Tag Archives: climate change

A leaked memo about climate change explains why we’re unprepared

Summary: A leaked memo from the highest levels of the Democratic Party leadership discuss how to build public support for large-scale climate policy initiatives. It shows why their efforts failed, and raises questions about the coming Hillary Clinton administration.

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

Climate Change Drama

Memorandum: “Climate: A unifying theory to the case“,
Emailed from John Podesta to Chris Lehane, 28 January 2014.

This memo was emailed to Podesta (a senior White House official) from Lehane (partner in the strategic communications firm Fabiani & Lehane, dissolved in Nov 2015). We have it courtesy of Wikileaks — and whoever leaked it to them.

John Podesta was Chief of staff to Bill Clinton and Counselor to the President for Obama. He is Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Chris Lehane – When an attorney in the White House Counsel’s office, he and his current business partner Mark Fabiani called themselves the “Masters of Disaster” for their work as a “rapid-response” team responding to the many scandals of the Clinton Administration. Lehane co-authored a book on damage control titled Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. Jim Jordan, Kerry’s former campaign manager, called him ”a master of the political hand-to-hand” for his work as a political strategist.


“Thank you for asking us to share some ideas for a holistic approach to climate. Per your direction, the goal is to unify policy, politics, and communications to help the Administration best execute an informed plan over a multi-year time period. …this document is intended to provide some food for thought as the Administration refines its thinking on climate. …{it} addresses the four components that the Administration may want to consider as it seeks to lead on this issue.

  1. Three-Year Framework. …
  2. Right v. Wrong. Make the case that climate must be approached as a challenge of historical social change where progress will depend in part on successfully casting the issue in moral terms of who is right and who is wrong …
  3. The Big Idea. …{It} could drive an Administration-wide approach to climate for the next three years. …
  4. 2014 Action Plan. …

“To achieve victory, we must treat climate change as an issue of historic importance that is worthy of a true political social movement to create change. This political social movement must be founded on moral principles with stark definitions of who is right and who is wrong, and it is important to outline the historically negative, irreversible implications if we were to not succeed.

“By pursuing this as a political social movement, President Obama and his Administration will best be able to assure that his legacy includes his unprecedented leadership on climate that initiated the shifting of the country’s political tectonic plates to enable transformative climate change policy, before it was too late.

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A new study shows why we are polarized about climate change

Summary: Slowly scientists’ investigations produce insights about the psychological and social dynamics that create our dysfunctional politics. Here is a new study about one of drivers of political polarization, that which keeps us divided (despite our common interests), ignorant (despite the internet), and easily ruled. The specific subject is one of the central political issues of our time, and among the most contentious: climate change.

The essential accessory for the modern politically-active fashionista…

People Blinders

Here is a provocative new study (not peer-reviewed) by blue-chip authors. It’s well worth reading, and reveals much about the polarization that is a defining characteristic of modern politics.

How People Update Beliefs about Climate Change: Good News and Bad News

By Cass R. Sunstein, Sebastian Bobadilla-Suarez, Stephanie C. Lazzaro, Tali Sharot.
Excerpt from the preliminary draft posted at the Social Science Research Network.

“People are exposed to a great deal of variable information with respect to climate change. {The footnote cites an example: “Developing a Social Cost of Carbon” (ungated copy) — whose complex and assumption-laden calculations are certainly “variable information”.} …We aim here to investigate two simple questions:

  1. How do people update their beliefs when they receive new information about likely warming?
  2. How do people’s prior attitudes affect their response to such information?

“…We find that people who are doubtful that man‐made climate change is occurring, and unenthusiastic about an international agreement, show a form of asymmetrical updating: They change their beliefs far more in response to unexpected good news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be (even) smaller than previously thought, than in response to unexpected badness, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be larger than previously thought.  In fact, we do not find a statistically significant change in their views in response to bad news at all.

“By contrast, people who strongly believe that man-­‐made climate change is occurring, and who strongly favor an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, show the opposite asymmetry: They change their beliefs far more in response to unexpected bad news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be even greater than previously thought, than in response to unexpected good news, suggesting that average temperature rises likely to be smaller than previously thought. People with moderate beliefs about climate change show no asymmetry.

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Ignoring science to convince the public that we’re doomed by climate change

Summary: The news has become stranger since the climate policy debate has decoupled from the IPCC. Ludicrous claims of certain doom and nightmarish futures splash across the headlines, seldom with rebuttals (climate scientists are complicit in their silence). This one-sided flow of “news” will shape public opinion slowly but surely, creating support for bold measures by President Clinton. Activists are panicking the public for political gain.

“I think looking at grief is quite appropriate, as I believe we are facing human extinction”
— Comment by a reader on the FM website.

Earth as inferno

“The more immediate danger is runaway climate change. A rise in ocean temperatures will melt the ice caps and cause the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the ocean floor. Both effects could make our climate like that of Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees.”

— Nobel laureate physicist Stephen Hawking on “Good morning Britain on NBC News’ U.K. news partner, ITV News in May 2016.

This was reported as “Earth DOOMED by climate change which could burn us alive, warns Stephen Hawking” by Sean Martin in The Daily Express, 31 May 2016.

We have heard this story before. The BBC hinted at it last year; Hawking has said it before. There is no support for this in the IPCC’s reports and little (perhaps none) in the peer-reviewed literature. There are papers clearly saying the opposite, such as “Low simulated radiation limit for runaway greenhouse climates” by Colin Goldblatt el al, Nature Geoscience, August 2013 — Gated. See the press release here. Excerpt…

“The so-called `hothouse’ climate of the Eocene is the most useful constraint for anthropogenic change. With the solar constant 1% less than today and a few thousand ppmv CO2, the mean temperature was 10 K warmer than today. With CO2 and temperature both higher then than we expect in the foreseeable future, this implies that an anthropogenic runaway greenhouse is unlikely.

“…As the solar constant increases with time, Earth’s future is analogous to Venus’s past. We expect a runaway greenhouse on Earth 1.5 billion years hence if water is the only greenhouse gas, or sooner if there are others.”

While peer-reviewed analysis is good, it is obvious that Earth cannot become Venus in any policy-relevant time. See the NASA fact sheets for Venus and for Earth. They explain that…

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Nassim Nicholas Taleb warns us about climate change

Summary:  This is the second post looking at statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s insights about “ruin” risks, and what they tell us about climate change. Here we look at his warning about climate change and two factors he ignores: the duration of the climate risk window and the odds of a climate disaster. The danger is real but the stories that we face certain doom are wild exaggerations, which make rational preparation more difficult. The previous post was Nassim Nicholas Taleb looks at the risks threatening humanity.

Cover of "Turning the Tide On Climate Change" by Robert Kandel

Cover of “Turning the Tide On Climate Change” by Robert Kandel (2009).

Yesterday’s post examined a methodology developed by a team including Nassim Nicholas Taleb for identifying “ruin” risks, where the result is non-recoverable for global civilization — or even the biosphere (described in “Mathematical Foundations for the Precautionary Principle“).

They wrote a note applying their method to one of the major risk debates of our time: “Climate models and precautionary measures” in Science and Technology, in press. The authors are brilliant, and it states with unusual clarity common arguments for radical and immediate action to fight climate change. Here’s the core of their analysis (it’s worth reading in full).

“Those who contend that models make accurate predictions argue for specific policies to stem the foreseen damaging effects; those who doubt their accuracy cite a lack of reliable evidence of harm to warrant policy action. These two alternatives are not exhaustive. One can sidestep the “skepticism” of those who question existing climate-models, by framing risk in the most straight-forward possible terms, at the global scale. That is, we should ask ‘what would the correct policy be if we had no reliable models?’

“We have only one planet. This fact radically constrains the kinds of risks that are appropriate to take at a large-scale. Even a risk with a very low probability becomes unacceptable when it affects all of us –– there is no reversing mistakes of that magnitude.

“…While some amount of pollution is inevitable, high quantities of any pollutant put us at a rapidly increasing risk of destabilizing the climate, a system that is integral to the biosphere. Ergo, we should build down CO2 emissions, even regardless of what climate-models tell us.

“…This leads to the following asymmetry in climate policy. The scale of the effect must be demonstrated tube large enough to have impact. Once this is shown, and it has been, the burden of proof of absence of harm icon those who would deny it.”

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Good news from America about climate change, leading the way to success

Summary: Journalists live by the rule “if it bleeds, it leads”, sound business advice which buries important good news. Such as the new data from the EIA about US CO2 emissions. It’s another small step away from CAGW, especially the coal-driven RCP8.5 climate nightmare scenario. It’s one of many such during the past few years — with the potential for even better news in the future.

“This is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”
— Speech by Churchill on 10 November 1942 after a key defeat of the Africa Corps by Britain.

U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions in 2015 are 12% below their 2005 levels

US CO2 emissions

“Adjusted for inflation, the economy in 2015 was 15% larger than it was in 2005, but the U.S. energy intensities and carbon intensities have both declined. On a per-dollar of gross domestic product (GDP) basis, in 2015, the United States used 15% less energy per unit of GDP and produced 23% fewer energy-related CO2 emissions per unit of GDP, compared with the energy and emissions per dollar of GDP in 2005.”

The big driver of this change is the shift from coal to natural gas (per the EIA). Coal use peaked in 2008, and declined 32% by 2015 (per the EIA), resulting from the collapse in natural gas prices (fracking!) — predating any effects from the Clean Power Plan.

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