Ron Bailey, Fred Smith, and I Discuss Climate Change at Reason

Lynne Kiesling

Here’s an online edited version of the transcript, and a link to the video of a discussion panel that Ron Bailey, Fred Smith, and I did at a Reason in DC event in October 2007. It was a very lively conversation!

The transcript is in the July 2008 print edition of Reason.


9 thoughts on “Ron Bailey, Fred Smith, and I Discuss Climate Change at Reason

  1. The AGW “Giggle Test”
    I am not a climatologist, a meteorologist or an astrophysicist. I have never played a climatologist, a meteorologist or an astrophysicist on TV. I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. However, I am technically educated, broadly experienced and capable of comprehensive research, intelligent thought and logical reasoning.
    The issue of anthropogenic global climate change has “moved on” from the “issue definition” stage to the “issue solution” stage, from the perspective of those who believe that AGW is occurring (AGW “affirmers”). The issue remains in the “issue definition” stage, from the perspective of those who do not believe that AGW is occurring (AGW “deniers”). I will approach the issue here as an AGW “agnostic”.
    I will present a short list of facts and theories regarding AGW. I will then use those facts and theories to test whether the various “solutions” which have been proposed to resolve the AGW issue would actually resolve the issue.
    AGW Facts
    • Global average temperature has varied ~+/- 2.5oF from the global mean over the past 5,000 years.
    • Global average temperature has been rising since ~1600.
    • Global average temperature again exceeded the 5,000 year mean in ~1850.
    • Global average temperature has remained above the 5,000 year mean since ~1850 (with 1 brief exception), until 2008.
    • Atmospheric carbon concentrations have risen above the 5,000 year mean.
    • The increase in carbon concentrations began in ~1750.
    • The increase in carbon concentrations accelerated after ~1950.
    • Carbon concentrations have increased ~40% as the result of anthropogenic emissions.
    • Anthropogenic carbon emissions are ~3% of total annual carbon emissions.
    AGW Theories
    • The increase in atmospheric carbon concentrations is driving the temperature increase.
    • Stabilizing carbon concentrations would also stabilize temperature.
    • There is a “tipping point” beyond which human action would be ineffectual.
    • Beyond the tipping point lies global catastrophe.
    Proposed AGW “Solutions”
    Kyoto Accords:
    “The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement under which industrialized countries will reduce their collective emissions of greenhouse gases by 5.2% compared to the year 1990. (United Nations Environment Programme)
    The industrialized countries represented a total of ~62% of global carbon emissions. Therefore, under Kyoto, total global emissions would be reduced by ~3% below 1990 levels by 2012, assuming no increases in emissions by the remaining countries. Global carbon emissions were ~6.2 billion metric tons in 1990, so that reduction would have amounted to ~0.2 metric tons per year. Since atmospheric carbon concentrations began increasing significantly in ~1850, when the annual emissions were ~54 million metric tons, and began increasing even more rapidly in ~1950, when annual emissions were ~1.6 billion metric tons, it is extremely unlikely that the Kyoto Accords would resolve the AGW issue, even assuming no increases in emissions by the remaining countries.

    Annual carbon emissions have increased each year since the Kyoto Accords were finalized; and, currently total more than 8 billion metric tons per year. China’s emissions are currently growing at a rate of ~10% per year, while India’s emissions are growing at ~3% per year. China is now the largest carbon emitter, while India is either third or fourth.

    Lieberman-Warner: America’s Climate Security Act
    Under Lieberman-Warner, carbon-dioxide emissions would have to have been 19-percent below the 2005 U.S. level by 2020, and 71 percent lower by 2050. Since the US currently emits ~19% of total global carbon emissions, a 71% reduction in US emissions would represent a reduction of ~13% of current annual carbon emissions, or ~1 billion metric tons per year.

    Since atmospheric carbon concentrations began increasing significantly in ~1850, when the annual emissions were ~54 million metric tons, and began increasing even more rapidly in ~1950, when annual emissions were ~1.6 billion metric tons, it is extremely unlikely that Lieberman-Warner would have resolved the AGW issue, even assuming no increases in emissions by other countries. However, Lieberman-Warner, as a US law, would have had no impact on the emissions of other nations.

    China also currently emits ~20% of total global carbon emissions; and, China’s emissions are currently increasing at ~10% per year. If this trend persists, as is currently projected, China’s emissions growth through 2015 would totally offset the US reductions which would have been required by Lieberman-Warner through 2050. Therefore, absent major emissions reductions by other nations, global carbon emissions would have increased in spite of the Lieberman-Warner reductions.
    The analysis above makes it obvious that the Kyoto Accords, even in combination with Lieberman-Warner, would not have resolved the AGW issue. This raises the question: What would be required to reduce the rate of growth of atmospheric carbon concentrations to the rate of growth prior to 1950; or, to the near-zero rate of growth prior to 1750?

    Current global carbon emissions are ~8 billion metric tons per year, ~5 times the 1950 emissions rate and ~16 times the 1850 emissions rate. Therefore, even if every nation on the globe immediately halted the growth of its carbon emissions, total annual global carbon emissions would have to be reduced by ~80% from current levels to slow the rate of growth to the 1950 rate of growth; and, reduced by ~95% from current levels to approach the 1850 rate of growth; and, eliminated entirely to approach a zero rate of growth. However, even stabilizing the rate of growth of atmospheric carbon concentrations at current levels, by stabilizing carbon emissions at current levels, would have major economic implications for most countries, especially the developing countries. Reducing their carbon emissions would require abandoning large numbers of relatively new coal-fired electric generation facilities, which have been crucial to their rapid economic growth.

    The dramatic changes described above will not occur in the absence of a global goal, a global plan to reach that goal and a global commitment to achieve the goal. That level of commitment will not be achieved and maintained until it is obvious that there is no alternative, short of catastrophe, to making and honoring that commitment.

    To date, the AGW “affirmers” have remained unwilling to clearly and explicitly communicate these realities; and, to convince all of the nations of the globe to make the necessary commitments.

    Their efforts to date do not meet the “Giggle Test”.

  2. By JOSEPH COLEMAN, Associated Press Writer
    Fri Jun 6, 7:06 AM ET

    TOKYO – The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.

    Please note: $45 trillion for half a “solution”. Probably more than $100 trillion for a full “solution”.

  3. By JOSEPH COLEMAN, Associated Press Writer
    Fri Jun 6, 7:06 AM ET

    TOKYO – The world needs to invest $45 trillion in energy in coming decades, build some 1,400 nuclear power plants and vastly expand wind power in order to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to an energy study released Friday.

    Please note: $45 trillion for half a “solution”. Probably more than $100 trillion for a full “solution”.

  4. Climate change roundable at Reason

    Lynne Kiesling Did the Reason article from the Kiesling/Bailey/Smith carbon policy panel that I linked to earlier this week just whet your appetite? Then this Reason Roundtable on Climate Change is for you! There has been much discussion in free…

  5. Climate change roundable at Reason

    Lynne Kiesling Did the Reason article from the Kiesling/Bailey/Smith carbon policy panel that I linked to earlier this week just whet your appetite? Then this Reason Roundtable on Climate Change is for you! There has been much discussion in free…

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