Congratulations to Al Gore

But be wary of the man's proposed solutions for global warming.

Former Vice President Al Gore has received this year's Nobel Peace Prize (shared with the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]). Gore has been an indefatigable campaigner, warning against the real dangers posed by man-made global warming. In acknowledging the honor today, Gore added, "We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level."

He's wrong to characterize global warming as a moral and spiritual problem. Man-made global warming is not some kind of environmental sin. It's just another commons problem that has emerged as human civilization continues to develop. Most environmental problems arise in what are called open-access commons. That is, people pollute air and rivers, overfish lakes and oceans, cut down rainforests, and so forth because no one owns those natural resources and therefore no one has an interest in protecting them.

The point is clearest in the case of tropical forests and fisheries. No one owns the forests or fisheries, so anyone may exploit them. No one has an incentive to leave any trees or fish behind because, if they do, someone else will harvest them and get the benefits for themselves. In other words, those who immediately benefit from exploiting the resource do not bear the long-run costs of its ultimate destruction. This mismatch between benefits and costs is a recipe for disaster. Similarly, no one owns the global atmosphere, so there is no incentive for anyone to protect it from various pollutants, including greenhouse gases that tend to raise average global temperatures.

Generally, humanity has solved environmental problems caused by open-access situations by either privatizing the relevant commons or regulating it. It will not surprise anyone that I generally favor privatization. That's because I believe that the overwhelming balance of the evidence shows that centralized top-down regulation tends to be costly, slow, often ineffective, and highly politicized. For example, fisheries which had previously been mismanaged by government agencies greatly improved after fishers were given property rights to fish in Iceland, New Zealand and off the coast of Alaska.

As a skeptic of government action, I had hoped that the scientific evidence would lead to the conclusion that global warming would not be much of a problem, so that humanity could avoid the messy and highly politicized process of deciding what to do about it. Although people of good will can still disagree about the scientific evidence for climate change, I now believe that Gore has got it basically right. The balance of the evidence shows that global warming could well be a significant problem over the course of this century. But a significant problem is not a "planetary emergency."

In fact, the latest scientific report from the IPCC release in February generally lowered the range of possible future temperature increases. The IPCC Summary offers six scenarios for possible temperature increases by the end of this century. In the low scenario, the likely range of temperature increase is between 1.1 degrees to 2.9 degrees Celsius (2 degrees to 5.2 degrees Fahrenheit) with a best estimate of 1.8 Celsius (3.2 degrees Fahrenheit). In the worst case scenario, average temperature rises to between 2.4 degrees and 6.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees to 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) with a best estimate of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 degrees Fahrenheit). Except for the worst case scenario, the top temperatures are lower than the maximum projected by the IPCC Third Assessment Report in 2001.

In addition, the IPCC's new Summary continues the trend of lowering possible sea-level increases that it found in its previous scientific assessments. Again, depending on the scenario chosen, projected sea-level rise by 2100 could be between 18 centimeters to 59 centimeters (seven inches to 23 inches). The report notes that sea level rose about seven inches during the 20th century. No one much noticed the 20th century rise and an increasingly wealthy and more resilient 21st century will be able to handle the IPCC projected rise without too much difficulty.

How much will it cost to address man-made global warming? First, Yale economist William Nordhaus estimates that the Gore's proposals would reduce climate change damages by $12 trillion, but at a cost of nearly $34 trillion. Not a very good deal.

On the other hand, Nordhaus calculates that the optimal policy would impose a carbon tax of $34 per metric ton carbon in 2010, with the tax increases gradually reaching $42 per ton in 2015, $90 per ton in 2050, and $207 per ton of carbon in 2100. A $20 per metric ton carbon tax will raise coal prices by $10 per ton, which is about a 40 percent increase over the current price of $25 per ton. A $10 per ton carbon tax translates into a 4 cent per gallon increase in gasoline. A $300 per ton carbon tax would raise gasoline prices by $1.20 per gallon. Following this optimal trajectory would cost $2.2 trillion and reduce climate change damage by $5.2 trillion over the next century.

In his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, Gore argued, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." Man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem of the sort that humanity has solved many times. For example, forests are expanding in rich countries because they have well-developed private property rights. Also in rich countries, regulations have helped once polluted rivers and lakes to become clean and have drastically cut air pollution. One of the keys to solving environmental problems is economic growth and wealth. Economists have identified various income thresholds at which various air and water pollutants begin to decline, with many indicators improving once GDP per capita in a country reaches around $8,000 per year. So keep in mind that anything that unduly retards economic growth also retards ultimate environmental clean-up, including global warming.

In any case, global warming is not the result of environmental sin; it is the result of human progress creating another commons problem. We do not need to "lift global consciousness"; we need to find a cheap, low-carbon source of energy. I have no doubt that man-made global warming is an economic and technical problem that an inventive humanity will solve over the course of the 21st century.

Still, congratulations are in order to Al Gore for being recognized by the Nobel committee for his persistence in trying to get humanity to pay attention to this new commons problem. But here's hoping that the solutions that are ultimately adopted don't end up creating even more problems.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His most recent book, Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution, is available from Prometheus Books.

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  • ||

    OK, is this the last Algore post?

  • Ben Rushing||

    Don't you know that Al Gore really cares about us? He only wants what is best for the planet. I mean have you seen his house?

  • TLB||

    As you might expect, both Gore and Bailey start with the false assumption that we need to actually do something about global warming. In fact, the true libertarian position is to welcome it with open arms. It's what Ayn would do.

  • ||

    I gather you didn't see the Lake Baikal data yet. The warming started long before the Co2 spike and fluctuated without correlation to Co2 counts in prehistoric times.

    I dont get why your jumping on a crumbling consensus, I would give Global Warming another five years before it is completely destroyed as a theory.

  • Gimme Back My Dog||

    In the interest of efficiency, I would like to propose that this and all Al Gore/Nobel thread comments simply the appropriate number from the following exhaustive list of comments:

    1. Al Gore is a statist who wants to sacrifice liberty at the altar of global warming.
    2. Al Gore exaggerates the science in order to make his point
    3. Al Gore is fat, sports a comb-over.
    4. Al Gore once claimed to have invented the internet
    5. Al Gore is a hypocrite because his carbon footprint is higher than the average American's
    6. Hey, Fuck You! I like Al Gore.
    7. You don't understand, I really, really like Al Gore (joe only)

  • ||

    Boy, Ron Bailey is just going whole hog with this flip-flop of his, eh? Here's something to think about (most likely mentioned in an earlier post):

    Even if Al Gore is correct, does he really deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He is just regurgitating information from a number of actual scientists. He's a politician riding on the coattails of people that actually work for a living but never get recognition for it. Congratulations? Fuck him, he's still just a bottom-feeding politician.

  • Gimme Back My Dog||

    Oh, I forgot one:

    8. Enough with the Al Gore posts already!

  • ||

    Ron, I have to disagree with you that this is not a moral/spiritual problem. It's precisely these cases where we are called upon to make sacrifices with no immediate benefit for ourselves, for the sake of those who may not even be born yet, that are among the toughest ethical issues we face.

  • ||

    Even if Al Gore is correct, does he really deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He is just regurgitating information from a number of actual scientists. He's a politician riding on the coattails of people that actually work for a living but never get recognition for it. Congratulations? Fuck him, he's still just a bottom-feeding politician.

    For one, Gore is not currently a politican as he doesn't hold nor is he attempting to obtain public office.

    Second, he is being recognized not for simply repeating scientific finds, but rather for his efforts in publicizing them. He's done a remarkable job at getting the message out there, which counts as "work" no less than doing the front-line scientific research itself.

  • ||

    nor is he attempting to obtain public office.

    Bullshit. Give him some time.

  • ||

    He didn't repeat scientific facts, he expounded the extreme upper variance of statistical climate models (models that cannot predict the past or present, but have omniscient green vision of the future). These were not empirical observations and measurement.

    The experimental data conducted by good faith scientists in the period show that the whole AGW doom thing was nothing but a scare.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    8

  • ||

    Once a politician, always a politician. He was in public office for 23 years, but yeah, he's not a politician.

    And he did a remarkable job of getting inaccurate information out that was already pretty well publicized.

    So really think that what he did was more important than the work that everyone else has done in this area? AND that it has anything to do with "peace"?

  • ||

    So you can win the Nobel Peace Prize for promoting junk science!

    Apparently the Nobel committee doesn't see the need to worry about actual wars any more.

    So much for the Nobel Peace Prize...

  • Dave Woycechowsky||

    Bullshit. Give him some time.

    at freerepublic they want him to run for the Green Party. I think they want him to split the Democratic vote so that a Republican can win in 2008.

    I would rather have Ron Paul be President. But, if not him, then Al Gore would be good.

  • ||

    2,3,4,5 and, of course, 8

  • ||

    1-5

  • ||

    Although his theories on man-made global warming are full of holes, it is a fact that man made environmental degradation is affecting the quality of life on this planet. Gore would have done better if he had focused on specific things, such as coral reef degradation, tube wells and the disappearance of the water table, desertification, the assassination of environmental activist in Brazil, etc., rather than global warming per se.

    I fully agree with Mr. Bailey that top down statist protocols do little in the long run to alleviate the situation. However, Gore has emerged as an adequate spokesperson for the environment. There could have been better choices for the Prize (The monks of Burma were my first choice) but there could have been worse.

  • Les||

    He's done a remarkable job at getting the message out there, which counts as "work" no less than doing the front-line scientific research itself.

    Spoken like a true non-scientist.

  • stephen the goldberger||

    4

  • ||

    So... the boomers are giving my generation a huge national debt. Plus we owe them lots of social security that we don't have a hope of seeing. And now we're supposed to also pay for the environmental damages of previous generations through draconian measures that will ensure that future generations might have a slightly better climate (though a worse quality of life due to the economic damage of climate policies)?

    I guess I picked the wrong time to be born.

  • ||

    9. Al Gore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize every bit as much as the terrorist Yasser Arafat.

  • ||

    Should a global greenhouse gas emmision protocol ever be established, nations will cheat and lie for their own ends. The protocol will have no effect. Just prophesying here. :-(

  • ||

    There could have been better choices for the Prize (The monks of Burma were my first choice) but there could have been worse.

    By worse you mean: George Bush, Osama bin Laden, ummm ... little help here ... running out of names ...

  • ||

    6

  • ||

    For one, Gore is not currently a politican as he doesn't hold nor is he attempting to obtain public office.

    And Hillary never had any intention of running for president either. (smirk!)

  • ed||

    I guess I picked the wrong time to be born

    Whine much, slacker?

  • ||

    damned tags

  • ||

    By worse you mean: George Bush, Osama bin Laden, ummm ... little help here ... running out of names ...

    Lemme help, O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, Phil Spector. Hell there's lot's of people less deserving than Al Gore.

  • anon||

    AlgoreAlgoreAlgore. . . .

    holds a dismal 10% (close to John Edwards) among Democratic voters if he were to join the race today. He is not really that admired by his own side.

  • Les||

    Al Gore deserves the Nobel Peace Prize every bit as much as the terrorist Yasser Arafat.

    I'm no fan of Al's, but that's just silly.

  • ||

    1 through 5. Gore's a publicity hound who still dreams of the White House.

    Only good reason I can think of to pick is that he was already well-known. Someone less known who really did deserve the Prize, and was 'til the last minute a favourite, was a certain Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an activist from Iqaluit, Nunavut, in Canada's arctic, who has been instrumental in bring the changes in the North to world attention.

    http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=85cca755-015f-41de-bb87-a049bb807033

    The experimental data conducted by good faith scientists in the period show that the whole AGW doom thing was nothing but a scare.

    I'd like to see you explain that to people in the Canadian North. Who should they believe, jmklein--you or their own eyes?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    This is just further evidence that tha Nobel "Peace" prize is nothing more than a bullshit liberal political award.

    Right up there with giving one to Yasser Arafat and, of course, that idiot Jimmy Carter.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "I'd like to see you explain that to people in the Canadian North. Who should they believe, jmklein--you or their own eyes?"

    People's eyes can't discern whether any melting ice they see was caused by human activity or natural changes in the climate cycle.

  • ||

    People's eyes can't discern whether any melting ice they see was caused by human activity or natural changes in the climate cycle.

    Well, no. Reasonable people can still disagree on the extent people are to blame for the warming, and--more to the point--what can practically be done about it.

    But that it's happening? Like I said, when even reason has come around, its initial skepticism notwithstanding, it's safe to say the debate's over.

  • ||

    But that it's happening? Like I said, when even reason has come around, its initial skepticism notwithstanding, it's safe to say the debate's over.

    Ron Bailey has "come around", not necessarily the whole editorial staff of Reason. Plus, the debate is not over. It may have changed, but there are still A LOT of questions, even if it is conceded that there is anthropogenic global warming.

  • ||

    But that it's happening? Like I said, when even reason has come around, its initial skepticism notwithstanding, it's safe to say the debate's over.

    Yeah, because when a writer who is not a scientist at a website catering to a tiny slice of the public says humans are the chief drivers of global climate change, that makes it completely, irrefutably true.

    Pay no attention to charts like this

  • ||

    ... Charts that indicate that current global temperatures aren't particularly high by recent geological standards, and that the real risk is another catastrophic plunge into an ice age.

  • Russell||

    "A $20 per metric ton carbon tax will raise coal prices by $10 per ton,"

    A macroeconomic case exists for promoting high volatile and hence high hydrogen content coal as a means of reducing CO2 emission per unit of electrical energy generated , but virtually no coal on the market has a carbon content as low as 50%.

    Best brush up on your geochemistry , Ron.

  • ||

    NASA administrator Michael Griffin said it best -- Yes, the earth's getting warmer; yes, mankind might be exacerbating that warming; so what?

    That's what the earth does -- it gets warmer and cooler. In fact it's been much warmer and cooler in the distant past. Humans have lived through periods of warmth and periods of glaciation. We'll live through this also. In fact, 100 years from now people will probably feel sorry for those of us who had to live in the cold years of the past.

    Just go sell your oceanfront property and get on with your lives. Nothing to see here.

  • ||

    Gimme Back, put me down for 1, 2, and 5.

  • VM||

    "so what?"

    well, you could adjust your behaviors (living, investing, etc) to take advantage of the change or be minimally disrupted by the change. The change is inevitable, but profiting from it is optional.

  • ||

    Count me in for 1,2,4,5.

  • ||

    nor is he attempting to obtain public office.

    Bullshit. Give him some time.


    Secretary General Gore spoke today at the U.N., promoting his new Human Abatement Program...

    Has anyone read "Nature's End"?

    Al Gore = Gupta Singh

  • ||

    I totally disagree with the concept that humans have much if anything to do with the evolution of this planet. My view which has evolved over the past 50 years is that the human race has little effect one way or the other on the situation. The last ice age has been retreating for a long, long time and I think it is the natural progression and will continue till all the glaciers are gone. If this is what affects other things such as rain forests and the like then their evolution will similarly continue. I wonder whether mankind doesn't way overate themselves as to their power to affect things one way or another outside of over populating the planet?

  • ihbafa||

    1 - 5

  • ||

    VM @ 4:29

    I'm all for that. But mobilizing a global-wide effort to stop something that, 1) we likely can't, and 2) we don't need to, is our typical over-reaction to newly-perceived "threats".

    It's gonna get warmer. And in some places, wetter. In some places, drier. Life will be different. It won't be like it is now. Just like life today isn't like it was a few hundred years ago. We'll deal with it. We don't need to do anything.

  • stephen the goldberger||

    1-5

    6!

  • Gahan||

    We all know who really deserves this prize: Leonardo DiCapprio. He's done just as much for global warming awareness as Al Gore and is WAY dreamier.

  • wayaway||

    1-5...

    and the first half of 6.

  • ||

    The solution to global warming is to set off hydrogen bombs in active volcanoes, thereby putting tons of dust into the air, cooling the earth.

    Next on the agenda is solving the problem of radioactive volcanic dust in the atmosphere.

    Seriously: since the world is getting warmer, it seems like a good idea to turn down the furnace.

  • ||

    1, 2 & 5

  • Tim Lambert||

    Nice to see Bailey congratulating the IPCC by misrepresenting their findings.

    Bailey: "In fact, the latest scientific report from the IPCC release in February generally lowered the range of possible future temperature increases. ... Except for the worst case scenario, the top temperatures are lower than the maximum projected by the IPCC Third Assessment Report in 2001."

    Of course the maximum projected in the TAR comes from the worst case scenario, so in fact, they have not generally lowered their temperature projections.

    What's funny is that Bailey does this for every IPCC report. In spite of Bailey saying that their projections have been cut in each and every report, their projections are little different from the first report. (Though their confidence in their numbers has increased.)

  • Patrick Dixon||

    Having studied this subject a bit, I am not convinced that man is causing global warming. Neither are a growing number of scientists (http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/news_press_release,176495.shtml, http://epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Minority.Blogs&ContentRecord_id=927b9303-802a-23ad-494b-dccb00b51a12).

    The core claim of Gore is that history shows a link between CO2 and temperature. Yes it does, but the temperature is causing CO2 release, not the other way around (http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/climate-change/dn11659)

    So what could be causing warming? Could it be the sun? (http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/story.html?id=551bfe58-882f-4889-ab76-5ce1e02dced7)

    It is also unclear that our current temperatures are higher than past years (http://www.norcalblogs.com/watts/weather_stations/).

    I don't know if Ron Bailey has ever taken a critical look at any of this, and I don't know what convinces him that Al Gore's alarmism is justified. I would hope Reason would be more Reasonable.

    Patrick Dixon
    Chair, Libertarian Party of Texas
    www.LPTexas.org

  • VM||

    "mobilizing a global-wide effort to stop something that, "

    not mobilizing anything - you as a rational actor will make decisions, change around your "portfolio" of behaviors, investments, possessions, etc to deal with the change.

    You know the market will go up, down, or be unchanged - based on the info you have, gather, glean, guess, and want, you make decisions. like that.

  • ||

    Tim, Ron B. also misrepresented IPCC's 'reduction' sea level rise by not mentioning that rapid ice melt was deliberately not included due to uncertainties in measuring rapid ice melt...which isn't to say it's not happening.

  • J.D.||

    FIRST he invented the internet. NOW he's inventing science!

    I've made a great bumper sticker with that phrase, and hundreds of people have put it on their SUVs!

    Check it out, I'm sure you'll like it:
    http://www.cafepress.com/climatechanging

  • ||

    Strange, Ron Bailey says, "But be wary of the man's proposed solutions for global warming." but doesn't tell us exactly what Gore's specific proposed solutions are.

    He does quote Gore as saying, "We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization." This is a pretty broad thing to say; it's also from waaaay back in 1992. 15 yeas ago.

    Bailey then says stuff about private property as means of protecting the environment. OK. But Gore is never quoted as being against this. Gore could be in favor of this, but Bailey never bothers to find out.

    AFAICT, his recent unfiltered specific solutions can be found at climatecrisis.org. I do recall from an interview that Al Gore is in favor of increasing wealth in the world as means of improving the state of our environment.

  • M. Simon||

    Solar scientist believe we are headed for a Maunder Minimum ice age.

    If that happens Bailey not only will you have egg (ice?) on your face but you might consider becoming the environmental correspondent for the National Enquirer. Some place where a lack of credibility will not harm your ability to earn a living.

    However, you will have to accept minimum wage. There will be a lot of competition for the job.

    Perhaps selling hand warmers on street corners might be more lucrative.

  • M. Simon||

    Ron,

    BTW the atmosphere is not a greenhouse. It is a heat pipe.

    Evaporation/condensation predominates. But you knew that didn't you?

    Oh yeah, the climate scientists admit that they do not know the sign or magnitude of the cloud effect. They just pick a number that seems "reasonable". Funny thing is the numbers they pick always seem to enhance warming.

    So let me ask.

    Higher temps = more evaporation?
    More evaporation = more water vapor in the atmosphere?
    More water vapor = more clouds?

    Most of the IPCC computer models assume fewer clouds. What are the odds?

    The Global climate models have hundreds of parameters. Most of which are guessed at.

    "give me four adjustable parameters, and I can fit an elephant, give me five, and I can fit the tail".

    I can make models and movies that show faster than light travel. Star Wars science. You believe it don't you?

  • M. Simon||

    IPCC currently predicts sea level rise of about 3 mm a year. That would be 300 mm a century. About 12".

    However, measured rise is about 1.7 mm a year. About 6" a century.

    Run for your lives.

    Did you see the British court verdict on Global Warming and Al Gore's propaganda movie? According to the court, after looking at the evidence, CO2 follows warming by 200 to 800 years. Is it possible hat the CO2 rise we are seeing is caused by the exit from the Little Ice Age? Considering the buffering capabilities of the ocean 50:1 vs the atmosphere - what are the odds man is doing anything significant?

  • ||

    "Higher temps = more evaporation?
    More evaporation = more water vapor in the atmosphere?
    More water vapor = more clouds?"

    not necessarily, more water vapor means faster precipitation which likely will cancel out any supposed gain in cloud cover, especially over inland areas. And we are losing the ice sheet albedo, not a good tradeoff in terms of climate stability

    "Is it possible hat the CO2 rise we are seeing is caused by the exit from the Little Ice Age? "

    that gain has largely peaked. The Co2 increase we are seeing has isotope properties inconsistent with a natural rise in CO2; but which is perfectly consistent with anthropogenic CO2.

  • ||

    I was really disappointed to read that you are perpetuating the confusion surrounding carbon dioxide and pollutants. Carbon dioxide, the man-made greenhouse gas that people seem to get their knickers in a knot over is NOT a pollutant. It is a necessary component of life, but hey, who's being picky?

    Here in Canada, our federal government has spent $6 billion on greenhouse gas reducing programs and greenhouse gases have increased b 33%. In the UK, the government collects 10 billion British pounds more than it needs each year to cover the UK's carbon footprint.

    The government is using the confusion between global warming and pollution to get the populace on board for higher taxes.

    Shame on you …

  • ||

    "Carbon dioxide, the man-made greenhouse gas that people seem to get their knickers in a knot over is NOT a pollutant. It is a necessary component of life, but hey, who's being picky?"

    A pullutant is whatever we declare it to be. Sound and light in the proper context have been declared pollutants. Co2 is something both our bodies and our powerplants try to get rid of. Ergo it makes sense to declare them pollutants. PLants like CO2 sure...but plants also like shit. Think about it.

  • RALPH||

    TRUE LOVERS OF AUTHENTIC PEACE MUST SEND THEIR CONCERNS ABOUT THIS FARCE TO THE NORWEGIAN EMBASSY!!!

  • Mark Bahner||

    A $20 per metric ton carbon tax will raise coal prices by $10 per ton,"



    A macroeconomic case exists for promoting high volatile and hence high hydrogen content coal as a means of reducing CO2 emission per unit of electrical energy generated , but virtually no coal on the market has a carbon content as low as 50%.

    Best brush up on your geochemistry , Ron.



    Ummmm...let's see:

    1) In 1999, CO2 emissions from coal-fired electrical generation were 1,788 million metric tons.

    2) In 1999 coal use for electricity was about 890 million metric tons.

    3) Therefore, each ton of coal produced about 2.01 tons of CO2.

    4) Therefore, each ton of coal produced about 2.01 x (12/44) = 0.55 tons of carbon emissions.

    5) Raising the price of carbon emissions by $20 per metric ton is equivalent to raising the price of carbon emissions by $22 per English ton.

    6) If each ton of coal produces 0.55 tons of carbon emissions, each $22 in carbon emissions cost will raise the price of coal by $12.

    Hmmmm...Ron wrote that a $20 per metric ton of carbon tax it would increase the price of coal by $10, but I calculate $12. Ron's value looks pretty reasonable to me.

    P.S. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance says that a $10 per ton of carbon tax would raise the price of coal by $6 per ton. So a $20 per metric ton of coal increase would increase the price of coal by $20/1.1 x (6/10) = $11 per ton.

    ISLR calcs

    Again, Ron's estimate of $10 per ton looks pretty good. Perhaps you should brush up on your geochemistry, Russell.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Oops, that should have been:

    So a $20 per metric ton of *carbon* increase would increase the price of coal by $20/1.1 x (6/10) = $11 per ton.



    In any case, Ron's price rise estimate of $10 per ton of coal (for a carbon tax of $20 per metric ton) looks very reasonable.

  • Mark Bahner||

    Oops, one final correction.

    Raising the tax by $20 per metric ton of carbon is equivalent to raising the tax by $18 per English ton (i.e., $20/1.1)...not $22 per English ton.

    So I get a tax increase of $20 per metric ton of carbon creating almost exactly a $10 per English ton increase in the price of coal. Just like Ron wrote.

  • ||

    I may be mistaken, but the "scientists" to whom Gore appeals to make his claims are all funded by the state; i.e. they tell him what he wants them to tell him.
    Oh... and spreading awareness of global warming certainly qualifies him for the peace prize... assuming you're the Swedish socialist giving the award: achieve "peace" by uniting everyone for the protection of the environment by making them its property (that is, the property of the world-wide government).

  • ||

    "I may be mistaken, but the "scientists" to whom Gore appeals to make his claims are all funded by the state; i.e. they tell him what he wants them to tell him."

    Yeah. You are mistaken. Al Gore is not in charge of the funding of all the worlds scientists. George Bush is currently in charge of U.S. science. And your idea does not explain all the basic climate science predictions before Al Gore was ever on the scene; eg. since 1896...predictions which mostly agree with what the IPCC has been saying for the past 20 years.

    I'd say your notion was the product of an irrational hatred of Al Gore. A disease running rampant in this community.

  • Tom Osborne||

    All those who think Gore isn't running for office is wrong. He is not running for president, what he has HIS sights on is to be the First Premier of the United Socialist Nations of the Earth (which is not an elected position, but a dicatorship, of course).

  • TokyoTom||

    Ron, you're in luck - as my PC just crashed and I hadn't save my draft response.

    Basically, a great post, but I've got a few small quibbles.

    1. You were right last year when you said that "In the end, the debate over global warming and its obverse, humanity's energy future, is a moral issue."
    http://www.reason.com/blog/show/113924.html

    2. I share your understanding of the economics and institutional problem and agree that a straightforward explanation of these is important for very many.

    3. However, you forget what evolutionary psychology, Ostrom and Yandle have explained to us so well how our innate moral sense drives and underpins mankind's success as a species through cooperation and overcoming commons issues.
    Ostrom: http://conservationcommons.org/media/document/docu-wyycyz.pdf
    Yandle: http://www.fee.org/publications/the-freeman/article.asp?aid=4064

    Our long history of developed rules and institutions (informal and formal now overlapping) are based on our moral sense and their effectiveness depends in part on our moral investment into accepting their legitimacy - witness our views on murder, theft lying and "not playing by the rules".

    Our moral sense reinforces our judgments about when rules/institutions are not working and the need to develop new ones in response to changing circumstances and new problems. When we see a problem that we think requires change, it is unavoidable that we respond the the status quo, the behavior of people within it and the need for change with a moral sense.

    This is simply a part of our evolutionary endowment. (Of course, other parts of our endowment accentuate our suspicions of outsiders and smooth talkers and help us catch free riders and looters.)

    4. Accordingly, while it's unclear how deliberate Gore is being or whether his talk of "a moral and spiritual challenge" and "lifting the global consciousness" is a productive strategy for some people, I think it is fairly clear that, in order to build consensus for a solution to the climate commons problem and to ensure that any agreed solutions are actually implement, we will need to bring our moral senses to bear.

    In other words, it is RIGHT to worry about climate change, but no meaningful/effective "solution" can be reached unless it is FAIR and the parties involved have sufficient TRUST (backed by information).

    5. You have understated the problem, especially in light of the inertia both in our energy systems and in the climate, the long duration of CO2 and other GHGS, and the rapidity with which the climate is already changing - faster than even this year's IPCC reports: http://www.carbonequity.info/docs/arctic.html

    6. It is surprising that in referring to Nordhaus you have not indicated the ways in which it seems clear that Nordhaus has understated the costs and risks of climate change and the utility of acting sooner rather than later, as noted by Weitzman, Sterner & Persson, Quiggin and others, or that by "revenue. recycling" as noted by McKitrick we can substantially reduce the costs of carbon abatement policies.
    > www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/co2briefing.pdf
    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/Weitzman/papers/JELSternReport.pdf
    www.rff.org/Documents/RFF-DP-07-37.pdf
    http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2006/11/17/stern-on-the-costs-of-climate-change-part-1/
    http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/co2briefing.pdf

    7. You fail to note that while there are real costs to our economies to build climate change institutions, once established in principle any resulting carbon pricing reflects real costs and is not a "cost" to the economy.

    8. Finally, it is a puzzle that you did not note that the most powerful way to call forth the investment and behavior changes that would help us to "find a cheap, low-carbon source of energy" and to limit GHG emissions would be to find ways that would effectively price GHG emissions.

    Regards,

    TT

  • TokyoTom||

    Ron, one further comment on this:

    "One of the keys to solving environmental problems is economic growth and wealth. ... So keep in mind that anything that unduly retards economic growth also retards ultimate environmental clean-up, including global warming."

    Not sure what you're driving at here.

    As far as developing countries go, efforts to address climate change are actually net subsidies (by dampening Western demand for fossil fuels) and are providing incentives and investment for growth.

    And as for Western economies, at last in principle internalizing externalities by enclosing commons (that have provided value which has not been factored into GDP) doesn't retard economic growth, but enables it by forestalling the destruction of resources, permitting greater wealth-generating private transactions and reducing inefficiency.

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