Hand it back

The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed 35 economists and found 30 of them favored carbon price (tax, ETS or some mixture) over Direct Action. It quotes Chris Caton as saying “Any economist who didn’t opt for emissions trading “should hand his degree back”, says Chris Caton.

I’d take that a step further.

Anyone with a natural science degree in any field will find plenty of examples of denialist lies on everything from basic physics to bushfires. More generally, denialists have attacked the entire scientific enterprise with absurd conspiracy theories. No-one who endorses these attacks, explicitly or tacitly, deserves to call themselves a scientist.

Similarly, anyone with a degree that includes even minimal exposure to statistics should understand that denialists were misusing the concept of statistical significance when they claimed, a few years back there had been no significant warming since 1995. Subsequent hacks have had to move the goalposts forward to 1997. And that’s just one example of the cherrypicking dishonesty rife on the denialist side of the debate. So, anyone who claims to be a sceptic and hasn’t distanced themselves from claims like these should send back their math/stat degree.

Then there are those with university degrees, but without the training in science, maths or economics to assess the key issues independently. Anyone with a university education ought to be able to recognise the limits of their own expertise, and to be able to distinguish between bogus sources of information and the products of genuine peer-reviewed research. If they prefer the kind of nonsense circulated on denialist websites to the conclusions of scientific research, they should hand in their degrees and instead obtain one of the many qualifications available, for a modest fee and no work, on internet sites like those listed here.

103 thoughts on “Hand it back

  1. It’s an interesting and unexpected place the climate change issue is in at the moment. In 2007 both major parties were promising an ETS and there was a lot more active discussion about where emissions were being produced and what would be the most effective strategies to reduce them.

    Now in 2013 with the science moved further along and the skeptics side reduced to cranks and astroturf organisations the debate is about whether should we even pretend to do anything about it. Quite extraordinary. The only hope is that the public ‘s fickle attention will swing wildly and unexpectedly back in the direction of being responsible. Abbott is almost certainly going to be Australia’s worst PM. The question remains as to whether Bill Shorten will be the most spineless opposition leader.

  2. As I read the comments attributed to Warwick McKibbin, he was against both approaches, but would be in favour of well designed carbon pricing. If by inference we could conclude he would also be in favour of well designed direct action, that would mean his position is pretty similar to that @Richard Denniss (!!!). The problem in the survey was that it inevitably played into the polarisation of the political debate (leading to ‘economists disagree with Tony Abbott’ headlines) whereas the issues are more complex. There are direct measures that clearly will be helpful, and increase response options for the future. The basic insight from economics – price signals help change behaviour – can be applied in different ways. In other words, taking an either/or approach is not helpful.

  3. It was interesting to see that one of the few economists who favoured the Government’s policy also revealed himself as a sceptic on the science. Perhaps he has a degree in physics/chemistry as well as as economics. He also said that market solutions were not the right answer to the problem. This chap, who works for a large financial institution, is often in the media as a commentator on what is going up and what is going down in the economy. At this task, he is no better or no worse than the other financial market talking heads, but his intervention in this debate is a stark reminder that economists should stick to their areas of expertise. Just because you can say something sensible about the latest monthly car retail sales data doesn’t mean you know anything about the design of markets or policies to fix externalities.

  4. JQ, it would be good to get your take on Nordhaus’ recently published book, The Climate Casino. Krugman gives it a reasonably positive review in the NYRB.

  5. Krugman on Nordhaus
    “Throughout this book, Nordhaus’s tone is slightly cynical but basically calm and optimistic: this is ultimately a problem we should be able to solve. I only wish I could share his apparent conviction that this upbeat possibility will translate into reality. Instead, I keep being haunted by a figure he presents early in the book, showing that we have been living in an age of unusual climate stability—that “the last 7,000 years have been the most stable climatic period in more than 100,000 years.” As Nordhaus notes, this era of stability coincides pretty much exactly with the rise of civilization, and that probably isn’t an accident.”

  6. @stephen

    There are direct measures that clearly will be helpful, and increase response options for the future.

    That’s true, but as “DAP” is only loosely specified ATM and those parts of it that are seem unpromising in terms of per dollar abatement and scaleability and maintainability, it’s misleading to group all notional “direct action” under the the TA rubric of “direct action”.

    Moreover, at best DAP can only work on our shores, and as we are so often reminded by the Abbott cohort, Australia in absolute terms relative to the total emissions of the planet, is a very modest contributor.

    One of the things we want out of abatement is a model that others can duplicate and which successor regimes will find hard to furtively subvert.

  7. @ZM

    Do you mean a kind of global version of the carbon tax?

    Obviously not. It’s very hard to devise taxes that cross jurisdictions. That’s one of the reasons for going with an ETS, in which a quota is set for emissions for each jurisdiction and it can allow each emitter to emit their share (by bidding for them). If they buy more than they need, they can onsell them to others, recovering their money, and if they underbid, they can purchase more in their market, or in some other market.

    This recognises the reality that CO2 doesn’t respect the political boundaries between jurisdictions.

    If the price set (by the world cap) turned out to be $AUD50 tCO2e then emitters here could choose to do abatement here, or obtain offsets in other markets, including in the developing world. A country that was already emitting below the cap could sell its surplus to the highest bidder and use that to do low-emissions development (perhaps in conjunction with the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) process or MDGs etc.

    Plainly, you’d want a robust means of auditing these projects to ensure their LCAs had integrity as abatement or equitable development.

  8. @Fran Barlow
    “If the price set (by the world cap) turned out to be $AUD50 tCO2e then emitters here could choose to do abatement here, or obtain offsets in other markets, including in the developing world. A country that was already emitting below the cap could sell its surplus to the highest bidder and use that to do low-emissions development (perhaps in conjunction with the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism) process or MDGs etc.
    Plainly, you’d want a robust means of auditing these projects to ensure their LCAs had integrity as abatement or equitable development.”

    Would the world cap be some sort of per capita emissions budget per nation? This is problematic internationally because most developed countries have long ago exceeded a per capita budgeting method. If not, what sort of a cap are you suggesting?

    Is abatement the same as mitigation in this context? Mitigation projects within one’s borders are at least controlled by the body politic within those borders (still difficult to maintain over generations) – whereas offsets in other markets are controlled by other political entities and are very problematic, especially when they are often in developing countries with various governmental issues that may lead to lax enforcement etc – eg. the offsets in Indonesia that have pretty completely fallen apart – and are still subject to the problems of maintenance long term.

    The only way a country could emit below the cap would be if the cap was a per capita per nation one (so far as I can see) – in this case looked at historically very significant reparations are already due to developing countries from developed countries.

    To avoid reparations, countries would have to agree on a “year zero” for emissions responsibility – but even if an agreement was reached that 2013 were year zero (unlikely politically I imagine) developed countries would immediately begin to owe reparations from that date. The only way to avoid this budgeting problem would be to have a start date at some point in the future when emissions would be equal.

    Then the questions become How to arrive at this point of equality and What emissions make up this point of equality – a cap might not be needed if they are low – or it may be too late if they are high…

  9. Border carbon adjustments are described here
    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/forget_kyoto_putting_a_tax_on_carbon_consumption/2590/
    The starry eyed assure us that China will ease back on coal burning in a few years but I’d like an insurance plan in case they don’t get around to it.

    Another idea for linking carbon pricing schemes is a ‘credibility rating’. Note California decided to link to Quebec but didn’t think the EU scheme cut the mustard. I think the idea is if you want to buy permits from a scheme with a 50% rating maybe that’s a C or D you”d have to buy twice as many.

  10. I despair that fools have stormed the benches of government and taken control of the debate. People of some credential are now treated with disrespect and their ideas ridiculed. This is akin to what happened in the US when Bush Jr became president. 8 years of stem cell research lost, religious dogma trotted out in its place. Critics were lambasted by murdock press and labelled unpatriotic. To think, great scientists throughout history had to develop their ideas in secret, risking execution if discovered. It would appear nothing has changed, climate science is being attacked publicly, its champions are scoffed at and solutions ignored. It would appear the denialist solution will be akin to the resumption of human sacrifice to a sky fairy. A carbon tax would have been much easier.

  11. @ZM

    Ultimately I think we have to move to a per person cap on CO2 emissions. Which will be good for developing countries.

    However you identify the very real problem of rich countries buying permits from poor countries that have lax carbon accounting practices.

    It is pretty simple really – the rich countries must reduce their emissions. No amount of buying permits from poor countries will solve the problem of increasing atmospheric CO2.

    Maybe we need some sort of hybrid scheme whereby a country can only sell, say, 20% of its permits. This might have the odd side effect of sending energy intensive industries to poorer countries.

    But if we are optimistic, all of this will cease to matter once we’ve moved to a post fossil fuel world. Maybe by 2050?

  12. @ZM

    Would the world cap be some sort of per capita emissions budget per nation?

    I’d say so.

    This is problematic internationally because most developed countries have long ago exceeded a per capita budgeting method.

    Then one of our challenges is to get back to that. If we know that total human emissions by a given date must not exceed a given figure, then that figure becomes a limited resource which we must ration. If all humans are equally entitled to a chance at dignified existence, then it follows that we all have to have the same cap.

    In practice that’s difficult because last time I looked, pretty much everyone had to get down to per capita emissions of about 2tCO2e each — which one finds exclusively in the poorest parts of the world, who, not unreasonably, want much of what we’re having now and are entitled to resent that reality that the budget is where it is because the wealthy countries chewed through so much of the budget between 1950 and 2000 when they should have known and done better.

    So step 1 would involve radically closing the gap between the emissions of the first world and those of the developing world, by investing in low carbon development for growth over there and abatement here. In order to buy some time while we are over what is reasonable, we probably have to develop some geo-engineering tools for stauinching insolation and maybe increasing both albedo and drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere. That might allow us to temporarily emit a lot more than we should, but prevent us losing the permafrost and starting a new positive feedback cycle.

    A country like Nigeria for example desperately needs a reliable supply of stationary energy to do development. As things stand, much of their population goes without power for much of the time and what they are doing is burning astonishing amounts of oil, which is not only expensive but highly polluting — and not just in relation to CO2. Yet in per capita terms, their emissions were officially 0.5t per person p.a. I suspect the accounting here is not so robust.

    A scheme to provide low emissions stationary power and low emissions transport within the country under CDM could be funded by the issue of permits if suitably accounted and simultaneously improve the quality and standard of living of most Nigerians. If it reduced the burning of oil the country could export more of its oil and become a good deal more self-sufficient. We’d be doing social justice and environmental improvement at the same time.

  13. @Fran Barlow
    ” If all humans are equally entitled to a chance at dignified existence, then it follows that we all have to have the same cap.”
    I agree with this, but the devil is in the details as they say. The UN does not currently have the legal authority to implement this globally, so you’re looking at individual countries or formal networks of countries (such as the Commonwealth) – arriving at a point where the crown/state’s authority to implement this on a long term basis is not going to be overwhelmed by the force of more or less powerful dissenters to the proposed regime ( such as, I’d imagine – perhaps he could qualify – the boldly immoral/amoral Jim Rose).
    I would like it to be otherwise, but I’m unsure this will be at least in the near term a matter in which there is no dissent…

  14. Beyond zero energy have some concrete steps for Australia to lower carbon emissions significantly, and I saw a talk of theirs on land planning needs (like JQ great reductions in cattle [and also sheep] farming were canvassed – with reforestation being implemented to draw down carbon) which was at that time unpublished – not sure if it’s available now.
    But even within Australia, unless there’s some sort of constitutional ruling supported by the Judiciary if the High Court, the bearer of the Crown, the military/police and some segment of the populace that are prepared to protest in support – I don’t see how we can get to a position where these plans can even begin to be implemented?

  15. @Uncle Milton
    I read the Krugman review. It’s clearly a big shift from Nordhaus, who used to be Lomborg’s favorite economists (to be clear, that doesn’t mean that Nordhaus approved of Lomborg)

  16. Are any Australian universities taking steps to revoke the degrees of those who clearly don’t deserve them?

    Perhaps there could be a scheme of demerit points for foolish utterances, combined with loss-of-degree for too many points lost or for committing the intellectual equivalent of driving under the influence of alcohol or a drug.

  17. Jim Rose :Let climate science be settled. How much will global warming cost is the correct question for policy debate.
    The chances of India, China and the rest of the Third world agreeing for forego or even slow economic development to fight global warming is zero even before you consider the international collective action, verification and free rider problems.
    Adaptation and richer is safer are the only games in town. Climate change will be mostlly a threat to the poor in poor countries.
    Tom Schelling posed this question:

    “Suppose the kind of climate change expected between now and, say, 2080 had already taken place, since 1900.
    Ask a seventy-five-year-old farm couple living on the same farm where they were born: would the change in the climate be among the most dramatic changes in either their farming or their lifestyle?
    The answer most likely would be no. Changes from horses to tractors and from kerosene to electricity would be much more important.”

    changes from horses to tractors happened before the “dustbowl”soil loss disaster in America.
    the people who endured this would probably strongly disagree with your assessment of importance of changes.

    being rich only means in the light of wide spread disruption of climatic patterns,that the price of apparently safe places will rise and competition for such places increase and the need and cost to defend such places not something i would be able to quantify.

    but you could give it a go.

    given you seem to think that the cost of the climate pattern disruption can be arrived at.

  18. @ZM

    so you’re looking at individual countries or formal networks of countries (such as the Commonwealth) – arriving at a point where the crown/state’s authority to implement this on a long term basis is not going to be overwhelmed by the force of more or less powerful dissenters to the proposed regime

    In the past, I’ve suggested there could be something like “break out groups” in which wealthy high emitting countries are paired with their poorer trading partners and other jurisdictions having some complementarity with the rest of the group. I’m thinking of groups composed of perhaps no more than 14-15 jurisdictions or covering populations of around 150 million outside the largest member.

    The aim of each group would be to

    a) specify a target and a timeline in conformity with the overall global budget
    b) ensure that no member had unreasonable burdens of abatement settled on them, having regard to the PC GDP of each
    c) ensure that each member stayed with the group targets with a right to differentially trade with them if they fell out of conformity
    d) to negotiate as a bloc with the other blocs over global abatement policy and targets
    e) set up emissions trading within the bloc and between blocs

    Creating smaller complementary cross jurisdictional groupings could make resistance from the hold-outs harder, and certainly, one can imagine big emitters like China liking such an arrangement, and this alone spurring others to become more pro-active.

  19. The frustration is evident in Bernie Fraser’s address but its specks on the windscreen for the ‘get outa my way’ LNP

    “They go home at night to their comfortable, well-appointed homes, they talk amongst themselves, they socialise together, they don’t understand what my team and I understand, and that is Queenslanders have had enough.”

  20. @Fran – but how do the individual and collective break out groups get to that point? You’ve looked at dissent between countries/groups – but what about the significant overt or implicit (ie. yes, I support action on climate change if it doesn’t affect my material standard of living) dissent within countries?

    @Hermit
    While I don’t agree with a lot in the piece you link to, it does contrast with the Climate Authority’s draft report which seems to tally things up according to production (excepting shipping and air travel [which should be attributed to the traveller’s place of citizenship, or the good’s final destination] which developing countries complain about as well).

    Helm:
    “It is carbon consumption that measures the carbon footprint and hence responsibility, not the carbon production in particular geographical areas. Yet remarkably the Kyoto framework does not take consumption into account. Instead it focuses on carbon production, and mostly in Europe, where deindustrialization and the collapse of the former Soviet Union make compliance with the targets easy. For example, the UK’s carbon production fell by more than 15 percent between 1990 and 2005, but once imported carbon is taken into account, carbon consumption went up more than 19 percent. This explains how carbon production can be falling in Europe in line with its Kyoto targets, while global carbon emissions keep going up.”

    CCA:
    “China is the world’s largest emitter and the world’s second largest economy. Its per person emissions are around the global average. With $118 billion in two-way merchandise trade in 2012, China is Australia’s largest trading partner.

    [EU targets] rnational: 20 per cent relative to 1990. Conditional target of 30 per cent relative to 1990.
    Domestic: Many European Union countries have climate targets included in legislation or national plans. The European Union also has agreed to a formal ‘burden sharing arrangement’ for some of its collective climate targets.”

  21. @ZM
    Something is amiss when we can send WA iron ore to China as well as Qld/NSW coking coal then re-import steel made with our own ingredients. Sure China has lower wages and economies of scale but also a current lack of serious carbon penalties whatever their noble intentions. The Gillard govt gave Bluescope and OneSteel/Arrium 94.5% carbon tax exemption and other sweeteners yet neither has an assured future. Therefore I suggest Chinese or Indian steel is assumed to have caused about 2 tonnes of CO2 per tonne of product. On arrival in Australia it gets slapped with 2 units of the current carbon price and I believe anti-dumping laws can easily handle this.

    Of course that may not save the Australian steel industry in which case they could get extra cash gifts like the car makers. Maybe not from TA. The beauty of this system is that should Asian steel makers go elsewhere for coal and iron ore it doesn’t matter they will still get penalised until they get their own serious ETS or whatever. Of course it would be nice if Clive & Gina left their Queensland coal deposits in the ground and the Great Barrier Reef was not acidified, silted and bashed.

  22. @Hermit
    Isn’t this partly by design of the economic system? in Australia I imagine we consume considerably more embedded labour than we undertake ourselves. I would think that most developed countries are the same (maybe not Germany???). I can only presume this was the intention of the reforms of economic rationalism and why Keating finds it galling that Labor doesn’t hold the support of the vast middle classes it helped to create…

  23. @Ernestine Gross The next century’s worth of climate change will cost the equivalent of two years of economic growth or thereabouts.

    The economic literature on climate change is small. It is small because it is poorly funded. It is poorly funded because governments do not like the answers it gives.

    Much of the damages estimated by Lord Stern in his report occur after 2200, and not a trivial amount occurs after 2800 when we are all zipping around star trek style.

    When will current policy actions to mitigate global warming through reductions in carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) have a detectable effect on climate?

  24. @ZM

    but how do the individual and collective break out groups get to that point? You’ve looked at dissent between countries/groups – but what about the significant overt or implicit (ie. yes, I support action on climate change if it doesn’t affect my material standard of living) dissent within countries?

    Well the LDCs have an interest in development, and if it is clean development, then it’s easier to persuade their populaces. The major emitters have populations whose standard of living will decline in most climate change scenarios and who may find themselves facing the challenge of displaced persons seeking resettlement.

    China faces serious food and water shortages and while they are good at managing dissent, they certainly don’t want any serious problem supplying food.

    I suspect that most already understand that our current standard of living is not sustainable and the longer we try to artificially sustain it the less that is left for those who follow us. It is an unpalatable reality and of course many try for cognitive dissonance but in the end, people will accept it. What’s needed is a way of breaking the logjam so that nobody can say of their state that its action is unilateral and futile.

  25. @Fran Barlow
    Just back from a talk by Germaine Greer on her new book.
    “but in the end, people will accept it. What’s needed is a way of breaking the logjam so that nobody can say of their state that its action is unilateral and futile.”
    Well, I am not sure at what point in time “people” (every person? The majority? Just enough?) will come to accept it, and whether there would still be time.
    Western civ has been notoriously unshy of crossing cultural and natural thresholds, and look at how the ancient Greeks, so few compared to the global numbers today, argued about so very much…
    In terms of a way to challenge the statement of action being unilateral and futile, this is why I think looking into the constitutional responsibilities of the Crown to its subjects’ heirs might be helpful – because it is the Crown of 16 Commonwealth realms of varying levels of development, spread over the globe. But even if there was a case for that responsibility, other support would be needed. And often the people who support the crown are not the same people who support strong action on climate change…

  26. @Jim Rose

    “The next century’s worth of climate change will cost the equivalent of two years of economic growth or thereabouts.”

    Jim, assuming this is a follow-on from your previous comment, you’re concluding this from an essay Schelling wrote in 1992.

    In 1997 he used the same illustrative device for effect, but instead referring specifically to climate mitigation costs:

    Still, if one plots the curve of U.S. per capita gnp over the coming century with and without the two percent permanent loss, the difference is about the thickness of a line drawn with a number two pencil, and the doubled per capita income that might have been achieved by 2060 is reached in 2062. If someone could wave a wand and phase in, over a few years, a climate-mitigation program that depressed our gnp by two percent in perpetuity, no one would notice the difference.

    So – by that same logic, you should have absolutely no problem with attempting to mitigate climate change either.

  27. Or, am I being too clever for my own good here?

    Crap – I’ll let you read and tell me Jim 😉

  28. Nope, I was right the first time. Schelling views mitigation costs as a mere drop in the bucket: “a few trillion dollars over the next 30 or 40 years, out of an oecd gross product rising from $15 trillion to $30 trillion or $40 trillion annually.”

  29. @Jim Rose
    Surely you know that reducing carbon emissions merely mitigates climate change. We are already doomed to two degrees. Your question is therefore mischievous.

  30. SBS had an interesting doco on tonite about AGW’s twin problem- ocean acidification. There is already plenty of field data to show that this is already having an impact on ocean life.

    Happily, while much of the news is bad news, some is good, for examples sea grasses benefit from CO2 fertilisation and this in turn is good for many fish. Also interesting to note that a sea urchin off the California coast has adapted to higher CO2 emissions by becoming a much more efficient calcifier. However it is unlikely all beasties will be so lucky.

  31. Mel, while I appreciate your observation, I suspect to think in terms of positive and negative feedbacks, we have to set in train the re-establishment of the condition of overall global atmospheric energy equilibrium. This will not happen readily or tomorrow. If this contention is correct, it is argument against further delay and denial, a proposition that falls on the deaf ears of the mentality of the Federal Government. It is a problem that equally increases with the passing of time.

    As for handing back, whatever credentials I might have been given, there would be an understandable feeling of disappointment. I don’t know I would do it.

  32. @Nick

    In any choice between two states of the world, where one of those states of the world involves a perverse reading by Jim Rose of a linked article, it is a reasonable decisional protocol to select the state of the world that includes a perverse reading.

  33. Unfortunately Paul Frijters appears unable to be objective

    You get the inevitable quasi-religious stories linking disasters to ‘sin’, essentially via a simple morality-play argument of ‘you have sinned, so now you are punished’.

    ..The first off the block this time round was Christina Figueres, a UN climate change marketer, wagging her finger at Australia, telling CNN reporters there was ‘absolutely’ a link between climate change and wildfires.

    Christiana Figueres was misquoted and Fritjers appears to rely solely on that misquote.

  34. Does Burchell Wilson (Australian Chamber of Commerce) rate as one of the ones who should hand his degree back? I haven’t managed to find a transcript of his comments at Eastern Australian Energy Outlook Conference but they were described as-

    “That was one of the most deceptive, disingenuous and manipulative presentations I have ever seen,” said Andrew Richards, the external affairs manager for renewable energy investor Pacific Hydro. “It was almost comical.”

    From Giles Parkinson at RenewEconomy

    …the renewable energy target was “crazy”, “an ugly baby”, and “bad policy” that could only be justified by an “ideological predeliction towards renewable energy.”

    This was a view, Wilson claimed, that was “largely uncontentious”. There were “no economists I know who is not an ideologue who disagrees with that.”

  35. @rog

    Christiana Figueres was misquoted and Fritjers appears to rely solely on that misquote.

    She was misreported by Abbott but the quote you use is accurate, because there is a link between climate change and wildfires. What she didn’t say was that these NSW fires we were experiencing were a product of climate change, although in all probability, they are.

    The problem with Frijters is that he doesn’t appear to be willing to read things that don’t support his claims. The Figueres remarks make no allusion to sin and punishment. Frijters ought to be embarrassed, and if he has a degree implying literacy he opught to hand it back.

  36. What she actually said, Fran, was that these fires were not STARTED by climate change, but climate change provided the conditions for them to persist.

  37. Another factor to consider in this farce of a climate change policy is that our immigration rate ensures we have another 1.5 to 2.5 million people in Australia by 2020, and if our baby-bonus birthrate is above the natural deathrate, then Australia will be a substantially bigger place by 2020.

    If our energy and power needs continue on their long term trajectory, Australia’s 5% reduction of emissions against the base is going to be a challenging exercise. The tragic part of the equation is that we really need to be pushing for something even more substantial, such as 20% reduction against the base.

    We’ve seen an awesome uptake in PV-solar for houses, with a 10% coverage in South Australia, for example. Dismantling of subsidies and other inducive policies for renewable energy uptake will certainly put a dent in the growth rates: the question though, is what if we kept the subsidies in place for the next 5 or 10 years? Would that be more cost effective as a strategy than direct action strategies? If we reached a target of say 25% coverage in the states with the best sunlight conditions, and say 15% elsewhere, would that be more effective in 2020 compared to direct action (with its fixed budget and one-off nature)?

  38. @BilB
    “What she actually said, Fran, was that these fires were not STARTED by climate change, but climate change provided the conditions for them to persist.”
    If you accept anthropogenic climate change, then all climatic conditions since climate change began are provided by it. There is no longer a non-anthropogenic climate in play.

  39. I like your #18 in principle, Fran. That would enable better decision making with achievable targets.

  40. @Donald Oats
    It’s interesting that our population growth in the last few years has been 1.6% pa and that is also the average of the avowed 80% emissions cut over the 50 year period 2000-2050. If new citizens can be presumed to need low carbon energy as much as those of us already here the per capita emissions reduction effort is closer to 3.2%.

    As to SA retaining renewables subsidies the lesson from Germany is not encouraging. The levy which pays the federal feed-in tariff is now up to about $30 bn a year yet emissions have increased slightly. Their disconnections run at about 300,000 per year I believe. If SA end-user power prices keep increasing I expect Holden to up stumps for somewhere like Asia. SA will be fashionably green just no jobs for young people.

  41. There are ‘direct actions’ and there are ‘direct actions’. The former is not really known to me as yet. From what I know, it seems to involve a misapplication of the notion of ‘willingness to pay’ to give subsidies to energy producers to adopt less ghg polluting production methods.

    The latter, to be identified shortly, are known in economics as legislated quantity constraints – on energy usage in this instance.

    The latest example of the latter type of ‘direct action’ I’ve come across involves vaccuum cleaners. The EU Commission issued a directive, as of 1 September 2014 all vaccuum cleanrs that are sold must use less than 1600 watt and as of 2017, the maximum allowable quantity is 900 watt. According to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 26/10/2013, the EU manufacturers are not worried about this directive. They had been consulted as to technological feasibility. Oddly, at least one politician objected on the grounds of too many regulations.

    Clearly, this measure, as well as a long list of previous directives regarding household white goods, is intended to supplement the EU cap and trade carbon emission system.

    This form of ‘direct action’ measure provides interesting work for engineers and technicians but little work for corporate accountants and lawyers in local economies with extensive manufacturing enterprises. There is no subsidy paid to the manufacturers. The incentive is very clear: develop new technologies or shut down.

    This form of ‘direct action’ belongs to regulation providing a ‘binding constraint’ for all industry members to innovate. They can differentiate themselves in terms of the sucction capacity of their vaccuum cleaners, subject to the common energy usage constraint.

    This field provides so many interesting economic sub-problems. I like it.

  42. Direct Action, or Constructive Program in Gandhian terminology is doubtless important, and given twenty years would be fine. However, swadeshi will not cut it in relation to Climate Change which demands action of sufficient scale and is constrained by time. Those entrusted with the national and global well being have to move from denial, word games, PR tricks and other nonsense, to an acceptance of reality.

  43. Hermit
    “of the avowed 80% emissions cut over the 50 year period 2000-2050. If new citizens can be presumed to need low carbon energy as much as those of us already here the per capita emissions reduction effort is closer to 3.2%.”
    Does this affect the modified contraction and convergence model as recommended by the climate change authority’s draft report?
    Even assuming the modified approach was fully implemented – what would it look like? ” The modified approach provides some ‘headroom’ to allow high-emitting developing countries to make a more gradual adjustment. All countries converge to equal per person shares by 2050.”
    what would global per capita emissions look like – 20% of the current per capita Australia per capita globally?
    What would total global emissions be in this scenario? It *seems* like that would still be quite high to me, given the likely global population, but I can’t do the maths.

  44. Speaking of Ernestine’s “direct actions” I recall hearing, perhaps in early 2007, on BBC that the trade in bottled water between the UK and Australia involved us experting to them 500 million bottles of water and importing about 450 millions bottles of water.

    I read subsequently that the world bottled water trade was worth about $3.4trillion (presumably this would include domestic sales).

    Now I’m rather less inclined than most on the left to propose banning stuff, but it seems to me that this is one thing the world could mostly do without. The only thing the manufacturers of the product are adding is wasteful packaging that mostly ends up in landfill and the sea, requires, some estimate, about three times as much water as anyone can drink from each bottle, per bottle, a whole bunch of carbon miles and embedded dossile fuels in the plastic and so forth.

    In the 1970s when Perrier first tried bring the stuff in it fell flat and they proposers had to pretend that bottled water was better for you. Certainly, in first world countries, where most is sold, there’s little evidence that someone who buys bottled water does so because they lack ready access to potable water.

    A first step though might be to bar exports and imports of bottled water, save where a compelling case for an exemption could be made. If the UK-AUS trade flows are like they were back then, a whole bunch of waste could be foreclosed.

  45. I can try to do the sums, but my maths may be wrong, or my understanding if the convergence model may be wrong…:

    “For the year to June 2012, our national inventory emissions per capita were about 24.4 tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per person. Only a few countries in the world rank higher — Bahrain, Bolivia, Brunei, Kuwait and Qatar.”

    20% of 24.4 tonnes = 4.88 tonnes per capita

    Current global population is approx. 7,189,000,000
    4.88 x 7,189,000,000 = 35,082,320,000 tonnes

    “13 June 2013 – The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by 1 billion over the next 12 years and reach 9.6 billion by 2050, according to a United Nations report launched today, which points out that growth will be mainly in developing countries, with more than half in Africa.”
    4.88 x 9,600,000,000 = 46,848,000,000

    10 June 2013 Reuters “Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2012. Worldwide carbon emissions rose to 31.6 billion tons, according to estimates from the Paris based IEA”

    31,600,000,000 < 35,082,320,000 < 46,848,000,000

    Under this convergence by 2050 model (if it is to reduce Aust per capita emissions by 80% by 2050 and converge emissions globally) global carbon emissions would grow not decrease 😦

  46. Then I look to the CCA draft report, to see what it happens to say about 2050 per capita/global emissions.

    I can’t copy the figure, but FIGURE 9.4: reLAtIONShIPS betweeN 2020 tArgetS, 2030 trAjectOrIeS AND NAtIONAL eMISSIONS CHb9u.4DRgEeLtASTIONSHIPS BETWEEN 2020 TARGETS 2030 TRAJECTORIes AND NATTIONAL EMISSIons budgets (p . 102) is illuminative.

    Global carbon emissions cease between 2040 and 2050 in all scenarios, except one – about which the authors state”° A 40 per cent 2020 target would also keep open stronger budgets, but represents a very steep jump from Australia’s current position. The argument that anything more than a 35 percentage point jump between targets
    10 years apart is too large rules out both 5 and 40 per cent 2020 targets for Australia.”

    Now I am confused – less than 36 years does not seem very long to get from current emissions to zero emissions. Especially when developing countries are expected to put in place infrastructure during the first part of that time that will increase their current emissions – and then will – abracadabra open sesame magic of the markets – get to zero emissions by 2050.

    But the blasted report gives no practical indications of how this transition is meant to happen – grrrr. AND the appendices are not published to look at 😦

  47. Two Ways of Looking at a US Presidential Speech

    CCA Draft Report:
    “In June 2013 President Obama announced a new Climate Action Plan, in a speech that mentioned Hurricane Sandy and the necessity for immediate federal climate leadership. The Plan aims to reduce US emissions, prepare for the domestic impacts of climate change and increase international climate cooperation. It uses the President’s executive powers to increase regulations on new and existing power plants, accelerate renewable energy development on public land, and direct federal agencies to use more renewable energy and increase their energy efficiency. The combined effect of these measures could be significant – the power plant regulations could prevent the construction of new coal-fired power plants without carbon capture and storage technology.” P.51

    A Report citing the views of Stanford professor Mark Jacobson:
    “President Barack Obama gave a high-profile speech this afternoon at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, to announce a massive new government plan designed to address climate change. But the plan, details of which were released by the White House on Tuesday morning ahead of the president’s speech, won’t do much to help fix the problems of pollution and global warming, and may actually make things worse overall, according to independent climate experts.

    “IT’S AMAZING HOW LITTLE THIS ALL ACTUALLY DOES.”

    “It’s amazing how little this all actually does,” said Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. “In many ways, this makes things worse.” Jacobson, who has spent years researching the link between air pollution and human health in the United States, points out that the White House’s seemingly bold objective to curb carbon pollution by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings*, actually equates to cutting about one-fortieth of all pollution produced by the US energy sector each year. “The numbers are so trivial, it’s almost like a gimmick,” he said. Another part of the White House’s plan, to increase the amount of renewable energy projects on federal lands enough to power 6 million homes by 2020, is “embarrassingly trivial,” in a country of over 130 million housing units, said Jacobson.”

  48. @ZM I’m wading through the CCA report and I haven’t come across ‘contraction and convergence’ yet. First up I think the boat arrivals are telling us they want to live like Aussies i.e. with 5 kw of average direct and indirect power consumption. The world is now consuming 17 Tw but if just China and India consume like Aussies that is 2.5 bn X 5 kw = 12.5 Tw. We’ll need to double global power output.

    I question whether the currently well-off or those aspiring to middle class will willingly accept a frugal level of consumption. No personal car, no air travel, less thermal comfort at home. This is why we won’t give up cheap coal. If the election can be taken as a referendum on frugal energy use I think the public is saying they don’t want to make sacrifices.

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