Okay, Jan, so what’s your view on climate change?

It’s heading towards year’s end, so it’s natural to think about perspective.

In a post from last July, Joseph Heath asks semi-rhetorically, “Why are [proposed] carbon taxes so low?” and, then, he and commenters go on and answer that, essentially, the cost of damage is discounted to the present to obtain estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon.


Except that none of these methodologies I see incorporate the full cost of perhaps someday needing to not only decarbonize but to do clear air capture of carbon dioxide and sequestering it (effectively) permanently. They are making estimates of damage from climate disruption.

However, the costs of clear air capture includes an up-front cost of decarbonizing first, since capture is doubly and triply more expensive if we continue to pollute.

See my blog post where the estimate for one such exercise puts the price at US$1800 trillion in constant 2010 dollars. Even if not only is there no inflation in the price, but one additionally applies a discounting rate of 4%, after 100 years that’s still US$3.6 trillion. Worse, the scenario is sensitive at when we start, where we want to reduce to, and whether or not emissions are first zeroed, let alone invoking a technology we do not yet have. This is why my view has now aligned strongly with those of Glen Peters and Kevin Anderson.

I also, and personally, am very pessimistic about the wealthy nations (OECD) of the world doing enough, fast enough, in changing their behavior and their economies to make a significant difference. And I say that despite being extremely enthusiastic about the potential of zero Carbon energy technology, especially solar.

The OECD countries will eventually do it, because:

  • They will, as Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson repeatedly points out, begin to lose their wealth.
  • They will begin to suffer the collapse of parts of the extended supply chains upon which their entire societies, economies, and culture depend. This may not be an original idea, but it makes sense. The risk exposure to an extended supply chain is much higher than a short one. This is simply a military idea, not only a mathematical one.
  • Federal programs (in the United States at least) to fund rebuilding along coasts and inland, and to repay people in drought and desertifying agricultural areas to basically remain in place will be insolvent by 2025.
  • As climate changes, and the biosphere continues to adapt, both to its change and humankind’s continued growth,  ecosystem services will begin to disappear at an ever quickening pace, costing us agriculture, in health, and ultimately in economics (Gaylord Nelson).
  • It is possible that, if a truly unusual environmental event occurs, incontrovertibly tied to climate disruption on its face, that economies will suffer a profound Minsky moment, something that won’t be good for anyone. Such would happen, here, not because of any cyclical reason but, rather, because the markets had not fully priced in the damage of a key portion of their economies, the burning of fossil fuels and related emissions.

What kind of substantial things am I doing?

  • We have decarbonized our house, for the most part, including most recently a Chevy Volt.
  • I have divested nearly all of my retirement and personal investments from fossil fuels, and I have a significant investment in solar and wind energy development.
  • I am selling my interest in the Disney Vacation Club timeshare program of the Walt Disney Company, both because I only see the future of Florida as deteriorating  both from an investment and quality of visiting perspective (groundwater). Also, visits to Florida on holiday demand flying, which is the fastest means of pumping harmful carbon dioxide into atmosphere a body can, and at an altitude at which it is especially harmful. (There are no reasonable train schedules.)
  • I am a vegetarian.
  • We compost, all year round, and, due almost entirely to the efforts of my wonderful wife, Claire, grow a good deal of food in our own garden.
  • Our holiday gifting and celebrations are small scale, and tend towards services, not things.
  • We do not use fertilizer or any insect sprays or weed killers on our property. We have a battery-powered lawnmower.
  • We advocate for environmental change, and limiting suburban sprawl, and protest where necessary.

And, while I will engage with people online and elsewhere stating and shouting incorrect things regarding the environment, or climate science, or zero Carbon energy, or who is responsible for all this, I am disengaging emotionally, because it does not matter. Science and engineering facts, on the other hand, do matter, and are worth defending with some ferocity. These are the only hold we have on reality, as opposed to a so-called reality TV show.

And I am sorry that the people who, at least initially, are being hurt and harmed by climate disruption are people who have the least responsibility for the problem. I cannot control people in my world so they begin shed the behavior sets responsible. I can entice them with the wonders and efficiencies of zero Carbon energy. And while climate justice is important, I fear it can be counterproductive compared to, say, campaigns to boycott use of fossil fuel energy. Pursuing climate justice might be simply a nice, and very white way of soothing piqued consciences, and stops further progress where it is more important.


Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment…. Humanity is in ‘final exam’ as to whether or not it qualifies for continuance in Universe.

R. Buckminster Fuller

Hat tip to … And Then There’s Physics for the motive to write this post.

About ecoquant

See https://wordpress.com/view/667-per-cm.net/ Retired data scientist and statistician. Now working projects in quantitative ecology and, specifically, phenology of Bryophyta and technical methods for their study.
This entry was posted in adaptation, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Meteorological Association, American Solar Energy Society, American Statistical Association, Anthropocene, Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Buckminster Fuller, carbon dioxide, clear air capture of carbon dioxide, climate change, climate disruption, decentralized electric power generation, distributed generation, ecological services, energy reduction, energy storage, environment, Equiterre, fossil fuel divestment, Gaylord Nelson, Glen Peters, greenhouse gases, Hermann Scheer, Hyper Anthropocene, investment in wind and solar energy, IPCC, James Hansen, Kevin Anderson, leaving fossil fuels in the ground, Mark Jacobson, Massachusetts, Minsky moment, Neill deGrasse Tyson, Our Children's Trust, population biology, quantitative ecology, solar democracy, solar domination, solar energy, solar power, Spaceship Earth, temporal myopia, the energy of the people, the green century, the right to be and act stupid, the tragedy of our present civilization, Walt Disney Company, wind energy, wind power, zero carbon. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Okay, Jan, so what’s your view on climate change?

  1. Jan & Claire.Thanks for all you do, including gardening: Soil sequestration seems very important, about which there is an interesting article in CS Monitor: “A surprising ally in the battle against climate change: dirt: By changing farming practices, an extra 9 billion tons of greenhouse gases could be locked away in the soil, according to an international team of scientists.”
    By Jason Thomson, Staff APRIL 6, 2016

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