50 times more expensive! Don’t make me laugh!

I wasn’t going to discuss Topher Field’s 50-to-1 project as the premise is rather ridiculous and I don’t really want to give it any undue publicity. However, it sometimes seems better to at least try and address such things so that those who are uncertain can get an alternative view. I also thought I might add to what Sou – who has recommended that Topher takes the money and runs – has already said.

The basic argument that Topher Fields is making is that it is 50 times more expensive to stop climate change than to simply do nothing now and to then adapt as and when it become necessary. Let me make it clear that this is a ridiculous claim and I will do my best to explain why below. Topher claims that everything is based on published work and is fully referenced. I don’t dispute that one can find sources for all the numbers that he uses. The problem is how they’re combined to give the answer that he is presenting. I should make it clear that the initial calculation was done by Christopher Monckton and not by Topher Fields.

The basic calculation is as follows. It is based on the Australian carbon tax (which I think has now changed). This carbon tax was estimated to reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions by 5%. Australia only emits 1.2% of the world’s carbon and so this would only reduce the world’s emissions by 0.06%. One can then estimate how much this would reduce the adjusted forcing associated with CO2 and then estimate how much this would reduce the warming over the next decade. The revenue associated with this Australian carbon tax was estimated to be $13 billion per year. That allows one to determine the cost per degree of warming per decade. The calculation then goes on to say that if we wish to prevent 0.17oC of warming over the next decade it would cost $420 trillion, or 80% of world GDP per year. He then claims (using the Stern report) that adapting to climate change (or the future cost) is 1.5% of world GDP and hence it is 50 times more expensive to mitigate than to adapt. I haven’t actually read the Stern review but, according to the Wikipedia entry

the overall costs of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least 5% of global gross domestic product (GDP) each year, now and forever. Including a wider range of risks and impacts could increase this to 20% of GDP or more, also indefinitely.

Hmm, that seems somewhat more severe than Topher seems to be suggesting.

So, what are the issues with this calculation? They are numerous, so it is actually quite difficult to know where to begin. A few basic ones to being with. As someone pointed out in a comment on an earlier post, the Australian carbon tax was intended to be revenue neutral. It was simply moving the tax burden from something else, onto carbon. If implemented properly, there would be no net increase in tax revenue. If it did indeed reduce carbon emissions by 5%, it would essentially be for free. Another immediate issue is that it is intended to reduce carbon emissions. It’s not explicitly aimed at a particular reduction in future surface warming. Of course they’re related, but the immediate goal is to limit the atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Switching from how much the tax will reduce CO2 emissions to what effect that will have on surface temperatures is misleading. The attempt to calculate how much it will cost to prevent 0.17oC of warming in the next decade is also a little ridiculous. We’ve already locked in about 1oC of warming over the next 50 to 100 years (maybe longer). Even if we completely stopped emitting CO2 today, surface temperatures would still continue to rise (on average) at 0.1 to 0.2oC per decade for the next few decades (maybe longer). Apart from actually removing CO2 from the atmosphere or artificially reflecting more incoming sunlight, there’s virtually nothing we can do about this.

As far as the actual calculation goes, it’s also just completely wrong. The Australian carbon tax was associated with revenues of about $13 billion and was expected to reduce carbon emissions by 5%. $13 billion is about 1% of Australian GDP. If one wants to expand this to the entire globe, then it would seem reasonable to assume that a carbon tax that would have revenues of 1% of world GDP would reduce CO2 emissions by 5%. If the effect is linear, then the maximum would presumably be 20% of world GDP per year, not 80%. There’s a further issue though. If 1% reduces emissions by 5%, then (if it’s linear) increasing the tax by a factor of 10 would reduce carbon emissions by 50%. However, this wouldn’t increase the associated revenue by a factor of 10 because you only pay for the CO2 that’s emitted. Since a 10 times increase has reduced emissions by a factor of 2, the revenue would only increase by a factor of 5. If you increase the tax even further, the revenue would actually decrease (at least based on the assumptions used by Monckton and Topher). A factor of 20 increase would reduce the carbon emissions to essentially zero, and so the revenues would be zero, not 20 times greater (I’m, of course, assuming here that an increase produces a certain absolute decrease, rather than a relative decrease).

So, in a simple sense, it seems that using the Australian carbon tax as a benchmark implies that the maximum global impact would be 5% of GDP per year, nowhere near the 80% per year suggested by Topher. At worst it is (according to Topher’s own numbers) 3.33 times more expensive to mitigate than to adapt. I imagine, also that the effect of a carbon tax is non-linear. If it’s very low, noone will bother. If it increases somewhat, there’ll be some incentive to invest in alternatives. As it increases, the incentive increases and the reduction in CO2 emissions will probably scale non-linearly with the increase in carbon tax. Now, I’m not suggesting that one should immediately implement a very high carbon tax, as it will take time for the development of realistic alternatives. Starting low to incentivise a change of behaviour without risking too much “damage” to existing business models seems sensible. As alternatives become more and more viable, the tax could be ramped up to “punish” those who are not modifying their behaviour.

I thought I would address a few things actually said in the 50-to-1 video. Joanne Nova says

So many millions of dollars are wasted. People have worked hard to pay their taxes and to see the government just pouring them down the sink…

Seriously? This is what you think will happen with this money? It won’t be used to create jobs, pay teachers, doctors, nurses, invest in infrastructure? It will just be poured down the sink? Just in case Joanne really is confused about this, the answer is that it will not be poured down the sink. It will be spent on all sorts of different things. It doesn’t simply get wasted. Just because it is a tax doesn’t mean that it can’t contribute to the growth of an economy.

Topher himself says

Predicted global warming for the next decade is 0.17 of a degree. Just to stop that 0.17, we would need to spend $540 trillion. …. It’s 80% of the entire planet’s GDP. That means effectively we would need to cut average economic activity, and therefore the average standard of living, to one-fifth of what it is worldwide just to ensure that it doesn’t get a little bit warmer this decade.

Firstly, we can’t stop the warming that will happen this decade. Most of it is already locked in. The goal of the carbon tax is to reduce long-term carbon emissions to try and reduce the overall future warming. Secondly, what does Topher think would happen to this money? Does he think, like Joanne, that it would simply be poured down the sink? Even if what he suggested was actually possible (it’s not) the money raised would be being used to develop, invest in, and maintain alternatives and would be spent on all sorts of other economic activities. It might not be being spent how people like Joanne Nova and Topher Field would like, but it would still exist, create jobs and, potentially, create wealth. This is also ignoring, as I mentioned earlier, that the carbon tax is intended to be revenue neutral so the net tax revenues shouldn’t change. It’s just being used to incentivise a change to a reduced carbon economy.

Someone called David Evans says

We could have improved our lives. We could have improved the lives of others in countless ways with that same money and effort and here we are wasting it

Here’s the point, David. We still can. If anything, taking money away from selfish climate change skeptics and spending it on mitigating against climate change is much more likely – in my opinion – to help people than leaving it in the pockets of those who don’t seem to care about others.

Donna Laframboise says

We’re smart. We’re ingenious. We’re creative, and we will solve the problems that come our way and so will our children.

Indeed, Donna is quite right. We are smart and ingenious and we can solve these problems. It is, however, very difficult to do so when people keep saying that there isn’t a problem or that we shouldn’t do anything yet. Yes, we can solve these problems, but only if we actually try to do so.

Topher then finishes with a claim that all of these various carbon tax/carbon trading schemes

all suffer the same basic flaw. If they are expensive enough to be effective, they aren’t going to be affordable, and if they’re affordable, they aren’t going to be effective.

A nice turn of phrase, but largely nonsense. I agree with the latter part of his comment, but if they’re expensive enough to be effective, then they’ll reduce carbon emissions and the actual cost will be low (you only pay if you continue to emit carbon). This is a ridiculous argument. It can’t both be effective and expensive. Also, it again ignores that the carbon tax schemes are intended to be revenue neutral. They shift the burden from something else onto carbon so as to incentivise a change in behaviour. They aren’t, as far as I’m aware, intended to increase total tax revenue.

Anyway, I’ll stop there. As usual, happy to be corrected by those who know more than me but, ideally, through a reasoned and sensible argument and not through a simple statement that I’m wrong.

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59 Responses to 50 times more expensive! Don’t make me laugh!

  1. tallbloke says:

    You can use the money generated from a carbon tax to support the coal miners thrown out of work by its effect, but you won’t generate wealth with a carbon policy that shrinks the economy. Windfarms don’t employ many people, or make much electricity. They are hideously expensive though.

    In economic terms, ‘growth’ is a dirty word amongst Greens, but with an expanding population, you have to have it. Wealthier nation are also healthier nations. And wealth is generated by using power to produce the things people need to maintain the standard of living they need in order to maintain public health. Misty eyed visions of a horse drawn economy need tempering with visions of cholera epidemics and typhoid outbreaks.

  2. I appreciate that you need energy to generate wealth. To be honest, the whole “misty eyed visions of horse drawn economies” rhetoric that you and others seem to be happy employing is incredibly annoying and (as is usual) completely mis-represents what people like myself are trying to get across. Noone’s proposing that we instantly stop using fossil fuels and that they’re evil. People are proposing that we start to think of developing alternatives.

    Do you appreciate that in about 2004, the UK could provide all its oil, gas and coal and that today it can only provide about 70% (maybe less). According to the table at the end of this document, we spent £24 billion last year importing energy (unless I’ve read it wrong) and that this has changed from a net export to a net import in the last decade. I don’t know what the future holds, but if our ability to supply our own oil and gas continues to drop, that implies that we will be spending much more in the coming years importing oil and gas. Even though wind farms may not employ many people, I’d rather spend this money here, than spend it importing fossil fuels from other countries.

    I don’t particularly favour wind farms, solar installations, tidal, wave, hydro, nuclear. Whatever’s most efficient, reduces carbon emissions and most effectively supports our economy both through employing people here to develop, design, build and maintain whatever energy source we, collectively, think is best, and that provides the energy we need for our economy to grow. If you thinks its best that we continue increasing our import of fossil fuels and continue emitting increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, that’s your right. I think you’re wrong and if we continue down this path I think we’ll not only discover that fossil fuels are getting more expensive, but that we’re paying a significant fraction of our GDP to people in other countries who are extracting these fossil fuels that we’re still wanting to use.

  3. BBD says:

    tallbloke

    Your comment leaves me puzzled. Are you here defending the 50 x more expensive claim? You don’t say. If not, then why have you not critiqued it? Why not call out the nonsense? Surely you are an enemy of nonsense as much as the next man?

  4. Thanks for pointing that out. I was going to ask tallbloke the same question in my response to his comment, but forgot.

  5. cvdanes says:

    We are currently consuming 40% of the world’s biomass, 50% of the world’s fresh water supplies, and contributing > 50% of all the nitrogen back into the environment. This is clearly unsustainable. If we don’t take steps to reduce out consumption, reality will.

  6. cvdanes says:

    Florida alone is expecting to lose real estate with a value of 500 billion in current dollars by the end of this century. If you expand that out to the rest of the coastal United States, then the cost will be trillions. The world, trillions more. Just in marketable real estate. If you then account for the human suffering incurred by millions of climate refugees and likely collapse of the food chain, then the cost will be unimaginable.

    Hard to see how doing something instead of nothing will be 50 times greater than unimaginable.

  7. Tallbloke indirectly answered that question.

    Only if Topher is right should we have to fear a “horse drawn economy”.

    In the more likely case that Stern is close to the truth, Tallbloke is the one that damages the future prosperity. No idea whether he gets misty eyes envisioning such a future.

  8. Martin says:

    Nova’s claim about the tax revenue is strange. After all, a tax on an externality is primarily a policy instrument to push a (private) market equilibrium to a socially optimal eqilibrium. Of course it would be nice to see something useful done with the generated revenue, but that’s another question. Except, of course, if you argue that there is an efficiency/innovation tradeoff, and that a carbon tax reinvested in the development of low-carbon energy generation would accelerate what is, at the end of it all, the decarbonisation of the economy. Or, that a carbon tax reinvested in fossil fuel-intensive generation would decrease its efficacy. But as it stands, the point raised seems to be little more than a standard libertarian pseudo-argument raised every time somebody talks about taxes.

    I have a minor quibble with the post though: I am not sure if you get the dimension of GDP right: it refers to output of an economy per period of time (typically a year), it is a flow variable. The output in a certain year is just that, not the GDP (though, of course, numerically it’s the same), or no more than the energy consumed in a given second is the average power measured over that period, or the way passed in a given second is the average speed during this second. Granted, the use of the word GDP is a bit loose, expecially were no confusion can arise, even in academic contexts (though I’d say it’s really sloppy there), exactly because often numerically identical to output due to the reference to one year. But a sentence like “$13 billion is about 1% of Australian GDP.” is a bit confusing along these lines – you should either give the reference year and somehoy indicate that you are not including GDP growth in your considerations, for later statements. E.g. is “the maximum would presumably be 20% of world GDP per year” meant w/r/t the same bas year (say, output in 2011), or does it reflect actual GDP per year (that is the acceleration of output)?

    With regard to the loss number in the Stern Review: this is an interesting topic. The Review got partly famous because of its use of a near-zero pure rate of time preference. Now, whatever one thinks about that (be it w/r/t Stern’s justification or oneself), there are special features of quasi-zero PRTPs (and low overall discount rates) in that future costs so far away that it’s basically a wild guess, may dominate the calculation. Regarding the annuity you are quoting from wikipedia, several authors have made the criticism. In order not to quote the one we talk too much about anyway, here is Nordhaus:

    “In fact, the Review’s estimate of the output loss now, as in “today,” is essentially zero. Moreover, the projected impacts from climate change are far into the future. Take as an example the high-climate scenario with catastrophic and non-market impacts. For this case, the mean losses are 0.4 percent of world output in 2060, 2.9 percent in 2100, and 13.8 percent in 2200.25 This is calculated as a loss in “current per capita consumption” of 14.4 percent shown in Table 6.1. With even further gloomy adjustments, it becom the “high+” case of “20% cut in per-capita consumption, now and forever.

    How do damages, which average around 1 percent of output over the next century, become a 14.4 percent reduction in consumption now and forever? The answer is that, with near-zero discounting, the low damages in the next two centuries get overwhelmed by the long-term average over the many centuries that follow. In fact, using the Review’s methodology, more
    than half of the estimated damages “now and forever” occur after the year 2800. The damage puzzle is resolved. The large damages from global warming reflect large and speculative damages in the far-distant future magnified into a large current value by a near-zero time discount rate.”

    http://www.econ.yale.edu/~nordhaus/homepage/stern_050307.pdf

    No specific morals here (or not with regard to the blog topic), but I thought it would be interesting to know the history of this loss number, as it has been singled out by quite a few commenters.

    P.S.: The Stern Review is not accessible through the usual channel thanks to the refurbishing of the Treasury homepage that now basically is a graveyard of dead links. Has anybody been fired for this crime, yet?

  9. toby52 says:

    The old malarkey that climate change and renewable energy are exclusively “green” or “environmental” issues is a trick calculated to make those concerns look fringe and remote from ordinary people. As you say, it is an annoying, red-herring tactic but has to be knocked back as you have done effectively.

    Tallbloke, btw, was at one point (and perhaps still is) a “skeptic” about Einstein’s special relativity and accepted the existence of a lumeniferous aether. Several seiminars could be held about such fringe theories. Pot. Kettle. Black.

    http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/12/confirmation-of-transmissive-medium-pervading-space/

  10. Martin says:

    Is this number (which, in and of its own, does not tell me a lot) one that accounts for real estate that gets rebuilt anyway? Is it discounted? In other words: could you link a source?

    Of course the 50-1 claim is nonsene, yes.

  11. Tom Curtis says:

    Several points:

    1) The Australian Carbon Tax is not revenue neutral. By design, a significant percentage of Carbon Tax Revenue is directed to funding renewable energy projects and research. That may be desirable, but is not revenue neutral.

    2) Even revenue neutral carbon taxes are not cost neutral. This is a fundamental error that is repeatedly made by proponents of action to avoid the effects of global warming, and we should stop making it. Such taxes are not cost neutral, first, for the trivial reason that they have administrative and compliance costs. The former must be made up from general revenue, and hence from additional taxation. The later are a dead loss to the economy as a whole.

    More importantly, carbon taxes by their nature are designed to shift us from a cheaper to a more expensive form of energy. Importantly, the more expensive form of energy is not taxed (by the carbon tax), and therefore contributes no money to the dividend. Consequently, there is a net cost from a carbon tax related to the difference between the cheaper and the more expensive form of energy, in proportion to the take up of the more expensive form of energy. Thus, if the carbon tax were completely ineffective, and resulted in no increase in the use of carbon free energy, it would be cost free other than administrative and compliance costs. However, if the economy switches completely to carbon free energy, the cost will be (all else being equal) equal to the current cost of providing energy times the levelized cost per kwh of the new form of energy/ the levelized cost per kwh of the current form of energy.

    2a) The cost mentioned in (2) (and ignoring administrative and compliance costs), is the maximum possible cost of a revenue neutral carbon tax. Once the carbon tax is sufficient to ensure full replacement of energy supply, the cost is just the difference in cost between the new and the old form of energy supply. Therefore, given that the difference in levelized costs between the cheapest (combined cycle gas) and most expensive (thermal solar) forms of energy is only a factor of four; at maximum the cost of mitigation is three times the current total energy cost times the ratio of future energy usage to current energy usage. In fact it will be much lower than that overall, because not all current energy is produced by the cheapest means, not all future energy will be produced by the most expensive means, and greater use is likely to bring down the levelized costs of new technologies (such as thermal solar).

    3) Further, it is likely that currently cheap fuels will become progressively more expensive as the century progresses, and in particular oil and coal are likely to become significantly more expensive as conventional supplies are exhausted. This is likely to force significant uptake of energy sources that will maintain or drop in price into the future (renewables). Thus the cost of a revenue neutral carbon tax (excluding administrative and compliance costs) becomes the cost of the difference between an early uptake of renewables and a later uptake of renewables. On this basis alone, at some stage in the next few centuries the further cost will drop to zero, and even within the next twenty years the cost will drop below that estimated by considerations in (2a).

    Factoring in all these factors is a difficult task, partly because we simply do not know the pace at which fossil fuels will become exhausted, nor the rate at which costs in renewable and nuclear energy will fall. Overall, however, it is much less than 20% of GDP.

  12. Tom Curtis says:

    cvdanes, Florida is an exceptional case because due to its exceptionally flat and low topography. It is not realistic to simply extrapolate Florida’s example to the rest of the coastal US. This is particularly the case as sea level rise will not be uniform. Further, sea level rise will be gradual and consequently buildings rendered untenable by sea level rise will need to be replaced at not much faster than the normal rate of turnover of building construction. Thus, in most coastal regions the cost of sea level rise is not significantly greater than the cost of finding new construction sites further inland, unless a yield not land approach is used (which is likely to be much more expensive).

  13. Have a look at Tallbloke’s blog and then consider if he should be taken seriously. His top post of today is a “serious” consideration of dowsing, http://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/doug-proctor-dowsing-and-divining-the-direction-of-debate/

    Perhaps Tallbloke should be as skeptical as James Randi is on Nils-Axel Morner’s similar dowsing claim. Or maybe Tallbloke thinks he could split Randi’s million dollar prize with Proctor. Maybe that’s how he’s going to generate wealth.

  14. cvdanes says:

    “Thus, in most coastal regions the cost of sea level rise is not significantly greater than the cost of finding new construction sites further inland, unless a yield not land approach is used (which is likely to be much more expensive).”

    Seawater is expected to continue rising at the end of this century at a rate of 1 foot per decade, and continue to do so for at least a couple hundred years or so. Not sure who’s going to rebuild on land that will be swamped in a couple of decades. Certainly, they will not be able to find insurance coverage to do so. The land will most likely be abandoned, and stay that way.

  15. “Windfarms don’t employ many people, or make much electricity. They are hideously expensive though.”

    LOL! I’m sorry but that’s a ‘WTF’ comment. A dollar invested in renewable energy creates 2-3 times more jobs than a dollar invested in coal.
    http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/other_publication_types/green_economics/economic_benefits/economic_benefits.PDF

    And wind is one of the cheapest sources of energy we have, already more cost-effective than coal even without considering climate costs.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/johnson-hope-2012.html

    Tallbloke is from the UK though, where there’s a bizarre anti-wind campaign going on. Less climate science denial, more climate solutions denial. I guess that’s a very small step in the right direction.

  16. yah, let’s instead look at the people who put terrorists on their cover.

  17. As far as GDP is concerned, you’re right it is associated with a period of time. I may well have got my units wrong but I was meaning the total output over the period of a year. My understanding is that the Australian carbon tax was to be $13 billion per year (which I got from the Monckton document admittedly). I think Topher’s video says $16 billion which I again assumed was per year. Australian GDP in 2011 was about $1.4 trillion. So, yes, I should probably have been a little clearer, but this was all back of the envelope stuff and my assumption was that if a carbon tax associated with revenues that were 1% of Australian GDP per year could reduce carbon emissions by 5% then this may apply worldwide. Of course it may not, but that assumption seems better than that used by Monckton and Field 🙂 So the 20% per year isn’t sufficiently accurate to make any difference whether it’s with reference to the initial base year or incorporates the changes in GDP with time. At least, that’s how I saw it.

    Of course, you’ve made me realise that there is something that I didn’t make clear about this. The Australian carbon tax was expected to reduce emissions by 5% over a decade. So most of what I was discussing here were reductions over a period of about a decade (although the tax revenues were per year). I should add that I’m not claiming that this calculation is actually likely to be representative of anything realistic, simply that redoing Monckton & Fields calculation more sensibly than they have produces numbers much smaller than they get.

  18. Thanks, Tom, Very interesting. I should make clear that my post wasn’t intended to be necessarily a logical calculation of the costs, simple a calculation using the same data as Monckton & Field but carried out in a more logical (hopefully) manner. What you describe is almost certainly a much more reasonable assessment of the likely costs.

    What you say at the end is something that has seemed fairly obvious to me but seems to be ignored by many others. Much of what we currently use will get more expensive and some of what is currently expensive will get cheaper. For this reason alone it would make sense (IMO) to start moving to alternatives. There are many other good reasons but it just seems odd to me that people complain about the costs of changing when the costs will probably go up even if we don’t.

  19. Never, ever take a number or fact from a climate ostrich without checking. They are normally wrong, even the most basic and easy to check ones.

    If this carbon tax reduces the CO2 emissions in a decade by 5%, then it actually caused much more reduction, because without a carbon tax the emissions would have grown.

  20. Indeed, I wasn’t intending this to be the “correct” calculation. I was simply intending to show that if you use the same numbers as used by Monckton & Field but carried out the analysis in a more appropriate way, you would get a cost that was significantly smaller than they claim (i.e., even given their numbers, their answer is wrong and a huge over-estimate). I completely agree that there is a good chance that the initial numbers are indeed wrong (or more pessimistic) in the first place.

  21. Keith Pickering says:

    Tax revenue isn’t lost GDP in any sense of the word. GDP is spending, regardless of who spends it. So if I’m taxed a dollar I can’t spend that dollar, but the government (who gets the dollar) can spend it, and will. Thus no net change to GDP just for taxation, and that’s true whether or not the tax is revenue neutral.

    It would certainly be nice if someone on the right, somewhere, at some time, learned even the most basic facts about economics.

  22. Indeed, I agree. This whole “it’s poured down the sink” rhetoric is remarkably frustrating.

  23. Tom Curtis says:

    Tax will not by itself decrease GDP, although if it reduces investment it can reduce GDP growth. It can also reduce utility gain for a given level of productive activity, which is more important. Government expenditure of tax revenue can also, and obviously, increase productive gain from investment and utility gain from productive activity. Anybody who denies this is suggesting that a nation without laws, law enforcement, courts, and public roads would be better to live in and invest in then one with those amenities. Of course, people who object to taxation typically object to taxation more than is needed to maintain those and a restricted list of other government services (including the existence of a democratic government itself).

    So, while pointing out that tax revenue is not lost to GDP may rebut some loose statements of the position, it does not address the actual position of low tax radicals. It is equivalent to rebutting the grey slab model of the greenhouse effect as unphysical (which it is), and concluding that you have thereby refuted the physics of planetary atmospheres.

  24. Absolutely, I agree. What I find frustrating is how discussions about taxation/economics/society end up tending towards two extreme arguments. For example, libertarian versus communism/socialism. When, in reality, it is much more complicated than that. Some things are – I would argue – best provided through taxation (healthcare, education, military, policing, justice) while others are best provided through a free-market type approach. Even this isn’t all that simple. Some forms of transport can be left to the markets (cars, bicycles, buses) while others might be best provided through some kind of public service (trains for example). It is complicated, but the kind of rhetoric used in the 50-to-1 video is just horribly simplistic and does completely miss that tax isn’t simply poured down the drain.

  25. Rachel says:

    Not sure how relevant this is but I’ve just come across an interesting paper which suggests that the cost of losing mollusks due to ocean acidification could be over 100 billion USD per year by 2100 under a business-as-usual scenario. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-011-0383-3 One of the authors is Richard Tol.

  26. Interesting. Wonder what those who object to the term “acidification” would make of this 🙂

  27. Rachel says:

    I think that’s a groundless objection because acidification describes the process exactly. If people think that ocean acidification is going to burn their toes off next time they dip them in the sea then science education at school has really failed them.

    I was actually thinking that the cost of this seems quite high and I wondered whether Topher had considered things like this in his movie. I have no plans to watch it though so it’s just speculation on my part.

    There’s also more to this than just the cost of course. The pleasure we get from things like the Great Barrier Reef are priceless and it would be a tragedy if we did not safeguard these things for future generations to enjoy.

  28. Rachel says:

    I keep forgetting to tick the “notify me of updates via email” box, so just ignore this comment as I’m ticking the box.

  29. Martin says:

    I think Wotts alludes tongue-in-cheek-ily to another point of enormous importance raised by skeptics – that is, if rhetorics and such had any physical significane, plus if one is somehow incapable of processing language – that consists of little more than pointing out that the surface pH of oceans is basic, for now. So wouldn’t it be more appropriate to talk about oceans becoming less basic, instead of “acidification” scaremongering? Like in:’Sea levels do not increase, the become less low, giving us the chance to build dams, which will give a boost to our technlological prowess, and we will grow and grow and grow, the ghost of Ayn Rand is already crying of joy.’ See? What else could “ocean acidification” be than a deliberate move to deeply confuse the public about the actual CHANCE we gave ourselves with all that CO2 (which is a FERTILISER, not a pollutant, you lying liars) in order to install Hitlerstalin, or worse, a carbon tax? HUH!? What are you hiding, Mister Gore? The Decline?? WHY DO YOU HATE SELF-REGULATING FREE MARKETS SO MUCH, WARMISTS???

    I think it’s about that…

  30. Indeed, it was meant to be a rather tongue-in-cheek reference to the somewhat heated exchanges I’ve had on Twitter with some who think that it is completely wrong to use the term “acidification” as the ocean is alkaline and will never become acidic and therefore proves that it is all scaremongering.

    Rachel, I completely agree with the latter part of your comment. I suspect Topher has not considered any of this. To go a little deeper (and Martin may have a better understanding of this than I do) I think Topher has confused the cost of adapting with the projected reduction in global GDP (which is what I think the Stern report was assessing). To me these aren’t necessarily the same. If we were spending money adapting, that could still aid economic growth. On the hand, if climate change actually damages our economies (as it almost certainly will) we will be worse off. The two aren’t necessarily the same. This also doesn’t include, as you mention, how you quantify the loss of something as incredible as the Great Barrier Reef.

  31. Those who do not like ocean acidification, could may use ocean debasement.

  32. Martin says:

    But ocean debasement would miss an important point, namely the very process. What makes the ocean less alkaline is an acid anhydride that increases the equilibrium concentration of protons (or hydronium ions, rather); pH is defined via the activity of the latter. I.e. rather than base withdrawn, it’s acid added. So, acidification, as Rachel says, captures this process, debasement does not.

  33. Rachel says:

    I understood you. I’ve heard contrarians make those comments before and I think they’re ridiculous.

    I did see a funny cartoon recently and I can’t find it now but there were a couple of polar bears talking and one of them had lost everything from the waste down due to acid. He was telling the other that they had more to worry about than just loss of habitat.

  34. Martin says:
  35. Rachel says:

    Does he object to the term “acidification”?

  36. Rachel says:

    That’s the one exactly. You’re not saying that you’ve been having heated debates with Richard Tol about “acidification” have you?

  37. Martin says:

    He co-authored a paper calling it just that, so I would say no. On the other side, he perhaps freaks out as soon as a climate scientist uses the term in public. Teh Tol moves in mysterious ways, and we shouldn’t bother to much about that as long as it hasn’t passed peer review; IMHO.

  38. “As someone pointed out in a comment on an earlier post, the Australian carbon tax was intended to be revenue neutral.”

    As that someone was me, let me explain my comment a bit more. All I wanted to show by an argument ad absurdum is, that you cannot take the revenue of a carbon tax as the cost of a carbon tax.

    Thus I stated that a typical carbon tax is revenue neutral as it reduces other taxes, typically on labour. In the reasoning of Mockton this would mean that reducing CO2 can be done for free. This is naturally nonsense. The costs will be a fraction of the carbon tax, however.

    Also an example on our twin blog, WhatsUpWithThatWatts, of an extremely high carbon tax shows the error in Monckton’s thinking. If you make the carbon tax high enough you can get to a point where no one will use fossil fuels any more and the revenue of the carbon tax will be zero (Laffer curve). In Mockton’s reasoning this would again mean that carbon reduction could be done for free.

    Conclusion: The revenue of a carbon tax can not be sued to estimate the costs of carbon emission reductions.

    As an aside, Tom Curtis replied above that the Australian carbon tax is not revenue neutral, but that part of the funds are used to stimulate renewable energy. Thus the citation above was incorrect, but that does not refute the argument ad absurdum.

  39. Thanks Victor. When I wrote that I think I was aware that there were complications with claiming it was entirely revenue neutral (it’s sometime hard to know how many caveats to include in a typical blog post). As Tom quite rightly points out, if some of the revenue is earmarked for stimulating renewable energy, then it would be an extra cost that did not exist before. The point I was trying to make (which is consistent with what I think you were trying to illustrate) is that the whole “it’s going to cost us a fortune” argument is largely nonsensical. The money already exists, it is maybe a change in how the money is going to be spent, but it’s not simply a process of pouring money down the sink.

  40. In fact, I think the example of an extremely high carbon tax producing no revenue, posted on our twin blog, simply a reposting of what I wrote here 🙂

  41. You’re right. Sorry. I made the above post on your twin blog and did not get trough moderation and then thought I would repost my comment here.

    I should have reread your post. 🙂

  42. Depends on who “us” is, naturally.

    Some vested interests will suffer, especially if they are inflexible.

  43. That’s a good point. You can’t do this without someone losing something. Ideally it should be those who can afford to lose something, even if they don’t want to do so. Given that they may have the ability to influence the decision makers, it may be harder to make this happen than it ideally should be.

  44. TomC,
    Wow, did you really say that? I expected better from you.

    Sounds like you are ignoring that, (at this stage), most damage occurs during extreme weather events that compound rising seas with storm surges and such. And that coastal cities with subways and all those underground utilities are increasing vulnerable.

    You are also ignoring salt water intrusion and it’s growing impact, particularly on islands.
    etc., etc.
    ~ ~ ~

    A global standard for monitoring coastal wetland vulnerability to accelerated sea-level rise
    http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v3/n5/full/nclimate1756.html
    ~ ~ ~
    NOAA report, State of the Coast – vulnerability
    http://stateofthecoast.noaa.gov/vulnerability/
    ~ ~ ~
    The Vulnerability of Energy Infrastructure to Sea-Level Rise and Climate Variability and Change
    http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=0f857008-bd2c-4fb5-a5ee-ed1f6c04fa56

  45. I hope you don’t me sharing a comment I made over at HotWhopper, it know, it says it as clearly as I can (at the moment ;- )
    ~ ~ ~

    My head is spinning again, i’m amazed and dizzy from the maze of ‘worm-holes of distraction’ that Libertarian/neo-Republican(USA & their Australian parrots)
    types constantly regurgitate.

    Repeating vacuous mantras and aphorisms all intent on wasting precious time and directing attention away from looking up towards the flash flood coming down the valley.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

    All of this CarbonTax Business will continue to be nothing but a dog-chasing-tail game – until everyone figures out some basic truths – and develops a collective goal !
    ~ ~ ~

    LESSON ONE – GHGs are holding in more heat and warming our planet.

    LESSON TWO – Energizing our global heat distribution engine will radicalize weather patterns that had attained a most particular equilibrium over the past thousands of years

    LESSON THREE – Climate change has always radically disrupted and destroyed systems and patterns that had developed under the previous climate regime

    LESSON FOUR – WE the people ARE THE ONES DRIVING our global heat distribution machine into these more energetic realms – that will have impacts we can’t fathom, since the coming conditions had never existed before.

    LESSON FIVE – You don’t bitch about the paint job on the Life Boat that’s about to get you off a sinking ship ! ! !

  46. Those dastardly typos and their tenacious strangle hold ;(
    ~~~
    “… you know, it says it as clearly as I can …”
    etc.

  47. Indeed, you’re not alone with respect to the dastardly typo issue. Always glad to see someone else suffer as I do 🙂

  48. I am not sure how I should read lesson 5.

    For me an open discussion based on good arguments and evidence is not only a way to understand issues better, an open society is a precious thing in itself.

    Why not talk about paint as long as the climate ostriches prevent the life boat from going into the water? You have to do something. I would like a purple boat with many short green stripes.

  49. Hmmm, Victor you’ve got the makings of another long discussion there… I was thinking green on purple – awful, but then the missus chimed in ‘if the shades are right it could look pretty cool.’
    ~ ~ ~
    But, seriously folks, take the Kyoto Protocol, sure it wasn’t perfect, but it was a start, that if pursued with any amount of goodwill would have laid the groundwork for much bigger gains and by now we’d be well on our way. But, instead it got demonized and ignored, and all progress was shut down, to our kids’ everlasting regret (even if most still don’t realize it yet.)

    Guess I’ll have to think on #5 a bit more. I take it you’re OK with #1 to #4 😉

  50. Kyoto was a good start.

    Still I wonder, as a private citizen, whether there could be a better way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Maybe at the end a cap-and-trade system would make sense, would be efficient, currently we are in a phase where we need to develop, build and test the technology for a sustainable future. Maybe we should agree on a treaty that stimulates that development.

    There was a time when traffic projections for London estimated that the streets would be covered by a meter of horse manure. But London in the end did not need a horse(-manure) tax as people started driving cars. I am somewhat hopeful that in a similar vain once a renewable energy system is running and we have learned to use energy more sparingly, it will be so cheap that we no longer need a cap-and-trade system.

    Lesson 4 sounds fine.

    I never understand why the climate ostriches like uncertainty that much. We are driving the climate into unknown territory and are in for a lot of surprises. There will be lots of problems we never thought of and never studied. Uncertainty also means that we have to prepare for many different situations, which is naturally more expensive.

    Still the ostriches continue to act as if “uncertainty” means the same as “likely nothing will happen”. Very, very strange.

  51. Lesson 2. What do you mean with “radicalize”? There are some indications that the temperature variability will become smaller. We will still get more hot extremes because the average temperature is increasing.

    It is expected that heavy precipitation will increase in many regions, but not everywhere.

    The climate system has always been variable. Thus I do not like the word equilibrium that much. Still this was a variability we were adjusted to.

    Lesson 3 is likely even an understatement. In previous cases of climate change there were not such huge investments in capital that are under threat. A nomad can relatively easily move to another region if this traditional place is no longer suitable.

  52. Thanks for the feedback Victor, good thoughts to chew on as I work today.

    Radicalized weather = extreme downpour events, extreme wind storm events, stationary heat domes that cook, a jet stream flow that is all out of kilter and old predictable patterning being replaced by more chaotic unpredictable (as in the past), and so on and so forth.

    I’m believing this is just a sampler of much worse to come in a not too distant future:
    National Climate Data Center – NOAA
    Explaining Extreme Events of 2012
    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/explaining-extreme-events-2012-climate-perspective

  53. That a larger part of the precipitation will fall as downpours is likely. The rest, I would consider topic of ongoing research.
    The dumb thing is, even if some of these will turn out not to be consequences of climate change, as long as we cannot rule them out, we will have to be prepared. That makes adaptation very expensive. Certainly more expensive as people on the margin are about to pay.

  54. MikeNZ says:

    It’s two different universes isn’t, your camp and theirs.
    How about stop the modelling you all claim each other is rorting and look at the income redistribution attached to the ideology.

  55. “rorting”? I’m not quite sure what you’re implying. Maybe you could elaborate?

  56. Pingback: Watt about the 100:1? | Wotts Up With That Blog

  57. Allow me to explain : A “Rorty” in Australian English is a A fraudulent business scheme, hence “rorting” is running a fraudulent business scheme. The facts are that there are very many bogus schemes associated with the various climate scares, This is principally because many people who control the monies, that is to say Governments and their officials, simply do not understand the chaotic processes involved in the necessary atmospheric physics and chemistry.

    See the very many videos, on these and related subjects, and the geopolitical situation in the middle-east and elsewhere, all of which are inter-related. The United Nations has an “Agenda” to tax and control the peoples of this planet, so as to maintain a separate funding stream. They do not do so to help the environment. There is much Fraud and Hokum, associated with these matters, and whilst many people have genuine motives, they are often suborned into doing the groundwork for bunkum schemes, or scams.

    We have a collection of the most controversial videos on these subjects, collated from many different sources, and principally though not exclusively YouTube videos. Pleas do click my name to see the collection. Some outrageous claims are made in those videos, you may think. We simply show them so You can decide on their authenticity or not.

    Our very busy server is sometimes offline for maintenance, and sometimes bottlenecked.
    So if you cant get in immediately, then do please try later. I thank You for your time. – Axel

  58. Tom Curtis says:

    Yes, Axel, but where do we buy the tin foil hats?

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