The carbon tax bunyip (updated)

When Tony Windsor, MP, said that he would like to see the carbon debate in this country move beyond the words “tax” and the word “lie”, it really struck a chord with me. We seem to be stuck in this Groundhog Day style conversation where each issue is immediately translated into a one line pro or con, regardless how often we have been through the rationale previously. It’s not really a debate; it’s quickly descending into just a vituperative exchange of sound bites. Prominent thinkers in this area can’t have their views expressed without being attacked for their past or current allegiances; rather than actually discussing the contribution that they are making and its relative merits or drawbacks. Criticisms are often made on the basis of the media reaction to a report, rather than on an actual reading of the report itself.

It’s possible that democracy is not the kind of political system that’s capable of delivering true reform in addressing climate change. When you look at what China is doing in their new 5 year plan, it’s staggering how government decree can make such a seismic shift towards a cleaner economy. However, I am reminded of the historic reforms achieved in Australia previously, in the Hawke-Keating years and also the GST under Howard. These were not popular ideas at the time; the political challenge is to deliver true reform despite a level of populist antipathy or worse.

It’s my aim in this blog is to shift the debate to substantive economic analysis. The science is not at issue in this blog. Whether you believe in human induced climate change or you don’t, their is the real prospect of a carbon price and that will be my focus.

To begin with, I  can help set the record straight on a number of issues relating to the pricing of carbon. It staggers me how much misunderstanding there is in the community, not just among the public but also from media commentators, contributors of letters to the nation’s papers, and even academics.

The government is not proposing a carbon tax. Rather, it is a fixed price permit system. Whether this is just semantics or a critical difference, well, you can be the judge. A carbon tax, as per an income tax or a consumption tax, is revenue collected on every tonne of carbon emitted, effectively administered by the ATO. A fixed price permit system is a precursor to a floating price emissions trading system (ETS) otherwise known as cap-and-trade. The critical difference is in the administrative machinery; an emitter (I prefer the word “emitter” over the word “polluter”) under a carbon tax must merely remit to the tax office an amount equivalent to the tax (in $/tCO2e) multiplied by its emissions in that period. Under an emissions trading system, an emitter must purchase permits to emit and then remit or surrender these permits to a regulatory authority in that period. Now, the way to implement a fixed price regime is to have the government sell an unlimited amount of permits at the fixed price, and have these automatically surrendered. It has the same effect as a carbon tax, economically, but it is machinery that would be much easier to transition to a floating price ETS.

This is something that a credentialed contributor to the AFR letter section got wrong today. There is no actual defined quantitative limit of emission reductions under a carbon tax or a fixed price permit system; however, the carbon price sends a signal throughout the economy which will affect economic decision-making and reduce emissions relative to the circumstance of a zero carbon price. The actual level of reductions will be unknown. On the other hand, under a floating price regime, such as cap-and-trade, the actual level of abatement is set by government and the price, determined by the market, becomes the dependent variable.

So, yes, a fixed price regime has many of the same effects of a carbon tax, but it is not a carbon tax. It’s interesting to note that this scheme was exactly what was proposed under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS): a fixed price period of $10/tCO2e was to be in place for one year (2011/12) and the price was to be floating thereafter. All that’s changed is that the price has gone up (looks like it’s going to start somewhere between $20/tCO2e and $30/tCO2e) and the fixed price period will be for three years or so. The logic of a fixed price period and the criteria for transition to a floating price has a lot to do with the context of the level of co-ordination of international abatement efforts, and is very clearly laid out in the Garnaut Review’s Sixth Update paper.

When voices criticise the carbon “tax”, such as in the Canberra rally yesterday, it’s not like they are arguing that an ETS would be better. I didn’t see any banners saying let’s remove the fixed price regime and go straight to emissions trading! No, they are really saying they are against the carbon price, of any form, be it a tax, a fixed price emissions trading system, or a floating price ETS. If you accept that the science is real and you want to do something about it at least cost to the economy, then the logic inexorably leads you to a carbon price. If you are against a carbon price, you either don’t accept the science (apparently this was the position of much of the rally yesterday) or you don’t accept that market price signals are superior to regulation when delivering public policy (which then has you pitted against decades of reform theory and experience across the globe).

In coming blogs, I will start debunking some of the myths of carbon pricing. The first three that I’d like to address are:

  1. A carbon price will kill the economy;
  2. A carbon price will do nothing to reduce emissions;
  3. Australian efforts in mitigation will do nothing for global abatement.
Latest posts by _EcoRon_ (see all)

Comments

  1. So tell us:

    1. How much will it cost?
    2. How much will it lower the temperature?
    3. How much will it lower emissions?
    4. Why is this better than simple adaptation?
    5. Why do you believe what you do, when there is absolutely NO evidence to support it?
    6. Why do you ignore the countless scientists and the thousands of pages of evidence that suggest that man-made climate change is an utter crock, yet chose to focus on those who agree and use it as justification for a massive new tax that will kill jobs?

    You want to know how we can move on to an actual debate? PROVE IT! The reason this is so hotly contested is because there is simply no evidence to suggest that CO2 (carbon dioxide) a harmless, odourless gas, required for life on Earth, that makes up 0.039% of the atmosphere and 3% of all greenhouses gasses, a gas that we exhale for Christ sake, is doing any damage whatsoever to the world. Yet, despite this lack of evidence, people like you want to massively raise taxes, in a time when bills are going through the roof and the housing bubble is about to burst.

    Not even this statement is true:

    “If you accept that the science is real and you want to do something about it at least cost to the economy, then the logic inexorably leads you to a carbon price.”

    No it doesn’t. The climate doesn’t care about taxes. When have taxes created anything but revenue for a government and creative ways of avoiding it? Your statement is complete and utter nonsense.

    As for China, no they aren’t doing ANYTHING to ‘make their economy greener’. This is a complete myth and nothing but a creative use of statistics. What are the facts? China will double or even triple their emissions of the next 10-20 years. They could build a million windmills, this fact doesn’t change.

    Finally, to your ‘myths’.

    1. Tell that to Europe, most notable Spain, but Europe in general too. A place with 10% unemployment and no hope of fixing this. Studies have found that for every ‘green’ job at LEAST more than one real job gets killed. “Green” policies have effectively bankrupted Spain.

    2. Not one place with a carbon tax/ETS/whatever now has lower emissions. Why would WE be any different? (If you do happen to find one, I reckon I could find a country that has been in recession for a long time)

    3. We make up 1.5% of global emissions. You could wipe Australia off the planet and it would do aboslutely NOTHING to the climate whether you believe the religion, oh I mean ‘the science’ or not.

    Can I just ask, why is such a great mega blog being populated by AGW bull at all? Is this a business and economy blog or a political one? There are plenty of Greenie and Socialist blogs around to post on, why this one?

    • Can we please move on from the “CO2 (carbon dioxide) a harmless, odourless gas, required for life on Earth, that makes up 0.039% of the atmosphere and 3% of all greenhouses gasses, a gas that we exhale for Christ sake” style arguments!?

      Nearly anything in abundance is bad for you. Too much oxygen is even bad for you (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_toxicity).

      It is such a lame argument when there are many more issues that can be raised.

    • MattR fully agree, the carbon tax needs to be exposed for the farce that it is, and climate change to be put put into the right contest as being a natural climatic process over which we have very little influence, a process which has been occurring since the conception of the earth and will be with the earth till its swallowed by the sun turning into a red giant. Based on all the papers that I have been reading on the subject, I am fully convinced that the climate change process is driven by the sun, inclination/tilt of the earth and its orbit around the sun, and not by a CO2 fart in a storm. This is also the reason why all the bullshit models that take mans influence into account do not work out.

  2. I suggest you take a look at the book Merchants of Doubt.
    Secondly, perhaps you could wait and listen to the author’s argument first before launching a political diatribe.
    This is an important economic issue, and worthy of discussion.

  3. Matt R,

    You are verging on abuse here. If you wish to engage in argument, by all means do so. But making a string of assertions with no evidence to attack a line of argument that has clearly stated it will be providing evidence in future posts is not constructive, it’s rhetorical. Your tone is inappropriate too.

    Please read the rules of comment.

    Thanks, though, for illustrating why Carbon E. Coyote is so vital to this site.

    • A suggestion:

      When you see comments which include statements like “CO2 is a harmless, odourless gas, required for life on Earth”. Just delete them.

    • How is this abuse? I merely point out the very obvious gaping flaws in the man-made climate change argument. Calling what someone says ‘nonsense’ is not abuse just because you disagree with the statement.

      Lorax, what is wrong about saying CO2 is a harmless odourless gas, required for life on Earth? How is is factually incorrect?

      What you’re saying is, when you see totally factual statements that you can’t argue with you should simply delete the post? The original thread calls for debate and you respond with ‘let’s just silence anyone who disagrees’?

      • MattR – I understand your frustration and your arguments – and trust me, I’m a sceptic about climate change, but for the same reasons that I’m cautious about the possible damaging role of CO2.

        Yes CO2, on its own is harmless. Its a component of the air we breathe.

        And yes, on its own, Australia’s contribution – a measly 1.5% – to global Co2 emissions seems harmless, given the low values.

        But like a lot of things in economics, finance – and dynamic models like the Earth’s atmosphere and indeed the interaction of the Sun and the planets, its not a straight linear or numerical relationship.

        It could be that a build up of CO2 in the atmosphere – just like a build up of debt within a financial system – is fine, until it isnt.

        It could be that a profilgate, rich country like Australia – whose total impact seems benign, but by not arresting its localised pollution – like a subprime crisis – begins a run away chain reaction that affects other micro and macro climates around the world.

        To be honest – most of the climate scientists don’t know this (or they do and find it extremely hard to bring their message to the mainstream media, who can’t get past using 2 syllables in a row when discussing complex problems).

        Like neoclassical/Keynesian synthesis economic models I too am sceptical about complex models created by climate scientists. But I am no expert and I am open to the possibility they are correct, or in the ballpark. I think its a given, from a resource sustainability point of view, that we are approaching serious system limits, we could also be doing the same with weather/micro-climate systems.

        This is a complex area and it doesn’t help making sweeping statements or claims of absolute facts.

        Just as I and others on Macrobusiness talk about how the mainstream/Conventional wisdom do not understand complex, dynamic systems (with regard to our own economy, financial markets, commodities, currencies, monetary policy etc) we are also discussing the impact and perception thereof of the participants when it comes to all matters, including AGW/climate change.

        This is something I’m interested in with the Carbon Coyote – not the same BS you read elsewhere (i.e on both sides of the debate).

        • Your not wrong about the parallels between climate modeling and economic modeling via computer simulations.

          Rocket science is deterministic by comparison.

          To be complete we should also consider the pros and cons of the current IPCC consensus favored probability. ie global warming.
          Realistically. Are people living in the colder regions, who make up the bulk of western society, bothered by the concept of a warming world?
          I can remember studying global warming theories back in the mid eighties.
          At the time I was living in northern Britain and it was freezing. The discussion round the beer table was more about, ‘can’t happen soon enough for this place’ than worrying about tipping points and taxes.

          • Unfortunately, the world’s poorest people also live in the most volatile climatic regions dominated by drought and monsoon. 🙁

        • Well said Chris. However, it’s clear that the original article as well as MattM’s comment _both_ have their fair share of “sweeping statements or claims of absolute facts”.

          The original article makes the claim that if you accept the science is real then you must price carbon. This is not a fact. I think it’s possible that the science is right but it’s not clear at all that the government should introduce a price-fixing scheme.

          One of my fears is that the finance wonks have run out of steam with their financial derivatives and credit schemes and now they want an ETS type system so they have something else to trade in their trading systems.

          Thing is that you wouldn’t have so much resistance to the science if the solution wasn’t one that required the government to have so much control over the economy. If people are convinced of the science, won’t they act differently (without a tax, price or trading-scheme). These people would act because they know there’s a _hidden_ cost. Kinda like processed junk food, calorie-high, nutrient-poor “food” is cheaper than good food. People do though, choose to buy the more expensive good food without the junk food being priced out of existence.

        • Good points Steve.

          The George Carlin video on your blog is apt. I will be watching the coverage of Earth Hour this weekend in my air conditioned lounge on my 42 inch plasma TV, eating a T-bone steak produced from a grass-fed methane farting cow in my (rented) McMansion.

          Matt I disagree that MacroBusiness does is not political per se – it maybe apolitical in its stance, but politics (from the Greek “poly” meaning “many” and “-tics” meaning “parasites”) is a critical part of understanding macroeconomics, socio-economic trends and other parts of the 3D puzzle.

        • I also like to look at this the same way I look at finance. I have no idea about the science. There is clearly a lot of uncertainty about the estimates and we are dealing with complex systems. But the point is that the worst case scenarios are very bad.

          So this is a lot like the idea of tail risk in investing. It’s too late to buy protection against tail risk once the world has already started blowing up, a la 2008. So it makes sense to take out some kind of insurance in advance, even if we are unsure about the science.

          I think this is something that both sides of the argument should be able to agree on. It doesn’t matter if you agree with the science or not; it’s a question of risk management. The debate needs to be about what the most sensible and cost effective way to do this is.

      • The Prince,

        I like your response, it is certainly better than. “That is abusive” or “you should ban someone who says something I disagree with”.

        It would be nice to see some reasoned debate regarding this issue but the fact remains that is has become highly politicised issue and reasoned debates are very very difficult. Everything anyone says is going to have a hint of politics in it no matter how hard they try.

        I too am open to the possibility that scientists who support the man-made may some day prove their theories but until then, legislating a giant tax for the sake of unproven hypothesis in, as you say, a highly complex system, is nothing but politics. Thus any legislation designed to ‘do something’ or ‘act’ should be treated with the highest amount of skepticism. As should the people who support it.

        My issue with this blog is that it makes the assumption that it’s real right off the bat. Then goes ahead to declare the main arguments against this tax as ‘myths’. If you want to present a balanced argument, probably not best to come out, assume that one side is entirely correct and the other side are basing their arguments on myths. If that is your contention, fine, declare your side and go from there. If not, don’t pretend you are balanced when you aren’t. This isn’t the ABC.

        It also assumes that we are going to have a carbon tax, which isn’t even legislation yet and even if it gets passed there is a strong likelyhood it will be repealed a year later.

        Like I said before, why are you guys bringing politics to this blog? I love it for the fact that it’s predominantly non-political. I got to other places for my politics hit, this place is where I get away from it. Why would you introduce an issue that is so highly politicised?

        It seems odd given this blogs history.

        • A change of taxation requires analysis. Politics is not the issue.

          I, for one would love more indirect taxes and a slashing of income tax.

          Switzerland has similar taxation to GDP ratios as Australia but its income tax is miniscule at most levels.

          I welcome Carbon’s contribution.

        • Matt,
          Unless you would like to present some evidence, on why NASA, CSIRO and the Royal Society are completely off the mark, then you really don’t have anything to add to this debate.

      • MattR

        If you get time, look at the first 15 minutes of a video on youtube by a physicist from UC Berkeley who is going to review all the past raw temperature data and climate model source code. He hopefully will set up the site along the lines of an open source software project.
        If he is allowed to do so it may clear up some of the issues raised by the climategate leak.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbR0EPWgkEI

    • Oh, and you want evidence? Sure:

      http://icecap.us/images/uploads/The_failures_part_1.pdf

      http://icecap.us/images/uploads/The_failures_part_II.pdf

      http://wattsupwiththat.com/

      http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/leaked-spanish-report-obamas-model-green-economy-a-disaster-pjm-exclusive/

      Just to start, plenty more where that came from.

      The reason I don’t go in to the nitty gritty is because there is so much evidence out there already. I’ve had this debate literally hudreds of times and cited evidence just as many.

      • Awesome Matt. I’ll just go back to “business as usual then” 🙂
        Wait where did they publish that? Nature? Science? Oh wait it wasn’t peer reviewed at all.

    • Just who is Carbon E. Coyote? Perhaps a high-school leaver fresh from the school of government propaganda?

      I look forward to the facts and arguments.

    • H and H,

      Please explain this to me. Dont give me graphs of this and that just explain this. Why is Mt Kilamajoro now showing snow again? Are you going to blame it on Global Warming. I hope Australia put this carbon tax in place and kills the economy here. We will be the laughing stock of the world because we were so stupid to fall for this. Please help me understand why years ago all these expert scienctist said it would all melt now there is more snow on it than before.

      http://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/another-global-warming-icon-bites-the-dust/

      LBS

    • I think MattR ticks all my boxes

      the OP clearly is pushing a barrow and it is very political

      eg “It’s possible that democracy is not the kind of political system that’s capable of delivering true reform in addressing climate change.”

      and the only arguments against MattR are a warning on verging on abuse (MattR’s arguments are factual, if that is abuse then God save us) and “everything in moderation” feel-good temperance, again without factual rebuttal. That’s because the science is pure bunk.

      A great counterargument to the Greens endeavours was recently posted by brookesnews.com editor Gerard Jackson.

      Don’t get me wrong, I used to very keen on the Greens, if only if I was green behind the ears, a greenhorn in my youth, looking for real change, but you need to be careful what you wish for, and a more aggressive state only brings us closer to totalitarianism.

      Although I really believe in the ethic of preserving our environment, the key is process by which it preserved, and in the Green’s case, sadly, by use of socialist aggression, the end does not justify the means. Anyone in interested should read Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom”. He was a Nobel laureate in 1974, back in days when that actually meant something.

      The incumbent government is part green, and most likely what we are seeing is motivated by this coalition.
      Again, I’m not into political parties, like, I suspect, a large core of your readership. We are thoroughly jaded as our wishes have little bearing.

      I came to this site as Delusional Economics and Unconventional Economist moved here. I’ll still follow them, but I think I’ll give it a miss otherwise, though boganomics is great for laughs. I’m very pleased Bullion Baron is here now btw.

      I think you’d be wise to keep it as apolitical as poss.

  4. “The government is not proposing a carbon tax. Rather, it is a fixed price permit system.”

    It’s neither, what it is, is a scam.

    Prodded by various financial types looking to buy low & sell high some more worthless garbage, naive politicians are attempting to attract votes by making it look like they are doing something.

    “you don’t accept that market price signals are superior to regulation when delivering public policy”

    This is pure bunk. How is a “fixed price regime” a market determined price.

    Complete garbage. You people should try living outside the city & see how climate change is affecting the primary producers this year.

      • I’m surprised they haven’t already.

        And for anyone interested, conditions here on the farm are as good as at ANY time in the last 50 years!

        • JMD, are you saying that there’s no climate change in the farming country or that you _like_ the changes that are happening in the climate there?

          • You can’t pick & choose your climate change. If it was climate change/global warming causing the drought it is causing the current excellent conditions too.

    • I’m sure Banana farmers in North QLD would beg to differ with your assessment of this season.

  5. Interesting debut blog.
    You certainly seem to know the details of the pricing mechanism, essentially setting us up for cap and trade.
    Your not Ross Garnaut by any chance 😉 Just kidding, think his writing is a bit more formal.
    It’s about time to attempt to have a reasoned discussion about this topic.
    I wish the moderator luck at this point.

  6. Non renewable resources should only be used as a substitute to find renewable ones. It is good in hindsight. The issue with carbon reduction is directly linked to consumption. We are told day in day out to consume and if you do not keep up, you will miss out. A carbon tax will not will not slow consumption until it starts to affect our well being. Take cigarettes for example, the health issues that are associated and the change in attitude towards smoking has had more effect than taxing the hell out of them.

  7. An ETS would simply be another get rich quick scheme for the banksters.

    It is a carbon tax or NOTHING for me.

  8. Carbon E. Coyote, you might as well call yourself David. You are fighting against a 24/7 perpetual-emotional-faux-outrage machine.
    .
    None-the-less, I must commend you for firing the first shot.
    .
    In your future post, can you also explain how ETS is NOT a get rich quick scheme for the banksters?

  9. What kind of political system would you prefer? Communism? Perhaps a benevolent dictatorship?

    Personally, I don’t accept the science. Most people have formed an opinion without seeing or understanding the science whether they are for or against the idea that we humans are causing a disastrous increase in world temperatures.

    You’ve clearly already accepted the science. I think it’s best that you address that first, otherwise I don’t think you’ll have a good response from the public. After all, to someone who doesn’t accept the science, “carbon price” or “cap-n-trade” is just a false dichotomy.

    What scientific papers are the most convincing? Please post them here or links to them. Please also give us all an idea of how much background learning we’ll need to understand the papers – links to background science and tuition would be appreciated.

    • Steven,

      I don’t know if it is still there but there was a report by none other than Ross Garnaut at http://www.bom.gov.au

      In it there was a series of graphs displaying future temps. etc if ‘we don’t do something’. These graphs showed exponential increases, yet they were nothing more than extrapolations – guesses – on where things might go. As a B.Sc (biology) I know something about scientific reports & graphing data & quite frankly this report was a disgrace, you can only plot data you actually have on a graph. To then claim this exponential graph into the future as fact is fraudulent. Yet only the other day I hear Ross Garnaut on the radio, talking up subsidies for this & that. Unbelievable.

    • Steve, another approach to take is the one that I have outlined below, which involves being clear and open about ones Axioms/beliefs, and being aware that difference Axioms/core-premises lead to divergences in conclusions.

      Though there are certainly aspects of the CO2 –> global warming debate that I accept, there are others I see as problematic at best, and just plain false at worst….again, stemming from Axioms (which, ultimately arise from Choice!).

      I habe no problem with the articles assuming the now-conventional/political paradigm, and arguing from there, as long as the paradigm is transparently communicated – which, I admit, is not a strength of many, but definitely an idealistic trait to be aspired to for anyone desiring clear Logic, IMHO.

      For me, talking about the “science” in a form and forum such as this is somewhat inappropriate – it distracts from the issue somewhat; THOUGH, i admit is cannot completely divorced from the issue, because it forms the basis of economic reaction, aspects of valuations, etc.

      Nonetheless, stating Axioms/starting points/premises about such things as aspects of the science are especially valid and high-quality logical and communicative methods for a forum such as this.

      And, yes, that could just be my opinion.

      Cheers,
      Stewart

      • You know what, i just thought about an approach that is even a little better, or rather builds on what i suggested…

        …scenario modelling!

        State axioms, deduce/induce sub-conclusion and conclusions clearly via a clear chain of logic, and derive the paradigm’s economic implicaitons.

        And do this for several different scenarios / sets of assumptions.

        This is a very high-quality and effective method (i use it in science, engineering, logic and even finance all the time!) – more work, but is, really one of the best possible approaches; and is better than the normal “assume a lot; don’t state many premises; only interpret data from a single, little-specified-paradigm” approach that most take most of the time……

        So, yes, transparent logic, scenario modelling is a fantastic way to go, IMHO.

  10. As a chemical engineer and environmentalist (of sorts), I would, personally, would prefer a more general approach and discussions to the economic significance of Life-Cycle impacts of pollution IN GENERAL, not just Carbon Dioxide (which, in all honesty, is only weakly holds the status of a “pollutant” when compared with other prolific substances that hold the status of “pollutant” far more strongly…)

    Nonetheless, if the powers-that-be are going to push ahead with it, they are going to push ahead with it – ie. a “strong” (in the semantic and logical sense) classification of CO2 as a “pollutant”, and associated reactions that are justified for a “strong” (quality) pollutant.

    I don’t have a problem with this sort of article, I think we need to be honest that it accepts a certain type of paradigm, be open about that (ie. not presumptive, and not necessarily dogmatically insistent), and take interesting and informed journalism and discussion from there, whilst simultaneously accepting that deductive divergence in conclusion(s) comes, ultimately, from divergence in Axioms (core assumptions/premises). Simple, really.

    Personally, i would like to hear about how the life-cycles of pollutants in general (of which CO2 may or may not be a strong-qualifier) can be assessed economically, IN ORDER THAT the free(ish)-market can make proper valuations and subsequent economic decisions that reflect and mimic a true qualitative, and all-round “bigger picture” assessment of the situation.

    My 2c!

  11. It is impossible to discuss ‘Climate Change’ without attracting the attention of zealots. Leaving the issue of Global Warming aside, below is a list of almost irrefutable facts, at the current projected rate of usage :

    1) Oil will eventually run out within 50 years
    2) Natural Gas will eventually run out within 100 years
    3) Coal will eventually run out within 200 years

    Moving onto renewable energy is the only way to prevent a global war caused by resource shortages. ‘Energy security’ is as important as ‘food security’, however we’re afraid to mention the word for fear the Arabs will cut off our oil supply. This is why we use the word ‘Climate Change’ instead.

    • Ronin8317

      The US is sitting on enough oil around South Dakota, N Dokota, etc that would last it and the world I believe 100 to 200 plus years. They believe its bigger than the oil fields of Middle East combined. I could be wrong but it is massive. Dont get me wrong it really pissed me off that the govts around the world didnt really get serious about the fuel cells and other technologies to drive our energy needs and really wished they would go down that path.

      LBS

      • There are indeed more oil deposits to be found, however even at the highest estimate (200 billion barrels) it will only last 5-6 years. The world is consuming oil at around 31 billion barrels a year, and a growing China and India means the consumption will go up even more.

    • @Ronin8317, there may be a legitimate “national security” concern about the future of fossil fuels. I’d imagine that moving to renewables would mean less tension in the middle east at least. Do you think that’s what this carbon taxing is all about?

      • The ETS, carbon tax, etc are focused on encouraging the growth of alternative energy technology. Given that neither China nor India signed on with carbon emission reduction, incorporating a carbon tax/ETS scheme in Australia will have almost zero effect on carbon dioxide emission. There is a secondary motive beyond appeasing the Green vote. ‘Renewable energy’ is generated in the same country where it is consumed, so it improve energy security, and reduce the trade deficit. It’s killing two birds with one stone.

        This is where the political narrative fails. The politicians are stuck in a mode where they must attribute an action to some lofty ideal. “We have to save our planet for the next generation” is inspirational. However the politicians should try brutal honesty instead : “China is going to be really rich, and pretty soon we won’t be able to afford oil because China will hogs all of it. We need a backup plan”.

      • Ronin, I would dust off my voting finger (haven’t since 1997) and vote for any politician that mentioned the last few words of brutal honesty, as you say.

        Our primary plan needs to be: let’s make as much renewable energy as possible. Let’s plan to make 10 times more than we need – and then deliver triple that. Let’s give companies and individuals every incentive possible to create energy – tax relief, grants, money, hookers – whatever! Let’s give our research scientists brazillians in funds to explore/develop renewable energy systems.

        Our secondary plan(s) should be: hmmm, should really turn the A/C off from time to time. Maybe ditch the second car and get a scooter. Make the kids walk to school instead of driving. Telecommute to relieve the pressure on using public transport. Import cheap aluminum instead of making it here. Make all new dwellings completely independent (create own energy, recycle own waste, collect and treat all water).

        Instead, we get caught up in “they took our jobs” South Park style level of analysis and debate….

  12. Coyote,

    I think it was always going to be a big ask to have a reasoned discussion about the economics surrounding global warming when its validity is being so hotly contested.

    As a believer in anthropogenic climate change I’m amazed at how the skeptics’ arguments are often so scatter gun and contradictory. If the climate is indeed cooling (as Nick Minchin and Steve Fielding suppose) doesn’t this fly in the face of those who reckon the Earth is warming but it’s not about the CO2 but the volcanoes and solar variation ( Ian Pilmer). Where’s the heated (pun intended) debate amongst the skeptics?

    And for current flavour of the month arguments using satellite readings, they aren’t a ‘gotcha!’ moment. They’ve been argued over and analysed for around 20 years…

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/satellite-measurements-warming-troposphere-basic.htm

    • Just because the sceptics have pathetic arguments doesn’t make your beliefs correct though, does it?

      As a believe in AGW, what makes you believe? What first attracted you to the belief? What is the most convincing (and hopefully accessible) scientific paper you have read?

      • Well, yes it does because I don’t think that the proposition ‘humans are contibuting significantly to global warming’ is falsifiable. I am not inducing that position by way of not believing any skeptics’ arguments. If those were the only pieces of info I’d considered on the subject than yes, I could only say ‘I’m not sure’. Don’t put words in my mouth please.

        I’ve read the basics on CO2 concentrations increasing, human production of CO2 in relation to the carbon cycle and the greenhouse effect.

        In addition, the wealth of scientific literature in globally renonwned peer reviewed journals such as Nature and Science and the stated views of the BOM, NASA, CSIRO over more than a decade lead me to believe that the burden of proof is on the skeptics to ‘disprove’ humane-induced climate change.

        The scientific community has never communicated its messages well and this has essentially become a political argument about a colourless gas that will take decades to reveal its effect on our climate.

        • again, not a single fact presented

          worryingly, an assertion of guilt until innocence is proven.

          if you are looking for evidence, you can look at the Royal Society’s website in the UK, and their summary of the science of climate change

          what you will see is some evidence of association in time of a change in climate with industrialisation

          what you will also see, very clearly, is the low degree of confidence acknowledged in measurement of “flux” (a new term for you perhaps), upon which the whole premise rests

          if you have a scientific background, you’ll see the holes, otherwise one of two things will happen

          you’ll either latch onto things you know nothing about to support your case, or you will have the beginnings of wisdom, a glimpse into the abyss of our ignorance (uncertainty) in the face of the unknown

  13. This thread illustrates two points:

    1. Its completely impossible to have balanced and reasonable discussion about this topic, especially when the lunatic fringe of the denial-o-sphere gets involved.

    2. Humanity is incapable of dealing with issues that play out on this timescale. i.e. longer than a few decades.

    FWIW, I hope the fruitloops are right, because otherwise we’re screwed.

  14. Climate Change, two words that did not spawn from the scientific community (whatever that means).

    As the words Global Warming became easily contested, a new (catch) phrase was required, introducting;

    Frank Luntz
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Luntz

    Don’t call it Global Warming, call it Climate Change, said Frank. He also (successfully) advised not to call the war or invasion of Iraq, War on Iraq, but rather The War on Terror. I thought the name Frank Luntz rhymed with Joseph Goebbles. And some memebers of our Government accused Tony Abbott of adhering to Goebbels priciples.

    I’ll add I have no favourites in Government.

  15. Umm, am I missing something?

    “….there is the real prospect of a carbon price and that will be my focus.”

    I read the whole blog post as “the starting point for this blog is a carbon price in the economy, not the rationale for the carbon price in the first place”.

    Since a carbon price in the economy is a real possibility, and it would clearly have macro-economic and business impacts, blogging about a carbon price in the economy here seems, well, logical.

    And the first point to discuss is what the proposed carbon price is. Is it a tax or a fixed price permit system? Since they are economically very different, aren’t they?

    Just for once, can we please forget the rationale debate and discuss the economy?
    Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

    I really don’t care if you or the blogger believe or not. I don’t care if you think in terms of risk, insurance, Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance, or the opportunity cost of all that money.

    But I am interested in reading about a carbon price in the economy and what it might mean and how it might work.

    I would hate to skip the comments section because of all the dross (off-topic posts) and miss out on a nugget of cool stuff about the economy. Yes, I want the Norman May. The gold baby, the gold.

    • As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, BlueScope Steel have made it abundantly clear that ANY “Carbon Tax”, or whatever you wish to call it, will impact their bottom line significantly. “Their” figures suggest an added taxation burden of $4 mil., annually or the Port Kembla Mill alone, and the Board have made it very clear at a local and State level that BlueScope WILL leave Australia if the proposed legislation (in the present draft form) comes to pass.

      As to the “Climate Change Religion” – LOTS of “easy” Grant money out there, and where there’s easy research money, bad science soon follows. Just another example of “Crowd Mentality” – same as the Aussie and Canadian housing bubbles.

  16. if I may paraphrase Nick’s comment on that link:

    “CO2 the facts: CO2 is 0.038% of the atmosphere. Man’s contribution to this is 3% ie. 0.001%; virtually nobody knows these facts that are never discussed in the media or in government debates etc.

    This whole promotion is based on a contribution of 0.001% of a trace gas in the atmosphere! I am sure if these facts were made available to the global public it would help turn the debate. You can check these facts on Wikipedia.

    In Australia we are just about to introduce a Carbon Tax which will be economically ruinous and Australia’s contribution to global CO2 in the atmosphere is just 0.00001% of all CO2! Utter madness, and a fine example of just how powerful and extraordinary this fear based promotion is”

    • I heard the venom of the deadliest snake in the world, the inland taipan, when injected into your body, will only make up a tiny percentage of your body mass. What’s with this madness of people going to hospital after a bite? It’s financially ruinous and a drain on the hospital system. They should just walk it off. Stupid scientists, what do they know?