Climate Change: Wealth redistribution or making the poor even poorer?

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In a previous thread, Andrew Adams made an insightful comment about how climate change impacts and mitigation mix in with economic development in poor countries:

Energy poverty in the developing world is a problem, along with food shortages and loss of arable land due to soil erosion and other factors, lack of clean water supplies, the prevalance of diseases such as malaria, TB and HIV/AIDS, the debt burden etc. And, of course, climate change, which both raises entirely new threats and exacerbates some of the problems mentioned above.

(…)

It is naïve to suggest that they can just go full steam ahead now and worry about the problem later once they have better developed economies. It always bears repeating that humanity doesn’t get to dictate the timescales for taking action to avert dangerous climate change – the planet does.

But of course, what they are going to do is only part of the problem; if we really care about the fate of people in developing countries we also have to ask what we are going to do about it. Unless we take action to reduce our own emissions we can hardly expect them to follow suit and in any case any action they do take will be futile, and if they are going to develop along low emission lines they are going to need our assistance in both practical and material terms. And of course it is our past (and present) actions which have brought humanity to the position it is now in so even if not everyone accepts the moral/ethical responsibility of those who are well off to assist those who are less fortunate, there is still the responsibility to deal with the consequences of our own actions. I see a lot of skeptics expressing concern for the effects that climate mitigation policies will have on developing countries but they reject the notion that the developed world should do anything to help bear the costs itself.

In a comment over at CaS he said it in a bit more sarcastic way:

Hmm, I can never remember whether AGW is a huge plot to enrich developing countries by redistributing the wealth of us in the West, or a huge plot to impoverish developing countries by denying them access to affordable electricity.

The ethical issues that are behind this were summed up by Steve Easterbrook:

To many people, living comfortable middle class lives inNorth America, climate change is some vague distant threat that will mainly affect the poor in other parts of the world. So it’s easy to dismiss, no matter how agitated the scientists get. If you follow this line of thinking, it quickly becomes clear why responses to climate change divide cleanly along political lines:

  • If you care a lot about fairness and equity, climate change is an urgent, massive problem, because millions (maybe even billions) of poor people will suffer, die, or become refugees as the climate changes.
  • On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with a world in which there are massive inequalities, where some people live rich lavish lifestyles while others starve to death, then climate change is a minor distraction. After all, famines in undeveloped countries are really nothing new, and we in the west are rich enough to adapt (Or are we?).

The dominant political ideology in the west (certainly in the English-speaking countries) is that such inequality is not just acceptable, but necessary. So it’s hardly surprising that right wing politicians dismiss climate change as irrelevant. No amount of science education will change the mind of people who believe, fundamentally, that they have no obligation to people who are less fortunate than themselves. As long as they believe that they are wealthy enough that climate change won’t affect them, that is.

Update:

Apart from the separation in space between those who caused (the bulk of) the problem  and those who suffer (the bulk) from it, there is also a separation in time: Future generations will suffer the most from this problem of our making. On both counts one could say that the problem is that it’s not our problem. 

I don’t think that there is something intrinsic to right wing politics to discount problems that your own actions cause to others (I sure hope there isn’t). There are plenty of examples of politically right oriented people making a big stand for e.g. environmental issues (e.g. Winsemius and Nijpels in the Netherlands; Schwarzenegger in the US). It is however disconcerting that the current manifestation of this important political stream does show signs of such discounting/ignoring especially as it relates to human induced climate change.

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135 Responses to “Climate Change: Wealth redistribution or making the poor even poorer?”

  1. dana1981 Says:

    Steve Easterbrook’s comment is very insightful into why the right-wing (particularly in the USA) has such heavy climate denial. Their general “screw the less fortunate” attitude has been exacerbated in recent years by the economic recession. I saw one comment on a Yahoo news story today which described all liberals as lazy bums who live off of food stamps and hand-outs. There seems to be this widespread sentiment that “if you’re not well off, it’s your own fault, and I’m not going to help you.” I think people in that mindset would have a very hard time admitting that they’ve contributed to the misfortune of others. Hence the climate denial.

  2. manuelmoeg Says:

    I had read the Easterbrook post and comment thread before, but it made a much larger impression now than back then. He sums up the moral issue very well, thank you for highlighting it.

  3. grypo! Says:

    This paper sums up the ethics rather well.

    Basically, lower latitude countries are already (or soon will be) going outside the normal variation of their temperature. In other latitudes, this is hidden by noise (also it should be noted – to which they are accustomed to). These lower latitude countries have not contributed much to the problem.

    The most strongly affected countries emit small amounts of CO2 per capita and have therefore contributed little to the changes in climate that they are beginning to experience.

    These countries are not adapted either.

  4. Bart Says:

    I added a brief update to the post.

  5. Bart Says:

    I left the following comment at Jeff Id’s, who rather predictably takes issue with this post, characteristically labelling it as leftist, anti-capitalist, naieve and a string of other adjectives:

    Some serious Bart-bashing going on over here! You guys crack me up. Leftist drivel? I’m the heart of the problem? Get real.

    The comments that I highlighted described the different ethical ways one can look at the climate issue. Calling that anti-capitalist or leftist drivel says a helluva lot more about the one doing the calling than about me.

    Jeff, you have come out in the past as thinking that climate change science is just a communist plot aimed at wealth redistribution and that poor people bing poor (incuding the bulk of the southern hemisphere) is a problem of their own making. You are thus a propotypical example of the first charicature that Andrew so aptly described.

    Have you checked out Scott Denning ppt at Heartland already? Link and description here: http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/scott-denning-smashing-presentation-heartland-climate-conference-iccc6/

    “If free-market advocates shirk their responsibility, others will dictate policy.”

    Will you step up to the plate at some point?

  6. grypo! Says:

    Somehow, justice for wrongdoing is now absent from the free market. When did this happen? I think that Jeff’s extremist ideological views are laughable, especially in this context. These are not giveaways, and we are in a position to judge whether or not repaying the externialities to poorer countries will :”help” or “enrich” them. They are owed. Somehow, by attempting this bizarre utilitarian argument, the Jeff ID’s of the world have completely lost their free market thought. Perhaps they need to read Jon Adler to understand why it is not a redistribution of wealth, or a handout. It is basic free market thought to either price externialities or have one claimant sue another for damages. In either case, the person on trial doesn’t get to decide whether the person will be helped or enriched by the “handout”. How ridiculous.

  7. grypo! Says:

    That sentence shoud read:

    These are not giveaways, and we are in NOT a position to judge whether or not repaying the externialities to poorer countries will :”help” or “enrich” them.

  8. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    The problem with your narrative is you assume that developing countries have not benefited from development elsewhere. This is not true. Technology from cars to cellphones has been developed to meet the needs of rich world consumers are transforming economies in even the poorest of places.

    IOW. Your narrative climate change is the ‘rich world’s fault’ is wrong. Everyone has benefited from CO2 emissions and everyone needs to deal with the consequences. The fact that some may have benefited more is of no consequence because that is the nature of capitalism.

    When it comes to the ability to deal with the consequences it is clear that richer countries are in a better position but that is hardly the fault of the rich countries. A few places are richer because of dumb luck but for the most part richer places are richer because the people living there made the right decisions.

    I realize this line of thinking goes against your world view which is really Jeff’s point: your opinions on these issues is coming from a left wing, anti captialist view of the world and you don’t seem to be able comphrend the other side of the argument.

  9. andrew adams Says:

    Hi Bart,

    Many thanks for the cite.

    To pick up a couple of points, I agree that being right wing does not necessarily mean people are not concerned for others. Certainly here in the UK there has been a tradition of noblesse oblige and charitable activity amongst the better off. However, there is a particular strand of individualistic/libertarian ideology – anti-government, anti-socialist, anti-welfare, which seems to have become more prevalent in recent decades and which is dismissive of any responsibility to help those who are worse off and assumes that anyone who is poor must be so because of their own failings. I think this mentality is particularly common in the US (although I’m sure it is still a minority view, albeit a highly vocal one) but you certainly see it here as well. And it certainly appears to be a strong overlap between this mentality and climate change denial – one only has to look at some of the comments at Judith Curry’s blog to see that (I strongly suspect that Curry has libertarian sympathies herself although probably not of the most extreme and unpleasant kind).

    On the issue of how we deal with the problems of developing world and the challenge of how they can develop their economies and improve the lives of their people whilst keeping down their emissions, I would add that I don’t see that the “pragmatists” have any answers to this – there aren’t any “no regrets” policies that we can take unilaterally that I can see. It is going to take international agreement, which they specifically reject.

  10. TimG Says:

    andrew adams,

    First, I object to your suggestion that the people who disagree with your world view do not care about poor or feel no obligation to help those that are not as well off. It is simply not true. Where the disagreement lies in the type of help that is offered.

    Second, the premise of this piece is not that the rich should feel obligated out of a sense of charity to help the poor. The premise is that rich have a DEBT to the poor because of their emissions. That premise is completely absurd and that is why the issue of responsibility comes into the debate.

    IOW, it is disingenuous to argue one minute that the obligation is a debt and then claim that your opponents have no sense of charity when they reject you premise of a debt.

  11. andrew adams Says:

    TimG,

    Sorry, but we put the stuff in the air so we have to take responsibility for the consequences. It’s not “anti-capitalist” to point that out, nor does it mean the developed world is inherently wicked or anything. But our past emissions are an externality for which we have not paid the price up to now and unfortunately the bill has become due.

    A few places are richer because of dumb luck but for the most part richer places are richer because the people living there made the right decisions.

    And poor places are poor because the people living there made the wrong decisions?

  12. TimG Says:

    andrew adams,

    “we” put stuff in the air because it provided a benefit – a benefit that has increased life expectancies across all strata of societies – including poor countries.

    “And poor places are poor because the people living there made the wrong decisions?”

    When Japan was rebuilding itself after a devistaing war. China under Mao decided to starve millions of its own people. So yes, China’s relative poverty is entirely of its own making. Similar issues exist almost all “poor” countries.

  13. andrew adams Says:

    TimG,

    I did not mean to imply that anyone who doesn’t share my worldview does not care about the poor, so I’m sorry if I gave that impression, although I stand by my comment regarding a certain section of more extreme right wing opinion.

    I certainly agree that there are different views about the best way to help the poor, I’m more concerned here about the principle rather than the different approaches people on the left and right may have as to the practicalities.

    IOW, it is disingenuous to argue one minute that the obligation is a debt and then claim that your opponents have no sense of charity when they reject you premise of a debt.

    “Charity” and “debt” are not the same thing – there are two separate principles here. The first comes from a general responsibility of the part of the better off to help those less fortunate, and the latter the specific responsibility that comes when you have taken actions which have or are likely to harm the interests of others. It seems to me that WRT climate change you object to the latter more than the former – I have explained my reasoning above why I think that such a debt exists. I don’t find your justification for us not having any such responsibility – that “everyone has benefitted from CO2 emissions” particularly convincing. The balance of the amount of past emissions and the benefits accrued from them is overwhelmingly on the side of the west, although obviously the likes of China and India are more culpable than other developing countries.

  14. grypo! Says:

    Tim G is missing the point about benefits and pitfalls of different products. Having benefits doesn’t mean the side effects are ignored. It would be like ignoring the problem with a drug that saved lives but gave 50% of it’s users cancer later in life. The people with cancer still get rewarded in these cases, and are likely to switch to a new medication, as the old one would be pulled from the market immediately.

  15. andrew adams Says:

    TimG,

    Sure, there are countries which could and should have a much higher standard of living than they do now if not for the follies of their leaders in the last century. China is an example up to a point, clearly Mao did some very wicked and other just plain bonkers things but you have to also consider the level of poverty in the country before the communists came to power. But wealthy countries tend to be congregated in certain parts of the world and poor ones in others and that’s not entirely a co-incidence.

  16. TimG Says:

    andrew adams,

    I have no objection to spending money out of a sense of charity. My objections are entirely to the premise that there is a debt.

    Within the west there are huge variations in wealth. Using your logic a poor person in the west has benefited less than a rich person yet you wish to ascribe the same “debt” to the poor and the rich alike. Yet the differences in relative benefits suddenly become significant when you compare people in different countries. It makes no sense.

    I look at things from a different perspective: what would life be like in developing countries today if there was no access to the technology, capital and markets of the rich world? I think the difference between today and the no-tech hypothetical is huge which means the benefit they have gained is huge. The fact that others may have benefited more is irrelevant.

  17. dana1981 Says:

    I agree with grypo that those who invoke the free market these days don’t seem to understand how a free market works. A free market doesn’t mean you get to harm others without having to pay for it.

    I also don’t like TimG’s argument that developing nations have benefitted somewhat from our advances made by exploiting fossil fuels, and those benefits offset any harm they experience as a result of climate change consequences. It’s an obvious logical and mathematical failure. Sure they’ve reaped *some* benefits and experienced *some* harm, but which is greater? They certainly haven’t reaped as much benefits as developed countries, and many developing countries will certainly experience more harm.

    I also object to the notion that recouping somebody’s losses which occurred at the expense of your actions is “anti-capitalist” or “weath redistribution”. Again I’d suggest that people who make this argument don’t really understand what capitalism is or how it works.

  18. TimG Says:

    grypo,

    An interesting analogy. And most people would have no doubts about taking the drug if there is no alternatives since living today is worth the risk of cancer later.

    I think the real debate on climate is about alternatives or lack there of. The AGW advocates believe that meaningful reductions in CO2 are possible. I don’t. The technology does not exist at a price we can afford.

    This disconnect over what is possible also explains the “communist plot” narrative. Many people have looked at the proposed CO2 reduction policies and concluded that they will fail. They then must assume that people pushing them are 1) idiots or 2) have ulterior motives (i.e. “communist plot”).

  19. grypo! Says:

    Dana, yeah, in a sense, they discuss how the free market is great and has done great things, to which I agree, but they don’t want to follow some of it’s basic rules when the tide turns in their face (or when there is a market failure), with which I vehemently disagree. Market failures are part of the free market, and can be dealt with without disavowing basic free market precepts.

    So really, we are not really arguing free market potential, we are instead arguing the evils of our collective ability to accomplish anything, ie fear of government. If they are afraid of government, then they need to take Scott Denning’s advice.

  20. TimG Says:

    dana1981,

    The prinicpal of “paying the true price” for fossil fuel consumption is a good one. The trouble comes in calculating that price because such calculations are purely subjective and driven by the politics and self-interest of the person doing the calculating. Embedded in these calculations is apportionment of blame. If a poor country experiences damage because of extreme weather how much of that damage should be blamed on bad government and how is due to climate change since better government could have reduced the harm as much as any action on CO2.

  21. grypo! Says:

    Most of the alternatives are there, but have motivated groups against using them. This is both nuclear from the left, and renewables from the pro-nuclear crowd. Most pro-nuclear people, like myself, are pro-nuclear because we realize that the political will for renewables isn’t there yet. But I also believe renewables will catch up quickly once people realize how hard it will put nuclear everywhere safely (which means cheaply in market talk)

    “This disconnect over what is possible also explains the “communist plot” narrative. Many people have looked at the proposed CO2 reduction policies and concluded that they will fail. They then must assume that people pushing them are 1) idiots or 2) have ulterior motives (i.e. “communist plot”).”

    The problem is that free market is getting redefined as a free-for-all and that everything else is communist. That’s not what it is . Both cap and trade (which I don’t like) and revenue neutral carbon tax (which I do like) are both free market ideas.

    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2011/08/13/scott-denning-smashing-presentation-heartland-climate-conference-iccc6/#comment-13960

  22. TimG Says:

    grypo,

    I have given up on nuclear. Fukushima has made it impossible to have a reasonable conversation even with people who are not normally environmental extremists. No matter how much we would like nuclear fission is not going to fill the gap,

    Renewables like wind and solar will not either. Their unreliability means that fossil fuel backups are required and once people learn the cost of double building (paying for renewable + the fossil fuel backup) they object.

    Large scale deployment of grid scale electricity storage that would make renewables viable is also not going to happen in the short or medium term.

  23. dana1981 Says:

    While we can’t come up with a perfect carbon price, we can come up with an educated value. There has been quite a bit of research into the ‘social cost of carbon’. It’s generally between $20 and $70 per ton, which is obviously a large range, but anything within that range is better than totally failing to account for that cost. Economists generally favor the lower end of that range, between $20 and $30 per ton, at least to start with. I believe that’s what’s been proposed in Australia.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-limits-economy.htm

  24. TimG Says:

    dana1981

    Lets look at those studies (from wikipedia):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_tax

    “A carbon tax that compensates for the SCC varies by fuel source. The carbon dioxide production of the fuel source per unit mass or volume is multiplied by the SCC to obtain the tax. Based on the mean peer reviewed value ($43/tC or $12/tCO2), the table below estimates the tax:”

    So, according to wikipedia, a tax of $0.11/gal of gasoline would completely compensate for the social effects of carbon. Yet the US (example of lowest case) already has a “carbon tax” of $0.50/gal on gasoline. This implies that Americans (and all western countries with higher gasoline taxes) have already incorporated the SCC into the price of fossil fuels and the argument that we need to add more taxes is a red herring.

    IOW, it completely undermines the argument that western countries owe developing countries anything since they have already put a price on fossil fuels that exceeds any social costs.

  25. dana1981 Says:

    No, the US has gasoline tax of 50 cents per gallon. That is not a carbon tax. The taxes are imposed for different reasons and put to different uses. Nor is the gasoline tax applied to other carbon sources (coal, natural gas, etc.).

    Your argument is illogical.

  26. PeteB Says:

    TimG

    Couple of links

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/03/13/budget_2008_fuel_duty/

    So if we have our emissions price, and all we need to do is add it to the things that emit, what does this mean for the price of petrol? It’s trivial to calculate that $85/tonne CO2-e gets you into the 10-12p (depends upon your exchange rate) region per litre. In order for drivers to pay the costs of their driving they should pay that sum per litre on their petrol: no higher bands for higher emitting cars are needed, no £25 a day rate in London’s congestion zone, just that 11p (ish) on a litre.

    However, this doesn’t mean that it should be 11p higher than now: we’ve already had the (intermittent) fuel duty escalator for 15 years now. This was introduced in 1993, just after the Earth Summit, the UNFCCC and all that which led to the Kyoto Protocol.

    Quite specifically, fuel duty was raised so as to make drivers carry the costs of their CO2 emissions. By 1997, it had added 11p:

    http://timworstall.com/2010/08/27/so-what-does-james-hansen-suggest-we-do/

    There’s also the William Nordhaus idea, start with a low tax and (credibly) commit to raising it. Perhaps $5 or $10 a tonne now, rising to $250 or so around 2040. This allows both the development of new technologies and also works with the grain of the capital cycle.

    The Nordhaus solution is almost certainly better for those places (yes, USA, we are looking at you) which do not at present have anything like the required carbon taxes. Whacking $80 a tonne on right now would cause huge dislocation: better to let the economy adapt more gently.

  27. PeteB Says:

    Just one other thing (not aimed at anyone in particular)

    Unless you can read minds It is probably better to concentrate on whether a statement is true or not rather than speculate on the motivations of why the person made that statement

    (somebody must have said that more elegantly, Willard ?)

  28. TimG Says:

    dana1981,

    Why the reason for the tax make any difference? The argument is the cost of fossil fuels do not reflect their social cost and, in the case of gasoline, the evidence shows that argument is false since gas taxes grossly exceed any estimate of the social cost.

    At a minimum you should acknowledge that the “market failure” argument is nonsense when it come to gasoline.

  29. Carrick Says:

    The truth is that most of the potentially serious side effects of climate change are yet to come, and it will have to do with the CO2 that has been released as of yet, nor will it be released by the currently developed nations.

    Most of the true threat is from future development in China, India, and the other developing nations, where their development is the consequence of hard work and massive investment by the now industrialized nations. (Most economic models suggest as much as 5/6 of the future CO2 release will come from developing nations, not the as now already industrialized ones).

    Taxing the developed nations won’t affect the outcome, but will simply rob the ability of the rich nations to aid poor nations that are already suffering from a myriad of problems, climate change not being one of them.

    You can fantasize if you like that carbon tax is some magic bullet that will solve all of the worlds problems. The sad truth, it will help nothing, and only make things worse.

  30. Dana Says:

    TimG – At a minimum you should acknowledge that your argument does not apply to the largest source of carbon emissions, the energy sector.

    The use of the tax funds is also important. The gasoline tax is used for things like repairing roads. A carbon tax could (and hopefully would) be used for things like funding green tech R&D to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The reason something is taxed, and the use of the taxed funds, is important information which you are neglecting.

    Carrick – first off, taxing is not robbing. Secondly, carbon tax funds could also be used to aid developing nations in building renewable energy plants as opposed to fossil fuel plants. Developed nations have already committed to this sort of aid to developing nations. The funds have to come from somewhere, and a carbon tax is a logical source.

    Also, a carbon tax isn’t a magic bullet. It simply addresses an economic market failure.

  31. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    The fact that you would like to see various pet projects funded is irrelevent. The argument was made that there is a “market failure” because the cost of fossil fuels does not include the “social costs” of CO2 emissions. The gasoline taxes do that. So there is no “market failure”. Your argument is based on a false premise.

    If you want to say that we should simply raise taxes to pay for your pet projects then you are making a different argument. There is no market failure being addressed and you are only arguing that money be transferred from gasoline users to the people that you designate as “worthy”.

    Perhaps you can see why many see AGW as nothing but an excuse for wealth transfer.

  32. Marco Says:

    TimG, the gasoline taxes do NOT include the social costs of CO2 emissions. They include OTHER costs, such as paying for road repair. In principle there should be an additional 11 cents carbon tax on top of the current taxes.

    And solving AGW problems will automatically result in wealth transfer. It’s not the reason, but a logical result.

  33. Dana Says:

    TimG, you’re not making any sense whatsoever, and I’m getting tired of arguing with a brick wall. I didn’t say anything whatsoever about “pet projects”. Green tech = low carbon = decreased emissions. How do you expect to reduce emissions without low-emissions technology?

    As for the taxes, I’ve already explained the basic economics to you. You can’t seem to grasp it, but there’s not much I can do about that. It appears that your fear of taxes is clouding your thinking.

  34. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    The US collects $15 billion/year in gas taxes. It spends $30 billion/year on renewables and other “low carbon” projects. The fact that one is not directly connected to the other is irrelevant,.The taxes are collected and the money is spent as you demand.

    There is no need for any further “taxes” on gasoline. Americans are already paying their fair share as defined by the economic research with Dana referenced.

  35. PeteB Says:

    To be fair I would like to see a carbon tax be ‘tax neutral’ It doesn’t really matter what you use the tax for, it just corrects for the negative externalities.

    There is Hansen’s idea where the revenue from the carbon tax is distributed on a per capita basis or we could just reduce tax in other areas (increase the threshold where people start to pay income tax for instance).

    The point is that it corrects the market price of carbon so other technologies can compete on a level playing field

    To get back to the original post I agree it seems a bit unfair on developing countries that they can’t benefit from (effectively) a subsidised level of fossil fuels, but I on a purely practical point, I can see it is in their interests because they are likely among the countries which will be worst affected by climate change

  36. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    I can can understand why you are frustrated to see one of pillars of your AGW belief torn apart (i.e. your belief that gasoline prices are “too low” and that there is a “market failure” when it comes to pricing). But you really have stop moving the goal posts.

    There is nothing in the economic studies that you referenced that says the carbon tax must be imposed above whatever is in place now. These studies only tried to estimate the social cost of carbon.

    There is nothing in the economic studies that says the money from a carbon tax has to be invested in the low carbon tech. They just call for a tax to be imposed and assume that the market will sort things out.

    So please don’t lecture me about economics. I am not moving the goal posts by adding in ad hoc criteria to justify a position that cannot be justified from an economic perspective.

    So go ahead and argue that we should pay more for gasoline. It is a valid position to take. Just don’t use the bogus “market failure” argument to justify those taxes. The economics does not support that claim.

  37. PeteB Says:

    TimG,

    Carbon taxes have to be ‘additional’ taxes specifically to correct the price of carbon. I think the main problem is coal rather than oil and gas, to quote Hansen again :

    Actions required to solve the problem are dictated by physical facts, especially fossil fuel reservoir sizes. About half of readily extracted oil has been burned already. Oil is used in vehicles, where it is impractical to capture the carbon dioxide. Oil and gas will drive carbon dioxide to at least 400 ppm. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide, coal, it will be practical to bring carbon dioxide back to 350 ppm and still lower through improved agricultural and forestry practices that increase carbon storage in trees and soil

  38. TimG Says:

    PeterB,

    Please show me the studies that make that claim carbon taxes must be additional taxes. And please show me how those studies then factored in the different tax regimes that are already in place. After all, it makes no sense to claim that a carbon tax of 0.11/gal would have the same effect in Canada who already have a gasoline tax of $1.30/gal as would in the US with a 0.50/gal carbon tax. A study that ignored these differences and called fo the same incremental carbon tax would be deeply flawed.

  39. TimG Says:

    PeterB

    The argument you make about using the tax to make non-gasoline alternatives economic is a different argument. It is based on the premise that the cost of CO2 is so high that any cost is worth paying to reduce emissions. This is an argument which many AGW advocates make but it is not an argument based on economics which says that the social cost of carbon is between $20-70/tonne.

    So which argument do you want to use?

    The economic “we must pay the social cost of carbon”?

    or the ideological: “we must pay whatever it takes to eliminate CO2 emissions”?

  40. PeteB Says:

    Tim,

    OK – maybe I was being a bit simplistic, the important thing is that the carbon tax differential over non-carbon / low carbon sources.
    But if there are two bits to the fuel duty, one which is theoretically supposed to contribute to road building and maintenance and one part to correct the price of carbon. I guess an alternative would be to not apply the price of carbon bit and then ‘underprice’ alternative fuels to not cover road building and maintenance – that would work from a market correction to carbon point of view, but if there was a big switch over to alternatives you would have a hole in your budget to pay for road building and maintenance. In the UK we have a specific bit of fuel duty to correct the price of Carbon.

    For the Stern review I think this equates to 11p per litre which I guess would be about 60 cents per US gallon (I think !)

  41. TimG Says:

    PeterB

    I dont agree with your premise that ‘road building’ must be paid for with taxes on gasoline. Roads are necessary no matter what the fuel and should not enter into this discussion.

    IOW, I think that 100% of the current taxes on gasoline should be treated as “carbon taxes” because they make gasoline more expensive and either capture the social cost of carbon and/or make alternatives more attractive. There is no rational for not treating the existing taxes as “carbon taxes”.

    That said, I think we are dancing around the real issue: alternatives are so expensive that even a $4/gal carbon tax is not likely to change behavoirs.Other types of spending would be sacrificed to cover the additional costs. This is one of the reasons why I said CO2 mitigation scehmes are doomed to fail.

  42. PeteB Says:

    OK – it’s not really my premise, just my experience.

    In the UK we have ‘red diesel’ which is used for heating and agricultural use, i.e. not for vehicles that use public roads which doesn’t have the same level of duty

    As for not mitigating CO2, well, that’s fine as long as the cost of the damage is being paid for. The whole way that carbon taxes work is that high value activities with no low carbon alternatives will carry on.

    If there is an alternative these will take over (I think electricity generation is a much better candidate, when you add carbon tax to coal,, nuclear starts to look attractive price wise)

    High fuel costs have definitely had an effect in the uk

    http://www.bmw.co.uk/bmwuk/pricesandspecifications_detail/0,,1212_181246516__bs-Mw%3D%3D@bb-TEkwOA%3D%3D@bm-WjNFRA%3D%3D,00.html

    Combined fuel consumption (mpg): 68.9
    0-62mph (secs): 8.0

    http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/volkswagen-world/news/259

    1,527 miles on one tank: Passat BlueMotion sets new world record

  43. TimG Says:

    PeteB

    This question is how much should we be paying for the damage. Attempts to calculate an amount are extremely subjective and subject to the biases of the calculator but the average seems to be about 0.11/gal. This is an amount that is less that what is already being charged on gasoline everywhere. You argued that a carbon tax must be in addition to whatever taxes exists now but that makes no sense to me.

    The same carbon tax applied to coal adds a 2c/KWh which might make nulcear more attractive if it could get through the regulatory hurdles but I don’t think that will happen anywhere. Natural gas is the most likely alternative which simply slows the growth.

    Lastly, higher gas milage is good but has total gasoline consumption actually gone down in the UK? I know it has gone up here even as carbon tax get layered on top which does nothing but slow the growth of CO2 emissions.

    IOW, I don’t see any evidence that a carbon tax would lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions.

  44. Marco Says:

    TimG, you forget the 70+ billion that fossil fuels get in subsidies/tax breaks. Makes your little calculation completely mute.

  45. Marco Says:

    Darn…make that “moot”, not “mute”.

  46. Øystein Says:

    Tim, you say: “Roads are necessary no matter what the fuel and should not enter into this discussion.”
    The first part is correct. The second part is not. Understand why, and you are on a path to understanding the argument.

  47. PeteB Says:

    Roads need to be paid for, it makes sense (to me at least) that the more you use them, the more you pay towards them. A tax on fuel seems a good way of achieving that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_tax

    In the United States, the fuel tax receipts are often dedicated or hypothecated to transportation projects so that the fuel tax is considered by many a user fee. In other countries, the fuel tax is a source of general revenue.

    Here is a graph of total Inland Energy Consumption for the UK 1980 – 2010

    Consumption of Oil seems to have reduced from 76.2 to 71.2 mill tonnes

  48. TimG Says:

    PeteB

    Why should EVs be exempt when it comes to paying for roads? They need them as much as ICEs. It is simply not logical to say that roads should be paid for with gasoline taxes and only gasoline taxes. All you are doing is creating a financial structure that will collapse if EVs actually replaced ICEs.

    The UK stats are interesting so I went to dig up the source:

    http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/energy_stats/source/oil/oil.aspx

    It appears that oil consumption dropped off pretty rapidly in the 70s and then rose fairly consistently since 1980. Until 2009 it was higher than 1980, however, 1980 is a cherry pick because consumption droped from 71 to 66 in 1981 so a graph from 1981 to 2011 would have shown an increase in consumption.

    I don’t think you can attribute changes in UK consumption to the gas tax. The numbers make it clear there is a lot more going on.

  49. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    That $70 billion is not entirely legitimate. Most of those “subsidies” tax breaks which are not really directed at fossil fuels and are available to all businesses but only companies with international operations can use them or companies that consume assets. Others are directed only towards companies that increase the amount of royalties they pay the government (i.e. the subsidy is offset by the revenue from royalties). On top of that oil companies pay income tax and contribute positively to the economic balance sheet. Loss generating renewable companies are only a drag on the economy.

    This link suggests the dubious tax breaks are closer to $5 billion/year.

    http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/2011/05/the-us-tax-subsidies-for-oil-companiesposner.html

  50. Marco Says:

    Yes, TimG, if you remove anything that even remotely can be considered not directly for fossil fuels alone, you can twist the numbers such that you can claim that the fossil fuel industry does not get nearly as much subsidies.

    As you could have seen from your own link, Posner ONLY looked at tax subsidies for fossil fuel producing companies. There are also tax breaks and other subsidies for people *using* fossil fuels (as well as energy in general, but that indirectly amounts to more subsidies to fossil fuels also).

    And as you could also see, those same producing companies get about as much in tax breaks as they pay in federal income tax! It’s the idiotic rules that result in demanding taxes, and then give it all back again…

    In the meantime, several renewable companies are generating a healthy profit. Get the ideological glasses off, please.

  51. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    The issue is whether the social cost of carbon is reflected in the cost today. I concede that they are some dubious subsidies and/or tax breaks in the US that need to be added to the ledger. The exact amount is not an easy thing to determine because the interpretation of what is a legimate tax break is purely subjective.
    On top of that yo have numerous taxes, fees and environmental levies that are levied on fossil fuels which need to be included.

    That said, the profitability of oil companies is irrelevant because those profits are also part of the cost of fossil fuels. e.g. it does not make a difference to the consumer if the money they pay for gas is going to the government or oil company investors – they still pay the price and the price affects their buying decisions.

  52. Dana Says:

    EVs shouldn’t be exempt from taxes to pay for roads. But they’re a new technology, with very low adoption so far, so we haven’t yet addressed that issue.

    But Tim, Marco has nailed you. If you’re going to oversimplify and argue that any tax on gasoline is equivalent to a carbon tax, then by that logic any subsidy to the oil industry is equivalent to an anti-carbon tax. You can’t have it both ways, counting all taxes and excluding all subsidies.

    That’s the problem with oversimplifying, as we’ve been trying to explain to you. All taxes are not equal.

  53. dhogaza Says:

    “EVs shouldn’t be exempt from taxes to pay for roads. But they’re a new technology, with very low adoption so far, so we haven’t yet addressed that issue.”

    Oregon, for instance, along with some other states, are looking into a mileage tax.

    Toll roads and bridges often charge according to a weight/mileage schedule (with weight being estimated as “number of axles”, typically).

    TimG’s argument that gasoline taxes already cover the social costs of CO2 emissions is ridiculous – the existing gasoline tax (which when introduced was a reasonable analogue for a weight/mileage tax), states and federal combined, don’t even cover the costs of road construction and repair. The balance is made up from the general revenue stream in the US.

    The social costs of CO2 emissions, i.e. of climate change, isn’t covered.

    Of course, everyone here except one person accepts arithmetic …

  54. Marco Says:

    TimG, you are getting closer to the issue: fossil fuels are artifically cheap. The costs of environmental damage (and that is not just CO2 emissions) is not properly included in the price.

    Sure, we can argue ad infinitum at how much the increase in price should be to include all hidden costs, but at present it simply is not included.

    An additional problem is that energy is in reality so cheap, that many, many consumers are hardly doing anything to reduce their energy use. Equipment on standby, washing 3 t-shirts and 1 trouser, using the dryer for the same amount, switching on all lights in the whole house while you are all in the living room watching TV. Buying huge gas-guzzling SUVs and then complain about the gasoline prices, but also use that car for any trip over half a mile.
    I could go on and on and on about examples where the average American household could easily safe 20% of their energy bill. It’s probably less easy in most other Western countries. So, why is it not being done? Because money is not the only thing we need to change. We need to change our habits. Replace it with new habits. Sadly, and I really mean sadly, that often requires authorities forcing us to change our habits. Humans are habitual animals. When we have acquired a habit, it is difficult to get rid of it again, unless something forces us.

    Of course you could argue that the above is just a little part of energy use, but it is all about the habits: we habitually use a lot of energy, because it is cheap. We should think about whether we really need to use that much energy. And yes, I am aware this may have some dire consequences elsewhere: if we include the environmental and social impact in prices we pay, suddenly those clothes from China and India are not all that cheap anymore…

  55. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    My argument should not be that hard to understand: the market does not care why a tax is leveled – all it cares about is the price. Your assertion that existing taxes “don’t count” is pure nonsense. The taxes are there and they affect consumption. There is no magic the the label “carbon tax”.

    That I said, conceded that there are some subsidies to oil must be included in the calculation but I disagree with the $70 billion figure because it includes a lot of things which are not specific to fossil fuels and are an artifact of the tax system.

    In any case, in Canada, Europe and Japan the tax system subsidies to are not anywhere close to that 70 billion and their gas taxes are many times higher. Therefore, even if I concede that Americans are underpaying for their gasoline the rest of the world has already been paying much more that the alleged social cost. This still undermines the argument that there is a market failure that requries even higher prices.

    I think the argument that you want to use is gas prices need to be high enough to force people to change to something else. I disagree but that argument is rational position to take.

  56. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    You make the assertion that the “[environmental costs] at present it simply is not included”. Where is your evidence? Dana referenced studies that calculated the social cost of carbon. Those studies put the cost at $0.11/gal. PeterB referenced Stern which put the cost at $11p/liter. In the worst case, we are underpaying by about 10% which probably should to rectified but a 10% increase is not going to change anything.

    I also don’t think you understand the economics of energy. To have the society we have today energy must be cheap enough to waste. If energy is so pricey that we cannot afford to waste it then our society will experience an economic collapse. If CO2 is a problem we need to find alternative sources that are as cheap as fossil fuels.

  57. Dana Says:

    Everyone understands your argument Tim. It’s not hard to understand a gross oversimplification. What is apparently much more difficult to understand are the real-world nuances that you’re ignoring, which have been explained to you about a dozen times now, apparently to no avail.

  58. TimG Says:

    Dana,

    This thread started with a oversimplified picture of developing countries as helpless victims of western excess – a picture which you and many others hear cling to despite my attempts to explain the complexities. So you are really in no position to be arguing the importance of ‘real world’ nuances.

    In any case, if you want to argue that gas prices should go up then argue that they should go up. Just don’t use the obviously false argument that current prices do not take into account social costs because they do.

  59. dhogaza Says:

    Just don’t use the obviously false argument that current prices do not take into account social costs because they do.

    Bull. The reason why it’s bull has been pointed out to you several times, so I won’t bother wasting my time doing so again.

    Some people are open to learning. Others aren’t. Guess which class TimG falls into?

  60. TimG Says:

    dhogaza

    All I got from you is unsupported assertions.

    If you think that the “social costs” are not taken into account then point me to the peer reviewed studies that make the case by quantifying those costs.

  61. TimG Says:

    dhogaza

    BTW – As I already explained: roads are something that we need no matter what source of energy so it is absurd to suggest that current gasoline taxes don’t “count” because the roads must be paid for first. Your argument is nothing put special pleading design to rescue an argument that has no logical foundation.

  62. MikeN Says:

    I think it’s a little bit of both. The idea was explained in the Hindi movie Guru.
    ‘You would have me carry petrol drums. Why should we not enter the first world?’

  63. Dana Says:

    Yep like I said dhogaza, it’s like banging your head against a brick wall. No point really.

    This sort of mindset – people being convinced they’re right even though they’re demonstrably wrong, and unwilling to admit otherwise or learn anything new – is really becoming a problem in today’s society. It’s the basis of climate denial.

  64. cce Says:

    The National Research Council issued a report a few years ago about the “Hidden Costs of Energy.” Excluding climate change, which is admittedly difficult to quantify, light duty vehicles cause damages of about 1.2 cents per mile. So, if your car gets 30 miles per gallon, you cause 36 cents worth of damage. Overall, it found $56 billion in transporation related damages for 2005.

    To completely internalize the cost of oil, you’d have to take that cost and add in the cost of maintaining infrastructure. Then you could figure the cost of maintaining a permanent military presense in the Middle East. You also could throw in the fact that oil is a huge part of our trade imbalance, which both impoverishes us while enriching some of the most loathesome people on Earth (even more loathesome than those fabled “leftists” with their “offsets”). Unfortunately, I don’t know how to quantify that. After all that, you could add the cost of climate change.

    The fact of the matter is that the societal cost of oil is in no way shape or form reflected in the price at the pump. It is massively subsidized, by the tax payer, by hospital bills, and by lost productivity. The same is true for coal, which causes damages anywhere from 3 to 14 cents per KWh, and those numbers exclude climate change.

    A carbon tax in the US on all GHGs (not just CO2) would cost about 1% of GDP at $20 per ton. In contrast, the payroll tax is about 4%. So, clearly, a carbon tax would not tank the economy especially if you use it to offset existing taxes. Given the state of American politics, the outlook for competent legislation is pretty bleak. All hope is not lost, however. A few months ago, as part of one of the big deficit reduction pow-wow’s that the Peterson Foundation routinely puts on, AEI proposed replacing the tax structure with an X-Tax (which is a consumption tax like the so-called “Flat Tax” but with progressive rates based on income) combined with a carbon/pollution tax. That’s a plan that a liberal could get behind, assuming the rates are progressive enough, and the carbon tax reflects reality and not fantastically low-balled damages.

  65. Marco Says:

    TimG, you are essentially making an argument that energy must be subsidised, or our economy will collapse. Interesting, coming from a libertarian…

    Facts remain that we are causing a problem with that cheap energy, and that the costs for paying that problem will have to come from somewhere. We are thus ultimately ruining our economy by not including all costs for energy! (as you can see, I do not accept your math at all) In effect, we are making it worse by making energy artificially cheap, resulting in wasteful use.

  66. TimG Says:

    Marco,

    You are arguing a strawman.

    I never said energy had to be subsdized.
    I said that if energy is so expensive that people worry about wasting small amounts then our economy willl collapse.

    What politicians need to do is adopt policies that ensure the market supplies cheap energy.

    This can include funding R&D into new supplies.
    But a policy designed to force conservation by jacking up the price of energy will backfire.

  67. TimG Says:

    cce,

    Here is a link to the study:

    http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12794#description

    Unfortunately, its premise is flawed.
    It presumes that energy production is inherently “evil”.
    And humans should simply exterminate themselves (ok – an exaggeration but that is the feeling I get when reading it).
    Humans will have an impact on the environment.
    The assumption of a no-impact baseline is wrong.
    No matter what energy source we use it will require a massive industrial footprint and require massive resources to maintain (including military force to keep supply lines open).
    This is true as much for wind and solar as it is for oil and gas.

    So its numbers are nonsense.
    It would be better titled:
    “what is the hidden cost of having human on the planet”.

  68. Paul Kelly Says:

    Andrew Adams makes some valid points. The Easterbrook quote is twaddle. That some skeptics insist on a free market necessity for mitigation does not refute it as a Denning criterion. It is the subject of my unscholarly monograph Free Market Mitigation and the Wrong Way Carbon Tax.

    Beyond all the arguments for and against the revenue neutral or revenue dedicated carbon tax, the fundamental question is whether a carbon tax is a market solution. It is not for a number of reasons. An important one is that the ultimate payers of the tax (end use consumers) can’t force the changes the tax is intended to engender.

    The carbon tax is cruelly regressive.

  69. cce Says:

    End use consumers will do what they always do: buy the cheaper product. A high energy, high carbon product is being sold below cost today. A price on carbon will increase the price of the product, while a low energy, low carbon product will not increase in price as much. If the first product becomes more expensive than the second, people will choose to buy the second. The manufacturer of the first product will do what they always do, which is look for ways to reduce cost, which means, in this case, reducing the carbon footprint of their products.

  70. Tom Says:

    I spent two days talking with consumers about buying more expensive, renewable energy. These are U.S. citizens, homeowners, of good income.

    They are happy to do so. They just want to know that they are not chumps for doing so. They have heard the green arguments. The green arguments have won. Won to the point that they have been internalized–don’t even need discussion.

    They want the support that the government and utilities have already offered–it’s little enough. They want to know that the companies providing this renewable energy are not fly by night operators. They want insurance, warranties and maintenance agreements.

    And if those concerns are satisfied, they are happy to pay more for installing renewable energy generation systems in their households.

    Alla you people who are insisting that people will automatically choose the absolute cheapest option–pay attention. I go out and talk to these people regularly.

    They will be as green as they can afford to be.

  71. Paul Kelly Says:

    That’s right, Tom. Grypo, cce, and others show little economic understanding either of the mechanics of a free market, or the motivations and abilities of the players in a free market. Much of my theory is based on the real dollar value of a desire for energy transformation.

    Back to the Denning criteria. Carbon pricing – a carbon tax being favored now only because of the failure of cap and trade – is an anti free market approach.

    A free market approach begins with a product. The product I propose is a unit of energy transformation, call it a kelly or a UET. This product is offered to all who desire mitigation of the effects of burning fossil fuel. UETs sell for as little as $10. In aggregation, buyers purchase technology and efficiency deployment.

    This product should be especially appealing to those who favor a carbon tax. They are already willing, as are many who oppose carbon taxes, to bear additional costs to bring about energy transformation. The free market says why wait for a tax.

  72. Marco Says:

    Paul, a free market approach is in my opinion that you pay a fair price for your product, one that includes to the extent possible all costs. Not that others pay for your pollution/the problems you cause down the line.

    To me your solution sounds like giving the rioters free reign in London: others will pay/do the cleaning. But perhaps you have some safety net built in (maybe those who do not pay have to pay more for the new product?).

  73. cce Says:

    Personally, I’m in favor of paying prices that reflect the real world cost of a product, thus eliminating market distorting free riders.

  74. TimG Says:

    cce,

    The trouble is determining the ‘real world cost’ is a subjective exercise that leaves plenty of room for reasonable people to disagree and for politicians to meddle. In the end the price that is paid is what is considered politically appropriate and any connection with the “real” costs is tenuous at best.

    Paul,

    It is not a free market as soon as you start talking about marketing fictitious things that only have value because of government regulation. The “market” for these fictions ends up being the play thing of officials when the markets don’t do what the officials want.

  75. grypo! Says:

    That’s right, Tom. Grypo, cce, and others show little economic understanding either of the mechanics of a free market, or the motivations and abilities of the players in a free market.

    Easy to say, a little harder make people believe you.

    Much of my theory is based on the real dollar value of a desire for energy transformation.

    Not a good start.

  76. Bart Says:

    Paul,

    There’s nothing “anti free market” in internalizing costs that were up to than externalized (i.e. what Marco and cce said). Moreover, your UET is not much different (besides the name) except that it narrows down the carbon issue to energy production transformation. Besides that there’s energy efficiency, energy savings, carbon in soils, in vegetation, etc.

    TimG,

    Talking about “marketing fictitious things”, you must hate the stock market.

  77. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    My sentence had two parts. You missed the part about “only have value because of government regulation”. Most things that are traded on the stock market have value because they are always connected to some underlying asset with intrinsic worth.

  78. Jeremy Poynton Says:

    What Mr. Easterbrook asks is akin to asking me when I stopped beating my wife. It does not allow for the fact that AGW is a fantasy, and the myth is rapidly unravelling. As more and more people are realising.

  79. Tom Says:

    Yesterday was another day talking to middle American consumers. 24 of them.

    Same story. ‘I want to buy green energy. It can be more expensive. It just can’t be ruinous. It has to be good quality products and services with warranties and insurance.’

    Maybe it’s just because I’m seeing it every day, but people like grypo and Marco who don’t believe this phenomenon exists seem like, well, umm, deniers.

    I mean, for Pete’s sakes, we’re in the midst of a revolution in energy generation and consumption in my country. And the most environmentally pure are lamenting the fact that people are buying hybrids instead of pure electric cars and that utilities are replacing coal-fired stations with natural gas instead of windfarms.

    People! Don’t let this pass you by. Fer chrissakes–you won the war! Sit back and enjoy it for a minute, will ya?

  80. grypo! Says:

    “Maybe it’s just because I’m seeing it every day, but people like grypo and Marco who don’t believe this phenomenon exists seem like, well, umm, deniers.”

    I know this exists, it has for a few decades, irrespective of climate change, just based on basic environmental factors. The problem is that this method, while very necessary, is one one component of a multifaceted problem that needs more than one solution. If you can show us something besides polls and anecdotal evidence on how a bottom-up only “energy revolution” will fix the problem and keep fossil fuels below ground, then please, do so.

    Nonetheless, keep up the good work! Seriously. (I will continue to disagree on the big picture, as well as promote your ideas, because you guys are necessary)

  81. Tom Says:

    grypo, you’re kinda missing the point. Top down has not worked. Now we are trying something different. Bottom up.

    The reason bottom up works is that every individual who converts to green energy is also legitimizing it for politicians and utilities. It’s called voting with your pocketbook. It has a long and successful tradition of forcing government and business to move in a direction they would otherwise avoid.

    And it’s happening now. Bottom up is going to make it possible for more centrally sourced initiatives in the future.

  82. dana1981 Says:

    Bottom up works but is simply insufficient due to the magnitude of the problem. We have to make top down work as well. It’s not an either-or issue. We need to do both.

  83. MikeN Says:

    I think Roger Pielke Jr has it right. You shouldn’t be making carbon energy so expensive people will switch to other source, you should be making other energy so cheap, they will abandon carbon energy.

  84. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart,

    Perhaps the best argument against the carbon tax is that it an absolutely inferior method of accounting for externalities in the market. I’m heartened that you recognize that UETs are, on the other hand, a legitimate way to do it and hope Marco, cce and the others will see that it is, too.

    dana1981,

    Your statement that bottom up is insufficient to the task is without foundation. Energy transformation is a 35 – 50 year step by step process and it is an either or proposition. Even in a best case scenario, the likelihood of the type of global top down solution implementation you think necessary is near zero in 5 years and not much better after that. Time, money and effort spent on top down is the equivalent of standing still.

  85. grypo! Says:

    Lots of people are discussing the carbon tax as if we need to “know” exactly the external price of carbon to make it effective. Sorry, this is not correct. Any Pigvogian type tax will have large knowledge gaps, this is to be expected. To align a product with it’s and social cost takes time to be optimal. The best result is a decrease in production because of a decrease in demand – not to calculate it’s exact cost on society. Impossible. Cigarette taxes are an example. Not only am I fan of these types of taxes for carbon, but pretty much all products with very unpopular social costs.

  86. Tom Says:

    Just start small. $12 a ton. Revisit it every 10 years and evaluate which direction it should be going in.

    If you start with $80, as some suggest, you end up very quickly with zero.

  87. Marco Says:

    Tom, like grypo, I do not agree with your characterisation of me. I have no doubt some people are willing to pay more. I do doubt that at present the general populace is willing to pay more for ‘green energy’, especially as long as others are allowed to pay less and ‘pollute’ more.

  88. Eli Rabett Says:

    Marco said:

    TimG, you are essentially making an argument that energy must be subsidised, or our economy will collapse. Interesting, coming from a libertarian…

    Eli says: Well it is, so get over it.

  89. John Garrett Says:

    Positively delusional.

  90. Eli Rabett Says:

    Mildly ignorant

  91. Paul Kelly Says:

    I suppose it is better to be positively delusional than to be negatively delusional. TimG may be a libertarian, but he is no free marketeer. Of course, very few here are either. To clear up some confusion, UETs are not limited to energy production, but also as stated include efficiencies. In fact, the ones I have for sale are for efficiencies in a single building. So TimG is wrong both in calling UETs a fictional product and in thinking they have anything to do with any government policy.

    Criticisms aside, I compliment the carbon tax as an attempt to bring market principles into play. The climate concerned require that the market, as a prerequisite for accomplishing mitigation, account for what are called externalities. UETs account for them. Each UET is a piece of a single transformation project. In aggregate, UETs comprise the purchase something as simple as upgraded insulation in a Habitat for Humanity rehab or as grand as large solar array. Every UET eliminates the need for some amount of future fossil fuel use.

  92. TimG Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    Please explain how UET have any value without government regulation forcing people to buy them?

    You are are the one who said: “This product is offered to all who desire mitigation of the effects of burning fossil fuel.”

    Last time I checked there is little or no demand for such a product nor is demand likely to materialize unless it is imposed by government policy.

    If demand is created by government policy it is a fictional product and the trade in such things is not a free market buy any stretch of the imagination. Not unless you consider being forced to buy something you don’t want at gunpoint a “free market”.

  93. Paul Kelly Says:

    TimG,

    You seem to be confusing UET’s with credits or offsets. The purchase of a UET is an entirely voluntary free market action that does not depend at all on government requirement or inducement. On the contrary, they are offered as a way to obviate the need for governmental control. They are offered here as a means of mitigation because this is, after all, a climate blog. However, the potential pool of UET purchasers is far greater than just the climate concerned.

    If you’ve been following the discussions here, you should know that I advocate a “variety of reasons” approach focusing on the shared goal of energy transformation. These reasons include among others economic necessity, international security, the environment, energy independence, the march of human progress (it’s the cool thing to do) and climate. For me personally, the economic and environmental reasons are the most immediate and certain. If none of these reasons for reducing our use of fossil fuels over time appeals to you, I’m not sure we have much to talk about. Sure, we could argue about any or all of the reasons, but I look for areas of agreement rather than contention.

    I agree that products forced by government policy are a chimera and hope you now see that UETs are not such a product.

    As to demand, anyone who reads blogs can see there is a tremendous desire for energy transformation and willingness to bear the costs of achieving it that cuts across the lines of political ideology and scientific viewpoint.

  94. TimG Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    I am not seeing where the demand for these UETs comes from. They are an extra cost that offers no benefit to the purchaser in terms of more sales or profits. You seem to be depending on people buying these things out of a sense of altruism. That would work for some but not enough to create a self-sustaining market for these things which is why I assumed the government would be involved.

  95. Paul Kelly Says:

    TimG,

    There is a bit of altruism – more accurately, enlightened self interest – in this, but I think the desire for energy transformation is, for most, based on things other than altruism. There is a perceived problem and a desire to participate in the solution. I’ve got some things to attend to right now, but will be back later with a more complete answer.

  96. TimG Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    You will need to explain how enlightened self interest works for companies that are competing with 3rd world outfits that abuse their workers and dumps stuff everyone agrees is pollution into the environment with no costs and no consequences.

    I don’t see why such companies would have any interest on spending any money reducing the production of something who negative side effects are purely hypothetical.

    Note that improved efficiency is only justified if total costs go down and if costs go down you don’t need to play around with UETs – you simply sell the technology that reduces costs by improving efficiency.

  97. Paul Kelly Says:

    As was said perhaps unclearly above, the desire for energy transformation does not derive from enlightened self interest, Altruism may be present, but is not a significant factor in the decision to purchase a UET. The rest of your comment shows that I have to give a better explanation of UETs.

    UETs are a free market strategy of the bottom up approach. To achieve the goal of energy transformation, millions of technology and efficiency deployment projects must be completed over time. Each UET represents a portion of a single project. At $10 per the portion is very small which allows the broadest participation in the market. Once again, they are not credits or offsets.

    Consumers put a dollar value on their desires, often spending for reasons purely of personal satisfaction. It’s what fuels the entertainment, sports, and tourism and hospitality industries. The dollar value of the desire for energy transformation is untapped because until now the was no inexpensive entry level way to satisfy that desire in the marketplace. UETs provide a way.

  98. TimG Says:

    Paul Kelly,

    1) So you are expecting consumers to fund these things out of the goodness of their hearts. How likely is that given the abysmal sign up rate for voluntary “green energy” plans offered by utilities? Structured the way you describe it there may be a free market but the market price will be near zero.

    2) If you are selling small units then you will need a regulatory authority that ensures that the purchasers are not being scammed since the free market accountability mechanisms do not work where buyers and sellers are disconnected from each other.

    This brings in bureaucrats at the back end that get to pick “winners” and “losers”. The normal stock market discipline would not apply in this case because the buyers are not expecting anything back for their purchase.

    Sounds more like you are looking to take the ‘charity’ model and apply that funding energy transformations where different enegy “charities” could compete for the consumer dollar and would need to prove that their donations went to what people thought they were buying. So you could describe it as a ‘free market’ solution even though it has no chance of success.

  99. Paul Kelly Says:

    It’s more like buying a ticket to a movie or concert than donating to a charity. And yes, if the UET idea got that far, different projects would compete for the consumer dollar. Enforcement of anti fraud laws and quality standards are not any more a hindrance to the sale of UETs than they are for the sale of soap.

  100. cce Says:

    If you are purchasing insulation for a Habitat for Humanity project you are purchasing an offset. If you are purchasing a portion of a solar array you are purchasing an offset. Installing insulation in someone else’s home does not reduce your carbon emissions nor does investing in a solar array (unless you are connected to it). They are reducing someone else’s emissions. i.e. they are offsets.

    When you buy a movie ticket, you are buying it for yourself. When you install insulation in someone else’s home, you are doing it for them. i.e. you are doing it for charity.

    Lead wasn’t removed from gasoline because of altruism. CFCs weren’t elminated because of grass roots support for alternative refrigeration. Sulfur and NOx emissions were not reduced because of voluntary offsets. These things were reduced or eliminated because of some kind of government mandated trading system. That is, a price on the pollution. None of these programs were perfect, but we don’t require perfection to achieve the desired results.

    The science should dictate acceptible emissions. Government should set policy based on the science. This could be a cap and trade system or a carbon tax. If the carbon tax is too low to meet the targets, it should be raised. The market responds to the price. Government should not pick “winners and losers” — the market will sort it out (this includes Nuclear, BTW). Some amount of political horse trading will occur. Such games have existed as long as politicians have existed. George Washington had the Whiskey Rebellion, and he’s still carved on Mount Rushmore and (as of today at least) still has a monument on the National Mall.

  101. TimG Says:

    cce,

    “None of these programs were perfect, but we don’t require perfection to achieve the desired results.”

    What we need are alternatives. In the case of CO2 we have none (yes I know many people with little or no undestanding of technology insist there are ‘solutions’ but really, really believing in unicorns does not make them real).

    The science can identify the risks. It is up to policy makers to decide if they can live with the risks given the harms of any anti-CO2 policy.

    The idea that science should/can set a hard limit for emissions is absurd. The cost-risk reward tradeoff is purely a political discussion.

  102. Tom Fuller Says:

    Hey Paul Kelly, could you email me at thomaswfuller@gmail.com?

    Thanks

  103. Climate Ethics: What Can Science Tell Us? Says:

    [...] on dealing with the previous generation's inability to find a sustainable way to produce energy?  How long before we begin to deal with these inequalities and deficits in justice? [...]

  104. PeteB Says:

    TimG,

    I actually agree that the emissions limit is primarily an economic / political discussion (but informed obviously by the expected impacts)

    I disagree that there are no solutions e.g.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_new_nuclear_power_plants

    A UK Royal Academy of Engineering report in 2004 looked at electricity generation costs from new plants in the UK. In particular it aimed to develop “a robust approach to compare directly the costs of intermittent generation with more dependable sources of generation”. This meant adding the cost of standby capacity for wind, as well as carbon values up to £30 (€45.44) per tonne CO2 for coal and gas. Wind power was calculated to be more than twice as expensive as nuclear power. Without a carbon tax, the cost of production through coal, nuclear and gas ranged £0.022–0.026/kW·h and coal gasification was £0.032/kW·h. When carbon tax was added (up to £0.025) coal came close to onshore wind (including back-up power) at £0.054/kW·h — offshore wind is £0.072/kW·h — nuclear power remained at £0.023/kW·h either way, as it produces negligible amounts of CO2. (Nuclear figures included estimated decommissioning costs.)

    http://www.countryguardian.net/generation_costs_report2.pdf

  105. Paul Kelly Says:

    Since communication is a focus here, Denning’s fourth criterion – who will advocate – should have great salience. This week Bill McKibben has made some foolish statements in advance of hurricane Irene’s land fall, prompting the question. Isn’t it time for a new set of advocates with a new form of advocacy?

  106. TimG Says:

    PeteB,

    Your reference says nothing about vehicles or industrial emissions. There are no plausible alternatives to cement and coke for steel.

    Next, even with a carbon tax It would be cheaper to run natgas backup plants 24/7 than to pair them with expensive wind turbines. They also appear left out the cost of all of the new transmission lines required for wind power.

    Lastly, there is a a scalability issue. You need so much more real estate for renewables that the public tolerance for them declines pretty quickly. This makes putting a wind farm as problematic as putting up a nuclear station. The difference with a nuclear station is there are fewer people that need to be disturbed.

    On the last point, if you had a way to deal with the NIMBYs then we do have the technology to go CO2 free with nuclear. There is no justification for fooling around with wind or solar. I can’t see one solving the NIMBY problem for wind but not nulcear.

  107. PeteB Says:

    Tim,

    That’s the point with a carbon tax, it will encourage people to go after the ‘low hanging fruit’ first. I am quite sure there are areas where, even after imposition of a carbon tax, fossil fuels are still the most economic way to go. I personally think that we will use all the oil and gas reserves (hopefully a carbon tax will make us eke them out most efficiently) but that is not necessarily too much of a problem, see

    http://coalswarm.typepad.com/coalswarm/welcome.html

    Again, personally I see Nuclear as a large part of the energy mix going forward (especially the Generation IV reactors http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_IV_reactor )

    I know there will be resistance, and I don’t want to play it down, but eventually the question comes down to which is the greater risk, Nuclear or Global Warming

  108. PeteB Says:

    Also there is a possibility that we could use carbon capture and storage. It’s not there yet from a technology point of view and the risk is leakage of the stored CO2, but it looks like it may be a solution.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage

  109. TimG Says:

    PeteB,

    CCS is a fantasy. To sequester 25% of the CO2 produced today from coal plants we would need a system that that can handle twice the amount of liquid as the existing crude oil infrastructure. No one will ever build it. It is not even worth entertaining as an option.

    The trouble with nuclear is scalability. It is not physically possible to build a enough plants to meet the rising need never mind replace any fossil fuel plants. And that assumes you could get public support. Both the Japanese and Germans will be forced to abandon their CO2 commitments because they are getting out of nuclear (sure they have not admitted this yet but there will come a time when they will tell their populations that its CO2 or nukes and their populations will probably pick CO2).

    In short, even if you assumed best case deployment of nukes and a politically palatable carbon tax I do not see any chance of reducing world emissions over the next 30 years or so. New technology could change things but if we have to plan now based on what we know now we have to assume that CO2 emissions are not coming down and adpation is the only viable policy response.

  110. PeteB Says:

    CCS is a fantasy. To sequester 25% of the CO2 produced today from coal plants we would need a system that that can handle twice the amount of liquid as the existing crude oil infrastructure.

    I don’t think your second sentence in the bit I quoted proves your first sentence. Surely the relevant question is : Is electricity generated using CCS more expensive than electricity generated from coal + carbon tax ?

    Have you a source for your point about nuclear scalability ?

    There is a big range of emissions scenarios, if we managed to globally keep CO2 emissions to current levels, it wouldn’t be the best scenario (and would need a lot of adaption), but it would be a long way from the worst)

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/f296645337804p75/fulltext.html

  111. PeteB Says:

    Also, for interest

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/timworstall/2011/08/10/solving-climate-change/

    and particularly

    However, look at that light green line. The RCP 2.6 one, the “whew, we dodged it” one. The highest economic growth model leads to the lowest level of emissions considered. Less economic growth leads to higher emissions.

    Note again that these are not my assumptions. They are those of the IPCC process. Which is something of a body blow to those telling us that we must cease economic growth if calamity is to be averted: the very assumptions built into the whole proof that climate change is something we should worry about say exactly the opposite. Economic growth is the way out, not the problem.

    By the way, the assumption there about the rate of economic growth, from a roughly $50 trillion global economy in 2000 to a roughly $300 trillion one in 2100. That’s not all that far off the growth rate we had in the 20th century.

    This is how much energy we’re going to use and where we’re going to get it from. We need to be more parsimonious in our use of energy, yes. We need to use less of it per unit of GDP (which is known as “energy intensity” and their desired decrease in that isn’t far off what the advanced economies already manage) but we don’t actually need to use less of it overall. Less oil, yes, but we can near double our energy consumption and still hit that “we missed the problem” sweet spot. It’s also amusing to note what a small role for solar and wind power is necessary to hit that target.

  112. TimG Says:

    PeteB

    It took 100 years to build the crude infrastructure we have now for a substance that is extremely valuable. It is not feasible to consider building a similar infrastructure for a substance that has no value. No one would invest the billions (if not trillions) required – even with a politically viable carbon tax.

    There are 50,000 coal plants today in the world that need to be replaced. China is building a new one every week. They are also expanding nuclear as fast as they can and expect to 400 plants in operation by 2050. IOW, in the time it takes them to build 2000 coal plants they will add 400 nuclear – and those plants don’t actually replace any of the coal stations they have already built.

    I really do not think we can reasonably expect to replace nuclear with coal in the next 100 years. If there was public will we could do it faster than we are now but it won’t be enough to stabilize emissions on the schedule given by the IPCC.

    We are not going to stabilize at current levels. China and India and Africa are not going to sacrifice development and that’s where all of the emission growth will be coming from. Nor will there be any appetite for major sacrifices in western countries who are all drowning under a sea of public debt. Adaptation is the only option.

  113. PeteB Says:

    Tim,

    It is not feasible to consider building a similar infrastructure for a substance that has no value.

    That seems to be an argument from personal incredulity. I still think the question is

    Is electricity generated using CCS more expensive than electricity generated from coal + carbon tax ?

    Are you saying you “know” the answer to that is no ? Because that is not what my research leads me to believe – I don’t think it is a definite yes yet, but it looks a promising avenue to me.

    Incidentally I think you are wrong to say CO2 has no value, it has quite a big (depending on the carbon tax rate) negative value.

    ..the time it takes them to build 2000 coal plants they will add 400 nuclear…

    Don’t you think the economics of that would change if they introduced a carbon tax ?

    Adaptation is the only option.

    That makes about as much sense as saying Mitigation is the only option.

    I don’t “know” what the correct balance between Mitigation and Adaption is, but, if you tax CO2 to include the damage it causes, then the market will find that balance, and mitigate in the situations where that is optimal and we will get the correct balance.

  114. Eli Rabett Says:

    The plausible alternative to coke for steel is steel. Most steel in the US (probably Europe also) is made from steel from scrap in mini mill electric arc furnaces. There are also many ways to improve the energy efficiency of integrated steel production facilities.

  115. TimG Says:

    PeteB,

    Pipeline infrastructure requires massive capital investments.

    No matter how much you may wish a carbon tax is NOT the same as a real price signal because all it would take to eliminate a carbon tax is one election. Businesses will not make those investments if their return depends on the whims of public opinion and politicians.

    The same issue affects investments in renewables but at least they produce something that has value (i.e. electricity) no matter happens to public opinion. This is not true for CCS.

    BTW, economics models generally treat a carbon tax and a real price increase as the same thing. (I asked an economist who produces papers on the effect of carbon about this issue to confirm). This means that all economic models of carbon taxes are flawed and their results are not credible because they do not take into account how people really react when faced with higher taxes (i.e. the lobby politicians to give them an exemption instead of changing behavoir).

  116. MikeN Says:

    Why have a carbon tax at all? Do you really think developing countries are going to have such a tax, especially in a large amount?
    I read somewhere that India passed a small tax.

  117. PeteB Says:

    Tim,

    I think your point about elections is a good point, but governments can make international agreements (or contracts with companies) which outlast their term in government.

    I also think that it is important that when a carbon tax is imposed it is overall tax neutral (either with Hansen’s idea that the money is distributed per capita or, for example increasing the threshold at which people pay tax) This makes sure that it is not too unpopular and creates a substantial body of people that would lose out financially if a carbon tax was reversed.

    MikeN, I guess only if it is in their own self interest, i.e. that they think the danger from climate change is worth creating a tax to mitigate it (I think China and India are projected to be a lot more severely affected than a lot of Western countries)

    I actually it a harder question to see why some Western countries would impose a Carbon Tax when they are not projected to be as severely affected. To me, the dynamics should seem to be, the countries that are going to be badly affected (e.g. China, India, African countries) persuading some of the Western (particularly European countries)

  118. Eli Rabett Says:

    Pete B signs on to basic moral bankruptcy. The developed world is responsible for the mess and he wants the developing world to take care of it.

  119. PeteB Says:

    Eli,

    I just find it interesting that there is this talking point that it is not worth us doing anything because China and India won’t do anything. I’m slightly more optimistic because I think they will be amongst the worst affected so it is in their interest to do something.

    I do think it is difficult situation when countries that are doing the damage can be different to countries that will suffer the worst effects. In reality I think a lot of the European countries are trying to do something (even though I don’t think it is the optimal thing !) and there is a large amount of consensus among the political parties, so maybe things are not so bleak..

  120. Eli Rabett Says:

    Pete you do seriously need to read Stephen Gardiners A Perfect Moral Crisis. He lays it out very well.

  121. MikeN Says:

    German economist Ottmar Edenhoffer: “But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.”

  122. cce Says:

    “What we need are alternatives. In the case of CO2 we have none.”

    Natural Gas is an alternative to coal and oil. It exists today. It has a vastly smaller ecological footprint, and a much smaller GHG foot, provided leaks are strictly regulated. You also don’t have to wait for unicorns to improve appliance and building efficiency, which would become economically feasible if the cost of energy were to increase because of a price on carbon.

    Concerning the amount of land required for wind power, consider this: 40% of the US is considered agricultural land. That is cropland, woodland, and grazing. Between North Dakota and Texas, you’ll find a lot of cropland and pasture land. A lot of ranchers and farmers would be quite happy to recieve a royalty for wind turbines installed on their land (assuming that it isn’t already government land).

    No one said that science was going to make the decision for policymakers. You base your policy on science. You pick the outcomes you want to avoid and then you set your emmissions target. A cap and trade system will meet those targets but won’t provide price certainty. So you set a price collar. A carbon tax provides price certainty, but does not guarantee the targets will be met. So you periodically adjust rate that the tax increases. The pricing mechanism doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be priced.

  123. cce Says:

    A few words from “redistributionists.”

    “The legitimate role for government is, in so far as it can, to control and check negative externalities.”

    “And in general it’s only where there are serious externalities where you can really make a case for government involved. And in general also wherever possible government should be involved by setting a fee on the activity concerned. And that is something else that has increasingly developed.”

    “You have markets now in pollution abatement. So that, for example, in the case of the stream where somebody is putting something in. Your best procedure is to try to impose a charge on the disposition of the garbage rather than to try to regulate the details of how the garbage is disposed of.”

    — Milton Friedman
    Transcript from “The Corporation”

    “Nor can certain harmful effects of deforestation, or of some methods of farming, or of the smoke and noise of factories, be confined to the owner of the property in question or to those who are willing to submit to the damage for an agreed compensation.”

    “In such instances we must find some substitute for the regulation by the price mechanism.”

    — Friedrich Hayek
    The Road To Serfdom

  124. TimG Says:

    cce,

    The trouble with CO2 is the negative externalies are purely hypothetical. We have no evidence today that a slightly warmer climate is a net harm. Sure the media is constantly claiming that there is a connection between various bad events and climate change but there is no actual evidence of a link. This is just an assumption based on computer models which are not evidence in themselves.

    This makes CO2 different from a negative externality like smog where the negative effects are immediately self evident.

    You also make the assumption that science can tell us clearly what we need to do in order to avoid adverse outcomes. It can’t. All it can say is if you don’t let CO2 rise then nothing changes. But since keeping CO2 at current levels is an impossibility we are left with a silly game where numbers are basically pulled out of hat (i.e. 450ppm is “good” but 500ppm is “bad”).

    And even if we accept these made up numbers you must weigh the uncertain benefits against the certain harm of CO2 regulation. How do you tell someone they have to lose their job today because you are imposing measures which will have no meaningful impact on the stated problem?

  125. J Bowers Says:

    TimG — “We have no evidence today that a slightly warmer climate is a net harm.”

    Define “slightly warmer”. How many degrees C? Feel free to give one figure for the tropics and a separate figure for the poles.

  126. TimG Says:

    J Bowers,

    The temperature has risen about 0.7 degC in 100 years.
    I call that a slightly warmer climate.
    To date there are no measureable negative impacts of CO2.
    This makes it impossible to price the externalities.
    You can’t put a price on a hypothetical.

    Sure the climate models claim there will be all those bad effects if the temperature rises 3degC but it requires a huge leap of faith to believe that that climate models have any connection to reality.

    Unlike models which are used in engineering to build airplanes and other such things, there is no way to test these models. Showing that they get some answers right some of the time is not enough. The problem is they get the wrong answer a lot when it comes to effects like precipitation.

  127. PeteB Says:

    TimG,

    Forget the models for a moment, Consider “Observational Impacts on Climate Sensitivity” http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-6.html

    From the Summary http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-6-4.html

    Results from studies of observed climate change and the consistency of estimates from different time periods indicate that ECS is very likely larger than 1.5°C with a most likely value between 2°C and 3°C

    OK, the models should be better able to quantify the impacts, but I don’t really understand your argument.

    You seem to be saying that there is a lot of uncertainty with the models (I would agree there is some), so we should base our policy response on whatever the most benign possible outcome.that these models show. I would almost argue completely the opposite, that the worst impacts will be at the highest end of the uncertainty band, so you need to multiply the chance of these impacts by their cost and factor it into the economic equation. This is why the ‘long tail’ of climate sensitivity inflates the mean economic cost and if we manage to constrain that tail, this has a significant effect on the economic response (e.g.http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/05/bounds-climate-sensitivity-and-costs-of.html )l

  128. PeteB Says:

    Oh here is a better link on the economic cost of the long tail

    http://www.jamstec.go.jp/frcgc/research/d5/jdannan/probrevised.pdf

    Perhaps more importantly, the probability assigned to
    4high values of S has a dominant effect on the expected cost of climate change, due to the strong rise in economic losses that accompany increases in temperature

  129. cce Says:

    Climate models are based on physics. They are not perfect and no one has claimed that they are are perfect. You can also estimate climate sensitivity by looking at the past, which gives you compatible figures. Those aren’t perfect either, but they are independent lines of evidence. The absense of perfection is used as an excuse to “wait and see” and then hope for a time machine to go back and institute changes that should have been made before it was too late. I suppose we could all lament the fact that we can’t build a duplicate earth to test these theories on, but that would be an admission of total intransigence.

    Science can give you a range of possible outcomes. You are not going to get a precise number, because it isn’t magic. You don’t need a precise number in order to accomplish such things as I have already explained. Every day, people base decisions on projections with far less credibility than climate science. They’ll pay $1800 for an ounce of gold because G Gordon Liddy told them so.

    But for some reason, when it comes to GHGs, “more study is necessary. I don’t trust climate science. Look at all that uncertainty. 97 out of 100 scientist aren’t enough. I’ll wait until it’s 99 out of a hundred. Or 999 out of a thousand. They’re in it for the money. Al Gore. UN. Redistribution of wealth!”

    As far as externalities are concerned, I can think of these examples relevant to the Unitied States.

    Smog increases with temperature. If you increase the temperature. you increase smog. You can put a price on that.

    There will be about 1 m of unavoidable sea level rise this century. There will be more after that, and even more if GHG emissions continue unabated. Even if we “get out of the way” by slowly abandoning coastal areas over decades and centuries, that is still the loss of a tremendous amount of property. A 1 meter rise is about the same as losing an area of land equal to West Virginia. You can put a price on that.

    There will be the loss of western snow pack. There will not be enough water to last to the end of summer, so additional sources must be secured. You can put a price on that.

    There is currently a massive die off of North American timber due to the mountain pine beetle (and similar species), whose numbers are ordinarily held in check by cold winters. You can put a price on that.

    Those are the ones that I can think of. If you want more, you could read the Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States report:

    http://www.globalchange.gov/publications/reports/scientific-assessments/us-impacts/download-the-report

    But you won’t accept those conclusions, so I am wasting my time.

  130. TimG Says:

    PeteB,

    All of “observations” of climate sensitivity depend on models of one sort or another and are only as reliable as the assumptions that were used to create them.

    I am not saying the models are just uncertain. I am saying they are so uncertain that they provide no useful information. Slapping a PDF on the outputs of models that have no connection to reality does not give us a better understanding of reality.

    I am saying we should base our policy on one of presumed ignorance. i.e. we have no idea what will happen other than the planet will get warmer by some unknown amount. We don’t know what the net impact will be nor can we quantify it.

    That is not necessarily an excuse to do nothing. I do acknowledge that there is risk associated with emitting CO2. But it does mean that radial transformations of society are not really an option.

  131. J Bowers Says:

    TimG — “All of “observations” of climate sensitivity depend on models of one sort or another”

    Did Arrhenius have a Cray?

  132. TimG Says:

    J Bowers,

    Did Arrhenius do any more than show that CO2 causes tubes to heat up? Like the recent CERN experiment on cosmic rays, it takes a big leap to go from the from the lab to the real world. It does not automatically follow that a warmer world must be worse than the one we have now.

  133. PeteB Says:

    TimG — “All of “observations” of climate sensitivity depend on models of one sort or another”

    Well, yes, but all of science depends on models of one sort or another

  134. J Bowers Says:

    TimG — “Did Arrhenius do any more than show that CO2 causes tubes to heat up?”

    You mean these tubes? Looks like an experiment to me and “an early landmark in the history of absorption spectroscopy of gases”. Tyndall’s, that is.

    Arrhenius used Very and Langley’s infrared observations of the moon to calculate the absorption of infrared by CO2 and water vapour in the atmosphere. It’s all on Wiki.

  135. Faraz Says:

    The first world countries are 80% responsible for global warming due to rapid increase in factories and other fuel consuming machines. On the other hand, third world countries are paying the price in the form of floods, storms and earth quakes. In the last decade Pakistan, China, Turkey, Iran and Japan are the worst affected by the global warming. Now it is the responsibility of developed countries to help them by providing enough resources to over come the increase in poverty. Climate changes are dramatic with unpredictable effects.

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