Minnesota Hearing Addresses the Social Cost of Carbon

September 30th, 2015 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Estimated changes in vegetative cover due to CO2 fertilization between 1982 and 2010 (Donohue et al., 2013 GRL).

Estimated changes in vegetative cover due to CO2 fertilization between 1982 and 2010 (Donohue et al., 2013 GRL).

I testified before an administrative law judge (ALJ) in St. Paul, MN last week as part of a process that will determine what value the State of Minnesota decides to place on “carbon pollution”, also called the social cost of carbon (SCC).

This was the first expert testimony I have provided other than the several times I have testified in Congress. Congressional testimony is much more free-wheeling…more like a show for entertainment value and political posturing.

The Minnesota hearing was more like what you have seen on TV, with objections being made, sustained, and overruled. There were even accusations of “badgering the witness”.

It was interesting, to say the least.

There were economists who testified on both sides as to whether the economic models used were appropriate, whether they made valid assumptions, etc. I only saw two witnesses testify on that issue, one from each side.

It was clear that the lawyers from both sides were more comfortable cross-examining witnesses on economic issues than on the science behind the IPCC’s estimates of future warming, which (of course) are one of the primary inputs to any SCC model calculation. The greater the human-caused climate change, presumably the greater the damage caused by it (although one can also claim there are benefits, since cold weather kills more people on average than hot weather).

The judge had another judge present to help her out, one with an economics background and who could advise the ALJ on some of the more technical issues. The ALJ seemed most focused on procedural issues (as she should be, I suppose), making decisions regarding whether certain pieces of evidence would be admitted, etc. She seemed fair in the way she handled objections from both sides.

Scientists providing 5-minute opening statements along with me were Dick Lindzen and Will Happer. Lindzen mainly addressed climate sensitivity, Happer argued that CO2 emissions were actually a benefit, and I emphasized that the IPCC models used for the SCC calculations were demonstrably biased in their global warming projections.

As I recall, Happer received a minor question on cross-examination, while Lindzen was pressed on one of his claims regarding climate sensitivity, which he was forced to clarify. All five lawyers declined to ask me any questions on cross examination.

All of us provided written testimony well in advance of the hearing, which was responded to with rebuttal testimony from Andy Dessler and John Abraham. We also provided written rebuttal testimony in response toDessler’s and Abraham’s original written testimony. Another round of surrebuttal testimony then ensued. I believe that Dessler and Abraham provided opening statements this week, but I haven’t heard how that went.

Minnesota state law apparently requires there to be a social cost of carbon assigned to energy production in the state. I suppose that, theoretically, the assigned value could be zero. The question for the judge to address now is whether to replace the current value(s) [which are claimed by environmentalists to be too low] with the federal value, which is much higher, or whether it should be recalculated from scratch. Some good background on this can be found in a news story here from a year ago.

No matter which way the judge rules, I hear the ruling will likely be appealed. Then, no matter what the final ruling is, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission can probably just do what they want to do, anyway. I believe that the Commission simply asked the judge to help them with the process. I will admit that legal issues sometimes confuse me, so people are free to correct me on any of this I got wrong.

I suspect we are going to see more state-level challenges to the “social cost of carbon”, which is basically addressing the unintended “negative externality” consequences of our use of carbon-based fuels. My opinion is that there has been no demonstrated damage caused by adding 1 carbon dioxide molecule to 10,000 molecules of air over the last 100 years. Even the IPCC admits the evidence for increased severe weather is shaky, at best. Whether sea level rise is greater than it was before CO2 emissions could contribute is also debatable.

We do, however, have evidence that increased CO2 boosts crop production and has led to global greening, a positive externality. So, I have to wonder whether the social cost of carbon is actually negative.

My suspicion is that we are in for years of debate and legal challenges on this issue. It seems like the social cost of carbon is an unusual case for the environmentalists to make, when the supposed damages caused by CO2 emissions are not really demonstrable, and future damages are largely theoretical.

108 Responses to “Minnesota Hearing Addresses the Social Cost of Carbon”

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  1. Stephen Richards says:

    We do, however, have evidence that increased CO2 boosts crop production and has led to global greening, a positive externality; Did this come out in court Roy?

    • David Appell says:

      “We also find that the overall effect of warming on yields is negative, even after accounting for the benefits of reduced exposure to freezing temperatures.”

      — “Effect of warming temperatures on US wheat yields,” Jesse Tack et al, PNAS 4/20/15

      • JohnKl says:

        Hi David Appell,

        Do you get a percentage from pay-walled info providers? Provide facts David has there been a per capita reduction in food production in capitalist economies, or even mixed economies like Canada? Roy indicated in a prior post that per capita food production increased. Do you have evidence proving otherwise. Please note I know longer consider the US a CAPITALIST economy.

        Have a great day!

        • David Appell says:

          I have already included my evidence.

          • David Appell says:

            PS: More than one factor determines per capita food production.

          • Jarek says:

            You mean that this article actually presents data that climate change _has_ resulted in reduced wheat production (or perhaps that it has reduced the increase) or that it _will_?

            The abstract implies that the claimed reduction is a projection:

            “Climate change is expected to increase future temperatures, potentially resulting in reduced crop production in many key production regions.”

            “Potentially” and “in the future” doesn’t quite sound as something I would call “evidence”.

            Could you pls quote some data from the article? I assume you have it and you should be able to quote some of it here. That would at least resemble “evidence” to some extent.

          • mpainter says:

            Applied to the soil: nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, other minerals. Applied to the air: CO2. Mankind adds substantially to this natural plant food.

  2. Stephen Richards says:

    We do, however, have evidence that increased CO2 boosts crop production and has led to global greening, a positive externality

    Did this come out in court Roy?

    • David Appell says:

      Actually, this study shows just the opposite:

      “For wheat, maize and barley, there is a clearly negative response of global yields to increased temperatures. Based on these sensitivities and observed climate trends, we estimate that warming since 1981 has resulted in annual combined losses of these three crops representing roughly 40 Mt or $5 billion per year, as of 2002.”

      “Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming,” Environmental Research Letters Volume 2 Number 1
      David B Lobell and Christopher B Field 2007 Environ. Res. Lett. 2 014002 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/2/1/014002

      • JohnKl says:

        Hi David Appell,

        Again David you provide vague bromide info. Financial losses have nothing to do necessarily with food production. Any scientific evidence of massive food production losses. Farmers physically unable to grow food for mysterious reasons David Appell believes must be CO2 related? Any evidence of per capita food production declines in OPEN AND FREE MARKETS (not that they exist anymore in the U.S.)?

        Btw, your own linked article admits in the abstract that food production gains far outstripped their supposed imagined reductions. How can a major crop yield reduction co-exist with major crop yield increases due supposedly to technology (or maybe increased CO2)? Only in the mind of David Appell.

        Have a great day!

        • David Appell says:

          Read closer, about the negative response of yields to warmer temperatures….

          Can you really not understand that yields are a function of many variables?

          • Aaron S says:

            Including both positive and negative. For example, the redistribution of crop land in Africa to poorly trained, indigenous people has greatly hurt the agricultural yields. So the knife cuts both ways.

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi David Appell,

            You stated:

            “Read closer, about the negative response of yields to warmer temperatures….”

            It’s still an estimate David not a hard figure from what I can tell. In any case, as it mentions the productive gains outweighed losses. Moreover, this seems to be the case with at least one citation regarding Korean rice production and possibly others:

            “As a result, CO2 is estimated to have opposite effects on rice yield depending on whether any of the two adaptations is applied or not; decreasing effect without adaptation and increasing effect with adaptation. In addition, it turns out that the cultivar adjustment has a higher increasing effect on rice yield than the planting-date adjustment. The results of the study are expected to be used as basic quantitative data for establishing responsive polices to the future climate changes.”

            Have a great day!

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi David Appell,

            You asked:

            “Can you really not understand that yields are a function of many variables?”

            The yield may be a function of many variables, but we’re the relevant fact remains the resulting YIELD which from what I can tell INCREASED. If you have evidence proving otherwise and not just pay-walls please provide it.

            Have a great day!

        • mpainter says:

          Yields are a function of CO2, the plant food.

          • lewis says:

            The point in question was CO2 and yields. Temperature will, obviously, affect many crops. The list goes on of which crops, more exactly plants, will grow in which temperature and rain zones. If the planet is getting warmer, as David is sore afraid, then naturally the temperature zones will migrate northward causing some plants, wheat, corn and others to change where they do best. This is one of the reasons Canada and Russia have opposed CO2 controls – if it contributes to warmer, good. Canada and Russia will be able to farm lands then they can’t now.
            But, CO2 increases are a separate issue.

  3. Stephen Richards says:

    Sorry about the double. There are time when your site doesn’t display correctly.

    • gbaikie says:

      Even though the page appears to reload, refresh it again.

      As for the topic, I don’t think increasing CO2 levels have any negative effects, though I think buildings which don’t get enough fresh air and exceed 2000 ppm of CO2 could be a problem.
      When people sleep they tend to have levels at 2000 ppm or higher, and large numbers of people in buildings can cause high levels.
      So, anyhow constant high levels of CO2 might be problem, but not really related to the 400 ppm of global CO2, though if global CO2 were become more than 1000 ppm, one have to pay more attention of ensuring better air circulation for buildings [using more heat exchange system for fresh air in terms wasting less energy]. But I doubt global CO2 levels will rise above 600 ppm at time soon and due to technological nature of human beings, it seems fairly silly to worry about things further than 50 years in the future, rather it’s better to focus on near term of next 10 to 20 years.
      Or we star travel in next 20 years if we wanted to- though first exploring our solar system makes more sense.

    • David Appell says:

      I experience that too, when this site doesn’t display properly and instead shifts into some other list-ish mode that is hard to read and difficult to comment at. I can never figure out when it will shift back, and why.

  4. Thanks, Dr. Spencer, for doing what you could do in that setting.
    Your opening graphic in this post is from “Deserts ‘greening’ from rising CO2”. CSIRO, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Australia’s national science agency. July 3, 2013.
    At http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Media/Deserts-greening-from-rising-CO2.aspx
    This page was removed from the CSIRO Website.
    But it has been preserved in mine.
    It shows one of the benefits from increased atmospheric CO2 content; more food.

    • David Appell says:

      Less food:

      “Total protein and nitrogen concentrations in plants generally decline under elevated CO2 atmospheres…. Recently, several meta-analyses have indicated that CO2 inhibition of nitrate assimilation is the explanation most consistent with observations. Here, we present the first direct field test of this explanation….. In leaf tissue, the ratio of nitrate to total nitrogen concentration and the stable isotope ratios of organic nitrogen and free nitrate showed that nitrate assimilation was slower under elevated than ambient CO2. These findings imply that food quality will suffer under the CO2 levels anticipated during this century unless more sophisticated approaches to nitrogen fertilization are employed.”
      — “Nitrate assimilation is inhibited by elevated CO2 in field-grown wheat,” Arnold J. Bloom et al, Nature Climate Change, April 6 2014.

      “Higher CO2 tends to inhibit the ability of plants to make protein… And this explains why food quality seems to have been declining and will continue to decline as CO2 rises — because of this inhibition of nitrate conversion into protein…. “It’s going to be fairly universal that we’ll be struggling with trying to sustain food quality and it’s not just protein… it’s also micronutrients such as zinc and iron that suffer as well as protein.”

      -– University of California at Davis Professor Arnold J. Bloom, on Yale Climate Connections 10/7/14

      • Aaron S says:

        This is a good point. Plants that grow faster with more CO2 may not bioaccumulate nutrients at the same concentration. Also, lets not forget Cerling et al. 1993 in nature. When CO2 dropped in the late miocene there was a global expansion of C4 grasses at the mid latitudes. This occured below a CO2 threshold around 400 to 500 ppm. They replaced the C3 metabolic open savannah ecosystem globally in the new CO2 starved atmosphere that is very rare in geologic time scales. As we approach this natural threshold i am curious if C4 crops (wheat and corn) will be impacted negatively. The nutrient accumulation you discuss might be an example. Also dont forget ultimately we humans evolved in the low CO2 world in the open grassland as bipeds. Perhaps going back would have other unintended consequences for the evosystem.

        This however is a different topic than if CO2 drives global warming or the models work.

        • mpainter says:

          CO2 increases plant yields. Commercial greenhouses elevate their CO2 to 1,000-1500 ppm. If we double our fossil fuel use, perhaps we could achieve those levels in two or three hundred years. Just imagine how green earth will be! Even today arid places are greening, such as the Sahel.

        • JohnKl says:

          Hi Aaron S,

          You state:

          “This however is a different topic than if CO2 drives global warming or the models work.”

          Exactly, people don’t appear panicked that they’ll die from heat exposure anytime soon so another bugaboo must be found. Now it’s CO2 induced plant protein deficiency, whether evidence exists or not because how can we afford to wait? After all if the protein shortage turns out to be real the costs in CO2 reduction will be minimal, so the illogic goes. Since urban gardens exist that grow wheat and other crops in regional zones sporting 1000-1500ppm and since scientists have been boosting CO2 levels in greenhouses likely for many decades, does it seem odd that a protein deficiency apparently has only been discovered recently?

          It will likely turn out that people consuming a diet of protein deficient bread become credulous and tend toward climate alarmism.

          Have a great day!

          • lewis says:


            It might be noted that when plants grow faster due to increased CO2, water supply and, perhaps, clement temperatures, they won’t necessarily have access to more of the other nutrients they need. None the less, they will grow at the rate allowed by the most constricting factor. Perhaps this was CO2 previously and so the plants now showing less N and protein per gram are now happier than previously.

            Since that is a change in behavior from what was measured recently,(recently meaning anytime in the past 2,000 years or so) those who seek to find reasons mankind is a bad actor will seize this information and twist it to suit their own agenda. In fact it is only a minor change which will also require a change in the dietary habits of those who consume the plants – insects included.

          • Aaron S says:

            Guys i cant agree more that CO2 gets blamed for everything…. but i try to be objective and the biology here makes sense about nutrient uptake. Does not mean it is correct or will be destructive to humanity. I literally read an article where reefs are now dying bc el ninos get stronger bc glpbal warming and during an el nino event the reefs are exposed. Reality is carbonate factory does great under warm earth conditions with elevated CO2 during raising sea level (Mid Miocene)… it is when they thrive most. Agreed the timing here is a bit suspicious. But we all know funding is easy if u find a CO2 catastrophy

  5. Marcel Crok says:

    Hi Roy
    are the submitted documents and rebuttals online somewhere?

    You might have heard about the Urgenda case in Holland. The court decided that the Dutch government should do more than their planned 17% reduction in 2020 (compared to 1990) and the judge raised it to 25%! Lucas Bergkamp posted about it at Judy’s blog:

    I once had plans to write a book about a fictive global warming court case. I might revive these plans although nowadays you can skip the adjective ‘fictive’…


  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    There is a Minnesota Snowbird Club (located on the Gulf coast, I think). Seems these folks go south because it gets cold in Minnesota. This yearly exodus might be of greater importance to the great state of Minnesota than the SCC that, as you imply, is likely positive.

    ~~~~~~from the article you link to:
    The Minnesota PUC has used a range from 42 cents to $4.37 a ton.

    The EPA’s carbon cost — developed by 12 agencies using three models — comes to $37 a ton, with the amount expected to increase to $43, according to …

    The term “bizarre” comes to mind.

    • Sean says:

      I also think Minnesota changed their tax laws so that people who split their time between Minnesota and someplace warmer will need to pro-rate their taxes based on the number of days they live there. (For most states, the residency threshold is based on more than 6 months residence per year. If warmer weather leads to snowbirds spending more time in the state would that lead to higher state revenue. Do you that will be shared with the fossil fuel companies?

  7. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    I wonder why in these calculations they mostly count all the negatives and not the positives.
    The positives are electricity, heating, transport, and a lot of production.
    The society as we know it, would only last a couple of weeks if all fossil fuel use was stopped. And then you could talk of a social cost that could be counted.
    If they start bending the rules by allowing a certain amount of CO2 before you have to pay, then it is only a show.
    I would like to see the calculation showing the safe and beneficial CO2 emission and at what rate it becomes bad.

    • I think everyone agrees that fossil fuels have provided huge benefits to humanity. I suspect the other side is arguing that there have been negative externalities affecting 3rd parties which have not been accounted for…like someone suffering water pollution downstream from a factory. Except that I don’t think anyone can establish any causal link between increasing CO2 and bad weather events.

      • geran says:

        Dr. Roy says: “Except that I don’t think anyone can establish any causal link between increasing CO2 and bad weather events.”

        But, there is a definite causal link between increasing CO2 and Davie’s increasing abhorrence of science. The higher atmospheric CO2 concentration gets, the more Davie hates actual science.

        The facts just don’t support his “religion”.

        • lewis says:

          One should always be cautious around true believers.

          The Inquisition was a program of the true believers. With the IPCC leading the way, EPA bearing the hammer, those of us who say nay will find our heads on the block.

    • David Appell says:

      This study found that generating power with coal and oil creates more damage than value-added, according to Yale economist William Nordhaus in a 2011 paper:

      “Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy,” Nicholas Z. Muller, Robert Mendelsohn, and William Nordhaus, American Economic Review, 101(5): 1649–75 (2011).

      Summarizing that paper’s findings: for every $1 in value (=market price paid) that comes from coal-generated electricity, it creates $2.20 in damages.

      Total damages: $70 billion per year (in 2012 dollars).

      Petroleum-generated electricity is even worse: $5.13 in damages for $1 in value.

      The National Academy of Sciences estimated that fossil fuel use causes damages of at least $120 B/yr to health and the environment:

      “Hidden Costs of Energy: Unpriced Consequences of Energy Production and Use”
      National Research Council, 2010

      • Jim Eichstedt says:

        How about if we burned logs to keep warm in the winter? How much damage would that cost? It sounds like we all would be far better off if we didn’t use electricity at all. Forget about finding a green substitute for fossil fuel, just stop using any energy entirely and we’ll all save billions. If our native Americans knew this, they wouldn’t have needed fire. Winters would have cold, food raw, but they would have had a richer world.

      • mpainter says:

        When, CO2 finally starts to warm the planet, that is if it ever does, how wonderful for those who experience severe winters. But so far, the earth has seem no warming attributable CO2. Perhaps there will be none.

  8. David Appell says:

    Roy wrote:
    “…since cold weather kills more people on average than hot weather.”

    Is there data that shows this?

      • David Appell says:

        Thanks for that link.

        If you actually look at that study, it’s very skimpy on tropical regions. The countries they looked at were

        “We collected data for 384 locations in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, and USA.””


        No African countries, no Haiti, no India or Pakistan or the Middle East.

        India saw 2500 deaths in this year’s heat wave. Pakistan saw 2000+.

        The study simply isn’t a good representation of the globe.

      • David Appell says:

        Turns out the author cited in the USA Today article had earlier published a paper with a global perspective:

        “Global Variation in the Effects of Ambient Temperature on Mortality: A Systematic Evaluation,” Yuming Guo et al, Epidemiology, Volume 25, Number 6, November 2014.


        They don’t provide a global number, but their conclusion is

        “…The estimated effects of cold and hot temperatures on mortality varied by community and country. Meta-analysis results show that both cold and hot temperatures increased the risk of mortality in all the countries regions. Cold effects were delayed and lasted for many days, whereas heat effects appeared quickly and did not last long.

        “Conclusions: People have some ability to adapt to their local climate type, but both cold and hot temperatures are still associated with increased risk of mortality. Public health strategies to alleviate the impact of ambient temperatures are important, in particular in the context of climate change.”

        • mpainter says:

          Higher mortality from cold weather than from warmer weather, David. That’s the facts which you hate so much. I wonder how many in Minnesota are really spooked about the prospects of milder winters. The real threat is from global cooling as the Holocence continues its trend toward a new ice age.

      • David Appell says:

        About the first study, from the USA Today article:

        “Extrapolating the results of this study for this purpose [the future under climate change] would only provide speculations not based on evidence,” Gasparrini said.


    • JohnKl says:

      Hi David Appell,

      You ask:

      “Is there data that shows this?”

      Believable or not the EPA states:

      “Between 1979 and 2013, the death rate as a direct result of exposure to heat (underlying cause of death) generally hovered around 0.5 deaths per million population, with spikes in certain years (see Figure 1). Overall, a total of more than 9,000 Americans suffered heat-related deaths since 1979. This number does not capture the full extent of heat-related deaths for several reasons (see example figure).
      For years in which the two records overlap (1999–2013), accounting for those additional deaths in which heat was listed as a contributing factor results in a higher death rate—nearly double for some years—compared with the estimate that only includes deaths where heat was listed as the underlying cause. However, even this expanded metric does not necessarily capture the full extent of heat-related deaths.
      The indicator shows a peak in heat-related deaths in 2006, a year that was associated with widespread heat waves and was the second-hottest year on record in the contiguous 48 states (see the U.S. and Global Temperature indicator).
      Considerable year-to-year variability in the data and certain limitations of this indicator make it difficult to determine whether the United States has experienced a meaningful increase or decrease in deaths classified as “heat-related” over time. Dramatic increases in heat-related deaths are closely associated with both the occurrence of hot temperatures and heat waves, though these deaths may not be reported as “heat-related” on death certificates. For example, studies of the 1995 heat wave event in Chicago (see example figure) suggest that there may have been hundreds more deaths than were actually reported as “heat-related” on death certificates.

      More to come…

      Have a great day!

    • JohnKl says:

      Hi David Appell,

      However, a Lancet study indicates cold weather related deaths dwarf warm weather related deaths.


      Btw, as I mentioned the only climatic event known to have caused mass extinction remains the ICE AGE!!! No reports of mass extinction due to heat stroke! Perhaps there exists and EPA study somewhere. I bet you can find it.

      Have a great day!

      • David Appell says:

        So, instead of providing the needy with adequate shelter and a controlled climate, we should heat up the entire world, raise sea level, impact plants and crops and other species and ecosystems, and acidify the ocean.

        Is that your message?

        • geran says:

          Davie, that is a “when did you stop beating your dog” question. Is that all you’ve got?

          (We already know your answer.)

        • Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

          ‘So, instead of providing the needy with adequate shelter and a controlled climate’

          The best shelter is a heated one, preferably using something cheap like LPG, perhaps natgas which is more expensive but (even) less polluting. Electricity is more expensive now, and of course would get a lot more expensive if we eliminated fossil fuels from power generation.

          But LPG and natgas both emit CO2 when burned. Bummer.

          As for a controlled climate, I don’t know, is there a paper on how to achieve that?

          • David Appell says:

            Alberto: People in tropical climates need A/C, not heat.

            Even more than that, they need basic electricity.

            More and more Africans are getting their electricity from rooftop or local solar. According to the Wall Street Journal (9/14/15 pg R8), 32.7E% of the African population live in countries where rooftop solar is cheaper than grid power.

            By 2020 this is expected to rise to 54%.

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi David Appell,

            You wrote:

            “More and more Africans are getting their electricity from rooftop or local solar. According to the Wall Street Journal (9/14/15 pg R8), 32.7E% of the African population live in countries where rooftop solar is cheaper than grid power.”

            It could be here as well if solar markets operated efficiently. Of course our Federal government subsidizes large inefficient producers like Solyndra only to see them fail. Fortunately, private companies do exist to provide alternatives, but the market could be much improved. Politicians like Schwarzenneger in California promised to encourage home-builders to provide roof-top options but not much happened.

            Passive solar has as much potential as well. If an EMP is detonated the electronic options may not matter.

            Have a great day!

          • David Appell says:

            John: Are you aware the federal government made $5 billion off the program that funded Solyndra?

            “U.S. Expects $5 Billion From Program That Funded Solyndra,” Bloomberg News, 11/12/14

          • mpainter says:

            You are telling the big lie David.

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi David Appell,

            You hilariously stated:

            “John: Are you aware the federal government made $5 billion off the program that funded Solyndra?”

            Didn’t find the article on the link provided, but if your statement is true it only helps explain why Solyndra failed. The Feds milked the cash-cow dry. They obviously had no plan to create a viable concern nor did they ever want to. Solyndra goes belly-up while the government rakes in the cash, sort of like what happens to the poor folks stuck on government programs. Btw what did the Feds make net of ALL resources expended on Solyndra’s behalf both direct and indirect?

            In the 19th century the government subsidized railroads throughout the country. In the late 19th century ( if I remember correctly the 1880’s ) a recession hit and every railroad that received government subsidies failed and closed down. Only J.J. Hill’s Great Northern which didn’t receive government subsidies survived if I remember reading correctly. How many viable U.S. solar producers could have survived and thrived if the faced if the U.S. government provided the same tax and regulatory rules to them that their competitors face over seas? How much more market sensitive would these viable companies products have been to consumer demand if bureaucrats didn’t corrupt the incentive structure.

            Have a great day!

        • JohnKl says:

          Hi David Appell,

          You asked:

          “So, instead of providing the needy with adequate shelter and a controlled climate, we should heat up the entire world, raise sea level, impact plants and crops and other species and ecosystems, and acidify the ocean.”

          David take a few breaths. We aren’t going to do anything because we have no control over the issue at all. If you believe to possess such powers please provide evidence. Personally, I’d like summertime Phoenix a little cooler, say 10-15 deg F, and the Bay area a little warmer at times maybe 5-10 deg F. We will await your climate control power display and climatological bravado. Your bona fides in climate control will be un-matched if you can pull the stunt off. As to providing the needy with adequate shelter have you constructed any? When it comes to controlling the climate again David we await the magnificent display of your mystifying powers. Thanks again and…

          Have a great day!

          • David Appell says:

            If you don’t like the temperatures in summertime Phoenix — I didn’t either when I lived there — don’t live in Phoenix.

            (But the winters were wonderful.)

          • JohnKl says:

            Hi David Appell,

            I don’t live permanently in Phoenix. However, I did visit their this summer. Winters are indeed very nice there and the city is newer than most around this part of the U.S.

            However, your running out of excuses many may doubt your ability to change the climate. Will this blog’s eco-hero be able to change the climate and prevent the next over-sized hurricane? Time will tell.

            Have a great day!

        • lewis says:

          How are you going to give them a controlled climate without producing electricity to build and run the buildings and machines which provide it?

  9. Dr. Spencer:

    Would this be helpful to the MN discussion?



  10. Bob Burban says:

    What a sad parody of reason – an inquiry stuffed with lawyers and economists engaged in judgment on matters of science.

    • David Appell says:

      What do scientists have to say about the cost of things, especially in the future?

      • JohnKl says:

        Hi David Appell,

        You ask:

        “What do scientists have to say about the cost of things, especially in the future?”

        Scientists usually don’t say much, but when they do their often wrong such as Paul Ehrlich when he bet Julian L Simon back in 1980 about the market price of certain raw materials. Paul Ehrlich would’ve likely won by an even larger margin had the nominal price been made in terms of a real asset currency like silver or gold. Of course the bet centered on five metals copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten. The amazing thing remains that Julian won even though it appears they based the bet on what many would understandably call an essentially fiat currency the US dollar and prices rose (inflation) the entire time.

        Have a great day!

  11. Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

    Any externality analysis that doesn’t include positive effects is absolutely worthless. As it happens, that includes the vast majority of these analyses. Academic dislikes burgers, writes paper ‘quantifying’ cost of absolutely everything that might happen to be correlated with burgers, writes paper claiming they’re subsidies a couple trillion. Rinse and repeat.

    Case in point: the recent IMF report assigned a few hundred billion in ‘subisidies’ (i.e. untaxed social costs) to fossil fuels not from the act of burning, but from transportation (car accidents and such). In other words, they’re saying our current transportation system wouldn’t exist without fossil fuels, hence we wouldn’t suffer all these plane accidents.

    Now what would be the externalities of doing without ambulances and helicopters?

    • David Appell says:

      Many do include positive externalities.

      But how would you price them — at the market rate (for coal, or gasoline, or whatever)?

      • JohnKl says:

        Hi David Appell,

        Why should or Alberto be trusted to PRICE anything? Untold numbers of consumers would do a much better job.

        Have a great day!

        • David Appell says:

          You’re right — which is why many economists price the benefits of fossil fuels at their market price.

          Is that fair? It isnt clear….

          • Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

            Other analyses may have looked at positive externalities, but the infamous $5.3 trillion IMF report didn’t.

            And how do you value positive (or negative for that matter) externalities? I have no idea, but neither do the people making these reports. Me thinks they should be a bit careful before throwing around trillion-dollar estimates.

          • David Appell says:

            I don’t think that’s true — they are valuing resources at their market price.

            For example, on pg 10 they write, “Consumer subsidies arise when the price paid by consumers is below a benchmark price.”

          • Alberto Zaragoza Comendador says:

            The market price of fossil fuels burned in 2014 was about $6 trillion, so I’m certain they aren’t counting it.

            What that quote means is that, if you spend $90 on oil that would otherwise (i.e. without subsidies) have been $100, then the subsidy is $10.

          • mpainter says:

            The greatest benefit of the modern age is cheap and readily accessible energy and all other benefits flow from that. Thus all benefits derive from the use of fossil fuels which do not pollute if certain safeguards are applied.

  12. Dan Pangburn says:

    The perception that CO2 causes the planet to warm is a mistake.

    Perhaps it is not clear what a forcing is. When an oven is turned on, the temperature does not instantly increase to the set temperature. Instead, what is turned on is a heater and, as time passes, the oven heats up. The heater provides heat which is a forcing on the temperature of the oven. The oven temperature changes according to the time-integral of the net forcing.

    If CO2 is a forcing on average global temperature, its effect on temperature must be determined by the time-integral of the CO2 level (or the time-integral of a function thereof). The CO2 level during the entire Phanerozoic eon (the last 542 million years) has always been more than about 150 ppmv. There is no way that the time-integral of the CO2 level (or the time-integral of a function thereof) can consistently be included in temperature calculations unless CO2 has no effect on climate and the temperature change is caused by something else.

    The average global temperature (AGT) went up and down during the Phanerozoic eon. That could not happen if CO2 had an effect on climate.

    Demonstration that CO2 has no effect on climate and identification of the two factors that do cause reported AGT change (sunspot number is the only independent variable) are at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com (new update with 5-year running-average smoothing of measured AGT. This shows the near-perfect explanation of AGT since before 1900; R^2 = 0.97+). Use of V2 SSN changes some coefficients but has no significant effect on R^2.

  13. David Appell says:

    Dr Spencer: Who paid your travel expenses to this event?

    • geran says:

      Davie, please provide audited, verifiable records of your sources of income for the last 5 years.


      • MarkB says:

        As I understand it, Drs Spencer and Lindzen provided expert testimony at the behest of Peabody Energy. It’s common for expert witnesses to be compensated and I would expect that Drs Abrahams and Dessler were compensated by the groups they represented as well. It would be interesting to know the magnitude of compensation for the various parties, but none are under any legal obligation to disclose that.

  14. David Appell says:

    John Kyl:

    It’s not my problem if you can’t access papers behind a paywall — they exist irregardless.

    Go to your local library.


    • mpainter says:

      One Appell’s standard tactics. His links are paywalled. He obviously has read none of them. He sees in himself value for the Cause – nuisance value.

      Hi David. So CO2 is a poison?
      David Appell: “The poison is in the dose”.
      No one has explained to Appell what plant food is.

  15. David L. Hagen says:

    Cold kills far more than heat.
    Finland lost about 30% of its population to cold.
    J. Neumann and S. Lindgrén, 1979: Great Historical Events That Were Significantly Affected by the Weather: 4, The Great Famines in Finland and Estonia, 1695–97. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 60, 775–787.
    doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0477(1979)0602.0.CO;2

    Gasparrini A, Guo Y, Hashizume M, et al. Mortality risk attributable to high and low ambient temperature: a multicountry observational study. Lancet 2015; published online May 21. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)62114-0. Supplement to “.

    More temperature-attributable deaths were
    caused by cold (7·29%, 7·02–7·49) than by heat (0·42%, 0·39–0·44).

  16. David L. Hagen says:

    The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels Alex Epstein

    You’ve heard that our addiction to fossil fuels is destroying our planet and our lives. Yet by every measure of human well-being life has been getting better and better. This book explains why humanity’s use of fossil fuels is actually a healthy, moral choice.

    The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels Kathleen White

  17. THE GREAT WALRUS says:

    David Appell (is Appell perhaps an appellation?):

    Given your regard for the regardless, what could “irregardless” possibly mean?


  18. Troy Spicer says:

    “since cold weather kills more people on average than hot weather”

    This is the stupidest argument I have seen in recent times on a climate blog, and being a regular reader of WUWT, Dr. Roy, and RealClimate, I have seen a lot of really dumb arguments.

    Does heat kill more people than cold? What the f*** does that matter in the discussion of costs of climate change? Do any of you “experts” postings on the question know personally anyone ever killed by heat or cold?

    Where is the major cost of global warming? If the planet warms, the sea levels will rise (if you think this statement is wrong, then skip the rest of my writings, fill a pressure cooker completely with cold water and nails, and put the sealed unit in your fireplace after making a huge roaring fire). When sea-levels rise, coastal cities will have to spend billions to mitigate. Miami and New Orleans will probably be the first in the US. Have you been to Miami during a rain storm at high tide? Can you estimate the property loss from even 2 feet of sea level rise? Multiply that by hundreds of other densely populated coastal cities around the world.


    • Man Enough says:

      Dear Troy,

      You obviously think you are so smart, but you are nothing more than a parrot of liberal academic bullshit. Some of us can think for ourselves. I like to cook pasta and I know that if I start with a full pot of water and heat it to a boil, the level will go down, not up. Does your kitchen behave differently? Never been to Miami, but if it is so doomed, then why does it have such high real estate prices? Are you so much smarter than the real estate market?

      Mark E

      • Jed Romney says:

        Hi Mark,

        Although I think I probably agree with you in principle on the price of carbon, you don’t do any good arguing that water doesn’t expand when heated. If you put a lid on your pasta when you heat it, you might notice less water loss. If you put a lid on your internet posts, you might notice less statements violating physical laws that I observed in 6th grade science class.


        • Jimmy Vitrione says:

          I object to your use of the term “physical laws”. The supreme authority on how things work is God. If He wants the seas to rise he will (just ask Moses or Noah about that!). If He wants the earth to cool or warm, it will, Man can influence God’s will through prayer, but not liberal state governance.

  19. Milton Hathaway says:

    There are a lot of amazingly misguided negative comments here.

    Residing in a state other than Minnesota gives me the outsider perspective to see what a wonderful idea this is. I strongly encourage the good folks in Minnesota to take the lead on this issue by not just matching the EPA SCC levels, but doubling or tripling them.

    I can honestly say that the envisioned Utopian results surely thus achieved couldn’t alight on a more deserving bunch of people.

    • John Longo says:

      The people of Minn. are being bamboozled. Why should they care if Miami and New Orleans have to spend billions to keep their cities dry? The people who live there (and refuse to move) can bear the costs of sea-level rise. Why should Minn. try to save them if they won’t? I live at an altitude of 1200 feet above sea level, and more CO2 will probably be good for my town. Let them cut CO2, and leave me alone. I want to buy my cheap electricity from my coal fired electrical plant. That is my choice, and the government shouldn’t get in my way of doing what is best for me.


      • Milton Hathaway says:

        John – yep, my point exactly, but I go a little further. You can’t talk liberals out of doing inane things – history shows they have to learn the hard way, every single d*mn time. When they do these inane things at the federal level, we are stuck with them ‘forever’ (think Social Security or ObamaCare). When they are done at the state level, the consequences are localized and very visible to other states to adopt or reject.

        If the federal government had taken bids after WWII for the development of a water-displacing penetrating oil, today we’d all be using WD-1 and be none the wiser.

        • Lewis says:


          Liberals do not learn, much less the hard way. If something doesn’t go the way they said it would, they will blame something or someone for obstruction or some such. It will never be the idea or plan or any fact of nature that they should have understood which they should learn.

          Take Aid for Families with Dependent Children. A great thought, but ruinous to families in its structure. Do they change it – no – they add more rules and money – etc. It’s never the fault of the plan or the idea that the plan will necessarily have unintended, but knowable, consequences.

          • Milton Hathaway says:

            Lewis – maybe. I had to look it up – AFDC was a federal program (renamed to TANF, “Temporary Assistance for Needy Families” in the 90’s, if you trust Wikipedia). And yes, federal programs inevitably bloat and fester and intrude (until it’s time to bury the body with a new name, apparently).

            My point is that it’s much harder to hide the inefficacy of a state program, especially when different states are trying different things.

  20. Phillip Bratby says:

    I too believe the social cost is negative.

  21. mpainter says:

    Regarding sea level rise, NOAA tidal gauges on stable coasts show that there is none. See NOAA Mean Sea Level charts for individual gauges on the west coast. These show a flat sea level trend for past thirty years, with a few exceptions where there is local subsidence or uplift (Neah Bay, for example).

  22. Vincent says:

    “David Appell says:
    September 30, 2015 at 5:44 PM
    Less food:
    “Total protein and nitrogen concentrations in plants generally decline under elevated CO2 atmospheres….

    Now this is an interesting aspect of the increased food production resulting from increased levels of CO2. It should not be ignored or dismissed. The quality and nutritional value of our diet is of paramount importance.

    However, the reportage of such research once again seems to create a skewed impression that our increased levels of CO2 are not beneficial for increased food production because such food is lacking in protein.

    Now, I don’t like to pay to read such research articles, so I’m not familiar with the details provided in the full article to which David provides a link above. But I have discovered an Australia research paper that has examined this same issue, comparing wheat grown in atmospheres containing 380 ppm and 550 ppm. The levels of 550 ppm are the levels that are predicted by the IPCC to occur in 2050.


    This is what they write: “Grain protein under eCO2 (550 ppm) was 13.2% which was significantly lower than the protein content of 13.8% under aCO2 (380 ppm).”.

    Now the first point I would make is that 13.2% is not really significantly lower than 13.8%. It’s merely a 4.4% reduction, which is relatively insignificant within the general scheme of dietary matters. It might be significant for people who rely mainly on wheat for their protein sources, but the reality is that most people get their protein from meat and fish, and Americans in particular are probably eating too much protein, which can have adverse health effects.

    The second point I would make is that the increased protein obtained from wholegrain flour and brown rice grown under CO2 levels of 550 ppm will be greater than the protein content of processed white flour and white rice grown under CO2 levels of 380 ppm.

    Most people throughout the world probably still eat either white bread and/or white rice, particularly white rice. Anyone who is concerned about their health and think they might not be getting sufficient protein should be eating wholegrain bread and wholegrain, or brown, rice.

    The third point I would make is that the results of this trial demonstrated a total increase in wheat grain yield of 20%. Those who have a flair for mathematics should be able to work out that a 20% increase of a 13.2% yield of protein amounts to more than 13.8%.

    In other words, the elevated CO2 levels of 550 ppm resulted in an increased yield of both protein and starch, but the increase is protein yield was less, at 16.56% according to my calculation. Correct me if I’m wrong. (13.8% + (13.8 x 20%) = 16.56%.

    • Joe Born says:

      “The third point I would make is that the results of this trial demonstrated a total increase in wheat grain yield of 20%. Those who have a flair for mathematics should be able to work out that a 20% increase of a 13.2% yield of protein amounts to more than 13.8%.”


      That exemplifies why many of us just skip comments from the Appells of the blogosphere. In a complex system, it is rare that any change, however beneficial overall, won’t be accompanied by at least a minor, insignificant cost–on which such commenters concentrate.

      Unfortunately, skipping such commenters does not prevent us from reading other commenters’ responses. Still, reading such responses reassures us that at least a few others, too, recognize the pathology.

  23. dave says:

    Vincent says:


    I think that it is actually +14.78%. *

    But your general point is taken. Namely, that, according to the study as reported by you, the enhanced CO2 produced a 20% increase in yield of starchy energy but “only” a 14.8% increase in yield of protein. The extra CO2 is beneficial for EITHER sort of yield.

    In a study, “significant” can have (at least) two meanings. First, that a difference is “probably real,” and second, that a difference “matters.” For example, if I have one million dollars in the bank and you have one million and one dollars in the bank, the difference of one dollar is significant in the sense that it is a real difference, but not significant in the sense that you are rich and I am poor.

    * 120% x (13.2%/13.8%)

  24. Bil Danielson says:

    Too bad Alex Epstein was not a witness, as I am sure many here know he has a fabulous grasp on the cost/benefit analysis of the use of fossil fuels in general. The point that should be made in these SSC debates/hearings is that the risks from the environment, as measured in human lives, is far lower during our increasing use of fossil fuels than at any other time in human history. If the flawed notions of “externalities” are to be used in these hearings (and in the wider public sphere) then surely the most important externality to consider is human life and standards of living – both of which, due to the use of fossil fuels (and the consequent release of CO2) for energy, have risen dramatically and thus a huge so-called positive externality.

    • Joe Born says:

      Amen about Alex Epstein.

      Although he and I had a private-conversation disagreement about whether some aspects could properly be called “externalities”–I think increased crop yield can be but some other effects cannot–I believe he is among the most incisive thinkers about the standards by which we should judge policy in this area.

      Anyone who has not read “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” owes it to himself to do so.

  25. Mark Luhman says:

    As a native Minnesota I elect not to live in Minnesota for the very same stupidity that abounds in Minnesota as the above court case outlines. My wife who is from South Dakota refers to Minnesota as Minnastupid, in my opinion with good cause. I personally refer to it as the land of ten thousand taxies.

    As to the debate what kill you faster heat or cold I have a will bet anyone ten thousand dollars, to spend a day without clothes swimming in a lake in northern Minnesota, late December or early January without a heat source the ability to seek heated shelter or clothes or blankets, just yourself naked without tools or clothing of any kind. One word of warning swimming is going be a little tough since all the lakes are frozen over that time of year, but I will allow you and ice chisel to chop you own hole to get to the water normally you will have only one or two feet of ice that time of year. I will allow you all the fresh water and food you want. My side of the bet is I swim naked in a lake in July here in Arizona without the benefit of artificial cooling, and all the fresh water and food I want, I also will have no need of an ice chisel.

    It a certain bet most humans would not survive more than a couple hours in Minnesota during the winter without heat and clothing, with heat and clothing you can survive a few days without shelter but unless you have a caribou suit(the kind the Inuit construct,) shelter will eventually needed. Arizona the real threat to death would be drowning or snake bite.

    In a hot climate the only thing humans need to survive is food water and shade, in a cold climate humans need far more than food water and shade. Without heat of some kind most of the world is simply not habitable by humans period. The only place humans can survive with limited shelter and heat is the tropics.

    Anyone who thinks the use of fossil fuels hurt mankind is an idiot a king size idiot. I would suggest they move out to remote area, dig their own outhouse pit, cut wood by hand for shelter and heat, cultivate their own food by hand. Most would not survive the first year even it they had good land and water.

    The entire AGW debate sometime in the future will be look upon as muck like we look like the nineteenth century debate how many angels can reside on the head of a pin. By the looking at the latest number on climate sensitivity to CO2 the AGW debate is amounting to the same thing. 1.5 to 2 C degrees of temperature increase per doubling of CO2 is a non issue, and if you believe in the myth of positive feedbacks, damn I got a bridge to sell you.

    Oh as full disclosure yes I have dug a hole for and outhouse cut wood by hand and have help in the hand cultivation of a garden, I shoveled manure and pick potatoes by hand, help castrate sheep, one must be careful about that in the process of grabbing them and bring them over to be castrated you have to be careful after all the lamb does not want to to be castrated and he more than willing to drag you through the manure if you should happen to slip when you have hold of him. Thank God for hot running water after a day like that, since I grew up in a poor rural area in Minnesota 50 years ago their were people who did not even have hot running water. Those are some of the jobs I have done in my youth and since I grew up poor those various jobs were by hand and I can assure you that cylinder count certain helps in completing most of those task as does the hot water. Personally if I prefer gathering wood a chainsaw and power splitter, digging trenches with backhoe, tilling garden with a power tiller, fossil fuels makes the those jobs much easier. Of the comments above I see above far too few people have ever had to do anything by hand. If they had the would not be so fast on trying to throw all of it away.

    One last thought if the human race abandons fossil fuels anytime soon slavery will certainly come back. I for one think that institution is one we need not resurrect, of course you AGW crowd seem to think they will end up as the masters not the slaves. History is littered with fools like that who thought they were going to be the masters yet they end up as the slaves. I for one want to be neither.

  26. Cheryl Bennett says:

    Dr. Spencer,

    On which planet will your descendants live?

  27. David Appell says:

    Dr. Spencer: Is there somewhere we can read a transcript of your testimony, and Happer’s and Lindzen’s?

    Andrew Dessler’s testimony is here:


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