“People are looking for simple problems with simple solutions, and they thought that climate change was a simple problem.”
“Thinking that we can control the climate is misguided hubris.”
– Judith Curry (below)
Part I yesterday shared climatologist Judith Curry’s most recent thoughts about the politicization of climate science, climate models (and regional applications from the same), and climate sensitivity. Today’s concluding post shares her thoughts on related public policy issues.
Public Policy & Energy Reality
“… people are looking for simple problems with simple solutions, and they thought that climate change was a simple problem, sort of like the ozone hole. Stop emitting chloroflourocarbons – stop the ozone hole; stop emitting CO2 – stop the global warming.”
“There’s no way we’re going to make progress on CO2 emissions until we come up with alternatives that are reliable, abundant, secure, economical, etc. Wind and solar, aren’t the answer…. [E]verybody would prefer clean energy, but they’re not willing to sacrifice those other things like cost and reliability.”
“All of these targets and promises about [reducing fossil-fuel] energy are just so much hot air, if you will, sound and fury. We don’t have solutions, and nobody’s meeting their targets. I mean, all they do is go to these meetings, make more and more stringent commitments that everyone knows aren’t going to be met. And at the same time, we’re not dealing with the real problems that might be addressed.
” … water is a big issue, we either have too much or too little. Independent of man-made global warming, let’s sort out our water supply systems and our flood management strategies. How, how do we prepare for droughts? Let’s focus on the current problems that we have – food, water, and energy. Those are the three big ones.
And the other thing, while we’re trying to make energy cleaner, we’re basically sacrificing grid electricity for many parts of Africa, and we’re inhibiting their development. How does that help human development and human wellbeing?”
“It makes no sense. Even if we were successful, say stopping CO2 emissions by 2050, we might see a few tenths of a degree reduction in the warming by the end of the 21st century, how does that help us now?”
“What we should worry more about is our vulnerability to hurricanes and floods and wildfires, and all of these kinds of hazardous events that have happened since time immemorial. Whether or not they get a tiny bit worse over the course of the century is less important than really figuring out how to deal with them now.”
“If we are concerned about reducing our vulnerability, all the money that we spend thinking we’re reducing CO2 emissions, it could be applied to these other problems, such as better managing water resources, decreasing our vulnerability to extreme weather events, and so on. So there are many more sensible things that we could be doing.”
“It’s an opportunity cost – all of this focus on trying to reduce emissions with 20th-century technologies distracts from addressing the fact that we need new technologies.”
“… especially in the developing world, such as South Asia … they just get hammered with hurricane after flood, after whatever…. Why not help them develop adequate grid electricity so they can develop economically and better protect themselves? Again, the problem is over-simplifying the problem and the solution, and then tying this in with some broader political agendas, such as anti-capitalism and world government. Many people have bought all this largely because they’ve been scared.”
“… the first four years, Obama saw that climate change was a political tar baby, and so he pretty much ignored it and went on and tried to do other things where he thought he could be more successful. I think that was a good choice.
He picked up on climate change in his second term, but he politicized it. John Holdren, his science advisor, really politicized it. President Obama was tweeting about deniers and stuff like that. And on the White House web page, there was stuff about calling out the climate deniers, and it was very polarizing.
I think a lot of the polarization that happened in the U S, really accelerated during Obama’s second term.”
… to Trump
“Then you get whiplash with the Trump administration who, doesn’t care about climate change. He does care about energy policies, you know, he was on a completely different tangent.”
“… people have said Trump is anti-science. I don’t think he’s anti-science, he just doesn’t pay attention to it. What he pays attention to is energy policy.
This doesn’t necessarily make you anti-science it makes you ignoring science, so it’s different. So that’s what we’ve seen in the U.S. under the Trump administration.
“There’s a [problematic] social contract between policy makers and the scientists [that] I thought maybe could be broken with President Trump, but a whole lot of other things got broken under president Trump, but not that one in particular.”
No Regrets Public Policy
“[The key priority should be] reduced vulnerability to extreme weather events. Second is like clean up the real pollution, like air and water pollution, dirty stuff….”
“The climate is going to change independent of what we do with emissions. People think climate change equals the CO2 control knob. With that kind of thinking, we’re bound to be surprised by what happens with the 21st century climate.”
“I won’t even hazard a guess as to whether something really crazy will happen, or whether it could be relatively benign. A lot of people are talking about a solar minimum in the mid-to-late 21st century that could very well happen and have a significant impact. We just don’t know. Thinking that we can control the climate is misguided hubris.”
“… we need to electrify Africa and we need to help people in South Asia and central America so they’re not so vulnerable to these extreme weather events, help them develop economically help them become less vulnerable to these events…. This makes much more sense than setting emissions targets and then trying to enforce them.”
“[CO2 reduction] targets aren’t going to change the climate on a meaningful time scale. It’s just going to screw up the economy. And at the end of the day, it’s an opportunity loss when we could have spent all that effort doing these other things that would have made a real difference.”
On Reversing Course
” … politicians say ‘I believe in science’ and they don’t understand anything about it. They say they believe in it. It’s like they they’re believing in Santa Claus. it’s really a political and cultural signifier rather than any real understanding. So it’s just become so politicized, you know, how do you get around that? How do you get past that? I don’t know.”
“At some point we’re going to hit another slowdown in warming. And then maybe that will wake people up a little bit more.”
“We just have to wait and see how the climate change actually plays out. We could be waiting 30 years, which is a long time during which a lot of stupid things can happen in the meantime.”