Good intentions etc.

    Overheard at a Fanatics Anonymous Meeting somewhere in Kansas …

    “It has been 3 months, 6 days and 2 hours since I last believed in evolution, plate tectonics and climate change. “

    Heh. A gathering of Mel’s strawmen friends chez Dorothy. How droll you are, Mel.

  99. Mel says:

    Fyodor:

    “Heh. A gathering of Mel’s strawmen friends chez Dorothy. How droll you are, Mel.”

    Nah. The gathering was arranged by your little church mate, the Cowardly Lion.

  100. Paul Frijters says:

    hc (and others who agree with Harry),

    I was tending to my day job for a week and hoped someone else would answer your querie so sorry for the late reply.

    Before I answer more fully, though, let me admit that I find it irritating you dismiss my arguments as contrarian. I first started writing on climate change in my PhD, which included an article in the journal of climate change in 1999 on how Russia could be expected to gain in terms of welfare under the climate change then predicted by the IPCC. And that wasnt my last publication on climate and welfare using mainstream projections, so I hope you stop this silly presumption that this is all very new to me. My position on the impossibility of an emissions policy is similarly a very old one by now, i.e. first blogged on about 4 years ago but held much longer than that. You are hence being childish in your assertions about my presumed ignorance and my supposed wish to be contrarian. I enjoy a good stir with the best of them, but the reality is more that my fairly constant position on this has appeared more contrarian as the number of adament believers in emissions policies have grown and many other voices against them have gone quiet.

    Then more on the substance. You were in the same symposium as I was, Harry. Did you miss the part where David Pierce was saying big business was skeptical about emission policies happening and that they were the ones investing in adaptation technology? Similarly, were you not also listening when it was noted China is projected to increase its emissions several folds the next 50 years, just as India and most other developing countries? Yet you also saw the same graphs I saw from the Treasury about how our targets were effectively going to be met by buying up overseas emissions? How do you yourself square all this, Harry? The countries that are supposed to provide the savings so that we Australians can meet our targets are actually increasing their emissions!!! Indeed, the European countries who were supposed to really reduce their emissions in the Kyoto scheme mainly got by by counting the reduction in the USSR and buying up some foreign credits! How do you keep up the faith that a grand emissions policy that will undo these developments is just around the corner? Did you miss the bit where it was noted that many countries cannot even measure their GDP, let alone have the facilities to measure and implement emissions policies?

    I put it to you, Harry, that you are the contrarian, not me. I see a world that is increasing emissions, where countries are planning more roads and more electricity stations, where politicians make beautiful speeches about saving the planet and yet always put economic growth first. And then I am the contrarian for noting the direction we are actually going towards and that we are still making huge investments towards?

    Did you perchance get your hope from the ‘historical revisionism’ stories about Kopenhagen, i.e. the notion that now over 80% of the worlds’ emissions are ‘in the tent’ as Steve HD put it? That was the biggest con of all: for instance, China is apparently ‘in the tent’, yet if you look at what the Chinese are promising, it is not real reductions, but a bit of improved efficiency. The Chinese can double their efficiency overnight, Harry, by just revaluing the yuan! And of course this great Chinese promise comes with several hundred more coal fired power stations being built at the same time, with cars sold by the millions, and airports extended left, right, and centre! To put out China as a hope is not just optimistic, it is being willfully blind to what they are doing.

    I hence put it to you, Harry, that your hope blinds you to the political realities of this. I am sorry if my blatant realism upsets you, but it is not my position that has changed over the years and I cant help it if the world is pissing on your dreams whilst paying some lip-service to them. Perhaps I am one of the few prepared to tell you and others (like your comrade in arms on this, John Quiggin) that they are dreaming and that they need to wake up and react to the world as it is, not as they would like it to be.

  101. Fyodor says:

    Nah. The gathering was arranged by your little church mate, the Cowardly Lion.

    More troll than droll, really. I mean, honestly: “church mate”? “Cowardly Lion?”

    Well done, Mel: you’ve managed to torture the analogy in witlessly obtuse fashion AND inject your creepy obsessions into the bargain. Gold star, pink elephant.

  102. john walker says:

    Honestly, how old are you guys?

  103. JC says:

    We’re all mature, serious adults. I note there’s something deeper to the question that you’re not letting out, John.

  104. john walker says:

    JC
    ‘Gold star, pink elephant’ ???

  105. john walker says:

    JC
    BTW
    I know I am not a ‘mature, serious adults’ God help me if I was.

  106. Mel says:

    Fyodor:

    “TWell done, Mel: you’ve managed to torture the analogy in witlessly obtuse fashion AND inject your creepy obsessions into the bargain ”

    Really, I haven’t seen you this antsy since you mistook Father Lovejoy’s anal beads for rosary beads.

    But I digress.

    Now how about you tell us a little more about the moon landing hoax, the evolution hoax and the vaccination scam? Come on, sweetheart, bleed it all out.

  107. murph the surf. says:

    Paul at 100 – many excellent points and well put.
    It’s the scale of the problem which has me beat.

  108. Pedro says:

    “I put it to you, Harry, that you are the contrarian, not me. I see a world that is increasing emissions, where countries are planning more roads and more electricity stations, where politicians make beautiful speeches about saving the planet and yet always put economic growth first. And then I am the contrarian for noting the direction we are actually going towards and that we are still making huge investments towards?”

    Yes, who are you going to believe, Harry or your own lying eyes!

    “I gather paleoclimatologists have put a fair bit of time attempting to construct past global temperatures, and as yet I don’t believe any convincing case for an extend period of global temperatures being as high as they are currently has been made, except of course if you go back several 100 thousand years or so.”

    So Wiz, the lack of evidence is evidence? And when they do those reconstructions, just what sort of temperature differences are they trying to resolve across 100s and 1000s or years?

  109. Patrick says:

    [email protected] that is one of the best comments I have read in a while and one of the best contributions to this debate I have ever read.

    We spend a lot of energy trying to promote any given policy, we may as well spend it on policies that are designed for this world and not some world of our own imagination.

  110. Fyodor says:

    Really, I haven’t seen you this antsy since you mistook Father Lovejoy’s anal beads for rosary beads.

    Mmyeah, there’s that creepy obsession again.

    But I digress.

    “Father Lovejoy’s anal beads” are a digression? Who’dathunkit?

    It’s a digression for you when you don’t blather, creepily, about the RC church, Mel.

    Now how about you tell us a little more about the moon landing hoax, the evolution hoax and the vaccination scam? Come on, sweetheart, bleed it all out.

    Ooh, let’s see:

    a) strawman;
    b) strawman; and,
    c) strawman!

    I declare a Melephantine trifeckup.

  111. Tel says:

    If you check the red line on the graph…

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/pubs/alley2000/alley2000.gif

    You can see temperature swings with peak-to-peak magnitude of approx 4 degrees during the last 10k years (Holocene period). Please note: the swings of temperature in Greenland do not imply equal swings in global temperature but clearly peaks are visible, with Medieval Warm Period approx 1000AD, Roman Warm Period approx 1AD and Minoan Warm Period approx 1200BC. These swings do not correlate with CO2, FWIW.

    Overall the Holocene has been much more stable than earlier time periods (e.g. from 20k to 10k years ago saw much larger temerpature swings), but not as stable as the AGW believers tend to advertise. How much this stability contributed to human civilization is highly questionable — we only have one data point. How much stability future humans can expect and/or require is anyone’s guess. Stick a finger in the air.

  112. Pedro says:

    Yes, a lot of claims are made about small temp movements not very reliably calculated.

  113. Pedro says:

    WTF?
    “Going by Treasury’s modelling, that ratio is 2: for each $1 of government revenue the carbon tax secures, incomes decline by about $2”

    Double WTF?
    “IT was Mark Dreyfus QC, Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, who let the cat out of the bag.

    Once the carbon change legislation is in place, he said, repeal would amount to an acquisition of property by the commonwealth, as holders of emissions permits would be deprived of a valuable asset. As a result, the commonwealth would be liable, under s.51(xxxi) of the Australian Constitution, to pay compensation, potentially in the billions of dollars. A future government would therefore find repeal prohibitively costly.”

    Triple WTF?
    “Also crucial is what happens if a new government rejects the emissions reductions recommendations made by the carbon regulator, the Climate Change Authority.

    In that event, unless the government can secure a majority for an alternative target, permitted emissions are automatically cut by up to 10 per cent in a single year, crippling economic activity.”

    Still, apparently there are supposedly sensible people cheering for this shit.

  114. Patrick says:

    If anyone is still reading this list sums up many of my own reasons for thinking that most of you need to stop believing in fairies (edited for Australia and emphasis):

    1. Other countries won’t follow suit and then we are doing something with almost zero effectiveness.

    2. It may push dirty industries to less well regulated countries and make the overall problem somewhat worse.

    3. There is Jim Manzi’s point that Europe has stiff carbon taxes, and is a large market, but they have not seen a major burst of innovation, just a lot of conservation and some substitution, no game changers.(i.e. see previous point – me) Denmark remains far more dependent on fossil fuels than most people realize and for all their efforts they’ve done no better than stop the growth of carbon emissions; see Robert Bryce’s Power Hungry, which is in any case a useful contrarian book for considering this topic.

    4. Especially for large segments of the transportation sector, there simply aren’t plausible substitutes for carbon on the horizon.

    5. A tax on energy is a sectoral tax on the relatively productive sector of the economy — making stuff — and it will shift more talent into finance and other less productive sectors.

    6. Oil in particular will become so expensive in any case that a politically plausible tax won’t add much value (careful readers will note that this argument is in tension with some of those listed above).

    7. A carbon tax won’t work its magic until significant parts of the energy and alternative energy sector are deregulated. No more NIMBY! But in the meantime perhaps we can’t proceed with the tax and expect to get anywhere. Had we had today’s level of regulation and litigation from the get-go, we never could have built today’s energy infrastructure, which I find a deeply troubling point.

    8. A somewhat non-economic argument is to point out the regressive nature of a carbon tax.

    9. Jim Hamilton’s work suggests that oil price shocks have nastier economic consequences than many people realize.

    9b. A more prosperous economy may, for political and budgetary reasons, lead to more subsidies for alternative energy, and those subsidies may do more good than would the tax. Maybe we won’t adopt green energy until it’s really quite cheap, in which case let’s just focus on the subsidies.

    10. The actual application of such a tax will involve lots of rent-seeking, privileges, exemptions, inefficiencies, and regulatory arbitrage.

  115. Pedro says:

    I was about the publish the same link.

  116. Tel says:

    With regards to [9b] in a prosperous economy you probably don’t need subsidies at all. We don’t know that the oil price is going to go up due to scarcity, but we could guess that based on the trend of the last 30 years, it is quite likely to go up. Thus, in any prosperous economy you will have some speculators willing to take a chance and throw money at research (presuming there is some possible way they can gain from that research, maybe including patents, trade secrets or just being first to market with alternatives).

    However, when trust is at an all time low, and everyone is talking about sovereign risk, and no one knows whether the finance industry can even keep itself together for another 12 months… people go looking for safe havens, and I can’t blame them.

    As for [10], it doesn’t need to be that way. You could very easily have a carbon tax that does nothing more than impose a per-tonne tax as the carbon comes out of the ground, and applies to all parties, and the money is just spent paying off the national debt or reducing income tax. It could be done, but in our present incarnation is isn’t being done.

    What’s more, you could start by taxing carbon at a very low amount and then very gradually bringing up the figure a little every year. Then we don’t need to get into endless meaningless projections about what it will do to our economy. If other nations seem reluctant to make an effort then we just drop the tax — no great commitment, no big deal. Instead we have a politically unstable ALP facing annihilation and wanting to get all the druthers locked in within a space of two years. They would rather do hundreds of things badly than do a few things well.

  117. rog says:

    All this seemingly innocuous chat does nothing to address the core issue of climate change. In fact, the arguments put forward act to distract the casual observer from climate change and onto economic efficiencies, or guesstimations thereof.

    It is not the role of economists to debate the veracity of climate change, it is their function to design a method to reduce the emissions of carbon in the most cost effective manner. If plan ‘A’ is judged to not work they better come up with a plan ‘B’.

  118. Patrick says:

    No, rog, is it the role of sane people, economist or bricklayer, to point out that climate change being as it may:
    -there may not be a feasible solution (the very point of this post) so we’d better start thinking past solving to adapting; and
    -the solution we have chosen is vanishingly unlikely to actually do anything to help climate change, although it may do lots of other things.

    Pedro, love your work ;)

    Tel that last paragraph is extremely sensible, I said as much on KP’s last thread: as the only coherent climate-change-related rationale is positioning ourselves for eventual global action (and particularly possible punitive action from eg the EU) then we should have started with say $2.50 a tonne while everyone gets their head around things and then raised it once there was a point.

  119. rog says:

    Patrick, you say that there may not be a feasible solution without exhausting the alternatives, including those that have yet to be developed. This is another psychological copout, of the “see I told you it wouldn’t work” variety and is part of the contrarian toolkit.

  120. . says:

    All this seemingly innocuous chat does nothing to address the core issue of climate change.

    Neither do the policies put forward by Gillard or Abbot. But they make us poorer.

  121. Pedro says:

    rog, pointless is pointless. I don’t know what is so hard to understand about that. Don’t answer with the usual dopey ad homs.

  122. john walker says:

    If we could leave the science to one side for a few seconds,

    What would be so wrong about a tax on the consumption of fossil carbon that was completely offset by reductions in income tax, payroll tax, and deductions for R&D?

  123. john walker says:

    Meant increased deductions for R&D

  124. Pedro says:

    I guess the answer first requires you to identify the beneficiaries of the transfers. Also, what about trade-exposed? The proposed tax leads to a reduction in growth so there is clearly a dead weight cost.

  125. john walker says:

    Can you really say a net reduction in national growth- obviously less coal growth- but…. Net

  126. Pedro says:

    Not me, Treasury said it.

  127. john walker says:

    By how much? -compared to what would happen if we were, some how, to ditch the legislation?

    The extreme and irreconcilable polarization of the current stand off costs , god knows, the breakdown in bipartisanship on key issues that we previously had , is costing us all .

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