This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Research Scientist, Independent

My work on the Energy Collective is focused on the great 21st century sustainability challenge: quadrupling the size of the global economy, while reducing CO2 emissions to zero. I seek to...

  • Member since 2018
  • 1,015 items added with 421,624 views
  • Jan 31, 2023

A few days ago, I posted an article concluding that climate change is an optimization problem to be solved calmly and rationally, not an emergency to be prioritized above all else.

There were many enthusiastic comments from which I got an important takeaway: a more extensive evaluation of fat-tail risks is required. I had only partially covered that important point in my original article by discussing uncertainties in climate sensitivity.

For that reason, I now present a follow-up article weighing low-likelihood high-impact risks from climate change against equivalent risks from drastic climate action. My conclusion remains that a moderate target of 2.5 °C is better supported by current evidence than a 1.5 °C target.

- Fat-tail risks involved in an additional 1 °C of warming are comparable to those involved in attempting a complete overhaul of the foundation of our society within a single generation. 
- The risks of additional warming from a 2.5 °C pathway will only emerge after 2050, giving us several decades to put risk mitigation measures in place. 
- If a fat-tail risk does manifest itself, our response may be decidedly more united in a climate crisis scenario than in an economic depression caused by a damaged energy-industrial system. 
- A 2.5 °C target is actually achievable, whereas the 1.5 °C carbon budget may well already be exhausted by the time global emissions peak. 
- The continued pursuit of extreme targets such as 1.5 °C increases polarization, excludes many solutions, and distracts from other important global problems.
I hope the discussion can continue from here!

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 31, 2023

I appreciate your methodology of listening to all sides and finding the most  pragmatic and realistic path to meet the goals everyone would have: avoiding irreversible climate impacts and doing so in a way that does not create economic disasters that could create similar existential problems.

It always makes me nervous when the side of 'we should be taking climate action' gets fractured and suffers from in-fighting that allows inaction to persist, but in a way it echoes the U.S. political system being two parties. When that's the case you risk losing nuance and true discussion towards optimal solutions, so it's important that the various wings of climate advocates (electrify everything advocates, 100% renewable supporters, those pushing hydrogen, etc.) recognize the path forward that will be most likely to meet these goals. 

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Feb 1, 2023

It is hard for me to relate to any of this climate alarmism anymore. As a one time actual scientist, I found it a waste of time to deal with political nonsense and instead focused on my own version of sustainable shelter, energy and agriculture. You, no doubt, remember.

Looking forward now even a few months and the political news seems to be saturated with intent to destroy vital global energy and agricultural infrastructure, and kill a lot of people where they shelter. I have no idea what to think or hope can be done about long range "climate."

Maybe you're just as confused, even after all your wonderfully detailed analysis. BTW, thanks for it all.

Jesse Nyokabi's picture
Jesse Nyokabi on Feb 1, 2023

A great methodology that leads to pragmatic and realistic discussion to meet the goals. 

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Feb 6, 2023

The claims of distant planetary temperature increases are essentially based on religious beliefs. The models used to make such claims are deeply flawed at the most basic mathematical levels. Averaging data from hopelessly inappropriate models yields nonsensical information.

Further, pragmatically there is virtually no chance we can control the planet’s CO2 levels. This conclusion is painfully obvious to those paying attention to worldwide manmade and natural CO2 emissions.

The world is spending trillions-and-trillions enriching the few at the expense of the many, including further impoverishing millions-and-millions of the poor.

Schalk Cloete's picture
Thank Schalk for the Post!
Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.
More posts from this member

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network® is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »