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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10048/the-costs-of-carbon-legislation/

The Costs of Carbon Legislation

June 1, 2009 by

The real threat to humanity comes from governments growing ever more powerful in the name of fighting climate change. Paul Krugman’s recent attempts to justify these bold new measures ignore the IPCC itself, and even its “consensus” figures are based on wishful assumptions about the behavior of governments in the real world.

Whether you are a “denier” or whether you think carbon dioxide emissions need to be sharply reduced very quickly, you should be extremely skeptical of the process now unfolding in Washington. This isn’t about saving the planet; it’s about money and power. FULL ARTICLE

{ 38 comments }

Silas Barta June 1, 2009 at 9:09 am

Wha … I can’t believe it. An actual Bob Murphy article about global warming that doesn’t have obvious howlers, and which acknowledges the existence of an opposing libertarian viewpoint:

I understand that even some libertarians believe the underlying science proves that “business as usual” will mean a huge form of aggression on the property rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Did the Mises Institute website get hacked?

DNA June 1, 2009 at 9:21 am

Well, Silas Barta’s particular long wait may finally be over, but another long wait goes on, and will likely never end: when will Silas Barta post an intelligent comment here?

Andy Stedman June 1, 2009 at 9:28 am

Now, Silas, Bob is nothing if not a careful thinker… it just takes him a while to come around sometimes. Anyhow, I found the “howler” for you:

When politicians propose to penalize carbon dioxide (or more broadly, greenhouse-gas) emissions, the natural question most people ask is, “How much will it cost?”

Most people ask no such question. They don’t see any connection between the emissions and the cost or quantity of the goods–or if they do, they imagine the cost will just come out of the profits of the evil, greedy polluters. And they don’t care how much it is.

William Anderson June 1, 2009 at 9:42 am

The larger issue is the economic harm that will come because of this legislation. We are in an age of unprecedented expansion of government power, and because the government now considers carbon dioxide to be a “dangerous pollutant,” everyone now is a dangerous polluter and must be regulated.

Don’t forget that all humans exhale CO2, so all of us are a “threat to the planet,” according to people like Krugman. The policies that are going into place will have no effect whatsoever on our weather, but they will result in premature human deaths because they are killers of the economy.

Mark Davis June 1, 2009 at 12:45 pm

The primary purpose of the climate change agenda is greater than just increasing the power of individual governments; it is to establish an international taxing authority. Saving lives, improving energy efficiency, avoiding catastrophes such as flooding, saving polar bears, et al are just part of the facade to dupe emotionally distressed ignoramuses into calling for universal chains.

Stipulating that even if Chicken Little is correct in her analyses of the situation, then her proposed cure would still be useless will only work if she understands logic and accepts reason when it negates her hysteria. Alas logic and reason has thus far appeared to have had no affect on global warming alarmists. Still this is an excellent article Mr. Murphy.

Artisan June 1, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I can’t say why exactly but I found this article from Prof Murphy very good… something I would even dare to show to an average global warming believer (my sister in law I guess)

2nd Amendment June 1, 2009 at 1:10 pm

The true intentions of those carbon taxers is not to reduce carbon emissions nor prevent global warming.

Their true intentions is to control the economy and fight capitalism.

This has nothing to do with the environment and this has everything to do with their anti free market stance. They hate capitalism, the hate the free market and they use global warming as a pretext to gain power over the economy and use it for their redistributionist and communist agenda.

They want to enslave productive citizens through the carbon tax.

Jonathan Finegold Catalán June 1, 2009 at 1:11 pm

If anybody is interested, this website is very interesting and deals, largely, with the whole global-warming issue: http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/

Bogart June 1, 2009 at 2:38 pm

This has nothing to do with science or economics and everything to do with power. Our leaders have found a new way to manipulate the masses through a new religion. And they have huge numbers of people buying off on this. This same group has thrown away their old religions and found this new one with heaven (A world devoid of human freedom), hell (A free world that is 3.0c hotter), the savior, (The UN or IPCC) and the devil.(The lovers of freedom who want to stop them). These people even advocate physical violence against those trying to stop this. Waxman and his buds will use all power in hands of the military, intelligence and police forces to inflict punishment on those who refuse to go along with this.

The scary part of this is that this plan if successful, these policies could easily kill 5 to 10 percent of the worlds current population from disease and malnutrition. (As products made from petrol like food and medicine, as well as moving food and medicine become more expensive so poorer folks can’t afford them.)

Ron June 1, 2009 at 4:47 pm

I don’t want to alarm anyone but did you notice that we have created and accepted a government that chooses fear to govern. At this very moment they have little ability but to choose the latest disaster to induce another tax on another packaged inferior piece of legislation to put another layer of taxation on the peasantry. Yes the peasantry.

We are being systematically fleeced by the lords who have allowed legalized embezzling to rule the land and at all cost will hype any cause that will promote fear and more taxation to “help” mankind be a kinder gentler place.

At what point do you think the yoke of taxation will break the mules back??

This is the era of American government’s exploitation of the masses and the degeneration of society into issues based threats purposely to create fear to leverage power away from the peasants. Otherwise the global warmest would either be threatening oil producing nations and investing wildly in solar and alternative fuels; but alas they are not.

They are like the government, trying to find away to keep the fear level up and profit off that fear. Both the government and the alarmist’s are trying to get more tax dollars out of this, no other thing at all is going to be their objective but that. That is why the legislation doesn’t matter just the tax structure they want set up.

We are in a lot of trouble as ethics has gone completely by the wayside and being replaced with a total contempt for the American citizenship and the burden being applied to them.

Walt D. June 1, 2009 at 6:01 pm

We should rename this “The Taxman-Malarky” legislation!

Gil June 1, 2009 at 6:49 pm

It is unsurprising many here would like to rename the American Civil War as the ‘war of nothern aggresision’. It’d be easy to imagine Libertarians prior to the Civil War saying “the move to end slavery has nothing to do with freedom but everything to do with increasing government control”. Which is technically true – slavery was ended by legislation and wasn’t merely ‘phased out’ in time. Negative externalities be dammed?

james_joyce June 1, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Hey, this was a good article! I’m often confused by the extremely prevalent association between libertarians and global-warming deniers, so I assumed this would be another article that simply tried to show global warming to be a hoax or error. But this is the type of article I wish libertarians would write far more of – one that shows that, assuming global warming is real, the government is about the worst possible solution to the problem.

Well done!

For those in the comments implying a global conspiracy, I encourage you to watch this series of videos, which I hope will at least demonstrate that the notion of climate change isn’t as patently absurd as you think it is.

Lemmywinks June 1, 2009 at 7:19 pm

I am against this bill for pragmatic reasons (Cap and trade can have the parodixical outcome of increasing emmissions, while simultaneously tampering with the economy), but I would not be opposed to a straight forward carbon tax, priced at a reasonable estimate of how much harm each ton of carbon may contribute to.

I know…I mentioned the word “tax” and will likely be called a freedom hating fear profiteer, but carbon dioxide is an externality that is not currently being delt with. Most of free-market environmentalism is strongly based upon the concept of property rights, but earth’s climate is one giant commons.

If anyone has a better, more market-oriented idea, please share.

usufruct June 1, 2009 at 11:45 pm

Some perspective: Imagine the atmosphere as 100 cases of 1 liter bottles, or 2,400 1 liter bottles. Of these 100 cases, only 1 case actually represents greenhouse gases.

Of that 1 case of GHGs, only 1 bottle out of 24 represents CO2. A small fraction of that 1 bottle, about a shot glass worth, represents man’s CO2 contribution. So out of a scaled atmosphere of 2,400 liters, man contributes about 1 shot glass worth of CO2.

Or imagine the atmosphere as a 100 story building. Man’s annual CO2 contribution is essentially the linoleum on the 1st floor.

In other words, our CO2 production is essentially background noise, well within natural variability, and highly unlikely to have any measurable impact on climate whatsoever.

I would further submit that if the climate was so sensitive to minor increases in a minor GHG, and poised to spin out of control in a runaway greenhouse effect from small CO2 increases, none of us would be here right now to have this debate.

One last point: CO2′s effect on temperature is logarithmic. Its impact actually decreases as its amount increases. For example, the first 20 units of CO2 produce more warming than the next few hundred units. About 400 units are required to produce the effects of the first 20.

With current CO2 levels, we’d have to produce astronomical amounts to obtain dangerous levels of warming. CO2 production would have to increase at exponential rates and there’s no way we could even come close to doing that.

The climate appears to have a profound bias for stability and can accommodate much higher CO2 levels than we presently have.

Of course, none of this matters. Get ready for cap and trade.

TokyoTom June 1, 2009 at 11:59 pm

Bob, thanks for the relatively balanced post.

There is simply no denying that our Congresscritters are working overtime to put lipstick on an enormous pig.

I vwould just note a few things:

- “This isn’t about saving the planet; it’s about money and power.” That is an overstatement that misses much. Yandle said it much better with his “bootleggers and Baptists” analysis of how much government intervention favors cynical groups but is dressed up and supported by moral crusaders and true believers.

Not all support for climate policy is cynical, but certainly there is an awful lot of rent-seeking now underway, dressed up in environmental garb.

- Even as we can now see a pro-climate change policy Bootleggers-Baptists coalition now getting the upper hand, we should not forget that there was a prior Bootleggers-Baptists coalition of free-marketers and fossil fuel interests that dominated the scene until the end of the Bush administration.

This other coalition is now also spending like crazy, both to limit damage and to get some of the spoils being handed out in Washington. They like to point out the climate pork, but ignore that they are porkers themselves.

- The stage for the Taxman-Malarkey bill has clearly been set by Republicans overplaying their hands during the Bush administrations – giving us the unending war on terror and the Greenspan/Bush bubble and financial collapse – thus both leading to Democratic control over both houses of Congress and the White House, and via the financial crisis, enabling all kinds of nonsense to be sold as jobs programs.

We owe those who cheerleaded the Iraq war our continuing thanks, for enabling this Perfect Storm that Obama, Dems and various industries are taking so much advantage of.

But we should also thank those who helped the Bush administration provide cover for fossil fuel interests over the past decade, and thus prevented any more rational policies from coming out of Washington before the Dems took over.

- “has any researcher who is for Waxman-Markey done a simulation to show this process, by which other countries like China and India follow suit (after how much delay?) because of US leadership?”

Bob, isn`t this question both naive and mis-directed? First, the process in Washington is not about the benefits, but the beneficiaries. Second, think tanks/researchers who have supported cap and trade or carbon taxes have not prepared Waxman-Markey, which has been loaded up with pork via political deals. Do you really expect anyone to prepare an academic study defending it and showing how it will lead the way to carbon pricing in China and India? How is it possible to really know how negotiations with China and India will unfold, anyway?

In any case, climate is a massive collective action problem. While it is unlikely that W-M will have any beneficial affect on climate in and of itself, it does represent movement by the US, some sunk costs and growing costs (shift in industry to China and India) that is likely to motivate further pressure by our political and opinion leaders on China and India. I`m not sure how you expect this process to be modelled, but clearly it is underway.

FWIW, I think the discussions here are interesting:

http://www.hillheat.com/articles/2009/05/19/waxman-markey-legislation-gives-coal-a-competitive-future
http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/analysis/stavins/?p=108

TokyoTom June 2, 2009 at 12:16 am

Bob, thanks for the relatively balanced post.

There is simply no denying that our Congresscritters are working overtime to put lipstick on an enormous pig.

I vwould just note a few things:

- “This isn’t about saving the planet; it’s about money and power.” That is an overstatement that misses much. Yandle said it much better with his “bootleggers and Baptists” analysis of how much government intervention favors cynical groups but is dressed up and supported by moral crusaders and true believers.

Not all support for climate policy is cynical, but certainly there is an awful lot of rent-seeking now underway, dressed up in environmental garb.

- Even as we can now see a pro-climate change policy Bootleggers-Baptists coalition now getting the upper hand, we should not forget that there was a prior Bootleggers-Baptists coalition of free-marketers and fossil fuel interests that dominated the scene until the end of the Bush administration.

This other coalition is now also spending like crazy, both to limit damage and to get some of the spoils being handed out in Washington. They like to point out the climate pork, but ignore that they are porkers themselves.

- The stage for the Taxman-Malarkey bill has clearly been set by Republicans overplaying their hands during the Bush administrations – giving us the unending war on terror and the Greenspan/Bush bubble and financial collapse – thus both leading to Democratic control over both houses of Congress and the White House, and via the financial crisis, enabling all kinds of nonsense to be sold as jobs programs.

We owe those who cheerleaded the Iraq war our continuing thanks, for enabling this Perfect Storm that Obama, Dems and various industries are taking so much advantage of.

But we should also thank those who helped the Bush administration provide cover for fossil fuel interests over the past decade, and thus prevented any more rational policies from coming out of Washington before the Dems took over.

- “has any researcher who is for Waxman-Markey done a simulation to show this process, by which other countries like China and India follow suit (after how much delay?) because of US leadership?”

Bob, isn`t this question both naive and mis-directed? First, the process in Washington is not about the benefits, but the beneficiaries. Second, think tanks/researchers who have supported cap and trade or carbon taxes have not prepared Waxman-Markey, which has been loaded up with pork via political deals. Do you really expect anyone to prepare an academic study defending it and showing how it will lead the way to carbon pricing in China and India? How is it possible to really know how negotiations with China and India will unfold, anyway?

In any case, climate is a massive collective action problem. While it is unlikely that W-M will have any beneficial affect on climate in and of itself, it does represent movement by the US, some sunk costs and growing costs (shift in industry to China and India) that is likely to motivate further pressure by our political and opinion leaders on China and India. I`m not sure how you expect this process to be modelled, but clearly it is underway.

FWIW, I think the discussions here are interesting:

http://www.hillheat.com/articles/2009/05/19/waxman-markey-legislation-gives-coal-a-competitive-future
http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/analysis/stavins/?p=108

TokyoTom June 2, 2009 at 12:30 am

I have no clue how that got posted twice; sorry folks.

Here`s another interesting post, by libertarian policy analyst Lynne Kiesling:

http://knowledgeproblem.com/2009/04/13/can-congress-be-trusted-to-design-effective-carbon-policy-i-doubt-it/

Walt D. June 2, 2009 at 12:49 am

I think this article in Pravda, of all places, identifies a much greater threat than Global Warming. (Sorry, I forgot that since “Global Warming” has stopped for the moment that the new term is “Global Climate Change”. I suppose that if things stay steady, “Global Climate Stasis”. will by identified as a threat to civilization as we know it.)

“It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.”
http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/107459-0/
PS. Perhaps we should ask Stephan to copyright/trademark “Global Climate Stasis” as a pre-emptive measure?

Vincent June 2, 2009 at 2:22 am

Has anyone noticed the similarities between climate science and economics? In that they both claim to empirically study a more or less infinitely complex system where you cannot control any experiments and thus end up building models that only serve to support the preconceived ideas of the scientists building them?

Mushindo June 2, 2009 at 5:01 am

Looking through an orwellian lens, seems to me the entire ‘save the planet’ propaganda has distilled all percieved evils into single focal point: Carbon dioxide.

Just like the theocrats of old used the concept of ‘Original Sin’ as a rationale to control the behaviour of every citizen, the modern equivalent (envirocrats? verdecrats?) has effectively defined the very act of breathing as a sin.

They havent explicitly said as much yet, but this is the only interpretation consistent with what is already on record.

wesleybruce June 2, 2009 at 6:55 am

You’ll notice that the one model not given in any climate change paper on either side is the one that models how the free-market would fix such a problem. I’m writing something for the blog but I have dyslexia so don’t hold your breath.
Just to get you thinking. Assume it was real, serious and a truelly free society, anacho-capitalist perhaps, was faced with the problem.
What would we do? As Mises and Rothbard say ‘Its not about what regulation, tax or law is needed but what markets are needed?’ (paraphrased)
If we were free and it was real what’s our list of solutions? Answer that for something like greenhouse and you end the debate and change governance for ever.
PS. My degree is environmental science and economics. I trained under the Aussy greenhouse advocates. They are genuinely afraid. It may be a myth, lie or a scam but it is believed by its advocates. That is what makes it so dangerous. Desperation.

2nd Amendment June 2, 2009 at 7:36 am

The real cost of carbon legislation will be paid for by spending human lives prematurely.

In other words, a whole lot of people will die because of the economic hardships created by the carbon litigation.

And I bet more people will die because of this economic hardship than people would die because of global warming in the next 100 years.

So, this legislation will kill more people than runaway global warming, all in the name of “saving lives”.

Fart & Trade June 2, 2009 at 7:38 am

“has effectively defined the very act of breathing as a sin.”

In that case, farting would be a 26 times bigger sin.

When are they going to create the fart exchange and the fart and trade so people who fart a lot can buy farts from people who fart little all in the name of reducing methane.

ganpalou June 2, 2009 at 8:41 am

I enjoyed the article. I also have enjoyed the “Pax Americana,” with all its warts.

I am concerned about the tendency of the bloggers to give credit to conspirators, of whatever ideology. My career experience was in juvenile corrections, and I seemed perrennially to be surrounded by staff terrifed by conspiracies among the incarcerated. My experience was that conspiracies come to naught. The time and effort needed to support all the anxieties and personal agendas of members of a conspiracy prevent a conspiracy from being effective.

I also had the opportunity to be a sycophant for an actual leader in state politics. A tremendous number of people wished to be conspirators with that leader, but none of them understood what he was saying or doing, including me. The result was that competing groups imbued the leader with mystical powers, “genius.” Things got done because competing others spent their energy developing a cohort of the like minded.

Murphy supports my pre-conceived notions of human behavior: Action which requires a consensus must ultimately be diluted to the point of ineffectiveness.

The next step in carbon manipulation must be to abdicate the “Pax Americana,” since it was built on carbon, and I am not hearing anything out of DC which moves in that direction.

I, personally, am not ready for the redefinition of “freedom” and “prosperity” which must come from a “New World Order,” but I see nothing in the carbon debates which will affect this change in world culture. When the change comes, it will be as a surprise.

Robert Nathan June 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

I believe that the green movement may be more insidious than what is on the surface. It seems to presented as a benign, warm and fuzzy philosophy. But it’s evolving into a major political force that could ultimately threaten US sovereignty and undermine the healthy competition of cultural and political ideologies by consolidating all countries into a single nation state through a world financial oligarchy.

The war on global warming is one more unwinnable conflict that we cannot afford. Moreover, it may be based on a lie:

http://zaptheirs.ning.com/video/the-other-side-of-green

miket June 2, 2009 at 10:47 am

You were saying about the cost of carbon legislation. Have any of you considered the cost to the world economy of 3 meters of sea level rise even spread over 200 years? How about moving 90% of the people out of Southern California because of desertification? Your “calculations” should also focus on the COST of doing nothing except feeding the fossil fuel industry. And, by the way, I didn’t see the fossil fuel industry stepping up to help the victims of Katrina, a hurricane probably made more intense by a warming atmosphere and ocean. Who did pick up the tab?

And just in case you think all those costs are off in the distant future this info was just published by the Global Humanitarian Forum about the present cost of climate change. Of course, most of this cost is presently paid by the world’s poorest people, few fat Americans in SUV’s in that group.

“* First ever report exclusively focused on the global human impact of climate change calculates more than 300 million people are seriously affected by climate change at a total economic cost of $125 billion per year

* Report projects that by 2030, worldwide deaths will reach almost 500,000 per year; people affected by climate change annually expected to rise to over 600 million and the total annual economic cost increase to around $300 billion
* To avert worst possible outcomes, climate change adaptation efforts need to be scaled up by a factor of 100 in developing countries, which account for 99% of casualties due to climate change

London 29 May – Kofi A. Annan, President of the Global Humanitarian Forum, today introduced a major new report into the human impact of climate change. The ‘Human Impact Report: Climate Change – The Anatomy of a Silent Crisis’ is the first ever comprehensive report looking at the human impact of climate change.”

Maybe the Mises Institute would like to comment on all the costs of our consumerist society, not just those which the major polluters might have to pay if there was a real level playing field in the economic world.

We need a carbon tax of at least $2.00 a gallon on all liquid fossil fuels and about $.20 a kwh on all electricity generated by coal to even to start to level that playing field.

Finally, the US still uses over 20% of the world’s fossil fuels to satisfy the energy needs of about 5% of the world’s population. If we borrow enough we might just be able use enough to kill off the entire biosphere before we learn to buy an economical car.

Lemmywinks June 2, 2009 at 10:51 am

There seems to be a pretty consistent trend of conspiracy whenever global warming gets brought up, and I think that this serves as a faulty substitute for actually considering the real motive of the environmental movement.

I used to cringe when I heard this analogy made, but it actually is fairly accurate: the bulk of the green movement functions like a religion. The problem is not that the Greens are full of evil people with secret motives, but instead, that these well-intentioned citizens remain ignorant (yet vitally fervent) towards complex issues.

Many people honestly believe that switching an entire economy to renewable resources would be as simple as passing some legislation (and creating green jobs!!!). This is combined with a no-compromise value system, effectively conveyed by the motto “STOP GLOBAL WARMING NOW”. The real motto should be more like “TAKE INTO ACCOUNT COSTS AND BENEFITS WHEN DECIDING UPON CLIMATE POLICY, WHILST WAITING FOR TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE ENOUGH TO MAKE RENEWABLE RESOURCES VIABLE ON A LARGE SCALE”. This is obviously not a very inspiring motto.

As for politicians who support the recent bill…..the possibility of motives are endless. Even many coal companies will benefit from it’s passing, and surely many other lobbyist groups will to. Congress gets to through around lots of money, and that money has a tendency to end up in dubious causes, which leads to further compromising, typically allowing a different representative to tack on a bit more money to his own dubious cause. I’m somewhat doubtful of the all-encompassing socialist conspiracy.

newson June 2, 2009 at 11:12 am

…a confluence of disparate interests is more sustainable and hence damaging than any conspiracy.

Lemmywinks June 2, 2009 at 11:55 am

Miket

I didn’t get the chance to read your post before I posted mine, but you make some important points which must be addressed when considering climate policy.

The United States should rightfully bear a disproportionate portion of the burden of carbon mitigation, but this is a very unpopular view. It’s very difficult to argue that China and India must reduce their emissions, when we have reaped the benefits of unrestricted carbon output, and essentially caused this entire problem in the first place.

Also, as you said, the negative effects of climate change will mostly affect the poor.

At the same time……..

Actually decreasing the cost to the world’s poor people by restricting carbon dioxide may be nearly impossible. Because of the residence time of CO2, any warming that is going to happen over the next 100 years is going to happen anyways. If we are truly spending money to help poor people, there are far more efficient ways to do it.

Instead of specific cuts, I believe we should

A. Internalize the costs of polluting energy sources, and agriculture (most likely through a carbon tax, but also strong property rights enforcement when it comes to paying for coal clean-up costs)

B. A stronger focus on R and D for renewables, rather than direct subsidies.

C. Examine what aspects of emissions cutting is working in European countries. Sweden seems to be doing a very good job of it, some of the other ones, not so much.

Walt D. June 2, 2009 at 12:15 pm

“WAITING FOR TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE ENOUGH TO MAKE RENEWABLE RESOURCES VIABLE ON A LARGE SCALE”.
We have made a first step – we have a president who can walk on water.
We need him to perform two more miracles:
1. Make the sun shine at night – bright enough to make my solar panels work.
2. Make the wind blow during the day, so that the wind farms produce electricity when we actually need it.
Once these technological problems have been stored, we might be able to replace our fossil fueled plants by renewable resources.

Lemmywinks June 2, 2009 at 12:55 pm

…..or utilize an efficient way to store wind/solar energy.

If there’s no hope in renewables, then there’s no hope of maintaining a decent living standard in the long-term.

Walt D. June 2, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Lemmywinks wrote:
“…..or utilize an efficient way to store wind/solar energy.”
With wind you could store it. However, all the storage methods are environmentally unfriendly – they involve using compressed air and gas turbines, or hydro pumping. Battery storage technology is not effective (and also very environmentally unfriendly, if you consider the whole industrial process.). As far as solar goes, unless we can get the sun to shine at night we are SOL – we can’t as the old saying goes, have our cake and eat it to! Also, storage involves at least a 15% loss. There is one method of storing solar – photosynthesis. I think Kurzweil is looking at a genetically engineered leaf.
“If there’s no hope in renewables, then there’s no hope of maintaining a decent living standard in the long-term.”
This is a trade-off – California has already voted for 33% renewables, which will add a few hundred dollars a month to utility bills. Also, we do have an interim solution – replace all the coal fired plants with nuclear plants. This would effectively solve the problem for 40-50 years. My hope is that the Laser Fusion project currently under war at LBL will work, and at some time in the future we will have (clean) fusion power.

FTG June 2, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Miket,
You were saying about the cost of carbon legislation. Have any of you considered the cost to the world economy of 3 meters of sea level rise even spread over 200 years?

The problem is that you are arguing from a false dichotomy – why does it have to be one or the other only?

Also, where would the world obtain 3 more meters of water from? Another Deluge?

How about moving 90% of the people out of Southern California because of desertification?

Interesting question, considering the many people that already live in the middle of an awful desert – mainly, Phoenix and Tucson, AZ, do so without flinching. Desertification in itself is not enough to entice people to “move” anywhere so long as the resources are properly priced (i.e. by the market). People have been able to grow crops in the desert, so why would desertification pose such a problem will have to be better explained by you.

Your “calculations” should also focus on the COST of doing nothing except feeding the fossil fuel industry.

This is a red herring, Mike.

And, by the way, I didn’t see the fossil fuel industry stepping up to help the victims of Katrina, a hurricane probably made more intense by a warming atmosphere and ocean. Who did pick up the tab?

This is another Red Herring, Mike. That industry did not pick up the tab for an ever more devastating event, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, either. Was that one also a result of Anthropogenic Global Warming? What about Agnes? Or Beulah?

And just in case you think all those costs are off in the distant future this info was just published by the Global Humanitarian Forum about the present cost of climate change.

The problem with calculating costs outside the market, Mike, is that the amounts end up being meaningless. You cannot know what something in the future will cost because the ALTERNATIVES that people WILL face in the future (their opportunity costs) cannot be known, unless you fancy yourself a soothsayer. Be weary of people that say that they can calculate a cost in the future – because they can’t.

Maybe the Mises Institute would like to comment on all the costs of our consumerist society, not just those which the major polluters might have to pay if there was a real level playing field in the economic world.

CO2 is not a pollutant, Mike. Also, what ARE the costs of our “consumerist” society? What is that, first?

Finally, the US still uses over 20% of the world’s fossil fuels to satisfy the energy needs of about 5% of the world’s population. If we borrow enough we might just be able use enough to kill off the entire biosphere before we learn to buy an economical car.

Seems difficult for me to fathom how can an economic car save the world from a biosphere-wide conflagration.

Dmitry Chernikov June 2, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I think I had a little article on LRC about this.

wesleybruce June 3, 2009 at 4:36 am

Sea level 101.
The water comes from the expansion of the sea when heated. IPCC puts it at about half a meter. Worst case scenario is 9 metres from some coastal melting in Greenland and the Antarctic peninsular.
Corals grow fast enough to keep up with the IPCC prediction. A little coral farming can meet a 9 metre in 100 years rate. (9 cm per year or ~3.6 in)
Most 21 century urban development on the water front is already being built for 1 metre Sea level rise plus a storm surge/tsunami of another metre. Developers are not all idiots, only some are and they will go broke. Most developer organisations want to demolish and rebuild the coastal towns three times in 100 years so they are genuinely unconcerned.
Australia is breeding up a grain, Nypa, that grows in salt contaminated farm land. The plant comes from Arizona originally. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distichlis_palmeri
There are twenty other salt tolerant crops that I know of plus fish and shrimp farming. As a consequence salt infiltration will be inconvenient but it wont produce famine just business opportunities.

Most of the third world and low island nations will need to be urbanised, redeveloped, re-afforested, taught new forms of sustainable agriculture in the next 25 years. Adding greenhouse to the list of constraints to design for is easy. I’m trained in Permaculture we’ve already done the design work but we need a business plan. The free-market can deal with sea level rise. For farming with ‘absolute water front views’ see my bubble ponds site. http://www.geocities.com/vacoyecology/Bubble_ponds_fluke_boats.html

And that’s just sea level rise don’t get me started on desertification and shifting bio-zones. PS Am I the only Austrian school greenie with qualifications in the field?

ganpalou June 3, 2009 at 9:03 am

Nicely said “newson”… If we, as a culture, could get past creating data using statistical regression and subsequently applying Newtonian calculus to create a line, then we would have a chance at understanding what is really going on, instead of blaming others, or our stars, for our fortunes. Newton secretly read esoteric religious texts. Calculus can explain and predict only “two body” problems; one cause and one effect. “Three body” problems are beyond the scope, and we live on a planet co-orbiting with our moon as we orbit our sun, a “three body” planet.

The “glass half full” side of the “Inconvenient Truth” is that only 800 million people are currently starving, the remaining 5.9 billion are eating regularly. That is a record, and takes approximately 40% of the lithosphere. I share the anxieties of the learned that this is unsustainable, but I cannot imagine any person, group, organization, or government that could make it more sustainable than the cumulative struggles of each of the individuals, and that is “the marketplace.”

It is not as if “carbon” is the only threat to sustainability. We have among us, those who understand that human events will not be determined by extrapolating a single variable, the recent H1N1 scare being an example, nuclear non-proliferation another. But then, it is impossible to ride more than one bandwagon at a time.

Kiwi Polemicist June 7, 2009 at 8:24 pm

There’s 2 issues with the global warming scam:
1) it’s another form of warfare economy, ie states using an “emergency” to control individuals
2) it’s socialism on a global scale: the IMF has admitted that it’s theft/income redistribution

http://kiwipolemicist.wordpress.com/2008/09/11/the-emissions-trading-scheme-global-socialism/

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