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 …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Don't confuse pollution with climate change

    There is no scientific link between carbon emissions and temperature change. While reducing real pollution is a good idea, carbon dioxide is not pollution. There is no science to show it is.

    Taxing people on dodgy science is quite simply fraud.

    1. Baying Lynch Mob
      Thumb Down

      You keep bleating, I'll keep pasting

      ``There is no scientific link between carbon emissions and temperature change.''

      http://www.skepticalscience.com/How-do-we-know-CO2-is-causing-warming.html

      1. Nebulo
        Grenade

        @Baying Lynch Mob

        Well, quite. It says so on the internet, it must be true.

        Consensus (especially among politicians) != scientific proof.

        Hard evidence == scientific proof.

        Hard evidence: There is no scientific link between carbon emissions and temperature change.

        Merry Xmas, AC.

        1. Baying Lynch Mob

          RTFA

          Did you even read the linked article? You only have to get to the fourth paragraph to see that it uses real results (recorded from satellites) to show that CO_2 (along with other gases) stops radiation from escaping.

          Is that evidence not hard enough for you? If you're going to complain that there's no evidence for the effect on the global climate as a whole, then you should remember that nobody has a spare set of planets on which to run controlled experiments of the sort that you'd get with eg. drug trials.

        2. strum Silver badge
          FAIL

          Your ignorance is showing

          >Hard evidence == scientific proof.

          There is no such thing as 'scientific proof'. You have just excluded yourself from serious consideration.

  2. Hugo Rune
    Linux

    Turn the heating up

    One thing I'm sure of is that methane from steak production is not man made. It comes out of a cows arse.

    As for the rest of the article, Bollocks, it's bloody penguin weather out there.

  3. Fred 1

    Interesting Times

    That's about the best, (or maybe the only) analysis I have seen of the economics of climate change.

    No doubt the deniers will be out in force here, I wonder do any of these guys have kids?

    It looks to me like our governments are taking the same approach here as they do with fisheries management.

    Professing to believe what the scientists are saying, then taking totally inadequate measures because they are worried that their mates the industrialists will go bust if they do what is actually required.

    Here is where we get to find out if we really are as intelligent as we like to claim, or did we just get lucky with using cheap energy for a while.

  4. BristolBachelor Gold badge
    Megaphone

    Cost of polution

    I've got a simple question for you, but it is not simple for me to work out.

    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).

    The "tax the poluter the cost of the polution" idea will only work if that tax is paid to whoever the cost is imposed on (e.g. tree planter). If the tax is just used to boost governments spending on CCTV or ministry of love databases, IT WILL NOT WORK.

    If you take money to pay for the polution, it must be used to pay for the polution.

    Who do I write to with my suggestion?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Yeah, but no, but yeah but...

    It would be great if simple tax and trade worked, but unfortunately, people, or rather, entire countries, will cheat. And if say, China cheats, while holding most of the US's money, how do you sanction them? Let the market do it? Not going to happen because you won't be able to keep emissions trading separate from the rest of the economy. Tax and trade may well work within economic blocks like the EU, but I'm highly doubtful about its chances at a global level, and that's really the whole point isn't it?

    1. Rosco

      eh?

      Who's growing all the cows and eating all the steak?

    2. Fred 1

      Try using your brain a litttle

      Who is farming all those cows and cutting down the rainforests to make more pasture?

      Do you understand the difference between weather and climate?

      If we heat up the poles, there is every chance that the gulf stream will stop flowing, and Britain will get far colder as a result of global warming.

      1. Hugo Rune

        Chuck another...

        ....sense of humour on the fire, Rizla

      2. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Gulf Stream

        The gulf stream reverses regularly over geological time. That is without human involvement.

        1. strum Silver badge
          FAIL

          Such ignorance

          >The gulf stream reverses regularly over geological time.

          Oh, really? Which denialist blog fed you that bunch of horseshit?

          1. David Beck
            FAIL

            Gulf Stream

            the geological record (that's rocks to those of you will little hard science), clearly shows some interesting major events having occurred without the assistance of man. The drastic shifts of the currents in the north Atlantic is one, the reversal of the magnetic poles is another. Both of these were well documented in the literature before it was unfashionable to do so.

      3. JasGarnier

        Gulf stream myth

        That nonsense was debunked long ago. Carl Wunsch says that a gulf stream reversal would only happen if the planet stopped spinning. Richard Seager is even more scathing here:

        http://www.ldeo.columbia.edu/res/div/ocp/gs/

        Yes you have to sift through a lot of nonsense from over-eager media-hungry scientists these days so the best rule of thumb is - if it sounds totally dumb then it probably is. And the idea that warming causes cooling is the dumbest idea that ever came out of the department of dumb ideas - yet you swallowed it didn't you. This kind of tripe presented as beef is exactly why people are skeptical.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Ah....

      ....the obligatory "Won't somebody think of the children!!!!1!!!1!!" argument.

      Fail.

      1. Paul 4

        Not the same.

        This is not randomly shoving children in to an argument (E.G. ID cards stop pedos), but arguing agains people whos pasic attitude is "im alright".

      2. Fred 1

        Ah...

        I am totally humbled by theincisive wit of your intelligent and informative comment.

        You are quite right, fuck the kids, let's not leave them a habitable planet.

      3. Anonymous John

        Re Ah

        I am thinking of the children. I want them to have enough electricity to power their laptops, Ipods, computer games, etc thirty years from now.

        I'm not convinced that climate change is down to us, but I do want a massive shift from burning fossil fuels for power, while still living in a high tech world.

        We have nuclear power stations. Fusion power probably isn't far away, especially if we treat it as a priority. To say nothingof the fusion reactor 93 million miles away that could provide all the power we will ever need.

    4. David Beck
      FAIL

      climate change does not equal man made

      It takes an arrogance only found in grant seekers to assume that all of the geological evidence for climate changes in the past millennia mean nothing when there is some one to blame and some grant money to be found (for without blame the grants are few and far between)

  6. Neal 5

    Don't agree at all

    Nice fancy footwork and maths, and rightly enough why should the UK tax payer bear an even heavier load, but entirely misses the point altogether.

    America alone is responsible for nearly 25% of the greenhouse gases, followed by China and India. Now some make the point that India and China are developing countries, and as such need quotas/relief etc,etc anything but capping,because they are expanding economies, America claim because they are the powerhouse economy they should be excempt.

    This where I get lost in all the economics/politics/corruption, i don't understand why Gordy is insisting I bear the weight for those countries, I'm already upto my neck in taxes bailing him out for 15 years of fiscal abuse.

    America,China and India are the main causes of the problem (Yes, I know we all are really, buying cheap Chinese tat,etcetcetc), so make them solve their issues with pollution before coming to me asking for another x£ to bail out some idiot who can't put his own house in order.

    And equally, China and India are both awash with the yankee greenback, put some of that to good use first maybe.

  7. H2Nick

    Real cause missed

    Population.

    Needs to be reduced.

    Example : Recently, the Bangladesh finance minister warned that 20 million might be forced to leave the country due to climate change in the next 40 years.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/30/rich-west-climate-change

    This is less than the expected growth in population, which has nearly doubled in the last 30 years

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bangladesh-demography.png

    Est 156 million now

    https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/bg.html

    Time for (more?) state-sponsored contraception

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Excellent

    Absolutley spot on Tim. You have not only hit the nail on the head but so eloquently set out the critical decisions needed of our generally pathetic politicians.

    The only weakness that I would like to point out is that it is for more attractive for politicans to slap on green taxes on to everything without calculating the true costs of carbon damage and then going a step further to reduce other taxes. Can you really see them reducing taxes elsewhere especially when they have a ballooning deficit? No.

    What they are more likely to do is to enjoy sticking their fingers into free market regulation to make it more robust and less prone to causing problems such as the credit crunch. In fixing the markets, at least one small step at a time, increases the prospects for ETS / Cap and Trade schemes to work well. At least they allow the markets to determine the most effective reductions and what should be cut and where....albeit with the right targets and equal across all sectors.

    In fact, if you took a closer look at Copenhagen then you'd have noticed that the much pilloried aviation sector has proposed a global "sectoral" approach for aviation in favour of the EU ETS. Firtly that makes a lot of sense because in aviation many / most flights and therefore emisions are truly global. They go on to propose that the sectoral scheme should not be enclosed with its own permits but interchangeable with other schemes. Whether this proposal would then truly allow the market to correctly price aviation emissions, then the answer is of course no, since it is sectoral. But at least, as a first step, it introduces the concept of a global cap and trade in favour of the EU ETS.

    A global cap and trade would be a great idea, but again, can we really imagine 190 countries agreeing? It was hard enough to do with the EU 27. How is it really going to happen? Only when New York, LA, London, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bombay and St Petersburg are under several metres of water will these politicians finally wake up and then it will be too late.

    1. Brian Mankin
      FAIL

      real cause != over-population

      It's commonly stated as a fact that the world is over-populated. The world population is in excess of 6.7 billion (1) and I'll happily agree that's a staggering number of people. But it means nothing without context.

      North Yorkshire (2) has an area of 8,654 km^2. If all the people of the world were to stand next to each other in 1m squares, we could assemble in an area the size of North Yorkshire and still have room to spare.

      The total surface area of the world's continental land mass is 510,065,600 km^2. If we were to distribute the gobal population evenly across this area there would be ~13.3 people per km^2. Admittedly this includes Antarctica, the Sahara, the Himalayas and some other pretty inhospitable areas that aren't really fit for human habitation but the mean population densities in the EU and the USA are 114/km^2 and 32/km^2 respectively (4 & 5) and I'm not sure either of these are over-populated.

      IMHO the world is not overpopulated. The world is under-developed. If our experiments into new energy sources (fusion, geothermal, wind and wave) are successful and if we can get over our dark-ages fear of technology, I believe we can easily support a global population of 58 billion. This may sound extreme but this is simply the population density of the EU applied globally.

      References :

      (1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population

      (2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Yorkshire

      (3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continents

      (4) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eu

      (5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usa

      1. Pete 2 Silver badge

        you want context?

        OK, here's some context.

        In my lifetime the number of people living on the planet has trebled. It doesn't matter what resource you look at, when the number of consumers increases to 300% of what it was 50 years ago, it will be depleted a lot faster. Same goes for producers: although everybody produces different amounts of greenhouse gases, there's no way that having 4 billion more of 'em won't change the balance.

        The other thing to bear in mind is that this growth hasn't stopped, or even slowed. Whether you think that population growth is a factor in climate change or not - just wait until the water shortages start up, that'll make our current problems look like a picnic.

        1. Brian Mankin
          Grenade

          Population predictions and balancing the resources budget

          It's true, the population of the world has grown from 2.52 billion in 1950 to 6.7 billion today (1). This growth has not been distributed evenly. Much of the growth has happened in Asia where the population has grown by 2.3 billion in this time. The population density here has jumped from 31.4/km^2 to 81.5/km^2. In China (2), the life expectancy at birth has risen from 35 years in 1949 to 73.18 years in 2008 and the infant mortality rate has dropped from 300 per thousand in the 1950s to 23 per thousand in 2006. The Chinese government is addressing this with a one child per family policy (3).

          So far as the use of fossil fuels is concerned, the reserves of these fuels are limited and as time passes it will become harder to access and exploit these resources and eventually they will run out anyway. As this happens we will either develop new sources of energy or we won't.

          If we don't develop these new energy sources all of our attempts to sustain our current level of technology will be thwarted. We will not have the capability to mine new ore or recycle existing scrap metal. We will not have the capability to move foodstuffs cheaply and quickly around the world. We will not have the capability to purify water and to distribute it nationally let alone globally. In this case I believe that disaster will be inevitable. Whatever we do, we'd be doomed. There would be too many of us in the western world to be able to support ourselves in a low-tech pastoral life style.

          If we do develop new energy sources, as other natural resources become harder to obtain, there will be a growing market pressure to develop better recycling techniques. This will apply to all sorts of resources from plastic to scrap metal to paper and even to water. Just as we have national and international electricity grids and oil and gas pipelines in Europe today, I believe we will begin to develop global electricity grids and water pipelines in the future. The demand for water will on one hand drive us to be more sparing in our use of this recource and on the other will drive the development of better desalination and water recycling techniques.

          At the end of the day, I think we are too far down the road of transforming our planet to turn back now. We have been cutting down forests to develop arable land, damming rivers, draining swamps and making all sorts of changes since before the Romans. There are 6.7 billion of us on this planet which is probably about 5 billion more than we can support pastorally (I have no source to cite for this. I am guessing that the population of the 1900s is our likely pastoral limit).

          I think we have crossed the Rubicon already. We are unlikely to be able to persuade the other peoples of the world to forgo the benefits of our technologies. So far as I am aware, these benefits are unachievable without the associated costs. Our partner nations are going to industrialise and their populations are going to grow inspite of all our attempts to restrain them. Any efforts we make to do this will be resented rather than respected. The only way IMHO is the way forward.

          References

          (1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population#Population_figures

          (2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/People%27s_Republic_of_China

          (3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

      2. Magani
        Thumb Down

        What a load of rancid dingo's kidneys

        I am in awe of your ability to fill the world with humans at the expense of just about everything else. I'm a science fiction fan myself, but this is akin to turning Earth into Trantor.

        I am not by any stretch of the imagination a greenie, but what you're proposing just beggars belief. Have you considered that most of the land on the planet that can support people already does?

        Do you think that getting over our "dark-ages fear of technology" will give nomadic people in the Sahel or the Namib or Patagonia or Central Australia a lifestyle the same as yours?. Have you possibly considered that they may not want to live like everyone in the EU? We have enough problems feeding and providing health care to the world's population as it is. A suggestion to fill the planet to an average of 114/sq km would remove most wilderness, and with it, most of the habitat for wild animals that need these areas. Might I suggest that humans also need wilderness?

        What of the resource requirements to maintain your 58 billion? We do a really good job of polluting own nest right now; care to extrapolate that by a factor of 10? I'm assuming you want them to live to a Euro/US/1st World standard of income and health?

        If you wish to stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world's population in North Yorkshire, then that's great, but PLEASE leave some wilderness for me to commune in.

      3. I didn't do IT.
        Pirate

        Agree to Disagree

        True it is not necessarily overpopulation. It is the standard of living REQUIRED for that population. Personally, I enjoy living in and with Nature - yurts or other sustainable (and natural!) housing, renewable energy sources, everyone growing personal crops, etc.

        The problem is that the "Western" lifestyle of excess and waste has become some kind of idealized "utopia", and it has a hugely lopsided resources per captia ratio that is UNSUSTAINABLE to keep up with the current population, never mind a possible "58 billion".

        We could provide everyone with the same lifestyle, across the planet, and it would be even, fair, and balanced... but would also be unacceptable to everyone in equal measure.

        Is the best we can hope for our species actually to crush ourselves into an identical mold of "poverty" (by Western standards)?

        Fat chance getting those "in power" to agree to that, eh?

      4. Jim 64
        Thumb Down

        Population is ALSO a big problem.

        Please don't mention shitholes like North Yorkshire or people will WANT to destroy the planet!

        I used to live in the UK. I now live in Alberta. It's like the UK used to be before we cut down every tree, wiped out every species, concreted over what was left and put up large power stations by the motorway to look at on the drive to f'ing N Yorkshite.

        Joking aside. Population IS a BIG problem. We should work on that too.

        Just for the sake of argument: If there were 1m people on the planet, they could run their SUVs on tiger-fat and detonate a nuclear weapon every bonfire night without any major environmental problems.

        I think the number 6.8Bn doesn't bring it home to some people. Maybe 6800million is better to emphasis the massive number and how much of the land they need to exploit so fill their needs.

        Now there are 6.8Bn (prob 7Bn next year) people and rising fast, we can't even grow enough food to keep them all fed and/or extract enough raw materials to build all their consumer crap without chopping down the forests and stripmining what's left of the world. The oil sands up here are an absolute global crime. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text.html

        We only do it cos our neighbour wants the oil to feed their outrageous habits (Canadians are bad too in terms of emissions per capita, but that's cos we just get all the same stuff they do down there - sort them out and you sort us out - and there's 10x more of them and they're 5x as stupid/selfish). They only want the oil cos they want security of supply. It's expensive and sour. If we'd all just use alternatives, we wouldn't need to do this (as much). Part of the beauty of renewables is security of supply. In a large country like the US or Canada with LOADS of coastline, the wind is always blowing somewhere and the waves and tides are moving everywhere. Add a bit of geothermal. Improve efficiency of all goods/services and you've got a better world for everyone without having to stripmine stuff or fight wars over resources that are going to run out ANYWAY!

        And the lower the population is, the easier it is to do ANYTHING. Even to get a hotel/lounger on your shitty spanish package holiday favoured by tards in that part of the world.

        The UK might get a lot colder BTW when the arctic becomes ice free in summers and the gulf stream becomes intermittant. And when all those cities get submerged due to Greenland cap melting, do you think it's possible that any pollution may be released into the seas?! Lol. Or do you think they'll move all the filth to higher ground too?! I'm not sure many people would want to pay to have the landfills dug up and moved nearer to where they want to live. Or that having more people and less land with the same waste issues will make anyone v happy either. Esp if it was avoidable.

        There are many costs of inaction. Sadly too many think it's just fine to let their kids deal with them. That's why we're dealing with this now. Cos the boomers caused the problem and just passed it to us. Let's sort it.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh dear.

    You might have taken a good look at the existing trading schemes to make sure that it actually works in the Real World as well as in the Magic World, where economics works the way it should, without those nasty, greedy people around.

    The scheme suggested will absolutely have unintended consequences, as we have seen with the existing schemes. Think those through and maybe, just maybe,* such a scheme will work.

    * - with the probability of a lottery win.

  10. JohnSmitty
    Thumb Down

    You are making some big assumptions here about CO2 etc...

    We have been told, almost non-stop for the last 20 years CO2 is the cause of the planet heating up, then nature throws a curve ball and starts cooling down for the last 10, so if CO2 is still going up why is global temp going down and we're still being told CO2 is causing us to heat up?

    Also Hansen has just done an about face almost, he's gone from singing the CO2 song, to now claiming soot is responsible for at least 50% of melting slabs of ice. So again if CO2 is such a boogyman why are we suddenly being told it mostly isn't any more?

    I agree we need to clean up our activities on this planet, but targeting CO2 probably won't have any effect what so ever, in fact some are claiming the increased CO2 has increased plant diversity and all the wonderful things that go with it, like potentially less people starving.

    The planet will be here long after we're gone, something else will evolve to be the dominate species on the planet so we need to be honest what we're doing here, saving our selves, not saving the planet.

    Then of course there is the little matter of SO2, which has the opposite effect to CO2 by cooling the planet, but they aren't properly measuring most emissions so we don't really know what is going on here, just a lot of people jumping up and down crying wolf. All they really care about is their on going funding to further research things that may be of no consequence.

    If these politicians were serious about saving people on this planet why are they doing nothing about funding people starving? A sub-org of the UN was asking for 45billion to feed the starving, but no one gave a cent. What about all the curable dieses in less wealthy nations, how much is being done about that to save the 1-3 million or so people that die just from malaria a year?

    Copenhagen failed for the same reason it existed, it was created out of greed and the lure of billions if not trillions of fresh tax dollars, but no one trusted anyone else with the money so it fell over.

    All the politicians are greedy hypocritical sods that shouldn't be given a cent more in money while they keep lying to us about caring about people and/or "the planet"

  11. R Callan
    FAIL

    Absolute codswallop!

    Might I suggest that you engage brain before opening mouth. There is more and more research coming out, both peer reviewed and not (disregarding that the peer review system has been seriously abused), that the data provided via CRU and IPCC and the "consensus" opinion arising from it is wrong. It has been generated through politics and not science. Whenever rank amateurs investigate critical details the doubts multiply until they exceed any reasonable doubt.

    Examples:

    The US climate records are claimed to be the worlds best, but their measuring stations fail the minimum standard in 89% of cases, merely for siting. They do not adequately account fot Urban heat Island effect, but "adjustments" are made that always give a rise in temperature that raw data ( if available) does not. Upward adjustments without adequate explanation have also occured in Australia and New Zealand and these adjustments account for all of the claimed temperature rise in the stations investigated. In fact it was pointed out in a paper published in 1980 that NZ data was not suitable for long term monitoring or for temperature trend analysis.

    The infamous Mann "hockey stick" graph was invalidated by McIntyre and McKitrick in 2003 but is still often seen, including in IPCC publications and presentations. The Medieval Warm Period which was warmer than today definitely existed otherwise how were grapes grown in Northumbria, Greenland and Newfoundland?

    The Briffa tree ring analysis from Yamal, Siberia has been shown to depend upon cherry picking of data and ignoring the majority of the data points, and even then *one* tree skewed the results towards the desired end. If either this tree was excluded or all of the others were included then the temperature series changed character completely. There was also the infamous "Mann 'Nature' trick" of not including in the graph data that did not conform to the required result and hoping that it would not be noticed in the spaghetti graph.

    I could go on but enough is enough but the present warming trend, assuming that it is still with us as there has been no warming for 9 years, cannot be put down to anthropogenic causes as both temperature rise and rate of rise are not uncommon in recent geological history.

    1. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

      Sweet Jesus

      Look, this has been going on for years. It works roughly the following way.

      1. Scientist with years of experience working with climate change says "it's humans wot done it"

      2. Person with some scientific training, invariably in an unrelated field, thinks they've spotted something missed by peer-reviewing and writes a blog which says "Aha, what about this". This always involves overlaying one graph on another. One of the lines is in red.

      3. Scientist refutes point 2 using "science". Usually this involves complicated discussion about samples, curves, statistics, adjusting factors and other sciency stuff.

      4. Punter looks at both of the above and finds step 3 too complicated, so stops at 2 and repeats.

      You, sir, are the Punter.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Muppet

        Look, let us just take one issue - the hockey stick graph - and walk through your process.

        1. Scientists with loads of experience of climate change (and paleoclimatology) produce the hockey stick graph.

        2. Person with a vast amount of statistical training (Wegman) studies the hockey stick graph and finds that the statistical methods are rubbish. In fact, the misapplication of Principal Component Analysis used by Mann et al will produce a hockey stick shape from any auto-correlated data (the climate is always autocorrelated). Furthermore, they point out that the peer review process in climate change is so nepotistic as to be almost a joke.

        3. Mann cries, and then tries to attack Wegman for ridiculous non-scientific reasons.

        4. Punter looks at both of the above, and realises they have been conned. Hence why so many people are switching off to so-called anthropogenic climate change.

    2. Jolyon

      Fallacy

      "the present warming trend ... cannot be put down to anthropogenic causes as both temperature rise and rate of rise are not uncommon in recent geological history."

      This argument is incomplete / fallacious.

  12. JohnG

    Pollution Taxes <> Environmental damage fixed

    The snag with the idea of taxing polllution or polluters is that the problems remain unless the money collected is spent fixing the damage done - and that won't happen.

    If the politicians gave shit about the environment, they would have held a huge video conference, instead of flying halfway around the world at tax payers' expense, each with a bunch of hangers-on.

  13. JohnSmitty
    Thumb Down

    Haven't we had enough economists already?

    After the financial crisis I thought economists would be listened to less, since greed is good and all, how does that help me?

    Also before making sweeping statements did you notice the corruption in Denmark from their cap and trade system?

    Basically it doesn't matter what happens going forward someone will game the system, especially because of so much money being involved.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Simplistic

    Both your "simple" solutions penalise those countries that are currently going through something like our industrial revolution.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    The TPA has already done the math....

    The Case Against Further Green Taxes - Report and Poll

    GOVERNMENT RAISING £10 BILLION MORE FROM GREEN TAXES THAN REQUIRED TO COVER COST OF UK’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

    EVERY UK HOUSEHOLD ALREADY OVER-PAYING GREEN TAXES TO THE TUNE OF MORE THAN £400 A YEAR

    NEW POLL SHOWS BIG MAJORITY BELIEVE POLITICIANS ARE USING GREEN TAXES AS A REVENUE RAISING MEASURE

    FIRST EVER AUDIT OF UK GREEN TAX POLICY REVEALS EXCESSIVE BURDEN OF ENVIRONMENTAL LEVIES THAT FAIL THEIR OBJECTIVES

    http://tpa.typepad.com/research/2007/09/the-case-agains.html

    That is all.

  16. Eddie Edwards
    Pint

    *applause*

    A sane and rational article on climate change. Thank you, sir.

    Although these days I take exception to the claim that economists know anything about anything. Economic models may be appealing, but there is no proof that they match reality to any meaningful extent, and plenty of indication that they don't.

    OTOH, this article doesn't use anything very contentious from economics to make its point.

    All round good show.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    I don't really care whether climate change is real/man-made or not

    It seems to me that regardless of whether it's happening and regardless of who or what is causing it, if it is, it is just plain common sense to stop raping the planet and polluting our environment.

  18. Scott Mckenzie
    FAIL

    Or.. as discussed elsewhere on the interwebs

    Lets spend $180 Billion a year to slow down global warming by 7 years by the end of this Century.

    Or lets spend the $180 Billion each year on trying to fix the here and now problems so that there might actually be some people left that global warming may affect. You know, Aids, Cancer etc.... it's all well and good stopping global warming but if there is no-one left alive it's a bit of a waste isn't it.

    Why don't they try having these conferences via web conferences as well, rather than having to fly in 1000 extra limo's to ferry the diplomats around... cos that's helping isn't it.

    It's all utter, utter bollocks.

  19. John H Woods
    Thumb Up

    Best El Reg Climate Change Article Ever

    That is all.

  20. Il Midga di Macaroni
    FAIL

    A tax reduces consumption, does it?

    So tell me - to what extent did the 23p Kyoto levy affect petrol usage in the UK? Approximately 0%?

  21. Pete 2 Silver badge

    a conflict of interests

    The basic problem is that you (whoever that is, exactly) can't "solve" climate change within the span of a parliament - or presidential term. Politicians think in terms of short-term steps. Ones that will increase their chances of getting re-elected. Occasionally they think in terms of leaving the other lot a poison pill as a present. Neither of these strategies is compatible with a process that will take one or two generations to resolve. (Other examples are: poverty, crime, education, overpopulation).

    In addition, you're asking people to pay for the cost of fixing climate change. However the ones who pay aren't the people who are most affected by it - so to yer average voter (innit?) there's a cost but no benefit. Since Y.A.V. doesn't think in abstract terms the persuasiveness of rational arguments are lost. The best you can hope for is to get some luvvies involved and have them make it all trendy (possibly with the carrot of recognition, arts funding or nobel prizes for their efforts) so that the reality-watching masses will take up the cause.

    The additional problem with using taxation as a means of restricting consumption is that it isn't very equitable. The rich can carry on polluting, while the poor have to walk. What will happen to our system of near-identical political parties as soon as someone uses this as an angle? You'll have a revolution in the making (though it will be a very british revolution; letters to the Daily Wail and lots of "tutting", maybe even a 15 minute programme on BBC4 at 3 a.m.) Sadly, the only way to level things out is to start banning: but not in a tokenistic way, for show but by looking at the top (say) 10 carbon emitting activities and saying STOP..

  22. N2 Silver badge

    Whatever happened

    To the carbon cycle that we learnt at school?

    1. Baying Lynch Mob

      Re: conflict of interests

      I think you've hit the nail on the head. The "not during my watch" attitude means that as long as you *look* like you're doing the right thing for the long term, you can make it through the next election. Fixing climate change is going to involve some unpopular choices, and nobody wants to be the group that has to impose these on the voters - especially when a scary amount of the voters think it's all a hoax.

      And once you're fining or taxing people for doing something bad or wrong, it becomes a source of income, so there's less of an incentive to stop them from doing it.

      Also, Copenhagen was severely bogged down by quibbling over small print. It's a wonder the conflict of interest problem was even reached.

    2. Fred 1

      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.

    3. wheel
      Stop

      But there was no universal tariff

      I think it probably did affect petrol usage; more people use public transport now than they used to 10 years ago.

      Besides which, there is no universal tariff: tax went up on petrol, but didn't go up on beef, or plastic, or cement, or most of the other carbon intensive elements. Furthermore, 'green' petrol has the same duty as fossil-fuel petrol. So fuel duty tells us nothing about where people want to use fossil-carbon, which is really what the point of the article is - he freely admits that people may prefer to use their cars than eat beef.

    4. mmiied

      maby not yet but it is starting

      pepol are now seriousley concidering that te hassle of buyign and keeping an electric car it tearms of there time (keeping ti charged etc) is worth te savings in petrol as the proce of petrol gose up this equation will keep going in favor of other typrs of transport

      personal example when I bought a new house 2 years ago it was a serious concidration if I could walf to te train station to save me the petrol cost of driving to work every day

  23. Stef 4

    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.

  24. EXAFLOPS'R'US
    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...

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    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.

  26. Grozbat
    Thumb Up

    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.

  27. Tim Worstal

    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".

  28. Desk Jockey
    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.

  29. Pete 8
    Grenade

    @scott

    I concur - utter bollocks.

    Jail them all.

  30. Simpson

    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.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. IndianaJ
      FAIL

      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.

      1. strum Silver badge
        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.

        1. David Beck
          FAIL

          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.

    2. Sirius Lee
      Thumb Down

      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).

  32. Gareth Jones 2
    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.

  33. FadeOut

    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.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    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?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  36. keddaw
    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.

  37. Darko Dojin
    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.....

  38. Glen Turner 666

    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.

  39. wheel

    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.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    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.

  42. JeffyPooh Silver badge
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      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.

  43. codemonkey
    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 :)

  44. John Savard Silver badge

    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.

  45. Count Ludwig
    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?

  46. Richard 102

    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.

    1. Linbox

      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.

    2. R Callan

      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".

    3. TomFP

      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.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Reality Check

    If only Global Warming was real...

  48. jorb

    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.

  49. Victor Szulc

    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?!?

  50. Terry H
    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.

  51. Captain Thyratron

    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.

  52. EXAFLOPS'R'US
    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.

  53. Discreet Messenger
    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.

  54. marmarama
    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..

  55. strum Silver badge
    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.

  56. Jim 64
    FAIL

    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.

  57. JasGarnier

    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.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019