Wednesday, October 14, 2015

bullshit emissions targets and carbon pricing

Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated

There are a couple of superb articles out involving the challenges, and economics, of addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

Some quotes from We Need an Energy Miracle in the Atlantic (an interview with Bill Gates):
  • Distinguishing a real solution from a false solution is actually very complicated.
  • ...everything that’s hard has been saved for post-2030—and even these 2030 commitments aren’t enough. And many of them won’t be achieved.
  • People think energy is more of a private-sector thing than it is.
  • ... there’s no fortune to be made. Even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems...
  • We will not deny India coal plants; we will run the scary experiment of heating up the atmosphere and see what happens.
  • The only reason I’m optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. And innovation is a very uncertain process.
Graphic from Nature

The second article is from Nature, written by David J. C. MacKay (writer of the highly regarded Climate Change Without the Hot Air).

Negotiations at the United Nations climate summit in Paris this December will adopt a 'pledge and review' approach to cutting global carbon emissions. Countries will promise to reduce their emissions by amounts that will be revised later. The narrative is that this will “enable an upward spiral of ambition over time”1. History and the science of cooperation predict that quite the opposite will happen.
...Only a common commitment can lead to a strong treaty. Forty years of empirical and theoretical literature on cooperation confirms that individual commitments do not deliver strong collective action. Cooperators find that defectors take advantage of them. Ambition declines when others are revealed to be free-riding
The article deserves to be read completely, although I'm as far from optimistic about a global carbon price being introduced as I could be.

related notes

I've been getting a lot of e-mail on cap and trade - most of it supporting my impression it's a hybrid of a micromanagement mistake and a straight out scam.


In a 60 Minutes interview U.S. President Barack Obama states his definition of "leadership" would be, "leading on climate change in international accord that potentially we'll get in Paris."
The U.S. reneged on Kyoto, made a commitment to reductions in Copenhagen that it is unlikely to meet, where it also promised funding for the developing world it has no intention of meeting.

The President has a view of "leadership" that is unlikely to understood by self-respecting non-Americans.

Hillary Clinton Pledges $100B for Developing Countries | New York Times 2009
Getting to $100 Billion in Climate Change Aid | New York Times 2015

The weak in Climate Change policy: part 1 | Cold Air Currents, May 2015

Finally, in other recent news Gates' Terrapower signed a deal to build a fact reactor in China (read about in on the terrific Neutron Bytes blog), and another U.S. reactor announced it would cease operations (Will Davis wrote about it for the American Nuclear Society).

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