2010-10-27 02:38:09Economics
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252

More and more frequently I've been seeing 'skeptic' arguments that putting a price on carbon emissions will cost too much, cripple the economy, and so forth.

I wonder if discussing economics would be appropriate at SkS, given that it's not climate science, but it is a science.  I put together a wiki article on the cost analyses of the proposed (failed) climate bills in the USA which could be used for a rebuttal to 'pricing carbon would cripple the economy', or something similar.  But I don't know if we want to get into economics on SkS.  Thoughts?

2010-10-27 03:11:28thought on economics
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
134.153.163.105
There's certainly a plethora of evidence which suggests that the type of investment into green energy that we talk about would actually spur on the economy. The tired old forces of trying to maintain the present regime don't really want that to be acknowledged. Greenman has some interesting videos on his "solutions of the week" which show how much some green technologies are able to spur on development and lower costs.

The important thing to emphasize is always the future cost of certain things. Take the Alberta Tar Sands for example, the future costs of them is immense...
2010-10-27 03:30:24agreed
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252

We could probably do an entire series on economics and economic benefits of various pursuing green tech, etc.  Again the question is whether that's appropriate for SkS.

Climate Progress had a piece today on how 'skeptics' are more frequently claiming 'we're not arguing science, we're saying putting a price on carbon is destructive'.  Of course they then also argue the science, but are more frequently turning toward the economic side of the debate.  Americans for Prosperity (Koch-funded Tea Party-backing group) is specifically noted as making this sort of claim in Romm's article.

2010-10-27 05:47:15Well, economics is a kind of science, sort of...
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.38

Anyway, they give Nobel Prizes in it, and it uses mathematics.

However, there are such fundamental differences between prominent practitioners of this field that I believe the degree of advancement should most properly judged as "pre-Newtonian". 

Nonetheless, if we can ever find someone who can think and write sensibly about the economics of global warming, I would read it.

2010-10-27 06:01:53Comment
Robert Way

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134.153.163.105
I think that when I think of the economics of climate change action, staying away from radical ideas like carbon taxes is important. People just hate any large scale regulatory scheme and won't support it at this stage nowmatter how effectively run.

I think the focus should be on better planning initiatives and the costs of things like suburbs. When people are shown statistics like that suburbs cost significantly more tax-payer money to sustain then they start seeing realism in what we are saying. Another thing that I think is important is to emphasize how small alterations like updating building codes, can have a huge effect.
<> require that new buildings be properly insulated and it reduces heating and cooling costs.
<> Forcing buildings built over a certain size to have urban plantations or solar panels on top. Either or reduces the costs of electricity.

I think one of the most common misconceptions is that people assume that climate change action must be done on the large scale when I in fact believe that on the local scale it is very important for churning on changes.
2010-10-27 07:14:10
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.38

Robert,

 

What's so radical about carbon taxes? The same approach was developed by the Republicans for sulfates - it seems to have largely cured the acid-rain problem.

Plus it's a great way to focus carbon-reduction on the issue of biodiversity slaughter, which I consider THE single most important threat of global warming.

2010-10-27 07:28:07SkS on economics
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252

I agree with neal that there's nothing radical about carbon taxes, but I wouldn't presume that we at SkS would be suggesting any specific economic solution to the problem.  My thought would be that we would simply look at economic analyses of proposed legislation and things like that, just like we discuss peer-reviewed science.

I happened upon a good summary of US climate legislation economic impacts as of 2008, and I'll use this opportunity to link to it for future reference if we do decide to discuss economics on SkS.  I've got a bunch more links in Myth #11 here.

I'm no economist, but it's a subject I've researched pretty thoroughly and could speak about in a reasonably informed manner.  A good basis for a rebuttal could be the Heritage Foundation claim that Waxman-Markey (climate legislation passed by the US House of Reps before death in the Senate) would cost the average American family $1500 per year - an order of magnitude higher than estimates by the CBO, EIA, EPA, and Peterson Institute.

It's just a question of whether we want to go into economics.  As neal says, it is science, and it is climate-related.  But it would be a departure from the SkS norm.  I think that's increasingly the direction the 'debate' is headed though.

2010-10-27 07:58:22Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
134.153.163.105
I don't think they are in effect radical. But I think the general public will be convinced they're radical no matter what. In Canada we had Stephane Dion try to become prime minister and he wanted to do a carbon tax but then give back the extra money through income tax reductions and he was practically tarred and feathered....
2010-10-27 09:08:58
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.38

Robert,

If we're going to back off because people will think carbon taxes are radical, we might as well hang it up, because the reason they think carbon taxes are radical is because they think cutting back on CO2 is radical. Sulfate taxes were applied to burning coal, and it did wonders for acid rain.

We're in the business of "making omelets", so we've got to break eggs.

2010-10-27 09:15:53valid point
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
Well one of the main reasons we're pursuing a cap and trade system in the USA is that proposing any sort of tax is not viable.  I guess the same attitude holds in Canada, except apparently in British Columbia, which already has the sort of tax and return system Robert describes.
2010-10-27 09:46:53
nealjking

nealjking@gmail...
91.33.123.38
And virtually everyone has conceded that making a cap & trade system work is a lot trickier than a tax. They both create a value for cutting back on CO2, but cap & trade requires a lot more fussing to work out properly. The EU has such a program, but they started out with such a low price that it's created a lot of start-up problems.
2010-10-27 09:57:18agreed
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
I agree completely.  But in the USA, yelling "tax!" in a crowded room will get more people running for the exits than yelling "fire!".  It's why Republicans labeled cap and trade "cap and tax".  It's stupid, but it's reality - a carbon tax is a political non-starter.  Even if 100% of the carbon tax is returned in the form of other tax cuts (like in British Columbia), it will still be portrayed as a new tax and thus evil.
2010-10-27 14:39:59Whether SkS should go into solutions
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.160.198

I've been mulling over this issue for a while, and it's been brought up in several discussions. Each time, I've reverted to the status quo (I'm a procrastinator at heart).

The argument against going into solutions is that it opens up the discussion to politics and makes it difficult to stick to science. What SkS does best is give clear messages about the science and by adding solutions to the mix, we risk diluting the message (hmm, my metaphor is getting confused). Should we stick to our strength and let other websites cover solution issues?

On the other hand, the debate is evolving towards that direction and even skeptics are starting to bow to reality (kicking and screaming). So its inevitable we hit it sooner or later. And it would be very useful if the Firefox Add-on could have solution rebuttals that people can refer to when posting comments in other blogs/forums.

My thinking - maybe its wishy washy but perhaps the best approach is to ease into solutions - begin by rebutting solution arguments that are more science based rather than economics. Stuff about renewable power where you can dispassionately talk numbers (arguments like "wind power kills birds" or "renewable energy can't provide baseload").

2010-10-27 15:57:59solutions
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.137.148.215

I like the idea of adding some solutions rebuttals.  Maybe the comments would devolve into politics, but we can stick to the science and facts in the articles.

The examples you gave are good ones.  Another could be 'renewable energy is too expensive'.  It might be good to separate the climate science rebuttals from the solutions rebuttals though.

The 'carbon price will cripple the economy' rebuttal would be useful to have just because it's such a common skeptic argument - I see it all the time.  I'll probably work on it this weekend when it's fresh in my mind, and if you want to hold off publishing it and ease into some solutions articles with some simpler stuff first, that's fine.  It's going to be about numbers, and just a summary of economic studies.

I'd be interested in the 'renewable energy can't provide baseload' rebuttal too.  The Bureau of Land Management just approved a bunch of concentrated solar thermal projects in California, including the largest in the world (1 Gigawatt!).  I'd like to look into those further and see if any have storage capabilities.

2010-10-27 16:17:45A possible strategy for tackling solutions
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.160.198

Here are the skeptic arguments in the current "don't go there girlfriend" category:

If we are going to go there, I would prefer that we started with the parent category "It's too hard". That way, arguments will appear in the taxonomical list (they need a visible parent to appear). I seem to recall a peer-reviewed paper talking about the 12 wedges we need to tackle in order to fix climate change - it crunches the numbers to show its possible to reduce emissions (bloody difficult but possible).

2010-10-27 16:34:16comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.11.6
Yeah I think we should really be careful and really ease into it. We don't wanna be accused of having any agenda towards one policy or another. Something I was thinking of that could be presented scientifically is the lowered costs associated with green rooftops and perhaps something on suburbs and their costs.
2010-10-28 02:33:21CO2 limits
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
So "CO2 limits will harm the economy" is within the "it's too hard" parent category, right?
2010-10-28 06:51:05Currently
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.160.198
The taxonomy is not set in stone though. James Wight is constantly suggesting improvements to the arrangements.
2010-10-28 06:58:50okay
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252

I started working on that one (CO2 limits will harm the economy) a bit.  It's going to be looooooong.  So many economic analyses of so many pieces of legislation to cover.  And just over the past 3 years!

Like I said, we can put it on the back-burner when I'm done if you want to publish some simpler ones first.  I just want to work on it while the information is fresh in my mind.

2010-10-28 16:55:24Taxonomy
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
220.238.207.27

…And here I am, to suggest improvements to the argument taxonomy!

Here’s an order that would make more sense to me:

·         It's too hard (0,2)

Mitigating would cost more than the damages it would prevent (0,0)- subcategory of above but not displaying properly

·         It's too late (0,0)

Also, I recommend changing “China pollutes more” to “China pollutes most”. As it is worded it is sort of developed-nation-centric and raises the question “more than whom”?

I’m not sure we even need a category for “It’s too late”; I don’t really see many people making that argument.

By the way, I’ve made lots of suggestions in this thread about the rest of the argument taxonomy.

2010-10-29 07:48:05economics blog post
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
I drafted up the aforementioned economics of carbon pricing blog post.  Feedback would be appreciated here.
2010-10-30 02:03:55Comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
134.153.163.105
interesting article on wind power

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/10/29/wind-power.html
2010-10-30 06:56:14Wind story
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
124.186.160.198
Thanks for that link. Reminds me off the spoof headline: "Energy spill at wind farm. Nearby people experience stiff breeze"
2010-10-30 09:22:46feedback
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
Anybody got some feedback on my economics article? John - any thoughts?