What becomes of the broken Hartwell?

by Gareth on May 13, 2010

Calls for a radical re-framing of policies to deal with climate change are intuitively attractive — after all, current national and international policies don’t seem to be doing much to curb rising emissions. The latest effort comes from a group of developed world academics brought together by London School of Economics professor Gwyn Prins, and takes the form of The Hartwell Paper [PDF] — a document based on discussions held in February at the English country houseof the same name. It suggests ditching Kyoto and all its structures, and instead tackling climate change with policies that approach the problem more obliquely. The authors claim:

…it is not possible to have a ‘climate policy’ that has emissions reductions as the all encompassing goal. However, there are many other reasons why the decarbonisation of the global economy is highly desirable. Therefore, the Paper advocates a radical reframing – an inverting – of approach: accepting that decarbonisation will only be achieved successfully as a benefit contingent upon other goals which are politically attractive and relentlessly pragmatic.

Sounds reasonable enough at first reading, but my suspicions were roused when I read beyond the executive summary.

 

Prins et al derive the need for their new approach from what they describe as two watersheds that were crossed in late 2009: the failure of COP15 in Copenhagen to deliver on its promise of a global deal to follow Kyoto, and what they call “an accelerated erosion of public trust [in climate science] following the posting [...] of more than a 1,000 emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit” last November. Copenhagen clearly did not live up to expectations, and the UN-mediated policy process may well have lost impetus, but the authors go on to assert that the CRU email theft, and the subsequent press furore and investigations means that “the legitimacy of the institutions of climate policy and science are no longer assured”. That, it seems to me, is a very long bow to draw. To see the Hartwell take on the emails applauded by Steve McIntyre and that they approvingly reference Andrew (Bishop Hill) Montford’s book The Hockey Stick Illusion suggests to me that the authors are coming at the issue with their own set of preconceptions — a framing they want to impose on the issue. A look at the author list (Roger Pielke Jr, Nordhaus and Shellenburger from the US think tank The Breakthrough Institute, amongst others) hardly dispels that notion…

When they consider the underlying science, they are at pains to misrepresent what’s going on:

Climate change was brought to the attention of policy-makers by scientists. From the outset, these scientists also brought their preferred solutions to the table in US Congressional hearings and other policy forums, all bundled. The proposition that ‘science’ somehow dictated particular policy responses, encouraged – indeed instructed – those who found those particular strategies unattractive to argue about the science. So, a distinctive characteristic of the climate change debate has been of scientists claiming with the authority of their position that their results dictated particular policies; of policy makers claiming that their preferred choices were dictated by science, and both acting as if ‘science’ and ‘policy’ were simply and rigidly linked as if it were a matter of escaping from the path of an oncoming tornado.

If “the science” has been unhelpful, then this misrepresentation of the message is even more so. The basic message from “the science” is clear enough. There’s too much carbon in the atmosphere, and adding more is going to make life very uncomfortable — all life, not just human beings — in the not too far distant future. Did scientists really bundle this message with “particular policy responses”? Only if reducing carbon emissions can be considered a policy response — but that’s the very response Prins et al seems to want to dance around. Decarbonisation they can countenance, but not now, not quantified. They want to ignore the quantification of the size of the problem we face because it might be inconvenient:

We share the common view that it would be prudent to accelerate the historical trend of reducing the carbon intensity of our economies, which has been a by-product of innovation since the late eighteenth century. However, we do not recommend doing so by processes that injure economic growth, which we think – and the history of climate policy demonstrates – is politically impossible with informed democratic consent.

What if political impossibility is confronting the harsh impact of physical reality? The Hartwell Paper assumes that we have the luxury of time, that we can step away from the progress made over the last 20 years , and somehow recast international policy according to a wishlist of interventions that might (if we’re lucky) set us on the right path. They imply that we need not face reality now, that we should take the Capability Brown approach to a country house, up a winding path that yields carefully framed glimpses of our goal, rather than march straight towards a target defined by our understanding of physical reality.

There is some good analysis of The Hartwell Paper at the Economist (with nice Eno reference), and by Richard Black at the BBC. Both writers suggest that whatever the merit of the Paper’s recommendations, the authors cannot ignore where we are now. We may not want to start from where we are, but we have no choice. In a wider perspective, the Paper is arguing for a bottom up approach to carbon reductions, looking for the low hanging fruit — efficiencies, black carbon reduction — while the Kyoto approach is top-down, starting (with luck) from an informed appreciation of what we would do well to avoid. It seems obvious to me that we need both approaches, at a national as well as international level. Setting a 40% target for emissions reduction by 2020 is just as valid as mandating the use of low energy lightbulbs, or encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles.

Prins, Pielke Jr et al prefer to ignore what we really know about the climate system and the one-way nature of the changes we’re imposing on it (who can put a species back after it’s gone, or reconstruct a coal seam?), adopting instead a high-minded but ultimately wishy-washy stew of policies that look a lot more like sticking plasters than a remedy. And, being a cynic, I can’t resist asking the cui bono question… who might benefit most from the policy mix they propose? I leave the answer as an exercise for the reader.

[Jimmy Ruffin]

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

dappledwater May 13, 2010 at 12:35 pm

"However, we do not recommend doing so by processes that injure economic growth"
Yeah, the stupid never stops. Do all economists believe in infinite resources and unlimited economic growth?.

The paper is another blatant attempt to delay the inevitable.

Gosman May 13, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Economics is the study of human behaviour and interaction. Economic growth is just a reflection of the desire of people to improve their lives over time in a materialistic way.

The trouble you have is that you think it is possible to somehow remove this desire to improve ones self. However I see no effective way of doing this other than you imploring people to change because of the perceived negative consequences.

Gareth May 13, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Economics is the study of human behaviour and interaction.

Nonsense. Economics is only just beginning to come to terms with real human behaviour, as opposed to the self-interested actors of classical economic theory. That it is still controversial says a great deal about economics… See this recent New Scientist interview with Austrian economist Ernst Fehr for more:http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.30… />
The study of human behaviour is the realm of psychology, ethology and sociology.

John Sully May 14, 2010 at 2:02 am

And the relatively recent field of behavioral economics

Gosman May 14, 2010 at 3:17 am

If you bothered to read Superfreakonomics you will have seen that they recreated a number of famous experiments on altruism along the lines of what Ernst Fehr has been doing. Their conclusions is that humans are far less altruistic than previous experiments have suggested.

C3P0 May 14, 2010 at 4:22 am

"Do all economists believe in infinite resources and unlimited economic growth?"

I for one do. Natural resources can be increased with an increase in technology. For example, the economic value of uranium was small before the discovery of nuclear electricity generation. The energy we get from the sun may not be unlimited, but the value we can derive from that energy is only limited by the technology we have, the human capital at our disposal, and the physical capital deployed to harness it. As technology, human capital (education, skills, population etc), and physical capital employed is not limited, neither are resources we can use / consume.

This applies to many needs. For example, rain is limited, but we can get moisture by for other means if technology, capital and people allow.

And as economic growth is function of technology and the different types of capital, economic growth is also not limited. I hope this is good news for you!

dappledwater May 15, 2010 at 10:25 pm

"I for one do" – C3

Yes, that doesn't surprise me, but are you an economist?.

"And as economic growth is function of technology and the different types of capital, economic growth is also not limited. I hope this is good news for you!" -C3

Nope, you've written nothing of substance. Belief in technology riding to the rescue is nothing but a denier invoked fantasy. Even if, for instance, geo-engineering could be made to work, and boy that if a mighty colossal if, how much would that cost?, how many trillions?. And it won't do a damn thing for curbing the other great CO2 problem – ocean acidification.

And please do note that many of the valuable materials that we use, rare earth metals for instance, are called that for a reason. Do you understand why?. And do you know where the bulk of the world's supply comes from?.

C3P0 May 16, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Study Solow-Swan economic growth model. Its basic stuff really.

dappledwater May 16, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Another nothing reply?. I suggest you read Solow-Swan, considering the empirical evidence is equivocal, and it's relevance to scarce resources?. Nada.

bill May 16, 2010 at 1:06 am

Natural resources can be increased with an increase in technology…This applies to many needs. For example, rain is limited, but we can get moisture by for other means if technology, capital and people allow.

What can I say? Suddenly much in C3PO's position becomes 'clear'.

I will, however, pause to note that there's no energy budget component in this calculation. And that magically appearing and desperately needed water has not been forthcoming in Australia.

C3P0 May 16, 2010 at 10:01 pm

And yet Australia continues to have economic growth…… perhaps due to technolagy and capital increasing???

Richard Christie May 14, 2010 at 5:19 am

Their conclusions is that humans are far less altruistic than previous experiments have suggested.
lol, judging from some of your arguments in here I'm inclined to believe that!

Gareth May 15, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Frankly, given what they've written about climate change, I would take anything they say with a large pinch of salt. Here's Stephen Lea in last week's New Scientist:

Research into the psychology of economic behaviour has shown that, contrary to the assumptions of 20th-century theoretical economics, it is not completely described by rational choice models. The deviations from rationality are substantial and systematic. It follows that an economics, or an economic policy, that does not take psychology into account is radically incomplete.

Radically incomplete. Get it?

Steve Bloom May 13, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Ah, the Breakthrough Boys again. But, er, where's Lomborg?

Anyway, the analysis I'm still waiting to see from these jokers is why it remains difficult to pick the low-hanging fruit. If the problem is really institutional resistance to change, which of course it is, changing approaches upon meeting too much resistance won't accomplish anything beyond more delay.

I'm quite happy to see that the Economist and Richard Black gave this assemblage of tired rhetoric the treatment it deserves.

Dagfinn May 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm

How is "make life very uncomfortable" a clear message? An person with no knowledge of the climate change issue would have no idea what you were talking about. The IPCC reports are all about observable climate change and the concrete, observable effects it may have in the future. You seem to have translated that into the subjective human experience of "very uncomfortable" with no clear indication of how the translation happened.

And yes, reducing carbon emissions is a policy response. Simplistically and generally speaking, the possible policy responses are 1) emission reductions 2) geoengineering 3) adaptation to whatever climate change happens and 4) doing nothing. You may find all except the first ethically unacceptable or unrealistic, but that is a political view, not science. Science cannot dictate the choice of what to do and when to do it; it can only enlighten us about the possible or likely consequences.

Gareth May 13, 2010 at 9:41 pm

It seems you don't recognise understatement when you see it.

You are correct. Three of your four "options" are morally and ethically unacceptable (though the status of geoengineering as a response may change as we become desperate). Including them in order to defend the suggestion that scientists have offered a policy response is nonsensical. Saying that we should limit the amount of carbon in the atmosphere does not tell us how to do it. That, as you say, is properly a matter for politics.

Dagfinn May 14, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Not recognizing understatement could be a good thing if it makes me ignore understated but useless ad hominem attacks.

Your inference from ethics to logic ("nonsensical") is interesting. This is the problem I have with your thinking. The distinctions between ethics and logic, facts and values, objective and subjective, don't seem to play much of a role. You say the science tells us there is too much carbon in the atmosphere. But "too much" necessarily implies a value judgment, that one amount of carbon is good and another is bad. That value judgment is not inherent in the science.

Gareth May 14, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Perhaps not: but the message is clear enough. Continuing to add carbon to the atmosphere is going to radically transform the biosphere. That's a statement of fact. There has to be a judgement made on how desirable that may be, but the people providing the evidence did not, as the Hartwell authors assert, wrap science up with policy.

C3P0 May 13, 2010 at 9:50 pm

This very similar to the "American Power Act" released overnight. It will both reduce American dependence on foreign oil AND reduce emissions.

Gosman May 13, 2010 at 10:48 pm

"Three of your four "options" are morally and ethically unacceptable"

To you maybe. Realisitically options 1, 2, and 3 will likely all have to come into play in some shape or form. We may as well start discussing them now rather than later.

Gareth May 14, 2010 at 9:12 pm

They're only unacceptable if you pursue each in isolation. Of course we have to mitigate and adapt, just as we should be looking for bottom-up and top-down policies to reduce emissions. The Hartwell Paper is an imperfect counsel of perfection, and therefore irrelevant, even though some of the policies it recommends are part of any solution.

Tom Bennion May 14, 2010 at 1:44 am

I agree that the Hartwell paper is a bit beside the point.

We have numerous international arrangements that take science seriously and achieve change in the real world. Why should climate change be any different? Some of these international arrangements dont work that well, but many do, and some are exceptional – consider the response to the Icelandic ash cloud. The scientists determined that there was a risk, international arrangements re aviation quickly applied.

That's the model needed here and why we need to keep plugging away.

I also agree with a point Joe Romm is making about the America Power Act. It may be very weak in terms of emissions reduction targets, but anyone contemplating a new thermal power station, which will operate for t20-30 years, has to consider the ongoing regulatory risk of tightening carbon caps, getting or keeping emissions allowances, seeking exemptions, etc as well as growing public opprobrium. Wind and solar farms are going to look very attractive in comparison.

My recent post Travel industry imagines a world with far fewer flights

RedLogix May 14, 2010 at 6:27 am

The notion of obliquity is nonetheless a respectable one.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obliquity

We've been trying for at least a decade to change human behaviour around this issue with very little to show for it…except a lot of wasted pixels and much grief. While I accpet that after all this lost time, there is an understandable entrenchment of ideas and attitudes, there may well be merit in at thinking constuctively about what is being said here.

Gareth May 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

I don't disagree — that's why i took the time to read the paper and express my views on it. There is stuff in the paper that makes sense – investment in technology, reduction of soot/black carbon emissions, protecting rainforests, and so on, but they are offered in a context that differs markedly from reality. That calls into question the authors real agenda. It's surely striking that the only policy they offer to reduce emissions from energy generation is investment in new technology…

Ben May 14, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Good analysis, Gareth. The paper seems to boil down to "the market will take care of global warming". Some how, some day.

JamesG May 14, 2010 at 4:48 pm

No, it is carbon taxes and cap & trade vehicles that really presume the market is able to find magic solutions. However if it doesn't and we merrily cut CO2 output anyway, then we all begin to starve and freeze. You'll all certainly feel quite uncomfortable at that point. The on the ground reality is that politicians have used targets just to kick the ball into the long grass. "Some how, some day" indeed. If you don't discuss the "how", then are you really helping?

Gareth May 14, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Eh? Cutting CO2 emissions is going to make us starve and freeze? Where on earth did you get that idea from?

JamesG May 15, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Gareth
If you read the full sentence you'll discover that I meant that cutting CO2 emissions with no viable alternative would makes us starve and freeze. Of course maybe heating isn't required where you live, in which case you personally are going to be ok but you'll still find that a lack of power will cause blackouts for everyone that produces the food and creates the wealth so they'll stop producing food and will stop creating wealth.

Now if the market does manage to magic up replacements for these fossil fuels that currently keep us warm, fed and prosperous – and yes we'd all love that to happen – then it's going to be hunky dory. Something of a huge gamble though isn't it?

ctg May 15, 2010 at 9:52 pm

Sorry, who exactly is advocating that we just turn off all coal-fired power stations overnight? That's not an approach I have ever heard being put forward, so I wonder where you heard it.

On the other hand, I have heard plenty of people saying that we should gradually replace fossil fuel use over the next 20 or 30 years. I don't really see how that is going to lead to blackouts and people freezing to death, though. Perhaps you can enlighten us?

Gareth May 15, 2010 at 10:57 pm

No viable alternative? There are plenty. And there are plenty of good reasons to transition away from fossil fuels — CO2 effects on climate is only one of them.

Carol C May 16, 2010 at 8:27 am

James, aren't you assuming we could cut CO2 levels below a pre-industrial level – "… then we all begin to starve and freeze "? Is that even possible?

Tom Bennion May 15, 2010 at 11:12 am

Gareth

Agree with your comment "It's surely striking that the only policy they offer to reduce emissions from energy generation is investment in new technology…"

I recently discussed with my father, a retired hydro engineer, new tidal energy technologies. He pointed out that France has had a 240 MW tidal plant since 1966. It has been wildly successful:

"In November 1996 the La Rance tidal power plant celebrated 30 years of active service during which time 16 billion kWh of electricity were generated without major incident or mechanical breakdown. The initial capital cost of the power plant (620 million Francs) has long since been recovered, and the cost of electricity production is now below 0.02 Euro per kWh." http://www.reuk.co.uk/La-Rance-Tidal-Power-Plant….

Which makes the point that new technologies arent required to reduce most of our emissions. I increasingly think that the price signals sent by even the weakest ETS scheme might be the tipping point for all these technologies that have been around for decades but never caught on.

This is not wishful thinking, it happening:
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Coal_p

Its the existing plants that will kill us, not the lack of new technology.

My recent post Travel industry imagines a world with far fewer flights

JamesG May 15, 2010 at 7:58 pm

The existing plants aren't killing anyone. That's nonsense talk. Even the wildest alarmist projections from the WHO still come up with deaths that are utterly miniscule compared to poverty-related deaths. India and China are certain that poverty reduction is only possible with more coal fired power. You can argue that if you like but while you do people still die. So it's an ideological standpoint. You want green energy. Well hoorah – so do we all. But some of us fear that the cure is much worse than the putative disease. a great deal of the supposed consequences of global warming are out and out guesswork and some of them have already proven to be false.

Nevertheless it would certainly be nice to see those green technologies flourish regardless and they are certainly coming down in price quite a bit. We hope for the best. But meanwhile is it really smart or dumb to burn our bridges? It's a seriously huge gamble with peoples lives and prosperity and you can't sugar coat that fact. So yes it is wishful thinking! However India and china are not abandoning clean energy either despite their coal-fired ambitions. China spent 40 billion on clean energy last year and India are the only ones yet to try out the liquid fluoride thorium reactor concept. Crucially while both are both hoping for the best they plan for the worst. That's the sensible way forward.

Bryan Walker May 15, 2010 at 8:48 pm

What supposed consequences of global warming have already proven to be false?

johnmacmot May 15, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Good question, Bryan. I noted that too.
"…a great deal of the supposed consequences of global warming are out and out guesswork and some of them have already proven to be false."

I would like you to detail those big assertions, JamesG.

Gareth May 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm

The huge gamble, James, is with the future of the planet and our civilisation if we do not cut back on fossil fuel use. If we don't manage to do it for ourselves, nature will impose her own limits and the results will not be pretty.

James May 15, 2010 at 11:43 pm

The problem in Britain's case is that politicians have been wibbling on about low-carbon without providing any viable alternatives.

Now, with Chris Huhne in charge of energy, the inevitable is a reality. The UK will run out of power in about 5 years and blackouts will be commonplace.

You are right that the results will not be pretty. Old people will die of cold.

Thousands of them.

Presumably, for those that believe global warming is mankind's greatest threat, the deaths of a few thousand pensioners is a small price to pay.

Gareth May 16, 2010 at 12:00 am

I'm not overly familiar with the power supply situation in the UK, but I think it fair to describe your comments as alarmist, and your statement about pensioners distasteful.

James May 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm

The information was in my previous comment that was deleted.

Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Oxford, concluded recently that the UK is only six years away from an energy crisis. Indeed, for over twenty years, politicians of all hues have failed drastically to confront our declining energy security, blinded by the flow of North Sea oil and gas.
http://web.me.com/sinfonia1/Clamour_Of_The_Times/

There are plenty of others recognising this too.

Britain will run out of energy, and people will die. It is inevitable, not alarmist.

Gareth May 16, 2010 at 4:01 am

Sorry, I deleted what I thought was a duplicate comment.

Successive British governments have made errors in securing future energy supplies, you say. As long as future governments make sure that new energy build is low or zero carbon, nobody dies. And the lowest hanging fruit is energy efficiency. Insulating pensioners homes would be a start…

James May 16, 2010 at 4:17 am

I'm not sure I understand your logic.
There are two issues.

(1) 30-40% of Britains power stations are going to be decommissioned in 5 years.

(2) They haven't planned for new ones

It is already too late. They can't build enough generating capacity in time.

Low-carbon or otherwise.

Personally, I am investing in a Diesel generator

James May 18, 2010 at 7:16 am

I have to completely agree with JamesG on this. We'd all like "green" and renewable energy, but most of the options are immature or pipe dreams. NZ is lucky to have hydro.
Reliable and cheap wind power is a fantasy.

Nuclear and coal are the two main options for most countries right now. South Africa is going hard on both.

The UK has opted out of both, which is why it will shortly run out of power, as I have previously posted.

Gareth May 18, 2010 at 7:32 am

You are completely wrong. Most of the currently available renewable options are mature enough for widespread deployment. Solar PV is the wild card, which could change the face of the energy business if some of the current lab work scales — both in terms of cost per W and efficiency.

JamesG May 21, 2010 at 4:56 pm

Perhaps in New Zealand. Not so much anywhere else. Unless you can point me to any report that says differently. I did once read a greenpeace green energy plan that was very well put together. I think it's been removed from their website now or I'd link to it. However even they admitted that the absolute best we might be able to do with the implementation of renewables is to stop the increase of fossil fuels in the medium term. Reduction wasn't likely except with massive improvements in current technologies some time later in the century. I'd go along with them on this. The big problem is the expected surge in demand from the developing countries. Of course we do have to find alternatives in any event but it's not as easy as you'd like to think and peak oil is a big myth anyway since there are masses of heavy oil in the Orinoco. Coal to gas is one option that would provably cut 50% of CO2 output from power plants but I don't see it being discussed too much. If we can accelerate the production of natural gas via algae or bacteria then that would be the holy grail to satisfy everyone.

In this respect it is the alarmists that are being less realistic than the right wing free-marketeers. As i pointed out – the free market seems to be in both sets of plans anyway, except that the green plan involves some magic intermediate step. Well it might happen….but skeptics who point out that this is hugely unlikely are not deniers, they are realists.

Carol C May 16, 2010 at 8:19 am

Scientists are often criticized for bringing problems to public/government attention without positing a solution. When they try to offer solutions for AGW they also get criticized. There just ain't no pleasing some folks.

Gosman May 16, 2010 at 9:00 pm

There does seem to be a little bit of multiple personality syndrome going on here from a certain side of this debate.

On the one hand we have how existing clean energy technologies are efficient and scaleable so they can provide immediate alernatives to existing non-clean energy. All this needs is a little push by Governments to encourage investment and uptake.

On the other apparewntly our entire current economic paradigm is wrong and we desperately need to change the way we live our lives and forget about continued economic growth. If we don't we will run out of resources and/or destroy our habitat and no advent of new technology will stop that.

Do people not see that these views are mutually incompatable?

Macro2 May 17, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Yes our entire current economic paradigm is wrong and we desperately need to need to change the way we in the western world live our lives and forget the unrealistic dream of continued growth. On the other hand we we can mitigate the effects of our High Fossil Fueled energy lifestyles by adopting energy efficient practices, switching to alternative energy sources, and working towards a sustainable economy – not one powered by consumption but an economy powered by quality rather than quantity. A steady state economy.
So no! The two concepts are NOT mutually incompatible. To one steeped in continuous growth they are, but with a wider view they are not.

Gosman May 17, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Yes they are. You cannot argue that the solutions to AGW are easily to implement given sufficient backing from the Government and then turn around and claim the entire system ALSO needs to alter radically to solve the problem.

The first is relatively easy whereas the second would be incredibly difficult and costly.

Macro2 May 18, 2010 at 5:40 am

I would use "Mutually Incompatible" to mean that two concepts were mutually exclusive ie no one part coincided with the other. The odd numbers and even numbers are mutually exclusive. To say that sustainable solutions to AGW are not contained within the realms of a sustainable economy is demonstrably ludicrous.
Neither are alternative energies to fossil fuels more expensive. The fact that burning oil is apparently cheap is because the costs of doing so are externalized. The costs of extraction – pollution and environmental damage are foisted on the local population by the oil companies – the cost of burning and polluting the atmosphere has never been costed either until now.

dappledwater May 17, 2010 at 11:49 pm

"You cannot argue that the solutions to AGW are easily to implement" – Gosman

I certainly would not claim that. To make a real difference to the climate, large scale measures will need to be implemented. It will be extremely difficult, though much better than the alternative scenario – inevitable societal collapse from BAU. In the meantime, picking the low hanging fruit, such as energy efficiency is a no brainer.

Personally I'd like to hear a few more details about a steady state economy, as most of my time is spent reading scientific papers on climate & and whacking denialist moles on various blogs.

Gosman May 19, 2010 at 12:01 am

I would also like to hear some more detail, (or in fact any kind of detail at all), on what a steady state economy actually meaqns in reality. At that moment it just sounds like some utopian green dream without substance.

dappledwater May 19, 2010 at 12:29 am

Yeah, I'll have to do some digging, because quite obviously economic growth has a ceiling, and we keep getting closer to it every year. Pretending it isn't going to happen isn't very useful, neither are vague alternatives.

Gosman May 19, 2010 at 1:28 am

"because quite obviously economic growth has a ceiling"

Incredibly debatable point which I obviously disagree stongly with.

However for the sake of this discussion how would you manage current wealth disparities in the world without making the people in Western nations quite a bit poorer than they are now?

James May 19, 2010 at 2:05 am

"Uwe Parpart, chief Asia strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald, warned that on its present trajectory the euro would "lurch toward parity with the US dollar and through it before year-end, then disintegrate".
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/may/17/eu

We are heading for the big one. Why can no one see this?

Gosman May 19, 2010 at 3:28 am

LOL!!!!

"We are heading for the big one. Why can no one see this? "

In other words 'The end of the world is nigh!'

Whether or not there is an ecologolical apocolypse rapidly approaching you can't really make the claim for an economic one based on what is happening at this point in time.

Besides people throughout history have predicted the imminent end of the world with little success. This latest one just sounds like the Marxist-Leninist 'Crisis of Capitalism' repackaged for the new millenium.

James May 19, 2010 at 3:40 am

I am glad you find the prospect of a 1930s recession amusing Gosman.

Even, faced with overwhelming evidence from multiple sources, that Western economies are on their knees, you laugh and bury your head in the sand.

Denialism is your name

dappledwater May 19, 2010 at 4:38 pm

"Incredibly debatable point which I obviously disagree stongly with." – Gosman

So you think the Earth is infinite?. Sorry to inform you, but that's not the case. Current economics, at it's simplest, is reliant on continual consumption of resources and perpetual growth. It cannot continue indefinitely, that much is plain. It therefore has a ceiling, and belaboring the issue won't change anything.

"However for the sake of this discussion how would you manage current wealth disparities in the world without making the people in Western nations quite a bit poorer than they are now?" – Gosman

Forget wealth disparities in the western world, I'm more immediately interested in alternatives to the currently endangered economic model.

I'll see what I can find.

Macro2 May 16, 2010 at 8:49 am

Off shore wind farms? Denmark?
Tidal?
Solar?

crazy bill May 18, 2010 at 8:27 am

OK so the issues in the UK are actually nothing to do with climate-change policy, but the result of poor planning over several decades.

Doug_wellington May 17, 2010 at 1:40 am

The Solow-Swan growth model has been criticised in the economic literature. I suggest C3PO read more than the basic stuff, if he really wants to make authorative arguments on economic theory.

And yes for my sins I have economics training, but place myself in the ecological economics tribe.

James May 19, 2010 at 7:09 am

@Macro2
I said:

It is already too late. They can't build enough generating capacity in time.

Low-carbon or otherwise.

Which part of that statement don't you understand?

Gareth May 19, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Ladies and gentlemen, the poster calling himself "James" is suspiciously like the poster formerly known as Dr Checkzor, or Christchurch's own Andy Skrase. Unless "James" can provide me with evidence that he is a real person, and not Skrase, he'll be banned.

(And providing false email addresses is a very good way to go about it…)

bill May 19, 2010 at 10:14 am

Ah, the not-so-good doctor! Did we miss him?

Um, no.

JamesG May 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Sorry i'm late replying. Just to make clear, James is not JamesG. His arguments are not mine. I'm optimistic about offshore wind, solar power and wave power. I've always been pro alternative energies and i'm delighted to see so many breakthroughs. However optimism is all very well but realism is much better. I'd rather see these things in place before we junk the fossil fuels. Nor am i particularly happy about the sudden greenwashing of nuclear power. As an ex nuclear engineer i know whereof I speak. Some nuclear tech is good but a lot is crap. eg i like Candu because it burns waste, is low pressure and can use Thorium.

I'd rather avoid the question of which pieces of alarmist eco-nonsense have proven to be false because even pointing to the papers concerned will have someone saying that "it just hasn't happened yet". If you can't accept that much of the supposed consequences are pessimistic guesswork that have been refuted then you are looking not at the science but at ideological outlets. Much real science is reported on ScienceDaily.com. Look there! Again i am worried about the environment as much as anyone but my biggest concern is that the global warming issue is sidelining more immediate issues. eg yes the coral is in trouble but the facts on the ground indicate it is far more due to man's direct pollution than a 0.6K fluctuation. If we don't focus on that then the coral battle may be lost pretty darn soon. Quibble if you will but consider the consequences of being wrong too please.

Gareth. You know that it is impossible to rule out catastrophic climate change even from natural causes because it has happened in the past. But one cannot sensibly assume that the worst case scenario is a certainty. That's akin to saying we need to prepare for an imminent asteroid strike. the odds are about the same. What is certain though is that if you are wrong and these new technologies are not good enough just now – and frankly that is the considered opinion of the entire engineering community – then cutting back on energy use is anti-humanist. So you must balance one extremely unlikely scenario of thermageddon with the other certain scenario of deaths due to a lack of fuel. We know how bad that is because the price spikes of 2007 showed us.

Bryan Walker May 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm

James, you dodged my enquiry as to what supposed consequences of global warming have proved to be false by saying that if you pointed to the papers concerned we'd respond it was just a matter of time. Try us. Mention just one or two scientific papers which make assertions proven to be false.

Then you accuse us of relying on sources that aren't scientific:

"If you can't accept that much of the supposed consequences are pessimistic guesswork that have been refuted then you are looking not at the science but at ideological outlets. Much real science is reported on ScienceDaily.com. Look there! "

I don't know what ideological outlets you may be referring to, but I'm not aware of looking at any. I read and try to understand, as a lay person, what scientists have to say. (And I do look at ScienceDaily – every day!) I don't see pessimistic guesswork but carefully qualified predictions based on observations of the present and past. I don't know where you find the confidence to dismiss these as alarmist. Could it be ideological?

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