Home > Boneheaded stupidity > Return of ‘Lord Monckton’

Return of ‘Lord Monckton’

December 12th, 2012

While we are on the subject of irresponsible pranks, noted performance artist, “Lord Monckton” is returning to Australia after his highly successful tour a couple of years ago, when I was invited to, and then disinvited from, a debate with him. I had some good lines ready on my part in the conspiracy to impose a communist world government, but I never got to use them. On the other hand, Monckton played the straight man to Tim Lambert, reprising the famous McLuhan moment from Annie Hall.

It’s been suggested that “Monckton” is another manifestation of the multi-faceted Sacha Baron-Cohen, but this is incorrect. Like his model, the marvellous Screaming Lord Sutch, Monckton lives his character 24/7. In fact, Monckton outdoes Sutch in many respects. Sutch regularly ran for the English House of Commons as a candidate for the Monster Raving Loony Party, losing his deposit every time. Monckton topped this by running for the House of Lords, as an independent monster raving loony, and received zero votes. Emulating Monty Python’s Silly Party, he ran three times more, doubling his vote each time.

His latest tour will be a challenge. He doesn’t seem to have much new material to add to the loony climate denialist routines of his previous tours, and much of the audience is now in on the joke. For example, I’m pretty sure that Andrew Bolt tumbled after Monckton’s Galileo Movement prank. Still, fans of WWE wrestling are perfectly happy to cheer the faces and boo the heels, knowing perfectly well that the events are staged and scripted, and indeed getting additional entertainment from the soap opera of the “real story”

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  1. Sancho
    December 12th, 2012 at 20:47 | #1

    Good old Galileo, the researcher who was slandered and harassed for presenting scientific data that threatened the profits of powerful institutions.

    Hard to think of a more fitting historical mascot for industry lobbyists paid by mining corporations to slander and harass scientists the moment they present data that threatens share prices.

  2. December 12th, 2012 at 21:30 | #2

    Monckton’s most recent focus has been the vexing issue of Obama’s birth certificate. Perhaps he can introduce some of that material?

    It’d be a good show if Monckton can nab the Republican presidential nomination for 2016. I believe he’s currently working on minting a Hawaiian birth certificate. Popcorn, please!

  3. Ikonoclast
    December 12th, 2012 at 21:43 | #3

    Point 1. We are expected to believe that thousands if not tens of thousands of scientists are in on a global warming conspiracy. This is supposed to increase their remuneration and grant monies. However, it is very clear that scientists and indeed non-scientists who work for the denialist industry do far better in remuneration terms. This is in anything from denial of the tobacco-cancer link to denial of the CO2 emissions-climate change link. Any scientist, economist, journalist etc. wanting to sell his/her integrity for money does far better in crude monetary reward terms by going to the denialist industry.

    Point 2. I have a quick personal algorithim for gauging if a someone promoting a false position. If the position requires an a priori assumption that contradicts basic science or basic logic then the entire position is false. For example, the argument against Peak Oil requires the a priori assumption that the earth and its oil reserves are infinite; an obviously absurd assumption.

    The argument against human induced climate change requires either the a priori assumption that fossil fuels have no carbon in them and release no CO2 during combustion or the a priori assumption that greenhouse gases in general and CO2 in particular do not absorb and emit infrared radiation. For the latter point, since empirical experiments in gas absorption spectra show that these gases do indeed absorb and emit infrared radiation and since all greenhouse effect consquences follow logically, physically and empirically from this basic reality then AGW denialism is false. It really is that simple to expose the Big Lies.

  4. Ikonoclast
    December 12th, 2012 at 21:47 | #4

    I meant “algorithm”. Damned typos! Why is that when I reread before posting I do not see such mistakes? Yet they stand out like the proverbial DBs when I review the actual post!

  5. Ray
    December 12th, 2012 at 22:13 | #5

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikonoclast – Your point 2 about climate change has a few inaccuracies. Firstly, I as under the impresiion that Greenhouse gases act by blocking rather than absorbing infra-red radiation. Sure, they can absorb IR, but they mainly act by being opaque to it. Visible light hits the Earths’ surface, is absorbed and re-radiated as IR. Rather than escape into space, it is blocked by the greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere. Secondly, all climate change effects do not necessarily follow from this. There could be large-scale removal of chemical energy from the biosphere, by the accumulation of marine deposits, for example. This is how the fossil fuels got where they are in the first place. The only way to verify this would be a complete measurement of the entire eath’s energy budget, ie a measurement of total input vs total output, at all radiation frequencies. This said, I am not denying the reality of global warming, just pointing otutht it is a bit more complicated than what you are arguing, which appears to be, correctly, a strict application of the first law of thermodynamics.

  6. frankis
    December 12th, 2012 at 22:23 | #6

    LOL!

    Gilbert and Sullivan foresaw the amazing Monckton phenomenon more than a 100 years ago, of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major-General's_Song

  7. Jordan
    December 12th, 2012 at 23:05 | #7

    @Ray
    In addition to your post, there are also proofs that earth magnetic field is weakening, it is 10% weaker today then average milion years. Strenght of the magnetic field is measured trough strength of magnetic cristals in vulcanic rock trough eons, which also show reversals.
    Earth’s magnetic field deflects galactic radiation and weaker deflection field could mean warmer earth. But there is no way to calculate full effect of that.
    But that would be a part of the impossible task of measuring total input vs total output of energy of the Earth.

  8. December 13th, 2012 at 00:26 | #8

    Most importantly though,

    can the ABC repeat its performance from one of his previous visits by having him appear on just about every TV show and radio station without challenge?

    Fran Kelly will need an oxygen mask if she is to more breathlessly welcome him to our airwaves again!

  9. Jordan
    December 13th, 2012 at 00:54 | #9

    @frankis
    Is there anything to forsee?
    Just place king’s court fool in present environment and you get Andy Kaufman, Sacha Baron-Cohen or Lord Monckton

  10. jrkrideau
    December 13th, 2012 at 01:05 | #10

    @Sancho
    Do you actually know anything about the actual history surrounding Galileo, his trial and its outcome?

    Perhaps having a look at the reference below would be helpful for a start. There was immense inertia in the scientific and religious community in accepting Galileo’s thesis but what appears to me to be problem may have been that his heliocentric theory at the time of the trial predicted one tide a day — or in other words, there were a few rough edges to be dealt with.

    Santillana, G. de. (1978). The Crime of Galileo. University Of Chicago Press.

  11. Katz
    December 13th, 2012 at 05:47 | #11

    Lord Monckton’s intellectual progenitor:

  12. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 07:07 | #12

    For example, the argument against Peak Oil requires the a priori assumption that the earth and its oil reserves are infinite; an obviously absurd assumption.

    That only makes sense if the “peak oil” claim is merely that oil production from planet earth can’t be increased forever. Almost nobody would argue against that. What gets refuted is that production will peak in year X. Change X and you change the list of people who disagree. What also gets refuted is the notion that the market place is the wrong place to deal with this issue. If you misrepresent your opponents argument until it is absurd then of course you can point to it and show it is absurd. But this then isn’t a genuine debate.

  13. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 07:22 | #13

    I don’t think there is a conspiracy amongst scientists in regards to global warming. There is however an alliance of interests that are keen to ensure that scientific debate on this topic that threatens orthodox position should be stopped, that heterodox views should be silenced and that some form of global regulation is necessary.

  14. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 07:26 | #14

    @Ray

    I simplified a bit so I would not make one of my wall of text posts. Essentially I was correct.

    1. To stay at a constant temperature, the Earth must radiate as much energy as it receives from the Sun.

    2. We receive this energy mostly as visible light which warms the surface.

    3. CO2 is transparent to visible light.

    4. Being much cooler than the Sun, the Earth re-radiates most of its energy as infrared.

    5. Infrared radiation coming from the surface is intercepted by “greenouse” gas molecules like CO2 in the lower atmosphere and that keeps the lower atmosphere and the surface warm.

    6. The radiation that finally escapes is mostly emitted from higher levels of the atmosphere.

    7. “Blocking” is a ill-defined concept in this context (radiation and absorption physics). Absorption by opacity is “blocking”. Reflection by white sunblock cream or white ice and snow (the albedo effect) is also effectively “blocking”.

    8. Absorption of infrared radiation by CO2 is exactly what makes it opaque to such radiation. In this context absorption IS opacity.

    9. The fact that a CO2 molecule re-emit infrared means it WILL re-emit but the molecule “next to it” will re-absorb again. This cascading and even “circular” effect keeps the heat in the atmosphere. However, the atmosphere can carry the heat by convection to the tenuous upper limits of atmosphere. Here, when a CO2 molecule re-emits a photon (or photons – I am not sure) of infrared radiation this will escape to space by not colliding with and being reabsorbed by another CO2 molecule.

    10. Thus both the absorption and re-emission in the infrared part of the spectrum by CO2 both play their role in the greenhouse regulation effect.

    Ultimately, the net greenhouse effect (actual outcomes on the complex atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, surface of the lithosphere and finally biosphere as a system) is affected by many further factors as you say. But the basic physics alone tell us the greenhouse effect exists and rising concentrations of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, including water vapour, raises the mean surface temperature. The fundamental principle is clear and (relatively) simple.

  15. Katz
    December 13th, 2012 at 08:26 | #15

    @TerjeP

    Don’t you mean “convergence of interests”?

    By definition, an “alliance” is a deliberate plan to act in concert. If that plan to act in concert is not openly acknowledged, then it is a conspiracy.

    Moreover, refusal to allow good disconfirming research into referee journals would be a conspiracy. Why don’t you call a spade a spade?

    The alternative possibility is that this research is rubbish and the academic gatekeepers are doing the world a favour by rejecting it.

  16. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 08:26 | #16

    @TerjeP

    TerjeP, your objections deserve a reasoned answer. I often use the technique of arguing reductio ad absurdum (Latin: “reduction to absurdity”). In plain language this means taking an untenable assertion to its absurd logical conclusion to debunk it.

    When incautious “cornucopians” dismiss peak oil theory they often do so initially without caveat or qualification. Since they have made an unqualified and untenable assertion, I am justified in arguing reductio ad absurdum to debunk them. This then pushes the more reasonable “cornucopians” to add qualifications. I have already gained ground in the argument and they have already lost ground. A common qualification is that the finite limits in question are not near limits but far limits. Whilst being willing to shift the argument to these grounds I also insist explicitly on ackowledgement that I have gained a qualification from the opponent.

    I say something like, “Aha! So you admit that there must be a production peak eventually. Now we are just arguing about when that peak might occur.”

    You say that “Almost nobody would argue that (oil production could be increased forever). I would amend that to “nobody who is cautious”. In “the street”, many lay people who don’t really think things through to logical conclusions get hold of anti peak oil arguments and essentially believe either the oil will last forever or at least for many more hundreds of years. As I often say, many people don’t really comprehend that “big” is still finite. You might be surprised how hard it is to get people to concede that the earth is not (to paraphrase their fundamental view) “so big it doesn’t matter what we do, we will never run out of anything”.

    The next point is that exponential growth does some surprising things. That is, surprising to people who don’t properly appreciate the characteristics of exponential growth. All arguments for “far limits” basically fail in the face of exponential growth. A key characteristic of exponential growth is that when half of an available resource is used up (which may have taken hundreds or thousands of years) then the other half will be used up in the period of one more doubling. At a world GDP growth rate of about 3% (2.7% in 2011) we double our use of resources in about 23 to 24 years or in one (short) generation.

    I will try to cut a long discussion short as my posts are usually far too wordy. My basic contention here is that all limits are near limits in the face of exponential growth.

    You say “What gets refuted is that production will peak in year X”. I would argue a couple of things here. First, the argument about the exact year of the peak is trivial. The argument about the absolute principle of peaking is central and profound especially in the face of exponential growth which now brings all limits near in human generational terms. Second, the peak of conventional oil production was 2006. This peak has not been exceeded yet. So this peak argument may already be in the past. The evidence is that it is firmly in the past.

    Anti peak reasoners then want to shift the grounds of their argument as they always do. Now it becomes “it’s not peak conventional oil that matters, it’s peak hydrocarbon liquids that matter.” And as natural gas production is still increasing they feel on firm ground again. But with exponential growth the central fact one can hear the Frank-N-Furter character riposting “but not for very much longer”.

    You say, “What also gets refuted is the notion that the market place is the wrong place to deal with this issue.” I’d like to see this refutation. That is I would like to see the proof that the market is (near) perfect, suffers no significant market failures and almost always accounts properly for all negative externalities. By the same token I will agree that the market has a role and just as we agreed on common ground re aspects of taxation (both disliking payroll taxes and some other anti-pigovian taxes), I think we could agree on some common ground for the role of the market. I would simply disagree with the notion that the market is the only place to deal with this issue. I favour a multi-barreled approach of regulated markets, pigovian taxes (carbon tax) and direct statist or dirigist action. These approaches can be melded and are not in practice mutually exclusive although purist and unrealistic ideologies might insist that they are mutually exclusive.

    Here I must end my wall of text.

  17. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 08:39 | #17

    TerjeP :
    I don’t think there is a conspiracy amongst scientists in regards to global warming. There is however an alliance of interests that are keen to ensure that scientific debate on this topic that threatens orthodox position should be stopped, that heterodox views should be silenced and that some form of global regulation is necessary.

    This alliance of interests is quite mythical and illustrates a misunderstanding of how science works both experimentally and sociologically. If any scientist or group of scientists could come up with any kind of “heterodox” breakthrough in any part of climate science and this heterodox breakthrough was solidly supported by empirical data and verifiable repeatable experiments then their future would be made. Noble prizes and vast new research grants would be theirs. In an open world (scientifically, politically and press-wise) their breakthrough could not be supressed or denied.

  18. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 08:45 | #18

    I might add that there is indeed “an alliance of (very monied) interests” keen to champion, fund and publicise any genuine heterodox breakthrough in climate science. This is where the “alliance of interests” truly exists. And this alliance of interests, lacking to date any genuine heterodox breakthrough in climate science to grasp onto, promotes anti-scientific denialism to protect its vested interests in the fossil fuel industry and in BAU (Business As Usual).

  19. December 13th, 2012 at 10:19 | #19

    Jordon, wouldn’t a decrease in magnetic strength reduce the number of charged particles accelerated into the upper atmosphere at the poles resulting in less upper atmosphere heating and thus a cooling effect? An insignificant cooling effect given the amount of energy the earth’s atmosphere receives from charged particles and that we know a lack of a magetic field doesn’t significantly affect temperatures of other bodies in the solar system, but a cooling effect none the less?

  20. Michael
    December 13th, 2012 at 10:44 | #20

    @Ikonoclast
    What TerjeP is reflexively addressing with his mythical alliance is the very really alliance of industry groups and their well funded mouthpieces that seek to discredit genuine science because the only tools available to them are lies, red herrings and Gish Gallop’s. Has anyone in the denialist community or their fifth column ever referenced an instance where an actual scientist has had their ground-breaking credible work censored?

  21. Ken Miles
    December 13th, 2012 at 11:05 | #21

    TerjeP :
    I don’t think there is a conspiracy amongst scientists in regards to global warming. There is however an alliance of interests that are keen to ensure that scientific debate on this topic that threatens orthodox position should be stopped, that heterodox views should be silenced and that some form of global regulation is necessary.

    That would be the same alliance of interests that holds back creationism, birtherism, 911 truthers, flat-earthers and the anti-vaccination movement.

  22. Fran Barlow
    December 13th, 2012 at 11:47 | #22

    @TerjeP

    There is however an alliance of interests that are keen to ensure that scientific debate on this topic that threatens orthodox position should be stopped, that heterodox views should be silenced and that some form of global regulation is necessary.

    Noting the other reasonable responses above …

    One might add that you are conflating debates over policy responses with debates over the underlying science and prospective damage. While there are genuine debates to be had about the efficacy of various possible policy responses — there is no debate about the basic science and the modelled scenarios outside of the error bars provided and thus nothing like an alliance to suppress non-”othodox” views.

  23. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 12:04 | #23

    Don’t you mean “convergence of interests”?

    Yes that would be a better way to say it.

  24. Newtownian
    December 13th, 2012 at 12:12 | #24

    @Ikonoclast

    “10. Thus both the absorption and re-emission in the infrared part of the spectrum by CO2 both play their role in the greenhouse regulation effect.”

    In this Greenhouse Greenwash it amazes me how the climate change deniers argue over and fine detail while missing or denying this basic physics known for over 100 years – ? I wonder how many just can cope with the implications v. they have vested interest v. obsession with the watermelons – or they are just hired thugs.

    The evidence that gases are the main issue in the end is there from the natural experiments provided by Mars and Venus as well as the fact we dont undergo temperature fluctuations comparable to the moon. While where exactly the equilibrium lies and what controls it is a subject of debate the basic sums say its time to act now – yet it doesnt happen.

    The other puzzle is the incapacity of most economists (JQ and an enlightened minority excepted) to understand its importance – Given its a dynamic equilibrium problem – which is afterall central to how most economists think – you’d thing they would all ready be onside with their priorities – yet it still isnt so.

  25. December 13th, 2012 at 12:27 | #25

    I wonder about these people.Most certainly since the official forecasts on climate change have proved to be too conservative.

  26. Newtownian
    December 13th, 2012 at 13:17 | #26

    @nottrampis

    Who knows?

    “It might be thought that such views should be enough to consign Monckton to the lunatic fringe. But his conspiracy theory has received enthusiastic endorsement from large sections of the media including such prominent commentators as Andrew Bolt and Janet Albrechtsen (though Albrechtsen later backed away a little).”

    But the latter excerpt from JQ’s previous post (referenced above) suggests we will also treated to a sideshow of silly comments from some favorite silly people in honor of it being the silly season (one fondly remembers reading, gob-smacked, Albrechtsen blaming people who couldnt afford housing loans for the US bubble and crash – nothing to do with the shonky agents, PR, economic pundits, CDOs, robber banks and herds of credulous fund managers).

    Maybe St Gina of the Haematite will also offer some wisdom forcing smarter fellow travellers to stutter or respond with non-commital platitudes.

    Thinking it over perhaps a Monckton visit is a blessing in disguise through his expo(u)sing what denial is about.

  27. MG42
    December 13th, 2012 at 13:29 | #27

    St Gina of the Haematite

    OK, I had a chuckle at that. But seriously, how dare you question the great conservative job creators? At her desired wage rate, it is very likely I will have enough money to buy a single dinner for my family after just a few days worth of 12 hour shifts! Gosh durned lazy lefties, always wanting handouts……

  28. December 13th, 2012 at 13:40 | #28

    Newtownian I deal with the CRA claptrap at my place if you are interested

  29. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 14:31 | #29

    Ikonoclast – people say that solar power is renewable. Do you routinely force them all to concede that the sun will eventually come to an end? Or do you allow them to use the language with some convenient amount of latitude? I’m fine with pulling people up for making unqualified remarks but once they clarify what they actually mean it can be pedantic to continue doing it. And when Andrew Bolt pulls people up for saying “carbon tax” instead of “CO2e tax” do you think he has had a minor victory like you with people who admit that oil isn’t infinite? Or do you think he is just being a twat.

  30. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 14:32 | #30

    My comment is stuck in moderation.

  31. Fran Barlow
    December 13th, 2012 at 15:18 | #31

    @TerjeP

    people say that solar power is renewable. Do you routinely force them all to concede that the sun will eventually come to an end?

    On that definition, nothing would qualify as “renewable”. The definition of renewable relates to the notion that within timeframes meaningful to humans, use of the resource will remain undiminished through replenishment. Sometimes there is a related idea that the usage of the resource will not create long term non-re-usable waste, so that the reneable resource becomes a kind of closed loop. In the case of solar energy of course, the breach in the closed loop is the sun, which is an essential energy input. One may say that it’s also the essential energy input for wind, and that for tides, the moon is that input. In the case of geothermal the energy input is the heat from the mantle.

    Sometimes renewable becomes bundled up with “low footprint” or “low emissions” — which IMO, is probably a more accurate description as it relies less on notions of some kind of perpetual motion machine. Gen III and Gen IV nuclear power might qualify as relatively low footprint and emissions.

    And when Andrew {…} pulls people up for saying “carbon tax” instead of “CO2e tax”

    Well he’s wrong of course because, as has been repeatedly pointed out, there is currently no proposal to tax carbon or CO2e. He’s just using the word tax because in his corner of the cultural universe, “tax” is a derogatory term. I would agree he is either doing mendacious and rhetorical special pleading for what he takes to be the culture war, or that he has no opinion at all but is simply playing a character driven by what he takes to be the commercial interests of his employer.

  32. Newtownian
    December 13th, 2012 at 15:34 | #32

    @MG42

    St Gina does present a conundrum. She is to be feared because of her ruthless approach to power. On the other hand its difficult to take her seriously when she comes out with such daft prognosticatians – guess she doesnt have a minder brave enough to tell her what is uncool while being cunning enough not to get sacked.

    But seriously you do bring up an important problem – the (perceived?) hypocrisy of people who benefit from something they notionally dont like but neither kowtow nor divest themselves of said benefits (puts hand up).

    In case its of interest a model article on the problem relevant to greenhouse and climate change is “Fox, H.E., Kareiva, P., Silliman, B., Hitt, J., Lytle, D.A., Halpern, B.S., Hawkes, C.V., Lawler, J., Neel, M., Olden, J.D., 2009. Why do we fly? Ecologists’ sins of emission. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 7, 294-296.

    My partial answer to the dilemma is to seriously support greenish forces of sanity with hard cash (put money where mouth is ) and contemplate the lessons of Brecht’s ‘Good Woman of Sczechuan’ which deals with this problem of being good in a world which forces compromise.

    The Right of course loves to attack ‘liberals’ for such inconsistencies.

    But then conveniently they dont generally forgo Medicare, a clean environment, civil rights and all the other products of progressives which the nasty captains of industry who object to ‘liberal’ policy.

    Two great case studies are Ayn Rand getting treatment from Medicare when she was broke and old Menzies collecting his pension when Gough made it available to all.

    Albrechtson and Rhinehart are also interesting in this regard. If we were still in their idea of the good old days they would most likely have been continually passed over for jobs, and disinherited respectively.

  33. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:00 | #33

    @TerjeP

    I actually often caveat “solar as renewable power” by mentioning in parenthesis that it is renewable until the sun goes nova and/or burns out (in several billion years time). I do that to forestall misunderstandings. Occasionally I forget to do so and have to be corrected. So I have no problem with pedantic (really meaning “precise”) definitions and caveats.

    Yes, I think when Andrew Bolt pulls people up for saying “carbon tax” instead of “CO2e tax” or CO2 emissions tax I do think he has had a minor victory. Whether it is a minor victory for Bolt’s argument in particular or a minor victory for precise argument and discussion in general will depend on the context each time.

    I would not think Bolt was being a twerp (the word I would use) for that reason but I might think he was being a twerp for other reasons.

  34. TerjeP
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:08 | #34

    Well then at least you’re consistently pedantic.

  35. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:16 | #35

    @Fran Barlow

    I am not really bothered if a carbon price is called a carbon tax in at least some circumstances.

    “A carbon pricing scheme in Australia, commonly referred to as a carbon tax, commenced on 1 July 2012; it requires businesses emitting over 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually to purchase emissions permits. As such, only the top 300 Australia business emitters are affected.”- Wikipedia.

    “Carbon pricing is the generic term for placing a price on carbon through either subsidies, a carbon tax, or an emissions trading (“cap-and-trade”) system.”- Wikipedia.

    The question is what are these emissions permits precisely and who will they be purchased from?

    More generally, I don’t think the Left and the Green end of the political spectrum does itself any favours by shilly-shallying around the issue of whether it’s a tax or a price and then inventing artfices and devices like a carbob price or cap and trade in order to pretend that it is a not pigovian tax/price on a negative externality. Indeed it is artificial and fraught with pitfalls to create a shame market in “bads” negative externalities. Only markets in “goods” make natural sense. All the gutless dishonest shilly-shallying by labor has led to incomplete, vastly inadequate approach that is neither fish nor fowl.

    It would be far better to be up front, “Yeah it’s a tax, so what? If we make it a fancy emissions scheme emitters still pay a price. A tax is a price, a fancy cap and trade permit to emit is a price. It’s the same thing except taxes are easier to adminster, harder to rort and it’s more honest of us to give you a plain voting choice of tax or no tax, wrecked climate or preserved climate. OK , the choice is over to you as voters.”

  36. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:18 | #36

    @TerjeP

    I would prefer precise. Many arguments could be satisfactorily resolved (IMO) if only people were precise and not “woolly” in their arguments.

  37. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:20 | #37

    Two posts above it should be “sham market”. I also made a lot of other hasty typos but you will get the drift.

  38. Katz
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:23 | #38

    In the context of the subject of AGW, the issue isn’t the scarcity of the source of energy. Rather it is about the superabundance of sources of energy deemed to be harmful if used.

    If the world faced the prospect of running out of carbon-based fuels tomorrow, then from the point of view of AGW it would hardly matter at all how we used that fuel today.

    But patently this is not true. Enough carbon-based fuel remains to be burned to do severe environmental damage.

    The sun is not immortal. Yet there is nothing that we on earth can do to change the lifespan of the sun by a single millisecond. However, it is possible to change our use of carbon-based fuels so that human life remains viable on earth while we await the death of the sun.

  39. Jim Rose
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:46 | #39

    Lord Monckton’s weirdo ideas of who rules the world is no madder than the neoliberal conspiracy stuff led by two retired and frail professors and a once a year meeting of academics at a Mont Pelerin Society that no one ever heard off.

    See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/aug/28/comment.businesscomment

  40. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:49 | #40

    Well fossil fuels (excluding methane clathrates) are only “superabundant” in the sense that there is more than enough to over-cook our climate. A global mass eruption or burning of methane clathrates could well go beyond over-cooking and takes us into Venus territory (500 C surface temperatures).

    Solar energy flux incidence on earth’s surface is truly superabundant compared to our energy needs. The flux is also dense enough (in watts per sq.m.) to be practicably and economically harvested. The maths proves it. But “tell ‘em tha’ an’ they doon’ believe ya”.

  41. MG42
    December 13th, 2012 at 16:58 | #41

    @ Newtownian

    All of what you say is pretty much correct. The current crop of conservatives are scary. They have massive ideological blind spots. The right loves to characterise the left as being self-righteous, but I tell you, get a few RWers together and listen to them jerk about being little Atlases, surrounded by incompetent lazy idiots, and how terrible it is that government steals all their money and gives them less than nothing in return.

    In the real world, there are differences between right and left voters, of course, but the differences in most parameters are a few percentage points, and not in the realm of orders of magnitude. The conclusion is that the RW benefits just as much from society as the LW, but they delude themselves into fantasising they are “makers” while the left are “takers”.

    The hard right wants to end the way that society is structured, but somehow, the average RW voter will be totally immune from the removal of all societal support, because, after all, they “work really hard” and “have jobs” and “aren’t lazy” (feel free to add in your own favourite sickeningly self-righteous slogan here).

  42. Sancho
    December 13th, 2012 at 17:20 | #42

    @jrkrideau

    Nope. I don’t know much about Galileo beyond the standard historical trope.

    Neither do the denialists, who are hardly going to idolise someone whose scientific evidence was overwhelmingly accepted by his peers and the public but successfully attacked by the rich and powerful for having some inconsistencies.

    In not unrelated news, have you seen the debate going on upthread about how the entire theory of climate change is rubbish because of something something UV and mumble CO2?

  43. Tim Macknay
    December 13th, 2012 at 19:03 | #43

    Come on, people. What’s the point of revisiting the debate over whether or not “carbon tax” is appropriate terminology? It’s been done to death, various participants have dug into their corners and refused to budge, and in any case, regardless of what you choose to call it, the thing is now in operation.

  44. David C
    December 13th, 2012 at 20:27 | #44

    Peter Hadfield has done many videos on Monckton (like this one). When these videos were brought to the attention of Anthony Watts from WUWT he briefly provided a forum for Hadfield and Monckton to rebut each other. But when it became apparent that Monckton was completely dishonest and was claiming that he had not said things that he clearly had, Watts banned any mention of Hadfield on his blog and falsely claimed that Hadfield had rejected a challenge to debate Monckton.

    Watts and Monckton have no self awareness and obviously don’t realise how silly they look… or they’re being paid handsomely.

  45. Ikonoclast
    December 13th, 2012 at 20:48 | #45

    Well as I more or less said once before there are people who only care about “winning” and who don’t care how they “win”. I use the quotes because their definition of winning is rather odd and often in the long run as harmful to their own interests as to the interests of others.

    The rest of us still want to win and we are also prone to mistakes and temptations. We are human after all. But we don’t want to win at any cost. We have a self-governor on our behaviour. We also have some ability to consider the interests of others as well as interests of our own.

    A key diagnostic for the two personality types is the reaction of someone when caught out in a flagrant lie or egregious mistake. The healthier reaction is a significant level of any or all of shame, embarrassment, apology, rectification etc. The really concerning reaction is total unconcern and a complete lack of shame, embarrassment, apology and rectification etc.

    It’s screamingly obvious where Screaming Loony Lord Monckton falls on that simple diagnostic spectrum. The fact that he is loony probably means he is due some sympathy (and treatment if he seeks it) but he deserves no credence.

  46. Sancho
    December 13th, 2012 at 21:06 | #46

    @David C

    Monckton was routed well and truly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCoi94n0aJg

  47. Sancho
    December 13th, 2012 at 21:18 | #47

    @Ikonoclast

    There’s actually no need to brand conservatives “loony”. Their behaviour is frustrating and often irrational, but the values and thought patterns that underlie it are well established.

    Jonathon Haidt has written a lot of interesting stuff about this (a link below).

    It’s one reason that it’s counterproductive to argue science with them, because the underlying goal of climate change denialism is to preserve the interests of the aristocratic class, so anything you say in favour of science is simply regarded as propaganda.

    http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2012/08/jonathan-haidt-conservative-and-liberal-morality

  48. Fran Barlow
    December 14th, 2012 at 06:36 | #48

    @Ikonoclast

    I am not really bothered if a carbon price is called a carbon tax in at least some circumstances.

    Well there you go. For good or ill, as in most things, you are in a tiny minority. That’s not necessarily a bad thing of course. In most things, so am I. One does have to take account of the implications of that though.

    It would be far better to be up front, “Yeah it’s a tax, so what?

    There is never a reason to pander to nonsense, but in order to spare all those here who have read my responses here on this question in the past and are weary of it, I’m going to limit myself to a stipulated: No. Just no. No all over the place.

  49. December 14th, 2012 at 07:14 | #49

    Fran is correct.
    Gillard has an excuse for first saying it was a carbon tax. She has incompetent advisers.

    What we have is an ETS with a fixed price ( which time period is far too long).

    This is what was proposed by john howard and again with the deal which the opposition made with Kevin rudd.

    On neither occasion was it called a carbon tax. If it wasn’t then why is it now?

  50. Ikonoclast
    December 14th, 2012 at 08:32 | #50

    @Fran Barlow

    Nobody on the ETS side of the argument has adequately answered my fundamental critiques of carbon trading as opposed to carbon taxing.

    1. Goods are by and large traded because they are needed or desired. Trade in basically needed or desired goods does not have to be mandated by government. Trade in goods occurs in informal and formal markets.

    2. “Bads” (negative externalities) are not naturally traded because they are not wanted. Avoidance of the negative externality in the first place or remedy after the fact requires cost or penalty to the causing party.

    3. Cost or penalty can be most directly applied by pigovian taxes for mitigation and application of pigovian revenue and/or fines for remediation.

    4. The attempt to create a trade in permissions to create negative externalties is an attempt to create an artificial trade. Trade in prevention of negative externalities (or direct prevention of negative externalities) never occurs naturally in the market sense but can only occur after government legislation imposes regulations, costs and penalties.

    5. Trade in remediation of negative externality results (privately or publicly paying for a clean-up) can occur but it occurs by definition after the pollution has occured. Prevention is better than cure. Proper remediation is not always possible. If costs are to be sheeted home to the responsible party or parties then fines or legal remedies are required.

    6. Creating an artificial trade in negative externality prevention or prior mitigation as in point 4 requires the creation of an artificial market. The complex machinery and sundry artifices and devices (and political horse trading) necessary to establish and run an artificial market in “bads” leads to convoluted, inefficient and ineffective outcomes. Compliance issues become a major problem and cost to justice and administration.

    7. Creating an artificial trade in a negative externality like CO2e is a de facto privatising of a commons (in this case the atmosphere) in a “thin end of the wedge” sense. It is a dangerous precedent and extension of market operations into the free and common (to all humans) natural world.

    8. All of this absurd and dangerous nonsense of trading in a negative externality, setting up an artificial market, giving further aid and succour to neoconservative, neoliberal economics and further endangering a commons could have been avoided by a simple tax.

    9. The mechanism for taxing CO2 emissions is simple in the extreme. Put a tax on the carbon content of each fossil fuel. CO2 emissions are linearly related to the carbon content of the fuel under conditions of perfect combustion. Perfect combustion would be deemed to have occured in all use of carbon based fuels.

    To expand on point 9 with an example. We know the chemical composition of each fuel formulation which ends up at the bowser. We know how many litres are sold by the wholesaler and by the retailer. We know by chemical formula and calculation of moles of atoms how much CO2 by mole or by weight is emitted. The same is true of coal used at a power station. We know the carbon content of each coal type. Samples can be assayed to a high degree of accuracy.

    The principle would be that the “burner” of the fuel pays the tax. Hence the coal station pays the tax. The car driver pays the tax. In the case of hydrocarbon fuel for vehicles all other excises, taxes and subsidies for such fuels and removed and rolled into the carbon tax. The carbon tax is then set at that level where it is calculated overall the required progress in mitigation of emissions (to save the climate) will be made. The tax can be reviewed annually.

    The above method would catch all domestic, commercial and industrial non-animal CO2 emissions in its tax net. It is simple, logical, equitable, honest politically and would be effective for the required purpose of the policy. Instead, we have a ludicrous policy which just about evrything wrong. It gives massive up front compensation to big emitters. It ignores all other emissions. It achieves (or rather fails to achieve) by convoluted, artifical measures what could be achieved simply and effectively.

    So Fran, no I can’t let the issue drop. Emissions trading is the most absurd and disatrous policy imaginable short of doing totally nothing. In fact, it is so delayed, so puny and so ineffective we might as well be doing nothing.

    Other Issues.

    I still don’t understand how the initial floor price scheme will work. Despite my (brief) internet research I cannot ascertain how new permits were/are initially created at 01/07/12 and after. All the explanations I can find, official and unofficial, are seemingly deliberately obscurantist on this simple point.

    I assume you read my quote from Wikipedia;

    “A carbon pricing scheme in Australia, commonly referred to as a carbon tax, commenced on 1 July 2012; it requires businesses emitting over 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually to purchase emissions permits. As such, only the top 300 Australia business emitters are affected.”

    A fixed price scheme apparently will operate from 01/07/12 to 30/6/2015. Australia’s emissions trading scheme will then be linked to carbon markets around the world from the start of the flexible price period on 1 July 2015. In the first instance, who are the permits to be purchased from (or received free from) at the commencement of the scheme? That’s my question.

    If these permits to emit CO2e must be purchased from the Government at a floor price of $23 then this permit price amounts to a tax anyway. Later trading introduces various complexities. Yes, permits can be purchased from another company in private trading. However if the domestic pool is to be expanded as indeed it is by adding new emitters to the scheme then that might mandate the “minting” of new permits by the government or otherwise the price could increase more rapidly than planned. Hyperinflation of permit price might not be a desirable outcome. International trading of permits raises further complexities including detetection and compliance issues, counterfeiting of permits and so on.

    Emissions trading support by Labor and govt in general is pussy-footing, gutless, useless lunacy which completely caves into and gives aid and succour to big oil, big coal, big business, neocons and neoliberal economics in general. The neocons are playing Labor like a violin. I dont even mention L & NP. They are beneath notice.

  51. Newtownian
    December 14th, 2012 at 08:34 | #51

    @MG42
    “get a few RWers together and listen to them jerk about being little Atlases, surrounded by incompetent lazy idiots, and how terrible it is that government steals all their money and gives them less than nothing in return.”

    I seldom end up in environments/cocktail parties where the views of Monckton, Ayn Rand and St Gina, Albrechtson, Bolt et al. are givens. But like most of us I have experienced a few close encounters of the turd kind – no I shouldnt be ungracous as they provided feed and water in exchange for entertainment. Certainly it was a fascinating universe – nip tucks and face lifts, piles of Ladro, white shoes and an enchanting younger woman with a glint in the eye that she would rip your throat out if there was a buck to be made. It didnt though answer the question of why they bother. The Ladro said it all. You really do have to feel a bit sorry for them with the very odd relationship to reality that all this implied.

  52. J-D
    December 14th, 2012 at 10:12 | #52

    @Ray
    You appear to be attempting a distinction between absorbing radiation and being opaque to it. But they are the same thing.

  53. Fran Barlow
    December 14th, 2012 at 11:44 | #53

    @Ikonoclast

    “Bads” (negative externalities) are not naturally traded because they are not wanted. Avoidance of the negative externality in the first place or remedy after the fact requires cost or penalty to the causing party.

    Rather than seeing this as a penalty imposed upon the party externalising a cost to the commons, it would be better to see the remedy as a means of forcing internalisation of a cost associated with the activity. This restores the appropriate balance, much as one might ask a neighbour to foot the bill for you disposing of the dog droppings he is lobbing over the side fence. Here of courtse the suffering “neighbour” is the population of the planet, icluding the putative population, who have no voice.

    Cost or penalty can be most directly applied by pigovian taxes for mitigation and application of pigovian revenue and/or fines for remediation.

    It certainly can be applied in this way, but there are some practical problems. Most obviously, there is no class of beneficiaries within the liable group with an interest in robust enforcement. Once the trade in “bads” is realised in securities, the holders of the securities have an interest in them not being devalued, splitting the group in a way that does not occur with sumptuary levies. It’s almost certain that a “tax”-based system would be the subject of pork-barrelling and subversion, in ways that would be much harder to dfo than with a trading system.

    Moreover, it is notionally possible for third parties — e.g. a public trust — to purchase and hold these securities, forcing up the price of the “bads”. This would not be possible with a purely sumptuary levy system.

    Also, the levy system is hard to reconcil across national frontiers, which in the case of a non-respecter of borders — like CO2 — seems an important consideration.

    Prevention is better than cure. Proper remediation is not always possible. If costs are to be sheeted home to the responsible party or parties then fines or legal remedies are required.

    I agree that prevention is better than cure, but these remedies also must occur after the fact of breach. A trading system actually gets closest to anticipating bad acts and foreclosing them since a polluter buys permits in advance — presumably reflecting the point at which the costs of remediation in advance equal the costs of surrendering the permits, with the downside risk of being forced to buy new permits at the then spot price and the lure of overfullfilling one’s target and being able to sell excess permist on the spot market as an offset to whatever costs were borne in reducing pollution.

    This system encourages ambition, since success is rewarded more than merely meeting targets. If I were designing the system, I’d build in very stiff penalties for not having the required permits — at multiples of the spot price at the beginning of the relevant fiscal year. These costs would not be tax deductible either.

    It gives massive up front compensation to big emitters.

    Well that’s not inherent in trading systems. It is poor design. So is not forcing internalisation of all other emisions.

    Emissions trading is the most absurd and disatrous policy imaginable short of doing totally nothing.

    I still see it as the best system, though I also believe it is not a complete turnkey solution. It ought to be seens as an important components in a portfolio of policy — including non-deductibility of dirty energy costs in business, the imposition of road user charges for vehicles (in exchange for existing levies on fuel, registration & CTP), and so forth.

    commonly referred to as a carbon tax

    By people on the right, who are trolling the regime, or people who are lazy or demoralised, such as Murdoch-influenced journalists.

    As such, only the top 300 Australia business emitters are affected

    AIUI, the actual number is 249.

    If these permits to emit CO2e must be purchased from the Government at a floor price of $23 then this permit price amounts to a tax anyway.

    No, it doesn’t. It’s no more a tax than if the regime had a tip that handled industrial waste and said that in order to trade businesses had to purchase dumping rights by lodging a bond in advance to cover likely volumes to be dumped. It’s a fee in advance for service.

    I should say that I’m not unalterably against taxes on pollution, though I find the idea incipiently offensive. If that was all that we could get, I’d reluctantly defend it, but it does seem very close to privatising the commons — admitting that in fact the right to pollute is sacrosanct because the commons belong not to humanity but to business, and as such open to those who would to be used as an indutrial midden free of cost, albeit they have “a tax” imposed on them. I’m not ready to hand over that equity concession.

  54. Tim Macknay
    December 14th, 2012 at 12:00 | #54

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikonoclast, every time this debate has come up, it’s the same – a comparison between the actually existing ETS, with all its political compromises, and an idealised hypothetical carbon tax. But in reality, a ‘true’ carbon tax proposal would be subject to the same kind of political horse trading, and the need to deal with emissions intensive trade exposed industries and so forth, as the ETS did. The end result would not be simple.

    If you really think a tax is necessarily simpler than an ETS, go and have a gander at the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, and ask yourself why it’s more than 2,000 pages long, and why there are also more than 20 other Acts of Parliament and 10 regulatory instruments that all deal exclusively with the subject of income tax.

    But seriously, there’s just no point having the argument again because it’s a done deal. The international community decided that emissions trading schemes were a good idea back in 1992, and now Australia has one.

  55. Robert (not from UK)
    December 14th, 2012 at 12:37 | #55

    It’s only fair to put it on the record that Screaming Lord Sutch (to whom Professor Quiggin refers in passing, comparing Christopher Monckton to him) did die a horribly lonely death by his own hand.

  56. December 14th, 2012 at 13:09 | #56

    Emissions trading schemes would be a terrible idea if they didn’t work.

  57. Newtownian
    December 14th, 2012 at 13:20 | #57

    @Robert (not from UK)

    As Ned said – Su(t)ch is life – before they hung him.

    But this comparison to Monckton is misleading . Poor SLS suffered from clinical depression and maybe manic depression. The Monster Raving Looney Party is notable for being the most successful frivolous party on record – often outdoing other parties that took themselves seriously. And finally he left us a cultural legacy ahead of his time – e.g. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRM3LO2ZCac

    Monckton cant claim any such glories.

  58. Fran Barlow
    December 14th, 2012 at 13:39 | #58

    @Robert (not from UK)

    It’s only fair to put it on the record that Screaming Lord Sutch (to whom Professor Quiggin refers in passing, comparing Christopher Monckton to him) did die a horribly lonely death by his own hand.

    That is terrible news. I had not heard that. If nothing else, they seemed basically well-intended and surely provided an opportunity for those feeling malaise at the consensus to vote for “none of the above”.

  59. Ikonoclast
    December 14th, 2012 at 14:52 | #59

    Rebuttal 1.

    “Emissions trading schemes would be a terrible idea if they didn’t work.” – Ronald Brak.

    Precisely, because they don’t work. The Corporate Europe Observatory – Exposing the power of corporate lobbying in the EU – states;

    “EU ETS: failing at the third attempt”. I will quote snippets.

    ” in practice it has rewarded major polluters with windfall profits, while undermining efforts to reduce pollution and achieve a more equitable and sustainable economy.”

    1. “The EU Emissions Trading System (ETS) has failed to reduce emissions.”
    2. “Companies have consistently received generous allocations of permits to pollute, meaning they have no obligation to cut their carbon dioxide emissions.”
    3. ” A surplus of around 970 million of these allowances from the second phase of the scheme (2008-2012), which can be used in the third phase, means that polluters need take no action domestically until 2017.
    4. “Proposals to curtail this surplus were discussed in the context of the EU’s 2050 Roadmap, but have been watered down in response to lobbying from energy-intensive industries.”

    5. “The ETS is a subsidy scheme for polluters, with the allocation of permits to pollute more closely reflecting competition policy than environmental concerns. Power companies gained windfallprofits estimated at €19 billion in phase l, and look set to rake in up to €71 billion in phase ll. Subsidies to energy-intensive industry through the two phases could amount to a further €20 billion. This has mostly resulted in higher shareholder dividends, with very little of the windfall invested in transformational energy infrastructure.”

    Rebuttal 2.

    “But seriously, there’s just no point having the argument (ETS vs CO2e tax) again because it’s a done deal.” – Tim Macknay.

    Nothing is a done deal. Every bad policy can be reversed.

    The Income Tax Act is long and unwieldy because it has been subject to special interest pleading, gaming and rentier capitalism. Nothing is a done deal. Every bad policy can be reversed.

    Summary.

    Persisting in believing that ETS policies will achieve anything involves;

    1. Ignoring all the empirical evidence to date of all ETS-es which have been unmitigated failures and disasters, handing windfall monies to big polluters (from public coffers) and failing utterly to curb emissions.

    2. Continuing naievity and gullibility and a complete lack of understanding of how neoliberalism is deceiving you. It involves a failure to properly apply your intellect critically and a failure to escape the false consciousness induced by corporate capitalism and its propaganda.

    Yes, it’s that bad. No, I won’t resile from this trenchant criticism when people allow themselves to be fooled by neoliberalism.

    Resort to terming carbon taxes “sumptuary law” is both archaic and inaccurate. “Pigovian tax” is the appropriate term as there is an attempt to limit a negative externality not to limit luxury or extravagance as such. People need to learn to think clearly and precisely or they will never solve anything.

  60. J-D
    December 14th, 2012 at 14:54 | #60

    Screaming Lord Sutch committed suicide in 1999, but the Official Monster Raving Loony Party survived him and candidates have stood in the 2001, 2005, and 2010 general elections as well as various other electoral contests.

  61. Newtownian
    December 14th, 2012 at 15:28 | #61

    @J-D

    It appears that the recently deceased eccentric bastion of Englishness astronomer Sir Patrick Moore was also once a member, indeed the OMRLP finance minister.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10525469

    But then Moore saw the light and became a member of UKIP, Britain’s answer to the Tea Party and contender for the world’s strangest logo award where Monckton is a leading light http://www.ukip.org/page/key-party-roles .

  62. Tim Macknay
    December 14th, 2012 at 16:05 | #62

    @Ikonoclast

    The Income Tax Act is long and unwieldy because it has been subject to special interest pleading, gaming and rentier capitalism. Nothing is a done deal. Every bad policy can be reversed.

    Precisely my point, Ikonoclast. Any complex, broad-ranging, and controversial taxation policy, including a hypothetical pigovian tax, will be subject to special interest pleading, gaming and rentier capitalism, just at the ETS has been.

    I think your claim that supporters of ETS schemes are being “fooled by neoliberalism” is quite overblown. Pigovian taxes are also regarded as market-based mechanisms, and as such can be thought of as just as “neoliberal” as emissions trading schemes.

    As for the European scheme, you may be aware that its problems, particular the initial overallocation of permits, were heavily scrutinised by the designers of the Australian scheme, and steps taken to avoid them. That is why the Australian scheme has benefited from the pre-establishment of a compulsory carbon accounting scheme which had already been in operation for five years at the commencement of the ETS, significantly limiting the scope for overallocation.

    I have some sympathy with your philosophical objections to the idea of schemes which appear to privatise the global commons, but on the issue of climate change I’m pragmatic. My own view is that a “real” carbon tax type policy, if implemented in Australia, would in all probably be roughly as effective as, and have roughly similar issues to, the ETS which has been implemented. Both systems, in the real world, would be less than perfect, and insufficient in themselves to drive down emissions to the level required, but would have some effect, and would represent a step forward. We’ve ended up with an ETS, but if we had a carbon tax instead, I think the situation would be largely the same.

  63. Ikonoclast
    December 14th, 2012 at 17:04 | #63

    @Tim Macknay

    You may be right in some respects. The ETS offends me on so many levels I simply see red about it.

    The turning over of so many aspects of governance and regulation of our society to the markets instead of retaining that power at the level of democratic government is a grievous mistake IMO.

  64. Fran Barlow
    December 14th, 2012 at 18:11 | #64

    @Tim Macknay

    I have some sympathy with your philosophical objections to the idea of schemes which appear to privatise the global commons

    The idea of a carbon “tax” seems much closer to that than an ETS. After all, you can only tax private assets.

  65. December 14th, 2012 at 18:37 | #65

    Unless it’s all been some sort of chance occurrance, CO2 emissions have declined in Australia as a result of the carbon price. And unless it is all some sort of huge con, coal plants now have to pay a minimum of about $70 for each tonne of coal they burn where as before July first most only paid a few dollars a tonne. While my own preference is for a carbon tax rather than a carbon trading scheme, I will take what I can get as my mind needs the salve of doing something to help scrub the stench of drowned Bangladeshis out of my mind each time I need the juice to keep my Justin Bieber videos blaring. And while handing out emission cetificates to polluters for free or on the cheap may offend my sense of, er… Gee, I don’t really have a word for what’s offended. I think in the olden times they used the word justice, but repeated misuse has given that word the opposite of its original meaning to me. Anyway, the neat thing is, even if all the emissions cetificates in the nation were given for free to Coaly McCoal, Mayor of Coaltown, it would still result in reductions in CO2 emissions even though it wouldn’t be very um, fair. And reductions in CO2 emissions are what I need to keep the ghosts of dead Thai people at bay.

  66. Newtownian
    December 14th, 2012 at 19:44 | #66

    Sancho :@Ikonoclast
    There’s actually no need to brand conservatives “loony”. Their behaviour is frustrating and often irrational, but the values and thought patterns that underlie it are well established.

    It’s one reason that it’s counterproductive to argue science with them, because the underlying goal of climate change denialism is to preserve the interests of the aristocratic class, so anything you say in favour of science is simply regarded as propaganda.

    Sancho your empathy is laudable but it misses things.

    Conservatives arent all being lumped in with Monckton in toto. There are plenty even in the Liberal Party (in the Wets) who are both conservative and as concerned about the environment/climate change as anyone in the Greens.

    The term ‘lunatic’ is not only used to describe clinically insane people. Its second meaning is ‘. Madly foolish, frantic, idiotic, ‘mad’. see http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/111179?redirectedFrom=lunatic#eid – which fits Monckton and those supporters who genuinely concur with his position pretty well. Loony is somewhat derogatory but we often say friends have loony ideas so this ambiguous use seems fair.

    Regarding Haidt – his morality thesis seems credibly a part of the story but it doesnt cover other important groups who are loonies for different reasons like:
    - genuine pyschopaths who simply dont have any morality (a minority but possibly a powerful one).
    - people who support the dirty tricks campaigns and mass trolling operations associated with the term Green Washing. This latter behaviour for which there appears to be good evidence suggests a degree of amorality.
    - technocrats, particularly classical economically trained ones, who have such a different perspective of how the world works that they have no concept of environmental impacts and ecosystems and their dependency on them and implications of climate science even though being ‘educated’ they should in theory know better or be able to develop their position independently. Put another way they are bottled up in an impenetrable intellectual silo.
    - those people whose moral compass is not fixed but sways primarily with fashion, self interest and emotion – how else can you explain the massive swing that seems to have happenned in the rising opposition to dealing with climate change when the evidence has been becoming much more solid e.g. Arctic melting

  67. Ikonoclast
    December 15th, 2012 at 11:08 | #67

    @Fran Barlow

    “The idea of a carbon “tax” seems much closer to that (privatising commons) than an ETS. After all, you can only tax private assets.” – Fran.

    Fran, your comment makes no logical sense. You are respecting neither the categories nor the terminology of economics or Political Economy. None of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, David Ricardo or J. M. Keynes would agree with your statement or even accept that it made any sense.

    Tax does not privatise wealth it “nationalises” it. The term “nationalise” is usually used for fixed assets or real property transferred to public ownership. However, when private circulating capital or private fluid capital is transferred to government ownership via tax then this too essentially nationalises the wealth. It is now a national or common asset.

    You are completely wrong. Your statement is the diametric opposite of the truth. I now begin to see why you don’t understand this debate at all.

    There are 3 broad categories of “ownership” under mixed economy capitalism in a global system of sovereign nation states.

    1. Private ownership.
    2. National or State ownership; and
    3. Global Commons.

    What distinguishes global commons is that it is neither privately nor state owned and is free to be used by all. The high seas (outside of national maritime zones) are an example of a global commons. The atmosphere is another global commons. What remains as global commons are those parts of the world which can’t be claimed and enclosed in some way. It’s interesting that the remaining commons are extensive and liquid and gaseous in nature ie. they flow everywhere in their large domain so are not enclosable, containable and ownable by physical means of control. To date, that is why they are still commons. The one significant exception is Antarctic which presents other obstacles to possession.

    Now note that it is not the atmospheric commons that are taxed by a carbon tax. (The commons are protected by the carbon tax not taxed by it.) It is private assets of carbon as fossil fuel that are taxed at the point of their conversion to waste products and useful energy.

    CO2 Emission Certificates, or permissions to pollute the atmosphere with CO2 do not physically enclose the atmosphere but they “instrumentally” enclose it in the sense of being a legal-financial instrument that controls access to the commons. Permission to generate CO2 and release it to the atmosphere is equivalent to and dependendent on persmission to take O2 from the atmosphere and chemically combine it with carbon.

    Without a permit you cannot take O2 from the atmosphere for cetain purposes now proscribed except if you hold the proper permit. The legal instrument is governmental but the financial interactions become market based and operated by private interests. Permission to use the O2 in the atmosphere for certain purposes is now traded. Owning a lot of certificates measured in tonnes of CO2 amounts to permission to appropriate X moles of O2 molecules i.e. to own them for all practical purposes as a raw input material. Of course, people don’t own or want to own them afterwards when they are bound up as CO2. Nobody wants to own waste that is uneconomic to recycle.

    Looked at in this unimpeachably logical and economically consistent light, ETS certificates amount to a partial privatisation of the commons.

    Eventually, if the corporations can pollute the atmosphere enough will they start selling people oxygen cylinders and gas scrubbers for their (now) hermetically sealed houses? And/or will they eventually purchase the rights to all free oxygen? Science-fictiony I know. But it’s like boiling the frog slowly. They will take humanity to that desination one small step at a time if they can (if AGW fails to shut everything down). Eventually the most absurd idea will begin to seem natural and normal to the dumbed down and propagandised multitudes.

  68. Ikonoclast
    December 15th, 2012 at 13:53 | #68

    @Newtownian

    I am sticking with “loony” from now on. The right used to refer to the “loony” left when they actually meant people who disagreed with immoral wars, diagreed with environmental dectruction for profit and disgreed with most of the wealth and power going to corporate capital, owners and away from workers.

    “Loony right” is a actually a far more justifiable tag. We mean people on the right who deny established science, deny the validity of the scientific-empirical method, deny the difference between empirical knowledge and idoelogical/religious beliefs, deny logical analysis, deny facts and deny the entire developed philosophical and humanist basis of the Western tradition (and much of Eastern tradition as well). In short they deny objective reality and the widest social and ethical consensus of educated post-medieval humans.

    It doesn’t get much more loony and deluded than that.

  69. Fran Barlow
    December 15th, 2012 at 17:48 | #69

    @Ikonoclast

    Tax does not privatise wealth it “nationalises” it.

    Now you are showing lack of understanding. I didn’t claim that “tax” privatises wealth. I asserted that to tax something is to concede the asset is private. If the “benefit” of dumping waste into the environment for free is taxable, it surely means that the environment is an asset of the businesses that are doing the dumping. They presumably could not dump either onto the land of another business or land owned by the public.

    What distinguishes global commons is that it is neither privately nor state owned and is free to be used by all.

    Not quite. The value of the global commons is an asset of humanity — rather than of each member of it. If individual subsections of humanity start to privatise the asset — eg by degrading it in ways that yield a private benefit unconnected with a compelling right of all humans (such as preserving their lives) then they are effectively embezzling the commons. A tort lawyer might say they were “converting by wrongful user”. Right now, that is what polluters are doing, and yet they are trying to claim that impositions on these acts amount to “a tax”. That’s an attempt at legitiming their embezzlement — asserting that the asset is theirs to foul as they please.

  70. Fran Barlow
    December 15th, 2012 at 17:49 | #70

    oops legitimising

  71. Ikonoclast
    December 15th, 2012 at 19:29 | #71

    @Fran Barlow

    But as I said;

    “… it is not the atmospheric commons that are taxed by a carbon tax. It is private assets of carbon as fossil fuel that are taxed at the point of their conversion to waste products and useful energy.” This is done to discourage pollution of the commons. It is not a tax that concedes the whole commons as private. How can it be when it’s a tax on the carbon burnt.

    Your statement “to tax something is to concede the asset is private” is an interesting one and it strikes me as correct in another case. It depends on the nuance one gives to “concede” and whether it is taken to mean it concedes the asset in whole or in part.

    Royalties (like coal royalties) are a tax.

    “The owner of petroleum and mineral resources may licence a party to extract those resources while paying a resource rent, or a royalty on the value or the resultant profits. When a government is the owner of the resource the terms of the licence and the royalty rate are typically legislated or regulated.”- Wikipedia.

    “According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a tax is a “pecuniary burden laid upon individuals or property owners to support the government [...] a payment exacted by legislative authority.” It “is not a voluntary payment or donation, but an enforced contribution, exacted pursuant to legislative authority” and is “any contribution imposed by government [...] whether under the name of toll, tribute, tallage, gabel, impost, duty, custom, excise, subsidy, aid, supply, or other name.” – Wikipedia.

    Hence when the state concedes the mineral (coal) extracted to a private entity as now private goods, the amount of coal extracted is conceded for a tax (a royalty). So as you say “to tax something is to concede the asset is private” is true here in a very literal sense with a very active and yet limited meaning of the word “concede”. It is not the point that is being conceded here but the actual coal extracted. The state is not conceding a general private right to all coal. It is conceding the specific quantity extracted (for which royalty is paid) as now private goods. It is important to remember that all remaining coal resources in the ground remain a national or state asset. Thus the entire remaining national asset of coal reserves is not conceded (not considered) to be private or privatised.

    Thus to tax coal burned (the specific legal focus of the tax) does not in any way concede the entire atmospheric commons as private. It does not “privatise” it. “Privatise” implies private ownership of goods, services or instruments tradeable on the market. There is no private ownership of the general atmospheric commons conferred by taxing the burning of fossil fuels and there are no tradeable instruments (representing ownership) created and available after or consequent upon taxation. This goes to the nub of the argument about privatisation.

    The position is different with Emissions certificates. There are now tradeable instruments, exchangeable upon the market for currency or other consideration. They trade the legal permission to pollute the commons.

  72. Ken Fabian
    December 16th, 2012 at 09:28 | #72

    I suspect the failures of ETS are because in the fine detail they are compromised. The political compromise that inserts loopholes and compensations probably arise out of the behind the scenes political influence. It’s often exerted by overt and implied threats in the form of fear mongering about the ‘devastating’ economic consequences of an uncompromising policy. Political compromise has it’s good points but in the case of emissions and energy, where the consequences of failure are so far reaching, the unwillingness of people elected or appointed to positions of influence, trust and responsibility to stand their ground is dismaying.

    Worse of course when they actively seek to undermine effective policies, whether out of willful disbelief as deniers in the consequences of failure to act or as uncritical accepters and promoters of the economic doom lines being spun by affected interests. Instead of compromised policies being the reason to develop uncompromising ones, in their hands it’s transmuted into the line that there should be no policy efforts at all. Specifically that the failures are failures of ‘green’ policies and politics when the failures are really of mainstream policies and politics.

  73. December 16th, 2012 at 13:10 | #73

    Careful, Ikonoclast. If certain Americans read this thread they’ll soon be telling each other that Australians now have to pay for oxygen.

  74. December 16th, 2012 at 14:46 | #74

    Emoticon.

  75. Jordan
    December 16th, 2012 at 18:00 | #75

    @Fran Barlow
    Acctualy, it is opposite of what you are trying to implly.
    If private corporations were using global commons, air for example, without limitations and for free, changing that usage to taxing is conceding that air is not private, that they get to use it only, and paying tax is way that it allows them to do it.
    So, if polluters were using air without limitations before and now they have to pay for it, carbon tax legalises the way the government allows them to do it. Before, it was without constraint, now government apropriates, in total, how much they can use it.
    Total apropriated ammount is more or less unimportant as much as change in process of apropriation, legalwise only.
    ETS or carbon tax will have more effect as it changes the ammount of total available use. Even if it total ammount stays the same, it will have growing effect as need for more energy(pollution) is raising

  76. Jordan
    December 16th, 2012 at 18:04 | #76

    Carbon tax does not limit the ammount used, my bad, only ETS

  77. December 16th, 2012 at 19:12 | #77

    The Galileo Movement link refers to project leader Malcolm Roberts with this:

    “An engineer by training, his managerial and leadership experience included statutory responsibility for thousands of people’s lives based on his knowledge and real-world experience of atmospheric gases, including carbon dioxide. ”

    I suspect Malcolm’s experience with atmospheric gases and C02 may relate to a backgrouind in underground coal mining?

    If it is indeed the Malcolm (don’t those photos look familiar) I know it is the same Malcolm who did a surprisingly rapid career advancement to become manager of the large Gordonstone underground coal mine development in Emerald around 1990.

    There were genuine innovations attempted and Malcolm does have some admirable skills. However he was ultimately removed. I’m not sure the background descibed and that I am aware of is any qualification re CO2 and climate!

  78. Jim Rose
    December 24th, 2012 at 11:48 | #78

    does anyone remember what came out of the Doha conference? But for the robust non-violent direct action of Lord Monckton, who would have know it was on?

  79. Tim Macknay
    December 24th, 2012 at 14:34 | #79

    @Jim Rose
    Not everyone relies on Viscount Monckton for their news, Jim.

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