Home > Economics - General > How can we convince rightwingers to accept climate science …

How can we convince rightwingers to accept climate science …

August 21st, 2014

… persuade them to stop being rightwingers[1]

I have a piece in Inside Story arguing that the various efforts to “frame” the evidence on climate change, and the policy implications, in a way that will appeal to those on the political right are all doomed. Whether or not it was historically inevitable, anti-science denialism is now a core component of rightwing tribal identity in both Australia and the US. The only hope for sustained progress on climate policy is a combination of demography and defection that will create a pro-science majority.

With my characteristic optimism, I extract a bright side from all of this. This has three components
(a) The intellectual collapse of the right has already proved politically costly, and these costs will increase over time
(b) The cost of climate stabilization has turned out to be so low that even a delay of 5-10 years won’t render it unmanageable.
(c) The benefits in terms of the possibility of implementing progressive policies such as redistribution away from the 1 per cent will more than offset the extra costs of the delay in dealing with climate change.

I expect lots of commenters here will disagree with one or more of these, so feel free to have your say. Please avoid personal attacks (or me or each other), suggestions that only a stupid person would advance the position you want to criticise and so on.

fn1. Or, in the case of young people, not to start.

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  1. Michael
    August 21st, 2014 at 13:56 | #1

    Will the right’s tribal rejection of science morph into pro-active accelerated destruction of the environment? Maurice Newman has kicked the ball off with “global cooling” although I don’t know whether he advocates an increase in carbon emissions to stave off this outcome.

  2. Vikraman Selvaraja
    August 21st, 2014 at 14:03 | #2

    In my interactions with young right-ish people, they all still seem to hold out a hope that Malcolm Turnbull will roll Abbott and the Tea Party liberals, and the Liberals will re-invent themselves as a not insane party.

    I find this ridiculous and extremely hard to believe… but hey? Stranger things have happened?

  3. Robert (not from UK)
    August 21st, 2014 at 14:12 | #3

    A devoted American champion of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was (and I learned this fact only about a week ago) none other than the Michigan-based Russell Kirk, author of that 1950s bestseller The Conservative Mind, which had already gone through umpteen editions by the time its author died in 1994. Dr Kirk, whose friends happen to have included T.S. Eliot (about whom he wrote a book and numerous articles), defended Silent Spring on solid socially-traditionalist grounds.

  4. David Allen
    August 21st, 2014 at 14:27 | #4

    Anti-science has still got a way to go. I expect much more will be done to doom the biosphere. Never underestimate the power of stupid.

  5. ramiro
    August 21st, 2014 at 14:36 | #5

    The main problem as I see it (at least locally), is that a government that can’t see the writing on the wall for fossil fuels will not invest in alternatives. This means that when we and the rest of the world inevitably start seriously building renewables, it will be done on the top of American and European tech.

    Australia needs to have something to sell. We can’t sell coal forever, and thanks to the right’s short sightedness, when it becomes worthless we won’t be getting any money off its replacement.

  6. Watkin Tench
    August 21st, 2014 at 14:40 | #6

    A good start might be to consider the points made by Dan Kahan in his project cultural cognition project. Fortutitously, he blogs about it. In a nutshell, you need to tap into the Right’s values.

    I think the Right will come on board once the evidence of climate change smacks them in the face like a brick and this will be helped along by framing the issue in a way that appeals to right wing values, incuding an appeal to nuts and bolts rational self interest. After all, devastaing climate change is not going to be good for the bottom line for all but a few industries.

    Also let’s be honest. At the moment the rate of climate change, if I understand the situation correctly, barely scrapes into the bottom of IPCC estimates and folk inside the mainstream of climate science are busily trying to explain what is happening.

    From the Guardian:

    Scientists have been investigating reasons for the slowdown in temperature rises. Peer-reviewed papers over the last year have suggested 17 sun-dimming volcanic eruptions since 2000, “unusual” trade winds in the Pacific Ocean burying surface heat deep underwater and the world’s oceans absorbing greater amounts of heat in recent years may have contributed.

    It is hardly surprising that folk who are ideologically primed to disbelieve AGW is a major threat that requires state intervention are now pointing a finger and saying why should we believe this lot. If they want theoretical support for such skepticism, they can always cite Karl Popper on how the ad hoc adjustment of theory is a bit iffy.

    Thus the cold hard brick of reality will probably require a string of record breaking hot years.

  7. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:06 | #7


    The cost of climate stabilization has turned out to be so low that even a delay of 5-10 years won’t render it unmanageable.

    I’d say that’s debatable. We really don’t know enough about feedbacks to be at all confident about that. If there is a serious pulse from the Arctic Permafrost that delay might be the equivalent of one of 20+ years. A lot of damage can occur while we wind that back.

    Let’s keep in mind that for all practical purposes, carbon is either forever (see discussion of the “Long Tail of CO2 — about 7% of the perturbation caused by a CO2 molecule entering today will still be present in 50,000 years time) or until some fabulous and scaleable technology to draw it down and sequester it is developed.

    As I said the other day, we need to achieve peak CO2 concentrations early and as low as possible and then move quickly back to a figure which can at worst stabilise temperatures, if not begin reversing them to return as quickly as possible to the global temperature we had about 120 years ago. If we can do that we will save more of the ice and snowpack and land based glaciers, and avoid much biodiversity loss.

    And let us keep in mind ocean acidification as well.

    As things stand, that sounds an idle fantasy, because we’d probably have to get concentrations well under 280ppm to do that.

  8. Bill Thompson
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:23 | #8

    A planet emergency will be reached when world population increases and pollution levels are such, that a depleted and damaged biosphere cannot meet the increasing demand for its resources. In the circumstances of wrong political assumptions, and the twin evils of human greed and continuing unfettered consumption, unrestrained capitalism will be found wanting. The right does well under the present economic arrangements, so ‘do not disturb’ the reactionaries. When it is beyond spaceship earth’s ability to heal itself, it will then be too late to construct an alternative to our present economic arrangement. I wish I could be as optimistic as John Quiggan.

  9. Dave Lisle
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:44 | #9

    To take another angle on (depressive) optimism – given the promise of massive profits that geoengineering holds out, we can probably expect a wholesale embrace of the science when it becomes clear that the situation is so dire that geoengineering is the only option. The American Enterprise Institute and other RW American think tanks have already given plenty of thought to this.

  10. yuri
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:47 | #10

    Heute Deutschland, morgen die Welt!
    Just my elliptical way of expressing my bewilderment at JQ in Messianic world. Is He preaching (and prophesying) to the whole world or can he sometimes see things as a humble provincial reconciled to a group of acolytes larger only than Freud’s close circle of mutual backscratchers and to the unreality of Rudd like fantasies of changing the world to Australia’s advantage. (Clue: he doesn’t really want to or has given up hope – and will soon do a Jim Jone on us poor worshippers? – because he goes out of his way to insult “right wingers” even to the point of calling a distinguished public servant with a First in mathematical physics and Rhodes Scholarship a “bigoted old man” by necessary inference).

    Still, all is forgiven on this happy morning when my pills have been delivered and administered. For innovators are about to save us and I rejoice at every foolish Queenslanders’ losses from not having privatised the electricity when the going was more than good 20+ years ago. I worship the sun which is already chipping away at the Qld gov’s coal fired profits (pity about the Grants Commission but we never were real believers in states competing American style despite the praises eloquently conferred on Playford by “the most intelligent socialist in Australia”: Hugh Stretton).

    But back to my respectful mode for the Earth bound economist JQ. Have I missed it, or can we still hope for some justification for the view that early anti-AGW expenditure is good business even for Australia. Of course you would never have recommended state investment in the business of that clever Chinese-Australian solar energy scientist graduate of the UNSW who took his startup to China. Oh, the might-have-beens. He might have been a Prof in Australia chairing a small solar panel company selling the photovoltaics at 5 times current prices – and he mightn’t have gone broke….

    One final protest on behalf of the 1 per cent against your vindictiveness. The fees they pay me for PR and other forms of protection make me quite objective about the poor suckers who earn perhaps 200K and actually pay net tax.

    Is it fair to add to their burdens of higher health costs for nothing better than standard, a levy to deal with the budhet deficit, no first home owners grants, school fees well above the government’s contribution…? And to cap it all they may be workinf where they can see how the 0.01 per cent can pay almost as little tax as Mitt Romney and can readily enough find offshore relief as needed. Start thinking Hong Kong, Bahamas, Israel, Bermuda, Switzerland … and have I got some nice little packages for you! (Well that’s what the other Yuri said to me by Skype from ? the other day).

    There’s another very special package which allows you to avoid the company of Gina Rinehart and James Packer. There’s an opt out too for Silvio Berlusconi as long as you don’t mind being filmed.

  11. yuri
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:49 | #11

    Oops! I wouldn’t want to reread it all however cogent but I see that I put “world” for “mode”. Kinda spooky when I went on to mention Freud…

  12. Newtownian
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:50 | #12

    I think there needs to be a reworking of the concept of ‘the right’. There are plenty of conservatives who are or have been pro the science. Margaret Thatcher, Paul Ehlrich come to mind as do some relatively right wing friends of mine.

    Conversely there are plenty on the left who are at best luke warm – Martin Ferguson and indeed Penny Wong come to mind. The latter always struck me as bet hedging reflecting a perception that this was just another management problem rather than a full blow existential challenge and she was too compromised by her union connections to be a serious leader for environmental change.

    Meanwhile the Greens, though pro addressing climate change have plenty of confused ideas and a lack of solutions in regards to the bigger sustainability picture which climate change prevention needs to incorporate – read their economic policies (or lack thereof) to appreciate their positions do not arise from science but from ideology. Separately there is a very strong antiscience streak among many new agers which is currently evident in other forms like the anti-vaccination campaign support.

    I guess I’m agreeing with VS.

    As a working approximation I’d suggest that JQ is really referring to neoliberal ideologues who equate rationality with rationalisation of viewpoints without considering their rationality and use a number of simple views of the world. The question is are there any among their number supporters who are more open minded and what would it take to change them.

    Sadly Turnbull is the model which illustrates there isn’t much hope. Since their election he has in effect joined the extreme neoliberal ranks to such an extent he no longer is credible and for practical purposes he himself is now as much a climate change denier as Abbott himself. So perhaps a more useful question would be what will it take to start the ball rolling whereby those conservatives who once professed belief in climate change science based on their own analysis rather than just opportunism realize they can no longer be party to the horrors that now dominate the controlling clique of the right currently. Turnbull’s change or otherwise is almost certainly a touch stone. But I am not holding my breath he will break ranks before he retires.

  13. yuri
    August 21st, 2014 at 15:57 | #13

    @Fran Barlow
    As you seem to know there is an issue about how long newly emitted CO2 molecules remain on average in the atmosphere you may be someone to calculate what growth of forests (as well as stopping deforestation) can do to mop up the excess. As you would know there are huge seasonal takeups of CO2. Interesting BTW that there was a lot less Amazon rain forest in 1520 than in 2000 (or now).

  14. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 16:38 | #14


    Actually it’s less important which individual CO2 molecules remain in the atmosphere, as the net effect of the augmentation — the perturbation. All of our temporary carbon sinks — the water, the air, vegetation — continually absorb and return CO2 to the other temporary sinks. Adding more to the atmosphere simply means, all else being equal, molecules of CO2 that would have been taken up are returned to the atmosphere.

    Silicate weathering is the only naturally occurring way to take CO2 out of the flux but it’s much too slow for human purposes.

    It may be that drawing down CO2 for a couple of hundred years might be enough in practice, if some new technology for capturing and sequestering CO2 arises in that time window of course. That is of course, a guess.

  15. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 16:59 | #15

    Planting trees sounds Simple enough to many people but it’s not as straightforward as you might imagine.

    You want very fast growing varieties but you want them to be tolerant of drought and not require substantial nutrient — since fertilisers require FHCs. You want to be able to harvest them when their net uptake falls to zero so they can be replaced with new stock while the carbon and lignin and roots remain locked up.

    You need to be able to protect them from fire and parasitic organisms, not disrupt local ecology and to be growing on land that is not in demand for other purposes. And all of this must be scaleable and fit within a viable budget.

    Bear in mind too that tree cover decreases albedo causing temporary positive feedbacks in ways analogous to the loss of Arctic sea ice, so any substantial amount of woody vegetation or even grasses is going to have some positive as well as negative forcings. Even if you could devise a fully scaleable cost-maintainable revegetation program to biosequester CO2 the positive forcings would exceed the negative forcings for probably the first third to half of the life of the program.

    That’s why I rather like the idea of using algae. It’s high yield, requires little maintenance and can be raised in ways that would have nearly zero impact on local ecology and on land which nobody was interested in using. You’re going to draw down far more CO2 per m2 with algae than with grasses or trees, and disposing if it securely will surely be far easier.

  16. John Quiggin
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:01 | #16

    There are some ideas already on the drawing board. Cost estimates start at $200 tonne and go up from there, so it would certainly be better to move faster


    Still, you can do some simple arithmetic to see that $200/tonne removal would not be economically catastrophic. Australia’s current emissions are around 0.5 billion tonnes a year, so removing a year’s worth would cost $100 billion. With even modest growth, national income in 2050 will exceed $2 trillion. So, if we put in 5 per cent of national income every year from 2050 to 2150 we could remove 100 years worth of emissions at the current rate, which would be more than the entire emissions since European settlement.

  17. Ikonoclast
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:02 | #17

    Anti-science denialism is a core component of corporate-oligarchic capitalism. Sure, science is fine when it provides outcomes and technologies that they want; like weapons, surveillance tools and propaganda media. But science is not welcome when it provides uncomfortable data. The way that right-wingers pick and choose which science they want to accept and implement and which they want to reject is entirely rational and pragmatic. It would indeed continue to be the correct way for them to hold on to wealth and power indefinitely were it not for one drawback. A wrecked environment will not be able to support any economy.

    I think Prof. J.Q. beholds the complete victory of corporate-oligarchic capitalism… and then doesn’t want to behold it. (It’s understandable, we all want to grasp at straws of hope.) The TEA party types for sure are delusional but the Koch brothers (for example) know exactly what they are doing. The TEA party types have no power. The Koch brothers do. What happens or doesn’t happen in our society, with respect to the economy, is almost entirely determined by the oligarchs. The majority of the people have little or no say in the matter. Our so-called democracy is a fig-leaf for this reality. No matter who we vote for we get neocon economic and climate policy.

  18. nick j
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:08 | #18

    science advances one funeral at a time…

  19. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:23 | #19

    @John Quiggin

    How can it be consistent to propose an abatement program at $200 per tonne while proposing a carbon price of $50 per tonne? If you regard $200 per tonne as a reasonable cost for biosequestratiom, then surely that’s what the carbon price should be?

  20. David Irving (no relation)
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:29 | #20

    @Watkin Tench
    The evidence already has smacked them in the face like a brick, it’s just that they’re too dim (or ideologically blinkered) to have noticed it yet. I doubt that they ever will, because the acceptance of the reality of climate change entails accepting the end of growth capitalism /hobbyhorse.

    As nick j points out, science advances one funeral at a time.

  21. Tim Macknay
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:49 | #21

    @Fran Barlow
    I think Prof Q’s points is that, while removing CO2 from the atmosphere is considerably more expensive than reducing emissions, it could sitll be done if necessary, i.e. the costs are not completely untenable. I don’t think the Prof is suggesting that that approach is necessarily the most sensible one, just that it’s potentially available.

  22. yuri
    August 21st, 2014 at 17:56 | #22

    @John Quiggin
    Your enthusiasm was catching and I enjoyed reading Ms Gaia Vince’s piece about the fake trees whose price was expected to drop substantially – as one would expect – with mass production. (And a possible part answer to Fran Barlow’s point: the carbon thus captured would be valuable). But did you notice the boo-boo by the former science journalist and author of “Adventures in the Anthropocene?
    How much confidence can you place in the expertise of someone who says the temperature of the Earth would be -18 degrees C if there were no atmospheric CO2.
    Just Google for Stefan-Boltzmann Law and discover that -18 degrees C is Earth’s approx. blackbody temperature as modified by its 0.3 albedo…. As every rabid denialist knows water vapour is the big warmer of our planet as GHG.

  23. August 21st, 2014 at 17:58 | #23

    Fran, it is pretty clear now that a $50 a tonne carbon price will cause CO2 levels in the atmosphere to, on a human time scale, stabilise. If we wanted to lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels we could achieve that by raising the carbon price. But the golden rule when one finds oneself in a hole is to stop digging and a $50 a tonne carbon price is roughly the stop digging price. And as we have seen in Australia, we can’t even get politicians to agree on digging more slowly, so aiming for a $50 carbon price is probably a good goal to have for now.

  24. Pete Moran
    August 21st, 2014 at 18:00 | #24

    The answers are in the book “What’s The Matter With Kansas”.

    Ultimately the ‘right’ set the language/idea agenda, are obsessive-compulsive activists and highly motivated to capture people. They’re more organised and energised to see their language/ideas succeed.

    When was the last time you heard an ambit claim ‘of the Left’, that the ‘right’ had to respond to? The Left are always having to react to conservative ideas, barely advancing their own at all anymore.

  25. Watkin Tench
    August 21st, 2014 at 18:41 | #25


    I doubt that they ever will, because the acceptance of the reality of climate change entails accepting the end of growth capitalism /hobbyhorse.

    Economic growth isn’t the same as growth in resource consumption. Hopefully we’ll continue to see big leaps forward in making more with less. Ultimately we have no choice since the several billion folk who currently eke out an existence on a few dollars a day will eventually climb on board the growth capitalism /hobbyhorse.

  26. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 19:04 | #26

    @Ronald Brak

    Stop digging may well be a golden rule but that seems unlikely to be close to enough. If the hole you’re in is about to collapse on you, you need to get out before that occurs.

    Clearly, 400 ppm is causing warming. If we stabilised here we would keep warming with all that implies. We’d warm more slowly than at 450 but in either case you’re still warming so you’re still in the hole and sinking, or something. Even if we get back to 280 ppm we remain warmer than 120 years ago and of course the heat in the ocean will still underpin warming at the surface.

  27. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 19:42 | #27

    @Tim Macknay

    As I’ve said before, I’d like the price to be at least double what PrQ suggests, but I’d be looking to fit the abatement and drawdown into one fungible budget. If the cost of either turned out to be greater, then I’d favour adjusting it until we got there. Maybe $200tCO2e is really what it would cost, but if I recall correctly, even defence spending here isn’t 5% of GDP and the current regime says $35bn or whatever it is for an NBN is too much.

  28. August 21st, 2014 at 19:53 | #28

    1) Devotions are an effective means of resisting the state. American preservation of aristocratic egalitarian culture over european statism has come not by teason but by moral and religious passion. That is why conservatives win elections. They understand morality.

    2) The fact that you use the term climate science rather than global warming is indicative of your own use of obscurantism. It is not that conservatives do not accept science, but that science and pseudoscience put to immoral ends is something to be resisted.

    3) I am fairly sure that I understand the arguments as well as anyone, particularly in what qualifies as science (operational causality) and hypothesis (correlation), that the matter is not sufficiently settled to warrant state intervention. We should not forget that the twentieth century was plagued by pseudodscience in every field.

    Which Hayek warned us about, and I have only recenly fully understood.

    At present climate models and theory are no better in structure than Goodall’s apes, marx’s pseudoscientific economics, keynes’ restatement of Marx in obscurant terms, most anthropology, all of social science, freudian psychology, Adorno’s outright fabrications, feminist pseudoscience, and obilisophical postmodernism.

    So conservatives are following THE EVIDENCE that non operational claims are almost universally pseudoscientific. Snd climate science fails the test of operationalusm.


  29. sunshine
    August 21st, 2014 at 19:54 | #29

    Here in Aust the Left seem to me to have won ,or are winning, the day on what the Right in America call ‘moral ‘(euthanasia ,gay marriage, and a few others ) issues but not on what they refer to as economic (not moral?) ones .

  30. Kvantum
    August 21st, 2014 at 19:57 | #30

    I think both sides get too hung up in the ideological name calling. I have not done the maths but my instinct is that what we are facing is nothing more than a modified prisoners’ dilemma game (in which the costs of action are borne upfront and the benefits deferred by some time) Given its absolute contribution to climate change, why should a purely rational actor choose to bear up fronts costs for a deferred outcome over which we have no influence.

  31. August 21st, 2014 at 19:57 | #31

    yuri :
    How much confidence can you place in the expertise of someone who says the temperature of the Earth would be -18 degrees C if there were no atmospheric CO2.
    Just Google for Stefan-Boltzmann Law and discover that -18 degrees C is Earth’s approx. blackbody temperature as modified by its 0.3 albedo…. As every rabid denialist knows water vapour is the big warmer of our planet as GHG.

    But, if there was no CO2, the ice would advance (if you don’t believe me, ask Maurice Newman), and the world would cool. The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere drops rapidly with temperature, so the greenhouse warming supplied by the water vapour drops rapidly – and pretty soon the temperature is -18C.

  32. Earl McSquirellson
    August 21st, 2014 at 19:58 | #32

    Great Piece, John.

    Have you ever considered running for public office?

  33. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 20:13 | #33


    There may well be a point buried in your post, but if there is, you’ll need to try a second draft to communicate it.

    Rational actors bear upfront costs for purely prospective benefits all the time. People take out insurance, giving up forever scope for immediate gratification to avoid future losses. They also do it when they forego consumption so that their children can live better than them now and in the future. They hope their children will do likewise with their children, and live long enough to see their grandchildren repeat this trade.

    Self-evidently, if one is willing to sacrifice now on the strength of the highly attenuated satisfaction in the future of seeing your grandchildren live well enough to do what you have done, it makes little sense to indulge in consumption at the expense of the integrity of the ecosystem you hope will underpin those children and grandchildren.

  34. Peter
    August 21st, 2014 at 21:03 | #34

    I wonder whether an ‘exit counselling’ approach would be the best way to convince right wing climate change deniers to accept the science. I note that the absurdity of many right wing beliefs mirrors the absurdity of the belief systems of cults. Maybe an approach where right wing people are gently encouraged to spend time with non-right wing people, think for themselves and question their assumptions could be helpful. Scientific information could be presented to them in a non-confrontational way.

  35. Dave Lisle
    August 21st, 2014 at 21:05 | #35

    That is why you deny.

  36. Kvantum
    August 21st, 2014 at 21:29 | #36

    My point ( although badly put) is much simpler. Assuming the reality of climate change, whatever Australia does will have no effect on avoiding or even attenuating its deleterious effects given its relatively small absolute contributions to emissions. Effective mitigation will fall upon the US and China ( and in the future India). Whatever cost Australia assumes upfront will have no effect on the outcome whatsoever, so why not just avoid them and free-ride?

    or=”#comment-240182″>@Fran Barlow

  37. Fran Barlow
    August 21st, 2014 at 22:24 | #37


    Self-evidently, we can’t simply free-ride, firstly because other states might impose sanctions — and why wouldn’t they? — and secondly because as the 15th largest emitter by volume and the largest per capita in the G20 our failure to act would provide aid and comfort to others wanting to free ride. What state who could argue that we were emitting more by one criterion or another wouldn’t simply say — “after Australia”? Canada wants to play beggar my neighbour and is the obvious comparator — a similarly populated state that is mainly English-speaking and a member of the Commonwealth and which has a regime like ours ill-disposed to act and a substantial interest in FHCs.

    There are about 177 other states who could in theory say “after Australia” and what could we say in objection? Indeed, could we really object to the US or China doing little while expressly free-riding? We would look utterly bankrupt. We would deserve the condemnation of the world and I would support sanctions. Maybe we already deserve them.

  38. Kvantum
    August 21st, 2014 at 23:03 | #38

    But that is an ethical preference in which you are willing to bear costs in the hope of achieving international collaboration. My bet is such collaboration will not occur and therefore do not believe it to be in our interest to act in a manner which reduces present consumption. (I will of course change my view and adapt as I believe the costs and benefits evolve with circumstances)
    Which states do you believe would impose sanctions? Free-riding is banally common and we live with it everyday in a globalised world.

  39. James Wimberley
    August 22nd, 2014 at 03:43 | #39

    @Earl McSquirellson
    A great slogan: “Vote for John Quiggin – running away from public office since 2000!”

  40. James Wimberley
    August 22nd, 2014 at 04:15 | #40

    JQ’s analysis is very Anglo-Saxon. Fortunately the world’s carbon trajectory is not determined by the USA, Australia and Canada, the countries to which his analysis applies. Even in the UK, political denialism is weak and policy is medium green, not very different from the EU average.

    China: it’s a struggle between vested interests in coal and the renewables lobby, within a scientifically literate élite whose power is threatened by rampant air pollution. The renewables side are slowly winning. Beijing City has announced large cuts in future coal burning – touted by Xinhua, presumably as a good example. China has not yet officially adopted a coal cap, let alone the language of energy transition, but there’s no sense of delay.

    India: the last election brought to power a hardline nationalist technocrat who has promised mass rural electrification. The state of the grid and the coal and nuclear industries (dozy Permit Raj behemoths) preclude any other options than large-scale wind and solar. The power ministry has leaked plans to raise the wind target to 10 GW a year: eight times the previous ambition.

    EU: Putin is adding determination to previously agreed targets. Germany passed 50% of daily domestic electricity consumption on August 18th.

    Developing world: solar taking off in Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey. Shortly to be joined by Saudi Arabia and Brazil, even Iran.

    This is what happens when renewable costs fall below grid parity, as they have more or less everywhere. The fossil lobby isn’t dead. But it has to shift from denialist smoke to hard legislative obstruction, and highly visible and unpopular tax changes to cripple the new competitors.

    In climate change, I predict the end of political denialism in 5 years not 10. Coinciding roughly with Rupert Murdoch’s inevitable exit from his media empire. The prospective diadochoi lack his poisonous combination of great business talent and an industrial-strength cringe. Ayers has it, but he’s in poor health and in the end a mere employee.

  41. John Quiggin
    August 22nd, 2014 at 04:19 | #41

    @James Wimberley

    I’ll definitely use that. Much more up to the minute than “If nominated I will not run. If elected I will not serve”

  42. John Quiggin
    August 22nd, 2014 at 04:27 | #42

    @Curt Doolittle

    Worth reading Curt’s comment in full for his claim:

    “I am fairly sure that I understand the arguments as well as anyone”

    which ought to be up there with

    “I am aware of all Internet traditions”

    as an illustration of the collective Dunning-Kruger effect that prevails on the right.

  43. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 06:02 | #43

    Keeping in mind the urgency … Rate of ice mass loss since 2009 continues to escalate:


    This has occurred after the entire preceding period was between 280ppm and 394 ppm, not 450 ppm.

  44. Ivor
    August 22nd, 2014 at 06:05 | #44


    But science is not welcome when it provides uncomfortable data.

    This is the key factor, although you need a particular form of pro-capitalist politics to ensure that business interests in avoiding some science, control government policy.

    It seems to me that too many economists want capitalism and sustainable ecology. You cannot have both.

  45. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 07:46 | #45

    @John Quiggin

    What’s most amusing for me in Curt Doolittle’s bafflegab is the appeal against climate science as pseudoscience, resorting to the language of pseudo-epistemology.

    Curt is trying to sound analytic, doubtless because he fancies that mentioning the usual zombie talking points won’t impress anyone here. His tactic however, simply reveals that he doesn’t understand anything important about scientific methodology, nor the place of science in guiding public policy.

    Curt implies that climate science is being used for immoral ends then merely opines that it’s not sufficiently settled to found state intervention. He nods at the pseudoscience if the 20th century, but fails to specify what he has in mind and explain the ways in which this pseudoscience is similar to climate science. Really, he is appealing by implication against physics without explaining why conservatives fail to resist it as immoral elsewhere.

    Really, this is just denialism with a sloppy makeover.

  46. Ikonoclast
    August 22nd, 2014 at 08:04 | #46


    This is absolutely true. We cannot have capitalism and a sustainable economy within a healthy environment. Capitalism and sustainability are antithetical. Capitalism demands endless growth at environmental expense. Capitalism and democracy are also antithetical. Capitalism’s natural tendency is to monopoly and oligarchy. It will always move in this direction with only temporary checks and rebellions provoked by its worst crises.

    The oligarchs come to own and direct, via donations, the major parties and the major politicians. The evidence of capitalism’s history is totally clear on this. Ask yourself today why the Qld Labor Govt was thrown out for wanting to sell public assets and the Qld Lib Govt now wants to sell public assets. Why will neither party commit to uphold the people’s wishes and keep public assets? Because the oligarchs own them that’s why.

    The oligarchs are richer and more in control than ever before now and continue perforce (because of their own self-interests) to make decisions which are incompatible with the good of the people and the good of the environment. Capitalism is a system predicated on endless growth and endless capital accumulation. It cannot function in any other mode. As such, it is in fundamental contradiction with the requirements for sustainability and protection of the environment.

    The challenge is to develop a sustainable, renewable and circular economy. This will not, indeed cannot, occur under capitalism. Yes, the bourgeois economists are blind. They cannot see beyond capitalism. The ideologues of capitalism invoke binary choices. To them there is only capitalism or soviet-style communism (which was dictatorship plus state capitalism anyway). There are other possibilities but the ideologues of capitalism cannot envisage or admit to them.

    In summary, our problem is not just the outcomes of capitalism (inequality, endless imperialist wars, environmental destruction, unsustainability), our problem is with the system that generates all these things.

  47. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 09:39 | #47


    Despite being a Green I am beginning to start deprecating the term ‘renewable’. It’s undoubtedly effective in marketing terms and is very well establsihed as a term in the public mind, but looked at carefully, it’s a misnomer, IMO.

    Energy sources can no more be ‘renewable’ than that any machine can effect perpetual motion. The kinds of energy source typically accorded the title ‘renewable’ are those which harvest energy inputs deriving ultimately (mostly, theough geothermal is an exception) from outside of the Earth and that on our human timelines are relatively abundant, non-rival and non-excludable. There is also a definite limit on how much can be harvested at any one time so that ‘eating the future’ is harder. Plainly, we can’t harvest more direct and indirect solar energy (or in the case of tidal power, more lunar energy) than is at the surface at an(e.g. wind, solar) at any given moment. Finally, the harvest and conversion process tends to have a fairly small footprint.

    It might be better to use the term ‘sustainable’ energy sources or ‘clean abundant technology’ or non-fossil energy than renewables, just for the sake of tidyness.

  48. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 09:41 | #48

    hmm …

    I should have said:

    I am beginning to see a need to deprecate the term …

  49. Nevil Kingston-Brown
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:15 | #49

    Are you familiar with the literature on Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemmas? When players have histories and can be ranked by trustworthiness, playing nice in the first iteration usually has a long-term payoff.

  50. Dave Lisle
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:18 | #50

    For the sake of tidiness ‘sustainability’ is perhaps not the best term. It is a discursive tool rather than a meaningful descriptor – a very flexible concept which has been widely adopted as a means of greenwash and put to various other ends. Decarbonizing the global economy – which I assume is the idea – suggests an approach that pays more attention to sufficiency and not just efficiency given the extent to which energy is embodied in ‘actually existing’ technologies. As noted, harvest and conversion involve a footprint.
    ‘Clean abundant technology’ also seems a little too sanguine, unless you prefix it with ‘relatively’, while ‘non-fossil energy’ is better but still (given the implications of whole life cycles) somewhat inaccurate.
    Yet, despite their untidiness, if you are wanting to convince rightwingers about climate science then perhaps these discursive tools might be of some assistance??

  51. Ikonoclast
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:26 | #51

    @Fran Barlow

    Yes, I agree. What you say is technically correct. In everyday speech and blogging, one can probably be a little less than technically correct. After all, the niceties of such definitions are lost on the anti-science right anyway. They don’t even understand basic science. But as I argue, there is a component of the right-wing, which understands science well enough and is happy to use it for procuring wealth and power. These are the oligarchs and their technical and scientific advisers. They pick and choose which science they accept and endorse and which they deny, mobilising the scientifically illiterate, TEA party loonies, libertarians and other dupes. Inconvenient science is denied and propagandsised against via the MSM they own. Convenient science (e.g. weapons technology, security and surveillance technology, engineered obsolescence, advertising technqiues based on psychology and so on) is utilised to the hilt of course.

  52. BilB
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:27 | #52

    By far the largest problem for climate change awareness is religion. Someone who works for me said regarding climate change “my mother does not believe any of that because she is a practicing Catholic”. The problem being that to accept science is to reject the Bible and its teachings. There is a huge bias here despite the fact that our world is driven extensively by applied scientific understanding. This bias is more visible in the “senior” sector of society in whose education science was relatively basic or minimal.

    Tony Abbott predominately owes his election victory, I believe, to Maurice Newman and Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch’s role is obvious but Newman’s role less so even though he was reasonably public in his own views


    the role he played was in delivering to Abbott 2 years of 1 hour daily coverage for Abbott’s factory visits

    See link next comment.

    in which Abbott was able to inject the minds of the stay at home public with his twisted “toxic tax” message. In these brain washing sessions Abbott repeated his “toxic tax” line dozens of times a day in a manner that made Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” delivery seem amateurish. The target of Abbott’s onslaught of alternative reality was, of course, the senior community who might have access to daytime television. On really have to see one of these productions to appreciate power of them and the gift that Newman, in his role as Chairman of the ABC (as I understand it to have been), handed Abbott.

    The barrage of repetition was so offensive that I finally had to draft a complaint to the ABC that there was no news content in the daily Abbott coverage and the repetition amounted to pester power. I also phone a number of owners and managers of the businesses to discuss their business problems which were always sheeted home to an as yet installed “Carbon Tax” but which invariably were when challenged due to the high Australian dollar, the cost of oil, and Asian competition. There was nothing at all factually real in any of the content delivered in these daily sessions and yet they went entirely unchallenged by ABC journalists which is difficult to explain as the sessions where aired on ABC News 24 channel.

    The consequence of this is that there are a large number of anti climate change awareness poisoned minds, I believe, in our senior population, poisoned at the hand of Maurice Newman and Tony Abbott. The extreme end of the insult to our seniors is that it was Abbott who in early 2005 cancelled the election promised Seniors medical Gold Card offering free medical for the over 75′s.

    So how do you undo that measure of public miss information, the degree of which can be seen with visits to the JNova and Catallaxy blogsites? One essential requirement is that the next time we have intelligent and responsible leadership in Canberra they should not leave an anti science red neck lunatic in charge of public television and Radio.

    The journalism profession in general needs a complete overhaul. The quality of news reporting is absolutely pathetic in its method, delivery and objectives. For my tastes by far the best news performance at present comes from the French Channel on SBS. I am a huge fan of their style as they give extensive coverage of real people highlighting their skills and talents in daily life, and they do this in a manner that becomes a travelogue show piece of their country. Our television by contrast delivers over 50% full screen face shots of journalists telling the public what to believe, not the news as it is, and generally demeans ordinary people while elevating our ridiculous politicians and undeserving wealthy to an unhealthy status.

    Next we need a huge body of improved analytical presentation material perhaps along the lines of Hans Rosling’s “mind the gap” quality, to decontaminate the science delivery from the toxic miss truth worm threads that have infected understanding of the Global Warming message.

    A lot more quantitative evidence of how industry and the economy is benefiting from the transition to a carbon reduced (lets be real about this and not talk yet about zero carbon) economy.

    Quantitative evidence of how average lives are improved by the use of distributed energy generation, particularly evaluated in the context of zero subsidies. Studies to show how practical application of the upcoming technologies will change the way we live and the impact on our standard and quality of living.

    Quantitative studies on the safety of the domestic buildings in the face of climate change. I contend that there is a high probability that most individual freestanding dwellings being built today will not out last their mortgage payments due to the flimsy nature of the thinned out materials and quality of construction as pitched against the prospect of high storm and wind intensity, deluge and hail degree, fire and heat wave exposure.

    There is a lot of ground work to be done to back up the science evidence and present a clear understanding that a low carbon future is not just about Global Warming, it is about a better future for every one.

  53. BilB
  54. Ikonoclast
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:43 | #54


    I think the seniors’ minds were poisoned by Murdoch and Bolt well before Maurice Newman and Tony Abbott even got to them. But Maurice Newman and Tony Abbott adminsitered the coup de grace no doubt. Technically, I am probably one of the seniors or nearly so. Is 60 a senior? I find myself completely out of step with much of my cohort. I have gone so left wing I feel my most of my cohort are on another planet from me. Their scepticism of hard science is astonishing while their credulity in accepting Bolt and Murdoch propaganda is out of this world.

    The endless worship of capitalism asonishes me. I am agnostic but I was pleased to see the new Pope speak out so strongly against capitalism and the worship of money.

    “The “preferential option for the poor” is back. The doctrine that so inflamed controversy in the 1970s and 1980, famously wedded to Nicaragua’s Sandinista cause, now has a Papal imprimatur. It is close to becoming official doctrine for the world’s 1.2bn Roman Catholics under “Evangilii Gaudium”, the Pope’s first apostolic exhortation. This will have consequences.

    “While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by the happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies that defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation,” Pope Francis says.” – Telegraph UK.

    I wonder what Phoney Rabbit (Tony Abbott) makes of “Evangelii Gaudium”? Particularly Chapter 2 with headings like;

    I. Some challenges of today’s world [52-75]

    No to an economy of exclusion [53-54]
    No to the new idolatry of money [55-56]
    No to a financial system which rules rather than serves [57-58]
    No to the inequality which spawns violence [59-60]

    I wonder if Phoney Rabbit will eschew neoconservatism and do what his Pope (and thus God by his belief) exhorts?

  55. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 11:50 | #55

    @Dave Lisle

    For the sake of tidiness ‘sustainability’ is perhaps not the best term. It is a discursive tool rather than a meaningful descriptor – a very flexible concept which has been widely adopted as a means of greenwash

    Arguably so. I thought also of ‘maintainable’, since one can be reasonably confident that the energy sources harvested will endure for as long as humans are around to harvest them, but that’s a little obtuse.

    ‘Clean abundant technology’ also seems a little too sanguine, unless you prefix it with ‘relatively’, while ‘non-fossil energy’ is better but still (given the implications of whole life cycles) somewhat inaccurate.

    Again, yes. I’m trying to keep the number of words down, but in practice even things said to be abundant are all realtively so. Even salt is only relatively abundant. harvestable solar energy is likely to be temporally more abundant than recoverable FHCs. Non-fossil energy is indeed better but that admits uranium which most don’t usually bracket with renewables. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘whole life-cycles’ in this context.

    Yet, despite their untidiness, if you are wanting to convince rightwingers about climate science then perhaps these discursive tools might be of some assistance??

    I’m less bothered about persuading rightwingers on climate science. The Tea Party, predictably, actually likes ‘renewables’ on populist grounds. Renewable energy is seen as more authentic, because it’s local and not necessarily run by ‘big energy’. Ironic really, because the Tea Party was conceived by the Koch Bros to block, inter alia, decarbonisation. Hoist by their own petard it seems.

    These last elements (along with intergenerational debt) are the ones I emphasise when talking with rightwingers IRL about decarbonisation.

  56. Dave Lisle
    August 22nd, 2014 at 12:22 | #56

    ‘Whole life cycles’ simply refers to the fact that, whatever you call these less fossil fuel intensive energy entrapment techniques their deployment still utilizes energy and impacts the biosphere – they are material over their life cycles.
    Regarding the persuasion of the right – you might not be bothered about it but it was the original thread and their ideas do rule the world.

  57. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 12:49 | #57

    @Dave Lisle

    Whole life cycles’ simply refers to the fact that, whatever you call these less fossil fuel intensive energy entrapment techniques their deployment still utilizes energy and impacts the biosphere – they are material over their life cycles.

    Ah I see.

    Regarding the persuasion of the right – you might not be bothered about it but it was the original thread and their ideas do rule the world.

    I didn’t say I wasn’t bothered about it. I said I was less bothered about it in the context of discussion over the use of the term, renewable.

    In a broad sense, you’re right that the ideas of rightwingers rule the world. That’s because their paradigm comports far better with the defence of property, and since states are configured to defend the property forms and realted advantages of the best organised groups, it’s hardly surprising. However, once one recognises that, one accepts that rational argument is likely to founder on the rock of their basic class interest.

    What’s more interesting is the group of people who hold rightwing ideas but are not part of the property-holding group. These folk hold on to rightwing ideas for other reasons — ignorance, misapprehension about their poissibility within the system and their identity, fear of loss consequent upon major system changes and so forth.

    Although they don’t grasp it, the alignment of their ideas with those of the powerful allows them the delusion that in some way the property system belongs to them, when those profiting most from it are doing them over in the way they do over everyone else. It’s a Stockholm Syndrome kind of thing. Here rational argument typically won’t work, so appeals to ethics and emotion tend to work better in breaking their existential bonds to the system as a whole.

  58. Hermit
    August 22nd, 2014 at 13:00 | #58

    @Fran Barlow
    Hence the almost unbelievable sight of people who are poor and and sick opposing Obamacare.

  59. seth edenbaum
    August 22nd, 2014 at 13:05 | #59

    It would help at least somewhat if you stopped referring to “anti-science” denialism when the evidence shows scientific literacy as such is not the cure all you pretend it to be. Ideology tends to win out, regardless of the level of education, with climate change as with Zionism, or any other fraught political subject.

    The constant reference to the irrationality of others, of their capacity for unreason as opposed of our capacity for unreason, makes you a lousy spokesman for reason, even on those occasions when I would agree with you.

  60. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 13:20 | #60

    @seth edenbaum

    It would help at least somewhat if you stopped referring to “anti-science” denialism when the evidence shows scientific literacy as such is not the cure all you pretend it to be. Ideology tends to win out, regardless of the level of education, with climate change as with Zionism, or any other fraught political subject.

    I’d call this a non-sequitur. Objectively, “ideology” (used in the lay sense as “cultural paradigm”) manifests as “anti-science denialism” so the term is apt reagdles of whether greater scientific literacy can effect substantial changes in attitude to policy in the direction of evidence based reasoning.

    The constant reference to the irrationality of others, of their capacity for unreason as opposed of our capacity for unreason, makes you a lousy spokesman for reason

    I’d say not. Reason is one of the basic tools — a means by which humans can collaborate effectivly to serve common ends. Doubtless, all of us from time to time decide what to do on other than rational grounds, typically (though not always), when we are information-poor.

    Those who recklessly disregard ubiquitous salient data can fairly be derided as irrtional by thoe who don’t behave that way.

  61. August 22nd, 2014 at 13:34 | #61

    Seth, John has no functioning definition of “anti-science.” It is just a stand-in term for “people I disagree with.”

  62. August 22nd, 2014 at 13:44 | #62

    John, this post is altogether too sanguine about the environmental damage the right is doing and the urgent need to stop it, because it has the wrong underlying assumptions about global warming:
    1. you assume the effects of warming aren’t being felt yet and are a long way in the future, i.e. you underestimate the pace of change and the risk (this is also evident in a comment on a previous post where you blithely accept a 450ppm threshold)
    2. you assume that efforts to mitigate and decarbonize are easily achievable and cheap, against all evidence
    3. You assume that as-yet-unproven vapourware like fake trees, and sequestration interventions like reforestation, will be sufficient to cover any shortfall in emission reductions

    You are showing the denialist bias of your discipline here. While scientists who actually work in the field are getting desperately worried about what is happening to our ecosystem, economists continue to think of the issue as a minor externality, and continue to assume that we have lots of time and space to fiddle around, and few short-term risks to worry about. This is surely “anti-science” by your own lax definition of the term.

    15 years from now when the arctic is ice free and the climate of western Europe, the USA and Canada has gone bonkers, posts like this will look very naive.

  63. August 22nd, 2014 at 13:47 | #63

    Faust, do you agree with me yet that the science, or rather, the engineering, shows that a $2,500 carbon price is definitely sufficient to reduce emissions to zero?

  64. ZM
    August 22nd, 2014 at 13:56 | #64

    I think there has already been a lot of compromise to the ‘right wing’/wealth and power consolidating agenda in the climate debate already.

    Hardly anyone prominent writes of the practical things that need to be done and can be done now with sufficient organisation and co-operation, instead prominent discussion focuses on taxes/prices and not proven or practicable carbon capture and storage technology.

    Problems with the prominent approach:

    1. There is not evidence that pricing and taxes can achieve the needed physical and social transformations for zero GHG emissions in the requisite time frame <25years (we could reach 450ppm in 25 years on current trends)

    2. As I understand it the economic modelling that says this can be done and with minimum cost (?) – such as the Climate Authority's report this year – uses General Equilibrium theory for the modelling – Professor Quiggin states elsewhere that this theory is wrong/inadequate as are other economic theories without sound foundations – therefore relying on this inadequate/wrong economic theory to tell us costs are low is not a sound idea (and also contradictory).

    3. The carbon capture and storage technology is not proven or practicable. It would need vast amounts of materials to make so many plastic trees – plastic trees in the outdoors do not last all that long – then you have lots of rubbish for landfill unless it is designed to be recycled in perpetuity. Also insufficient research has been done about the emissions of plastic as it breaks down. Also you need land to put the plastic trees on – how much land would this take? Also – how are the emissions captured going to be preserved forever securely?

    4. The economics of the technology is very uncertain. Professor Quiggin, the man in the BBC story you refer Fran to has elsewhere said his technology would cost $1000 a tonne of carbon captured according to another article I read on it, and another group said his technology would cost $600 a tonne. This is a very varying range of estimates.

    5. Keeping the prominent public discussion on solutions of prices and non-practicable technology means that many people in the community are not aware of the changes which could be effected right now and in the near term to decrease emissions and get them to zero then negative in a reasonable time frame to get us back to 350ppm carbon equivalent.

    6. People who have been grassroots leaders for climate change but are not so prominent as to feature regularly in the papers or television are becoming dispirited and deciding we will have to do geo-engineering after all, or like Clive Hamilton writing premature Requiems which are dispiriting especially to young people.

    7. The same people see that the community in general are unfortunately not as well informed as they could be if prominent discussions were more focused on practicable measures and not taxes and unproven technologies – so then they think it would be easier not to engage with the community after all but to engage with elites instead in trying to get a war-time-mobilisation-style-economy imposed from above.

    8. War-time-mobilisation-style-economies imposed from above have poor track records and tend to shore up the power of elites over everyday people, engage in violence and killing, use propaganda, send spies/special services out to destabilise other countries etc :(

  65. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 14:05 | #65

    @Ronald Brak

    If $2500tCO2e were rigorously applied to all sources of carbon-equivalent emissions everywhere in the energy, transport, mining, manufacturing, forestry and agricultural sectors, then plainly, emissions would fall to zero in those sectors.

    I’d be surprised if we could have a dairy or meat industry though. I’d be OK with that but I’m betting that a lot wouldn’t be. It wouldn’t be easy to do commercial scale agriculture either — though I suppose biodiesel might finally get a guernsey. You’d probably need some serious off-set programs — which at that price could be very fancy indeed.

  66. seth edenbaum
    August 22nd, 2014 at 14:26 | #66

    @Fran Barlow

    Reason is one of the basic tools — a means by which humans can collaborate effectivly to serve common ends. Doubtless, all of us from time to time decide what to do on other than rational grounds, typically (though not always), when we are information-poor.

    People don’t choose to act on reflex. And very few people are ever willing to admit when they’re indulging low information rationality. What do you say when scientists are “anti-science”?

    There is no “economic science”; there’s no “political science”; there’s no “philosophical science” or “historical science”. Democracy requires a broadly educated populace with a sense of irony; technocracy is the rule of experts without one. The politics of pedantry is never good.

  67. jungney
    August 22nd, 2014 at 14:45 | #67

    Fretting over what the right ‘thinks’ on climate science is an unproductive activity. Far right religious lunatics and oligarchs are in control of capital and the media. We can no more change how or what they ‘think’ than fly in the air by flapping our arms. It is necessary to appeal to some measure of rational self preservation amongst their hirelings, of course, and in doing that advancing rationality is an essential project.

    In the meantime, however, anyone with a sense of urgency about biodiversity loss, and the psychological trauma of such loss to the young, can engage in creative ways that are far more fulfilling than banging their heads against people whose view of climate science is faith based. The work of Joanna Macy, renowned Buddhist scholar and activist, for example, is inspirational:


    I’d also urge any keyboard warrior within striking distance of Narrabri, NSW, to visit Camp Wando which is the heart of organizing opposition to the Maules Creek coal mine which threatens to totally trash the last great white box forest in NSW:


    There you will find people of great heart and great commitment discovering new ways to repossess the planet in the name of all beings.

  68. August 22nd, 2014 at 15:12 | #68

    Fran, whatever emissions remain can be removed from the atmosphere for far less than $2,500 a tonne. And if people want milk and meat from delicious slave animals they can have it. They just need to pay to remove the greenhouse gases released from the atmosphere and that will cost a lot less than $2,500 a tonne. Roughly 15 grams of methane are released from dairy cattle for each liter of milk produced. Using a CO2 equivalent of 25 that comes to 375 grams of CO2. If it costs $100 a tonne to remove CO2 from the atmosphere that will add about 27 cents to the cost of a liter of milk. A simple breeding program could probably cut that to under 20 cents. Since methane production represents inefficiency in ruminant digestion this is the sort of improvement that could pay for itself in reduced feed costs. And I’ll mention that in many places cattle food slaves are kept in feed lots for pretty much their whole lives which makes on site collection and elimination of methane possible.

  69. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 15:17 | #69

    “Anti-science” is an abstract conceptual term used in political discourse and it essentially means whatever the writer says it means. It is also a rhetorical device befitting the blog format, where people put out thoughts in a less formal manner than an academic paper. Anyone who is reading John in good faith should have a reasonable understanding of how he uses the term.

    I happily use the term anti-science for folk who have bought the organic food good/ gm food bad Kool Aid as well as those who deny climate change. I agree with Fran that Seth’s argument is a non-sequitur.

    I think a pro-science attitude involves accepting that the institution of science, at least in the hard sciences, is far better at discerning the truth of some matter than outsiders with political agendas or maverick punters.

    Of course, science is a human insitution and thus far from perfect, but if you have a pro-science attitude you recognise that the odds of some outsider reliably picking the mistakes is so small that public policy should always be driven by any strong and long held and consensus.

  70. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 15:34 | #70

    For the catastrophists amongst us:

    Catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards according to a UN report, which concludes that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable. “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet,” said economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team.

    The cheapest and least risky route to dealing with global warming is to abandon all dirty fossil fuels in coming decades, the report found. Gas – including that from the global fracking boom – could be important during the transition, Edenhofer said, but only if it replaced coal burning.

    The authoritative report, produced by 1,250 international experts and approved by 194 governments, dismisses fears that slashing carbon emissions would wreck the world economy. It is the final part of a trilogy that has already shown that climate change is “unequivocally” caused by humans and that, unchecked, it poses a grave threat to people and could lead to wars and mass migration.

    Diverting hundred of billions of dollars from fossil fuels into renewable energy and cutting energy waste would shave just 0.06% off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the IPCC report concluded.

    Easily doable and not that expensive, just like John says.

  71. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 15:39 | #71

    @Watkin Tench

    Of course, science is a human insitution and thus far from perfect, but if you have a pro-science attitude you recognise that the odds of some outsider reliably picking the mistakes is so small that public policy should always be driven by any strong and long held and consensus.

    We humans are traders in risk in most every choice we make, whether we are aware of the risk and its gravity or not. So the question for the thoughtful is “which risks are preferable? Reason plus salient evidence (along with a method for distinguishing the salient from the irrelevant or relatively evaluating them which one can call “a model”) can help us decide which risks we ought to prefer, given our goals, identity, culture and our sensibilities.

    I largely agree with your formulation above though if I were quibbling I’d say that public policy in areas where sound research is germane should always be driven by the strong and continuing consensus where the aim of the consensus does not offend the principles of inclusion, equity and social justice.

    The purpose of science, IMO, is to empower humanity by facilitating equitable collaboration, enlarging the scope of each of us to understand our possibility and to approach it in the company of those who can best aid us and us them on the same journey. The closer we get to that condition, the better science will be.

  72. August 22nd, 2014 at 15:42 | #72

    @Ronald Brak

    But if you have $1000, and you walk into your local supermarket, will you be able to buy an icecream?

  73. August 22nd, 2014 at 16:07 | #73

    @John Brookes
    John Brookes, very roughly it takes half a liter of milk to make a liter of ice cream so going by the last ice cream I bought which was $6 a liter, a $100 carbon price would raise its price by about 2%, which is probably not enough to destroy the ice cream industry.

  74. August 22nd, 2014 at 16:17 | #74

    … and not enough to promote change either.

    Watkin, noone is saying it’s difficult or expensive. Some of us are saying it will require more than a mere tax. Some of us are saying that Ronald and John’s pie-in-the-sky plastic trees/replace all the forests that were destroyed in the last 100 years /we have enough land to sequester all our carbon with buried trees and feed 9billion people solutions aren’t going to work.

    I’m basing my criticisms of these policies on scientific reports (I previously, for example, cited two separate reports on reforestation) but John and Ronald ignore them. By your “good faith” definition, this is anti-science. In fact John seems to have settled on a 450 ppm target, which is pretty clearly anti-science. Yet John doesn’t think of himself as anti-science. It’s an empty rhetorical device when deployed by people like you and John.

  75. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 16:37 | #75


    Is there a scientific consensus that 450 ppm is dangerous? My understanding is that there isn’t but I always appreciate someone pointing out my mistakes. In fact learning about my mistakes is one reason why I spend time on blogs.

    As far as I can gather, John and the IPCC are in furious agreement that a transistion to non-fossil fuels is the key to dealing with climate change. The price on carbon and fuel efficiency standards recommended by John are the stock standard environmental economics textbook ways of causing such a transistion (and we already know they work from past experience), so I’m utterly mystified by your tantrum.

    I’m wondering if your tantrum is based on some misunderstanding of how economies work.

  76. August 22nd, 2014 at 16:42 | #76

    @Ronald Brak

    You kind of missed my point! Of course $2500 per tonne is enough, in the same way that $1000 will always buy you an icecream…

  77. ZM
    August 22nd, 2014 at 17:40 | #77

    Watkin Tench,

    the article you link to links to the 2014 IPCC report. It is better to read the technical summary than the policy makers summary, because politicians force more changes in the latter. The technical summary says (I cannot bold, so I will add paragraph breaks before important a bits), I will add my comments in square brackets:

    “Estimates of the aggregate economic costs of mitigation vary widely, but increase with stringency of mitigation (high confidence). Most scenario studies collected for this assessment that are based on the assumptions that all countries of the world begin mitigation immediately, there is a single global carbon price applied to well‐functioning markets, and key technologies are available, estimate that reaching 430–480 ppm CO2eq by 2100 [this is too high and just used because politicians agreed on it - see James Hansen from NASA and others] would entail global consumption losses of 1% to 4% in 2030, 2% to 6% in 2050, and 2% to 12% in 2100 relative to what would happen without mitigation [Figure TS.12, Box TS.9, Box TS.10]. These consumption losses do not consider the benefits of mitigation, including the reduction in climate impacts.

    To put these losses in context, studies assume increases in consumption from four‐fold to over ten‐fold over the century without mitigation [ how can consumption increase this much - we already have great environmental, biodiversity, and pollution and rubbish and toxicity from current high levels of consumption??? Also lots of consumption goods are made from oil turned into plastic - with peak oil this will be more expensive and scarcer, plus no one has properly researched the ghg emissions over time caused by plastic decomposing] Costs for maintaining concentrations in the range of 530‐650 ppm CO2eq are estimated to be roughly one‐ third to two‐thirds lower than for associated 430‐530 ppm CO2eq scenarios. Cost estimates from scenarios can vary substantially across regions.

    Substantially higher cost estimates have been obtained based on assumptions about less idealized policy implementations [ see ! Low cost estimates are based on unrealistic idealised scenarios!] and limits on technology availability [and on unproven and not practicable technology as I said!] as discussed below. Both higher and lower estimates have been obtained based on interactions with pre‐existing distortions, non‐climate market failures, or complementary policies.”

    “The technological options available for mitigation greatly influence mitigation costs and the challenges of reaching atmospheric concentration levels between 430 and 580 ppm CO2eq by 2100 (high confidence). Many models in recent model intercomparisons could not produce scenarios reaching atmospheric concentrations between 430 and 480 ppm CO2eq by 2100 with broadly pessimistic assumptions about key mitigation technologies. [as I said low cost estimates are based on unproven and non practicable technology]”

    “The studies also showed that reducing energy demand could potentially decrease mitigation costs significantly [as I said conservation of energy and consumption is very important]

    [economists use unfair and cruel discounting in the sum writing] “The chief reason for social discounting (favouring present people over future people) is that commodities have ‘diminishing marginal benefit’ and per capita income is expected to increase over time. Diminishing marginal benefit means that the value of extra commodities to society declines as people become better off. If economies continue to grow, people who live later in time will on average be better off—possess more commodities—than people who live earlier [there is no proof this will happen - sustainable economies do not constantly grow - unsustainable economies grow and then collapse like a pyramid scheme, economists who say there will always be growth despite environmental and moral constraints are like the people who encourage people to join bad pyramid schemes] . The faster the growth and the greater the degree of diminishing marginal benefit, the greater should be the discount rate on commodities. If per capita growth is expected to be negative (as it is in some countries), the social discount rate may be negative [ I notice they do not do their models with this assumption despite resource limits approaching and so many people to share resources with now]
    Some authors have argued, in addition, that the present generation of people should give less weight to later people’s wellbeing just because they are more remote in time [this is very cruel and selfish] . This factor would add to the social discount rate on commodities.”

    [great comprehensive organised change is needed] “Systemic and cross‐sectoral approaches to mitigation are expected to be more cost‐effective and more effective in cutting emissions than sector‐by‐sector policies (medium confidence). Cost‐ effective mitigation policies need to employ a system perspective in order to account for inter‐ dependencies among different economic sectors and to maximize synergistic effects. Stabilizing atmospheric CO2eq concentrations at any level will ultimately require deep reductions in emissions and fundamental changes to both the end‐use and supply‐side of the energy system as well as changes in land‐use practices and industrial processes.”

    [again, conservation is very important] “Demand reductions in the energy end‐use sectors are a key mitigation strategy and affect the scale of the mitigation challenge for the energy supply side (high confidence).”

    “Behaviour, lifestyle, and culture have a considerable influence on energy use and associated emissions, and can have a high mitigation potential through complementing technological and structural change (limited evidence, medium agreement). Emissions can be substantially lowered through: changes in consumption patterns (e.g., mobility demand, energy use in households, choice of longer‐lasting products); dietary change and reduction in food wastes; and change of lifestyle (e.g., stabilizing/lowering consumption in some of the most developed countries, sharing economy and other behavioural changes affecting activity) [i don't know why this is limited evidence, medium agreement, likely it is because people like to think about how in the future people will consume 4-10 times more despite evident constraints , and rely in their sums on unproven non practical technology , but you would have to survey them to see for sure, and they would have to tell the truth in their survey responses]

    [ a return to comprehensive town planning is needed] “Spatial planning can contribute to managing the development of new infrastructure and increasing system‐wide efficiencies across sectors (robust evidence, high agreement). Land use, transport choice, housing, and behaviour are strongly interlinked and shaped by infrastructure and urban form. Spatial and land use planning, such as mixed use zoning, transport‐oriented development, increasing density, and co‐locating jobs and homes can contribute to mitigation across sectors by a) reducing emissions from travel demand for both work and leisure, and enabling non‐motorized transport, b) reducing floor space for housing, and hence c) reducing overall direct and indirect energy use through efficient infrastructure supply. Compact and in‐fill development of urban spaces and intelligent densification can save land for agriculture and bioenergy and preserve land carbon stocks.”

  78. Fran Barlow
    August 22nd, 2014 at 17:53 | #78

    @Watkin Tench

    Is there a scientific consensus that 450 ppm is dangerous? My understanding is that there isn’t but I always appreciate someone pointing out my mistakes. In fact learning about my mistakes is one reason why I spend time on blogs.

    There’s a scientific consensus that the world began warming from the time atmospheric CO2 exceeded 280ppm and is still accelerating at 400ppm (our present concentration) and will continue to accelerate at 450ppm. The 450ppm stabilisation is a bit of realpolitik rather than science. They hope we can peak there but few want to discuss how to wind concentrations back.

    Conceivably, we could geoengineer negative forcings adequate to mimic 240ppm in an attempt to save the world’s snowpack, glaciers and biodiversity and staunch SLR despite 450ppm but as others point out we would still be acidifying the oceans and that CO2 in the upper clines of the world’s oceans would continue to absorb insolation at a higher rate. Eventually the oceans’ ability to act as sinks would decline and marine biodiversity including corals would be lost.

    So the plan must not merely focus on carbon emissions abatement but remediation, and quite soon, IMO.

  79. August 22nd, 2014 at 18:59 | #79

    Watkin says

    price on carbon and fuel efficiency standards recommended by John are the stock standard environmental economics textbook ways of causing such a transistion (and we already know they work from past experience)

    What “past experience” do we have of reaching zero consumption of any product through a carbon price and fuel efficiency standards?

  80. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 19:26 | #80


    What product must meet zero consumption and by what date? You’re being a little too cryptic.

    And please, do not invent your own answer or cherry pick one from some obscure source, instead give us a something with gravitas. If you are even moderately well informed on this topic, it shouldn’t take much more than one minute for you to find a compelling cite.

  81. August 22nd, 2014 at 19:29 | #81

    Hmm, let’s see – ozone chemicals. DDT. lead in petrol. How did we get them to zero by specific dates? What about acid rain? Which of those used a price? Lead in paint. Flammable materials in children’s toys. I can think of one poison that we are attempting to eliminate with taxes – tobacco. HOw’s that going?

    I don’t know what you’re talking about with citations. Do you mean the IPCC figures on trees I quoted in the previous thread? Not authoritative enough?

  82. August 22nd, 2014 at 19:55 | #82


    Horse drawn carriages were eliminated by cost. No one put a price on them, it just came to be that they were more expensive than cars.

    I believe that for a brief period in the late 60′s or early 70′s the record labels tried to charge the Australian radio stations for playing their artists. As a result we got Dear Prudence by Doug Parkinson and Eleanor Rigby by the Zoot.

    On a more serious note, sulphur dioxide emissions were substantially reduced by in the US by a price.

    And of course when things like CFCs are banned, we are effectively putting a very high price on them.

  83. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 20:04 | #83

    Do you mean the IPCC figures on trees I quoted in the previous thread?

    You you mind showing us that cite again?

  84. Rob
    August 22nd, 2014 at 20:10 | #84

    Conservatives are not conservative. No the current wave anyway. They are radicals. If there was a word for “Get it. Use it. For me/mine. Now.” that would be the better label (there’s probably a word for it in German).

    Further, the modern conservative tends toward free market idealism (this, despite there being so such thing as a “free market” in existence (thankfully!) – so there’s a willful ignorance of reality to begin with). So to accept that Climate Change *exists* is to accept that the Free Market is not always the best solution, and even more shockingly can sometimes yield very bad outcomes. For those people, this is too much to bear, and denial so comforting.

  85. Watkin Tench
    August 22nd, 2014 at 21:28 | #85

    I’m still waiting on your answer Faustus.

  86. ZM
    August 22nd, 2014 at 21:47 | #86

    I am still waiting for YOUR response Watkin, to my quote from the IPCC technical report from your link @20 that agreed with me and not with you…

  87. Nathan
    August 22nd, 2014 at 22:01 | #87

    Umm, tobacco is going quite well, both in total use and especially in younger age groups. There’s several studies that demonstrate both direct measures (smoke free zones, health warnings etc) *and* price increases are statistically significant in terms of driving down usage.

  88. Mel
    August 22nd, 2014 at 22:43 | #88


    Agree with you on what? Try to make sense.

  89. ZM
    August 22nd, 2014 at 23:00 | #89


    The report agrees with me that the economists that make low cost estimates do so by making up ‘idealistic’ (polite euphemism for unreal and unlikely) scenarios and by relying on ‘optimistic’ (euphemism for non-proven and not practicable) technologies, (also by applying cruel discount rates and using 450ppm as the limit rather than 350ppm [and probably by using general equilibrium theory also])

  90. Alan McIntire
    August 22nd, 2014 at 23:02 | #90

    “Faustusnotes” got it right on the button. John Quiggin is conflating “anti-science” and
    “someone I disagree with.”

    See “The Tragedy of the Risk Perception Commons”, by Dan Kahan et al.


    The more scientifically literate people are, the more skeptical of Anthropological Global Warming they are. The difference is small, but significant at the 5% level, according to the study.

  91. ZM
    August 22nd, 2014 at 23:09 | #91

    Alan McIntire,

    The abstract says the more important finding was that polarity increased with greater scientific literacy and numeracy to reflect respondents’ values

    “More importantly, greater scientific literacy and numeracy were associated with greater cultural polarization: respondents predisposed by their values to dismiss climate change evidence became more dismissive, and those predisposed by their values to credit such evidence more concerned, as science literacy and numeracy increased. We suggest that this evidence reflects a conflict between two levels of rationality: the individual level, which is cha- racterized by the citizens’ effective use of their knowledge and reasoning capacities to form risk percep- tions that express their cultural commitments; and the collective level, which is characterized by citizens’ failure to converge on the best available scientific evidence on how to promote their common welfare. Dispelling this “tragedy of the risk-perception commons,” we argue, should be understood as the central aim of the science of science communication.”

  92. Megan
    August 22nd, 2014 at 23:44 | #92

    So “Watkin Tench” (so obsessed with me and my website) is “Mel” (who was permanently banned over personal attacks on me)?

  93. August 23rd, 2014 at 00:00 | #93

    John Brookes and Nathan present two interesting examples: SO2 and tobacco. SO2 of course is still emitted in huge amounts despite the existence of a pricing mechanism. Tobacco has been the subject of continuously increasing taxes since the 1980s, and yet still it is used by a sizable minority of the population, and young people still take up smoking. Probably 70% or more of the price of a pack of cigarettes is tax, and yet still people smoke. Hmm. This is why in 2003 the WHO realized that taxes alone weren’t working, and released the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which contains a raft of measures to further reduce smoking, only one of which is taxes, and almost all of the rest of which are advertising, sales and production restrictions.

    Tobacco is of course analogous to CO2 in that no amount of it is good, and the goal is to get every individual to zero tobacco as early as possible.

    This year the WHO is going to release new targets for 2025, at which point it is expected that people will be smoking, even in developed nations with good anti-smoking campaigns. 45 years of taxes and increasing restrictions, and people will still be smoking. Yet Ronald, John, Watkin et al would have us believe that a carbon tax that hasn’t even started yet will get us to zero carbon within 45 years of its implementation, with no other punitive mechanisms in place?

    If that is to be the sole legislative platform we get with people like John in charge, we’re doomed.

  94. August 23rd, 2014 at 00:11 | #94

    Watkin, you asked for my links from the past thread again, so here htey are. First, John Quiggin said this:

    No time to argue at length right now, but Ronald is right on most points. $50/tonne and some regulatory changes would be enough to decarbonize electricity. You’d need a bit more effort and a higher price to replace petrol vehicles with electric, but . What’s left can be pretty much completely offset with trees and a bigger effort on methane.

    and I replied to point out that the IPCC estimates the maximum amount of carbon that can be sequestered in trees is 1.1-1.6Gt/yr, I think that figure is of carbon, so about 4Gt/yr of CO2. That’s the theoretical maximum. Their figures for Chapter 11 show that about 4Gt CO/yr are emitted just from land use changes.

    [I split this comment up due to links]

  95. August 23rd, 2014 at 00:24 | #95

    [continuing the links Watkin asked for]

    [My previous two links have been binned I guess because I mentioned our host's name]

    I found a report from the journal Bioscience that explains some technologies for sequestration (pdf here). This report says humans emit (nett) 4GT C/yr, and suggests that wood burial (for example) could remove up to 9GT. But this report also says this:

    Scholz and Hasse (2008) concluded that to sequester the entire current annual CO2 emission by tree planting and burial would require 1 billion ha. They also made the interesting observation that this acreage roughly equals the area of primeval forests lost in the last century

    So if we assume that half of all emissions will need to be removed by reforestation, then we need to plant trees on an area of land equal to half of all the forests lost in the last century. Much of those land use changes occurred on prime land, to convert it to agricultural land for feeding a growing population. So it seems unlikely to me that a reforestation program on that scale would be possible without creating greater food insecurity; it also seems impossible that we could plant on that much land under market mechanisms without both a) significantly increasing the price of land and thus reducing the effectiveness of the tax; and b) creating a huge carbon-burial bubble market in land, that will surely end badly.

    Plus, of course, there is a huge carbon cost involved in planting trees on a billion ha of land.

    So, can we ditch the carbon sequestration madness, please? Yes, it has a part to play, but it is not as big or as cheap as Ronald, John et al are claiming, and as a result this increase in sinks should be reserved for the portion of our carbon budget that cannot be phased out (e.g. jet fuel, coking coal, etc.) In the meantime, we need to find other methods for reaching zero carbon. And as shown by the SO2 and tobacco examples, a carbon tax by itself will not work.

  96. August 23rd, 2014 at 01:06 | #96


    1. Reducing net CO2 emissions to zero with a carbon price absolutely does not require that trees, agriculture, or artificial trees be used.

  97. Fran Barlow
    August 23rd, 2014 at 08:32 | #97

    It seems to me that those who advocate pricing policy alone as a means to place downward pressure on demand are engaging in a kind of reasoning error. While price is certainly an important aspect in choice, it’s not the only factor. A modest price impost will produce a less than equivalent negative change in demand. So a 10% increase in the cost of fuel will produce a short run drop in demand of about a quarter of that, and in the longer run, one of about half, assuming there are options within the system to substitute demand which are perceived to be less costly than the price hike.

    To do this with FHCs entails offering those good system options as well as price hiking, especially since the politics of price hiking makes it hard to hike with the savagery needed to get gross changes.

  98. Watkin Tench
    August 23rd, 2014 at 09:02 | #98

    Faustus- It is difficult know where to begin with you as you appear to be more interested in point scoring than having a productive exchange of views.

    The IPCC talks of 40%-70% reduction in ghg emissions by 2050 and 100% reduction in ghg emissions by 2100. I asked you for your own preferred timeline but you failed to provide it, instead going off on some completely irrelevant frolic about tobacco and such like.

    I’ve now checked your blog post on climate change and note you ignore the IPCC and instead reference 350 org:

    350.org says we need to get to 350ppm by the end of the century to avoid catastrophe …

    350 org was formed by a author and the 350ppm goal was inspired by a single paper by James Hansen, one of thousands of climate scientists. The science page on 350 org’s website is sparse to say the least and provides links to the IPCC, which settles on 450ppm rather than 350 ppm.

    You also make this false claim:

    Yet Ronald, John, Watkin et al would have us believe that a carbon tax that hasn’t even started yet will get us to zero carbon within 45 years of its implementation, with no other punitive mechanisms in place?

    Yet you know very well that Prof Quiggin and I also support ancilliary measures like fuel efficiency standards for motor vehicles.

    It should also be obvious that massive technological advances can be expected between now and 2100, so the toolbox for dealing with GHG will keep getting better.

    I must say I don’t find you in the least bit convincing. I also see that you want to criminalise “climate change denial” outside of the science literature. That is seriously spooky. Even the IPCC leaves some room for doubt, with IIRC probability ratings of no more than 95% for its contentions.

    I submit that your apocalyptic view of the world, your preference for criminalising dissent from orthodoxy and your preference for centralised and highly prescriptive top-down approaches to problem solving reflects rather badly on you.

    ZM- the tech report doesn’t refute the policy makers report. You referencing Hansen in an annotation to the tech report doesn’t make it so.

    Megan- Hilarious. Is this another one of your conspiracy theories? I much preferred the one about how international spy agencies have damaged your computer and interefered with your telecommunications, if you don’t mind me saying so. But go on, do tell us more.

  99. Megan
    August 23rd, 2014 at 09:40 | #99

    Not at all, Mel.

  100. August 23rd, 2014 at 10:21 | #100

    There’s no need for rudeness, Watkins. I am the only person here providing anything resembling evidence, for starters, so before you accuse me of point scoring, why not respond to some of it? Or produce some of your own? I gave the three links you asked for and you have not responded to them at all, either to address the issue of the limit on sequestration or the land use constraints. Which leaves you in the same science-free zone as Ronald, claiming we can achieve even your relatively modest goals without any plan as to how. I note now you have fallen back on nebulous “technology improvements”, devoid of detail. Is this how policy is constructed?

    I note that you claimed a pricing mechanism had previously successfully eliminated pollutants, but it was me who gave two counter examples and john and Nathan who gave two beautiful examples of a pricing scheme that failed. Are you going to return to this line of reasoning with some kind of counter argument or summary, or are we going to engage in a Gish gallop? You and Ronald seem eager to throw out claims that are easily debunked but very unwilling to back them up once the evidence is in. I have no idea if my selection of references is adequate, but you are completely unwilling to provide any alternative scientific results, so what should I think?

    Here are some points you could start with: how will sequestration deal with land use constraints and food supply conflicts? What should be done if sequestration proves much more limited than you claim? Where is your hard evidence that a price alone will get any pollutant to zero? Given there is strong evidence that prices are not sufficient, can you provide an argument as to why that evidence does not apply to carbon (I mean reasoned arguments with evidence, not mere assertion)? If a price will not work by itself, what additional measures do you consider important and how and when should progress be assessed?

    This is how policy is made, not by stuffing your fingers in your ears and yelling “plastic trees”!

    Regarding the target threshold, I am willing to cioncede I am more alarmist than the ipcc. This is because the ipcc is a govt document agreed to by the big polluters, and the ipcc is notoriously conservative on the effects of agw. See e.g. It over conservative estimates of risks in the arctic. The ecological effects of warming are well ahead of ipcc predictions, and the only way to square what is happening in the world with the ipcc’s measured estimates is to put a whole bunch of terrible events down to bad luck. Note also the ipcc estimates of future economic damage are heavily dependent on a small number of naive and completely discredited models, that were meta analyzed by an idiot. I am happy to talk about the ipcc targets though. If you want to retain your modern way of life, I still contend that a carbon tax alone will not get you to their limits.

    Finally I will point out that there is a carbon tax threshold over which tree planting becomes more profitable than growing wheat or rice. At that point the world really is heading into uncharted waters. You need to think about limits on sequestration and the kind of world you want to build before talking about what “reflects badly” on me!

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