When a cool pope hits a warm planet, it produces a storm

heatWith all due respect to Pope Francis, Jeb Bush says, “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.”

“I’d like to see what (Francis) says as it relates to climate change, and how it connects to these broader, deeper, issues,” says Bush, who converted to Catholicism 25 years ago. “But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

I certainly get that. If you want guidance about a scientific phenomenon such as climate change, you don’t turn to religious leaders any more than you would turn to, say, talk-radio hosts or a blog host. Pope Francis, for all his wisdom, has not spent his entire career studying the Earth’s climate, atmosphere and oceans and the complex interplay among them. He is hardly an expert.

In such a situation, you would of course turn to science. And what do the overwhelming majority of scientists tell us?

That’s where things get interesting, because Bush and other climate-change deniers are no more willing to take guidance from science than they are from the pope. For example, they choose not to know that according to the experts at NOAA, the most recent 12-month period — from May 2014 to April 2015 — is tied for the hottest 12-month period on record in the past 136 years. It equals the period from April 2014 to March 2015. In fact, according to NOAA, “nine of the ten warmest 12-month periods have occurred within the past two years.”

Scientists also tell us that if we measure by the traditional January-to-December calendar year, 2015 may top 2014 as the hottest on record, especially with an El Nino building in the waters of the Pacific Ocean (El Nino is a cyclical Pacific phenomenon that tends to drive global temperatures upward). In the temperature chart below, for example, El Nino-type years are those in red, while cooler La Nina-type years are in blue:

globaltempIn the chart, the baseline of zero represents the global average temperature from 1901 to 2000.  As you can see, the upward trend is pretty obvious. And see that one line on the left that extends below the baseline? That’s the single solitary month out of the past 281 months in which the global average fell below the 20th century norm. (In a stable climate, you’d find an equal number of lines above and below that baseline.)

That’s what the science tells us.

An Italian version of the pope’s encyclical has been leaked early to the press, and after reading through translated sections of the document, it’s clear that Francis has paid a great deal of attention to what the scientists have been trying to tell us, even if some of his American followers refuse to do so. He writes:

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“The climate is a common good of all and for all. It is, at a global level, a complex system connected to many essential conditions for human life. There is a very consistent scientific consensus indicating that we are in the presence of a disturbing heating of the climate system….”

It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanism, the changes in the orbit and the axis of the Earth, the solar cycle), but numerous scientific studies indicate that most of the global warming in recent decades it is due to the large concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and others) mainly emitted due to human activity. Their concentration in the atmosphere prevents the heat of the solar rays reflected from the Earth to be dispersed in space.”

Now, let’s talk a bit about a possible solution. I get the strong sense that a lot of climate skeptics would be more open-minded about the topic if they were offered some hope that it could be addressed without large-scale economic disruption and a loss of competitive advantage. Until they have that hope, they will refuse to admit that the problem exists in the first place.

It’s important to acknowledge that the dilemma is quite real. Skeptics correctly point out that if we in the United States impose a carbon tax and other policies to address climate change, but other nations don’t, the scofflaws gain a significant economic advantage.** Their products will be cheaper than ours, their economies will outgrow ours, and in the end, their non-cooperation would render our own efforts much less effective in reducing greenhouse gases. We will have accomplished little but our economic decline.

So what do we do?

William Nordhaus, an economics professor at Yale with a long fascination with climate change and its interplay with economics, recently proposed a means to address that issue by enlisting market forces and capitalism on behalf of planetary climate stability, instead of against it.

Writing in American Economics Review, Nordhaus acknowledges that agreements such as the 1992 Kyoto Protocol were “doomed from the start,” suggesting that the United States was correct in refusing to ratify it. As a workable alternative, Nordhaus proposes the creation of a cartel of countries — a “Climate Club,” he calls it — in which all of its members agree to treat climate change as the threat it appears to be.  The United States, the European Union, Japan and any other nations that join the Climate Club and that agree to impose policies such as a carbon tax on fossil fuels would be rewarded with free and open trade among other members of that group.

However, if a nation refused to join the club and refused to impose a carbon tax — let’s call this mythical nation “China” — it would be punished. For example, if this “China” wanted to sell goods to the United States or other club member, it could not do so unless it paid penalties in the form of tariffs. Those tariffs would have to high enough to more than offset the economic advantage that “China” tried to gain by doing nothing about climate change.

If addressing climate change raises the cost of goods produced by Climate Club members by 2 percent, for example, then every good imported from non-member countries would be assessed a penalty of at least 2 percent, and probably higher.

Like the carbon tax itself, such an approach attempts to enlist the forces of capitalism and self-interest as enforcers of climate-change action. If you profit more by joining the cartel than by being excluded from it, you will be wise to join the cartel.

In short, unlike the call to action by Pope Francis, it doesn’t rely on people doing the right thing. It sets up a system in which nations do the right thing because it also happens to be the economically smart thing to do. Given human nature, it’s the only kind of approach that could work.

————–

(** NOTE: It’s another iteration of our old friend the free-rider problem, whom we know so well from debating ObamaCare.)

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489 comments
MiltonMan
MiltonMan

Yep the guy who oversees the most pedophile institution on the planet is lecturing us on global warming and his minions are buying this hook, line & sinker.  Good to not be a catholic

jezel
jezel

Not a Catholic...but when the Pope speaks it is a good idea to listen. He does not lie, he has the resources to investigate data and he does not have a horse in the race. On most every current topic he has been forward thinking. I trust what he says.

DunwoodyGranny
DunwoodyGranny

And I think it's pretty ironic that Jeb Bush -- who took every chance he got as governor to inject his own Christian beliefs into the public sector -- to complain about the pope's comments on a matter Bush regards as political.

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

Anyone who honestly believes all the extra co2 we have been pumping into the atmosphere the last 300 hundred years has had zero effect on our climate is an idiot


There is no nice way to put it. 

NWGAL
NWGAL

They are the same people who thought that a three pack a day habit was not harmful.

lvg
lvg

@HeadleyLamar Who said the Bush boys are not a bunch of idiots? Why else would the Cons love them?

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@HeadleyLamar 



...and people like you who first believed in man-made global cooling then global warming and now dumb down for people like you to man-made climate change are even dumber.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@NWGAL 


Proof????  Other than your non-stop idiotic rants about neo-cons???

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Logical dude,

Nope. The scientists I watched were talking about co2 emissions at current levels.

You have exactly zero empirical data to prove your baseless assertion. None.

bu2
bu2

Science can't even tell us if the temperature went down or up in the last 15 years (see the recent controversy), let alone predict tomorrow's weather or even two hours from now and certainly doesn't have a good understanding on global climate cycles that last hundreds of thousands of years.

SFM_Scootter
SFM_Scootter

@bu2 But what about the "97% of scientist" that say they can?

JamVet
JamVet

@bu2 

Just realize that your inability to understand the data is not illustrative of the educated, informed citizenry around the world...

HeadleyLamar
HeadleyLamar

@bu2 Science can't even tell us if the temperature went down or up in the last 15 years (


1 Yes they can. Its going up dramatically. 

2. They look at much larger data sets than that. 


They myth of the pause is valid when looking ONLY at surface temperatures.


That ignores 71 percent of the planet. The oceans.


You cannot cherry pick just the 29 % of the data you like and claim a pause exists while ignoring the other 71 percent which show it most certainly hasn't. 

lvg
lvg

@HeadleyLamar @bu2 Cons do not believe any data unless it comes from Beck, Limbaugh Hannity,Trump, Palin or Fox News

bu2
bu2

@lvg @HeadleyLamar @bu2 


People who don't buy that humans are responsible for most of global warming are generally above average intelligence according to the National Geographic.  That's because some of us realize how little their conclusion is based on.  A bog in Germany.  An ice core in Greenland.   Jeb isn't going to wreck the economy on something so flimsy.  He'll take it seriously, but not on faith like many of you.  He will actually think instead of blindly believing what he reads on the internet.


Headley doesn't even realize there was a drop in the 60s/70s.  That's why some of these same climate scientists were claiming all that CO2 was going to cause another ice age.

MiltonMan
MiltonMan

@lvg 


...and you binge watch CNN and their admiration for "heroes" storming police stations.


Crawl back into your hole.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

Bruno, Godless, Doom, Td, 


If you examine past climates versus climate today, and climate in 100 years, you notice something. 


Even though Earth's mean temperature may have been higher in the past, this correlates to a huge warm period in Earth's history, with coastal sea levels about 500 feet higher than today.  

Even though climate changes constantly, we are changing it much faster than anytime in Earth's past (barring disasters like a comet hitting the earth).  Species adapt naturally, over millenia.  Species move as the Earth temperature rises and cools, over millenia.  If we change the temperature too fast, species cannot adapt quickly enough, which is already happening. 


I think I see the problem:  "species adapt".   Some conservative Christian and the politicians that pander to them just do not want to admit that acknowledging climate change means acknowledging evolution.  


Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

If memory serves correct sea levels have risen 425 feet in the past 12,000 years. Obviously, that has nothing to do with man made global warming.

I also watched a natgeo special on the scientists at the south pole studying ice cores. Bottom line is that between the freezing, thawing, and refeezing lag times that it would take likely thousands of years before rising sea levels would be of cataclysmic proportions.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Doom Classical liberal "it would take likely thousands of years before rising sea levels would be of cataclysmic proportions."


Not if we keep pumping CO2 in the atmosphere. That comes down to a hundred to two hundred years.  And people don't want to do anything about it. 

Crazy. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

We're changing at a faster pace temp wise than at any point in earth's 2 to 4 billion year history? You just keep churning out the whoppers today. Again. You have no way of knowing or proving that.

JayBook
JayBook moderator

Bruno, proud graduate of Harvey Mudd College, writes:


"@honested @Doom Classical liberal Check out the ice core sample data and get back to me.  CO2 concentrations have been as much as 10 times higher in the past than today, and the planet survived."

As requested, I checked out the ice-core sample data. It says that in the 800,000 years for which we have ice-core data, CO2 concentrations never topped 300 ppm.

They are now around 390 ppm and rising.


Source: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/ice_core_co2.html

Bruno2
Bruno2

@JayBook @honested @Doom Classical liberal Perhaps the association with the ice core samples was incorrect, but I've seen published accounts of those higher temps and CO2 levels.  I'll look for a link while you dream up new insults.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@JayBook @honested @Doom Classical liberal It looks like the Libs favorite site, skepticalscience.com discusses those drastically higher CO2 levels:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-higher-in-past.htm


"When looking at events such as these from the deep geological past, it is vital to keep in mind that there are many uncertainties, and generally speaking, the further back we look, the more there are. As our paleo techniques improve and other discoveries emerge this story will no doubt be refined. Also, although CO2 is a key factor in controlling the climate, it would be a mistake to think it's the only factor; ignore the other elements and you'll most likely get the story wrong."

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Does 800, 000 years comprise the entire past? As u know it's a blip on the geologic time scale.

I've also read that during several previous warming periods that rises in co2 gasses occurred after the warming occurred. In other words higher co2 levels were not casual.

I've yet to read a compelling case as to why higher Temps would be cataclysmic. There would be tradeoffs. Some negative, some positive. Cie la vie.

Last, even if the earth warmed 10 degrees, and we've seen zero evidencthat it would, a cheap and easy solution with a busy kooks blanket solves the problem. Not that cheap and easy fixes are in the DNA of progs.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@InTheMiddle2 @JayBook @honested @Doom Classical liberal If Ice melts, there goes dozens of coastal cities at huge costs. 


Our great-great-grand kids will ask "Why didn't people want to take the simple measure of polluting less?" and the answer is:  "Because it costs a lot" will ring pretty false. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

Harvey Mudd envy? No reason for mocking Bruno or Harvey Mudd.

BTW I looked up Harvey Mudd one time to see if the place was as cracked up as Bruno made it sound. The school of I remember correctly has produced more phe's in math and science relative to its population than MIT. Its academic reputation is sterling.

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

If a harmful level of temperature change is inevitable and cannot be changed even if we quit burning all fossil fuels, then why bother stopping hence wait until such time so we can keep doing what we are doing.  Wow. The logic is so, what's that word I'm looking for, oh yes, missing.

barkingfrog
barkingfrog

Well I'm glad that's cleared up....now for the next conversation...

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

"House Republicans have been cheering on the lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court that, if successful, would cut off Affordable Care Act tax credits to more than 6 million people.

Now a new report suggests the impact would fall disproportionately on their own constituents, rather than those in Democratic districts -- by a margin of 2-to-1."


Ruh Roh!

gotalife
gotalife

Mother Nature could decide humans are destroying her and wipe out civilization again.


Messing with Mother Nature is a sure loser.


The Pope decided to fight for Mother Nature and not against like our rw big oil tools.

Bruno2
Bruno2

From below:

Jay: There are legitimate debates about some of the details, the scope, the magnitude, the timing, etc.  But not about manmade climate change itself. Even supposed "skeptics" such as Judith Curry acknowledge manmade contributions to climate change.

Sorry I didn't answer in a reasonable time frame, but I didn't see your response.  Unfortunately, the "refresh" procedure usually logs you out, then it takes an effort to log back in, so I end up missing many posts.

As for the basic argument you outlined, I doubt if you will find many people on the planet, far-right wing politicians included, who will argue that man isn't contributing to global warming at least in some measure.  The unsettled questions you list above, however,  aren't insignificant concerns, and have everything to do with mapping out an intelligent course of action which protects the environment without causing large-scale economic suffering for the folks who are already here.  In particular, the "scope, magnitude and timing" are central to how much "corrective" action we should take.  E.g. if it is determined that ceasing all carbon emissions won't result in any change in the environment, then why bother??  Until such questions are settled with some reasonable certainty, I think it makes sense to proceed cautiously.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Bruno2 "the "scope, magnitude and timing" are central to how much "corrective" action we should take. E.g. if it is determined that ceasing all carbon emissions won't result in any change in the environment, then why bother?? "


If the cost of doing nothing is a lot more than actually taking action, then the answer should be pretty easy. Solutions are not easy because people actually have to think, work together, and come up with something. Doing nothing, and the resultant trillions in costs is easy today, but very destructive tomorrow. 



Bruno2
Bruno2

@LogicalDude @Bruno2 

If the cost of doing nothing

***********************

Key word is "if".  I understand that it appeals to our common sense to clean up the environment, and I agree with that general sentiment.  However, it's hard for me to get on board with a specific plan of action regarding carbon emissions until we have a clearer understanding of how that specific plan will translate into measurable improvement.

It kind of reminds me of advertising for a business.  In general, advertising is good and helps a business, so it's easy to fall for every advertising salesman who darkens your doorway.  However, in a world of limited resources, a smart business tracks the effectiveness of various forms of advertising in order to most effectively spend those limited dollars.  That's all I'm asking for in relation to AGW.

honested
honested

@LogicalDude @Bruno2 

We could start by selective extermination of the fools who believe that protecting our only place to live has no value.

That might buy an extra 6 months, but the collective increase in IQ would make it a wonderful 6 months.

Bruno2
Bruno2

@barkingfrog @Bruno2 @honested @LogicalDude If it helps, barking frog, I'm very careful not to step on the many baby frogs who like to hang out on the running trails at dusk.  They may be toads for all I know, but you know we Cons don't discriminate in such matters....

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

@Bruno2 @LogicalDude "a clearer understanding of how that specific plan will translate into measurable improvement."

It's a matter of, do you want to only drown a few million people or a few billion people? If we stop producing excess CO2 now, scientists say it'll take a century or so to balance out what we have already put in, so that temperature rise will flood New York, Miami, Boston a few times, along with other large coastal cities, at great costs. 

If we keep overproducing CO2, scientists say it'll produce worse global warming and put New York, MIami, Boston underwater, along with dozens of major coastal cities in the next 100-200 years. (Think Katrina and Sandy multiplied dozens and dozens times.)  


With the last 10 years being the warmest on record, and this trend continuing in the near and far future, it's absolutely stupid not to take major steps to prevent catastrophe. 


People 100 years from now will say "Why would anyone be against the common sense scientific conclusions that "we are over polluting the earth" by doing nothing? That's just crazy!" 


It's the same way we look at the past and say "Why would anyone be against the common sense scientific conclusion that "every person is the same" by supporting slavery?" 


Bruno2
Bruno2

@LogicalDude @Bruno2 Again, LD, I agree with the general sentiment, but am skeptical of the specific pronouncements being made of impending disaster.  I don't believe it's irresponsible to retain a healthy skepticism until the climate models become more accurate.