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Green Dreams
What the IPCC Doesn't Get

The IPCC has been busy lately. Yesterday, it published the third of a four-part series meant to brief policymakers on climate change. The first part of this report was released last fall, and it bumped up the probability that humans have been the “main cause of warming since the 1950s” to 95 percent, up from the 90 percent certainty the international coalition of experts reported in 2007. The second part of that series was released just two weeks ago, and it outlined the effects that might be expected from a warming climate: heat waves, droughts, floods, cold snaps, rising sea levels, and lower crop yields, to name just a few rather terrifying changes. In short, bad things are looming, and humans are culpable.

The third part of the report, released today, attempts to answer the question that naturally follows: what can we do to stop—or at the very least slow—climate change? This is a question of mitigation, and the IPCC lays out a variety of scenarios and the kinds of warming these responses might entail. The WSJ reports:

If emissions are cut at a high rate, models indicate that warming will reach between 1 and 2.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels by the middle of this century. But if the current rate of emissions continues, temperatures will increase by between 2 and 3.2 degrees above preindustrial levels by midcentury.

“Policy makers are being given a range of options and they can make whatever decisions they want,” said Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading, England, and an author of a previous IPCC report.

The key message in the IPCC report is that the worrisome scenarios can still be avoided. “Only major institutional and technological change will give a better than even chance that global warming will not exceed this threshold,” the U.N. panel concludes.

You don’t have to squint to read between the lines. The IPCC report essentially says that drastic policy and behavioral changes are necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. The share of zero-carbon energy sources like wind, solar, and nuclear energy needs to increase three-fold, and governments need to funnel more money into the research and development of systems that capture atmospheric carbon dioxide and sequester it underground.

That all sounds well and good, but crafting energy policies is a mite more difficult than many greens might like to believe. Renewables are more expensive than their browner counterparts, and most of these decisions—especially in the developing world, which doesn’t have the luxury of pursuing such options—boil down to issues of cost. Yes, there is a cost for polluting our skies by burning coal, or changing our climate by relying on fossil fuels, but these are a lot less tangible than the metered electricity price households and businesses pay. When these nebulous exhortations run up against higher monthly bills, green goals lose out.

Climate change’s dangers—as hard as they are to define—are real, and they need to be addressed. But supposedly green-minded policymakers, like those behind Germany’s disastrous energiewende, do more harm to Gaia than good. Rather than trying to prop up existing green technologies that are incapable of competing without some kind of market intervention, we’d be much better off funding R&D for the next generations of these solutions.

Green goals are best framed in terms of real, observable savings, and not just the potential aversion of disaster decades down the road.

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  • rodomontade

    It is obvious that there is a gigantic market for cleaner and more renewable energy sources that are competitive with traditional sources. There is a multi-billion dollar pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and everyone knows that, especially the venture capitalists.

    First, if a green energy program can’t get private funding, that is because it isn’t very promising. If it was considered promising, they’d be awash in funding. Second, if you had a promising idea, would you explain it to the government for some funding? You’d be crazy. What are the chances it’d leak? No, you’d develop it yourself and become one of the richest people in the world. The government help you’d most need would be removing the venture capitalists from your lawn.

    That’s why the government money inevitably flows to cronies pursuing questionable ideas, or more commonly, openly pursuing subsidy-harvesting operations. The notion that there is some shortage of private money available for a worthwhile idea in this area necessitating government assistance is ridiculous.

  • Andrew Allison

    Is it not clear that the only interest of the IPCC is self-perpetuation? As to the utter nonsense in it’s latest report, let’s consider the actual data. Despite the enormous increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions over the past century, there’s been NO statistically significant increase in the frequency or intensity of extreme weather events (their cost is a different, but irrelevant, story). This alone should be enough to give an objective observer pause, but there’s more: the rapid increase in global surface temperature which began in 1976 came to an abrupt halt in 1997. Despite a roughly one-third increase in atmospheric since then, there’s been NO increase in average temperature. As a matter of fact, according to the UK Met Office (, 5- and 10-year average temperatures peaked in 2005 and have been drifting DOWN ever since.
    Climate change happens and the planet is currently warmer than it’s been for a long time, but it is manifestly not warming at present and the evidence suggests that humans have very little influence on any of this.

  • gabrielsyme

    One thing that would perplex me if my opinion of liberals was not already at rock-bottom is why everyone seems to ignore the option of geo-engineering as a means of controlling global warming. The chance of getting all the major economies of the world to agree to crippling cuts in carbon emissions is close to nil; but various geo-engineering strategies could be pursued by an individual nation with comparatively little cost.

    Moreover, geo-engineering would provide an immediate check on global temperatures and is easily scaled up, whereas there is a lot of momentum built into the current climate models (they expect significant future warming even if a complete cessation to anthropogenic emisssion were to occur, iirc); and for those who belief the earth is on the cusp of devastating climate change, this should be a compelling factor.

    • f1b0nacc1

      On the other hand, given how utterly worthless most of our modeling of climate impacts have been, how can we be sure that geoengineering might in fact be a cure that is worse than the disease? We already have excellent evidence that our ability to model single variable changes to an extremely complex system is questionable, and now we are going into introduce more variables?
      Note: I don’t see ‘climate change’ as anything other than complete snake-oil, so I am unclear as to why we should be considering geoengineering as a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. But even if this WAS a real problem, do we really know enough to make meaningful and useful interventions?

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    How can anyone give credence to these cretins, when none of their computer models have proven predictive, and they have all missed massively to the upside by 200% – 900%. Any scientist with a shred of integrity would have gone back to the blackboard, when their Hypothesis of “Global Warming” proved unpredictive. Instead we see them change the name from the clear, obvious, and much more descriptive “Global Warming” to the unfalsifiable “Climate Change”, and every idiot on the planet buys their bait and switch routine. Why do so many allow themselves to be made chumps by these liars?

  • RTO Dude

    This horse smells dead. 😉

    • B-Sabre

      Better flog it a bit more, just to be sure.

  • Nick Bidler

    Even in the case that global warming is real (i think it might be) and man-made (i do not), the problem remains that those who purport to believe it take grandstanding motions to demonstrate their belief, not the sort that are proscribed to fix the problem.

    Personally, I think none of the proposed solutions are good enough to enact, and that we’re better off trying to R&D our way out, rather than giving up and reverting to agrarian standardsvof living.

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