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August 25, 2019

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We need a program, on the order of the Apollo Program, to create the technologies to deal with climate change and roll them out

Which is your priority right there.

It’s interesting to consider, though, that LBJ tried to deliver the Great Society simultaneously with Apollo, and might just have succeeded but for Vietnam.

Which nicely illustrates the scope for ambition, and its limitations.

nothing says 'respect for voters' like parliamentary shenanigans to override a veto.

That link crashed my browser.

Worked OK on mine. (Chrome)

Seems to work OK for in Chrome for me too. But, in Firefox, I got a bright red screen labeled as a severe Firefox error with a long message about someone was trying to steal my banking information with a 1-800 number for Microsoft(?). Then the browser crashed. Perhaps a scam.

it's a link to the website of the Raleigh News & Observer (the local paper).

In a surprise move Wednesday morning, the N.C. House of Representatives voted to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget with just over half of the 120 members present to vote.

Democrats in the chamber objected to the bill being brought up, saying they were told there would be no votes during the 8:30 a.m. session and that it was just a formality so work could begin. Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget and chaos in the chamber quickly ensued. House Speaker Tim Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, said that announcement was not made, and even asked the House Clerk to back him up.

“This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, said when the vote was called, noting that Democratic leadership was not present. “We will not yield.”

Moore ignored the objections of the Democrats that were in the room and instead mowed through the vote with only 64 members present. The vote was 55-9.

About three hours later, Cooper held a press conference to condemn Republicans for what he called “an assault on our Democracy.”

“Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, while the state was honoring first responders, Republicans called a deceptive, surprise override of my budget veto,” he told reporters.

“On a day when tragedy united our country, we should be standing together despite party,” Cooper said. Instead, he said, “the Republican caucus was laying in wait, ready for this.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my 30-plus years in state government,” he said.

Moore responded to Cooper and Democrats at an 1 p.m. press conference, where he denied that any promises were made about a “no vote” session. The budget was on Wednesday’s calendar and included no disclaimer that there wouldn’t be a vote.

“If they didn’t want it to pass, all you have to do is show up for work,” Moore said.

somehow 55 Republicans knew to be there instead of at the 9/11 memorial service.

The R's in NC foreshadow what happens nationally.


I got what you did when I first clicked the link, CharlesWT (in Chrome). I was able to get rid of the message, and things work fine now. I did a quick virus scan, just in case, and nothing was found.

pithy take on the GCC argument:

1. Climate change is dubious and irrelevant --> no point cutting emissions 2. Climate change is apocalyptic and impossible --> no point cutting emissions

Seems like society's move from denial #1 to denial #2 has happened in barely the blink of an eye

McKTex on GCC and other stuff. As a preface, I've proofed this several times and am out of gas. If something seems particularly disturbing or stupid, be open to the notion that it's a syntax or typo error. I'm happy to clarify points.

Ok, here goes:

As background, I’m going to begin with a quote from GFTNC and work from there:

I think you are (perhaps subconsciously) hoping we come up with things that are so out in left field (sic) that you can reject them out of hand, reassured that although conservatives have lost their way, the prescriptions of lefties and liberals are still unworthy of consideration, or perhaps (very unlikely, I know, but just as subconsciously) you are hoping for a justification or rationalisation to vote for the kind of people you would never in the (golden) past have considered. GFTNC 9/10 at 8:28

Let me counter with this: while motive is often important—given what I do for a living, how could I not believe this to be true?—but often enough, when someone says something or makes an inquiry, they can either be coming straight at you, meaning exactly what they say or, in this specific instance, intending to get substantive answers. Hopefully, I am going to try, time permitting, to follow up, but my intent isn’t to score points (usually), but to have a discussion and see how things fall out.

With that background, I’m going to lay out a series of quotes beginning with Cleek on 9/9 at 2:30 p.m.:

it's going to take a truly, fundamentally, all-encompassing, systemic change in order to save us.

Then we have Russell also on 9/9 at 4:21 p.m.

Basically, when the potential damage for a scenario is catastrophic, even low percentage likelihoods deserve attention and action. We're well into catastrophic potential damage, and well beyond low percentage likelihoods.

And then Nigel, 9/9 at 6:29 p.m.

It means completely replacing fossil fuels within three decades. For all energy usage.

And then GFTNC 9/9 6:49 p.m.:

we would be giving up: most of the meat we eat and replacing it with grains, legumes and vegetables which will be used to feed us more efficiently than they feed animals (and with a cocommitant reduction in methane emissions by no longer raising ruminant animals in such quantity); fossil-fuel guzzling technology like air conditioning except in life-threateningly hot environments (from which we will probably have to move) and cars, unless a way can be found to run them non pollutingly; much of the air travel we currently take for granted; uninsulated home environments; our current acceptance of completely unnecessary packaging and general wastage of resources. To name but a few.

The ever-subtle BobbyP, 9/9 at 8:33 p.m.

I would say most of the liberal-atti here are enamoured with technological changes, the promise of electric cars (but how will they be manufactured?), nuclear power, a bit of a nip and a tuck there....but no REAL PAIN.
This is entirely understandable.
But it is a recipe for disaster.
I would say most of the liberal-atti here are enamoured with technological changes, the promise of electric cars (but how will they be manufactured?), nuclear power, a bit of a nip and a tuck there....but no REAL PAIN.
This is entirely understandable.
But it is a recipe for disaster.

And back to Nigel, 9/9 at 11:36 p.m.

As far as cars are concerned, the rich folks will switch to electric first, and likely without much complaint. More difficult is rapidly getting rid of all the existing gas burners on the road quickly.
More difficult again is transition to zero carbon housing.
Stuff like replacing the electric grid is comparatively easy - although it will cost a great deal we pretty well know how to get there. In comparison, changing every home in the US is a gnarly problem.
With a mix of tax, regulation and government funding, it can and will happen, but it has to start with the next administration.
If the US does it, I think the world’s major economies will rapidly follow, if only for reasons of economics (though the will might be there already in China and Europe).
Without the US, it almost certainly won’t happen quickly enough.

Today, here and there, in small fits and starts, small steps have been and continue to be taken to address pollution, GCC, whatever you want to call it. Wind farms are popping up everywhere. I had an interesting case involving a huge solar farm out in a part of west Texas I never knew existed—some of the ugliest, most inhospitable land imaginable with several hundred acres of solar panels. So, there is movement. But no pain. In 1978 or thereabouts, President Carter called the need to end our energy dependence on foreign oil “the moral equivalent of war.” Not too long thereafter, some editorial comic showed a jammed freeway in both directions with the caption “President Carter’s declaration of the moral equivalent of war has fallen on the ears of 300,000,000 conscientious objectors.”
My wife and I drove from Houston to Spicewood TX Thursday evening. The highways were packed. Traffic starts in Houston around 6 in the morning and goes until well after 10 p.m. Many of our freeways are 5 lanes a side and they teem with cars. Our suburbs stretch to the horizon. Beef goes on sale every weekend. Outdoor grilling is almost a religion. I have cases all over the state. I fly 2-3 times a month, minimum, on business. It’s a rare flight that isn’t full. I take a bus occasionally to Austin (and then Uber). It’s always full. I spend lots of time in Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi and Austin. It’s the same everywhere. This is a big state and people like to move around. I see this every day.

So let me just start with this observation: people will not agree to fundamentally roll back their lifestyles to the point necessary to achieve the elimination of fossil fuels in 30 years, become functional vegetarians and stay home. That will not happen voluntarily.

BP makes the point, assuming I am understanding him, that the Nigel/Cleek/Russell slice of the left believe the defeat-of-climate-change is achieved with technology, not an unduly heavy governmental hand. Again, mind-reading BP, he thinks the technological fix is wishful thinking. He thinks achieving the needed rectification of society world wide (which is what we are talking about, when you think it through) will require a ‘command economy’. That comes from the barrel of a gun. Good luck with that.

But let’s say that Nigel has it right and that “with a mix of tax, regulation and government funding, it can and will happen.” Does this remain true if we also forgive all student debt, make college free, increase SS payments $200/month, have “Medicare for All”, and so on? So, really, we can have it all this new stuff, plus keep SS and Medicare and all the other stuff and not have to make any sacrifices?

Is that even credible? Who would vote for someone who would make that claim with a straight face?

That’s Reality Check No. 1. I have a couple more.

Going back to “tax, regulation and government funding”, the first thing I’d like to see is the formula that keeps the private sector motivated to be creative in finding this tech fix while paying more than it already is in taxes. Please do not point to Europe. New business start-ups in the EU do not compare at all favorably to the US. We raise far more capital for new enterprises than does Europe. “Tax” is only different from “government funding” if “government funding” means “government borrowing” or “government printing money.” You can’t borrow what isn’t there to be lent. As we are going to find out someday, you can’t borrow forever, and just printing money doesn’t work.
So, it comes down to taxes and a sustainable private sector. Getting down to specifics: how much new money is going to have to be raised to achieve the technology necessary to ward off the effects of GCC? How do we raise that money on a sustainable basis, i.e. get the same amount, or more, every year ad infinitum? Because, for those who haven’t noticed, we are deficit spending our asses off right now and falling farther behind than ever before (yes, I know, tax cuts for the rich, whatever—if we reversed the tax cuts, we’d be marginally better off because we spend our asses off and no one is proposing any spending cuts except for national defense.)

Answer to the foregoing: no one has a clue. But, logically, if we can’t cover our current nut, how in the world are we going to sustainably find the money to save the world with the kind of change everyone here agrees is the minimum necessary to get things done?

Now let’s talk about “regulation.” Since we are saving the planet, if it’s necessary to do so, do we let the regulators determine what kind and how much food we get? How big our houses are? Whether we can have a house at all, or do we need to move into something like apartments? How much water can we consume in a week or a month? How often can we wash our clothes? Only electric cars? What if I can’t afford one? Will the government have enough money left over after finding the tech fix to subsidize my car—and cover my medical bills?

Since we are talking about a global catastrophe, why shouldn’t we be open to limiting family size, travel, work option, etc.? Is there anything that shouldn’t be on the table to stave off this impending disaster?

If we are serious, shouldn’t every service, every task, every activity of daily life be measured by its environmental impact and either encouraged, taxed or proscribed accordingly? What if the people push back? What if people refuse to go along with what they are told to do? Do we allow that?

A separate concern: as background, consider that people who lose their jobs if they make mistakes, people who lose their businesses if they screw up too badly, still manage to screw up. IOW, people with immediate, personal reasons to get it right and keep making a living still manage to not get it right.

Compare this to government employees who have no meaningful consequences for screwing up. Whatever else they might worry about at night, screwing up at the office and getting fired isn’t one of them. They are unaccountable. Yet, from this insulated population of our country, we are hoping to find those who are so wise, so motivated and so prescient that we can trust them to effectively allocate the resources to find the tech fix to save the world? Who will run that job search?
And what if the Search Committee screws it up by hiring the wrong people to manage the resource allocation, and thus screwing up the allocation itself? How many do-overs do they get? What is the citizen’s remedy when, after giving up so much, the technology isn’t there because the regulators were too inept to make it happen?
Put differently, what assurances do we have that the completely unaccountable regulatory arm of our government will acquire that heretofore, not-immediately-apparent level of skill, sophistication, nuance and talent to let it successfully manage “a truly, fundamentally, all-encompassing, systemic change” in how we live our lives?

To summarize:the basic premise that with the individual citizen consenting to significant but bearable government-imposed diminutions in lifestyles, an effective, competent and centralized government will regulate and coordinate a sustainable technological drive that, in the near future, will liberate us from our enslavement to fossil fuels and prevent a global disaster, and when that happens, the rest of the world will voluntarily follow” just seems bit too wishful to me, by about 50 orders of magnitude.

When you look at the people who say they can make all of this happen—Sanders, Warren, et al—none of them have pioneered anything even remotely effective. They are bog-standard pols. Nothing in history, nothing in human experience or human nature suggests that any of these people have even the slightest ability to do what is said to be necessary to fix the GCC problem. Hell, they are falling all over themselves giving away money by the mega-billions on causes that have nothing to do with GCC. Sorry, I cannot take them seriously and no one has made the case that I should.

End of speech and thank you for reading this far, if you have.

BONUS!!!! MCKTEX RESPONDS TO BP AND GFTNC ON UNRELATED TOPICS!!!

From GFTNC:

I wonder if, having seen the horrors of a Trump presidency in (preliminary) action, McKinney is shoring up his existing dislike and disapproval of governmental regulation and interference in order to ensure that in the event of e.g. a Warren v Trump election he can justify to himself not voting for Warren, who after all has shown that she is quite prepared to regulate (gasp) to protect the public from the disproportionate influence and power of private actors whose priorities may not include the common good?

She is certainly willing to regulate. Yes, she is. That said, I have no internal need to justify to myself—or to anyone else—what I do, including who I vote for (or how I select my clothes or what books I like). I make my decisions and form my opinions based on my experience, my sense of history (my undergraduate degree) and my assessment, objective and subjective, of what I see, read and hear and how that jibes with my sense of what is and ought to be. I’m a lot less complicated than perhaps you imagine.

And gain, the ever-subtle BP:

But in return, I expect the next time he trots his ass in here to promote tax cuts for the wealthy that he bring CONCRETE AND SPECIFIC DETAILS.

I would be interested in seeing the last time I argued for tax cuts for the wealthy. I have, several times, made a detailed case for leaving tax rates—earned income and cap gains—at the pre-Trump levels while significantly lowering the corporate tax rates (and doing whatever can be done to mitigate/eliminate the effects of transfer pricing and offsetting profits earned in the US with “losses” incurred elsewhere). I think a max marginal rate of 40% up to 2-3M is about right. I would bring back income-averaging for people who have a one-off year. I’m open to a 50% max rate above 2-3M and I don’t lose sleep worrying about the few who consistently make bazillions. But, generally, those who make more should pay more. Also, generally, the assholes who take my money should spend it responsibly. Are we clear on my tax preferences?

MkT—

I’m about to go out and probably wouldn’t have a lot to say, but two points—

1. You sound skeptical of GCC. Are you? And are you skeptical because of what it might mean if bobbyp is right? Read what might happen if the temperature goes up 3 or 4 Celsius. Think of this as Nazis having a jet fighter equipped Luftwaffe in 1942. What should people have been willing to sacrifice in that circumstance? The problem with GCC is it still doesn’t seem quite real to us. I read predictions that some parts of the tropics might become literally uninhabitable. People should be terrified, but not paralyzed by it.

2. The protests in France show what happens if you impose taxes and don’t do something for people hurt by them. So some version of a Green New Deal would probably be necessary.

Can we do it all? Maybe not. Then we are screwed.

I’m about to go out

Me too. Have fun.

You sound skeptical of GCC. Are you? And are you skeptical because of what it might mean if bobbyp is right?

It gets warmer every year. I quit playing after nine holes today because I got overheated. It's mid-September. Things are warming up.

But, if it's face the Brave New World of climate disaster or live in a command economy, I'll take my chances with Mother Nature.

I'm very certain that, given human nature and the nature of how governments run, a command economy would produce a much worse outcome than a market economy. Given my lack of confidence in sustained, collective action, we should focus on dealing with the effects, not the cause, of GCC.

Think of this as Nazis having a jet fighter equipped Luftwaffe in 1942.

An intriguing metaphor. Like when the US was sending the Brewster Buffalo up against the Japanese Zero? A death sentence for US Marines because we were too stupid and too trusting that war would never come and yet it did, but we weren't ready for it. At least we aren't that way now. No, we recognize the threat of the PRC and we are all moving in lock step to make sure they stay deterred. At least we are united in how we respond to that palpable threat.

OK, that was me being a prick. But, when I look into my crystal ball, I don't see people migrating out of Africa and the mid-east in thirty years. I see war. In Asia. Lots of it. Maybe in five years, maybe ten. China has had imperial designs on its neighbors for centuries. When that happens, when half the world is in a continual state of war and revolt, GCC will be the last thing on peoples' minds.

But, even if I'm wrong--that has happened--we lack the competence, particularly with a command economy, to do what people say needs to be done. Is the case being over-stated? I don't know. It wouldn't be the first time politically active people have exaggerated something for advantage. But, I just don't know.

I have no internal need to justify to myself—or to anyone else—what I do, including who I vote for (or how I select my clothes or what books I like). I make my decisions and form my opinions based on my experience, my sense of history (my undergraduate degree) and my assessment, objective and subjective, of what I see, read and hear and how that jibes with my sense of what is and ought to be. I’m a lot less complicated than perhaps you imagine.

McKinney, thank you for your thoughtful reply, on the GCC issue in particular. Regarding what I have here excerpted, I think everyone is more complicated than they think, and I imagine you are no exception. I didn't think you were defensively casting around for justification, but that your sense of what is and ought to be (like that of very many thoughtful people) might have become somewhat dislocated as a result of current political developments. The spectacle of conservatives in the Senate kowtowing to the appalling Trump has I think taken you somewhat aback, and given your opinion of him and them, it wouldn't be the least surprising if you were questioning your previous policy of only voting for people you positively wanted in office, rather than tactically voting to get people out. But I take your word for it that you are not doing so, and although I myself cannot understand how any intelligent, honest person can decide this, that is obviously a failure of my imagination.

On the GCC question, by the way, my list of what I thought was probably necessary did seem somewhat more drastic than that of some of the Americans here; maybe the European consensus is a bit more extreme. Speaking personally, FWIW, I drive a petrol car (my late husband's) at the moment, but drove a hybrid before and will probably revert to that or an electric one in due course. And although I love meat, and good beef in particular, my meat consumption has dropped rather dramatically in the last 10 years or so from no conscious decision, but a natural shift to more Mediterranean-style (particularly Italian) cooking, from the French stuff I started my adult life cooking. However, to my shame rather, I am still addicted to plastic-bottled sparkling water, of which I drink perhaps 2 litres a day (which is 4 bottles - I recycle them of course, but this is still pretty bad). If this was deemed so unacceptable that its sale was stopped, no doubt I would survive, and probably end up pleased about it. I do intend to give it up, but like St Augustine and chastity, not yet.

Back, it was a short informal meet the new rector party.

“Like when the US was sending the Brewster Buffalo up against the Japanese Zero? A death sentence for US Marines because we were too stupid and too trusting that war would never come and yet it did, but we weren't ready for it.”

Don’t think that was the reason. Fighter plane technology seemed to advance pretty fast in that era. The Buffalo came out and was obsolete fairly quickly, then there was the Wildcat which with very good pilots could sort of hold its own with the Zero until the Hellcat and then the Corsair made the Zero obsolete.

If you are imagining a naval war with China, it isn’t so much that we aren’t spending boatloads of money. We are. But aircraft carriers might do about as well against hypersonic missiles as battleships did against torpedo and dive bombers. And anyway, a modern war between great powers might go nuclear, so it would probably be a good idea not to even think of it in WWII terms. But sure, if we have an all out war with China it might speed up the sixth mass extinction we might be causing.

I'm very certain that, given human nature and the nature of how governments run, a command economy would produce a much worse outcome than a market economy.

In my youth, I read Heller's Catch-22 several times, and loved every word.

We still won the war.

It strikes me that human societies of just about any economic arrangement have a tendency to consume their seed corn upon reaching high levels of (relative) prosperity. Now we have the entire world in a bind.

The bind starts with the carbon economy and the industrial revolution. Couple that with the pernicious (I kid) Enlightenment and its idea of human progress.

Now here we are.

The 3rd World shall not cease its efforts to attain the prosperity of The West. The West, having plundered that world and leaving it in the dust wealth-wise has no political will to share the spoils to slow down and/or halt rising global carbon emissions.

It's all "you first" and thus we are on a glide path to disaster.

So sit in that Huston traffic and turn on some good music. Enjoy. Your grandchildren will not be so lucky.

McTX: Getting down to specifics: how much new money is going to have to be raised to achieve the technology necessary to ward off the effects of GCC?

Exactly as much as money needs to raised as needs to be spent.

Note that neither a hapless government nor a multi-billion conglomerate nor a failing start-up can spend money without buying things or paying people.

So let's be clear as well as specific. "Money" doesn't disappear from The Economy when it gets collected in taxes. It re-enters The Economy when government spends it. Of course, the set of people paying the taxes, and the set of people receiving government orders or paychecks, are different (though overlapping) sets.

All of the above is true for "defense", or "health care", as well as "clean energy" or whatever we call efforts to mitigate the greenhouse problem.

I invite McKinney to re-frame this particular concern of his in terms of tangible "goods and services" rather than in terms of "money".

--TP

So let's be clear as well as specific. "Money" doesn't disappear from The Economy when it gets collected in taxes. It re-enters The Economy when government spends it. Of course, the set of people paying the taxes, and the set of people receiving government orders or paychecks, are different (though overlapping) sets.

This. It's economic stimulus, a booming economy, and people thrive.

Going back to “tax, regulation and government funding”, the first thing I’d like to see is the formula that keeps the private sector motivated to be creative in finding this tech fix while paying more than it already is in taxes. Please do not point to Europe. New business start-ups in the EU do not compare at all favorably to the US. We raise far more capital for new enterprises than does Europe.

Allow me to observe that we can pay far more than we do in taxes without reaching European levels. And that we managed high levels of innovation back in the days when we did have notably higher tax rates. Especially higher corporate and capital gains rates. So there's obviously room thete.

Let me also offer a small insight, as someone who has spent the last decade or two in a high-innovation area (computer software start-ups). There are two pieces here. First, there are the folks creating and developing the innovation. In my obsevation, their motivation is the technology itself. We have no objection to getting rich, but we're too aware of the odds to put in all the work just for that. Hiking tax rates, even above European rates, won't really impact that part.

Then there is the financial part. That is basically people who are already rich, and would like to be richer. Mostly, in my observation, they don't need more money -- except for scorekeeping with their peers. So as long as everybody's paying the same taxes, no impact there. Also, at least at the moment, there's rather a lot of money looking for an actual viable idea. Yeah, they want to be convinced that your technology will work, and that you've spared a bit of thought to how you will actually market it (starting with identifying a market). But if you've got that, money is definitely available.

It's true that other places don't do as well at innovation implementation as we do. (Although we have nothing resembling a monopoly.) But from what I've seen, that is far, far more cultural than financial. Specifically the part that let's people change jobs a lot, and doesn't trash your career prospects just because you spent a hand full of years on a start-up that didn't take off. In short, it's not that we have more upsides (higher profit potential). It's that we have lower downsides -- lower personal risk.

The “tax and regulation" part of "tax, regulation and government funding" influences where innovation happens. Or rather, which innovations move from available to spread across the landscape. Because the innovations will keep happening, at least in our culture.

anyway, a modern war between great powers might go nuclear, so it would probably be a good idea not to even think of it in WWII terms.

North Korea might be different, but the people running the great powers aren't suicidal. That's why deterrence worked for half a century. So no, a modern war wouldn't go nuclear. It would be economic/technological. We keep making more and more of our lives dependent on computers. Computers which mostly are connected to the Internet. (There are isolated bits, especially in the military and intelligence areas. But they aren't what run our economy.)

And we even know it works. Because there have been what you can consider trial runs between small countries. Not to mention hacking, especially ransomware attacks. Nobody, at least no great power, has cut loose. But we all know the other guy could. It would be a disaster . . . but the world would be inhabitable afterwards.

Regarding McT’s crystal ball, I hope he still has the receipt


https://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/the-unlikely-new-gateway-for-african-migrants-to-the-americas-ecuador/95376

people will not agree to fundamentally roll back their lifestyles to the point necessary to achieve the elimination of fossil fuels in 30 years, become functional vegetarians and stay home.

Some will, and do, but overall this point holds. And if that doesn't change, the effects of climate change will be worse.

We - ObWi commenters - will probably be dead before that really kicks in. Our grandkids and great grandkids will see it, and then their kids, grandkids, etc.

All of human history, civilization, culture, achievement, has taken place in a relatively stable and congenial climate. We have no experience of adapting to significant and relatively rapid change. I'm not sure we are equipped for it.

I really have no idea - none - how it will play out.

Contrary to comments above, I *am not* in the camp that thinks the solution to any of this is technological. I think the solution is cultural. People need to change their thinking and their behavior. If anything, the belief in a technological genie in a bottle is only going to get in the way.

People in the developed world - us - are the ones who benefit most from the things that cause this problem. It behooves us to make the changes needed to mitigate what is already on its way. We don't actually need to live the way we do, in fact we might be happier in some ways if we didn't.

A command economy is not needed. What is needed is a change in our sense of what we can't live without, what we are entitled to, and what our responsibilities are to every other living being, present and future.

I wish it was as simple as a technological fix. That would probably be easier.

I don't expect very much of what I've described as necessary to happen. My guess is that humans, and every other living thing, will spend the next few centuries adapting to climate change. Some will, some won't.

A command economy is not needed. What is needed is a change in our sense of what we can't live without, what we are entitled to, and what our responsibilities are to every other living being, present and future.

I wish it was as simple as a technological fix. That would probably be easier.

I don't think that we have the self-discipline to do this all by ourselves without government incentives and/or coercion. Many of us are making an effort now. I eat no red meat, drive a hybrid vehicle (and try to drive less), try to use less plastic (although it's difficult to eliminate it). Air conditioning is impossible for me to eliminate, although I try to be as conservative as I can.

Part of the self-discipline problem is the sense that doing something painful is not really helping if other people are wildly excessive, which is where government comes in. Some degree of rationing would be useful.

Technology won't solve everything, but it can solve some things. But government has to incentivize that too. Fossil fuels can be replaced by cleaner energy. I looked at putting solar panels on our house, but simply can't afford it right now. I would do it if it were subsidized. If everyone had to do it (and got help), they would, and it would save a lot of fossil fuels.

I think we can do this, but it's not going to each of us individually. There are too many who just don't care at all, and will mindlessly, or purposely, blow everyone else's efforts. Most of us care, but need some prodding, and a knowledge that what we're doing is part of a concerted societal effort. Our current government's commitment to working at cross purposes is despicable.

I’ve noticed something about the reaction to the New Yorker piece by Franzen last week which took the position that we won’t do enough to stop GCC so we might as well focus on adapting on a nongovernmental scale. In a way it is what MkT seems to be saying.

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/9/11/20857956/jonathan-franzen-climate-change-new-yorker

Many lefties and climate scientists hated it. I fell in- between, but more towards the hate side. But in the past week three liberal people I know in real life liked it. I think it appeals to people’s sense that they are too sophisticated to be sucked into optimism. To some extent I agree.

The two fundamental problems with the piece were that it got the science wrong and it used pessimism as an excuse for surrender. On the first point, Franzen seems to have misunderstood the warning that we have to get things right in the next 10- 12 years or things get really bad with the idea that things couldn’t get worse. He thinks that we get it right or we are completely and irrevocably fracked. In reality we don’t know enough about tipping points, but 3 degrees is worse than 2 and 4 degrees is worse than 3. The problem is that political rhetoric doesn’t mesh well with scientific descriptions of varying levels of environmental catastrophes. Things can be bad or they can be worse and ultimately, things could be Permian mass extinction level if we just continue to be moronic.

And he uses this and his justified pessimism about human nature as an excuse to dismiss large scale government action. Here I agree with sapient, as do most people left of center. Franzen wants to surrender right at the point where people are starting to get really serious about the issue and where young people are becoming outraged at the old farts who have given them this problem when we should have been working on it for the past thirty years.

seem like there's always a reason to do nothing.

first it was because the data was wrong. then it was because it was a natural cycle. then it was because other countries won't do it too. now its because we're too late.

how convenient.

McTX: If we are serious, shouldn’t every service, every task, every activity of daily life be measured by its environmental impact and either encouraged, taxed or proscribed accordingly?

Yes. IF.

I highly recommend (to all my friends, not only McKinney) a book called Washington Goes to War by David Brinkley. If you want an entertaining account of the last time Americans and their government took something "seriously", Brinkley's reminiscences are hard to beat. By turns funny, poignant, cynical, and serious, Washington Goes to War provides all sorts of insights into how The Government works, and does not work, that are still relevant today.

A determined doubter of "central planning" and "big government" may offer several objections to comparing World War Two with the greenhouse problem. Let me pre-butt some of them:

The Axis was no more a mortal threat to America than CO2 is. Sure, The American Way of Life would have substantially changed if Hitler had consolidated his dominance of Europe, and Tojo his over the Pacific Rim, but it would not have been the end of the USA. Replace Hitler and Tojo with CO2 from fossil carbon, and I think the analogy works well.

The US government basically taking command of American industry, imposing rationing on the citizenry, and conscripting a generation of young men was certainly a major imposition on many Americans' personal preferences, but it was only temporary, right? There was a clear goal; once met, The American Way of Life could return to "normal", right? Well, "zero net CO2 emissions" is also a clear goal. And The American Way of Life returned to a somewhat different "normal" after WW2, by the way: consider income tax withholding, health insurance "benefits", the GI Bill, and in many ways "civil rights".

"Where is the money to come from for this extraordinary effort?" Americans could -- and according to Brinkley, did -- ask that ever-popular question. Answering it is above my pay grade for now. I simply note that a year or two before, the US was still climbing out of the Great Depression, when (most) Americans didn't have enough "money".

Anyway, to summarize: if we are "serious" about solving a problem then yes, everythiing has to be on the table.

Sorry for replying to McKinney in bits and pieces; I can only manage to steal an occasional half hour from my granny-nanny duties. More may follow.

--TP

Donald, thanks for the Franzen cite.

In addition to the objections to the piece that you cite, I'll add another: it's not an either/or thing. Some degree of climate change is baked in at this point, and we should prepare for that. And, there is a lot we can still do to minimize the overall effects, long and short term, and we should be doing those.

Both. Do both. Lots of people and places are doing both.

I am probably toward the more pessimistic spectrum about this stuff, which I recognize as a kind of luxury - I'm not going to have to live with it, because I won't be here that much longer. So I can kind of stroke my beard and lament the perversity of human nature.

I recognize that as a form of laziness, and try to counter it. But if I were 20, or 30, or 40, I think my freaking hair would be on fire about this stuff. It might be that people, say, 50 and up are going to have to be shoved out of the way before we make significant progress.

I actually think it is more than possible for Americans, specifically, to change the behaviors that are most responsible for GCC. We have made broad cultural, social, and infrastructure changes of similar scope in the past, see also Tony P's cite. And not always just at wartime.

What stands in the way of that is positive political leadership - the ability to muster a sense of common purpose, the ability to articulate positive, actionable goals. The ability to build trust and consensus.

That is basically non-existent at the national level right now. And if I am honest, I place the origins of that at Reagan's famous nine words, IMHO the most toxic bit of political doggerel uttered by an American POTUS in the last 100 years.

We used to be able to do stuff like this. We've lost that ability, somehow. The present circumstances demand that we recover it.

We don't need a "command economy", as McK envisions it. The things that rank and file Americans might be required to do - to "give up", as McK styles it - are not actually that horrifying. We most likely do need to restructure a hell of a lot of infrastructure, but we actually do that in the normal course of business anyway.

What we need is leadership, and the ability as a nation to actually receive and respond to it. The first almost certainly exists - people with the intelligence and vision and personal charisma are out there, simply as a matter of statistical reality.

The second part is what is lacking, IMO.

We used to be able to do stuff like this. Nowadays, we don't. We're profoundly suspicious of each other and of our own institutions and leadership. When I say "leadership" I'm not even talking about individuals, I'm talking about the office - the function - of leadership. We don't trust the entities that are responsible for setting national goals and priorities and directing public effort toward them.

So we're failing at this.

That's how it all looks to me. I'm looking forward to young people shoving me and lazy, pessimistic old farts like me the hell out of the way and turning this crap around so we can get things done again.

All of human history, civilization, culture, achievement, has taken place in a relatively stable and congenial climate. We have no experience of adapting to significant and relatively rapid change. I'm not sure we are equipped for it.

We don't have experience with global change. On the other hand, we have a couple examples of regional change to give us a clue. The past few decades, the Sahel in Africa has been moving southward, and the Sahara itself right behind. The movement of populations as a result is quite apparent. As is what the reduced economic circumstances have contributed to the rise of violent Muslim fundamentalist groups there.

Or, for a 1st world example, look no further than the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. It wasn't, strictly speaking, a result of a change in the climate. But the movement of people as a result was pretty noticable.

Note that, in both cases, there was somewhere relatively accessable to move TO. Somewhere with room to put you -- even if lacking economic opportunities for you. (If you're Bengladesh, or an island country, things are rather more difficult.) And it was still a mess.

We don't need a "command economy", as McK envisions it. The things that rank and file Americans might be required to do - to "give up", as McK styles it - are not actually that horrifying.

Come off it, russell! There are those for whom having to give up their muscle cars and monster trucks, even if for something equally large but electric, IS horrifying.

In significant part, I suspect, the big issue for many is the lack of noise. How can you flaunt your masculinity quietly??? Just not possible.

russell: All of human history, civilization, culture, achievement, has taken place in a relatively stable and congenial climate. We have no experience of adapting to significant and relatively rapid change. I'm not sure we are equipped for it.

wj: We don't have experience with global change. On the other hand, we have a couple examples of regional change to give us a clue.

Jared Diamond's "Collapse" lists a lot more than a "couple examples" of regional change that has toppled societies. I read it a long time ago, but I believe he also gives some examples of societies that have caught themselves in time and survived.

On the other hand, we have a couple examples of regional change to give us a clue.

Sadly, not encouraging.

How can you flaunt your masculinity quietly???

OK, bicycles with megaphones. :)

OK, bicycles with megaphones. :)

In my last few years of hanging out in the Boston area, cyclists supplanted "Boston drivers" as the number one assholes on the road. Sanctimonious to the hilt, demanding concessions while not obeying traffic laws, treating both drivers and pedestrians like lesser beings....

"Some of my best friends" (as the saying goes) rode bikes to work... but they acknowledged the phenomenon I'm talking about. When the Longfellow Bridge re-opened to two-way traffic after three years of construction, the cyclists were bitching because even though they had a much wider lane than before, and IIRC guard barriers between the bikes and the cars, they thought there wasn't enough room for the Tour de France wannabes to pass the regular mortals safely.

And now that you mention it, every cyclist I ever saw acting like an asshole was a guy.

So this is just to attest that it doesn't require a megaphone to act like a macho idiot on a bike. ;-)

Jared Diamond's "Collapse" lists a lot more than a "couple examples" of regional change that has toppled societies.

I was going for two that I figured everybody here would be acquainted with. Without having to go out and learn something new. We definitely would need to study Diamond's examples and more when working out how to deal with the climate changes that are no longer avoidable. But to dramatize what kinds of impacts we are talking about, a couple well-known examples are, in my experience, useful.

Sometimes I think we should just embrace the outsourcing model.

Hire the Dutch to plan out and manage measures to address sea level rise. They have the know how.

Hire the French to stand up and operate a system of nuclear power generation plants. They're really good at it. Probably take, what, ten to twenty years to roll out, and would give us fifty to seventy years to get renewables up to scale.

We could give France a side deal for intercity rail, too. And either France or the Netherlands would be good go-to sources for sustainable agriculture.

Hire the best and get out of their way. It's a classic management strategy. Tell me why it's a bad idea.

Hire the best and get out of their way. It's a classic management strategy. Tell me why it's a bad idea.

russell, what is the matter with you? They're furriners, thus by definition they can't be better at anything than MAGA-landers.

Oh, I forgot, they're also SOCIALISTS. QED.

Plus, if we were smart enough to recognize their expertise, we might actually be smart enough to find and encourage our own home-grown talent to do the job. It's not like we're not a country of 330,000,000 million people, some of us/them highly educated in some of the world's most respected institutions of higher learning. (Cough cough.)

IOW, I don't think it's technical expertise we're lacking, although we can always learn from people who've accomplished difficult things. It's political will we're lacking....

But you knew that, so I'll pipe down now.

The French are not ‘really good at it’, as anyone who has followed their recent attempts to construct new nuclear power stations will be aware.
And the rate of innovation in nuclear is glacial compared to renewables, with possibly promising stuff (thorium; molten salt reactors) sitting on the drawing board for years.
Nuclear might be part of the solution, but it will be a relatively minor part.

Renewables are the only realistic alternative for completely re-engineering our power systems.

As for ‘hire the best and get out of their way’, that is entirely sensible. And to some extent the market is already seeing to that - utility scale solar/wind/storage auctions are frequent occurrences; Tesla and the Chinese CATL are claiming their newest batteries will last for up to 1m kilometres of driving, etc.

The only missing ingredient is determined political leadership. It won’t be a ‘command economy’, but it will mean some very strong nudges, together with significant government spending.

It won’t be a ‘command economy’, but it will mean some very strong nudges, together with significant government spending.

Yes, government spending that, ideally, will rev up new businesses. There's absolutely nothing about this that we shouldn't be doing right now.

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