Carbon Rationing Will Hurt the Poor Worse, Argues Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg

In today's Washington Post, Bjorn Lomborg, who heads up the Danish think tank, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, argues that imposing steep immediate cuts on carbon dioxide emissions in an attempt to slow man-made global warming will cause far more  harm than it will do good. Why? First, the costs of carbon rationing would far outweigh the benefits. And second, such cuts could provoke a damaging "green" trade war. To get a sense of what would be involved in trying to achieve even moderate carbon dioxide reductions, Lomborg looks at the case of Japan:

Japan's commitment in June to cut greenhouse gas levels 8 percent from its 1990 levels by 2020 was scoffed at for being far too little. Yet for Japan -- which has led the world in improving energy efficiency -- to have any hope of reaching its target, it needs to build nine new nuclear power plants and increase their use by one-third, construct more than 1 million new wind-turbines, install solar panels on nearly 3 million homes, double the percentage of new homes that meet rigorous insulation standards, and increase sales of "green" vehicles from 4 percent to 50 percent of its auto purchases.

Japan's new prime minister was roundly lauded this month for promising a much stronger reduction, 25 percent, even though there is no obvious way to deliver on his promise. Expecting Japan, or any other nation, to achieve such far-fetched cuts is simply delusional.

The new international goal, agreed upon by the big economies at the G-8 meeting this summer, aims to keep the increase in the planet's average temperature under 2 degrees Celsius above what it was in pre-industrial times. What would this cost? 

Imagine for a moment that the fantasists win the day and that at the climate conference in Copenhagen in December every nation commits to reductions even larger than Japan's, designed to keep temperature increases under 2 degrees Celsius. The result will be a global price tag of $46 trillion in 2100, to avoid expected climate damage costing just $1.1 trillion, according to climate economist Richard Tol, a contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change whose cost findings were commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center and are to be published by Cambridge University Press next year. That phenomenal cost, calculated by all the main economic models, assumes that politicians across the globe will make the most effective, efficient choices. In the real world, where policies have many other objectives and legislation is easily filled with pork and payoffs, the deal easily gets worse. 

And then there is the looming prospect of a "green" protectionism. Already several European leaders have suggested that countervailing tariffs be imposed on imports from countries that refuse to ration carbon. And there are provisions in the Waxman-Markey climate change bill passed by the House of Representatives in June that would do the same thing. The result?

The struggle to generate international agreement on a carbon deal has created a desire to punish "free riders" who do not sign on to stringent carbon emission reduction targets. But the greater goals seem to be to barricade imports from China and India, to tax companies that outsource, and to go for short-term political benefits, destroying free trade.

This is a massive mistake. Economic models show that the global benefits of even slightly freer trade are in the order of $50 trillion -- 50 times more than we could achieve, in the best of circumstances, with carbon cuts. If trade becomes less free, we could easily lose $50 trillion -- or much more if we really bungle things. Poor nations -- the very countries that will experience the worst of climate damage -- would suffer most.

In other words: In our eagerness to avoid about $1 trillion worth of climate damage, we are being asked to spend at least 50 times as much -- and, if we hinder free trade, we are likely to heap at least an additional $50 trillion loss on the global economy.

Lomborg's bottom line:

To put it bluntly: Despite their good intentions, the activists, lobbyists and politicians making a last-ditch push for hugely expensive carbon-cut promises could easily end up doing hundreds of times more damage to the planet than coal ever could.

Go here to read the whole Lomborg op/ed. See Lomborg's recent reason.tv interview discussing climate change costs and benefits here. And take a look my recent column asking "Is Government Action Worse Than Global Warming?

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  • hamilton||

    Stupid, bitter poor people. If only they and their self-satisfied "supporters" would STFU and let the Good and Proper-Minded Elite save them from themselves. Fools don't know how happy they should be in their third-world antediluvian disease-ridden starvation-besotted garden paradise.

  • ||

    Japan's new prime minister was roundly lauded this month for promising a much stronger reduction, 25 percent, even though there is no obvious way to deliver on his promise. Expecting Japan, or any other nation, to achieve such far-fetched cuts is simply delusional.



    The hilarious part is that his party is reducing the gas tax at the same time. They promised a 25% cut in greenhouse gases while simultaneously promising a gas tax cut for all Japanese.

    Yes, they did consciously model themselves after President Obama. Why do you ask?

  • Euler||

    Anyone else think Bjorn looks like Gordon Ramsey?

  • ||

    This is a massive mistake. Economic models show that the global benefits of even slightly freer trade are in the order of $50 trillion -- 50 times more than we could achieve, in the best of circumstances, with carbon cuts. If trade becomes less free, we could easily lose $50 trillion -- or much more if we really bungle things. Poor nations -- the very countries that will experience the worst of climate damage -- would suffer most.

    Which makes it sure bet that it will get implemented. There's gold in them thar sufferin'!

    Did anyone rush off to their local theater to take in the not-intentionally-ironically-named Greenpeace propaganda piece The Age of Stupid?

    The "preview" had all the subtlety of Homer at the bowling alley with his shotgun.

  • hamilton||

    And of course, Krugman has another piece of brilliance in the Times today to balance out the Lomborg piece. So the Second Law of Thermodynamics as applied to Intelligent Debate still holds: the amount of stupidity in the universe cannot possibly decrease.

  • ELF Member||

    To put it bluntly: Despite their good intentions, the activists, lobbyists and politicians making a last-ditch push for hugely expensive carbon-cut promises could easily end up doing hundreds of times more damage to the planet than coal ever could.



    Only in the eyes of you planet rapers! It would get us back to the glory days! Think of it! Rampant starvation and mass epidemics! Outhouses! Ah...paradise...

  • ||

    Now that people are finally beginning to engage on the economics of all this, keep in mind that all environmental protection is ultimately a luxury good. The wealthier a country is, the more environmental protection it can afford.

    So, actions that have negative economic impacts will also have negative second-order environmental impacts. One question that needs to be answered is, what are the environmental costs of carbon rationing, in the form of reduction of other environmental protections?

  • Neu Mejican||

    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/taleb08/taleb08_index.html

    It seems that the desire to optimize the system rather than building a robust response to the risk is a central flaw in Lomborg's thinking.

  • ||

    While I agree with the idea that we should think about the costs of carbon rationing, I wonder where these numbers are coming from. I don't know how you can accurately estimate either the costs or benefits of such huge changes.

  • ||

    NM: Really? Actually, I believe that Lomborg and others would argue for enhancing resilience (enabling the rapid creation of more technology and more wealth) to handle whatever problems future climate change may throw at humanity. It seems to me that the Talebian "optimizers" are the proponents of carbon rationing.

    Consider briefly that the Stern Report's worst case scenario suggested that global warming by 2100 would reduce wealth by 20 percent below what it would otherwise have been. Reducing the global economic growth rate from 2.5 percent to 2.3 per over the next 90 years, would destroy nearly as much wealth.

    Can you really be so confident that government's will "optimize" carbon rationing policies?

  • ||

    Neu, your misplaced trust in central planners is quite disturbing. Henry Waxman has anything but our best interests at heart. When he tried to interrupt Boenhers speech despite accepted tradition, it became obvious that the bill is a huge pile of big government bullshit.

  • ||

    It seems that the desire to optimize the system rather than building a robust response to the risk is a central flaw in Lomborg's thinking.

    But spending inordinate wealth on reducing the future impact of one single risk is exactly not a robust response to the totality of risk: The opportunity cost of expensive mitigation of global warming is less wealth available to deal with every other risk that may appear in the future.

  • ||

    Adam: For some figures, you might want to take a look at Yale economist William Nordhaus' A Question of Balance. The first chapter is a very accessible layman's summary (see also my column summarizing Nordhaus earlier projections here.)

    For specific information on Dutch economist Richard Tol's projections for the Copenhagen Consensus Center, go here.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron Bailey,

    Yeah. Really. It seems like his crew is hedging their bets against the scale of the AGW's effects on the system. Trying to manage risk based on predictions of its scale, but while we know that there is risk, the scale of the risk is an unknown. Avoiding exposure to that unknown risk is the better approach, particularly when the cost of avoiding that risk is moderate.

  • ||

    NM and others: I just had the great pleasure of re-reading U-Cal Berkeley political scientist Aaron Wildavsky's Searching for Safety. Wildavsky brilliantly shows the manifold failures of risk anticipation policies versus policies that promote resilience. Give yourself an intellectual treat and buy it today.

  • ||

    Avoiding exposure to that unknown risk is the better approach, particularly when the cost of avoiding that risk is moderate.

    But there is a response to a true black swan showing up in climate change: geoengineering.

    Given that insurance policy in the back pocket, spending more on climate change than we expect to lose in 95%+ of possible futures is simply a poor investment.

  • ||

    Avoiding exposure to that unknown risk is the better approach, particularly when the cost of avoiding that risk is moderate.

    Are you seriously arguing that the cost of carbon rationing on any scale that could possibly make a difference is moderate?

  • JB||

    It's all about power and control.

    Greens are nothing but Reds in drag.

  • ||

    I would like to point out that Bjorn Lomborg is a an AGW believer (based on the last interview I saw with him), he just thinks there are better ways to go about "going green."

  • ||

    NM: "cost is moderate" -- I think you're somehow missing the point of Lomborg's op/ed. The magnitude of costs is exactly what is at issue. Lomborg is arguing, persuasively I think, that the costs of carbon rationing are NOT moderate.

    See also my analysis on the Nordhaus/Weitzman debate over how to handle low probability catastrophic risks.

  • Tony||

    I wonder where these numbers are coming from.



    He pulled them from his ass as always.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    Geoengineering is not an insurance policy.
    It is a response of last resort.

    RC Dean. Yeah. Moderate seems like the right term.

    Ron, I'll check it out if I get a chance. Lomborg's argument, however, does not, imho, lead to a set of policies that promote resilience.

  • ||

    Trying to manage risk based on predictions of its scale, but while we know that there is risk, the scale of the risk is an unknown. Avoiding exposure to that unknown risk is the better approach, particularly when the cost of avoiding that risk is moderate.



    But as Ron Bailey shows, the cost is not moderate. The cost is reducing wealth by nearly 20% in the year 2100, a cost near that of one of the Stern Report's worst case scenarios. (The cost has uncertainty too; to the degree that the observed warming is caused by non-anthropogenic sources and is likely to continue, the cost of reducing the human contribution sufficiently to help rises, because we'd have to reduce our emissions even more.)

    Even so, given that your argument would work if there were only one such risk. However, there are many other unknown risks with possible enormous scales-- the risk of an asteroid strike, for example. Spending the cost specifically against global warming prevents us from using that money to defend against other threats. Flexibility is worth something.

  • ||

    NM: And thank goodness that government regulators managed through their brilliant foresight to prevent a financial crisis last year. ;-)

  • ||

    Geoengineering is not an insurance policy.
    It is a response of last resort.


    As is living in the guesthouse when your main house burns down. But if you have the guesthouse, it would be stupid to add an apartment rental rider to your fire insurance.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Ron,

    If we use the analogy from the Black Swan of a "war" it is pointed out that we can predict that a certain set of circumstances are certain to lead to a war within a specific time frame, but can't predict the impact of that war. AGW seems to be similar in that we know that there will be big problems but are not sure whether it will be Korea or WWII or Desert Storm (a war is always bad, it is just impossible to predict how bad).

    The uncertainty on the costs side, btw, includes positive numbers.

  • ||

    Yeah. Moderate seems like the right term.



    Then you agree that the expected cost of global warming is "moderate" as well, and even the high end estimates are "moderate" too? Because they're on the same order of magnitude.

    If you're worried about just the catastrophic risks, you should also be pushing for spending an absolutely enormous money on asteroid strike mitigation right now, above any other budget priority.

  • Tony||

    thank goodness that government regulators managed through their brilliant foresight to prevent a financial crisis last year.



    Such duplicity! Sure, government can be useless--especially when the people in charge spend all their time making sure it is.

  • Neu Mejican||

    John Thacker,

    Indeed, the asteroid strike is certain as well. The primary difference is that it is not a problem of our own creation. That seems to matter, it seems. I fully support a reasonable amount of effort put into asteroid strike safety...primarily because it exists within a very well understood system where precise predictions are much more attainable.

  • Neu Mejican||

    John Thacker,

    Actually, the worst-case scenarios for AGW are pretty serious. They will take 200 years rather than 100, but they are as catastrophic as a asteroid strike.

  • Neu Mejican||

    And please, everyone, stop pretending that the carbon tax is somehow a "at any cost" proposal.

  • ||

    Even were the costs of fighting AGW moderate, we still don't know with any certainty what the impacts will be, if or the degree to which we're causing it, or even whether it is happening at all. I know, I know, I'm a nut. But I'm a nut that reads more on the subject than most if not all of the news types on NPR and the major news sources.

    Your consensus is a myth, and the predictions don't represent past performance. I can't trust models that can't be applied reliably to available data without significant fiddling, or aren't even checked against existing data.

    So tell me again how even moderate cost is acceptable on something that may not be happening, may not have a dramatic impact, and may not be something we can have much affect on?

  • Richard Tol||

    I agree with Lomborg that the stated emission reduction objectives of the European Union do not pass a cost-benefit test. The same holds for many of the proposed targets in the USA. I also agree with Lomborg that trade liberalisation would do more to help the world's poor than climate policy.

    That said, the fears for trade protectionism from climate policy are completely overblown. WTO rules are quite clear on this. Imported products will face the same price of carbon as domestic products. The domestic price of carbon will be kept in check, and the effects on international trade will be minimal.

    At the same time, the price of fossil fuels on the world market will fall with OECD demand. Cheaper energy is good for the poor, or for their government if the retail price of fuel is fixed.

  • Tony||

    aelhues,

    First, accept reality as understood by current science on this subject: it is happening and will have a dramatic impact. Denier rhetoric on this site seems to confirm Krugman's take:

    "rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists."

  • ||

    Tony, I did not deny anything. Put more simply, you do not know as much as you think you know. That goes for the IPCC, and other scientists that deride, or ignore scientists with opposing or mitigating evidence and conclusions. It's not my fault that, despite the variety of evidence, the complexity of the system, and the variety of opinions that one side thinks their nearly perfect, and can't see the forest for the trees. All I ask is that you don't make me and the rest of the reasonably innocent world pay for your arrogance.

  • Tony||

    aulhues,

    By "ignoring" you of course mean not giving affirmative action to. Who are these oppressed scientists? Engineers and veterinarians who sign petitions don't count, and neither do Scandinavian economists.

  • Jonas||

    Okay, now I know Bjorn Lomborg is gay, so it's kind of to be expected that he'd have blinding highlights and wayward tufts of hair, but he really needs to avoid that hairstyle. It's pretty atrocious.

  • ||

    Sorry about the slow response, work and all.

    If you need to be told, you obviously haven't been keeping up on the topic. But just to be accommodating, Richard Lindzen is the first to come to mind. He is ridiculed, not for his background, nor for his methodology, or reasoning, but for his conclusions.

    Here is a related question, Where did a lot of the hyperbole start? With Michael Mann's hockey stick graph. Are you aware that it has come out that he handpicked 10 tree rings to use for much of the later 20th century, and only 5 after 1995? Or that once further research was done after he finally was forced to give up his data sources, the temperature trends dating back to the first century are reasonably flat with the 20 years being cooler than more than half of the years in between? How about the fact that in the past ten years the trend has been a cooling one? Or the fact that the total sea ice levels have shown a slight upward trend?

    You wouldn't know that of course because your information sources only look at the comfortable data. The data that fits the pre-conceived notions.

    Here is the biggest difference, I'm not arguing that I'm right, I'm arguing that we don't know. We don't have enough data, enough understanding of the climate to make accurate models, or the ability to weigh the impact of our actions, to be able to judge with certainty that our actions to correct the perceived problem will have positive impact, or won't cause worse harm. Until we do, I'm not willing to consign the poorest in our world to death, through our direct actions, because we have the need to feel like we're saving the planet.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Tony, I believe I linked you to a list of some 700 climatologists who disagree with the IPCC conclusions just like... last week.

    If you'd care to actually provide some conclusive evidence that you aren't just a fucktard and a partisan hack on this and so many other issues, I'm sure we'd all love to see it - but until then, how about you STFU, mkay?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    And also... everything that aelhues said at 1:25.

  • ||

    Sean,

    You assume that Tony agrees with the IPCC conclusions himself. This is incorrect.

    Tony's claims of catastrophe are consistently far beyond any standing IPCC conclusions. Furthermore, whenever presented with IPCC conclusions that contradict his wild-eyed viewpoint -- the scientific consensus he continually claims he believes in -- Tony disappears.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    That's true Mike... Tony has really taken any possible conclusion made by anyone with this issue and turned it into global catastrophe far beyond even the worst estimates. Good to know he's all about "the science".

  • ||

    Actually, the worst-case scenarios for AGW are pretty serious. They will take 200 years rather than 100, but they are as catastrophic as a asteroid strike.

    The worst-case scenario for an asteroid strike is that not one living thing survives. I doubt that AGW would produce similar results.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You can not legislate human nature.

    People are not going to stop having premarital sex, and people are not going to stop using the energy source that is cheapest or most convenient for them.

    While I agree with the idea that we should think about the costs of carbon rationing, I wonder where these numbers are coming from. I don't know how you can accurately estimate either the costs or benefits of such huge changes.


    There are no benefits.

    At least the abstinence-pushers can correctly point out that if teens who do not have sex will not get pregnant. There is no evidence that reducing emissions will reduce global temperatures.

  • ||

    Most mildly reasonable worst-case scenarios for AGW pertains to destruction of near sea-level property, and further drought and famine in already inflicted areas. To combat this they suggest we make energy more expensive, thus making readily available energy further outside the reach of the worlds poor, consigning them further into the ranks of the hopeless. So instead of maybe allowing climate change to worsen the situation for the third world, we'll make sure their situation gets worse. Good plan guys!

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "So instead of maybe allowing climate change to worsen the situation for the third world, we'll make sure their situation gets worse. Good plan guys!".



    LOL.

  • Neu Mejican||

    RC Dean,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event#Mechanism

    Pretty much the same scale of problem, but, as I said, we have longer to avoid this type of result. The IPCC et al. are talking about nearer term consequences of rising C02.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sean W.,

    Seriously, the "all these experts" line you keep trying to sell is, really, not an argument. If you play tit-for-tat experts on the topic, the AGW crowd wins hands down. Don't get caught up in the word "consensus" as it is, really, a red herring. The broad scientific understanding of the issue (which includes caveats and holes) is very clear and uncontroversial. Whether there is broad consensus on a particular claim requires that the claim be an actual scientific hypothesis. One of those is the claim that human C02 output is a major driver of increasingly warmer climate. Those who want to counter that claim which is broadly and uncontroversially supported by the data need to do more that just say "I don't think so." They need to make actual counter proposals that hold up under scrutiny. So far, they have failed to do that.

  • ||

    First, the costs of carbon rationing would far outweigh the benefits.

    This is basically nothing more than the rehashing of the Broken Window Fallacy, this time looking at the purported "benefits" (i.e. climate control), instead of looking at the rest of the costs.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    Even if there was a consensus on the reason for Global Warming, it would not ipso facto lead to the conclusion that people need to curb their productive endeavors. One does not lead to the other, i.e. a non sequitur.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    Your claim is accurate if you don't take into consideration the question of feedback loops. The reason that AGW is supposed to be such a dire issue is because of feedback. The data, as far as we actually have currently available supports that a certain amount of doubling on CO2 concentration, seems to cause a certain amount of temperature increase. However the models that have been used to apply further doublings of CO2 concentration have included unproven feedback loops, in some cases exceeding a nine times multiplier. In fact if we were to build those models following the data that we have, with a feedback of around a nine-tenths multiplier, the doomsday scenarios almost completely disappear. Additionally, many theorize that there is a CO2 concentration cap as far as it's influence on temperature.

    Even with those concerns regarding predictions and models, and how they don't match current data, we still don't have the knowledge necessary to account for all the variables, not to mention getting their influences accurate.

    Prove the very high levels of feedback, and you have an argument. Short of that, you're just spouting propaganda.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Neu; "Seriously, the "all these experts" line you keep trying to sell"

    I'm NOT trying to sell "all these experts"!

    I'm trying to point out the abject idiocy of claiming (as Tony regularly does) that science is at all about consensus! It's not. It's about hypothesizing and testing nearly infinitely until something really sticks and gets solidified. The 3% of human produced CO2 absolutely does not fit the definition of "sticking". And plenty of people have hypothesized a significant amount of real alternatives. The problem is that a lot of people seeking justification for political control aren't interested in giving those ideas any kind of media play what-so-ever, so people who haven't bothered to check wind up thinking that the consensus is all that matters...

    It's sort of the same way that the health-care debate is framed right now by saying that "no one else is offering any alternatives". Sure we are. You're not fucking listening to them.

  • Neu Mejican||

    aelhues,

    Sure, whatever. We were talking "worst case" of course. I would point out, however, that the economic doom and gloomers are working with even less well validated models of even less well understood processes. They hyperbole that they present needs to be read with equal or greater skepticism.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sean W.,

    It's about hypothesizing and testing nearly infinitely until something really sticks and gets solidified. The 3% of human produced CO2 absolutely does not fit the definition of "sticking". And plenty of people have hypothesized a significant amount of real alternatives. The problem is that a lot of people seeking justification for political control aren't interested in giving those ideas any kind of media play what-so-ever, so people who haven't bothered to check wind up thinking that the consensus is all that matters...



    I don't buy this analysis of the situation at all. I have to get back to work, but I'll respond in more detail later.

  • ||

    Huh? Restricting the availability of current cheap energy, and how that would impact the upward movement of third world economies is not well understood? OK....... /boggle

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "economic doom and gloomers are working with even less well validated models of even less well understood processes."

    Hardly. The majority of economic gloom & doomers are using the Austrian-style deductive techniques from simple well-understood axioms. The same folks, using the same techniques - in short - who predicted and clearly understood the 2008 housing crisis, the 1999-2000 tech bubble, the 80s housing bubble, and on and on back to the beginning of the century.

    The people who are suggesting otherwise are primarily using the same kind of over-hyped mathematical modeling that works so poorly in climate science.

    When some of these guys can actually effectively use their models to predict what really happens, then I'll start giving modeling based on a virtually limitless set of poorly understood variables more credit. In the mean-time, it suffers from the same epistemological problems that central planners face in trying to manage economies.


    Even I can fairly easily predict the results of a wide array of economic policies because I understand the laws of supply & demand and can understand the long-term effects of preventing economic freedom and perpetually making it harder and harder for people to obtain economic prosperity.

  • Tony||

    people are not going to stop using the energy source that is cheapest or most convenient for them.



    People don't have much of a choice in where they get their energy. That aside, if external costs were factored into their "cheap energy" it would no longer be as cheap. What bothers me is that through all the saintly skepticism and pleas that we just don't know enough yet, the conclusion is always the same: don't change anything to such a degree that the petroleum and coal status quo is harmed. Lomborg is a hack--his little surveys always seem to come to the conclusions he already arrived at previously. Which seems to be a similar situation to Reason's reportage on the subject and various commenters' opinions. GW is a false alarm, therefore you're going to believe "experts" who agree with that sentiment and ignore the opinions of the much more numerous experts on the other side. To me, the idea that pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere over a century has little effect requires at least as much of a burden of proof as the alternative. And you know, the theory that it does indeed have global consequences is not a conclusion arrived at by economists with an agenda cherry picking "experts." It happens to be what most relevant scientists believe. That doesn't mean they're right, but it is the context in which you are required to operate.

  • ||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    I would point out, however, that the economic doom and gloomers are working with even less well validated models of even less well understood processes.

    What you point out is a typical tu quoque - it does NOT give any sense of cogency to your argument.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    "don't change anything to such a degree that the petroleum and coal status quo is harmed."

    Where exactly are any of the people on this board doing this or saying this?

    Last I checked the entirety of the libertarian community soundly objects to oil or energy company subsidies, the use of the military to protect private companies' investments abroad and also rejects the cartelization/state-granted monopoly position that utility companies enjoy nationwide.

  • mike||

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event#Mechanism

    Oceanic anoxic events most commonly occurred during periods of very warm climate characterized by high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) and mean surface temperatures probably in excess of 25 °C (77 °F). The Quaternary levels, our current period, are just 13 °C (55 °F) in comparison.

    are scientist in the known universe claiming AGW are going to force temperatures up 12 °C (22°F)???

  • Tony||

    Sean,

    Of course. But while we're on our neverending quest to find libertopia, who is it that benefits from claims that oil and coal need to continue burning (for the poor!)? Funny thing is, the pseudo-scientific skepticism given a megaphone by Reason is passé. Even the oil companies aren't (publicly) supporting this anymore. They've moved on to promises of a hydrogen, algae, and ethanol future (just as long as you let us keep burning fossil fuels while we work really really hard to make those a reality).

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I think we've covered this one before Tony... Energy companies are just companies. They will do essentially anything to market themselves & their products perpetually as the "good guys", whatever the public perceives that to mean. To keep from being pwned by public opinion and thus the potential retraction of their special government favored status, these companies are happy to play the game. The science doesn't have to be settled on anything - only public opinion. Companies are a lot more democratic than you seem to understand, Tony. What customers think of them matters.

    Regardless, as oil extraction methods get more expensive, developing technology to produce alternate forms of energy is also a worth-while economic endeavor. Every method of energy production - and most especially the incredibly efficient ones - need to be available to the world population. If I had my way, and the funds, I'd build nuclear plants all over the world for this purpose... No one is allowed to do that however, so energy will remain more scarce than it should be and thus more expensive - hurting, YES, the world's poor most of all.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    @mike: Tony (not a climate scientist) is predicting that high a temperature increase... Does that count?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Oh... and to actually answer your question of who benefits?

    EVERYONE, you nitwit! The companies who produce the energy benefit from getting something they want in exchange for their products (money) - and ordinary people around the world benefit by being able to use their money to access energy that makes their lives better. This ain't that complex after all. If more energy is produced than currently exists, then the per unit price of that energy goes down as well, which also means that profits per supplier decrease, so even MORE production actually benefits the consumer far more, comparatively, than the companies producing the tech. This is, of course, why such companies enjoy their privileged monopoly status.

  • ||

    I would point out, however, that the economic doom and gloomers are working with even less well validated models of even less well understood processes.

    I don't think this claim is at all supportable.

    First, we know far more about, e.g., GDP figures over the last three centuries than we know about temperature. And we can make very good estimates of such figures for the last three millennia. The inputs of models and the outputs of reality are simply much better known.

    Second, the mathematics of economic theory is much less complex than the mathematics (ahem... modeling) of climate change theory. Exponentials drive values. Deadweight losses and the like provide resistance. There are nonlinearities, to be sure, but they are still much better behaved and more predicable than the nonlinearities of climate change.

    Third, the magnitudes of the effects predicted by economic models and seen in actual history are staggeringly huge compared to the parts per thousand changes being predicted and sought in climate change science. In economics there are real things to measure, real things to predict, and centuries of validation of the two.

    Saying that economics is less well understood than climate science is simply silly.

  • ||

    Re: Tony,

    People don't have much of a choice in where they get their energy. That aside, if external costs were factored into their "cheap energy" it would no longer be as cheap.

    There are two problems with this statement, Tony. First, people do have many options regarding where they obtain their energy - what separates them is their cost, that all.

    Second, the external costs you mentioned depend on subjective valuations that can only be determined after trade, otherwise you would do no better than guess on the supposed costs borne by the use of any of these energies.


    What bothers me is that through all the saintly skepticism and pleas that we just don't know enough yet, the conclusion is always the same: don't change anything to such a degree that the petroleum and coal status quo is harmed.

    Well, Tony, let me posit a situation to you: Let us say a person comes to your town says he know from a very reliable source that frogs may fall from the sky if people do not follow his instructions. He may well be telling the truth, and you might say the rational thing to do IS to follow his instructions.

    Would you say that there is enough facts to do what the person says, or would you reason the facts do not warrant such a change?

    Lomborg is a hack--his little surveys always seem to come to the conclusions he already arrived at previously.

    I have always found that when certain people that present facts or figures that contradict cherished ideas, the person is ipso facto a hack.

    To me, the idea that pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere over a century has little effect requires at least as much of a burden of proof as the alternative.

    And do you require such rigorous standards from those that say that man-made CO2 will burn the Earth? Or have you lowered your standards on that side because it fits your pre-conceived idea about human economic activities?

    It happens to be what most relevant scientists believe. That doesn't mean they're right, but it is the context in which you are required to operate.

    No, it is not the context nor is it the one required to "operate" - even when there is a consensus on a certain issue, the healthy attitude is to always be skeptical especially considering the primitive tools that these scientists use to arrive at their suppositions. Climate science is not as clear cut as other physical sciences, where the synthesis of different elements does not necessarily give you the whole; it is the same with many other complex systems.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Also, the data climate scientists are often using is amazingly badly gathered. Which, you know... Should give you at least a *few* questions about the reliability of anyone claiming model-based conclusions with any certainty at all.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    Well, it depends really upon what you mean. Clearly climate science is based on much more grounded hard science at the roots than economic modeling is. The point has been made before, of course.

    http://www.nature.com/climate/2008/0808/full/climate.2008.76.html

  • ||

    The point has been made before, of course.

    ...by climate scientists.

    Gavin Schmidt is a climate modeller at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, New York. Elisabeth Moyer is an atmospheric scientist in the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago.

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    I don't think proselytizing climate scientists have any clue, intuitive or otherwise, just what the opportunity cost of dealing with their pet problem truly is.

    How can someone look at the difference between the IPCC SRES worlds A1 and B1 and think that B1 is more desirable without some pretty outstanding proof that A1 will lead to disaster? It requires complete blinders as to what the difference in world income of $30,000 per person per year really represents.

  • Neu Mejican||

    More here.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/11/faq-on-climate-models/

    Correct me if I am wrong here, but it seems that economic models are dealing with much more uncertainty than climate models. They have to deal with unpredictable changes in technology, human behavior, group dynamics, and other factors that can't be reliably modeled at all. To say that economics is understood at the level of detail that climate science is, seems, well, to use MikeP's phrase, silly.

    Note that Taleb (in the essay I linked to above) places climate in the 3rd quadrant...not the fourth. Lomborg, however, seems to be working in the fourth quadrant...but maybe I am wrong. It's happened before.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MIkeP | September 28, 2009, 6:44pm | #
    The point has been made before, of course.

    ...by climate scientists.


    Says the economist.

    I, of course, am neither. I do science trying to understand neurobehavioral disorders. I know something about the limits of our knowledge in dealing with complex systems and how they break down. Modeling human behavior is much tougher than modeling physical systems that do not involve intentionality. Economics models aggregate human behavior.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sean W.

    Really? You're going with that? Climate scientists use a wide variety of data sources of various levels of precision. Convergent evidence from these sources is used to calibrate...you don't think the people doing this are aware of this issue? You think they don't take that into account? Really?

  • ||

    Correct me if I am wrong here, but it seems that economic models are dealing with much more uncertainty than climate models.

    I must disagree. The plethora of uncertainties you note in economic modeling are its strength, not its weakness. Simply by the law of large numbers, each of the unknowns has a relatively small impact while the totality of the unknowns is more predictable and quite robust.

    Global warming science, on the other hand, is a very focused single problem. There is a major forcing agent and a huge cavalcade of complex variables in a single system that all depend through complex paths on that forcing agent. That is not a recipe for robustness.

    Economics models aggregate human behavior.

    And for that very reason, individual behaviors and intentions of individual humans have very little effect on the results of economic models. Robust.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Economic models, I should note, Neu - at least the econometric kind - also do a tremendously bad job at providing conclusions that actually bear out in reality.

    Sure, climate models are based in more physics & hard science, but I contend that they still suffer from the same flawed methodology.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Also, I should say, that the basics of human behavior in economics is reasonably well understood... People respond to incentives, people typically try to act in ways that maximize their own perceived self-interest (even if sometimes they are wrong about that), material value judgments are ordinal, subjective & change often over time within individuals... Supply & demand stuff, as I said earlier.

  • Chad||


    Lomborg:

    "First, the costs of carbon rationing would far outweigh the benefits".

    He gets this from Robert Tol, who then publishes (peer reviewed meta analyis)

    http://www.mi.uni-hamburg.de/fileadmin/fnu-files/publication/tol/enpolmargcost.pdf

    where it says things like

    "The mean of estimates is $97/tC, with a standard deviation of $203/tC. Using the author-weights, the mean is $122/tC, with a standard deviation of $320/tC. The explanation of this increase is that some studies (Azar and Sterner, 1996; Tol, 1999) deliberately reproduce the low estimates of Nordhaus (1994) and then argue that his assumptions are biased downwards. The quality-weights result in a mean of $86/tC, with a standard deviation of $249/tC. Clearly, some of the highest estimates are based on faulty methods (e.g., Hohmeyer and Gaertner, 1992). Excluding the studies that were not reviewed,2 the mean is $43/tC, with a standard deviation of $83/tC."

    This proves something I have been saying for a long time....economists' methodology just doesn't work for this problem. The answer literally ranged from $2/tC to over $1600/tC.

    Imagine Henry Ford and Teddy Roosevelt trying to predict the economy of 2000. These calculations are just as ridiculous, and don't even rise to the level of scientific wild-ass guess.


  • Neu Mejican||

    are scientist in the known universe claiming AGW are going to force temperatures up 12 °C (22°F)???

    I have seen the calculations. As I said above, it would take, iirc, about 200 years of unchecked c02 build up at the current rate of growth (or the rate a few years ago, actually).

    No one believes that we would allow things to go unchecked for that long, so no one is predicting that this would happen. But when people talk "worst case" they need to talk "worst case."

    The calculations included the release of the methane that is locked up in the tundra and other factors that get you to the needed temperature.

    Don't have time to track down the article at the moment, but you should be able to find it. I believe SciAmerican also did a news story on the issue.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    For some topics I agree. Much of economics stays in the 3rd quadrant. But risk forecasting, which is what Lomborg is doing, is, it seems, not amenable to this kind of analysis. He is making predictions about RISK and COST that got beyond the models. Climate modelers are modeling a temperature...Lomborg is modeling the societal responses to that temperature...much much tougher. He has no way to know what the response will be.

    Or am I missing something.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Sean W.,

    I think, unless I am reading things wrong, that you and MikeP are on very different ends of this argument, and yet you both think that the economists are going to make the better prediction - for exactly opposite reasons.

    That is pretty interesting...

  • ||

    I would concur that econometrics yields lousy results. The economic modeling I claim robustness in is simple compound growth. It is understood, predictable, and completely supported by empirical history. And the exponential it rides -- by virtue of being an exponential -- dominates all other factors in the long run.

    It is those who argue that something will stop that exponential who have the difficult case to prove: that some superior nonlinearity will derail that inexorable rise in wealth.

  • Michael Ejercitio||

    To me, the idea that pumping so much CO2 into the atmosphere over a century has little effect requires at least as much of a burden of proof as the alternative.


    So what are you doing about it?

    Holding your breath?

    And you know, the theory that it does indeed have global consequences is not a conclusion arrived at by economists with an agenda cherry picking "experts."


    There is an agenda- it is an agenda to cripple Western industrial civilization.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I don't think MikeP and I are contradicting eachother, we are talking about slightly different aspects of things. When I say "modeling" I typically refer to Econometrics as practiced by neoclassical folks & the Keynesians who are ubiquitous in their modern political influence. The models I'm talking about resulted in things like the Obama administration predicting that *without* the so-called stimulus, we'd see a disastrous 8.7% unemployment rate, and that with the stimulus we wouldn't top 7.9% (when of course now we're hovering right around 10% nation-wide according to the official statistics).

    I don't think Mike is talking about econometrics so much as the deductive math that can be used to forecast if-then types of statements about reality. Example: We have 50 years of aggregated data showing clearly that raising minimum wage corresponds to lowered employment rates, and that if we look broadly at human action, we see that the tendencies with small increases in minimum wage often result in reduced work-hours per employee (or other small shifts like increased prices), and large increases result in firing people... Stuff like that can be predicted with a quite accurate degree of consistency. Likewise, monetary policy is another obvious example. Supply & demand laws govern money-supply too, it turns out.

    At any rate, the point, I think is that understanding at least the basic long-term economic consequences of rather greatly inhibiting production of things like energy is relatively easy to do. Whereas understanding what the effects of a fraction of a percentage increase in human-produced CO2 over 10 years will do to the environment (which is exceedingly complex and is responsive to dozens of poorly understood factors) over the next 200 is not that easy.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    I should also say Neu, that there are future considerations that cannot be predicted - a lot of them.

    I can - with some math - say that "reducing energy production by X% will result in a Y increase in the cost per unit of energy in such and such a geographical area, which then allows me to estimate Z negative consequences in growth & prosperity for the inhabitants of that region".

    HOWEVER... I can't rightly say that a government mandate to reduce energy by X% won't be countered by some invention of cold fusion, etc. or some other means of creating new energy in cheap abundance that's acceptable to the rulers. So, -X% will have Z negative effect, but +3X% with the invention of new tech might have an extremely positive effect. That said..... In either case, knowing that we've reduced prosperity overall by legal mandate means that A. we're starting from a worse place than we might otherwise have done, and B. the poorer we are ultimately just makes it harder & harder for people to under-consume and thus have the means to innovate even more.

    I hope all that was clear enough.

  • ||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    Clearly climate science is based on much more grounded hard science at the roots than economic modeling is.

    If that is the case, what is then the economic argument in favor of curbing man-released GW gases if the economic modeling is as suspect as you say? Wouldn't the economic reasoning behind the economic solutions be an example of Begging the Question?

    Or, if you concede that economics do have some sound logical foundation, then why would it be reasonable to believe that only the reasoning that leads to the advocacy for curbing emissions be sounder than the call for prudence?

  • ||

    Also, since the economic models of the expected growth of humanity's wealth are freaking inputs into the models showing climate change, it is pretty tough to take the position that economic models are weak.

    The models that predict economic growth over the next century that those such as Nordhaus and Tol say outpace environmental damage are the same models that say that that very growth will cause our progeny a half-century hence to throw more CO2 into the air.

  • Chad||

    MIkeP | September 28, 2009, 7:53pm | #

    It is those who argue that something will stop that exponential who have the difficult case to prove: that some superior nonlinearity will derail that inexorable rise in wealth.


    There is plenty of evidence that growth will slow, or perhaps even reverse:

    1: It already IS slowing in advanced nations, and has been for some time. It is also slowing in the more advanced developing nations. The trend is for growth to slow over time, not stay constant.

    2: Technological progress is becoming ever more challenging. The experiments leading to the discovery of the electron would have cost about $30,000, including labor (in today's dollars). To discover the Higg's Boson, we are spending north of $10,000,000,000. And there is almost no chance that this discover will be worth even a minute fraction of what the electron was worth. We are spending more and more to learn less and less about less and less.

    3: Resources are gradually becoming less abundant, and will put a pinch on growth. In particularly severe scenarios, it could even reverse growth.

    Any SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess) that is based on our grandchildren being five times richer than us is just plain silly. It sounds to me like people are just looking for an excuse to screw them. "Hey! They will be so rich, whatever we do to them just doesn't matter!"

    Just ask yourself a simple question. What can you do TODAY that would benefit society in 2100?

    Here are some ideas I have had.

    1: Produce high-quality art, novels, music, etc. Our very best will stand the test of time, just like generations before us.

    2: Leave mineral, water, soil and fossil fuel resources in place, for them to use if they need them.

    3: Leave intact biodiversity, ecosystems, parks, and wild places, as well as clean air and water.

    4: Build large scale infrastructure - right of ways, ports, bridges, train lines and stations, roads, etc. These things will probably survive that long with only cosmetic refurbishments.

    5: INFORMATION. This is by far the biggest thing we can leave them. Our science and technology will be the foundation of what they will use.

    6: Our civil society (government, social structure, culture, etc).

    Perhaps there are others, but this is the crux of it.

    Now, does going green enhance or harm these things, compared to staying "brown"? Well, it either has a positive impact or no impact on all of them, and a negative impact on none. Critically, going green early means that we will provide them with more information on how to live without large reserves of fossil fuel, which they will definitely need.

    I see no effect of staying brown that helps people in the distant future at all. Sucking up every last drop of oil and polluting everything in sight so that we can have more McMansions, SUVs, and cheap Chinese crap does not benefit them a wit. But it sure makes the ECONOMY look good, right?

  • Chad||

    MIkeP | September 28, 2009, 7:53pm | #

    It is those who argue that something will stop that exponential who have the difficult case to prove: that some superior nonlinearity will derail that inexorable rise in wealth.


    There is plenty of evidence that growth will slow, or perhaps even reverse:

    1: It already IS slowing in advanced nations, and has been for some time. It is also slowing in the more advanced developing nations. The trend is for growth to slow over time, not stay constant.

    2: Technological progress is becoming ever more challenging. The experiments leading to the discovery of the electron would have cost about $30,000, including labor (in today's dollars). To discover the Higg's Boson, we are spending north of $10,000,000,000. And there is almost no chance that this discover will be worth even a minute fraction of what the electron was worth. We are spending more and more to learn less and less about less and less.

    3: Resources are gradually becoming less abundant, and will put a pinch on growth. In particularly severe scenarios, it could even reverse growth.

    Any SWAG (scientific wild-ass guess) that is based on our grandchildren being five times richer than us is just plain silly. It sounds to me like people are just looking for an excuse to screw them. "Hey! They will be so rich, whatever we do to them just doesn't matter!"

    Just ask yourself a simple question. What can you do TODAY that would benefit society in 2100?

    Here are some ideas I have had.

    1: Produce high-quality art, novels, music, etc. Our very best will stand the test of time, just like generations before us.

    2: Leave mineral, water, soil and fossil fuel resources in place, for them to use if they need them.

    3: Leave intact biodiversity, ecosystems, parks, and wild places, as well as clean air and water.

    4: Build large scale infrastructure - right of ways, ports, bridges, train lines and stations, roads, etc. These things will probably survive that long with only cosmetic refurbishments.

    5: INFORMATION. This is by far the biggest thing we can leave them. Our science and technology will be the foundation of what they will use.

    6: Our civil society (government, social structure, culture, etc).

    Perhaps there are others, but this is the crux of it.

    Now, does going green enhance or harm these things, compared to staying "brown"? Well, it either has a positive impact or no impact on all of them, and a negative impact on none. Critically, going green early means that we will provide them with more information on how to live without large reserves of fossil fuel, which they will definitely need.

    I see no effect of staying brown that helps people in the distant future at all. Sucking up every last drop of oil and polluting everything in sight so that we can have more McMansions, SUVs, and cheap Chinese crap does not benefit them a wit. But it sure makes the ECONOMY look good, right?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Old Mexican,

    The predictions for risk made by the climate science are environmental risk, not economic risk. The economic impact of those risks is much less well understood. The goal is to reduce the environmental risk (known, or at least better known) against the unknown, and perhaps unknowable economic risks of curbing emissions.

    Sean W.,
    Clear as mud.

  • ||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    The predictions for risk made by the climate science are environmental risk, not economic risk.

    Well, the problem is that the solutions are of an economic nature, Neu, so the question I posited still stands.

    The economic impact of those risks is much less well understood.

    I believe that is false, Neu - in fact, you are obfuscating the impact. If you lower people's productive output, you will have less stuff to trade, which translates directly into higher prices for the same goods; from this one can conclude that the cost of living will rise. Exactly HOW much is a question that cannot be answered, but I bet the same type of question regarding the environmental impact will have the same answer - one cannot know.

    The goal is to reduce the environmental risk (known, or at least better known) against the unknown, and perhaps unknowable economic risks of curbing emissions.

    From here I can say you are arguing from ignorance, Neu: the argument being, since we cannot know the economic impact, then the environmental risks are more relevant.

    FYI, arguing from ignorance does not mean you are being ignorant - it is rather a logical fallacy or irrelevancy, where the argument goes that since A cannot be known, then B is true.

  • ||

    just in case anyone else comes back to check this thread...

    Now, does going green enhance or harm these things, compared to staying "brown"? Well, it either has a positive impact or no impact on all of them, and a negative impact on none. Critically, going green early means that we will provide them with more information on how to live without large reserves of fossil fuel, which they will definitely need.

    I see no effect of staying brown that helps people in the distant future at all. Sucking up every last drop of oil and polluting everything in sight so that we can have more McMansions, SUVs, and cheap Chinese crap does not benefit them a wit. But it sure makes the ECONOMY look good, right?


    Forcing the flow of discovery by taking money from the current populations, and borrowing against future wealth will most definitely harm future generations. Coming up with alternative energy sources that are palatable to greens with that money, when there are already proven, and economically competitive alternatives is stupid. Coming up with those alternatives a year or ten earlier than the free market would manage is possibly a benefit, but it comes at a very high public cost.

    As was discussed earlier, companies want to be seen in a positive light. Currently, for energy companies, this can be accomplished if they can market green tech. Private investors fund their research, and reap the rewards, or penalties of their investments. Tax payers have little choice.

    I would never say that pursuing new energy sources is a bad thing, I just want it to be done be investors, where they actually believe in the research, or think that they will gain from the chance.

    My question to Tony and Neu, if you're still around, is do you support building a bunch of new nuclear plants? Current, inexpensive, proven, and doesn't produce any greenhouse gases. I do, not because I think CO2 is going to cause a calamity, but because it is proven, reliable, cheap, not going to run out of fuel anytime soon, and lastly, doesn't produce any questionable emissions.

  • ||

    Bottom line for me is:

    The real proposals to combat the perceived AGW threat are onerous. They transfer power towards central planning, and an international body. I'm generally going to be opposed to more centralization of power in a world where I already think individuals are much less free than they should be. Additionally, I think, based on much reading, and looking at charts, and analyzing data sources, that the predictions about where our climate is going are slightly more reliable than they were in the 70's when they were screaming about the oncoming ice age, or prior predictions of excessive warming or cooling. We've been having these arguments and scares for decades. I really don't see how this one is different, or why I should hand over more of my freedoms to government because of it.

    Left to my own devices, I will be significantly more "green" than most, simply because I value nature highly. I'm a camper/hiker/hunter. I can't stand seeing nature spoiled. Which makes me oppose this silliness even more since the evidence, taken without the spin, seems to me to point to more CO2 = more abundant plant life. That's a result I can get behind.

  • ||

    Re: Aelhues,
    The real proposals to combat the perceived AGW threat are onerous.

    Good posts. I would also say that the cost of these proposals has not been determined with any precision, yet they are being offered as being less costly than the consequences. If what Neu Mejican says is correct, that economic models cannot predict future costs, then whatever sales pitch for these proposals would be based on false or inaccurate (i.e. FALSE) information. So either Neu Mejican is wrong to think that economic science is too primitive or cannot predict future costs, or he would be begging the question when saying the costs of the environmental impact would be greater (for how could he know if he does not trust the economic science?), or he is arguing from ignorance when arguing for lowering the environmental impact for its own sake since the costs cannot be known anyway.

  • ||

    Let us say a person comes to your town says he know from a very reliable source that frogs may fall from the sky if people do not follow his instructions.

    Why is that even something the town should prevent? Sounds like free frogs to me. Break out the butter and fire up the grill.

  • Neu Mejican||

    My question to Tony and Neu, if you're still around, is do you support building a bunch of new nuclear plants? Current, inexpensive, proven, and doesn't produce any greenhouse gases. I do, not because I think CO2 is going to cause a calamity, but because it is proven, reliable, cheap, not going to run out of fuel anytime soon, and lastly, doesn't produce any questionable emissions.

    Depends. There are some newer technologies that make distributed nuclear a pretty good option. The large centralized nuclear power plants of a couple of decades ago, which is what most people mean when they say nuclear, don't really give you much bang for your buck. But the "nuclear battery" model that they are working on in Los Alamos is pretty nifty.

    Old Mexican.
    Either I am doing a piss poor job of communicating or you are doing a piss poor job of comprehension.

    I am saying that Lomborg's claim is based on such poor information that he CAN'T balance the environmental impacts against the costs. Lomborg is the one trying to make unsubstantiated claims about BOTH cost and risk. Climate science can make better predictions about climate effects than economics can make about economic outcomes of those climate effects. Policy makers can only work with what they can work with. Lomborg's stuff is not, it seems, particularly useful.

    These are tough questions. Lomborg is looking for easy answers...and he tend to always come up with the same one, despite some pretty substantial critiques of his assumptions. Now, to his credit, some of those critiques come from within his own group and he publishes dissenting views...not that you hear about those around here.

    So, given that we have identified a negative consequence of our own behavior, it seems that we should do something to avoid or reduce the negative impacts. This should be done using our best estimates of the cost against the risk, but it is not a ECONOMICS vs ECONOMICS balance...it is a HOW MUCH IS SOLVING THIS PROBLEM WORTH? question. A moderate carbon tax seems a reasonable price to me. Opinions may vary. But when you, as Lomborg has done, attempt to frame it as a ECONOMIC COST of AGW (unknown or unknowable)versus ECONOMIC COST of CARBON TAX (potentially knowable) you do not provide useful policy guidance because you are asking the wrong questions...imho.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Wylie,

    I agree. We should figure out a way to keep them frogs a fallin'

  • Neu Mejican||

    I would never say that pursuing new energy sources is a bad thing, I just want it to be done be investors, where they actually believe in the research, or think that they will gain from the chance.

    Which is why a carbon tax is the better option. I would much rather see an attempt to internalize the costs of Co2 so that the market sees that cost and works towards solutions/efficiencies, than to have the government come up with a centralized "solution" to the problem. I also support that tax being revenue neutral and think that it should replace labor taxes...but we've already had that discussion recently.

    I would point out, of course, that lots of the current progress in green energy tech is built upon direct government funded research programs from past decades. Government R & D grants that focus on outcomes rather than methods seem a worthy use of tax dollars as well. But that is another issue.

  • ||

    Climate science can make better predictions about climate effects than economics can make about economic outcomes of those climate effects.

    I'll accept that.

    But you should accept that economics can make better predictions about the economic outcomes of economies than climate science can make predictions about climate effects.

    In short, markets are robust. People are robust. And the wealthier people are, and the more energy they have at their command, the more robust they are.

    Environmental costs still have to beat an exponential to outweigh economic benefits. The only thing going for them on that count is that the exponential happens to be an input to the environmental system.

    But the impacts of that exponential to the environment are sublinear. And in the future as technology improves and fossil fuels become less economical, the effects will only get more sublinear.

  • Neu Mejican||

    MikeP,

    Not sure I accept that economics is generally better at predicting than climate science. Guess we'll just disagree on that one.

    I think Taleb's article is a really good place to start in any discussion of policy. It is important to make policy in the context of knowing what we know and knowing what we don't know. In a context where we can't know the risk, it seems policy should concentrate on responses that are, to borrow your term, robust against the unpredictable. Policy should put in place redundancies in the system that allow for the system to handle unpredicted fluxuations (in either directions). This requires that we avoid thinking of "optimal" solutions and work towards "robust" responses.

  • Neu Mejican||

    But the impacts of that exponential to the environment are sublinear.

    I think you are apples to oranges here...since we don't know the economic impacts of those environmental impacts, I am not sure you have any way to make this claim. Unless I am missing something.

    One other thing to note - so far, the primary error for the IPCC predictions has been that they under-estimate impacts, not that they over-estimate impacts. The process they use, of course, biases them (rightly) towards conservative estimates in the face of uncertainty.

  • Chad||

    My question to Tony and Neu, if you're still around, is do you support building a bunch of new nuclear plants? Current, inexpensive, proven, and doesn't produce any greenhouse gases. I do, not because I think CO2 is going to cause a calamity, but because it is proven, reliable, cheap, not going to run out of fuel anytime soon, and lastly, doesn't produce any questionable emissions./

    I have no problem with nuclear. However, nuclear has already recieved hundreds of billions in subsidies over the years. One would think that it could stand on its own two feet by now, and if it cannot, so be it.

    I think you may want to revisit your "inexpensive" argument. It is only "inexpensive" once fully amortized, where upon it becomes the cheapest electricity on the grid. The problem is that amortizing $15 billion in contruction costs is a real bitch.

  • Chad||

    Neu Mejican | September 29, 2009, 5:25pm | #
    MikeP,

    Not sure I accept that economics is generally better at predicting than climate science. Guess we'll just disagree on that one.


    It is much easier to predict climate, as it operates under well-understood physical principles that do not change. The economy is intimately tied in with human psychology, history, and technology, all of which are changing in unpredictible ways.

    Anyone who thinks he has a clue what the economy of 2100 will look like is a fool. It would be like Teddy Roosevelt predicting Pets.com. It is not even comparable to predicting that if you heat up a big pool of water, some of the water will evaporat. Some denialists around here seem to believe this is not the case, showing how far they will go in order to delude themselves.

  • ||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    I am saying that Lomborg's claim is based on such poor information that he CAN'T balance the environmental impacts against the costs.

    And I think you have not been paying attention to what I have pointed out, Neu: You say Lomborg's claim is based on poor information (purportedly poor economic information), yet the solutions being fling around are of an economic nature, so how can you know if the results will be as expected if you do not trust the economics?


    Lomborg is the one trying to make unsubstantiated claims about BOTH cost and risk.

    I don't think they are unsubstantiated. That's your opinion.

    Climate science can make better predictions about climate effects than economics can make about economic outcomes of those climate effects.

    That's a statement of fact - do you have evidence for this claim? Because unless you can point to successful predictions from the Climate Science camp, then I would conclude you are just being biased.


    Policy makers can only work with what they can work with.

    Unfortunately, that can only be economics, Neu. Climate science is one thing - decisions about ACTION is another entirely, and that requires economics. If you cannot trust the science, then there is no way to know if the decisions in favor of curbing CO2 can accomplish the expected results.


    Lomborg is looking for easy answers.

    That's your opinion.

    [A]nd he tend to always come up with the same one, despite some pretty substantial critiques of his assumptions.

    The substantial critiques are not evidence, Neu. There can be substantial critiques of YOUR assumptions, here, and I would not take them as the only evidence that you are wrong.


    So, given that we have identified a negative consequence of our own behavior, it seems that we should do something to avoid or reduce the negative impacts.

    We haven't done such a thing - again, the negative impact can only be determined within the realm of economics, not climate science. If you do not trust the economic science, then we cannot discuss the negative impacts. "Negative Impact" is a subjective valuation, which means that they depend on the eye that determines them. I may NOT consider the melting of the ice capes as a bad thing, and I may not be right or wrong - it is just how I value them.


    This should be done using our best estimates of the cost against the risk, but it is not a ECONOMICS vs ECONOMICS balance . . . it is a HOW MUCH IS SOLVING THIS PROBLEM WORTH?

    And that is not an economic question?

    A moderate carbon tax seems a reasonable price to me.

    And is not that an economic valuation forwarded by YOU?

    But when you, as Lomborg has done, attempt to frame it as a ECONOMIC COST of AGW (unknown or unknowable)versus ECONOMIC COST of CARBON TAX (potentially knowable) you do not provide useful policy guidance because you are asking the wrong questions...imho.

    You're again arguing from ignorance, Neu. You cannot conclude that since the cost of AGW cannot be known, then the KNOWN approach is valid.

    Sorry, I cannot agree with you. You are obfuscating by creating this myth that AGW cannot be determined in economic costs, in order to give validity to the "let's do something now!" argument. This is a classic Argument from Ignorance. Lomborg has proposed an estimate for AGW to then determine a cost-benefit scenario. You may not agree with the cost per se, but that does not mean ipso facto the cost cannot be estimated or that it should NOT be estimated and thus ignored, to move inexorably towards a "solution."

  • ||

    Re: Neu Mejican,

    It is much easier to predict climate, as it operates under well-understood physical principles that do not change.

    The principles behind certain elements is well understood, but the problem is that there are other variables that are NOT as well understood, and others that cannot be determined because of the sheer size of the system. Climate follows a chaotic pattern, pure and simple. Thinking that the patterns can be analysed and modeled is wishful thinking.

  • ||

    Anyone who thinks he has a clue what the economy of 2100 will look like is a fool.

    The same can be said about anyone that thinks he has a clue as to how the climate will behave in 2100 - equally foolish.

  • Chad||

    Old Mexican | September 29, 2009, 6:01pm | #
    Re: Neu Mejican,

    It is much easier to predict climate, as it operates under well-understood physical principles that do not change.

    The principles behind certain elements is well understood, but the problem is that there are other variables that are NOT as well understood, and others that cannot be determined because of the sheer size of the system. Climate follows a chaotic pattern, pure and simple. Thinking that the patterns can be analysed and modeled is wishful thinking.


    What you are not understanding is the things that we don't understand very well (such as cloud formation) don't seem to have a terribly large impact either way. We have been refining the data for decades but the general answer is the same one we got 120 years ago using first principles. Worse yet, there are far more "We think we understand it, but it could spiral out of control" elements than their are "We think we understand it, but it may save our asses in an unexpected way". Indeed, I think the paper in Science on cloud cover last month pretty much shot down the last "Hail Mary" negative feedback.

    Climate is not "chaotic" on the time scales we are talking about.

  • Chad||

    Old Mexican | September 29, 2009, 5:58pm | #

    Unfortunately, that can only be economics, Neu. Climate science is one thing - decisions about ACTION is another entirely, and that requires economics.


    The problem is that economics, as we practice it, cannot answer this question. Period.

    Telling us the carbon tax should be somewhere betweeen $2 and $1600, with an average estimate of $93 +- 230 is one step short of useless. So is doing cost-benefits when you cant even value half of the things, and come up with conclusions ranging from "It will cost several times what it is worth" to "It will pay itself back several times over".

    This problem requires a different type of thinking.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Old Mexican,

    I don't think they are unsubstantiated. That's your opinion.

    So we disagree. Okay. Your point? WHY do you find his analysis convincing?

    That's a statement of fact - do you have evidence for this claim? Because unless you can point to successful predictions from the Climate Science camp, then I would conclude you are just being biased.

    The successful predictions are easy to find...I don't feel like doing your research for you. I will note, however, that my omission is not evidence of bias. Your conclusion is unfounded.

    Climate science is one thing - decisions about ACTION is another entirely, and that requires economics. If you cannot trust the science, then there is no way to know if the decisions in favor of curbing CO2 can accomplish the expected results.

    This, essentially, restates my main point with some errors. Since the expected results are about temperature and c02 concentrations, economics is not much help. But, reality forces us to deal with situations where we have incomplete or imperfect knowledge all the time. The farce that we can use the type of analysis Lomborg uses to choose with certainty is damaging to policy development.

    That's your opinion.

    Why yes, yes it is. Did you think I was unaware that I was expressing my opinion? Kinda the point of comment threads like this one.

    The substantial critiques are not evidence, Neu. There can be substantial critiques of YOUR assumptions, here, and I would not take them as the only evidence that you are wrong.

    The phrase substantial critiques indicates that they provide evidence for how Lomborg is wrong. They are, by definition, evidence. Likewise, substantial critiques of my assumptions would provide evidence for how I am wrong.

    "Negative Impact" is a subjective valuation, which means that they depend on the eye that determines them. I may NOT consider the melting of the ice capes as a bad thing, and I may not be right or wrong - it is just how I value them.

    Yes. This is a point that is frequently made in freshman philosophy courses. It is so obvious I am not sure why you bothered mentioning it.

    And that is not an economic question?
    ...And is not that an economic valuation forwarded by YOU?


    Yes. However, it is a much different KIND of economic question than Lomborg is asking.

    You're again arguing from ignorance, Neu. You cannot conclude that since the cost of AGW cannot be known, then the KNOWN approach is valid.

    Actually, no, I am not. You don't seem to understand what "arguing from ignorance" means nor what I am saying. I am saying that Lomborg's analysis doesn't add information to the decision making process. Other types of information will need to be used.

    This is a classic Argument from Ignorance.

    Again, no. You don't seem to know what you mean by that phrase.

    Lomborg has proposed an estimate for AGW to then determine a cost-benefit scenario. You may not agree with the cost per se, but that does not mean ipso facto the cost cannot be estimated or that it should NOT be estimated and thus ignored, to move inexorably towards a "solution."


    Indeed, I find Lomborg's cost-benefit analysis unconvincing. Read Taleb's article regarding the possibility of making valid estimations of the economic impacts of AGW. I contend that they live firmly in his fourth quandrant. Maybe I am wrong. But, if I am right, then attempts to estimate them may be impossible in principle. This means that we need to use different kinds of information in our decision making process.

    What you are missing is this. I can place value on avoiding environmental impacts without knowing the economic impacts. The environment has value independent of its utility in the economy. Lomborg's analysis deals entirely with the environment's economic utility to estimate the cost of AGW. It doesn't price the environment's intrinsic value at all.

  • ||

    Since the expected results are about temperature and c02 concentrations, economics is not much help.

    But economics is being used by the IPCC to predict how much CO2 will be emitted! They run through their SRES scenarios -- each predicting how wealthy economies become and how much carbon they burn as a result -- and use those as the very inputs that tell the models how much CO2 is being added to the atmosphere.

    If you don't believe the models that drive the inputs to the climate models, then how in the name of anything can you believe the outputs?

    But, reality forces us to deal with situations where we have incomplete or imperfect knowledge all the time. The farce that we can use the type of analysis Lomborg uses to choose with certainty is damaging to policy development.

    Then you must conclude that climate model conclusions themselves cannot be used for policy development.

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