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Sandpit

May 9th, 2016

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

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  1. Ikonoclast
    May 9th, 2016 at 15:39 | #1

    The Fort McMurray, Alberta, wildfires are in a sense the epitome of tragic irony. Fort McMurray is an oil town right next to the Athabasca river and north of the river are the main Athabasca tar sands. The fires are believed to have displaced 88,000 of the city and environ’s 90,000 residents. The fires are wildfires in boreal forests. In 2013, this study appeared:

    “Recent burning of boreal forests exceeds fire regime limits of the past 10,000 years.”

    http://www.pnas.org/content/110/32/13055.full

    Mashable, Australia reports:

    “Destructive Canadian wildfire fueled in part by global warming.” (search for it).

    The key rational action (among others) would be the complete, immediate and permanent close-down of the Athabasca tar sands with ecological remediation action as far as possible. Anything less would indicate the Canadian government are not the least bit serious about preventing global warming. Most tar sand operations are currently temporarily closed due to the forest fires. The boreal forests of North America and Russia sequester about 30% of the globe’s land sequestered carbon. If or when these new fire regimes spread around the full boreal zone, matters could get much worse very rapidly and within a few decades.

    These Canadian events (again) indicate very clearly the end of the Holocene and the commencement of the Anthropocene. We have entered a new epoch, quite literally. Without immediate and radical emergency action (completing changing our economies in just a few decades) the battle for a livable biosphere for most humans will be irretrievably lost.

  2. BilB
    May 9th, 2016 at 16:44 | #2

    Sandpit repost:

    Ernestine, yesterday I floated the following notion to my economist friend expecting a resounding verbal thumping but got the opposite.
    Given that our inflation is heading to near zero on the back of stalled income growth driven weak consumer spending and the Reserve Bank is going to great lengths to prevent this while also attempting to hold our dollar low, it occurs to me that, following the evidence of many failed economies, the fast turnaround for this situation is for the Reserve Bank to print a measured amount of money for the government to disburse, not through banks, but through carefully targeted direct stimulus programmes such as regional development incentives, employment based environmental restitution programmes, and youth entrepreneurial programmes.

    I’m sure you will see some fish hooks in there, what might they be?

  3. John Turner
    May 9th, 2016 at 20:23 | #3

    @Ikonoclast
    It should be obvious to a blind man and his dog, so why are our politicians unable to see it.

  4. Ernestine Gross
    May 9th, 2016 at 20:44 | #4

    BilB,

    Under the current monetary institutional arrangements, the RBA ‘prints money’ if it buys financial securities on issue. To the best of my knowledge, during the post WWII period the financial securities in question in Australia are debt securities issued by ‘the government’, usually the Federal Government.

    It is useful to distinguish between debt securities issued by the Government for the purpose of financing (ie paying for) new budget deficits (this is a process rather than a once off event per annum) and securities which had been issued by the Government in the past (ie no new debt). The latter case usually (ie nothing else of significance changes) has implications for the ‘yield’ on the securities in question.

    When you write: “… the Reserve Bank to print a measured amount of money for the government to disburse, not through banks, but through carefully targeted direct stimulus programmes such as regional development incentives, employment based environmental restitution programmes, and youth entrepreneurial programmes” then this is to my understanding a specific proposition on how to spend an increase in government debt, financed through the issuing of debt securities sold to the RBA. (The former case in the foregoing paragraph.)

    If I understood correctly so far, then the question becomes, what are the merrits of the specific additional expenditure program. I propose to discuss this later, if you are interested. At present I just want to make sure there is mutual agreement on what is the institutional setting.

    So, this leaves ‘inflation’, interest rates, and the value of the dollar.

    I’d like to partially set aside the ‘inflation target rate range of 2 to 3 %’ beside noting that a zero or negative inflation causes a bit of a problem for leveraged organisations, including the government(s) under most but not all circumstances and, furthermore, that the measurement of inflation is another problem area (think of asset price inflation). Rightly or wrongly, I interpret the RBA’s inflation target rate range as no more than a managerial control tool, which was set conditional on a lot of other parameter values of ‘the system’. Its usefulness over time is therefore limited and it is of no primary importance. The RBA has to form an informed judgement regarding the role of the inflation target rate range in light of many other factors. It may suffice here to say that a lower than 2% annual inflation rate makes the target range a non-binding constraint at a point in time or during a period of time for lowering the interest rate.

    To the best of my knowledge, the RBA does not follow a monetary rule but uses the cash rate to ‘influence’ the economy. This influence works via the financial sector, banks, money market, other debt market, share market, physical asset markets.

    In principle (ie all else of importance being approximately the same), lowering the cash rate reduces the attractiveness of Australian debt securities (assuming the various debt markets adjust downward too). This has implications for the value of the A4 in terms of other currencies because there is less demand for A$ for the purpose of purchasing debt (and other) financial securities. (As you no doubt know, the USA, the EU, and Japan have approximately zero cash rates, which makes Aussie debt very atttractive.)

    As you may have read, the RBA is not particularly happy about the no change to negative gearing and capital tax concessions in the 2016 Budget. I understand this to imply that the RBA tried to use its policy variable, the cash rate, to keep the A$ low or get it lower to assist the export industries. The Gov’s Budget acts against this objective because the flow on effect of a reduction in the cash rate may be (can be expected to be) more lending for real estate purchases.

    That is it for round 1.

  5. Ernestine Gross
    May 9th, 2016 at 20:49 | #5

    NOT A4 but A$ in the second last paragraph.

  6. BilB
    May 9th, 2016 at 22:06 | #6

    I think I am following you, Ernestine. (please note I have only a small amount of knowledge in this area so what you are saying is knew knowledge for me). So you are saying that when the RBA prints money they release the new funds to buy back securities, or put another way retire debt. This releases money back to the banks who can then use that to fund private investment. They (the RBA) have some control over which institution’s securities to buy back, local or international, which gives some measure of control over where the released funds might be utilised, but not on what that use may be. That then is the institutional path for the disbursement of newly created money. But if the governments objective was to stimulate spending this would not have any certainty of achieving that, in fact it may do the opposite if the released institutional funds are absorbed as real estate price inflation which does very little to promote increased consumer spending. More or less your last point.

  7. Ernestine Gross
    May 10th, 2016 at 00:05 | #7

    BilB, before I reply to you (@6), I have a question. Are you familiar with the basic conceptual framework of financial accounting? I ask this question because your answer would assist me in how to approach my reply. It is rather late, or should I say early now. Hence my reply would come with a few hours delay.

  8. BilB
    May 10th, 2016 at 04:34 | #8

    It is better to assume not, Ernestine.

  9. Troy Prideaux
    May 10th, 2016 at 08:36 | #9

    It will be interesting to see what happens with the inflation figure(s) in the coming years/decades and what influence central/reserve banks can have on things. We have gone through some substantial (unprecedented) structural changes to both energy and retail economies over the last decade. If I want to purchase a pair of shoes now, I can just as easily purchase a pair in London than I can from my local mall – opening up considerable supply competition putting downward pressure on prices. Even our grocery duopoly is starting to feel the pressure from foreign competition. Falling interest rates (with regards to the consumer economy) have appeared to have been consumed more be housing leverage than discretionary spending although that is still strong. Things might likely hit a new equilibrium point where traditional monetary fundamentals start to do their thing again, but who knows when that point will be?

  10. Ivor
    May 10th, 2016 at 17:03 | #10

    @Troy Prideaux

    Things might likely hit a new equilibrium point where traditional monetary fundamentals start to do their thing again, but who knows when that point will be?

    Waiting for Godot?

  11. Ernestine Gross
    May 11th, 2016 at 00:14 | #11

    BilB, sorry for the delay.

    Regarding your @6 and taking note of your @8:

    You wrote: So you are saying that when the RBA prints money they release the new funds to buy back securities, or put another way retire debt. This releases money back to the banks who can then use that to fund private investment. They (the RBA) have some control over which institution’s securities to buy back, local or international, which gives some measure of control over where the released funds might be utilised, but not on what that use may be.”

    No, I am not saying this.
    First a technical point. It is the case that a monetary authority (sometimes called central bank) exchanges ‘money’ (an accounting entry denominated in currency units, which the recipient can then spend) for a financial security (a contractual agreement between two or more agents regarding monetary values to be exchanged over time under specified conditions [1]). However, this does not mean that the debt is “retired”. It means that the ownership of the debt has changed.

    While economists at times talk about ‘monetary policy’ as if it can be discussed in universal terms, in reality the institutional rules of the game (the legislation underpinning the operation of a monetary authority in a particular juristiction (‘country’) differs among juristictions.

    Returning to the quote from your post:
    What you described is roughly speaking relevant for the Federal Reserve in the USA. As for the ECB it is a little more complex. I don’t know enough about the Japanese system to comment.

    Lets focus on the RBA and lets start with the formal description of the legislative basis:

    ” The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is Australia’s central bank and derives its functions and powers from the Reserve Bank Act 1959. Its duty is to contribute to the stability of the currency, full employment, and the economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people. It does this by setting the cash rate to meet an agreed medium-term inflation target, working to maintain a strong financial system and efficient payments system, and issuing the nation’s banknotes.

    The RBA provides certain banking services as required to the Australian Government and its agencies, and to a number of overseas central banks and official institutions. Additionally, it manages Australia’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.” [Source: RBA web-site]

    The second paragraph is important in the present context. The RBA buys debt securities (“banking services”) from the Australian Government and its agencies under agreed conditions (including legislaton), which change from time to time.

    Suppose the Australian Government needs ‘money’ to finance a shortfall of taxation revenue to cover expenses, then the Government issues bonds (debt securities of various maturities and coupon rates) to ‘the market’ under a tender system. If there is insufficient demand for the issue then the RBA buys them (the term is ‘monetisation’ [of a government deficit]).

    When I read your first post, I understood you had in mind a particular expenditure program which needed to be funded (financed) through the creation of ‘money’ (‘monetisation’).

    An aside. Are your economist friends by any chance ‘Modern Monetary Theorists’? If so, what is the institutional environment they invisage and how does it differ from what we have got?

  12. Ikonoclast
    May 11th, 2016 at 09:54 | #12

    Institutional arrangements differ by jurisdiction but it seems to me that there are certain commonalities in modern fiat money systems.

    1. They ARE fiat monies. They are established as money by government regulation or law and are accepted as money by general custom in the jurisdiction when the system runs with basic success. The second point is important. A government (not the US in this example) can fiat a currency but a population can resist (maybe resist a hyperinflating fiat currency) by dealing mainly in US dollars.

    2. They are not commodity monies.

    3. They are representative monies in two senses. Face value is almost always greater than the value as material (or energetic) substance. A fiat currency is commodity-backed money in the sense that the general stores of wealth, rates of production of wealth and rates of delivery of goods and services in the jurisdiction must essentially and broadly back the value of money supply or the currency may be subject to hyperinflation.

    In the light of this discussion, I look at the economy as two systems; a real system and a formal system. The real system is what economists call the real economy. The formal system is what the economists call the financial economy. As with any interaction of human created formal systems with real systems, the human goal is a successful interaction in the sense of the formal system modelling or mapping the real system, accurately in at least the essentials, in ways which facilitate successful real system manipulations.

    I assume, not being a person with any formal economic studies, that the goal of a national government of good will or at least of enlightened self-interest, will be to ensure, among other objectives, the following. The money supply must reflect (and facilitate) the needs of the real economy in the sense that the stores and flows of money accurately model and facilitate the stores, flows and needs of the real economy. Under enlightened government, the needs of the economy would mean the needs of the people.

    Whatever the precise institutional arrangements, jurisdiction by jurisdiction, surrounding the creation of fiat money, if the money supply (how it is added, how it is withdrawn and how it flows) meets the needs of the economy and thus the people, then it is fulfilling its function. The “pragmatic” devil is not in the institutional accounting detail as such, at the precise point of the creation and destruction of fiat monies, but in the actual detail of its introduction into, and withdrawal from, the stores and flows of the full financial economy.

    To explain my last sentence above: it’s not how you make it, it’s how you use it. More precisely, it’s how much is made (or destroyed) relative to the real economy and at what points in the circuits of the real economy it is introduced and withdrawn by government fiat action. So personally, I no longer get hung up on some formal MMT obsessions with fiat money accounting, though entertaining that form of thinking was a stage I had to go through to demystify money in my mind (separate money from ideas which result in the reification of money). However, to be fair to aspects of MMT, it does work to demystify the reification of money, which intentional or natural reflex reification, via a propagandised view of money, is a clear part of the strategy of financial capitalists to control our economy to their more exclusive benefit.

    To trim down and conclude a long post, the possibilities of what could be done with the fiat money system are now deliberately narrowed and limited to suit the needs of plutocratic, corporate and financial capital. A simple example is the over-reliance on monetary policy and the reluctance to use fiscal policy, along with an obsession about budget numbers, austerity and pro-cyclical policy, rather than concern for the effects of budgets on real people. It does not take an MMT theorist to see all that. Plenty of other economists see that and say it.

    In another post, I might make some of my observations about current money creation and ask some of the questions this general issue suggests to me.

  13. Ernestine Gross
    May 11th, 2016 at 11:36 | #13

    What is ‘money’, Ikonoclast? Surely talking about ‘the supply of money’ presupposes precise and descriptive knowledge of what it is that is to be supplied.

    You complain about the ‘narrowed and limited suit of specified interests’ to which monetary policy is directed. I say this is the outcome of the rules of the game, that is the laws of juristictions. They have not remained constant since the link to commodity money has been broken in the official monetary history story.

    I don’t agree with your separation of the ‘real economy’ from the ‘financial economy’, even though I do know this ‘veil of money’ idea and the associated ‘functions of money’ idea is still held by many economists and it is certainly found in textbooks.

    Where there is agreement among many economists, including myself, and others is the objective you have specified. But wanting something doesn’t usually lead to getting it unless one knows how to achieve it.

  14. Ikonoclast
    May 11th, 2016 at 17:02 | #14

    @Ernestine Gross

    It’s a tough set of questions you ask. Here is my attempt at providing answers, some quoted.

    1. What is money?

    “Money is any item or verifiable record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a particular country or socio-economic context, or is easily converted to such a form. The main functions of money are distinguished as: a medium of exchange; a unit of account; a store of value; and, sometimes, a standard of deferred payment. Any item or verifiable record that fulfills these functions can be considered as money.” – Wikipedia.

    This seems to me to be a reasonable basic answer though probably not an exhaustive answer. Outside of commodity money, money usually has no significant use beyond its function as money.

    2. I complain about the ‘narrowed and limited suit of specified interests’ to which CURRENT monetary policy is directed. I agree with your statements:- “I say this is the outcome of the rules of the game, that is the laws of jurisdictions. They have not remained constant since the link to commodity money has been broken in the official monetary history story.”

    3. My argument re “separation of the ‘real economy’ from the ‘financial economy’” is complex (and perhaps still too nebulous) and I probably did not do it justice in my post above. I might even have given you the wrong impression of my position. I certainly do not hold to the “neutrality of money” theory. (Neutrality of money is the idea that a change in the stock of money affects only nominal variables in the economy such as prices, wages, and exchange rates, with no effect on real variables, like employment, real GDP, and real consumption.- Wikipedia.)

    I do indeed hold that there is a real system (real economy) and that there is a formal system (financial system). Clearly, these systems combine and are combined into a larger total system with feedbacks and effects passing both ways. This view is consistent with a complex systems analysis of political economy.

    At this point, I would need to take a detour through my own developed variant of complex systems philosophy and process metaphysics to explain myself. “There is nothing worse than a late developing philosopher,” as Tyrion Lannister said.

    Let me attempt to abbreviate this as much as possible. It turns out, upon a full examination, that there are ONLY real systems. This follows if one adopts an a priori position of physical process monism as I do. In that case, what do I mean by talking about real systems and formal systems? It turns out there is an important qualitative difference between the two but not a category or substance difference. To put it simply, in real systems matter-energy transfers predominate and are the “determining processes” for producing results. In human formal systems, information transfers predominate and are the “determining processes” for producing results.

    The main point of our formal systems (language, maths, plans, laws, regulations, procedures, accounting, financial systems etc.) is to facilitate successful manipulations of real systems. These human formal system are themselves real systems but of high information content and relatively low matter-energy content.

    In the two cases, of “formal systems” and “real systems” (so called in standard parlance), the key difference is the markedly different ratio of (humanly discerned or designated) information content to matter-energy content. We can manipulate formal systems to create, store, transfer, translate, execute or enact, test and destroy information and do this at a relatively low matter-energy cost. This enables us to model reality and to run experiments on reality in our models (of all types) rather than full blown tests in reality. There is a matter-energy saving in accurate modelling as well as a restriction of models to key components and an exclusion of complicating or obfuscating aspects of reality (for analytical purposes).

    Money, within the rules of a financial economy, performs some similar tasks. The money and financial system in a modern economy, if it is any good, is a model of the real economy system with some degree of accuracy or truth (based on the congruence theory of truth). But as you point out, it is a special kind of model. It not only models but interacts with that which it models and feedbacks go both ways. At this point the theory must get complex and I have not developed out these ideas further at this stage.

  15. Ivor
    May 11th, 2016 at 20:46 | #15

    Money in the hands of capitalist banks is very different to the type of money workers get through wages and salaries.

    Capitalists get as much as they want at the prevailing interest rate – whenever they want. They then negative gear all their costs against their income (the interest rate they charge downstream borrowers).

    On the other hand workers only get a fix wage in cash and have no right to any level other than what they can extract through class struggle.

  16. Ikonoclast
    May 12th, 2016 at 06:44 | #16

    The recent boreal forest wildfires in Alberta should be a wake-up call to cease tar sands oil operations. There is a clear link between global warming and the increased boreal forest wildfire regime. It is patently clear that tar sands oil operations should cease immediately.

    “To constrain climate change, such unconventional oil use (tar sands) needs to be stopped, according to scientists.” – Scientific American.

    Yet as late as 3/3/2016, PM Trudeau of Canada argued for more pipelines to carry tar sands oil to the coast and was saying; “We want the low-carbon economy that continues to provide good jobs and great opportunities for all Canadians. To get there, we need to make smart strategic investments in clean growth and new infrastructure, but we must also continue to generate wealth from our abundant natural resources to fund this transition to a low-carbon economy.”

    In essence he was saying that we need a low carbon economy and to get there we need to burn as many dirty carbon fuels as possible. Given that the remaining fossil fuel reserves are several times greater than the amount we can afford to burn at this late stage, Trudeau’s statement makes no sense at all.

    Ceasing tar sand operations would not be a total economic loss. In the current low oil price, loss making environment it makes at least contemporary sense. Given that oil prices might remain low it might make permanent sense. All the gas used to run the oil sands operations could be directly used for energy needs. That would be a significant offset to current losses, economic and energetic. Preservation of the wilderness will also pay off in the long run.

  17. Ikonoclast
    May 12th, 2016 at 08:43 | #17

    Ivor at comment 15.

    Yes, more news about the outrageous things that happen under late stage capitalism.

    http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/05/11/hedge-fund-managers-are-winning-2015-another-year-outrageous-compensation

  18. Joe Blow
    May 12th, 2016 at 15:07 | #18

    Ikon, opponents of the mining of tar sands should support fracking for gas as it’s a much cleaner fuel and way less CO2 intensive.

  19. Ikonoclast
    May 12th, 2016 at 15:44 | #19

    @Joe Blow

    That’s like saying opponents of murder should support manslaughter.

  20. Joe Blow
    May 12th, 2016 at 16:08 | #20

    Ikon, hardly. Like it or not hydrocarbon fuels will be around for a long time. Natural gas is much cleaner than tar sands. Around twice as clean IFIRC.

    I always thought a far better way of getting rid of coal as a fuel was to point out just how dirty it was in the ‘conventional’ sense, rather than its CO2 impact. Same would go for tar sands – only more so.

  21. Ikonoclast
    May 13th, 2016 at 10:05 | #21

    @Joe Blow

    Like it or not, if hydrocarbon and carbon fuels are “around” (in use for fuels) for even another 20 years, then serious runaway* climate change is almost certainly locked in.

    Natural gas sources vary. There are these broad types;

    1. Conventional non-associated gas (not associated with oil).
    2. Conventional associated gas (associated with oil).
    3. Coalbed methane.
    4. Tight sand gas.
    5. Shale gas.
    6. Methane clathrates (undersea and not exploited).

    Exploiting all types can allow fugitive emissions of raw natural gases. The non-conventional types like coalbed methane and shale gas are very dirty to exploit and causes problems of fugitive emissions and pollution of ground water, aquifers, lakes and waterways. While it is doubtful that any natural gas source exploitation is as environmentally dirty as tar sands, the unconventional sources are still very dirty and dangerous to the environment.

    Certainly all tar sands, coal mines and unconventional natural gas sources should be shut down immediately, meaning as quickly as technically possible. All exploration for all hydrocarbon and carbon fuels should cease now. Discovered reserves are already several times greater than we can afford to burn relative to climate change dangers. Thus there is zero logic for even one iota of further exploration.

    *Note: Runaway climate change here means a runaway to a new maximum of maybe 16 degrees C above the pre-industrial level and likely occurring over many thousands of years. I am NOT suggesting runaway to a boiled planet above 100 degrees C nor to a Venus effect of about 460 degrees C.

    “Our calculated global warming in this case (burning all currently known and exploitable fossil fuel reserves) is 16°C, with warming at the poles about 30°C. Calculated warming over land areas averages ~20°C. Such temperatures would eliminate grain production in almost all agricultural regions in the world (Hatfield et al., 2011). Increased stratospheric water vapor would diminish the stratospheric ozone layer.” (Anderson et al., 2012.) – From Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere (MAHB) website.

  22. Ivor
    May 13th, 2016 at 12:34 | #22

    @Joe Blow

    Hydrocarbon fuels are not the problem because biofuels are hydrocarbon as is wood fuel. These are carbon neutral.

    The problem is that the CO2 that was once in the atmosphere (when life based on oxygen could not exists and present temperatures also did not exist) is now being reintroduced into the atmosphere to again make conditions uninhabitable for the present forms of life.

  23. Ikonoclast
    May 13th, 2016 at 15:43 | #23

    @Ivor

    To be pedantic, wood is mostly cellulose which is a carbohydrate not a hydrocarbon. To be more pedantic wood is mainly cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin but then there are some fatty acids, resin acids, waxes and terpenes.

    Again pedantically ,vegetable oils are different from mineral oils. Vegetable oils are triglycerides and mineral oils are hydrocarbons.

    I am no organic chemist but these facts are easily check-able on the net. So technically, hydrocarbon fuels are indeed the problem along with coal of course. Biofuels belong to different chemical classes. Of course, wood can be processed down to charcoal or methane. My grandfather ran a car and a bus on wood-gasifiers in the great depression in Victoria. However, given the development of electric cars, I doubt wood-gasifiers will return in first world countries unless there is an almighty economic collapse. Hmmm, which means they might return. 😉

  24. Ernestine Gross
    May 13th, 2016 at 16:30 | #24

    @Ikonoclast

    Yes, the Wiki general description of the notion of ‘money’ is quite adequate (first sentence only, the second sentence contains a theoretical conjecture). But, to talk about ‘the supply of money’ requires a translation of the words into something that is measurable or at least quantifiable. What is it?

    There is no age limit on philosophising, as far as I know. People say a lot of things.

    Yes, everything is related to everything else, which of course does not mean that everything is the same thing as everything else. For example, Roy Radner first described an ‘elementary financial security’ (as distinct from ‘a commodity’) and then examined how the financial sector (not his words but translated into more familiar terminology) interact with the ‘real sector’. The outcome, the conditions under which an economy with only commodities is ‘efficient’ (in a well specified way) didn’t work anymore. Why? Because there is no given limit (resource constraint) for the issuing of financial securities. So, ‘we’ learned something, or should I say ‘we’ could have learned something before ‘deregulating’ the financial system and pretending it isn’t any different from fruit and vegie markets.

  25. Ikonoclast
    May 13th, 2016 at 19:30 | #25

    @Ernestine Gross

    I take your points and I think we basically agree.

    You: “Because there is no given limit (resource constraint) for the issuing of financial securities.”
    Me: “Numbers are easier to manipulate than real quantities.” (tongue in cheek).
    Me: “We can manipulate formal systems to (generate) information and do this at a relatively low matter-energy cost.” (being a little more serious).

    We are saying the same things from different perspectives. My statements are very general and could not of themselves lead to any detailed analysis of financial markets.

  26. Ernestine Gross
    May 13th, 2016 at 21:22 | #26

    @Ikonoclast

    Here we are, there is more than one way to skin a cat – metaphorically speaking.

  27. Ikonoclast
    May 20th, 2016 at 09:32 | #27

    Here is a climate article where the headline makes the exact mistake that the scientist quoted in the article warns about. The headline confuses human emissions with global atmospheric concentrations. This mistake is unfortunate because it obscures the real problem. The real problem is that our past emissions have done so much damage (generating natural system feedbacks) that even plateauing our emissions now is not enough. Atmospheric concentrations keep rising anyway.

    The headline reads: “Far From Turning a Corner, Global CO2 Emissions Still Accelerating”.
    It should have read: “Far From Turning a Corner, Atmospheric CO2e concentrations Emissions Still Rising”.

    In the article we see the scientist quoted.

    “Trenberth said it’s important to view the inventory’s data in the context of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

    “There are two key aspects of this that are often confused by the public—the greenhouse gas emissions and the concentrations. We measure…the concentrations quite well, but how they connect to the emissions is a tougher problem,” he said.

    “Under the Paris agreement, all the countries are supposed to report what their emissions are. The problem is under-reporting of various kinds,” he said, highlighting methane from fracking as particularly problematic.

    “We know that methane escapes from wells and pipelines, but it’s probably greatly under-reported how much is going into the atmosphere. And how good are China’s numbers on emissions?” he said.

    It’s more than ironic that the headline makes the mistake Trenberth highlights. However, the real story IS that atmospheric concentrations are still rising. And this IS what counts. Pointing to a flattening of claimed or estimated human emissions is almost beside the point when atmospheric concentrations are still rising. Either the claimed or estimated human emissions are incorrect OR (not XOR by the way) somehow we have already kicked off feedbacks which increase atmospheric concentrations despite us being able to plateau or slightly reduce human emissions.

    The combination of these factors indicates we are already in dangerous territory. We can reduce emissions, even significantly, and perhaps still see atmospheric concentrations of GHGs rise for decades or even centuries more. As the northern tundra and boreal forests warm, methane releases, boreal wildfires and peat fires all potentially expand. Self-accelerating climate change has already started. This seems to be what the data are telling us.

    “Though not being communicated, the alarming data above for 5 April 2016, looks like the state of the climate is set up for feedback runaway global climate.

    ??Runaway climate change is not a scientific recognized term, but it is by far the greatest danger of global warming. A runaway state is the result of greater climate change (locked in) commitment, plus many amplifying feedbacks that are caused (triggered) by global warming.

    If planetary feedback emissions are increasing to the extent of driving the increasing atmospheric GHG levels faster, because of added locked in commitment, for policy making we should consider that a state of committed climate change runaway exists (or at least an extreme zero tolerance risk exists). A sudden jump or accelerating global temperature increase at the same time makes the situation more definite. We are in that state in 2016.??” – Climate Emergency Institute.

  28. Ikonoclast
    May 20th, 2016 at 09:55 | #28

    Correction:

    “It should have read: “Far From Turning a Corner, Atmospheric CO2e Concentrations Still Rising”.”

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