2010-11-02 08:15:56Climate change solutions - "it's too hard" rebuttal
Dana Nuccitelli

For the rebuttal to "it's too hard" (which John would like to be the first SkS climate solutions rebuttal), I would suggest we focus on Working Group 3 of the IPCC FAR.  For example, on Page 9 of the SPM:

"Both bottom-up and top-down studies indicate that there is substantial economic potential for the mitigation of global GHG emissions over the coming decades, that could offset the projected growth of global emissions or reduce emissions below current levels (high agreement, much evidence)."

Table SPM.3 lists "Key mitigation technologies and practices currently commercially available".

It won't cost too much - "In 2030 macro-economic costs for multi-gas mitigation, consistent with emissions trajectories towards stabilization between 445 and 710 ppm CO2-eq, are estimated at between a 3% decrease of global GDP and a small increase, compared to the baseline"

Stabillzing between 445 and 535 ppm (CO2 equivalent, which is 350–440 ppm CO2) will slow the average annual global GDP growth rate by less than 0.12%.  And of course this slowed GDP growth rate is in comparison to the unrealistic business-as-usual scenario where climate change has no impact on the economy.  Some other key quotes:

"near-term health co-benefits from reduced air pollution as a result of actions to reduce GHG emissions can be substantial and may offset a substantial fraction of mitigation costs"

"Energy efficiency options for new and existing buildings could considerably reduce CO2 emissions with net economic benefit."

"Forest-related mitigation activities can considerably reduce emissions from sources and increase CO2 removals by sinks at low costs"

"Policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon could create incentives for producers and consumers to significantly invest in low-GHG products, technologies and processes. Such policies could include economic instruments, government funding and regulation"

If anybody else wants to tackle this one, feel free.  Otherwise I'll probably work on it this weekend.

2010-11-02 10:15:49The difficulties in tackling It's too hard
John Cook


Okay, just to explain my thoughts on how to tackle this issue. If we're going to go down the solutions road, I'd like to give SkS readers some pre-warning to lessen the whiplash factor. So this is what I'd like to do (feedback welcome):

  1. A blog post just letting people know SkS is going to start rebutting myths about solutions. The same moderation rules applies except the rules about politics will be slightly relaxed for solution posts, when they touch areas of policy.
  2. Start by rebutting the "It's too hard" argument. The reason for this is because it's the parent argument - all subsequent arguments like "CO2 limites will wreck the economy" fall under this parent argument. So it's mainly for practical reasons - skeptic arguments don't appear in the taxonomy list if their parent argument doesn't have a rebuttal.
  3. Then we can start going into the other policy rebuttals. The closer we can stick to science based arguments, the better. Eg - source your information from peer-review and independent reports if possible

I welcome any thoughts on this approach.

As for the "It's too hard" argument, it's a bit of a broad, general topic - hard to pin down. A large part of it is the "wreck the economy" line of thinking. Eg - "No one can explain how we cut emissions by four fifths without closing down virtually all of our economy" by Chris Booker. Now I haven't looked at this in any detail but my general impression is the peer-reviewed response to this is in the discussion of stabilisation wedges. Princeton propose 12 or so stabilisation wedges - crunching the numbers in the different areas where we can cut down on CO2 emissions. Eg:

Peer reviewed paper: Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies

A good introduction in a teacher's guide to stabilisation wedges

official Princeton page on wedge

One of the key elements in communicating climate change is to point people towards a solution. If people feel like the problem is hopeless, often the denial instinct kicks in and they end up denying there is a problem. So this is one good argument for SkS moving into solutions - we can combine our science message with solution messages to provide an overall stronger message. I think the take-home message for "It's too hard" is something like "There is a way to fix climate and here it is." If we can base the answer on peer-review (eg - the wedges paper in Science)

2010-11-02 10:46:02good paper
Dana Nuccitelli

I like the stabilization wedge paper.  Any paper that uses the words "pipe dream" is bound to be good :-)

Here's a free version.  Perhaps we could combine it with the IPCC WG III.  The wedge paper could show we have the technology, and the IPCC basically shows we can do it without closing down the economy, contrary to Booker's claim.  I think that would be a good two-pronged approach to "it's too hard" - we have the technology, and it doesn't have to be cripplingly expensive.

2010-11-02 13:52:51Suggestion


The solutions arena is vital for making things happen. The more vividly we can envision a plausible scenario of solutions, the more convincing this will be to ourselves and to our audience.

Therefore, I stress even more than I usually do:  Let's strive for directness of language to help people visualize what we're talking about, not just nod their heads!