Friday, December 23, 2016

The social cost of carbon is positive, admits Anthony Watts

Sou | 2:04 PM Go to the first of 7 comments. Add a comment
Prickly Pear Qld 1930s.
At last Anthony Watts admits that there is a social cost of carbon (archived here). He doesn't say what it is, he's not a climate economist after all but at least he admits it. His headline was: "The Social “Cost” of Carbon is Positive".  Unfortunately the article he posted, by ex-coal director Viv Forbes, doesn't discuss the social cost.

Viv Forbes is a climate disinformer from Australia. He's no longer a director of Stanmore Coal, but he used to be. As he's done before, his article is in the form of a letter to some unnamed editor of an unnamed publication. I guess it's to the "editor" of WUWT.

Viv lists "social benefits" of burning fossil fuels in the following terms:
Greens seem unaware that “carbon” coming from man-made CO2 is beneficial plant food supporting all life on Earth including polar bears, cane toads, prickly pear, rain forests and wheat.

Cane toads and prickly pear are benefits? Huh?

Let's look at those items from the perspective of social cost. (Environmental costs are also a social cost.):

From the WUWT comments

The very first person to respond picked up on the fact that Anthony Watts' headline was about a positive social cost of carbon. brians356 wrote: 

December 22, 2016 at 12:28 pm
You mean the social cost of of carbon is not a negative number?

commieBob wryly observed:
December 22, 2016 at 1:52 pm
Someone clearly didn’t study accounting. :-) 

thingodonta thinks that because he or she is ignorant the whole world must be ignorant. That's a logical fallacy. At the current 400 ppm, the world has already become more dangerous. At 1,000 ppm global surface temperature could rise by 10 degrees Celsius or more. As for 25,000 ppm, the generally accepted standard average for an 8 hour work period is no more than 5,000 ppm.
December 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm
I think the idea is like Vitamin A. A little is good, too much will kill you, however nobody knows how much CO2 in the atmosphere is ‘too much’ before it starts to become a net negative, 350ppm? 1,000ppm? 25,000ppm?.
There isn’t enough verifiable evidence to make a conclusion, however life on earth has apparently thrived at around 1000-2000ppm CO2.
It’s also a very typical case of lack of proportion within academic research; those whose job is too monitor the health of markets and people sometimes inflate their field out of all proportion to its’ relevance. This is a common problem within academic research. Research is both a competitive and sometimes political game, and balance is not one of its strong points.
The idea that carbon has a significant social cost is basically a theory, until more evidence comes in on exactly if and when it becomes dangerous. 

TA is worried about the cost of the deterioration in mental health of conspiracy theorising climate deniers. Oh that's not it, he's a denier himself. (I wonder what he pays for psychotherapy these days? Is the rug about to be pulled by the GOP dismantling medicare?):
December 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm
The social costs of CO2 are all the money that has been spend on harebrained schemes like windmills and solar thermal. The money spent on these things could actually have been spent on something useful to people, instead of restricting the action and options and opportunities of people.
And what are the costs of treating the poor people who have been driven insane with fear by these false claims of human-caused global warming/climate change. That’s got to be a huge amount of money. 

richard verney agrees there is a huge positive cost of carbon. Then proceeds to show that he doesn't understand the concept.
December 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm (excerpt)
Of course the social cost of ‘carbon’ is positive. It is hugely positive. 

Richard Tol (@RichardTol) wrote:
December 22, 2016 at 2:07 pm
Viv Forbes mixes up the private benefit with the social cost.

SMC  responded to a change of topic, and showed the dangers of only reading disinformation blogs like WUWT. (It was the alleged defamers who sought to delay the trial, not Michael Mann. Heck, he's the one suing them. He wouldn't want to delay this.).
December 22, 2016 at 5:00 pm
I was under the impression that Mann was trying to delay things to prevent discovery. Why would he do something that would essentially obligate him to proceed with a trial? I guess I’m confused.

tony mcleod referred to the opening line in Viv's "letter" and said:
December 22, 2016 at 3:58 pm
Whenever I see the word evil used like this I know the person using it is a kook. Either a religious, ideological or philosophical but a kook all the same. This one is a particular breed of mining industry kook.

The above comments aren't a random sample. They give a skewed view of WUWT readers. Many if not most of them aren't just climate science deniers, they are greenhouse effect deniers and temperature rise deniers. You can read more here.


  1. But without cane toads there would be no sports like cane toad cricket or cane toad golf.

  2. I'm trying to get my head around the vision of polar bears grazing on the lush green vegetation found all across the Arctic.

    1. "Although these [grass, kelp etc] are nutritious foods for other species, polar bears are adapted to prey on marine mammals found on or near the sea ice. Polar bears are big-bodied predators and they got that way by eating energy-rich foods like seals and whales. Foods like grass and sedges provide little nutrition to polar bears, even when consumed in large quantities. As a result, polar bears in Western Hudson Bay lose nearly two pounds of body mass every day they spend on shore....

      ...Although they may spend a lot of time eating grass, polar bears won’t turn into cows any time soon."


    2. Bears are omnivorous. Polar bears have been known to mug the occasional human as he, the human that is, staggers home from the local watering hole.

  3. It was a world of sulkies, sailing boats and sun-dried food. Hunters used bows and spears, farmers used oxen and wooden ploughs and threshed grain with wooden flails.

    It's good to see Vic's knowledge of history is as complete as his understanding of carbon and social costs, that is, pretty sketchy at best.

    1. This is another manifestation of the Denialati's propensity for wallowing in their versions of a Renaissance fair, where different historic periods rub shoulders as their proponents pursue their favourite personal hobby horses....

    2. Oops! I read that as "selkies" and thought, my, that's very imaginative.


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