The Climate Fix (2010) by Roger Pielke Jnr is a remarkable book on climate policy. Pielke Jnr is a highly regarded, widely published author on science and public policy and is a world leading expert on extreme weather damage. His work has been referenced in the IPCC reports and his work has been published
Pielke’s position on Carbon Dioxide (C02) and temperature rises is simple is outlined in the first chapter. He believes that C02 is responsible for possibly all but certainly a substantial part of the observed temperature rise in the last 150 years. He also believes that there are other factors involved, referring to his father the renowned climate scientist Roger Pielke Snr who believes that the IPCC is obsessed with C02 emissions and ignores land use change and other factors. He also states that there is considerable uncertainty in climate projections and that this will not go away. The skill in the climate models used is low because they do not have the ability to validate their outcomes against enough data. Pielke contrasts climate models with weather models and states:
It would take 3000 years to obtain as much knowledge of the skill of 100-year climate forecasts as we obtain every month with respect to daily weather forecasts
Pielke goes on to state that attempting to reduce the uncertainty for political purposes is unwise. Pielke also looks at the examples of acid rain and ozone depletion and points out that action was taken on both those issues before international agreements were made and with considerable scientific uncertainty.
After briefly summarizing his view of climate science Pielke goes on to look at the political facts of climate change. Here he says that there is a clear majority of support for action on decarbonisation and that there is political will. He points to large numbers of polls in numerous countries over considerable periods of time that show solid support for decarbonisation policies. Pielke says that people believe there must be trade offs between economic growth and climate policy. Pielke here makes the point that people will not give up much for climate policy and that policies that have a high cost are doomed to failure. He quotes polls showing that an annual cost per household of about $100 is as far as people will support spending on decarbonisation. Finally he makes the point that the technology to decarbonise the economy does not exist and that developing new energy technologies should be at the centre of any effort to decarbonise the economy.
In the third chapter Pielke points out how much energy is going to be required in C21. In the fourth chapter he looks at various decarbonisation policies including those of the UK, Japan, Australia, the US, China and Europe and makes the points that the goals of climate policy in many of these countries are unlikely to be achieved by 2020 as the rates of decarbonisation are substantially higher than have been achieved. He calls the massive efforts to achieve targeted decarbonisation rates magical thinking.
In the 5th Chapter Pielke looks at the technologies that could decarbonise the world economy and handle climate change. He thinks that geo-engineering is unlikely to be successful and is very risky as well. He does, however, think that direct decarbonisation and capture could work. In chapter 6 Pielke looks at how climate policy went wrong. He looks at how abatement to the consequences of climate change has been ignored in favor of mitigation.
In chapter 7 Pielke Jnr goes into some detail about extreme weather events which is one of his main areas of expertise. He points out that in the IPCC reports people have been deliberately misleading about what he has written and have made up what he has said. It’s a shocking revelation. Pielke Jnr also highlights some examples of environmental scientists deliberately misleading people with published scientific work. It is, again, a devastating critique. The quotes by the scientists involved are damming. It shows, to a considerable extent, why people distrust environmental scientists and see them as issue advocates with PhDs.
In the 8th Chapter where climate policy has gone wrong is discussed. The revelations in the East Anglia emails are discussed and Pielke describes how he thinks that if climate scientists had not attempted to drive policy by fear and distortion the effects would be far less. Pielke goes on to state how he believes that if issue advocacy was kept out climate science the case would still be sufficient for action but would not be subject to the problems it is now.
Finally Pielke outlines what he thinks the policy regarding climate change should be, which is a low tax of around $10 per tonne of C02 emitted. This suggested solution is similar to the one suggested by Bjorn Lomborg and is also that of the economist Richard Tol.
The book is the best single book I’ve read on climate change and climate policy. Pielke writes well and clearly. The book makes its points very well. It describes how decarbonization is a desirable policy but not at any cost.