Climate Tipping Requires Precautionary Accumulation of Capital and an Additional Price for Carbon Emissions

Lambert here: Is it the “social cost of carbon” that’s at issue? Or the social cost of capital? As usual, VoxEU gives great insight into what it is possible to say, and impossible to ask.

Rick van der Ploeg, Professor of Economics and Research Director of OxCarre, University of Oxford, Aart de Zeeuw, Professor, CentER and TSC, Tilburg University; Fellow, Beijer Institute. Originally published at VoxEU.

Climate policy aims to internalise the social cost of carbon by means of a carbon tax or a system of tradable permits such as the Emissions Trading System set up in the EU. But how do we determine the social cost of carbon? Do we take everything into account that should be taken into account? Most integrated assessment models (Nordhaus 2008, Stern 2007) calculate the net present value of estimated marginal damages to economic production from emitting one extra ton of carbon caused by burning fossil fuel.

However, global warming has many non-marginal effects on both the economy and on the carbon cycle. Climate catastrophes can occur that lead to sudden flooding, hurricanes, desertification, water shortages, etc. Many of such changes may be irreversible. Other catastrophes such as reversal of the Gulf Stream or sudden release of greenhouse gases from the permafrost lead to a sudden and long-lasting change in the system dynamics of the carbon cycle. Such changes in the system dynamics of the economy and/or the carbon cycle are called regime shifts. When such a shift takes place, this is called a tipping point. Scientists predict that at some point, structural changes will occur with effects that are very difficult or even impossible to reverse. The usual marginal cost-benefit analysis of existing integrated assessment models then puts us on the wrong track. The problem is much more serious than we think.

Ecologists have observed tipping points in many ecological systems (e.g. Biggs et al. 2012). For example, lakes shift from states with a high level of ecological services to states with a low level of services when just a little bit more phosphorus is released on the lake, and stay in that state even when the release of phosphorus is reduced again. Another example is the bleaching of coral reefs. When the sea temperature rises just above the normal maximal temperature, the reef flips from a coral-dominated state to an algae-dominated state, which destroys fish populations and tourist assets.

The risk of climate catastrophes

Scientists predict that the climate will show a similar pattern as a consequence of accumulated greenhouse gas emissions, and identify nine types of catastrophe (e.g. Lenton and Ciscar 2013). These catastrophes differ in their impacts on both the economy and the carbon cycle – large or small, global or local, immediate or slowly evolving over time. Scientists have an idea about when catastrophes will happen, but the exact dates of these calamities remain uncertain until they actually occur. It is clear, however, that the probabilities of these hazards occurring are not exogenous, but will typically increase with the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and temperature. A major worry is thus that global warming leads to an increase in the risk of climate catastrophes and policies should be designed to curb such non-marginal risks. For example, if global warming increases the risk of a sudden and irreversible catastrophic shock to the productivity of the economy, marginal cost-benefit analysis will not suffice.

Optimal saving and carbon pricing under the threat of climate catastrophe

To deal with the stochastic hazard of a climate catastrophe, policymakers need to consider three important effects.

  • First, the hazard rate acts as an extra discount rate and therefore induces higher consumption and less saving.
  • Second, since economic production and thus consumption will suffer a catastrophic drop after the calamity, it makes sense to accumulate more capital in order to be better prepared for the calamity and to smooth consumption over time.

We show in a simple Ramsey growth framework for the global economy (with fossil fuel input inducing emissions of carbon dioxide) that the net results of these first two effects is precautionary saving and lower consumption before the shock occurs (van der Ploeg and de Zeeuw 2014).

Normally, the steady-state amount of economic activity follows from setting the net marginal product of capital equal to the sum of the depreciation rate and the discount rate, which is the so-called modified golden rule of capital accumulation. However, when having to deal with the prospect of a climate catastrophe, the economy needs to internalise a precautionary return on capital accumulation (thus altering the golden rule) so that the targeted steady-state levels of capital and economic activity are higher than without the anticipation of a hazard of a climate calamity. Precaution is usually formulated as a pragmatic principle of good sense, but in this way it gets a rational underpinning that is actually quite intuitive.

  • The third effect is that carbon needs to be priced to curb emissions and eventually curb the stock of atmospheric carbon and temperature, and thereby lower the hazard of catastrophe and postpone the expected date the calamity strikes.

We call this the ‘risk-averting’ part of the social cost of carbon. However, precaution leads to less consumption and more capital, and therefore to more fossil-fuel use. On the other hand, curbing emissions lowers the probability of a shock and therefore the need for precaution. Both actions are required in response to a potential catastrophe, and they have to be balanced in an optimal way. This part of the social cost of carbon comes on top of the net present value of marginal damages before and after the shock. Moreover, a higher stock of atmospheric carbon increases marginal damages after the shock and makes the after-calamity state less desirable. Hence, the social cost of carbon before the shock has a third component that we call the ‘raising-the-stakes’ term.

The effect of tipping points on the social cost of carbon

Most integrated assessment models only focus on the conventional Pigouvian part of the social cost of carbon, i.e. the net present value of the marginal damages that are caused by global warming. But in case of a potential structural catastrophe to the economy, the social cost of carbon has two additional components: a risk-averting component and a raising-the-stakes component. Are we talking about ‘big potatoes’ or ‘small potatoes’ here? In a simple calibration of the world economy on the basis of the BP Statistical Review and the World Bank Development Indicators, we have calculated the relative size of these components for a potential shock equivalent to 20% of total factor productivity.

If the potential tipping point is ignored, our calibration yields, in steady state, a social cost of carbon of $15 per ton of CO2, which is about the same as in well-known integrated assessment models. If the potential tipping point is not ignored, the social cost of carbon increases to $55 or $71 per ton of CO2, depending on whether we take a constant or an increasing marginal hazard rate as a function of the stock of atmospheric carbon. These are big potatoes, we would say. The precautionary returns are 0.6% per year and 0.5% per year, respectively. The need for precaution indeed decreases when emissions are reduced more with a higher tax on carbon.

Splitting the social cost of carbon into the three components provides additional insights. For example, the $71 per ton of CO2 is split into $6 for the marginal damages, $52 for the risk-averting component, and $14 for the raising-the-stakes component. The risk-averting component is by far the largest, and it is clear that ignoring potential tipping points is putting us on the wrong track when discussing climate policy to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

We also investigated a potential catastrophic shock to the capital stock. The effect is not so strong, which is intuitively clear because the economy can recover from such a shock. The drop in total factor productivity has a long-lasting effect, which is exactly what tipping points are all about.

Concluding remarks

Tipping points or regime shifts are usually characterised as large, abrupt and persistent changes. They are very real in ecological systems, and when the economy is embedded in such a system – like the climate system – economic analysis cannot be confined to purely marginal analysis. Integrated assessment models are now starting to include tipping points (Cai et al. 2012, Lemoine and Traeger 2013) but it is still far from common practice.

Finally, a climate policy narrative based on imminent catastrophes and tipping points may resonate more with policymakers than the hitherto-employed narrative based on small costs of marginal changes in global warming at moderate temperatures. And if the earth experiences one or two catastrophic tipping points, this may shock policymakers finally into taking serious and sustained action to combat global warming.


Biggs, R, T Blenckner, C Folke, L Gordon, A Norström, M Nyström, and G Peterson (2012), “Regime shifts”, in A Hastings and L Gross (eds.), Encyclopedia of Theoretical Ecology, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press: 609–616.

Cai, Y, K L Judd, and T S Lontzek (2012), “The social cost of abrupt climate change”, mimeo, Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Lemoine, D M and C P Traeger (2013), “Watch your step: optimal policy in a tipping climate”, American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 6(1): 137–166.

Lenton, T M and J-C Ciscar (2013), “Integrating tipping points into climate impact assessments”, Climate Change, 117: 585–597.

Nordhaus, W (2008), A Question of Balance: Economic Models of Climate Change, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Van der Ploeg, F and A de Zeeuw (2014), “Climate Tipping and Economic Growth: Precautionary Saving and the Social Cost of Carbon”, CEPR Discussion Paper 9982. 

Stern, N (2007), The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. John

    “Most integrated assessment models (Nordhaus 2008, Stern 2007) calculate the net present value of estimated marginal damages to economic production from emitting one extra ton of carbon caused by burning fossil fuel.”

    This sentence (first paragraph) needs some attention. It is not clear what the author is stating.

    Writing about climate science requires authors to get to the bottom line very quickly.

    There are some glaring problems with this piece. He states: Scientists have an idea about when catastrophes will happen, but the exact dates of these calamities remain uncertain until they actually occur.

    I am assuming the author means the former part of the statement. If so, that is not exactly correct. Catastrophes are not known until well after the event. It takes forensic to get to the root cause of the problem. An example is the Pine Bark Beetle infestation in Canada. Hundreds of thousands of trees have died because of climate change and took some time before scientists could say by consensus the beetle larvae was the cause. Catastrophes can occur without notice. There are still unknowns.

    It is clear the author needs to study up some more on climate science. He would know that for many poor regions of the world the tipping point is already here.

    Trying to put an economic model on climate change appears to be way off. Economists of many stripes should make an (urgent) effort to get some background on the study of climate change.

    1. mikkel

      Basically the models are calculated in the same way you’d calculate expected returns from spending money to buy things. You have to balance the fact of having it now (and its depreciation in the future) vs. what you could use the money for in the future, presuming some interest rate and decrease or increase in cost of the good. Then there is a fudge factor that tries to assign a value for opportunity cost.

      In this sense, they try to calculate the benefit from burning fossil fuels today and increasing economic growth (thus productivity) against the future decrease in economic activity it will cause due to CO2 effects. The rationale goes that if we can grow fast enough now to overcome most negative aspects of CO2, then it is worth it.

      Their world view presumes that all these factors can be calculated according to defined probabilities. This paper is simply stating that due to tipping points, the probability functions are impossible to define and thus the marginal models are incorrect. It is the same phenomenon that caused all the CDOs to blow up.

      I’m not sure what the idiom is for the opposite of “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” but that is what their calculation attempts to do. Instead of admitting that the underlying theory is flawed since it relies on unrealistic assumptions, they calculate a “risk-aversion” adjustment that will have the effect of reducing consumption. In their model, this means capital will increase and be available for absorbing shocks, but in reality, reducing consumption will also greatly reduce capital due to deleveraging.

      From a systems control perspective, I would frame the tipping point phenomenon as requiring that we keep the climate system within its control boundaries. If it goes across them, then the damage is actually incalculable, since it is impossible to know exactly how bad it could get. (I love the sentence, “They are very real in ecological systems, and when the economy is embedded in such a system” — as opposed to when the economy is not part of reality?) This mentality would ask, “What is the best way to assign cost to ensure we don’t cross the danger zone?” and then adjust as necessary to prevent from going there.

      In any case, their fudge factored cost for CO2 is roughly in line with the suggested price for an initial carbon price to stop at 2C warming, and presumably they would say it should rise as the tipping points become closer.

      All in all, it is a quite clever way to take the sclerotic economic models and get at least a semblance of what we need to do, even though it is not being completely up front with its implications.

      1. James Levy

        Basically, they’re trying to make a linear model based on dubious assumptions (marginal utility bologna) fit a chaotic environment where a small change can have a huge impact. But their hearts are in the right place!

        What all these people miss is that tipping points are real. The mentality that seems to dominate climate change discourse is that we’ll all start to practice safe sex after we’ve contracted AIDS and unmistakable symptoms of the ailment have manifested themselves. Until we are confirmed HIV positive and the lesions are breaking out, we’re going to fornicate with anything that moves. Because somehow by magic we will reverse the damage once it is unequivocally clear that something is actually the matter. This seems to be what passes for thinking among the decision-makers on our planet.

  2. The Dork of Cork

    If indeed carbon is a problem then further global effforts by the banking system to express cost (and not true value – banks by defination cannot produce value) will end in larger failure for most people.

    Please remember Chinese coal consumption hockey sticked after euro creation.
    The purpose of deflation in euroland and $ land was to use that latent energy to overbuild elsewhere.
    We are dealing with chronic capitalistic overproduction.
    Tax is a integral part of the capitalistic system – its purpose is merely to concentrate power.

    “carbon needs to be priced” – but for who ?
    We are again seeing the price of everthing and the value of nothing projected into our faces.

    1. susan the other

      Price does not reflect costs? So what’s goin on? Price gets off Scot free because it can socialize so many of its “costs” via taxes, etc. Or by just ignoring them in the first place. Nothing to see here. The world of hard physical law caught up with us sooner than we thought – in fact we never even thought capitalism could be reined in by “costs”… silly costs. Let’s just redefine them as profits. OK?

  3. skippy

    “This column argues that this renders the marginal cost-benefit analysis usually employed in integrated assessment models inadequate.”

    Which begs the question is it force majeure or willful blindness.

  4. Eeyores enigma

    Now that we’ve got the economist addressing Climate Change I’m sure things will start getting better soon.

  5. Jim Haygood

    ‘It makes sense to accumulate more capital in order to be better prepared for the calamity and to smooth consumption over time.’

    This is essentially the premise of countercyclical fiscal policy. But since the 1970s, fiscal surpluses which could be used to accumulate capital during economic expansions have been almost nonexistent.

    Given its incentives — re-election in the near future — democratic government does the exact opposite, running deficits during expansions (such as now), and even bigger deficits during recessions.

    The only feasible source of additional social capital is a big cutback in unproductive military spending. It’s not even on the radar in the mighty US freakin’ A.

    Relying on government to accumulate capital (translation: ‘Of course I’m going to raise your taxes.’ — Walter Mondale) is a great way to make a bad situation much worse.

    1. Calgacus

      But since the 1970s, fiscal surpluses which could be used to accumulate capital during economic expansions have been almost nonexistent.

      Fiscal surpluses never have been and cannot “be used to accumulate capital”, and generally cause the destruction of social capital unless the surplus is being used to fight major inflation in a full employment economy. The problem is the analytical framework, the bad accounting used here, which makes no sense – but this does not prevent it from being the mainstream view, Base money = government debt is created when governments spend, and destroyed when they tax. Destructive, unproductive, worse than digging holes military spending has not caused depletion of social capital in the USA, but increases in it, because modern capitalist economies suffer from ever more inadequate demand. Of course spending not on making killtoys occasionally used to murder other people would have been far better.

      1. ambrit

        Spending on production of ‘killtoys’ unfortunately is a self fulfilling prophecy. The evidence we have suggests that the Elites are preparing for a breakdown in Civil Society. Said breakdown would in all probability be the result of short sighted policies on the part of the same Elites. Localism coupled with some form of Survivalism appears to be the rational strategy for the rest of us.

        1. different clue

          Perhaps the elites are working to foster the social breakdown they work to “contain” so they can
          create a “Syrian uprising” here to meet with a canned “Assad response” all ready to go. It would be a form of population-reduction.
          If so, part of localist survivalism would be trying to figure out how to avoid getting involved in or caught up in the rebellion which the elite is working to foster in order to open up their can of whoopass on it.

          1. ambrit

            It could be a time of major regressions. The imp of the perverse in me thinks that maybe the ‘gangstas’ and ‘rednecks’ have a workable solution: Tribalism.
            As for the elites; I’m more of the opinion now that they truly don’t understand the forces they are fostering. Like the Financiers and Industrialists who bankrolled the NASDAP in the Twenties; the monster they created destroyed them.
            The Localist Survivalists would be in the position of the tiny mammals who survived while the dinosauria went extinct.
            I’m halfway afraid that I’ll live long enough to see the process begin.

  6. Jim Shannon

    This article is an attempt to establish the TRUE cost of Carbon, used by modern technology to meet the needs of a Market, entirely driven by consumer demand. The True Cost of Carbon is clearly being shifted to a future, most of us will not be around to see!
    A carbon TAX will be paid by the consumer, as ALL costs of production are always and everywhere eventually shifted to the consumer! The cost of Carbon – clearly is being shifted to future consumers – read here Not My Problem.
    97% of ALL scientists studying the issue, have concluded Carbon burning needs to be curbed. No one is willing to pay that price and technology and corruption have moved humanity closer to self destruction!

    1. fosforos

      It is very misleading to state that “A carbon TAX will be paid by the consumer.” But who is “the consumer?” If the carbon tax is totally rebated on an equal per-capita basis, its burden falls only on the wealthy minority of consumers, those whose carbon consumption is greatly above average, while the lower-income majority actually gains income because they receive more money than they pay in taxes at unchanged levels of consumption. But both groups are impelled by more-expensive carbon to switch to untaxed lower-carbon alternatives. The richer have already sufficient resources to finance the shift to non-carbon energy sources, and the poorer will receive, via their tax-rebate surplus, significant funds to finance the shift. Because alternative-energy technologies are obviously in a developmental and innovative phase, the increased financing will necessarily accelerate the (already rapidly) falling tendency ofg alternative-energy costs, thanks to economies of scale (at one end) and innovative decentralized applications (at the other). The higher the carbon tax, and the more rapidly it is phased to rise to levels that make investment in carbon-energy technologies clearly uneconomic, the greater will be the cost savings to the “economy” and to consumers generally! Not to mention the increased likelihood of our survival as a civilized species!

  7. susan the other

    The march of folly in a few over-rationalized paragraphs. I think Lambert said it best: the social costs of capital. But VoxEu did point out that when capital is captured completely by its own industrial paradigm it is in a fantasy world already. Why accumulate capital to prepare for a world of no demand? The Antarctic ice sheet is already a goner. Greenland’s soon to follow. No amount of financial risk aversion is going to fix this. The US alone will probably have 30 million displaced persons. Another thing to consider is that global warming makes it easier for agricultural industries globally and the US is dependent on ag exports. I mean the world can only eat so much food. And all the BS Monsanto are trying to conjure up to get a monopoly on seeds and pesticides – because famine – is merely trying to avoid the social cost of capital. In a nutshell. Add to this military manufacturing and misadventures and all attempts to mitigate the risks of carbon are futile. Not to mention the single most protected industry everywhere: automobile manufacturing and related lifestyles. This article was just plain disgusting.

  8. Paul Tioxon

    Normally under revolutionary conditions, burning the entire corrupt system to the ground with widespread rioting and sabotage to ensure no 2 stones are left standing on top of another, would be the normal political response in lieu of drastic systemic reforms or even mile wide inch deep revolutionary overthrow. However, I now know that flames engulfing the entire infrastructure of society would only contribute more carbon emissions and lingering particulate matter drifting northward to the permafrost, causing the previously pristine white ice to become ever so shaded off-white due the settling particulate matter increasing meltdown of the polar ice pack by absorbing more sunlight and repelling less simultaneously. So, before some goody 2 shoes points out that violence is never appropriate and the aggressive hostility overtly expressed is beyond the pale of civility in calmly and in a clear headed manner discussing the important issues of the day which will lead to adverse material consequences of an extinction level event for humanity as a species, I have just one question. Where can I get in the action on some of this carbon trading gold mine? I need to bulk up my retirement program as I have sorely neglected my personal fiscal responsibilities.

  9. Crazy Horse

    1- If climate tipping points exist but their transition point cannot be predicted with 100% reliability.
    2- And climate change is significantly driven by atmospheric carbon emitted by human activity.
    3- And the resource base is sufficient for continued growth in carbon emissions.
    4- And here is no way of predicting what if any equilibrium will be established after the tipping point is reached.

    Then it follows logically that the price of carbon emissions is infinite, not xx dollars. Any attempt to price it is just another exercise in self delusion. An activity that humans are highly skilled at.

    Unless of course a world capable of supporting human life is of no value.

    1. Rosario

      Agreed, we all need a course in critical theory and philosophy (any will do really) not economics.

    2. mikkel

      I’d say that the price of emissions over the length of time they stay in the atmosphere is infinite, but that doesn’t mean the set price today is infinite — it should be high enough to make transitioning the #1 priority of all economies, but enable some usage for basic needs.

      1. Crazy Horse

        You are not following the logic of tipping points leading to non-equilibrium patterns of change. If feedback loops are self-reinforcing rather than tending toward equilibrium, climate change can lead to a planet capable of supporting human life only at the most tenuous level.

        Arguing that we can set a price just right to permit some business as usual and guarantee transition to a sustainable future when the characteristics of that future are un-knowable is exactly parallel to the idea that the FED can control the course of a kleptocratic military-industrial imperial economy by fine tuning interest rates.

    3. ambrit

      Crazy Horse;
      I’m in the middle of reading the book “Climate Crash” by John D. Cox from 2005. It’s a serious work detailing the progress of climatology from the early gradualist theory to the modern understanding of the very fast changes in worldwide climate that have resulted from the crossing of climatological tipping points. The climate history deciphered from ice cores recovered from the Greenland and Antarctic ice covers has revealed a succession of sudden and severe fluctuations in temperature and glaciation over the last one hundred thousand years. From conditions like today to full force ice age conditions in under a hundred years are recorded in the ice layers. It’s a fascinating read. Considering the real world implications, it’s scary as H— too.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The Penobscots plan for 7 generations. Since they’ve been on the continent 10,000 years or so it might be wise to follow their example. Instead of, ya know, quarterly profits….

        1. ambrit

          It’s the next morning but I had to reply…
          The Penobscots must rely on a sense of continuity at the societal level to undergird this planning regime. It gives support to my contention on another thread that Tribalism might be the optimal strategy for long term survival. (The evil genius of the modern elites seems to be their dissemination of the concept of the atomization of ‘modern’ society whilst they themselves inculcate the sense of in group superiority within their own population.)
          Riffing on your last sentence; how about todays’ obsession with ‘stars’ and personality as being an exercise in “Quarterly Prophets?”

  10. Rosario

    “Second, since economic production and thus consumption will suffer a catastrophic drop after the calamity, it makes sense to accumulate more capital in order to be better prepared for the calamity and to smooth consumption over time.”

    I should admit, after this sentence I skimmed the rest rather quickly, though I saw no recovery. I would love to visit the world these individuals inhabit to better understand how the hell capital will fix anything after a calamity that is global in scale. By capital do they mean farmland, fresh water, good timber? I’m beginning to wonder if some economists aren’t just crypto-psychopaths directing us toward certain calamity. The logic the author presented is nuts. Why do we have to describe the maintenance of a natural system as it pertains to our health and well-being in terms of capital forever? Here is a good way to motivate politicians/people: “Change your behavior or risk a high probability of extinction.” Though like speaking to any addict (in this case those addicted to Capital/Capitalism) denial and deflection are the first line of emotional and intellectual defense.

    1. MtnLife

      ” a good way to motivate politicians/people: “Change your behavior or risk a high probability of extinction.”

      Ordinarily you’d think this would work. Here in the USA we are super exceptional and will, of course, beat the odds. It’s our God given right. If he didn’t want us to burn all that oil, why would he put it in the ground? The Bible tells us Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a Hummer, dual wielding .50 cal machine guns sending socialist, tree huggin’ hippies (in all likelihood Palestinian) Home to Daddy for an existential spanking so that the true believers could live the American Dream of McMansions, monster trucks, and climate controlled personal spaces. Besides, if it happens it’ll happen to our kids and they will have fixed it by then because technology and man’s infinite creativity.

      Yeah, don’t see it happening without some near Biblical weather events and even then Pat Robertson will come out and blame it on “teh gayz”. If we are lucky he’ll shuffle the bogey man deck and we’ll get some new cultural cause like polygamy that has earned us God’s Wrath. Maybe if we are “lucky” our politicians will start a nuclear war with Russia or China and fix that whole global warming thing. We don’t have to worry about drinking water – the patriotic Bush family owns 300,000 acres on top of the worlds largest aquifer in Uruguay and I’m sure they’ll take care of everyone.

      1. craazyboy

        Nuclear Winter fixes Global Warming! [slaps forehead]

        It’s so simple and here I was just getting worried we might get one before the other and I was wasting time trying to figure in what order they come. But that doesn’t matter if you get both! They cancel out!

        I just had a eureka moment. Strangely relaxing. I think I’ll watch Dr. Strangelove again. Haven’ t seen it for a year now and it’s such a quaint old movie.

        1. Crazy Horse

          Might I suggest a brilliant new career with the the department of Homeland Insecurity? That is exactly the type of thinking that they thrive upon.

          1. craazyboy

            I’m tired of working, but if they let me watch movies and spy on working people, I’d probably go for it. But no suit and tie. I’m a stickler about that. G12 salary lookin’ good compared to ZIRP. NOCARE guvmint insurance great too! I also require in my employment offer to specify which Homeland, and is that the Homeland I would be working in. Can’t be too careful about that.

            1. ambrit

              Come on Down South y’all. Lots of opportunity in New Afrika or The Aryan Volksland. (Something for everyone…to fight over.)

    2. Ben Johannson

      I suspect the sentence you reject is not much more than a feeble attempt to suggest that “more will be better than less”, particularly as they fail to indicate, as you have already pointed out, what sort of capital we could or should accumulate.

  11. Cassiodorus

    The dominant narrative in “climate change mitigation” still holds to two options (“climate policy aims to internalise the social cost of carbon by means of a carbon tax or a system of tradable permits such as the Emissions Trading System set up in the EU”) which assume “more capitalism” as the solution to a problem caused by capitalism. Its problem is its starting point and its failure to examine its presuppositions. People are still asking, “how do we solve the problem without disturbing the power-structure?” The idea is that maybe the right appeal to the oligarchies of capital, who all still believe in the convenience of a world-system fueled by 89 million bbls./day of crude oil and an equal carbon-equivalent of coal, will create the ultimate act of persuasion (UAP for short) which will solve the problem.

    This is faith-based analysis. Capitalism causes climate change, and more capitalism will cause more climate change. Either you believe in the UAP, or you believe in doing something real, which means some sort of divestment from capitalism while a plan is hatched to phase out the system.

    1. NoFreeWill

      One can’t divest from capitalism. The socialists had to spend decades building a revolutionary party to overthrow it violently and even they ended up with state capitalism. Anyone who thinks we can somehow change society from within without violent resistance is as deluded as those who think capitalism can fix a problem inherent in it’s structure.

  12. Susan the other

    I guess nobody has talked about creating mountains of pure carbon, extracted from energy plants and the upper atmosphere (somehow) and then using it to pack and enclose all our nuclear waste? Pie in sky?

    1. ambrit

      Sorry sto, the very storage of nuclear wastes is fraught with dangers. The case of the fire in the Carlsbad storage facility, way underground no less, this last feb is a case in point. Even salt will burn if heated enough. Carbon? Don’t know.

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