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Environmental Professionals Postulating

Nov 1, 2017

Dr. Richard Nolthenius has a background in thermal engineering and astronomy. He currently runs the Astronomy Program at Cabrillo College, Santa Cruz California. He also lecturers and has been a visiting researcher for UC Santa Cruz since 1987. He describes his professional transition in to climate science as “quite a shock, not necessarily a pleasant one”!

Dr. Nolthenius suggests that Professor Tim Garrett’s work on linking global wealth and energy consumption has not been given the attention it deserves, Dr. Nolthenius also concludes that the only way to advert the increasingly critical climate change situation is in line with Prof. Garretts publications and therefore requires sharp, rapid cuts to our use of fossil fuels.

To achieve this end Dr. Nolthenius has compiled a list of 7 Policy Mechanisms which he will discuss in Part one. These include:

  • Tax and Dividend
  • End government subsidies to fossil fuel companies
  • Trade sanctions against all countries who do not enact Tax and Dividend or end fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Devise an efficient mechanism to impose Tax/Dividend on all externalized costs.
  • Tax consumption, not income.
  • End Child Tax Credit, and promote policies which economically discourage population growth.
  • Amend the Constitution.

Dr. Nolthenius explains exactly what the above may involve, and discusses ideas for getting them implemented with a million person Occupy DC movement.

In Part Two Dr. Nolthenius highlights potential technological ‘band aids’ (and their short falls) which could potentially be implemented alongside the Policy Mechanisms discussed in Part 1. These include:

  • Energy technologies (PV, Wind, Hydroelectric, Geothermal and Nuclear).
  • Carbon Capture and storage
  • Artificial capture of CO2 from the atmosphere via ‘Air Capture’
  • Climeworks commercially operated Air Capture CO2 machine.
  • BECCS – BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration.

Dr. Nolthenius also points out how even if we ended all our carbon emissions today, the effect of Thermal Inertia would still cause global temperatures to rise.

Part 3 covers GeoEngineering including:

  • Permafrost Carbon
  • How do we choose?
  • Solar Radiation Management
    1. ‘Butterflies’
    2. Asteroids with dust secretion
    3. Reflective Aerosols
    4. Refreezing the Artic using pumped sea water.
  • ‘Loan Shark’ methods that won’t work long term
  • Why there is no ‘Magic Bullet’

Finally, in Part 3 Dr. Nolthenius takes some time to explain how economics is related to climate change, and why we need to stop our obsession with Growth.  The work of Prof. Tim Garrett / “The Garrett Relation” is expanded upon and discussed.

Reference is made by Dr Noltheius to "E.C.S", although not covered in the series this stands for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. More information on this is available in Dr Noltheniuss presentation 'Earth Climate Change in One (very long) Lecture' available here: 

Many thanks to Dr Richard Nolthenius for joining me for this 3-part series, I hope I can discuss more issues with him in the future. I highly recommend visiting his website where there is a wealth of information freely available: His Collage lecture presentations (powerpoint and pdf versions) relevant to the topics covered can be found at: .

Professor Tim Garretts work as discussed can be found here:

All 3 parts where recorded Friday 27th October 2017.


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almost four years ago

Hi Steven,

The point that Rick misses, in relation to the tragedy of the commons, and people 'missing out', is that it can be reversed. I gave up my corporate rat race career 15 years ago, downsized and moved from the city to a small regional township, became debt free, got rid of my car, stopped flying, started riding a bike, growing most of my food, opened a small bike repair workshop, earn less than the tax free threshold (so pay no income taxes), work 2-3 days per week and, during the quiet bike riding winter months, take off on my bike touring around australia with my musician friend and companion whilst she earns money from her performances (also less than the tax free threshold). We live an amazing life with lots of free time and see the incredibly beautiful australian countryside, whilst everyone else is burning themselves out in their 9 to 5 'jobs' trying to 'get ahead'. They frequently ask me, 'how come you get to live like you do?'. Simple, I made choices, choices that they too could make, but won't. They are always envious and feel like they are 'missing out', and the angrier ones will often defend their stupidity by saying, 'yeah, but if everyone lived like you do, who would build the roads.' My stock answer is, 'I ride a bike, I don't need roads.' This is the tragedy of the commons in reverse, so my advice to all those out there who feel like they are missing out on living life like I do, fuck it, come join us, we'll have a ball!