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Irreversible - Josh 301

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Following the IPCC Synthesis Report we have had many catastrophists describing the impacts of climate change as 'Irreversible' and using the phrase 'Immorality of inaction' - I can certainly think of some irreversible impacts that require more immediate action.

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Reader Comments (85)

Serious question:
Why do you give credence to the Malthusian/Paul Ehrlich prophecies when they are debunked?

Nov 9, 2014 at 11:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter


Nov 9, 2014 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff


"So what action do you and he think we should be taking to alleviate third world hunger, poverty and disease? Come on, it is not a difficult question if you are serious instead of posturing."

Were I not a charitable chap, I would take that word "posturing" amiss. As you say, it is not a difficult question. But it must be answered with another. On what grounds do you demand the "third world" cease using their available fossil fuels? Can such a demand be a moral act given it will increase hunger, poverty and disease?

Nov 9, 2014 at 2:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Kennedy

I'm never quite sure whether you are congenitally perverse or whether you need to work at it.
I said nothing at all about subsidising coal mining in Lesotho. Neither did I say anything about exporting it. You build a power station on top of the stuff. Of course, that would be too simple for you. Perhaps it would be better to build one that burns wood chippings imported at great expense, in money, CO2 and general pollution, from (un)sustainable forests in the USA even though you are sitting right on top of the fuel. Like Drax.
Lesotho has coal; Lesotho wants to use it to generate electricity. The only thing stopping them is bloody Greenpeace! Whose side are you on, anyway?
"International Aid" in this context is irrelevant except that a bit of pump priming and a bit of western expertise might help speed up the process.

Nov 9, 2014 at 2:22 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

"I imagine that the economics of coal industry support don't work, otherwise they would be doing it, wouldn't they?" (Raff)

Tell that to the Indians and Chinese, or indeed, the Germans.

Nov 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Alan, I say "posturing" because I have a hard time believing that sceptic claims of concern for the 3rd world are sincere. If there was sincerity, worries about the effects of climate change on the poorest parts of the planet would not be so easily dismissed. If there was sincerity, there would not be such an overlap between those opposing climate science and those who consider development aid to be a bad thing that we should curtail. If there was sincerity, people would press more widely for the building of the whole infrastructure package I talked about above (with foreign aid money or with investment money from mining multinationals) rather than sniping at any decision that can be used to hammer greens.

Mike Jackson, there are many international banks and companies that invest in the sort of development you wish for. If building the power station can be done without subsidy, they are the people to do it. They don't need the UN or other development agencies; Greenpeace has no power of veto. That they haven't done so suggests that the project might not be commercially viable and that it might need large and possibly indefinite subsidy. If you are asking for a subsidy, then describe it as such, justify the subsidy and say how long you want it paid for (and explain how you get around the corruption normally associated with such projects). If you just want pump-priming, explain why the normal commercial route is closed.

Nov 9, 2014 at 5:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Allan M, do you really think China, India and Germany are examples that the economics of coal industry support for power station and infrastructure construction work? Correct me if I'm wrong, but coal miners don't build power stations in Germany. Do they in China/India. They might, I don't know. As you think they do, please give some examples.

Nov 9, 2014 at 5:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff


What debunking. If you have valid reasons why my pessimism is excessive, I would welcome them. Note- VALID reasons, not just propaganda.

Nov 9, 2014 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Allen M, Mike Jackson, you're wasting your energy [Snip] They know they are losing the debate and support in the 'developed world',so they're trying to force their zealotry and idealism into the 'third world' through greenie-supported NGOs such as Greenpeace and WWF etc.

Nov 9, 2014 at 6:15 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Raff is just a Liberal Imperialist.

EM, I doubt you understand this, but a simple response. I renovated my house 14 years ago. I went to the expense of a few ethernet cables. No one in the IT industry would have told me that was a wasted cost at that time.

Nov 9, 2014 at 6:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterMedia Hoar

Not one of Paul Ehrich's predictions have come true. Na massive famine, no die offs. No resource shortages. Not in the time frame he predicted, not int he scale he predicted, not in the impacts he predicted.
He lost the bet he made on future prices of commodities.
There is no reason to grant him any more credibility than a televangelist who goes off the deep end and predicts the rapture of the faithful and the return of Jesus.

Nov 9, 2014 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Pertinent to this conversation :

Nov 9, 2014 at 9:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnything is possible

9:01 PM |Raff

just curious - do you have any personal on the ground / accounting experience of infrastructure projects in poor countries?

Nov 9, 2014 at 10:02 PM | Registered Commentertomo

"I imagine that the economics of coal industry support don't work, otherwise they would be doing it, wouldn't they?" (Raff)

Tell that to the Indians and Chinese, or indeed, the Germans.

Nov 9, 2014 at 5:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterAllan M

Allan M, we've been there with the Raff. He tried to insist that the Germans weren't really building significant amounts of new fossil-fueled electricity generation.

Nov 9, 2014 at 10:18 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Economic growth is an organic process - there is no magic bullet, no predictable pathway or sequence of events. But we do know that certain preconditions maximise the chances of it happening, and one of them is affordable, reliable energy.

In most Western countries, during the 19th and 20th centuries, governments built power stations and grids, which underpinned subsequent economic growth. The US is the major exception, as private companies performed this function. But in the US, that meant that when Lyndon Johnson was growing up, west Texas (where his family lived) had no electricity because it wasn't profitable. That is why he mandated universal service provision by electricity suppliers when he came to power.

Anyway, the point is that while building power stations and grids doesn't guarantee economic growth, we know for sure that it won't happen without them, even if they have to be subsidised in the early stages.

Oh, and both the UN and the World Bank refuse to finance coal-fired plants in poor countries, which to my mind is a form of genocide. Because The Planet, you know.

It's contemptible.

Nov 9, 2014 at 10:32 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

artic spell over north america.

What a silly idea of ours, of course, to think that catastophic gerbil worming would be accompanied with higher temperatures.


Nov 9, 2014 at 10:46 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

I am not an expert on overseas aid, and will therefore not rise to that particular bait. I do know that most of it is a waste of money, as evidenced by the fact that most of Africa is still impoverished after centuries of it.

But my point is, if huge sums are continuing to be spent that way, refusing to fund energy infrastructure because of greenie blackmail about Da Planet is concomitant to wishing poverty and short lifespans on millions of people.

Nov 9, 2014 at 11:25 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

I have never seen AGW as a political belief, but I do wonder about how many people who express such a belief have ever been profit responsible? By that I meaning knowing if it doesn't go well tomorrow it is going to be bleak for many families? How many have personally carried that sole responsibility?

Without profit and growth there can be no reserve. Just how lucky do you feel?

Nov 9, 2014 at 11:36 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

obola Liberia we need a new world aid effort, where bob geldof and bono Toto or something?

=> more weapons in these places make sure greater distance between people less contagion

Nov 10, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Many years ago, I had a discussion with a former UN employee who had been associated with an agricultural project that would improve food supplies in several African countries. The technical problems had all been solved, and the project looked excellent in back-of-the-envelope calculations; it only remained to complete a formal economic analysis. He was shocked and disgusted when he found out later that the project had not met economic requirements and had been cancelled. He'd failed to allow for baksheesh, a line item added by and for local authorities. That's why Africa will always remain backward.

Nov 10, 2014 at 12:55 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

Come on, Raff, contribute instead of continually making things up in order to object to them.

Nov 10, 2014 at 6:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrute

Current cover of The New Statesman should provide good material

Nov 10, 2014 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

"my grandchildren will be trying to feed 12 billion people"

EM, that's a wild exaggeration.

- Increasing wealth results in reduced population growth (if only because car ownership limits families to two children).
- I assure you that your grandchildren will not see it as their exclusive problem

Even the UN, never given to understating gloom and doom 'projections', does not match the EM 12B:

"The latest United Nations projections indicate that world population will nearly stabilize at just above 10 billion persons after 2062."

"Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at 2% and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.

The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than 1% by 2020 and less than 0.5% by 2050."

Nov 10, 2014 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Lots of comments snipped for rudeness.

Nov 10, 2014 at 9:42 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

Why are you guys arguing about trivia ?
When the story about GoogleCorp applying for $540m grant for it's failing Ivanpah solar thermal energy plant seems credible ...even though MSM are not reporting it.

Nov 10, 2014 at 9:59 AM | Registered Commenterstewgreen


"worries about the effects of climate change"

Your worries, not ours. Assuming you really think that shutting down a few power stations will measurably affect the climate anywhere.

Nov 10, 2014 at 10:00 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Martin A

The UN estimate you quote gas been updated . 11 or 12 billion is looking more likely.

Nov 10, 2014 at 11:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Johanna, if understand correctly, you think that development spending is or has been mostly a waste of money. Unless you have evidence that certain expenditure was, uniquely, not a waste of money, then there is no justification to argue against cutting any individual line item from the development budget. So accusing anyone of "wishing poverty and short lifespans on millions of people" because they object for whatever reason (green concerns or corruption concerns or whatever) to energy infrastructure spending, is illogical.

Also it seems unlikely to me (though I don't know for sure) that agencies are "refusing to fund energy infrastructure". It seems more probable that they are refusing to fund energy infrastructure that uses coal, one of the most polluting fuels possible (a fuel that by chance is exported for great profit in large quantities by your country), in favour of funding cleaner and renewable energy projects.

As I said earlier, if Australian and American coal companies want to expand their market they could easily fund coal fired plant in poor countries and build the necessary import infrastructure. They'd be able to tie in presumably grateful customers for decades to come. Why have they not done this in the last 100+ years of coal's dominance of energy generation? Why are international agencies that refuse to do there job for them cast in your mind as villains?

Nov 10, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Oops, "refuse to do there job for them" should of course be "refuse to do their job for them", where "they" are the coal companies.

Nov 10, 2014 at 4:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

Raff, there is no shortage of markets for our coal. Financing, building and running power stations and grids (especially in another country) is a very different line of business from mining and exporting coal. It is like saying that famers ought to be financing, building and running supermarkets to make sure that there will be a market for their products. Makes no sense at all.

I am not going to follow you down the rabbit hole of why expensive "renewable" energy is a stupid idea in poor countries, or why modern coal fired power stations are not "dirty" at all. We've all been there, done that, many times. It's just trolling.

Nov 10, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Raff, why would coal mining companies build power plants?
Why would steel mills build car production facilities?
Why would sugar companies build candy factories?

It is obvious to me you have no clue.

Nov 10, 2014 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

No sense? True, if we are talking about building infrastructure. But providing pump-priming capital would not be so bad an idea. With coal prices in long term decline and pressure on countries to decrease coal use, adding some new loyal customers by providing finance for facilities might be a good investment. Unless it turned out that the poor countries couldn't actually afford to import your coal anyway once the power stations etc were built. That would be unfortunate.

As far as modern coal power stations not being dirty, that is very funny. You presumably have never seen pictures of the Beijing air. No, silly me, everybody has seen those pictures. You are just pretending that the sort of expensive technology used in rich places like Germany would be built in a place like Lesotho (or Beijing).

Nov 10, 2014 at 11:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

For Raff:

Nov 10, 2014 at 11:38 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

Shortened link:

Nov 10, 2014 at 11:48 PM | Unregistered Commenternot banned yet

So they have an efficient one, 45%, I'm impressed. More typically, perhaps is the quote from your link, "The average efficiency of power plants in China is 30 %, a figure similar to that of the U.S."

Nov 11, 2014 at 12:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterRaff

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