MIT Climate Scientist Dr. Richard Lindzen urges Trump: “Cut the funding of climate science by 80% to 90% until the field cleans up’?

Via Twitter via ClimateDepot (hold your nose) we come to RealClear Investigations which quotes Lindzen as saying, inter alia, They should probably cut the funding by 80 to 90 percent until the field cleans up... Climate science has been set back two generations, and they have destroyed its intellectual foundations.” This is classic crusty old boy down the club stuff: it was all better when he were a lad, and so on. Just to remind you, I declared Lindzen emeritus in 2011, but he only became a shark-jumper in 2013. Although now I look he was pretty wacky even back in 2005 (older readers may remember 2005). There's also a piece in which I side-swipe his work: his contribution and status is often over-stated.

The rest of the article appears to be a not very interesting collection of quotes from the usual suspects about what Trump might do. But my eye was caught by Nevertheless, new organizations like the CO2 Coalition, founded in 2015, suggest the debate is more evenly matched intellectually than is commonly portrayed. In addition to Happer, the CO2 Coalition’s initial members include scholars with ties to world-class institutions like MIT... The language here is characteristically evasive, as it so often is when talking about the "skeptic" bench, in order to hide the thinness of the lineup. "with ties to" is weak, and none of them are named. So I pop across to and am greeted by a picture of happy smiling people eating lard and the words "CARBON DIOXIDE IS ESSENTIAL FOR LIFE Learn the facts about the vital role that CO2 plays in our environment" which doesn't sound very new; I'm sure I've heard that message before, but it is too dull to be worth looking up1. Anyway, the question was, "who are these bozos?" and the answer is, of course, the standard set: one or two you've heard of before and a pile of non-entities.

The ones you've heard of are the afore-mentioned Lindzen, Roy "sad lonely and wrong" Spencer - probably now the most credible one such an organisation could hope for, and probably the only one left still doing science. Otherwise its Happer, Idso, Michaels... and then tails off into blanks. Just where is Trump going to get all the hordes that the denialists are hoping will flood in? Perhaps that's why Lindzen is so keen to cut the numbers: somehow the absence of anyone with any credibility on the "skeptic" side has to be hidden.

Oh yes: and Happy New Year to you all. My resolution for the New Year is to be more positive, friendly, and welcoming. But then again, that was my resolution last year too.


* Gina Miller vs the Sec of State on the need to have the spineless Commons vote on article 50. Spoiler alert: may contain boredom and closely reasoned analysis.
* CIP isn't totally happy with L either.


1. has some useful history: "established in 2015 from the remains of the now-defunct George C. Marshall Institute" and appears to have rather the same views as CO2 science.


More like this

Or, as John Abraham puts it in the Graun, Just who are these 300 'scientists' telling Trump to burn the climate? It appears that long-term union man Lindzen has been organising again, buoyed perhaps by the prospect of some kind of reward from the Trump admistration. It seems rather notable to me,…
Notorious fraud Pat Michaels is in the news some more. First, Coby Beck reports that California as part of discovery in lawsuit involving automobile companies and global warming wants: All DOCUMENTS relating to both GLOBAL WARMING and to any of the following individuals: S. Fred Singer, James…
After the open house at the college radio station, I paid a visit to a now-defunct cafe that used to be downstairs from the radio station studio and found the following calculation written on the wall: I'm a little uncertain about the first premise (that girlfriends are the product of time and…
In case you somehow missed it: tech writer and blogger Kathy Sierra canceled public appearances after receiving death threats. In addition to the death threats, she called attention to some posts about her that were threatening in tone (though probably falling short of actual threats) and…

Actually, Lindzen had already jumped by 1991, when he appeared in Idsos' The Greening of Planet Earth, funded by the Western Fuels Association, ie Powder River coal.

Watch 5 min starting at 10:00, Sherwood Idso, followed by Lindzen tag-teaming with German coal guy Weber, abd featuring the oldest abuse of IPCC(1990) Fig. 7.1(c) that i've been able to find.

[There are some astonishing lies from L in there: 13:06: "moreover there is virtually no-one who believes that the half degree is due to greenhouse gases because climate has always varied by itself without man's intervention". Still wrong but not as egregious is "we had a little ice age, until almost the 18th century, we're warming since then but we're not as warm as the medieval warm period" cue grapes in Scotland -W]

By John Mashey (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

For such an anti-scientific lobby group, the CO2 Coalition sure loves to put PhD after the names of its roster of clowns.

With respect to Lindzen's scientific clout, here's an apt exchange from Neil Gaiman's wonderful American Gods:

"Alviss, son of Vindalf. He's the king of the dwarfs. The biggest, mightiest, greatest of all the dwarf folk."

"Bu he's not a dwarf," pointed out Shadow. "He's what, five-eight? Five-nine?"

"Which makes him a giant among dwarfs," said Czernobog from behind him. "Tallest dwarf in America."

[Nice. I shall be sure to steal it some time -W]

IIRC (years ago, so memory may be fuzzy) Ray Pierrehumbert described how in the mid-'80s Lindzen briefly became something of a climate science hero when his cumulus drying idea (basically adaptive iris v. 1) seemed to resolve a key conundrum the exact nature of which I forget. That fell apart in fairly short order despite the switch to the iris, so it seems Lindzen flipped almost as soon as the adulation died down. But probably throughout he had a strong personal intuition in favor of low sensitivity, so maybe it's not flipping so much as it becoming obvious that he never really cared where anyone else's science might point.

Nice reference, Magma.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

As Lindzen retired several years ago and went to work for one of the unthinking tanks, would it not be more proper to say "former" MIT scientist?

[Pfft, it's from climatedepot, so accuracy of that level of detail isn't even conceivable -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

P.S., from that:
"... The solar cycle number (18 through 24) is also indicated. The time series covers five complete solar cycles (19 through 23). SABER [satellite instrument] continues to take data as the Sun is approaching its next minimum. As of this writing, SABER is approved to operate through September 2017, and in early 2017 NASA will decide whether to extend its operations for another 2 years...."

Or maybe California should fund it?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

I looked through James Hansen's 'Storms of my Grandchildren' for descriptions of Lindzen's sleazy tactics in hearings held with the new George W. Bush administration in early 2001. There were too many of them (and probably too well known) to summarize here, but this unrelated(?) anecdote was interesting:

"I considered asking Lindzen if he still believed there was no connection between smoking and lung cancer. He had been a witness for tobacco companies decades earlier, questioning the reliability of statistical connections between smoking and health problems. But I decided that would be too confrontational. When I met him at a later conference, I did ask that question, and was surprised by his response: He began rattling off all the problems with the data relating smoking to health problems, which was closely analogous to his views of climate data."

Magma@9: I was aware that some of the PR firms employed by climate pseudoskeptics were also employed by tobacco companies back in the day. I learned something new today: that Lindzen was also part of that crowd.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

Good advice.

By See Noevo (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

John, we all know the answer...

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

Welcome to our world. Chris Mooney's Republican War on Science (copyright 2005). "Inhofe's Senate speech [2003] ... Sallie Baliunas, S. Fred Singer, Patrick Michaels, MIT's Richard Lindzen - as well as several more mainstream scientists. ... Two of the mainstream scientists publicly protested that their work had been severely misrepresented." "A smoker, he has ... questioned how strong the link is between cigarette smoking and lung cancer."

More on Lindzen:

Happer is not OK. He's a bad influence on the weaker Bob Austin at Princeton, much shunned by others but in cahoots with Freeman Dyson (a technocrat; he once suggested powering satellites with fission); the two have them have *not* been successful at disproving CO2's effect from first principles (I think it was from the IR spectrum, but I'm not a physicist) as they planned.

Don't forget Curry, Christy, Soon, and McIntyre (and Monckton and Delingpole, experts both, but in what it's not clear, except oozing contempt and hatred). Oh, and Giaever. No shortage of elderly gents eager for the spotlight.

Russell Seitz is understandably peeved with Mooney who associated him incorrectly with his elder cousin Fred Seitz.

Couple OT items: in the news tonight, a small energy firm was hacked by Russians (caught in time) in Vermont while Russians are expelled, perhaps a demo of how easy it is in our decentralized world, with smaller firms linked to the grid.

And it appears Rex Tillerson is not so easily detached from Exxon and Russian interests after all.

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

Ivar Giaever: Nobel Icon For Climate Deniers, and Philip Morris

As a reminder, for most people, nicotine addiction only works during adolescent brain development, which varies, but is usually done by age 24. Cigarette companies only stay in business by addicting adolescents and then killing half of hteir best customers.
See tweet, which shows a key graph from 2015 Institute of Medicine study (the observations), and pointers to the physiological explanations. The former has been known for at least 3-4 decades.

By John Mashey (not verified) on 31 Dec 2016 #permalink

A good thing to. It's needed.

Until climate science address the basic fact that the reality and the a priori predictions have been disproved at a high level of confidence, then there shows there is a fundamental problem with climate sciences approach to science. It's anything but.

Also there is a significant amount of grant grovelling. Decide you want to study X. You don't submit an application to do that. Instead you submit an application to study climate change on X, to get climate change money.

[DNFTT folks -W]

By LordBlagger (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

It's often commented that deniers are usually a bunch of old retired disgruntled scientists-for-hire from disparate disciplines, and climate scientists are few in denier ranks. What has just occurred to me is that while new names keep popping up in the scientific literature as young scientists make their mark, there don't seem to be any new names among deniers, nor any young people. Political lobby groups keep trotting out the same old crowd of decrepit people that were there in the 1990s.

Does anyone know of any new young up-and-coming science deniers who have a science background (in any area, not necessarily climate related). Even someone under 40 years of age? I expect they'd be welcomed with open arms by the GWPF or the Heartland Institute (particularly if they were men).

Sou, the only one I can think of is Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, 44, who also has past research ties to some climate contrarians/skeptics. What I read of his published and presented work on climate was the usual shoddy stuff, and he has given invited presentations in front of AGW denial groups.

Perhaps he's being groomed as the replacement for Willie Soon, whose usefulness seems to have ended.

Sou, part 2.

I also know of some graduate students in Earth Sciences who've absorbed their thesis supervisors' contrarian/skeptic/denier viewpoints. No need to mention names since they are young, few in number, and unlikely to have much of a research career unless they can start to think for themselves.

Dr. Roy Spencer recently expressed concern that the UAH satellite temperature measure will have to shut down in a few. years. They are unable to find a younger scientist to replace John Christy when he retires.

Perhaps their links with climate scepticism are coming back to haunt them

By Entropic man (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

Sou, he's in his 50s, but Adrian Ocneanu shows up various places and is a bad influence on his students (I assume he's good at his subject). He shows up as AdrianO, Darian, and other names that are recognizable once you know his style. (I don't want to link to his "personal web page" because I suspect he's a stalker (he's not as smart as he thinks he is). He does a lot of namecalling (slime is a favorite) and comparisons to Hitler.

He has a degree from Warwick (location of aTTP's target Steve Fuller). I'm sure Warwick has good programs, but they also seem to be an easy place to get a degree, though clearly AO is qualified in his own field.

There's a whole subset of experts in other fields who haven't done their homework: I'm eternally grateful to Stoat for checking out Jeevananda Reddy.

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

Susan, IMHO Mooney's journalistic failure resides in his refusal to investigate his sources.

Despite Oreskes dearth of direct quotation he repeats her and Conway's opinions as expressed in both the written and film versions of their work without checking their erstwhile sources to see if the primary sources they refer to but rarely quote actually contain what they adduce

More tellingly, they simply fail to cite the embarassingly polemic sources of some of their most repeated assertions-

The lack of who, what, and where quotes on "defending tobacco" in the gigabyte legal archive they so repeatedly cite, seems lost on those , like Mooney and Mann r, who uncritically repeat their assertions without investigating their substance or , in some cases realizing that they stem not from seriously peer reviewed and explicitly quoted archival research, but the pages of Vanity Fair and what an antismoking blogger who styles himself Lion Cohen Science Cop has regurgitated from, wait for it, the EcoSyn and BushHitler websites.

I do wish John Mashey would bite the bipartisan bullet and investigate such matters with equal depth of zeal.

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink…

Stofan officially left her role on or around December 20th, with NASA quietly confirming that in an interview it posted on Tumblr.…
"NASA Chief Scientist… The office represents all the scientific endeavors at NASA, ensuring they’re aligned with and fulfilling the administration’s science goals."

Align'em up ...

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

Seriously, read that Tumblr interview, and ponder.

"... NASA now collects voluntary demographic data on all of our grant proposals. Implicit or unconscious bias is all around us; we may act on deep-seated biases that we don’t even know we have. The first step in dealing with bias is seeing if you have a problem, and that is what the data collection will tell us.

7) You worked a lot with kids as the agency’s Chief Scientist. How important do you feel STEM education is for NASA?

We need the next generation of scientists, doctors, computer programmers, technologists and engineers, and NASA provides the inspiration and hands-on activities that help get kids interested in science. Because of climate change, we are facing rising sea levels, changing patterns of agriculture, and changing weather. We need good engineers and scientists to help us mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce carbon emissions...."

[Which clearly demonstrates that the NASA "chief scientist" does no science (as you'd expect, its an admin role; hasn't published for yonks; contrast Gavin) but more than that has very little to do with science: it really is admin, PR, interaction with the administration, funding, and so on -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

Happy New Year, Russell Seitz!

I may have misunderstood your admonition to Susan but it seems you like people who get their facts and source attributions right. Amen to that!

My admonition to Susan and many of the other people who comment here is to argue on the science and on the issues.

If all you have is personal attacks you won't win any hearts and minds.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

"It’s often commented that deniers are usually a bunch of old retired disgruntled scientists-for-hire from disparate disciplines, and climate scientists are few in denier ranks. "

There is a simple explanation for that. Researchers who work in universities need to "Sing for Their Supper" as I did for 12 years at the Duke FEL Laboratory. You tell the funding agencies what they want to hear.

Now that I am retired it is easier to tell the truth although I am still restrained by the affection I have for my ex-colleagues at Duke.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

I was a faculty brat at Duke and recall -- sitting behind the couch or under the coffee table --- listening to biology faculty talking about the academics who were on the Duke Tobacco pay wagon and never needed to scrape for funds.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

"Just where is Trump going to get all the hordes that the denialists are hoping will flood in?"

For the past 30 years first world countries have increasingly been run for the people who run them (aka Ruling Elites). A movement to change that is gathering strength.

While the elites are happy, We the People" see "Stupid Government" that can't protect our borders, sets race relations back 30 years, betrays our friends, encourages our enemies, puts a target on every policeman's back, sends our jobs overseas and on and on.

Then there is Global Warming that has misdirected energy policy around the world. By making food and energy more expensive "Carbon Mitigation" has robbed the poor to feed the rich.

So I can answer your question. Trump has a horde of denialists (aka voters) who will demand that the people who have mis-directed energy policy for so long will be be swept away.

The corrupt elites, academics, media and big businesses, who created the climate scam will have to find something else to do once the funding is eliminated. What will you be doing a year from now? Hopefully you will find honest work.

[No, the voters aren't denialists. But you've missed the point: the "skeptics" want to sweep away and replace a large number of scientists, and replace them with people who are more palatable. But where will these new scientists come from? Not "the voters". And there are so so so few people on the "skeptic" bench; and (as noted here or elsewhere) so many of those are old or retired.

It is tempting to simply think "money talks" and that if the administration just put out calls-for-research on "a GCM that showed cooling when fed increasing CO2" that people, sucked in by the money, would work on that. But firstly that's too unsubtle even for DT, second people would be reluctant, and thirdly they'd do it anyway but what they'd actually do would just be science, with that as a theme, but it wouldn't produce the result desired.

So I think the "skeptics" are indeed left with Lindzen's suggestion: just cut the funding and the number of posts. This would cause a great deal of anger - but perhaps DT regards "that sector" of the populace lost to him anyway so doesn't care - but still wouldn't get you what you want -W]

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

We may have mutual friends!

Rather than mention them by name here we could communicate off line:

My biological activities were in collaboration with NC State University. They helped me set up a fish farm in Maine!

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

Russell, I will look up your connections when there's time, but the Mooney book long preceded Oreskes and was more complete. I have already found a lot of confirmation for many of his claims. I mostly respect you and always enjoy your humor, so I promise I will look up the items you mention and not burk the facts.

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

> Duke
in the 1950s

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 01 Jan 2017 #permalink

@William Connolley,
Your comments to my #30 are appreciated. The point I was trying to make is that Global Warming has little to do with science. Global Warming is about politics and under a Trump administration the politics may change:…

[There's an awful lot that I'd disagree with there, but the most unambiguous is the support for Murry (not Murray) Salby. Salby is utterly and unambiguously wrong, as explained by really a rather large number of people, but I'll point you at my version here: I'm happy to agree that there are some aspects of GW science that are imperfect, but anyone who goes all the way through to agreeing with Salby has lost their way, and is simply agreeing with things that disagree with GW, without thinking -W]

My expectation is that Trump and several of his cabinet picks will try to run the country like a business so they will use tools that have seldom been applied to the federal government. Here are a couple of those tools:
1. Zero Based Budgeting.
2. Cost/benefit analysis.

[The USA runs far too much on pork. If things were done exclusively by CBA, the squeals - and the disruption - would be enormous. In addition, govt and business are fundamentally different. They cannot be run the same. Trump, I think, might well try to run the govt like a business, and this would be a mistake. However, I'd agree that importing *some* business practices would be useful. OTOH, I work in the private sector, and have worked in the public sector, and I'm often struck by both similarities and differences. Businesses too have time servers, and frequently pursue stupid projects in fits of enthusiasm -W]

If these tools are used there will be dramatic changes in the size of many federal government departments and some may disappear. For example how do you justify funding a department that has a negative return using cost/benefit analysis?

This may be idle speculation on my part, yet I am full of hope and optimism.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 02 Jan 2017 #permalink


Cost/benefit analysis is certainly used in the US federal government. I deal with the FAA and new rule making. Every round of new regulations goes through a justification of what benefit the new regulation brings vs. what cost it imposes. The FAA has economists on staff. I've met some of them. The analysis is reviewed by the OMB among others. I've spoken to them.

I suspect that Trump and his cronies will be as surprised as you might be to learn that the people in the Fed government are not complete idiots.

Furthermore, having worked in the private sector my entire professional life, the last thing I want is to have a government that is run like a business. I can't think of a much worse proposition. I've worked in a lot of "successful" companies by stock standards that are still full of waste, incompetence, office politics and bad decision making.

I suspect we will see four years of incompetence and greed applied to the federal government. Whohoo!

I would hope we see four years of incompetence and greed. That is about the best outcome that is realistic.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 03 Jan 2017 #permalink…
----snippets follow-----

The Trump people are taking over NASA, and it’s hard to predict how this will play out for the agency's human spaceflight program. That’s in part because the usual rules of partisanship and ideology don’t apply in outer space. Above the stratosphere, there’s no left and right. (If anything, things are somewhat reversed, because a lot of Republicans support Big Government human spaceflight projects, as we’ll discuss in a moment.) Moreover, the president-elect hasn’t said much about space, and space wasn’t an issue in his campaign, either.

To the extent that Donald Trump has signaled any intentions, it's in the makeup of the "landing team" now at NASA to plan the transition. The team has several people who have shown interest in going back to the moon. So, as we've reported, the moon could be very much back in play.
Asked about that criticism, Walker claimed it was misplaced. “I’ve seen some misinterpretation saying that we were looking at ending the whole business of climate science. That wasn’t the concept at all,” he said. “The concept here is to put it in places like NSF, NOAA and places that have vast expertise in those areas.” He didn’t elaborate about how such a transfer would take place.

Walker acknowledged that the policy’s implementation will be shaped by the people who do take roles in the administration and at NASA, adding that he had no interest being NASA administrator. “This is not exactly where the team will go,” he said of the policy. “Ultimately, personnel make policy.”

That means the people-watching, at Trump Tower and in Washington, will continue to determine who will shape the future of NASA, and how....
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By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 03 Jan 2017 #permalink

@#36 (gator),'
"Furthermore, having worked in the private sector my entire professional life, the last thing I want is to have a government that is run like a business. "

Like you I worked in the private sector so I suffered "Culture Shock" when I started to feed at the government trough in 1990. The idea of a "Continuation Budget" struck me as totally absurd.

Then there is "Spend it or lose it". My boss came by on a Monday and ordered me to spend $250,000 within three days. If I failed the money would be gone for good. There was nothing we needed costing that much so I bought a laser theodolite and a bunch of accessories from a fine company in Germany.

I can show you a field in North Carolina with 250 back hoes that nobody needs. They were bought by the government in a similar way. This nonsense is widespread so I am sure the readers here can cite even more stupid spending.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 03 Jan 2017 #permalink

William Connolley:
"Businesses too have time servers, and frequently pursue stupid projects in fits of enthusiasm."

True! Yet there is an important difference between business and government. Businesses are subject to a "Market Test" so when they make bad investments they lose ground to their better managed competitors.

[Yes, or put more simply companies can die. If they do too many wrong things they just disappear and their competitors take over. That doesn't apply to government -W]

Governments are seldom subject to a "Market Test" so there is no incentive for them to make good investments. How else can you explain government K-12 education that delivers Yugo quality at Cadillac cost?

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 03 Jan 2017 #permalink

gallopingcamel -

Actually, the 'spend it or lose it' problem happens in large private sector organisations as well. There are often few differences between large public and private organisations. Indeed, public sector organisations may have more pressures due to the fact that if they don't deliver, there can be political consequences, but if a private monopoly gives bad service there is little sanction. Southern Rail being a current UK example.

As far as value for money goes; I don't know the situation in the US, but in the UK both the public sector Education and Health sectors are very cost-efficient compared to their private sector counterparts.

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

As far as pork-barrel spending in the US goes, my impression is that nowadays, it's mostly in defence procurement - a classic area where spending is always 'patriotic' and spending disasters are not immediately obvious.

It will be interesting to see if Trump goes for the whole deficit-spending infrastructure-building model - the nature of US politics being that only republican presidents (Regan, Bush II) are 'allowed' to deficit spend without a hysterical response from the right wing elements. That way he could induce something of an economic boom to get re elected.

By Andrew Dodds (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

GC - the idea that business will improve things is really and truly laughable. In the USA we have the whole healthcare industry to try and fit into this world-view. Let's see, we have by far the most expensive healthcare system with outcomes generally worse than all those other non-private systems.

Or perhaps we should consider Alan Greenspan's famous ode to capitalism; that brought us semiconductors, ICs computers, the airline industry, etc., etc. Except for the fact that every business sector he mentioned as a sign of capitalism's success was researched and paid for on the government dime.

Capital intensive research and development is usually the cornerstone of new technologies, but along with it comes risk. Capitalism has generally failed at assuming that risk.

Without government assistance most of the modern conveniences we are surrounded by wouldn’t exist or would be generations behind their current levels. Governments have borne the risk that pure research would payoff somewhere down the line. Corporations typically step in only when the risk has been either erased or greatly reduced.

Chomsky has long labeled this ‘Privatizing Profit, Socializing Risk’ and has pointed out the irony that many of the oft-cited great achievements of capitalism / free markets are nothing of the sort – they’re often the result of government funded research.

And of course we're just a decade past the most obvious sign of complete and utter market failure - the financial collapse of 2007. Where the holy grail of laissez faire no-nothings - a completely unregulated market - led to the largest financial collapse the world has ever seen.

This unthinking, knee-jerk faith in markets is truly a wonder to behold -- and the fact that people who one would think would know better can hold such silly thoughts really goes along ways towards explaining the otherwise inexplicable. I..e., Donald Trump for President? muhahahahahahahahaha !!!! That's a good one.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

“NASA Chief Scientist… The office represents all the scientific endeavors at NASA, ensuring they’re aligned with and fulfilling the administration’s science goals.”
[Which clearly demonstrates that the NASA “chief scientist” does no science (as you’d expect, its an admin role; hasn’t published for yonks; contrast Gavin) but more than that has very little to do with science: it really is admin, PR, interaction with the administration, funding, and so on -W]

Well, how much leverage does that office have on "ensuring they're aligned"? And who's getting the job?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

illustrations -- Lamar Smith, and temperature chart
-----snippet follows-----
The new NOAA record produced for that study showed nearly twice the warming over the past 18 years than the previous data did....
... The new study is unlikely to quieten sceptics but the authors say their new work shows that the rate of warming in the last two decades is no different from the rate of warming since 1970 or from 1950.

As for attempts by politicians to subpoena emails in an attempt to suggest that scientists are committing fraud, the idea gets short shrift from the new paper's authors.

"If people disagree with things they should ask other scientists to look into it rather than demanding access to scientists' emails," said Zeke Hausfather.

That finding struck Smith, a Republican from Texas who maintains that human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are not causing global warming, as suspicious, and he began a dogged effort to determine if the scientists had manipulated data to arrive at politically-motivated results.

“The American people have every right to be suspicious when NOAA alters data to get the politically correct results they want and then refuses to reveal how those decisions were made," Smith said in a statement in 2015.

"NOAA needs to come clean about why they altered the data to get the results they needed to advance this administration's extreme climate change agenda,” Smith, who has received funding from the oil and gas industry, including ExxonMobil, added.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

snippets of text are out of order in the above copy-and-paste

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 04 Jan 2017 #permalink

"I..e., Donald Trump for President? muhahahahahahahahaha !!!! That’s a good one."

That comment makes no sense but my guess is that you think Donald Trump will disgrace his office as president of the USA.

Trump won't be president until January 20 yet he has already persuaded Ford to invest in Michigan rather than Mexico.

[As a good free marketer you think that's bad, of course: you deplore politicians meddling in companies decisions -W]

It seems likely that we have a president elect who means to keep his campaign promises! What a concept! Can you offer anything that would persuade me to abandon Trump?

[Yes: that Trump might indeed keep his campaign promises and meddle even further -W]

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 05 Jan 2017 #permalink

"yet he has already persuaded Ford to invest in Michigan rather than Mexico."
While some of the *promises* (and not just those from Trump) did play a role, in reality the decision to not invest in a new factory in Mexico had already been made. In the meantime, Ford will still invest in Mexico, just not in the not-needed new plant.

"It seems likely that we have a president elect who means to keep his campaign promises"

- Lock her up? Already abandoned
- Repeal Obamacare? He already changed that to amendments
- Build a wall? Well....a fence in many places is already just fine, and we still have to see if it ever happens
- Deport all illegal immigrants? Nah, it has now changed to only those with a criminal record
- Repeal same-sex marriage? Well, no, according to Trump the president-elect, it's law, it's done.

Looks like he isn't all that keen on keeping some of his campaign promises.

"[As a good free marketer you think that’s bad, of course: you deplore politicians meddling in companies decisions -W]"

Good point! When politicians meddle in the market you get "Crony Capitalism" as Obama demonstrated.

[And yet I don't see you deploring what Trump has done. Indeed, it would be natural to read your comment as being *in favour* of what Trump has done. Perhaps you could clarify your position and make it clear that you do, indeed, deplore what Trump has done in this repsect? -W]

If Trump follows Obama's approach of picking winners & losers he will lose support from people like me. Targeted incentives create scandal and corruption as night follows day (e.g. Solyndra, FP&L and on and on).

The right way to help business is to reduce the corporate tax rate as I have advocated since 2002. I am happy to say the North Carolina legislators reduced corporate taxes and now we need the federal government to follow suit.

[*Reduce* the corporate tax rate? You leftist pinko pansy. Surely you are in favour of a zero corporate tax rate, like Timmy? -W]

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 05 Jan 2017 #permalink

"[*Reduce* the corporate tax rate? You leftist pinko pansy. Surely you are in favour of a zero corporate tax rate, like Timmy? -W]

You don't have anything but name calling. Have a nice day.

[Tee hee. So you're in favour of a non-zero corporation tax, *and* in favour of political interference in private property. And you call yourself a right winger -W]

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

Corporation tax does illustrate a problem with having free trade/capital movement/etc. There are good reasons for having it at a significant rate, mostly to incentivise companies to invest internally out of retained profits, rather than pay out the maximum possible to shareholders.

[Why would you want that incentivisation? Why should a central organisation decide that it was in all cases better for a company to invest, rather than return money to shareholders who could in turn invest in other companies who would invest? The problems are obvious: the way you have it, "cash cow" companies are encouraged to retain cash even if they have nothing in particular to invest that cash in. Again, we're back to the same problem: people deciding that they know better than others how those other people should live their lives -W]

The problem is that because we lack political unification over our (mostly) free trade zones, tax rates are non uniform and subject to arbitrage. Which shows how any full free-trade area must be a single political entity, or face huge tensions as a result of tax/law arbitrage. Tensions that end up with things like Brexit and Trump.

[I disagree. The tax-rate arbitrage within the Euro zone has seen Brussels pissed off with Ireland, but actually that's a pretty small tension. Current Brussels is hopelessly ignorant economically anyway -W]

By Andrew J Dodds (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

Promoting the continued capital development of the economy over short term cashing out is something of a social good; it's not like we are being absolutist here. I'm not sure how you get to telling other people how to live their lives, unless it's just a fallback to std.libertarian.propaganda.

[You have failed to read what I said. You re implying that cash-in-company => investment; cash-as-dividends => spending / wasted / not investment. You have no way of knowing that. Cash paid out as dividends may (as I actually wrote, if you'd bothered to read it) be invested in a subsequent company. You apparently want to discourage "short term cashing out" but that's not your decision to make; especially if, as in this instance, you don't seem to understand it -W]

Of course, a zero corp tax rate implies higher tax rates in other areas for a given government spend; you would wonder why taxes on income or consumption are better.

[Lookup -W]

Arbitrage extends to a lot more than corporation tax rates; for entities like NAFTA and the EU it involves things like factory relocation and the movement of people. Essentially, if I have two political entities who decide to engage in complete free trade/movement/capital flow/etc then any difference in their laws can and will be subject to arbitrage. That will create a lot of malcontents - if you happen to be a low to medium skill worker in the higher wage economy you are in trouble - and also make it very difficult for governments to raise taxes on anything that can move.

[That's all very well but we're talking about corporation tax, not the entire world. If we bring in the entire world we'll just have an unfocussed discussion -W]

Ireland is just an obvious case, the routing of so many retail sales through Luxembourg is probably a worse example. What the EU really needs is a full federal government with full powers of taxation, so that it can deal with the problems arising from being a massive free trade and movement zone. With uniform tax rates and laws there would be no arbitrage and we could have all the benefits of a large free trade zone. Not going to happen, obviously, so we'll see all sorts of winners vs losers politics.

By Andrew J Dodds (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

William Connolley:
“Businesses too have time servers, and frequently pursue stupid projects in fits of enthusiasm.”

True! Yet there is an important difference between business and government. Businesses are subject to a “Market Test” so when they make bad investments they lose ground to their better managed competitors.

> [Yes, or put more simply companies can die. If they do too many wrong things they just disappear and their competitors take over. That doesn’t apply to government -W]

What a [incivility redacted -W] pair of statements. Governments can and do go broke.

[But that isn't the same as dying -W]

Companies can declare bankruptcy and continue on through stupid business decisions.

Want to see government run like a business? Take a close look at China. Look at Russia.

W likes to accuse people of failing to read or (worse) comprehend his pearls of wisdom.

Now I ask him to read the link in #53. The link mentions the Republic of Ireland that had a corporate tax rate of 15% in 2002. While I advocate zero corporate tax at state level in the USA it would be unrealistic to expect zero at the federal level.
Trump is proposing 15% and I am happy with that although it would be better to match the Bulgarians @ 9%.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

GC writes: "it would be better to match the Bulgarians @ 9%."

Yes, because Bulgaria's economy has proven so much better than the USA;'s.

Of course the USA's economy fared best when corporate and individual rates were at what percent? I can't hear you, please repeat a little louder.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

Low corporate tax rates help to grow businesses and hence employment. While this causes tax revenue from corporations to decline there is a "Double Whammy" that more than offsets the loss:

1. Unemployment falls so the government spends less on welfare.
2. People with jobs pay income tax so the government receives more revenue from new employees than they lose in corporate taxation.

Another way to look at this is in terms of "Incentives". Most governments want to create more jobs and they use incentives to attract employers. There are two main types of incentives:
1. Targeted incentives.
2. Tax breaks.

Both methods are government sanctioned bribery.

Targeted incentives use real money (provided by tax payers "up front") to attract companies. The trouble with this approach is that once the money has been spent the companies no longer have an incentive to stay.

In the case of tax breaks you are bribing a company with its own money that you would not have control of if the company decided to set up shop elsewhere. This is the gift that keeps on giving so companies remain bribed indefinitely. Best of all this approach is fair (everyone gets the same deal) while it does not taxpayers a dime.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

"..................does not cost taxpayers a dime."

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

GC - but you didn't answer the question.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

Low corporate tax rates preferentially favor those who *already* own capital. This is simply the same old policy of rewarding the top 1%. As we have seen repeatedly, with the Reagan tax cuts and the Bush tax cuts, there is no trickle down benefit; the rising tide does not lift all boats.

Gates, Romney, Soros, Buffet --- those people will reap vast rewards from a lowering of corporate tax rates. The rest of humanity? Little or nothing.

Piketty and Saiz:…

If your goal is to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, you couldn't find a better policy tool. But hey, don't let the data get in your way. Ideology must be strictly adhered to regardless the human cost.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 06 Jan 2017 #permalink

Corporations don't die either. They go broke. Let's be pedantic for a moment.

Governments go broke, get voted out, get conquered, go through revolutions. Wow, sometimes government people DO actually die as they may be assassinated or executed as governments change.

"Low corporate tax rates help to grow businesses and hence employment"

That's the theory of many economists, yes. Now, where's the *evidence*?

This very recent report…
suggests there is little evidence of your claims, unless during a time of recession.

This article is also of relevance and interest:…
Great way to attract companies, that lower corporate tax rate, but do you get any real local benefit?

Gator writes: "Corporations don’t die either. They go broke. Let’s be pedantic for a moment."

We should probably just write it down to WC having a bad week. Considering some of his other replies lately I think he's just worn out trying to defend the indefensible -- which is inevitably the case when one adopts a libertarian stance.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

GallopingCamel says:

Another way to look at this is in terms of “Incentives”. Most governments want to create more jobs and they use incentives to attract employers. There are two main types of incentives:
1. Targeted incentives.
2. Tax breaks.

Both methods are government sanctioned bribery.

GallopingCamel's solution? Reduce taxes for corporations? That sounds like bribery for all corporations. Bribing a few is wrong? Bribing many is OK? Let individuals pay for the bribes through personal taxes? Where does the money come from?

[Targeted incentives or tax breaks is in general a bad idea, because it is the government deciding whom to favour. You can argue for a limited use, but at the moment they are massively over-used -W]

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Some of my research nowadays is in collaboration with a very highly regarded economist. One day we were discussing stuff like this and they said "the free market is great, when it works."

[Indeed. Or given a chance to work -W]

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

John Quiggin has written many intelligent essays on economics. Among them this:

"The more fundamental change that is needed is a revision of assumptions that are taken for granted, throughout the political process, that corporations are a natural feature of market economies, while unions are an alien intrusion. This attitude, shared across the spectrum of mainstream political opinion is only now under challenge.

.... corporations, like unions, are social constructions, which could not exist except as a result of conscious policy decisions to change the rules of a market economy. A policy that begins with implicit assumptions in favor of corporations, and against unions, is one in which inequality is guaranteed."

[It isn't clear from that extract what JQ means. From… it becomes clearer he means limited liability. It is, of course, true that we can have market economies both with and without limited liability; in that sense a corporation (by which he means a limited liability corporation) is a construct permitted by certain laws. However hsi source for "A policy that begins with implicit assumptions in favor of corporations" remains obscure. He then rather confuses things by continuing to discuss things that are irrelevant to limited liability without clearly distinguishing them. His main mistake (apart from a somewhat dishonest attempt to bring Adam Smith's name into his cause) is to fail to consider why limited liability has indeed become universal law; and to concentrate entirely on share-of-cake and neglect size-of-cake -W]

These types of issues greatly affect income *predistribution* -- something rarely discussed at all. Libertarians especially neglect to account for income distributions in their views. This is what happens when 'efficiency' becomes a holy grail. Does *anyone* want an economic system where all benefits (profits, income) flow to one or a very small group of agents? Well, yes, libertarians believe that's all right and proper.

[It is tempting to describe you as hating Libertarianism. But you are plainly so ignorant of it that you are only hating strawmen -W]

[Incivility redacted -W]

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink…

, some doubters have argued that this consensus is nonexistent or premature—and that, despite repeated studies identifying it, media attempts to report on the consensus constitute so much liberal bias.

These fights will likely be recapitulated this month. Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma and President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the EPA, has invested a lot of time in fighting the Obama administration’s climate and environmental regulations. He has not, however, said very much on the record about climate change.

One of his only quotes on the matter appeared in a National Review editorial last year. “Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind,” he wrote, in an article co-authored with Alabama attorney general Luther Strange.

The problem is: Not all of this sentence is true. While scientists continue to explore the consequences of climate change, there is essentially no debate among scientists about global warming’s “connection to the actions of mankind.”

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

I used to consider myself a libertarian. I don't anymore.

Consider two complexities of libertarian thought.

A democracy can't be libertarian. A truly libertarian state can't be a democracy.

Why? Simple. The vast majority of people would be better off in a mixed economy than in a libertarian economy. As rich people can invest a higher fraction of their income, which gives them more income to invest, wealth and income quickly will concentrate in a very few hands. These very few people are much better off in a libertarian economy, and the vast majority are worse off. The economy might grow faster, but the gains are concentrated in very few hands. So to remain libertarian, the majority can't have any political power, as they might vote taxes on the rich to fund social programs.

A libertarian state can't deal with a serious Commons problem, like say global warming.

The usual solutions to a Commons problem are regulation, taxation or ownership of the Commons. The first is right out, for a real libertarian, even if that is the best answer. The second can help, but isn't a full solution. The third isn't a realistic answer for the atmosphere.

[I don't think much of that is true. Disregarding (for the moment) the problem that True Libertarians have with taxes of any sort, and assuming a not-quite-pure Libertarian who will accept some as they must if there is to be a state; then your GW problem is solved by carbon taxes, which are entirely compatible with NQPL (if you take it as proven, or even likely, that just CT won't do then I disagree) -W]

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

WC inline comment: Targeted incentives or tax breaks is in general a bad idea

Well it's generally pretty hard to create any sort of tax system without some targeting. Personal vs. corporate taxes. Capital expenditures vs.O&M expenditures. Different capital depreciation rates for different categories of goods. Allowable (deductible) expenses vs. after-tax expenses. Restaurant dinners because I'm away from home on business and still need to eat, vs. restaurant dinners because I want to entertain "potential clients" (i.e. take my friends out on the company credit card). What the tax code calls a deductible expense is quite different from what is called an expense when the quarterly profit statement is issued.

You could go a pure consumption tax route. Govt. takes a cut any time money exchanges hands, but even that is usually targeted - e.g. food and clothing exempt, higher rates for sin taxes (liquor, cigarettes), retail vs. wholesale. Even there, business usually gets to deduct the tax it pays suppliers from what it collects from customers (e.g. that's how British VAT works [ed?], isn't it? Value Added Tax?). If I were a corporation, and charged sales tax on my personal income - but got to deduct every bit of sales tax I paid to run my life so I can work, then it would definitely be a different world. At least, I'd perceive it as having different targets.

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

It is all but certain now that 2016 will shatter historical records to be the warmest year ever by a wide margin. It was helped along the way by a large El Niño event, which tends to be associated with warmer temperatures globally. But, even without El Niño, 2016 would likely still be the warmest year ever. Now that the El Niño is fading, temperatures are dropping modestly down to around where they were before the El Niño started.

Recently, journalist David Rose published a deeply misleading article in the Mail on Sunday, a UK tabloid, claiming, “Global average temperatures over land have plummeted by more than 1C”....…

------ guest post by Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist and energy systems analyst at Berkeley Earth

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Once again carbon taxes are a full solution. Consider Richtown and Poortown again. Consider this a little economic math problem.

Suppose the following. Richtown has twice the economy of Poortown, measured in $ (or Euros, GBP or clam shells), and uses four times the fossil fuels of Poortown. Poortown has twice the population of Richtown. Richtown has half the sensitivity to warming as Poortown, measured as $ per degree C.

All reasonable so far?

[Plausible. Apologies for my slow reply, BTW. See… if you want to know why -W]

The total economy will have an optimum level of carbon taxation, where there would still be some warming so the economy would be hurt by warming, and equally hurt by warming (in other words, equal marginal cost). For amusement, what is the relationship between the optimum level of carbon taxation for Richtown, Poortown and the total economy?

[The "optimum" level of the carbon tax is the level that corresponds to the "damage" caused. Damage isn't usually taken to be purely economic - I'd expect it to cover damage-to-nature, too. But laying that aside and trying to work through your example, $1 of taxation (per thing) raises $4 from R and $1 from P (R uses 4x the fuels, you say). Er' = Er - 4/2, and Ep' = Ep - 1, since Er is half as sensitive, and the "sensitivity" is presumably expressed through $ removed. So if Er = 2 * Ep as you postulate, then Er' = 2 * Ep', and the equilibrium is maintained. Natrually, this is incomplete, since as expressed carbon taxes simply shrink the economy; it is missing the corresponding decrease in taxes elsewhere in the system.

Explain to me again what the problem is? -W]

If the government was democratic, what carbon tax rate would be supported by a majority of voters?

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Kevin O'Neill
#59, "Yes, because Bulgaria’s economy has proven so much better than the USA;’s......................Of course the USA’s economy fared best when corporate and individual rates were at what percent? "

#62, "GC – but you didn’t answer the question."

My point is that a low corporate tax rate stimulates the growth of businesses. Just compare the growth in per capita GDP for Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland with that of the USA.

Bulgaria starts from a much lower level of per capita GDP than the USA so it is easier for them to achieve growth. That "explanation" does not apply to the Republic of Ireland with its higher per capita income than the USA.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Kevin O'Neill @#63,
You correctly express leftist thought that says low taxes benefit only the rich.

Please go on believing that! It will make it easier for Donald Trump to win the hearts and minds of the "working class" who will benefit immensely from lower corporate taxes and the changes that will ensue. For example, manufacturing jobs flooding back to the USA.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Hank, thanks for bringing this thread back on topic.

Lindzen's main point is that most of "Climate Science" is junk. Different researchers come up with widely different estimates about the rate of warming. So who should one believe?

Here is a post that shows the lack of agreement about the extent of Global Warming:…

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

GC - once again you avoid answering the question. Noted.

Leftist thought? I presented data. It is well known that reality has a liberal bias are you suggesting we ignore data and reality and *lie* about it to persuade Trump voters? Are you suggesting lowering corporate tax rates *doesn't* favor those who own capital? Or are you just spewing forth words in a vain attempt to look like there;s actually an argument to be made?

I really can't tell. I'm guessing the latter because it's so difficult to admit one's world view is in direct contradiction to reality.

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Bob Loblaw @ #67,
"Bribing a few is wrong? Bribing many is OK? Let individuals pay for the bribes through personal taxes? Where does the money come from?"

Good point. Probably you were brought up to think (as I was) that bribery is immoral. I still think that.

So which is the lesser of these two evils? I thought that was explained in #60 but here it is again:

1. Only available to the favored few who can fund lobbyists and make significant contributions to politicians. This reality guarantees corruption and one scandal after another.
2. The incentives are given "up front" in the form of real dollars collected from taxpayers.
3. Once a business has been persuaded to set up shop by means of targeted incentives there is little incentive for them to stay once the money has been spent. The "Bribed" don't stay bribed.

1. Tax breaks are available to everyone so they are intrinsically fair. Lobbyists and campaign contributions are not a factor.
2. Tax breaks require no taxpayer money. Companies are more likely to set up or expand in jurisdictions that offer low tax rates. The bribe consists of letting corporations keep their own money.
3. Once a business sets up in a low tax jurisdiction there is a strong incentive to stay, so they remain bribed as long as taxes remain low.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 07 Jan 2017 #permalink

Seriously, we now get treated to links to "notrickszone" which focuses on a few cherry-picked places and this is then considered, by gallopingcamel, as "the lack of agreement about the extent of Global Warming".

If someone wants to be taken seriously, they must do a lot better than referring to crank websites with such obvious idiocy.

hasn't Kansas senator Brownback embarked on

"a real live experiment"

in dramatic tax cuts and flat rate taxes - even employing Art Laffer to help devise the policy

last time I looked it was not going too well

GC @ 79

Oh, my what a simplistic view you have.

You assume that targeted incentives are only (and can only be) created in response to lobbying and political contributions. Assumes facts not in evidence, and basically assumes your conclusion.

You accept that bribery is bad, and that both targeted incentives and tax breaks are bribery. You express things as a "lesser of two evils" alternative. You say "Tax breaks are available to everyone so they are intrinsically fair."

Corporate tax breaks are not available to non-corporations (e.g. individuals on a salary, like me.) Corporations also get to deduct expenses (see my comment at #72), and how expenses are defined is variable. Not all corporations are treated equally, in the sense that different types of expenses (e.g. capital vs. O&M) are treated differently. Should individuals like me be taxed using the exact same rules as corporations? Should my freedom to move and work anywhere in the world be equal to a corporation's freedom to move money and production anywhere? Your "available to all" and "inherently fair" again assumes facts not in evidence.

And finally, you appear to assume that lower taxes is better. If this is extended to "no taxes is best", then I ask again, where does the money to run government come from? Do you in fact think that no taxes is best, or if there is an optimal level for taxes (>0) then how do you think that optimal level should be determined?

(Boy, is this ever getting off topic. Feel free to tell us to stop, WC.)

By Bob Loblaw (not verified) on 08 Jan 2017 #permalink

"Tax breaks require no taxpayer money."

Yes, funds to replace lost revenue from tax breaks will appear magically, summoned from the heavens by St. Arthur of Laughter.

Sorry, couldn't resist. More constructively put, revenue not gained from one source either will have to be gained from another or offset by spending cuts.

tl:dr version: TANSTAAFL.

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 08 Jan 2017 #permalink

The discussion of economics is relevant to this thread so it is not entirely "Off Topic".

What matters to the majority of the people who post here is "Good Intentions" rather than "Results".

Here are nine charts that show the "Results" of the well intentioned policies of the last two presidents:…

It is pointless to continue this discussion as neither side will be persuaded. Instead let us look at these charts four years from now to see if the trajectory of any of them changed.

I contend that lowering corporate taxes will at the very least cause "Median Family Income" to rise.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 08 Jan 2017 #permalink

Speaking of economics,what's the planet worth?

Global Debt Hits 325% Of World GDP, Rises To Record $217 Trillion
from the lotsa-red-ink dept.
posted by cmn32480 on Friday January 06, @11:12 (Techonomics)                              |

[0]n1 writes:

 Global debt levels rose to more than 325 percent of the world's gross domestic product last year as government debt rose sharply, a report from the Institute for International Finance showed on Wednesday.

 The IIF's report found that global debt had risen more than $11 trillion in the first nine months of 2016 to more than $217 trillion.
 The report also found that general government debt accounted for nearly half of the total increase.

 Emerging market debt rose substantially, as government bond and syndicated loan issuance in 2016 grew to almost three times its 2015 level.

[2]Original Submission
Discuss this story at:


[I'm not sure what message you'd take from govt debt rising. Perhaps that interest levels are low and debt is cheap? -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 08 Jan 2017 #permalink

@gallopingcamel #84:

Here are nine charts that show the “Results” of the well intentioned policies of the last two presidents:
[Link to David Icke]

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Thanks for the laugh! Icke is a fruitcake who believes that the World is run by Lizard People. If he said the Sun would rise in the East tomorrow wouldn't take his word for it. That you link to him tells me all I need to know.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 09 Jan 2017 #permalink

You know a lot that is not so. Why would you think that median family income has not been falling over the past 15 years?

Dream on.

[You previously said It is pointless to continue this discussion as neither side will be persuaded. If you say that, you should live up to it. FWIW, I think DI is a raving looney who should be ignored -W]

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 09 Jan 2017 #permalink

How do I explain climate change to my teenager? originally appeared on Quora...

Answer by Richard Muller, Professor of Physics at UC Berkeley, author of Now, The Physics of Time, on Quora:

"... tell him that he will hear a lot of exaggerations from people who are genuinely worried about future temperature rise. We do expect that the temperature will rise another 1.5°C in the next 50 years, from continued carbon dioxide releases predominantly from China, India, and the developing world. They need more energy to improve the standard of living of their people, so we need to help them produce energy with low carbon emissions. That means nuclear, energy conservation, and natural gas."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 09 Jan 2017 #permalink

TTFN. I hope to drop by in a year or two if there is any improvement in living standards for the lower quartile of Americans.

You folks need to understand under paying the poor is a problem but global warming is not.

By gallopingcamel (not verified) on 09 Jan 2017 #permalink


You folks need to understand under paying the poor is a problem but global warming is not.

Global Warming IS a problem. Already, we're seeing more extreme and harmful weather, like extremely violent hurricanes. Over the last few months there have been FOUR heatwaves in Gauteng. If the situation continues, we may face an environmental collapse with all the death and suffering that brings.

By Julian Frost (not verified) on 09 Jan 2017 #permalink

WC (in line) @71 – “your GW problem is solved by carbon taxes”

No it’s not. A carbon tax on its own will not solve the GW problem. You need to face up to this issue one day or explain why and how it can.

Let’s say we get the rate of the tax “perfect”, and I’m not even sure economist could agree on what “perfect” would even mean. But let’s say the tax “perfectly” captures the damages of emissions. Oh, and I guess it’s a global tax because we can’t exactly solve the GW problem with a tax in Europe and NA only. (What would Hayek think about a “perfect”, centrally planned, global carbon tax?)

[I think he'd be fine with it, in the circumstances -W]

We are, however, still left with two main issues:

(1)A tax does not prevent me from emitting, it just means I have to pay more to do so. Ya, I know, it’s not suppose to prevent me from emitting but that’s my point. A “perfect” (or even overly aggressive tax) ain’t gonna get us to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

[Yes. And that's fine -W]

(2)Revenues from the tax do not go to off-set the damages of emission. Again, I know, it’s not suppose to do that but, again, that’s my point. Revenues from rich emitters in USA, that can pay the extra tax without much trouble, will go to off-setting other taxes in USA. Meanwhile, no money is left for Indonesia’s massed forced migration due to sea level rise, the severe draughts in central Africa or the loss in labour productivity in Bangladesh due to extreme heat. But hey, at least we can tell them “but we got the tax rate perfect!”.

[Yes, and that's just life -W]

Now for starters, we aren’t going to get the tax rate perfect (see: Hayek)

[No, I don't think Hayek is the correct source for that. The IPCC reports are better -W]

and we aren’t going to impose a global tax. So we are left with a tax that:
(1)Does not perfectly reflect the damages
(2)Only applies to local emissions (unless y’wanna start imposing tariffs on imports from countries that don’t have a carbon tax)
(3)Does not prevent emissions
(4)Does not cover the cost of the damages

That ain’t gonna solve the GW problem, on its own.

[Sez you. I disagree, if it is imposed at a reasonable level where it matters (to begin: US and China) -W]

It’s a good start and perhaps the best start. But stop saying “your GW problem is solved by carbon taxes” because something more is needed. That something more is likely not libertarian friendly.

Sorry but you can’t have your ideological cake and solve global warming too.

[You'll need to be rather more convincing if you want me to believe that. Surely you can't believe that hand-waving amounts to a convincing argument? -W]

So you agree it doesn't prevent emissions

[Not quite, no. Haven't we done this before? I agree it doesn't guarantee you a reduction to a pre-defined level. But it will inevitably reduce emissions -W]

and you agree that it doesn't address damages

[I didn't say that. To the contrary, since the optimal level is set at the damages, it does "address" them, in that the polluter pays -W]

but you still think it will, on its own, address climate change? And I"m hand-waving?

I'm sorry, I thought that to address climate change our goal was suppose to be near net zero emissions by 2050 (or use another date, different than the Paris Agreement). Could you explain how a carbon tax, alone, will do that?

[I don't think that does need to be the goal. The goal needs to be to "avoid dangerous climate change", whatever that means; which certainly means avoiding the massive emission pathways -W]

“I agree it doesn’t guarantee you a reduction to a pre-defined level. But it will inevitably reduce emissions” –WC

Agreed. The question is whether the reduction will be sufficient (even if we take "sufficient" to be greater than near net zero).

Take for example BC (Canada). They have a carbon tax and it has reduced emissions (-10% CO2 emissions/capita from 2008-2011 [1]), while GDP grew 3.8% and population grew 3.4%. This outpaces the reduction from the rest of Canada (-1.1% [1]). Furthermore, the reduction aligns with the time the tax was released, 2008. 2008 to 2011 saw a decrease in emissions by 6.9% [2] whereas 2003 to 2008 saw an increase of 1.85% [2]. However, more recent numbers show that the reduction has flattened. The 2013-2014 change was -0.37% and the 3-year trend actually showed an increase of 2.73% [2].

So while I agree that a carbon tax is a good start, it doesn’t appear to be nearly effective enough (on its own) to “avoid dangerous climate change”; it will only delay it slightly.


“To the contrary, since the optimal level is set at the damages, it does “address” them” -WC

How have you “addressed” them when the money you made people pay for the damages doesn’t (1) prevent the damage or (2) help pay for the damage? Satisfying some theoretical economic principal, and it’s even unclear if a tax would do that, does not mean you’ve “addressed” the damages, which you certainly have not.

[The tax brings in new money to the government. Or, since we're speaking of a Wise Govt, wise enough to impose carbon taxes, we can assume that the govt represents the will of the people and can be identified with the people. So there's some "new" money available (of course it isn't new, it is just old money moving around, but there's no fixing that problem), and the people can choose to spend it in various ways, of which 3 canonical ones are of interest to us: 1. they can fix the damage the CO2 has caused, 2. they can reduce other taxes, or 3. they can spend it on something else (2 and 3 are sort-of the same thing, but probably worth distinguishing for these purposes). What you're asking for is option 1: you, in your wisdom, have decided they must do option 1 and fix the damage. But why should they believe you? Perhaps they have other things they prefer to spend their money on -W]

“What you’re asking for is option 1” - WC

I've never said that. You're putting words in my mouth.

[Really? I thought you were asking for the damage to be paid for. If you're not asking for that, I've totally misunderstood you -W]

I am saying that if *you* want to say that that carbon taxes alone will solve the GW problem, then *you* back yourself into a corner where if you aren’t doing 1, then you aren’t addressing the damages of GW.

I am not saying that 1 is the way to go. I support revenue neutral carbon taxes, where revenue goes towards supporting low income families (especially as they may be more greatly impacted by the tax) and some to support industry (so they don’t pack up and leave because of the tax) and some going to incentivize local energy efficiency/emission reduction projects. BC is pretty close to my ideal ($195 million to Low Income Tax Credit, 5% Reduction in first two personal income tax rates, 1% reduction in general corporate income tax, 1% reduction in small business corporate income tax.) (I do think there needs to be some financial support from developed countries to developing countries to support their emission reductions but that doesn’t have to come directly from a carbon tax.)

The difference is that by understanding that a carbon tax alone is not enough, we can use a carbon tax to start reducing emissions and use other measures (incentivizing renewables, increasing energy efficiency standards, applying tariffs on imports from countries that don’t have a tax, and slowly regulating out high emitting processes) to achieve more significant reductions. The goal in this case is to sufficiently prevent damages, so that passing around a collection plate to pay for damages (i.e. #1) isn’t required (or at least we are much less reliant on adaptation).

> [The tax brings in new money to the government…] - WC

I asked “How have you “addressed” [damages] when the money you made people pay for the damages doesn’t (1) prevent the damage or (2) pay for the damage?” Your response doesn’t address that in the slightest. In fact, it feels like an attempt at misdirection by making it seem like I said something I never have, which I dealt with above.

I have shown you how a real world carbon tax did provide a good start to reducing emissions (which we both agree on) but, on its own, did not significantly reduce emissions to the point where damages would be avoided (even if the tax was global). I then asked, given that a carbon tax alone will likely not sufficiently prevent damages and we’re not going to use the revenues to help pay for the damages, how have can you say that a carbon tax alone will solve the GW problem?

> “Really? I thought you were asking for the damage to be paid for.”- WC

I understand why it may sound like I was but, as I tried to explain in the rest of #96, I wasn’t.

[I'm afraid I didn't understand your explanation. As far as I can tell, your position is that any credible carbon tax has to pay for the damages. Or, that it is a fatal flaw in carbon taxes as expounded by me that they don't pay for said damages. That sounds an awful lot to me like you think the carbon tax should pay for the damages. Regardless, though, by focussing on what I think you think you're missing the point. Reread my answer in #95 -W]

I’m still struggling to understand how you think a carbon tax alone will solve the GW problem. Perhaps it’s because we are working with two different definitions of “solve the GW problem”.

You stated @94 that you took this to mean “avoid dangerous climate change” and I would support that definition. But that’s still quite vague; could we change this to say “keep global temperatures below 2 deg C”? I know the 2 deg C value is a little arbitrary but it does have some backing. If that’s the case then RCP4.5, which reaches a peak temperature of 2.4 deg C, seems like a pretty good target to stay below and provides us with more details to compare a carbon tax only plan against.

RCP4.5 requires pretty extensive effort to follow, including increasing renewables, shifting from gas to electricity, extensive reforestation and even carbon capture. It slows emission growth up to ~2050 and then emissions/year start to rather quickly decline to below 5 GtCO2/year by 2090. I will agree that’s theoretical possible to do that with a carbon tax alone but it requires people to be perfect market agents – which unfortunately we are not. And, yes, RCP4.5 is designed more or less to assume they are (it’s based on an economic model).

But even though RCP4.5 does not try to outline what the climate policy would be beyond an emission cost, it indicates that regulations and laws are part of the policy, “Rules and regulations ranging from accounting and property rights to legal and enforcement systems are assumed to operate efficiently” (Clarke et al 2007). It appears to suggest, as I have, that regulations and laws on top of a carbon tax are required to reach the reductions.

[RCP is just a scenario. They made certain assumptions which were useful to them to generate that scenario. The reverse implication: that those assumptions are *necessary* to get CO2 levels as low as that scenario - isn't true -W]

Again, we can also look to BC’s carbon tax (which you ignored the first time) as a real world example of carbon taxes being a good start but, on their own, not enough. An initial 10% reduction (that is now slightly less) at a $30/tonne tax is a good start. But, even if applied globally, that doesn’t get us near the reduction of RCP4.5 and doesn’t help us stay below 2 deg C.

[So, $30 isn't enough (making the somewhat implausible assumption that experiences generalises. Use $40. Or whatever -W]

So I’m still not clear how, in your opinion, a carbon tax alone will “avoid dangerous climate change”. It seems like wishful thinking to save ideological-face.

Where's that SEC thread? This belongs there:
Trump’s SEC Nominee Told Firms To Admit Climate Change Risks

Jay Clayton was a go-to lawyer at a firm that warned companies to tell investors of “the devastating results of severe weather conditions” from global warming.

For at least the past six years, Clayton’s law firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, has advised businesses to disclose the “impacts of climate change” in documents they file with the SEC, according to a 2010 memo. The law firm listed Clayton as one of handful of attorneys that clients can turn to for advice on climate disclosure:

[See? I told you so -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 11 Jan 2017 #permalink

> “So, $30 isn’t enough (making the somewhat implausible assumption that experiences generalises. Use $40. Or whatever” -W

Wait, wait, wait. I thought you said a carbon tax was suppose to reflect the damages. So you can’t go around raising the rates because you didn’t reduce emissions enough.

[Why do you think $30 reflects the damages? -W]

While I can buy (with some humming-and-hawing) that a carbon tax that reflects the damages of emissions is a free-market solution (I’d call it a necessary action by the government to correct a market failure), raising tax rates until you get a desired behaviour certainly is not.

So if you're advocating for the latter now, then you appear to be breaking through your ideological stronghold. If that’s the case, then why not simply go a little bit further into the cold, cold waters of social liberalism and accept that regulations may need to be a part of the solution to climate change.

> “As far as I can tell, your position is that any credible carbon tax has to pay for the damages.” – W

No. Here’s what my position is:

A carbon tax, as a part of a comprehensive climate policy (which includes some form of taxes, incentives, tariffs, regulations and laws), does not need to pay for damages because the full policy prevents most of the damages. It can be, and I’d advocate for it to be, revenue neutral in this case.

However, if your climate policy is a carbon tax alone, then you won’t reduce emissions enough to prevent the majority of the damages. So if you’ve spent the revenues from the tax on something else (ex. off-setting local taxes), then you have nothing left for dealing with the damages and have not solved the GW problem (i.e. not enough prevention and no funding for adaptation).

I could, however, (kind of) accept that you’ve “solved” the GW problem had you collected the revenues to pay for the damages (i.e. supported adaptation to the new climate). That would not be my ideal solution, though.

> “The reverse implication: that those assumptions are *necessary* to get CO2 levels as low as that scenario – isn’t true” – W

Point taken. But it certainly doesn’t suggest they agree with you that a carbon tax alone is likely to achieve that scenario.

AR5 WGIII provides more insights into this (from the SPM):

“Regulatory approaches and information measures are widely used, and are often environmentally effective”

“For instance, a carbon tax can have an additive environmental effect to policies such as subsidies for the supply of RE”

"Information programmes are a prevalent approach for promoting energy efficiency, followed by economic instruments, regulatory approaches and voluntary actions"

"additional policies may be needed to address market failures relating to innovation and technology diffusion."

Now, of course, none of these quotes come right out and say “YOU CAN’T SOLVE CLIMATE CHANGE BY CARBON TAX ALONE, WILLIAM CONNOLLEY!” but they suggest that a broad climate policy, including a combination of taxes, incentives, tariffs, regulations and laws, is the ideal way to go. They discuss the co-benefits of a carbon tax along with other policies and measures. So, even if I can't say it goes against your position, I can say it supports mine.

> “[Why do you think $30 reflects the damages? –W]”

EPA says that the social cost of carbon is $36 for a 3% discount rate for 2015 [1], so $30 (which was implemented in 2010) isn’t that far off the mark.

[Errm, actually, $36 is closer to the $40 I suggested raising to and you objected to -W]

But, really, you’re dodging the point.

The point is that you kept saying you pick a carbon tax rate based off the damages (which corrects a market failure by incorporating externalities). So, if that rate is not high enough to reduce emissions below a certain level, then you don’t get to start increasing the tax rate to reach that certain level. Otherwise you no longer have a free-market solution ($ tax reflects $ damages), you are instead using a tax to drive a centrally-planned change in market behavior (*Hayek rolls in his grave*).

[No, you're just missing the point. What I've said in a number of places is that in practical terms the way to implement a carbon tax is to start on the low side, and ramp it up as seems appropriate. However, if we're talking in theoretical terms then the correct value of the tax is the value of the externalities.

Those two situations - practical and theoretical - are different. I hope you understand that. Because the situations are different, the answers are different. I hope you are able to understand that.

As to what might actually be the correct value, I don't have a strong attachment to any particular value. Why you think the EPA-mandated value, doubtless achieved after a great deal of haggling and negotiating, might actually be the correct value, I have no idea at all. I doubt it is correct.

The clue is in "avoiding dangerous climate change". The costs of "dangerous" climate change are, by definition, large (of course "dangerous" is a probability measure not a damage measure, so you have to rewrite that as "integrated across plausible outcomes"). So you'd expect the costs per CO2 to be "large". $35 isn't, I think. Of course this also throws up that the damage isn't linear with emissions, another reason why the economically theoretical answer isn't necessarily the same as the practical answer -W]

That leaves you between a rock and ideological hard place. You can keep your ideological-consistent carbon tax where the tax reflects the damages but that will not solve GW alone because the tax rate it’s not high enough to reduce emissions below a level that would “avoid dangerous climate change”. But if you want to raise the tax so that it is high enough, then you’re embracing a solution counter to your ideology.

Or you could just support, in addition to a carbon tax, regulations and other measures to address climate change. As I said to you a while back this problem will undoubtedly pit your free market ideology against your desire to address climate change. One of the two has to budge in this case.

Before I get to your comments, I need some clarity on your position.

Do you advocate for a carbon tax (1) that captures the damages of emissions or (2) that reduces emissions enough to “avoid dangerous climate change”?

They are not the same thing – practically and ideologically – and lead to advocating for different tax rates.

Originally, I thought you were pushing for former, which you saw as free-market friendly. Now you seem to be suggesting the latter, which would be a pretty major departure as the latter is a centrally-planned effort to adjust consumer behavior to a specific, pre-planned goal. That seems odd coming from you, so I want to be clear on what you’re actually advocating for.

[I don't clearly distinguish them, because I don't see any clear need to. I don't think you've provided any evidence that they aren't either the same thing, or close enough not to matter, from a practical perspective. As I said in my previous reply, "dangerous" GW is by its very nature expensive, and therefore the costs imposed via the tax would be "large".

If you wished to engage in a (clearly labelled) theoretical and philosophical discussion, rather than a practical real-world one, then I would be able to expound more. But since I think you care more about practicalities, I won't go there unless you're specifically interested -W]

Sorry, I could have been more clear:

What do you mean by " seems appropriate":
1) Accurately captures the damages,
2) Effectively reduces emissions enough to "avoid dangerous climate change",
3) Is socially and politically acceptable?

If you mean 1 or 3 and that value is less than 2, then how can you claim a carbon tax alone will solve the GW problem? (the rock)

If you mean 2 (with some of 3, likely), then how can you claim it to be classical liberal-friendly? (the ideological hard place)

[Again, you're trying to force hard distinctions that don't necessarily have any practical impact, IMO. "as seems appropriate" was intended to suggest a periodic review of the tax level; perhaps done every 4 or 5 years (more than 1, less than 10). that review - if done in the real world - would have to include the soc / pol impacts, but would also include updated assessments of probable costs / damages.

What I'm trying to get through, and which I'm clearly failing to, is that if the (quasi-theoretical) view of "pegged-to-damages" is linked to "dangerous change is clearly expensive", then in practice the theoretical and practical will align (modulo political interference, of course). But I'm not attempting to consider political feasability here -W]

> “Again, you’re trying to force hard distinctions that don’t necessarily have any practical impact”

These distinctions matter. They set three different goals that are sometimes compatible, sometimes not.

When purposing a carbon tax, the first question is – Why? To me, there are two answers to this question (1) to account for the externalities of carbon emissions or (2) to reduce emissions to “avoid dangerous climate change”. Yes, the two are linked - the externalities in 1 are related to damages in 2. However, that does not mean that the same tax rate to satisfy 1 will satisfy 2.

Once you've answered the "why", you are set to address the tax rate you want.

The rate to satisfy 1 is based on the economics and science of carbon emissions – you want the cost of emissions to reflect the damages. It’s a rather theoretical value but is suppose to have a physical meaning. This rate will vary depending on assumptions and models. However, the rate is not dependant on how “well” the tax is working as it has no desired reduction level. Whether consumer behaviour is changing or not, you don’t really care. You’ve addressed the externalities, job done.

The rate to satisfy 2 is based on consumer and industry behaviour – you want the cost of emissions to prevent emissions. While you can attempt to apply some socio-economic estimates, this is likely a “guess and check” value. Different people and different places will respond very differently to the tax – real world price elasticity variances. Some, likely the less well off people, will be highly sensitive to the tax and will change consumption behaviour quickly and sharply. While others, likely the more well-off people, will be less sensitive to the tax and will require a higher tax rate before they start having a notable change in their consumption behaviour. Consumer behaviour is also dependant on the producer’s ability to provide low emission alternatives. For things like transportation and energy supply, this is a very costly and lengthy process. It’s likely that there could be some lag, even if there is a shift in consumer demand. Needless to say, the results are less than clear from the outset (which Hayek, I think, would agree with). So, you’ll likely start small and ramp up. If you aren’t meeting the reductions, you need to revisit the value (as you say, probably every 4 or 5 years).

There’s even a difference in how the goals view each other. Let’s say that the rate to satisfy 1 is higher than the rate to satisfy 2. In this case, people are hypersensitive to the increase in cost and achieve the necessary reductions (2 satisfied) prior to fully incorporating the externalities (1 not satisfied). Here the advocates for 1 shouldn’t really care if the tax rate increases until 1 is satisfied. Emissions are at safe levels and damages have been avoided. There’s no need to satisfy 1 by raising taxes further if 2 is already met.

However, the opposite scenario, where the rate to satisfy 1 is lower than the rate to satisfy 2, leads to a different reaction. In this case, people are less sensitive to the increase in costs, perhaps convenience is a more important factor. The externalities have been fully incorporating into the cost (1 satisfied) but emissions are still at dangerous levels (2 not satisfied). Here the advocates for 2 should still want rates to continue to increase until 2 is satisfied. Emissions are not at safe levels and damages, while lessened, have not been avoided. There is a need to satisfy 2 by raising taxes further.

I will grant that it is possible that the theoretically “proper” rate to satisfy 1 turns out to be the practically “proper” rate to satisfy 2. But that would be coincidence. They are two very different goals with two very different approaches to implementation.

I feel the second scenario is most likely. Firstly, it most closely matches the situation in the example of BC. Secondly, it seems to reflect the difficulty with overcoming the power of convenience and behavioural inertia of consumers. Especially as higher emitters have more disposable income already and can eat a tax, without changing behaviour. Thirdly, it seems to reflect how difficult, expensive and time consuming it will be for producer’s, especially in the utility and transportation sectors, to change their infrastructure to reach safe emission levels.

Having said all this, there is also (3) the practical concern about whether the tax is socially or politically tenable. This is most likely the practical limiting factor. So it’s very likely that you may fail to satisfy 1 AND 2 because 3 is most likely the driver that will set the tax rate. This makes it even less likely that a carbon tax alone will be enough to stop global warming. Especially when you consider that the damages of climate change can appear to be quite distant, temporally and spatially. People may have a greater ability to value their well-being out into the future but not others (see: Parfit). Governments may have a greater ability to value the population within their borders but not beyond that and not outside of their 4 years in power. Corporations, well, they need things to align with this quarters profits in order to value it (or need stakeholders to demand they value it). This encourages delaying or minimizing mitigation efforts and makes a high tax less agreeable, which lowers the upper limit set by 3.

However, when you combine a carbon tax with a more comprehensive climate change policy, including incentives, standards, regulations, tariffs and laws, you can share in co-benefits between measures. Incentives and regulations can help transform utilities prior to hitting consumers with very heavy taxes on emissions – this way consumers have a choice to avoid paying the tax. Increasing building efficiency standards also means that home heating and cooling costs are lower, and therefore the tax isn’t as onerous on consumers. To ensure that the market playing field is leveled and to avoid companies packing up and leaving to countries with no tax (or less tax), tariffs could be applied to imports from such countries.

[You're very keen on regulations. I'm not; increasingly so. For whatever reason, you don't see the costs (economic and political) and problems associated with then. I doubt I've explained that clearly and I'm not the person to, anyway -W]

A carbon tax is incredibly important but its effectiveness is amplified greatly when combined with other measures. Again, I simply cannot see how a carbon tax, on its own, can “avoid dangerous climate change”.

(A side note: with all these demands for me to provide evidence to support my case, let’s remember where this conversation started – your comment @71 “your GW problem is solved by carbon taxes”. Have you provided anything to support that claim? All you seem to be doing is asking for me to provide more and more support. Could you perhaps, point me to some place where you’ve outlined how a carbon tax on its own can reduce emissions to levels that “avoid dangerous climate change” while still being socially and politically tenable?)

[You are correct: I have not supported my claim. I don't really see how I could. Obviously I cannot do so by using experience, because there is so little of it -W]

> “You’re very keen on regulations” – W

I see them as necessary, in this case. If I thought people could change voluntarily or with a simply price adjustment to reach the target, I wouldn’t advocate for them.

> “For whatever reason, you don’t see the costs (economic and political) and problems associated with then.” – W

I agree regulations can have flaws and do come with costs and drawbacks. They will all have pros and cons, as will any tax rate. Some will be more effective than others, as will any tax rate. Some will have more unforeseen side effects, as will any tax rate. But the advantage to regulatory measures as they can address the problem further and more directly than putting a price on carbon can. And if we are really serious about addressing climate change then they are required.

As I tried to point out, your ideological rejection to regulations seems odd when you promote a carbon tax that is aimed at reaching a certain emission target. What is the difference? Both are centrally-planned efforts to change market behaviour to reach a societal goal. If you embrace the latter, what’s wrong with the former?

> “You are correct: I have not supported my claim. I don’t really see how I could. Obviously I cannot do so by using experience, because there is so little of it” –W

Here’s some possible ways you could support your case:
-Local examples of a carbon tax causing significant emission reductions on their own (which is why I used BC as an example).
-Show that price elasticity to fuel cost increases led to significant consumption reductions, in line with those required to reach safe emission levels (fuel embargo?)
-A tax, any tax, that alone absolutely transformed entire industries, culture and consumer behaviour in the desired, pre-planned way. (alcohol? Cigerettes?)
-Or simply do more study into SCC and come up with a value you can support. At least at that point we can start to discuss whether it might be impactful enough to reduce emissions to safe levels while being socially and politically tenable.

As I’ve said from the get go – I support a carbon tax. I agree with you that it’s an important first step. I agree with you that it should start on the lower end and be incrementally raised. I agree that we need it now! (well, probably 10 years go…but failing a time machine, now!)

But we also have to realize, now, that it won’t be enough on its own. We need smart regulations, standards, incentives and other mitigation measures to work together with the tax. If we give the tax 10 years on its own with no plan for regulations and then realize it’s not enough, then we are in big trouble. Frankly, that’s akin to “skeptics” saying “we don’t know enough to justify a mitigation measures that will destroy the economy!”

I’ve taken enough of your time, which I apologize for (but if it’s any consolation to you, our discussion here distracted me from commenting on Parfit – which I had oohhhh so many perils of wisdom to offer :-P). I appreciate your input.

Thank you to rconnor. You have made the points I wanted to make better than I might have done so.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 13 Jan 2017 #permalink

Interesting discussion

To rconnor a carbon tax (1) that captures the damages of emissions or (2) that reduces emissions enough to “avoid dangerous climate change” are theoretically different and tax rate for (1) won't be enough to do (2).

[I disagree. As I've attempted to explain above. Why do you think otherwise? -W]

I wonder if you are thinking that unless tax is infinite then there is still a small amount of demand and if there is a need to get emissions to zero then anything less than an infinite tax won't do.

If this is the problem then I suspect William is thinking of a more complex carbon tax where the carbon tax is zero if you do enough sequestration. Now if the carbon tax exceeds the cost of sequestration then you pay for the sequestration rather than paying the carbon tax. Thus a carbon tax in excess of the sequestration cost does fix the damages.

[That would indeed do; so clearly an infinite tax is not needed; the highest it needs to be is "cost of sequestration", assuming for the sake of simplicity that all sequestration costs the same. But that's not true (if it was, we would have the weird effect that sequestration would be economically pointless (if it cost more than the tax) suddenly switching to zero emissions (once it because pointful)) -W]

Not sure if that is any help to the discussion.

That was aimed at rconnor, the 'you' 4th word of 3rd para was perhaps ambiguous.

Yes, you would expect a range of sequestration costs and expect economy to pretty much go for cheapest available.

Suppose the amount of damages at which you set your carbon tax happened to turn out to allow an awful lot of sequestration, far more than needed. If left at that level economy would do too much sequestration and you would reduce the carbon tax rate. Whether this is a case of set the carbon tax rate at (2) the lower amount that is enough to stop dangerous climate change or a case of (1) the climate change damage has been overestimated and can be reduced seems a silly theoretical argument to have.

Similarly if we take situation where some emissions are possible without being dangerous then the carbon tax is set at the amount of damages. Any sequestration that costs less than that gets done but there are some emissions. If this isn't working out with too much emissions carbon price is raised. Again you can start pointless argument over whether you are adjusting tax to level of avoiding dangerous climate change or readjusting to the value which represents climate damages.

In short I am coming out more or less in support of William's position that the 2 different versions are pretty much the same thing.

The point I was trying to make was that rconnor might need to understand William's carbon tax allows sequestration as alternative to paying the tax in order to comprehend William's position.

Phil Hays,

Thanks. I don't think I really accomplished anything though!


> “To rconnor a carbon tax (1) that captures the damages of emissions or (2) that reduces emissions enough to “avoid dangerous climate change” are theoretically different and tax rate for (1) won’t be enough to do (2).”

That’s a good summary of my position.

> “I wonder if you are thinking that unless tax is infinite then there is still a small amount of demand and if there is a need to get emissions to zero then anything less than an infinite tax won’t do.”

Not exactly (but kind of). I, like WC I think, am concerned with the practical problem. Can a political and socially tenable tax rate (satisfies 3, from #104) alone reduce emissions enough to “avoid dangerous climate change” (satisfies 2, from #104)? If yes, then a carbon tax alone will “solve the GW problem”. If no, then you need something more. I think you could satisfy 2 with a finite tax rate but I think it would still be too high to satisfy 3 (see some of my reasoning below).

> “the carbon tax is zero if you do enough sequestration”

So we’re banking on mass scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) now? I was under the impression that most people, outside of a lot of “skeptics”, thought that was a bad idea.

> “Yes, you would expect a range of sequestration costs and expect economy to pretty much go for cheapest available.”

Firstly we’d have to solve the technical problems with mass scale CCS.

> "The point I was trying to make was that rconnor might need to understand William’s carbon tax allows sequestration as alternative to paying the tax in order to comprehend William’s position.”

I’m well aware of that. You impose a carbon tax to make lower or no emission alternatives more financially attractive. So, yes, that allows for any and all alternatives (renewables, reductions in consumption, CCS, etc.) but we needn’t care, for this discussion, what the alternative(s) is(/are). Frankly, I have no idea why you’d highlight mass scale CCS, which has a slew of technical problems and limitations, as the alternative to focus on. (I’m also unsure if WC even supports mass scale CCS as a practical solution)

What we care about is whether the carbon tax, alone, will be enough to push producers and consumers to the alternatives to a great enough degree that we “avoid dangerous climate change”. The question is all about consumer and producer behaviour changes to a carbon tax. You, like WC, seem to be making an assumption that people are perfect market actors. I think differently. See my comment at #105 for some details but I’ll provide more here.

(1) Convenience is a huge factor in consumer behaviour.

Fast food taste worse, is worse for me and costs more than making the same thing at home, yet I think McDonalds is doing ok. Driving is more convenient than walking, despite the fact it costs more and is worse for me. Even if you add on $/L at the pump through a carbon tax, people (especially those with more disposable income) will still pay for the convenience. The question is really about price elasticity…

(2) Past real world examples seem to suggest that fuel/emissions are relatively inelastic products.

See the example from BC’s carbon tax. Or take your pick on another carbon tax. See also, the relation between fuel price and vehicle miles travelled -

So, to overcome this inelasticity, you’d have to put in a carbon tax so large that it would almost never be politically or economically tenable.

Now, if by a certain year we phased out or significantly limit highly emitting transportation through regulations and increased efficiency standards, then we would by-pass the problem of fuel inelasticity…but government imposed regulations/standards appear to be a no-no according to WC.

(3) Payback, rather than life-cycle cost, is the predominate metric for industries.

You seem to suggest that if CCS costs $X/tonne and the carbon tax is $Y/tonne, where X<Y, then people will pursue CSS rather than pay the tax. However, CCS requires significant capital investment where paying the tax is part of an operating budget and can also just be passed onto consumers through higher rates. Capital budgets and operating budgets are two completely different things. Often times a payback of less than 1.5 to 2 years are required for capital investments to move forward, sometimes less.

Or, take the example of a utility changing their coal power plants to a less emission intensive option. The $/year they’d be saving on a carbon tax penalty would likely be peanuts compared to the capital cost.

Now, if by a certain year we regulated out the use of coal power in an area and strapped a heavy fine for those non-compliant, then the heavy fine would directly and immediately offset the capital cost in the utility’s decision…but government imposed regulations or limits appear to be a no-no according to WC.

Capital cost constraints also apply to people. Sure, I could save $X/year on my heating bill by putting in new insulation, and $Y/year if there was a carbon tax, but I may simply not have the money to pay for the capital cost of the insulation.

Now, if someone provided me a financial incentive to reduce the capital cost, I might be able to…but government supported incentives* appear to be a no-no according to WC (* - most utility DSM incentives are driven by mandates set by local governments or watch dog organizations).

So, to directly address your point – I’m aware that CCS could be an alternative that would be made more attractive by a carbon tax. But (1) I don’t think mass CCS is a practical solution, from a technical or economic viewpoint, and (2) it doesn’t really address any of my issues with a “carbon tax only” climate policy. It’s still simply not enough to change consumer and producer behaviour enough. You need other measures.

> how a carbon tax on its own can reduce emissions to levels
> that “avoid dangerous climate change” while still being
> socially and politically tenable?

Paging Peter Ward, who said we need video games to educate the next generation. There's a good sketch for one.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Jan 2017 #permalink

rconnor, I actually agree that regulations have uses. I just don't see how arguing (1) and (2) from #110 are theoretically different and need to be distinguished achieves anything. Nor do I see anything in what you say that counters that.

Re socially and politically acceptable. I think we all agree that suddenly introducing a $200 carbon tax would be likely to introduced unwanted sudden upheaval in the economy and it is better to allow business to prepare by ramping up the tax. So you can't go from no carbon tax to a tax that is sufficient immediately but if you do it in slow steps and people can see it is gradually having more effect and that businesses are adapting, how do you know it isn't possible to get to sufficient levels over a period of time? (OK current US govt doesn't seem likely to embrace this.)

Convenience, yes people will pay for convenience. If people can afford that cost should that choice be removed from them if they are paying adequately for externalities?

Price elasticity
This has a lot to do with what choices there are. If there is a choice of an electric car to avoid the carbon tax rather than a FF ICE car will the price elasticity be so high?

1.5 to 2 years? Would love to invest in that if it is infrastructure that will last over 10 years. So that seems exaggerated. However, I do see some scope for regulations here. For example if you couldn't sell enough electric cars to be profitable without a charging network and a charging network is too expensive if there aren't many electric cars. Charging networks are being built. Is this because of regulations that require car makers to sell increasing proportions of 0 emission vehicles?

"a carbon tax (1) that captures the damages of emissions or (2) that reduces emissions enough to “avoid dangerous climate change” are theoretically different and tax rate for (1) won’t be enough to do (2)."

I only slightly disagree. Most real people don't make decisions only on the exact numbers of economic analysis. A carbon tax smaller than the amount of damages might change behavior enough to avoid dangerous climate change, and it also might require a carbon tax larger than damages to avoid dangerous climate change. People are not economically perfect decision makers.

Why does someone that drives mostly alone on smooth paved roads where it never snows buy a four wheel drive seats 8 people SUV getting 10 miles to the gallon of gasoline? (25 liters per 100 km)

Why does someone else buy a $120,000 Tesla Model S to save money on gasoline?

There are different ways that a carbon tax might be perceived. A carbon tax that was small but was perceived as perhaps going much higher might have a much larger impact on behavior than a much higher carbon tax that was perceived as being stable in rate. A carbon tax to fund something desirable such as schools might not impact behavior in the way that you want, as people might want more money for schools, and would use more fuel to publicly show that they support the schools. A carbon tax that is perceived as funding something seen as wasteful or immoral might have a larger impact, as people might want to publicly show they are against the waste or immorality.

There are many other ways that society can change the behavior of members of society.

Public honors, for example. What if the big auto races had the drivers starting with a fixed amount of fuel and the winner was the one that went the largest distance? Or even some mix of speed and fuel economy? On this note, it is interesting how electric cars and motorcycles are starting to compete in some auto races: such as the Pikes Peak Hill Climb. When the real motor heads become electric, a lot of people will follow.

Subsidies. LED bulbs are an example. A few million dollars in subsidies pushed the LED bulbs into production, and reduced the price enough to displace the less efficient bulbs. Once very expensive, now available for $1 each. Like most things, subsidies can be overused. A little can do a lot, and a lot might not do much more.

Regulations. Especially useful where the damage is uncompensated. Which is realistically the case with climate change.

By focusing on taxes only, you are vastly oversimplifying both real human responses and reducing potentially valuable ways of dealing with problems.

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 18 Jan 2017 #permalink


> “I just don’t see how arguing (1) and (2) from #110 are theoretically different and need to be distinguished achieves anything.”

See #105 but I’ll try to explain it again here.

The social cost of carbon is essential what (1) is trying to match. Lots of assumptions and uncertainty goes into that value but at least it gives some basis for a target for (1). When pursuing (1), you don’t really care about emission reductions and you needn’t worry about price elasticity – you’re just trying to capture the externalities and don’t have much concern over the impact on consumption habits. In 2010, the SCC that the Canadian government used was $27.6/tonne (using a 3% discount rate)[1]. BC’s carbon tax in 2010 was $30/tonne. It would be defensible to say that BC’s carbon tax satisfied (1). So, if (1) was our goal, we're done!

The tax rate to achieve (2) is much less clear. It’s the value that changes consumer and producer behaviour enough to avoid dangerous climate change. It’s likely a guess-and-check value where you slowly ramp up the tax and watch the impact on emissions. It could be the same (or lower) than (1) but that depends on price elasticity. BC’s carbon tax ramped up to $30/tonne and the emissions reduced by 10% (in 2012)[2] but have slightly climbed since then. BC’s carbon tax on its own did not satisfy (2) (but it is a good start…again, remember, I support carbon taxes).

So here comes the practical difference. The tax rate to satisfy (1) was less than the tax rate to satisfy (2). BC’s carbon tax did capture the externalities but did not “solve the GW problem” on its own. If all I wanted was (1), I’d be fine with that. If I wanted (2), I’d be pushing for a higher tax rate….or if I wanted (2) but realized that a carbon tax alone could not achieve it, I’d be pushing for a combination of higher tax rate and more incentives, subsidies and efficiency standards and eventually regulations and laws.

Now, if you (or WC) want to say, “Well that’s because the SCC used by Canada was wrong”. Ok, so then show me what SCC you think is more reasonable and why (note: I actually support a discount rate of 0%, so I would probably agree with you!). Would that higher value satisfy (2)? Would that higher value satisfy (3) (that it’s politically and socially tenable)?

It needs to be distinguished because they are two different goals, that lead to two different tax rates and two different reactions to emission reduction achieved by the tax rate. Furthermore, but perhaps only relevant to WC, ideologically they are two very different things. (1) is a correction to a market failure (failure to capture externalities) that is otherwise free-market friendly. (2) is a centrally-planned attempt at changing consumer/producer behaviour to meet some societal goal – that’s not very Hayekian.


> “If people can afford that cost should that choice be removed from them if they are paying adequately for externalities?”

Firstly, saying they are “paying adequately for externalities” is very different than “them paying will help deal with the externalities”. See #93, starting with “(2) Revenues from the tax…”. It’s great that the tax will theoretically make them pay for externalities but as the revenues do not go to paying the damages of the externalities, then you haven’t really dealt with them. This problem becomes even more difficult as the location of the tax and the location of the damages aren’t always the same. The most vulnerable areas are those that are emitting the least.

To the removal of choice, if we can address climate change by not needing to regulate out choices, I’m more than happy to support that. However, when I look at real world examples of carbon taxes or the inelasticity to fuel prices, I’m not convinced that is the case.

Furthermore, and I’m asking this genuinely, what is the practical difference between regulating out a choice or making a choice economically impractical due to a tax? In the former, I can’t because regulations say I can’t. In the latter, I can’t because I can’t afford to. Either way, that “choice” isn’t really available to me. Either way there was a centrally-planned effort to make that “choice” unavailable to me (legally or economically).

> “This has a lot to do with what choices there are. If there is a choice of an electric car to avoid the carbon tax rather than a FF ICE car will the price elasticity be so high?”

Agreed. But there’s a lot of R&D that’s required and infrastructure changes, such as charging stations. Also, I’ve been a part of testing electric vehicles in cold climates and I can tell you, there are still some technical obstacles to overcome. So would you agree that providing incentives and subsidies for electric vehicles and charging stations is important? If so, we don’t really disagree here (but you may be at odds with WC).

> “1.5 to 2 years? Would love to invest in that if it is infrastructure that will last over 10 years. So that seems exaggerated.”

Do you have the cash to pay for it now? What if the savings estimates were wrong? What’s the risk of pre-mature failure? What happens if there’s a change in the market? What if our boiler craps out next year, do we have the capital for that if we invest in this? Is this related to our core business? – That’s how, and sometimes rightfully so, companies think.

I’m not sure you have experience working with industries on getting them to change to energy saving but capital intensive projects. Life cycle cost savings can be 5x the initial investment but unless payback, with a financial incentive , is under 2 years – the project may not go forward. This has a lot to do with the state of their industry, whether head office tightly controls capital expenditures, how invested in energy/emission savings head office is, whether they perceive the project to impact their reliability to produce widgets, etc. but it ain’t an exaggeration.