Simple steps to prepare for climate change

Summary: In 2009 I gave recommendations for the best public policy responses to climate change. The list still works, since climate activists continued their mad – and so far unsuccessful – campaign. And the leaders of America’s major science institutions refuse to learn from 30 years of unsuccessful advocacy for large-scale policy action. We can do better. Here are five suggestions to break the gridlock.

Truth Will Make You Free

Measures to fix climate change range from massive (e.g., carbon taxes and new regulations) to changing the nature of our economic system (as urged by Pope Francis and Naomi Klein). Such actions requires stronger proof than usual in science (academic disputes are so vicious because the stakes are so small). On the other hand, politics is not geometry; it’s “the art of the possible” (Bismarck, 1867). Perfect proof is not needed. The common sense and the norms of science can guide us in constructing useful immediate policy actions that are politically feasible.

(1) More funding for climate science.

“Thus an extraordinary claim requires “extraordinary” (meaning stronger than usual) proof.”
— By Marcello Truzzi in “Zetetic Ruminations on Skepticism and Anomalies in Science“, Zetetic Scholar, August 1987. See the full text here.

Understanding the past provides the foundation for making climate policy to produce a better future. Many key aspects of this are grossly underfunded. Most glaringly, the collection of current global weather data (e.g., temperature and precipitation) is bizarrely underfunded. The collection and analysis of data about the past deserves an order of magnitude more funding. Perhaps more.

Also, it should be done as a planned and organized program. We didn’t wait for the normal course of research to produce an atomic bomb or send men to the moon. Those seeking to participate in this grand project should submit proposals, whose methodologies should be consistent with the needed high standards. Individual science entrepreneurs running their own little shops, on projects that interest them, no longer suffice. Time has proven that even vast sums spent on these do not provided the answers needed for this public policy challenge.

Seeing the future
Ron Chapple/Getty Images.

(2) Check the models!

“For such a model there is no need to ask the question ‘Is the model true?’. If ‘truth’ is to be the ‘whole truth’ the answer must be ‘No’. The only question of interest is ‘Is the model illuminating and useful?’”
— G.E.P. Box in “Robustness in the strategy of scientific model building” (1978). He also said “All models are wrong; some are useful.”

Models are the key tool when making public policy decisions about climate change. But too little effort has been spent validating them. This can be done in two ways. The results will provide good enough answers for policy decision-makers, so that they can either proceed or require more research.

First, we need a thorough review of the major climate forecasting models by a multidisciplinary team of relevant experts – experts who have not been involved in their design and operation. Assurances from those making them are inherently inadequate to assure their accuracy and reliability. This should include a broader pool than those who have dominated the field, such as geologists, chemists, statisticians, modeling experts, and software engineers. There is a large body of knowledge about testing and validation of models. It has not been adequately applied to these, among the most important models used today.

Second, we can test their past predictions. We have multi-decade predictions from models cited in the IPCC’s reports, especially in the second through fourth assessment reports. Those models can be reconstructed, then rerun with observed data from after they were created (to reduce the effect of tuning). The predicted warming can be compared with actual temperatures. This will give precise predictions (not projections) for statistical evaluation. For more about this, see these posts.

  1. How climate scientists can re-start the public policy debate about climate change.
  2. We can end the climate policy wars: demand a test of the models.

More attention should be given to the validation of climate models. There are a wealth of unused insights from a wide range of sources. For more about this see
my posts about climate models, especially these.

  1. Thomas Kuhn tells us what we need to know about climate science.
  2. Daniel Davies’ insights about predictions can unlock the climate change debate.
  3. Karl Popper explains how to open the deadlocked climate policy debate.
  4. Paul Krugman talks about economics. Climate scientists can learn from his insights.
  5. Milton Friedman’s advice about climate models, & how to win the policy debate.
  6. A climate science milestone: a successful 10-year forecast!
  7. About Hansen’s powerful demo that climate models work!

“Confirmations should count only if they are the result of risky predictions; that is to say, if, unenlightened by the theory in question, we should have expected an event which was incompatible with the theory — an event which would have refuted the theory.”
— Karl Popper in Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (1963).


Trust - dreamstime_18271573
ID 8271573 © Skypixel – Dreamstime.

(3) Raise the standards of climate research.

Given its importance to a key public policy question, run government-funded climate research with tighter standards. Publicly funded data should be available to the public. Methods of publicly funded research should be fully disclosed. Conclusions of critical research should be reviewed by unaffiliated experts. Most of these are already standard requirements of medical research.

(4) Push the pace for conversion of the US economy to non-carbon energy sources.

The pace of conversion depends on the pace of technological innovation. Since the mid-1970s, interest – and funding – of energy research has ebbed and flowed due to trivial factors. Instead let’s push the pace with long-term and well-funded programs to develop new sources (and increase efficiency of energy use). That is justified by both environmental and economic reasons.

As above, do this as an organized and broad program. Do not rely on a few favored projects. Cast a net widely with seed capital. Funnel additional funds to those that show results.

(5)  Prepare for extreme climate.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earthbio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

America’s preparation for extreme weather is pitifully poor. Europe builds large infrastructure to protect its cities (e.g., the Thames Barrier, the Zuiderzee Works, the Delta Works). America does patchwork fixes after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and “superstorm” Sandy. Meanwhile developers print money building in vulnerable areas. We are unprepared for the inevitable repeat of extreme weather from the past few centuries – such as hurricanes hitting cities and long-term droughts in the Southwest. We are poorly prepared for the continuation of long-term trends, such as rising local sea levels (often combining effects of land subsidence and rising seas). The policy gridlock about climate change leaves us unprepared for possible futures.

The Future in our hand
© Siri Wannapat | Dreamstime.

Climate Change is a test of our ability to plan for the future

A changing world, including the massive effects of global industrialization and rapid technological innovation, creates challenges unlike anything humanity has faced in the past. Climate change is one of the early tests of our ability to work together, to see threats and build better futures.

So far we are screw-ups. Our response is folly, for which we probably will pay dearly. We have the tools to plan. We can do better. This is just a sketch about ways to do so.

Other posts in this series

  1. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  2. Fix the mistakes that killed the climate change campaign!
  3. Lessons from the failure of the climate change crusade.
  4. Climate activists show us why they lose.
  5. Simple steps to prepare for climate change.

For More Information

Ideas! For shopping ideas see my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and these posts about ways to end the climate wars…

  1. About RCP8.5: Is our certain fate a coal-burning climate apocalypse? No!
  2. Manufacturing climate nightmares: misusing science to create horrific predictions.
  3. Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.
  4. Stratfor gives us good news, showing when renewables will replace fossil fuels.
  5. Focusing on worst case climate futures doesn’t work. It shouldn’t work.
  6. Updating the RCPs: The IPCC gives us good news about climate change, but we don’t listen.
  7. Roger Pielke Jr.: the politics of unlikely climate scenarios.
  8. A candid climate scientist explains how to fix the debate.
  9. Roger Pielke Jr.: climate science is a grab for power.
  10. Secrets about the 1.5°C world temperature limit.

Alarmists worked hard to keep you from reading this book.

Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

Alarmists have worked long and hard to discredit Roger Pielke Jr., because he tells us about the IPCC and peer-reviewed research. Things that violate the “narrative” about our imminent doom. They really do not want you to read this book, the revised second edition of …

The Rightful Place of Science:
Disasters & Climate Change
By Roger Pielke Jr.

See my review of the first edition. Here is the publisher’s summary …

“After nearly every hurricane, heatwave, drought, or other extreme weather event, commentators rush to link the disaster with climate change. But what does the science say?

“In this fully revised and updated edition of Disasters & Climate Change, renowned political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the climate data to give you the latest science on how climate change is related to extreme weather. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”

35 thoughts on “Simple steps to prepare for climate change”

  1. You lost my support at Step 1 “More funding for climate science”. That’s the last thing we need, given the current sorry state of climate studies. Better would be “More pluralistic and voluntary funding sources for climate studies, and less monopolistic taxpayer-supported government funding”.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “You lost my support at Step 1”

      That’s sad.

      “That’s the last thing we need, given the current sorry state of climate studies.”

      Perhaps you should have read the rest before giving your bizarre critique, since the other recommendations are for fixing “the current sorry state of climate science.” Reading is your friend.

    2. Larry, your use of the word “bizarre” (bizarrely underfunded, bizarre critique) is bizarre.

      Perhaps you should have tried to understand my comment before giving your poorly thought out response. My comment stands even with your other recommendations. For example, you won’t raise the standards of climate research by providing more funding. You raise the standards of research by raising the standards of research. Reading and understanding would be your friend.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        ” you won’t raise the standards of climate research by providing more funding.”

        Duh. Increased funding was #1. Recommendation number three was “Raise the standards of climate research.” Let’s replay the tape, since you don’t appear to have read the post.

        “Given its importance to a key public policy question, run government-funded climate research with tighter standards. Publicly funded data should be available to the public. Methods of publicly funded research should be fully disclosed. Conclusions of critical research should be reviewed by unaffiliated experts. Most of these are already standard requirements of medical research.”

  2. Mike, here is a video that has a wealth of information about making good investments such as Larry’s No 4. Plus interesting insight to issues, resolution, and potential snags.

    Larry, No.4 speaks of investing in research, but the title is about conversion pace. I know they would be linked, but improved energy from research seems to be your point. I remember you and I seem to look at the tense from a different POV.

    A nice reminder to all sides about problems: From the video: politicians will be making decisions next year.

  3. “Simple steps to prepare for climate change”

    Closer to home, try these; Keep your tires properly inflated, don’t drive around for a year with your CEL on, and plant a tree. I know that’s asking a lot but every little bit helps…Right?

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “I know that’s asking a lot but every little bit helps…Right?”

      Only as virtue signalling. Funding research or commercial R&D into alternative sources would make a real albeit incremental difference.

  4. Regarding FM’s 4th point, the cost of non-carbon energy sources is now on average below that of most carbon sources (counting carbon taxes and fuel transportation costs). That alone is going to drive a conversion process to non-carbon sources as old power plants wear out. We will very likely need a few carbon-based power plants to supplement when unfavorable local weather occurs.

    I’ve seen several sources for the information above. This Wikipedia article seems to have the best information (but, as always, take with a grain of salt until you can verify the information somewhere else):

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      Those studies are GIGO. As the Wikipedia article states, comparisons of levelized cost of energy (LCOE) ignore the fundamental difference between constant power sources (e.g., nuke, gas, coal) and somewhat constant power (e.g., most hydro) – and interrutables (e.g., wind, solar).

      First, interruptables output varies drastically and rapidly – leading to instability that can bring down the grid unless it is modified (e.g., “smart grids”). Not cheap.

      Second and more important, interruptable sources require back-up sources when they become more than a few percent of grid load (roughly 5% – 15%, depending on many factors). Some small grids run with high levels of interruptible power by linking to larger adjacent grids (e.g, wind in Denmark). Robert Hirsch wrote about this in 2002, and renewable advocates still ignore this. See “Electric Power from Renewable Energy: Practical Realities for Policy-Makers” in the Journal of Fusion Energy, December 2002. (gated).

      This is the old engineers rule that a large quantitative change in scale becomes a qualitative change. The dynamics of a grid with 5% interruptable power does not work when at 50%.

    2. FM: “First, interruptables output varies drastically and rapidly – leading to instability that can bring down the grid unless it is modified (e.g., “smart grids”). Not cheap.

      Second and more important, interruptable sources require back-up sources when they become more than a few percent of grid load (roughly 5% – 15%, depending on many factors). Some small grids run with high levels of interruptible power by linking to larger adjacent grids (e.g, wind in Denmark). Robert Hirsch wrote about this in 2002, and renewable advocates still ignore this. See “Electric Power from Renewable Energy: Practical Realities for Policy-Makers” in the Journal of Fusion Energy, December 2002. (gated).”

      I would have agreed completely with you up until last year. The situation is rapidly changing and I’m still not entirely sure how much to rely on the numbers but they are vastly less squishy than they were two years ago. There are several key factors involved:

      1. The price of wind and solar power generation has dropped considerably. To address your logical concern: It has not dropped because of larger tax breaks or power company rate breaks. There’s been a fairly large number of small incremental changes in the way that the units are built that lower cost AND in the technology itself so each unit generates more power more reliably. I recently attended a demo of a solar panel generating electricity during very cloudy weather. Admittedly it was down 75% from completely sunny weather but that’s still a huge improvement from generating marginal electrical output in perfect weather which is what I saw only a few years ago.
      2. There has been more thought put into placement of solar and wind systems. For example, the power companies on the great plains have noted that cloudy days tend to be windier than sunny days. So if they link a solar station and a wind station, the net effect can iron out the production imbalances without assistance from carbon fueled systems. The same is also true of winter when there is frequently a lot more wind than sun.
      3. The cost to produce batteries and the amount of power the batteries can store have both improved dramatically in the last few years. Again, this allows power companies to provide more predictable power from their solar and wind systems. The Tesla battery unit for non-transportation uses has been a rather large success in Elon Musk’s rather recent spotty career when it comes to profits.
      4. Does this mean the end of coal and natural gas in the next 5 years? Of course not! Too many of these systems are in their infancy and need back-up but in 5 years (perhaps less because things seem to be moving in the right direction a lot faster than I expected) the power companies can start thinking about strategically phasing out the worst polluters and that will help a lot.

      Here’s some information (again not sure of the squish factor) from a large profitable power company on their recent experiences:

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        We’ve gone over this scores of times. Claims mean nothing – absolutely nothing – without evidence. You give none. It’s not a field where guessing about numbers is useful.

        The Xcel Energy website solar and wind pages are marketing glitz. Nothing more.

    3. Larry is totally correct about levelized costs. To see this clearly you just have to understand the formula for calculating them. You take the total cash out of an installation, by year, over its useful life. Build, maintenance, by year. You then apply the discount rate to those annual sums to get the Net Present Value of those cash flows.

      You next take the total output of the installation over its useful life, and divide the units into the NPV from the previous step. This gives you a levelized cost per unit of electricity generated. Doesn’t matter when its generated, or how consistently. The formula just takes total lifetime generation, whether it is delivered when its needed or not. A day in which its all delivered in a peak between 1am and 5 am counts the same as a day when its all delivered during daylight and peak usage hours, or one in which its delivered constantly at lower values for 24 hours.

      At this point, when you do it for wind and for coal, you discover that the costs are indeed comparable, and that wind may even be on a path to lower levelized costs. Solar too, probably.

      But you have only produced this result by leaving out half the costs of operating the wind or solar in a grid, in short, leaving out half the cash flows in the first step.

      To make the comparison with a coal plant correct, you have to include whatever it would take, including transmission and backup, whether storage or rapid startup gas, or spinning reserve, so that the delivery parameters are the same. When you do this, it turns out that the costs of wind and solar are about – at least – double those of fossil fuel plants.

      When you point this out to the renewable advocates, one common reply is that modern grids can accomodate intermittency, and so there is no need for the backup, spinning reserve etc.

      But as Larry says, there is no evidence to support this. There is not one grid in the world which is running on intermittent renewables without spinning reserve and rapid start backup. The UK went through a clear example this last summer of why it is impossible. There was just about no wind generation for a period of weeks. If you think backup is not required and that the cashflows to incorporate it should not be included in levelized cost comparisons, when making investment decisions on what to install, you have to explain what the UK would have done if totally or mainly dependent on wind and solar, during this period.

      Stopped cooking, perhaps? Turned off the lights? Closed down industry? Stopped running electric trains? And in the winter? Sit shivering in the dark at 5pm?

      As you reflect on this, a question will start to occur to you. If you need 100% backup for your renewable installations, and if that is doubling the costs of the total renewable based system, maybe we should look at just building the backup and dispensing with the renewable that its backing up…..and cut our costs in half…..?

      Voice that thought on any activist forum, and you’ll be banned as a denier. Stop making sense!

    4. FM, did you see the attached link from one of the largest energy companies in the country about their experiences and plans for using more renewable energy? While I admit that it is surrounded by advertising glitz, I can’t find better numbers.

      My summary of why this has happened has been documented in so many places that I didn’t feel that it was necessary to reference it again. But I can if you wish.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        As I said in my reply to you, the Excel website gave no relevant numbers. It just said that they were increasing their use of wind and solar. It did not say what fraction of their load was provided by those, or at what cost. It was marketing.

        “My summary of why this has happened has been documented in so many places”

        I’ve followed this for 15 years, and published material from world class experts. There is near-zero evidence backing up your assertions, as I explained in some detail. And Henrik explained in more detail.

    5. Okay, FM, I reread your comments a little more thoroughly and I have more documentation that I would like to share:

      1. As of 2016 (2 years ago), Xcel was generating 15% of their power via wind alone. Source:

      Their plans for 30% generation by 2021 are running head of schedule. Unfortunately that piece of information comes from sales brochures that I do not trust. But I can tell you that I personally have observed a very large number of solar and wind farms being built in the last few years during my travels through the upper Midwest.

      2. As of 2017, US power generation was 17% from renewable sources. Source:

      3. The cost of solar and wind energy has dropped significantly in the last couple of years, driving the current solar and wind power building boom. Source:

      4. The percentage of renewable energy power generation is higher than most people in the US believe and is likely grow much faster than carbon-based power generation in the coming years because of lower costs for solar and wind (the latter part of this statement draws in part on the information in my third point). Source:

      Brief recap on the last point for the tldr crowd:
      As a percentage of the total US energy consumption picture:
      – Fossil fuels peaked in the early 2000’s at 86+%, they have fallen slowly and steadily since then and as of mid-2018 they are down to just under 80%
      – Nuclear power peaked at just under 9% in the early 2010’s and has more or less stayed steady since then. I expect that will change by 2035 when the nuclear power plants need to be replaced and there are cheaper and safer alternatives.
      – Looking at renewable power sources:
      — Hydroelectric has been roughly steady at 2.8% of power generation since 2000. It should slowly drop, it is getting harder to get permission to establish new dams and the old ones are not going to keep pace with the growth in US power consumption.
      — Geothermal has been very steady at 0.2% of power generation since 1990 and is likely to stay that way.
      — Solar has been increasing since 2012 and has more than doubled since 2015. It is still a small part of the energy picture at 1% in 2018 but has the greatest potential for improvement.
      — Wind has been increasing since 2010 and has a big head start against solar but has been losing ground in the last few years. It will continue to grow but not as fast as solar unless the rapid pace of technical improvements in solar slows down.
      — Burning Biomass (wood chips and such) is a bit problematic for me because it is renewable but is not exactly clean. Biomass peaked in 2017 at 5.1% of all energy produced in the US (it was more than half of the renewable energy production for 2010 but has not been able to keep with Solar and Wind power production since then). No predictions for the future.

      Anything else you’d like to see for data, FM?

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        You have quite totally ignored everything I’ve said, so this is my last comment. You’ve not listening. I’ll make two points, waste of time tho it is.

        (1) “As of 2017, US power generation was 17% from renewable sources.”

        We were discussing interruptable sources – wind and solar. As I explained in my first comment. Other “renewables” provide steady power and can comprise the majority of a grid without difficulty. The EIA shows that in 2017 wind was 6.3% of total and solar 1.3% (both are at such high levels due to big subsidies). Let’s compare that to what I said:

        “Second and more important, interruptable sources require back-up sources when they become more than a few percent of grid load (roughly 5% – 15%, depending on many factors). …{also} electric grids need major restructuring to accommodate the fluctuations when intermittent sources (eg, wind and solar) are much over 10%.”

        If you wish to learn from something other than sales brochures, I suggest the paper I cited earlier: “Electric Power from Renewable Energy: Practical Realities for Policy-Makers” by Robert Hirsch in the Journal of Fusion Energy, December 2002. Abstract:

        “Current wind and photovoltaic technologies are incapable of providing the all-renewable electric power future that many have envisioned, because of the inherent mismatch between their unpredictable, intermittent nature and society’s demands for electric power on demand. Paths for using these technologies are in combination with electric power storage or as fuel-savers with fossil-fueled power plants. In a cloudless world, photovoltaic costs double if power is needed at night, and when there are clouds, costs escalate dramatically. Electric power from wind turbines varies as the cube of the wind velocity, which can fluctuate from zero to high values over short periods. To make competent national energy policy, the public and policymakers need an unbiased, authoritative analysis of the maximum possible, long-term contributions of renewables to U.S. electric power needs.”

        (2) The ability of the Texas grid to tolerate a large fraction from wind is probably boosted because it is tied into the giant Eastern grid via two direct current lines. As I mentioned before.

        (3) The rest of your comment is irrelevant to anything I said. I suggest replying to quotes, to avoid writing lectures that waste your time – since they’re rebuttals to what’s not said.

  5. What a great update!
    (BTW, I’m re-thinking my statements about poly-math-s, there may be exceptions after all ;-)

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      I created this list in 2009, when I didn’t know much about climate change (but was very familiar with the public policy process). It seemed pretty obvious now, and still seems so today.

      I’ve circulated this for comment from some climate scientists. Early comments: some of those I respect have given up on climate science. As Max Planck said, we might have to wait for current leaders to pass from the scene before progress becomes possible.

      I totally disagree. I’ve personally seen strong leadership revitalize situations far worse than this. People – esp modern Americans – give up too easily.

      I met a great chess player, a grand champion, a long time ago. I don’t recall the details, but he told me about a great player who would play on long after the game appeared hopeless. After winning in an endgame, his opponent asked why he continued played when anyone else would have conceded. “Ah, that’s why you lose” was the reply.

  6. Competition seems to bring out the best results so an arms race of sorts with China to devise the best solution could move everyone further towards the goal.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      These kind of problems are the opposite of an arms race. Everyone is happy to gain a competitive advantage by letting others make expensive investments to reduce emissions.

      There are seldom “races” in commercial R&D. People invest based on estimated payoffs. If they perceive the payoff (combining time, potential rewards vs. cost, likelihood of success) to be inadequate, that someone else is being foolish does not encourage imitation.

  7. Larry, an excellent piece, but I would take a small issue with your point (4). Yes, proper research into energy is sensible. But getting to low carbon for the US should not be the objective. Cheaper and less polluting energy is what is needed. If it raises emissions, fine. If it lowers them, fine.

    You can see an example in the European diesel fiasco. They are now moving back to gasoline powered cars. This, because of the lower mpg, will increase emissions. But it will lower particulate and NO2 pollution, and so it is right and proper to do it.

    The focus on CO2 emission reduction with regard to energy policy has hijacked that policy into a series of terrible decisions, and it should stop, and be replaced by an emphasis on improving local quality of life and energy security. Whether these measures raise or lower CO2 emissions should not be a factor in the decision making process… Its completely unimportant.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “If it raises emissions, fine. If it lowers them, fine.”

      I see that you don’t get the point of the essay. Try re-reading it.

  8. Given the current state of the replication crisis across scientific disciplines, Step 1 needs to include a specific requirement that a substantial proportion of all funding for climate research must be directed at published attempts at replication of the most critical research results. At present most of the studies, which are being relied upon in the policy debate, have never been properly replicated. This is the

    Step 1 should also include a fundamental reform of the process for allocating government funding to climate research, broadly understood. At present conflicts of interest abound in climate research and there are yawning gaps in the body of the research results are not being systematically addressed. This is critical reform but will be very tricky to pull off properly. There is a “Baptists and Bootleggers” problem in climate research in that scientific and bureaucratic careers depend upon the results of climate research conforming to a certain political narrative rather than constituting an independent search for the truth. This should the highest priority.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      What you are describing is the point of #3: Raise the standards of climate research. Esp “Conclusions of critical research should be reviewed by unaffiliated experts.”

      This was already too long, and I didn’t want to get bogged down in details. Esp controversial ones about methodology.

  9. Editor
    The point that you make that is probably the easiest and least contentious yet no-one seems to pick up on is #5. Even without sea level rise, why do we let people build right on the coasts that get hit by storm surges? Or build on flood plains? Or build houses in the middle of forests prone to fire? It would not be hard to have sensible setback requirements and actually enforce them.
    Here in NZ, the councils have allowed a massive coastal housing development on a drained swamp less than a metre above sea level. They also bulldozed the dunes away so people can get better views! This coast is historically hit by all the Pacific tsunamis as well as ex-tropical cyclones.. And now there is panic because insurance companies are starting to baulk at the risks so raising premiums.
    No doubt the first waves that goes through, destroying houses, will be blamed on climate change. Easier to blame that than people’s stupidity.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      That’s a great example of the dysfuncational nature of our government planning processes, and the result of the mad gridlock produced by Left and Right extremists (as usual, with both working against us).

      The comments to these posts are depressing. For every thoughtful comment like yours there are five by people much smarter than all climate scientists (declaring that they’re all wrong) and five more by people writing rebuttals who have not read the post.

  10. With regards your Point 4, there has been a lot of efficiency gains in the last 15 years. LED lightbulbs & VSD motors are the most visible examples. However their benefit has been negated by more devices. How much power is wasted by devices on standby? I have seen horrendous numbers but there is no way of knowing their accuracy. Against the efficiency, there has also been the exporting of many energy intensive industries to countries that don’t have high labour or energy costs which has distorted the statistics.

    With regards to new energy sources, that is a lot harder. The standard fission nukes are good, but there is little public acceptance. BANANAs make more noise than NIMBYs. The nukes have also been priced out by the one-off designs. They would be a lot cheaper and more reliable if the cookie cutter approach was tried.
    To get around the objections of uranium/ plutonium, either thorium or pebble bed reactors are near viable, but the anti nuclear lobby would doom those. Fusion reactors are no closer than they were 30 years ago.

    The new renewables (wind and solar) are just unreliables and aren’t viable, no matter how much proponents hype them up. There aren’t enough rivers to dam in most countries and geothermal is only available in a few selected areas.

    Sooner or later, the day for hard decisions will arrive. It is more likely to be that the price of extraction to meet the demand has got too high, rather than other reasons. Until then, it will just be in the too hard basket for decision makers. Pielke Jr’s Iron Law will be the driver for acceptance

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      (1) Energy use per capita in the US

      “their benefit has been negated by more devices.”

      The trend you describe might have changed. Electricity use per capita peaked in 2000 at 13,671 kWh. It was down 5% by 2014. (Data from the World Bank.) Residential electricity use per capita fell 7% from 2010 to 2016 (per EIA). That is quite a change from the steep (but slowly slowing) growth since 1960. Improved efficiency probably contributes a lot to this trend change.

      Miles driven per capita appears to have leveled off since 2007 (per FRED).

      (2) New power sources

      I agree that there is no future for nuclear power in the US, or the West, unless something big changes. See End of a dream as the nuclear power industry dies. I disagree with you about the reasons.

      “Fusion reactors are no closer than they were 30 years ago.”

      That is quite false. See details here.

      “The new renewables (wind and solar) are just unreliables and aren’t viable,”

      That’s ridiculous, already proven false by their commercialization. They are viable in some areas, just like hydro. They are not the “solution” because there is no one “solution.” They are valuable contributors.

      “Sooner or later, the day for hard decisions will arrive.”

      Yep. That’s just what people confidently said during the the Horse Manure Crisis of 1894. If we could only extract power from people’s overconfident predictions about the future …

    2. Editor,
      I was referring to wind and solar (and hydro and geothermal) replacing fossil fuel power stations as the backbone of the grids, not as a small component of an integrated grid. My opposition to them is because they are not dispatchable and asynchronous. It might seem like a technical nitpicking argument but it is something that is fundamental to how a grid works. The easiest mechanical analogy is a grid powered by wind and solar would be like driving a stick shift car that has no flywheel. People take a lot of technical things for granted or have simplistic solutions, just like the amateur climate modellers that you have been plagued with. Keeping an electricity grid functioning takes massive investment and very strict operating rules – the system is the way it is because it works and trying to put large scale unreliable generation on will cause it to collapse. Asynchronous generators are only there because of political decisions – most break grid rules (until they got exemptions or the rules rewritten). They sponge off the rest of the grid for the downplayed ancillary services. Having not enough thermal generators on the grid was the reason why South Australia had its big blackout. That was why they changed the rules so they shut down windfarms if the wind is too strong to keep the gas turbines on.
      Planning Engineer over at Judith Curry’s blog has covered the issue in more detail in posts like this: or or Euan Mearns ( also has done a lot of data analysis on how they have “integrated” at large penetration and costs of operation. Things aren’t what they seem.
      I do try to have some serious background to the comments I make. However it is often easier to have a one sentence summary rather than a long explanation. Many of the issues aren’t in blog posts that one can link to either, but covered in old fashioned textbooks.

      1. Larry Kummer, Editor


        “I was referring to wind and solar (and hydro and geothermal) replacing fossil fuel power stations as the backbone of the grids”

        We don’t know what you meant. Only what you say.

  11. You really shine on this issue. Whatever I may write in opposition to other issues you address, however much I think you are dead wrong to the point of why read you, you shine here. And it’s not because I agree with you on all points but because you make a level-headed argument of five points for how to approach the issue of the man-made acceleration of climate change.
    1. More funding by the requirements of your second paragraph is what is needed.
    2. Yes, the computer modeling should not be just in the hands of climatologists. Other disciplines that use computer modeling, whether for chaotic systems or not, have raised arguments that climatologists are deficient in computer modeling of chaotic systems. The modeling should be interdisciplinary and objective.
    3. Transparency. What a concept when the claims of one side are that all life on Earth hangs by whether we adopt their policy recommendations from their research. An aside: the issue of man-made acceleration of climate change has raised climatology academics to a level that they don’t want to lose. Relinquishing control is a threat to that status.
    4. Non-carbon sources are problematic. Wind Farms kill birds at great numbers, have high maintenance costs and a lot of down time, and do not meet grid needs at this time. Solar power cells have the same issues as any semiconductor, their production requires the use of highly toxic chemicals such as HF, and all of those chemicals have to be transported across large distances with the possibility of release along the way. And solar still has the issue of grid need. Then there’s the batteries to store the energy which have similar issues. What I’m writing is what economists say all the time: you have to look at the total cost, all the costs, to make a real assessment of the cost. If you only look at carbon, then yes all these are good. Of course, if you only look at carbon then fission is all good. Personally, I think Wind Farms are not a good solution unless you like killing birds and having brownouts, but that even with all the issues of toxic chemistry solar cells are a better choice.
    5. The examples you gave as to what Europe has done, such as the Thames Barrier in 1984, the Zuiderzeewerken from 1920, or the Delta Works from the 1950s are not applicable to the issue of climate change. They are, as you gave it, applicable to weather. What the USA has done is build flood control systems throughout it’s history as needed. The Thames Barrier, and the rest, are the same. What the USA does have is an aging infrastructure that is failing the test of as needed now. I might add that using the Netherlands as an example, a country that is even more underwater than Louisiana, isn’t a good example for judging the USA.

    On the other hand we could talk about what the USA does to deal with tornadoes…the USA leads all the world in tornadoes from frequency to EF-rating.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      (1) “Non-carbon sources are problematic.”

      This just in: energy does not come from rock music or good vibes. All sources of energy are “problematic.” In plain English, they have advantages and disadvantages. But they are not all equal, which is why we don’t burn cow dung in our stoves. We can produce energy from better sources than coal (which is pretty awful) and oil, which would buy a lot of time.

      (2) “The examples you gave as to what Europe has done …are not applicable to the issue of climate change.”

      Please read more carefully. Let’s replay the tape.

      “America’s preparation for extreme weather is pitifully poor. Europe builds large infrastructure to protect its cities …. America does patchwork fixes after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and “superstorm” Sandy. Meanwhile developers print money building in vulnerable areas. We are unprepared for the inevitable repeat of extreme weather from the past few centuries – such as hurricanes hitting cities and long-term droughts in the Southwest. We are poorly prepared for the continuation of long-term trends, such as rising local sea levels (often combining effects of land subsidence and rising seas).”

      Worrying about weather in 2100 is silly when when we’re not even prepared for repeat of past weather.

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