The carbon price: three months on

The UQ Risk and Sustainable Management Group, which I lead, held a small workshop last week, looking at early experience with the carbon price. We plan to produce an edited volume from it, to be published early next year. A few items of information that were new(ish) to me;

* There’s been a lot of work going on to tighten up estimates of climate sensitivity (conventionally measured as the equilibrium response to a doubling of CO2). The news on this front has been moderately good. The worst case catastrophes are less likely and stabilization at 475 ppm would give a 90 per cent chance of holding the global temperature increase to 2C or less. This is excellent news, since, as I’ve argued previously, it will be a lot easier to get to 475 than to the internationally agreed target of 450. We’re adding about 2ppm/year, so the extra 25ppm more or less offsets the decade of delay we’ve just experienced.

* Just by selecting the right breeding stock, we might be able to reduce methane emissions (belches and farts) from ruminants by around 30 per cent

* Soil carbon storage, much beloved of Opposition climate spokesman Greg Hunt and others, is (almost) a complete furphy

An unpublished letter to the New York Times

Gary E. MacDougal (The Wrong Way to Help the Poor, 10/10/12) claims that the Federal government currently spends an average of $87000 a year on the typical family of four living in poverty. MacDougall’s calculation is out by a factor of at least four and probably more.

MacDougal’s source, Michael Tanner of Cato, treats all means-tested programs as anti-poverty programs. This includes the Earned Income Tax Credit, Family Tax credit and other programs for the middle and working classes. As Tanner admits, these programs have at least 100 million recipients, and probably many more. So, the average payment is less than $10 000, not the $20, 610 Tanner estimates.

It gets worse. The number of recipients doesn’t include children or adult dependents, but MacDougal’s calculation does. His family of four would include at most two benefit recipients, and would therefore receive less than the poverty line income of $23 050.

0.4 percent of a wrecking ball makes …

… a ball bearing perhaps?

0.4 percentage points is the estimate of the CPI impact of the carbon price, published in the Herald Sun (hardly likely to understate it). In the attempt to stop this catastrophe, the Australian political right has trashed its intellectual credibility, embraced lurid conspiracy theories, reduced its leading publications to laughing stocks, and promulgated a string of easily falsified talking points, each one more absurd than the last. So, now that their predictions of doom have come to this, what will be their response? My guess is that they will double down – Catallaxy and Andrew Bolt are already on the job.

Of course, a price of $23/tonne is just the thin end of the wedge. Most estimates suggest that we need a price somewhere in the range $50-100/tonne to produce a long run shift to a low-carbon economy. That might amount to a price increase of 2 or 3 per cent – about the same as the GST.

Will there be buyers for Queensland’s uranium

Dumping yet another election promise, Campbell Newman has just announced the end of restrictions on uranium mining in Queensland. Crikey asked for my opinion (their article is here, maybe paywalled). I said

The end of Queensland’s ban on uranium mining comes at a time when long-term prospects for uranium markets have never looked bleaker. The failure of the “nuclear renaissance” in the US means that at most 2-4 new plants will be built there this decade, while older plants will close as plans for upgrades and license extensions are put on hold. In Europe and Japan, not only will there be little or no new construction, but the phaseout of existing plants is being accelerated. China’s big expansion plans are still on hold after Fukushima, and the program as a whole is being scaled back in favor of renewables. In these circumstances, uranium exporters must accept lower prices, be less choosy about their customers, or both. As one of the few markets with significant growth potential, India is in a strong bargaining position. It’s not surprising that the Gillard government has been keen to overlook India’s contribution to nuclear proliferation and the limited progress that has been made in separating civilian and military programs and stockplies.

The surplus we deserve

Bernard Keane in Crikey wrote exactly what I was going to regarding Wayne Swan’s use of a variety of timing fiddles to keep the 2012-13 Budget in surplus. This was a silly target, to which the government unwisely committed itself when the recovery from the financial crisis looked a bit stronger than they had expected in 2009, and also stronger than it has actually turned out to be. The sensible thing would have been to return to the original schedule of a surplus by 2014-15 (IIRC). But with an Opposition led by an economically illiterate attack dog like Tony Abbott, and a press gallery that’s not much better, that wasn’t an option. So, the next best thing is to shuffle payments and receipts to generate a surplus this year, at the expense of a smaller surplus next year.

I’ll talk a bit more about the substantive measures in the mini-budget (some good and some bad) when I get a little more time free.

Today’s outage

Approximately 4 hours ago, Ozblogistan began to receive a very high level of traffic. During this period my performance tracking tools stopped working so it is difficult to tell how much traffic was received during the period.

A few minutes ago I kicked over our web server to reset all connections, which resolved this matter last time. This time too, apparently.

There are three possibilities:

  1. Misconfiguration of the web server software
  2. A badly behaved indexer program
  3. A denial of service attack

I am confident that the server is correctly configured, but I cannot eliminate the possibility that I am misinterpreting the available performance records. That kicking the server over “fixes” the problem might suggest this possibility.

If there was a badly behaved indexing program crawling all Ozblogistan sites, it should have turned up in my Cloudflare dashboard which, so far, it has not.

The odd man out in the Ozblogistan network is Catallaxy Files. The Cat is the only site currently not “behind” Cloudflare’s protective service. If we were receiving the loving ministrations of a badly behaved indexing program, then that program was exclusively crawling the Cat.

The unhappiest possibility is that this was a denial-of-service attack; again, directed against the Cat. Sometime in the next few days I expect that Catallaxy Files will be placed behind Cloudflare along with the other Ozblogistan sites and that this will prevent any such attacks from being successful.

Well, that’s it, folks. Please resume your usual blogging and commenting.