Anthropogenic Global Warming Is Real. Now What?

Four hundred and fifteen. US News & World Report is reporting that the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere reached more than 415 parts per million. The article quotes research from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography from May 11.  Historical levels of CO2 in the atmosphere were measured through core ice samples prior to 1958 and directly from the Mauna Loa Observatory from 1958 onward. Take a close look at the graph accompanying this article. At first it’s hard to see the vertical line streaking skyward at the right edge. That’s CO2 emissions. From historical peaks oscillating between 250 ppm and 300 ppm over the last 800,000 years to over 415 ppm today. If that isn’t sufficiently startling, the annual peaks over the past few years: 2015 – 405, 2016 – 409, 2017 – 413, 2018 – 413, 2019 – 415 (so far).

Nobody wants anthropogenic global warming to be true but it is true.

Getting hotter than hell. NASA is now using satellites to measure the temperature of the Arctic. Scientists believe that these measurements are more accurate than ground stations. Unfortunately, the satellite-based measurements are coming in higher than the ground station measurements. NASA has data from 2003 through 2017 using the satellites. The three warmest years over that 14 year period? 2016, 2017 and 2015 – in that order. Certainly 14 years does not a trend-line make but it seems that all the latest data points to CO2 and temperatures increasing at an increasing rate.

Denier, skeptic, agnostic, believer. One often hears that criminal trials require proof beyond a reasonable doubt in order to assign guilt. Civil trials require proof based on the preponderance of the evidence. While there may still be the smallest possibility that anthropogenic global warming is not happening the proof seems to have moved from a “preponderance of the evidence” to “beyond a reasonable doubt.”  We all need to become believers.

Yes, Virginia … we are among the most screwed. The streets of Norfolk are already frequently swamped by heavy rains making it hard for some residents to get into and out of their neighborhoods. Homes that have often flooded are hard to sell, go down in value and generate lower property taxes. While subsidence plays a role the damage from subsidence is accelerated by anthropogenic global warming and the resulting rising seas. More rain means more runoff into the Chesapeake Bay threatening the $109b to $130b annual economic value of the Chesapeake Bay. Paradoxically, global warming will move water from terrestrial stores like rivers into atmospheric stores like humidity despite more frequent and more violent rainstorms. The Potomac River which supplies drinking water to Northern Virginia will have a lower summertime flow threatening that drinking water supply. When it’s not raining the increased temperatures will start more wildfires threatening the western parts of the state.

Now what? Once a person moves from denier to sceptic to agnostic to believer the obvious question becomes, “now what?” There is no actionable, specific answer to that question at this time. However, there is a framework that should be considered. It involves moral authority, measurement of externalities, taxation of externalities and redistribution.

Moral authority. It is absolutely true that neither Virginia not the United States can solve anthropogenic global warming alone. However, both Virginia and the U.S. must act to achieve the moral authority to convince other states and other countries to join us in addressing this issue. Additionally, once broad momentum for change spreads it will be the early movers who are exporting their technology and expertise to others. We must act now rather than waiting for complex, hard-to-manage alliances, treaties and other multi-lateral arrangements to be negotiated.

Measurement of externalities. Once you are a believer you must also believe that activities like generating electricity from coal causes more harm than generating electricity from natural gas or solar. You must believe that driving low miles per gallon cars causes more harm than driving high miles per gallon cars. You must believe that eating beef causes more damage than chicken which, in turn, causes more damage than eating tofu. The question is how much more damage. There will never be a completely accurate answer to that question. There doesn’t need to be. Directionally correct estimates of the differences in harm will suffice.

Taxation of externalities. The directionally correct estimates of differences in harm done to the atmosphere by various economic activities must be converted into “external cost charges” for those activities.   Some cases, such as solar energy generation, there may be “external benefit credits.”  The goal is not to raise more money for the government to waste (more on that later) but to assign the true costs of different economic activities and products to those economic activities and products. The “external cost charges and credits” should start small and rise over time. People should be given the chance to make adjustments.

Redistribution. There is no reason to give our government more money. The government in general, and Virginia’s government in particular, has proven that it will engage in wasteful or nefarious activities if given more money to spend. The monies collected from the “external cost charges” should be redistributed on a per-capita basis to the citizens. Less wealthy people are likely to incur lower charges since they drive less, use less electricity and eat less ribeye. Wealthier people will incur higher external charges. However, wealthier people have more to lose from anthropogenic global warming. As severe weather increases stock portfolios will decline in value, expensive homes will incur expensive damage, etc. In addition, wealthy people can better afford remedial actions such as putting solar panels on their roofs to avoid some of the external charges associated with increase electricity costs.

Trump supporters. Supporters of President Trump must make it clear that denying climate change and failing to take action on the matter makes him a less desirable candidate in 2020. Trump reacts to his base and his base must make it clear that the tide has turned on anthropogenic global warming — even among conservatives.

— Don Rippert

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58 responses to “Anthropogenic Global Warming Is Real. Now What?

  1. Author’s note: Many was the day that I awoke hoping and expecting to read the headline that Global Warming has been debunked. It never happened and I now expect it never will.

    I will catch hell from some quarters of BaconsRebellion for this article. However, I have been denier, sceptic, agnostic and now … believer. It’s taken a while and there are some bad actors among the believers (hint: initials AG) but I am convinced we have to accept the evidence and move forward.

  2. For those who have believed that the Govt, scientists and the media have colluded in a conspiracy to lie to people about data – what would more data from the usual suspects be any more convincing?

    One has to ask – how do folks who do not trust the govt or science – move from skeptic to believer?

    • When the police find three shady characters with long arrest records at the scene of a felony – what do they do? They bring the characters in for questioning, separate them and see if their stories are the same. If their stories match then they are not prime suspects. The police essentially believe the shady characters are too undisciplined and simple-minded to coordinate a good alibi with appropriate details. I feel the same way about governments. They are just not disciplined or competent enough to pull off a long running conspiracy or hoax. If they keep telling the same story over and over you have to eventually think they are telling the truth.

  3. Welcome to the club Don. You could have discussed how the same marketers who tried to convince the public that smoking did not cause cancer have also been working the beat to deny GCC, and are still doing so.

    For those that have been following the science for a while, there are (were) two approaches: Mitigation (take action to reduce carbon emissions) and Adaptation (warming and GCC is coming, and like all Preparedness – there need to be resilience plans in place to deal with the coming calamity). Now, if you want to catch up on the very latest data, there is also the idea of Deep Adaptation – preparing for rapid onset, with self-reinforcing feedback loops, leading to ecosystem and species collapse with human extinction. But hey, Trump said we are energy independent and that liberals should get on board, so there is that. Thanks for the post. I recommend reading this paper, even if you do not agree with it or like its conclusions.

    • I’m not sure about the cigarette analogy. Cigarettes and cancer concerned a subset of the tobacco industry. Anthropomorphic global warming spans many industries. The surgeon general said cigarettes cause cancer in the people who smoke them (sometimes). Nobody is sure of the mid to long term effects of anthropomorphic global warming. I also question whether trying to blame people at this point is productive.

      This is a real issue and a big one but playing the blame game won’t help, in my opinion.

  4. I’m happy you are enjoying your epiphany, DJ, but fear you will become – like most converts to a religion – doubly zealous. The readings from that mountaintop in Hawaii do persuade me that China and the rest of Asia are rapidly developing, pumping emissions into the atmosphere, but we remain talking about parts per million. PPM. Of one single gas, which happens to be essential to all life on the planet and is not the most potent greenhouse gas. Do a graph to scale and you cannot show the change since the baseline, and as Blue Virginia’s headline noted (more honest than yours) the number was higher 3 million years ago. Even 3 million years is an eye blink in the earth’s history.

    I didn’t start my thinking about this with a bias, and spent much of my career working for a carbon-free energy company with a strong incentive to join that chorus. But I remain unable to separate the impact of human activity on our weather from the impact of dozens of other factors outside our control. I don’t think our science can design the experiments needed to be sure, and I have little faith in models. GIGO. The planet’s surface temperature has been cooling and warming since the beginning (mainly cooling) and at most I think humans can bend the curve slightly.

    Does that mean we do nothing? No, happy to move away from coal and toward renewable energy, with many valid reasons to do so. The appeal of solar and wind energy is very strong, but the reality is you might freeze to death in some parts of the world without fossil fuels. But the energy sector is a small part of this. You want to make a difference? Thin out about three billion humans….because what I do think is the exploding population is the real culprit. The heat sinks in the cities certainly impact the temperature readings, the loss of forested land, the pollution of our oceans, agricultural activity – those are also factors that could be bending that curve.

    • Less an epiphany than a sad realization that the climate change believers are more than probably right.

      I’m not sure how the headline, “Anthropomorphic global warming is real; now what?” lacks honesty.

      The CO2 issue is not that the gas is measured in parts per million nor that the gas was more prevalent 3 million years ago. It’s the dramatic spike in recent years that helped convince me that there is a problem. I notice that your response bypassed the point about Arctic warming detected by NASA through satellite observation. There was much to dislike about the way Earth bound monitoring stations and data collection was handled. I don’t see the same issues with satellite telemetry.

      Could there be other factors besides global warming at play? Sure. Deforestation is a big one. However, there are climate casualties from burning fossil fuels beyond global warming too. Anybody living near the now defunct Mirant Power Plant in Alexandria, Va could regularly find their cars covered in a fine dust. They also breathed that dust and that dust floated on the winds to create acid rain. Fossil fuel burning has unrecovered external costs whether one believes in global warming or not. Why should providers like Dominion be able to incur societal costs with impunity? And yes … switching from fossil fuels will be expensive but it’s also inevitable. So, let’s get on with it.

      You also missed an important point of my framework. I am not calling for more money to be put into the hands of government so government can, as usual, squander the money. I want the prices of products to reflect the ecological harm the products cause. The extra money is rebated to the citizenry, not handed to Donald Trump, Nancy Pelosi, Ralph Northam, et al. Once the prices of products reflect their full allocated costs it will be the free market that creates the alternatives.

  5. So when do we start taxing people and businesses that are located in areas prone to flooding to pay for some of the mitigation costs? So when do we ban construction or reconstruction in floodplains?

    If the ocean and its estuaries are rising, why do we have homes, vacation homes, businesses right along the shore line? Show me a plan to ban new beach houses and to add taxes to additional ones; then I will think the world is serious about climate change.

    • I wouldn’t ban the homes but I would insist that they be insured or force the home / business owner to pay into an uninsured fund. Isn’t this how car ownership and insurance is handled? Either insure the car and driver or pay into the uninsured motorist fund. If you can’t afford to live next to the water then move inland. There is no constitutional right to views of the ocean.

      • To be clear, I’m not arguing that these structures should be torn down. Rather, no more should be built, including replacement of those destroyed in a fire or hurricane. If barrier islands are going to be flooded by rising oceans in the foreseeable future to a reasonable degree of certainty, we need to grandfather existing uses and build no more.

        And to the extend sea walls, etc. are constructed to protect these communities, most of the costs of the infrastructure should be born by those directly benefited.

        And we should shift massive amounts of money from the climate scientists to research in alternative energy efficiency and to mitigation. When we discover a new disease, we shift research into prevention and cure and less into documenting its existence. For example, look at AIDS research.

        And, like any other point of interplay between government dollars and “scientific” research, we’d set up checks to identify the fraudulent research so we can steer dollars to those who don’t alter data or otherwise fudge results.

        • TMT – are you saying that we now KNOW about Climate Science predictions and that we should now shift that money because we no longer need to find out?

          geeze guy.

          When we find a cure for AIDS – do we shift that money to finding other diseases like cancer or diabetes or to something else that has nothing to do with diseases?

          In terms of flooded properties. These properties will lose value. The banks will no longer loan money for properties that are predicted to flood. What will that do to the total tax revenue of these places? If they have less revenues what will happen to infrastructure and services for the folks that remain? Will they have to pay increased taxes to try to “help” the ones that are predicted to be flooded? Who will pay for that infrastructure?

          • TooManyTaxes

            If climate change is proven to a reasonable scientific certainty, which I will accept arguendo, we don’t need to spend a lot more money discovering whether it exists. Rather, we need to spend money figuring out how to deal with it.

            When scientists discovered malaria was caused not by night vapors but by mosquitos, we didn’t keep spending money researching the cause of malaria, but moved money to fund treatment and prevention. We are still spending lots of money on scientists studying the causes of and amounts of climate change. Why? Common sense suggests we move most of that money to addressing measures to reduce CO2 emissions and to mitigation measures.

            In terms of people who own $3 M beach homes, are you suggesting that taxpayers bail them out? And in terms of their communities, why should taxpayers bail them out? We don’t bail out towns where the big factory closed.

            The value of my home stopped rising when Congress adopted sequestration. Who is going to pay me my expected gains?

        • The reason you don’t want more building in areas prone to flooding is because you don’t trust the politicians to tell the building owners “tough luck” if their structures are damaged or destroyed in a flood. Instead, you imagine a teary eyed Ralph Northam or Mark Herring standing at a lectern sobbing about how we have to spend government money … “for the children …”. At least, that’s my guess. If true – I sadly agree. In a libertarian world people could build structures in flood prone areas so long as they were willing to suffer the consequences of flooding. In the real world of American liberalism private stupidity must be underwritten by public funds.

  6. do we believe that the oceans are rising because of global warming?

    How do we know how high they will rise ? Is it based on how much the planet warms or some other reason? Who do we trust to tell us how high the oceans will rise – and the reasons behind it?

    • The seas have been rising since the last ice age, steadily. Alaska was a land bridge to Asia until, what, 12,000 years ago? The recent measurements suggest a slight acceleration, a bending of the curve, probably due as much as anything to slightly warmer water. The real sea rise is measured in mm per year, mm. As to Norfolk, mentioned by Don, there is another issue there, subsidence, which is also undeniable and may be happening faster than the ocean rise.

      • The point is – if you’re gonna react – you have to draw maps that show how much land will be submerged in the coming decades.

        who produces those maps and what data sources do they use and do we incorporate those predictions into planning and zoning – and taxing if some properties submerge and no longer generate tax?

        Who do you trust to draw those maps? Scientists?

        • The issue is not “not to believe scientists” but to recognize there has been and is considerable scientific fraud especially when government money is concerned. Here are some links to articles about fraud from the Scientist.

          One in eight British researchers has “witnessed research fraud.”

          NIH published a paper entitled “Fraud and misconduct in clinical research: A concern,” by Ashwaria Gupta in 2013.

          But guess what? There is no fraud in climate research. So do you want to make public policy and binding rules on the assumption that there is no fraud in climate research?

          We can move to renewable, reliable and low-cost energy, make other energy-saving improvements, reduce land development in floodplains and still not believe everything that climate scientists and climate advocates say. Remember Al Gore predicted the polar ice caps would be gone by 2013. As I understand the facts, most temperature “measurements” are not actual but rather, taken from modeling.

          I didn’t major or minor in science. I just took courses to fulfill the school’s requirements but I did learn and do remember that science was about challenging the accepted. Seeing whether results can be replicated. But not with climate science.

      • Subsidence is almost certainly more powerful than rising sea levels where subsidence is occurring.

        Example: Sharps Island.

        If the bay’s waters ever get clear enough I am going to dive Sharps Island and see Maryland’s version of Atlantis.

    • do we believe that the oceans are rising because of global warming? Yes, although in some areas subsidence may account for the majority of apparent rise in the oceans.

      Is it based on how much the planet warms or some other reason? I believe that anthropomorphic global warming is a significant cause of the rising seas. When you melt ice into water that water has to go somewhere. NASA says the Arctic is warming. I believe NASA.

      Who do we trust to tell us how high the oceans will rise – and the reasons behind it? I don’t really trust anyone on that fine grained a prediction. However, I also believe in making “directionally correct” decisions and taking “directionally correct” actions even in the absence of precise prediction. The Earth is warming, the seas are rising … now what?

      From my framework … The “external cost charges and credits” should start small and rise over time. People should be given the chance to make adjustments.

      By starting small I’m not sure we need to wait for precise predictions.

  7. I’ll believe greenies are serious about global warming when I see them make serious alterations to their own behavior. Move into a small, energy-efficient apartment. Install rooftop solar panels. Ride a bicycle to work, or at the very least drive an electric car. Stop flying jets to exotic vacation spots around the world. Stop eating beef. In other words, make some personal sacrifices. Do the things voluntarily they want government to impose upon the masses. There’s nothing stopping them from living lives of self-abnegation or voluntarily donating their personal wealth to carbon offsets. Otherwise, greenies are like the fundamentalists who preach sexual fidelity while consorting with prostitutes: hypocrites.

    • You could say the same for a lot of people. Overweight doctors, for example. Just because a doctor is undisciplined and overweight doesn’t make his diagnoses wrong.

      I’d also point out that my framework wouldn’t ban anything. It would allocate the full costs of products to the products. If you want to pay the extra cost for a pound of ribeye vs a pound of chicken – dig in!

      Once prices reflect the true costs of products I believe two things will happen. First, people (“greenies” included) will make economically rational choices. Second, the free market will reallocate capital to fund development of alternates. It’s sort of happening already. Burger King is rolling out the Impossible Burger – a Whopper made with next generation plant material vs beef. While that’s a positive I know that if the beef burger included the full environmental costs of producing that beef the rollout would be progressing much faster.

      Either you believe in anthropomorphic global warming or you don’t. If you do it doesn’t really matter what greenies like Al Gore do. The problem is still there.

      • re: ” It would allocate the full costs of products to the products.”

        Well Jim has been beating THAT drum for years here and so did Ed Reese but it’s got problems..

        1. – how do we figure out the allocated “cost” ? That sounds like a nightmare of bureaucratic idiocy…. and you’re the business guy here!

        2. – This sorta sounds like RGGI on steroids – would that money be used to buy down the debt or subsidize energy efficiency or what?

        3. – and most important – it’s got to have support from people – despite the jerk currently in charge – you gotta have the support of
        people to do this or to put it another way – if we do it and people are opposed – they throw out the bums and vote in those who promise to NOT DO IT!

        • I don’t have the details but don’t think it would be that hard. Most products get their carbon footprint from the energy consumed in making the product. Take a pencil. The pencil maker buys wood, lead and rubber. The manufacturers of those inputs paid the “externality charge” for the energy required to create the inputs. If they are lucky enough to be based in heavily hydroelectric Washington state then those inputs will be relatively low. If they’re in Wyoming it will be high. States that like burning coal see their products become less competitive. As an aside, Virginia generates the 35th most CO2 per capita among the states.

          Our theoretical pencil company also uses energy to make, package and ship the pencils. So the company has choices – change the sourcing of the inputs to producers who have lower externality charges. Make their own operations more energy efficient. Sell at market rates with lower margins. Sell above market prices and try to command a premium price.

          With full cost allocations the free market will sort it out.

          Oh, by the way – overseas providers in countries that burn coal for power will be a disadvantage in selling into the American market. But then again they are polluting the world’s air.

      • Haha! Regarding the Impossible Burger, a group of guys I hang out with will be gathering at the home of one of our number tomorrow night for a dinner of Impossible Burgers. Most members of the group are greenies. I’ll report back on their reaction.

        A couple of days ago, I partook of a Burger King veggie burger.

        The “burger” was tasteless, nothing I’d ever eat again. Apparently, though, this particular concoction is the equivalent of Veggie Burger 1.0. The Impossible Burger is the equivalent of Veggie Burger 2.0.

    • that’s just a totally bogus premise… more binary-thinking …

      we do not go back to caves neither the believers or non-believers but we do start cutting back our use of fossil fuel energy – and continue it – the very same way we try to reduce poverty or crime or traffic congestion.

      In your world – if we still have traffic congestion then we’ve “failed” at transportation planning – of course!

      • Liberals frequently say, “Live your values.” Well, if you’re serious about living your values — taking personal action to prevent the calamitous warming of the planet — then you’ll arrange your life to be consistent with your beliefs. Live in a Tiny Home. Ride a bicycle. Stop having children. Eat Impossible Burgers. There’s absolutely nothing to stop you — other than your own refusal to live by the rules you would impose on others.

    • As something of a greenie, and with likely ~55-ish years left, we actually are doing many of those things. We’ve bought an older home, in the city, and are insulating it heavily, reducing our energy consumption and that of the overall housing stock. My mother in law is moving into the mother-in-law suite///pir . We go to church in our neighborhood, about 3 blocks away. When we eat meat, it’s usually chicken. We’re gotten bids for rooftop solar, and I’ll get an electric car for my commute once I can figure out how to charge it at the curb.

      Most of these things are less expensive on a 10-20 year horizon than the “traditional way” which suits our budget and desire for my wife to be with the kids, so I don’t know how much of it’s actually abnegation. Some of my peers are doing the same thing…and some are are fighting to buy ever larger houses in the leafy suburbs.

      As far as the warming thing goes…I found the chart at the link below startling. I read the bottom as saying we’ve had a greater increase in global temps in the last ~30 years than the largest 500 year delta over the last 20,00 years. That big change led to major storms and mass extinctions, which we’re currently seeing. It’s frightening…I often wonder if we’re doing enough…should I trade my extravagant 25 mile commute to the suburbs for a job in the city, and a further reduction in consumption? I probably would, or I’d consider buying a damn Prius, if we slapped a meaningful carbon tax on gas consumption.

      I studied economics in college, and the inefficiencies due to lack of externalities pricing thing comes up a lot in lower level econ courses. Jim, you’re a huge advocate about this in regards to infrastructure costs and smart growth. It seems like actually pricing the environmental impact from our current energy laden ideal lifestyle will only accelerate urbanization and smart growth.

      • Hi! Contrary to Jim’s assertion I know a lot of so-called greenies who make personal efforts to consume less energy even though they can afford to pay the price of consuming more. There are some loud environmentalists who set a bad example but they are the exception rather than the norm.

        You make an interesting point … ” … or I’d consider buying a damn Prius, if we slapped a meaningful carbon tax on gas consumption.”

        My framework would do that. Of course, if you live in Virginia you’d have to pay the “externality charge” for the electricity that you use to charge the Prius but I’d imagine that would be a whole lot less than the charge for gas powered cars.

      • Wonderbread, I applaud you for your effort to live your environmental values. There are many others like you. But there are many who profess fear of calamitous global warming who are not living their values.

        Don makes the point in the blog post that if the U.S. is to push the world toward a greener future, then we need to establish moral authority by walking the walk, not just talking the talk. If so, then does it not stand to reason that greenies in the U.S. should walk the walk, too? If they want other Americans to live in smaller, energy-efficiency houses, commute less, drive EVs, eat less meat, and stop flying on fuel-guzzling jets, it is all the more imperative for them to lead the way themselves. Otherwise, to borrow Don’s phrase, they can claim no moral authority.

        You’re right, I am an advocate of smart growth — but it’s a quirky market-driven brand of smart growth. I do think we should live in more compact communities that require less infrastructure and consume fewer resources. However, I do not favor compelling people to live that way.

        • Right…and if I had to pay the externality charge on electricity to charge the car, I’d have a MUCH easier time getting my wife on board to shell out $10K for roof-top solar panels, and maybe even some energy storage to boot. All of which generates more economies of scale for the green economy, spinning the flywheel ever faster.

          However, because we don’t face any of those costs now, we’re all much slower in taking action. Placing appropriate costs for road usage, CO2 and methane pollution, would lead the invisible hand to compel people to live differently, though no doubt they’d quickly get shredded in the state economic development wars without federal action.

  8. Subsidence is almost certainly more powerful than rising sea levels where subsidence is occurring.

    Example: Sharps Island.

    If the bay’s waters ever get clear enough I am going to dive Sharps Island and see Maryland’s version of Atlantis.

    • however, subsistence is not the problem at lot of other places that are flooding…and predicted to be flooded more. Beyond that – flooding itself may contribute to subsistence and actually accelerate the problem.

      The bigger question is – not whether we have subsistence or not – but how do we react to it if it means that property than generates taxes will be flooded and no longer generate taxes. What happens to the remaining taxpayers? Do they have to pay higher taxes to pay for the damage and compensate those who get flooded?

      Or is it every man for himself and if you own flood-prone property – you’re screwed so stop paying the mortgage and stop paying taxes?

  9. If you’re going to impose a government-mandated solution to limit CO2 emissions in the U.S., then I agree that Don’s approach makes the most sense. Impose a carbon tax and let the market work out the most efficient ways to reduce CO2. Take the decisions out of the hands of the bureaucrats, politicians and special interests. (Although nothing will stop the special interests from lobbying to create loopholes that benefit them and shift costs to others.)

    My main concern with the idea is how to calculate those social costs. Frankly, the job is impossible, for reasons I have laid out elsewhere. For Virginians, it makes far more sense to (a) let the private sector invest in economically viable solar, wind, and energy efficiency projects, (b) reform land use patterns and insurance subsidies that encourage development in flood zones, and (c) allocate state/local public dollars to adapting to the rising sea level.

  10. We are progressing towards a world population of 10 Billion people. The way we got here, is by largely by burning fossils fuels. This overall scenario presents a wide range of potential issues for humanity, including resource shortages, pollution, deforestation, war, and a relatively long list of potential doomsday problems.

    We do not know how much CO2 the planet can reasonably withstand. United States is already making huge strides, quicker and beyond my wildest imagination, in reducing coal burning and promoting renewables.

    What we do know, if we are the least bit aware, is that 10 Billion people on the planet is damaging the eco-system in many ways. We do need to be stewards of the planet, and try to not waste resources, and try to preserve the planet for future generations.

    The political issue we are having in America is how much priority to assign to forcing CO2 reduction and other possible goals? The American liberals see political gain in hyping up CO2 reduction to the greatest possible danger, wanting inform all Americans that another gram of CO2 will surely result in extinction of the human race, with Virginians being the first to die.

    The problem with that approach is, lots of reasonable Americans do not agree with it. So I see the liberal extremism on this and other issues as part of the reason why Trump won in 2016.

  11. Interesting perspective. Can I offer my own?
    1.) Over the last a couple of decades, astrophysical observations have invalided numerous long held theories on things like planet formation. Astrophysicists are thrilled about this because it means that they’ll need to do more research to create new theories which explain the observations. Contrast this will “climatology” which we are told is a “settled science” that cannot be questioned in any manner. Anyone who questions anthropomorphic global warming is labelled as a horrible “denier” (and yes the language of the Holocaust is used purposefully by the warmists to marginalize their opponents). The behavior of the warmists makes them seem like religious cultists rather than a scientists.
    2.) The U.S. has reduced carbon emissions over the last decade to mid-1990’s levels due to market innovations like horizontal drilling, which made natural gas cost competitive with coal. Yet the warmists won’t give the U.S, any credit for this. Conversely, the warmists are constantly praising the authoritarian government in China for investing in trains and other fetishes of authoritarians even though carbon emissions in China are still growing. This ALONE should make people skeptical about the real motivations of the warmists.
    3.) The politicians have muddied the entire landscape with their hysteria. In the 1990’s Al Gore predicted that the polar ice caps would be gone by 2013. So much of the east coast should already be underwater. Today, according to AOC we are all going to be dead in a dozen years unless we eliminate cow flatulence, airplanes, and the automobile while replacing our entire electric grid with unreliable technologies like wind and solar. Chicken Little can only scream about the sky falling so many times before people stop paying attention.
    4.) The best argument against anthropomorphic global warming might be an economic one, not a scientific one. If humans are causing global warming, and global warming will melt the polar ice caps, and melting polar ice caps will cause the seas to rise, then property values in low lying coastal areas should be falling. But they are rising instead. This is not only true in the U.S., but also in most countries which border on an ocean. It’s an interesting dichotomy.
    I don’t trust religious cultists. I don’t trust people who praise authoritarians. I certainly don’t trust politicians. But I do trust actual science and I do trust the market. When I put all of this together it makes me very skeptical.
    My two cents.

    • Thanks for the comment. I was skeptical for a long time too. No single thing changed my mind and I’d still be thrilled to wake up one day and hear that it’s all been an error or even a hoax.

      I do believe that humans are making the Earth warmer. However, I am skeptical of how many left leaning politicians want to solve the problem. As a libertarian I believe in free markets and the last thing I think we need is more government. That’s why my framework alters the prices of various products to more fully reflect their impact on the environment. My opinion is that the free market will react to these changes in price. For example, it takes 32 kHw to produce a pound of beef and less than 1 kHw to produce a pound of corn. Assuming that fossil fuels constitute some part of the kWh’s used in the production of those two foods a charge on those kWh’s would hurt beef more than corn. The hamburger at the fast food restaurant gets relatively more expensive and some people will no longer buy hamburgers – or buy fewer. As demand switches to chicken (4 kWh per pound) or veggie burgers companies will be motivated to improve the processes for making chicken sandwiches or veggie burgers. The free market reacts to price signals far better than any market reacts to government regulation. The other aspect of my framework is to directly refund the monies collected from the externality charges back to the people in the form of tax refunds – whether you paid taxes or not. My goal is to set prices such that the free market will react rather than open yet another source of governmental wealth confiscation.

      Of course, if you don’t believe that burning fossil fuels creates substantial environmental problems then none of my frame work makes sense.

  12. >>As a libertarian I believe in free markets and the last thing I think we need is more government. That’s why my framework alters the prices of various products to more fully reflect their impact on the environment.>>

    And who imposes these “alterations”? I would say you are hardly a libertarian.

    Was Nixon a libertarian? He imposed the disastrous wage-price controls of 1972. That gave rise to the famous McDonald’s wage-price dodge of creating a “new product”, the 1/4 pounder with cheese, when they were not allowed to raise the price of the big Mac. Wage price controls gave rise to employer provided health insurance in the mid forties when the UAW weren’t allowed a raise from the car companies: health insurance was a “new product”. How’d that turn out? Whenever the government imposes a price on something, the result is almost universally a disaster.

    • “Whenever the government imposes a price on something, the result is almost universally a disaster.”

      CrazyJD, I agree with you.

      • When did I say government would set the price? I said government would assess and externality charge. Like a tax or tariff – which governments impose all the time. The difference is that proceeds from this externality charge will be refunded to the people rather than kept by government.

        Do you oppose government taxing cigarettes at a high rate to discourage their use?

    • Libertarian property rights require that property rights be protected. This is a legitimate power of government for libertarians. Companies which pollute without compensating the people who lose value from that pollution are stealing property. That is a violation of private property rights and is a legitimate cause for government action.

      I also never said that government would set the price. I said government would add an externality charge to the price. This is like a tax or tariff with the significant difference being that the funds collected through these externality charges will be refunded to the people.

  13. TBill, Blankenburg, you capture well the factors that kept me on the fence for a long time, and keep me there still when it comes to what to do about it.

    One thing that’s clear from the geologic evidence is that the world, and specifically the Eastern N.A. coastal plain, has been underwater about 300 feet more than today and has been exposed about 270 feet more than it currently is, all within the past two million years or so of episodes of warming and icing, on a time frame that’s much too fast for continental drift to explain it — in other words, we are about in the middle of the range. Another thing that’s clear from the evidence is that the weight of the glaciers just to the north of us depressed the Northeast/Midwest and caused the continent south of there to tilt upward, and with the weight of that ice now gone, the swath of continent from the mid-Atlantic coast to St. Louis is still dropping back to where it once was, causing fairly rapid subsidence in, for example, the entire Bay/Hampton Roads/Eastern Shore region. Yet another thing that’s recently become clear recently is that the huge glaciers on west Antarctica, which have been held back for millenia by coastal ice sheets there like corks in a bottle, are now on the move oceanward — the corks have melted away, and the volume of water trapped in those glaciers would add much of that 300 feet of rise back into our oceans. All this we know — but we still don’t really understand why the ice ages of the past 2 million years occurred. Yes there are long term astronomical cycles that may have caused increased/decreased solar warmth; yes there has been long term cooling brought on by the atmospheric ash from enormous episodes of volcanic activity in places like Yellowstone and west India. But the evidence doesn’t match up cleanly with the warming and the ice-ages; we don’t understand the past well enough to predict what the natural “baseline” for these cycles is.

    Now we go and add high levels of CO2 and CH4 and SO2 and NOx to the atmosphere — for some time now the best science has been telling us it probably would warm things dramatically, and the short range evidence is now clear; it’s beyond dispute that the predicted warming is occurring. Anthropomorphic warming, yes. But I like the way DJR put it a couple of days ago:
    “In my mind you either believe in anthropomorphic global warming or you don’t. After years as a skeptic followed by years as an agnostic I am now a believer. Am I convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt? No. I am more along the lines of a civil trial – convinced by the preponderance of the evidence. The next question is, of course, now what … ?”

    Now what, indeed? Do we understand enough about what we’re messing with to trust the advice we’re getting for what to do? Because it will be horribly expensive to curtail carbon emissions worldwide on the scale required to be, they say, effective, and to begin to prepare our low-lying cities for increased flooding if not relocation. Think of all the world’s population that lives on coastal flood plains — indeed those plains are there because they were once under the ocean, although we weren’t there then. The question is, is it too late to stop the warming cycle we’ve triggered, are we already past the tipping point — or can we nip this in the bud by a tremendous worldwide effort that, nevertheless, will be dramatically less disruptive than the alternative?

    I agree with you, DJR, about including carbon emissions in our economic calculations of the cost of doing anything. Wonderbread put it well: “I studied economics in college, and the inefficiencies due to lack of externalities pricing thing comes up a lot in lower level econ courses.” A carbon tax appeals to me because it applies across the board throughout the economy to bias economic decisions in the right direction. But: what external cost does carbon emissions warming impose? What is the cost of the ‘do nothing’ alternative? The incremental cost of global warming is the measure of what we should be taxing ourselves to accomplish here; does anyone have a clue what that is? Who should keep the revenues yielded by the tax, and how should that fund be spent, and by whom, and on what, and who decides on what? This is a global problem, what can the United States do unilaterally? I’m hardly the first to raise these concerns but that’s a taste of the debates to come.

    Wonderbread supplies a link to an XKCD cartoon — except this one is no laughing matter but a serious editorial comment by the authors of XKCD. It is scary to see that ‘hockey stick’ curve at the very bottom of the drawing. But it offers no solutions, other than awareness.

    Where to begin? I’m with DJR and Larry, we can do something immediately about those whose real estate decisions are making the problem of coastal flooding worse. Larry points out, “These properties will lose value. The banks will no longer loan money for properties that are predicted to flood.” You wish! The banks will lend money to the purchasers of new homes in tidal flood zones if the purchasers are eligible to buy FEMA flood insurance; and all too many purchasers consider that a small price to pay for the beauty of a waterside home. Builders will build new homes in tidal marshland if they can get permission from the local authorities. Local authorities will yield to the perverse incentive to approve these new developments anywhere they can fit them, because that grows the property tax base. It all goes back to the insurance. We have to insist that flood insurance reflect the real odds and cost of replacing the structure and its contents, and that it not be made available any longer to any new housing built within FEMA’s highest-risk coastal zones. If flood insurance is withheld then Larry will be right: the banks will no longer loan money for those properties. An analogy: when faced with a badly injured survivor of a car accident the EMS folks first act quickly to stabilize the patient — they stop the bleeding!

    A national carbon tax will require a huge turnaround in national opinion. What RGGI represents is an effort by the concerned majority in the coastal Northeast to do some in the meanwhile. I don’t like RGGI implementation in Virginia without a clearer understanding of where the net Virginia dollars paid will go. But RGGI has enormous symbolic value to some to make this small contribution to the cause of global carbon emissions reduction, and to begin to work through the issues surrounding carbon measurement and carbon taxation in the United States. The biggest issue, of course, is persuading the rest of the country to join in implementing a truly national carbon tax regime.

    CJD, you are right, this is no Libertarian proposal. The government has a huge propensity for messing things like this up. Alternatives, please??

    • So if the left believes in anthropomorphic warming, why do they want open borders to bring in a large number of people who will increase the carbon footprint? A family from Guatemala living a higher standard of living in Prince William or Prince Georges County than in their home village will certainly have a greater carbon footprint here than there.

      Is it too much to demand consistent behavior from the scolds? Some greens do walk their talk but many do not. It’s a matter of credibility. There may be good evidence of climate change but the debate is about power, control of others and money.

      • I do not consider myself part of the left (although I’m no Trump fan, for competence and civility reasons). What DJR confronts all of us with, is, what is the right, the thoughtful, the conservative response to global warming, assuming you accept the evidence that it is in fact happening. There’s a tradition of entirely too much science denial on the right, starting with the Scopes trial. Proper science is skeptical but fact based; there’s entirely too much wishful thinking on the right these days (we used to accuse the Progressives of that but who’s talking fiscal restraint these days?). Are we just going to buy a new vacation home on high ground so our children can overlook the future Bay waterfront, but let the populations of the coastal lowlands and river deltas around the world fend for themselves (let alone those in Hampton Roads and the delta regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Maryland and New Jersey)?

        I agree with you that today, a higher standard of living generally produces a larger carbon footprint in the home. That correlation breaks down when talking about a nation’s impact divided per capita, where you must include the enormous carbon footprint of those countries like Indonesia and Brazil that are burning the rainforests for mining, or like China and India gobbling coal and oil to produce cheap energy, steel and cement.

        Obviously, social disruption and dislocation creates economic opportunity. Of course there’s power and money involved. Of course there will have to be government involved, and that entails great risks and inefficiencies also. But what choice do we have? Do you want to let (indeed, force) the greenies to make all the pivotal policy and economic decisions on how to respond? Shades of the Republican stance on health care.

    • Libertarian does not mean anti-government. Never has. Never will. Rather, it sets out a philosophy where a very few, very important things constitute fundamental liberties. Government should be downsized to protect those liberties but should never be eliminated. Personal property rights are one of those very few, very important liberties. If burning fossil fuels creates atmospheric events which destroy personal property and that can be reduced or eliminated by government then it is not only government’s right to take action it is government’s duty to do so.

      Left unchecked, those low lying homes will be only the first personal property casualty of anthropogenic global warming.

  14. Is there computed data that shows the average earth temperature vs. the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere? Is there historical data on the earth albedo. Reflection by clouds plays a major role in the average earth temperature.

  15. I think we need to realize we are dealing with a (1) political element and an (2) environmental element. For example, a carbon tax might naturally encourage more people to buy 50 MPG hybrids. But many Americans do not like hybrids. Among other things, liberals would like to move to electric vehicles because they really have two preferences (1) reduced carbon and (2) ban oil and gas industry in America. If you come right down to it, Item-2 may be their greatest desire. So we will hear a lot of climate change rationale, but we will also hear a lot of mandates (picking of winners and losers) on they way it should be done.

    • That’s the problem. We have a serious (and real) problem. However, as the mayor of financially crippled Chicago once said, “Never waste a crisis.” As a side note I am confident that his successor (Lori Lightfoot) will soon have one hell of a crisis not to waste in the Windy City. Anyway … too many so-called environmentalists see anthropogenic global warming as a means to solve all of the world’s problems … with a hard leftward / socialist slant. That’s a big reason nothing is getting done. My proposed framework seeks to get around that by refunding the money collected to the people. I want to recognize the true costs of goods and services including and estimate of the cost of anthropogenic global warming. I do not want to enrich government so it can go on more mind numbingly dumb, do – gooder adventures. I believe that when the approximate cost of externalities are priced into the costs of goods and services the free market will react to the new price regime and provide solutions that reduce carbon creation.

      • I am just suggesting, it’s not going to work. For example in Virginia, if we had a carbon tax, natural gas might well still be the most economical electric generation source, and Dominon could build another plant. The blue environmentalists want to augment the carbon tax with a policy to never build another fossil fuel power plant, such that the carbon tax is somewhat superfluous to the punitive treatment being dished out by the Dems/Libs.

  16. Fine discussion all. Put me in Acbar, blankenburg, TBill camp.

    Plus, I fear the green activists lobby pushing the alarmist agenda are not really serious about reducing carbons fast enough to have a meaningful impact, because they will not endorse nuclear power as the one essential effective remedy, nor will they really endorse gas generators as the one essential antidote to solving renewable power’s unreliability. In my view, without accepting the crying need for these obvious realities in the mid term at the least, any carbon abatement plan will fall flat on its face way short of any meaningful reduction. And then no matter how much money we spend on these highly costly efforts, all of it will be a total waste and loss, if climate change threat is anywhere as great and immediate as the alarmists claim it to be.

    • I agree with you, Reed, that is the great unknown — are we contemplating measures that are too little, too late to accomplish anything? And will the alarmists simply co-opt these measures to their own ends? Given the level of political dysfunction today it’s hard to imagine a constructive, consensus response to something complicated like global warming, even in the United States alone. But if you really want to turn off younger people in this country, just tell them you don’t care. And they have a point: they are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences.

      At least, we can stop building homes in Norfolk and Chesapeake barely above the flood level after a moderate rain or higher than usual tide.

  17. Another hysteria article calling for a Carbon tax. I’m not a climate denier but I am anti-carbon tax and expanding the government.

    You are cherry picking data from one spot on the globe and calling for an expansion of government and increased taxation with it. You ignore the record snowpacks set all around the globe, the fact that farmers planting season has been delayed due to unusually cold temps in spring. No greenhouse gas model for climate change 20 years ago would have predicted we would be having record snowpacks in 2019.

    You are right we can’t deny climate change. But we can reject the C02 model simply because it hasn’t proven itself to be reliable over the decades. We have not warmed at nearly the rate we were projected too, sea levels have essentially not risen to the human eye.

    The jet stream is out of whack right now which is why there is warm air over the arctic. It has nothing to do with carbon, more likely to do with the increased rates that the poles have been moving at since 2015, which will effect the upper atmosphere where the jet stream lies.

    You can’t all for an increase in government and taxation with a model that doesn’t hold water…

  18. This didn’t make physicochemical sense in 1997 nor does it now which is precisely why I signed the petition way back in the day:

    Once you look past all the grant money and nanny state-ism it comes down to that big thermonuclear reactor in the sky (generally rises in the east and sets in the west). Our measly CO2 contribution is much like peeing in the ocean. Earth out gasses more CO2 than man could ever hope to create. and yet, Rome burns………………

  19. I came to a similar conclusion as DJ quite a while ago both on anthropomorphic causation for global warming and the need for “internalizing externalities” in prices to achieve a market-based efficient outcome. Note that supporting market-based outcomes often requires a significant role for government. I think this point is often misunderstood. Pro-market governments should internalize externalities, promote transparency and the flow of market information, and fight aggregations of market power that distort supply and demand and lead to inefficient outcomes.

    But I fear we are fighting the last war on climate change. With the amount of greenhouse gasses already in the atmosphere, we are likely at the point where runaway effects are in play (e.g. melting icecaps reduce the earths albedo (reflectivity), leading to further warming) and we need greater focus on geoengineering responses, controversial as that may be. The current focus is on a transition to renewables (while at the same time getting rid of nuclear) that may be necessary but take too long. I hope I am wrong.

  20. “The current focus is on a transition to renewables (while at the same time getting rid of nuclear) that may be necessary but take too long. I hope I am wrong.”

    I fear you are right. I believe almost surely so, as do many others whose opinion I trust. The obstacles to a timely and effective renewable transition are huge, and most are outside our control.

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