NCSE Expands into Climate Change

We read a new article with a bit of trepidation this morning. It appears at the website of our friends, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE): Teachers “feeling the heat” over climate change. Here’s what they say, with bold font added by us:

“The U.S. political debate over climate change is seeping into K-12 science classrooms, and teachers are feeling the heat,” according to a report in Science (August 5, 2011; subscription required). Science educators are increasingly reporting attacks on climate change education

This is the article in Science they’re talking about: Climate Change Sparks Battles in Classroom . As NCSE says, you’ll need a subscription to see more than the abstract. Let’s read on:

[C]limate change is now routinely yoked with evolution as “controversial” in antievolution legislation such as the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008.

That seems to be true. Here’s one more excerpt from NCSE’s brief article, and this is what caught our attention:

NCSE is now monitoring controversies over the teaching of climate change as well as controversies over the teaching of evolution … .

Where’s the problem in that for your humble Curmudgeon? After all, NCSE’s full name is the “National Center for Science Education.” Climate change is science, so teaching it certainly falls within the scope of “science education.” What’s wrong with that?

What NCSE chooses to do is up to them, of course; however, we think the controversy over teaching evolution is very different from the controversy over climate change. Perhaps we’re all alone in this (we’re used to that), but here’s our thinking on the matter. And yes, you’re heard much of this from us before.

Evolution is rock-solid science about which there is no controversy — no science controversy, that is. Those who oppose it, or who want to “balance” it with other so-called theories, or who want to teach its alleged “weaknesses” are motivated entirely by religious passions, and in the US we can’t promote religion in the public schools. This isn’t a complicated issue to grasp, but it’s unfortunately a necessary effort to constantly monitor the situation and to struggle against those with theocratic goals. NCSE has done admirable service in that worthy endeavor.

Climate science — or to cut to the heart of it, human-caused global warming — may also be rock-solid science. Your Curmudgeon doesn’t know, but he doesn’t deny it. However, those who oppose that science can have different motives from those who oppose teaching evolution. They’re often the same people, of course, well-organized into groups of political activists that usually have the word “Family” in their organizations’ names, but the reasons for opposing each science can be very different.

As we all know, evolution opponents are entirely motivated by religion. The global warming opponents have a variety of motives — sometimes they say it’s religious (scripture gives us dominion over the earth, etc.) but despite the fact that deniers of both sciences seem to travel together (see Global Warming, Creationism & Brain Death), there’s much more to climate-science denial than religion.

There are those who seek to exploit every movement or “crisis” that offers them the possibility of attaining power. We won’t conceal our meaning — we’re talking about socialists. They can easily be spotted by the “solutions” they propose — which would give them the power to control things. The political motivation of a dedicated cadre of stealth leftists within a movement — like environmentalism — has no bearing on the underlying science that may be involved. Science must stand or fall on its own merits, not on the way it may be misused.

To be absolutely clear, the global socialist “solutions” advocated by people like Al Gore (a/k/a the Fat Boy) and his comrades in the UN are utterly despicable and we oppose them. But we don’t oppose the science of climatology, or its conclusions about global warming — man-made or otherwise. Science gives us useful information for the conduct of our affairs, which we should be free to pursue without governmental coercion.

We have always believed that it’s not only respectable, but also required for a defender of free enterprise and property rights to challenge the politics of those who are exploiting the currently convenient science of climatology. The science is what it is, but a cabal of global socialists are using it to achieve political goals. That’s what we oppose. And although we support science education, including climate science, we oppose teaching science in an ideological way that supports left-wing political goals.

There’s still more involved here, which makes this whole business so devilishly complicated. We’ve previously pointed out something that surfaced after Climategate. It’s what we call the creationists’ vindication of all kooks doctrine — which holds that if (a big if) the legitimate views of global warming skeptics have been wrongly suppressed, then all science dissent has been similarly mistreated, and therefore the science-denial of creationism is now respectable. That’s absurd, of course, but unfortunately, we’ve seen some indications of an equally absurd backlash: Many global warming supporters are defending not only their science (which is a proper thing to do) but also their political agenda (which we oppose) by lumping all their critics and skeptics together. The result is that sometimes we see them using the “all our critics are creationists” doctrine. That is no way to defend science.

And that brings us back to NCSE. They say they’re going to be “monitoring controversies over the teaching of climate change as well as controversies over the teaching of evolution.” Okay. We’ve always found them to be a rational and entirely honorable group, so we’re looking forward to this new element of their work. But science is one thing, and politics is another. Unfortunately, with evolution in tax-supported public schools, and with economic controls imposed in the name of global warming, science and politics are all too often scrambled together. When that happens, political opposition arises and science education suffers.

Science should never (in our humble opinion) become the exclusive concern of any political ideology. Our sincere hope is that NCSE won’t let that happen to their fine work. But we’re a wee bit apprehensive, so while NCSE sets out to monitor the controversy over teaching climate change, your Curmudgeon will be monitoring them — and wishing them well. That’s what friends are for.

Update: See Genie Scott, Global Warming & Creationism.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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41 responses to “NCSE Expands into Climate Change

  1. Well, Curmie, here’s where the clash happens. I don’t know if you can keep it up for long.

    First you say:

    Climate science — or to cut to the heart of it, human-caused global warming — may also be rock-solid science. Your Curmudgeon doesn’t know, but he doesn’t deny it.

    You call the science of evolution “rock-solid” but how do you know that is and that climate science may not be?

    Then you add:

    But we don’t oppose the science of climatology, or its conclusions about global warming — man-made or otherwise.

    It’s time to look at the climate science the same way you do evolution science.
    Science is science, facts are facts. I applaud the NCSE for this addition. It doesn’t really matter who is attacking the science, simply that it’s being done and needs to be stopped. I can’t help wondering how you would feel if the science of evolution resulted in some form of possible government regulation? Would you wonder about the science then?

  2. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    I can’t help wondering how you would feel if the science of evolution resulted in some form of possible government regulation? Would you wonder about the science then?

    Perhaps my little essay wasn’t clear. I support both sciences. Evolution (the science) has no politics. Unfortunately, global warming does. Still, if it’s good science, I support the science — but not the politics of Al Gore.

  3. [Unless this is a pi$$-take :-)]

    Wow! Glenn Beck would be proud of you!!
    It is the “socialist”, “Environmentalist” and the “NWO UN” that have the science on their side. The climate (and Science) deniers are almost entirely from the unregulated-free-market, right-wing Tea Party side of the political spectrum. To deny this, in the face of irrefutable evidence, is to deny reality to as much (if not greater) an extent as the evolution denier community.
    The same back-woods mentality, utilizing ignorance, a profound sense of anti-rationalality and FEAR are at work in both the AGW denier and the evolution denier communities.

  4. I think it’s valuable for NCSE to track it, if only because of the overlap between believers; finding AGW-deniers may allow them to find local pockets of resistance to evolution.
    IMO science can inform policy, but rarely makes it (in the sense of pointing to a singular, clear policy that ought to be followed). People can agree on how much the earth is warming, and why, and yet still disagree on what actions to do about it, who should do those actions, and who should pay for it. Nobody should be surprised if, say, the people of the Maldives (whose entire island chain averages only a few inches above sea level) might think the problem is worth spending a lot more money on than, say, your average American.

  5. There IS a leftist slant attached to these issues, for better or worse. I’m often accused of being a “communist” when I attack creationism, when in fact I consider myself more conservative-moderate, (for the most part, depending on the issue.) I don’t hate liberals, but I do hate it when they cross the line into a socialist agenda, which I suspect will be economically suicidal in the long run.

    Christopher Hitchens is a non-militant political analyst whom I’ve come to respect. He chimed in on climate change in a cautious but, I think, responsible and politically-neutral way:

    The argument about global warming is not whether there is any warming but whether or not and to what extent human activity is responsible for it. My line on that is that we should act as if it is, for this reason, which I borrowed from Jonathan Schell’s book on the nuclear question, “The Fate of the Earth”: We don’t have another planet on which to run the experiment. Just as we don’t have a right to run an experiment in nuclear exchange on this planet, we have no right to run an experiment in warming it either. So if it turned out to be that there was no severe global warming threat or that it wasn’t man-made, then all we would have done would be make a mistake in analysis – which we could correct. But if it turned out that there was and we didn’t do anything about it, then it would be too late to do anything at all. And that would lead to disaster.

    The evidence for anthropogenic global warming, which is what we’re really talking about, is scientifically sound according to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. They pretty much unanimously advocate collective action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, for starters. It seems to me it would be foolhardy not to take their word for it.

    That’s just being prudent, not radical or ideological.

  6. @Jim:
    You’re not really helping, are you?

  7. Curmie said:

    Perhaps my little essay wasn’t clear. I support both sciences.

    It wasn’t entirely clear (maybe even hedgy) implying some doubt on your part.
    Evolution science denial is all about religion and as far as I can see climate change science denial is all about politics. Perhaps you can be a voice for the science, but one that proposes ways to combat (or at this point deal with) the problem using free market strategies. If the deniers would do that, there would be no problem. Instead they just keep denying the science.

  8. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    Perhaps you can be a voice for the science, but one that proposes ways to combat (or at this point deal with) the problem using free market strategies.

    If more scientists understood and appreciated the free enterprise system, that wouldn’t be a problem. As for my being “hedgy” about climate science, I was just trying to be clear that I don’t know it, so it’s wrong for me to advocate (and worse to oppose) something I don’t know about. But I have no problem taking sides on the political issues.

  9. Jim says: “Wow! Glenn Beck would be proud of you!!”

    Not if he knew what I’ve written about him.

  10. Magpie61,
    Seriously? Who am I not helping? I generally avoid sacrificing facts and Science in the name of accomodation, and when I perceive misrepresentation, I do tend to call it out!

    I keep an eye on US right-wing media, and I have noticed a tendency to smear any view-point, group or individual that they find disagreeable, with the label “Communist” or “Socialist” (And, perhaps, “European” as well)!
    I have also noticed that when the evidence for AGW gets a bit too uncomfortably close, Al Gore is pulled out of the closet, and his bones rattled to distract the gormless and the gullible. Who the heck cares what some has-been politician thinks! He may be right or wrong or somewhere in between, but the primary issue is the Science – you know, Evidence, rational thought, testing, experiment, data etc.
    The political right-wing in the US has vested interests in downplaying AGW, for purely monetary reasons. This is abundantly clear when you see where the funding for the various AGW denier political groups come from.
    I generally applaud the SC when in the Evolution ‘sand-pit’, but I believe he is mistaken on the issue of climate change.

  11. I am glad to see NCSE take on climate change and hope they will get additional funding to do so. The many anti-evolution bills around the country often mention evolution as well as climate change, stem cell research, etc., together as items to be challenged in science courses. The solid science must be defended. These bills are mainly political, authored by far-right conservatives and we fight them every year here in Oklahoma, as well as in other states

  12. vhutchison says:

    I am glad to see NCSE take on climate change and hope they will get additional funding to do so.

    We agree. And I hope they continue to be non-political.

  13. The political problem with global warming is that it is…global. To address therefore requires global action.

    If someone on the far-right has a plan to mitigate or reverse global warming using only free market forces, and only in the US, without government interference, they should roll that plan out immediately! They would be an instant hero. The problem is, so far politicians on the far right seem to be unwilling to accept that there is any global warming in the first place, or that there is anything humans can do to affect it. (I believe their reasons are rooted in their religious world-view, but I’m willing to accept that some of them perhaps have other reasons)

    Government actions to regulate emissions, set goals for improving energy efficiency, and develop alternate energy sources are not socialist attempts to take over the american economy and manage the lives of its citizens. They are specific actions to address a major problem. It is not “socialist” to take actions to avert environmental catastrophe.

    When politicians try to undermine the teaching of climate change science, whatever their reasons are, I believe the NCSE has a compelling interest in defending the science.

  14. Ed says:

    The political problem with global warming is that it is…global. To address therefore requires global action.

    The need for food and shelter is global. Should we take global action on that too?

    If someone on the far-right has a plan to mitigate or reverse global warming using only free market forces, and only in the US, without government interference, they should roll that plan out immediately! They would be an instant hero.

    One needn’t be on the far-right to see the sense in expanding the nuclear generation of electric power. It’s frequently advocated. Alas, those advocates aren’t hailed as heroes.

  15. @Ed:If someone on the far-right has a plan to mitigate or reverse global warming using only free market forces…

    First, do you acknowledge any sort of right except “the far right”? I ask merely for information–secondly, NO ONE so far has a plan for mitigated or reversing global warming on any scale, global or local. There have been international discussions which have led so far to no actions that have done either. The actions that HAVE been agreed to, and HAVE been carried through, have accomplished nothing with respect to global warming but they HAVE cost a lot of money and created rent-seeking opportunities for corporations like BP to extract money from taxpayers. And the biggest producers of carbon dioxide are not going along with these agreements.

    The only signifcant reduction in CO2 emission to date has been due to economic recession.

    It is not “socialist” to take actions to avert environmental catastrophe.

    If they are top-down, command-and-control actions over the economy, then yes they are socialist. And of course the “catstrophe” isn’t something sudden and deadly–it’s something very slow, on the order of a century, and it would change the climate to something like it was in the past, not to something unprecedented that nothing on Earth can survive.

  16. I think I understand what you are saying, Curmie but perhaps I haven’t been clear. Ed’s comment seems to echo mine.
    Evolution is really only made into a religious argument by the deniers. Similarly, deniers make climate change a political argument.

    NCSE would have no reason to bring politics into their work–but perhaps you are right to be concerned because they do seem to bring religion into their evolution educational support.

  17. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    Evolution is really only made into a religious argument by the deniers. Similarly, deniers make climate change a political argument.

    Exactly. So what do some evolution-defenders do? They not only defend science, which is commendable, but they needlessly attack religion, which provokes the evolution deniers into further action. Similarly in the case of climate science. The science defenders, instead of patiently explaining their science, all too often jump on the “global solutions” bandwagon, which provokes opponents of such schemes to oppose the science.

  18. The NCSE is certainly not known for attacking religion (pandering to… that’s another story). Yes some people (not excepting present company) do attack religion, but usually for the foolishness of the science denial.
    The same would be true for climate change denial and defenders.
    I think you see this subject through rather opaque lenses. Try using your evolution science clear glasses.
    When I see free-market, right-leaning people accept the science, I’ll be happy to hear their solutions.

    And yes, Gabriel, solutions have been proposed and some enacted, but they are fought, beaten back or watered down by the deniers (who by denying the problem won’t even try to come up with better solutions).

  19. The many anti-evolution bills around the country often mention evolution as well as climate change, stem cell research, etc.,

    Don’t forget cloning. These folks evidently think there is some scientific question about its existence. [Scratches head.] Yeah, AGW-deniers are in real solid company. Its a wonder they aren’t attacking flouridation as a communist plot..

  20. Lynn Wilhelm says:

    When I see free-market, right-leaning people accept the science, I’ll be happy to hear their solutions.

    Be wary of investing in expensive ocean-front property. (Hey, I didn’t need the UN to tell me that.)

  21. @Lynn:And yes, Gabriel, solutions have been proposed and some enacted, but they are fought, beaten back or watered down by the deniers (who by denying the problem won’t even try to come up with better solutions).

    First, there’s not enough deniers to be blamed for the failure of policies that are supposed to affect warming. And in Europe, even though the governments there didn’t listen to ‘deniers’, their solutions have not done anything but cost money.

    For example, all the money spent on wind power is just displacing hydro power. Effect on carbon emissions: negligible.

    There have been no practical solutions proposed by anyone–just meaningless and expensive posturing, like banning incandescents and building expensive and inefficient generation projects.

  22. Revenue neutral carbon tax. That’s a market solution. Let people decide for themselves how much carbon it is worth it for them to emit. Pretty simple. Which is why it won’t go anywhere–no way for BP or T Boone Pickens to get taxpayer money for doing it.

  23. Curmudgeon: “Climate science — or to cut to the heart of it, human-caused global warming”

    I don’t know nearly as much about climate science as I do about evolution, and from what I can the former is nowhere near as settled as the latter, but peddlers of denial (as oppose to “mere deniers”) of both tend to be largely the same people, usually with a radical authoritarian agenda that undermines (at least to the few of us who follow their antics closely) any pretense that their objection has anything to do with the science. Because of that they all have a bizarre habit of conflating different issues. Evolution is regularly conflated with abiogenesis, “RM + NS,” “naturalism,” etc. While “global warming in gereral” is regularly conflated with anthropogenic global warming and “what govt. out to do about it.”

    That tells me 2 things: (1) that there is no reason to listen to their “sales pitch” for any reason other than to detect logical fallacies, bait-and-switch, quote mining, etc., and (2) that the slicker peddlers might be faking some of their ignorance, and know that they are wrong. But their agenda to “save the world” is worth the risk of sounding ignorant.

  24. First of all, I agree that we should separate the science of climate change from the politics of proposed solutions. Too often, they’re conflated, and that makes the discussion difficult at best.

    Second, this is probably the right time for the NCSE to get on the climate change bandwagon. I suspect that they have several reasons for this.

    Obviously the NCSE wishes to defend sound science teaching, and to challenge pseudoscientific teaching. That seems straightforward enough.

    NCSE notes that climate change is often “bundled” into legislation intended to weaken the teaching of evolutionary theory. I suspect that there’s two reasons for such bundling: it helps diffuse the “religious” allegations commonly hurled at anti-evolution legislation, and it helps increase “the big tent” that’s commonly sought by anti-evolutionists.

  25. I agree with everything you said, Rubble.

  26. Science should never (in our humble opinion) become the exclusive concern of any political ideology.
    Then practice what you preach. Your conspiracy thinking about the Reds under the Bed has clouded your thinking.
    Evolution is rock-solid science about which there is no controversy — no science controversy, that is.
    But? Do I hear a but?
    Climate science — or to cut to the heart of it, human-caused global warming — may also be rock-solid science. Your Curmudgeon doesn’t know, but he doesn’t deny it.
    Ah, there it is!
    You don’t know…but you don’t deny it…you just don’t know? Awful.
    Vaccines…maybe they really don’t give children autism…You just don’t know. You don’t deny it. You just don’t know.
    Evolution…maybe it’s rock-solid science…You just don’t know. You don’t deny it. You just don’t know.
    Is there a connection between smoking and cancer? Gosh darn it. You just don’t know. You don’t deny it. You just don’t know.
    Awful.
    If you “don’t know” then go to the NASA website….AND FIND OUT!
    The science is what it is, but a cabal of global socialists are using it to achieve political goals. That’s what we oppose.

    Which is the excuse you give yourself so that you can be conveniently, forever stuck in your “I don’t know” phase.

    The political motivation of a dedicated cadre of stealth leftists within a movement — like environmentalism — has no bearing on the underlying science that may be involved.

    Leave the kooky, conspiracy thinking to the likes of Glen Beck and Anders Breivik. Stop effectively denying the science by wringing your hands and saying “I don’t know” and putting it all on permanent deferral.
    Find out. Now. Today.
    Please!
    NASA is a good first stop. They have a great website.
    NASA (gulp) does know the science is rock solid.

    NASA did not lie to you about the moon-landings.
    NASA is not lying to you now about climate change.

    Still, if it’s good science, I support the science — but not the politics of Al Gore.
    Stuff Al Gore. The science is good. It has been for many decades. Al Gore has nothing to do with it. Stop wringing your hands. Either you are prepared to support science or you are not.
    Climate Science 1956: A Blast from the Past

  27. A little over the top there.

  28. Rubble hit the nail on the head.

    The other problem is, much like Gabriel and myself, there are multiple solutions proposed by advocates of the science of global warming.

    Unlike evolution, which has one solution from the science perspective (teach and use evolution), even intelligent, well meaning people can vehemently disagree on the solutions to AGW (and no Gabriel, we’re not going to talk about the actual solutions here).

    Though I fully agree with (I think) everyone here that man-made CO2 emissions must stop (and there are many non-GW reasons for stopping fossil fuel use as well), how to accomplish that task will almost never be agreed upon.

    Also, unlike evolution, the people who want to keep the status quo, are in real positions of power and will use some of the most powerful lobbying groups on the planet to keep the issue in as much of a state of confusion as possible, simply to not have to change. Mobile Oil makes the same amount of money as the entire annual budgets of the Discovery Institute, AiG, and all the Christian anti-evolution organizations combined… in about a day.

    At this point, I don’t care what is done as long as something is. And it is done with speed, determination, and an unwavering focus on completion and removal of the fossil fuels.

  29. “Al Gore (a/k/a the Fat Boy)”?

    Now that is (to steal a phrase) utterly despicable.
    You might like to consider how many climate change deniers are funded by the fat cats in the oil and coal industries.
    You might also consider that the DSCOVR satellite, which would have resolved one of the remaining uncertainties about climate change and was initiated by Al Gore, sat on a shelf for the duration of the Bush administration.

  30. @David Evans, Ogre:

    If you’re going to use the “oil money” ad hominem, then you have to live and die by it. Because there are big corporations lobbying for green power as well, and the both of you know that perfectly well–in fact you use that as an argument FOR green power when it suits you to do so. There is also a great deal of money to be made in rent-seeking, for example trading carbon credits.

    So maybe we should stick to facts and not “follow the money”. Either the science of global-warming is sound or it is not. It does not matter who stands to make money by exploiting government policies intended to address it, or who stands to make money by these policies not being implemented. There is always somebody ready to make money in ANY situation. You would not accept an argument that wind power is bad because BP and GE and Siemens make money from it.

    The fact is that big companies, whether they make oil are not, are the ones in the best position to exploit new technologies and new government regulations. This is why BP is in renewable energy. So is Mobil. So is Chevron.

    We all (I think) agree here that increasing the CO2 concentration further is going to lead to further warming. We all agree that the costs and benefits of avoiding further warming need to be carefully evaluated. Ad hominems do nothing toward that end. We all know that ad hominem is not an argument when creationists use it.

  31. The respected battletank: Though I fully agree with (I think) everyone here that man-made CO2 emissions must stop

    How about: its in our long-term interests to reduce them. The unfortunate part is that its in our short-term interests not to reduce them.

    I don’t entirely share Gabriel and SC’s faith that the market will “correctly value” (in scare quotes because it’s easy to get tautological about how we define that) long-term interests. My guess is that the most effective solutions will end up being a combination of regulations and market incentives (a mixed economy – what a concept!).

  32. Gabriel, First, saying that big money oil companies have a vested interest in the status quo is NOT an ad hominen. I can’t even imagine how you would think it so.

    Second, it’s simply a fact of life. BP, for example, (according to their annual report) made more than 30 billion dollars in 2010 from exploration and production and 5 billion dollars in 2010 from refining and marketing. All other business units of BP combined lost 1.5 billion dollars. Unfortunately the annual report doesn’t break out that out into the other business units (biofuels, gas stations, gas and fuel cards, asphalt, etc. etc. etc.) so I’m not sure which businesses actually lost and gained money specifically.

    Besides, these companies are getting a lot of money from various governments all over the world to keep fossil fuels flowing. That’s free money, in the billions.

    Sorry Gab, but I think you are so against other things that I’ve said in the past, that you can’t see what I’m saying now.

    I won’t discuss it further with you. If you think stating that oil companies make massive profits from oil and subsidies from governments (even though they are making a profit) is an ad hominem… there’s not a lot anyone can do.

  33. “How about: its in our long-term interests to reduce them. The unfortunate part is that its in our short-term interests not to reduce them. ”

    THIS!!!

  34. climate change notwithstanding, is there really something so bad about encouraging people to stop driving gas guzzling vehicles that reduce the supply and raise prices for everyone? you realize that many factories and even cars that produce greenhouse gases also emit known carcinogens into the atmosphere we all have to breath? is there something wrong with finding more efficient solutions to power generation that don’t result in oil spills? how much does all of this horrendous climate change legislation cost compared to what we spend every year on blowing things up? just food for thought.

  35. Just heard this today.
    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/10/139276565/polar-bear-scientist-faces-new-questions
    I’m anxious to see how this pans out. It’s ClimateGate all over again! Hopefully, no time will be spent on this if there’s no more there there than this story illustrates.

  36. you realize that many factories and even cars that produce greenhouse gases also emit known carcinogens into the atmosphere we all have to breath?

    It’s been known since the ’70s that ash from coal plants contains U and Th in quantities that would – if released from a nuclear plant into the atmosphere – be illegal. A start towards sane pollution regulation would simply be to apply the same atmospheric emissions standards to all plants. It shouldn’t matter how your electricity is produced, your limit is X amount of CO2/megawatt, Y amount of SO2/megawatt, Z amount of U/megawatt, etc… Similarly, it probably shouldn’t matter to the government how you get under those limits – sequestration, chemical treatment, or using a process that doen’t create it in the first place, etc… – so long as any outputs of your waste processing also meet legal requirements.

  37. eric:

    thank you! I agree. The trouble with complete lack of regulation in regards to climate change is that climate change is not something anyone can escape. Same with the other nasty things released with the greenhouse gasses. That’s the difference between this and food for the poor, universal health care, and the many other things on the “socialist” agenda. We all have to live on this planet (whether Tea Bagger or Commie, note my inclusiveness in use of derogatory language) and breathe the air and drink the water, until we find a way to do otherwise, we’re all stuck if we screw ourselves.

  38. Indeed what good is it for us, in the west, to shackle ourselves with regulations on CO2 emissions if China is going to continue burning coal like there is no tomorrow?

  39. Gabriel Hanna

    @Troy: China burning coal is not a reason for us to burn coal. But getting rid of fossil fuels is a 50-100 year project, realistically.

    Imagine if, in the 1940s, the government had tried to create an internet using electromechanical computers and pneumatic tubes–the result would be extremely expensive and not very effective. Or think of the Pony Express, which unquestionably could do what it promised, but at a price no one was willing to pay–the founders of the Pony Express started it hoping to be awarded a government contract for express transcontinental mail which never materialized, the price being what it was. Railroads and telegraph lines soon made the project moot.

    This is why wind producers get $22 per MW-hr in production tax credits, from our pockets to theirs–which they demand be continued for at least 30 more years–they cannot offer electricity at a price anyone is willing to pay without the subsidy. Coal, for example, gets subsidies of $0.44 for the same amount of energy. Ogre will be quick to remind us that the coal industry receives more in subsisides than the entire renewable (not hydro) industry: but with coal producing about 30 times as much energy as renewables (not hydro), replacing fossil fuels with renewables (not hydro) to any significant degree would require the renewable (not hydro) industries go up 10-20 times, which would dwarf the subsidies for coal. Advocates of renewables are, in my opinion, not frank in presenting the total cost of the course of action they advocate.

    A lot of economic realities need to change before abandoning fossil fuels becomes realistic.

    An affordable method of storing energy, that does not involve using a dam, would go a long way to making wind power competitive, and making wind actually displace carbon dioxide instead of hydro. Currently the cheapest and most effective way to store energy is behind a dam. And this is why wind power is not helping our carbon emissions significantly–wind power cannot be scheduled years in advance the way hydro and nuclear power are, and the grid must always be kept in balance, so when wind is overproducing hydro power (or natural gas) must be taken off the grid to compensate–because coal and nuclear plants cannot be stopped and started quickly.

    But if we could store the energy some other way, and build lots of this storage, we could do better with wind. 1 kW-hr of energy storage capability–about $0.11 worth in my neck of the woods–will cost $500 if you use batteries, $1000 if you use flywheels, and $6000 if you use ultracapacitors. For pumped hydro storage the figure is $10.

    Furthermore, we have trucks and cars to think about. Even replacing all of our electrical generation with nuclear, hydro, solar, wind–and even sticking to nuclear and hydro you are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars and decades–that would still leave about half our current carbon emissions untouched.

    Ok, so we replace with electric vehicles. But electric vehicles can’t carry hydro reservoirs around with them–electric vehicles need to run on batteries, or flywheels, or ultracapacitors. Because electric vehicles are a vanishingly small fraction of the market, middle class people can afford them with the help of government subsidies. But scaling up 100- 1000 fold to where a significant fraction of our vehicles are electric is going to increase the costs dramatically; not to mention how much time it will take even have the industrial capability to build that many batteries/flywheels/ultracapacitors.

    At the current state of energy storage technology this conversion will cost hundreds of billions or trillions and take decades.

    And that’s why I think renewables (not hydro) are like the Pony Express or a pneumatic-tube internet. They work, yes, but at a cost 10-100 times that of coal, nuclear, and hydro for the same amount of energy produced, and many of the problems with them are masked because a great deal of money is being spent on a small scale.

    Furthermore, I think the snark about the free market is badly misplaced. There is not, and has not been in my lifetime, a free market in electrical power. Not only is much of electricity sold by public utilities, wholesale and retail prices of electricity are regulated. Government had a huge role in getting us to where we are today. As usual the free market is taken to task for not solving problems it did not create.

  40. Why I disagree with Curm, when he said that this does not have to be tackled Globally. He brought up food and shelter as a counter argument, but someone homeless, and starving, in Africa, has No effect on us in a physical sense, but warming effects us all, no matter who is causing it.

    Also even if Britain reaches the target levels of Kyoto it will take India, and China, between 18 and 32 seconds to make up the difference, at their current rate of power expansion. To go further than that will almost certainly prove a hardship to Britain, so again it highly unlikely Britain will go further than that, unless a fair portion of the globe enacts similar measures at the same time.

    Saying that, the USA can act independently and have a huge impact for 2 reasons :-
    1). They use 25% of the worlds power output, so any savings by the USA will be significant on a world stage.
    2). Both China and India both maintain that they will accept no limits on their build up until they reach American levels (though India has hinted they will be satisfied with an European average). So America cutting will mean that China and India have been left with a lower target to reach before they have to work on limits.

    @Troy
    The main problem is they say, with a lot of justification, is why should we be limited to less than the rest of the world? Sure they are building a lot of coal power stations, but also nuclear, natural gas and hydro power stations.

  41. Gabriel Hanna

    @Flakey:So America cutting will mean that China and India have been left with a lower target to reach before they have to work on limits.

    Assuming that they decide to respect those limits once they reach them. Assuming China doesn’t flat out lie about their statistics, as they so often do. China’s environmental record is typical for autocracies, i.e. abysmal. The people they poison disappear if they complain too much.

    80% of France’s energy production is nuclear. That didn’t come cheap. But it’s at least doable, albeit at great expense. The reason France pursued that policy is nationalistic–energy independence, to them, was worth whatever price they had to pay to get there, and they don’t have much coal or oil. And to some extent they’ve failed in that goal, because nuclear power isn’t flexible and they have so much of it they have to export about 20%, and reimport it from other sources, to balance the grid. Because nuclear power production can be scheduled, unlike wind power, this doesn’t cause the grid-balancing problems endemic in the Pacific Northwest since wind power went in. However, no source of energy can stand entirely on its own.

    I’d like to see the US build enough nuclear plants make a dent in coal, and of course that would be very expensive for us too. The US is the Saudi Arabia of coal and we have hundreds of years’ supply. So it’s a tough sell. That’s why I’d like to see a revenue-neutral carbon tax–provided of course the government could be trusted to keep it that way, which they can’t. Then we can put a price on the warming caused by carbon. The revenue could be redistributed on a per-person basis. This would make progressives happy, and would force people who use more than their share of carbon to subsidize to some extent people who use less. I don’t know how much is appropriate but it should be proportional to the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. Would this cause economic disruption? Oh yes. (As would building a lot more nuclear plants.) But I think it is the closest thing to a practical free market solution.