Kyoto comes into effect

This is a good day for the planet, which has had mostly bad days lately. Still, even with US (and FWIW, Australian) participation, Kyoto would only have been a first step towards tackling global warming. As it is, we have a first step towards a first step.

80 thoughts on “Kyoto comes into effect

  1. Further to my first comment (no. 21) – what none of this debate seems to have recognised is that climate change is the norm, with our without human intervention. Will Kyoto (or any other conceivable action by humans) prevent climate change happening? No. Is substantial climate change likely within the next few hundred years? Yes. Will Kyoto (or any other conceivable human action) substantially alter the timing of major climate change? Unlikely. So why are we focusing on something largely irrelevant to the main game?

  2. JQ,

    You may have missed my post at #37, requesting the source for your statistic at #35. Alex has also asked some very good questions at #50 and #51.


    You state at #45 that,

    “…the Right is pessimistic about the capacity of capitalism to adapt and believes that capitalism will be thrown into crisis by restricting the use of a particular resource, whereas the Left is optimistic about the dynamism, flexibility and ingenuity of capitalism and its ability to respond to the resource constraint through technical and organisational innovations and efficiency gains.”

    It seems to me that the polar opposite of this statement is true: it is the economic left/Greens who are pessimistic about the adaptability of the capitalist system, not the “Right”. It is precisely because of the pessimism of the “Left” that large sections of the global economy are now shackled with an additional regulatory cost, going by the name of the Kyoto Protocol. If the market were able to adapt, why would we need government intervention?

  3. Fyodor, here’s a source

    On Alex’s point, estimates of this magnitude were first made by Schelling and have been repeated many times since, recently by ABARE, IIRC.

    Continuing on the same theme, I think you have missed Paul N’s point. Suppose that we want to halve CO2 emissions. A natural market based way to do this is to tax them. Free-market economists generally expect the economy to adjust flexibly to price changes in the long run. So a moderate optimist might expect that doubling the price of carbon content in fuels would halve the use (unit elasticity) and estimate the welfare cost as being about equal in magnitude to the carbon share of GDP which is a few percentage points.

    A pessimist or energy fundamentalist would assume a fixed proportions technology and would therefore predict catastrophic consequences, as Lomborg does.

  4. JQ,

    Your link didn’t work. I think you meant this one:

    Which provides a chart showing projected doubling of atmospheric C02 concentration after 100 years if global population (I think) grows at 1% p.a. There’s no given source for this projection, so I’m a little sceptical. There’s a reference to Lovins (which I’m assuming is Amory Lovins), but it doesn’t cite the work it’s based on.

    You misunderstand my point re: Paul’s comment. My point is that a truly adaptable market would respond to the challenge of global warming. That may be an heroic assumption, but the supposed necessity of regulatory intervention (i.e. imposition of some form of carbon tax or impost) shows a pessimistic view of the market’s adaptability, not optimism.

  5. Fyodor any projection is subject to doubt, the point is that Andrew at #34 wasn’t in the right ballpark for the reasons explained by Paul at #38.

    On market adaption without intervention, how do you see this happening? There’s no private incentive to do anything.

  6. JQ,

    My doubt on the projection is due to the lack of substantiation – what was it based on? I’d like to have a look at the assumptions etc.

    You’re right in respect of #34 vs. #38, but the difference with the projection you’ve mentioned is that Andrew and Paul were dicussing historic anthropogenic forcing, not future projections. And data for the last 200-odd years strongly suggests that there has been anthropogenic forcing of CO2, i.e. CO2 concentrations have increased significantly because of human activity. While we can then project that concentrations will continue to increase into the near future, we do not know by how much. 100 years is a long time for any projection, particularly when we don’t know if assumptions we make now will hold even 20 years into the future.

    The $60K question, which remains unanswered, is what CO2 concentrations will be in 100 years, and what effect that will have on temperature. You state that CO2 concentrations will be roughly double. I’d like to know on what basis.

    On your second point, I agree that if global warming is a problem, the market has failed to address it so far, indicating some form of regulatory intervention may be required. However, I’m not sure global warming is a problem. I’m sceptical that:

    a) recent (i.e. last 100 years) global warming of 0.6 degrees C is anthropogenic in nature; and
    b) IPCC projections of future temperature increases are credible.

    I have a genuinely open mind about this, which is why I keep asking for more information. I guess that’s an invitation to educate me!

  7. Fyodor — 21/2/2005 @ 7:58 am, as usual, gets it back to front on economics and ecologics :

    it is the economic left/Greens who are pessimistic about the adaptability of the capitalist system, not the “Right�. It is precisely because of the pessimism of the “Left� that large sections of the global economy are now shackled with an additional regulatory cost, going by the name of the Kyoto Protocol. If the market were able to adapt, why would we need government intervention?

    We can always rely on Fyodor to be the first one to make it to “the polar opposite of the truth”. His comments about the invariable statism of “Greenies”, and implied capitalism of the “Brownies”, reflect a superficial and out-dated world model. Many of the so-called statist Left support emmissions trading, which itself was a proposal that came from the free-market economists. Most of the so-called capitalist Right devote their energy to anti-scientific denial of global warming or acting as spear carriers for carbon energy-intensive businesses rather than any idealistic form of capitalism.
    There is no doubt that Laissez-Faire capitalists can adapt to any old ecology – perhaps even the Moon if that Harsh Mistress can be tamed. But this does not tell us much since L-F capitalists can adapt to anything if the price is right. As Tom Wolfe’s Masters of the Universe observed: “Insulation is the key” to avoiding a riotous environment. They can afford it.
    Whats at issue is whether capitalism can rationally utilise ecologcial goods, so that current non-owners, and all those in the future, get a fair and reaonable shake.
    It is a failure of “government intervention” to define, and assign, property rights, and a proper trading regime that causes the problem. Without the institutions of proprietarian calculation the capitalists have precious little ability to account for, and rational allocate, supposedly
    “free”, resource usage and abusage. A laissez-faire attitude towards ecological usage and abusage just lets the biggest, or most mobbed up, firms get away with murderous “neighbourhood effects”.
    There are many pro-market Greenies. The tradition of “free-market environmentalism” goes way back, perhaps to Ronald Coase. I believe that the wide currency of the phrase “There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” is due to a book by free-market environmentalist Edwin Dolan. Both Coase & Dolan opposed legally unconstrained industrial capitalism, since this would squander ecologic wealth.
    Dolan proposed the creation of a market in public resource sources and refuse sinks. This proposal led to the creation of open market trading in the right to pollute (eg carbon emissions).
    Fyodor has also got the political-economy of “govt intervention” in the ecology ass-backwards. In many areas of ecological concern it is govt. subsidies, rather than “shackles”, that cause the economic and ecologic problem. THe case of water-intensive & land-extensive agriculture, where the marginal productive land is almost invariably subsidised by the state, is the most glaring example. This has been the special contribution of the National Country Party & Red State Republicans, to ecological political economy.
    Poor Fyodor. Now, as both Economic Wets and Cultural Dries playfully hammer him, he is copping it from both sides of the ideological spectrum. It cant be long before he begins to oscillate on his fundament, like one of those Bozo the Clown Bop Bags.

  8. John,
    I did not see any justification of the “few points of GDP” figure to drop GHG emissions by half in the quoted article. I would be very interested to see the justification. I withdrew my point when I could not immediately justify my figures (comment 43) using peer-reviewed data. Will you do the same?
    On the unit elasticity of carbon emissions. In the short to medium term unit elasticity is a dubious assumption. For example, when the price of petrol doubles we do not drop our car use by half; we simply pay the higher price and make any required sacrifices elsewhere, while perhaps restricting our car use a bit. In the long term (if you accept the global warming argument) the effect has already taken hold and it is too late – further and even more drastic action would be needed.
    A carbon tax would be likely to switch electricity production from coal to the more efficient gas but this will not result in a halving of GHG output – a switch to nuclear would do more but the building and eventual dismantling of these probably counterbalances a lot of the advantage. Solar and wind suffer from similar problems.

  9. Widows Mite,

    Go on, admit it: you’re really Jack Strocchi aren’t you? Ladies and gentlemen I contend that we now have definitive proof that Jack Strocchi 1.2 is a spam AI programme designed to sell skin ointment.

  10. Andrew

    You can get the ABARe report I quoted here (registration required). Key conclusion:

    “The loss in global real GDP resulting from the imposition of a carbon dioxide penalty tomeet the assumed abatement task is just over 1 per cent in 2050 when CCS [carbon capture and storage] technologies are available. ”

    The abatement task is to limit concentrations to 485ppm at 2050 and stabilise at 550ppm, which is a fairly standard example used in modelling, and goes a long way beyond Kyoto.

  11. Fyodor — 21/2/2005 @ 1:26 pm provides more evidence, if any were needed, that he is suffers from an acute case of paranoia combined with referred schizophrenia:

    Go on, admit it: [Widows Mite] is really Jack Strocchi aren’t you?

    [hmmm…hmmm…hmm…sound of tut-tutting in the background]
    I am disappointed in Fyodor for saying such dreadful things about me, especially after I graciously extended the olive branch to him in my historic comment # 50 “The Garbage Gene” peace offer.
    I have no knowledge of this strange “Jack Strocchi 1.2 is a spam AI programme” that he believes is now tormenting him. Perhaps Fyodor is projecting onto others the very voices that now clammer inside his head.
    Has Fyodor thought of seeking help to relieve his mind of this phantom assailant? Perhaps a long rest in a quiet place will do the trick.
    Whilst Fyodor retreats to the Sanitorium he might, for once, consider the substance of “Widows Mite”‘s arguments, which seem remarkably cogent – whether they are the product of some malovolent machine or not. This might prove useful for Fyodor’s intellectual education. It sure beats flailing away at imaginary enemies, a task that a Bozo the Clown Bop Bag-type debater is ill-suited for.

  12. I knew it. You really are pathetic.

    You didn’t even bother to change your writing “style”. Bah!

    Next time you attempt a little subterfuge, try to avoid:

    a) bold font, particularly in idiosyncratic locations, like the end of words;
    b) starting your response with the following structure “Fyodor — 21/2/2005 @ 7:58 am, makes an exceedingly insightful point…”
    c) pompous, overblown phrasing, e.g. “perhaps even the Moon if that Harsh Mistress can be tamed” or “Without the institutions of proprietarian calculation the capitalists have precious little ability to account for, and rational allocate, supposedly “freeâ€?, resource usage and abusage.”
    d) capitalising nouns that aren’t proper names [say, your programmer isn’t German, is s/he?], e.g. “Red State Republicans” or “Cultural Dries”.
    e) over-using childish gags and puns, e.g. Bozo the Clown Bop Bag, because you have so little originality you recycle what comic material you can scrape together.

    Now that we’re chums again, can I get a discount on that skin ointment? I have this weird fungal parasite that won’t disappear.

  13. Presumably a CO2 penalty would need to be imposed now, to meet the 485ppm in 2050 target?

    Given that it costs 1% of GDP after 45 years of adjustment, how much would it cost in 2006?

  14. Fyodor “discovers” that “Widows Mite” is Jack Strocchi. Congratulations. Next he will amaze us by revealing his unexpected ability to tell the difference between a certain flatulent orifice of his and a hole in the ground.

  15. Now that the kiddies have been taken care of we can return to adult education: Do any commenter/lurkers think that “market transactions” are a better way to solve environmental problems? And that “statist regulation” may actually cause some environmental problems?
    Greenspan notes an inherent tendency for capitalist economies to virtualise, rather than materialise, their production ie reduce the carbon-qty of each dollar produced:

    The movement over the decades toward production of services requiring little physical input has also been a major contributor to the dramatic rise in the ratio of constant dollars of GDP per ton of input.

    against this, the constant increase in the use of electronic appliances is making huge demands on energy. Can anyone link to a graph that shows resource use/gdp value trends?
    I get the feeling that Lomborg et al are more interested in being spear carriers for certain business interests rather than the institutions of capitalism.

  16. John,

    I thought that you would have to be talking about a presumed future technology – I was not aware of anything that could do that today. To me, that leaves my central point intact. Kyoto does not achieve anything worthwhile today and that the solution (if we accept that there is a problem) is something that cannot be found today without ruinous economic consequences. The only solution to the ‘problem’ is a long-term one, relying on a future technological innovation.
    I hope I read you post correctly.

  17. Andrew, the “without CCS” estimate is 5 per cent of GDP, which is still of the same order of magnitude – the loss of 1 or 2 year’s growth out of the next 50. I think ABARE tends to be too pessimistic, but any sensible cost estimate is a few per cent of GDP, as I’ve said.

    As I pointed out at #53, back-of-the-envelope economics gives the same order of magnitude. Claims about ruinous economic consequences imply that mainstream economics is wrong, just as denial of the reality of climate change implies that mainstream science is wrong.

    Tom, assuming the price of carbon is raised gradually, starting with Kyoto, the cost will do the same, ultimately reaching a few per cent of GDP.

  18. There is not much doubt now that increased CO2 will affect the Global Climate in some way. Most if not all peer reviewed scientific work agrees with this. Because the atmosphere is complex and non-linear the eventual result is uncertain. The best estimate is that a rise of 1.2 to 5.6 degrees in the global average temperature will result. Kyoto will not do that much to stop this however it is the only game in town.
    The question is really what will be the economic cost of the possible results of Global Warming? How about Malaria moving into North Queensland? How about 50 degree days in Perth. How about increased storms in Eastern Australia.
    Why is the cost of implementing emission reduction an issue anyway? Something has to be done sometime – all we are doing is making someone else pay the price. Action now will be a lot cheaper and easier than action later.

  19. John,
    As I said in post 58, I would strongly doubt your unit elasticity contention – I do not see that a doubling in the price of energy would, in the short to medium term, result in a halving of its use – which seems to be the basis of that argument. Sure, a doubling of the price would not lead to economic catastrophe but that is only because it would also not result in a halving of use.
    Energy use (and therefore carbon emissions assuming current technology – a fair assumption in the short to medium term) would be fairly inelastic, also for the reasons in post 58.
    To me common sense dictates that if you force the halving of energy use you would have to close to force the halving of economic output as, for example, if you halved the amount of time I could use my computer you would close to halve my output – I would certainly not be posting to blogs much. For a factory to halve its energy use does not mean that they could make up production some other way – they would simply have to halve output even if the energy component was only 1 to 2 percent of the total amount of inputs.

  20. Andrew: drastic reductions in GHG emissiosn coudl be achieved in the short-term using existing cost-effective technologies – in particular integrated gasification combined cycle coal-fired power-plants which produce around 75% less CO2 per unit of power produced than conventional power-plants and biodeisel-fueled hybrid cars.

  21. Ian,
    I think it depends on what you call short term – it takes several years (and a lot of CO2 output) to build a complete set of new power plants and even more years and CO2 output to replace all the cars on our roads. In addition, the bio-fueled hybrid cars take a substantial amount more energy to produce than a convetional car.
    You cannot and should not just look at the actual running costs (economic or environmental) of these items – this is the mistake often made with nuclear plants – you have to take an entire life cycle view. Fuel cell cars make great sense as they only output water into the atmosphere until you realise that the hydrogen they use has to come from somewhere (anyone ever found a hydrogen mine?) and the exotic materials they use have a high cost (also economic and environmental). Often, the increased efficiencies in running costs are dwarfed when the production costs are taken into consideration.

  22. Use an elasticity of -0.5 if you like; it doesn’t change the order of magnitude. This is the standard estimate for long-run elasticity of demand for energy, but doesn’t take account of substitution possibilities and induced innovation when you are taxing emissions rather than energy.

    Obviously, on a 50 year time frame short-term and medium-term elasticities are irrelevant.

  23. A carbon tax is a very blunt edged weapon. It hits renewable biofuels and misses ecologically harmful things that are non-carbon (it could make a switch to high sulphur petroleum products, for instance).

  24. Andrew,

    “Short term” in this context is 10-20 years.

    I am aware of the problems with fuel cell vehicles which is which I mentioned hybrids.

    While I don’t have the information immediately to hand, there has already been a rather large experiment regarding the price elasticity of petrol and the capacity of economies to adjust to a large increase in the price of fuel, it was called the 1973 oil crisis.

  25. Stephen Gloor writes, “The best estimate is that a rise of 1.2 to 5.6 degrees in the global average temperature will result.”

    No, that’s not anywhere near the “best estimate.” The best estimate is 0 to 2.5 degrees Celsius.

    Best estimate is 0 to 2.5 degrees Celsius from 1990 to 2100

    “Why is the cost of implementing emission reduction an issue anyway? Something has to be done sometime – all we are doing is making someone else pay the price.”

    Given the fact that the “someones” in 2100 are likely to be over 100 times richer than we are, I don’t see any big deal about them paying for the “problem” (if it is indeed a problem).

  26. Oops. My previous post contained the wrong link. That link just showed the “50% probability” values for temperatures.

    This link has both the low (5% probability that warming will be less than the value stated) and high (95% probability that the warming will be less than the value stated) values from the IPCC (as explained by Wigley and Raper in Science magazine, in 1999) and from me.

    IPCC vs Mark Bahner Temperature projections, including low and high values

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

    P.S. BTW, I’m still waiting for a member of the IPCC who is willing to bet that the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) projections are better than mine:

    Challenge to Bet: IPCC vs Mark Bahner

  27. Mark

    Sorry I did get it wrong it is 1.4 to 5.8 degrees. This is the figure that is considered most likely by the IPCC (Q3.6-7 & Q3.11 Synthesis Report IPCC 2001).

    Funny when your TV works or you are typing on your computer the scientists that came up the principles that TVs use or computer chips are made with, the science behind them is spot on. However when 1200 of them get together and produce a report it is suddenly junk. Also when all the scientific community, except those on the payroll of large fossil fuel companies, agree that pumping CO2 into the air will do something this is suddenly wrong as well.

    Also it really does not matter. We will find out in a few years who is right and who is wrong. Thanks to people like you running a FUD campaign it is very unlikely that anything really meaningful will be done. So for better or for worse the climate will possibly change in the near future. You are probably banking on being dead before this happens as are most climate change skeptics. There is a chance that you might see the consequences (if any) of your actions within your lifetime.

    One of the more extreme, but not impossible, results is that Global warming heating up the permafrost will accelerate the release of CO2 to extreme levels. As well the this warming could lead to the methane hydrates, presently safely locked away, being released triggering a runaway event. There is increasing evidence that the Permian extinction was just such an event as this.

    Basically in our pursuit of small green pieces of paper we are endangering our spaceship. What will you say if you are wrong – Sorry ???????

  28. Click to access externpr.pdf

    We should remember that there are costs – such as health costs and acid deposition – associated with all forms of energy production.

    The estimates in the EU publication linked above show that these external cost for coal can be as high as 10 euro-cents – say ca. A$0.15 – per kilowatt hour. Estimates for the extenral costs of wind power using the same methodology are less than one euro-cent.

    While these theoretical models are always suspect we need only look at the Chinese coal industry for evidence of the human and economic costs of continuing with fossil fuels.

  29. Ender writes, “Sorry I did get it wrong it is 1.4 to 5.8 degrees.”

    Yeah, I know. You quoted your Bible wrong. I could have corrected you, but I know that both sets of numbers are essentially equally ludicrous. (In fact, your “wrong” first set of numbers were slightly LESS ludicrous!)

    “However when 1200 of them get together and produce a report it is suddenly junk.”

    It isn’t junk. It’s a deliberate lie. That’s much worse. In fact, as I point out on my weblog, the IPCC TAR projections for methane atmospheric concentrations, CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentrations, and resultant temperature increases constitute the greatest fraud in the history of environmental science.

    “Also when all the scientific community, except those on the payroll of large fossil fuel companies, agree that pumping CO2 into the air will do something…”

    Please point out the scientists who say that CO2 does nothing.

    “Thanks to people like you running a FUD campaign…”

    I’m not running a “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, delay) campaign. I don’t have much uncertainty. I’m very certain that global warming is not a significant problem. So I have no fear, and am counseling others not to have fear either. And I don’t counsel delay. The entire scientific/technical community should expose the IPCC’s fraud, and repudiate it.

    That’s in direct contrast to the IPCC, which deliberately made fraudulent projections, with the specific purpose of scaring people. Plus, they produced a huge range of possible temperature increases (i.e., a large amount of uncertainty) so that if the actual temperature rise was only 1.4 degrees Celsius, they could claim that they were right.

    Mark Bahner (environmental engineer)

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