This interview, the fourth in a series on political topics, discusses philosophical issues that underlie recent debates about climate change. My interviewee is Dale Jamieson, a professor of environmental studies and philosophy at New York University. He is the author of “Reason in a Dark Time: Why the Struggle to Stop Climate Change Failed — and What It Means for Our Future.” — Gary Gutting
Gary Gutting.: It’s clear that global warming is an established fact, and that a good amount of it is due to human activities. But to what extent can we reliably predict how warming will affect our lives if we do little or nothing about it, or predict the effects of various policies designed to lessen its effects? In other words, does climate science have sufficient predictive reliability to be a good guide to forming public policy?
Dale Jamieson: The difference in scale between what climate models deliver and what managers and planners need has long been a major problem. Our current models make predictions primarily expressed in terms of very abstract constructs such as “mean surface temperature” that are not very useful to decision makers. Work is advancing on regional climate models that would be more useful, but there are multiple ways of trying to build these models and they remain controversial. Source: opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com
From the article: “The “war on coal” is nothing more than a set of policies that require producers and consumers of coal to bear some of the costs that they now evade.”
“Energy efficiency, renewable energy rules favored by voters, poll finds, Cleveland.com By John Funk, The Plain Dealer on September 05, 2014 COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio voters favor the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency mandates that Republican lawmakers just put on ice for two years, a new poll suggests.”
“Commissioned by a coalition of environmental groups and conducted jointly by two national polling companies, one which works for Republican candidates and the other for Democratic candidates, the poll interviewed 405 registered Ohio voters and has a margin of error of 4.9 percent.
“The survey found that voters would favor political candidates by a two-to-one margin who favor more wind and solar energy development over those who think the state’s reliance on coal, gas and nuclear power is adequate. A total of 64 percent favored the green candidates while only 31 percent said they would be more likely to vote for candidates supporting traditional energy production.
“The poll also found that 69 percent of voters would favor candidates who believe requiring electric utilities to help customers use less electricity would save ratepayers money, while just 23 percent would vote for candidates who argue that such mandated efficiency programs cost ratepayers more than they save.”
By John Funk, The Plain Dealer
GR: Of course, most politicians side with corporations, not voters.
“Bringing down carbon emissions means retiring more fossil fuel-burning facilities than we build,” said Steven Davis, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and the study’s lead author. “But worldwide, we’ve built more coal-burning power plants in the past decade than in any previous decade, and closures of old plants aren’t keeping pace with this expansion.”
“We’ve been hiding what’s going on from ourselves: A high-carbon future is being locked in by the world’s capital investments,” said Socolow, professor emeritus of mechanical & aerospace engineering. “Current conventions for reporting data and presenting scenarios for future action need to give greater prominence to these investments. Such a rebalancing of attention will reveal the relentlessness of coal-based industrialization, long underway and showing no sign of abating.”
GR: This is bad. We need to decommission power plants faster than we build them. Much faster.
By Chris Mooney
“Geoscientist Raymond Pierrehumbert argues that carbon dioxide is always worse than shorter-lived pollutants like methane.
“To understand the pitched fight over this question, you first need to realize that for many years, we’ve been burning huge volumes of coal to get electricity — and coal produces a ton of carbon dioxide, the chief gas behind global warming. Natural gas, by contrast, produces half as much carbon dioxide when it burns, and thus, the fracking boom has been credited with a decline in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. So far so good, right?
“Umm, maybe. Recently on our Inquiring Minds podcast, we heard from Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at Cornell University, who contends that it just isn’t that simple. Methane (the main component of natural gas) is also a hard-hitting greenhouse gas, if it somehow finds its way into the atmosphere. And Ingraffea argued that because of high leakage rates of methane from shale gas development, that’s exactly what’s happening. The trouble is that methane has a much greater “global warming potential” than carbon dioxide, meaning that it has a greater “radiative forcing” effect on the climate over a given time period (and especially over shorter time periods). In other words, according to Ingraffea, the CO2 savings from burning natural gas instead of coal is being canceled out by all the methane that leaks into the atmosphere when we’re extracting and transporting that gas. (Escaped methane from natural gas drilling complements other preexisting sources, such as the belching of cows.)”
Read more: grist.org
GR: Interesting article that delivers real information.