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Connecting on Climate Change

By November 27, 2017November 6th, 2021Energy Rant

The day before Thanksgiving, news and talk shows were chattering about topics to avoid at the Thanksgiving table. Topics included Trump, Hillary, Russia, Russia, Russia, a lot of U.S. House Representatives and Senators, Hollywood, NFL players, and in-laws, to name a few. I think you could easily add climate change to the list. It would probably be easier, and more socially acceptable, to discuss Charlie Rose’s peccadillos than climate change.

There is a middle ground for climate change. It is occupied by 0.8% of the population. To come to solutions for issues like this, each side has to actually believe the other side may have some good points. recently wrote about the controversy in Conservatives probably can’t be persuaded on climate change. So now what? Vox comes from the left. In this case, they are pro-climate-change-action. Ok, but the title screams “we’re right; you’re wrong, stupid.”

Very few consider the following questions that must be answered affirmatively to warrant action against manmade climate change:

  • Does man contribute to climate change? Yes.
  • Are manmade[1] emissions a significant cause of global warming?
  • Is it the primary driver?
  • How many degrees of temperature rise is due to manmade CO2?
  • What would the impacts of this temperature increase be?
  • Can we have a substantial impact, and at what cost would that be, versus the cost of living with it?

You can research answers to these questions for months and find whatever answers you like. For now, the results I believe are easiest to measure include emissions rates and levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The Washington Post recently indicated that worldwide emissions are on the rise again after a few years’ hiatus. The plots below show total emissions (37 billion tons per year[2]) and emissions by leading economies. The acronym ROW represents rest of the world. As far as the clean power plan goes, it would reduce worldwide emissions by about one percentage point: 30% power generation reduction times 35% U.S. emissions from power sector times about 4.5/37 of the world’s emissions. Natural CO2 emissions are 30x manmade emissions. Therefore, the CPP would reduce CO2 emissions by 0.03%. Wait a minute? Anyone?

The Misunderstood Other People

Let’s move into the characterization of the right. First, conservatives and Republicans are not the same. Conservatives believe in free markets. Republicans? Rarely. For example, Republicans favor free markets as long as the subsidies and tariffs work in favor of their constituency. Note that free markets don’t merely result in the lowest cost. It’s fair trade, letting buyers choose what they want at an agreed upon price. If Facebook wants 100% renewable energy, Facebook, not taxpayers, should pay the price. Facebook is for tilted, not free and flat, markets.

For climate change, like other policy issues, the sides want to clearly be right and to prove the other wrong. This human flaw starts in kindergarten or younger. Few people are open-minded, mature, and confident enough to accept they may be wrong.

My guess is the causes, effects, and impacts of climate change will be down in the weeds of uncertainty for a long, long time. I could be wrong. See how it works? In other words, we could have a little more of this and a little less of that, but the Midwest is not going to become a desert, and the coastline is not going to move up to Atlanta and Little Rock.

Sounds Familiar?

With three decades under its belt, the climate change debate will rage for decades more. At what point might it burn out? After all, 45 years ago the next ice age was coming; the world was going to overpopulate, and we were going to starve; we were going to run out of oil and natural gas in the next five years (for the past 50 years); nuclear power would be too cheap to meter. Those threats and prognostications came and went like a movie. People were momentarily concerned and then forgot about them. Today, unlike 40 years ago, we have 24/7 news media from hundreds of more sources, not just the big three TV networks and a few newspapers.

As we get older and hopefully wiser, we should learn from history. We’ve seen things like this before. However, boys crying wolf shall not be ignored.


The Vox article talks about the power of the elites’ message, and that if the “conservative elites” got behind the climate change fight, the sheep would follow. Not. Going. To Happen. Trump was propelled to win by anti-elite sentiment. There is a huge groundswell of the population that abhors the political and social elite.

In this context, “elite” is not really the rich and famous. Elites have the following characteristics:

  • The elite, not the individual, know what’s best for the individual
  • The elite can get away with anything; they are above the law
  • Gaining, holding, and increasing power is not everything; it’s the only thing
  • The elite look down on people and take them for granted

You can be liberal or conservative and hold none of these characteristics. Your motives can be genuine.

To persuade people, it helps to expose yourself to being wrong (humility), accept others’ views and values, consider them to be genuine in their belief system, and that they will not be controlled like a puppet.

[1] Ambient simply means it is the same condition one mile, two miles, 10 miles away.  It is not standing next to the exhaust of a laundromat.

[2] Load factor is monthly kWh divided by the product of actual demand in kW times hours in the billed period.  I.e., it is a measure of energy used relative to the peak demand draw for the month.

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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