I Love Those All Too Rare Occasions When Paul Krugman Discusses Climate Change

This time he wonders why conservative people tend to be very worried about social security budgets 25 years from now but apparently not very worried about the state of the climate 25 years from now, which will likely involve thinks like permanent drought in the US southwest and similar. And he wonders whether the analogy also works in reverse, whether liberals who worry climate change shouldn’t also worry about the long-run budget outlook, as recently argued by Thomas Friedman. In a sentence, no, because the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is hardly reversible whereas cutting future social benefits to guard against cuts in future social benefits is – not very logical.

David Roberts has another post on what to learn from the failure of US climate legislation. Instead of working harder to clear the Senate hurdle, one could also lower it by fixing US politics. By getting rid of the filibuster, getting rid of money in politics, etc. Democrats had the White House and strong majorities in both houses of Congress, that really ought to have been enough under any reasonable definition of a democratic system.

In further news from the US, according to a new report by Oil Change International tar sands are apparently even worse than so far thought. In addition to requiring huge amounts of energy and water and turning the extraction sites into moon landscapes, tar sands processing produces petcoke, which “looks and acts like coal” but causes even higher CO2 emissions. According to Oil Change International, Canada’s proven tar sands reserves will yield roughly 5 billion tons of petcoke – enough to fully fuel 111 US coal power plants to 2050. And the corresponding emissions have so far not been included in most assessments of the impact of tar sands.

Speaking of worse than thought, according to a new report soot, also referred to as “black carbon”, has twice the climate impact that had so far been assumed, making it second only to CO2. Given that soot also causes a lot of severe health problems, tackling it therefore seems imperative. However, there is always the danger that governments will trade off tackling such relative easy tasks against the much more difficult task of tackling CO2. And since a substantial part of CO2 emissions stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, such trade-offs would mean losing time, not buying time.

In more positive news, Chile is apparently undergoing a “massive solar boom“. In November 2012, more than 3.1 GW were approved and another 908 MW are in the pipeline. For all renewables, the count stood at 6.7 GW approved with another 3.8 GW in the pipeline.

And according to a study from the University of Melbourne, Australia could get to 100% renewable electricity within 10 years based on existing proven technologies. Alas, such an undertaking would require substantial political will, and Australia’s conservatives are almost as bad as those in the US.

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