September Open Thread

Apparently, the first commercial container ship has nearly traversed the Arctic. It’s a new era in shipping huzzah!

Suggested topic: are ancillary benefits of global warming important enough to include in the cost/benefit calculations?


  1. I would guess that the answer to your question "are ancillary benefits of global warming important enough to include in the cost/benefit calculations" is "yes" - e.g. reduced travel times through ice-free Arctic is probably non-trivial to world trade, changing patterns of agricultural production are net wins for some populations. I believe that these agricultural benefits are already built into the major economic models, leading to the highly questionable result that modest warming is overall beneficial for global agricultural production, which is them buried back into the models of global cost-benefit or social cost of carbon, along the way mainly losing sight of who wins and who loses (food insecure poor).

    A more important question is probably "are ancillary benefits of global warming mitigation policies important enough to include in the cost/benefit calculations", to which the answer is much clearer yes. Just take air pollution - this is the second biggest killer globally (about 6 million deaths a year), most of it from fossil fuels. US-EPA guidelines for value of a life saved are several million US each. Even if you just take a multiple of earnings (as most people who die from air pollution are much poorer than US citizens), society ought to be prepared to pay trillions a year for cleaner energy just to avoid the deaths. Approaching this in a slightly different way, studies indicate that the health co-benefits of reduced air pollution that could be avoided at the same time as reducing greenhouse forcing is about the same as the estimates for the social cost of carbon through greenhouse forcing. This is without even starting on the many benefits of less carbon intensive travel etc.

    So - the benefits of cleaner energy are not just worth factoring into the cost-benefit - they should arguably dominate such calculations. I have never seen a coherent answer for why most models ignore them.

  2. Simple answer: propaganda and a well financed PR machine. Consider the Pielkes and Revkins of the world, and take a look at who advertises. Don't forget those advertisements pay for our supposedly "free" media.

    It is indeed appalling that clean energy is not front and center in the repetitive way that denialism dominates, but this is not by accident. Water on stone, and people not realizing they are not thinking for themselves any more.

  3. Stolen from Neven's about current major floods in Boulder. Now this is interesting not only because NCAR and NSIDC are in the target area, but also because there was a major wildfire that came close last year. Wildfires leave the environment poorly equipped to deal with floods which has come up recently.

    Tweet from @spogburn in Boulder, 2013's missing Arctic ice located: after a phase change it's headed down Boulder Creek towards #NSIDC.

    Posted by: Doug Lofland | September 12, 2013 at 23:30

    Looking around, I found this gem for those interested in Arctic effects and knock-on consequences of Arctic melt:

    "Climate Change Hits Home: A warming Arctic affects all of us"

    ps. Now you've got kabbalistic symbolism off the front page (in order to attack, largely, a woman whose transgressions are unproven if assumed) I'm happy to come back.

    However, you will have to put up with my weather/climate observations, because that's my home in the climate debate. I'm not deceived about weather being climate, but this stuff continues, like the Great Lakes, to be an offshoot well worth following.

  4. There is an embarrassment of riches recently, a few good items:

    New Yorker on Keystone (focused on Tom Steyer), lovely it's not paywalled. I liked this little zinger from Steyer: “It is an interesting thing when you have people going to Copenhagen saying, ‘I’ve weaned myself completely off of all fossil fuels,’ which begs the question, How long is that kayak ride from Malibu to Copenhagen?”

    James Hansen weighs in:
    (there's another at his site)

    Naomi Klein (with whom I am furious for the big green worse than deniers nonsense, but who makes a whole lot of sense otherwise) to Canadian labor union. Good stuff on the extraction model.
    "Overcoming 'Overburden': The Climate Crisis and a Unified Left Agenda
    Why unions need to join the climate fight"

    ABC News this morning actually had quite a good short simplified weather analysis (not much longer than the annoying advert preceding it) about Boulder's troubles which are not entirely unconnected to Mexico's looming disasters and neatly segues to Hawaiian molasses spill:

    RealClimate has Gavin on problems models and observations with lots of inline responses. I'm not sure telling the word that models are models and observations are observations is getting us anywhere with the people who need to know, but it is a brave and excellent effort.

    On the nasty side of the balance sheet is Bjorn Lomborg today lukewarming away like mad, the truly dreadful 60% Arctic recovery nonsense (to which the replies are mostly way too technical, I think the response should be simple and obvious), and lots more, including the Romm-Klein infighting mentioned above. For a while I though deniers were losing, but they appear to have taken new heart and are overwhelming reality with their multiplying excrement.

  5. Nice simple response to 60% Arctic recovery nonsense stolen from Jim Hunt at Neven's:
    (this site includes a screenshot of the still closed NSIDC's report from August)


    "The Mail et. al. say “Nearly a million square miles”. When the floods in Boulder have receded the NSIDC will once again say “Just over half a million square miles”. Is that discrepancy sufficient to satisfy the Press Complaints Commission’s definition of “inaccurate, misleading or distorted information”?"

  6. Here's another topic then. There's been a noticeable burst of mainstream stories all giving (in different ways) the same message: "job of IPCC report = explain warming pause". Here's the BBC doing it for instance.

    How did this happen? Cf. Tamino's recent excellent post comparing to previous larger-than-trend periods in the record - we should expect variability. Why is this incredibly simple message so hard to get through? Excepting that the denialati will use whatever material they find, how has it so successfully got through to the mainstream this time round? Surely there are few things simpler to explain - analogies to variability as the seasons change are dead easy to grasp.

    That said, I have a vague memory of MT suggesting the 'pause' did indeed require some form of explanation.

    It looks like the IPCC's initial publicity splurge has, it seems, already been defined for it. I'm interested more in wondering how that got so mainstreamed?

  7. how that got so mainstreamed?

    This is increasingly puzzling me, too. A look at the temp graph would suffice for any idiot to see that neither the idea of "pause" nor of "not pause" makes any sense statistically. (Perhaps folks should read some Buddha sermons containing fourfold negation, haha...)
    Modellers need to check their models, mostly for ocean circulation details - but that's not the point of most discussions of the "pause".

    Meanwhile methinks denial goes much deeper and is much more widespread than just the explicitly "skeptical" elderly white male wingnut. It's in the subconsciousness of almost everyone, including the scientifically literate (e.g. seen it with Gavin Schmidt some years back). The prospects are just not bearable for mortal minds, esp. those who have/want children and riches. Homo S Sapiens a genosuicidal virtual cannibal, eating its children's future? Unthinkable!

  8. 2013 MacArthur Fellowships Announced (aka "genius grants").

    Haven't looked through all in detail yet, but almost all look interesting. David Lobell's agriculture work is particularly relevant here:

    Of course, the NYT covered this in the arts section with no discussion of this year's science fellowships.

  9. After spending many years reading satirical news articles online in between looking up real news stories online, Joseph Capgrass, 38, of Ipswich has confessed that he has lost the ability to tell the difference between real and parody news coverage. It has left his world in tatters.

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