Mass migration

Given that I haven’t had a chance to write anything for a few days, I thought I would highlight this Guardian article called Mass migration is no ‘crisis’: it’s the new normal as the climate changes. It’s the kind of article that will get all the usual suspects up in arms with cries of alarmism, and it certainly makes stronger claims that I would be willing to make, or that are fully justified, but I do think it’s an interesting – and relevant – topic.

It does point out that climate change may well have played a role in exaccerbating the factors that contributed to creating this “crisis”, quoting the lead author – Richard Seager – of one study

“We’re not saying drought caused the [Syrian conflict]. We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”

and pointing out that the Pentagon regards climate change as a threat multiplier.

Given that we have indeed warmed and that there have been changes to the hydrological cycle, it’s certainly not implausible that climate change has played a role. However, these kind of attribution studies are extremely difficult and many of the issues are very complex, so it’s also difficult to establish the actual significance of this contribution.

However, despite this, it’s clear that one possible consequence of climate change is an increase in migration of people from regions that are no longer able to support them. I should, however, stress that this depends crucially on what we do in the future. The impact of climate change is likely to depend on our future emission pathway. If we do manage to reduce our emissions, then the likelihood of such an outcome is reduced relative to what would be the case were we to follow a high emission pathway. However, a high emission pathway probably makes such an outcome quite likely. It’s hard to see how continued warming and substantial changes to the hydrological cycle won’t influence the ability of some regions to support the populations who currently live there.

In my view, there are a number of questions that this issue raises.

  • If we’re viewing the current migration situation as a crisis, how are we going to cope if it’s further exaccerbated by climate change? Some studies suggest a significant increase in the number of people being displaced as a consequence of climate change.
  • What does this situation imply with respect to some people’s arguments about adaptation? Some level of adaptation is clearly unavoidable, but there are some who argue that we can adapt to almost anything that will arise in the coming century, including that people can simply move if they need to. Well, this situation seems to suggest that people may well be able to move, but it’s not clear that they’re typically welcomed by those who live in the regions to which they’d like to move.
  • What about the moral issue? Climate change is a global issue, but emissions are not equally distributed across the globe. Some regions emit much more than others. This, however, does not mean that those regions are more likely to suffer the consequences of climate change. If anything, there is evidence to suggest that some regions that will suffer most, are regions that have emitted least.
  • What does this imply with respect to a carbon tax? I’m all in favour of a carbon tax and it does appear to be an option that is favoured by many. A carbon tax, however, is not introduced to explicitly reduce emissions; it is simply intended to properly price carbon emissions. The idea is that it includes all the costs, including externalities. Hence if there is some cheaper alternative, that will probably be adopted. If not, we’ll simply continue to pay for our emissions. However, this still seems to imply that wealthy regions could be choosing to pay for emissions that will negatively impact other regions that are insufficiently wealthy to cope with the consequences.

To be clear, I don’t have any sensible answers to the questions above, or if these really are the questions that we should be asking. There may well be other more important issues to consider, and maybe there are sensible answers to the above. I suspect some feel that we shouldn’t associate this issue with climate change since the attribution is not definitive and, even if there is a link, it’s hard to determine the significance. However, this – in my opinion – ignores that if we do continue to increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations, the resulting changes to our climate could well exaccerbate conditions that could lead to mass migration from regions no longer able to support their populations. Pretending that we can continue to pump CO2 into the atmosphere without this happening, and – hence – ignoring the potential consequences of our emissions, just seems irresponsible.

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95 Responses to Mass migration

  1. The notion of global warming induced migration at least wrt to Syria is utter, speculative, unfounded nonsense which ignores history and reality. Perhaps people who fall for this are guilty of being political science deniers.

    Clearly, the civil war in Syria is part of larger religious, ethnic and political forces.

    The civil war in Syria was preceded by the Arab Spring uprising in Tunisia, which had to do with abusive government power, not drought.

    The civil war in Syria was part of Baathists and jihadists from Iraq who saw opportunity to foment uprising, particularly against a Shia government, the ones that rose to power and by whom they felt abused and marginalized. Drought did not cause religion, the Sunni-Shia divide, or politics.

    The Islamic caliphate collapsed with the fall of the Ottoman Empire. That occurred less than a century ago, which is long enough for generations to ignore, but very brief when it comes to historical resolutions. It is not surprising that after Ottoman defeat, artificial colonial states, pan-Arabism, and now religious fundamentalism that there is upheaval in the middle east.

    The sadness is that the peak of Islamic culture was at the so called ‘Golden Age’ in which liberal ( in the classical sense ) society with tolerance and veneration of learning prevailed but was brought down by fundamentalists.

    If I could convince fundamentalists ( of any religion ), I would tell them to pursue ‘ItzJihad’ – the struggle for the truth, because that, not strictness, is what led to glory.

    I see that the paper stirring this up is from Peter Gleick who already admitted he would create false documents to advance a cause.

    Confirmation bias occurs when one uncritically seeks out supporting possibilities to the exclusion of more likely causations. If you find yourself falling for this I challenge you to look in the mirror and be honest with yourself as to whether you are after the truth or an agenda.

  2. TE,

    The notion of global warming induced migration at least wrt to Syria is utter, speculative, unfounded nonsense which ignores history and reality. Perhaps people who fall for this are guilty of being political science deniers.

    Read it properly! You’re misrepresenting what was said. Try harder! People who make absolute statements of certainy need to learn something about the scientific method!

    Confirmation bias occurs when one uncritically seeks out supporting possibilities to the exclusion of more likely causations.

    Look in a mirror and spend a little time thinking about what you mostly do on climate blogs!

  3. My word TE, you’re bloody sure of yourself, are you not?

    The following all mention climate-change-caused food shortages as a factor leading to the Arab Spring and subsequent recent Middle Eastern unrest. Migration appears to be a consequence of that unrest and more directly of economic disruption. Separating all the causes out is well-nigh impossible but denying the influence of climate change is self-deception.

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-and-rising-food-prices-heightened-arab-spring/
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/08/opinion/sunday/friedman-the-other-arab-spring.html
    http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/4/4360

  4. John Hartz says:

    Tom Friedman concludes his recent Op-ed with the following:

    All the people in this region (Mideast) are playing with fire. While they’re fighting over who is caliph, who is the rightful heir to the Prophet Muhammad from the seventh century — Sunnis or Shiites — and to whom God really gave the holy land, Mother Nature is not sitting idle. She doesn’t do politics — only physics, biology and chemistry. And if they add up the wrong way, she will take them all down.

    The only “ism” that will save them is not Shiism or Islamism but “environmentalism” — understanding that there is no Shiite air or Sunni water, there is just “the commons,” their shared ecosystems, and unless they cooperate to manage and preserve them (and we all address climate change), vast eco-devastation awaits them all.

    The World’s Hot Spot by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Aug 19, 2015

  5. pbjamm says:

    Anyone know where I can get an inexpensive Irony Meter? Mine shorted out when reading TE’s comments about confirmation bias.

  6. John Hartz says:

    TE: Now that you have declared yourself to be an expert on the causes of the current Syrian civil war, please tell us why Tom Friedman is wrong when he states:

    Indeed, see Syria: Its revolution was preceded by the worst four-year drought in the country’s modern history, driving nearly a million farmers and herders off the land, into the cities where the government of Bashar al-Assad completely failed to help them, fueling the revolution.

    The World’s Hot Spot by Thomas Friedman, New York Times, Aug 19, 2015

  7. In general, people living close to the edge are less able to finance a move, as well. You will often find them living in less safe locations, such as Bangladesh, urban slums, and all. Those in our tornado alley don’t have the means to build proper shelters.

  8. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    I completely agree with you. Mass migrations caused by manmade climate change is indeed a moral (social justice) issue. This topic has garnered quite a bit of attention by people throughout the world over the past few decades and will be a prime topic of discussion at the upcoming Paris climate summit. Many faith based groups in particular are focused on the moral issue.

    One of the few bright spots on the horizon is how the faith based communities throughout the world are addressing manmade climate change. I am convinced that faith-based initiatives will play a key role in energizing people throughout the world to act on climate change.

    That is why I recently created the Facebook Group page, Climate Change: Faith Based Initiatives.

    Its purpose is to inventory current information about the faith based initiatives on manmade climate change that are occurring throughout the world.

    I invite you and other readers of this thread to check out this new Facebook Group.

  9. A search on “middle east conflict and climate change” provides a variety of resources. Tom Friedman is a popular opinion reporter, but the underlying research and data are much stronger than that.

    The NYTimes reported on this in March:

    Drawing one of the strongest links yet between global warming and human conflict, researchers said Monday that an extreme drought in Syria between 2006 and 2009 was most likely due to climate change, and that the drought was a factor in the violent uprising that began there in 2011.

    The drought was the worst in the country in modern times, and in a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists laid the blame for it on a century-long trend toward warmer and drier conditions in the Eastern Mediterranean, rather than on natural climate variability.

    The researchers said this trend matched computer simulations of how the region responds to increases in greenhouse-gas emissions, and appeared to be due to two factors: a weakening of winds that bring moisture-laden air from the Mediterranean and hotter temperatures that cause more evaporation.

    Researchers Link Syrian Conflict to a Drought Made Worse by Climate Change, Henry Fountain, 2 March 2015

    They cited this article. It is of some note that some very cautious sources strongly supported these statements.
    “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3241

    There was also this from 2009: “Rising Temperatures, Rising Tensions: Climate change and the risk of violent conflict in the Middle East” which does not have quite the scientific cachet of the above, but looks to be a useful enterprise.
    https://www.iisd.org/publications/rising-temperatures-rising-tensions-climate-change-and-risk-violent-conflict-middle

  10. Your sidebar Crock of the Week contains a reference to a recent Islamic Declaration which is of note, especially in the context of Laudato Si and others. Beautiful writing, but I will only put in a short quote from the preamble here. (Sorry John Hartz, I don’t do Facebook.)

    Our planet has existed for billions of years and climate change in itself is not new. The earth’s climate has gone through phases wet and dry, cold and warm, in response to many natural factors. Most of these changes have been gradual, so that the forms and communities of life have adjusted accordingly. There have been catastrophic climate changes that brought about mass extinctions, but over time, life adjusted even to these impacts, flowering anew in the emergence of balanced ecosystems such as those we treasure today. Climate change in the past was also instrumental in laying down immense stores of fossil fuels from which we derive benefits today. Ironically, our unwise and short-sighted use of these resources is now resulting in the destruction of the very conditions that have made our life on earth possible.

    The pace of Global climate change today is of a different order of magnitude from the gradual changes that previously occurred throughout the most recent era, the Cenozoic. Moreover, it is human-induced: we have now become a force dominating nature. The epoch in which we live has increasingly been described in geological terms as the Anthropocene, or “Age of Humans”. Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet. This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost. As we humans are woven into the fabric of the natural world, its gifts are for us to savour. But the same fossil fuels that helped us achieve most of the prosperity we see today are the main cause of climate change. Excessive pollution from fossil fuels threatens to destroy the gifts bestowed on us by God, whom we know as Allah – gifts such as a functioning climate, healthy air to breathe, regular seasons, and living oceans. But our attitude to these gifts has been short-sighted, and we have abused them. What will future generations say of us, who leave them a degraded planet as our legacy?

    http://islamicclimatedeclaration.org/islamic-declaration-on-global-climate-change/

  11. The line seems to be
    1. increased CO2->global warming
    2. global warming->increased drought
    3. increased drought->civil unrest and
    4. Syria is an example.

    But there are many logical problems with this .

    4. The Syrian civil war has a history of:
    Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi immolated himself in Tunis on 17 December 2010,
    He did so because the arbitrary government regulation prevented him from selling fruit ( fruit which he had to sell, after all ).

    January 26, 2011 – Hasan Ali Akleh from Al-Hasakah poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire, in the same way Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi had in Tunis on 17 December 2010. According to eyewitnesses, the action was “a protest against the Syrian government”.

    Akleh was not protesting about water, food or even about government services. It was a protest against a familial government led by a man whose father had murdered 20,000 citizens. Subsequent demonstrations commemorating Akleh led to other protests of violations and subsequent repression of protests led to more protests. Akleh lived in the Kurdish region of Syria. I’m not sure if he was Kurdish or not, and there are few references, but the next protest was about transgressions against Kurds and this may well have been about ethnicity. None of the subsequent chaos, protest, police action, murder or attacks ever mention water or drought.

    Further, the drought cited occurred as a result of low precipitation from the mid 1980s through the mid 2000s. But the two winters prior to the actual uprising had above normal precipitation. So above nomral precipitation causes revolution would be more accurate:

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2011/20111027_drought.html

    3. increased drought->civil unrest Could it? Sure, droughts do cause migration. At least the ‘Grapes of Wrath’ would have been less interesting without the US ‘Dust Bowl’ migrants.
    But civil war probably causes a lot more refugees than drought. And

    2. The notion that global warming->increased drought is highly speculative in and of itself. Models of global warming indicate an increase in precipitation ( contrary to two decades of decrease in Syria, but lot’s of places have always had natural variation of precipitation, wetter -or- drier ). Manabe noted that evaporation, according to the parameterizations of the day, would also increase with global warming. Perhaps. But both the precipitation increase and the evaporation increase were small ( ~ 1% ) for even a quadrupling of CO2:

    Further, satellite estimates of global vegetation stress don’t indicate any significant change in drought for the last third century:

    http://www.nature.com/articles/sdata20141

    Which leaves
    1. increased CO2->global warming which I’m on board with. But not made up attributions of civil war.

  12. TE,

    But not made up attributions of civil war.

    Made up. Really? You’re sure? I can’t quite tell anymore, as – together with pbjamm – my irony meter exploded after your last comment about confirmation bias.

    Seriously, I’m not interested in debating whether or not climate change contributed to the crisis in Syria. Unlike you, I really don’t know and I’m not about to waste a great deal of time attempting to resolve this on a blog, since we probably can’t actually do so.

  13. Gator says:

    TE: check sources, read what you’re quoting.
    As just one example, I clicked on your drought graph.
    Turns out that is a graph of “Winter precipitation trends in the Mediterranean region for the period 1902 – 2010.” NOT SYRIA ALONE.

    Look just a bit further down the article and you’ll see this.

    Turns out location matters. Where is Syria in the Med? What’s actually going on there??

  14. Gator,
    Thanks.

    TE should probably also look at Figure 12.22 in AR5 WGI.

  15. It’s also interesting that the article that TE links to is titled Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.

  16. John Hartz: Its purpose is to inventory current information about the faith based initiatives on manmade climate change that are occurring throughout the world.

    I am not so sure if this is the big change, except maybe in perception, which is important here. Outside of the USA, Churches have always been an activist force fighting climate change if only because of their close relations with developmental initiatives. Also the Catholic Church sees climate change as a problem since a long time; the Pope only became more vocal about it. Which is good.

    As a start of your inventory, this older page of mine might be nice. If your Facebook page is also visible outside the gates, I am happy to link to it for a more current overview.

  17. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    Seriously, I’m not interested in debating whether or not climate change contributed to the crisis in Syria.

    On the other hand, it is somewhat amusing to watch TE paint himself into a corner.

  18. Shall we start a fund-raiser to produce a few million cheap irony meters in China at Kickstarter? Seems like there is a huge market.

  19. Turbulent Eddy, why do you think that the global mean average precipitation will increase? Because there is more energy available for evaporation. If you want to refute that we will get more draughts you will thus have to do a little better than just point to precipitation increases.

    I will not claim that these predictions are very reliable, but your argument is simply wrong. And the uncertainty monster is not your friend. Uncertainty also means it could be worse than expected.

  20. Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.

    Do you think that if they ran models of the past, using known inputs that they could model actual drought events?

    If not, why would you believe the headline?

  21. TE,
    I didn’t say I believed the headline. I found it ironic (although I couldn’t tell how much) that your comment disputing a link between climate change and droughts, included a link to an article titled Human-caused climate change a major factor in more frequent Mediterranean droughts.

  22. Turbulent Eddy, why do you think that the global mean average precipitation will increase?

    That’s not necessarily what I think, but what the models indicate.

    However, it does satisfy the seasonal analogue – more precipitation falls in the warm season hemisphere.

    And it is logical – generally more precipitation does fall in atmosphere with greater precipitable water. And the water vapor feedback means increased precipitable water.

    WRT to evaporation, it is somewhat interesting that more evaporation occurs in the winter hemisphere, so this implies some amount of cross equator transport.

    Increased temperature does indicate increased evaporation but the seasonal difference probably stems from the other factors of evaporation – increased wind speed and increased dry air into which the evaporation takes place.

  23. I believe the observations, but I don’t believe the headline.

  24. It would be boring with only sycophants, right?

  25. TE,
    I would imagine so. Be more interesting if everyone tried hard not to be absolutely certain about their views, but we can’t have everything.

  26. Btw, much of Syria’s agriculture is irrigated. Here’s what some of that looks like.

  27. One last tidbit. Here’s the border of Turkey to the north of the white line, and Syria to the south.

    Perhaps it’s the war, but it looks like Syria may be losing the water war for underground water, because Turkey’s farms are lush.

    One thing we can all agree on is a wish for peace but given the rape, murder, and irreconcilable nature of the zealots, I have little hope.

  28. John Hartz says:

    Victor Venema:

    If your Facebook page is also visible outside the gates, I am happy to link to it for a more current overview.

    What do you mean by “visible outside the gates”?

  29. Michael Hauber says:

    I think we can still adapt to whatever the next century will throw at us. But some people won’t live through this adaptation due to conflicts, starvation following drought, or due to natural disasters. How many of the alarmists that warn of an economic catastrophe if we implement a carbon tax are likely to die due to such a tax?

  30. Michael Hauber says:

    TE, where do you think the water for irrigation in Syria comes from? The irrigation fairies? It comes from rain and snow in Turkey which is also experiencing drought….

  31. Kevin O'Neill says:

    TE: You showed a graph and provided a link to precipitation in the Mediterranean, but the discussion centered on Syria. When it’s pointed out that just a few column inches below the graph you posted was one that actually showed precipitation in Syria – contradicting the story you tried to tell – you ignored it.

    This is the reputation you’ve built for yourself: You’re a bad faith actor. You had data at your fingertips that disproved your argument, but you ignored it and tried to mislead people. I think most here actually welcome reasoned debate, but you can’t have reasoned debate with bad faith actors.

    BTW, in your opening comment above you wrote, “Drought did not cause religion…”

    Really? You know what caused religion? Some of them? All of them? Did weather/climate cause the humans to create weather gods or do you believe that the weather is indeed created by weather gods?

    The famous Sacred Cenote (a natural well) located at Chichen-Itza was found to contain numerous skeletons of men, women and children who were sacrificial victims. Bishop de Landa, in the sixteenth century reported: “Into this well they have the custom of throwing Men alive as a sacrifice to the gods in times of drought, and they believed they did not die though they never saw them.”Dr Herman Smith

    Ah yes, drought did not cause religion …… based on what evidence, TE?

  32. Sam taylor says:

    For anyone looking for a link which basically contradicts Edward you might enjoy the following: http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/155471/2/2_Al-Riffai.pdf

    He’s full of shit (in the politest possible way).

  33. bill shockley says:

    I thought this RT piece,

    The Syrian refugee who says: ‘Don’t come to Sweden!

    was really well done and I have awesome admiration for the Swede who flatly says, he’ll pay more taxes to help people. That’s Martin Luther, Woodie Guthrie. Your moms taught you well.

  34. John Hartz, your new group is currently only visible to people with a Facebook account. Sometimes Facebook pages are visible to people from outside the gates, thus I guess this is a setting somewhere.

  35. John Hartz says:

    Victor Venema:

    Thanks for the explanation. I have not yet found a way to make Facebook Group public. Perhaps I will have to go down the road of creating my own Word Press website to do everything that I would like to do. The Facebook Group architecture is fairly limited.

  36. Thinking for myself makes me a “sycophant”? Thanks for the info …

  37. russellseitz says:

    Degrees per century of climate change do not greatly figure in the existential calculus of a region that has sustained continuous internecine violence in the face of ~8,000 years of cultivation: the headhunters in Palmyra have just whacked a collegue of mine.

    For idolatry.

  38. Anyone who wants to hold an opinion on the Syrian civil war owes it to themselves to watch this documentary. It’s from an American perspective of American foreign policy options. But it explains many of the early events. It contains war footage and is depressing but important to understand.

    The protesters chant slogans of unity and decry the dictatorial government, but there’s not one mention of drought and the vegetation all appears alive and green.

  39. Joshua says:

    ==> “The protesters chant slogans of unity and decry the dictatorial government, but there’s not one mention of drought and the vegetation all appears alive and green.”

    Oh. Ok. That settles it. Since the protesters weren’t chanting about drought, and since the vegetation is green in the footage, it’s clear that climate change had no influence on the unrest.

    Glad we cleared that up.

  40. John Hartz says:

    Victor Venema: Thanks for the link to your May 13 post. I will link it on our Facebook Group page. You might want to update your post and broaden its scope beyond Christian faiths.

  41. @Wotts
    “What does this imply with respect to a carbon tax?”
    Well, you’re speculations would be correct if the price elasticity of energy were zero. Is there any evidence of a zero price elasticity? No! A carbon tax will reduce CO2 emissions, a little at first and more later as the capital re-adjusts to the new relative prices.

  42. Richard,

    A carbon tax will reduce CO2 emissions, a little at first and more later as the capital re-adjusts to the new relative prices.

    Well, yes, I agree and I wasn’t trying to argue that this won’t happen (in fact, if you’d read it more carefully, you might notice that there wasn’t really any speculating). I was simply pointing out that formally a carbon tax is not implemented so as to explicitly reduce emissions. It is implemented to properly price carbon. Hence, there isn’t formally some kind of explicit goal and so it is possible that we could choose to simply pay for damages that could occur elsewhere. In a sense, this is essentially the whole point of a carbon tax. If it is non-zero, then the assumption is that there are externalities for which we should be paying. However, I’m not arguing against a carbon tax, it was simply an observation.

  43. bill shockley says:

    ,Years of Living Dangerously from last year. Thomas Friedman, Katherine Hayhoe, interviews with actual Syrian farmers whose “land turned to sand”. The government put them in jail when they complained. Also, meat packing plant workers in Plainville, TX, the palm oil industry devastation in Indonesia, and more.

  44. @Wotts
    Carbon taxes reduce emissions, that’s what matters.

    The reasons why carbon taxes are introduced, raised, lowered, maintained and abolished require detailed study of the political forces that led to their introduction etc. These reasons are typically partly ideosyncretic and the needed data often confidential so any assessment will have a speculative element.

  45. Richard,

    Carbon taxes reduce emissions, that’s what matters.

    Yes, indeed. However, I didn’t suggest that they wouldn’t. That they exist is because we have estimated some future cost/damage and have used a discount rate to determine what we should pay today. Paying the carbon tax doesn’t mean that the future costs will not be incurred. It just means we’ve paid the full price now and aren’t avoiding paying for externalities. I presume an argument is that a properly priced carbon tax will lead to the optimal future pathway and hence our future selves will be optimally wealthy and will be optimally placed to deal with these costs/damages. This may be true globally, but does not appear true locally. The local damages/costs will not necessarily be directly associated with local emissions. Therefore, it seems quite possible that some regions will suffer due to emissions that other regions have chosen to pay for. My question was related to how we will deal with such circumstances. It’s not obvious to me that paying a carbon tax absolves us of responsibilty for the damages/costs that will be incurred.

  46. @TE “The protesters chant slogans of unity and decry the dictatorial government, but there’s not one mention of drought and the vegetation all appears alive and green.”

    It would appear you don’t understand people so well. When people are affected by a natural disaster and become hungry, their crops fail or their homes destroyed, they don’t blame mother nature; they blame their governments for not foreseeing events, taking the necessary precautions or not responding in the right way. Particularly in dictatorships when they see their rulers and their families taking holidays away from the problems and amassing money in Swiss bank accounts they get really pissed off and civil war often results.

  47. Michael Lloyd says:

    “Carbon taxes reduce emissions, that’s what matters.”

    Well, I would like to think so but I have some doubts.

    Firstly, the primary purpose of taxation is to raise money for the exchequer. The level of that taxation is generally set at a level not to discourage too much use (think tobacco here) and hence not to reduce significantly the amounts of revenue raised.

    Secondly, we have had a high level of taxation on fuel in the UK for decades. Currently, the taxation on a litre of petrol is about two thirds of the price. There is fuel duty, Vat and I think that the Vat is levelled on the price including the fuel duty, which means that the tax is also taxed! Fuel taxation is generally high in Europe and that has encouraged the development of increasingly fuel efficient engines. Previous UK governments have tried using a fuel escalator to increase the level of taxation and this has not been popular at all.

    I wonder what level the carbon tax would be on petrol to fully pay for all externalities.

  48. bill shockley says:

    “all externalities”?

    How can you possibly gauge the future effects of climate change and put a dollar value on it when one likely effect in the not-distant future is inundation of the world’s coastal cities and the ensuing global chaos and civil disorder? The idea of a carbon tax is that it is the most effective and just way, to deal with a problem that is quickly spiraling out of control. It has to be revenue neutral to both shield the poorer parts of society who would most feel the effect, and also to make the tax popular so elected officials would be willing to enact it without fear of voter backlash. These principles have been proven in Australia, where it was done the wrong way (non-transparent and incomplete redistribution), and in British Colombia, where it was done the right way (tax became popular and people want more tax).

  49. Victor Petri says:

    It’s hard not to be left with the feeling that a favourite hobby horse topic is stamped at any and all problems in the world, similarly how some simplistic thinkers see population growth as the root cause of all our problems.

    If, and I can imagine that’s likely, food prices are underpinning many of the upheavals in the middle east, a surer way to tackle this problem would be to lower the oil price, e.g. by decreasing taxes and implementing policies that ease extraction and production, since food prices are strongly correlated to the price of oil (and are plausibly caused by it as well).

  50. vp,

    If, and I can imagine that’s likely, food prices are underpinning many of the upheavals in the middle east, a surer way to tackle this problem would be to lower the oil price, e.g. by decreasing taxes and implementing policies that ease extraction and production

    Oh sure, let’s just ignore all the possible consequenes of a lower oil price and implementing policies that will ease extraction and production. I’m assuming that you don’t accept that you deny mainstream climate science, but it’s hard not to conclude that – deep down – you do.

  51. verytallguy says:

    Tol and Petri on a thread together. Can this one actually be worse than Danny’s threadjack – a high bar…

    But on the substance,

    a surer way to tackle this problem would be to lower the oil price

    is bound to work, what with oil being an infinite resource and all.

    It’s worth remembering that a sustainable economy is not an option, it’s an inevitability. The only question is what trajectory will be followed to get there.

    Extracting all our resources as fast as we possibly can followed by the sharpest crash possible might not be optimal.

  52. vtg,
    I almost butted into your discussion with Punksta on Judith’s recent post. However, having just promoted a conspiracy in order to argue that your conspiracy suggestion was a strawman, lead me to realise that it would be pointless.

  53. Victor Petri says:

    You mean the consequence that lower oil prices would decrease food shortages? Increase prosperity? Increase energy availability? Or the consequence that our climate will be affected?

    I do try to include all consequences of lower oil prices, do you?

    Anyway, I just think it’s cheap alarmism to reduce such a complex interplay of causations of the issues in the Middle East to highlight the journalists’ pet topic of climate change. Whilst in reality climate change had very likely an extremely small influence on food availability in comparison to the high prices of oil.

  54. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    yeah. Judith’s continued obsession with Mike Mann makes her look rather silly, and the whole Steyn thing seems deeply unpleasant. Her denizens are bizarre in the extreme at times. Best avoided.

    How far did you cycle to work today?

  55. vp,

    Anyway, I just think it’s cheap alarmism to reduce such a complex interplay of causations of the issues in the Middle East to highlight the journalists’ pet topic of climate change.

    As others might say, RTFR. It is explicitly stated that this is very complex. You’re the one who’s solution is “find a way to make oil cheaper”. You’ve just blown my replacement irony meter.

  56. vtg,
    I agree, very bizarre and deeply unpleasant. I’m actually no longer having trouble avoiding such places. Whatever fixation I had with commenting there has now gone.

    The cycle is 7 miles each way, but I’m very unfit 🙂

  57. verytallguy says:

    7 miles is a nice distance – long enough to get fit but not so long as to be a real chore. My tip would be to do it every day – it’s much harder to pick up intermittently. I reckon you’ll be OK within a fortnight.

  58. Victor Petri says:

    @vtg

    If the concern was purely energy and resource availability (excluding externalities) during the transition to other energy sources, I am certain mr Market would be the most cost efficient and straightforward way to allocate present and future investments to ensure supply met demand optimally. I am equally certain as well about the tremendous economic waste and costs if some self declared omniscient being would try to beat mr Market.

  59. vtg,
    Yes, I suspect that is the best option. Shall endeavour to do so.

  60. verytallguy says:

    Victor,

    your certainty is very reassuring.

    The market, after all, has an excellent track record in the avoidance of sudden crashes, and the efficient management of finite resources.

    that’s why there was no run on the banks in 2008
    that’s why we run our National Parks as market resources
    that’s why the Newfoundland Cod population is doing so nicely.

    etc.

  61. bill shockley says:

    If, and I can imagine that’s likely, food prices are underpinning many of the upheavals in the middle east, a surer way to tackle this problem would be to lower the oil price,

    This would have the effect of increasing the system’s structural dependency on oil. How about if we try to make food a more local product, so as to minimize the transportation component. And reduce the amount of insidiously resource-intensive animal products we eat. Just a couple ways we can transition to long-term sustainability and healing rather than a short-term “fix” that will exacerbate the fundamental problem and delay the solution. A carbon tax would be the right price signal to enable both the above solutions — for obvious reasons regarding the transportation component. As far as meat consumption, the industry is so industrialized and inhumane, I can only imagine that a petroleum price signal would move it in the right direction.

    Plus, the dividend allows the poor the flexibility to come out cash-positive on the carbon tax, by finding ways to be FF efficient (walk, bike, car-pool, get a job closer to home, etc.)

  62. BBD says:

    As others might say, RTFR.

    My ears are burning 😉

  63. Joshua says:

    Re: this whole Mann vs. Judith vs. Steyn vs. Laden vs Steven Mosher vs. Brandon….

    I will borrow a quote from M-Dub…“… there are things said that amaze me, but I am no longer amazed at the fact that ‘things that amaze me’ are said–there, here, and on many blogs.”

    What are these people thinking? Laden’s writes an exceptionally obnoxious post, Mann retweets it, Steyn writes an exceptionally obnoxious response, Judith applauds. Brandon calls out Steyn’s obnoxiousness, Steven equivocates…

    What a sorry state of affairs.

    I’m a big believer that the climate wars equals sameosameo….but I’m wondering if it may actually be getting worse?

  64. verytallguy says:

    On the moral issue.

    First some facts.

    We are now faced with an estimated one million refugees entering Europe this year.
    The EU has a population of c. 500 million, so the influx of refugees coming to Europe is about 0,2% of the population here.
    Lebanon currently has 1.2 million Syrian refugees with a population of about 4.5 million. Lebanon is 3x poorer (GDP/head) than the EU, but has proportionally 100x more refugees.
    GDP per head in the EU is c. $35,000. It would cost us $70 each to give all one million refugees our own standard of living.

    Some observations

    0.2% is a small proportion.
    The terrible civil war in Syria, now exacerbated by the appalling crimes of ISIS is driving the crisis.
    Those coming to Europe are prepared to face death rather than stay where they are.
    Our UK government’s response to this is to put up higher fences and make benefits harder to get.

    Morality

    We are effectively deliberately letting people die to try and put off others coming, even though they are fleeing a despicable death and rape cult, and other horrors. To pretend that making life a little harder for those here will put off others is risible.

    The language used by government ministers, “marauding” migrants “swamping” us is morally repugnant given the circumstances. That used routinely in the media is worse, and dehumanises the refugees.

    Opinion

    We can only recover our morality if we welcome these desperate people as fellow human beings, not hope they drown to save us $70 each.

  65. Victor Petri says:

    @vtg
    You can ridicule it all you want, it stands uncontested. I could name many failures of bureaucratic planning, or the failure of many sophisticated governments to prop up losing industries.
    It was mr Market that ensured oil prices rose ahead of peak oil in 2008 in order for novel technologies to breakthrough within the industry (fracking) as well as to spur spending in renewable industries where investments and output rose enormously, as well as causing behavioral changes that high energy prices had on fuel efficiency. Meanwhile. market crashes might well be an essential part of a healthy economy, it’s by no means obvious that to avoid crashes would be somehow more optimal.
    But yes, the Newfoundland Cod population is clearly a situation where markets did fail.

  66. vp,

    You can ridicule it all you want, it stands uncontested. I could name many failures of bureaucratic planning, or the failure of many sophisticated governments to prop up losing industries.

    And there are no market failures, just perfection? And you think it’s wrong to simplify a complex situation? Does that only apply when you think others have done so?

  67. BBD says:

    400ppm CO2 is a situation where the markets failed. As has been remarked before.

  68. verytallguy says:

    Victor,

    I think we agree: Market mechanisms can be the optimal way to manage things, but are not always optimal. Perhaps you might rethink your certainty?

  69. John Hartz says:

    Joshua:

    I’m a big believer that the climate wars equals sameosameo….but I’m wondering if it may actually be getting worse?

    There are a lot of Donald Trump wanna-bees out there. Be careful.

  70. Joshua says:

    JH –

    Good point. I thought that after Palin, American politics must have bottomed out….how naive could I be?

  71. Victor Petri says:

    @Bill S
    Your solution seems to be that you would hope other to share your ideology, which I think is not very practical nor realistic. The mantra of local production is sure to decrease food resilience, increase food prices and to deprive third world farmers of much needed export markets.

    @vtg
    It’s unintelligeble that Europe has still not taken its responsibility in protecting and helping these fellow human beings that are in dire need.

    @BBD
    No reason to kick a dead horse.

    @vtg
    Like I said, if you have solely the goal to let supply meet demand, meddling with the market has never increased its efficiency. It might however help the market to cope with externalities.

    @Joshua
    Plottwist, Trump actually is a democrat, he participates so Hillary is sure to win the presidency.

  72. John Hartz says:

    Joshua:

    Humor may be our best response to the crazies out there…

    11 Hilarious Climate Change Memes To Quiet The Naysayers Who Keep Denying It’s Real by Madhuri Sathish, Bustle, Aug 19, 2015

  73. Joshua says:

    Oops.

    Apologies to Greg Laden…I’m not a big fan of his, but I was confusing his post that’s a part of the latest clown car parade with the Tony Heller aka Goddard dude’s post…which was truly obnoxious.

  74. Joshua says:

    Victor Petri –

    ==> “@Joshua
    Plottwist, Trump actually is a democrat, he participates so Hillary is sure to win the presidency.”

    Do your really believe that?

    There’s a reason that Trump is leading in the polls of Republican voters – the reason being that his antics and policy stances appeal to a plurality of Republicans.

    Obviously, Trump is a huge self-promoter. Self-promotion essentially defines his entire raison d’etre. If your logical analysis actually leads you think that he’s in this to promote someone else’s interests you might want to re-think your views on climate change; it would be an indication that the very foundations of your approach to analysis might benefit from some restructuring.

  75. Victor Petri says:

    @John
    Not very funny.
    And what about those penguins?
    From wiki, Based on a 2014 analysis of fresh guano-discolored coastal areas, there are 3.79 million breeding pairs of Adélie penguins in 251 breeding colonies, a 53 percent increase over a census completed 20 years earlier.

    Apparently the demise of penguins is proof of global warming, but I suppose it’s only absurd if you argue it the other way round.

  76. verytallguy says:

    VP

    Like I said, if you have solely the goal to let supply meet demand, meddling with the market has never increased its efficiency. It might however help the market to cope with externalities

    Depends what exactly you mean by “meddling” and “externalities”.

    Pretty much every market is regulated or “meddled with” in some way, often to remove asymmetries (eg consumer protection law).

    Of course, often market meddling is for much less laudable aims, such as protectionism.

  77. Victor Petri says:

    @Joshua
    No of course I don’t think that, jeez, lots of people here are quite literal in their interpretation.

    I just find it funny as the democrats must be laughing their asses off that Trump is mucking up the republican party, he will not stand a chance in an actual presidential election..

  78. Joshua says:

    VP

    ==> “I just find it funny as the democrats must be laughing their asses off that Trump is mucking up the republican party,”

    There are moments when it strikes me as funny, but mostly I just think it’s quite sad.

  79. JCH says:

    As they say in the halls of big oil, buy the free market the way we want it. But the Saudis have undone them. It’s getting bloody in the oil patch. The cannibals are salivating rivers.

  80. @VP

    Leaving aside the impact on long term climate; short of building a desalination plant—which in any case in that location would be better powered sustainably by solar—I’m struggling to see how lower oil prices would make up for a lack of irrigation water.

    And having said that, seeing how oil prices have plummeted in the last year thanks to the Saudis over-producing to kill off their competition, I don’t see any sign of a reduction in migrants.

  81. Joshua says:

    Part of reason I couldn’t tell whether you were serious or not, vp – is that the kind of reasoning displayed in your Poe is entirely consistent with a lot of what I read from “skeptics.”

    My guess is that if you did a presidential straw poll over at Judith’s, Trump could very well win. Quite a few comments over there about how he’s a truth-to-power kinda guy who really knows how to get our economy going by deporting some 12 million people.

  82. Joshua says:

    ==> “I’m struggling to see how lower oil prices would make up for a lack of irrigation water.

    Lower oil prices will cure everything, including halitosis and the heartbreak of psoriasis.

  83. numerobis says:

    ATTP, about cycling to work: I’d recommend setting out on Monday by bike, endeavouring to do Mon-Wed-Fri on your bike — already you’re committing to a reduction of roughly 60% in commuting fuel usage. Within a week or two you’ll just naturally tack on the Tuesday, no problem — now you’ve reduced by 80%.

    The body does need rest days, so it might be a while before you get to a full five-day week, and still have the energy to maintain the blog or other parts of your life (I went 5-day from the start, but dropped other activities for a year, and my commute was shorter than yours). If you feel miserable cycling to work, you’ll stop doing it, and then you’re back where you started.

    On pure headline economic standards, ignoring externalities, the UK mileage rate being 45p, if you cycle 7 miles each way 200 workdays a year, you’re avoiding 1260 pounds of expenses. That’s a pretty decent bike you can afford to buy instead, every year! (If you get a good lock — otherwise, all you can afford is a series of crappy bikes). I’ve got a 7km commute and $0.50/km rate in Canada, so I can justify spending CAD 1400 a year on my bike and still do better than driving. I spend a lot less.

  84. Re. cycling to work. I’d say just make a resolution to stick at it for 2 weeks and give yourself the time so you don’t have to push too hard, and then after 2 weeks review it. If you don’t feel 10 times better with yourself after that time it’s not for you. Within a month you’ll be doing 7 miles in about 20 minutes, provided there’s not too many traffic lights or other reasons to interrupt the momentum. A trip computer is a great motivator (as are fellow cyclists, if they’re travelling at a slower speed than you). 🙂

  85. BBD says:

    @ VP

    @BBD
    No reason to kick a dead horse.

    ?

    Are you suggesting that AGW *isn’t* the greatest market failure the world has ever seen? Because if you are, that would be both flat-out denial and laughably stupid.

  86. John Hartz says:

    Victor Petri: Wkipedia may not be the most reliable source to cite on matters related to manmade climate change …

    What Wikipedia edits can tell us about the politicization of science by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, Aug 17, 2015

  87. izen says:

    @-Victor Petri
    “If, and I can imagine that’s likely, food prices are underpinning many of the upheavals in the middle east, a surer way to tackle this problem would be to lower the oil price, e.g. by decreasing taxes and implementing policies that ease extraction and production, since food prices are strongly correlated to the price of oil (and are plausibly caused by it as well).”

    Given the enormous role fossil fuels play in the production of agricultural produce in fertilizer and pesticide manufacture, transport and preparation, it certainly seems plausible that food prices are strongly correlated to the price of oil. And the graph you post would seem to support that. Although it is surprisingly difficult to modify the original data to get such a neat match between the lines. perhaps some inflation or currency adjustments have been made?
    Here are links to the source data graphed:-
    http://www.fao.org/worldfoodsituation/foodpricesindex/en/
    https://www.quandl.com/collections/markets/crude-oil

    I wonder if in proposing this ‘hypothetical you were being a little ironic? After all Mr Market is in the process of conducting this experiment for real. The breakdown of the OPEC cartel has allowed the free market to operate, and the cheapest producer to set the price. The recent drop in oil prices has now priced a lot of producers out of the market, fracked, shale and tar sand oils are now more expensive to produce than the market spot price. Because the big Saudi fields can produce very cheaply, the Brent Crude price is now lower than the cost of extracting Brent Crude I believe.

    However the effect on food prices does not seem to support your suggestion, but perhaps you knew this? The last time Brent Crude was priced at $47 was around 2005. At that time the FAO food price index was just creeping over 100. This month it is falling and has just gone below 165.
    Perhaps this is why the graph you posted confined its time period to before 2012, Mr Market seems to be breaking the close correlation that may have existed between oil price and food prices up till now. Perhaps there is a (variable) lag.

    Or other factors are negating the price benefit of cheap oil in food production. Some of that is the inability for agricultural systems to produce at a loss for more than a season without significant market meddling. Some of the forces maintaining prices might be the increased difficulty of growing a reliable crop in more variable conditions. And hunger caused by shortage or unaffordability is a strong promoter of civic unrest and consequent mass migration.

    Unfortunately the econometricians who project how the global economy might react to these problems, in terms of agricultural productivity and patterns of migration exclude the influence and impact of climate change on the production and politics of the global models they use!
    -grin-

  88. bill shockley says:

    vp wrote:
    Your solution seems to be that you would hope other to share your ideology, which I think is not very practical nor realistic. The mantra of local production is sure to decrease food resilience, increase food prices and to deprive third world farmers of much needed export markets.

    I’m sensing hostility but not much clarity in your message. If I can imagine a cogent criticism somewhere in there it might be that higher petroleum prices might raise food prices — for example, grains exports to developing countries. I hadn’t thought of this and it could be a problem… one that I think could be addressed through subsidies or some other mechanism. Developing countries are going to need help, any way you look at it, as climate change takes hold and to help them achieve prosperity without catching our FF addiction.

  89. If you want to help the global poor, you can build up a renewable energy system in the industrialised world. That would reduce demand of fossil fuels on the world market and lower the prices for the global poor.

    I must admit that I do not really think that a large part of the mitigation sceptics care much about the global poor.

    If you want to help the national poor you can make the tax system more progressive, enhance social mobility and reduce inequality.

    I must admit that I do not really think that a large part of the mitigation sceptics care much about the national poor.

  90. Victor Petri says:

    @John
    According to Wikipedia, wikipedia is as reliable as other encyclopedias https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliability_of_Wikipedia
    @izen
    I always look to find the most recent graph, I thought the correlation and causation was so obvious that I need not look any further. I got the graph from a peak oil blog,
    http://ourfiniteworld.com/
    Here is one showing correlation up to 2014:

    The most recent drop in oil prices I haven’t seen in a graph yet.

    @Bill S
    No, my main criticism is that urging everybody to become vegetarian to solve food issues is just not very realistic nor constructive. It’s not going to happen.

    @VV
    I am in favor of reducing inequality, specifically by means of providing free education and mobility for all. I’d be surprised if spending excessive amounts on renewable energy in the developed world would be beneficial to developing countries.

  91. BBD says:

    I’d be surprised if spending excessive amounts on renewable energy in the developed world would be beneficial to developing countries.

    And how do we define ‘excessive’, VP?

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