Monday, June 12, 2017

Climate Change: The Evolution of the Deniers/Does Paul Ryan Hate His Grandchildren?

I went to the Mach for Science and then Drumpf pulled out of the Paris Accords. Causation or Correlation? I then posted about climate change (CC). That's caustation.

1) Deniers:

  The deniers have gone through several phases:

There is no CC

There is CC but its not caused by humans.

There is CC and its caused by humans but since China and India and other countries aren't doing anything about it, if only we do it will have no effect except to ruin our economy.
(Counter argument: the effects of climate change are economically devastating- are insurance companies trying to pressure governments to do something about CC since CC's effects cause damage which hurts their bottom line?)

Intermixed with these arguments have been:

Just because 87% of all lung cancer victims  smoke, that's just a correlation. Maybe people the lung cancer gene is also the smoking gene. Correlation does not equal causation. OH, sorry, that's a flashback to the Correlation NOT causation arguments made by the Tobacco companies. Do they still believe that? Mike Pence does (see here). How can they stay in business? (here's how) ANYWAY, some are making the correlation NOT causation argument for why Polar bears are dying, etc.

AND the classic

Technology will bail us out. (This would be a better argument if it was followed by hence we will give lots of funding for such technology  which is NEVER what its followed by.)

OKAY, so where are we in 2017?

The economist had an argument about how Solar and Wind will soon be MORE cost effective than Oil and Gas- though we still have the problem of what happens on a cloudy, windless day- so we need technology to store (see here though its behind a pay wall). China and India ARE doing things about CC. How much? Effective? Hard to say- though both are really concerned with pollution.

I predict the new argument will be:

We're all doomed anyway so why take our economy down at the same time.

Unfortunately this argument might be correct.

(ADDED LATER- a commenter says that I conspicuously left out religious arguments to not do anything about CC.  I now conspicuously ask you to read his comment.)

2) Take Paul Ryan. Please.
Seriously-- I assume he KNOWS that CC really is a problem and the longer we put it off the worse it will be for his grandchildren, and perhaps his children. So why does he fight ANY attempt to even admit we HAVE a problem (And note there ARE some market-based solutions- a Carbon Tax, Cap and Trade.)  Some speculation

a) Despite being smart he's in deep deep denial. Okay, but why is that? If you believe in small government then if something comes along that REQUIRES big government, you just DENY it since it does not fit into your world view.

b) Paul Ryan hates his Grandchildren.

c) Paul Ryan thinks that HIS grandchildren will be among the few people who survive and live in a VERY gated community. He's probably wrong about that as even those in gated communities will suffer the effects of CC.

d) Paul Ryan is stuck. If he tries to do ANYTHING then it will not work AND he'll lose his speakership and possibly his seat in congress. And there are a large number of congressman and senators who feel the same way but they're all afraid to say. If they ALL said so then... they'd ALL lose their seat in congress. One of the downsides of politics is ending up STUCK on the WRONG side of history and KNOWING it. Well, at least there won't be much history left so he won't be stuck on the wrong side for long.

3) Game Theory. I used to think that it was in NO countries SHORT term interest to do anything serious about CC (that is, do it alone) and hence we were all DOOMED! Doomed I say! And part of the problem is that if Country A emits greenhouse gases its bad for THE ENTIRE WORLD EQUALLY, and not for Country A in particular. But a few things make me more optimistic:

Pollution is a here-and-now problem for China and India so they will tackle that. That somehow has to be part of the solution.

Technology- as mentioned before Solar and Wind is catching up to Gas and Oil. (downside of technology- Fracking and oil extraction are also getting better and cheaper. Hubbert's Peak Oil Theory doesn't seem to be true) But the real advantage of Solar and Wind will be that you don't have to Extract and ship Oil (or Coal or whatever).

4) I wrote that last positive point before President Drumpf. Having a CC denier in the white house means four more years of no action which sounds really bad- especially since the longer we put off doing something about the problem, the harder and more expensive it will be to slow down CC (Some ponders that Trump won't be that bad for the environment: here)

5) Okay Bill, what would YOU do? Carbon Tax will give financial incentive for companies to curb Carbon emissions. And its simple. The Tax has to be high enough to have an effect. Another added bonus will be to help America pay down its deficit. ALSO more research into renewables. Oddly enough I would also recommend NOT forcing Gas to contain Ethanol- make Ethanol compete with Solar and Wind. (Recall that Ethanol is funded only because of the Iowa Caucus. If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry, its too stupid to explain.) Some may disagree and have other ideas. Thats FINE- I would rather be having a debate about what to DO about the problem rather than one about whether or not there IS a problem. Though even a debate about what to do about the problem should be SHORT so we can begin DOING something.


  1. You conspicuously left out a common claim from the far right: "It is in God's hands whether or not CC is will devastate us." Analogously, the right argues against funding to detect and potentially defend against asteroid strikes because such a calamity is not predicted in the Bible and God can protect us if He so chooses. The problem, of course, is how can one argue rationally against a position that is not based on rationality? Once religion is admitted on an equal standing with science into public policy debates, science will be dismissed as "fake news" by those whose decisions are based on their own religious beliefs.

    1. I have added a conspicuous to the post asking people to read your comment.

  2. Calling the president names seems to reveal your overall attitude and bias from the start.

    The Paris Accords were a horrible agreement for the US. It was non-binding but this country would be paying billions into other countries, would likely be forced into bad long-term planning "decisions" and if/when we didn't meet the ridiculous goal that was non-binding we would get slapped around anyway. The fact that there's such forceful pushback by certain countries against the idea of the US renegotiating the non-binding goals shows this.

    Instead of forcing and fining and taxing just let corporations that want to continue to exist and profit do their research and come up with cost effective approaches that will still fill their pockets. We don't need another Ethanol.

    1. If Donald Trump had said: YES CC is a problem but the Paris accords are not the way to battle it, that would be okay. The main point of my post was that we need to take the problem seriously before we can begin dealing with it.

      If you are saying YES CC is real but we can deal with it by purely letting companites that want to work on it do so, ando thers not, thats GREAT- since if it does not work, you will admit that, and try to think of something else- because you believe that CC is real.

      I suggested a Carbon tax precisely because it (I hope) avoids the Ethanol problem by telling people and companies that they have to emit less carbon BUT not telling them how to do it. Giving the money to companies that work in renewables may indeed lead to another ethanol. Giving it to basic research may have less of that problem. If the subsidies and tax breaks for renewables have made the current solar and wind (which are getting better) possible, that would bolster my argument.

      But my point is not to recommend any particular policy. My point is that we have to take the problem seriously. ANd I do not see Trump or the Republican congress doing that.

  3. If the U.S. joins the Paris Accord…

    Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
    Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
    Coal miners will lose their jobs.

    If the U.S. leaves the Paris Accord…

    Coal will be gradually replaced by natural gas.
    Carbon emissions will decline slightly.
    Coal miners will lose their jobs.


    BTW, what is the Social Cost of Carbon anyway? What is the range?