An optimistic view on climate change

Regular readers will be aware that I have a generally optimistic disposition. You may wish to bear this in mind when you read this Inside Story piece arguing that the prospects are good for stabilising global greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm.

On the whole, though, I think excessive pessimism is a bigger problem than over-optimism. As I’ve argued before, I think lots of people have locked themselves into positions (eg advocacy of geoengineering, or belief in the end of industrial civilisation) that are based on the assumption that stabilisation is impossible. Many of these people are not open to evidence that stabilization is feasible, and even likely.

There’s a strong case that we should do better than 450 ppm, with a common ‘safe’ figure being 350 ppm. Since we passed that level some time ago, that requires a long period of negative net emissions, which cannot easily be achieved with current technology. Still, if net emissions are reduced to zero in the second half of this century, and some technological advances are made over the next fifty years (a plausible assumption if we put in some effort), even 350 ppm might be feasible.

Australia is dragging the chain under the Abbott government, but even Abbott seems to be feeling the international pressure judging by recent reports. With luck the last couple of years will turn out to have been a temporary detour in progress towards decarbonization.

65 thoughts on “An optimistic view on climate change

  1. The tone of the article is that technology and distaste for coal will bring about reduced emissions. Maybe so but depletion and an economic slowdown could be even more important. I think world emissions will peak before 2050 in the complete absence of carbon pricing, renewables quotas and the like. For Australia the big issues are coal baseload replacement, rising gas prices and oil supply vulnerability. Solar scarcely figures. All new forms of energy will be more expensive than what we are used to.

    I expect coal to be our main source of electricity until at least 2030. I think world liquid fuel production will be less than it is now (92 mbpd) despite IEA predictions of growth to 105 mbpd. That will spook everybody into conservation whether or not the oil price is high. As the big coal stations fall into disrepair they won’t be rebuilt with gas backed but overbuilt wind the likely winner. High electricity prices will discourage consumption. We’ll have a frugal low or no growth economy with declining car ownership. Plasma TVs, Holden V8s and jacuzzis will be a fading memory.

  2. Don’t take away pessimism, fellow.

    How can we avoid doing stuff and walow, without pessimism, fatalism and defeatism?

  3. I am watching the US response to the pope with interest. It’ll be quite hard for the mad monk to argue that the Catholics in the USA are obeying their pope but he shouldn’t. I’d like to think he’d also be shamed by the company he’s keeping in that regard, but I don’t think that’s in his emotional repertoire.

    I don’t think negative emissions is a big jump from zero, once we have the path established. That’s one of the few reasons I see for supporting offsets from dodgy stuff like revegetation. Those efforts are funding research into sequestration and that will be very useful once we decide that we need to do it on a large scale.

  4. A balanced article, JQ.

    It seems to me, if the PM needs a business adviser then it should be a person who has created a successful business, preferably a science based one, not merely chaired well established enterprises or institutions.

  5. It’s often good to be optimistic however the climate is only one of the major risks to the ecosystem.
    The primary risk is the “space” humans occupy in the system and the resources we appropriate for our species at the expense of the health of the whole.
    We are depleting the capital of the ecosystem and showing no signs of allowing natural processes to balance at a level that will ensure continued health.
    Co2 concentrations are an important measure but reducing the ppm to long term average levels is a pipedream at the current levels of population, habitat destruction (both land and ocean) and with the current and forseeable structure of the world economy.

  6. I didn’t read it as being overly optimistic.

    As far as I’m aware most pessimists (sticking with the labelling) don’t say “it can’t be done”, or “it can only be done if we all live in caves”. Their view is roughly “we probably won’t do it because our political systems are too corrupted to do what is necessary”.

    I read the piece as broadly saying “we can probably do it, and if we hope enough we might end up actually doing it”.

    This part:

    A win for the Republicans in the 2016 US elections could produce a “coalition of the unwilling” capable of setting back action on climate change for years, perhaps long enough to put the goal of preventing dangerous warming out of reach.

    implies that a win for the Democrats in the 2016 US elections is essential to prevent dangerous warming. I simply can’t see how that could be so. Mr ‘Hopey Changey’ hasn’t done anything to date that supports that idea and we don’t even know who the Democrat president would be.

    I’d be overjoyed to be convinced that I should be more optimistic about our prospects, but just don’t see a concrete basis for it – apart from “hope”.

  7. Mr ‘Hopey Changey’ hasn’t done anything to date that supports that idea and we don’t even know who the Democrat president would be.

    Much tighter fuel efficiency standards for cars, regs closing down many old coal-fired power stations and making new ones almost impossible, new standards for trucks and planes, joint target announcement with Xi Jinping and more.

    Seems like a lot to me, and a Repub president wouldn’t have done any of it.

    Clinton the likely Dem candidate in 2016 is good on the issue, and Bernie Sanders (unlikely challenger) even better. All Repubs are deniers. So, yes it makes a big difference.

  8. I’m not talking about doing “nothing”, I’m talking about doing “enough”.

    I don’t believe (and I think the science agrees) that climate change is a case of “anything, no matter how small, is better than nothing” once we’re into the danger zone.

  9. Caritas has a petition relating to Pope Francis’ Encyclical seeking support for climate change to be limited to 1.5 degrees, which is a lower limit than the agreed upon 2 degrees.

    To world leaders
    Climate change affects everyone, but especially the poor and most vulnerable people. Impelled by our Catholic faith, we call on you to drastically cut carbon emissions to keep the global temperature rise below the dangerous threshold of 1.5°C, and to aid the world’s poorest in coping with climate change impacts.

  10. According to the Guardian the Obama administration has been releasing new climate policies at the rate of every week or so- that was in an article about the Whitehouse providing NASA information to developing countries to help them with disasters.

    Last night I went to the launch of a report The Longest Conflict: Australia’s Climate Security challenge, and the defense expert from the UK Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti said that pressure may be brought to bear from fellow Five Eyes countries if Australia does not improve its climate response.

    Former ADF chief Chris Barrie said maybe national service could help with climate change responses when I asked about how the defense force could work with the community to rapidly respond to climate change in a wartime mobilization scenario. This was quite a good suggestion I hadn’t thought of before, and having national service for young people would mobilize enough people so you wouldn’t need to conscript much of the general population. Young people might think it is unfair they have to do national service when other generations haven’t except for in WW2 and the Vietnam War, so maybe the government could provide their tertiary education or other post secondary training free of fees and maybe help with housing like the soldiers settlements program, and they can be memorialized on plaques and RSL monuments as peacekeepers like soldiers too.

  11. But pessimism about what? I’m inclined to be wildly optimistic about what’s technically possible, but pessimistic (from a narrow human perspective) about what’s actually going to happen. The post-Enlightenment knowledge explosion makes possibilities limitless, but the base nature of the violent ape and recent historical/cultural trends foreclose them. I haven’t yet seen even one remotely plausible narrative which ends in anything other than the more-or-less gradual destruction of all Earth’s ecosystems. And given worldwide permissive cultural attitudes towards technologies of violence, something more suddenly cataclysmic will be hard to avoid. Solving the climate change issue will be dodging only one of a hailstorm of bullets.

    I suspect this was inevitable from the point of humankind’s emergence. Once evolution chucks up a creature cognitively and culturally flexible enough to occupy any niche, it will inevitably overrun everything, unless there’s an available transcending power. With apologies to Hegel, Tim Flannery, and the Pope, surely few really believe in those any more?

  12. The thread so far…

    Hermit: ‘All new forms of energy will be more expensive than what we are used to’… doom.
    Ratee: ‘Climate is only one of the major risks to the ecosystem’… doom.
    Megan: ‘Mr Hopey Changey’… doom.
    Crispin Bennett: ‘Base nature of the violent ape’… doom.
    Newtownian: ‘Until economic theory is radically reformulated’… doom

    If nothing else, the thread is certainly a confirmation of your second paragraph, JQ. 🙂

    (Apologies to Paul, Moz, Ernestine and ZM)

  13. @Tim Macknay

    That’s very glib.

    I’m quite open to, and accepting of “evidence that stabilization is feasible”.

    Presuming you are an optimist (again, sticking to the chosen labelling) maybe you can help me get to the next part: “…and even likely”?

  14. At the risk of being branded a “pessimist” for not being supportive of the non-LNP….

    Legislation to cut the renewable energy target (RET) has passed Federal Parliament, along with the contentious inclusion of native wood waste as a possible fuel source.

    After protracted negotiations, Labor and the Government agreed to reduce the original 41,000 gigawatt hour target to 33,000…

    Well look at that!

    The ALP/LNP fascist duopoly are at it again!

    Yep, I can see that voting for one half of that duopoly will definitely stop the duopoly as a whole from dooming us. (I can’t really).

  15. I’m optimistic that Australia will contribute a net negative at the coming conference in Paris. PM Tony Abbott is not feeling any heat from the international community—I doubt he would care one whit about what they have to say. Hoping to make peace with PM Tony Abbott on climate policy is to sup with the Devil: a meal of thin gruel and gristle for you, the sucking of the marrow of your very soul for He. There is a pernicious asymmetry to it.

    Meanwhile, rural LNP members want to talk about…dodgy thermometers! Stupid this thick needs carving with a chainsaw.

  16. Two other reasons for optimism.

    1. JQ remains very prudent on the costs of renewables, particularly solar. We are already at “about the same price as fossil”. But onshore wind in the US Midwest is already cheaper than fossil (LCOE 4c/kwh pre-tax). The best new solar plants are at 6c/kwh (Dubai, Texas). But there is no reason to think these costs are the limit. It’s likely in my non-expert opinion that further progress in wind will be quite slow, as increases in size and height are running into diminishing returns. But in solar, we are still far from the end of innovation. Trina have released a poly PERC module at 19% efficiency – remember the current policy standard is 16%. Expert Martin Green (just about the top researcher on pv) thinks we can get to 30% efficiency with perovskite-on-silicon tandem cells; and perovskite is a thin-film technology, using vapour deposition not sawing wafers. Fraunhofer for one think that progress will continue. This means that far from costing about the same, a solar-and-wind based energy transition will come out markedly cheaper. I predict this to be the message of the next IPCC mitigation report.

    The difference will affect the behaviour of investors. There may very well be a self-reinforcing market stampede into renewables and away from fossil. Not a sure thing, but tipping points are real.

    2. The international politics have got much, much better. The Obama-Xi deal was very important, partly because there was nothing quixotic about it. The commitments came from sober calculations of national self-interest, taking account of the “about the same” cost framework. In addition, the UN negotiations have ditched the impossible paradigm of a zero-sum allocation of a global carbon budget, for an open-ended “coalition of the willing”. I don’t know how much Christina Figueres is responsible for this, but it’s happened on her watch. Expectations of a concrete deal in Paris haves shifted from “next to impossible” to “very probable”.

    The price is that the deal will be inadequate: it will put us on track for say 3 degrees of warming this century. But so what? The agreement will include a review in 5 years or so, to tighten up the commitments and bring in the laggards like Australia. In 2020 the costs of transition will have gone negative and the damage will be more visible, so it chust might vork.

  17. If parts of the world are paying 6c per kwh for commercial solar how come muggins ACT is paying 18c for Royalla? I think at under $2 per installed watt for polycrystalline silicon the capex is low enough. A breakthrough must now come in commercial electricity storage with a target figure of 5c per kwh suggested in California. Another factoid for we doomers… all the world’s energy storage projects add to about 12 Gwh or 15 seconds global electricity consumption.

  18. These are hopeful signs which JQ mentions. I agree. However, I have been hearing about “hopeful signs” for 25 years. Meanwhile CO2 concentrations have been going up inexorably and still do so. The site skepticalscience argues that 450 ppm is not a safe target and that 350 ppm would be the upper limit for a safe target. We are currently at about 403 ppm.

    When I see atmospheric CO2 plateau and at least very slightly fall for a decade (i.e. the record year being 10 years in the past) then I will begin to become hopeful. What concerns me is that as we add non-fossil fuel energy to the mix we might not remove fossil fuel energy fast enough.

    Before I get roasted for making “assertions” let me add that JQ’s article while correct about the hopeful signs then goes on to assert that the “prospects are good” to hold at 450 ppm and maybe even get back to 350 ppm by century end. These are mere assertions. Where is the hard evidence?

    What is our budget of oil and coal (how much more can we burn) for concentrations to stabilise at 450 ppm? Do we have a global plan to get there? Are we on track? What are the “scrubbing” mechanisms natural or human-induced that would reduce 450 ppm to 350 ppm by the end of the century?

    Claims we are on track are mere assertions without the detailed evidence. But it’s okay for optimists to make assertions while pessimists are called out on them. 😉

  19. Hermit :
    If parts of the world are paying 6c per kwh for commercial solar how come muggins ACT is paying 18c for Royalla?

    D’ye no ken hoo mukkets wurrk, laddie?

    If customers are happy to pay 18c/kWh why would any generator/retailer try to lower prices unless they have unused capacity? Much bgetter to pocket the extra profit and see if they can’t gain a further advantage by gaming the regulator. The more ethical ones will use the profit to expand, on the basis that if they are bigger the economies of scale will enable them to generate at even lower cost and drive fossil generators out of the market sooner.

  20. @Megan

    That’s very glib.

    And ‘Mr Hopey-Changey’ isn’t? Honestly, Megan…

    And regarding *crickets*, my apologies, but I had other things to do with my evening. 🙂

    But seriously though, and please don’t take offence to this, as none is intended, but based on previous discussions I’ve had with you on this subject, and various other comments you’ve made about it (including the ones on this thread), I’ve yet to see any evidence that you have a strong grasp of the issue or that your engagement with it goes beyond the superficial. Your principal engagement with it appears to be as an opportunity to ventilate your views about partisan politics. The fact that you’ve chosen to veer back into that area on this very thread, doesn’t exactly work in your defence! 😉 (Not that your anger at the spinelessness of the ALP on many issues is without justification – quite the contrary).

    But the long and short of it is that I find myself unable to take you seriously on the subject of climate change, so that’s something we’ll have to agree to disagree on, I’m afraid.

  21. @Tim Macknay

    Fair enough.

    Maybe someone else will accept that I am sincere when I say I am “open to evidence that stabilization is … likely” and will point me to that evidence.

  22. @Megan

    Yes, JQ has pointed to hopeful signs that stabilization might be likely but not to thorough-going evidence that it is both likely and likely to happen in time. That compound question is still considerably more open at this point in time.

  23. So the ALP finished up (once again) agreeing with the LNP that burning native wood waste would be included into the RET?

  24. PS- To be clear, I reject Tim’s characterisations of me (weak grasp of the issue of climate change, superficial engagement on it and lack of seriousness about it). When I say “Fair enough”, I mean on the decision not to answer my question.

    Troy, yes that’s right. And they have just (or are about to) again join with the LNP to slam through amendments to close off a possible High Court challenge to the funding of the Nauru concentration camp.

  25. @Megan
    I know the ALP are pretty damn right of centre these days, but all this “rubber stamping” this week of issues/points they’ve recently contested makes me wonder about some shady dealing going on behind the scenes. It’s all a bit suss and sickening actually.

  26. Ikonoclast :

    What is our budget of oil and coal (how much more can we burn) for concentrations to stabilise at 450 ppm? Do we have a global plan to get there? Are we on track?

    If we’re to have a 66% chance of avoiding the (too hot) 2 C limit, humanity can burn another 275 Gt carbon. Assuming equal distribution amongst 9 billion people to account for near-term population growth, that’s 30 tons each.

    How many people under 50-60 could confidently say that they could complete their lives on 30 tons of carbon? Few in the Western world, and many in the developing world want at least that much just to catch up with us. Even on a global average, after maintaining an eye-watering disparity of share, I doubt that we’d come within a bull’s roar of staying within this limit.

    For this reason and many others unrelated to climate change I’m a pessimist pragmatist.

    Oh, I still think that we need to try as hard as we can to change as much as we are able to, but it’s important to understand that there’s no soft landing in the range of trajectories to which we are already committed. The energy/environmental/resource/population/lifestyle numbers just don’t permit it.

  27. How many people under 50-60 could confidently say that they could complete their lives on 30 tons of carbon?

    Anyone who gets all their electricity from renewable sources, and drives an electric car would achieve this fairly easily. So, your knockdown demonstration turns into a claim about the speed at which the energy system can be decarbonized.

    To restate, the IPCC (using the 66 per cent criterion) estimates that what is needed is a 40 to 70 per cent reduction on 2010 levels by 2050

    Click to access 20140413_pr_pc_wg3_en.pdf

    Will that happen. I don’t know, but
    (a) it’s certainly feasible at modest cost
    (b) It’s what the G7 leaders just agreed to

  28. The G7 covers about 19% of world emissions.

    They recently agreed that they had a strong determination to adopt something like a robust ambitious inclusive protocol, later this year in Paris, and they support everyone sharing in 40-70% reductions by 2050 (from the G7 ‘Leaders’ Declaration’):

    Urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change, as set out in the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. We affirm our strong determination to adopt at the Climate
    Change Conference in December in Paris this year (COP21) a protocol, another legal
    instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the United Nations Framework
    Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) applicable to all parties that is ambitious,
    robust, inclusive and reflects evolving national circumstances.

    The agreement should enhance transparency and accountability including through
    binding rules at its core to track progress towards achieving targets, which should
    promote increased ambition over time. This should enable all countries to follow a
    low-carbon and resilient development pathway in line with the global goal to hold
    the increase in global average temperature below 2 °C.

    Mindful of this goal and considering the latest IPCC results, we emphasize that deep
    cuts in global greenhouse gas emissions are required with a decarbonisation of the
    global economy over the course of this century. Accordingly, as a common vision for a
    global goal of greenhouse gas emissions reductions we support sharing with all parties
    to the UNFCCC the upper end of the latest IPCC recommendation of 40 to 70%
    reductions by 2050 compared to 2010 recognizing that this challenge can only be met
    by a global response. We commit to doing our part to achieve a low-carbon global
    economy in the long-term including developing and deploying innovative technologies
    striving for a transformation of the energy sectors by 2050 and invite all countries to
    join us in this endeavor. To this end we also commit to develop long-term national
    low-carbon strategies.

    So they didn’t really agree to cut their emissions by 40-70%, they agreed that everyone should agree to do that.

    Optimistically speaking, they’re fine words but they need some work before they become something more solid than a mission statement.

  29. @Megan

    China is the biggest economy in the world and biggest by far in CO2 emissions. It has to be real and a G20 deal to mean anything. It’s still all talk, yadda, yadda, yadda. We’ve been waiting 25 years for action on climate change. So far there has been a big fat nothing. Actually, there has been exponential growth in the wrong direction. But maybe it will all suddenly change. That last sentence is half sarcastic and half not. If something really bad happens soon then they (the capitalist oligarchs who run the world economy) might actually do something. I mean you never know.

  30. I have gone for periods of up to a year paying nothing for electricity or car fuel. However the system that enables this is not sustainable. The zero power bill comes from generous feed-in tariffs for PV, using wood for heat and general energy frugality eg drip dry shirts no steam irons. The car fuel comes from discarded cooking oil originally used to make fried food for tourists. Other chemical inputs are gas and coal intensive but sight unseen. Despite a half acre garden and 1200 mm rainfall I’d starve if I couldn’t get groceries every week. To put it politely I’m a bit sceptical of claims of self sufficiency in the suburbs. If it’s the doddle some claim it to be I’m afraid I’ve stuffed up badly.

    If we are to drive electric cars, replace gas appliances with electric and cope better (actively or passively) with extreme weather we’ll need far more electricity not less. On the balance of probabilities that means burning more coal for decades yet, say to 2040. After that?

  31. @Ikonoclast

    Yes but…. what about strong determination to adopt an agreed outcome that is robust, ambitious and inclusive? There are a lot of positive words in there: progress, achieving, should promote increased ambition, common vision, innovative technologies and striving.

    It’s far more soaring language than “Thirty Minutes or it’s Free”, but also far less binding. In fact it doesn’t even contain any binding language at all.

    But I’m forced to agree: you never know.

  32. @Megan
    The text string “commit” is listed 76 times in that declaration, but it’s quite lean on any new commitments with nominated targets.

  33. @Troy Prideaux

    “Lean” on commitments with nominated targets? I didn’t see any at all.

    In the text I lifted from the ‘Climate Change’ section I get “we commit to doing our part” and “we commit to long term strategies”.

  34. Hermit, you score points for being an early adopter of solar energy. However from my long experience with you you have done nothing but whinge about solar energy and run it down, and that leaves me wondering. You also have not demonstrated a willingness to quantitatively examine the prospects for future renewables.

    Your comment about replacing gas appliances with electric does not make sense. Gas for cooking and energy backup is both advisable and sustainable. Figures from Victoria (google Victoria’s municiple waste for figures) say that the average person there emits 2 tonne of garbage per year, at least one tonne of which is paper and cardboard (celluosic material). This is material that is being harvested in the near term and when gassified becomes a renewable cycle via the atmosphere. The gasification of 1 tonne of cellulosic material yields about 3,400 kilowatt hours per tonne in methane gas after gasification conversion (13.6 kwhrs per household of 4).

    Click to access m09086.pdf

    That more than balances the sustainable home for cooking energy and backup power for covering those low solar days in a “solid state” manner ie no personal physical input required to operate the system, while allowing fossil energy origin waste to be sequestered in landfill.

    The only thing missing in this picture is the total commitment of the community to put the changes into place. In order to get to that point ti will require the exorcism of the Libertarian brigade from our decision making government team.

  35. What information on the extent of likely climate action can be inferred from current valuations of fossil fuel equities?

  36. Correction above: 13,600 Kwhrs per household of 4 energy recovered from waste as methane line gas)

    The Sustainable home.

    Rooftop solar PVT (photovoltaic/thermal) 4.5 Kw rated system will yield
    9,100 kwhrs of electricity plus 5,400 kwhrs equivalent energy for water heating.
    Line gas provides (5400 Mj per quarter IPART) 6000 Kwhrs for cooking
    Line gas for backup generator gives (divided by 3 for thermal combustion engine inefficiency) 800 running hours of a 2.5 kilowatt gas fuelled generator to provide 2000 Kwhrs low solar energy.

    Total household (of 4) sustainably available energy 22,000 Kwhrs
    This is well above the average consumption of 14,000 Kwhrs and more than sufficient to operate 2 hybride electric vehicles for 100 klm per day electric only 365 days per year (6200 kwhrs)

    Total energy output from 12 million such households = 264 billion Kwhrs or more than Australia’s present (?) total electricity consumption.

    Is this achievable? that would be a big fat yes.

    The total cost of 12 million such systems would be 180 billion dollars at $15,000 per household.

    If installed over 20 years that would be 9 billion dollars per year with that cost completely covered twice over by the offset cost of the grid energy it would be replacing.

    I remember some years ago nuclear proponent blogsite BraveNewClimate’s Peter Lang telling us that this would cost 4 trillion dollars to achieve.

    It is perhaps optimistic for a 4.5 Kw PVT + 10 Kw Tesla Battery + 2.5 Kw generator system costing $15,000 , but i believe that with a committed install program the economies of scale would achieve this pricing level. That is a challenge that would be a pleasure to address.

  37. John Quiggin :

    How many people under 50-60 could confidently say that they could complete their lives on 30 tons of carbon?

    Anyone who gets all their electricity from renewable sources, and drives an electric car would achieve this fairly easily. So, your knockdown demonstration turns into a claim about the speed at which the energy system can be decarbonized.

    John I certainly don’t disagree with you on the issue of renewables (except for transport I’m 100% renewable at home), but it is a matter of how well and how quickly we facilitate the transition. Emphasising the 30 t figure is meant to indicate what it is exactly that we need to keep in the field-of-view. At the moment we’re not decelerating quickly enough, and our average personal pile of ‘allocated’ coal is shrinking faster than many probably realise.

    For example, on transport it’s worth remembering that a litre of petrol contains about 0.62 kg carbon. A vehicle that gets 6L/100km emits 6.2kg per hundred km. An Australian could very easily emit half a ton per annum, and many would top several tons, and this is before the energy embodied in construction, food, clothing and other consumables is accounted for.

    Are we currently minded to shift all that energy use to renewables before it becomes impossible to do so?

    Here’s a little exercise for everyone. Once per year recalculate the per person carbon allocation based on avoiding 2 C with 66% probability, and see how quickly that number changes over time. And compare that with our economy’s capacity to meet that dwindling target…

    It’s a scary game of Chicken.

  38. @Bernard J.

    The point about insufficiently decelerating is salient.

    The argument tends to go that we should lightly touch the brakes and hope the airbags work so that we might hit the wall at 50kph instead of 60kph and at least that improves our chances.

    But we are going to hit the wall at 600kph – which the “pessimists” find to be unacceptable – and the “optimists” are offering the possibility of hope we’ll only hit it at 500kph. It’s only an analogy, but it makes a point about the relative utility of the two labels compared to the situation we appear to all agree we are faced with.

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