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Libertarians and global warming

June 15th, 2008

I had a set-to with Jonathan Adler of Volokh about DDT recently, so I was pleased to note this piece on free-market environmentalism and climate change, which makes a number of points I’d been thinking about following debates over at the Australian Libertarian blog. Rather than recapitulate Adler’s post, I’ll make a number of points of my own regarding the response of (most, though not all) libertarians to climate change, which I think are in the same spirit:

* First, I’m a bit surprised to find libertarians mostly on the wrong side of this debate. Global climate change is one of the few instances where lots of environmentalists (not all, by any means) are supporting a property-rights based solution (tradeable emissions permits), despite starting from a position (in the leadup to Kyoto) of almost uniform opposition to anything that didn’t rely primarily on direct and detailed regulation. it seems as if the ideological opponents are upset because the government-created nature of the property rights in question will be self-evident, rather than obscured by a century or two of history.

* I’m struck by the reliance of most libertarian critics, such as Indur Goklany, who debates Adler here, on consequentialist benefit-cost arguments in favor of climate inaction. As Adler says, it seems odd to find libertarians saying that it’s OK, for example, to completely wipe out the property of Pacific Island nations, on the basis that there will be a net social benefit for the world as a whole from doing so.

* If emission permit trading is rejected on ideological grounds (I can’t exactly figure out what these are, but I’m not well equipped to arbitrate on ideological disputes among libertarians) it doesn’t seem as if any the other solutions commonly proposed by the FME camp are applicable. Take for example the Coasian favorite of tort action. For a global congestion problem, this would require everyone in the world to sue everyone else, presumably in some newly created world court (Goklany disputes this, saying, in effect “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, a principle that renders any sort of response to pollution impossible)

* This has led lots of libertarians, and others on the right, to write as if the mainstream scientific view on global warming renders libertarianism untenable, or, more succinctly[1] “global warming equals socialism”. If only it were so easy! Even it the scientific evidence weren’t overwhelming, it’s surely a big problem for a political viewpoint if its viability depends upon assumptions about cloud feedbacks. As I’ve said, I don’t think any such concession is necessary. A successful response to global warming is vitally important, but it doesn’t imply (or, I should note, preclude) radical changes to the existing social order.

fn1. This is from a conservative, not a libertarian, but the same sentiment is evident among many libertarians.

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  1. wilful
    June 15th, 2008 at 15:49 | #1

    Of course Libertarians who read this blog will rightly state that there is no official orthodoxy on the matter of climate change from the Great Libertarian Oversight Council. But yeah, it seems beyond odd to me that there is a common view among libertarians to deny the impacts of climate change and to fail propose sensible, workable mitigation measures.

  2. Hermit
    June 15th, 2008 at 17:16 | #2

    I think there are more sub-themes than just libertarian vs conservative. Firstly Stern argued for imposed carbon pricing on the grounds of market failure. Some economic conservatives agree completely, others say the problem is self correcting. Then there is the recent upsurge of global warming denial illustrated by a string of articles in Online Opinion. My pop psychoanalysis is that the deniers are quite moral people who can’t come to grips with the magnitude of the problem and therefore devise convoluted arguments to dismiss it. Then there is arty/leftie stance perhaps exemplified by Peter Garrett. These people seem to have a visceral revulsion to both coal and nuclear energy (not frequent flying mind you) and they see carbon trading as a path to a golden age of renewables. In all the shouting the middle ground struggles to be heard.

  3. John Mashey
    June 15th, 2008 at 17:35 | #3

    The part of this I’ve never understood is that denying a problem in fear of government regulation is often a good way to induce a lot more government regulation later on.

  4. Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer
    June 15th, 2008 at 18:04 | #4

    I think “libertarian” is just a pompous (self-)label for right of centre. Many go strangely quiet on things like drug-taking, abortion etc.

  5. June 15th, 2008 at 18:11 | #5

    Where’s Terje?!

    As a generalisation many on the right support higher consumption taxes in return for lower income taxes, but at the same time oppose so-called ‘green taxes’.

    Well hello? What is a carbon tax if not a consumption tax by another name?

  6. jack strocchi
    June 15th, 2008 at 19:40 | #6

    Pr Q says:

    * This has led lots of libertarians, and others on the right, to write as if the mainstream scientific view on global warming renders libertarianism untenable, or, more succinctly[1] “global warming equals socialism�. If only it were so easy! Even it the scientific evidence weren’t overwhelming, it’s surely a big problem for a political viewpoint if its viability depends upon assumptions about cloud feedbacks.

    As I’ve said, I don’t think any such concession is necessary. A successful response to global warming is vitally important, but it doesn’t imply (or, I should note, preclude) radical changes to the existing social order.

    I think that Pr Q is being a little too sanguine if he thinks that serious ecological conservation is consistent with sociological conservatism, let alone civil liberty. Energy control is a political hot potatoe. Both WWII and large bits of the Cold War were fought to control Eurasian oil fields. And lets no mention the ME.

    A major shift in energy source and consumption patterns will drasticly shift the global balance of power and also cause significant swaps in local status-hierarchies. Well entrenched alpha-males dont go down without some sort of a political fight. And libertarians are nothing if not spokespersons for that Push.

    The libertarian political instinct is also sure, even if philosophicly suspect. Antho Global Warming has been called “the greatest [free] market failure the world has seen”. So its not surprising to see libertarian free marketeers trying to ignore the problem, or hoping that it will somehow disappear through some magical invisible hand.

    But this is only because ideology is a fairly poor guide to political action. Most political action is partisan, in favour of interest groups not ideas.

    And most libertarians are essentially Right wing ie supporters of using high-status groups (frequent flyers, oil industrialists, white male powerful car owners etc) who inevitably flagrant carbon emitters. Such people can reap the benefit of a carbon economy whilst insulating or insuring themselves from the long-term costs.

    Pr Q’s admirable summary of the regulatory-lite emissions trading system shows that there are some catallactic methods of controlling AGW. But they will no way be enough.

    The inconvenient ideological truth is that AGW will require significant reductions in individual liberty, a fact that liberals of all ideological stripes are loathe to admit. AGM will revive the power of centralised institutional authority, starting with the UN-authorised ecological bodies cracking some sort of whip. SOme authoritative body will have to set the over-all rules and targets.

    So far the only serious AGW policy that has made a serious, if unintended, dent in global carbon emissions are high fuel taxes in the USE and the single child quota in the PRC. We will also have to impose straight out bans on some forms of transportation and mechanization. Plus resort to subsidised alternative energy including nuclear fuels.

    Not exactly a poster-program for libertarianism in either its right-wing economic or left-wing cultural forms. Liberals are deluding themselves if they pretend that that Leviathan will not be licking his lips at the prospect of the power to control power.

  7. jack strocchi
    June 15th, 2008 at 19:55 | #7

    Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer Says: June 15th, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    I think “libertarian� is just a pompous (self-)label for right of centre. Many go strangely quiet on things like drug-taking, abortion etc.

    There is some sort of truth in that. Rightwing Libertarians are mostly interested in the accumulation of professional property, not the protection of personal liberty.

    However Milton Friedman, the intellectual god-father of libertarianism, was one of the Public_policy_positions”>foundational theorists of drug liberalisation.

    Barking mad policy of course, which explains why Lord “Dolly” takes it as a serious committment to liberty.

  8. swio
    June 15th, 2008 at 19:57 | #8

    I have been looking for a liberatarian response to global warming from the reasonable libertarians for a while now. It has yet to emerge.

    Libartarian ideology is based, first and foremost, on the idea that government always makes you worse off. Not that markets are superior. It is firstly anti-government and only then pro-market. Libertarians do not hold their beliefs of increased economic efficiency, but because they believe in the evil of government. In that context the lack of support for carbon markets by libertarians is easily explained. Libertarians do not believe that government should enforce property rights. They believe it is up to the individual to enforce property rights. Take copyright as an example. Libertarians don’t believe the government should prosecute people for violating copyright. They believe its the responsibility of the copyright owner (and only them) to seek redress from the copyright violater via the courts.

    Global warming creates a twofold problem for libertarians.
    1) If governments are necessary to fix GW then the end of government is impossible. This makes the ideology of libertarianism untenable since it seeks to eliminate something we can’t live without.
    2) There is nothing particularly unique about the problem of global warming other than its size. If, as seems the case, government is necesarry to fix global warming then there is no fundamental reason why government is not necessary in lots of other areas.

  9. swio
    June 15th, 2008 at 20:05 | #9

    AGW policy that has made a serious, if unintended, dent in global carbon emissions are high fuel taxes in the USE and the single child quota in the PRC.

    I had never seen that pointed out before. Very interesting. Especially in light of Rudd’s commitment to increasing migration. How much extra will Australian per person carbon emissions have to be reduced to compensate for the fact that we will have to share the same reduced amount of carbon emmissions among a larger population?

  10. Paulidan
    June 15th, 2008 at 21:00 | #10

    Debating measures to combat global warming is nonsensical until we have confirmed the CO2 hypothesis by comparing the model predictions to actual data. This is especially important because the first round of climate models failed quite considerably to predict current climate conditions.

    Now this does not mean necessarily that the CO2 hypothesis is false, but it does mean that the consensus can be wrong. The post facto claims of variability just don’t cut it due to the huge record of consensus spokespeople predicting warming for this decade.

    This libertarian wants to see the dice before throwing down the cash.

  11. Ian Gould
    June 15th, 2008 at 21:43 | #11

    I would have thought that at a minimum libertarians would be arguing for zero-rating electricity from non-fossil sources and solar and wind generating equipment for GST purposes.

  12. Steve Hamilton
    June 15th, 2008 at 21:59 | #12

    I think there needs to be some distinction made between Libertarians and Anarcho-Capitalists.

    Anarcho-Capitalists I assume could be internally consistent in opposing any kind of government intervention in relation to climate change. Libertarians on the other hand, as consistent with their ideology, could reasonably support some level of government intervention in this case.

    I think Libertarians are often misunderstood (often due to their own inconsistency, or self-misrepresentation); Libertarianism does not equal no government. Milton Friedman often said that he supported the regulation of vehicle braking systems, but not that of airbags. This sentiment is echoed by the classic Reagan quote; “Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves”.

    I’m broadly of the Libertarian view, and I would generally support government action on climate change. I might support this to a lesser extent than others, and would advocate a limit on government action to the greatest reasonable extent. There are not many areas where a garden-variety Libertarian would support strong government action, but I think if there is any area where the government has a legitimate justification for action, it’s in response to climate change. [And the classic three areas of justified government intervention under the Libertarian philosophy of the judiciary (property rights enforcement), national defence, and other (true) public goods would surely allow for government intervention on climate change.]

    Cheers

  13. gerard
    June 15th, 2008 at 22:09 | #13

    #10, so we’ll sit on our hands for 50 years to see how accurate the models turn out to be before doing anything. or maybe 100?

  14. jack strocchi
    June 15th, 2008 at 22:14 | #14

    Its also “no accident”, as Uncle Joe used to say, that the most fervent ecologic conservationists are the egalitarian statist Greens. Whilst the most fervent economic accumulationists are the libertarian capitalist “Browns”.

    I do not think that either movement has ideological “false consciousness” about their social position. Both realise that the success of either political movement is linked to the failure/success of industrial Alpha-males currently currently in power.

    Obviously the Greens want these Alph-males to go down badly. Whereas the libertarian Browns (eg Ayn Rand) kind of like the thrusting smoke belching, fast car driving types.

    Of course both could be wrong in their political quest. united action in the public interest, in the long run, looking at the big picture, is best for the system and the system manager/owners.

    “We must hang together, gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.”

    Benjamin Franklin

  15. observa
    June 15th, 2008 at 22:20 | #15

    “The inconvenient ideological truth is that AGW will require significant reductions in individual liberty, a fact that liberals of all ideological stripes are loathe to admit. AGM will revive the power of centralised institutional authority, starting with the UN-authorised ecological bodies cracking some sort of whip. SOme authoritative body will have to set the over-all rules and targets.”
    That’s piffle jack, although it is true that believers in the ‘free market’ have never understood that it’s only ‘free’ within the confines of specific jurisdictional, constitutional marketplaces. When they understand that implicitly, then they can begin to grasp that certain current CMs inherited from the science of muddling through are now under serious strain and no amount of well meaning incrementalism can salvage them. Banging on about working families and pricewatchers in the next breath is a case in point. As to the need for some overarching international body to mandate and police more twiddling at the margins to achieve some perceived environmental aims that is facile on 2 counts. Firstly it presumes any international, centralised power body could be the font of all wisdom and secondly that it would have the wherewithal to enforce its conclusions. History is not on the UN and its gaggle of gangsters’ side in both respects. Much better to have a competitive, green Olympics, exemplary approach between the various juridictions, in order to throw up the true verifiable answers. Investing all our eggs in one monolithic basket risks the obvious in that regard. The true choice is between market green policies and those that dispense favour to the plethora of special pleaders and economic rent seekers. Never more in their darkest hour did the serfs need a true knight champion to enforce their sheltering Magna Carta, to protect them from the depradations of their new king and his errant nobles. Who will save them from the depradations of their Toyotas and Prius preferers? ‘Here have fifty millonsMr Watanabe’(you know the same funny money they can’t give the serfs because of all that budget surplus/inflation tradeoff) ‘Err..umm, we’re not quite sure how we’ll spend it’ says dumbo put on the spot, which Toyota execs quickly override with the pat spin. Woops! Back to putting on the wheel nuts on the line for you boyoh.

  16. Ian Gould
    June 15th, 2008 at 23:08 | #16

    “The true choice is between market green policies and those that dispense favour to the plethora of special pleaders and economic rent seekers”

    Given your preference for green taxes of market-based solutions I take it you prefer the latter.

    I look forward to the several thousand words you’ll undoubtedly pen in response.

    I won’t read them but it will keep you out of other mischief for a while.

  17. Chris O’Neill
    June 16th, 2008 at 00:05 | #17

    Paulidan:

    the first round of climate models failed quite considerably to predict current climate conditions

    “Current climate conditions”. That’s a curious concept. The alternative explanation credulists will never accept anything a climate model says until one can forecast the weather for years in advance. Neither will ever happen.

  18. June 16th, 2008 at 00:46 | #18

    PrQ,
    What I am “struck” with is your attempt to make it appear as if libertarianism is a unified body of belief. The simple fact that those that self-identify as social democrats generally cannot agree on a single position on most topics, if not all, makes me surprised that you seem to expect it of any other self-identified political grouping.
    From my own point of view it is hardly surprising that many people have adopted a position dead set against government action on this. The record of government action on the environment (as in many other areas) is not a happy one – often combining faulty planning, poor execution, bad objective setting and atrocious cost control into one fabulous waste of time and wealth.
    The fact that there is opposition on this topic I see as being down to the old fable of Aesop – “The Shepherd’s Boy and the Wolf”.
    Perhaps, though, if you want to see some of the discussion going on, go here.

  19. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2008 at 00:55 | #19

    “The record of government action on the environment (as in many other areas) is not a happy one – often combining faulty planning, poor execution, bad objective setting and atrocious cost control into one fabulous waste of time and wealth.”

    Is the record of private enterprise any better?

    Does the word Minamata ring a bell?

  20. June 16th, 2008 at 01:10 | #20

    Ian,
    Interesting you bring up Minamata. Yes – the primary cause was the release of methyl mercury from a private company. Oh – but yes, it also took 10 years for any real government action. Hardly a compelling case for what I presume was your point. The action was … poor, badly planned, slow and with no thought for how bad it was going to be, resulting in much larger human suffering and expense that if the government action had been swift, well planned and executed correctly.
    Thanks for the help – although I doubt you planned it that way.

  21. June 16th, 2008 at 03:30 | #21

    Not to pretend that I have followed the argument, but surely climate change does imply radical social change, in that the absence of experiential/cultural understanding was a major precondition for the problem.

    Science is both subjective and objective interrelated, otherwise how are the hypotheses that produce paradigm change discovered? Paradigm is another name for culture, and there is a lag between cultural practice, both consciously and unconsciously realized, and the understanding of science. Materialist, objective science cannot come to terms with consciousness.

  22. jquiggin
    June 16th, 2008 at 06:10 | #22

    “What I am “struckâ€? with is your attempt to make it appear as if libertarianism is a unified body of belief.”

    Have you actually read the post AR? It starts with a favorable cite to a libertarian and then notes that “most, not all” libertarians oppose action on global warming.

    It’s rare to find complete agreement in any grouping on any topic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t identify a general trend of thought, as you implicitly concede.

  23. Paulidan
    June 16th, 2008 at 07:10 | #23

    O’Neil, if it will never happen that means that the theoretical prediction will never match empirical data which means that global warming will never have scientific validity.

    The whole point of global warming is that increasing levels of the chemical Carbon Dioxide will drive global mean temperatures upwards. This is an empirical, not a spiritual claim. As an empirical claim it can only claim validity from empirical observation. If it fails observation, we must reject this chemical link.

    wmmbb, science is not a cultural norm but rather a set of procedures and analyses that can be undertaken by any intelligent human being regardless of race, religion, tribe, gender, sexual orientation and so forth. All that scientific analysis requires is the creation of a theory, then a prediction from the theory, and finally an experiment to determine whether the prediction matches observed reality. This procedure can be done regardless of the the cultural background of the scientist.

  24. June 16th, 2008 at 07:51 | #24

    Global warming need not be a partisan issue. Clean air and clean water are basic necessities for everyone, irrespective of politics.

    The environmental community, by and large, is more than willing to work with anyone to achieve solutions. Give us a try!

  25. Paulidan
    June 16th, 2008 at 07:54 | #25

    Clean air and clean water are not related to the chemical question of whether Carbon Dioxide emissions by humans causes increases in the global mean temperature.

  26. James Richardson
    June 16th, 2008 at 08:45 | #26

    Satellite Microwave transmissions, EHF and Higher, are causing Polar Ice cap melting and Global Warming. This is due to radio frequency heating on a global level. See article at http://globalmicrowave.orgfree.com/.
    Thank You
    James Richardson

  27. jquiggin
    June 16th, 2008 at 09:27 | #27

    As regards Paulidan, can I remind everyone not to feed the trolls. If Paulidan is in serious doubt, he can read the IPCC reports.

  28. wizofaus
    June 16th, 2008 at 09:39 | #28

    Depends what you mean by clean. Certainly global warming is expected to have significant impacts on clean water availablility. And while CO2 might not seem to intuitively make air “dirty” (it’s still perfectly breathable), we are still significantly altering the composition of the atmosphere.

    FWIW, the empirical claim that CO2 drives up atmospheric temperatures was validated long ago, and is at any rate basically dictated by the laws of thermodynamics. The only possible point of contention is the feedback effects necessary to magnify this effect sufficiently to cause temperature rises of a degree necessary to trigger damaging side-effects.

  29. Ian Gould
    June 16th, 2008 at 10:45 | #29

    “Oh – but yes, it also took 10 years for any real government action. Hardly a compelling case for what I presume was your point. The action was … poor, badly planned, slow and with no thought for how bad it was going to be, resulting in much larger human suffering and expense that if the government action had been swift, well planned and executed correctly.”

    And what was the private corporate respond Andrew?

    Oh that’s right – they caused the problem and kept pouring out mercury as long as they possibly could.

    Presumably you also believe the police are primarily responsible for serial rapes and murderers for not catching the perpetrators sooner.

  30. Paulidan
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:08 | #30

    Empirically validated by current cooling?

  31. John Mashey
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:11 | #31

    JQ: thanks so much for not immediately deleting #26 as link-spam, as it ranked among the most innumerate of the (anything-but-GHG) sites I’ve seen.

    With a lightning back-of-the-envelope calculation:

    According to UCS ACtive Satellite database, they know of 873 active satellites, for which those whose total power is known average ~3,200W (that’s W, not KW). The biggest was 18,000W.

    To be generous, let us assume there are 1,000 satellites averaging 5,000W. That yields 5MW total, i.e., about 5 big (but not biggest) windmills.

    Suppose they were all orbiting about 6500km from the center of the Earth (i.e., Very Low Earth Orbits :-) ), and all the power was being radiated at the Earth (it isn’t).

    The surface of a 6500km sphere is about 530M sq km (= 4*pi*r^2) which means the incoming energy would be 5MW/(530M km^2), or ~ 1W /km^2, or about a millionth of a Watt/m^2.

    The IPCC AR4 (Figure SPM.2) gives Total net anthropogenic forcing as 1.6 W/m^2 [0.6 to 2.4].

    So, I’m afraid James is only off by a factor of ~million.

    re: #28 wizofus

    Well, actually, see Stanford Prof. Mark Jacobson’s tesimony to Congress on health impacts of CO2. Read page 5 of the oral testimony for the bottom line:
    in some places (CA is one, especially LA), higher local CO2 causes increased mortality, due to side-effects on low-level ozone.

  32. Ken Miles
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:19 | #32

    Empirically validated by current cooling?

    Dude, you’re mistaking noise (or more specifically, internal variation) for cooling.

  33. wilful
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:19 | #33

    Sorry Paulidan, just to make it clear, because I know you will persist, the owner of this website does not engage in debate about the general theory of anthropogenic climate change. He thinks it’s a waste of time, if you’re not convinced by now you never will be, and i thoroughly support his position. (Hopefully) no one will respond to your questions. If you don’t like the rule, you can get a refund at the door.

    Andrew Reynolds, you say

    The record of government action on the environment (as in many other areas) is not a happy one – often combining faulty planning, poor execution, bad objective setting and atrocious cost control into one fabulous waste of time and wealth.

    Well I say that is absolute bollocks. We have a far cleaner environment than only thirty years ago, and that is entirely due to government regulation, education and other action. If we’d relied on the wondrous private sector, there would be tens of thousands more ‘externalities’ dying every year.

  34. observa
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:19 | #34

    “Given your preference for green taxes of market-based solutions I take it you prefer the latter.”

    Ian, I prefer that the prices we all face reflect better the true social cost of those activities and present a level playing field for all the players. To achieve that we need to understand that the various forms of positive and negative taxation(subsidies)intimately impact those prices and hence need to address that process fundamentally and right now. The taxes raised can be used to feed incomes of those necessarily impacted and I have no problem with that, particularly when the economic pie must necessarily be shrinking. Addressing shares as we deal with AGW(or simply peak oil)and biodiversity is a no-brainer for me. I am a total skeptic that handing that precious taxing power to big corpora via cap and trade will address that, or that relying on picking winners at the margins of our inherited CM, will cut it in that regard also. Banging on about working families and pricewatchers and then in the next breath the need for cap and trade tells me that.(I’m a firm believer C&T = tax+corporate welfare) However, I and my patch will do just fine in whatever CM you choose, or simply continue to muddle along with. I just think the less adroit deserve better from their thinkers, movers and shakers to address the challenge, but I could be just another well meaning ditherer too.

  35. Paulidan
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:27 | #35

    The “noise” was just discovered in May by the German researchers. I challenge you to find me one single IPCC source that predicted the current cooling and understood the mechanism behind it.

    Furthermore because we have just discovered this kind of variation we do not know where it is leading. The IPCC models did not include the factors that produced it, so new models including it must be made and contrasted with observed temperatures.

  36. Ken Miles
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:38 | #36

    The “noise� was just discovered in May by the German researchers.

    Citation please.

  37. observa
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:42 | #37

    I guess too Ian, that in the long run I might have to be philosophical that if the less adroit can’t get in on the ground floor with all that certainty, like the Toyotas and hedge funds, etc and to a lesser extent myself, then they’ll ultimately get a slice of the action via ‘their’ Future and Super Funds. After it’s all been suitably sliced and diced of course.

  38. wilful
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:53 | #38

    Ian, I would take Quiggin’s policy to heart.

  39. wilful
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:53 | #39

    Sorry, Ken Miles, not Ian.

  40. wizofaus
    June 16th, 2008 at 12:00 | #40

    Thanks for that link John – although of course if Mr Paulidan disputes that rising CO2 levels cause the global mean temperature increase he can just as well dispute that CO2 causes local changes in ozone levels. In fact I do wonder just how global warming denialists do determine which science to believe in, and which not to.

  41. James Haughton
    June 16th, 2008 at 12:25 | #41

    In an attempt to answer Paulidan’s concerns:
    1) The IPCC models have stood up quite well to the test of time. If anything, they are too conservative. See this freely available article in Science: Rahmstorf et al, “Recent Climate Observations Compared to Projections”
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/1136843
    2) On cooling, you are possibly referring to the paper by Keenlyside discussed on RealClimate here: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/the-global-cooling-bet-part-2/

    That paper makes it clear that the temporary cooling they predict is the result of natural, cycles, in this case something called the meridional overturning circulation in the Atlantic, which IS a factor included in the IPCC models; it’s like a northern hemisphere La Nina. It doesn’t in any way invalidate global warming, the IPCC, etc. IF the cooling trend does occur, it buys us a few years. No more.

  42. Ken Miles
    June 16th, 2008 at 13:01 | #42

    In principle Willful, I agree with JQ’s policy, but… I don’t think that it is a good look to have a bunch of unanswered questions sitting around on a thread providing fuel for conspiracy theories.

    James, I suspect that you’re correct about Paulidan referring to Keenlyside’s 2008 paper. In which case Paulidan should learn about the difference between a prediction and an observation.

  43. June 16th, 2008 at 13:54 | #43

    Ian,
    #29. I was not contrasting public / private in regulatory response, as the private sector does not have (by their very nature) regulatory powers. The Government does. I did not say, or even imply, that the government is responsible for releasing the pollutant. All I said was that the history of government action is not a happy one. Minamata is a good case in point on this. It took decades to do what should have been simple – stop the flow of a known, undoubted deadly chemical and allow the affected people to claim compensation. It took a decade for the flow to stop – and even this was not occasioned by regulatory action but by the company itself. 50 years later and the compensation issue has not been satisfactorially concluded.
    Minamata does not act as a good example of swift, effective government action – which was exactly the point I was making. As I said, thanks for the help.
    .
    wilful,
    Please re-read the above – it may help.

  44. O6
    June 16th, 2008 at 13:57 | #44

    PrQ, if you want to quote John 8:7, please get it right: “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” The usage “let he…” is widespread but not very grammatical. As we are mostly not without sin, your use of the quotation is apposite, of course.

  45. wilful
    June 16th, 2008 at 17:07 | #45

    Yep, read it, it doesn’t help. Private industry has been dragged kicking and screaming to clean up their act over the last 40 years (since around about the invention of EPAs). They have opposed at every turn the actions that governments have taken to fix problems they created.

  46. observa
    June 16th, 2008 at 18:23 | #46

    That’s all a bit simplistic wilful, as if ‘they’(ie industry) are not really ‘us’ but our Govts always are. Particular groups of people locked into particular industries can be overcome by events and time, particularly epidemiological risk. JH is a case in point. Now while they ceased with all asbestos use in the early 80s, ‘our’ govts saw fit to allow asbestos brake shoes in cars until Dec 2002. Clearly they accepted the tradeoffs on our behalf which JH had previously argued to some degree. Should they now instantly ban the use of fossil fuels because of its ‘known’ greater threat to us all now? Think about why not and that’s always the particular industry’s tack too at the time. What’s the moral difference we may well ask?

  47. wizofaus
    June 16th, 2008 at 20:15 | #47

    I’d also suggest that China is a good example of what happens when there’s insufficient government regulation over the environment. China’s equivalent of the EPA has something like 300 employees total – to look after a country with over a billion people, and surely by the greatest number of polluting industries anywhere in the world. The results are not pretty.

    Having said that, I do tend to agree that expecting the government, especially high-level government, to do most of the work in improving treatment of the environment is folly. After all, governments still spend more on projects known to damage the environment (roads, etc.) than they do on projects intended to improve it.

  48. jack strocchi
    June 16th, 2008 at 21:24 | #48

    Pr Q says:

    it doesn’t seem as if any the other solutions commonly proposed by the FME camp are applicable. Take for example the Coasian favorite of tort action. For a global congestion problem, this would require everyone in the world to sue everyone else, presumably in some newly created world court (Goklany disputes this, saying, in effect “let he who is without sin cast the first stone�, a principle that renders any sort of response to pollution impossible)

    This is the part where the libertarian prescript for resolving social conflict achieves its reduction to absurdity. The Right (quite properly sometimes) complains about the over-lawyering of all social risks. But then the libertarian Right has no answer but lawyering when it comes to mitigating risk or redressing faults.

    A society of polluting cross-litigants might be zero-sum gaming in theory. But it would be negative-sum gaming in practice, given the massive deadweight cost of a plague of lawyers.

    The blunt answer to this problem was given by Thomas Hobbes who argued that when the mutual exercise of rights leads to counter-productive fights then civilised man must surrender his individual right to fight to the sovereign Leviathan.

    I daresay that men will also have to largely surrender their right to drive o solo mio if the Stern report is implemented. I cant see the atmosphere surviving with 3 billion cars on the road, no matter how much capping and trading is done. Top Gear, just about my favourite show, already has a kind of premature nostalgia about it.

    Slightly OT, I once questioned Hugh Morgan about WMCs global mining ventures. The subject of sovereign risk came up. He was full of praise for Cuba which took great pains to smooth the path of some industrial investments.

    This raised the ire of a nearby American journalist. But Morgan dismissed him by remarking that he would prefer to invest in Cuba, rather than America since “at least the Cubans dont have the lawyers from hell working overtime their!”.

  49. jack strocchi
    June 16th, 2008 at 21:41 | #49

    Pr Q says:

    * I’m struck by the reliance of most libertarian critics, such as Indur Goklany, who debates Adler here, on consequentialist benefit-cost arguments in favor of climate inaction. As Adler says, it seems odd to find libertarians saying that it’s OK, for example, to completely wipe out the property of Pacific Island nations, on the basis that there will be a net social benefit for the world as a whole from doing so.

    This is not quite fair to the key libertarian theorists. The most eminent amongst them – Friedman, Mises and Hayek – were telelogical utilitarian “calculationist”. They aruged that capitalist property transactions were a means to greater happiness, not an end in themselves.

    Its only the lesser lights of libertarianism – Rothbard and Rand – who were deontological proprietarian contractualist interested in “justice, though the heavens might fall”. As they may, in this case.

    Of course both forms of Rightwing economic libertarianism like to have a polemical bet each way, depending on the politics of the situation. The Right wing libertarians are no better than their Leftwing cultural libertarians counterparts, who are prone to using the same dodge. Sometimes arguing that the excercise of free speech will make useful additions to knowledge and sometimes arguing that it is good in itself. eg the Henson brouha

    Liberalism in the post-modern era (ie libertarianism) has become the rallying cry for shameless ideological harlots. Its proponents will hop into bed with any philosophy so long as it will win the cheap applause of the free and easy.

  50. TerjeP
    June 17th, 2008 at 00:02 | #50

    I suppose I should be pleased that libertarians have rated a mention on a blog such as this. I call myself a libertarian not because I fit any complex unified set of beliefs but simply because I generally think that the government is too large (by most measures) and the merits of cooperation (instead of coersion) are under rated and under mentioned and under considered. Qualifying for the title of libertarian isn’t really any more complex than that in my view. Beliefs about global warming is certainly no barrier to entry as far as I’m concerned. Anybody that believes strongly that global warming is a threat requiring governemnt action should still feel welcome to identify with the libertarian cause.

    Personally I do remain skeptical about global warming. I don’t think I’ve been blinkered by my political views but thats just my subjective assessment of me. I’m skeptical because I think models of complex systems need a better track record at delivering forcasts successfully before they should be taken as proven or even as somewhat certain. I’m mindful of complex mathematical models about economies cast around at previous times that have since proven quite fallable and are now never much mentioned. Of course given the timeframes involved in climate forcasts I accept that it will be a long time before we have well proven climate models (if we ever have such a thing). A models ability to predicts the past is in my view necessary for success but not sufficient.

    Note that I’m not saying that the earth isn’t warming or that it isn’t due to humans I’m just not convinced that such assertions are as knowable as advocates such as John imply. Perhaps my political views and my views about the climate science share a common antecedent state of mind. Then again maybe Johns willingness to accept the viability of complex models and his political views also share a common antecedent state of mind.

    In policy terms I have endorsed a broadening of the fuel tax to cover coal etc on a CO2e emissions basis because I think broadening the fuel tax would be a worth reform in any case and it answers the call to action on global warming made necessary by the politics even if not the science. Some details in comments here:-

    http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=3445&cp=15

    Global climate change is one of the few instances where lots of environmentalists (not all, by any means) are supporting a property-rights based solution (tradeable emissions permits), despite starting from a position (in the leadup to Kyoto) of almost uniform opposition to anything that didn’t rely primarily on direct and detailed regulation.

    Things have moved on since then. I now think a carbon tax has more merit than a trading scheme. However I was at the time very thankful that Kyoto got legs instead of some of the alternatives ideas that were on offer. Sorry if I don’t still go on about it but I did at the time.

    I think “libertarian� is just a pompous (self-)label for right of centre. Many go strangely quiet on things like drug-taking, abortion etc.

    I suppose the following article give me and many other aussie libertarians who offered comment an exemption:-

    http://alsblog.wordpress.com/2008/03/04/heroin/

  51. Chris O’Neill
    June 17th, 2008 at 00:42 | #51

    Paulidan:

    if it

    i.e. weather forecasts for years ahead

    will never happen that means that the theoretical prediction

    of climate

    will never match empirical data

    No, it just means predictions of climate will never forecast weather, just climate. Do you understand the difference between weather and climate? People like Paulidan complain that climate models don’t predict the weather. All they’re doing is setting up a strawman.

  52. Chris O’Neill
    June 17th, 2008 at 00:47 | #52

    Try this (preview didn’t work the first time):

    Paulidan:

    if it

    i.e. weather forecasts for years ahead

    will never happen that means that the theoretical prediction

    of climate

    will never match empirical data

    No, it just means predictions of climate will never forecast weather, just climate. Do you understand the difference between weather and climate? People like Paulidan complain that climate models don’t predict the weather. All they’re doing is setting up a strawman.

  53. John Mashey
    June 17th, 2008 at 01:37 | #53

    re: #50 TerjeP

    See Skeptical Science, Models are Unreliable, #5.

    Unlike many economic models, climate models are constrained by well-established laws of physics. If you automatically distrust complex computer-based physics models, you should avoid modern cars and airplanes since they are all designed with such models.

    In any case, nobody needs computer models to understand that it’s going to get warmer. Basic physics is quite adequate. At least read 18-page IPCC AR4 SPM, which is not very technical, and if you want to learn more, go to START HERE at RealClimate.

    Real skepticism, in the classical sense, requires that a person become educated enough in a problem domain to have a meaningful opinion. It’s not that hard to get educated in the basics, if one reads science-based sources. While an overwhelming consensus among real scientists is no guarantee, it’s usually the best current approximation to reality.

    On this one topic in particular, many libertarians seem to reject/doubt the science, which hints that the underlying reason has nothing to do whatsoever with science.

  54. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    June 17th, 2008 at 07:23 | #54

    If you automatically distrust complex computer-based physics models, you should avoid modern cars and airplanes since they are all designed with such models.

    Cars are road tested. In any case I think models of the human body are a more useful metaphor. With the human body we can road test our models across thousands of case studies. With climate modelling we have no such readily available feedback system.

  55. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    June 17th, 2008 at 07:25 | #55

    p.s. The honey bee is also constrained by the laws of physics however it is only recently that we figured out how the heck they fly.

  56. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    June 17th, 2008 at 07:35 | #56

    Sorry to labour the point but the key ingredent in science is in my view it’s use of feedback. A hypothesis (model) is proposed. The model is tested against known knowledge. However more importantly it is tested against the real world. If the predictions made by the model stand the test of time then and only then the model might be said to be a reliable representation of reality.

    I accept that in the case of climate change given the time frames involved there may be a case for taking action even without a proven model. However I don’t need to give up my skepticism to accept action. And as outlined already I have already advocated support for a broadening of the fuel tax on the basis of CO2e emmissions.

  57. John Mashey
    June 17th, 2008 at 08:54 | #57

    TerjeP:

    a) Have you read the references I mentioned?

    b) What you describe is exactly what they’ve been doing for decades. You seem to assume that they don’t do that, i.e., that they are really stupid fools who are poor scientists?

    Do you get that impression from discussing such issues with them? Who have you talked to who does climate simulations?

    c) Some models either give correct results or not [such as logic simulators in chip design, or protein folding models], and if not, they are useless.

    d) But other models, whether by computers or just math, give approximations. The standard example is Newton versus Einstein. The former is plenty good enough on Earth until you’re doing GPS satellites or particle accelerators.

    Simulations (as of autos, cars, and climate) are like that: they yield approximate results bounded by uncertainty ranges. As new data arrives, as models improve, as computers improve, the models get better, and uncertainty ranges narrow.

    Car designers routinely now do way more crashes via computer than in real life, which wasn’t true 20 years ago. The models are now *good enough* for many design decisions.

    Climate models are already good enough for many decisions. They’ll get better …

    BUT, all this is a red herring anyway. The basic ideas of AGW are just simple physics, much of which has been known for 50-100 years, and then confirmed and refined by increasing data collection. One doesn’t need computer models to know there’s a problem.

    But, the real question, since this thread is about libertarians and global warming, is why *this* topic excites such disbelief amongst libertarians, because it goes beyond normal scientific skepticism.

    Where do your views come from? What journals, books, articles, websites, authors do you cosndier credible?

    Do you attend lectures by climate scientists and ask questions? [That's not possible everywhere, but many metropolitan areas and others at least have a good research university where there are occasional public lectures on the topic. Some offer outreach lectures.]

  58. Ken Miles
    June 17th, 2008 at 09:44 | #58

    Sorry to labour the point but the key ingredent in science is in my view it’s use of feedback. A hypothesis (model) is proposed. The model is tested against known knowledge. However more importantly it is tested against the real world. If the predictions made by the model stand the test of time then and only then the model might be said to be a reliable representation of reality.

    An important point to note is that the AGW theory was proposed, not on the 17th June 2008, but rather a full century earlier.

  59. June 17th, 2008 at 11:07 | #59

    Quiggin:

    1. Europe’s emission trading system has fallen apart. It is commendable that environmentalists are seeking property rights solutions. However, doesn’t the general argument that tariffs are better than subsidies for welfare apply here as well:

    2. RSPAS academics from ANU reckon the Pacific Islanders are better off coming to Australia rather than staying there, even if AGW didn’t exist (because they are better off getting welfare from us here than over there. So your point is moot…I think you’ll have to take up the rest of the argument with them. I am not a person who says that AGW is bunk. I do question your idea that the islands will be wiped out or that they won’t be able to build a levee in 100 years time except for making a highly regressive 1% global GDP sacrifice right now.

    3. It is strange you are proposing a property rights solution while at the same time questioning how we identify costs and benefits. That is the advantage of a tax that is compensated with welfare upping and tax cuts to income and consumption taxes. Tradeable permits can never work as well without prohibitive enforcement and information costs. Like I said, Europe’s broke down because everyone cheated. A global trading system will be less workable than the Doha round of trade negotiations. Note below I have made a simpler proposal paid out of general revenue through costs savings of eliminating industry policy that encourages carbon emissions (which is cheaper than “cheap” carbon taxes). Like I said, please make your own estimates if you think mine are unreliable.

    4. Environmentalism doesn’t necessarily equal socialism. But war doesn’t necessarily equate to a loss of civil liberties and a lot of wasted resources. But typically, both will lead to those poor outcomes.

    As to the comments, I wonder if you guys need me to buy you each a dictionary.

    “wilful Says:
    June 15th, 2008 at 3:49 pm
    Of course Libertarians who read this blog will rightly state that there is no official orthodoxy on the matter of climate change from the Great Libertarian Oversight Council. But yeah, it seems beyond odd to me that there is a common view among libertarians to deny the impacts of climate change and to fail propose sensible, workable mitigation measures.”

    This is obviously well intentioned but you are incorrect. There is nothing wrong with scepticism – warming exists but to say you know you are exactly certain about the degree that humans are warming the globe is premature. Wait for the CLOUD experiments at CERN in 2010. The only problem with workable mitigation schemes is that none has passed a rigorous CBA. Stern’s modelling of the discount rate is utterly flawed. The 100 year elasticity of income? Let me give you a hint. It will be extraordinarily elastic.

    “Lord Sir Alexander “Dolly” Downer Says:
    June 15th, 2008 at 6:04 pm
    I think “libertarianâ€? is just a pompous (self-)label for right of centre. Many go strangely quiet on things like drug-taking, abortion etc.”

    Incorrect, Sir. Simply read the comments on the ALS blog, catallaxy or LDP policy. Don’t you dare call me a conservative again!

    “carbonsink Says:
    June 15th, 2008 at 6:11 pm
    Where’s Terje?!

    As a generalisation many on the right support higher consumption taxes in return for lower income taxes, but at the same time oppose so-called ‘green taxes’.

    Well hello? What is a carbon tax if not a consumption tax by another name?”

    I think you are being wilfully ignorant.

    Here is a proposal for a carbon tax libertarians support:

    http://www.cis.org.au/policy_monographs/pm80.pdf

    I have an even simpler proposal: just plant trees. Given the survival rate of seedlings, commercial planting costs but assuming you don’t need to pay for land, and the average carbon consumed by a tree over it’s lifetime, we would need to spend 500 million and if you need to pay for the land, up to 1.5 billion per year to mitigate. Please revise my figures if you think they are incorrect but I believe I have prices correct. Tree planting has synergies with tackling salinity and erosion and so there would be private and community interests in doing the planting. Also note we have enough arable (even though the trees don’t need it) land for this to work, even for a very long time.

    That would cost up to 1.5 bln per year, but a carbon tax pricing carbon @ $20 per tonne would cost at least $8 bln per year. Tree planting could be funded simply out of savings by eliminating industry policy and subsidies which contribute to carbon emissions. You could even abolish excise tax and still be carbon neutral.

    As long as you can pay for the tree planting by budget savings you can have tax cuts or be revenue neutral. My figures can be out a magnitude of 5.333 times before we are indifferent to “cheap” carbon pricing.

    Interestingly enough, the UN has recently tried to ban hematite (iron) seeding, a potentially cheap solution to AGW and the degradation of marine ecosystems. This also had aquacultural applications. Importantly, the UN has seemed to go against the precautionary principle in doing so, and the amount of seeding that occurs would be dwarfed by natural systems.

    “Ken Miles Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:19 am
    Empirically validated by current cooling?

    Dude, you’re mistaking noise (or more specifically, internal variation) for cooling.”

    does not reconcile with

    “Ken Miles Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:38 am
    The “noise� was just discovered in May by the German researchers.

    Citation please.”

    Ken, you’re good at what you do but you are showing a clear bias here: AGW doesn’t need citations but scepticism does.

    “wilful Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Well I say that is absolute bollocks. We have a far cleaner environment than only thirty years ago, and that is entirely due to government regulation, education and other action. If we’d relied on the wondrous private sector, there would be tens of thousands more ‘externalities’ dying every year.”

    I don’t know why you’d say that. The cleanest rivers are the privately owned ones in the UK. The dirtiest is the Ganges and the worst polluted area in the world was the corner between the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

    Property rights matter. A lack of property rights contributes to deforestation in South America and effectively causes emissions to be a problem where they otherwise may be mitigated by the forests.

    “wilful Says:
    June 16th, 2008 at 5:07 pm
    Yep, read it, it doesn’t help. Private industry has been dragged kicking and screaming to clean up their act over the last 40 years (since around about the invention of EPAs). They have opposed at every turn the actions that governments have taken to fix problems they created.”

    Wilful,

    Are you aware to the extent that the Government has encouraged environmentally damaging policies, vis a vis corporate welfare. Take aluminium smelting for example. It receives (coal fired) electricity subsidies. Not a way to drag industry kicking and screaming to corporate social responsibility, is it?

  60. June 17th, 2008 at 11:34 | #60

    If people read the Goklany paper JQ links to above, they will find that Goklany proposes numerous solutions that bear no resemblance to “inaction”. It’s not inaction to ask for more coherence in climate change policy before jumping into carbon taxes or carbon trading. On the one hand, we have a Department of Climate Change and on the other we have a Department of Industry that shovels billions of dollars in subsidies to fossil fuels.

    If this is the sort of coherence that comes from a Rudd Government dedicated to mitigating climate change, one can only shudder at the incoherence being dreamt up by people like Ross Garnaut. Not only will it be impossible to get rid of bad policy due to special interests capturing the regulators, it will lead to a whole lot of extra bureaucracy when there are small government solutions to climate change – like removing barriers to the development of alternative energies (e.g. nuclear).

  61. Ernestine Gross
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:00 | #61

    “The cleanest rivers are the privately owned ones in the UK. The dirtiest is the Ganges…”

    I didn’t know that privately owned rivers of the size of the Ganges fit into the non-built-up area of the UK.

    I didn’t know that even one Ganges river (including its contributories – can’t cut them off without creating something other than the Ganges)fits into the UK.

    As a sceptic, I would say either all published representations of the geographical realities are wrong, or Mark Hills theory needs refinement, or Mark Hills wants to change the real world to fit his theory. In the case of the latter, how much would that cost?

  62. Hal9000
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:15 | #62

    “Ken, you’re good at what you do but you are showing a clear bias here: AGW doesn’t need citations but scepticism does.”

    Bias, eh? A well-established scientific consensus is challenged by what may be sheer invention – eg “A team of Patagonian researchers conclusively established in September 2006 that the Earth is in fact flat, and supported on the back of a giant toad called Edmund”. I suppose I’d need to cite Copernicus and Keppler’s original papers (in Latin) to remain in the argument on your rules. Or maybe not.

  63. Ken Miles
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:24 | #63

    Ken, you’re good at what you do but you are showing a clear bias here: AGW doesn’t need citations but scepticism does.

    Sorry Mark, but the bias is all in your head. I asked for a citation because I was not aware of any German research published in May which supported the claims that Paulidan was making. As it turns out, I was (probably – Paulidan seems to have taken off so isn’t correcting the record) right – there is no such research. Paulidan simply badly misinterpreted a study which provides absolutely zero support for his claims.

    I would appreciate it if you could find a post of mine which suggests anything close to: “AGW doesn’t need citations but scepticism does”.

  64. jquiggin
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:29 | #64

    Mark, if you’re after citations on AGW, can I suggest the IPCC reports, which have (literally) thousands on all aspects of the problem. If you follow the citation lists of these papers, you’ll have tens of thousands. The problem is to read even a tiny fraction of them, which is why the IPCC reports (only a few thousand pages) are so useful.

    By contrast, I think I can safely claim to have read all the main sceptic papers tha have been published in reputable scientific journals (and quite a few in non-reputable journals). That’s a job that can be completed in a weekend, though in retrospect it would be a wasted weekend.

  65. June 17th, 2008 at 13:30 | #65

    What is your argument? If it is large in size you cannot allocate private property rights to it?

    This is about the worst rationalisation for the common pool problem I have seen. It is almost aplogetic towards the pollution the Ganges sees.

    There is no realtionship between this argument and air pollution. Size is not the same as indivisibility.

  66. Ken Miles
    June 17th, 2008 at 13:41 | #66

    I don’t know why you’d say that. The cleanest rivers are the privately owned ones in the UK. The dirtiest is the Ganges and the worst polluted area in the world was the corner between the USSR, Poland and Czechoslovakia.

    At the risk of showing my bias again, is there a good study which quantitatively examines this while correcting for attributes like proximity to people and industry?

  67. June 17th, 2008 at 13:41 | #67

    Hal9000 – you are being facetious. You are also basically accusing people who question the consensus as being liars. No one ever claimed something as proposterous as you say. I misjudged Ken’s motivation (I do ask for citations out of interest sometimes too).

    John, I never asked for citations this time around. I wish people would stop attacking strawmen. I’ve given people a few links so they can educate themselves.

    If global warming is a problem, we don’t need to do anything too drastic. Libertarians argue that action is justified, a compensatory cut in other taxes and upping welfare is justified too.

    However, the alleged view told by some commentators was a nightmare of their own creation. John Q wants to know what the libertarian policy would be and it is in the CIS paper written by John H.

  68. June 17th, 2008 at 13:49 | #68

    “At the risk of showing my bias again, is there a good study which quantitatively examines this while correcting for attributes like proximity to people and industry?”

    No. Property rights still matter.

    Property rights enforce polluter pays without any extra regulation. That is what a emissions trading scheme tries to do. (But I favour a tax with comepensatory cuts to income and consumption taxes). Like I pointed out as well, the scope for Governments forcing polluters to change their ways is limited by Government industry policy encouraging bad behaviour.

    While the rivers in the UK may be tucked away from industry, the forests of the Amazon are free to be looted because no one has recognised title over them.

  69. Hal9000
    June 17th, 2008 at 14:50 | #69

    “Hal9000 – you are being facetious.” Yeah guv, I dunnit. You got me bang to rights.

    “You are also basically accusing people who question the consensus as being liars.” No I wasn’t. However on climate, as with evolution and smoking, many of them are. When you lie down with dogs, as an unlamented late former Queensland premier used to say, you get up with fleas.

  70. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 14:53 | #70

    “Europe’s emission trading system has fallen apart.”

    No it hasn’t.

    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/1650&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

    Emissions for 2005 where around 5% BELOW the cap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Emission_Trading_Scheme#cite_note-27

  71. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 15:01 | #71

    “Europe’s emission trading system has fallen apart.”

    No it hasn’t.

    Emissions for 2005 were 5% below the cap.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_Emission_Trading_Scheme#Overall_emission_reductions

    New lower caps for 2008-2012 have been adopted.

    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/1650&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

    Repeating nonsense from, far-right propaganda does nothing for your credibility.

  72. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 15:10 | #72

    Test

  73. Ernestine Gross
    June 17th, 2008 at 15:19 | #73

    “There is no realtionship between this argument and air pollution.

    If so, what is the point of writing: “The cleanest rivers are the privately owned ones in the UK. The dirtiest is the Ganges…â€? under the heading ‘global warming’?

    “Size is not the same as indivisibility.”

    True. However, it was not I who choose ‘river’ as the unit of analysis instead of water.

    “This is about the worst rationalisation for the common pool problem I have seen. It is almost aplogetic towards the pollution the Ganges sees.”

    Nothing I wrote has anything to do with “this” in the above sentence.

    “What is your argument?”

    This is exactly the question I asked myself when I read “The cleanest rivers are the privately owned ones in the UK. The dirtiest is the Ganges…â€?

    “If it is large in size you cannot allocate private property rights to it?

    This question is too vague for me to deal with.

  74. June 17th, 2008 at 15:49 | #74

    Hal – I don’t think CERN are liars. Do you?

    http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/Research/CLOUD-en.html

    While I doubt they will disprove Arrhenius, the degree of forcing is what should be examined.

    The point was Ernestine, that along with the toll of industry policy, wilful was wrong to assert that more regulation is what cleaned up the environment.

    It is not the size of the Ganges which makes it polluted. There are no clear property rights. Ditto for deforestation globally.

    Applying property rights to the air is tricky. Not because of the size of the atmosphere, but because of divisibility. Emissions trading attempts to overcome this but an income tax/welfare compensated consumption tax is better due to compliance and rent seeking problems.

  75. James Haughton
    June 17th, 2008 at 16:09 | #75

    Ian Gould has some interesting points about cap & trade versus carbon tax over at deltoid, here: http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/05/open_thread_7.php#comment-911885

    I am tempted to think that his conclusion that carbon taxes favour high polluters over low polluters relative to cap&trade may explain the sudden enthusiasm of the CIS for a carbon tax.

    Mark: the level of atmospheric forcing of CO2 is well understood; the alleged link between cosmic rays and cloud cover has so far not been found by any other researchers other than the Danes who invented it, though since they are serious scientists, it is worth testing of course.

    Something tells me that if we were (for some reason) to put greenhouse mitigation on hold until 2010 as you appear to want, and then that research didn’t support the conclusion you would like it to have, you would then ask us to wait for some new set of experiments, or the next sunspot cycle, or something, in 2015. And so on.

  76. June 17th, 2008 at 16:26 | #76

    “Something tells me that if we were (for some reason) to put greenhouse mitigation on hold until 2010 as you appear to want, and then that research didn’t support the conclusion you would like it to have, you would then ask us to wait for some new set of experiments, or the next sunspot cycle, or something, in 2015. And so on.”

    Don’t put words into my mouth. I don’t need to question the science to question mitigation (nor would I). I question blinkered economic analysis such as the Stern report which discounts the mitigation project lower than inflation.

    If your discount rate is lower than the inflation rate, just what are you discounting? Ask your accountant if you don’t know.

    Don’t worry, mitigation will never happen with cap and trade anyway. If the EU can’t get it to work, how would it work globally?

  77. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 16:52 | #77

    “I question blinkered economic analysis such as the Stern report which discounts the mitigation project lower than inflation.”

    Discount rates are always stated in real after-inflation terms.

    If you aren’t aware of that you probably aren’t the best person to be critiquing the work of one of the world’s leading economists.

  78. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 16:53 | #78

    Oh and despite what you may have heard the EU is “getting it to work”.

  79. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:12 | #79

    It should also be pointed out that there is huge confusion regarding the discount rate used by Stern.

    Stern quotes a “pure time preference” of 0.1%, people including many who should know better equated this with the discount rate.

    If fact, as I eventually established after exchanging e0mails with the person who actually ran the econometrics model used in the Stern Review, the model in question derives the discount rate from a range of factors including income levels and rates of return from factor markets and as a result in long-term modelling runs the discount rate varies over time.

    The published results used in the Stern Review represent the average of around 1,000 modelling runs with initial inputs varying randomly within set ranges and exogenous shocks ot the system added at random intervals.

    As such and because of the iterative nature of the system for calculating the discount rate over time within each run, there is not a single discount rate applied continuously in the Stern Review.

    The average discount rate applied (from memory) was between 3 and 4% per annum.

  80. June 17th, 2008 at 17:13 | #80

    Well actually, I do know how Stern came to those figures, and it is completely unclear as to how his figure of 1.4% (but it appears he actually used 2-3% in his calculations) captures inflation or is a real discount rate. How does the elasticity of income over 100 years caputre inflation? So what, elt’s say if he measured the elasticity of real income? The result does not mean the nominal figure is closer to 4.4-6.4%, where you would use inflation adjusted benefits streams instead.

    Discount rates are not always stated in real terms. Similarly, the risk of a project is not always measured by a risk premia.

    This doesn’t even get to the conceptual issue of not using the market cost of capital.

    The EU system has been cheated on by all 25 participating nations. They issued too many permits. It is an implicit backing of a tariff as opposed to a quota system.

    I am not a Professor of Economics but I do know what I am talking about. BTW Stern said Thatcher’s rationalism would lead to a recession. He was wrong. I wouldn’t have predicted what he did.

  81. Ernestine Gross
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:13 | #81

    I agree that indivisibility of the atmosphere is a problem for ‘property rights’ – but this applies to the eco-system, too (the watershed area of the Ganges is about 1 million square km).

    Yes, ‘cap and trade’ (emissions trading) attempts to ‘overcome this’ (ie respect the notion of private property as much as possible and hope there is something positive coming from the profit motive). This is what I had in mind, Mark, when I said your theory may require refinements.

    “Emissions trading attempts to overcome this but an income tax/welfare compensated consumption tax is better due to compliance and rent seeking problems.”

    Well, the little discussion seems to have been useful after all because the foregoing sentence has narrowed down the issue considerably.

    If I may allow myself a few small points,

    1. Compliance costs may differ a lot between countries due to uneven development of public sector services (natural science and administrative skills and tradition).

    2. If rent seeking is a problem (and I am not saying it is not) then a wealth tax may be appropriate to limit the divergence of the wealth distribution, which seems to me to be a prerequisite for promoting property rights (there is little point in promoting ‘property rights’ if a possible outcome is that the Ganges (watershed area) is owned by 1 person and everybody else starves.)

  82. June 17th, 2008 at 17:21 | #82

    I never said Stern used 0.1%. It was part of his calculation in building a discount rate.

    3-4% for a discount rate is very lean. What are global forecasts for inflation?

    Let’s say that is the real discount rate. It wouldn’t cover the cost of capital.

    This would obviously overestimate the benefits of a mitigation scheme when firms don’t need to pay the cost of capital to change their technology or capital base.

  83. June 17th, 2008 at 17:29 | #83

    Ernestine,

    NSW is almost that size. Property rights are no problem here, where they are applied. People don’t throw their junk over neighbours fences.

    Rent seeking occurs independent of wealth. There are few if any people starving where property rights exist. Nor are their resources being plundered in an unsustainable way.

  84. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:38 | #84

    Again Mark, the models operate in constant dollars. Inflation is calculated because it affects economic behaviour but the 3-4% is the discount rate in constant inflation adjusted dollars.

    So if we assume an average inflation rate also of 3-4% we’re talking about a nominal discount rate of 6-8%.

    Current prime business rates in Australia are around 7-8% based on a very unscientific study I just undertook of Esanda and Macquarie bank deposit rates.

    Inflation is currently around 3%, so the real cost of capital in Australia currently is around 4-5%.

  85. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:42 | #85

    “I am not a Professor of Economics but I do know what I am talking about. BTW Stern said Thatcher’s rationalism would lead to a recession. He was wrong. I wouldn’t have predicted what he did.”

    Well obviously we shoudl only take economic advice from people who’ve never been wrong ever about anything.

    BTW, what’s the source for the Thatcher/Stern claim? My first inclination is to suspect the rather loopy Viscount Monckton (climate skeptic and one-tiem science adviser to Thatcher).

  86. Ian Gould
    June 17th, 2008 at 17:49 | #86

    “The EU system has been cheated on by all 25 participating nations.”

    Not according to the EU.

    http://www.europarl.europa.eu/comparl/envi/pdf/implementation/is20061127.pdf

    The second phase of the EU scheme (which isn;t really an EU scheme since several non-EU states have joined the second phase)has been announced.

    Emissions will be cut by a further 7% over the next five years.

    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/06/1650&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

  87. Ernestine Gross
    June 17th, 2008 at 19:02 | #87

    Mark,

    Well, apparently the conversation has not been successful in narrowing down the issues.

    True, NSW is almost “that sizeâ€? (of the Ganges watershed), about 80%. But it hasn’t got the equivalent of 80% of the Ganges-eco-system. How many ‘private rivers’ are there in NSW? Ask Prof Quiggin about the water allocation problems in the Murray-Darling area and the ‘property rights’ squabbles between the States and property interests.

    True, residents in NSW have ‘some’ property rights but these don’t solve the air and noise pollution problems created by over-flying aircraft in Sydney and elsewhere. The noise pollution penetrates even ‘private real estate’ in a measurable way (vibration of floor boards). In some parts of NSW the private properties are so large (area) that I should think it would be a major effort for people to go to the boundary fence for no other reason than to throw their junk over the fence.

    “Rent seeking occurs independent of wealth”. Please explain (if a person doesn’t own anything, it seems to me seeking rent on {0} is a hopeless endeavour). Rent seeking is a means to accumulate wealth. (Why do you worry about rent seeking?)

    I’d say there are few, if any, people starving in those societies which have a socio-economic system that does not confuse the philosophy underlying economic theoretical models of a ‘market economy’ with ‘capitalism’.

  88. Ernestine Gross
    June 17th, 2008 at 19:49 | #88

    I find the idea of evaluating alternative policy measures to reduce CO2 emissions by means of a net present value calculation quite puzzling.

    Firstly, the ‘project’ is the whole world. I am not sure that even the most self-confident corporate CEO would be prepared to look at the problem that way.

    Second, the use of a discount rate, estimated on financial market rates of returns makes, the analysis dependent on an institutional arrangement (financial markets) that is under great stress, more or less regularly.

    Third, the NPV decision rule is: Choose that project which has the highest non-negative NPV. Who would own the positive NPV?

    The whole approach is back-to-front. In theoretical models of economies that take their philosophical origin in Adam Smith, financial markets are to serve the productive and consumptive activities of humans. Chosing an environmental policy on the basis of the greatest NPV, using financial market rates, makes humanity the servant of financial markets, which ultimately deal with abstract objects, called real numbers.

  89. TerjeP
    June 17th, 2008 at 21:10 | #89

    While the rivers in the UK may be tucked away from industry, the forests of the Amazon are free to be looted because no one has recognised title over them.

    Things may have changed but I actually think it is worse than that. In Brazil the government claims title in most of the Amazon forest. At the forest fringes it provides private land title to those that clear the land. So in essence it is prepared to give clear recognised private title over the forest, but only if the forest is removed first. In other words the government pays people to remove forest cover. This is not dissimilar to the land clearing bounty that used to be paid by Australian governments. It is economicly stupid policy and also econologically destructive.

    http://www.mongabay.com/brazil.html

    A significant amount of deforestation is caused by the subsistence activities of poor farmers who are encouraged to settle on forest lands by government land policies. In Brazil, each squatter acquires the right (known as a usufruct right) to continue using a piece of land by living on a plot of unclaimed public land (no matter how marginal the land) and “using” it for at least one year and a day. After five years the squatter acquires ownership and hence the right to sell the land. Up until at least the mid-1990s this system was worsened by the government policy that allowed each claimant to gain title for an amount of land up to three times the amount of forest cleared.

    The full artile is worth a skim. It also suggests that the tax system favours pasture lands over other forms of land use. Clearly forestry would offer a better ecological dividend than pasture and it seems silly to tilt the tax system in favour of the former.

  90. TerjeP
    June 17th, 2008 at 21:10 | #90

    p.s. I should have said “latter” not “former”.

  91. rog
    June 17th, 2008 at 22:18 | #91

    Stern was one of the 364 economists that wrote to the Times criticising Thatcher’s economic policy.

  92. TerjeP
    June 17th, 2008 at 22:38 | #92

    Was he in favour of the near 90% tax rate on investment income that Thatcher abolished?

  93. wizofaus
    June 17th, 2008 at 22:50 | #93

    The letter was criticising was Thatcher’s plan to *raise* 4 taxes by 2% of GDP during a recession. There was nothing in in about pro-market reform in general.

  94. wilful
    June 17th, 2008 at 23:07 | #94

    Mark Hill, who invented property rights for sulphur emissions in the USA? Who is trying to create workable property rights for carbon emissions? Not big business, that’s for sure.

    I find it quite absurd that you are suggesting that the reason our current environment (in the first world) is so much cleaner and safer these days is because of those nice businesses. It’s a matter of the historical record that very many regulations were heavily opposed at the time.

    It is in the nature of unfettered capitalism to be against change, risk averse and hate innovation. They’re often their own worst enemy. Governments have pressed industries to clean up their acts, which has allowed creativity to be unleashed, creating new opportunities.

    Part of the solution is certainly allocating property rights, however this cannot be the only answer, there are too many public goods that need protecting.

    Examples of where government have failed to adequately regulate (such as in the Ganges) hardly disprove my point. Governments can be corrupted by business, I’m sure you’re aware. It is a failure of governance that means the Ganges is so polluted. These privately owned rivers, tell me how many extractive industries they have on their banks, how many people live in their catchments?

  95. June 18th, 2008 at 07:44 | #95

    What a lot of folks don’t realize is that by simply opening the energy market in the right way, we could vastly reduce power costs and greenhouse pollution at the same time. I’m associated with Recycled Energy Development, which produces power through a highly efficient process called combined heat & power — low emissions, low cost. Only problem is that regulations protect monopoly utilities’ profits. Efficient options — market-based options — have a tough time emerging. Loosen the restrictions, and you’ll see a lot less global warming pollution.

  96. wizofaus
    June 18th, 2008 at 12:33 | #96

    miggs, I think it’s pretty indisputable that governments have controlled, subsidized and heavily supported the fossil fuel industry for a long time. But I’m less willing to accept that were they to simply pull out and take no part in the energy industry that things would automatically move back towards a less fossil-fuel-intensive balance of energy supply quickly enough to achieve the sort of emissions reductions needed. If government played a big role in creating the problem, it has something of a responsibility to help fix it too. Given that the external costs of fossil fuel usage are now far better known, and there are some realistic options to take its place, governments should now be able to enact more sensible policy than they have in the past.

  97. wilful
    June 18th, 2008 at 12:58 | #97

    a simpler way of putting it miggs – you say “regulations protect monopoly utilities’ profits” and that may be true, but equally, regulations break up monopolies. (Good) Governments are more inclined to breaking up monopolies than capitalists are.

  98. TerjeP
    June 18th, 2008 at 14:54 | #98

    When you say capitalists do you mean those people that believe and advocate for capitalism or do you mean people who own a lot of capital? The term is routinely applied to both groups but they are not the same.

  99. John Mashey
    June 18th, 2008 at 14:59 | #99

    re: #95 Miggs
    Yes, CHP is important, and if OZ is like the US, indeed, utility regulations often get in the way of doing the right thing. miggs’ company RED is run by Tom Casten and his son Sean, both of whom are knowledgable and good writers.

    Here’s a recent article, and if you click on Sean’s name, you’ll get more good articles.

    I’d recommend any of their material to people interested in this topic: energy systems are nowhere near as efficient as they could be, even using just easily-applicable current technology.

  100. wilful
    June 18th, 2008 at 16:14 | #100

    Terje, I mean practicing capitalists, those with a lot of capital, that are wont to consipire for their own advantage, and do not for one moment believe in healthy competition. So the latter I would guess. Naively, many capitalists in the former sense appear to think that unfettered capitalism is pro-competition. Which it never has been.

    Don’t get me wrong, well regulated capitalism (what Australia does, mostly well) is about the best system we’ve got for allocating scarce resources, I’m not fundamentally against it, just wary of acolytes who seem to misunderstand or misrepresent the need for steady government to make it work.

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