30 June 2010

Ten Myths of Global Warming and the Green Economy

No, this is not a post about what who believes what about science (snore). This is a post about the economic and political assumptions that guide thinking about climate policy.

Andy Revkin helpfully points to a new report (PDF) from the Information Technology and Information Foundation, which seeks to expose 10 myths of global climate change. Here they are:
1) Higher prices on greenhouse gases are enough to drive the transition to a clean economy

Reality: Better price signals are helpful, but not sufficient in significantly reducing GHG.

2) The U.S. can make major contributions to solving climate change on its own

Reality: The energy needs of the rest of the world will result in them producing the lion’s share of GHG; any solution must be one that is able to be adopted by every nation in the absence of regulation or energy taxes.

3) Cap-and-trade is a sustainable global solution

Reality: As Copenhagen showed, a global agreement is not likely, and the only solution that can meet 50 the percent reduction of GHG is making non-carbon alternatives as cheap and functional as fossil fuels.

4) We don’t need innovation; we have all the technology we need

Reality: Current technology is woefully inadequate in reaching the needed 85 percent carbon reduction efficiency.

5) “Insulation is enough” (e.g. energy efficiency will save us)

Reality: Even the most optimistic estimates suggest energy efficiency measures will only provide one-quarter of the levels of GHG reductions that the United States needs to effectively address climate change.

6) Low growth is the answer…just live simply

Reality: Neither living simply nor a massive recession will enable us to obtain the level of reductions required.

7) Information technology (ITIT) is a significant contributor to climate change

Reality: A digital world leads to less energy use, not more.

8) Going green is green (e.g., it makes economic sense to go green)

Reality: With current technology, it often costs money to go green.

9) We are world leaders on the green economy, and it’s ours for the taking

Reality: Other countries got in on the ground floor and are already out pacing us.

10) Foreign green mercantilism is good for solving climate change (and good for the U.S.)

Reality: Foreign mercantilism reduces needed clean energy innovation and hurts U.S. industry and jobs.
This list is remarkably compatible with the arguments I set forth in The Climate Fix. In fact, Chapter 2 is titled, What We Know for Sure, But Just Ain't So. You can see from the imagery above where the inspiration came from for that chapter title ;-) My book has a few others not on this list as well.


  1. I'd have thought 25% for efficiency was very good. Add on 20% for stopping deforestation and another (ref Hansen) 25-50% for black carbon regulations and we're there. No carbon tax, no cap and trade.

  2. Also Reagan's speech to the 1964 Republican convention[vid] (transcript), "Well, the trouble with our liberal friends is not that they're ignorant; it's just that they know so much that isn't so."


    "History will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent it's happening..."

    The whole speech is worth a listen whether you like what he did as President or not, classic American rhetoric.

  3. We can add these 10 to some other myths that turned out to be real whoppers:

    * An Inconvenient Truth relies on sound science

    * The IPCC is the peer-reviewed scientific work of 2500 climate scientists

    * Peer review insures accuracy

    * Recent temperatures are unprecedented (related -- there was no MWP)

    * GCMs are quality forecasting tools since they backcast accurately

    * the science is settled

    * climate scientists are beseiged by a network of skeptics who are receiving extensive funding orchestrated by Big Oil

    * global warming causes _ _ _ _ (fill in the blank -- suicide, acne, malaria, prostitution, hurricanes, dead polar bears .....)

    And the list goes on.

  4. -3-Stan

    This post is not about science, sorry.

  5. Current technology is woefully inadequate in reaching the needed 85 percent carbon reduction efficiency.

    Why is an 85% reduction in carbon needed?
    Needed for what?

  6. Given the above- when is the discussion about infrastructure hardening going to start? It should not matter what side of the AGW one stands- the paleo record tells us our infrastructure is inadequate.

  7. Maybe I'll like your book, after all.

  8. Why is it 50% reduction in 3. and 85% reduction in 4. Talk about moving the goalpoasts!

  9. Stan, maybe we should talk in terms of football.

    Climate Science Wanders 0 - Sceptical Policies United 10

    It has been such a poor season for Climate Science Wanderers they have been relegated to the second division.

    Their manager, Flavio demi Centuri, said "Is big disappointment for the Team. Maybe next year we dont use hockey sticks, cos we keep getting sent off for that"

    Will President of the Association commented "The game is changing. Teams like the Scepticals play with a simpler more straight forward style that is more popular with the fans. They keep to the rules, dont try to change them mid game and dont foul the other players like the Climate boys do.

    In the end it is all about pulling in the crowds and money at the gate and the fans for Climate Science Wanderers have literally wandered off. But then, as the saying goes, 'Change is here to stay' "

  10. Roger,

    Me too - why 85%?

    Ultimately, is that the same as saying global CO2 emissions will be reduced by 85%?

  11. Ron Broberg said... 5

    "Why is an 85% reduction in carbon needed?"

    If the global standard of living were to rise to the level of Western Europeans then we would need 6 times the energy. Hence, in order to keep emissions at 1990/2005 levels we need to cut emissions/unit of standard of living by 85%.

  12. 50% is the global emission reduction requirements. 85% is the target that has been arbitrarily imposed on "rich" countries by the wealth redistributing socialitists that make up the majority CAGW movement.

  13. Wow I've never seen so many strawmen in one document. This looks like the usual stuff from the TBI folks. No evidence just rhetoric.

    Who exactly believes or has published that #1-3 and #5-10 is the case? anyone? #4 is perhaps easer to defend, but then it depends on how one defines 'solution'. Is it 450 pmm, 550, or 350? It would be nice if the TBI gang and would spend less time publishing these fluffy opinion pieces and more time gathering evidence to support their claims.

    Their plank can be reduced to:
    1. we need innovation to solve climate change
    2. carbon pricing will never be politically feasible in the u.s.
    3. therefore publicly funded R&D strategy is needed.

    Even if you believe 1 & 2, it doesn't follow that 3 is correct. In the end it all comes down to who pays. Why exactly is option 3 more feasible politically than 1? Similarly why wouldn't a carbon market generate as much if not more innovation than a publicly funded program?

    How much innovation such a carbon price or cap would spur depends of course on how stringent the cap is (or high the tax is). With lower caps you won't get much but you'll still get some.

    At the end of the day political feasibility is determined in large part by how effectively the folks in power can effectively frame the policy in question. In the context of carbon pricing there lots of options. How many people would be against paying 6 cents a gallon to support research into 'freedom fuel'? Isn't it worth spending a few extra dollars a week on planetary insurance?

    the main problem with the way that the authors of this current paper frame the issue is that they suggest it's an either/or proposition (either you have massive public R&D push OR you price carbon). In fact, what most experts are suggesting, not surprisingly, is that you need BOTH!!!

  14. Roger,

    Oops. I was confused. The title of the post -- "Myths of Global Warming" made me think it was about myths of global warming. So I was trying to make the point that those ten myths have a lot of company when it comes to myths and global warming. Sorry. There are just so many myths of global warming it is hard to keep track of which myths are appropriate for comments and which myths are not.

  15. Hi Raven,very much OT, but I drew you a badge. Can you email me? (via www.cartoonsbyjosh.com)

    I think my apology needs to be much bigger than Stan.

    V v sorry, RPJ

  16. I see. The 50%,85% were discussed in 5 and 6. I like the quote "to achieve 50-85% reduction we'd need a depression on steroids". Hold on - we might actually get that, thanks to those wealth-redistributing-uphill, reverse-socialist, crony capitalists.

  17. "Cap-and-trade is a sustainable global solution

    Reality: As Copenhagen showed, a global agreement is not likely, and the only solution that can meet 50 the percent reduction of GHG is making non-carbon alternatives as cheap and functional as fossil fuels."

    Interesting opinion. Maybe they read Hartwell !!

    Reality 2. The world's biggest (future) polluters, the USA, India and China will not implement carbon trading on the scale of Europe. Does that mean the Europeans will pay more for fuel than Americans ? That is, an even bigger differential than the present.

    Will German public opinion stand the strain ? British public opinion has no clout with politicians .

  18. Marlowe Johnson said...

    "How much innovation such a carbon price or cap would spur depends of course on how stringent the cap is (or high the tax is)."

    The gasoline tax in Europe is pretty close to $5/gallon. How much innovation has that generated in the last 30 years?

    European thermal power plant efficiency is about 35%, compared to the US efficiency of 33%.

    "Cap and Trade" worked on other various emissions reductions programs because the price of 'alternatives' was reasonably close to the price of doing nothing.

    Without reasonably cost effective alternatives, Cap and Trade just becomes a tax, just as the European Gasoline tax is nothing more then a tax.

  19. jgdes

    "wealth-redistributing-uphill, reverse-socialist, crony capitalists"

    In my view, global warming, like the financial crisis is just another battle in the great, modern class war. Carried out in an analogous manner to what is described in 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein. (Margaret Thatcher, the mother of global warming gets a whole chapter to herself, as does her political soul mate General Pinochet).

    The manner of many progressive attacks on 'deniers' is driven by class snobbery with its references to the Palin branch of the American right. My direct experience of the Scottish Green party leadership lead me to suspect contempt for the masses as a strong driver, even from my own (ex) girlfriend.

    The lifestyles of the vast majority of decarbonisation promoters will be substantially unaffected by price rises.


    I now live on a low income and that isn't likely to change soon, so there is an element of self interest.

  20. Note to Professor Joshua Halpern, your comment was rejected.

    Allusions to rape are not allowed here. Your views are welcome, but that garbage is not. You can do better.

  21. Marlowe:

    It's not that people actually believe these lines, but politically they act as if they do. Everyone who looks at the issues even halfway realistically knows that the "answers" proposed are bogus, but no-one seems to be able to move away from them.

    Worse, nothing is going to change. It's how the world works.

    Compare it to the lies also told about the "War on Drugs".

    1) Higher prices caused by police action will drive down demand.

    2) The U.S. can solve the drug problem by imposing its policies on unwilling countries.

    3) Prohibition works.

    4) Giving police new technology (helicopters, satellite imagery) will help.

    5) "Just say no" is an effective slogan.

    ... and so on.

    We've been using the same basic tools with the same basic attitudes to fight drugs and we know they don't work. Everyone knows prohibition doesn't work, but no-one will accept it politically (usually due to some moral issue where they want the world to be one way even though it clearly isn't).

    Likewise I predict that there is no solution to preventing CO2 emissions that is politically possible. Everyone actually knows that, in their hearts, but few are prepared to raise their heads above the parapets and say so.

    Certainly no politician will both buy into AGW and say "sorry, can't do anything about it". So we will be stuck with the 10 myths until the warming goes away or we die.

    C'est la vie!

  22. Eric
    Yes you can't deny the left-right split but it's ironic that the same people decrying coal plants were previously defending coal mines from closure. The CO2 scare was known about but it was eclipsed by the acid rain and ozone scares. The first was a non-event and the second made us replace CFC's with HFC's - very powerful greenhouse gases which we are now banning too.

    If only the lefty snob-mob had some sense or memory of previous popular delusions then they might get some perspective rather than becoming single issue fanatics. Talking of which it seems the anti-globalizers just morphed straight into climate change activists.

    Of course the right are just as bad, with their paranoid fears of taxes and reds under the bed clouding every judgment.

    The best summary I've seen belongs to Craig Bohren here:

    Roger if I've duplicated here I'm sorry but your sometimes eats posts.

  23. This snippet made me think of this post (emphasis added):
    All of this is to say that there are both pervious and impervious students and that all of them are being introduced by “higher education” into a lower experience of life. Perhaps all of them are credulous young men and women, at best the trusting sons and daughters of trusting men and women who don’t know that they’re paying a lot of money so that their children can be told things that aren’t so by people who don’t know that they aren’t so.
    Whoring in Higher Education

    The climate field isn't alone in its struggle against unexamined sophism.