Wisdom from Australia: Are You Reading This?

comic, weather, denial, climate change, global warmingIn my first blog that I posted more than six and a half years ago, I described my early Holocaust experiences and their connection to my interest in climate change. I was born in Warsaw, Poland three months before the German invasion. We were liberated by units of the American army less than two months before my sixth birthday. After our liberation, I went with my mother to Israel (it was British-controlled Palestine at the time). One of my cousins who is a few years older had similar experiences in the Holocaust (September 13, 2016). After liberation, his family also emigrated to Israel. After a few years, they moved to Australia. While he was in the Israeli army, he learned to be a draftsman. After he arrived in Australia, he got married, produced a wonderful family, and started to use his army-acquired skills to become a very successful builder.

We chat regularly and sometimes travel together (the September 13, 2016 blog describes our joint trip to Malta; the August 1, 2017 describes our joint trip to Thailand). Naturally, in addition to talking about what’s currently happening, we also discuss the past and the future. Our experiences from the Holocaust come up occasionally, as does my preoccupation with climate change—usually in the context of what is going on in Australia. The northern hemisphere usually only takes note of Australian summers during the Australian Open that takes place in Melbourne in January (it’s winter in much of the northern hemisphere, but it’s scorching summer in much of Australia). The last few summers in Australia have been exceptionally rough. I described the bush fires there (January 14, 2013 and October 3, 2017) twice.

It is becoming more and more obvious that attempts to mitigate climate change are no longer just an effort to make the lives of our children and grandchildren better—we are seeing climate change directly impact our own lives. The current US government’s attitude is well known. Every time that we have a cold spell like the recent polar vortex, our president prays for some global warming; he uses the brutal winter to refute climate change (don’t be surprised if these attitudes sound a bit contradictory). The comic at the top by Drew Sheneman sums up the attitude especially well. The Australian government’s approach is a bit harder to pin down because of the much higher frequency at which it changes hands. I remember an early visit to Australia when the issue of a carbon tax was on the agenda. At the time, many of my Australian friends were of the opinion that given the the country’s relatively small population (only 25 million people) they should be left alone, unregulated. But the impact on Australia is getting worse every year. The photo below shows a devastating photograph published a few days ago.

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A mass brumby death has been discovered in a remote location near Santa Teresa. Source: Facebook/Ralph Turner

The article provides a list of key points about the context of the photo:

  • Around 20 feral horses have been discovered in a dry waterhole in remote Central Australia
  • Arrernte man Ralph Turner said it was the first time he had seen anything like it
  • The region is heading towards its 13th day in a row above 42C [107.6oF]

Independent organizations including NOAA, NASA, the UK’s Met Office, and the World Meteorological Organization all just published detailed analyses of the most recent (2018) global impacts of climate change. All of them provided quantitative proof that 2018 was one of the four hottest years in the more than 130 years since we started tracing this indicator. Table 1 lists NOAA’s results of the 10 hottest years and their anomalies relative to the 1880-2018 average.

Table 1 – Ten Warmest Years (1880-2018)

With all of that, it is not surprising that my cousin and his family often follow my blogs. However, during our last chat, he admitted to me that he doesn’t read all of them. The essence of his complaint was as follows: when the blog deals with the Holocaust or with familiar European or Australian issues that he is familiar with, he is fine; when I deal with scientific issues, he hits a wall that discourages him from reading future blogs until I nudge him. His comment hit a sensitive point with me that convinced me to write this blog and ask for your collective help.

The main reason that I write this blog is to translate the science related to climate change into more accessible terms. I want to encourage people to mitigate the consequences of climate change on themselves, their children, and their grandchildren. Specifically, I am calling for both individual and collective actions, including participation in voting wherever it applies.

Throughout the almost seven years that I have been running this blog, I have gotten hundreds of comments. Almost all of these either agree or disagree with what I have written. I don’t remember getting a single comment that was focused on better understanding what was written, that would allow me to respond and improve my writing. I promise you I will directly answer every comment that does so. I want you to get what I’m saying.

Please help by letting me know if there are points upon which you need me to elaborate. Thanks!

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Living in Ice and Trees: Interesting, But How Can it Work Year-Round?

I am starting to write this blog at home in NYC on Thursday, January 31st. The temperature this morning was 3oF (-16oC) and by early afternoon it went all the way up to 6oF. I started to read the paper and found out that in the Midwest, the temperature went below -50oF. I have a very close relative who is now a student in Madison, Wisconsin. I offered to give her some of my warm clothing that we used in the Arctic but she politely refused. Regardless, our trip to the Arctic served as good preparation for what we have been experiencing here.

In this blog, I want to focus on another aspect of the trip, aside from catching sight of the northern lights and investigating the thawing permafrost. Specifically, we experienced two unique hotel accommodations: the Icehotel and the Treehotel. Both of them are in Sweden; the first is located north of the Arctic Circle in Jukkastarvi (see map in the January 15 or January 22, 2019 blogs), while the second is just south of the Arctic Circle in Harads (100km from Lulea). The photographs below show rooms in both hotels (Figures 1 and 2 are from the Icehotel and 3-6 are from the Treehotel).

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Figure 1 – Icehotel room with jellyfish sculptures

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Figure 2 – Icehotel room with sculpture of head

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Figure 3 – Treehotel room

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Figure 4 – Treehotel terrace

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Figure 5 – Treehotel walkway

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Figure 6 – Treehotel view from ground

Both places enjoy the distinction of being listed among the most interesting hotels in the world.

During our visit, the outside temperature at both locations was well below 0oF (-18oC).

Both hotels advertise themselves as year-round lodgings. It is not difficult to imagine this for the Treehotel but it is much harder to picture how this could be true for the Icehotel. Here is how it works:

As advertised, the Icehotel is constructed from ice. In January, when we were there, it was well below freezing outside, while the inside was kept at 14oF (-10oC). Sleeping bags were provided (along with warm sleeping clothes) to keep the temperature comfortable and the ice stable. I was OK with this; my wife was less so. Many of the structures are designed to melt in the spring and be rebuilt as the next winter approaches. Rebuilding starts in the late fall, using ice extracted from the nearby river. After it melts, the water returns to the same river. There are global architectural and sculptural competitions each year to design the next iteration. There’s wonderful art in the winter (see Figures 1 and 2).

I was surprised to find out that some of the structures—including the one that we stayed in—don’t go through this cycle but remain stable year-round. They accomplish this by keeping the interior at 14oF (-10oC) all year—with air conditioning, when needed. The outside remains stable via heat insulators. These modifications are achieved with a large supply of low-cost energy, 100% of which comes from an array of solar devices. Obviously, these only function when the sun is shining. The Arctic as a region experiences at least one day a year when the sun either never shines (winter) or never sets (summer).

This dependence on a large supply of electricity is even more visible at the Treehotel. As you can see in Figure 3, the rooms are large and modern. Figures 5 and 6 show how they are anchored to the trees in the forest. Figure 4 shows a very attractive and innovative tree-anchored terrace through which trees can actually grow. In theory, one could sit or stretch out there and observe a wonderful view; obviously, this is not the case at 14oF. In January, the terrace was locked. When we arrived, they emphasized the toilets—they do not use water for flushing. Instead, you press a button and the waste (confined to a paper bag) gets incinerated at 600oC (1112oF). It works, but not without a few obstacles (we were left to ourselves to navigate those).

Globally, such a solution is interesting. Around 60% of the world’s population does not have modern, flushing toilets available and has to use outhouses of one sort or another. One large impediment to improving this percentage is access to sanitary water sources. This proposed solution basically makes even the most modern toilet facilities operate like an outhouse, with no use of water. The idea would put less strain on our predicted increased water stress worldwide but it does necessitate significant amounts of electricity and/or gas.

When we were driven from one place to another, often in the middle of a snow storm, I couldn’t escape seeing the many electric cables hanging on the side of the road. I asked the driver how often the cables are affected by storms, with electricity shut down until they can be repaired. The answer was 4-5 times each winter. I asked how the toilets are used in those cases. He replied, “there is a plan B,” but we were never told what that entailed.

Meanwhile, to my fellow New Yorkers: enjoy this week’s reprieve from the bitter cold!

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Permafrost in Danger

My October 16, 2018 blog started with an ostrich burying its head in the sand; I talked about state legislations that did not allow for serious consideration of climate change, sea level rise, or assured water supply when granting construction permits. As I promised last week, I will refocus here on our deliberate collective blindness to the dangers currently facing our permafrost. The January 15 blog this year featured a global map of the extent of permafrost melting caused by climate change.

85% of Alaska’s surface area includes permafrost. The impacts of permafrost melt are being felt keenly; the state has already implemented several new regulations aimed at mitigation:

Companies drilling oil and gas wells in Alaska will now have to dig deep enough to avoid problems stemming from thawing permafrost.

Alaska’s Oil and Gas Conservation Commission announced a regulation change on June 19 that requires companies to set surface casings for wells below the base of the permafrost.

The surface casing is basically a pipe that protects the well from outside contaminants and keeps the sides of the well from caving in.

The change in regulation comes after a BP well failed last year, and leaked oil and gas on the North Slope. The company blamed the spill on a piece of the casing that buckled after thawing permafrost put uneven pressure on it.

After that leak, and the revelation that the company had five other wells with similar designs in operation — state regulators called for a review of thousands of wells on the North Slope.

At the same time last year, the federal administration announced a seemingly contradictory policy:

Trump administration poised to undo Obama protections and open more of Arctic Alaska to oil drilling

The Bureau of Land Management is rewriting a 2013 plan, with the aim of opening up previously protected lands on Alaska’s North Slope.

The Trump administration on Tuesday launched a plan to overturn Obama-era protections and open up more Arctic land will be open to oil development.

To accomplish that goal, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said it is kicking off a rewrite of the 2013 Integrated Activity Plan for the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, or NPR-A. That Obama-era plan for the western side of Arctic Alaska, the product of years of study, put about half of the approximately 23 million-acre reserve into protected status; the rewrite, announced in the Federal Register, will replace that with a more pro-development plan, the BLM said.

The action follows up on part of a 2017 order by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that seeks to promote more NPR-A development and provide for ‘‘clean and safe development of our Nation’s vast energy resources, while at the same time avoiding regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”

Here is National Geographic’s definition of permafrost:

Permafrost is a permanently frozen layer below the Earth’s surface. It consists of soil, gravel, and sand, usually bound together by ice. Permafrost usually remains at or below 0C (32F) for at least two years.

The figure below shows the near-surface permafrost area as a function of various future socio-economic scenarios laid out by the IPCC. In a business as usual scenario, continuing our current practices, permafrost is projected to disappear (melt) toward the end of the century.

 IPCC, near-surface global permafrost, melt, projection, scenarioFigure 1 – IPCC near-surface predictions of global permafrost through various scenarios 2013– WGI-AR5 Figure 12-33

The starting point in this IPCC figure consists of about 13% of the global land (taken as 130 Mkm2).

Permafrost in Scandinavia is shown in Figure 2:

map of permafrost zonation, scandinavia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Figure 2 – Permafrost zonation in Scandinavia

Permafrost thawing is a vital issue especially when you are trying to construct essential infrastructures such as buildings and roads on top, often without sufficient research as to the nature of the land that you are building on. But collapse is not the only threat. Permafrost warming also has the potential to amplify global climate change, because when frozen sediments thaw, they unlock organic carbon from the soil. Almost every known permafrost site throughout the world in which a borehole was drilled and the temperature was systematically measured over the last 30 years or so, has shown a constant increase in the temperature of the layer, steadily approaching the melting temperature (see “State of the Climate in 2017” by the American Meteorological Society – fig. 2.11).

As we traveled, we inquired about problems with the local permafrost. Unsurprisingly, for people in Tromso and around Lulea (see the previous two blogs) it was not an issue but around the high mountains—in Kilpisarvi, Finland where we took the beautiful pictures of the aurora borealis (last week’s blog), in Jukkarsajarvi, Sweden where the Icehotel is located (more on that next week), and in the ski resort of Bjorkliden—it is a big issue.

To get some sense of the enormity of this important consequence of climate change I will finish this blog with excerpts from two short pieces. The first is taken from the same site as Figure 2 and focuses on Scandinavia; the second concerns Russia—the country that at least until now has led all attempts to build on top of permafrost.

Here is the one from The Norwegian American:

Permafrost in Scandinavia: Permafrost thaw threatens mountains

New research shows in greater detail which parts of Scandinavian earth is permafrost. A more alarming challenge has recently arisen in the High North. Global warming may destabilize the mountains of Scandinavia as it progressively thaws the permafrost that binds them together. Unstable mountain slopes threaten roads, railroads, buildings, and lives. Moreover, thawing of the permafrost areas of the marshes of the High North may release enormous quantities of greenhouse gasses. The contribution from Scandinavian marshes is small compared to the contributions from the far larger marshes of Siberia, Alaska, and the Yukon. But it’s a substantiated threat, as clear signs of the degradation of Scandinavian marshes have been observed over the past 50 years. The challenge then is to understand how permafrost in mountainous areas will respond to future climate change.

This piece by Russian scientists looks into the requirements for building infrastructure on top of permafrost. It is taken from the interdisciplinary journal, Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, Volume 44, 2012 – Issue 3:

“Permafrost, Infrastructure, and Climate Change: A GIS-Based Landscape Approach to Geotechnical Modeling”

by Dmitry A. Streletskiy, Nikolay I. Shiklomanov & Frederick E. Nelson

Abstract:

Increases in air temperature have occurred in most parts of the Arctic in recent decades. Corresponding changes in permafrost and the active layer have resulted in decreases in ground-bearing capacity, which may not have been anticipated at the time of construction in permafrost regions. Permafrost model was coupled with empirically derived solutions adopted from Soviet and Russian construction standards and regulations to estimate the bearing capacity of foundations under rapidly changing climatic conditions, in a variety of geographic and geologic settings. Changes in bearing capacity over the last 40 years were computed for large population and industrial centers within different physiographic and climatic conditions of the Russian Arctic. The largest decreases were found in city of Nadym, where the bearing capacity has decreased by more than 40%. A smaller, but considerable decrease of approximately 20% was estimated for Yakutsk and Salekhard. Spatial model results at a regional scale depict diverse patterns of changes in permafrost-bearing capacity in Northwest Siberia and the North Slope of Alaska. The most pronounced decreases in bearing capacity (more than 20%) are estimated for the southern part of permafrost zone where deformations of engineering structures can potentially be attributed to climate-induced permafrost warming.

The Russian authors add:

Climate change may, however, have already been taking its toll through deformation of engineered structures in Arctic regions. A survey of infrastructure in industrially developed parts of the Russian Arctic (Kronik, 2001 Kronik, Y. A. , 2001: Accident rate and safety of natural-anthropogenic systems in the permafrost zone. In Proceedings of the Second Conference of Russian Geocryologists , 4: 138–146. [Google Scholar]) indicates that 10% of the buildings in Noril’sk, 22% in Tiksi, 55% in Dudinka, 35% in Dicson, 50% in Pevek and Amderma, 60% in Chita, and 80% in Vorkuta are in potentially dangerous states. Analysis of related accidents indicates that in the last decade they increased by 42% in the city of Noril’sk, 61% in Yakutsk, and 90% in Amderma.

For clarity, here is how Wikipedia describes “bearing capacity”:

In geotechnical engineering, bearing capacity is the capacity of soil to support the loads applied to the ground. The bearing capacity of soil is the maximum average contact pressure between the foundation and the soil which should not produce shear failure in the soil. Ultimate bearing capacity is the theoretical maximum pressure which can be supported without failure; allowable bearing capacity is the ultimate bearing capacity divided by a factor of safety. Sometimes, on soft soil sites, large settlements may occur under loaded foundations without actual shear failure occurring; in such cases, the allowable bearing capacity is based on the maximum allowable settlement.

In next week’s blog I will try to extract some useful information from the most unique Arctic living (or tourist) structures that might be useful in the global adaptation to a changing global climate.

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Tromso, Norway: I’m Back!

Micha and Louise in front of the northern lights, aurora borealis

Picture taken by Jussi Rauhala from Kilpissafarif

This is my first blog after returning from the Arctic. As you can see above, I successfully crossed the northern lights off my bucket list. Our guide in chasing the beautiful phenomenon took the photo at our stop in Kilpissafarif, Finland (#1 below). I am reposting the map from last week to help you follow along.

map of northern Finland, Sweden, Norway

Figure 1 – Map of northern Finland, Sweden, and Norway

Here I will focus mainly on Tromso, Norway, where we started the trip. It’s the northernmost point in the map above—well into the Arctic Circle. Indeed, during our stay in Tromso, the sun was down all day. That said, from 9am-2pm, there was something called “civil twilight”—the period in which the sun is just below the horizon—when there is generally enough natural light to carry out most outdoor activities. The taxi driver that took us to our hotel strongly recommended that we buy ice grippers and put them on our shoes. For those of you who, like me, have never heard of these gadgets, I am showing an example in Figure 2.

ice gripper, shoe, ice, snow, Tromso, Norway

Figure 2 An ice gripper (there are spikes on the bottom for traction on ice)

It was evening when we arrived so we couldn’t see much but in the morning, the streets looked like wet ice-skating rinks.

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Figure 3 – Tromso streets

After two falls—one of them resulting in a big bruise and broken pair of glasses—we sheepishly decided to follow the taxi driver’s advice. He was right: once we got our ice grippers we were able to navigate the terrain much more comfortably.

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Figure 4 – History of December day and night temperatures in Tromso

Tromso sits on the shores of the Norwegian Sea, which is part of the Atlantic Ocean. It enjoys the comforting influence of the Gulf Stream. Figure 4 shows the history of December temperatures, both day and night, from 1931-2017. The recent warming is visible and almost everybody that we met in town attributed it to climate change. Not too many people remember 1931 personally.

You begin to feel the “real” Arctic once you leave the coast and drive inland. I will start to discuss the impact of the climate change on permafrost in the area where the first photo was taken. I’ll also look into some unique housing opportunities that are available there.

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The Arctic: We’re Going to Lapland!

I don’t have too many things on my bucket list but my wife and I have decided to use our winter school vacation to cross off one item from both our lists: going to see the aurora borealis (northern lights). As an added bonus, I’ll try to observe the impacts of climate change on the Arctic and report my findings to you.

This blog will be posted three days before we return from the trip but I am writing it two days before we leave.

Our destination is the area of Lapland, located at the northern part of Scandinavia, where Norway, Finland, and Sweden meet.

Map of LaplandFigure 1 – Lapland faces the Arctic Ocean

Figure 2 shows the specific locations that we will visit as we travel from Tromso, Norway to Lulea, Sweden. I used someone else’s map since we’re going to the same places – I didn’t bother to erase the original Japanese markings.

map of northern Finland, Sweden, NorwayFigure 2 – Our two-week trip from Tromso, Norway to Lulea, Sweden with the three stopovers in between

Figure 3 shows NOAA’s readings of the rising temperatures in the Arctic, as compared to the global average.

Graph of Arctic warming vs global averageFigure 3 – Time variation of Arctic temperature vs. global temperature

NOAA issued an Arctic report card last year:

– Surface air temperatures in the Arctic continued to warm at twice the rate relative to the rest of the globe. Arctic air temperatures for the past five years (2014-18) have exceeded all previous records since 1900.

– Atmospheric warming continued to drive broad, long-term trends in declining terrestrial snow cover on land, melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet and lake ice, increasing summertime Arctic river discharge, and the expansion and greening of Arctic tundra vegetation.

– Despite increase of vegetation available for grazing, herd populations of caribou and wild reindeer across the Arctic tundra have declined by nearly 50 percent over the last two decades.

– In 2018, Arctic sea ice remained younger and thinner, and covered less area than in the past. The 12 lowest extents in the satellite record have occurred in the last 12 years.

– Warming Arctic Ocean conditions are also coinciding with an expansion of harmful toxic algal blooms in the Arctic Ocean, threatening food sources.

– Microplastic contamination is on the rise in the Arctic, posing a threat to seabirds and marine life that can ingest debris.

The NOAA report only marginally mentions permafrost but a recent article by Jan Hort et. al. in Nature Communication posits that, “Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century.” The abstract of this article is given below, along with Figure 4, which maps the hazard potentials across the Arctic.

Abstract

Degradation of near-surface permafrost can pose a serious threat to the utilization of natural resources, and to the sustainable development of Arctic communities. Here we identify at unprecedentedly high spatial resolution infrastructure hazard areas in the Northern Hemisphere’s permafrost regions under projected climatic changes and quantify fundamental engineering structures at risk by 2050. We show that nearly four million people and 70% of current infrastructure in the permafrost domain are in areas with high potential for thaw of near-surface permafrost. Our results demonstrate that one-third of pan-Arctic infrastructure and 45% of the hydrocarbon extraction fields in the Russian Arctic are in regions where thaw-related ground instability can cause severe damage to the built environment. Alarmingly, these figures are not reduced substantially even if the climate change targets of the Paris Agreement are reached.

map of Arctic circle and degrading Arctic permafrostFigure 4 – Hazard potential from permafrost melting

Scandinavia looks small on this map but one can see a red dot in the area where we will be traveling (just left of the bottom right-hand inset). One of the most important points in my trip will be to observe the impact of the melting permafrost. More on that next week.

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Climate Change Complementarity: Optimization?

Last week I looked into complementarity, including the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition:

A relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasize each other’s qualities.

I’d like to follow up on the question posited there: do countries really have to break the complementary relationship between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability? Or can we try to establish an optimized balance?

Climate change’s impacts on almost all global economic activities are now (very slowly) starting to penetrate policymaking on every level. The current political climate in many countries is not exactly encouraging for productive consideration of the matter but it is still under discussion, with the hope that global environmental considerations will play increased roles.

In theory, the US Environmental Impact Statement is the perfect tool for visualizing that added responsibility:

Federal laws and regulations require the government to evaluate the effects of its actions on the environment and to consider alternative courses of action. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) specifies when an environmental impact statement (EIS) must be prepared. NEPA regulations require federal agencies, among other things, to include discussion of a proposed action and the range of reasonable alternatives in an EIS. Sufficient information must be included in the EIS for reviewers to evaluate the relative merits of each alternative. Regulations for the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ) provide the recommended format and content of Environmental Impact Statements.

You can see similar legislation in other countries via Wikipedia.

The EIS is mandated procedure, meaning that it represents the law (as with other laws it can be modified by executive orders or legislation); in  the US, however,  it has been running into some issues.  The executive summary of a paper from Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law starts with the following:

In its first year, the Trump Administration undertook a program of extensive climate change deregulation. The Administration delayed and initiated the reversal of rules that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from stationary and mobile sources; sought to expedite fossil fuel development, including in previously protected areas; delayed or withdrew energy efficiency standards; undermined consideration of climate change in environmental review; and hindered adaptation to the impacts of climate change. However, the Trump Administration’s efforts have met with constant resistance, with those committed to climate protections bringing legal challenges to many, if not most, of the rollbacks.

We do have other resources for checking up on the damage, though. In industry, for example, Bloomberg terminals now include ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) information that can be incorporated into many economic decisions [Park Andrew and Ravenel Curtis: Integrating Sustainability into capital markets. Bloomberg LP and ESG’s Quantitative Legitimacy. Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 25, 62 (2013)].

Perhaps the most climate-change-relevant information that can be incorporated in any of these search tools is the social cost of CO2 (SC-CO2). The US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published some discussions about possible implementation [The National Academy of Sciences and Engineering Valuing Climate Damages: Updating Estimation of the Social Cost of Carbon Dioxide. (Washington, DC 2017)].

The SC-CO2 is a measure, in dollars, of the long-term damage done by a ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in a given year.  This dollar figure also represents the value of damages avoided for a small emission reduction (i.e., the benefit of a CO2 reduction).

Some are using game theory to push for a version of global sustainability that does not require choosing or prioritizing between countries’ economic development. I have mentioned game theory throughout this blog. Just put the term in the search box and you will find that wherever an apparent conflict shows up, game theory has something to say. For instance, I discussed Peter John Wood’s application of game theory to issues focused on climate change in my March 31, 2015 blog.

Mr. Wood looked at climate change as a two-person game of the Prisoner’s Dilemma [Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1219, 153-170, (2011)]. The two players have two choices: pollute and abate (equivalent to keep quiet and cooperate). The Nash equilibrium is pollute, pollute (equivalent to cooperate, cooperate).

To those of us who need some reminders about the Nash Equilibrium and the Prisoner’s Dilemma here are some brief refreshers:

Nash Equilibrium is a solution concept of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only their own strategy.[1] If each player has chosen a strategy and no player can benefit by changing strategies while the other players keep theirs unchanged, then the current set of strategy choices and the corresponding payoffs constitutes a Nash equilibrium.

Prisoner’s Dilemma: Two members of a criminal gang are arrested and imprisoned. Each prisoner is in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with the other. The prosecutors lack sufficient evidence to convict the pair on the principal charge, but they have enough to convict both on a lesser charge. Simultaneously, the prosecutors offer each prisoner a bargain. Each prisoner is given the opportunity either to betray the other by testifying that the other committed the crime, or to cooperate with the other by remaining silent. The offer is:

  • If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves two years in prison
  • If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve three years in prison (and vice versa)
  • If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve one year in prison (on the lesser charge).

Once expanded to a global conflict between all states, that game can take the following form:

Pi = Ai(ei) – Bi(∑ei)

Where the index i refers to the individual countries. P is a utility function, a term economists often use to model worth or value. Here it can signify economic growth that almost all economists view as something of value. ei represents the pollution that every country generates in the use of energy to power its economic growth and the negative impacts from every country that such pollution can generate. Ai and Bi are the coefficients of the two impacts on every country.

One can try and solve for the Nash Equilibrium by maximizing each utility function subject to constrains that the other utility functions are maximized. The social optimum can be calculated by maximizing ∑ Pi for all players.

To my knowledge a satisfactory solution for our current situation is a work in progress.

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Climate Change Complementarity: the US Government

Oxford Dictionaries define complementarity in the following way:

A relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasize each other’s qualities.

‘a culture based on the complementarity of men and women’

Given how broad this definition is, it’s not surprising that it can apply to many disciplines, each with its own collection of elements. Wikipedia has a slew of such examples:

Complementarity may refer to:

Physical sciences and mathematics [edit]

Society and law [edit]

See also [edit]

Since the physical sciences are close to my heart, I will use the Encyclopedia Britannica to expand upon both the meaning of the complementarity principle in physics and its origin, which lies with Niels Bohr (one of the most important architects of modern physics):

  • Complementarity principle, in physics, tenet that a complete knowledge of phenomena on atomic dimensions requires a description of both wave and particle properties. The principle was announced in 1928 by the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. Depending on the experimental arrangement, the behaviour of such phenomena as light and electrons is sometimes wavelike and sometimes particle-like; i.e., such things have a wave-particle duality (q.v.). It is impossible to observe both the wave and particle aspects simultaneously. Together, however, they present a fuller description than either of the two taken alone.
  • In effect, the complementarity principle implies that phenomena on the atomic and subatomic scale are not strictly like large-scale particles or waves (e.g., billiard balls and water waves). Such particle and wave characteristics in the same large-scale phenomenon are incompatible rather than complementary. Knowledge of a small-scale phenomenon, however, is essentially incomplete until both aspects are known.

The Oxford Dictionaries entry and Bohr’s complementary principal both require a unifying element of beneficial overlap with which to bridge two (or more) distinct populations. In the OD, that unifying property is culture; in Bohr’s principle it’s the complete knowledge of phenomena on atomic dimensions.The two populations in the dictionary definition are men and women, while those under Bohr’s principle are wave and particle properties (assigned to the same objects).

Now let’s shift to the present time and analyze the recent behavior of the US government:

My recent blogs (December 4, 11; October 16, 23 2018) have enumerated an avalanche of detailed reports about current realities and near future projections of the impacts of climate change on the US – and on the planet (NCA, WMO, IPCC SR1.5). The US government issued these reports under the present administration (NCA, EPA); the international organizations (IPCC, WMO), in which the US remains a member, participate in writing and approving the reports. At the same time, the official response from the highest US administrators is a complete denial of climate change and they have been actively reversing measures that were previously put in place to mitigate its damage and adapt to its impacts wherever possible.

There is probably no clearer marker for the US government’s complementarity on the climate change issue than the actions of its representatives in the mid-December international negotiations that took place in Katowice, Poland (COP24).  Vox describes the meeting’s conclusions below: 

UPDATE, December 15: International climate change negotiators announced late Saturday that they have reached an agreement at COP24 in Poland. The text charts a path forward for countries to set tougher targets for cutting greenhouse gases under the Paris climate agreement, as well as stronger transparency rules for countries in disclosing their emissions. However, questions on how to use markets to limit carbon dioxide remain, and discussions will continue next year. Read on for the context around these negotiations and why environmental groups, governments, and private companies were so concerned about the outcome of this conference.

The Washington Post specified the role that the US played in these negotiations:

KATOWICE, Poland — President Trump’s top White House adviser on energy and climate stood before the crowd of some 200 people on Monday and tried to burnish the image of coal, the fossil fuel that powered the industrial revolution — and is now a major culprit behind the climate crisis world leaders are meeting here to address.

“We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,” said Wells Griffith, Trump’s adviser.

Mocking laughter echoed through the conference room. A woman yelled, “These false solutions are a joke!” And dozens of people erupted into chants of protest.

“There are two layers of U.S. action in Poland,” said Paul Bledsoe, an energy fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and former Clinton White House climate adviser.

One is the public support of fossil fuels, which Bledsoe said is “primarily aimed at the president’s domestic political base, doubling down on his strategy of energizing them by thumbing his nose at international norms.”

The quieter half is the work of career State Department officials who continue to offer constructive contributions to the Paris climate agreement that President Trump loves to loathe.

Which facet of the American presence proves more influential in Poland could have a big impact on whether this year’s climate summit, now in its second week, ends in success or failure?

Wells Griffith proposes a complementarity between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability. His conclusion is that we don’t have to choose. Andrew Light, in a USA Today piece, tries to explain how it works:

Andrew Light, a professor of public policy and atmospheric sciences at George Mason University, was one of the Obama administration’s climate negotiators in Paris. He said the deal cut Saturday, which requires developed and developing nations to follow similar guidelines, was a crucial outcome that could encourage the United States to return to the accord. 

Light said it is important that rules on transparency and record keeping be “flexible” for small, poor countries that might struggle to comply. But the rules must be fundamentally the same, he said.

“We wanted an agreement that would make it easy for the U.S. to get back in,” Light told USA TODAY. “This is a deal that we would want to be part of, a deal where China, India, other big, developing countries don’t have different rules from the U.S. It does make all the countries play by the same rules.”

Michael Mann, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Penn State, said the transparency requirements coming out of Poland are important in light of indications that China’s carbon emissions increased over the past year in a manner that is inconsistent with its Paris commitments.

He said the United States and China reaching agreements with the other nations should “help to create an atmosphere of good faith” and encourage increased emission cutback commitments required in 2020.

Next week I will look into the complementarity of economic prosperity and environmental sustainability on a more fundamental level.

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Wisdom From France: Mitigation and/or Adaptation of Global Ills Must be Inclusive

After an election, it is not unusual for the winners to declare that they were chosen to be the government of all the people. Such declarations, to be credible, require that the most important legislations include the equivalent of an “economic impact” statement to measure winners and losers. In legislations directed at climate change, the most important initiatives involve mitigation and adaptation – i.e. trying to minimize the impacts and adjust to the changes. The international community, mainly via the United Nations, recognized this need for inclusion even before the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. But the recognition was extended only to sovereign states, not to individual citizens. We are now paying the price.

Last week’s blog focused on the Yellow Vest demonstrations in France. Somewhere, toward the end of the blog, I tried to summarize the situation:

The conditions in France were ripe and the trigger was the small increase in the price of fuel. Fortunately, we now have data that will help us to form an opinion on whether the conditions exist elsewhere for such an explosion of dissent.

After posting the blog, I emailed the link to my friends and family in France. I got immediate responses from two of them. One family member preferred to send his feedback directly via email. The other posted his comment on last week’s blog. I decided to focus this last blog of 2018 on their replies.

Below is the comment that was emailed directly to me:

Interesting way to put things in perspective.
In my opinion, one of the key is the timeline: the government try to implement comportemental behaviour (using tax pression or gift) in less a decade, which is violently short.

Give some time to people, especially low income people, to swift from fossile to renewable energies and changes will be smoother, and personal present consideration will meet future humanity survival.

Mathieu’s comment, directly posted on last week’s blog, includes the following paragraph:

You had in Paris about 10 K people protesting, 8 K policeman, 1 K arrests! (1/10)
BUT. There was in the same time a march for climate. How many people? Organizers say 25 K. Police 17 K. They thanked police (and media) not for being there, so it was calm.

Some interesting comments here https://www.ft.com/content/e2fabeaa-fd9e-11e8-aebf-99e208d3e521

My immediate thoughts on these comments were that they weren’t very helpful. But I was thankful Mathieu had made me aware of the second demonstration that I had no idea about. I also promised to respond in detail to my other relative’s suggestion that people need more time with some estimates of how much time people might need to “digest” policies targeted at climate change mitigation.

Let me try to be a bit more helpful here.

The recent IPCC report emphasizes that we have almost missed the deadline to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5oC (2.7oF) at the end of the century and all signs indicate we are presently on our way to a rise of 3oC (5.4oF). However, such a drastic shift in our energy use on a global scale has to be a political move. In “liberal” or even “illiberal” democratic countries, political moves on such a scale have to be inclusive. The international community recognized this necessity and any calls for such a shift were predicated on nearly unanimous agreement from all sovereign countries as well as recognition of the different needs and responsibilities of the developed and developing countries. However, there was no attempt to be inclusive of individual citizens within those countries.

Less than two months ago (October 30, 2018), I tried to identify the main global changes that have taken place in my lifetime. Many of these have strong political ramifications that need to be addressed before any major global change can take place. Almost all of the metrics mentioned in Table 1 have direct ramifications for climate change. The only one whose connection is less than obvious is the degree of urbanization that took place over this period. However, even this indicator is included in the climate change category of the World Bank database (see April 7, 2015 blog).

Table 1 – Yardsticks for the global transition

Presently, the most direct tool that governments have to try to shift energy use to a more sustainable mix is the carbon tax. Wikipedia’s description of the global distribution of carbon taxes includes the measure’s status in France:

In 2013, a carbon tax was again announced for France. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault launched the new Climate Energy Contribution (CEC) on September 21, 2013. The tax will apply at a rate of €7/tonne CO2 in 2014, €14.50 in 2015 and rising to €22 in 2016.[102] As of 2018, the carbon tax is at €44/tonne.[103]

In the fall of 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron, who campaigned on the pledge to “Make Our Planet Great Again,” introduced a carbon tax. The tax revenues were meant to subsidize green industries like wind and solar, shut down of 14 nuclear power plants, and eventually shut down all French coal plants by 2022.[104] His proposals led to mass protests, however, with hundreds of thousands of angry French citizens wearing yellow vests as a symbol of unity. Some protesters felt the tax on fuel would be especially costly to citizens living outside the cities, as they did not have as many mass transportation options as urban residents.[105] On December 4, the government suspended the carbon tax, justifying the suspension because, as French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, said, “No tax is worth putting in danger the unity of the nation.”[106]

It is a complicated issue and one of the major unsettled disputes is what to do with the income generated through such taxation. There are various suggestions, but a clear analysis of (potential) winners and losers through such tax, to my knowledge, is not yet available. Directing some of the resources to facilitating transportation in rural environments – one of the Yellow Vest demonstrations’ triggers – might help.

I will expand on these issues in future blogs.

I hope that in some near future we will be able to unite the two French demonstrations to join together with a joint cry to save us all!

Happy 2019!!

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Yellow Vests, Al Gore, President Trump, Conflicts Between Present and Future

I love France. I have family there and many dear friends. I always look for opportunities to visit. Some in my family are social activists who “enjoy” demonstrating. So when the Yellow Vest (Gilets Jaunes) demonstrations started to take place, I was worried. I made contact and was told, to my relief, that none of my family members were participating.

The demonstrations quickly spread throughout France and became the focus of global attention. A relatively small percentage turned violent – mostly near the Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, at the center of Paris. A few hundred people were wounded nationwide and several hundred were arrested. There was plenty of broken glass and other damage to property, including graffiti on the Arc de Triomphe itself and damage to the museum inside. At its peak, there were fewer than one million participants across the country. 

Here is how it all started, as described in the NYT:

The movement originated in May when a woman named Priscillia Ludosky, who has an internet cosmetics business and lives in the suburbs southeast of Paris, launched an internet petition calling for a drop in gas prices. She broke down the price into its components, noting that taxes made up more than half the cost in France. Per liter, lead-free gas was 1.41euros on Sunday, or about $6.00 per gallon.

The petition went mostly unnoticed until October, when Éric Drouet, a truck driver from the same area as Ms. Ludosky, ran across it and circulated it among his Facebook friends. Newspapers began writing about the petition, and the number of signatures skyrocketed from an initial 700 to200,000. Today it has more than 1.15 million signatures and counting.

Those who participated were predominantly men and women who rely on their cars to get to work and take care of their families. In the mix were small-business owners, independent contractors, farmers, home aides, nurses and truck drivers. They live and work primarily in rural towns and in the suburbs or exurbs of France’s big cities, many earning just enough to get by.

Random questioning of participants reveals a lot of unfocused frustrations that the middle class (as in many other places) has a hard time making ends meet. We will see below that France is – by any standard – a rich country, with inequality no different than other large European countries. The Yellow Vests’ demands cover a broad spectrum and basically stress a desire for the government to pay more attention to their needs.

When the protests started, President Macron was in Argentina, attending the G20 meeting. As soon as he returned, he tried to meet some of the demands. Here is how one blog summarized his response:

Emanuel Macron finally responded today to the protests and riots that have roiled France. In his speech, he declared that he’s heard the anger of those whose economic suffering prompted the protests and will take immediate steps to relieve their hardship.

What steps? An increase in the minimum wage, for one. Macron announced that those earning the minimum wage will receive a supplement of 100 euros per month, or about $115.

Taxes on overtime pay will be eliminated and retiress earning less than 2,000 euros a month, about $2,270, will be exempt from a recent increase in social security taxes. Macron had already rescinded the tax increase on diesel fuel — the measure that triggered the protests.

President Trump’s comments on the Yellow Vests’ demonstrations were, as usual, by way of a tweet:

“The Paris Agreement isn’t working out so well for Paris,” Trump wrote. “Protests and riots all over France. People do not want to pay large sums of money, much to third world countries (that are questionably run), in order to maybe protect the environment.”

Some worry that countries and organizations view the demonstrations as a convenient vehicle with which to pursue their unrelated political agendas on social media. I will try to look at this from a more factual point of view.

To put the  Yellow Vests’ most direct argument in their demonstrations against the government into context time-wise, the protesters refuse to worry now about what will happen to the world in the long run (mid-century or toward the end of the century) while they have difficulties supporting their families now. This is the old argument of having to choose between the environment and the economy.

Before getting into that important (but massive) issue, I will try to address another aspect of these events that fascinates me: the way that these demonstrations started. There are large similarities (at least in my mind) between how these protests started and how atomic bombs explode. With atomic bombs, people use materials such as uranium (235) or plutonium (239),which are fissile elements – meaning that if suitable particles such as neutrons hit their nuclei, their nuclei will break – and in the process, will release more neutrons that will continue the reaction. That chain, in turn,releases a very large amount of energy that can be used to either power or destroy a big city. Where does the first neutron that starts this chain reaction come from? The answer is that these neutrons are all around, mostly originating from the sun. They don’t usually cause any harm but if the right conditions exist – such as a critical mass of fissionable elements – they can demolish a city. The same sort of questionable sensitivity to an initial trigger can be seen in deadly fires such as the ones that devastated California recently. People are still working hard to  figure out who triggered the fires and how. Some potential culprits include utility companies (putting wires below trees), car drivers who cause sparks on the road, barbecuing tourists, etc. The fact is that if the conditions are right for wildfires, triggers will always be available in abundance.

In science, critical mass is the smallest amount of fissile material necessary to sustain the nuclear chain reaction I described above. Social media, in its various forms, is responsible for expanding the critical mass of potentially explosive social issues. While it takes fewer and fewer people to trigger said chain reaction on social media, the critical mass we are talking about here is the mass needed to impact and win an election that can change policy. Social media is able to reach this mass very effectively. Unlike the critical masses of uranium and plutonium, which work to minimize the escape of newly released neutrons and maximize their availability to sustain a chain reaction that breaks the nuclei, the critical mass connected through social media is not targeted at individual properties and is much more effective at destruction than creation. Its benefits as a positive social force are a topic of much debate.

The conditions in France were ripe and the trigger was the small increase in the price of fuel. Fortunately, we now have data that will help us to form an opinion on whether the conditions exist elsewhere for such an explosion of dissent.

Table 1 shows the general economic conditions in France compared to four other large countries that are members of the EU (Brexit hasn’t gone into effect yet so I’m still including the United Kingdom):

Table 1 – Some key socioeconomic parameters of five large European countries

Data for Table 1 were taken from established large databases such as Worldometer (population), World Data Atlas (Gini coefficients that measure inequality) and IMF (GDP/Capita).

In both GDP/Capita and the GINI coefficient, France stands close to the top and is one of the richest large countries in the world. Nor is its income distribution any worse than other rich country.

This week (or roughly the first half of December) marks the anniversary of the Paris Agreement (See December 14, 2015 blog). At the time, all of France was supportive. A more recent survey about Europeans’ attitudes regarding climate change just came out. It shows that almost all French (still) believe that the climate is changing, its impacts will be bad, and the changes are at least partially caused by humans.

Figure 1, from the same survey, shows that the French, like anybody else, think that energy affordability is an important indicator. But nobody posed the issue as energy affordability colliding with mitigation of anthropogenic climate change.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Table 2 – Beliefs in the reality, causes, and impacts of climate change

I addressed such a conflict on an individual level before (October 4, 2016). I specifically followed Al Gore, who was – and still is – leading the public demand in the US to confront climate change, while at the same time leading a decadent life style that uses large amounts of energy:

Al Gore is now a rich and famous man. A short internet search brings up images of his mansion in California, which puts the Nashville one to shame, but the sheer size of these buildings requires a lot of energy. If the energy use approximately matches the average energy mix in the US, it generates large amount of greenhouse gases. I didn’t follow up on his efforts to cut down on energy usage and replace his energy sources with a more sustainable mix.However, the message from his personal life certainly undermined his message to society and, if nothing else, served as a combustible weapon in the hands of climate deniers who refuse to heed his plea.

These conflicts between present personal considerations and projections of future impact are parts of a broader complementary principle that I will discuss in the next blog.

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Deadly Confusions: Administration Doesn’t Believe its Own EPA Reports; That Could Cost Lives, Economy

In this blog I will continue to analyze the economic damage that the US government’s insistence on carrying on business as usual practices in the face of climate change will likely inflict on the country. Last week I discussed the recent NCA (National Climate Assessment) report and the damage it predicted.

I also incorporated some comments from the president and White House, including:

A White House statement said the report, started under the Obama administration, was “largely based on the most extreme scenario” of global warming and that the next assessment would provide an opportunity for greater balance.

Figure 1 from last week’s blog summarized the anticipated economic damages from a business as usual scenario. I am including it again here. Let’s look into the origins of the information it uses.

Figure 1 – Estimated annual economic damage by 2090 (NCA4 Ch29)

Figure 1 shows the economic consequences projected with the RCP8.5 scenario in 2090 and how much of that damage we could avoid by shifting to the RCP4.5 scenario. Chapter 29 of the report discusses this in more detail. The report cites its source for this information as the EPA’s May 2017 “Multi-Model Framework for Quantitative Sectoral Impacts Analysis: A Technical Report for the Fourth National Climate Assessment.”  It was peer-reviewed with data available here. That analysis came out five months after the inauguration of President Trump and three months after the Senate confirmed his pick for EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt – one of the leading climate change deniers in the country.

Last week I also compiled a partial list of steps that the president and his cohort have taken to disband many of the previous administrations’ earlier policies meant to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Most of these policy changes stemmed directly from Mr. Pruitt’s EPA. Today I have narrowed last week’s list to these specific policy reversals:

  • October 2018 – EPA to disband air pollution review panel
  • September 2018 – EPA repeals Obama-era methane rules
  • August 2018 – Trump EPA unveils plan to nullify federal rules on coal power plants
  • April 2018 – EPA starts rollback of car emissions standards
  • February 2018  – EPA mulls shake-up to environmental research program
  • January 2018 – EPA loosens regulations on toxic air pollution
  • Report: climate change web sites ‘censored’ under Trump
  • October 2017 – Trump EPA poised to scrap clean power plan
  • May 2017 – EPA dismisses science advisors
  • March 2017 – EPA scrubs climate change website

The EPA report’s goal and general structure are as follows:

This Technical Report summarizes and communicates the results of the second phase of quantitative sectoral impacts analysis under the Climate Change Impacts and Risk Analysis2 (CIRA) project (for information on the first phase, see the CIRA Project Background section). This effort is intended to inform the fourth National Climate Assessment3 (NCA4) of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). 4 The goal of this work is to estimate climate change impacts and economic damages to multiple U.S. sectors (e.g., human health, infrastructure, and water resources) under different scenarios. Though this report does not make policy recommendations, it is designed to inform strategies to enhance resiliency and protect human health, investments, and livelihoods.

Here is how the report suggests we interpret the results:

This Technical Report presents results from a large set of sectoral impact models that quantify and monetize climate change impacts in the U.S., with a primary focus on the contiguous U.S., under moderate and severe future climates. The CIRA analyses are intended to provide insights about the potential direction and magnitude of climate change impacts. However, none of the estimates presented in this report should be interpreted as definitive predictions of future impacts at a particular place or time. Instead, the intention is to produce preliminary estimates of future effects using the best available data and methods, which can then be revisited and updated over time as science and modeling capabilities continue to advance.

The CIRA analyses do not evaluate or assume specific mitigation or adaptation policies in the U.S. or in other world regions. Instead, they consider scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways or RCPs6) to illustrate potential impacts and damages of alternative future climates. The results should not be interpreted as supporting any particular domestic or global mitigation policy or target. In addition, the costs of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and the health benefits associated with co-reductions in other air pollutants, are well-examined elsewhere in the literature and are beyond the scope of this report. For this reason, the analysis presented in this Technical Report does not constitute a cost-benefit assessment of climate policy.

Probably the most important paragraph in this section is the one that can serve as a direct rebuttal to the White House’s claim that the NCA report is the “worst case scenario.”

Furthermore, only a small portion of the impacts of climate change are estimated, and therefore this Technical Report captures just a fraction of the potential risks and damages that may be avoided or reduced when comparing the alternative scenarios. To better estimate impacts, this ongoing project continues to add new sectors, measures of economic damages, and adaptation scenarios, and to improve methods and assumptions within existing sectoral modeling. Impacts that are not covered by the modeling analyses and other important considerations or limitations are described in the discussion sections of each individual sector chapter.

The report’s Executive Summary covers the sectors of the analysis (the most important ones are shown in Figure 1), each with a specific example. For instance, this is regarding the cost to labor: 

Under both atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration scenarios modeled (Representative Concentration Pathways or RCP4.5 and RCP8.5), climate change is projected to significantly affect human health, the U.S. economy, and the environment. These climate change impacts will not be uniform across the U.S., with most sectors showing a complex pattern of regional-scale impacts.

For example, under RCP8.5, almost 1.9 billion labor hours across the national workforce are projected to be lost annually by 2090 due to the effects of extreme temperature on suitable working conditions, totaling over $160 billion in lost wages per year. More than a third of this national loss is projected to occur in the Southeast ($47 billion lost annually by 2090).

Figure 2 shows the projected temperature impacts of the two scenarios, based on the most sophisticated, internationally recognized computer modeling.

Figure 2 – Projected temperature rise across the US based on the two scenarios

Table 2.2 in the EPA report shows the economic indicators that are being used to monetize the health impact.

To demonstrate the consistency of the computer modeling, Table 5.1 shows the various estimates of changes in annual mortality by different computer models. It is, again, a great illustration that the report’s analysis is not based on the “worst case scenario” (i.e. it could be worse).

EPA 2017 Multi-Model Framework for Quantitative Sectoral Impacts Analysis, p. 55

Mr. Pruitt and President Trump had plenty of opportunities to change the report to reflect their own views on climate change. Fortunately, they decided not to do so. However, this decision leaves many of us with the strong suspicion that neither of them actually read these reports. In fact, the general opinions on climate change that they – and Andrew Wheeler (Acting EPA Administrator after Mr. Pruitt’s resignation) – express contradict the findings of the hardworking people they oversee. They are running roughshod over those trying to anchor political decision with facts. Most of us are confused by the results.

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