Copenhagen reality check – what’s really coming

Here in Australia, there’s currently a political storm over a proposed cap-and-trade system for putting a price on carbon pollution. In brief, the federal Labor (left wing) government has passed the legislation for an emissions trading scheme in the house of representatives (where they have a clear parliamentary majority), but have had it blocked in the senate, where they lack a majority.

It has now become clear that the Liberal/National coalition (conservatives) will not pass the bill the second time around, for various reasons (a large number of members are sceptical of a human role in climate change, and others claim it will be an economic disaster). The Greens party, with five senators, have also refused to vote with Labor to pass the bill in the senate for inverse reasons — they claim it is a flawed system because of the way it rewards big polluters and due to its grossly inadequate emissions reduction targets.

A similar vexed position exists as the US debates the Waxman-Markey bill, as outlined here. In Europe, which has had an emissions trading scheme for a few years now, the system is failing to make any noticeable difference. Indeed, it’s fair to conclude that there is nowhere in the world where an effective cap-and-trade system is working as intended.

So, what does this mean for the upcoming Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference (7 — 18 December)? Is there any prospect for a global deal to reduce emissions in developed and developing countries? If there is, will the targets be meaningful? Will there be agreement on the preferred system for putting a price on carbon (cap-and-trade, carbon tax, fee and dividend, etc.). I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Jim Hansen has made his views pretty darned clear. Here’s what he said recently asked if there any real chance of averting the climate crisis:

Absolutely. It is possible – if we give politicians a cold, hard slap in the face. The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – “goals” for emission reductions, “offsets” that render ironclad goals almost meaningless, the ineffectual “cap-and-trade” mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics as usual. Governments going to Copenhagen claim to have such goals for 2050, which they will achieve with the “cap-and-trade” mechanism. They are lying through their teeth. Instead, the United States signed an agreement with Canada for a pipeline to carry oil squeezed from tar sands. Australia is building port facilities for large increases in coal export. Coal-to-oil factories are being built. Coal-fired power plants are being constructed worldwide. Governments are stating emission goals that they know are lies – or, if we want to be generous, they do not understand the geophysics and are kidding themselves.

All this sits in the context of worsening climate change impacts and evidence of acceleration of many important signals of global warming (sea levels, polar ice loss, ocean heat content, extreme weather events). The excellent Copenhagen Diagnosis report provides a clear and concerning update to the IPCC AR4 2007, based on the latest science published in the last few years. This is definitely worth a read.

Given this context, what do I, personally, think are the prospects for Copenhagen? I’ve been asked that a lot recently, and my answer seems to surprise many (perhaps not BNC readers…).

In short, I think Copenhagen is an irrelevant side show, for much the same reasons as Jim has articulated so well in the quote above. In December, we’ll see politicians from all manner of countries strutting around on the world stage saying how seriously they take the climate change issue, why delay on action is unacceptable, and why the world must move towards a low carbon economy — “blah di blah blah blah“. They’ll most certainly earnestly commit to a definite emissions reduction target for some far distant date (probably 2050), and will probably also agree to some vague notion of an in-principle x% cut by 2020 (choose whatever value you want for x — it’s meaningless). Everyone will then head home, and the world will go on cranking up the carbon, much as before.

Then, as we continue to dither and meander our way through the next 10 or so years, the squeeze will start to be felt, with the grip of increasingly severe climate impacts (most notably extreme events and some unanticipated abrupt changes), and energy insecurity, inexorably tightening. Oil and natural gas prices will rise substantially, as unavoidable production shortages begin to seriously constrain business-as-usual. Those who can pay for the oil and its derivatives, or those who have the large remaining reserves, will be set inequitably apart from the rest. Continued rising temperatures, increasingly severe short-term events, persistent rainfall shifts (each with a decent chance of sudden step changes), and so on, will make the reality of global warming starkly apparently to all but the most delusional pea brains. At some point — well within the next two decades I suspect — humanity will, under considerable duress and societal upheaval, move at last into emergency mode.

At that point, we’ll be back to the 1940s can-do, will-do, mindset. The attitude that anything is possible. I really don’t think most people understand how countries mobilised and committed themselves during World War II. Winning was everything — it was a matter of life and death — the difference between the survival or downfall of a nation and political ideology. Military spending went from 2 — 5 % of GDP to 35 — 60 % for the major powers. The US diverted most of its automobile factories to making an extraordinary 300,000 planes and a vast naval fleet (the emergency shipbuilders). Russia produced over 50,000 T-34 tanks within the space of a few years, and threw millions of men against the German war machine, losses be damned. Japan was going to fight tooth-and-nail on the home islands, with millions of projected causalities, until the atomic bomb forced a sudden and unexpected surrender.

So, this is the pragmatic reality check: the Copenhagen UN Climate Change Conference is worthless, and we just shouldn’t care. It could never be any other way.

The hard fact is that there’ll be no gain until we’ve felt the pain, until we really know that we have our collective ‘skin in the game’. For all our intellect and wisdom, we’re still evolved, instinctive animals, and we respond best to obvious, in-our-face threats. It seems we need a new Pearl Harbor, our next Thermopylae. I seriously doubt there’ll ever be a global price on carbon (or a meaningful one in any individual country) — by the time we truly understand why this was (in hindsight) necessary, it’ll be a useless gesture, because there’ll be the imperative for much more drastic action than any ‘economic instrument’ could possibly deliver.

Yet, mine is patently not a ‘doomer’ vision. I don’t buy the Olduvai Theory. I don’t accept the argument that a peaking oil supply will cause our society to collapse. Yes, it will help force our hand, but it ain’t gonna be our undoing — we’re way too resilient and ingenious for that — at least when the pressure is on. If society realises that it has to build 10,000 nuclear power plants in a period of 20 years, then it’ll do it (as others have pointed out, things happened incredibly fast in the early years of nuclear power — the first 15 years saw a staggering rate of technical development). We’ll find the way to make it happen — of that I have little doubt. India and China might have the head start here (and good wishes to them for this!), but the rest of the developed world will quickly catch up.

In the meantime, it’s up to people like you and me to work hard to try to concertina the length of time between the current fallow age of procrastination, and the coming age of action.


Finally, I like to point out that a new feature has been added to the BraveNewClimate website. At the top of the left side bar, there is now a widget that allows you to sign on for email alerts. This will send you an automated email which lets you know when a new blog entry is posted at BNC.

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  1. Sounds like you’re thinking of initiators/outcomes very similarly to Paul Gilding’s “One Degree War Plan” – at least w.r.t. the mobilization and scale/urgency of response required… Although, unfortunately, I doubt we would be trying to hold the line at ONE degree by the time we get that motivated…

    The specifics of his “action plan” is clearly differenct than I think yours would be, Barry, but certainly the scenario he describes does sound like a wartime effort, in a lot of unnerving ways…

    I disagree with you – and Paul – on the low expectations for carbon pricing. I think it will be integral to any longer-term action plan. And I think that if we ever do move into that kind of emergency situation, it will actually motivate us to look at pricing other environmental externalities. By that point, we would have already had a near-miss with CFC’s, and a potential overshoot in carbon, so I think we might be far more amenable to more long-sighted strategies to deal with other potential f-ups like reactive nitrogen, phosphorous, etc.


  2. I realize there may be another category of postings in which this may better apply, but considering the pretext of the Copenhagen Confab, I wonder if this argument about CO2 has been addressed on BNC:
    “Explanations of the CO2 Absorption Spectrum”

    I will leave it to the scientists on this blog to dissect the facts presented, since I appear to be a “delusional pea brain”. Question: 10 or 20 years hence, when the apocalypse hasn’t materialized, will there be a collective apology and mea culpa from those who advocated that CO2 would cause such global destruction? Or should I hold my breath?


  3. People who think we can shut down coal power before other power is ready are also “kidding themselves”. People who think renewables and/or CCS can do the job are also kidding themselves. People who think “We can’t do anything until everyone agrees with me” are also wrong. The need to move to Nuclear Power is become obvious to people who care about energy security as much as to people who care about about AGW. Australia has an opportunity with the new Liberal leader and we should encourage him to have the courage of his convictions. [And I’ve never voted Liberal in over 40 years of voting.]


  4. The problem I have with this post is not that it is hopeful overall – James Lovelock is hopeful overall: life will continue he says, possibly including some human life – the problem I have is who are the “we” in the post, and how many are “we”?

    How bad will it get? I’ve had a private theory that what’s happening in the world looks very close to an intentional replay of the 1929 crash and subsequent events. The Great Depression allowed a lot of very cheap labour to be exploited for a very long time to build infrastructure that primarily benefited the rich. Then a war was held that again primarily benefitted the rich. For a great many people this period of time was a lost 20 or more years, which is a big chunk out of someone’s life (if they made it to the end).

    You say “we” will get through – who are the “we” and how many?


  5. And to clarify, my question about who “we” are and how many is really more about the economic effect on these “we”.
    How many people will make it alive, like they did through the Great Depression and WWII but will be economically devastated in the process?
    Just looking at the economic devastation in the US right now convinces me “we” are quite capable of sacrificing others in mass numbers, at least in an economic sense. Those “we” mostly get through alive, but they have been extraordinarily victimized in the process.


  6. DocForesight, are you interested in a substantive response to the argument you link to? (I doubt it has been addressed on BNC, but I’m sure it’s been addressed elsewhere.) It is a bit off-topic, as you say, but I’m sure Barry wouldn’t object to someone who wants to learn having his questions answered.


  7. Mark,
    Yes, as I said, I am open to hearing someone respond to this take on the effect of increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations on global temperature, as that is the main concern of the pro-AGW side.

    Additionally, and with all due respect to Barry as this is his blog and he can determine whether a posting is in its appropriate location and topic, I’d like to hear a substantive response to this article by Dr. Richard Lindzen of MIT:

    I think it is fair to say that Dr. Lindzen is not to be discarded as some “kook” fringe, know-nothing scientist. We’ll see if that is true.


  8. David,
    With all due respect, read his article and address the substantive information. You are avoiding the question and that does not enhance your position.

    BTW, I do not know why the emoticon is one of an angry looking thing. I am not angry. I’d like to think I am a diplomatic poster not prone to ad hominem or character assassination just to advance my perspective. Is there an “emoticon selection button” here somewhere?


  9. Lindzen is a clever guy who really forces other climate scientists to work hard at considering -ve feedbacks — but all his previous clever ideas have been subsequently shot down.

    For instance, he cites Lindzen and Giannitsis, which was shown to be flawed in Wigley, T.M.L., Ammann, C.M., Santer, B.D. and Raper, S.C.B., 2005: The effect of climate sensitivity on the response to volcanic forcing. Journal of Geophysical Research 110, D09107, doi:10.1020/2004JD005557.

    Similarly, his self-regulating atmospheric iris idea was interesting and plausible, but it has been demolished in subsequent the literature (this proceeded as good science does — with an interesting hypothesis proposed, and then subsequent testing and debate).

    He also fails to explain why other estimates of sensitivity based on observed data are wrong. The palaeoclimate record gives a very strong indication that the fast-feedback climate sensitivity is in the range of 3 +- 0.5 C, not 1.5C as Lindzen suspects. One just can’t get a decent match to Quaternary changes with such a low sensitivity (and Hansen et al 2008 push back that sensitivity estimate to 40 ma). Also, some of the models do not include all forcings so cannot be compared directly with observations. The effects of ENSO are not factored out, nor does he consider that model results may reflect ENSO errors and not be relevant to longer time scales.

    It is a shame that what Lindzen says in his scientific papers, and what he says when talking to sceptics, can be quite divergent. I wonder why that is.


  10. The other problem with the Lindzen article, for a self-professed “skeptic” is his failure to explain the implicit homeostatic assumption which we adduces agains Co2 sensitivity.

    He repeats at the link:

    The general support for warming is based not so much on the quality of the data, but rather on the fact that there was a little ice age from about the 15th to the 19th century. Thus it is not surprising that temperatures should increase as we emerged from this episode. At the same time that we were emerging from the little ice age …

    For someone claiming logic, leave aside science this is simply embarrassing.

    What factors drove “the little ice age” (really, the Maunder and Dalton Minima)? Were they global in effect? Did they cease to drive down temperatures as “we emerged from the LIA”? How exactly did we “emerge” and what drivers of the current anomaly persist from that period today? None of this is specified, nor could it be, for if he did so the relevance of the claim could be tested against the data then and now. It’s as if some magical combination of negative forcings disappeared slowly and then with increasing speed over the last 400 years to return the world to its “natural” temperature underpinned by …? by …? oops … he doesn’t say? Was the world as a whole this warm prior to the LIA?

    Well no. The last time it might have been this warm was perhaps 400,000 years ago, and maybe further back still. The one factor that has changed is CO2, which is up by nearly 40% on the last 130 years and which measurements of downward longwave radiation show is trapping infra red in the parts of the spectrum that exactly match Co2 and in the quantities that would explain the current warming. So what is that extra insolation doing? If you’re to believe Lindzen, nothing. It’s simply disappearing and warming is also not driven by anything in particular — it’s merely the earth recovering from a cold.

    Really, if this is the best the contrarians have, it is very poor. Little wonder he doesn’t publish in journals of scientific record.

    That aside Barry, I don’t share your gloomy view on Copenhagen. Yes it might degenerate into a gabfest with nothing serious emerging from it, but if it does then the probability that we will suffer the worst consequences of AGW go up a notch. It may well already be too late, but the longer we play russian roulette, the worse things get. We need a system for regulating emissions across national frontiers. We need it to be strong and we need it now. I’m disappointed to read you saying otherwise, because although I accept that you are genuinely seeking and proposing viable solutions to this problem, for those seeking excuses for inaction, such pessimism is grist to the mill. The claim that Copenhagen will go nowhere is perhaps the most commonly repeated argument against action. Conversely, if Copenhagen extracts commitments to strong targets, even without “detailed programmatic specificity” it will underpin the efforts of people like you to achieve the technological change so necessary if we are to be confident of stabilising the climate system and safeguarding its services.


  11. Thank you Barry and Jade. I will look further at the links and studies you note in reference to the Lindzen article.

    Now, what about the first article I posted regarding the “Explanations of CO2 Absorption Spectrum”?


  12. Pingback: Copenhagen prep time – Pure Poison

  13. Regarding CO2 absorption, there are a couple of articles on RealClimate that are relevant…

    And the explanation they give, which is a precis of the results of calculations described in various scientific papers

    (a) You’d still get an increase in greenhouse warming even if the atmosphere were saturated, because it’s the absorption in the thin upper atmosphere (which is unsaturated) that counts (b) It’s not even true that the atmosphere is actually saturated with respect to absorption by CO2, (c) Water vapor doesn’t overwhelm the effects of CO2 because there’s little water vapor in the high, cold regions from which infrared escapes, and at the low pressures there water vapor absorption is like a leaky sieve, which would let a lot more radiation through were it not for CO2, and (d) These issues were satisfactorily addressed by physicists 50 years ago, and the necessary physics is included in all climate models.

    Now this argument is dismissed in the “CO2 Absorption Spectrum” document you linked to in the section entitled “Attempted Fix”. But this dismissal is rather broad-brush and non-quantitative and I can’t make any sense of the white, green and magenta figure.

    The “CO2 Absorption Spectrum” document also links to an account of some experiment results by Heinz Hug. These seem to describe experiments on moist air at surface pressure and therefore seem to be of limited relevance to actual atmospheric radiation.

    So, for a pea-brain like myself, I have a blog article that refers to an apparently long and painful process by which physicists have attempted to understand the issues relating to IR absorption and build that understanding into models with various levels of complexity and another blog article, written in rather extravagant language, that claims to debunk the whole business, supported by some numbers and obscure figures.


  14. Doc, you say ” Question: 10 or 20 years hence, when the apocalypse hasn’t materialized, will there be a collective apology and mea culpa from those who advocated that CO2 would cause such global destruction? Or should I hold my breath?”

    Fine, absolutely, whatever unnecessary economic disruptions were undertaken that didn’t add any value and kept somebody in poverty, they will definitely be apologised.

    On the other hand, do the many hundreds of millions at risk from rising sea levels, from famine, from war over scarce resources, the loss of biodiversity, etc etc etc, get an apology from the denialists?

    Comparing the risks of action to inaction, it’s a pretty obvious path to tread, particularly when the absolute overwhelming majority of relevant scientists tell us with a greater than 90% certitude that they are right.

    If all of the scientific community are right, then the far right-wing irrational lunatics that have delayed all action to this date will need to give me far more than an apology before I’ll forgive them.


  15. @wilful – Well that didn’t take long before the “denial/denier” dagger was employed, did it? But I guess we’re on equal footing, as now we have “Climategate deniers” and “AGW deniers”. I am neither, just honestly skeptical (as opposed to gullible) that mankind understands the complexity of climate variations, that mankind influences global climate, that mankind can alter global climate. And to blame it all on CO2 emissions, when historically there has been a several hundred year lag in the correlation between CO2 levels and temperature, seems simplistic.

    Sea level rising? Maybe, but not to the extent alarmists proclaim. The latest I’ve seen is perhaps a foot, within the variations of the tides.

    War over resources: Then let’s deploy as many nuke plants as we can, as soon as we can, since electricity is the greatest gift we can give to any developing country. Power, jobs, industry, self-reliance, commerce, dignity — all these contribute to lowering the need to wage war.

    An appeal to authority doesn’t necessarily bolster your argument – especially when that authority, the UN IPCC, is suspect both in its scientific and political bona fides. Why would a scientist be unwilling to have their raw data scrutinized by an outside source unless there was something to hide?

    The delays of “all action to this date” may have been the greatest preservation of resources yet. Alarmists from Paul Ehrlich to John Holdren to the Club of Rome have all been wrong in their proclamations and predictions. Sorry, but I am just not buying that shiny bauble.

    I will put $10K to your favorite charity if, 10 years hence, we are worse off climate-wise than we are today. Are you game? (We can come up with agreeable parameters)


  16. On policy the Liberals are now saying:-

    1. Will not support or implement an ETS.
    2. Will not support or implement a direct carbon tax.
    3. Will have a carbon emission reduction policy.
    4. Won’t at this stage rule out nuclear power and will definitely look at it in formulating a new policy.

    Interesting times.


  17. Judging by the pre-Copenhagen position papers that came out of Bangkok there’ll be nothing positive relating to nuclear power that’ll emanate from that conference. Until they come to grips with nuclear these will be feel-good do-nothing conclaves where international representatives wring their collective hands and make empty promises about emissions reductions that will be broken as glibly as they’re made. I’m afraid this conference and so many politicians are still sharing the delusions of fantasists. I just hope that if it’s going to take as long as Barry suggests to reach crisis roll-up-our-sleeves mode that we’ll at least have several LWR spent fuel to IFR fuel conversion plants up and running so that we can build a bunch of them quickly.


  18. I’m sad to say that I reckon you are spot on with this post Barry. Those of
    us with parents who lived through WWII and/or have read some history know
    what you are talking about. But can we adopt a war footing without an
    actual war? Will the skeptics still keep rabbiting on about CO2 correlations
    and lags as Greenland collapses and we are hit with a 30 year El Nino?

    The polling indicates that most of the AGW skeptics are 60+. So most
    will die before we are forced to a war footing.

    DocForesight: If you seriously are an honest skeptic, then read David
    Archer’s “The Long Thaw”. Its a small book, not full of references,
    but it explains the processes beautifully in lay terms. By the end
    you should be saying “CO2 lags? … yeah … obviously …
    what else would you expect? “. You could spend heaps of time
    ploughing through blogs and certainly both BNC and RealClimate have all
    you need, but this book just flows without all the polemic and detail that
    can be so confusing. It will soon also be stunningly obvious that there is a
    world of difference between people like Archer who really
    understand what is happening and people like Plimer who don’t have a


  19. I think that the interesting thing about Australia’s lack of progress for action and the likely failure of Copenhagen to make any material difference, is that humans when acting collectively on these complex matters cannot agree on a strategy that will deliver unless we really believe we are facing disaster. At all levels we seem to want change but are not willing to change. We want market forces to act but cannot accept market losers or job losses. Many say that they don’t want to pick winners but we do.

    With the CPRS, it is so compromised that it cannot be fair or effective to reduce emissions at the scale required . The collateral damage on voluntary action is masked by spin and whilst some voluntary fixes will work others are self cancelling to cause futility.

    If we had a carbon tax there would also be significant exemptions and it would most likely be under effective as well although in my view there would at least be a place for all voluntary actions to contribute to the outcome and it works better with complementary policies that pick winners and losers.

    I think that the Liberal party is now looking at an approach that will be based on picking winners so we can expect even more of the debates about nuclear, renewables, biochar, cleaner coal and CCS etc, and even less about the policy framework to make things happen. The problem with a picking winners policy is that the winners will need to be funded by someone and the losers will still demand compensation if the policy makes a difference.

    Perhaps the CPRS will get through in February or after an election but I think that it is now pretty clear that we are incapable of agreeing to an ETS market mechanism that will actually deliver the outcomes required based on the science. The challeges ahead will be about:
    * how best to pick winners knowing that this approach is often flawed;
    * supporting the losers to manage the political, economic and social fallout;
    * how to have a carbon taxes to pay for it all without being seen to have carbon taxes.


  20. Lawrence, the “we” is untargeted — humanity, in general. I won’t try to be specific about who fares better or worse, but it’s pretty straightforward to forecast. Those in developed nations, those in oil-rich nations, those in fortuitously favourable geographical locations (with respect to climate change impacts) will fare better than ‘the rest’ (Africa and Southeast Asia, I fear, will be amongst the worst hit).

    Within nations, the poor will suffer more, as they’ve always done. There are ways we can get through this an promote equity, but as Finrod and others have said repeatedly, the only way this is possible will be with greater access to cheap energy, not less. This is, in my view, our only viable prospect for avoiding unsustainable habitat loss, overexploitation of biota, poor farming practices, etc. If “we” are desperate enough, we’ll try just about anything. If we have options, there is a better chance of aiming for a longer-term vision, especially if we can cast back on what has gone wrong and avow to correct our worst excesses.



  21. Also, what Tom Blees wrote here is relevant. I’d forgotten how well he’d put it:

    So what will happen in Copenhagen come December? If the result of that conference is some cap-and-trade shell game along with solemn (and ultimately ignored) promises to cut down on CO2 emissions based on fantasies of wind and solar power, the end result will be as ineffectual as the previous conferences have been.

    The people on this planet will not be satisfied with an energy-starved and desperately thirsty world. Before they settle for that they’ll yank every bit of coal and oil out of the ground and toss it on our unfortunately common (funeral?) pyre, solemn promises to the contrary be damned. Delusions about wind and solar coming to the rescue are ludicrous, especially in the face of the demographic landslide in which we find ourselves until at least mid-century.

    There is only one source of energy currently available that can possibly provide an energy-rich yet environmentally benign future, including supplying the massive amounts of energy that will be required to desalinate water for literally billions of people. I fully realize that pro-nuclear people at Copenhagen will probably be about as popular as a porcupine in a condom factory, but unless these harsh realities—and their politically incorrect solution—are brought to the fore, just what effect is Copenhagen going to have? What we should be talking about there is how to ramp up nuclear power while putting in place an international regime to forestall nuclear weapons proliferation in the process.

    Why do I have the sinking feeling that isn’t going to happen?


  22. Geoff…
    I am 60+ and I can assure you I am not a AGW skeptic and most of us would not fit into your category of 60+ skeptics.
    I worked most of my life in electric power industry, starting in eastern Europe, and I believe in nuclear power from my early teenage years.
    It was no brainer in those days to know it was necessary to go with nuclear power for various reasons, global warming being one of them. This possibility was discussed in our engineering circles more than 40 years ago. It was actually our generation who built most of the existing nuclear power plants to avoid CO2 emissions while providing secure energy supply. We would have built many more, however, we were sabotaged and molested by younger anti nuclear generation.
    Today it became very clear, at least to some more intelligent types, that we were right and nuclear power is necessary.

    Barry Brook’s analysis of politics as usual is correct one. I call the ongoing political business as usual the “Titanic Syndrome”
    The world is too complacent, sailing through uncertain waters with many real dangers that could puncture a hole in unsinkable ship. Many refuse to believe there is a danger ahead until water starts pouring into their shoes.
    When the sinking begins it will be too late to save all. Just as on the Titanic there is not enough life boats for our world population because we neglected to prepare for possible emergency.
    Captain Smith carried two thirds of his passengers to death because he refused to believe that iceberg lay ahead and his ship could sink. Likewise, the present day politicos and denialists refuse to believe in multiple dangers laying ahead, hence they carry us full speed ahead into dangerous waters where the majority of us could drown. As usual, it is the second class and third class passengers (common folk and poor folk) who pays the ultimate price.


  23. Although I agree with Jim Hansen about the necessity for urgent action on climate, I’m not as convinced as he is hat cap and trade schemes must be ineffectual.

    One analysis of the EU scheme has it that they had to make it ineffectual in the beginning in order to secure the political support required to enact the scheme in the first place.

    The way to make cap and trade ineffective is to give away or otherwise create enough permits to emit that the price for them drops so low that emitters find it more economical to buy a permit to emit rather than to actually reduce their emissions. This has been proven in the EU. You can put a scheme in, and after a number of years, you won’t see a dramatic difference in the society.

    What seems obvious is not that cap and trade systems must fail, but that you need political will to implement a cap and trade system that will force the price of emitting high enough.

    Discussion along these lines was aired on Australian Broadcasting Corp “Rear Vision”:

    You could say that carbon taxes must fail as well, simply because it is so politically difficult to get voters to support politicians who call for putting them in. No matter how theoretically good an idea is if you can’t pass it into law it isn’t going to work.


  24. In case anyone is wondering, I’m all for nuclear power. The problem of peak oil and peak everything is what really made me go looking for solutions, and I found the Google tech talk by Joe Bonometti “The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor: What Fusion Wanted To Be” because it contained the word “fusion” and I was looking to see if someone had put up something encouraging about fusion research recently.

    Cheap (clean) power certainly seems like a good idea to me. When I heard about the LFTR (and then the IFR) it struck me that here is a kind of miracle. The fact that by what strikes me as the amazingly simple process of beta decay a fertile nuclear substance can become fissile and therefore we have the means to provide millenia of cheap clean power strikes me as being exactly what actually practically can provide the foundation for humans to truly escape being bound by local limitations. If I’ve understood it right it is observed that urbanization and education and economic empowerment, especially for women, leads to greater sustainability not less. Plenty of cheap energy appears to be what chiefly enables this. So again if I’ve understood it right, we can actually see how to achieve planet wide sustainability, even in our own time.

    My issue is not that these things aren’t a good idea, it’s that there seem to be forces at work to prevent us adopting them, in much the same way there seem to be forces at work that allow people to be suckered out of their life savings in the sharemarket (I’m bearish on that I guess) or that prevent developed countries from holding to the Pearson principle of spending 0.7% of GDP on developing countries etc.
    I’m not supposing these are deliberately sinister forces, I’m just wondering how bad it’s going to get before people decide it has to be turned around. I think there will be deep widespread losses first and I’m posting here in a feeble attempt to warn against them. And, perhaps strangely, to check if any others see the problem as bad as I do and yet see how it could go so that not so much harm will occur.


  25. Copenhagen has been dead in the water almost from conception because there was never any serious effort made to deal with China, and the other ‘catch-up economies,’ and they are not going to agree to any measures that will slow their agendas for the next decade or so.

    It’s going to be a farce that will see politicians dancing about saying nothing, but being very firm about it, leading to an agreement which will have no impact beyond giving a few countries an excuse to put in a new tax or so, but will be declared seminal. The usual, move on, nothing to see here.


  26. I think the wake up call may come within the next five years. A conjunction of El Nino and Peak Oil downslope may make the weekly bills unaffordable. Weak food production combined with high fuel prices will create hardship and anxiety. The public will demand action. With hindsight we may realise that the slow and steady ETS approach was right all along.

    The pressure will be on for quick fixes but I doubt they exist. Energy use will restrained by general price increases without reference to carbon content. Hopefully those calling for monstrosities like coal-to-liquids will be shouted down. Our best hope may be a combination of aggressive demand management, modular Gen III and a careful rethink of how remaining gas should be used.


  27. Doc, placing denial of climate science on an equal footing with the recent CRU emails scandal (I’m not going to use any journos lazy *bollocks*GATE phrase), doesn’t suggest you’re a genuine sceptic.

    It’s pretty hard to be sceptical these days. The only way the scientists couldn’t be right (well with >90% confidence) is if there was a grand conspiracy that required the total alliegance of every editorial board member of every prestigious science publication for the last twenty years, without a single leak or slip up. To believe that requires a lot more than healthy scepticism.

    I didn’t call you a denialist, BTW, you took that label up yourself.

    The predictions for sea level rise are I think tracking (from memory) from about 80 cm to 1.8 metres by the end of the century. If you live on a delta, like hundreds of millions of chinese and bengalis, that’s a real concern.


  28. The sea level rise can be easily dealt with using the Dutch method. Has anyone stopped to think what the most threatened Islands are made of ? Coral ! Unless you believe Anthozoa once had legs then you have to accept that the ocean once swept over these islands. History repeats.


  29. Just sent this to my local newspaper editor. Must give credit where credit is due.

    I would like to congratulate Tony Abbott on achieving the leadership of the Liberal Party and thank him for his support for the Great Geophysical Experiment (GGE). GGE has been running since 1970 to test the hypothesis that increasing CO2 in the atmosphere would lead to global temperature rises. Although by 2004, scientists were 90% certain a positive result had been obtained, we prefer to have greater than 95% probability before declaring success. This may take a few years yet and we welcome the support of the Liberal and National Parties to continuing the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere.
    Further, beginning in 2004 scientists have begun GGE2 which is the Great Glaciological Experiment. There has long been puzzlement over how the northern ice caps melted and broke up following the last ice age. The GGE2 endeavours to study the world’s remaining ice caps as they melt and collapse with the warming planet. Never before have scientists had the opportunity to observe such an event and to be able to study three is pure joy. However, premature decreases of CO2 levels would jeopardize this experiment which
    needs at least another 30 years to run. We welcome the Liberal Party and National Party’s policies to ensure this happens.
    We would of course like to apologize to the public in advance for any collateral damage such as deaths from drought, famine and increased hurricanes, typhoons and storms, drowning of coast-lines and countries and possible collapse of various societies. Such inconveniences are a small price to pay for the enormous advances in climatology and glaciology that GGE 1 and 2 are bringing to science.


  30. @wilful – With all due respect, in paragraph 3 of your 12/02/09 post at 17:33 – you employed the word “denialists”. You pulled the trigger first. How do you define “genuine sceptic” as opposed to “garden variety sceptic”?

    I look at it this way: Either the climate is fragile or it’s resilient; either CO2 is a trace gas necessary for life (and of the 388 ppmv currently measued, humans contribute 4% or 15ppmv and adding 2 ppmv per year) or it’s nearly destructive in its effect at higher concentrations; the world is incapable of adjusting over time to comparatively moderate inputs by mankind; that, while the earth is 70% water and (guessing here) 90% of the land surface is uninhabited, mankind’s effect is magnified by orders of magnitude – and that will cause the certain demise of all, except the really smart.

    I mean no disrespect here, as I truly appreciate the great info Barry and Crew compile, but I find it disconcerting that so many intelligent people (many who leave me in the dust, IQ-wise) are so willing to overlook or ignore the obvious mitigating and complicating factors that affect the global climate. Climate research is in its infancy, comparatively, and there are so many unknown-unknowns, that to attach oneself to CO2, and as a result of 20 -30 years of research, seems like a stretch.

    Here’s some historical context of the CRU for those who haven’t read it:

    Best wishes to all. My sauvignon blanc is calling (to accompany stuffed manicotti).


  31. with equal respect (gawd what a hackneyed phrase), I used the term denialist generally (I think it’s an appropriate term), you self-identified with it.

    Understanding of the role of CO2 dates back to at least 1896. This isn’t something cooked up recently.


  32. Frank Kandrnal: No offense intended to those over 60 … some of the most
    active campaigners for a better world I know of are over 60 … but the polls
    are better at judging such things than me and there is a clear trend that towards denialism as one goes through the age categories.

    See, for example … (this doesn’t have a 60+ category, but I saw one a while
    back which did):


  33. Many people are concerned (as am I) that so many people are being tricked by these charlatan “sceptics”. For such a huge problem we need everyone to be as well-educated as possible on what the implications and causes of climate change are. It would appear to me that the vocal charlatans such as Bob Carter and Plimer are doing an excellent job at converting the intellectually lazy, and also playing up the “ideological aspect” of climate change.

    I’ve been thinking that perhaps the best use of climate scientists time for six months or so would be to stop their research and effect a huge publicity campaign. Get out into the town halls, onto the radio, television, in the press and internet with presentations, get stuck into every denialist misrepresentation, lie, etc. Something like Barry’s climate change seminar series would be great. Just rolled out 1000 times over. This would hopefully stamp out this ridiculous “scepticism” and really get people to realise what is at stake.

    Just a thought….


  34. I was thinking all this over and came to the conclusion that the ALP should go straight to a Royal Commission on Climate Change. The next poll is going to get nasty on this issue, and the skeptics hand it strong at the moment… and I say that in the same way that Pauline Hanson’s racism used to be perversely popular and got support in the community.

    I think a Royal Commission is the perfect tool for the public to come to grips with the realities of climate change.


  35. 100% agreement with Barry. Nothing ever happens until the real Big Bang for all people to see where we are going.

    This Copenhagen is ridiculous, of course, we all know. Cap and trade we have had of some kind in EU, pure green wash.

    We must have heavy carbon tax with cap and trade and we all know there will be no tax with cap and trade.

    The top politicians are aged 50 – 70: they promise you even 100% reductions in emissions by 2050; they are not living any more then. But 2020 they are 60 – 80; they must be rather careful in promising something minus 10 – 20%. When 2020 emissions are + 10 – 20%, they accuse other parties for shooting down their master stroke.


  36. I had previously been convinced by a few economists that cap and trade was the least bad option but I am tending back to the same skeptical position Barry has. In the end, cap and trade requires countries to tax themselves and be honest. Governments just can’t be trusted to do that.

    I also think that human nature will respond to this problem quickly once it starts to feel real pain. If so, the question is, what can we do to make sure things aren’t irreversible by then, and can be quickly turned around? Can we identify “containment strategies” to ensure our emissions at least don’t get worse? Like no new coal plants?

    If it is any comfort Barry, continuing your 1940s analogy, the world went from appeasement to full scale response in four years (1938 to 1942) depite the depression.


  37. Pingback: Barry Brook – Copenhagen irrelevant: | København lokale nyheder

  38. I may have some more comments later (I am at Copenhagen at the moment), and I don’t see Copenhagen being a sideshow.

    I just wanted to point out that because of permit banking, the EU ETS has reduced emissions significantly in Europe. While it only aimed to reduce emissions during 2008-12 to 8% below 1990 levels, projections suggest that EU emissions will go to 13% below 1990 levels in that time period.

    Some of the details are here.

    The problem with ETS’s around the world is that they have worked too well, and have required significantly less carbon prices than expected.


  39. I don’t know if DocForesight’s last message indicated he has checked out of this thread, or whether he’s interested in CO2 absorption any more, but I just ran into a very nice paragraph from Weart & Pierrehumbert in the Copenhagen Diagnosis report:

    “Is the greenhouse effect already saturated, so that adding more CO2 makes no difference?

    No, not even remotely. It isn’t even saturated on the runaway greenhouse planet Venus, with its atmosphere made up of 96% CO2 and a surface temperature of 467 °C, hotter even than Mercury (Weart and Pierrehumbert 2007). The reason is simple: the air gets ever thinner when we go up higher in the atmosphere. Heat radiation escaping into space mostly occurs higher up in the atmosphere, not at the surface – on average from an altitude of about 5.5 km. It is here that adding more CO2 does make a difference. When we add more CO2, the layer near the surface where the CO2 effect is largely saturated gets thicker – one can visualize this as a layer of fog, visible only in the infrared. When this “fog layer” gets thicker, radiation can only escape to space from higher up in the atmosphere, and the radiative equilibrium temperature of -18 °C therefore also occurs higher up. That upward shift heats the surface, because temperature increases by 6.5 °C per kilometer as one
    goes down through the atmosphere due to the pressure increase. Thus, adding 1 km to the “CO2 fog layer” that envelopes our Earth will heat the surface climate by about 6.5 °C.”

    This explanation requires that the top of the infrared fog layer remains within the troposphere, which it should, in the tropics anyway, if it’s at around -18 °C.


  40. Peter, excuse my ignorance, but do the figures account for the enormous movement of industry to Asia from Europe in the last 20 years? I’m also very suspicious of the ‘purchase by governments of credits from emissions reducing projects outside the EU’.

    A cynic may conclude that Europe has simply moved its polluting industries to China since 1990, and is buying the rest of the (highly questionable) credits from other countries. They can then use their ‘reduction’ of emissions (really a movement of emissions out of the EU) as a bargaining chip in future negotiations.

    I’m not saying this is the case; I’m not sure either way.


  41. Actually the fugitive emissions problem is one of those more apparent than real things Kim. The sunk cost losses and other costs of relocating to another country are far too significant not to buy the latest technology. Thus, even when going to a low wage country, the new enterprise tends to have a lower pollution profile than it did before. That has been the case with BHP Billiton each time it has relocated industrial facilities.

    Much is made of China’s growing development of coal fired power. The one new plant each week is commonly trotted out to discourage action elsewhere, but in fact for every 3 GW of new installed capacity, about 2-2.5GW of smaller, dirtier and less efficient capacity is retired. By 2020, China’s coal fired capacity will be a lot cleaner than Australia’s


  42. I disagree that the EU’s use of offsets represents a success. If those offsets are exaggerated or illusory then it is more like fraud. To paraphrase Richard Feynman we can fool ourselves but we can’t fool Nature. To their credit the EU frowns on carbon sink offsets like tree planting because they believe the effect is temporary. However they heavily endorse ‘clean development’ offsets which I’d argue are either an accounting fiction or wrong in principle.

    By declaring someone has used less than their future CO2 entitlement that does not legitimise someone else buying that ‘unused entitlement’. We want immediate reductions, not less than might otherwise happen in the future. I suggest a good starting point is zero entitlement. Take methane flaring which has in the past been assigned CO2 credits, presumably on the difference of the warming potential between burnt and unburnt gas. Under zero entitlement you pay carbon tax on the CO2 if you burn it and 20 times as much if you don’t. Only debits, no credits.


  43. Kim, it is impossible to tell what would have happened had the EU not introduced an ETS. But many emissions intensive industries, such as aluminium production, are also extremely capital intensive. This makes them very expensive to relocate, and there would have to be a very high carbon price (and little prospect of a carbon price elsewhere) for them to relocate.

    I don’t have a problem with buy credits from overseas, but if they are questionable I do. In my opinion offset projects should be discounted, so that more than one tonne of offsets is needed to account for one tonne of emissions.


  44. We should not loose sight of the fact that it’s going to be what doesn’t happen in Copenhagen that will be the most telling. The very fact that nuclear energy will not be the centerpiece of any global GHG mitigation scheme is proof positive that the game has been fixed. Nothing will come out of this meeting that will be any threat at all to Big Carbon’s hegemony in energy.

    Here and elsewhere many of us have researched, analyzed and debated the topic ad infinitum et ad nauseum from every possible angle, and over several years in some instances. The case for nuclear energy is not only sound, but crystal-clear to anyone that is apprised of the facts. It is just not possible that every single person in every government responsible for the energy portfolio for their nation is not aware of this.

    Consequently the only possible reason for nuclear energy not being high on the agenda at this, or any other high-level meeting ostensibly about finding a solution to the climate forcing issue, is that the participants have been bought and paid for. No other explanation is possible.


  45. I agree with Professor Brook that the public must feel the sting before they will respond energetically… at least where it matters most, ie; the Western Democracies. Whether the blow is dealt by adverse climate effects, or by energy scarcity driven impoverishment and turmoil, or both, one thing is certain… the blow will come and there will be a reckoning. George Washington summed it up quite well 222 years ago…

    “It is one of the evils, perhaps not the smallest, of democratical governments that the People must feel before they will see or act.” – Letter to David Humphreys, March 8, 1787

    The historical record amply demonstrates the self-evident accuracy of that observation! Logically, the obverse is then true (if not universally applicable), ie:

    “It is one of the virtues, perhaps not the smallest, of tyrannical (or “weakly” democratical) governments that the feelings of the People provide no obstruction to timely action.” – Letter to Barry Brook, December 4, 2009

    Perhaps this goes far in explaining the current global distribution of nuclear expansion? Just a thought…


  46. Easter island, 400 years ago:
    “I don’t accept the argument that a peaking timber supply will cause our society to collapse. Yes, it will help force our hand, but it ain’t gonna be our undoing — we’re way too resilient and ingenious for that — at least when the pressure is on.”

    Just a thought :)


  47. Easter island, 400 years ago:
    “I don’t accept the argument that a peaking timber supply will cause our society to collapse. Yes, it will help force our hand, but it ain’t gonna be our undoing — we’re way too resilient and ingenious for that — at least when the pressure is on.

    Don’t be a fool. That was a primitive culture that didn’t have options. We do have options to stop the problem in its tracks, if certain people would get out of the way. And that option is nuclear energy.


  48. @DV82XL, you write in one of your magisterially unsourced statements:

    “The case for nuclear energy is not only sound, but crystal-clear to anyone that is apprised of the facts. It is just not possible that every single person in every government responsible for the energy portfolio for their nation is not aware of this. Consequently the only possible reason for nuclear energy not being high on the agenda at this, or any other high-level meeting ostensibly about finding a solution to the climate forcing issue, is that the participants have been bought and paid for. No other explanation is possible.”

    Now I think we would both agree with James Hansen writing in NYT just now: cap and trade is a Wall St. -driven emissions trading scam.

    However, denialists allege that AGW climate science is an international multi-decade conspiracy involving tens of thousands of public service university climatologists who have managed to conspire successfully all this time.

    And this conspiracy is prima facie unlikely and ridiculous, as you will agree. But I have a severe problem, for reasons of logistics and disclosure, with your idea of fossil fuel lobbyists having bribed all Copenhagen attendees, if that is what you are saying.

    “Other explanations” for NPPs not being on the table at Copenhagen will not to be to your liking as a metallurgist and presumed uranium proponent on account of its energy density. They are: 1. unresolved nuclear waste disposal problem for NPPs of Gens II and III, e.g. the Castor transports from La Hague to Gorleben in Germany, which tie up thousands of police from all over Germany year after year . This disposal problem is a justifiable concern for politicans looking to be reelected and the public servants they direct. 2. NPP safety issues of personnel training, materials quality and workmanship being maladministered either by national supervisors of private-sector NPP operators in collusion with the latter (eg USA or Germany) or as part of bureauacratic malfeasance (France) 3. current refusal of the atomic powers to countenance any challenge to their power to threaten and coerce by promoting civilian nuclear energy among potential victims, because those victims, cf. Iran, can undertake enrichment.

    Concerning safety issues, I do not think your side helps its case by airbrushing Three Mile Island and other incidents; WHO and IAEO working together by charter means that UN NPP health data are questionable per se, see objections raised by IPPNW. Your side alleges either that Chernobyl is an out of date design and thus irrelevant

    Now I have read your statements in this blog that Military and Civilian are entirely separate and that it is very hard to make a bomb having stolen material from the Civilians. Hence you state that proliferation from Civilian to Military does not exist.. However, it it not the case that just as a light plane pilot is closer to flying a Jumbo than is a sailor, there is a nuclear engineering skills crossover? Or do you have another explanation of India having been cut off from Civilian tech. when it refused in 1968 to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Are you saying it was only because it tested a bomb in 1974 ?

    Incidentally, why is India now allowed Civilian since 2008? Is it not aimed at allowing it to develop as a Western ally against China, from its current 4,0000 MW to the forecast 470,000 MW by 2050?

    Concluding, the impression of this blog based on the English used in it is that it is visited mainly by men of engineering/hard science background with no self-doubt as regards risk issues (eg NPP safety) and a hands-on, can-do attitude, which may or may not be calibrated to the risks addressed. They are by default loyal to US and UK dominance at all times.

    This is known as “if you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”


  49. Peter Lalor – I will deal with your criticisms in the same order you presented them.

    “you write in one of your magisterially unsourced statements:”

    My statements in the comment in question are unsourced because they are clearly presented as opinion. It is my understanding that as such it required no formal reference. As for ‘magisterial’, yes I know my language is a bit florid, unfortunately I lack sufficient command English to be confident enough to use it with the same understated and nuanced ease that a native speaker does, and still be confident I am making myself understood.

    “Now I think we would both agree with James Hansen writing in NYT just now: cap and trade is a Wall St. -driven emissions trading scam.”

    “I have a severe problem, …, with your idea of fossil fuel lobbyists having bribed all Copenhagen attendees, if that is what you are saying.”

    Well I don’t care who is paying them off, I suspect some smaller nations are going to be compensated for tacitly supporting the Chinese coal-burning juggernaut which to me amounts to the same thing as having Peabody cutting them a check. The bottom line is that special interests will prevail.

    The rest of your items are the usual litany of antinuclear shibboleths that have been addressed over and over, however one more time we will go through it again.

    “1. unresolved nuclear waste disposal problem for NPPs of Gens II and III,”

    There are no unresolved issue over nuclear waste. There are several options that allow this material to be reprocessed or isolated from the environment that are proven safe and effective. Transportation casks have been established as unbreachable by any accident that my befall them, and the material in them generally doesn’t represent any value such that it would be interdicted for some other purpose.

    Circuses that attend the movement of nuclear material are solely the responsibility of antinuclear forces wishing to make a show and terrorize the public for their own ends. In Canada, by policy the schedule and itinerary of these movements are not made public and only the public safety apparatus in the various communities along the route are informed. They are not expected to be a presence as the shipment passes through their bailiwick. We have never had any problems.

    “2. NPP safety issues of personnel training, materials quality and workmanship being maladministered”

    Again a tempest in a teapot being whipped up by those with an agenda against nuclear. I ask you, how many dead, how many serious accidents, or failure has this sector suffered? And how many can be traced to the reasons you stated?

    The safety record of the nuclear sector is one of the better ones in any industry. I know from personal experience just how much trouble is taken in commercial aviation to avoid incidents yet that activity has killed more people due to the reasons you stated than nuclear ever has, yet no one in their right mind calls for an end to flying.

    “3. current refusal of the atomic powers to countenance any challenge to their power to threaten and coerce by promoting civilian nuclear energy among potential victims, because those victims, cf. Iran, can undertake enrichment”

    To the extent I understand what this means, I strongly doubt that this is anything more than manufactured concern that has the oder of post hoc ergo propter hoc reasoning about it. I may be interpreting this wrong however, and I will respond to any clarification you might make.

    “I do not think your side helps its case by airbrushing Three Mile Island and other incidents;..”

    No incident, including TMI need be airbrushed; the facts are such that these events were nowhere near the long-term disasters they were predicted to be. This can be seen in the raw mortality and cancer incident data available, particularly in the case of TMI. Were there any real concerns, it would not require the sort of statistical massaging I see to show a ghost of trends that anyways falls inside the error bars.

    “…WHO and IAEO working together by charter means that UN NPP health data are questionable per se, see objections raised by IPPNW.”

    That is a rather bold, and potentially libelous statement, given that it is made without any supporting evidence. I am not going to wade through the IPPNW website looking for it. If you or the IPPNW has evidence of collusion and maleficence between these entities I will address it, when I am shown it. Without it this is just a hollow accusation and is irrelevant to the subject at hand.

    “Now I have read your statements in this blog that Military and Civilian are entirely separate …[is] there is a nuclear engineering skills crossover? Or do you have another explanation of India having been cut off from Civilian tech….Are you saying it was only because it tested a bomb in 1974?”

    The degree of overlap is less than one would expect. The critical skills to create a device are very different and the skills needed to make the leap between a crew-served test setup, and a deliverable weapon are even greater.

    India was cut off after the Smiling Buddha shot because it had violated several technology transfer agreements it had signed with various countries. For example when Canada sold them the CIRUS reactor they categorically promised that they would not use the plant to breed weapons-grade material, when it was found out they had Canada cut off nuclear trade with them. This latter cascaded into a full blown stop of nuclear trade because of provisions in the regulations of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

    “Incidentally, why is India now allowed Civilian since 2008?”

    Because they have become a Player on the international stage, and have the weight to get what they want now. No one is going to cut themselves out of access to a huge developing market, or push it into the hands of your competitors. There is more at stake here than just nuclear issues.

    “Concluding,…US and UK dominance at all times.”

    Statements like these are beneath notice, I won’t grant them any legitimacy by responding to them.


  50. Mr. Lalor, I like your choice of word here:

    “Magisterially” – produced by or characteristic of a teacher, scholar, or expert; showing great dignity and authority.

    (DV82XL – rest assured, your command of the English language is outstanding, as is your mastery of the topic at hand.)

    This however, was unfortunate… “Concluding, the impression of this blog based on the English used in it is that it is visited mainly by men of engineering/hard science background with no self-doubt as regards risk issues (eg NPP safety) and a hands-on, can-do attitude, which may or may not be calibrated to the risks addressed.”

    Dang! You were so close! Next time try… “Concluding, the impression of this blog, based on the English used in it, is that it is visited (and hosted) mainly by men of engineering/hard science background. Having conducted a thorough and dispassionate review of both the technical and historical record, they have arrived at an informed understanding as regards risk issues (eg not just of NPP safety, but of the alternatives as well). Departing from the distressing and counter-productive norm of impenetrable ideology, they exhibit a hands-on, can-do attitude, following wherever the facts may lead in order to accurately calibrate the risks involved.”

    Mr. Lalor, you represent that “self-doubt” is a virtue that the visitors to this site lack… I beg to differ. While I believe that “self-doubt” is a necessary spur to compel an honest man to proper humility, and is well suited to the process of personal introspection and development, it is misapplied to the task of analysing scientific/engineering data. I suggest that some questions are susceptible to being answered to the complete satisfaction of an impartial mind.. without resort to arrogance, or allegiance, or blind faith. However, these questions (such as NPP risk analysis) are the province of simple, informational “doubt” (no “self” required)… that is easily resolved through education. “Self-doubt” comes later when one must ask the more difficult question of whether one has the strength of character to embrace the product of that education in spite of previously held, and often long cherished, beliefs.

    The truth is that this site is replete with evidence that its visitors (and host) have wrestled quite earnestly with the “self-doubt” you claim they lack… the diligence with which they seek unbiased information, the passion with which they disseminate what they have found, and their willingness to get involved is all the proof you need. Here is an example of the kind of questions that lend themselves to a proper application of “self-doubt” to highlight what I mean…

    1 – Am I taking the peril of the energy/environmental crisis seriously enough?

    2 – Do I have a responsibility to understand these issues, and if so, am I applying myself diligently enough to the task?

    3 – Am I working for solutions or advancing an ideology?

    4 – Am I capable of changing my mind, even if it puts me in an uncomfortable, unpopular, and/or unfamiliar place, if that’s where the facts lead?

    5 – What contribution can I make?

    If you detect a high order of self-assurance in the statements you see here, it is because they are a wholesome combination of factual accuracy and clear ethical purpose… liberally and conscientiously filtered through the lens of “self-doubt”. But after all, the question of a viable post-fossil energy paradigm is a scientific/engineering problem requiring scientific/engineering solutions… you are quite fortunate to have found such an outstanding resource “visited mainly by men of engineering/hard science background”… may it serve to resolve some of your “doubts”. As to your “self-doubt”, that’s your path alone, but you’d be wise not to confuse the two… it would bring the wrong tool to the job!

    This is known as “if the problem is a nail, you better be damn sure you bring a hammer”… put down the monkey wrench, Peter… these are not partisan issues.


  51. Well said John Rogers, thank you for that excellent contribution. I also applaud DV82XL’s ongoing contributions. Mr Lalor clearly believes we, humanity, are well beyond the pursuit of technological innovations as solutions to environmental crises. I would respond by asking him to point to significant events in history when the opposite approach has been taken, and worked.


  52. John Rogers: The aviation analogy is a good one. The whole of modern
    medicine would work also … medically induced illness and death are pretty
    common, but no one seriously suggests going back to witchcraft … well
    not as a first resort anyway :)

    Peter Lalor: BNC is now a huge and mature blog, I don’t know how much
    you have read, but I’d suggest looking at its history. Barry’s views have
    changed enormously in the few years I’ve known him and he really is
    one of the few people to go where the evidence leads.


  53. Thank you for providing the platform Professor Brook… it is a pleasure.

    Ms. Perps, having read some of your fiery defenses of BNC in the past, I am very much inclined to stay on your good side! ;o) I accept your praise gratefully in hopes that I can stay in your good graces.

    Mr. Russell, as much as I wish it were otherwise, the aviation analogy is DV82XL’s… not mine.


  54. John Rogers – have you been talking to my husband? He reiterates your comments ;o) However, I can’t be that scary -we have just had our 39th wedding anniversary! Keep up the good work! BTW I love the title Ms.Perps – I think I will keep it!


  55. All the dunderheaded disinformation, deceit, delay, denial and disasterous decisionmaking of the past 8 long dark years are in past. With a little luck people with feet of play will overcome the arrogance, wanton greed and stupidity perpetrated by the Masters of the Universe among us, the most avaricious and self-righteous ones who widely proclaim their greed-mongering is God’s work.

    What mental disorder describes those among us who proclaim themselves Masters of the Universe doing the work of God?

    Years of hard work by people with feet of clay all come down to this week. The “now or never” week is at hand for the children, global biodiversity, life as we know it, the integrity of Earth and its environs. This week is the moment that the Masters of the Universe cannot avoid any longer; all of human family are bound in this long-awaited momentous week. The time for action has come, finally. The opportunity held in this blessed moment must not be missed.

    If anyone thinks of something that I can do to assist any of you to reasonably, sensibly, responsibly and humanely realize the goals of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, please send word to me.

    Steve Salmony
    Chapel Hill, North Carolina


  56. “What mental disorder describes those among us who proclaim themselves Masters of the Universe doing the work of God?”

    If anyone knows about mental disorder it would be you Steve.

    Note to Barry: this commenter has a history of posting long disruptive and pointless rants about television taking over peoples brains and other such relevant topics. He has already been thrown from several forums for his behavior. Just so that you know.


  57. @John Rogers: your are by your own admission on 29.11 in another thread an AGW agnostic, AKA denier, as is also DV82XL, as stated by him on 29.11 in same thread.

    NPPs are not seen by either of you as an answer to AGW but as preferable to fossil fuels for other and antecedent reasons. In your case as retired US military this will include the usefulness of atomic weapons as threat projection to assert US overlordship since 1945.

    Hence I think that for you to attempt vainly to patronise me once more on the topic of science/engineering when it suits your lifelong predilection to help project US power by military nuclear means is to say the least dubious in view of your own rejection of the findings of empirical climate science (see your blog statements on 29.11).

    You spent, as you say, your career in the nuclear-related military service of the US state. The aim was to secure it access to raw materials and markets by violence or threat thereof (see Thomas Friedman’s famous statement on the mailed fist that is needed for Nike and Coke to thrive internationally). You appear to be drawing its pension. Hence I would advise extreme caution in the use of the fashionable smear word “ideology” against your opponents. As if all the Presidents you served under had none…. Are you not “the light on the hill?” People in glass houses…

    It is sobering that two strong pro-nukes on this blog, Rogers and DV82XL, are thus both AGW deniers/disclaimers: strange blog bedfellows for anti-AGW pro-nukes, indeed.

    @Barry Brook: you state that I do not believe in tech solutions to environmental crises. I suppose I could quote Lovelock ( I assume you respect him as a scientist?) , for whom there are no solutions any longer bar the UK battening down in the face of AGW. But I am not sure about Lovelock, who I take it is an NPP man because of believing that all renewables are a German re-run of the 1939 plot, and he is an English patriot.

    But leaving Lovelock aside, I assume that you think I think that Man should not e.g. have invented fire using carbon-based wood, or cleared western Europe of first-growth forest by ca. 1700 for wood-based housing as further protection against the heat/cold (= crisis).

    Incorrect. However, the tech solution to AGW propounded on this blog seems to fluctuate from day to day: some bloggers (Blees) now complain about Germany wanting to switch off Gen II NPPs, after they (Blees) have written books lauding only Gen IV; you yourself wrote in this blog that Gen III is fine by you for SA.

    Jim Greene’s support of my quotations of Blees’ concern in his book to internationalise and socialise NPPs (the GREAT concept) was met with resounding silence on this blog some days ago. Strange, given Blees’ status on this blog. Thus you and others are de facto leaving the development of NPPs to national malfeasant bureacracies(France) and private sector (Japan, USA) firms in collusion with their local regulators. Such firms (see my blog entry about RWE today) have Big Coal in their product ranges. This led blogger Finrod to say today that we need a popular and not corporation-driven movement to bring about Newclear. Now, how would this happen? Is it possible?

    Figures showing lower deaths 1945 to date from civilian NPP accidents (ex Chernobyl, even assuming the Greenpeace data are mendacious and hence not countable, which I do not) than from fossil fuel usage would not seem relevant as leading indicators of the size of the potential damage done to humanity by the extension of nuclear (Gens III-IV) electricity to all those wanting it. This is because the post 1945 accident-prone culture of regulatory secrecy and collusion, detailed inter alia by Blees in his book for the USA, should not be allowed to spread. But I am aware that e.g. DV82XL is quite happy with clandestine atomic waste transports in Canada: he has said so on this blog. Another blogger is envious of China being able to ram through NPPs without opposition, as it is a one-party state.

    But what sort of concept of democracy does this imply? Could it be that pro-nukes are much more concerned with energy-intensive consumption? and have no problem with detention camps/tasering/death penalty for the opposition? The Chinese model, as it were?

    The view on this blog that one need only unplug Big Carbon and plug in Newclear (and boron, according to Blees) as part of scaling up NPPs of Gen III and IV overlooks the question: is the nature of the current crisis such that it is soluble merely by swapping one source of power for another? That is, what dangers to humanity are AGW-driven and which are not? For example: are metals/minerals finite/infinite, irrespective of whether they are processed using nuclear or fossil power (see recent New Scientist article)? Why is mental illness empirically rising along with affluence? This latter problem cannot be wished away by allegations that hairshirt Greenies want to return to anti-growth Calvinism.

    My impression is that the pro-nukes are 1. neoliberal to Keynesian, Bush to “Bushbama” 2. are blind to their own political assumptions on which they rest their engineering calculations, taking them as givens 3. adherents to the economic growth faith, undermined long since by e.g. Herman Daly, ex World Bank; and the New Economics Foundation people.


  58. Lalor – you’re now babbling, and grasping at straws. I am no AGW agnostic/denier. However I am not a climate scientist ether. Consequently I am forced to depend on the expertize of others in this regard, and while I examined the arguments from those sources and used them to form my own opinion on the subject, that does not qualify me to enter the debate.

    I do not involve myself in the peak oil debate for the same reasons.

    Logic dictates however that even in the unlikely case that AGW and peak oil are not real concerns at the moment, it is clear that we cannot continue along the current path without both of them becoming factors down the line. Which is one of the reasons I push for nuclear energy.

    As for the rest of your rant, it simply shows that you no longer have anything of pertinent to say on this matter and have been reduced to making petty personal attacks. To me this just indicates you are beaten, and behaving like an asshole because of it.


  59. David Lewis:

    Jim Hansen despises cap and trade because he is well aware of the round robin and pork barreling that goes on in Washington and isn’t too far off in terms of the rest of the world.

    He doesn’t trust politicians for a second and neither should any of us in terms of them staying the course for a long period of time as they will cheat and pork barrel.

    My understanding is that Jim would favor a carbon tax with income set offs, or at least that’s what he has said one time. He also makes a strong case or nuclear energy. Jim is right on all counts.

    The ETS is an abomination as far as I’m concerned. It’s another form of a big government boon doggle.

    The real policy should zero emissions and the objective should also be huge amounts of energy supply. Only nuke does that.


  60. My problem with going dark geen is timing. Going green is expensive, plus the science behind climate change is weak. So… le’ts wait for the right time. Like, when were not in a global recession.Good post.
    Richard A. Weisberg


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