back to article Doing the maths on Copenhagen

Copenhagen is dead. Hurrah! And I say that as someone convinced that climate change is happening, we're causing it, and we need to do something about it. However, what we don't need to do is the ghastly mess that was being cooked up in Denmark. They've essentially agreed to, um, well, try - and they'll think a little bit more …

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Carbon cycle

Volcanoes are always spewing out some CO2. Photosynthesis in plants and algae absorbs the CO2 and releases O2. Some of these are eaten by animals, absorbing O2 and releasing CO2. Some of the plant matter gets buried, taking that carbon out of circulation.

Some of that buried carbon gets sucked back inside the earth in subduction zones.

What has happened is that we have dug up millions of years worth of this stored carbon and burned it, releasing lots of extra CO2.

This has temporarily disturbed the equilibrium of the normal carbon cycle.

In a few hundred years, it may settle back to normal, unless we have tipped the balance enough to cause a major extinction event, in which case all bets are off.

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Why are carbon taxes so popular?

Why is a tax on CO2 emissions so popular? Surely, for those that believe mankind is killing the planet, just buying your way out of how much CO2 you emit cannot be a good thing?

So, effectively, the rich are buying their way out of murdering the planet? Those with money are free to emit as much CO2 as they want, while the impoverished have to emit the bare minimum.

And this is deemed an acceptable practice. Yet, if a person bought their way out of a murder trial, or hit-and-run trial, there would be uproar.

Either the CO2 is 'destroying the planet' and it must be stopped, or it is fine. Buying your way out of it, so that your conscience is clear, cannot be the answer.

The same goes for the smugness of those people whose cars get a couple more MPG. They believe that CO2 is killing the planet, all the while they are slowly kicking the planet to death as they use 2 MPG less then I do per week in their EcoCar.

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FAIL

I'm cheering too!

But not just because we don't have an unelected global government (see page 18, section 38 and 38a of the draft Copenhagen treaty).

It's because Anthropogenic Global Warming is a complete crock of sh$t.

Funny thing is - I am *all for* cleaning up the environment. I was raised by hippies, FFS. I am 'alternative' - born and raised, in the flesh and savagely p$ssed off with this whole sordid affair.

What I don't believe in, is being lied to by the government and mainstream media and bending over and taking it like a b$tch... and then pretending it was all my idea to start with and that I actually enjoy taking it from our 'overlords'.

Climate change has happened since this plant formed. It will continue to happen if the entire human population disappears.

Have a look at global temperatures for the last 500,000 years and see if you can jusitify the current alarmism about global warming. Here's a bunch of graphs with references to NOAA's raw dataset (so you can verify for yourself, rather than taking it on faith - this being the major difference between SCIENCE and RELIGION):

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/12/historical-video-perspective-our-current-unprecedented-global-warming-in-the-context-of-scale/

If this doesn't make you sit back and scratch your head, you're probably and unwitting part of the Climate Change Cultists - there are methods in place to deal with the brainwashing you've received.

I'm waiting to see the results of CERN's CLOUD experiment. My money is on Henrik Svensmark's observations on SOLAR WIND and COSMIC RAYS (CRF) affecting cloud formations on Earth, thus changing the amount of solar radiation actually hitting Earth's surface.

Makes a hell of a lot of sense and doesn't require a global web of douchebags controlling mainstream media and the peer-review system to make it happen.

I'm not even going to start on the temperature fudging by the powers that be, but if you review the rest of the website on the link I posted, you'll be hopping mad about it.

Peace and real science...

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Nice Article

Some interesting points. Lets face it, the politicians are never going to ratify this into any legally binding framework. Theres too many fat fingers in big pies. Get the worlds scientists and economists to work out mathmatically the best way of balancing. I agree with the one cap for all countries and industries principle in the end but I think developing countries should be on a less stringent timeframe than those countries with the economy and infrastructure to move more quickly on this. I'd like to think that such fairness would be do more to change hearts and minds in some places in the long term. Having a blanket tax for the developed world from say 2011, with China agreeing to the same tax starting from 2016 is infinitely better than no global agreement at all. This doesn't have to be seen as all negative for the west, it gives our industry the focus and the head start on green technologies which we'll be selling to the likes of China in the years to come. Merry Christmas.

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Bleedin obvious

Tim's suggestions are fair and don't let any country wriggle out of their obligations.

Which is precisely why the politicians will never agree to it.

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Ah, no, not quite

"The article says about the "cost of polution" and puts a currency value to it. What this value is, and how it is worked out is beyond the article, and I'm OK with that, but for there to be any cost, someone must have worked out where that cost needs to be spent to offset the polution (e.g. the cost to plant enough trees to counter the 1 tonne of CO2)."

No, we're not estimating the cost of the pollution at the cost of cleaning it up. We're estimating it by the damage it does. Entirely different approach.

Imagine that there's some pollution that "costs" a million quid. That's around the statistical value of a life (right ballpark anyway). Sticking, for example, the radioactive cobalt from a hospital scanner into landfill will kill one person (this is a deliberately absurd example BTW). The cost of not having that pollution is say £35. The cost of sending the cobalt off to be reprocessed at the radioactive metals reprocessing plant.

Another deliberately silly example, not putting some slightly harmful chemical into landfill will cost us tens of billions and putting the same chemical into landfill will kill one person. So we're spending tens of billions to avoid 1 million in costs (and we do in fact have regulations like this, which cost tens, even hundreds, of billions for each statistical life saved).

You can see that there are two entirely different concepts of "cost" here then? What does it cost if we do pollute and what does it cost not to pollute?

What we want is some method of getting people to stop doing the polluting when not polluting is cheaper than polluting. We also want people to carry on polluting when polluting is cheaper than not polluting. (Third entirely absurd example: we could stop climate change simply by killing everyone on Thursday lunchtime. This most would think is a higher cost than the costs of carrying on polluting). So, what do we do? We impose a tax of the costs caused by polluting. This is not the cost of cleaning up the pollution, it is the cost that is caused by the pollution.

People will then naturally stop doing the polluting we want to get rid of, the polluting which is more expensive than not polluting, because it is cheaper for them to stop polluting.

Just as an example of how mainstream this idea is (no, really, it is mainstream) it's the basis of a lot of the Stern Review. It's the idea behind petrol taxes, APD, landfill tax and a whole series of others. As the piece above points out, it gets distorted in the political process, but it is the intellectual justification for almost all "green taxes".

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Boffin

Good old fashioned economics

Aaah, that takes me back to my school days that does. Lots of pros and cons to be said with all that is outlined. The biggest hole that the author didn't cover is the issue of 'imperfect markets' and perverse incentives. Or in other words, as recent events have shown, relying on the market to correctly price and distribute things is a risky strategy if you believe that the commodity they are trading in is essential. It means the market will abuse the system to its own ends because markets are inherently selfish and the commodity is difficult to correctly value.

Let's take an extreme scenario: A utlity company has a certain amount of carbon credit that it is allowed to use up to generate electricity for people in a certain area. At what point does that permit become unprofitable? When they have polluted too much and cut the electricity to stay within the limit? Where it is cheaper to keep the old and innefficient power station and buy more credit than to invest in a new more efficient power station? Is the market sufficiently informed to judge that the utlity company is being honest and accounting for its carbon credit properly? These are all questions that relate to classic examples of market failure which dominates areas where the commodity is actually important to people rather than than being commercial junk like overpriced shoes, shiny pointless things etc etc.

Copenhagen was always set to be a race to the bottom, not to top. If you really want to drive change that benefit the environment, you need more positive externatilies to be promoted and subsidised. An example would be if one country invents super duper solar power panels, the agreement should be that the technology is made available to all, but the developing countries pay a lot less than the developed countries for it. That way, everyone is incentivised to use it to combat climate change. In reality, politics and special interests will interfere at all levels which is why there has to be a race to the top where those special interests cannot over-ride people wanting something so badly because it is in their economic (as well as eco) interests to do so.

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Grenade

@scott

I concur - utter bollocks.

Jail them all.

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COpec

I'd like to hear the author's logic, on how you enforce a worldwide quota on an unlimited resource.

Opec will want to hear from him too. Opec is only 13 countries, with a limited and accountable (as barrels pumped) resource. Yet they can't enforce a quota.

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Megaphone

The Denial Twist

Reading some of the deniers comments here makes me very gloomy about the future.

'blah blah...from my cold dead hands.... I'm always right and read some random blog on the 'tinternet which said it's all rubbish. I know better than 99.999999% of the worlds scientific community. I don't have children and don't care about anything but myself, my own selfish interests, and personal tax allowance. If you don't agree with me I will just shout-shout-shout you down, and try and run you over in my 5 litre Jeep. You f'in tree hugging weirdos I hate the lot of you!'

The deniers premise is the one which is totally flawed. Even if your right and CO2 is not a significant contributer to climate change, trying to reduce mans energy footprint on the planet is only ever a good thing. If mans behaviour has to be artifically curbed with market controls then so be it.

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The Assumption Twist

Exaggeration isn't science. Saying I disagree that climate change is man made does not mean I think I know better than 99.999999% of the world's scientific community (of which, I would only guess at most 1% are authoratative on the subject). The basis of my opinion is from an esteemed meteorologist of 40 years standing. Who also has colleagues of the same opinion. That, alongside the stench of a politicised science really makes me question what is being spoon fed to us.

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FAIL

Science, as done down the pub.

"The basis of my opinion is..." from some bloke who told you what you wanted to hear. Has this geezer published anything peer-reviewed? Thought not.

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Selfish interest

Selfish interest will *always* win out which is why any agreement that seeks consensus and agreement on curbs will never work. It may be possible for a small cabal, such as the current government, to brow beat a segment of thr world population but eventually cracks will appear.

Fuel is heavily taxed already. Is that money going to 'green' projects? Well maybe some very small amount. The vast majority gets spent on the projects du jour of the sitting government - which is just a form of self-interest. Devoting tax revenue from one source to fund one other source is called hypothecation. John Prescott stood up a few years back and explained why hypothecation is not a good idea. Of course its not. It gets in the way of political self-interest.

And we saw gross levels of self-interest in Copenhagen. Whether is was the Chinese not wanting the emissions to be checked, the Americans wanting to keep on keeping on, the 'poor' countries making a grab for cash with no real plan on what to do with it, it was obscene but totally in line with normal human behaviour.

Artificial markets do not work. Implementing an incentive to cut back incentivises some individuals to work around it. Once one has worked around the incentive, everyone else wants to do so. Psychologists test this reality using a very simple game where the reality of self-interest usually appears. And so it is with governments. No government (except, it seems, our own) wants to be the chump who doesn't get better than they give. And if one were to be perceived to do better, everyone else would want their share.

Milliband and Broowne kept banging on about 'helping the poorest'. Laudable. Exactly who would get the money is never explained and governments have a poor track record of helping the poor - even in our own country. And how does spending money in Bangladesh help anyone. Not everyone in this country are idiots. We're coming out of an ice-age so even if there is no human contribution to the increase global temperatures, increase they will and sea levels will continue to rise irrespective of any action on CO2. So spending money to reduce CO2 will not help Bangladeshis - a country the cannot and will not contain its growing population. And this but one example. So the suggestion that Britain (amongst others) should send money to Asia/Africa/South with little or no prospect of anything but a very mild element of the feel-good factor is not going to fly. Self-interest will win.

Artificial 'market controls' are doomed to waste money and the one resource that really is finite - our time on this planet. Anyway, will the electorate vote to spend money on their kids health/education (think of the children!) or to send it abroad for some quango to spend aimlessly. Maybe some 18-20 year-olds without kids will vote for such a proposition but that's a small and fickle portion of the electorate (even amongs 18-21 year olds).

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peer-review

Having read the leaked emails, it would appear that "peer-review" is now discredited as a measure of validity since it was manipulated at least as much as the data by the grant seekers.

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WTF?

Wrong problem

Seems to me that the debate on man made global warming, emissions trading, etc is missing the point. It dosn't really matter whether Bifra, Mann, et al faked the evidence, what Gore and Pachauri stand to make out of carbon trading, or whether the climate is warming or cooling. The point is that "things change" - climate changes, new diseases, new ploitical regimes, etc. The less slack there is in the system, the less able the system to cope with change.

Human populations and economies are continuing to grow in a finite world and so I'd expect them to become more vulnerable to changes. The sensible thing to do would be to start lookin at how to cope with a range of changes, instead of trying to prevent just this one - which may or may not be caused by man anyway. I don't expect politicians to be able to do this, but in the long run I expect that the problem will sort itself out anyway - in the same ways that overpopulations generally do.

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Plane Stupid?

Plane Stupid's activities might well be plain stupid if what you're talking about here actually happens. But, as you point out, it probably won't. We have a government that keeps bashing us harder and harder with fuel taxes for the privilege of driving to work while promoting airports that this country doesn't need - I believe that it's generally agreed that we have the required capacity and then some. This idea that the country will benefit hugely by being little more than a fuel depot for international travellers seems completely daft to me. Air travel, in probably 99%+ of cases, is purely a luxury.

As for the carrot and stick, those taxes that come from charging for pollution need to be channelled into an alternative. A useful public transport system would be a bloody good start. Buses and trains are unpleasant and ridiculously overpriced thanks to, strangely enough, a failure of the marketplace to function as it ideally should. The problem is not really the market or the private companies involved, it's the relationship between the government and the market - which is the same place that everything else to do with "green" taxation and action will fail if things continue as they are now.

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Stop

@H2Nick

Spot on Nick! The elephant in the room is POPULATION - it's blindingly obvious that this is a first-order factor in greenhouse gas emissions. In 1930 the world's population was about 2 billion. Now it's heading towards 7 billion fast. What chance is there of cutting global emissions when the population curve isn't so much of a hockey stick, more of a right angle?

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Anonymous Coward

What we need

Is cutural change in developing countrys. Our high birth rate, low tech culture changed as we have industrialised, and have always strived to minimis polution in our industry as new tech has come up and dangers have been shown. So many developing cultures (like china) seem to want the power without the responsability. Yes, they need help and time, but they also need to be told change is needed at the same time.

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Boffin

Couple of points

A good article, but I'd like to mention a few things:

We are completely ignoring already produced CO2, admittedly a retrospective tax on countries that had industrial revolutions would be difficult. There has been enough CO2 to cause an expected 1.5C change over the next few decades even if we stopped all CO2 production now. This will cause damage to some regions, who pays for that?

If we are going to pay for the damage costs then we'll have to redistribute the taxes to those areas affected. As far as I can tell Copenhagen was more about transferring wealth to countries denied a fossil fuel industrial revolution rather than those that would require flood protection or food imports.

Another problem with the tax is the level to set it at. Since CO2 has a feedback effect it is incredibly important to estimate exactly how much CO2 would be produced at each tax rate. If this amount is slightly under then the damage caused will be much greater than the tax raised.

Yet another problem with the tax is that people might decide not to alter their behaviour regarding CO2 producing goods and cut back on other things. This could equally happen if we had an economic expansion (remember those?). The resulting CO2, while being paid for, would still cause the mass migrations, famines and floods that people are concerned about. While compensating those countries may be possible you can't compensate the dead.

Having said all that, the tax method is probably the best way to change people's behaviour.

The decrease in economic growth (and misallocation of resources) from legislated reductions in CO2 would cause plenty of death and suffering too - and that is never mentioned.

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Grenade

COP 15 Polution

Lets have a look at COP 15 CO2 emissions:

Number of limos used on streets during summit: 1200ish

Total number of private planes flown in and out of summit: 140ish

To be precise with this: 40000 tonnes of CO2 has been emitted for this confference only, equivalent of pollution of 30 small world countries....

Let's see who should stop polluting at the first place.....

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Look under that smooth water to see the rapidly paddling feet

It not quite as simple as all that. I'll give two small examples, but there are heaps of practical issues surrounding both. Copenhagen failed in part because it tried to come to grips with those far too late in the negotiations.

A carbon tax is also some government's revenue -- a global redistribution of funds. The US is unlikely to be happy to be sending more money to Saudi Arabia.

A cap-and-trade scheme may well be immoral. Someone on USD1 a day may not be able to afford to cook a meal, whilst someone else is flying in a jet. You are attempting to create a new international order here, and some rough sense of moral justice is required for the poorer nations to agree. That's what the cash from the rich to the poor is for -- in economic terms you could cast it as payment for past pollution costs to those that didn't reap the developmental benefits of that pollution.

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Cost of carbon? We can't see it.

I like this article; you make a lot of sense.

Before I rip you apart, let me declare my prejudices:

I'm not convinced of the case for anthropogenic carbon-based global warming thermageddon - too much of this seems based on computer modelling, and, as we know, computers cannot yet forecast next week's weather accurately. I also don't buy into the "it's peer reviewed science so it must be right" argument, because I understand the peer review process. I do, however, believe in global warming (by which I mean that average global temperatures have risen over the last two centuries). I also think that a cautious approach might be useful, because of the damage we might be inflicting to our life support systems (i.e. the planet Earth).

I also believe that, if you use fossil-carbon faster than it is generated, it will eventually run out.

Now, if CO2 and methane are responsible for global warming, everything that generates them should be included in a trading system, or that system makes no sense. Of course, you need to believe in the free market for that to happen, and need to set a 'safe' quota, which is, obviously, artificial. Note that a lot of the environmentalist activists (the noisy ones) don't have much faith in the free market, as they used to be communists. In fact, a lot of the same people who are pro-global tackling of environmental problems seem to be anti-globalisation (and they never see the irony in that).

If a tariff is to be universally applied to greenhouse gases, based on their 'real' cost, that could work. But in order to be effective, the tariff would have to then turn into grants to compensate those who are, to use your analogy, downstream of the factory.

For instance, let us assume that Bangladesh is going to need to relocate its entire population because of global warming. A tariff on carbon could pay for that. Similarly, if hurricanes are expected to increase from three to four a year (say), the clean up cost of one of those hurricanes would be paid for by the tariff.

The problem with our 'green taxes' is that they go into general exchequer, rather than being ring-fenced to help the environment. So we are inevitably talking about a rise in taxation here, which, frankly, a lot of people won't swallow. Instead they'll say 'But I already pay fuel duty!'. Probably followed by 'GB's rip-off Britain!'. (I've been reading too much Have Your Say, sorry.)

Actually, the problem with global agreement over this (or anything else) is that different people have different ideas of justice. For instance, somebody in a poor, unindustrialised, African country might think that it is only fair that the industrialised First World pays more based on the amount of carbon that has already been released since 1800 (or whenever). Somebody in Alabama or Antwerp may think that, as the problem is current and global, every person on the planet should pay the same (this is pretty much the argument used in this article, by the way).

The African, of course, would be right, objectively. Any carbon tax should be retrospective. But practically, this would be impossible.

If I am totally honest, I don't think that humans are psychologically equipped to deal with a problem of this magnitude. We are used to defending our camp against the threat of marauding wolves. Even when we know that we ourselves are the threat (or even if we might be), we can't help but look for other external threats. Notice how quick people are to blame the US or China here. Yes, they are the biggest polluters, but, in the end, they are made up of people trying to make a living, just like us. And they will be just as quick to point the finger at everyone else if no agreement can be reached.

That's the problem with Copenhagen, and the problem with this argument - economics is just one facet of politics. And politics, to a greater or lesser extent, is the art of shifting the blame.

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WTF?

markets have "periods" when they do not act as advertised?

Um, by your own admission:

> The most obvious of these is when there are externalities

There are *always* externalities. Hence markets *never* work as advertised, or at any rate, as advertised by the "Washington consensus" globalisation-and-free-markets fundamentalists. That raving nonsense has been thoroughly debunked long time since. The ideal market is a model; an abstraction, something that exists nowhere in reality.

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Anonymous Coward

The idiots guide to climate change

http://crooksandliars.com/nonny-mouse/climate-change-idiots

Although IMO trying to argue with climate change deniers is often as pointless as arguing about the existence of someones deity. Palin and the umpteen oil funded misinformation groups trump anything the thousands of scientists say, obviously, because it's easier to understand idiots.

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The idiots guide to climate change

Although IMO trying to argue with climate change advocates is often as pointless as arguing about the existence of someone's deity. Numerous groups whose government funding wholly relies on this actually being a real issue trump anything the thousands of scientists say (as a start: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_the_mainstream_scientific_assessment_of_global_warming), obviously, because it is easier to understand idiots.

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Alert

Concrete steps

Concrete plants emit CO2 from the energy the use to burn lime into concrete. And then the conversion process itself emits even more CO2. Such plants are almost always next to rail lines. Capture this CO2 at any expense and transport it away by rail to be sequestered. Subsidize the costs. Outlaw small concrete producers, turn them into distributors. Just get it done.

And here's the bonus. The concrete will reabsorb CO2 from the atmosphere over its lifetime.

Now think! If this was implemented fully, then by increasing concrete production, we actually increase the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Dubai would become the world's largest CO2 sink.

The idiots shouldn't be arguing about WHO does WHAT, they should be working to agreements on WHAT needs to be done. Such as capturing CO2 from all concrete producing plants, and getting the double bonus.

This one idea could achieve about a quarter of the overall reduction being sought. 25% from one simple step. Duh.

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Happy

Tim. Nice but...

“We should tax negative externalities” - Tim

Apply morals to an immoral system. Good start.

“and what we're trying to do is maximise the welfare of everyone, current and future.” - Tim

Is it really? I thought it was to maximise and maintain the profit motive and human exploitation under this anti-human system. For the facts that make it “anti-human” check out http://www.realityinfo.org.

Any form of “well crafted” hinted at in the following quote will only be judged in a bottom line somewhere: in profit. Which, as stated before, is anti-human.

“mockery of well crafted economics” - Tim

The best hope I can take from your article, with regards your understanding of humanity and the future direction, would be

“There's even the vague possibility that the adults will take over at some point and we'll end up with something that actually works: “ - Tim

Pitty you messed it up with the bit after the colon

“a simple carbon tax or a simple cap and trade scheme.” - Tim

Did you ever stop to think, even just for a second, that the current paradigm is just not working?

Enlightened human to human interaction awaits you Tim: come and join us thinking folks :)

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What we Value Most

Multiple cap and trade pools, or taxes combined with subsidies, do make sense.

One umbrella cap and trade means energy will only be used by those who are able to pay the most for it. The result of that is that the price will rise, and so poor people will be left with inadequate home heating. So to take care of other market failures besides pollution, what we actually have to do is first use rationing for the essential uses of energy, and then with a cap and trade system for everything else, let the market take care of the non-essential uses.

Taxation has another problem; it may raise the price of energy to match the damage, but that only makes sense if the places experiencing the damage are the ones collecting the tax. Reimbursing the tropical countries affected by global warming was one of the other things left out at Copenhagen.

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Megaphone

Skeptics & believers~ want to debate?

I accept the evidence for climate change and I would like to have a rational debate with a single climate change skeptic.

My objective is to convince you that anthropogenic global warming is a clear and present danger that we can and should address - yours should be to convince me otherwise. It might take a long time, at the end we either give up or agree with each other.

Could anyone who is interested please email me at the following throwaway email account (climatechange72 at yahoo dot co dot uk) telling me a bit about yourself and proposing some rules for our debate. I will pick one and we can set to using another account - maybe tell the world about it afterwards.

My proposed rules:

1) Language for debate is English

2) Debaters remain anonymous - both using throwaway email accounts.

3) No secrecy - all emails can be made public.

4) I will make or reply to one point at a time.

About me:

I've got (UK) A levels in chemistry and physics and a degree in applied maths. I work in IT.

Hey, I can also pair up a few other skeptics and believers!

El Reg is this appropriate? Should I put it on Craigslist instead?

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Count Ludwig

This isn't about the claims and counter-claims of AGW. The article made that quite clear in the opening few lines.

It's about the economic response.

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re debate

Might I suggest you contact Brenchley, he's been trying for years to get a debate, particularly with Mr. Gore, without success. As he always says, do not believe anything anyone says especially him, but go to the data and make up your own mind. There is on YouTube a video of him talking to a Norwegian Greenpeace/warmist supporter outside a conference in Berlin. It gives a good example of the difference between "believers" and "sceptics".

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scepticism

Count Ludwigy you repeat the mistake made by so many climate alarmists (and too many sceptics) - that it is the job of sceptics to present counter-theories to their own. It is not. What matters is whether AGW theory survives proper scrutiny, not whether those scrutinising it can do any better. True sceptics take the view that there's nothing much to be worried about - nothing, that is, to countertheorise about. It is up to the proponents of AGW to present their theories in the form of falsifiable argument. The Climategate emails and code reveal the excruciating efforts of the Hockey Team, the high priesthood of AGW, to do just that, their continuing failure, and the lengths to which they did or were prepared to go to conceal their work, with all its inadequacies, from proper peer review.

Climategate is showing us, as we plough through the leaked material, how a tiny group of unscrupulous scientists, aided and abetted by a credulous, ignorant and just plain stupid mainstream media, have perverted the course of science, fabricated an "overwhelming consensus", and traduced the reputations and careers of the many good scientists who dared to cross their paths.

So my advice, as one of the hapless intellectual underlings you want to persuade, is to:

1 Lose the condescending, this-is-for-your-own-good tone of the priestly classes - it might give you a warm feeling inside, but it's no substitute for scientific rigour, and it just makes you sound like latter-day druids.

2 Remember Occam's Razor - that the simplest explanation for all the known facts is preferable to other more complex ones, no matter that all may work.

3 Remember Einstein “No amount of experimentation can ever prove me right; a single experiment can prove me wrong.” Consensus in science, far from "settling" it, ought to inspire at least as much suspicion as it does confidence.

4 Remember Popper - produce your theories in a form that can be falsified by experiment repeatable by all. Even if you yourself cannot understand the experiments, be sure that both method and data are freely available to others who can. If someone objects that data they are using is proprietary and cannot be shared, reply politely that in that case it cannot possibly be used to justify expensive public policy, nor public funding - then move on.

5 If within these constraints (all of which have served genuine science well for a long time) you can persuade us that the climate should worry us a jot more than, say the problem of hip displasia in overbred spaniels, you can go back to being as smug, bombastic and condescending as you like - you will have earned it.

Off you go. Best of luck.

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Best thing we can do

... is tell the politicians to go to hell. Seriously, their solution to everything is to tax us back to the Stone Age and surrender power, coming unto them as little children. Until they are willing to give up their transatlantic junkets (assuming they don't kayak across the north Atlantic in the winter) to discuss reducing carbon emissions and reduce our taxes elsewhere, they can do the anatomically impossible. Better yet, let Michael Vick use them for his dogs' target practice.

They tax you when you make it.

They tax you when you save it.

They tax you when you invest it.

They tax you when you win it.

They tax you when you spend it.

They tax you when you inherit it.

They tax you when you own it.

Enough is enough. I am not wealthy by any means (although, in a sense, as a middle class American I am to a lot of people in the world), and over half of the money my wife and I make in a year goes to taxes: income tax, property tax, sales tax, restaurant taxes, gasoline tax, social security (yeah, like we'll every get any of our money back), dividend tax, ... much of this is spent on things no sane person with half a brain stem would agree to if forced to say it out loud.

The longer I live, the more I think that Mencken was right: the only good bureaucrat is one with a gun to his head; put it in his hand and it's goodbye to the Bill of Rights.

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FAIL

Reality Check

If only Global Warming was real...

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One key difference

Tim,

There's one key point you missed - which is why this will never work. In almost all other markets, the thing you are actually dealing with exists. It can be proven to exist and, again, in most cases, has some utility to the parties involved. The problem with carbon offsets is that the product for our market is reduced carbon emissions - for the "product" to be created someone has to verify that emissions have been reduced in order to issue the reduction certificate which can be sold.

The current Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) run as part of the Kyoto protocol has proven beyond doubt that this is not a viable approach. Take as a simple example the recent closing of the Corus Steel Plant in north England. The owners, Tata, stand to pick up over half a billion dollars for closing this down - drastic drop in CO2 so fair enough you might say. However, they are planning to build a new plant of similar capacity in India. If they build the new plant using cleaner technology than is currently usually used in existing Indian steel plants then they pick up another half billion for doing that (annual reduction in CO2 compared to a "standard" Indian steel plant,over the life of the plant). Fair enough you might say, we want to encourage people to use cleaner methods. Only problem is that the new plant will be no cleaner than the UK one which has been shut down. so net effect on CO2 is zero, meanwhile Tata extract over a billion dollars from the market.

Now the immediate response is that we should be taxing them for the actual emissions on the new plant. My point is not that the current system is dodgy. It's that the "product" always requires someone to verify or sign off on it or for that matter define what counts as a reduction. If I am selling you 5 tons of gold, you don't have to take my word for it, or even someone elses. You can verify it because it exists. Even with something more abstract like a financial instrument you can verify that the promise exists and assess how likely it is to be honoured.

The person who defines and assesses the reduction will always be a government bureaucrat. And therefore the permits issued are unlikely to be of much worth as my example demonstrates. It's unavoidable.

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Bahh...

Sorry... I believe in global warming, but I just like my Mercedes way too much, to be bothered taking the train. Besides, what has Bangladesh and the Marshall Islands done for me lately?!?

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Flame

Fanatics

It amazes me that global warming is still having the hot air pumped into it. You folks did hear of East Anglia didn't you? How big a scandal do you want?!?!?!?!

These people perverted science for their own greedy whims and got a good portion of the corrupt and self serving politicians on earth to nod fervently. Yet it still only has modest coverage in the most conservative press. Had this been a conservative conspiracy of such global proportions I am certain Copenhagen would have been canceled and a good cross section of the worlds governments would be lining up for criminal charges.

The global warming ring leaders are probably guilty of crimes against humanity in the truest usage of that term. Yet their puppets are still out there beating the drum, and voting!

It just makes me shake my head. The planet is doomed alright, but the bullet never comes from the direction you expect.

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Just a thought.

Does anybody notice that most of the people standing at the pulpit and denouncing the evils of industrialization are people who came from countries where the aforementioned evils have given them a high standard of living, improved life expectancy, and enough wealth to address things like climate problems?

Nice that they would save poorer countries from such a terrible fate by pre-emptively strangling industry therein. I'm sure those folks will be better off if they do as the greenies say.

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Go

@ Count Ludwig

Why not just head over to wattsupwiththat.com - you'll find plenty of people to debate with, myself included. It's all out in the open for everyone to see, discuss and add to - unlike the methods that GISS and CRU use to 'massage the data' we get to see.

While you're there, why not check out some of the shiny articles that thoroughly debunk AGW. It'll save you some time debating.

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Coat

Someone has to say it

Too much emissions caused by ... too many people.

Wasn't it Stalin that said something like: people make problems, no people, no problems.

In any case, a few wars with significant body count, a couple of pandemics - ceasation of aid and medicine for developing countries ... ad finitum.

As long as it's not us.

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Paris Hilton

Yeah, thanks for that..

Until your article, the politicians had just been stumbling along blindly, unaware of the laws of supply and demand. Reg readers had never heard of the invisible hand til you enlightened us...

The two solutions you propose are both "laws". Laws need to be introduced by "states". States need to choose to introduce those laws (or be coerced to by a shiny new one world gov.). The process of agreeing to choose to do that is called "politics".

This is what all those men in suits were talking about last week...

Jeezus f**k, what is it about economics that makes people think they have some special understanding of things that the rest of the world just won't get?

Paris shakes her head sadly at the simplicity of some of the content here..

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Dead Vulture

SOme improvement

It's something of a relief to have someone other than the anti-science Orlowski writing on this subject (and allowing comments, which AO daren't). It's a pity it is a proponent of the dismal science, doing it.

The notion that you can do just one thing, and everything will sort itself out is how we got into this mess in the first place. Because economists understood nothing beyond market value, they understood nothing at all. Market value is only a very crude, very temporary approximation of true value - which is, itself, too complex (and disparate) to be successfully reduced to numbers.

The decision about what <i>we</i> value is expressed in politics. So, your dream of keeping the politicians out is like taking all the bricks out of a house, and expecting it to stand up.

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Arrogant twat fails to see important point.

Well that was the biggest pile of smug shit I've read in a long time.

You fail to mention that WHATEVER happens needs political will, and that whether you're going to get any depends on who are in the drivers seats at any given time. Yes plural.

If GOP and their Freemason pals are running the Whitehouse, then they're not about to go against the Grand Master and get off oil now.

And then there's the issue that if someone disinclined to act is in power in one key country, their inaction will prevent action in other countries that believe competitivness with aforementioned key player will suffer by taking said action themselves if said key country doesn't.

The whole thing can be shafted by one guy in an apron!

So, political will is only there when it's there. If you miss a chance, or if a chance is ruined, it could be your last chance to catch a problem in time. And the last chance to do *anything* in a *long* time.

You're an idiot to be glad an opportunity was missed. Even if it may be true that the deal they were working on was total shite.

When you elect the Tories next year, we'll have to see whether they do what Tories do, cosy right up to industry and forget about any action on this issue for the forseeable future. And if Obama doesn't get a 2nd term (like Carter - the last non-mason who tried to get the world off oil), then it may be more than a decade before the next opportunity arises. Took You happy about that? Wanker. In fact it's already been >28years since Carter left the WH...

NO PROGRESS. That was an opportunity we shouldn't have missed. Perhaps you disagree.

All the above applies just as well to carbon taxes as it does to COP15. Indeed unilateral action will scupper a global deal (as everyone will claim they're doing just fine). No global deal means some countries - like China and the US won't do anything. And then you've got a major problem.

And before you suggest the people would just elect someone to do what they want. Tell Murdoch and his buddies in the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great that!

They'd laugh in your smug arrogant ignorant face.

Just get a solid global deal. Try to buy less chinese stuff until they play ball. Encourage companies you invest in or buy from to do the same. And reduce emissions whenever possible regardless of whether anyone has put a tax on it for you. Tell your idiot mates to do the same.

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debt?

Whenever i see the "think of our children" argument i'm left wondering why nobody cares that out children are going to pay off all this massive debt, plus any more that might have been added on thanks to any more 1% doctrines from false panics. I mean how much was wasted on the BSE non-event, bird flu, foot and mouth, millenium bug nonsense. Do you guys never learn?

Facts are, the media loves a bogeyman panic and the scientists revere funding more than the truth. Take the BSE scare as one example from many; scientists said it couldn't possibly pass to humans, then when it couldn't be avoided that it obviously did, the scientists predicted a widespread CJD epidemic. "Science" was utterly wrong twice! so don't tell me they can't be wrong. In fact it happens all the time in our fear-driven society.

Yet we all know exactly how to decarbonize - all that's needed is a cheaper alternative. Easy! well no it isn't easy and that's why people are looking into the science to see if it's really as bad as the press hypes up and why economists like Lomberg are pointing out that even if the IPCC are right, the economics say that mitigation is the most stupid way to go about things.

As was made quite clear even in this article we've had very high carbon taxes in Europe for a long time now. Did it reduce CO2 emissions? No. It did stimulate the development of small diesels which we can now use to get 50, 60 or 70 mpg. Clearly that allowed us to put more cars on the road. Hmmm. maybe this problem needs a bit more thought.

Nuclear power? That was actually rejected on cost grounds too. Thatcher was very keen on nuclear power but nobody wanted to buy it unless the taxpayer funded all the expensive stuff, like waste cleanup, insurance and decommissioning. New designs I hear you say? Sure and the band played "believe it if you like". The nuclear power industry are famous for painting an overly rosy picture and nothings changed there.

Geothermal heating. Now there's a great thing. Why not subsidize that instead of propping up the city of London with never-ending piles of cash? Negawatts is what we really need. Our children will like that too.

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