You Mean There is a Cost?

Via the Junk Science Blog:

EPA’s analysis of the Lieberman-Warner (LW) global warming bill is out — and it ain’t pretty.

EPA estimates that LW may reduce GDP by $2.9 trillion in 2050 while reducing atmospheric CO2 by around 25 ppm by 2095.

What a bargain — reduce GDP by an estimated 6.9 percent for no meaningful change in atmospheric CO2!

  • Scientist

    I do wish you’d try reading the source, rather than just quoting some ridiculously misquoted version of it.

    1. From page 3: The economic benefits of reducing emissions were not determined for this analysis

    2. The ‘reference scenario’ is that GDP in the US will increase by 215% between 2007 and 2050. So, that makes the 2050 GDP about 43.5 trillion USD, compared to 13.8 trillion in 2007.

    3. If the act is implemented, the 2050 GDP will be reduced by up to 7% from the reference scenario, making it 40.5 trillion instead of 43.5.

    4. So, if you ignore the economic benefits and only look at the economic costs, you’d believe that this act means you’ll only get 26.6 trillion dollars richer over the next 43 years instead of getting 29.6 trillion dollars richer.

    5. But you’re not silly enough to think that a report specifically analysing only the economic costs can tell us about the overall impact. Are you?

  • Industry Insider

    We know with 100% certainty that there will be economic costs associated with reducing emissions. It is unknown whether reducing ghg emissions will have any effect on climate. The net economic effects of climate change are also unknown. Therefore, it is unknown whether reducing emissions will bring any economic benefits. Some analyses have indicated that climate change will have a net positive on the world economy.

    At this point, I believe it is preferable to grow the economy now and mitigate impacts later if needed. There are much better uses for those trillions of dollars than reducing ghg emissions.

  • Scientist

    I’m guessing that when you talk about ‘the’ economy, you mean the US economy and not the world economy. There are several flaws in your reasoning.

    1. It is known very well that reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will affect the climate.

    2. Economic effects of climate change are very clear already, such as the precipitously rising insurance costs caused by extreme weather events.

    3. Investing in new technology spurs economic growth. Relying on old and inefficient technology while China and India forge ahead in manufacturing wind turbines and solar panels is not going to bring economic benefits.

    4. The US economy isn’t actually growing anyway.

  • Industry Insider

    Correct – I was referring to the U.S. economy since that was the subject of the initial posting.

    1. We can trade AGW-believer and skeptic arguments all day long, but based on the existing evidence, I am not convinced that ghgs drive changes in climate.

    2. I am not convinced that extreme weather events have become more frequent. I am convinced that significant residential, commercial, and industrial development has occurred in areas that are naturally prone to floods, fires, and hurricane strikes, resulting in more insurance claims than there would otherwise be if the development had occurred in less disaster-prone areas.

    3. Investing in existing technology also spurs economic growth. For example, the current fleet of U.S. coal-fired power plants is aging rapidly. Building new ones would spur economic growth, without increasing the cost of electricity. Question – How much does your wind and solar energy cost per kW as compared to coal? (Answer, coal is still lower-cost, even if you take into account the typical published values for the “social cost of carbon.”)

    4. Like all economies, the U.S. has its ups and downs. We have more ups than downs. Based on the past 100 years of history, most reasonable people would conclude growth will resume and continue in the future.

  • Scientist

    Let’s try to deal with point one first. Tell me at which point you stop agreeing:

    1. There is a greenhouse effect on Earth
    2. Its magnitude is ~33°C
    3. CO2 accounts for about 10-25% of that.
    4. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has gone up by almost 40% over the last 200 years.
    5. All else being equal, it is impossible for the concentration of a major greenhouse gas to increase by 40% and the temperature of the atmosphere to remain the same.

  • Industry Insider

    1. Agreed

    2. Agreed

    3. This range is high. Water vapor dominates. Maybe 5-10% associated with CO2, all else being equal; however, all else is not equal.

    4. Probably. And each incremental concentration increase has less effect than the one before.

    5. All else is not equal. There are many climate-influencing variables, and they all change. The proxy record does not indicate that CO2 drives temperature.

    Good regulations and economic policy weigh costs and benefits. If the costs are certain and high and the benefits are unknown and possibly zero (or even negative), it is not time to pull the trigger. A couple of questions for you:

    1. Do you disagree with me about weather events and insurance claims?

    2. What about energy costs? If we shut down all the fossil fuel-fired power plants today (or even 5 years from now), what would happen to the cost and reliability of the electricity supply? In the U.S., who feels more pain when electricity costs increase by 50% – Al Gore, or a single mom working 2 jobs just to pay her bills?

  • Scientist

    3. The figures I quote are from the scientific literature (Ramanathan and Coakley 1978 and many others since). Where are your figures from?

    4. Why only probably? It’s difficult to see where doubt could creep in here – the measurements are very accurate.

    5. Of course all else is not equal. But if all else was equal, what would your answer be? That is, do you believe that CO2 can affect the climate, although you don’t believe that it is affecting the climate? The proxy record provides plenty of evidence that CO2 affects climate, and that sometimes it’s the dominant effect (eg. Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum), and today). Solar forcing is currently negative. What else could currently be driving temperatures up?

    As for your questions:

    1. There is an element of truth in what you say, but it’s not the whole story. Hurricane frequency is not increasing but hurricane strength is, and the increase is strongly correlated with increasing tropical sea surface temperatures.

    2. Obviously no-one is advocating shutting down power stations without replacing their output. However, the long term benefits of moving to sustainable resources are clear. For a start, relying on fossil fuels is only going to lead to an increase in energy costs. Do you know by what factor the cost of oil has increased in the last four years? Do you know what proportion of its consumed oil the US has to import? Don’t you think an energy-independent US would be a good thing? Did you know that the average cost of electricity in the US has already risen by 20% in the last three years? What’s so great about the current energy policy?

  • Industry Insider

    3. Ramanathan, and Coakley 1978; Newell and Dopplick 1979. Take a look at these, and see what you get if you look at the fraction of the greenhouse effect that would result from adding the monitored concentration of CO2 “on top” of the existing atmosphere, including water vapor. I don’t see how you could arrive at a value over 10%. Of course, if you just took dry air and then added 300 ppm CO2, the change in greenhouse heating would be something like 25%. In the real world, water vapor and the associated overlap is always present.

    4. I agree 40% appears about right.

    5. I’m not convinced that temperatures are currently increasing. In fact, the trend seems to have gone negative recently. You mention the solar forcing has gone negative… maybe that’s the cause, I don’t know.

    I don’t have the time or interest to go on debating minutia of climate science. I agree that an energy-independent U.S. would be a great thing. As a matter of economic policy, I think it makes a lot of sense to develop our domestic petroleum reserves more fully, which would involve opening up more areas for exploration/drilling/transportation.

    I’ll close my remarks by reiterating my initial point: Incurring trillions of dollars in costs in the short-term to try to prevent some unknown future impacts that could possibly occur in the long-term would be a bad idea.

  • Scientist

    3. The statement I originally made was that CO2 accounts for 10-25% of the current greenhouse effect. It seems that you agree with that. I didn’t make any statement as to the effect of a doubling of CO2, but Ramanathan and Coakley give 1-2°C, giving an increase in the total greenhouse effect of 3-6%. So, it looks like we agree on this one.

    5. This is a disturbingly common misconception. The only way you can think that there is a negative temperature trend is by looking at very short timescales, during which internal variations dominate. Solar forcing has been zero or negative since 1985 at the latest.

    Proven US domestic petroleum reserves would keep the US going for less than three years, so in fact it makes little sense beyond the very short term to develop that resource. For coal, the situation is little difference – annual consumption is about 1.1 billion tonnes, while extractable reserves at producing mines are currently estimated at 18.9 billion tonnes, so US domestic coal will be exhausted within 20 years. It’s highly unlikely that some vast new supply of fossil fuel will be discovered.

    Even if you ignore the climate entirely, it makes very good sense to move away from an energy source that keeps you dependent on foreign countries, a dependence which is only going to increase, and the cost of which is rising precipitously. The later action is taken to move away from fossil fuels, the more it’s going to cost, and surely you’d agree that a switch is inevitable.

  • Industry Insider

    I know I said I was finished here, but I just wanted to clear up one item:

    3. My response was poorly written the first time. I do not agree here. See Ramanathan and Coakley 1978 or Newell and Dopplick 1979. To put it briefly, if you were remove all of the CO2 from the current atmosphere, the total ghg forcing would decrease by approximately 10% or less. When you start talking about anything more than 10%, you are neglecting other ghg’s and the overlap.

    5. U.S. domestic coal reserves will not be exhausted in 20 years. The credible estimates are saying an order of magnitude larger than that.

  • Industry Insider

    Oops – I addressed 2 items instead of one. My mistake.

  • Scientist

    ‘10% or less’? Not true. I think you’re misreading Ramanathan and Coakley.

    Please give a source for these alleged ‘credible estimates’.

  • PaulHan

    Don’t mistake a lack of exploration as a sign that it is running out. I’m afraid fossil fuels aren’t going to run out anytime soon. Provable coal reserves in the US show enough coal to last 236 years.

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/energyfacts/sources/non-renewable/coal.html

    Chevron makes a major oil discovery in the Gulf of Mexico ~3 to 15 billion boe.
    http://www.energybulletin.net/20140.html
    Petrobras oil discovery off Rio de Janeiro ~ 5 to 8 billion boe.

    Brazilian government take 41 blocks off auction because they share similarities with the above find.

    Alberta and venezuela Tar Sands. approx 2 trillion boe Worldwide.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_sands

    Methane Clathrates. approx equivalent to all known fossil fuel reserves

    Bear in mind that in 1998 oil was at $10 per barrel. Nobody is going to look for the stuff or extract it at that price. Now it’s heading for $120, everybody is looking for it, and it will be found. Expect lots of announcements like this over the course of the coming years. It will take a few years to put the infrastructure in place, but once it’s in place, we’ll be swimming in the stuff.
    While I don’t believe that the burning of it will make much of a difference to global warming, I am concerned about all the extra pollutants that are going to be pumped up into the atmosphere, something which environmentalists have lost sight of with their fixation on AGW, in my opinion.
    PaulHan