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Krugman weighs in

Filed under: — david @ 11 April 2010

After weeks and months of press coverage seemingly Through the Looking Glass, Paul Krugman has sent us a breath of fresh air this morning in the New York Times Magazine, entitled “Building a Green Economy“. Krugman now joins fellow NYT columnist Tom Friedman as required reading in my Global Warming for English Majors class at the University of Chicago.

There is a lot here to comment on and discuss. The extinctions at the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, for example, were mostly limited to foraminfera, single-celled shelly protozoa living at the sea floor, not really a “mass extinction” like the end Cretaceous when the dinosaurs got feathered. The Gulf Stream is not the only thing keeping Northern Europe warmer than Alaska. Krugman’s four reasons why it’s dubious to compare costs of climate mitigation to adaption didn’t include the unfairness, that the people paying the costs of climate change would not be the same ones as reap the benefit of CO2 emission. He also seems to have missed the recent revelation that what really matters to climate is the total ultimate slug of emitted CO2, implying that unfettered emission today dooms us to more drastic cuts in the future or a higher ultimate atmospheric CO2 concentration, which will persist not just for “possibly centuries”, but almost certainly for millennia.

But despite a few off-notes, reading this very nicely written, beautifully laid out and argued piece felt like getting a deep sympathetic body massage after a bruising boxing match. Thank you, Mr. Krugman.


510 Responses to “Krugman weighs in”

  1. 1
    JK says:

    The least clear statement to me was;

    “We’re uncertain about the magnitude of climate change, which is inevitable, because we’re talking about reaching levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere not seen in millions of years. The recent doubling of many modelers’ predictions for 2100 is itself an illustration of the scope of that uncertainty; who knows what revisions may occur in the years ahead.”

    What is he refering to here? Surely not a doubling of climate sensitivity estimates?

  2. 2
    Hank Roberts says:

    Perhaps MIT?
    http://globalchange.mit.edu/pubs/abstract.php?publication_id=990

    Probabilistic Forecast for 21st Century Climate Based on Uncertainties in Emissions (without Policy) and Climate Parameters

    by Sokolov, A.P., P.H. Stone, C.E. Forest, R.G. Prinn, M.C. Sarofim, M. Webster, S. Paltsev, C.A. Schlosser, D. Kicklighter, S. Dutkiewicz, J. Reilly, C. Wang, B. Felzer, J. Melillo, H.D. Jacoby (January 2009)
    Joint Program Report Series, 44 pages, 2009

    Superseded by Reprint 2009-12
    Abstract

    The MIT Integrated Global System Model …. new projections are considerably warmer than the 2003 projections, e.g., the median surface warming in 2091 to 2100 is 5.1°C compared to 2.4°C in the earlier study. Many changes contribute to the stronger warming …. if recently published data, suggesting stronger 20th century ocean warming, are used to determine the input climate parameters, the median projected warning at the end of the 21st century is only 4.1°C. Nevertheless all our simulations have a very small probability of warming less than 2.4°C, the lower bound of the IPCC AR4 projected likely range ….

  3. 3
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oops, missed the obvious — the updated version is here:
    http://globalchange.mit.edu/pubs/abstract.php?publication_id=2003
    (the bit I quoted above from the abstract is the same in the later version)

  4. 4
    Bob says:

    Krugman,NYT’s,Al Gore and Dr Hanson all on your side, how impressive !! Now that makes me want to be a believer..

    [Response: These people appear to base what they believe on the evidence, rather than on what others do or don’t think. Being scientists, we find it difficult to respect people — like you evidently — who are able to look at scientific knowledge only through the lens of politics.–eric]

  5. 5
    Mike Donald says:

    “breath of fresh air this morning in the New York Times Magazine”

    Prof. Krugman (not Mr.) posted it on the 5th April so maybe the moral of the story is read the NY newspaper not the weekend magazine.

    [Response: I’m a professor, but they still call me Mister. – David]

    I recommend his book “Conscience of a Liberal” and still wondering about his following comments :-

    “A carbon tariff would be a tax levied on imported goods proportional to the carbon emitted”

    Hat tip to Eli Rabbet and his simple plan. But would it cause trade wars?

    “without the Gulf Stream, Western Europe would be barely habitable”

    That seems to me pushing it a bit. A bit tin foil hat (er – I am a fan of the man – apologies if I’m wrong), but what would the UK climate be without the Gulf Stream? Muscovite/East coast Canada? Say if Britain had a Moscow/ECC climate rougher sure, if I can wear the TF hat, but not barely habitable?

    “climate modellers have sharply raised their estimates of future warming in just the last couple of years.”

    By how much may I ask again?

  6. 6
    Robert says:

    The whole “for English majors” trope to imply innumeracy and/or scientific illiteracy is a gross generalization and a tired, over-used device. Students of the humanities manage to introduce culture to the ignorant without marketing it as “Culture for computer science majors” or suchlike.

    I understand you want to present the content as accessible to the non-special!st, and what you want is to convey that message without implicitly belittling people whose field of study differs from yours. Maybe you could get some help with this rhetorical problem from someone better with words . . . an English major, perhaps?

    [Response: Strictly speaking the class is intended for people who are not majoring in science. The humanities division does not offer classes especially tailored for people who are not majoring in humanities; everybody takes the same classes. I won’t risk belittling anyone by trying to draw conclusions from that. David]

    [Response: Not to argue with my good colleague David Archer here but you may be pleased to know that at University of Washington where I teach we actually do have classes that are the equivalent of “English for science majors that really need to learn how to write.” It would be a good thing if more of our science majors would take these classes!–eric]

  7. 7
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Bob says: 11 April 2010 at 2:18 PM

    Now isn’t that the archetype of a post that has no utility? Why is it here?

    [Response: To spawn the thread, allow people like yourself the opportunity to share your insights. David]

    Mike Donald says: 11 April 2010 at 2:19 PM

    I can’t say exactly what Prof. Krugman intended to convey with his remark on a “barely habitable” UK, but it strikes me that folks in the UK accustomed to the present regime would indeed find a shift to something resembling Moscow a bit hard to swallow and certainly a severe adaptation challenge. I suppose many non-hominid species would find it crisply uninhabitable in the most technical sense of the word, too.

    [Response: Yes, as another poster said, the gulf-stream ‘shutdown’–>Moscow’s climate in London — is a huge overstatement. If there’s one place where I would agree with those who claim that there is too much ‘alarmism’ about climate change going around, it would be on this subject. Gulf stream shutdown not going to happen (it’s a wind-driven current, and the winds are not going to stop. There’s more to it than this of course, but I wish folks would learn a bit more about it, instead of sounding like a Hollywood film. A good place to start would be Carl Wunsch’s legitimate skepticism on this issue, and Gavin’s solid and thoughful response here. Incidentally, Carl Wunsch is a skeptic in the best sense of the word.–eric]

  8. 8

    “He also seems to have missed the recent revelation that what really matters to climate is the total ultimate slug of emitted CO2″

    This is a true revelation (it follows from the long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere), but not a recent one. The first comprehensive analysis of the warming limit/carbon budget/carbon “slug” (I haven’t used that term before) approach was a book I worked on with Florentin Krause and Wilfred Bach that was first published in 1989, republished in 1992 as Krause, Florentin, Wilfred Bach, and Jonathan G. Koomey. 1992. Energy Policy in the Greenhouse. NY, NY: John Wiley and Sons.

    For a more recent summary, see my post on climate progress last December: http://climateprogress.org/2009/12/06/copenhagen-two-degrees-warming-target/

    Overall, Krugman did a very nice job summarizing the economics.

  9. 9
    croghan27 says:

    Yabbut

    Yabbut

    Krugman is an economist … not sure what Friedman is … but I know he can see lights at ends of tunnels and in 6 months we will really know …..

    They may be ‘big names’ who have embraced global climate change as inevitable, and as have I, but in going to them for technical confirmation and evidence you have stepped back from the real experts.

    [Response: On politics and economics they are the experts. David]

  10. 10
    Georgi Marinov says:

    This is where the article (and most writings on the subject) completely misses the point and it never gets back on track:

    But is it possible to make drastic cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions without destroying our economy?

    And of course, the answer must be that it’s possible. There is a small chance it is (serious action, that is), although it doesn’t seem likely, but even this is if you focus on climate change as the only issue threatening civilization, while it may not even be the first one to catch up with us. When you consider all the aspects of our global ecological overshoot, the logical and inevitable conclusion is that we can’t have nothing resembling our economy if we want to prevent collapse, and whoever says otherwise pretty much has no idea what he’s talking about. For, among many other reasons, the simple fact that our current economy is based on exponential growth, and it is exponential growth that by definition leads to overshoot.

    But, of course, you will never see economics Novel prize winners say this in NY Times

  11. 11
    RiHo08 says:

    An interesting article; another economist entering the Climate Change fray. On another site: Bart Verheggen’s begun March 2nd and run through today,”Global Average Termperature Increase GISS, HadCRU and NCDC”, an economist, VS of Norway argued that the correct approach to assessing a time series data set like temperature over time, is to determine the presence of a unit root. Once the presence of a unit root is known in the time series data set, one knows which is the correct statistical approach. In the instrument data set, he determined that indeed a unit root/near unit root was present which meant that the use of Ordianry Least Squares statistics are invalid. VS of Norway went on to demonstrate that the instrument temperature data set falls entirely within natural causation parameters. This means that what has been recorded can be viewed as all being attributed to natural variation in temperature. Although climate models work best with the addition of CO2 as a forcing, to statistically determine causation, a cointegration statistical approach is necessary to observe the CO2 signal. Todate there is no such approach. From reading the entire month long 1500+ comments, many of the staticians providing statistics power to climate science which has linked temperature and CO2 had not considered determining the presence of a unit root in this time series data set, assumed there was not a unit root, and proceeded with using Ordinary Least Square analysis. By the tone of many of the commentators, this assumption has now led to a lot of red faces, rightly so. I would like to see the cointegration approach to observe the CO2 signal in the temperature data set noise. Otherwise, I am left with an eyeball approach to the temperature trend beginning from the middle of the 1600’s, depth of the Little Ice Age to 2100 and maybe see a further 0.6 degree Celcius rise. The burning question then becomes: “what is the cost of doing something when that something is not related to what you are trying to change?” I believe that is called: opportunity lost cost.

  12. 12
    Didactylos says:

    Robert, I believe the course is literally for non-science majors. Are you just looking for something to be outraged about?

    The course “focuses on a single problem: assessing the risk of human-caused climate change. The story ranges from physics to chemistry, biology, geology, fluid mechanics, and quantum mechanics, to economics and social sciences. The class will consider evidence from the distant past and projections into the distant future, keeping the human time scale of the next several centuries as the bottom line.”

    That’s not being patronising. That’s simply looking at global warming from a different angle, without lots of science prerequisites.

    You say “Students of the humanities manage to introduce culture to the ignorant” – well, thank you for just describing all scientists as ignorant. I’m sure the rudeness was unintentional. And you are wrong – I have never seen any evidence of the arts reaching out to introduce culture to science students. Fortunately, science students are not philistines, and seek out whatever elements of culture that interest them. For some, this will be the traditional arts, from ballet to Shakespeare. For others, it is a wider interpretation.

  13. 13
    Ken Johnson says:

    Krugman argues that cap-and-trade, unlike carbon taxes, has the political advantage of free allocation. But any allowance allocation formula — including free allocation — can be applied equally well to the allocation of tax revenue. Why does Krugman (or for that matter, Congress) not recognize this point?

    Krugman’s praise for the U.S. acid rain program is somewhat muted, perhaps because he recognizes that a system that currently prices SO2 emissions at a level roughly one-tenth of original price expectations — and one-hundredth of the economically justifiable price — is fundamentally irrational. Had the program been implemented as a fixed-price sale of allowances at the original price expectation level — with revenue allocated according the same formula that was adopted for allowance allocation — the program would have been no less politically viable and the regulatory incentive might have motivated widespread deployment of the best available control technologies, resulting in up to 20,000 fewer premature deaths annually. The implications for global climate regulation are obvious.

    Krugman asserted, in his rebuttal to James Hansen, that “… altruism cannot effectively deal with climate change. … climate altruism must take a back seat to the task of getting such a system in place.” Krugman is, in effect, advocating abolishment of the voluntary renewables market. He is also implying that vehicle manufacturers should not be able to claim environmental benefits for their low-emission vehicles — any such claim would constitute false and misleading advertising in the context of cap-and-trade. But a more fundamental point that Krugman misses is that carbon taxes support, but do not rely on, “climate altruism”. Taxes are fundamentally a price incentive, just like carbon trading but without market volatility.

    Hansen would probably agree with Krugman’s assertion that “the only way to get people to change their behavior appropriately is to put a price on emissions,” but behavioral change can also be motivated by making low-carbon commodities and services less expensive. For example, in the context of electricity generation the decarbonization incentive of a moderate carbon fee could be multiplied tenfold if the fee revenue is used primarily to subsidize new-source renewable energy. Krugman’s “Ramp” versus “Big Bang” conundrum would be resolved: A “Ramp” in carbon fees could finance a “Big Bang” in renewable-energy expansion via subsidized price support (similar to Germany’s feed-in tariff program).

    Krugman offers 8000 words of canonical economic dogma, but he does not offer a viable strategy for breaking the political deadlock on climate policy. The “only-game-in-town” argument for cap-and-trade no longer works. What might work would be a shift from dogmatism to pragmatism. Before we can phase out coal, we have to stop new coal. That does not require a high carbon fee on all energy sources; it only requires a high fee on new sources. But before we can stop new coal, we need to have economically viable, low-carbon substitutes. Price incentives in the form of “carrots” — subsidies for new-source renewable energy — could be much more effective and politically viable than “sticks” while renewable energy markets are in their nascent phase.

    Pragmatism should be guided by clear policy objectives, which Krugman’s dogmatism lacks. Accepting his argument (echoing Weitzman) that the “risk of catastrophe, rather than the details of cost-benefit calculations, makes the most powerful case for strong climate policy”, should the fundamental objective of climate policy be to (a) achieve a predetermined (and politically compromised) emission target at the lowest possible cost, or (b) achieve the lowest possible emissions at acceptable cost? Rather than providing clear policy guidance on this question, Krugman — like everyone else in his profession — just seems to just bend in whatever direction the political winds are blowing.

  14. 14
    robert davies says:

    Re: #6: Climate Change for Nonscientists, perhaps? I appreciate your point — but the simple fact is, we can’t teach science to nonscientists, such as humanities students, the same way we teach it to science students. In the former the information and arguments are overwhelmingly mathematical; in the latter, we tend to make the information and arguments plausible, not rigorous.

    Connecting to Eric’s comment in #4, I would say that Gore and Krugman do indeed base their belief on evidence. However, evidence for them is not the scientific sort — rigorously mathematical (though no doubt Krugman is indeed capable of mathematical rigor) — but the consensus sort. In other words, neither are able to evaluate the science on its detailed merits. Rather, I would wager they recognize that the extraordinary success of the modern enterprise of science gives it street credit. Hence, when NAS, AGU, AMS,APS, ACS, AAAS and dozens more of the world’s most prestigious scientific organizations tell us we’ve got a problem, they take that level of consensus as evidence. And justifiably so.

    There are the rare non-science students with whom we can be more scientifically rigorous in the classroom — typically such students take honors courses in this subject. But for the rank and file non-science student, it is indeed important to distinguish.

  15. 15
    Septic Matthew says:

    I like the Krugman article on the whole, but is the following a fair statement? Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about a few more hot days in the summer and a bit less snow in the winter; we’re talking about massively disruptive events, like the transformation of the Southwestern United States into a permanent dust bowl over the next few decades.

    Permanent dust bowl? Over a few decades? Is that the part of the “Southwestern United States” that is already desert, like the Mojave or Imperial Valley? Or is he including Oklahoma?

    [Response: There were droughts in the pre-instrumental past, such as during medieval times, which were much more severe than the dust bowl. There is a relict dune field in Nebraska called the Sand Hills, now I guess part of our grain belt. David]

  16. 16
    Leonard Evens says:

    I think criticizing Krugman’s slips on the science of global warming is beside the point. He is an economist, and it is his arguments about the the cost of ac ting vs. not acting that are most relevant. His most important point is that placing a price on carbon emissions by the most politically feasible effective method is feasible and that the cost of doing so won’t wreck world economies.

    [Response: I really didn’t want to sound critical of Mr. (Prof.) Krugman. My first draft was all sweetness and light, but then I and some of my realclimate colleagues just couldn’t help ourselves. It’s what Mr. Profs. do I guess. David]

    I liked his argument that it was st range that “free market conservatives” who seemed to think that the market could solve pract ically any problem have decided that the market can’t deal with climate change by imposing a cost on carbon emissions.

    Overall he

  17. 17
    Mike Donald says:

    #7 Thanks Doug and Eric,

    I heard that the Gulf Stream is dependent on the Earth’s rotation rather than Global Warming. That true? Having suffered literally innumerable posters pronouncing XYZ I’d appreciate the real deal.

    [Response: We’ve discussed this a few times (and links therein). – gavin]

    My upshot comment is that in the unlikely event of the GS Shutting down-etc. would London and Western Europe, at worst, have the climate of Oslo, or Trondheim? (Or Murmansk?)

    Perhaps Professor Krugman’s implying “barely economically viable”. Given the damage to the World’s economy from the $100mill a year implausible deniability brigade it wouldn’t surprise me GW will hurt worse.

  18. 18
    John Peter says:

    I’ve read Jim Hansen’s grandchildren book as I suspect Prof Krugman also has. I find very little difference between Krugman’s piece and Jim’s recommendations, except for nuclear power. Hansen believes that liquid metal reactors are the only chance to replace coal based power and thus to leave most of nature’s carbon in the ground. Krugman ignores nuclear – probably to avoid attacks from the Union of concerned “Scientists” that so annoyed Hansen. IMO, at a very high level, Hansen and Krugman agree.

    [Response: Come to think of it, I guess I was reacting to Krugman in his role as a journalist. Lots of other journalistic types had access to Hansen’s book, too. Finding something that Hansen had written that seemed sensible and insightful wouldn’t have blissed me out nearly as much as reading Krugman’s article did. David]

    With regard to the confusion regarding climate sensitivity etc., I believe Prof Krugman was refering to an assessment that Hansen describes in his book (Chap 5 Target Carbon Dioxide: Where should Humanity Aim”. In 2007, Jim was asked where the “dangerous” CO2 level really was by Bill McKibben. Jim had been thinking about that for quite awhile and he used the question from Bill and others to re-examine paleo-climate data. He arrives at 350 ppm with several caveats by considering long term forcings in addition to the more usual short time forcings. In the book he references Hansen et al, Target Atmospheric CO2: Where should Humanity Aim”, Open Atmospheric Science Journal,http://www.utafoundation.org/Climate_change/Hansen_091708.pdf if anyone wants the peer-reviewed version

  19. 19
    Ray Ladbury says:

    RiHo08,
    One of many things you ignore in your comment is that Krugman is commenting within his expertise as an economist, while VS was so far out of his depth as to be laughable. I notice that you also somehow failed to cite the very thorough debunking given to his treatment by Tamino:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/not-a-random-walk/

    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/still-not/

    I might suggest that it is a mistake to ignore basic physics here. The basic physics says that if you add CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm. The paleoclimatic data agree. The six or so independent temperature records all show trends consistent with the evidence. Phenological and ice-melt data are also supportive. There is no evidence that suggests a significant deviation from the current consensus model of Earth’s climate. It is extremely difficult for me to understand how one can suggest we are not warming the planet if they have even a shred of respect for the evidence.

  20. 20
    Johnmac says:

    Re 11 RiHo08

    VS’s arguments has been well dealt with here by Tamino:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2010/03/11/not-a-random-walk/

    I don’t have great stats skills to comment myself, but from reading that discussion, VS’s approach doesn’t seem to hold up.

  21. 21
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #11: VS is a persistent crank who will keep talking as long as there’s an audience. People with the unrealistic expectation that such cranks can be persuaded by facts will indeed tend to get red-faced.

    RiHO08, over the course of many years as a somewhat radical environmentalist I’ve found it essential to develop an ability to discern cranks and crank ideas even when I’m being told things I’d like to be true. You might be able to learn something from my experience.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    Ike Solem says:

    The fatal flaw in Krugman’s approach comes early on:

    In fact, once you filter out the noise generated by special-interest groups, you discover that there is widespread agreement among environmental economists that a market-based program to deal with the threat of climate change — one that limits carbon emissions by putting a price on them — can achieve large results at modest, though not trivial, cost.

    As usual, the economist with no biological training makes a fundamental physical error – failure to look at ecological externalities from the scientific perspective. This is to be expected, since academic economists aren’t required to learn basic science – biology, chemistry, physics, etc. While Krugman discusses externalities, he then blithely moves on to cap-and-trade – but what are the externalities there?

    More importantly, the only way to offset fossil fuel emissions is to bury an equivalent amount of carbon in some geologically stable form – graphite bricks would be a good way to go. However, the costs of doing this are so ridiculously high that noone could afford to purchase “pollution permits.” It’d be far cheaper to close the coal plant and build gigawatt-scale solar with energy storage than to make graphite out of CO2.

    That’s not the only major error. Krugman also seems incapable of distinguishing between biological carbon emissions and fossil fuel carbon emissions. It’s a basic issue – photosynthesis uses atmospheric CO2 as the basic building block, and when burned, photosynthetic fuels return the CO2 to the air. That’s true carbon neutrality.

    This is the physical reason that “cap-and-trade” is nonsense. Anyone who looks more carefully sees that it is little more than a smoke-and-mirrors game, much like the fraudulent Futuregen “carbon capture plant” – which actually appears to be a coal gasification plant for gasoline production, not a zero-emissions anything.

    Hence, what is really needed is a program that strips all subsidies from fossil fuel programs and transfers them to renewables. Climate scientists and economists who don’t understand this basic fact and who are running around promoting “clean coal” and “cap-and-trade” are actually doing far more harm than good.

    Krugman’s comments about “environmental economists” are also off base. What are needed are economists who have a broad background in ecology, biology, physics and chemistry, and who are willing to admit that modern economic theory is massively flawed and requires major reforms if it is to ever be of any real use – other than as a public relations tool. The difference? Environmentalists are social activists; ecologists are trained scientists.

    The problem is that Krugman really tiptoes around the externalities. Those are costs associated with the transaction that are borne by other parties not directly involved in the transaction. If the dictator of some Third World country agrees to a resource extraction deal with ExxonMobil, and it results in massive pollution, than the people of that country do not benefit, but rather experience great hardship. From the ecological perspective, a few more dollars for Exxon investors are meaningless – it’s the water supply, the food supply – and hence, the climate – that count most for the long-term survival of the local human population.

    Thus, you need to look at the entire ecological picture when analyzing the long-term effects of any particular transaction. The effects may be zero, or they may be immense (as in global warming). Economists, however, have refused to take this step. Their academic departments are strictly segregated from those of natural and physical sciences, and their students are not expected to learn these subjects – which is why they say so many ridiculous things.

    As far as global warming, it was clear by the 1990s what the trend was. Even here, Krugman blows it – the whole “apocalyptic” argument seems specious. We’re likely to see more intense storms, flooding and drought doing the most damage over the short term. Sea level rise will move much slower. The world will become a less hospitable place for human civilization, and people will be in general more impoverished then they are now – UNLESS they take real steps to adapt right now. However, it’s not apocalypse, more like steady degradation.

    What adaptations refuse to admit, however, is that the first critical step in any adaptation effort is to eliminate fossil fuel combustion as an energy source, and to pursue international agreements aimed at that goal.

    This obvious fact is one that our establishment climate scientists find difficult to acknowledge – but there’s no way around it.

    [Response: Ike. I think everything you say is thoughtful, and might even be right (I’m no expert on the economics or policy). But why the statement about “establishment climate scientists” and what they “find difficult to acknowlege”. Who is this monolithic group, and what is it they (we?) won’t acknowldge? I might even agree with you if I had a clue what you are talking about. Perhaps you are saying that they (we?) don’t acknowledge that we really have to cut fossil fuel combustion to zero; if so, first of all many scientists I know *do* believe that and acknowledge that belief, and second, that isn’t adaptation, it’s mitigation. So I’m pretty confused about what you are trying to say. Please clarify (and try to do it with casting everyone as part of the ‘establishment’ (whatever that is)). Thanks! –eric]

  24. 24
    Septic Matthew says:

    22, Hank Roberts, thanks for the links.

  25. 25
    Ike Solem says:

    Another issue is the effort by Krugman to put anyone who opposes his cap-and-trade scheme in the same boat as climate denialists and Sarah Palin:

    Let’s leave aside those who dismiss climate science altogether and oppose any limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as those who oppose the use of any kind of market-based remedy.

    How would Krugman have dealt with slavery, one wonders… perhaps a market-based mechanism? High taxes on slave sales would encourage slaveowners to keep their “slave families” together, so that mothers wouldn’t have to see their children sold into slavery – at least, there’d be fewer such sales because of the market incentives.

    A new mentality is required – one that views ecological destruction as a crime, just as human slavery is now viewed as a crime:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/apr/09/ecocide-crime-genocide-un-environmental-damage

    British campaigner urges UN to accept ‘ecocide’ as international crime.

    Proposal to declare mass destruction of ecosystems a crime on a par with genocide launched by lawyer.

    Juliette Jowit, Friday 9 April 2010

    This is probably going to be the only effective long-term strategy – market-based mechanisms and “clean fossil fuels” are just propaganda cover for business-as-usual.

    [Response: To be fair, he’s not putting them in the same boat. He’s putting them in two different boats. I’m also not sure he’s saying that the anti-market people are wrong; he may just believe that they are not going to get anywhere without working within the system, which, like it or not, is international market forces (with a good measure of demagoguery and back door politics thrown in of course).–eric]

  26. 26
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ray Ladbury says: 11 April 2010 at 5:16 PM

    I was going to ask, does the economist VS RiHo08 mentions acknowledge the difference between practicing in his own field versus applying the same tools he’s accustomed to using in another arena entirely while failing to include the fundamentals of that new and foreign venue?

    The situation reminds me of a house painter attempting to paint a still life with his accustomed roller, or– to avoid an implied pejorative comparison– an artistic painter trying to cover a house with a palette knife. Both activities involve paint (statistics) but the subjects and practices involved are quite different, not to mention that one arena (artistic painting, economics) is relatively unconstrained or at least is dominated by mutable human factors while the other (house painting, climate science) is subject to some hard physical constraints.

    I did not realize RiHo08 was referring to the same matter Tamino addressed. The nut of VS’ claim is that the behavior of global temperature should and does resemble a random walk, a startling claim, a misconception Tamino corrects in elaborate detail. For those wondering what it’s all about, you may choose to skip over the 1,500 comments RiHo08 mentions and instead cut to the chase at Tamino’s site as linked by Ray Ladbury.

  27. 27
    John Peter says:

    Ike Solem @23

    Intellectually, altruistically you may have missed Krugman’s point:

    “…What about the case for an emissions tax rather than cap and trade? There’s no question that a straightforward tax would have many advantages over legislation like Waxman-Markey, which is full of exceptions and special situations. But that’s not really a useful comparison: of course an
    idealized emissions tax looks better than a cap-and-trade system that has already passed the House with all its attendant compromises. The question is whether the emissions tax that could actually be put in place is better than cap and trade. There is no reason to believe that it would be… altruism
    cannot effectively deal with climate change. Any serious solution must rely mainly on creating a system that gives everyone a self-interested reason to produce fewer emissions. It’s a shame, but climate altruism must take a back seat to the task of getting such a system in place…

  28. 28
    David Stern says:

    I went back to the thread on the Gulf Stream and there was a comparison of Alaska and Norway. The location in Alaska is east of Siberia rather than the Atlantic Ocean. A more sensible comparison would be London and Vancouver I would think. So on that basis Europe is about 2C warmer than the same latitudes in western North America.

  29. 29
    David Stern says:

    @ RiHo08 says:

    Please see our work on applying cointegration analysis and other time series econometrics to the climate issue which has largely (but not totally) been ignored by the climate science community. Here are all the relevant papers.

    http://www.sterndavidi.com/topics.html#cli

  30. 30
    Francis says:

    concerning the American southwest: the Colorado River is already badly overallocated and the regional models i’ve seen are not encouraging. Las Vegas is at the bottom of the priority ladder and is already in deep trouble. Its most recent plan to take water from desert communities was shot down by the courts. Its ongoing project of lowering its intake pipes to reduce the size of the dead pool in Lake Mead is a stopgap measure. Higher priority users, like the farmers in Imperial Valley (who grow boatloads of vegetables all year round) aren’t particularly interested in selling. The recession may actually be doing Las Vegas a favor, giving it time to do more water planning.

    That’s only short term, though. Come 2060 and thereafter, it looks like the water users on the Colorado are going to need to find a way to reduce substantially their aggregate annual use. That’s going to hurt, a lot.

  31. 31
    John Peter says:

    David (response@18)

    If truth be told, I much prefer Archer to either Krugman or Hansen ;)

  32. 32
    Deech56 says:

    Prof. Krugman’s NYT magazine cover story today, Congressional appearance by Joe Romm*, and a push to get a climate/energy bill through the US Senate. Things are happening and it’s time for all to be ready for the “skeptical” firestorm. We saw what happened pre-Copenhagen, so I can imagine what’s coming up. It’s a lot to ask, but I hope the experts are available to explain the science. The think tanks will be ready to influence policy, so it is important to have the truth out there.

    While parsing the science in the Krugman piece (we do agree with his overall conclusions about the science, right?), let’s not lose sight of his economic arguments. Will Congress come through with a perfect bill? Doubt it, but if we expect international cooperation, we need something to show that the world that the US is serious about making progress.

    * For policy discussions, Climate Progress is a must-read site.

  33. 33
    Ike Solem says:

    Eric – As an example of the problem with economists today, consider the claim that tankers of iron compounds can be used to fertilize the oceans and draw down atmospheric CO2. This notion has been thoroughly debunked by oceanographers and biologists – see Falkowski, Chisholm, etc.

    That didn’t keep it from being included in many proposed economic “market mechanisms” – despite the fact that this would do nothing to reduce the conversion of geological carbon deposits into atmospheric & oceanic CO2. This kind of thing is why we shouldn’t let economists design climate policy.

    There’s a good discussion of the scientific flaws in the PR claims on that issue here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/05/thin-soup-and-a-thin-story/comment-page-1/#comment-32068

    However, what economists like Krugman seem to do is to take these claims at face value and then make economic prognosis on the basis of their unquestioning acceptance of said claims.

    This, you must admit, is a serious problem – and it’s fairly obvious that the lack of scientific training is what prevents economists from being able to assess these claims.

    As a result, nonsensical claims about offsets get tossed around in many spheres. Here in California, for example, there’s a big political push for fossil-fueled desalination plants. The proponents claim that they can offset such emissions by buying wind energy from Nevada, etc.

    However, physically, every carbon atom that exits the geological reservoirs is an addition to the recirculating carbon dioxide pool. Solar power doesn’t put that atom back in the ground in stable form. If you want zero-emission desalination, you can’t use fossil fuels. If you want to see how to do desal using sunlight, see what Saudi Arabia and IBM are up to.

    Now, if you could make solid graphite bricks and use those to offset fossil fuel emissions, well, that might work. Graphite is quite stable under typical conditions – but going from CO2 to graphite is energy intensive.

    So, to be as clear as possible, what I’m saying is that if economists had a scientific understanding of the carbon cycle, they’d rule out most of the proposed trade-able offsets as being ineffective or fraudulent.

    So, in this sense, I suppose I’m promoting a market-based mechanism that accurately reflects the true costs of offsetting fossil fuel emissions. However, economists like Krugman can’t tell the difference between a true offset (which is very hard to create, as in graphite bricks) and a bogus claim by some ambitious trader. In reality, the price of offsets would be so high that no fossil fuel operation would be able to buy said offsets without going bankrupt. This is not good policy either, is it? All it does is enrich the sellers of offsets at the expense of everyone else – with no guarantee that the money would go to renewable energy development.

    A far better policy is to strip the direct government subsidies for fossil fuels (are those market-based subsidies?) and transfer them to renewable energy, along with other short-term and long-term incentives, all aimed at replacing fossil fuel systems with renewable energy systems.

    Now, as far as the “establishment” issue – here we are talking about things like the Department of Energy budget issues – as well as the general reluctance of those who are dependent on federal funding to challenge official government policy. If climate scientists got together as a group and insisted that their academic institutions set up renewable energy research institutes (along the same lines as any other organized research unit), they would clearly be bucking the academic establishment. Of course, for this to happen, funds would have to be available – and that’s a DOE issue. Ever look at that budget? It’s pretty shocking to see how they spend their money, let me tell you.

    As another example of the “establishment” problem, why haven’t the climate scientists who work for Stanford University revolted over Exxon’s control of their “Global Climate and Energy Program”? Is this the kind of timid behavior one can expect from “our establishment climate scientists”? Yes, there are exceptions – but every exception from Hansen on down comes with a price – you’ll be attacked, as Hansen was. You guys at RC have seen plenty of that, correct? However, you would think that preserving the independence of scientific institutions would be a motivating factor here…

    Anyway, that’s what I was getting at with that phrase. If more scientists were as vocal about explaining their work (and the need for independent control of the direction of research) as the folks at realclimate are, we’d probably have well-funded renewable energy research institutes at many universities – but that still hasn’t happened.

    P.S. John Peter – It’s not about altruism, either – it’s about switching the energy base off fossil fuels. That’s a technical issue, and although it’s easy to argue it’s also a moral necessity, I’d say it has more to do with basic survival, particularly in marginal areas that are already heavily stressed by climate change.

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    What if our economy was not built on competition? Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom talks about her work on cooperation in economics.
    (hat tip to Metafilter)

  35. 35
    flxible says:

    SM@15
    Interesting tree ring study here that rather relates to the SW U.S., particularly considering the current condition of Lake Mead

  36. 36
    Mike says:

    I have read up (some) on how climate models work and why it is reasonable to take their projections seriously. But, I have no clue why I should have any confidence in economic models. I would love to find some expository account on economic modeling.

  37. 37
    S. Molnar says:

    Re Eric’s reply to #6: “English for science majors that really need to learn how to write.” I hate to be pedantic (no, I lie: I love to be pedantic), but that should be “English for science majors who really need to learn how to write.” As any mathematics major (liberal arts, but neither science not humanities) could tell you.

  38. 38
    Septic Matthew says:

    28, Francis: Come 2060 and thereafter, it looks like the water users on the Colorado are going to need to find a way to reduce substantially their aggregate annual use.

    That might be, but for California I think the way forward is solar-powered desalination. That’s independent of the environmental threat of permanent Southwest dust bowls in other states. It does assume that CA gets moving, instead of talking of the need to adjust.

    25, Ike Solem: A new mentality is required – one that views ecological destruction as a crime, just as human slavery is now viewed as a crime:

    Slavery still exists on a large scale, as I expect you know. Likewise, prohibiting “ecocide” would most likely be enforced only in the EU and US (and some others), further enhancing the competitive advantage of China and India. A case in point would be Burma: boycotting Unocal has led to the takeover of Burmese oil by Sinopec, without improving the lot of even a single Burmese slave (“drafted”) laborer. See also Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Nigeria, where slave labor exists and Chinese dominate the oil purchases.

    The idea that 3B people in developing nations would commit economic suicide to follow the US and EU is absurd, or at least doubtful.

    A serious thought has to be given to growing the developed economies while substituting other energies for fossil fuels. Cap and trade, taxing CO2, direct subsidies or combinations of all three might work; prohibiting “ecocide” isn’t likely to make a positive difference.

  39. 39
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Ike Solem – about the issue of crime, I disagree in general. There is a big difference betwee owning slaves and emitting greenhouse gases. If only one person burned a little coal, no one would really care about global or regional effects – maybe some local neighbors and some downstream interests would have a problem, or not, depending on how the ash is handled, how the coal was obtained, etc, but in so far as the CO2 emissions are concerned, no big deal. But owning a slave, or commiting murder, or theft, or … etc, these all cause a significant problem (of varying sizes) for at least someone. The problem with CO2 is that so many people are contributing small amounts and they add up to something huge. It’s the amount that matters.

    Of course, when CO2 is regulated, violating those regulations should be subject to fine or other penalty, depending on the nature of the violation.

  40. 40
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Francis – “That’s only short term, though. Come 2060 and thereafter, it looks like the water users on the Colorado are going to need to find a way to reduce substantially their aggregate annual use. That’s going to hurt, a lot.”

    I think eventually there should be a (mainly) solar-powered water desalination and pumping network. Can double as electricity supply to load matching service (storage).

    Re –
    “[Response: There were droughts in the pre-instrumental past, such as during medieval times, which were much more severe than the dust bowl. There is a relict dune field in Nebraska called the Sand Hills, now I guess part of our grain belt. David]”

    I can imagine some will say – well if it could happen anyway, why bother. So just to clarify, is this correct?: we have reason (models, paleoclimate)to expect that such natural climate variations will be some combination of smaller or less likely (I’d add less rapid over the same magnitude of change, but for millenial to centennial changes, I’ve gotten a different impression) in any given time period relative to the certainty of AGW and, though with some uncertainty overall and in particular with specific regional uncertainties, greater certainty that there will be signficant regional effects, and also, that because at least ecosystems and their supporting biodiversity, if not economies (which are affected by ecosystems) are evolved to handle some range of conditions, and/or because of ________, costs shoulde tend to increase nonlinearly with change (so that even if, for AGW changes of the same magnitude as probable natural changes, there were as much chance as AGW changes of the same magnitude as natural changes canceling each other or adding to each other regionally (setting nonlinearities aside for the moment) would still have a nonzero expectation adaptation cost, and also, that while uncertainty in future natural changes exists, the uncertainty is not saturated; uncertainty in AGW adds to uncertainty in total and is thus reduces the benifit of proactive adaptation (??) – Would this be correct and is there any good source on this subject (that ties it together)? (I’ve found myself lacking some background knowledge on the subject of centennial-to-millenial scale climate fluctuations, and though I could try to find out for myself, it seems more efficient, and a good insurance policy, to ask when the opportunity presents itself.)

    —-

    So I’m on page 4 of Krugman’s article now, some thoughts:

    “The political logic seems to be that the oil industry thinks consumers won’t blame it for higher gas prices if those prices reflect an explicit tax. ”

    The statement suggests a potential for a type of problem with markets (PS don’t interpret this to mean that I am against markets; overall I think they’re good to have, just not good to refuse sensible regulation and some other public policies/programs. It makes more sense to pay for expensive fuel to bus kids to school then to shut down busses and force people to pay more money for a less efficient way (for conditions where walking/bicycling is impractical) – People might tend to assume something is fair and feel they are being ripped off by ‘someone’ when made to pay more when it is simply the facts of reality that are ‘ripping them off’ (and the consumer reaction might be different because of the distinction?)

    “Politically speaking, doling out licenses to industry isn’t entirely bad,”

    As long as there isn’t preferential treatment to the big established firms, I’m partially begrudgingly somewhat okay with it. Actually that’s true even with that problem, just less so.

    “It’s also worth noting that the Waxman-Markey bill, a cap-and-trade setup for greenhouse gases that starts by giving out many licenses to industry but puts up a growing number for auction in later years,”

    Okay, I don’t mind a ramp-up time to what amounts to a tax.

    The problem with just giving out licenses is that it doesn’t send the full price signal through the full economy – it could make a sector more emissions-efficient but might miss the opportunity to make the whole economy more efficiently use that sector.

    Also, I hope CO2 licences can be converted to CH4 licenses with the proper exchange rate, because there’s no reason to fix the relative proportions of emission sources. For that matter, all net CO2(eq) emission sources should compete for the same pool (As opposed to giving cement special treatment, etc.).


    “Second, climate models predicted this well in advance, even getting the magnitude of the temperature rise roughly right. While it’s relatively easy to cook up an analysis that matches known data, it is much harder to create a model that accurately forecasts the future. So the fact that climate modelers more than 20 years ago successfully predicted the subsequent global warming gives them enormous credibility.

    And also, it’s at least somewhat harder to cook up a matching analysis if one is commited to keeping the model physics realistic.

  41. 41
    Dan Galpern says:

    It would be useful, I think, if you could respond to Comment 13 by Ken Johnson. He raises a number of fundamental points — all unanswered to date, as far as I can determine, by proponents — about the continuing advocacy for cap and trade by Krugman (and also, by some major national environmental groups) as the centerpiece program for pending congressional action.

    Because some Congressional advocates for C&T seem willing to trade away existing authority retained by EPA and the various states to restrict GHG emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act, the stakes are enormously high.

    If Ken Johnson is correct that C&T is at best likely to achieve only minimum goals (albeit at low cost) that may prove entirely inadequate to achieve climate stability, then what are we doing?

    To disclose: Ken Johnson and I have done some work together on climate policy.

    Thanks much.

    Dan Galpern, Attorney
    Western Environmental Law Center
    Eugene, Oregon

  42. 42
    Gilles says:

    “Krugman’s four reasons why it’s dubious to compare costs of climate mitigation to adaption didn’t include the unfairness, that the people paying the costs of climate change would not be the same ones as reap the benefit of CO2 emission”

    I wonder why this is repeatedly asserted. It is actually totally wrong if you consider the scenarios; they all assume a constant growth of 2% /yr at least ending with a multiplication by at least 8 by the end of the century and a reduction by 5 or 6 of inequalities.The fossil fuel consumption must double or triple to reach dangerous warming level. Who the hell will benefit from this increased fossil fuel consumption? OCDE countries consumption per capita is stagnating and even decreasing since most of the fundamental needs are fulfilled , and we can expect some improvement in their use (although much less than a factor 4 i fear). So of course mainly poor people, like in China now, would benefit from an increase of FF consumption ! China growth has allowed hundreds of millions of people to escape poverty, and of course this would also be the result of a doubling or tripling of FF consumption – who else could burn them?

  43. 43

    An critique on Paul Krugman,

    somewhere he wrote that we should “spend our way out of recession”, which is obviously nonsense because overconsumption is the exact reason, not salvation of the economic crises. He also supports (or supported) the dubious “stimulus package”, which makes the crises mostly worse…

    He also wrote an article “Unhelpful Hansen” where he said “cap and trade” is only option of reducing carbon, not carbon tax, or carbon tax + 100 % dividend, which is necessary according to Hansen…

  44. 44
    Gilles says:

    Other thing. I have a real problem in thinking that a Nobel prize economist could do such a big mistake, but I need an explanation on a very simple paradox. When Krugman and other speak about the “cost” of mitigation, for instance here “The Congressional Budget Office, relying on a survey of models, has concluded that Waxman-Markey “would reduce the projected average annual rate of growth of gross domestic product between 2010 and 2050 by 0.03 to 0.09 percentage points.” That is, it would trim average annual growth to 2.31 percent, at worst, from 2.4 percent. Over all, the Budget Office concludes, strong climate-change policy would leave the American economy between 1.1 percent and 3.4 percent smaller in 2050 than it would be otherwise.”

    It assumes that the gain in efficiency brought by a better use of FF would leave all the rest unchanged. But I don’t see why ! improving the use of FF allow to use them for more things, and first all these poor people who need them. So it actually increases the growth. If it were possible, it wouldn’t have a COST, it is a BENEFIT (actually that’s exactly what happened in the last 30 years, when FF consumption per capita has remained constant and the growth of GDP has only be obtained thanks the improving of their use). In other words, improving FF use has NEVER resulted in a lower consumption at a world scale , although it has some times for the richest countries where all basic needs were fulfilled , because they are always enough poor people who need to use them more. You know, these poor people who are supposed to suffer more from GW without benefitting from FF : this is the true paradox : why wouldn’t we leave them use the FF we have spared? (and how could we avoid that !!)

  45. 45
    Steve Bloom says:

    David, I think this correction of Krugman was a little off the mark:

    “The extinctions at the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum, for example, were mostly limited to foraminfera, single-celled shelly protozoa living at the sea floor, not really a ‘mass extinction’ like the end Cretaceous when the dinosaurs got feathered.”

    He said:

    “But there are at least two reasons to take sanguine assessments of the consequences of climate change with a grain of salt. One is that, as I have just pointed out, it’s not just a matter of having warmer weather — many of the costs of climate change are likely to result from droughts, flooding and severe storms. The other is that while modern economies may be highly adaptable, the same may not be true of ecosystems. The last time the earth experienced warming at anything like the pace we now expect was during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, about 55 million years ago, when temperatures rose by about 11 degrees Fahrenheit over the course of around 20,000 years (which is a much slower rate than the current pace of warming). That increase was associated with mass extinctions, which, to put it mildly, probably would not be good for living standards.”

    The PETM was indeed an extinction event even though it was of lesser magnitude and differently characterized than e.g. the K-T event that you mention. While the PETM was e.g. good for mammals as a whole (lots of new species and groupings got their start then, including primates), plenty of species did bite the dust. Interestingly a major factor in the speciation seems to have been enhanced dwarfism due to high CO2 levels, although longer-term some very large species resulted only to be wiped out by the next extinction event, the late Eocene cooling. The situation for foraminifera was similarly complex, as some thrived even while anoxia wiped out the deep-ocean species. (My source is this excellent recent review article comparing the various extinction events and analyzing the role played by climate in them.)

    [Response: Actually, I’m not happy with extinction rate in the past as a proxy for how bad things could get for us as a society in the future. This question came up on an NRC panel on ocean acidification that I was involved with — do the extinctions during the PETM tell us anything about how much the changing pH in the ocean would affect, say, fisheries? Not really, I don’t think. There are a lot of negative impacts that stop short of full-blown extinction. The droughts that wiped out the Mayan civilization, or the dust bowl that drove 85% of the Oakies to migrate, didn’t extinguish any species that I know of. On the PETM itself, my understanding is that biologically the most important event then was not extinction but rather the first occurrence of the hoofed mammals. Not really all that scary sounding. David]

    Also, I assume your “dinosaurs got feathered” remark was tongue in cheek (the birds got their feathers long before then), but it may be confusing for some readers.

  46. 46

    RiHo08,

    The points VS (not of Norway) was making about the statistical interpretation are not as clear cut as you make them out to be. The limitations of OLS on data with a near unit root is well taken, but to claim that the temperature just changes stochastically, within bounds that are very far off what one would expect just from natural variability, is not convincing: Many parameters of the earth system are simultaneously showing signs of warming, plus there’s still a positive radiation imbalance at the top of the atmosphere: The earth hasn’t even warmed up yet to the full extent that the change in forcing implies. In other words, it’s unphysical to claim that the temperatures just walk around randomly within very wide (and thus essentially meaningless) bounds: It goes against conservation of energy. See also http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/the-relevance-of-rooting-for-a-unit-root/

    And for a more ironic take on the issue http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/04/01/a-rooty-solution-to-my-weight-gain-problem/

    See also the recent comment by economist David Stern on the last mentioned thread:

    “Please see our work on applying cointegration analysis and other time series econometrics to the climate issue which has largely (but not totally) been ignored by the climate science community. Here are all the relevant papers.
    http://www.sterndavidi.com/topics.html#cli
    Yes there are unit roots probably in the temperature time series but they are there due to the temperature being driven by the greenhouse gas series that almost definitely have unit roots in them.”

    (Apologies for this off topic reply)

  47. 47
    Thomas Bewick says:

    I’m not quite sure what the atmospheric lifetime of CO2 has to do with the economic analysis. The integrated models that economists use for comparing costs and benefits account for the science of CO2 removal from the atmosphere.

    I recognize that Krugman is making an argument for action. But it’s important to recognize the subjective and value-laden nature of the economics. You can reasonably argue that given our clear lack of concern over international development, there is a weaker argument for strong mitigation in developed countries. The fairness issue can also be interpreted as concentrating on the welfare of the poor now, rather than being concerned about the welfare of future generations, who may be substantially richer than we are now. Additionally uncertainty over climate change science can also be interpreted as a suggesting a policy of wait-and-see. The decision on how to respond to this strikes me as being entirely subjective.

    To me, the issue of Weitzman’s fat-tails is not entirely satisfactory. You could use the “fat-tail” argument for presumably any potentially catastrophic outcome, e.g., bioterrorism, nuclear war, asteroid collision etc. Why are the fat-tails of climate change any different?

    We shouldn’t forget that mitigation is expensive in terms of opportunity costs, which is a fundamental part of economic thinking. Spending trillions of dollars on renewable energy could be spent on education, reducing inequality, etc. This fact has to be faced up to, and not obscured by talking of fractions of reduced GDP growth.

  48. 48
    wds says:

    @23, Ike.

    I think you are miscomprehending Krugman’s take on this. He’s a realist, he knows that in a perfect world we would stop combusting fossil fuels altogether. He knows that’s not going to happen, but that instead we should severely limit our CO2 output, for which he as an economist argues cap-and-trade would work well (to those saying the licenses are too cheap right now, consider that it is important where you place the cap). The physical reality is that global warming will cause a lot of hardship, the conomical reality is that changing our behaviour will take time. What you seem to be proposing isn’t even close to realistic.

    In the rest of your post you make the same mistake as climate cranks do, asserting superiority over a science you know nothing of, nor pretend to. Climate cranks also attempt to debunk all of climate science by stating that we need more climate scientists trained in “real math” who admit that their field is “massively flawed”. Cap and trade is clearly not just smoke and mirrors, and if it was, I’d like to hear actual arguments for it, instead of just your personal dislike of economists.

  49. 49
    CM says:

    Ike Solem (#23, 25),

    You’re confusing matters. Cap-and-trade, like a carbon tax, is a means of lowering carbon emissions by making it more costly to pollute. Whether it promotes a switch from coal to renewables + energy efficiency, or promotes the retrofitting of coal plants with carbon capture and storage, is left up to the market. You clearly don’t think CCS for coal is economically viable – neither do I – so there’s no reason why a cap-and-trade system, in principle, would promote CCS rather than a switch to solar. If it’s the shortcomings of Waxman-Markey you want to discuss, with its dollop of subsidies for CCS, be specific. As to your rhetorical question, “cap-and-trade – (…) what are the externalities there?”, I don’t know – what are the “externalities” of a cap and trade system?

    The Guardian article makes rather fanciful representations about the prospects for an international crime of ecocide, not to mention making it applicable to climate change resulting from peaceful economic development. Such a strategy is not an alternative to market-based instruments, it’s very hard to imagine it proving more effective even in the long run, and in all likelihood it would leave us twiddling our thumbs for twenty years or so while the lawyers deliberate.

  50. 50

    RiHo08 (11),

    Please note that when I subject an OLS regression of dT on ln CO2 for 1880-2008, and then perform Cochrane-Orcutt iteration on it to compensate for autocorrelation in the residuals, I still wind up with 60% of variance accounted for when rho has dropped to an insignificant level.


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