Ozone hole denial

I while ago I wrote on John Ray’s claims that environmentalists were wrong about ozone depletion. I think it is quite clear that subsequent research has vindicated the concerns of scientists about ozone depletion. The refusal of Ray to admit that the environmentalists could possibly be right about ozone depletion despite overwhelming evidence is telling—he believes that environmentalists are wrong, irrespective of the facts in any case.

I’ve found another ozone hole denier. In this post, Sylvain Galineau dismisses the ozone hole as “propaganda”. I tried to discuss this with him in his comments and he offered three arguments for his position.

  1. In response to my point that the 1995 Nobel prize for chemistry had been awarded for the work on ozone depletion, he argued that this was “an appeal to authority and establishes nothing.” [Correction: That was Galineau’s co-blogger Jonathan Gewirtz.] Galineau opined that the award was a “sacred cow” and had been influenced by politics. Unfortunately, Galineau does not seem to understand that “appeal to authority” is only a fallacy if the authority is just an authority on some unrelated subject. I’m not an expert on chemistry so I have to rely on the opinions of experts. I’m certainly not going to rely on the opinion of Galineau, who is not an expert and has an axe to grind.
  2. He argued that the threat of ozone depletion had been depicted at the time as something that had already occurred over habitable regions rather than as something that would happen if CFCs continued to be used. I said that my recollection was different and asked him to provide examples. He responded with this story, which wasn’t from the 80s but from just a few months ago. It does warn about dangers of ozone depletion over habitable areas, but that’s because such depletion has been observed since the 80s. I posted a link describing such observations, but Galineau deleted it, calling it an “offtopic rant”.
  3. He argued that people would have just stopped using CFCs and switched to more expensive alternatives without the Montreal protocol. I pointed to this graph, which shows that, despite concerns first being raised in the mid 70s, CFC production continued to increase until Montreal. Immediately after Montreal it declined rapidly. Galineau dismissed this as a “coincidence”. He further argued that companies would have got consumers to switch (absent Montreal) by increasing prices for CFCs. This argument seems profoundly ignorant of the way markets work.

Galineau repeatedly demanded that I produce evidence for my position. When I did, he edited my post to delete the evidence, claiming that it was “offtopic”. I must confess that I did include this link, debunking Galineau’s claims about DDT. It wasn’t about ozone, but it was relevant to another part of his post.

I believe that Galineau, like John Ray, is an ideologue. They hold their beliefs about ozone regardless of the facts.

Update: I posted a link to this post in Galineau’s comment thread. Galineau deleted it. Unfortunately for him, his co-blogger Jonathan Gewirtz had already responded to this post in that thread, so he did not succeed in preventing readers from seeing my comments. Gewirtz writes:

Tim scores points WRT Sylvain’s imperfect knowledge of CFC production statistics, which proves… something.

The interesting thing about the CFC production facts is not that Galineau did not know what they were, but that when he found out what they were, it did not influence his beliefs at all. I am reminded of the story about Hegel who, when told that the facts did not agree with his theories, is supposed to have said “So much the worse for the facts.”

Update 2: Galineau’s blog, Chicago Boyz, as a gesture of admiration has pictures of some distinguished Chicago “boys” at its head, including seven Nobel laureates. One U of Chicago Nobel laureate that they don’t have is seen on this page: F. Sherwood Rowland, who shared the 1995 chemistry Nobel for his work on ozone depletion. Galineau expressed his admiration for this distinguished Chicago boy by calling him a “Nobel prized sacred cow”. His co-blogger Jonathan Gewirtz wrote “Nobel committees are influenced by politics and fads”.


  1. #1 Alasdair Robinson
    February 6, 2004

    Tim, it was propoganda as far as the predictions of future cancer rates were concerned. It was propoganda in the sense that the “hole” measured over Antarctica was only a 15% reduction, (not a 100% hole). But the propoganda worked because it motivated politicians to “do something” about the ozone problem. I would say that the ozone hole / CFC issue was one instance of the power and usefulness of negotiated international treaties. However, I would be extremely reluctant to admit that the same approach is necessary or even useful with respect to Global Warming.

  2. #2 Sylvain Galineau
    February 6, 2004

    I think it’s “ideologue”, and I didn’t know it meant “wrong”. I guess it does, if the ideology is opposed to yours. As for the gross distortions and misrepresentation of my position and arguments, they will speak for themselves. “Offtopic” was indeed a very kind qualifier.

    And, by the way, if you can’t recall news items from four months ago, you can’t really challenge someone’s recollection from the 80s. Ahem.

  3. #3 Sylvain Galineau
    February 6, 2004

    Ooopsy. Missed one thing. Yeah. One single letter, posted by Ken Miles – no less; the unbiased, non-ideological, competent authority on DDT known as Ken Miles – constitutes “debunking”. I guess we all have our standards.

    So you’re right. No ideology here. None whatsoever.

    I have to give you credit though. Starting with a Nobel Prize and ending with Ken Miles. Now *that* was funny.

    And kudos on the blog design. (Honest, this time).

  4. #4 Tim Lambert
    February 6, 2004

    Alisdair, when the hole was discovered, it was a reduction of about 50% (see here). Since then, the hole has gotten even deeper.

  5. #5 Tim Lambert
    February 6, 2004

    Sylvain, the letter was written not by Ken Miles, but by two experts in parasitic diseases. Didn’t you read the letter?

    But if you want something wrriten by Ken, there is this.

  6. #6 Ken Miles
    February 6, 2004

    Thanks Tim for that blast from the past. It’s good to see that Sylvain’s debating style hasn’t changed; a 1:1 mixture of rhetoric and rubbish. The deleting of posts which disagree with him, however, appears to be a new phenomena.

  7. #7 Sylvain Galineau
    February 6, 2004

    Ken, it’s good to see you too. You’re right. Some things never change. Anything that disagrees with you can only be “rubbish” and “rhetoric”. No ideology there. And sure, the only reason I delete comments is because they disagree with me. Because I’m so EVIL. BWAHAHAHAHA. Just one question : why would I leave all of Tim’s other posts then ? Hmmm. Odd, that. Nah, screw the evidence, it’s more convenient to assert the guy deletes posts “which disagree with him”. When in doubt, use a blanket statement.

    Tim. You can’t even get the most basic statement straight, even if it’s written on your own blog. Read above : did I say Ken Miles wrote the letter ? No. I said “One single letter, posted by Ken Miles”. What part of “posted by Ken Miles” is unclear to you ? When one can’t even accurately represent as simple a statement as this, he is hardly in a position to give lectures on “idealogy”. (Great word by the way).

    As for DDT, the burden is actually on you to explain why 400 doctors from 63 countries campaigned to obtain a DDT exemption for South Africa and other countries. See http://www.malaria.org/DDTpage.html. Extract : “The official mandate of the treaty was to “reduce and/or eliminate” twelve POPs, of which DDT was one. This led groups such as Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibilty and over 300 other environmental organizations to advocate for a total DDT ban, starting as early as 2007 in some cases. Although the open letter you signed made considerable progress in persuading these environmental groups to change their views, it was only the diplomats and delegates of 120 countries at the Johannesburg negotiations who could take the final decision.”

    Or : “DDT house spraying was stopped in Sri Lanka in 1961, and this was followed by a major malaria epidemic. Since then, numerous epidemics have occurred in many countries, after suspension of DDT house treatments, such as Swaziland (1984) and Madagascar (1986-88), where malaria killed more than 100 000 people. In both cases, the authorities restarted DDT house spraying and stopped the catastrophic epidemics.”

    “There is no ideal solution to the problems of malaria control, and DDT house spraying has its limitations. However, DDT remains a remarkably effective tool that should still be used.” The last two extracts are from the Lancet, with a copy of the article copied here : http://www.malaria.org/ddtlancet.html.

    As for this South African doctor, he has clearly lost his marbles : http://www.malaria.org/news227.html.

    All wrong, of course. If two “experts” quoted by Ken Miles – an authority if there is one – voice a qualified disagreement, then everybody else is wrong. Must be that vast right-wing conspiracy to to smear the good name of the environmentalists.

    More seriously, if you had read the material on malaria.org, you would know that not only this letter doesn’t “debunk” anything claimed on malaria.org – the site I linked to in my post -, but that it has nothing do with my so-called “claim”.

    These two individual scientists refer to a claim by one Christopher Pearson of “millions” dead due to the DDT ban. Never heard of it myself. I talked about “inflicting malaria on tens of thousands”. Which is exactly what happened in South Africa after 1999 when spraying stopped. Tens of thousands where infected (malaria.org has the data). But of course, anyone who criticizes Greenpeace and the others are all the same evil enemy so we can lump them all together right ?

    You do have debunked two things : one is your your inability to avoid grossly distorting the most simple statements, and the second your ability to ignore or dismiss evidence that environmental NGOs faced massive opposition in Africa and essentially lost their case, due to the irresponsible position they took (that was my “claim”). And you seem comfortable doing so based on one single letter copied on a blog that just happens to agree with your bias. Australian for “scientific reasoning”, I guess.

    But I, of course, am the ideologue. LOL.

  8. #8 Sylvain Galineau
    February 6, 2004

    Darn. Either the spacing is not preserved or I clicked the wrong button. Sorry about that.

  9. #9 Tim Lambert
    February 6, 2004

    Sylvain, I am well aware that you wrote “posted by Ken Miles”. Unfortunately for you, you also wrote “the unbiased, non-ideological, competent authority on DDT known as Ken Miles”. The authority of the letter rests on its authors, not whoever posted it.

    You did delete posts that disagreed with you. Just because you didn’t delete all of them doesn’t mean that you didn’t delete some of them.

    I’m afraid I’m not that interested in the DDT debate, but if you are, then you might find this posting of interest.

    Oh, and I edited your post, not to delete the content like you do, but to fix the formatting. Please use the preview button next time.

  10. #10 Sylvain Galineau
    February 7, 2004

    Your post was not deleted because it disagreed. If that was the case, all your posts would have been deleted. The fact that they weren’t, and won’t be, contradicts your assertion.

    Yes, that is what I wrote but once again, your assumptions are flawed and your conclusion self-contradictory. This comment – which I stand by – is clearly about Ken Miles, not about the authors of a letter he posted. And to the extent Ken Miles is biased – and he certainly is – it is certainly relevant. Context is extremely relevant to credibility, even more so in matters of science. Which is why all scientists – including these two, I’m sure – care a great deal about publishing their papers in particular journals. If authority only rested with the author, nobody would bother publishing in Science, Nature and the plethora of peer-reviewed scientific journal. They would publish on Ken’s blog or their own and everybody would be happy.

    Where a claim is published always matters. Case in point ? You and your dismissal of “my” claim. I supported it with a link to the site of an organization who has worked on this for years, and involved 400 doctors in 63 countries. I am only reporting their claim, one supported by copious evidence, namely that NGOs supported ill-advised policies resulting in tens of thousands of malaria infections.

    Yet, you comfortably assert that what you call my point was “debunked” – read: is false – thanks to one single letter that addresses a claim by one Christopher Pearson that millions of deaths occurred. Somehow, thousands against millions, infections against deaths, it’s all equivalent. Orders of magnitude are comfortably skipped over.

    Why ? Because that claim was reported by me and your extreme prejudice about its context gave it little credibility in your view, regardless of the amount of evidence available literally one click behind it.

    And shows you in flagrant violation of your own rule.If the authority of those who make a claim resides with them and not those who report them , you would not have asserted this letter “debunked” my claim. Which is not mine. It’s theirs.

    To put your reasoning in prospective, here are two assertions :

    a) American bombing in Iraq wounded hundreds of Iraqis
    b) American bombing in Iraq killed millions of Iraqis

    What your casual reasoning implies is that an authoritative document proving b) to be false would also prove a) to be false. I’m afraid not.

    As for your so-called updates, they involve so much inuendo and childish reasoning I wonder if they’re worth a response. What the hell. When I referred to Nobel-Prized sacred cows – quote which you of course pulled out of context- I was attacking the obsequious way you referred to that one individual first and foremost, as if ozone chemistry had anything to do with my post, or my rhetorical question. (It didn’t). You were being criticized, not him. I did not call Nobel Prizes sacred cows, I called them your sacred cows. Of course, with careful editing, you can make people say anything you want.

    Second, you seem to miss that we don’t admire those individuals on our masthead because they have a Nobel Prize (one of them owns, and cooks in a famous Chicago restaurant, for crying out loud). We respect their work in economics (even that restaurant guy, who runs a fine business) and would have them up there Nobel Prize or not. The “Chicago School Of Economics”, after all, was renowned and respected long before most of these gentlement got their Nobel.

    No theory becomes an unquestionable, eternal truth by virtue of its author getting a Nobel Prize for it. It’s supposed to be the other way around. (But then, many people respect Arafat because of his Nobel Peace Prize. I would argue conferring such an award on a lifelong murderer destroys the credibility and relevance of both the award and those who granted it, but that’s just me; I’m an “idealogue”).

    And most importantly, your point is illogical. If I think the Nobel irrelevant, it obviously cannot be a criteria for my judgment of UoC economists and their work. And if, by definition, my trust in their judgment and work is unrelated to the Nobel, my criticizing the award cannot be inferred to be an attack on their work. It makes no sense.

    When you try and score a cheap point, it’s recommended you try to say something that makes sense, at least on a basic level.

    Out and over.

  11. #11 Hipocrite
    February 7, 2004

    Ironic, isn’t it, that someone who claims to be morally attached to the Chicago Economists denies entirely Coase’s theory that externalities will be solved by the open market if and only if property rights are well defined (and a buch of other requirements), stating instead that this externality will be solved by letting companies do whatever the hell they want.

  12. #12 Sylvain Galineau
    February 7, 2004

    Except I never said such a thing, and this only represents your (mis)interpretation of my statements; but we won’t let such a small detail as accuracy distract you from your little exercise in self-righteous offense.

  13. #13 Hipocrite
    February 7, 2004

    My self-righteous exercise is watching someone who obviously has no training in economics or in science try to debate economics and science with people who do. That you don’t know what the word “externalities” means, or what the “Coase Theorem” is just shows that you came into the debate unarmed, and you left it unhorsed.

  14. #14 Sylvain Galineau
    February 7, 2004

    Correction: you assume that I don’t know what the word ‘externalities’ means, based on essentially…nothing. Externalities, property rights or Coase have nothing to do with my argument. Which was that if a new feature makes a product more profitable, that is what manufacturers will produce. (An admittedly outrageous concept, unless one lives and works in the real world) How that contradicts Coase, conflicts with property rights (and a “bunch of other requirements”, Mr Specialist) or “dupes consumers” or advocates “letting companies do whatever the hell they want”…well, I doubt there is way for you to explain it, unless it involves more irrelevant, pseudo-intellectual assertions.

    If a “cleaner” product – one without the negative externality of its precursor(s) – is more profitable, which is to say desirable for consumers, and assuming it is solely or mostly responsible for the negative externality, why would property rights have to be allocated ? Aside from being a Coase Theorem fundamentalist, I don’t see why.

    In fact, I am not alone in expressing this view. See http://www.gcrio.org/ASPEN/science/eoc95/sessionII/Oye.html.

    “[…] The phaseout of CFCs may have actually benefited producers of CFCs. Dupont and ICI were the major producers of CFCs and had also invested heavily in the development and production of substitutes including HCFCs. Demand for simple CFCs was falling even before the Montreal Protocol’s phaseouts. Even before the U. S. ban on CFCs in aerosols, companies were making the switch to alternative propellants. These voluntary shifts, the U. S. aerosol ban, and entry of other producers of CFCs contributed to the development of worldwide excess capacity in CFCs. The Montreal Protocol and London revision had the effect of forcing consumers to substitute more specialized, higher cost HCFCs which Dupont and ICI were well-positioned to produce for standard CFCs that many could produce.

    Oye noted that this coincidence of producer interests and a ban is unusual. More commonly, producers of a regulated substance are harmed by bans and lobby against regulations. On the other hand, those who would benefit from regulation may not know that they would benefit and will have no trade associations or other organizations to represent their interests. For example, the creators of new technologies or substitutes for a regulated product may not even exist at the time of a regulatory change. This produces a bias toward resistance to regulation. In the case of the Montreal Protocol, this bias was absent since the major CFC producers, Dupont and ICI, also had an interest in switching to substitutes.”

    Political analysts even argued at the time that the success in developing substitutes and their ready availability from major international producers greatly helped the signature of Montreal.

    The author also constrats this with other environmental issues where diffuse externalities “encourage free riding and undercut cooperation”, in his own words. That was not the case here, hence his overall argument that Montreal was an exception to the rule. Also : “For example, a Chinese-German joint venture plant in China may produce high quality CFC-free refrigerators. If quality comes to be associated with these newer technologies, then other private producers may develop a private interest in following the lead of the pilot project.” In other words, funding was used to promote self-regulation that does not involve – or seem to involve – costing of the externality in the price of the product. (And I believe there is a game-theory term for this)

    Why this would be inherently bad, or even “contradict” Coase is totally nonsensical to me. Efficient outcomes do not necessarily require taxes, regulation or property rights, if the parties involved can solve the issue to their mutual interest. If consumers want a clean product and it is in manufacturers’ interest to provide it because it makes them more money, that is the most efficient solution. Although I never read it – too hard for idiots like me – I never heard or understood “The Problem Of Social Cost” to advocate regulation or the allocation of property rights – legal entitlements, I think – in all cases.

    As to why my argument argued against property rights in general, or advocated that businesses be left to do “whatever the hell they want”, that is also false, and no comment I made supports your accusation.

    To conclude, if you think dumping economic jargon and stomping your little feet impresses or convinces anyone, leaving them “unhorsed”, you are one deluded individual.

    Never mind the unwarranted name-calling, safely hidden behind a misspelled pseudonym, of course (speaking of knowing the right words).

    Hardly the behavior of a knowledgeable adult; more of an immature, insecure student playing the intellectual snob. You are right about one thing. I am leaving the – non-existent – debate. And you can certainly keep the horse of your imaginary pedestal. Thank you.

  15. #15 Tim Lambert
    February 7, 2004

    Sylvain, it’s your blog, you can delate posts that disagree with you if you want, but don’t pretend that that wasn’t the reason. Yes, you didn’t delete all of them, but the only ones that you deleted were ones that disagreed with you.

    And it’s pretty funny that you profess admiration for the Chicago School of economics when you have so little understanding of basic economics. Hipocrite pegged you perfectly. You really should try to learn some more about economics before you embarrass yourself again.

  16. #16 Sylvain Galineau
    February 7, 2004

    Since your all posts disagreed with me, from the very first one, your accusation makes no sense, no matter how often you repeat it. Who is pretending here ?

    And random accusations and appeal to spurious authority is all Hipocrite and yourself have ever used. Apparently, one only has to assert that someone has “little understanding of economics” to prove it. And using the word “externality” to describe the most basic economic behaviors somehow proves something about one’s knowledge and clarifies the argument (it doesn’t). As if two bits of jargon learned in first year of college and used in weeklies such as The Economist qualified someone to give lectures about economics. Or insult others while hiding behind an admittedly appropriate, if misspelled, pseudonym.

    Clearly, all one has to do to prove his knowledge of economics around here is to say “externality”, “Coase” and make loud, hyper-excited claims that “you are contradicting Coase!” – blasphemy !! – to call someone an “idiot”. Never mind that Coase never said the only alternatives were between allocating property rights and “letting companies do whatever the hell they want”. Never mind that the Coase Theorem is about transaction costs, not externalities, and how the efficient elimination of an economic side-effect can be prevented by prohibitively high transaction costs (i.e. making the cost of pollution damage far lower than its prevention, for instance).

    Facts and reason are clearly not relevant. What matters is irrelevant jargon, childish name-calling and accusations.

    It is indeed embarassing to witness the kind of attitude displayed by some acadmics these days. Or rather people who think they are academics.

    Hipocrite pegged you perfectly.Well, if you say so, that settles it then. Is there anything in your sheltered little world you ever have to substantiate ? It must be comfortable to demand thorough scientific reasoning from others without ever having to subject yourself to your own standards when dealing with them.

    I’ll go back to embarrassing myself by using everyday words to describe reality, and, unlike other people, without insulting total strangers because I think my education entitles me to do so (“if you don’t know the ‘right words’, as defined by me, I can call you names”). As if being an asshole established intellectual superiority in the first place…

    Oh, and you and Hipocrite’s exemplary attitude inspired another post so thanks for stopping by.

  17. #17 Hipocrite
    February 8, 2004

    Ahh, I understand. Companies can do whatever they want because they were magically going to produce a cheaper version of CFCs regardless of any regulation of property right.

    Apparently, Marginal cost curves don’t actually decrease as production volumes lessen, and the invention of something cheaper means that the current item just stops being produced, not that the expensive plants producing the item goes out of buisness untill a new equlibrium point is reached where both the new item and the old item are produced such that Private Marginal Cost = Private Marginal Benefit, or that Social Marginal Cost > Social Marginal Benefit, due to the externality.

    And, apprently, Coase and externalities don’t apply to polution because Sylvain said so.

  18. #18 Sylvain Galineau
    February 8, 2004

    Somehow, repeating the same thing over and over as some kind of leimotiv makes it true…In this case that I claimed ‘companies can do whatever they want’. Did I step on some sort of pet peeve ?

    And, by the way, I’m not the one saying manufacturers switched to substitutes before Montreal because it was in their interest to do so. I am only reporting what an MIT professor – in this case – is saying, like many others before and after him. Never mind the actual practicalities involved; it is unlikely Dupont, ICI and their brethren could research, discover, test and design a substitute for their products and adapt their entire infrastructure so quickly after an international protocol was signed; and even if they could, the odds of being able to do so without significant market and pricing disruptions are so low it would make it the business case of the late 20th century. But we can’t possibly let ourselves be distracted by such mundane considerations. It’s much more fun to shoot down the messenger for reasons unrelated to the topic or what he’s saying. Facts are so boring.

    And of course, as long as Hipocrite says so, there can’t be any exception to a theory, whatever the evidence or what the theory itself says. After all, where would we be if we had to confront economic theories and models to <gasp> reality ? Easier – I mean, more efficient – to dismiss reality when one particular case doesn’t fit the theorem. Let’s assume it is the exception that confirms the rule instead – which it could very well be, by the way – and move on. And so it goes…

  19. #19 Tim Lambert
    February 8, 2004

    Sylvain, if you want to persuade anyone that there was some other reason for your deleting my posts, then you’ll need to present that reason.

    The “MIT Professor” (who’s appealing to authority now?) support your position. If CFCs would have been abandoned anyway, why did he say that Montreal helped the producers? If you were right it would have been irrelevant. Yes, they developed alternatives before Montreal, but that is because there was a market for them. But there was also a market for cheaper CFC-using products and if one producer stopped making them, other ones would step in and collect the profits available for supplying that market.

    Nor is it a case of reality contradicting textbook economic theories. You have a theory about what would have happened, absent Montreal. Your theory is contradicted by textbook economic theories. Textbook economic theories that actually seem to reflect reality reasonably well. If you actually want to learn about this, I recommend Chicago boy David Friedman’s Price Theory. You can read the whole thing online.

    And with your penchant for name-calling you are in no position to complain if someone calls you a name.

  20. #20 Sylvain Galineau
    February 8, 2004

    Tim, let’s quit the ping pong game for a sec. I don’t care what Oye does, or where he works. But it’s pretty obvious you do. When I said the same thing, you essentially asserted it was a lie, and use a flawed statistical inference to prove your point. But once someone with credentials you respect says the same things, you are able and willing to argue the facts. Don’t blame me for your own prejudices when all I am doing is adapting to them to elicit a reasonable response. I am appealing to academic authority because that is all you obviously respect. Your choice, not mine.

    Of course Montreal helped them; their patents on their existing products were about to expire and a CFC ban both limited initial competition for the new products, and simplified the transition. But acknowledging this – which I did in our blog – does not imply the protocol was a necessary condition to produce the desired outcome. And this is where our disagreement has resided. At least as I understand it. (If we can’t even agree on what we disagree on, we might as well call it a day and go fishing). Further, if the ban itself was necessary for them to accrue benefits from it, why did they switch so early ?

    but that is because there was a market for them Of course, there was, which is what I have been repeating for a few days now. Manufacturers produce if there is a demand (what a concept uh ?). Demand for a product drives its profitability, and if a new product/product version is more profitable, that is what producers move to, at the expense of less profitable items.

    But there was also a market for cheaper CFC-using products and if one producer stopped making them, other ones would step in and collect the profits available for supplying that market.Others ones would of course step in; I never argued against that. But one cannot infer that they would win the market share battle on the sole basis of their relative pricing.

    After all, manufacturing the cheapest product, as defined by the end price to the consumer, is not the manufacturer’s goal at all, and never guaranteed its success. Making the product as cheap as possible to produce relative to what they can charge for it, is their goal. If clean products are more profitable – due to demand, a premium related a heightened perception of their virtue, or all of the above – this is what manufacturers will want to make, and produce. The end price alone does not guarantee someone will want to step in, nor that they will win.

    And if low-end price guaranteed a majority, or even a large share of a market, the U.S car market, for instance, should be full of smaller, cheaper, more fuel-efficient sub-$15,000 cars, like Saturns, VW Golfs and equivalents. Instead, the market is filled with gas-guzzling $20,000+ pickups and SUVs, which also happen to be the most profitable products from a manufacturer’s prospective. Even VW now makes SUVs here. And cheaper 4x4s from manufacturers like Hyundai are not making much of a dent either.

    If end price were the only relevant factor in deciding a market share distribution outcome, how do we explain this one ? How would we explain a majority of buyers would choose to spend twice the money, not only on the car itself, but in fuel $$ spent per mile and even insurance costs ? Clearly, the mere availability of a cheaper alternative is not a sufficient condition to prevent a more expensive, more profitable alternative to not only succeed, but replace it as the lead product. Even for a very expensive product that requires financing.

    And I do not see why the more expensive, more profitable, more popular alternative in a given market could not happen to be the greener one, when and if buyers – be they individuals and/or government – are willing to pay the price for them. Unless one believes manufacturers are inherently driven by the motive to destroy the environment, of course, which would be a purely ideological position. Or that price is the most determinant factor in consumers’ buying decisions for all products and in all markets. Which seems to be true in many economics textbook, but is largely irrelevant in the real world, where all things are never equal.

    And since this pattern exists in many other market sectors – think cell phones; you can get Chinese and Korean prepaid phones for $49 these days in the US, yet $499 Treo 600s are the hottest ticket, and most of the revenue goes to the more expensive brands like Nokia and Motorola – I yet have to hear a conclusive argument as to why such an outcome could not occur with greener products when they are more profitable and consumers want them ? Unless you happen to believe that making a product cleaner is always detrimental to its appeal to both consumers and manufacturers, in which case some form of market distortion, through taxes or subsidies or both, is called for to produce a different outcome. But if one assumes manufacturers do not care about externalities, it also follows that if it is in their interest to make a product that does solve a negative externality, they will do so regardless of the externality itself since they don’t care about it. I am certainly not saying that it is the rule and that we can all go home and let laisser-faire take over. But I don’t see why it couldn’t happen in some cases, and based on the evidence, I believe it was the case for many CFC products, at least in the markets I know from my own experience.

    Your theory is contradicted by textbook economic theories. That is your opinion. I don’t think it contradicts economic theory; nor, as asserted by our friend, the Coase Theorem. That you think it does is not in dispute. But somehow, the burden falls on me to prove or disprove your opinion. It seems you only have to claim I contradict a theory to prove my view to be false, which is not only circular, but self-serving and illogical. And hardly scientific. The apparent contradiction is more likely to be a symptom of a disagreement on facts, or a lack thereof. Let’s establish them. (Shallow inferences from timing coincidences, for instance, will not cut it) Then we can confront them to a theory. Denying facts or interpretations of them when one’s theory does not fit them is of course the easier route. Except it leads nowehere, as we can see.

    Finally, I will admit a penchant for sarcasm, but I did not, and do not insult people on the sole basis of their using this word, or not using that one. And despite your earlier accusations, I did not criticize a Nobel Prize, or called him names, although I was most definitely being critical of your simplistic, and somewhat pedantic – at the time – appeals to authority. I will certainly not spare much when it comes to rhetorical ammo. But nor will I lower myself to insulting people on the sole basis of my assumption that they are not familiar with the accepted theoretical word for a simple concept. And what criticism I do voice, I do so under my own name, just like you do. I do not gratuitously insult people under a pseudonym. That is pathetic, uncalled for and immature. You and I were not the kindest to each other in our argument, but neither one of us lowered himself to that level. And that’s OK. We do not need to like each other to have a discussion. (Obviously…)

    In any case, and just so we’re clear, I do not believe I need either your approval nor your opinion as to what I am in a position to do or not to do. And vice-versa, of course.

  21. #21 Sylvain Galineau
    February 8, 2004

    Jesus, this looks massive now that I’ve posted it. Clearly, the conventional belief that academics are more verbose than the rest of us has spectacular exceptions 🙂 In any case, this has been taking quite a bit of time, and I am sure you have better things to do. Best of luck.

  22. #22 Tim Lambert
    February 9, 2004

    Oye does not support your position at all. Nowhere does he say that they would have switched anyway.

    You continue to display profound ignorance of basic microeconomics. Consumers will pay more money for features that they want, they won’t pay more money for features that they don’t want. Absent Montreal, you have both cheap CFC using fridges and more expensive ozone-friendly ones on the market. Market share is determined by the fraction of consumers willing to pay extra for an ozone friendly fridge. It is absurd to think that everyone will pay more, especially with talk radio telling them that CFCs don’t do any harm to the ozone layer.

    Hipocrite didn’t insult you because you didn’t know the word for something, he insulted you because you didn’t understand the concepts of microeconomics but kept on arguing about micreconomic stuff anyway. On the other hand, your insult of me was entirely gratuitous. And along with your deleting my posts was pathetic, uncalled for and immature.

  23. #23 Hipocrite
    February 10, 2004

    Sylvain tries again to dodge microeconomics. This time, it’s comparing different types of goods to eachother to show that manufactures would have made more expensive but functionally identical refrigerators the norm. No. People don’t buy SUVs to spend more money, it’s because they like the features, and the externalities of gas consumption are not fully internalized, meaning that SUV’s are cheaper to a private owner than they are to society at large, meaning they are overconsumed.

    No, comparing SUVs to compact cars shows exactly what happens when externalities are not internalized – goods are misallocated, which is exactly what was happening to CFCs.

    Additionally, you say this continues to cell phones – people, apparently, buy the more expensive cell phone not due to functionality or appearance, but rather for some unmentioned and unknown reason. Personally, I think it’s about a thousand times more likley that they want the features and appearance, but that’s just me.

    What benefit to the consumer does a CFC-free refrigerator grant comparable with the Treo600 cellphone or an SUV? What externality is demonstrated by the Treo600 cellphone or SUVs popularity?

    Do you know what an externality is? Do you know what the Coase Theorem states? I see your continuing desire to press on goods without externalities present (or goods that are arguably overconsumed due to the negative externality) as a symptom of an underlying and continued failure to even remotely understand the most basic of economics.

  24. #24 Sylvain Galineau
    February 10, 2004

    Tim, you’re right. He’s not saying they would have switched away. He’s saying they actually did, and that CFC demand was falling even before the protocol was signed. Thanks for the precision.

    As for my so-called “displays of ignorance”, they are only based on your uncanny ability to conveniently put aside every aspect of the opposing argument that makes your own moot. Where did I argue, or assume, that people did not want the feature ? I have been arguing from the beginning that externalities like this one can be solved by market forces when buyers and sellers both perceive it to be in their interest to buy/produce the cleaner products. And after years of constant media barrage, many consumers in most western countries perceived it to be in their long-term interest to look for the appropriate logo on the cans of spray, for instance; manufacturers saw it in their interest to provide these products since buyers were willing to pay a premium for them, existing patents were expiring etc.

    I guess France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Canada and the other countries I visited during that period were all populated by millions of citizens who didn’t know why they were buying this stuff. “It’s more expensive ! I don’t know why but I got to have it !”, while the manufacturers thought : “hey, why don’t we spend a few hundred million bucks to replace the propelling gas we use ? This CFC stuff is so cheap it’s boring…”. Sure. I’ll buy that. And my cat speaks Chinese, too.

    “It is absurd to think that everyone will pay more, especially with talk radio telling them that CFCs don’t do any harm to the ozone layer.” Uh ? Where did that come from ? What talk radio ? Where ? Who mentioned talk radio ?The media was all over CFCs for almost a decade, but people didn’t actually know about ozone depletion because of talk radio ? What movie are we talking about here ? Is this the kind of assumption you need to pull out of nowhere to prove me wrong ? That the media was actually denying ozone depletion ? Wow. So we were all “ozone depletion deniers” back then. It was all this one big global media conspiracy to deny the Truth but the fearless Nobel Prizes saved the day.

    This is getting better and better.

    he insulted you because you didn’t understand the concepts of microeconomics but kept on arguing about micreconomic stuff anywayActually, I never argued about microeconomics, he did. And I guess I didn’t know that believing someone doesn’t know of a particular topic was grounds to insult them. And since this is not how Hipocrite justifed his own insult, your comment is rather pointless.

    I do owe you an apology for removing that post, while leaving Hipocrite’s childish bile dump. That’s rather inconsistent, I must admit. Sort of like airport security confiscating tweezers and still allowing lighters and matches (even after the shoe bomber incident – go figure).

    Now, Hipocrite. You can repeat “Coase Theorem” ad nauseam until you’re blue in the face, as if doing so proved anything all by itself. There is no contradiction, beyond your unsubstantiated assertion that there is.

    Goods without externalities ? Yeah, SUVs have no externalities at all, as we all well know. There was an Hummer H2 ahead of me on the way to work today and you can feel the temperature rise as you pass the darn thing. Got to get me one of those. It would probably melt the snow in the driveway by just standing there.

    “as a symptom of an underlying and continued failure to even remotely understand the most basic of economics”Translation : as a symptom of an underlying and continued failure to agree with Hipocrite, who only has to scream “Coase Theorem !” to prove someone wrong. Sorry, I don’t belong to the cult. It’s quite obvious those two fearsome words ought to strike panic in the hearts of the infidels but there is only one small problem: my point was not about externalities and their resolution, it was about price, and what people are willing to pay for something they want, based on their perception of value, of which price is but one component.

    (I do understand you need to rephrase what I said, or assume I wrote something else so as to be able to produce the same predictable little spiel about Coase, externalities etc etc If you can’t read, or your only interest is to repeat yourself again and again, please, just copy & paste…)

    Tim implied – repeatedly – that on the basis of their cheaper price alone, CFC products would keep dominating the market, regardless of consumer demand for clean products, and manufacturer’s own willingness and interests in providing them. As if price was the sole determinant. Which is wrong, and requires neither externalities nor the Coase Theorem to be proven. That was my argument. Namely, that the higher price of a cleaner product relative to a CFC-based one is irrelevant if that is what consumers want to buy, and producers want to provide.

    Given a product and its negative externality, if consumers of the product and manufacturers believe it to be in their interest to respectively buy and make a product that resolves the externality, market forces will solve it over time. The existence of a cheaper alternative with a feature fewer and fewer customers want is irrelevant. There is no contradiction here with any microeconomic theory, nor with the Coase Theorem. In fact, claiming this is not true would contradict every other accepted economic theory. At a minimum. Be my guest.

    It was in manufacturers’ interest to make CFC-free products, for a variety of reasons. And thanks to the persistent, dramatic media coverage about ozone depletion, there were enough consumers – both individuals and organizations, such as local government buyers – who saw the feature as compelling.

    Consumer report magazines in Europe – Germany and France come to mind, and I honestly wish their online archives went back that far – used freon-substitutes as a positive ranking factor for freezers and refrigerators long before Montreal was signed, and it is doubtful they would have if people had no interest in spending more for the feature, or somehow didn’t care about the problem because of the “talk radio” Tim just invented on the spot.

    But of course, what are facts when one only has to claim a theory is contradicted to prove they didn’t occur ?

    Does this mean bans, or international protocols are unnecessary ? First, buyers and seller’s interests must be congruent. Which does not happen all by itself – it did require quite a bit of spin and dramatization in this case – and, admittedly, is a rare occurence when it comes to global environmental issues. (If it wasn’t rare, we wouldn’t be arguing externalities and you would not be invoking Mr Coase’s name in vain. Leave the poor man alone; what has he done to you to deserve such a treatment anyway ?).

    Second, one could argue that market forces are acting too slowly and that the accruing incremental damage demands immediate action. That’s OK, as long as the hard data is there.

    Another reason to support a ban in a given country could be the relative immaturity of its market. In countries like India or China, with exploding home appliances demand growth either unfolding or bound to occur, a small percentage of CFC products on the market a decade hence could represent a unit volume larger than their entire market today. If half a billion Chinese households eventually own a refrigerator – and they will – each percentile of such a market using the cheaper “unclean” alternative could be enough of a future problem to argue for a preventive ban. (Although one has to assume these products will still be manufactured a decade later).

    And so on.

    When it comes to most western countries that I know of, I believe the protocol and bans were mostly redundant, although they of course accelerated the process by, as Oye points out, forcing consumers to substitute more than they already did. But there is no denying the substitution was happening.

    Further, given the cost of finding substitutes, of converting both products and manufacturing processes, and the amount of time involved in executing both, there is no other way to interpret the graph Tim linked to. If consumers and producers had waited for local bans and Montreal to act, the production peak would most definitely not have occurred that year. And even if such an expensive change could be pulled off in such a short time span, it is preposterous to assume it would have had no impact on product pricing. And I don’t recall The Year Refrigerator Prices Doubled. Must have been in a coma, or something.

    And you may well argue I am wrong, but claims of general theories being contradicted are irrelevant. Either the facts prove this was happening. Or they don’t. My recollection of them coincides with Kenneth Oye’s, and others, who have argued consumers and manufacturers were already substituting CFCs before the bans were enacted and Montreal signed. And since neither consumers nor manufacturers bother to check the Coase Theorem to make sure they don’t contradict it before they buy or make something, its relevance to this discussion is entirely theoretical.

    Or, as is most likely, ideological. After all, claiming facts did not occur because they contradict a theory has a name : it’s called revisionism.

    And this most definitely concludes my end of this fascinating little exercise.

  25. #25 Hipocrite
    February 10, 2004

    You are profoundly ignorant of basic microeconomics. Imagine a product A, with upword sloping supply and downward sloping demand. Imagine further, a product B, a perfect negative compliment (owning a CFC free refrigerator leads one to not want a CFC refrigerator), also with upword sloping supply and downward sloping demand.

    Question: What assumptions need to be made to make the market clearing quantity of good A zero?

    Answer: MCA(pa) > MCB(P-pa)+MBB(P-pa)-MBA(pa) (pa:0…P)

    Question: Given the assumptions, can this happen?


    MCA(0) = 0

    MCB(P) (P>0) > 0

    MBB(P)-MBA(0) > MCA(0)-MCB(P)

    The only way that an improvement in utility from a clean product can ever clear a market is if the marginal benefit to the person who least cares about cleanliness is more than the marginal cost of producing one unit of the unclean good.

    This is clearly impossible. The concept that one can internalize an externality through two private actors is laughable – because of the math above.

    The prevalance of SUVs hurts your argument – they are a demonstration of a negative externality increasing the consumption of a good – which is exactly what you are arguing does not happen. Either way, I’m done arguing economics with someone who has absolutly no understanding of the basic principles. You can make shit up all you want, but you’re always going to be wrong. You still don’t know what the Coase Theorem states, by the way, and why everything you have said is in direct violation of it. The “chicagoboys” would be ashamed of your ignorance. As I recollect, they were not exactly big fans of people ignornant of economics trying to guide the economy.

  26. #26 Sylvain Galineau
    February 10, 2004

    Hipocrite, your ridiculously arrogant ignorance of basic scientific reasoning is not so entertaining anymore. All you are saying is that facts as I saw them happen, and as related by many others, did not occur. And all you have to prove it is a theoretical assertion.

    The facts are what they are. Nobody, not even a Nobel Prize, can claim an event did not happen because it would contradict a theory. Clean products were manufactured long before Montreal. And people were buying them. Consumer magazines rated freezers and refrigerators according to their ozone friendliness. CFC substitutes were designed and produced long before bans were enacted and protocols signed. Aerosols used new propellers and advertised them with a distinctive logo. I bought these products myself for years (guess that answers that other question of yours…). So did everybody else around me. Millions were spent advertising those products on the basis of their being good for the ozone layer.

    But I am now told that years of my life never happened. Why ? Because it contradicts Mr Hipocrite’s understanding of his pet economic theory.

    “but you’re always going to be wrong”. Well if you say so, that settles it then. And this is the kind of incontrovertible evidence you are allowed to infer conclusions from ? Academia has exacting standards, obviously.

    And since when am I “trying to guide the economy”, you pedantic little dweeb ? Says who ? It’s a blog, for crying out loud. Who is making shit up now ? Get off your imaginary sanctimonious little soapbox. Not matter how loud and obnoxious you think you are, you’re not going to scare anyone by waving and wielding academic jargon and telling them reality does not exist unless theory says it does. You will be laughed out of the room.

    And I am also done arguing with a pseudonymed clown who has no proof events did not occur, except that they alledgly conflict with his flawed understanding of one economic theory. And you’re right; Mr Coase would be ashamed of the use you are making of his work.

  27. #27 Tim Lambert
    February 11, 2004

    Sylvain, please take more care in reading what others wrote. Nobody denied that some consumers chose to buy ozone-friendly products. Nobody. No-one told you that years of your life never happened. No-one. Your claim is that CFCs would have been abandoned without Montreal. That could only have happened if all consumers were willing to pay more for CFC-free products. And that claim is easy to disprove. In 1988, after Montreal was passed, but before the phaseout, I bought a spray can which used a CFC propellant. And not because I didn’t care about the environment. I knew quite well that my one can was not going to make any significant difference.

  28. #28 Sylvain Galineau
    February 11, 2004

    Finally, a tiny bit of backpedaling. Tim, I never argued a market-based phase-out would not take longer than an outright ban. Of course it does. But claiming CFCs would never disappear in the former case is every bit as unreasonable as claiming the market could solve the entire externality overnight. The question is, how much of it would be left, after how many years. And whether Montreal is necessary to get there, and get rid of the rest.

    Funny you mention that, because it became hard to spot CFC products in France, even before the ban. They still existed but most of the retailers didn’t care for them. Lower price, lower margin. And the customers didn’t complain about their absence or ask for them. So they just phased them out from their shelves. Then another chain advertised that they only sold green products. “No CFCs at Leclerc because we care about the planet”. How their competitors answered that catchy claim is left as an exercise to the astute reader…

  29. #29 Charles B
    April 26, 2004

    You annoying people. All you do is bicker. I wanted some facts about the ozone layer for my school project due in 4 days dammit, and I had to read all your boring crap looking for anything that might be useful. It just wasn’t worth it.

  30. #30 richard
    July 12, 2004


New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.