10 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. So?

    The current modelling overstates the cost of limiting climate change. It understates the gains from doing so. And it still shows that the balance is very strongly in favour of limiting climate change – even at excessive discount rates. (Dishonest exercises in which lower discount rates are applied to future costs of action, and higher discount rates to future gains, are out there but can be neglected.)

    The point of Stern’s criticisms is that the economic arguments are (almost certainly) very much stronger again in favour of action to limit climate change than modelling that is already strongly supporting action.

    But getting the economics better is not greatly helpful politically. The liars who pretend action is too costly already ignore the economic modelling: better modelling will probably get only the same treatment.

  2. @steve from brisbane

    It really is too late now – energy from fossil is so cheap and efficient that once we accept the need for growth and increased productivity or Third World develoment, there is no way governments will ever cease exploration and exploitation of whatever they find of;

    gas
    methane hydrates
    coal
    oil

    We are on a scientifically determined track to global catastrophe.

  3. @ChrisH
    Just in case you misunderstand me – I certainly don’t take these criticisms as an argument against taking policy action urgently.
    I worry that having too much unwarranted confidence in such modelling can slow down policy action (look at Tol and his ilk with their graphing about at what point temperature increase benefits outweigh harms, for example.)
    I’ve linked to this article before, but it seems good to me:
    http://www.vox.com/2015/10/23/9604120/climate-models-uncertainty

  4. The Leigh Creek Mine in South Australia, with years worth of coal production left in it, was closed down for good before Christmas. And the Northern Power Station, the last operating coal power station in SA, will be permanently shut down when its current store of coal is exhausted.

    The reason why the Northern Power Station is closing down is because it cannot compete with the state’s wind and rooftop solar capacity. South Australia currently generates electricity from wind and solar equal to about 40% or more of its consumption and that is likely to increase to 50% this year.

    All this was achieved with a Renewable Energy Target that was estimated to be equivalent to a carbon price of around $40 a tonne. Not a particularly high price to pay. South Australia’s example shows how the rest of Australia can rapidly and at low cost switch to 50% renewable electricity. And the presence of hydroelectricity and pumped storage in other states makes the task easier.

  5. @steve from brisbane

    I am not criticising you Steve, I am criticising the paper.

    It’s more “things are uncertain so we should do nothing” reasoning. That’s been the story ever since 1990. Compared to the size of the problem we are still essentially doing nothing. Our efforts to date have been a pimple on a pumpkin. The only rational thing to do would have been to phase out all carbon fuels in the 30 years from 1990 to 2020. By 2020, we should have been effectively at zero carbon fuel use. That might well have given us a good chance. We are at least 25 years behind the curve when it comes to action. By all means, we should keep doing as much as we can. The uncertainty could still break our way and permit our late action to be successful… but we really need to get cracking now to have any chance at all.

  6. Looking at the matter of climate change denialism: the clear breaking today of the old 1998 record in the UAH temperature series should, I think, be psychologically important to marginalise the denier movement in politics. If we get a new record in summer arctic ice melt this year (which seems a distinct possibility, given the record low end of winter levels we now see), I think it really will be the end of the denier movement, for good.

  7. @David Allen
    I dunno: a new record summer arctic ice melt would be really hard to ignore. But even assuming that a large proportion of them will never admit they were wrong, it may be that voters and (some) politicians who are convinced by them might finally realise that they’ve been conned.

  8. India has doubled its coal tax to $8 Australian a tonne. Assuming an average of 78% carbon content for coal that comes to the equivalent of a carbon price of about $38 per tonne of CO2. That is over 50% more than Australia’s carbon price when it was introduced. And infinite times larger than Australia’s current carbon price. Australia’s per capita GDP is around 28 times that of India. How much richer do we have to be before we can afford to reduce the number of people we kill with our pollution?

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