59 degrees F for a July 17 high stirs the climate change debate

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We barely reached a high of 59 degrees yesterday, according to the Carleton Weather Database. Our cool spring and summer has brought out the global warming skeptics, despite the adage that climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. It’s time for a Locally Grown civil discussion of the issue since the US House of Representatives recently passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act; next stop, the Senate.

56 thoughts on “59 degrees F for a July 17 high stirs the climate change debate”

  1. As cap-and-trade advocates tie their knickers in knots over so-called “global warming,” Mother Nature refuses to cooperate. Earth’s temperatures continue a chilling trend that began eleven years ago. As global cooling accelerates, global-warmists kick, scream, and push their pet theory — just like little kids who cover their ears and stomp their feet when older children tell them not to bother waiting up for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.

    The article lists temperatures around the globe

    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=NTlhOTNiOWFlMmMzNmJkOWM3ZTk5NWJkNTU2Nzk5NWI=

  2. Griff,
    I would expect that you would understand the difference between climate and weather. Climate change is about average temperatures over long periods of time in large geographic areas. The weather in any one spot over any short period (even several years) proves or disproves nothing.

    That’s about all I have to say on the matter. Right now, I’m too tired from baby care to try to discuss science with those who reject science generally.

    Maybe this will help:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate

  3. Patrick, so you are saying is climate science cannot predict anything in the near term but is iron clad science in its long term forecasts (long term being not years, but decades?)? And the current cold would be even colder had less CO2 been put into the atmosphere? Does the issue seem less urgent because of the cold?

  4. No, David. I’m saying that short-term local variation does not correlate with long-term global trends.

  5. Since Griff brings up the Waxman-Markey legislation, I think it’s important to point out that the question of global warming is really irrelevant to debating the legislation. While the talk surrounding that bill presupposes (correctly) that global warming is a serious threat, the bill itself does very little to address it. Were we truly as concerned as we ought to be, we would realize that 17% less bad in 40 years is not good enough. Not even close.

    So let’s acknowledge that Waxman-Markey is going to relatively little to combat warming. But that’s doesn’t mean it won’t be great for our country. No reasonable person — no matter how insistent s/he is that global warming is nonexistent or nonthreatening — would say that fossil fuel supplies will last indefinitely. Encouraging extreme conservation and alternate energy sources can only be a good thing.

    So what’s the knock on that? The complaint that I usually hear is that it will cost more. True, but honestly what makes more sense: inefficiency costing more or (as it is now) efficiency costing more? From LED light bulbs to hybrid cars to passive-solar buildings, we pay more to consume less. While Waxman-Markey-style cap-and-trade won’t change that overnight, it makes efficiency start to cost less and inefficiency more.

    That’s good for everyone, global warming skeptic or not.

  6. No reasonable person — no matter how insistent s/he is that global warming is nonexistent or nonthreatening — would say that fossil fuel supplies will last indefinitely.

    Sean, the idea that the world is a Slurpee cup and we are sucking out oil with a straw and will eventually run out is an inaccurate way to view resources. Not long ago, “oil” was not a resource at all because it had no real utility. Then the knowledge to convert it to energy was developed and it became a resource. As time goes on new resources are discovered and substitutions become available. Were the supply of oil to decrease (right now it is increasing) then the price would rise and alternatives would naturally become more cost effective. ‘Peak Oil’ is a superstitious concept rooted in religious ideas of limited utility. So “no reasonable person” would concern themselves with “supplies running out.”
    There are other reasonable considerations such as “pollution,” “dependence on foreign governments,” that require clear thinking – something very tough to come by in the political arena where fear and misinformation mean big money (your taxes) for the doomsayers.

    1. David,

      Isn’t it annoying how them foreigners keep getting in the way of OUR world resources!!

      It’s a good thing you have the free market invisible hand and the US military at work to keep your energy atheism beliefs intact.

    2. Mike, I have no idea what you actually mean but I am all in favor of funding the military from an energy tax (not income) which would be better cost accounting and favor alternative fuels (might even reduce Islamic radicalism). This makes logical sense but saying the world will run out of oil does not make logical sense.

    3. David,

      I guess my comment was directed toward your comment about “dependence on foreign governments” and that our use of our military is ,I believe, VERY MUCH our way of dealing with our dependence on them through security and intimidation, and sometimes in the case of like Iraq, violent force.

      I would guesstimate that the external cost of our military in securing OUR foreign oil (oxymoron?) probably is in the 30 to 50 dollars per barrel.

      Anyway, it seems as tough we’ve all been down this road about 9 months ago on the DNC/RNC thread before the elections, so I don’t know how much more I want to dwell on the subject anymore, other than to state my current beliefs about this subject:

      1. I am a Peak Oil cult member. I joined the cult in 2002 when I tried to rationalize why the US attacked Iraq with NO rational reason behind it, other than of coarse the control of its oil. Hence, I believe that the global war on terror is nothing more than a cover story for the control of Middle East oil.

      2.My logic dictates that if fossil fuels are finite then at some point via consumption there will be no more. At current estimates there is about 1trillion barrels left, with a current global consumption rate of 31 billion barrels a year, that gives us about 30 years til the bottom of the slurpee cup is empty! I believe major problems will start when the global supply rate (currently 86milbbl/day) consistently and continuously falls below the daily consumption rate.

      1. Oil is not just another commodity it is the energy foundation that our modern economy depends upon for its high rates of consumption. It has no equivalent as it relates to energetics and portability.

      2. Getting back on thread topic, I believe the issue of global warming is another cover story for peak oil. I believe this because of the insistent focus on fossil fuel consumption with virtually no discussions (other than here) about other sources of CO2 (cattle, 6.5bil humans, etc) makes one question if these guys are serious. I feel it was created to dupe people to voluntarily cutting their consumption to make sure that the fossil fuel demand rate stays below the soon to be falling supply rate. I feel Peak Oil science stands on a MUCH firmer foundation than global warming science.

      This is my position and I will stick to it for now.

      David, I am hopeful for to new energy utility that you say is coming when the oil starts disappearing so I can get out of this Cult. Perhaps the Cap and Trade won’t be so bad because it will accelerate us to getting to the new energy utility nirvana sooner, whatever it may be!

  7. David, we were at the point just a year ago when oil was expensive enough that we were discussing destroying public land in Alaska to obtain more. We’ve already reached a point where it’s too scarce.

    Every last drop of oil literally being burned up is not realistic, but it being, for all intents and purposes, tapped out is not unreasonable.

    You write that, “Not long ago, ‘oil’ was not a resource at all because it had no real utility. Then the knowledge to convert it to energy was developed and it became a resource.”

    Don’t think it’s fair to say that things have changed since “not long ago”? It seems rather optimistic to take no governmental action and assume the market will fix the problem.

  8. Sean, 100% of the brief rise in oil prices was the war and supply disruption concerns. In 1973, when a brief rise occurred, people were just as dogmatic about the world running out of oil.

    “Things change” is my whole point. New energy resources (substitutions) will drive the long term price of energy down rather than up.

    Market forces are very powerful and exactly what is needed in both health and energy. Our energy now is a public utility. On my cell phone bill, which is privately run, I know exactly what every second of time cost and have detailed access to information. On my home and office energy use, public, I have absolutely no clue what a given device (computer, fridge) are costing to run or where I might save money by efficient use. If private market forces were in place then I have no doubt all that information and more would be available as competitive forces would generate more and more information.

    1. Thanks Peter. That looks very cool. I will read up on it. I have seen a bunch of utility tech that is very impressive but it never seems to reach the market … I assume because the utilites are not all that motivated.

  9. Patrick, no, I’m not interested in the challenge. I’m not a (human-caused) global warming skeptic. But it seems to me that one-month temp tracking is still ‘weather,’ not climate.

  10. It seems to me that there are at least 4 different issues embedded in the global warming discussion:
    1. Is the earth warming?
    2. Is man causing the warming?
    3. If man is causing the warming, what are the long-term consequences?
    4. Have there been any effective political solutions proposed?

    My opinions: Yes, Probably, Unknown, and No.

  11. I do remember a civics class I had back in the 70’s. We had to do a paper on natural resources. The argument back then was that we will run out of oil in 2000.
    It was also argued that the world would be overpopulated by then.

    Here we are in 2010 and the world hasn’t come to an end yet.
    Most of these scientists neglect to add the will of human survival in to their equation and our capacity for invention and adaption.

  12. Mike Z

    Russia, China, India and Cuba (!!) are aggressively pursuing energy resources worldwide.

    In the meantime we put all of our hopes and the well being of our economy in to wind and solar alone?

    Why can’t we do both? Harvest our domestic resources and use the benefits to explore future options, like wind and solar?

    I think it’s a mistake to raise taxes and make our energy more expensive. Especially in an competitive global market.

    We are already losing a lot of jobs to those countries. Alternative energy will replace some of them, but not all of them. Estimates range up 2.3 million jobs lost.

    Prudence and common sense should be dictating this issue. Not lobbies and politics.

    1. Peter,

      I am Peak Oiler (see my reply to David 10.4). I don’t have any problems with us developing our domestic fossil fuels in a sensible and prudent manner and not use them for “Girls gone Wild” consumption as we have done in the last century. We are going to need them in the near future just to keep food on the table. The easy fossil fuel harvest (read cheap) in the US ended in the 1970’s. What remains will require more energy to develop and cost much more. I believe that there is no physical way that the US could develop domestic oil supply rates that would supply our current consumption of
      of 22mil bbl/day.

      I am aware of other countries pursuit of fossil resources. I believe the world is currently in a resource war. However, unlike the US where we are literally in a resource war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the other countries are organizing (Shanghai Cooperation organization SCO, etc) and aggressively purchasing resources and locking them up.

      Prudence and common sense for me on the issue of imported oil tells me to pull US military out of ALL foreign countries. Save the money portion of the military that will be used for DEFENSE within US borders and spend the rest on developing domestic oil and alternatives to oil and natural gas (Nuclear,wind,solar,Coal, Davids New Energy Utility, etc).

      I know you hate taxes but I think a tariff on import oil in the range of say 40% is necessary to break the oil addiction! Much rather have that than a Goldman Sachs CAP and Trade bubble. Again, this tax money would also go directly to domestic alternative energy development.

      I realize this will puts the US at a competitive disadvantage, but how else do we break the current cycle we’re in? One way perhaps would be to direct subsidzed domestic oil to manufacturing and critical industries, and convert the transportation industry away form oil use.

  13. Mike,

    I was with you until you hit the 40% import tax. This would create nothing more than a trade war. A war the US can’t allow to happen.

    Despite our large import of goods a lot of our GDP depends on export. Other nations just simply add tarifs of their own.

    Taxing imports is not the way to slow down our economy. We need jobs and the creation of wealth. Anything that makes our cost of manufacturing more expensive will further increase our disadvantage.

    Using our own resources to reduce the amount we import would be a saving in itself.

    I don’t believe that the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are about oil. If it would be then it certainly wasn’t successful.
    The war in Iraq was uneceesary but not the war in Afghanistan.
    Afghanistan is necessary to keep up the pressure agains Al Qaeda.

    1. Peter,

      Perhaps 40% tax is a bit excessive, but we need to remember that oil imports are costing us currently $500Bil each and every year.

      Afghanistan is still part of the US geopolitical plan for encirclement of Iran, and control of oil resources coming out of central asia (Caspian sea region) and our efforts to cut off supplies to China’s western border. Al Qaeda is our convenient excuse for being there. The question I always ask myself is “what came first, Middle Eastern terrorists or US Middle East Political and Military intervention?” For me the answer is US intervention.

  14. Patrick, the Christian ethic is that there is only so much pie and we have to divide it up fairly amongst ourselves. Only when it comes to resources this ethic is misguided in the sense that there is unlimited pie. I believe this concept is called “limited utility” but I could be wrong on the name. Prior to 1930 there was a zillion year supply of oil because modern refining techniques were unknown. Oil was not the invention of energy but a substitute for coal, wood, wool, animal feed. etc. New energy substitutions will become available over time (many we have not yet thought of). When these substitutions are economical they will flourish with or without government programs.

    My point had nothing to do with how oil is formed. However, there was recently an article in Science magazine stating that some scientists (who are being bad mouth by environmentalists – imagine) think oil is formed by bacteria living at much hotter temps than and been thought possible deep in the earth which die, decay and are pushed to the surface. I would not posit a guess as to years of availability but if I were in the oil business keeping that number around 20-30 years would seem perfect ~ a nice balance between supply stability and scarcity (good for pricing).

    If I had to guess then I would say the next breakthroughs relating to energy will be in materials science and radical efficiency gains (as opposed to new fuel sources).

  15. George Will has an excellent editorial in today’s Strib regarding the political obstacles to a global warming solution. Other countries, most notably China and India, are not going to agree to limit their energy consumption to present day levels when their energy consumption per capita is so much lower than the Western world.

  16. Patrick: Your last article admits that Will’s claims (about political obstacles) are largely true.

    Will may be mistaken as to the science of global warming; but, he understands the politics. The less developed countries are not going to agree to limit carbon emissions at the present levels.

  17. David,
    Yes, it will be difficult to get the developing nations on board. They are – as many of them said last week – just following the model for development that we pioneered.

    That is no excuse for throwing up our hands and doing nothing about a potentially devastating crisis.

    Of course, it’s a lot easier to do nothing about the problem if you buy into the pseudoscience that Will has bought into on climate change. Luckily for him, he will be dead and gone before climate change really gets nasty. Our children (and those of us young enough) may not be so lucky.

  18. Patrick: Frankly, I have yet to hear of one practical solution to global warming. In theory, if everyone were to cut down on the amount of emissions, or used cleaner fuels, we could slow down, or even reverse the rate of warming.

    But, Al Gore is the poster boy for how difficult it is to achieve in practice what appears so easy in theory. India, China, and most Americans aren’t going to comply unless forced by money or guns.

    1. David,
      So you’re suggesting that we just don’t bother to try?

      That seems even less likely to work.

  19. Patrick: I think that the United States needs to take a more reasoned and scientific approach to what the country can do to make a global difference.

    It is not reasonable to expect that the United States will lower its production or that China will not raise its production. It is better to confront this reality now as Will suggests than to pacify ourselves with the hope that both of these unlikely scenarios are going to happen without tremendous sacrifices.

  20. David,
    There’s nothing “scientific” about the approach you suggest. You’re simply advocating doing nothing.

    Assuming (for the sake of this argument) that global climate change is happening, and is likely to proceed as predicted, there are a few reasons to follow the approach of cutting emissions as proposed:

    1) It may slow the rate of climate change somewhat, despite the non-participation of other countries. That is, it will make things somewhat less bad.

    2) Leading the world in research and innovation is still the one economic trump card we have in the world economy. We invent things, and we sell them to the rest of the world. If we invent the low/no emission technologies of the future, we can sell them to the rest of the world.

    3) One must lead by example.

    Sure, it is not a magic cure that will make things all better in one easy, quick stroke. But it is a start. Later steps will have to follow.

    Or – we could just do nothing, and hope that the non-scientific naysayers were right. Unfortunately, there is no evidence that they are.

  21. Patrick: We spent billions on ethanol plants. That “solution” was worse than nothing. It was fairly obvious from the beginning that ethanol wasn’t going to be an answer.

    1. Patrick: Have you heard of any ideas that will actually work? Do you know of a plan that will cause Gore to reduce his energy consumption to that of the average American?

  22. David,
    Wind power works. Insulating homes and improving window seals works. Hybrid cars work. Electric cars will work soon.

    The beauty of a carbon tax (or, to a lesser degree, a cap and trade system) is that is can allow capitalist innovators to figure out – and sell – what works. And, if Al Gore wants, he can pay the premium that will be required to burn lots of unclean energy. Or, he can choose to save money by being more efficient.

    On a slightly related note, here’s a recent example of energy efficiency requirements driving innovation:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/06/business/energy-environment/06bulbs.html?ref=business

    1. Patrick, in all fairness, I’m not sure Halogena is a very inspirational story. Right now they offer an alternative to traditional incandescents, but in a few years, they’ll just be a “bare minimum” alternative to far more efficient LEDs and CFLs. This is more a story of how to minimize the real impact regulation has than an inspiring one of innovation.

    2. Sean,
      Just a small, surprising, example of innovation in what is no doubt an interim technology (one that I had certainly already written off). LED’s are not ready for all purposes yet, and there are situations (like outdoor lights in cold MN winters) where CFL’s don’t work well at all.

      The remarkable part is that, prior to regulation, the incandescent bulb underwent almost no innovation in the previous 50+ years.

    3. … and was/is an incredibly inefficient lighting device.

      Any incremental improvement could result in tremendous power savings in the mid-run.

      Or not. The (cap and trade-modified) market will hopefully decide.

    4. Patrick, I think you thought that the light bulb has not evolved faster because of a lack regulation if way off base.

    5. David, why was he “off base”? While I disagree with Patrick because I think that Halogena was a bad innovation, I think he’s right that it wouldn’t have come about without regulation.

      The reality is that it was never all that expensive to light a room. If there’s no consumer cost demand and no gov’t requirement, there’s not a lot of incentive for companies to invest R&D into making a new product when the old can be made and sold cheaply.

    6. Patrick: The science of climate change doesn’t offer answers to the political solutions. Ethanol demonstrated that the government can create false markets, which can lead us down the wrong paths and further from real solutions.

    7. Sean, I would have to research the matter further. But my estimate would be that regulations in building codes, insurance, utilities, etc constrain innovation in this arena.

      Again, I have Tmobile but through them I know a lot about manufacturers handsets, etc. I have Excel but other than to collect a bill my interaction with them does not exist. Because this is a public utility there is no “individual” incentive to improve the service. If another public utility could come in and “compete” with new ideas then Excel would respond by improving their offerings. I have no doubt that the lack of competition makes for an enormous waste of energy via fossil fuels.

  23. Davied: way back in #10, you write, “As time goes on new resources are discovered and substitutions become available. Were the supply of oil to decrease (right now it is increasing) then the price would rise and alternatives would naturally become more cost effective.”

    This assumes a world in which relatively equal players compete in a simple, honest way. Instead, we have a world in which oil companies and their revenue stream and profits are hard to imagine, and where they can afford not only lobbyists to influence legislation in their favor, but also PR to affect the way people think about global warming. Polls show their PR efforts are especially working among Republicans, moving opinion in the opposite direction of the emerging scientific consensus.

  24. David L. I’m glad you break down the issue a bit in #14. Climate scientists were surveyed about 11 or 12 years ago, and surveyed again one or two years ago, and they clearly have a growing consensus that global warming is (a) happening (93%?), that it’s human-caused (85% agree), and that it’s either a moderate or severe threat (85%).

    But whenever there is legislation, there are other related questions (in my numbering system, I’m picking up after your nubmer 4):

    1. Whether we agree on global warming or not, is it good for national security to develop renewables, instead of buying so much oil from countries where the money finds its way into the hands of terrorists? (More conservatives are starting to believe this, unless they like war and own a lot of stock in weapons manufacturing companies).

    2. Is it good for US trade deficit to develop renewables and overcome the inertia of the powerful oil and coal industries? (Last summer, when oil and gasoline prices peaked, we could have erased our trade deficit if we were not buying foreign oil).

    3. Have we reached “peak oil,” where demand generally outpaces production and perhaps the earth’s capacity? (This point is moot if we’re at a point where continued dependence on buring oil, and the CO2 created, may be more dangerous, even if we didn’t run short of it, than the financial consequences of continued dependence.)

    4. Is there an “unholy alliance,” or undue influence, exerted by the oil and coal industries that keeps us from developing renewables as quickly as might be most beneficial to the common good?

    My guess:

    5 – yes
    6 – yes
    7 – yes
    8 – yes

  25. oops – I numbered my points for the four indented paragraphs in #32, but the numbers disappeared after posting.

  26. Paul: Reducing the West’s dependence on foreign oil is unlikely to impact the burning fossil fuels on a global scale. The less the West burns, the cheaper oil becomes for developing countries. Fossil fuel consumption won’t go down unless alternate energies are cheaper.

    Global warming is a global problem. Right now, the Indians and the Chinese are more concerned with economic development than global warming.

  27. David (#34): this assumes that all things remain as they are, and that even if the US moves toward renewables and finds economic advantages, China and India will not be convinced and will continue to burn fossil fuels.

    It also seems to assume that the world will not agree global warming is a problem, and nations that have coal and/or oil to consume or sell will prefer to make a quick buck now, or use a cheaper solution, than to take the longer view.

    In other words, it assumes that greed and short-sighted free markets will continue to function as usual.

    Too many assumptions. If everyone assumed this, all diplomats striving to work toward global accords would be out of their jobs.

    Just nuke enough countries to reduce consumption, and make a cloud big enough to provide temporary cooling, if these are your firm assumptions.

  28. Paul: I am assuming that people/countries will continue to act in their/its best interests. China and India aren’t interested in reducing their emissions because the U.S. rate is so much higher per capita.

    The only solution that I see is for the renewables to be cheaper than the current sources. No amount of pontificating on global warming is going to have an effect without cheaper energy.

  29. Climate scientists and economists and astrologers have much in common. And it looks like global warming may well be occurring – on Earth, Jupiter, Mercury – indeed all the planets.

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