We are still screwed: the coming climate disaster


To me, the most important thing is that the One True Goal (carbon reduction to keep temp rise under, say, 3c) be fixed as a polestar. The whys and wherefores can be debated, the methods adjusted, but I think it is a genuine insanity of our age that limiting warming is not at this time the single most important policy goal of every major government on earth. I mean, we can tick off all the institutional, inertial, and cognitive-behavioral reasons why it is so, but the fundamental godawful wrongness of the situation still bangs one over the head with the force of a cast iron skillet.



It will always be easier and cheaper to let other people and countries address climate change. It’s the biggest free rider problem imaginable.



Therein lies the problem really.

If it was a one-off thing, it wouldn’t be as big a deal.



In poor countries, kids are labor. They’re a resource. It isn’t surprising that birth rates / population growth tend to decline as a society gets richer and more industrialized, obviating the need to grow your own personal labor pool. If you want to cut the birth rate / population growth in poor countries, what you have to do is end their poverty. Make them rich, and the problem tends to solve itself.



This sounds like projection. I mean, what’s your solution, and how does that solution personally impact you?



I think I answered this in a follow up post. That quote refers to the fact that sometimes people who reduce their CO2 by some choice will use their personal experience to argue that everyone should make exact the same choice. It’s no longer about carbon reduction, it’s about self-validation.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are many different ways to reduce your CO2 emissions, and you should choose the methods that are most practical and work best for you without expecting that others in different circumstances will choose the same ones.



Sorry, but I’m struggling to understand this. Do you think the problem is amenable to ‘solutions’ based on individual choice? That is, do you think that if we leave it to each person to reduce their own footprint in the way that suits them best, that will be effective? And, what will you do for your part?



I mean I made what changes I could. I drive a hybrid, bike to work frequently, am mindful of minimizing waste, and largely eat vegitarian.

It’s not enough, it’s never enough. Because you have jackasses on the opposite end ‘rolling coal’ and such.



Reposting this link since it goes into great detail on “how to decarbonize.” The heavy lifting is ag and industry. (Image posted is global emissions, for the US it’s a bit different.)

Our hardest climate problems – the ones that are both large and lack obvious solutions – are agriculture (and deforestation – its major side effect) and industry. Together these are 45% of global carbon emissions. And solutions are scarce.

Agriculture and land use account for 24% of all human emissions. That’s nearly as much as electricity, and twice as much all the world’s passenger cars combined.

Industry – steel, cement, and manufacturing – account for 21% of human emissions – one and a half times as much as all the world’s cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes combined.

Add industry, agriculture, and land use together and you have a very sticky, very difficult-to-improve 45% of carbon emissions.



I think that climate change can be addressed by a combination of individual behavioral change and regulation.

I also think that regulation targeted directly at specific personal behaviors will fail. There isn’t enough popular support to ban meat, for instance. Nor for any of the other objectionable behaviors described here. Evenly applied laws, like carbon taxes that apply to almost everything you do, are more likely to successfully change behavior than those that clearly distinguish “winners” from “losers”.

On the hand, regulation can be more heavy-handed when applied to corporate behavior. So even if we can’t ban people from buying internal combustion engines, we could potentially ban UPS from buying them.

As for what I’m doing? Well, I’m definitely going to continue refusing to adopt a cat. Because as we all know, cat ownership significantly contributes to global warming. Cat owners are the real problem. Cat euthanasia is the only moral option. Just kidding, what I do is none of your business.



Can you describe another problem of similar size that was addressed that way? What particular changes of personal behavior do you think will be needed, and at what scale; and what gives you confidence that there will be sufficient adoption to achieve that scale?

Won’t carbon taxes at any reasonably effective rate be massively regressive? Which is to say, won’t they create winners and losers? It seems to me a way to shift the cost of addressing climate change down to the least wealthy, which is perhaps why Republicans were once so fond of it.

What a surprisingly asinine response. If you mean to convince people that personal action is the answer, I think you’re going to have to develop a better pitch than that.



At least you didn’t call you useless and tell you to curl up and die. Definitely an improvement.



Dont put words in my mouth. I never asked anyone to curl up and die. I asked if you would volunteer to help the population problem that I don’t think we have.

Please don’t misquote me again.

Once again, people aren’t willing to be part of the solution.



Haha. You won’t commit suicide. You’re not a team player!



Again, I don’t think we have a population problem. I am merely proposing a solution to the problem you and @magnet believe exists.

On that note, hopefully neither of you volunteer. You seem like upstanding people, even if you are both wrong.



This largely depends on the degree to which we can be helped by technological innovation, which is very hard to predict. Some people think that various breakthroughs could allow us to decrease CO2 emissions with relatively small behavioral changes, others are less optimistic. I’m agnostic on that issue.

That depends on how they are implemented. For instance, some have suggested using the proceeds of the tax to eliminate other regressive taxes. You could even distribute the tax revenue equally to all households, ie use it to fund a progressive universal basic income.

The point is that you aren’t targeting specific behaviors. The “winners” are those who decrease CO2 emissions by any means they choose, and the “losers” those who don’t want to make any effort at all. That’s a feature, not a bug.

I’ve already described lots of personal choices people can make, and emphasized that it’s up to them to choose among them. The choices that I made are irrelevant, because I’m not trying to convince anyone that I should be their role model.

Apart from avoiding cats. Cats are bad and if you have one then you are bad.



If the carbon tax isn’t revenue neutral the gov’t can cut a check for lower income brackets (or eliminates taxes,etc.) There’s a host of academic papers on the subject now.



Indeed, but 1) how likely is it that a revenue-increasing carbon tax can be passed, and 2) isn’t it likely that the revenue from such a tax will end up being spent on mitigation efforts? I’m guessing that e.g. the National Flood Insurance program is going to need some serious funding.

No, but you are making an argument against behavioral mandates on the grounds that voluntary behavior change is better and would be more effective. It’s really not unreasonable to expect you to give some concrete examples (which you really haven’t). And if your argument is enough people will do these things, it’s also not unreasonable to ask if you’re doing them. Otherwise, what are you basing that judgement on?


  1. Not likely (although a Florida Republican planned on introducing a carbon tax bill last year so not impossible)
  2. You write the rebates into law. Kind of have to I think if you want broad support.


Yeah, but that’s just a shell game. I’m saying we’ll need bigger government to meet the costs of mitigation, which means we’ll need more tax revenue and that there will be less money available for tax rebates. It won’t happen.