Solving the Climate Change Problem Is Harder

by Dave Schuler on May 12, 2014

than convincing people there is a problem and convincing people there is a problem has remained elusive. It might be easier if the people who telling us to be worried about climate change behaved as though there were a problem but they can’t be convinced to do that so there’s an impasse.

Meanwhile, I note that somebody, in this case Robert Samuelson, has noticed the difficulty of solving the problem, something I’ve been pointing out for some time:

It’s useful for environmental groups to have global warming “deniers” (and, of course, behind them the sinister oil companies) as foils. The subliminal message is that once the views of these Neanderthals are swept away, we can adopt sensible policies to “do something” about global warming.

The reality is otherwise. The central truth for public policy is: We have no solution.

From 2010 to 2040, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects global emissions will increase almost 50 percent. About 80 percent of global energy comes from fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), which are also the major sources of carbon dioxide emissions. At present, we have no practical replacement for this energy. No sane government will sacrifice its economy today — by dramatically curtailing fossil-fuel use — for the uncertain benefits of less global warming sometime in the foggy future. (The focus of the U.S. global warming report on the present seems aimed at bridging this gap.)

I think the problem is actually slightly worse than he’s painting it. I think that any conceivable reductions in U. S. emissions will be more than offset by Chinese and Indian increases.

It seems to me that people who are genuinely serious would be paying a lot more attention to projects like Sandia National Laboratory’s “Sunshine to Petrol” project.

Or we could produce much, much more energy, presumably using nuclear reactors. With enough energy the problem becomes relatively easy to solve.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

michael reynolds May 12, 2014 at 9:15 am

I almost sent you a link to the piece, but I figured you’d see it.

Dave Schuler May 12, 2014 at 9:22 am

Alexandre Dumas is said to have risen early every morning, gone to the Arc de Triomphe, eaten an apple for inspiration, and written 16,000 words (he also color-coded his writing paper depending on what kind of book he was writing).

... May 12, 2014 at 9:48 am

It might be easier if the people who telling us to be worried about climate change behaved as though there were a problem but they can’t be convinced to do that so there’s an impasse.

I remember reading stories about Hollywood big shots campaigning against SUVs many years back. They would frequently get up early in the morning in LA, fly to NYC for lunch with other concerned people (on their private jets, of course), and then fly home for dinner in LA. They seemed completely oblivious to the amount of carbon they were emitting. Seriously, they could have at least flown first class commercial to lessen the “damage”.

Seems to me the ladies who lunch did less damage when all they did was drink like fishes. Now that they’re involved in social engineering the rest of humanity….

Tim May 12, 2014 at 11:39 am

We have two fossil-fuel energy problems.

The first is generating electricity, which is technically solvable today, using more nuclear, and probably more solar and wind. Even if they aren’t constant, with the growth of variable-pricing electricity, they’re valuable additives.

The second is energy storage, which is important for transportation. Carbon-neutral sun-energy programs are one solution, but are very far away from widespread viability given current technology. Batteries store a pittance of the energy compared with fossils, and making a battery is itself an environmentally grueling undertaking.

jan May 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm

“I think that any conceivable reductions in U. S. emissions will be more than offset by Chinese and Indian increases.”

That pragmatic bit of reality seems to escape the neuron transmitters of warmists.

“Batteries store a pittance of the energy compared with fossils, and making a battery is itself an environmentally grueling undertaking.”

It all about short-term solutions and shrill outrage, which comprises most of the thinking of global warmists. When one gets into the weeds of batteries and electric car consumption you have disposal problem issues and the onerous amount of electricity needed to make those fossil-fuel independent vehicles run. Where is the actual environmental savings in this kind of feel-good energy displacement game?

steve May 12, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Once you get past the shrill outrage of those who deny the science, you also need to remember that while oil production is going up, we are likely well past the days of cheap oil. While there are a lt of feel-good sentiments in the drill baby drill crowd, what they forget is that costs are important. As Jim Hamilton points out at the link, we are probably past peak oil in the sense of cheap oil. Long term investments in alternatives, including nuclear, probably make much more economic sense when you look at where we are headed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQO2SEldhtg&feature=youtu.be&t=14m57s

Steve

Trumwill May 12, 2014 at 4:45 pm

While there are a lt of feel-good sentiments in the drill baby drill crowd, what they forget is that costs are important.

Speaking as someone who says “Drill, Baby, Drill” an average of twice a month or more, I don’t think I’ve forgotten that at all. Rather, I think that as the costs of oil goes up, more drilling will be economically justified and a lot of the environmental arguments against will fall by the wayside.

As the UCSD professor in the video says, the price is going to continue to go up. People will make adjustments. But as the price goes up, so will the bounty for more oil and more extraction becomes profitable.

Now, if we do reach the point where we have enough alternatives where oil isn’t necessary, then I think that’s fantastic! I want the cheapest energy regardless of its source. For the foreseeable future, that’s likely to include an awful lot of drilling. If it doesn’t, then great! Then we don’t even need people to talk us out of drilling.

(Interesting video, and thanks for sharing it. That professor really speaks my language, not the least of which because he was forthright about pipeline which is a litmus test of seriousness with me.)

Dave Schuler May 12, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Yes, thanks for sharing it, Steve. It’s good to put a face with the name. Jim Hamilton and I were corresponding pretty actively at one point.

steve May 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

I like him a lot. His partner Menzie is a bit too partisan. Hamilton is the best energy guy I read.

Steve

Andy May 12, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Trumwill is right about price increases. We’ve seen it already. In my home state of Colorado, there was a brief shale oil “boom” in the late 70′s, early 80′s in response to the high oil prices. The boom collapsed quickly after oil prices went down and made shale oil economically unviable.

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