Home > Environment, Oz Politics > Crunch time for carbon sceptics

Crunch time for carbon sceptics

November 12th, 2011

That’s the title of my piece on the passing of the carbon price/tax legislation, in Thursday’s Fin. It’s over the fold

Crunch time for carbon sceptics

Australia finally has the price on carbon first proposed by John Howard in 2007. Although passage of the Clean Energy Act by the Senate was little more than a formality, it has already changed the terms of debate.

Every day that passes from now on will put the advocates of denial, delusion and delay in a less and less tenable position. While denouncing mainstream science as ‘alarmist’, this group, has long predicted that a carbon price will bring about an economic disaster. As recently as this July, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell predicted a ‘carbon catastrophe’, a prediction echoed by rightwing think tanks and commentators.

But now that the carbon price is in place, these predictions will be put to the test. With less than eight months to go before the policy is implemented, anyone who seriously believed these claims should be predicting an immediate collapse in investment, and acting accordingly. But among the postmodernists who pass for conservative thinkers in Australia today, any such notion of intellectual consistency is obsolete and old-fashioned.

Already, those who once predicted economic disaster are walking those predictions back. Tony Abbott’s website, for example, states that ‘On the Government’s own figures, three million Australian households will be worse off under the carbon tax.’ Since Abbott doesn’t challenge those figures, he presumably accepts the corollary that the other 5 million households will be better off. Abbott has to fall back on the rather desperate claim that ‘while the tax will increase in the future, the compensation won’t’, a claim that does not suggest much confidence in his own electoral prospects.

Meanwhile, the scientific evidence continues to mount up. A striking recent example was the publication of a report by a team led by one of the few serious scientists sceptical of the mainstream view, Richard Muller. With strong support from other self-described ‘sceptics’, Muller and his team undertook a reanalysis of climate data using 1.6 billion measurements from more than 39,000 temperature stations. Somewhat to his surprise, his results were an almost perfect match for those already reported by climate scientists.

The reaction of the ‘sceptics’ was revealing. Without exception, they rushed to denounce Muller. Clearly the term ‘sceptic’ is inappropriate here. These are ‘true disbelievers’, who will never be convinced by evidence of any kind.

Of course, as those who urged a do-nothing stance on Australia never ceased to point out, we are a small country, accounting around 2 per cent of total emissions. Our efforts will make only a modest difference. The big emitters like the US, China and India are far more important.

None of these countries is likely to introduce an explicit carbon price any time soon. That’s unfortunate, since an economy-wide carbon price is a much more cost-effective way of reducing than the direct action to which Tony Abbott is supposedly committed.

Nevertheless, there are some encouraging developments. In October, without much fanfare, China introduced a nationwide feed-in tariff for solar photovoltaic electric power. China has apparently learned the lesson of many other governments, including that of India, which offered high feed-in tariffs on a limited basis, only to see their schemes massively oversubscribed. The tariff has been set at 1 RMB (about 15 cents) per kilowatt hour. If solar PV can be delivered to the grid at that price, the economic cost of transition to a low carbon economy will be far below current estimates.

Meanwhile the US is taking the direct action route. New fuel efficiency standards announced by President Obama in July will require that fuel consumption of new cars is reduced to an average 54.5 miles per gallon (4.3 l/100km) by 2025. And in the next few weeks, the Environmental Protection Authority will announced regulations limiting CO2 emissions from power stations. These measures should ensure that the recent decline in US emissions continues into the future.

As in Australia, a change in government may see these steps reversed. But, also as in Australia, the intellectual collapse of the right is reflected in political confusion. The disarray in the Republican Presidential field reflects the fact that any candidate who is even minimally serious about the issues is unacceptable to the Republican base. Obama now beats all the Republican contenders in ‘match-up’ polls, though he would lose to a ‘generic Republican’ if only one could be found.

If the world had moved a decade ago, we would now be well on the way to stabilising the global climate. There is still time to achieve that goal at moderate economic cost. Australia, at last, has taken its first big step along that path.

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  1. November 12th, 2011 at 08:17 | #1

    Most of those opposed to the Carbon Tax deny that humanity faces grave ecological peril of which global warming is only one aspect.

    My own objection to the Carbon Tax is that it is only a token compared to what is needed if we are to stand any chance of preventing calamity.

    Werner Herzog’s recent film “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” shows that humankind 35,000 years ago was probably as intelligent as we are today. Had they discovered earth’s reserve of fossil fuels back then, they could have consumed it all within only about 400-500 years as humankind seems set to do in this modern era.

    Any serious attempt to make human civilisation truly sustainable would have a goal of perpetuating human civilisation for at least the additional length of time that has elapsed since the times portayed in Herzog’s film.

    Compared to what is needed, Gillard’s Carbon Tax, which is supposed to give the ‘market’ signals to less wastefully burn carbon, and doesn’t even pretend to attempt to reduce industry’s scandalously wasteful consumption of other non-renewable natural resources, is a cruel joke.

  2. hc
    November 12th, 2011 at 08:22 | #2

    Global financial and economic problems are imposing a constraint on addressing global environmental problems. The big environmental externality of climate change is not being as seriously addressed as it should because of fears of a medium term – perhaps decade long- global economic slowdown.

    Some have suggested a restructuring of global secondary energy sources might be an environmentally sensible infrastructure investment that will simultaneously get the global economy moving again. Much the same observation might be made about global water shortages.

  3. November 12th, 2011 at 09:02 | #3

    If Australia had not been imprisoned by the extreme dogma of the globalised “free market”, thanks to Paul Keating, Bob Hawke and their successors, there is a great deal that could be done by sovereign communities (aka “government”) at all levels to fight global warming and other environmental perils without having to resort to methods such as the Carbon Tax that will most likely only end up only harming the poorest in our community.

    Governments which are serious about making Australia sustainable would:

    1. Introduce more comprehensive and more innovative forms of transport (public and private) including: (a) taxi services which could be more affordable and which would allow taxi drivers to be paid decently (which could be done if the taxi license plate scam were abolished); (b) mini-buses which could take many commuters from their doors to work and be driven on a rostered part-time basis by some of the commuters themselves; (c) more conventional bus, train and ferry services

    2. Proper town planning so that most people wouldn’t have to travel long distances in the first place to get to wrk, shops, entertainment and other amenities. If communities were properly planned it should be possible for most people to reach nearly all places they need to go regularly on foot or on a bicycle at worst.

    3. Re-use of beverage and food containers instead of throwing them into the tip or phony recycling schemes for which councils are forced to pay private ‘recyclers’. Why can’t food and beverage manufactures be made to store their products into standardised re-usable containers for which serious deposits in the order of at least $1 each should be payable.

    4. etc., etc.

  4. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2011 at 10:37 | #4

    I agree that it is a hopeful start to get a carbon price even if it is a low one at this point. The fact that it is a pigovian tax is even better. I have made the point before that it is theoretically, empirically and morally nonsensical to have an artificially engineered market mechanism to deal with any negative externality. Nobody wants to buy climate change therefore they were to be forced to buy protection against it via an engineered market mechanism. This would have been nothing more than a protection racket with many loopholes and much scope for gaming the system. A pigovian tax is straightforward and sensible policy.

    The carbon tax is necessary. Additional dirgisme (government direction) policies of the kind suggested by Malthusista are also necessary. The notion that the “magical guiding hand” of the free market can successfully decide everything for us is a nonsense. Market failure, especially in the area of negative externalities in this case, is the first strike against that notion. The anti-democratic nature of leaving everything to the main market players (i.e rich corporates) is the second strike against that notion. The clearly artificial and complex nature of “enabling rules” which attempt to engineer a market method to deal with negative externalities, but can be gamed, is the third strike against that notion.

    Certainly rules are also gamed in the democratic arena. Vested interest groups will always attempt to gain rents and priveleges. However, as Churchill said, democracy is the worst system of government… except for every other system. Any notion of “governing” our society via the market mechanism is absurd, counter-productive and undemocratic because the only thing that votes in the marketplace is money and it votes out of purblind, short term self-interest. That is not the one-vote to one-person method appropriate for national decision making.

  5. BilB
    November 12th, 2011 at 10:42 | #5

    “In October, without much fanfare, China introduced a nationwide feed-in tariff for solar photovoltaic electric power”

    This is extremely good policy for China as it has a huge need to add additional capacity urgently as there is nationwide rationing of electricity. Solar in this case is offsetting the construction of new coal plants rather than preparing to shut down existing.

  6. Hermit
    November 12th, 2011 at 12:27 | #6

    The generous freebies and exemptions weaken the impact and moral authority of the carbon tax. Thus we have households paying more for electricity, you’d think a handicap to the coal industry, yet the coal export industry is going gangbusters. Somebody else gets to burn the carbon for us. Allegedly trade vulnerable industries go on what looks like permanent welfare. I suggest the better approach is carbon tariffs that increase the price of steel, aluminium and fabricated goods from China and India. After all a lot of the embodied carbon comes from our coal and gas.

    Despite Garnaut and the Productivity Commission saying assistance to renewables begins and ends with carbon tax those industries get continued help through Renewable Energy Certificates and State feed-in tariffs. However the bombshell comes in 2015 when we move to a CO2 cap. If we haven’t saved 160 Mt of CO2, a virtual impossibility barring recession, then we are to buy foreign carbon credits. Thus when some of our hospital emergency patients sleep on stretchers billions will be spent on saving orangutan habitat. We might wonder why this is not the responsibility of others and whether saving it makes any difference to global CO2.

    While I agree with carbon pricing I think the giveaways and inconsistencies should be removed. I think it will disappoint but hopefully set the scene for real changes.

  7. Sam
    November 12th, 2011 at 12:44 | #7

    It’s a great move in my opinion. Now if we can only get the government to include population offsets as part of the scheme, we’ll be well on our way to fixing the problem at minimal cost.

  8. TerjeP
    November 12th, 2011 at 13:36 | #8

    I think the Green subsidies like MRET and solar rebates are far worse than the carbon tax in terms of economic waste and inefficiency. I don’t think a carbon tax will cause economic catastrophe (at least no more than a straw might break a camels back) however nor do I think it is worth the harm it will do. The difference in temperature that it will deliver is not worth the cost in wage reduction it delivers. Both are marginal but the temperature difference is so marginal as to be next to zero. It is a pointless symbolic policy and a wasted political opportunity for tax reform.

  9. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2011 at 14:04 | #9


    Hermit is right that many concessions do weaken the usefulness of the carbon tax. However, having at least a low carbon tax on the books is a first step, a baby step. Possibly, it is too little, too late but we still have to make the attempt. When climate change begins to bite and the deniers lose all credibility, we will at least be positioned to move from a token carbon tax to one with real impact.

    China has much to lose from climate change. Seaboard damage from rising sea levels and widespread desertification with attendent water and food shortages are the main risks. China will be forced to take it seriously. Therefore the argument that China won’t do anything about it won’t wash.

    What TerjeP and his cohort don’t understand is that if we wreck the climate (disturb the holocene benignity of climate which we currently have) then we will have no economy at all. Most of the political and financial right-wing have absolutely no conception that an economy exists within the environment and is 100% dependent on the environment. This lack of understanding comes from their general ignorance of the sciences, particularly physics, chemistry, biology and ecology.

  10. Tom
    November 12th, 2011 at 14:42 | #10


    China’s main problem with climate change tax is their dependance on “imported manufacturing plants” that is used to support the majority of their population. If they do implement a radical reform that cost too much for the foreign firms to move their plants to other country it would cause huge impact on their own economy. I knew about their carbon scheme as I was back GuangZhou visiting relatives; to say the truth ANYONE that have been to GuangZhou, Shanghai, Beijing or HongKong will know what environmental pollution really means. At least 1-2 out of 10 people walking on the street of GuangZhou wears a mask (some people refuse to wear one because it looks ridiculous, but they are well aware of the damage of poor air quality to their lungs), non-smokers gets lung cancer because their lung is literally black, more and more young people getting asthma, stars don’t exist in the night sky and I only have seen 1 week worth of sun in my 3 months in GuangZhou (no, it’s not rainny).

    What’s worse? A lot of industrialised countries include US and Australia are pointing fingers at China and India when we benefit so much from their low labour cost that gave our big firms competitive price in the international market. They are wanting to do something about climate change but they just can’t because too much of the economy relies on jobs that isn’t domestic created but are free to move; that’s why the China suppress their wage to make up productivity via the amount of labour instead of good capitals such as high tech machines.

  11. Hermit
    November 12th, 2011 at 15:10 | #11

    If I was Gillard I’d invite our biggest coal and LNG export customers to pay carbon tax on a voluntary basis as a gesture of support. Being revenue neutral the host country could ask for a refund for domestic green programs. If it goes on presidential palaces at least we tried.

    If some time later that country that declined to pay carbon tax on coal were to ask to buy uranium yellowcake I’d tell them ‘you must eat your greens before you can have cake’.

  12. TerjeP
    November 12th, 2011 at 15:59 | #12

    What TerjeP and his cohort don’t understand is that if we wreck the climate (disturb the holocene benignity of climate which we currently have) then we will have no economy at all.

    That much is obvious. What you don’t understand is that the carbon tax will make no difference either way. It is a gesture, nothing more.

  13. Sam
    November 12th, 2011 at 16:27 | #13

    From what you’ve said previously, I don’t think you are actually against the tax. You just don’t like what the revenue is spent on. If 100% of the extra money collected was spent on reducing other taxes, you’d be for it. Am I right?

  14. November 12th, 2011 at 16:32 | #14

    Your claim TergeP is equivalent to the views that (1) the price elasticity of demand for fuels (especially electricity) is zero and that (2) power stations have zero elasticities of substitution between inputs. I think the evidence contradicts both of these views.

    The elasticity of demand for fuels such as electricity is not that high but it certainly significantly negative. Power stations in Australia are already calibrating the possibilities of switching to natural gas – the move is a big lumpy investment and will take some time. Many firms I interact with are already preparing for a less energy intensive future and that move will be sustained I think even in the face of opposition to carbon charging.

  15. Freelander
    November 12th, 2011 at 17:33 | #15

    Government should massively increase taxation and use the revenue to finance a quick switch to CO2 zero energy sources and otherwise, during the interim, subsidize goods, services and activities that have a lower per dollar energy component in their production.

  16. Freelander
    November 12th, 2011 at 17:33 | #16

    Meant Governments.

  17. Ikonoclast
    November 12th, 2011 at 19:03 | #17


    Ok TerjeP, I’ll bite. I have two questions for you.

    1. In your view are current and projected CO2 emissions likely to damage the climate?

    2. If your answer to (1) is yes, what policy and actions would you advocate?

  18. TerjeP
    November 12th, 2011 at 22:04 | #18


    1. Damage is a loaded word. If you used the word “change” I would say yes we are likely to change the climate. Will this harm biological diversity and systems humans depend on? Over the next century I would say yes to the former and a little to the latter.

    2. I think the major policy response should be to maximize economic growth, minimise harm through prudent adaptation and remove unreasonable barriers to zero emission technologies such as nuclear power.

  19. TerjeP
    November 12th, 2011 at 22:08 | #19

    Sam :
    From what you’ve said previously, I don’t think you are actually against the tax. You just don’t like what the revenue is spent on. If 100% of the extra money collected was spent on reducing other taxes, you’d be for it. Am I right?

    Close but not quite correct. We should be reducing taxes like income tax and payroll tax and company tax. We should be doing this through spending cuts not new taxes. However if you did it using revenue from a carbon tax instead of through spending cuts it would still be a positive reform because a carbon tax is likely to have fewer dead weight costs and fewer negative social implications.

  20. TerjeP
    November 12th, 2011 at 22:15 | #20


    No it isn’t. I don’t deny that a carbon tax will lead to changes in energy consumption and energy supply patterns. A carbon tax is the most efficient way to change such behaviour. However when you do the math to find out the projected impact on global temperature the benefits are very close to zero. The economic pain does not warrant the climatic gain. The projected benefit in terms of avoided warming is so small in fact that it is beyond our capacity to even measure. It’s like spending your entire life on an exotic diet because it will lead you to live 2 minutes longer than you would have done otherwise. It’s a symbolic delusion. A feel good initative dressed up as serious policy.

  21. John Quiggin
    November 12th, 2011 at 22:53 | #21

    Terje, I’ve pointed out previously that your “math” on this was out by several orders of magnitude. You can’t do math, so saying “when you do the math” is effectively a lie.

    Why do you persist with this nonsense? Why not just say “My tribe has decided that it is against our religion”, which would at least be truthful?

  22. critical tinkerer
    November 13th, 2011 at 01:28 | #22


    That much is obvious. What you don’t understand is that the carbon tax will make no difference either way. It is a gesture, nothing more.

    You are right that the carbon tax in present form will not make any difference in climate change in the future. Where it is making the difference is in fearmongering that you and your cohort has created onto the public. It has to start somewhere to address your lies about government and its purpose. Another reason it is ineffective is not to cause a radical disturbance to economy which you cry about that will bring. The carbon tax can be raised slowly to become effective along the road as soon as public at large become ready and aware of the purpose and gets away from under your kind of lies. You dream of “minimise harm through prudent adaptation” (@#18) but have no recommendations of how practically to do it. When practical solution is proposed you say that it will do damage to economy and not be effective. DO you want everything for free?
    Danger of such low effectiveness as presently carbon tax is is that next time your cohort comes into power it will bring excuse to scrap it as it is ineffective without replacing it with anything else that would be effective. Even tough it started as ineffective because of your whining that would be too effective (on carbon outputs as on economy).

  23. Freelander
    November 13th, 2011 at 01:51 | #23

    One point that has not been emphasised enough in the debate about a small country like Australia starting the switch to a low carbon economy now rather than later is the incredible costs that would be incurred if a switch was ultimately forced on the country to comply with a very tight schedule. Eventually, with the dire situation we are heading toward, global action will happen. And even if not a collectively agreed global action, the big powers, like China and even the US, will find the direct consequences of climate change to their countries so dire that they will force reductions in emissions on others. Emissions will eventually become an “act of war”. When this happens Australia will have no option but to change, and forced rapid change would be calamitous. Australia’s task in making the transition is proportionately larger than most. The sooner we start the better for us.

  24. hc
    November 13th, 2011 at 02:17 | #24

    I understand your point now TerjeP. Australia should not bother to do anything to deal with its carbon emissions since its population of 23 million is a small part of 7 billion. Indeed dividing the world up into 330 geographic-political regions each of about 23 million it is clear than no individual region – e.g. California – should do anything about their carbon emissions because no individual region delivers a significant part of the world’s emissions. And I guess the consequence of that is that the world should do nothing about its emissions because none of its component parts should do anything.

    I feel relieved that for practical reasons we should continue to avoid the most efficient way of reducing our carbon emissions by setting a charge on them. I guess that means we should not employ any of the inefficient means of control either.

    Pulling the blanket up to my chin I think I’ll just sleep this one out.

  25. Freelander
    November 13th, 2011 at 03:09 | #25

    But Tony Abbott has a magic pudding that will fund all his policies, no matter how inane, so I am going to vote for him next election. His slogan will be “There may not be any benefits. But at least there won’t be any costs.”

  26. November 13th, 2011 at 08:33 | #26

    Freelander is smart.

  27. November 13th, 2011 at 08:38 | #27

    Hmmm… Some people might actually going to think that’s an insult, so I will elaborate: Freelander clearly made a simple point that I wanted to try to make, but the greasy meat in my head couldn’t come up with a simple way to make that point, but Freelander made it clearly and succinctly, so I think Freelander is smart. And even if he didn’t come up with the point himself he was smart enough to use it at this juncture.

  28. Ken Fabos
    November 13th, 2011 at 08:38 | #28

    Someone at Deltoid referred to the ‘our efforts are so small it’s pointless’ argument as the litterbug defence. (No point going to the inconvenience of disposal of rubbish in bins until and unless all the bigger litterbugs do so first, right?) It’s not a good reason to abandon efforts to reduce emissions, just a good (ie marketable) excuse.

    Can I suggest Terje abandon voting at elections – his vote being so tiny compared to the voter base that it has to be pointless.

    Critique of measures to restrain emissions come in two primary forms – criticism in order to make those measures more effective and criticism in order to make them less effective. The litterbug argument has clearly been taken up by those who want no effective restrictions on emissions. And don’t want the external costs of doing so to ever, oh, so inconveniently, be part of the commercial energy cost equation.

  29. Dan
    November 13th, 2011 at 08:57 | #29

    In any event, it’s not like the money is just blasted off into space.

    Anyone who knows the economic history of Japan, Germany and South Korea knows that Ricardo’s comparative advantage stuff is a cute theory.

    I for one am happy (even excited) to have my tax dollars spent getting Australia good at producing renewable energy technologies. By the time we’re seriously there, the demand will be there too, and we’ll make a killing.

    This is assuming those great economic thinkers to the right don’t manage to scuttle the thing.

  30. TerjeP
    November 13th, 2011 at 10:19 | #30

    HC – my argument is not that our part is small in the scheme of things. My argument is that the cost of our effort is higher than our benefit. And if everybody in the world was subject to the same sort of tax the overall cost would still outweigh the overall benefit. My argument is not a litterbug argument but a cost benefit argument applicable both to the components of the worlds population and also to the whole.

    JQ – the only mathematical argument I recall you making in regards to what we should be willing to pay per tonne was one that entailed a first order approximation of costs based on a parabola. In essence you seemed to be saying that each extra unit of CO2 in the atmosphere ought to increase what we are willing to pay to stop the next unit. That was interesting but not compelling.

    A compelling argument in the current context would look at the reduction in warming due to the current Australian carbon tax policy if held constant to say 2050, and the NPV economic cost of the policy between now and then on a per capita basis. I don’t expect all calculations of this to be the same as there are various assumptions necessary. However the basics ought to be similar. I don’t recall you offering anything in this space but perhaps you did.

  31. Hermit
    November 13th, 2011 at 10:28 | #31

    I’d liken unqualified support for renewables to expecting skinny people who look good in swimsuits to help sail a large boat. The good lookers are fed cordon bleu while the less attractive real sailors kept largely below decks get bully beef. So far solar power can’t help for more than a few hours at night or after cloudy days yet it gets generous subsidies. Wind power particularly disappoints in heat waves when millions of air conditioners are switched on yet it too gets subsidies and quotas. Oh yes solar helps in hot weather but the aircon usually draws several as much power as the panels and still does as the sun goes down.

    I question whether we should pay a premium price for non-premium power. Garnaut advised ditching the MRET and REC subsidy (currently about 4c per kwh) yet they continue. In contrast Bob Brown wants the exact opposite… a national feed-in tariff. We need a very low carbon all weather round the clock energy source if only somebody could think of one.

  32. Dan
    November 13th, 2011 at 11:05 | #32

    Hermit: isn’t geothermal already operating commercially in New Zealand?

  33. adelady
    November 13th, 2011 at 11:16 | #33

    Come on, Hermit. CSP has already a couple of large installations that store power for 15+ hours. Which all by itself indicates that the engineers are already considering the issue.

    Personally, I’m waiting for domestic sized flow batteries (or something similar if if comes along first, cheaper and easier) to maximise my personal benefit from our solar installation. Such entirely predictable improvements and additions to the technology already available are being developed in country after country.

    Might I add, with South Australia already getting 15 % of its power from wind, we are still a mighty long way from such intermittency problems causing major problems for power infrastructure. The only such issue I’m aware of is a few areas in other countries having to devise power dumping strategies when wind power exceeds demand. This alone is driving the engineering technologies to be able to store such surplus power and feed into the grid at a more manageable pace.

    Add in an increasing fleet of electric cars being available to absorb or release when the grid requires it and supply and demand issues become a lot less scary.

    And by the by. Your remark about solar and air-conditioning overlooks the benefits already evident in many areas of high temperatures. The great saving is that solar has maximum input at the very time that airconditioners start maximum draw from the grid. This is a huge saving for power supply _systems_ because it reduces the requirement for seriously expensive peak demand power supply. This may well offset some (all would be nice, but probably not before peak power prices increase even more) of the expense you were talking about.

  34. November 13th, 2011 at 11:41 | #34

    Wind power has the disadvantage of only working when the wind blows. Solar PV has the disadvantage of only working during the day. At first I was surprised to learn about these disadvantages, but after thinking about their names for a few days I realised that it sort of made sense. Unfortunately our two main sources of electrical power also have disadvantages. Coal power only works when coal is burned and natural gas only works when natural gas is burned. I’ve read a little bit about this topic and apparently the disadvantages from burning coal and natural gas are what economists call very, very big. (I am paraphrasing here somewhat.) So it seems to me that it is worthwhile to put up with the disadvantages of wind and solar PV to avoid some of the very, very big disadvantages that come from burning coal and natural gas. Just how much wind, solar PV, or other low emission capacity should be built should depend on their price because that way we’ll have more money left over for ice-cream or anything else we might want.

  35. Happy Heyoka
    November 13th, 2011 at 12:18 | #35

    TerjeP wrote:

    A compelling argument in the current context would look at the reduction in warming due to the current Australian carbon tax policy if held constant to say 2050

    Well, given that Australia’s population is six tenths of one percent of the worlds, and given that our GHG contribution is about 1.5%, if by 2050 we’re at 0.6% (ie: parity with out percentage of the worlds population) that would be good… will that fix it? Maybe, maybe not… I don’t have another couple of hundred years left to let me keep watch (ie: it may take as many years to “undo” as it took to “do”)

    The compelling reasons for Australia to “do our bit” is effectively about politics – we are reasonably influential with India, China and the United States. We need to make sure China stays the course, that India develops along the same lines and that the United States conservative side of politics gets it’s head out of it’s collective arse because there industry and technology will be invaluable in the mitigation effort.

    If our “great and powerful friend” decides to do nothing for another few presidential terms, then we are effectively screwed; mitigation effort (therefore cost) substantially increases over time.

  36. Hermit
    November 13th, 2011 at 12:19 | #36

    That’s volcanic geothermal where groundwater percolates through recent lava plumes and emerges as natural steam which humans are able to divert to power turbines. What is most talked about in Australia is HDR hot dry rock geothermal where heat emanating from uranium bearing granite is trapped by overlying sediments. The theory is to tap below the top layer with vertical boreholes, fracture the intermediate granite then pass exotic water between the down injection well and the exit well. The escaping froth evaporates an ammonia mixture at the surface to run turbine generators and the water is condensed then pumped back underground. Water re-use is necessary to conserve the resource and prevent radon leakage. After a couple of years the granite cools and new wells are required. It is based on radioactive decay and is not strictly sustainable. Efficiency is low due to small temperature differentials; see Carnot’s Law.

  37. Hermit
    November 13th, 2011 at 12:26 | #37

    The claimed ability of CSP to scale up to base load capacity took a battering when the world’s biggest plant at Ivanpah California opted for a swag of PV instead. That’s without storage. Adelaide’s wind power is admirable but depends on gas balancing. As of 2009 the Cooper Basin had reserves to production of 12 years. Perhaps ‘fracking’ will improve things.

  38. November 13th, 2011 at 13:09 | #38

    Hermit, what do you think would happen to the electricity produced by South Australia’s wind turbines if the states gas supply was cut off today?

  39. BilB
    November 13th, 2011 at 13:19 | #39


    The premise for your anti carbon price arguments is “why us, why now, what difference will it make?”.

    If 60% of the world’s most polluting nations within the next 5 years introduce significant carbon reduction programmes improving on Australia’s targets, siting Australia’s boldness as an inspiration, would you then consider Australia’s contribution to the global emissions abatement effort as being above 1.5% or below it?

  40. Ken Fabos
    November 13th, 2011 at 13:24 | #40

    Being costly and difficult to isn’t a good reason to embrace failure on something as irrevocably world changing as climate change.

    Currently the Coalition’s ‘sceptics’ favour any published assertions and outspoken opinion that the full impacts and even the existence of anthropogenic climate change are overstated and/or the costs of action are understated in a post-modernist, ‘my truth is just as valid as your truth’ kind of way. They certainly appear unswayed by the advice of CSIRO, BoM, Australian Academy of Sciences (in agreement with equivalents all around the world).

    Where are the Coalition’s outspoken advocates for science based policy? I look forward to the day when the Right in Australia gives up the BS debate and begin treating the issue with some semblance of seriousness, but I’m not holding my breath. What will it take for an Abbott or a Minchen to have a change of mind on this or will they go to their graves in an Australia vastly changed insisting those changes must have been natural all along?

  41. Happy Heyoka
    November 13th, 2011 at 13:31 | #41

    Hermit wrote:

    The claimed ability of CSP to scale up to base load capacity took a battering when the world’s biggest plant at Ivanpah California opted for a swag of PV instead.

    Which is why their website (www.brightsourceenergy.com) has a lovely front page pic full of solar thermal towers instead?

    I don’t think anyone except the “back to the trees” crowd is claiming that it will be easy to phase out and replace our current base load generation with alternatives… but certainly many places in Australia could support solar thermal generation quite handily… it’s not exactly rocket science either and many regional cities have engineering fabrication houses that could easily produce them – unlike wind turbines where we have to buy back our rare earth via China or Malaysia.

  42. Salient Green
    November 13th, 2011 at 13:47 | #42

    Hermit @ 35, The expected lifespan of the Cooper Basin HDR reservoir created by Geodynamics is 50 years with plenty of opportunity to create many more reservoirs in the area to prolong the life of the generating plant.

    Heat is generated by decay of uranium as you said as well as thorium and potassium.

    It turned out the the rocks below were not Dry at all by are an aquifer.

    I would argue that there is no “escaping froth” as the reservoir fluid will be a closed loop under very high pressure with no opportunity to froth.

    The Kalina cycle is a high efficiency cycle and the temperatures are around 250C which is hot enough to melt Tin. While not as efficient as the temperatures over 300C of Nuclear and fossil fuel plants, I believe it is pessimistic spin to call it “inefficient’.

  43. Hermit
    November 13th, 2011 at 14:33 | #43

    @Ronald Brak
    Since the summer firm wind capacity is just 5% of so of nameplate Adelaide would have to rely as much as possible on interstate electricity imports. If I recall correctly Adelaide/Melbourne summer demand once (2007?) blew the NEM spot price to its cap of 1,000c or $10 per kwh. It also blew the ac/dc converter on the Tasmanian end of the Basslink cable. This is why I understand ETSA wants to put radio switches on air conditioners to play odds and evens on hot days.

  44. November 13th, 2011 at 14:57 | #44

    Hermit, thanks for your reply. My question was – what do you think will happen to the electricity produced by South Australia’s wind turbines if the state’s gas supply was cut off today? Do you see that if the gas supply was cut off, none of the electricity produced by wind turbines would go to waste? That it would all be used and that the wind tubines would still be usefull even without gas?

  45. TerjeP
    November 13th, 2011 at 17:05 | #45


    You have the premise of my position wrong. I specifically explained this to HC earlier in this thread.

  46. November 13th, 2011 at 18:22 | #46

    TerjeP, Your cost-benefit analysis is idiosyncratic. The Stern Review, the Garnaut Review and even climate conservatives such as William Nordhaus find that, at the global level, the benefits from addressing climate change exceed the costs by a vast margin.

    The Treasury studies, the Grattan Institute studies (and my own efforts to examine the case for unilateral policies) confirm that the costs to Australia of mitigation are low outside one or two sectors. Once free quotas are provided to these sectors – in our case aluminium – the costs are very low.

    A difficulty in Australia today is that commentators often confuse interest group viewpoints for scientific analysis of costs and benefits. You can come up with plausible sounding a priori stories for huge costs and low benefits but the evidence does not stack up.

    You are making claims that are inconsistent with the literature on the economics of climate change. I am unsure if John is right in saying you are thinking ‘tribally’ about these issues but if you are going to make claims on the economics that differ from the accumulated work done then – as with those who deny climate change is occurring – you need to have very strong and clearly thought out grounds for having this position.

  47. rog
    November 13th, 2011 at 18:48 | #47

    The cost benefit of action on climate hangs has been done to death, Stern, CSIRO et al. One thing that is agreed on – the CST of action nw is less tan the cost of action in the future.

    But Terje demands to “see the evidence”.

  48. Freelander
    November 13th, 2011 at 21:07 | #48

    We ought to gather up all the climate change sceptics. Put them in a giant cast iron pot and then slowly bring it to the boil. If any of them make the claim that they are slowly being cooked to death. We should ask “Where’s the evidence?”

  49. BilB
    November 13th, 2011 at 22:07 | #49


    I take it that you are referring to your comment at 29 where you declare that the cost of Climate Change Abatement is greater than the benefits.

    I have to ask how you can make that claim, Terje? Where is your proof.

  50. TerjeP
    November 13th, 2011 at 22:45 | #50


    HC – I would agree that the costs of a pure carbon tax is modest. I’m more concerned about the institutional effects of an ETS. However even if we were simply getting a modest cost carbon tax with appropriate offsets for trade exposed industry I don’t see this cost as being worth incurring given the minuscule benefits.

    In terms of determining the benefits my assumption is based on the approach indicated in the following:-


  51. John Quiggin
    November 14th, 2011 at 00:25 | #51

    Honestly, Terje, you really don’t care at all about the truth do you? Just a few months ago, I pointed out, here


    that your claims were out by several orders of magnitude. I would be mortified if someone caught me in that kind of error, and would be very careful to correct myself thereafter. But you just forget about it and come back making exactly the same silly claim.

  52. Freelander
    November 14th, 2011 at 02:48 | #52

    @John Quiggin

    Clearly you are not a candidate for libertarianism. Seems you have to have no shame. TerjeP doesn”t even wear a mask!

  53. Freelander
    November 14th, 2011 at 03:53 | #53

    The porkies don’t stop with climate change denial. And club membership is cancelled if a single lie from that camp is ever admitted.

    Be very interesting to see how the attacks evolve on this Big Libertarian who has dared exercise his freedom to speak the truth.


    Probably ex-libertarian as he is already being rounded on by the libertarian collective with as much vigour and viciousness as the Trotskyites, Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, or other -ists, typically rounded on any quickly to be ex-member who deviated a smidgin from their current orthodox line.


    Even when libertarians infiltrate government and impose their policies to create the libertarian nirvana in which scoundrels like themselves manage to defraud the populace, the blame lies not in themselves, or their stars, but in the very existence of government! Greenspan was and still seems to think he is a libertarian, but his mistakes cannot be sourced by libertarians to his blind obedience to market worship. No they are all due simply to the existence of government.

    This really provides great material for an article on the reality scepticism of the looney libertarian right.

  54. Freelander
    November 14th, 2011 at 03:55 | #54

    Moderation again!

  55. TerjeP
    November 14th, 2011 at 04:57 | #55

    @John Quiggin

    You link to an earlier discussion we had. The errors you pointed out in that discussion were not material to the conclusion and I acknowledged each of the errors in that discussion. One related to the base year for CO2 comparison and one related to revenue versus welfare effects. I then ceased the discussion because you inferred that you would calculate the temperature impact of Australias emission reduction policy in a dedicated thread. Instead you calculated the optimal carbon price based on a quadratic damage curve which was as I said earlier interesting but not compelling. In essence you dodged the question regarding what temperature benefit would arise from the current emission reduction policy. And I suspect that this is because the number is embarrassingly small.

  56. TerjeP
    November 14th, 2011 at 04:58 | #56

    Actually you implied, I infered.

  57. John Quiggin
    November 14th, 2011 at 08:50 | #57

    “not material ” ?? You were out by a factor of 1000 !!

    And as for linking to Jo Nova – are you really trying to prove that all libertarians are fools? If libertarianism depends on the proposition that mainstream science is a communist conspiracy then it is doomed.

  58. Dan
    November 14th, 2011 at 08:56 | #58

    Terje: you should read A Perfect Moral Storm by Stephen Gardiner. That will tell you a little bit about the ethics of “why us, why now” and why it is a completely craven and unconvincing position.

  59. Ken Fabos
    November 14th, 2011 at 10:12 | #59

    Slightly off topic but prominent and influential Lavoisier Group climate denier and mining magnate Hugh Morgan was invited to Chair the “Tackling Climate Change and Energy Challenges: A Government Business Partnership” panel at CHOGM. Just wondering how, why and what kind of positive contribution to tackling climate change and energy challenges came from someone who very recently described efforts to reduce emissions as “..doing everything possible in recent years to destroy our coal-fired electricity industry in the superstitious belief that carbon dioxide is a pollutant.” Was there some notion of exposing Morgan to the strong acceptance of climate science in parts of the world where public opinion isn’t being manipulated by The Australian Coal Association, Mining Council of Australia and Rupert? Or exposing the the rest of the world to the twisted views of Lavoisier, IPA and Menzies House? What would it take for someone like Morgan to change his stance?

    Pr. Q – I think you are overly optimistic to imagine the Right abandoning their comforting illusions.

  60. Dan
    November 14th, 2011 at 10:26 | #60

    @Ken: It does happen. I have a libertarian friend who makes Terje look like Leon Trotsky. He’s also a biologist and so understands the scientific method. He came around on climate change and described it as a similar feeling to when he dropped his 9/11 conspiracy beliefs.

  61. Ken Miles
    November 14th, 2011 at 12:49 | #61

    I’ve always thought that the most significant benefit of a rich but small country like Australia adopting a carbon tax is in technological development. Australia’s scientists and engineers are capable of making a solid contribution to the development of low carbon technologies – the benefits of which can flow around the world, multiplying their contribution by a large amount.

  62. Sam
    November 14th, 2011 at 14:08 | #62

    JQ, I’d like to hear more about why you believe a $50/tonne carbon price would be high enough to keep atmospheric CO2 to 450 ppm.

  63. Sam
    November 14th, 2011 at 14:10 | #63

    If implemented globally of course.

  64. November 14th, 2011 at 15:31 | #64

    Sam, John has an article on that here: http://johnquiggin.com/2011/06/02/why-the-global-carbon-price-should-probably-be-around-50tonne-nerdywonkish-but-not-too-difficult-i-hope/

    Personally, as I think it may be possible to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for $50 a ton or less, I think a $50 price on carbon should be sufficient. However, so as not to pollute reasonable discourse, at this juncture I will point out that my estimate of the cost of removing and sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere is lower than most estimates and I could be wrong. And I could be wrong, even though I feel that I am right. But, strangely enough, experience has shown that feeling one is right doesn’t actually indicate that one is right. Funny how that works.

  65. Sam
    November 14th, 2011 at 17:09 | #65

    @Ronald Brak
    If you’ll look through the comments, you’ll see that I had problems with that post at the time. All JQ seems to estimate is the marginal damage caused by emitting 1 extra tonne of carbon dioxide when the atmospheric concentration is 450ppm.

    That seems a bit irrelevant to me; JQ just plucks the level 450 ppm from the warnings of climate scientists. If he’s already happy to accept the apriori decision to hold atmospheric CO2 to this level, thinking about marginal damage caused by exceeding this is not worthwhile.

    What I’d like to hear more about from JQ is the actual cost of abatement. To my mind, the natural scientist should give us the “do not exceed level” of emissions, the social scientist should tell us the best way to achieve this.

    In the comments, JQ indicated that 450 ppm was where the “marginal damage” and “marginal abatement” cost curves intersect, and that the price of both at that point was ~$50/tonne. He promised a follow-up post on this second topic. That was what I was asking about previously.

  66. Sam
    November 14th, 2011 at 17:18 | #66

    So what I’d like to know more about is: what emissions per year could the atmosphere absorb without going over 450 ppm? Also, what world price for carbon would achieve this yearly emissions rate?

  67. November 14th, 2011 at 22:30 | #67

    Sam, off the top of my head an 80% reduction in current emissions will stabilize the earth at around 450, but it all depends upon the period of time over which those cuts take place. It’s not a straight forward thing to ask. Stabilizing at 350 or 450 will involve an overshoot of the target that would last for decades. Basically if we cut hard and fast now, we could level off at a higher amount of emissions and stabilize at 450 than if we cut emissions slowly. If we cut too slowly we might need to drop emissions down to zero or below to make 450.

  68. Dan
    November 14th, 2011 at 22:41 | #68

    I’m not sure off the top of my head but the new Clive Hamilton book Requiem for a Species has some (the?) relevant info as for as the ppm/degrees C relationship goes.

    (He thinks we’re in for catastrophe, but that’s possibly another thread.)

  69. Morrissey
    November 15th, 2011 at 02:02 | #69

    Actually, just a correction. Barack Obama, in several Rasmussen polls, would have beat any current Republican candidate except Ron Paul. In the case of Ron Paul, Paul would win 52% to Obama 48%, if AP and Rasmussen polls are to be trusted.

  70. Morrissey
  71. John Quiggin
    November 15th, 2011 at 02:12 | #71

    Sam, the critical point of the argument is that, given convex damage costs and convex abatement costs, the results are robust to quite big changes in the parameters. You can double the abatement costs, for example, and you get a target of 500ppm and an optimal price of %75/tonne

  72. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 07:57 | #72

    @John Quiggin

    It’s fine to assert such things. However you never did show any calculation for the temperature impact of the Gillard Carbon tax. You simple said liar, liar pants on fire. I thought you were going to address the question directly in a separate article. However it seems you had something else in mind.

    I didn’t say anything about a communist conspiracy. That seems like a straw man diversion designed to change the topic or rally the troops.

  73. Ken Fabos
    November 15th, 2011 at 08:07 | #73

    A little follow up on my previous comment – thinking that perhaps Hugh Morgan and others understand quite clearly that the science on climate is sound but are too aware of their own short term self interest to ever say so publicly. A bit like this Doonesbury take on the US Right.

  74. BilB
    November 15th, 2011 at 09:27 | #74


    Your position is an endlessly nonsense argument. What Australia has done is the laying of one environmental action building block of a set of 200. When most of the blocks are in place place there is the very real prospect of limiting global temperature rise by a figure defined by the scientific evaluation, but dependent on the timing of the laying of the blocks.

    Your entire platform is that Australia, one of the most successful economies in the world should lay its block last so that you and your kind can maximise their wealth as you see it. But worse still the global network of “profit maximisers” are attempting to ensure that no climate action blocks are laid at all. Their primary device is the endlessly circular argument that no-one should go first. The primary leverage is fear of loss (of “jobs”).

    Australia has now taken the oblique position. Apart from the small matter of saving our civilisation, the primary device is the creation of jobs (building a better world), and the primary leverage is the timely application of our economic strength.

    Any solid business entrepreneur recognises the advantage of timely development of opportunities and the prudent application of economic strength. Everything that the US GOP, Teaparty, Libertarians, etc, are attempting to do in delaying climate action is the opposite of entrepreneurial engagement. There is a reason for that. This is the battle of “old money” versus “new money”, the battle of entrenched positions against new opportunity.

  75. Dan
    November 15th, 2011 at 10:23 | #75

    BilB – I think that ‘old money’ can and will do just fine, if only they exercise a bit of imagination.

  76. Sam
    November 15th, 2011 at 10:25 | #76

    @John Quiggin
    Ok, but that’s a pretty big difference from 450ppm and $50 a tonne. In your previous post, you argued positively it was $50, and not $75. This implies you have some belief about abatement cost. I understand that these kinds of technology predictions are far more uncertain than climate predictions, but I was wondering if you at least had some more structured way of thinking about the problem than I do.

  77. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:20 | #77

    BilB :
    Your entire platform is that Australia, one of the most successful economies in the world should lay its block last so that you and your kind can maximise their wealth as you see it.

    That isn’t my argument and I’ve told you it isn’t my argument.

    In terms of my personal fortune it consists of my superannuation fund, the house I live in with my wife and kids and some cash in the bank. I have no other shares or investments to speak of. Whilst I am interested in increasing my wealth it won’t be achieved by posting comments on blogs such as this one. Your inference regarding my motives is simply wrong.

  78. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:21 | #78

    Quote above should have ended after first paragraph. The rest is my response.

  79. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:22 | #79

    p.s. as for old money I did once inherit a few thousand dollars.

  80. John Quiggin
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:23 | #80

    ” In your previous post, you argued positively it was $50, and not $75.” (emphasis added).

    Not true. In the previous post, I noted “Doing a similar exercise with 20 per cent damages, a likely target would be around 425 ppm with a price of $75/tonne. ” (emphasis added). This is a different sensitivity analysis from the one I cited in this thread, but it makes the same point.

  81. John Quiggin
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:28 | #81

    @TerjeP “You simple said liar, liar pants on fire. ”

    Absolutely not true. I pointed out three separate ways in which your estimates were out by a factor of 10, then offered my own calculation which I turned into a paper for journal publicaiion.

    But, now that you’ve made these absolutely false claims, and ignored repeated statements of your erior, I will say it straight out. You’re lying and you know it. I think you’re a better person at this, but you are faced with a sharp choice here. Either stay true to the tribe, and lie, or admit the truth and abandon the tribe. It’s up to you.

  82. Donald Oats
    November 15th, 2011 at 11:47 | #82

    One difficulty that people like Hugh Morgan pose is that they are rich enough to ignore the consequences of our global emissions: in other words, they can afford to profit from the externality even while emissions create a well-researched and well-forecast problem, namely a shift in global climate to one that is hotter, and one that has greater extremes in terms of destructive weather. If you are sufficiently rich it is highly likely that you can live an enjoyable life in spite of the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the regular people, the little people, who cannot expect to duck the consequences.

    The big shame in all this is not the existence of rich people who choose to ignore the consequences because they can buy their way out, but the fact that there are so many of the regular people who are willing to defend the interests of the ultra-wealthy as though that will somehow get them a seat at the table, when things go sour for the rest of us. History hasn’t been kind to the regular people who take this course of action, and I see no reason why it will be kind this time. It is a constant mystery why some people stay so blind to our own longer-term interests, and of course to the interests of those who have yet to follow us.

  83. Freelander
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:08 | #83


    Crunch time for the all out nuclear option.

    Julia Gillard is going to help India “Put a nuclear reactor in every home”. So the country that couldn’t even run some games or other (who remembers) due to rampant corruption is going to have 40 percent of its power, nuclear by 2050. If Japan can’t get its act together on nuclear how much faith ought we to put in India?

    Julia Gillard is to take a new slogan into the next election “Julia Gillard, the thinking man’s Tony Abbott.”

  84. BilB
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:08 | #84


    I use the term “your” in a more collective sense encompassing Libertarian ideology rather than specifically Terje P. I hope we can get to a time (soon) when Libertarians understand the need for suspension of general ideologies as applied to global warming in the interests of the Global Public Good.

  85. Freelander
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:09 | #85

    Maybe Hugh Morgan will become our next ambassador to India?

  86. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:11 | #86

    You’re lying and you know it.

    JQ – it seems you’re adopting the Graeme Bird debating technique. I’m disappointed. I presume it stems from frustration. It kind of poisons any discussion. I’m not lying but if that is your heart felt belief I’ll have to think about how to proceed.

    I have reviewed what you have written a couple of times. Your $50 per tonne argument was full of assumptions. Some of your criticisms regarding my temperature calculation had merit and where I thought so I readily acknowledged them. However I can’t make sense of your conclusions. I’d rather be characterised as dim rather than dishonest. However it is your argument that the carbon tax is worth the cost and prosecuting that argument ought to amount to more than cranky bluster. Perhaps you are simply pleased with writing stuff that persuades your own tribe.


  87. TerjeP
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:16 | #87


    Sorry for the confusion. It’s just that you addressed the comment to me so I presumed that your argument was with me.

  88. Freelander
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:19 | #88

    Don’t worry, they will be ‘next’ generation reactors which are so much safer. These ones will only have a major catastrophe once every 10,000 years. There will be 20,000 of them. That should be a major catastrophe every six months.

    Martin Ferguson is ecstatic with joy.

  89. Dan
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:30 | #89

    BilB: last time I used the expression ‘public good’ in an argument with libertarians (JC and ‘Mark’ at Club Troppo) I was branded a ‘fascist’.

    Intellectual giants, these people; scholars and gentlemen.

  90. Sam
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:31 | #90

    @John Quiggin
    Fair enough. In the comments though, you did say this; “I haven’t been very clear, obviously. I was making the claim that abatement costs are such that a price of $50/tonne would yield something close to 450 ppm. I’ll revise to spell this out, when I get a free moment.”

    I’d be interested to know how you arrived at this belief about abatement cost. What does the abatement supply curve actually look like? What technologies should we use, and how scalable are they? Your numbers don’t sound unreasonable to me, but then again I don’t know how to start thinking about such a problem.

  91. BilB
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:32 | #91

    Dan @ 25,

    Imagination is not a strength of old money interests. In fact there is quite a clear observable phenomenon that old money makes horrendous mistakes when attempting to “relive” old successes. This goes a long way to explain the reluctance to change from fossil fuels to renewables.

  92. Dan
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:40 | #92

    Yes, I’ve noticed it too, frankly I think it’s pathetic and blows the whole libertarian property rights argument (“What’s mine is mine, because I am very clever”*) right out of the water.

    *Response: No, you’re not. You just had some dumb luck. Now you have to share your good fortune around to make society better for everyone, particularly those less fortunate than you. Alternatively, we can put you in jail.

  93. Dan
    November 15th, 2011 at 12:45 | #93

    Haha, apologies for that little Veblenian digression.

  94. John Quiggin
    November 15th, 2011 at 13:16 | #94

    @Terje For the last time. You made numerical statements which I showed were out by a factor of 1000. You now repeat the same statements, arrogantly urging others to “do the math” and ignore my repeated demonstration of your error, instead dragging in an irrelevant red herring/ad hominem.
    So, to put it as simply as possible. Do you accept that your original claims were out by several orders of magnitude, or do you want to defend them? Or would you prefer to dance around the question as you’ve done so far?

  95. Freelander
    November 15th, 2011 at 16:10 | #95


    The libertarian corollary of the what’s mine is “because I am very clever” is that what I desire to already have but do not is a state of affairs that is somebody else’s fault – the greens, environmentalists, the climate change conspiracy, collectivists, communists, a long list, and of course, government and regulation, but never my own or never because it would not be just or right for me to have it.

  96. Dan
    November 15th, 2011 at 16:41 | #96

    The mental gymnastics one needs to do to convince themselves that, since one is a firm believer in non-coercion, free-market capitalism is the obvious and only choice of economic configuration, are positively Olympic.

  97. November 15th, 2011 at 16:50 | #97

    Sam, I think the point of putting a price on carbon is so no one has to sit down and plan out which technologies people will use. People will use whatever seems best given their circumstances. For example, if a company with a flat roof can save money by putting solar panels on their roof, they will. And if electricity from coal, the worst CO2 emitter per joule of energy, is more expensive than other options, then power companies will no longer build coal plants. And these decisions will all be made without the benefit of any central plan.

    If you want to know which energy technologies I think will be widely used in the future I could tell you, but this would just be a somewhat educated guess. I think it would be better most people’s guesses, but I am sure it would not be as good as some people’s guesses. And this is despite the fact that I feel that my guess is the best guess in the entire world.

  98. Sam
    November 15th, 2011 at 23:44 | #98

    @Ronald Brak
    That’s fine Ronald, but discussions about caps, emission levels and prices still have to take account of the likely cost of abatement.

    Actually, I would like to some opinion on the use of various greenhouse reduction technologies. What are your own thoughts (fallible though they might be).

  99. Chris Warren
    November 16th, 2011 at 11:54 | #99

    It really is all over now ….


    Over the next 5-10 years these stories will increase, but by then it will be too late to respond. So the world makes its own death-bet.

    We knew back in 1959 that Antarctica was warming – this was reported in Australian J Science 21.

    The only reason we have been led down this disastrous path for the last 60 years is simply because capitalists and others have hankered after economic growth and profits no-matter-what, even if this leads to the destruction of the climate for their grandchildren.

    With such trivial responses by world economies, and the unstoppable industrial rise in greenhouse gas emissions by China, India and Indonesia, little can be done. All warnings from the late 60′s and 70′s were ignored.

    Today’s policy makers are only addressing peoples “concerns” about greenhouse gas emissions. They are not responding to the hard scientific issues about greenhouse gases, industrial growth and population. Capitalists and growth advocates in parliament, the public service, industry lobby groups and in the media are driving the entire globe to complete ruin – and they know it.

  100. Jarrah
    November 16th, 2011 at 12:40 | #100

    “The only reason we have been led down this disastrous path for the last 60 years is simply because capitalists and others have hankered after economic growth and profits no-matter-what, even if this leads to the destruction of the climate for their grandchildren.”

    To be fair, they make the argument that being richer in the future means being better able to adapt to a warming world. They also dispute the idea that the climate will be “destroyed” (as do most people).

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