Penny for your thoughts or any carbon-intensive activities that result therefrom


Tom Friedman’s column in the Sunday New York Times begins the way all Tom Friedman columns do — Hi! I’ve got a Big Idea™ and I’m just going to type like a dervish until you catch up with me about halfway down the column! — but eventually it turns out to be… well, poignant, if you’re a Canadian reader. For Friedman is today urging President-Elect Obama “to increase the federal gasoline tax or impose an economy-wide carbon tax.”

Friedman holds out no great hope that Obama will actually do such a thing. Obama didn’t campaign on a carbon-tax promise after all. The Democrat’s preferred choice of mechanism is a cap-and-trade scheme closer to Stephen Harper’s: massively interventionist, cumbersome, harrowingly difficult to design, prone to loopholes and investor confusion, destined to take forever to implement — in a word, French. It’s easy to see why Stephen Harper and John Baird would have cooked up such a plan: they were banking on delay and eventual failure. Massively awful program design was a feature for them, not a bug. It’s also easy to understand why Stéphane Dion preferred cap-and-trade at first, because as we’ve all learned, Canada’s new coalition prime minister has a soft spot for cumbersome solutions that don’t actually work.

It’s less clear why Obama is in the cap-and-trade business, unless some Obama fans are right when they worry that Obama’s “moderation” is actually a prelude to exquisitely even-handed difference-splitting that will  produce no real change. Whatever the case, the questions and challenges Friedman puts in this column are also worth putting to anyone who claims to want to address climate change with anything resembling the fierce urgency of now. People like, say, this guy:

Michael Ignatieff, after all, was the first of the 2006-vintage Liberal leadership candidates to propose a carbon tax. I’m not saying that in a blame-y way, and unlike Ryan Sparrow I do not now plan to dismiss everything the Liberal sort-of-leader proposes from now on as the ramblings of a carbon taxer. It’s fair of Ignatieff to say, as Bob Rae and Dominic LeBlanc were saying when they still thought there would be a leadership campaign, that the voters were asked their opinion of carbon taxes in October and they gave a firm answer.

But that leaves a question hanging. If you believe climate change is real and catastrophic; that human agency can inflect its course; that Canada has something to contribute to the search for a solution; and that dawdling is no longer permissible — then what better idea do you have?


Penny for your thoughts or any carbon-intensive activities that result therefrom

  1. Invest in the alternative energy industry — provide tax breaks/holidays for zero emission auto manufacturers, build an electric/hydrogen grid highway, invest in nuclear energy, and tie your international development aid to energy efficiency.

    How’s that?

    • good thinking. We need our strong ulnemployed men to build more train tracks in Southern and Northen California to cut down the need for driving and flying.

    • That’s bad for people who haven’t used any carbon yet at all. Carbon efficiency is pretty low on the list of international aid projects, and rightly so. The suffering from a lack of water, infectious disease and malnutrition are unconnected with the Carbon war.

      Wouldn’t it be easier to scrap payroll and income taxes and apply user taxes to fossil fuel use (not all carbon)?

  2. All useful, as far as I can tell. I presume this would be accompanied by a public announcement that the Kyoto target will be missed by a country mile and that, in fact, any emission reduction whatsoever is probably unattainable because none of these measures is coercive or has any teeth?

  3. Cap-and-trade and the carbon tax have essentially the same effects, and no environmental economist I know of has come up with anything better.

  4. No, Paul, I see no reason to make a public announcement. We’ll just miss it and say nothing about it. That’s the Harper plan right now, isn’t it?

    I suspect the carbon tax idea will come again–but not during the midst of a recession/depression or whatever we’re calling the economic crisis. Perhaps Ignatieff will sell it better, perhaps the Canadian voter will give it more thought–especially if Obama is moving in that direction. For now, slowly implementing features of Anon’s plan is about the best that can be done.

    But there’s no need to ANNOUNCE our collective failure.

  5. Greg Mankiw talks about the need for Pigovian taxes on the environment constantly, so much so that he’s invented a Pigou club, of which you become a member by favourably mentioning the term “carbon tax”. So Paul, you’re now a member, and will receive your biodegradable certificate any day now.

    The problem with taxes, of course, is that people have to pay them (also, to preempt the obvious rejoinder: increasing taxes in one area while proportionally decreasing them elsewhere doesn’t change the fact that you’re still raising them somewhere, which is an inexcusable shattering of the original social contract). It would be much easier for us citizens if the government would just wake up and do something about it already without asking us to modify our budget or lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong – the environment’s my number one priority, as I always tell pollsters. But if someone else could do something about it that would really work best for me.

  6. You had me there for a second, Olaf. I had my angry rejoinder half-written.

  7. Please realize how frustrating this post is for people who wanted this question discussed three months ago.

    • Think how frustrating this post is for people who knew in 1992 that Kyoto was too incremental, too easy to obfuscate and misdirect, and part of a business-dominated UN convention intent on relieving corporations from responsibility for action on the emissions they control.

  8. Just what problem is a carbon tax, cap and trade or anything of that nature supposed to solve? Surely poliical leaders who claim to be concerned about “climate change” (global warming) stay in touch with scientific research in this area. Research is, afterall, supposed to be the foundation of sound public policy.

    Unless these leaders are really out of touch, they must know that 2008 is the year the scientific community finally put the boots to the notion that humans cause climate change. Don’t expect the warmies (and journalists who are scientific illiterate and/or agenda-driven) to cease their fear-mongering, though. For Gore, Suzuki and their ilk it is a matter of faith. And faith is impervious to facts or reason.

    But what is the excuse for journalists like Friedman and so many in the Canadian media, including Maclean’s, who are supposed to be fair and balanced? Why do they continue to ride the warmie bandwagon when any sensible observer can see that the wheels are falling off?

    • JMD, I work every working week with climate scientists from the UK, USA and Germany. You are completely, utterly wrong. I do not know a single climate scientist who thinks warming is not being caused by release of anthropogenic GHGs. Read the summary of the IPCC AR4, and be aware that in private, most climate scientists see the AR4 as understating the problem, for two reasons: First, the editorial board necessarily takes a cautious lowest-common-denominator approach, which leads the threat to be underhyped, not overhyped, and second, existing GCMs (general circulation models, a.k.a. global climate models) do not yet incorporate important climate/carbon cycle feedback effects such as the increased release of methane and carbon dioxide from thawing permafrost, which will cause a spiral of self-reinforcing climate change as we go forward. I don’t know what parallel universe of pseudo-science “skeptics” are reading online these days, but please, please, understand: Climate change is not a matter of ideology – it’s a matter of atmospheric chemistry. And climate scientists aren’t in some kind of vast conspiracy to lie to the public about the results of their own research. The culture and procedures of scientific research and peer review are specifically designed to reward accurate assessments of reality. Go spend some time reading on realclimate.org. Climate change is real, it is anthropogenic, it is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and it will cause consequences including the spread of deserts, massive storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels, and a mass extinction of species on our planet over the next century or two if we don’t reverse it.

      • Oh Puhleeze. The IPCC? Is this the same IPCC whose home page sets out its role thusly:

        “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.” – IPCC Home page — http://www.ipcc.ch/about/about.htm

        Note the phrase “human-induced climate change” No other possible reasons for climate change even concern the IPCC. That’s why this organization, which operates mostly in the political sphere, is rapidly losing whatever credibillity it might have enjoyed. Sooner or later, the IPCC will be forced to climb down from its predictions as scientific research refuting the case of human-caused global warming piles up around it. But entrenched organizatons are stubborn and lots of people, including the IPCC poohbahs, are making a good living off this gig. So it will take time.

        • No, JMD, this is simply nonsense. The IPCC is not really an organization in the sense you seem to think. It’s a grouping of the world’s most respected climate scientists who get together in the most lengthy and thorough process of peer consultation in scientific history, to provide a summary of what existing published peer-reviewed scientific journal articles about climate science has to say. The reason they talk about human-induced climate change is that, among climate scientists, it has been clear (because their own research has shown it to be the case) that GHGs are accumulating in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels, as well as burning forests and some agricultural practices, in amounts that haven’t been seen on Earth in millions of years. Add the evidence of paleoclimatology, recent and current climate data measurements, and known properties of the non-transparency of CO2, methane, and nitrous oxides (as measured directly in laboratories), and it is no longer a matter of speculation. The question is settled amongst mainstream climate scientists. Dick Lindzen is a contrarian who is seen as a bit of a crackpot, in love with his own notoriety, albeit a highly intelligent one, whose arguments just don’t stand up to scientific scrutiny. People like you have been bamboozled by a PR effort paid for by the likes of Exxon Mobil, via front groups like AEI, to spread the false idea that there is a real scientific uncertainty about the causes of current climate change. Sorry, dude. The science is clear and it has been for a long time. Writers on solar system dynamics no longer include chapters on alternative theories (the Sun orbits a flat Earth!); climate scientists no longer include chapters that purport to show the huge buildup of GHGs in the planet’s atmosphere has no significant effect on climate. The basic questions are settled, Dick Lindzen notwithstanding — and if you read him closely, you’ll see that even he is not quite claiming mainstream climate science is bunk.

          • Is this an example of your settled science, Euro Canuck? Or is Easterbrook just another dupe of Exxon?

            In 2001, geologist Don Easterbook predicted the beginning of a period of global cooling. At a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco he again predicted a period of cooling based in part on correlation between past glacial fluctuations, his area of expertise, with periods of low solar irradiance and changes in the Pacific Ocean.

            Said Easterbrook: “GLOBAL, cyclic, decadal, climate patterns can be traced over the past millennium in glacier fluctuations, oxygen isotope ratios in ice cores, sea surface temperatures, and historic observations. The recurring climate cycles clearly show that natural climatic warming and cooling have occurred many times, long before increases in anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 levels. The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age are well known examples of such climate changes, but in addition, at least 23 periods of climatic warming and cooling have occurred in the past 500 years. Each period of warming or cooling lasted about 25-30 years (average 27 years). Two cycles of global warming and two of global cooling have occurred during the past century, and the global cooling that has occurred since 1998 is exactly in phase with the long term pattern. Global cooling occurred from 1880 to ~1915; global warming occurred from ~1915 to ~1945; global cooling occurred from ~1945-1977;, global warming occurred from 1977 to 1998; and global cooling has occurred since 1998. All of these global climate changes show exceptionally good correlation with solar variation since the Little Ice Age 400 years ago.”

            The IPCC predicted global warming of 0.6° C (1° F) by 2011 and 1.2° C (2° F) by 2038, whereas Easterbrook (2001) predicted the beginning of global cooling by 2007 (± 3–5 yrs) and cooling of about 0.3–0.5° C until ~2035. The predicted cooling seems to have already begun. Recent measurements of global temperatures suggest a gradual cooling trend since 1998 and 2007–2008 was a year of sharp global cooling. The cooling trend will likely continue as the sun enters a cycle of lower irradiance and the Pacific Ocean changed from its warm mode to its cool mode.

            Don J. Easterbrook is a geologist at the Department of Geology, Western Washington University. He has authored 8 books (including the text book Surface processes and landform Prentice Hall Publishing Co., 546 p.) ) and 150 journal publications.

            The foregoing was part of an article republished from Abstracts of American Geophysical Union annual meeting, San Francisco December, 2008.

      • Richard S. Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. I think you would agree, Euro Canuck, that he might know something about atmoshperic chemistry. Here’s the final two paragraphs of a Wall Street Journal article he wrote in 2006 about all the attention being paid to Academy Award winner Al Gore.

        “First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists–especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a “moral” crusade.

        Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce–if we’re lucky.”

    • we should be skeptical of lazy journalisim, but i kow whose research i’m going to base my skeptical opinions upon – the scientists at ground zero and the journalists who do their best to cover this issue. Most

  9. Well, that was persuasive.

    • James A. Peden, atmospheric physicist formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in Pittsburgh, recently wrote: “The Great Global Warming Hoax appears to be a collaborative effort between the world’s incompetent scientists and the world’s scientifically illiterate journalists. ”

      If you found Euro-Canuck persuasive, Paul, then Peden would obviously put you in the ranks of scientifically illiterate journalists.

  10. Yes, it was. JMD’s logic was — well, something.

    I think the next two or three years will see a move away from specific targets and a more toward energy efficiency and less-carbon-dependancy. Obama’s hires in the Science, Energy (especially) and Environment fields seem to suggest an aggressive push in that direction, and we’ll probably see the first signs in the stimulus package he proposes.

    Expecting anything imaginative and creative out of Harper is an exercise in futility. Surely the last four, five years have shown us that. Inspiration is, after all, a liberal conspiracy.

  11. It seems to me that with oil at $40 a barrel, the whole context of this discussion has changed beyond recognition. If oil prices stay low, then this will impact production in Alberta, which may well reduce our carbon emissions pretty radically in itself. But of course, low oil prices is likely to spur consumption in other areas, so maybe it will be a wash. Or not, since the recession will depress industrial use of oil. Additionally, investment in alternative energy sources has become even less attractive.

    Adding a gasoline tax during a recession would seem a contradictory step, since the government is planning to shell out money to prop up the major car manufacturers and is concerned not to impact consumer spending in any direction lest it worsen the recession. Of course, if they do introduce such a tax, the gas companies will suffer a downturn and can then apply for a bailiout.

    Industry will hardly benefit from the adjustments required from a cap and trade scheme (though it will create some jobs for regulators and consultants in this area).

    Seems to me that this whole area will be dead for a while. Tom Friedman is just indulging himself. In fact, it strikes me that he has deliberately picked the least likely moment for such a tax to be adopted to propose it, thus maintaining his own purity in the discussion without any real consequence.

    • He wrote a book last year proposing action on this, Bill. His column is just repeating a few of the key points. He’s been saying this stuff for years.

  12. Paul, I was a participant in the LPC’s leadership race as an Ignatieff volunteer in 2006. My main gig was shovelling environmental policy ideas at Dr. Ignatieff’s two main policy advisors. (I was a lowly second-tier guy who only saw the man himself at occasional public Vancouver events, and never in a one-on-one advisory capacity, so I can’t claim to be an “Ignatieff policy advisor”. I was a well-meaning volunteer, no more.) One of my main pitches to his advisors, which I was very persistent about, was the need for carbon pricing. Within that, I expressed the standard economists’ view that carbon taxes are simpler, more efficient, far less bureaucratic and less prone to cheating. I also proposed that the carbon taxes collected be put in a special “green energy transition fund” and spent on a competitive-bid basis to build HVDC transmission grids and other infrastructure in the same provinces where the taxes are raised, so that Albertans, far from feeling stolen from, will understand the money is financing the province’s badly needed transition from a brown energy superpower into a green energy superpower. Anyway, after a couple of months of pitching these ideas to Ignatieff’s inner-circle policy advisors in long emails, it happens I brought up carbon taxes at a small Vancouver meeting with Dr. Ignatieff and a few well-to-do leadership campaign contributors, on a sunny summer Sunday. The ensuing brief discussion seemed to result in a consensus in the room endorsing the idea of carbon taxes. Michael floated the idea of carbon taxes in Calgary exactly one week later. Could be this was a coincidence – he must have heard similar advice from others, and in any case, the man is very bright and is fully capable of understanding the pertinent policy arguments without Sunday sermons from excitable volunteers. But the point is, these ideas were being discussed in his advisory circle.
    I also had the opportunity to discuss carbon taxes with Dion and a few of his key supporters in BC during 06 and 07. They preferred cap-and-trade for one simple reason: They thought it was a political mistake to talk about creating new taxes. Several of Ignatieff’s advisors felt the same way, and were urging him to backpedal in the days after his Calgary carbon-tax musings, but things settled down a bit the following Friday when Premier Charest introduced a modest carbon tax in Quebec and harvested much acclaim for doing so.
    The question now is: Were the skeptics right? Did the voters really spank the Liberals two months ago out of a rejection of carbon taxes? It’s an open question, but your excellent column today hints at the answer I think most plausible, and you also pose the key question:
    Plausible answer: No. Partisan right-wingers who don’t really understand their own market-god-worshipping ideology (carbon taxes = incorporation of environmental externalities in market prices) fiercely denounced the carbon tax proposal. Not-really-partisan swing voters, however, very rarely base their votes on specific policy issues. They mostly vote on the basis of their impression of the leaderliness of the Party leaders. They were rejecting geeky Dion in favour of the more manly-seeming Harper (or in favour of Sanctimonious Jack or the Green Party label). Carbon taxes, like the Liberal Party as a whole, need a much better salesman than Dion was able to be.
    Carbon prices large enough to motivate a rapid shift to a decarbonised economy (whether cap-and-trade, floor prices or carbon taxes) are universally recommended by pretty much every economist on the planet, for the obvious reason that people buying energy (either as builders of plant and equipment or as retail consumers) will continue doing the wrong thing until it gets cheaper and more profitable to do the right thing. (Well, maybe not every economist. Maybe there are still some crackpots with economics degrees holed up with Terence Corcoran and the rest of the denialist FP editorial staff in their secret bunker under Bay Street, deep below reality level.) The key question becomes: Will Ignatieff continue to display the intellectual honesty and willingness to actually lead on the issues that won people like me to his side during the 2006 campaign? It will be interesting to see. Certainly, the conventional wisdom in the LPC has been that the “Green Shift” was a monumental blunder. Personally, I think the same agenda, had it been promoted under Ignatieff as a leader (had he been leader during this past election), would now be seen as a key factor in the ensuing LPC victory. Like it or not, it’s the leader, not the policy, that matters in elections.
    My guess: Nothing useful will happen in climate policy under Harper, as per the logic you outline in this column. If and when the LPC returns to government, it will simply adopt a version (possibly a slightly watered-down version, if we stay true to Canadian tradition) of whatever the USA will have done by then. Canada will not set examples or take leadership on this issue in any significant way. This will be justified by the argument that we can’t get out ahead of our NAFTA trading partner on energy pricing. We’ll see…

    • Mr. Canadian in Europe – are you the former Iggy policy volunteer who is now working in Brussels?

      • No. Berlin and Oxford.

  13. As for JMD’s points, the climate change model is getting more complicated, and the ground has shifted. Much of what was certain a couple of years ago is less so now. This should be allowed into the discussion since it impacts the speed and trajectory of climate change, and thus the way in which we should respond.

  14. A few problems:

    -The Hockey Stick Graph, which was the epicenter of AGW belief has been debunked. Hanson, who refused to release his calculus and methodology (a real sin in science as replication is the hallmark of sceintific thought) was forced to admit that the reversed engineered calculus (by Steve Mcintyre) was correct – and which basically showed that the input of any random numbers would result in a hockey stick shape graph. That graph, which belied actual history (for instance the last Maundar minimum/little ice age in Europe in the middle ages), and the falsity of it, put a lie to the accelerated heating that is also not being conformed to the reality of the last ten years:

    – all four tracking agencies are showing the earth cooling in the last ten years, including NASA’s Goddard institute

    – conversely the much older, and well established body of science studying the sun (yes the sun is a real phenomenon, not an eeevil construct of “deniers”] tracking the maundars/activity of the Sun correlated the tempurature of the Earth closely, and more importantly, accurately predicted the downturn in temperatures, including the last two cold periods. Unlike the computer generated models of AGW, this true science [which is predictive] is actually bearing fruit.

    – the NASA aqua satellite, launched a few years ago, provided the first real opportunity to test the forcing model at the center of AGW theory, has provided results which has the IPCC scurrying the halls right now, working not on science but damage control – as those results have shown that the forcing cycle is reverse. That is, the basice theory underlying the whole thing is wrong.

    – the thousands of sceintists which were studying this (actually, those thousand is actually a handful actually studying the forcing theory itself, the rest are sociologists, economists and other disciplines that are premised on the truth of the AGW theory and do not contribute to its base science), has been proven wrong.

    – the press, which has been on the green bandwagon so deep, refuses to show more recent science, the Aqua satellite being just one new indicator, and continues to report of this very new, fragile, and now debunked theory, as fact. The refuse to report on the dozens and dozens of highly reputable scientists and the finest instiutions around the world that are not only questioning AGW theory, but have simply moved on to more reliable scientific indicators of the Earth’s temperature, such as the sun and its powerful impact on our temperture lying in the sun’s variability.

    Now carry on with your hurling insults at my speaking such forbidden words.

    • Wrong on all counts. Go spend some time reading realclimate.org.

      • Perhaps, Euro-Canuck, you should visit the web site of Climate Debate Daily. Unlike Realclimate.org, which is solidy in the alarmist camp, it presents material from both sides of this debate. At the very least, you will see that this so-called settled science is pretty damn turbulent.

        • There is no such thing as an “alarmist camp”, JMD. There are mainstream scientists, there is a handful of contrarian kooks, and there are professional PR liars for certain industries who have successfully blocked the political consensus necessary for serious policy moves, in part by suckering people like you into a world of pseudo-scientific nonsense meant to obfuscate the clarity of the real-world scientific consensus. Their aim is to create a pseudo-debate so that scientifically illiterate politicians and members of the public think, “Hey, let’s not go spending lots of money or taking big policy adventures until the science is settled.” Well, in essence the science is settled. But as long as the PR industry feeding off oil and coal industry dollars can keep the “debate” alive in the minds of millions of suckers like you, there will be policy stasis. They know they can’t show climate science is a hoax, because it isn’t; but they don’t have to. All they need to do is keep doubt alive. And as a bonus, they’ve managed to fool many “conservative” voters in the US and Canada into thinking atmospheric chemistry is a partisan ideological choice, that being a “climate skeptic” is a de rigeur part of the “right” pose, as if it were a matter of opinion whether or not CO2 is transparent to infrared radiation — believe hard enough that climate science is a hoax, and it will magically become one! The “Right” is susceptible to such nonsense for two reasons: (1) A lamentable propensity to follow opinion-leaders like a herd of sheep, so that all AEI and the other PR proxies for Big Oil and Coal needed to do was to induce a few talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Terence Corcoran to parrot their talking points, thus ensuring that all their audiences would parrot them too; and (2) The core ideological commitment of the “Right” in North America today actually has nothing to do with conserving anything — it’s a fundamentalist Milton Friedmanesque belief that governments should never “interfere” in the marketplace. Climate science indicates that a massive technological transition is necessary to prevent disastrous climate changes caused by anthropogenic GHG releases; it is clear that this transition will not occur without far-reaching government intervention, including both regulatory and price mechanisms. This runs counter to the core fundamentalism of the modern “Right”, which has abandoned any actual conservative principles in favour of this obsession (e.g. conserving a stable environment for future generations, behaving like responsible adults, etc.). For this reason, and for no other, there is a proclivity in “Right” circles to buy the following ludicrous logic: “The implications of climate science suggest that massive government intervention in the economy is necessary to change our energy system. As a Friedmanite obsessive, I hate and reject all government intervention in the economy, and view it as morally and intellectually wrong. Therefore, clearly, climate scientists are incompetent fools or hoaxsters who are simply getting climate science wrong. I will now go find me some guys claiming to be scientists who disagree with most other climate scientists, even if they are one in a thousand, and stridently believe what they say and ridicule what the other 999 climate scientists say, because the 999 aren’t telling me what I want to hear.”

          This is what you are doing. Please stop being a sucker for this preposterous scam.

          • Nothing in your post is even remotely true, you really should be reading Climate Debate Daily to unravel your conspiracy theories and alarmist rantings.

          • Cdn in Europe: your impassioned drivel is impressive – what will you say when the facts of true climate change are becoming even more obvious? The machinery of establishment science (greased by many billions of government research grants that dwarf oil/coal supported research and PR) has gained so much momentum that only a revolt by the freezing common-sense majority will stop the greenhouse gas craze and CO2 vilification.

            Sooner or later, even hot-heads like you will realize that it’s getting cold out there!

  15. Question for the economisty types reading: if $40/barrel oil were to become $41/barrel oil–and my sense is that that’s basically what the Green Shift would have amounted to–what would be the impact on our present recessionish economy?

    (Despite appearances to the contrary, this is an honest-to-goodness question, not some sort of rhetorical partisanry)

    • Very little impact, of course. It really depends on what’s done with the extra dollar. If it’s invested in green infrastructure projects with strong economic multipliers, the net effect will be to stimulate the economy (but the total size of such a stimulus, if we have only $1 a barrel to work with, will be modest), since the alternative way to use that extra dollar is (more or less) for consumers to spend it on slightly more car-driving or slightly more consumer spending on consumer goods imported from China, neither of which does much good for the Canadian economy (and both of which cause more GHG pollution, given that China is powered largely by coal-fired electricity, the dirtiest of all fuels).

  16. Cdn in Europe,
    It does your argument no credit when you simply decline to respond to its problems, but just claim that a better salesperson would do the trick. To be sure, Dion was part of the problem, but the carbon tax has huge problems and there has no been satisfactory response to these at all. The fundamental issue is that no-one can predict its results; for heaven’s sakes, no-one even predicted the slump in oil prices! It seems like yesterday that everyone was bleating about prices of $200 per barrel.

    If we cannot preduict that, how on earth do you expect people to trust on the results of the huge dislocation that this tax would create.

    • You raise good questions. Fortunately, they have good answers. The main objection to a carbon tax is that we cannot know how large a carbon tax we will need before the tipping point is reached at which investments flow towards green rather than brown infrastructure. The simple answer is that we need to keep raising the carbon tax until, empirically, the tipping point is crossed. Dion’s tax was far, far too low for that, but the idea was to gradually raise it, lowering income taxes in compensation on a no-net-tax-increase basis, until the tipping point was reached. In my view, the planned process was far too slow to match the urgency of the climate change challenge, and we should accelerate it; I am perhaps also influenced by my view that a strong, sudden shift in energy prices pointing towards decarbonisation would unleash an economic boom, not cause an economic catastrophe, as a surge on investment in well-paying green energy infrastructure buildout jobs would inevitably result, especially if additional policy instruments like ten-year tax holidays for newly built renewable energy production revenues were added to the mix.
      The argument in favour of cap-and-trade is that it lets governments directly set targets for the key variable that is actually of interest: namely, the amount of GHG going into the atmosphere. With straight carbon taxes, we don’t have that fine control. So, this argument suggests cap-and-trade is a better policy option despite its administrative cumbersomeness. At the end of the day, the best answer, in my view, is to use both: A national or (better) NAFTA fully auctioned cap-and-trade system for the nation’s few hundred large industrial emitters, AND a carbon tax at retail and excise levels, in order to provide direct price signals to all energy-use-determined carbon sources economy-wide as well as provide additional revenue to re-invest in green energy infrastructure projects. Beyond that, specific sector regulations and incentives will be necessary, e.g. to promote a transition to no-till agriculture and ecoforestry (ploughing causes a great deal of carbon release to the atmosphere, as does clearcutting forests and converting them to pulp and paper).

      • The main objection to a carbon tax is that we cannot know how large a carbon tax we will need before the tipping point is reached

        We sort of do know this. It took $1.30/l gasoline to make Canadians start changing their driving habits.

        • Ah, yes, but the joy of the suppply and demand equation soon sorted that out…gas is now <70 cents a litre. We can get out our Hummers again and drive, drive, drvie!

          • Which is why a floor price for gasoline is one of the policies we should introduce, as Tom Friedman suggests in his column (and as we discussed in economics classes at SFU as long ago as 1988, when I took my Master’s degree, at which time the idea was already old). Whenever market prices drop below some threshold, we should levy taxes to keep them at that minimum – a minimum which should be set to make it very expensive to drive SUVs.

      • 1. There is no evidence at all that a sudden shift, artificially created by government, would unleash an economic boom. No previous economic boom was predicted by economists, planned by government or so trivially effected. This is wishful thinking.
        2. Cap and trade is readily undermined by contradictory government meddling at all levels. By creating an artificial scarcity, you also create an economic honeypot that will be swarmed by lobbyists, cartels, and all sorts of businesses who would find it easier to make money by corrupting the process than actually creating wealth. There is lots of incentives to play around with the calculations, and there are many governments in the world who will not play the game by the rules. To think otherwise is, again, wishful thinking.

        • I fear you are right about Point 2, as the European experience with cap-and-trade has shown so far (they hope to correct the mistakes during their second round of permitting, but industry continues to pressure heavily against auctioning of permits, and I fear they will succeed in this).

          As for your Point 1: Utterly wrong. Many economic booms throughout history have been directly caused by governments. Mercantilism in Britain and Europe, and indeed post-Revolution USA, worked that way for hundreds of years. And he boom in war materiel production during the 30s and 40s lifted North America out of the Depression doldrums. And the Dubai boom was created by the government of Dubai, not by a “free choice” of thousands of tiny individual decision-takers in a “free market”, just like Singapore’s wealth was created by Lee Kwan Yew’s toughness and foresight in combining law-and-order governance, massive government investment, and a firm framework of regulations within which markets and entrepreneurs could reliably build weath. Why wouldn’t a boom in infrastructure spending that happens to be targetted at (green) energy-producing infrastructure — surely a wealth-generating investment! — not do likewise? Only an obsession with Chicago Boys ideology, in which government is a bad actor that can only “interfere in the marketplace”. Governments are actually better understood as a part of the marketplace — close to half of it in aggregate GDP terms. Governments are the part of the market in which voters, through their elected representatives, make social-choice decisions about where to invest pooled wealth. There is no reason to suppose that governments always make “bad” or “inefficient” choices, though many do. So do many private-sector investors. The real distinction should be between good governance and bad governance, not private versus public spending. Look around the world: Which nations are the wealthiest, in every sense from number of millionaires to average and mean incomes? In every case, you’re looking at sophisticated industrial nations for which somewhere between 40% and 65% of all spending is via governments. Countries whose governments have small shares of total GDP are without exception poor, corrupt, and disastrous. Taxation amounting to about half of GDP, give or take 10%, actually makes it easier for far more people to get rich, and makes a middle class possible, because without it, there’s no infrastructure of schools, roads, hospitals, courts, and regulators, all of which are necessary for entrepreneurs to transport goods, hire educated workers, resolve disputes, avoid getting shafted by crooks (or have recourse if they do), etc. If you support prosperity and wealth-creation, you should support a strong role for governments and ttaxation levels at about 50% of GDP in aggregate. That’s what empirical observation should suggest to you.

      • Only cap and trade with hard, fixed caps gives the benefit of knowing you will meet set targets. However, no one has and no one will set up such a cap and trade. Various studies show that fixed, hard caps could cost a whopping FIFTEEN TIMES as much as a carbon tax to achieve the exact same reduction. (The CBO reports reference such studies.) Real cap and trades have floors, ceilings, safety values, and such. What all these do is ensure that the price stays within a certain range, thereby making it more like a carbon tax. The type of cap and trade Obama is likely to introduce will be as much like a carbon tax as possible, with large uncertainty on year to year reductions and not so much uncertainty on price.

  17. Waste reduction should play a big part in reducing our ghg emissions. A couple of years ago I went through the house and eliminated nearly every source of wasteful energy and cut my electricity bill by 20%. If everyone–homeowners and industry–did this we’d likely reduce our ghg output by 15-25% and save ourselves a pile of cash in the process.

    • Yes, but voluntarism doesn’t work, as Mark Jaccard (among others) has said for the past twenty years and more. Kudos to you, Robert, but few people actually do this kind of thing, because the total cost of energy is too low for them to care enough, and also because it’s bothersome detail work to go through one’s environment plugging leaks, and most folks don’t have the interest or patience to do it. This suggests that an effective policy agenda would include funding for crews of energy efficiency technicians, going house to house doing energy audits and retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency. They should be paid via a carbon-tax-funded agency on the basis of measured productivity. (BC Hydro used to have some kind of a pilot scheme along these lines; not sure if they still do.) Also, we ought to be providing energy efficiency building techniques training to all our construction crews and renovators. Institutions like BCIT have a significant potential role here, as do community colleges and high schools.

      • Now you just outed yourself. “Voluntarism doesn’t work”. So ergo, you have to “help” us along with draconian measures that only you “smart” people understand. Well I have news for you. A lot of people are out of work,out of money to heat their homes, and most of all are out of patience with you and you BS eco-scare mongering. You, Gore, Suzuki, May can go peddle you eco-ponzi scheme elsewhere. Carbon credits are a joke. They are like buying indulginces. Gore’s mansion sucks up more power than most subdivisions but it’s ok because he can buy carbon credits. Everyone else shoud freeze in the dark. In other words it’s ok to shit all over the planet long as your rich. How nice. I also see Gore has made about 100 million bucks in the carbon trading business. Here’s another inconvienient truth, guess who was about to get into the carbon trading racket before the roof fell in…the good ole’ boys from Enron. I think that speaks for itself. You are all the biggest bunch of hucksters and fanatics to come down the pike since the televangelists of the 80’s. In closing I have one question that never gets answered and lazy journalists never seem to ask. Just what temp. is the earth supposed to be? How cold and how harsh do winters need to be in the Northern Hemisphere? The climate of the earth has warmed and cooled for millions of years before we were here and continues to now. Although the eco-loons are loathe to admit it many scientists atribute these changes to that thing in the sky called the Sun. Anyone with any scientific backround knows the sun is the primary driver of our climate, responsible for all life on Earth and for reasons not understood yet, has significant variations in the amount of energy it radiates to Earth. These facts are not in dispute. Global warming is a theory, open to debate. When Suzuki started screaming the debate is over he left the scientific field and entered the religious one. Any real scientist will never tell you the debate is over about anything as it is the basis of the scientific method. Only in religion is the “debate over”.

        • Now, now Wayne. Now you’re throwing handgrenades. I don’t want to swop one theory [ GW] for another [ sun-spots]. One theory at a time please. unfortunately the GW crowd made a very bad error when they moved the debate off of stable scientific ground onto the shiftng sands of moral/religous – yr pt. I supposed they couldn’t help themselves, but if you contend that the sky is fallng you hav to have more of a communications strategy then simply wrapping yourself in a self-righteous cocoon.

  18. Obama supports a cap and trade because it can achieve similar results to a carbon tax. A carbon tax costs less overall, is more transparent and less susceptible to manipulation, is simpler and can be put in place quicker, and can be more comprehensive. However, it has been accepted for a long time in the US that a carbon tax will not sell. There is perhaps a slim chance that a carbon tax, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, could be implemented in the US, but a very slim chance. Meanwhile, even though cap and trade costs more, there is a much better chance that it can be implemented, because voters don’t understand it and think it is removed from them.

    I’ve noticed a softening of the US Congressional Budget Office position on carbon pricing. While they used to give talks clearly stating how much better a carbon tax was, they now simply focus on cap and trade and try to make it better. They have the cost difference down to about a factor of two now (so cap and trade only costs twice as much) which is a big improvement.

    I understand the CBO’s position, and am willing to ignore the benefits of a carbon tax if the US and Canada have an opportunity to put in place a functional and significant cap and trade. However, I will be rooting for Rep. Larsen when he brings forward his carbon tax bill again.

    • Amen.

    • I tend to think catherine is entirely too informed to take part in this discussion. “A softening of the US Congressional Budget Office position on carbon pricing”?!? The whosits are doing what now? All I know is that a carbon tax is a tax on everything – EVERYTHING! – and it is going to screw everyone.

      • No, Olaf, it isn’t going to screw everyone. Climate change is going to screw everyone. Carbon taxes will provide us all with an incentive to NOT screw everyone, by changing our purchasing and investment decisions in favour of low-carbon solutions. In case you aren’t aware of it, various technical scenarios have shown that the entire electricity needs of the NAFTA region could straightforwardly be met either by wind power alone, or concentrated solar power alone, distributed nationwide via high-voltage, low-loss DC transmission lines (harvested from enough places, wind intermittency cancels out, and as for CSP, thermal storage of daylight-heated oils in big thermos tanks solves intermittency entirely). Thus, in fact, the technical solutions to our energy supply challenge do exist. It’s merely a question of whether we get on with building them. And we won’t unless price signals tell each decision-maker that replacing brown energy sources with green energy sources (and taking the trouble to increase energy efficiencies in all processes) is the cheaper and more profitable course as compared to continuing to pour carbon into the atmosphere, wrecking the climate and screwing absolutely everyone, causing a mass extinction and ruining your grandchildren’s lives.

        • I th ink Olaf is still in full on satire mode in that post, Cdn…

          He is subtle. Oh yes, he is subtle.

          • You’re right. Didn’t notice his earlier post. D’oh.

        • Cdn in Europe,
          So here is where you lose your audience. You propose a completely fantastical and utopian solution that must be enforced by a benevolent dictatorship otherwise we are looking at a mass extinction etc.

          And you wonder why this is not politically workable?

          • Bill, sorry, I don’t understand what you mean; what Utopian or fantastical solutions am I proposing? I’m a technical guy, and a principled pragmatist, not a Utopian, so I’m worried I’ve expressed my views poorly and been misunderstood. (By the way, please, let’s not turn this into a pissing contest – I’m writing here today in hopes that one of Canada’s smartest and most popular columnists will be inspired to dig deeper into these issues, not to engage in polemics.)

    • If I were advising Obama, I’d recommend (as Friedman does) that he call a carbon tax a “Patriots’ Contribution” or some such, and plough the money directly in to a dedicated fund (“USA Power Fund” or some such) to build green energy infrastructure. I’d set up a comprehensive communications campaign to advertise all the jobs being created, showcase true-life stories of average Joes who were out of work in the rust-belt getting their lives back building wind turbines on the Great Plains, and make the effort a big national-pride thing that will “free America from oil sheikhs and so on. This could easily be sold as a good thing with political benefits. Politicians who fear doing the right thing because of perceptions that voters will revolt lack both vision and spine. A really good politician can sell this program as a good thing that will benefit America/Canada economically as well as environmentally and socially…. and justifiably so, since it would, in fact, do so, as Friedman keeps saying.

  19. as a non-scientist consumer of mainstream information on this topic, I am not sure I buy into the full notion that any global warming there may be is directly and solely tied to man made greenhouse gases. Deniers, hold your applause. Sky-is-falling-ers, hold onto your tomatoes.

    I think the environmentalists abandoned a battlefield they owned almost without contest – air pollution. In the fervor to alarm the world into action on an invisible, imperceptable reality, they seem to have forgotten to continue flogging the simple air pollution message. Name an urban center that doesn’t have air quality issues directly linked to almost all of the same culprits targeted in the war on global warming. At the very least, air quality should be an easy gimme in any global warming conversation.

    I hope PW doesn’t show me up with a handy list of examples where his august organ has been trumpeting this very message, but I will simply note that in all the posts and following strings I have come across on the topic of GW, air quality never seems to feature in them.

    • Brad, I’m not a layperson. I’m not a climate scientist, but I work with climate scientists on project administration. That’s my day job. Trust me: they are not making this shit up. Go spend some time reading realclimate.org, which is a group blog written by about a dozen highly respected mainstream climate scientists. It’s a bit technical, but you can find posts on pretty much every topic related to actual climate science (also posts explaining the details of exactly how denialist pseudoscience is bunk).

      • Thank you for the reading suggestions. My point, however, is that in a colossal battle of ideas and ideology, your guys have sheathed an effective sword in favour of an arsenal ordinary folks can’t put a finger on, are having a hard time reconciling with their own daily lives and that can be explained away by their opponents in ways that appear convincing.

        Like I said, I don’t think GW is *solely* the force of GHGs – the other cyclical sun-related issues may also be factors. I do believe it is foolish to think we have a neutral effect on our environment and that we should be very leery of that impact. By going for the target of proving a single source of causality and by not reiterating the immediate impact all of the same sources of GHGs are having on our air quality RIGHT NOW, your guys are conducting a very poor battle plan.

  20. I could use some convincing that a carbon tax will actually do anything to change either consumer or corporate behaviour. I’m not against it, just sceptical, not convinced it will solve anything.

    Corporations often fail to make basic choices in their own long term economic interest, such as investing in pollution prevention to lower input and operating costs. I think the modern corporation has become a termporary vehicle for the short term manipulation of capital, and self-propagation or futrue growth or viability is frequenlty sacrficed for short term share prices gains or profit taking. Call me old fashioned but I think the only way to change corporate behaviour is regulations to force them to invest in emissions control the way we did with acid rain.

    It’s also just a theory that end consumers will make decisions based on their own economic interest and that’s the basis on which carbon taxes are supposed to work. I’ll be convinced of that when someone explains for me the economics of driving an SUV to the downtown area every day and paying a king’s ransom in gas, insurance and parking costs instead of taking public transit which is suually competitive in terms of time spent for that kind of trip. In other words, in an affluent society there are a lot of people who have the wherewithal to waste, and who are willing to pay for the privilege. A carbon tax will raise a lot of revenue from them, but how exactly will that in turn reduce emissions?

    Akll I’m saying is that I think there is a place for economic incentives and disincentives, but I also think there is a place for regulation such as capping emissions, placimg control orders on the big emittes and fining the companies in violation.

    A decade and a half of voluntary emissions control failed utterly, the various industrial sectors all evaded responsibility and provided no alternative solutions. We don’t have to abandon the carrot, it could be the preferred method, but I don’t think it’s going to change much unless we have a big stick in the other hand.

    • The answer to the question may already exist to those with the patience and talent and resources to research it. We have had many price shocks on gas, at a level that did not induce a recession and thereby muddying the waters, that would replicate the effect of a tax on gas. You could measure consumption rates before and after, etc…

      • Brad: Indeed. See my comment below with all the linky goodness.

        • The linky goodness wan’t as easy to read as one of your posts, but it was certainly interesting. What I was thinking, though, is that there have been any number of points over the last 10-15 years where the price per litre of gasoline jumped a permamnent step of a significant percentage at the pumps. You know, where it’s been a fluctuating state of 4-6 cents but basically in the $.65/litre bracket +/- the 4-6 cents and then suddenly the mean is $.78/litre +/- the 4-6 cents fluctuation. At each of those price jumps, was there a corresponding reaction in terms of decreased consumption, increased public transport ridership, etc..?

          My guess is that there may have been statistically significant but temporary reactions. It took a significant, sustained, seemingly endless string of increases to have a meaningful impact this last time around, and by the time it did impact behaviour in a big way, it triggered the downfall of society as we know it. Over the last 20+ years of commuting from the country into an urban center – I’m a bad carbon foot print culprit – the only increases that have made any perceptible (to me) changes to driver behaviour, to country housing prices, to public transport ridership were at the price points that also precipitated economic downturns.

          I would love to be proven to be mistaken in my perceptions. I would love to think we could manage this particular behaviour by something so simple. I can afford to drive at the elevated prices and it reduces driver competition for road space, making my commute more enjoyable. But my personal experience is that, to date, prices collapse under the weight of the economic response, our ongoing affluence adjusts to the new price scale and away we go, and housing continues to mushroom in my neighbourhood. Current prices are already helping my estimated house resale value to rebound and I feel giddy paying prices at the pump we haven’t seen in years.

          In my opinion, it will take punishing, sustained levels of gas prices to change the above behaviours and it will necessarily take a toll on our economy we are so far unwilling to address or accept.

    • I agree with your concerns, Toby, and see things very much the same way. Inferences I’ve drawn, in addition to seeing (as you do) a big role for direct regulatory mechanisms:

      – We should put a floor price on carbon-emitting fuels. Businesses invest money when they see price signals as stable, not as transient blips subject to massive fluctuation (otherwise they’ll wait to see if prices will go down again, even during high-price episodes). If business knows the price of oil or coal will never again fall below $X a tonne, and if drivers know petrol will never fall below $Y dollars a litre, where X is greater than the tipping-point price at which green solutions become cheaper, and Y is a price at which buying an SUV starts to look awfully expensive, then businesses and consumers will invest in lower-carbon solutions. So a good approach is a floor price PLUS a percentage tax, depending on carbon content, for all fossil fuels.

      Tom Friedman makes this point too. Again, he didn’t think of this himself; the policy options community has floated these ideas for decades. They just haven’t been acted on yet because politicians generally are serious about winning elections, not about public policy, and some politicians (both NDP and CPC examples come to mind) are not above stoking populist fears of carbon pricing as a “tax grab” in direct contradiction of sane and effective policy principles. As long as it helps Stephen or Jack win an election, it’s all good – policy schmolicy!

      – The value of carbon taxes is as much, or more, in providing a large revenue stream for investments in low-carbon infrastructure than in the direct behavioral modifications the price signal alone will provide. It really is crucial that we try to convince the Ignatieffs of the world to direct carbon tax revenue streams directly into agencies charged with building out the infrastructure transition to a green economy, rather than having them go into general revenues. I think this approach also works better politically, in that voters will know what the money is being used for (and will see the tangible results). Unfortunately, politicians and political advisors don’t like dedicated revenue streams, because half the fun of being a politician is getting to play discretionary-spending games with tax revenues.

  21. Thank you Cda In Europe.
    I hope Ignatieff listens to you a proposes a mother of all Carbon Tax. I too think he can sell it and Canadians will embrace a new tax.
    It’s all I want for Christmas next year. I promise to be good.

    • Yeah, but they all seem to be behind firewalls. They tell the same story, though. The short-run effect of a 10% increase in the price is a about a 2% (+/- 1%) decrease in demand. Remember Hurricane Katrina? It knocked out 10% of refinery capacity, and gasoline prices jumped by 50%.

      The long-run effects are about 2-3 times as strong; it takes awhile for people to make more permanent changes.

      Prices changes affect behaviour, but small price changes will have small effects.

  22. Environmental brinkmanship is Conservative chic. They need to go before anything meaningful can be done. As most of us concerned about the future have learned, the exponential function is our biggest enemy. We don’t have to wait for something truly terrible to shake us from our reverie and confusion.

  23. I don’t know what the cost of gas per litre would be but sales of small, fuel efficient cars in the US went through the roof earlier this year, and light truck sales crashed, when gas prices reached $3.50 per gallon.

    And now that gas prices have lowered, sales of SUVs and pickups are increasing and Toyota has put its new Prius plant on hold until conditions are more favourable.

    • I have noticed a distinct increase in Hummers being aired out after being put in mothballs.

  24. That’s why Dan Gardner’s talk of a carbon floor was interesting: Just set a price below which gas would not be allowed to fall. Of course it would be way too easy to campaign against: Vote Liberal and you’ll never catch a break. The Chrétien-Harper way is best: Swear to God you’ll never do what you wind up doing later.

  25. Cdn in Europe,
    I think we reached the limit of replies…

    I am not being polemical, or I am failing in not being loemical, but I really want to challenge the notion that there is a readily achieveable technical solution and that we need government to get on and make it happen.

    I was a student of environmentalism and urban planning a long time ago, at a time when I was seduced by the wonderful visions of perfectly arranged human habitats, all people living in harmony etc.. in their regulated, and controlled environment, just the way the planners like.

    I recognise the same philosophy underpinning the whole carbon tax and global warming deal.

    I think it is fantastical to think that we can devise and plan a complete energy system of the kind you describe and I think it is utopian to think that you can do this by bureaucratic fiat.

    I am not interested in any scheme that needs to be enforced by the government, and using taxes is “enforcing” since we cannot chose not to.

    • Okay, so you reject both price mechanisms and government regulations. You basically seem to believe that governments (the institutional mechanism that citizens use to address common property issues and decide on where to spend pooled wealth raised through taxes) are illegitimate. I wonder if you think countries with governments which raise very little in the way of taxes are the sorts of places you’d want to live? But never mind. Enlighten me: What measures DO you recommend, having ruled out price mechanisms and measures that “need to be enforced by government”? Now that I know what you are against (as far as I can tell, anything that could possibly be effective), what are you FOR, Bill? Or are you a partisan of the idea that since addressing the climate issue would require government intervention, therefore climate science must be a hoax?

  26. Paul,
    That is the sort of cynical remark that will doom this discussion to futility. If we can’t trust our governments to manage the carbon tax properly, there is no hope.

    • Happy to help, Bill.

      • I think the minimum price gambit neatly captures the problem – it doesn’t matter what it is set at, since it must by its nature be arbitrary, and then ever after it can be the subject of politicial debate and distortion. This is the trouble when you use taxes for social engineering.

        • All taxes are used for “social engineering”, Bill. All of them. That’s the point. Governments are supposed to use tax money to engineer and maintain a well-functioning society. Yet the term “social engineering” seems to be used by people who read Ayn Rand as undergrads (and never got over it) as code for “government spending Rush Limbaugh, Terence Corcoran, and therefore I, do not approve of.”

          Hence government spending to send a million soldiers to first destroy Iraq and then attempt to rebuild it (or provide armed patrols while trusting “the market” to rebuild it, a la Paul Bremer and his decrees) is not social engineering. But building low-carbon energy supply infrastructure is unacceptable, “socialist” social engineering.

          You know, I think of myself as a small-c conservative, on most issues (and as a progressive on issues it makes sense to seek progress on). I have strong attachments to the fair application of reasonable laws, personal liberty balanced by personal responsibility, a strong entrepreneurial culture that rewards meirt, good governance, family, country, decency, and so on. But I can’t think of anything people who label themselves as “Conservative” these days, and who repeat talking points from the Harperite or Republican canons, are actually interested in conserving. If you’re not even willing to conserve the biophysical environment in which we live, what on Earth motivates you to claim the label “Conservative”?

          Radical “free market”-obsessive anti-government ideology is a commitment to plutocracy, not to democracy or conservatism.

          • Hah! Now who’s into polemic :-) ?

            Seriously though, taxes are not all used for social engineering, and in fact a most of them are involved in doing fairly useful things like build roads, schools, hospitals, pay pensions, not to mention armies and other interesting things. Of course, they are much mis-spent and abused, which is why I am not much interested in any new ones.

            The carbon tax is not about raising revenue as such, it is about coercing us into a particular type of economic behavior, and this is a bad thing in my estimate. Your complaint about Bush’s use of taxes is instructive in this respect; once you give your money to the government, it turns out that they can do anything they like with it. What if a future government takes your carbon tax revenue and decides to spend it on invading Bermuda? Once imposed, taxes are never given up.

            Finally, you need to recognise that your argument is not with Rush Limbaugh or even Terence Corcoran, it is with the average Canadian, who, faced with their credit card bill after christmas and a dodgy economy, is pretty leery of a new tax that is somehow going to solve this climate change problem in whenever.

        • A price on carbon doesn’t “force” anyone to do anything, Bill. That’s an abuse of the term “force”. It incentivizes people to seek lower-cost solutions. And if one is clever and pays attention to the details, then, in a context where income taxes are lowered in compensation for increases in carbon taxes, then one can adopt a high-quality, lower-carbon lifestyle and come out ahead on a net take-home income basis. Anyway, I asked you: What is your alternative proposal? If you accept that a lower-carbon economy is a necessarily core policy aim of government, how do you propose it be achieved, if you’ve ruled out all mechanisms the rest of us can think of that might be effective (prices and regulations)?

          • I go back to what an earlier poster observed – that our more pressing issue is straightforward air and water pollution. If we look at air-pollution, it is an obvious nuisance that is readily controlled using existing mechanisms. Interstingly, most of the mechanisms that are used to control air-pollution apply pretty well to carbon emissions. I expect that the vigorous prosecution of air-pollution will not only give us cleaner air (a good that anyone can buy into) but will act to reduce carbon emissions as well.

            Also, I don’t expect that there will be any particular reduction in the use of fossil fules for a long time. It will be impossible to stop the third world getting their share of its benefits and there is no reasonable alternative. Even if we outlaw its use tomorrow in North America, its use will just move offshore to unregulated areas and there will be no net reduction.

            A good thing to do would be for governments to stop subsidizing the oil and gas companies, the car companies, the airlines and so on, start making the costs of using cars and trucks go to car and truck users instead of the general population. In fact, less government would go a long way to fulfilling your own greener goals!

            Try all that and then see where we are.

          • Less government, eh. Did you read the earlier posts where I pointed out what kind of country has “less government” and “lower taxes” than the 40%-to65% GDP share characteristic of all wealthy industrialized economies, without exception? You are rigidly repeating talking points that are standard shibboleths of the CPC catechism, including the stuff about focusing on “air pollution” rather than GHGs. Yet you failed to explain how you were going to reduce air pollution under your no-taxes-no-regulations dogma. Does air pollution magically solve itself? No? So tell me, how are you going to reduce air pollution? As for getting car owners to pay their own costs, do you include the cost of building and maintaining roads? Are you therefore in favour of road taxes and inner-city road congestion charges (like in London UK)? And if so, why are these instruments appropriate use of taxes to incorporate “externalities”, whereas carbon taxes are not?

            Sigh. I may have to admit to myself that I’m wasting my time conversing with a guy who hasn’t the stick to go beyond recycling and repeating vague market-god-worshipping Corcoronian/CPC talking points. This schtick is so intellectually bankrupt, yet even in the face of banks collapsing and bubbles bursting in the low-tax, low-regulation USA, your lot just keep blindly repeating the talking points of your sad, simple catechism. Consider the possibility that the ideology you’ve bought into all these years is largely wrong, and no substitute for actually thinking issues through carefully on a pragmatic basis.

  27. What about a results based approach instead of an incentive based approach? We build more commuter transit, then close the roads to commuter vehicles. price of gas stays the same, but if you are driving when you could take the train, there’s no way to get there.

    • Theoretically could work, but heavy-handed and politically not particularly achievable.

  28. Let’s use whatever bail-out money/bridge loans/’injected liquidity’ for transit, green retrofits, and renewable energy initiatives instead.

    • I was thinking the same thing last week. Since almost everyone is pushing hard for stimulus, stimulus, oh, and also, MORE STIMULUS, why aren’t we stimulating the industries of the future, instead of trying to bailout those decrepit, dirty industries of the 20th century? I mean, I of course know why our politicians aren’t, but it’s sort of a shame that we’re missing out on the once in a generation opportunity to actually encourage the very fundamental shift in our economy that so many agree needs to take place.

      • Yes indeed. Here’s an idea: Round up two well-informed friends who agree with you about this, and make an appointment to see your MP. Tell him/her what you think. S/he’s in your Riding right now – Parliament is not in session. Don’t assume it will do no good. Face-to-face meetings have a thousand times the effect of letters or emails.

        This isn’t a difficult thing to do, by the way. I’ve done it. All it takes is a couple of phone calls to your friends and to his Riding office. They’ll slot you in.

        • Don’t assume it will do no good.

          Too late. That very assumption is already registered in my brain. And if you knew who my MP is, you’d probably agree. It would be infinitely more effective to run around downtown naked with a town-crier bell and a sandwich board reading “Invest in green technology or we’re all gonna die”. Fortunately that would only require a rather minor modification to my sandwich board, so I’ll see what I can do.

          • If your MP is who I think it is, I’d have to agree.

  29. I’d be happy if governments stopped subsidizing fossil fuel dependence as their first contribution to preventing climate disruption.

    It’s hard to imagine tax approaches accomplishing ghg reductions when you live in Winnipeg where the city and the province have been co-proponents in almost every sprawl-inducing development, when both treat public transit as if it’s only for old people, kids and losers, and when they invest nearly 100 % of infrastructure in roads, bridges and underpasses designed to alleviate traffic problems they created with their rush to impel our city outward.

    The last federal green infrastructure program was invested in a privately owned hockey arena, and all three levels are preparing to do likewise with a new football stadium, and some subsidy of a massive Big Box IKEA development at the epicentre of the sprawl is laos in the works, but we still haven’t broken ground on the first leg of a rapid transit plan that has been 35 years in the making.

    With this kind of consistent anti-urban agenda, bi-partisan NDP and PC by the way, the starting point is to convince our governments to stop subsidizing unsustainable development, and auto-dependence model that seems to be a default. Increasing gas prices on consumers won’t make public transit viable if the city just uses its share of the gas tax to widen more roads, and subsidize more sprawl.

    • Toby, sad realities, eh. Conventional politicians don’t have the stick for this sort of thing. Maybe it’s time for people who actually care about good policy to get into the game. At the end of the day, the best way to get politicians doing what you know needs to get done, is to become an elected official yourself. Is a bid for Winnipeg city council, for starters, out of the question for you?

  30. I actually think that the carbon tax could be repackaged and sold in a different way (This being why i am not a Liberal strategist)
    What if it was sold as tax reform, with a significantly higher cut to personal income tax?
    Possibly it could be used in conjunction with other methods such as cap and trade.
    Maybe larger government subsidies on making homesm ore energy efficient, and charging a fee to collect non-recylcing garbage. The real problem, I suppose, is that to adress the issue we need a massive shift in our values as a society- because the government can only do so much. How about a subsidy for planting trees or leaving land to a conservation trust?
    Better yet, lets go ask Farley Mowat and do whatever he tells us to.

    • We’ve been waiting for a “massive shift in our values as a society” for about forty years, on issues of environmental responsibility. To some degree it has actually occurred. What’s needed now is politicians with the skill and courage to take leadership and do what has to be done. The idea that the economy will collapse if we get serious about shifting to a green infrastructure is complete nonsense: done right, a green-jobs boom will necessariy result from a “green shift”, as we rebuild and retrofit everything. We need politicians who are smart enough not to buy into the false “environment or economy” trade-off and sell the correct proposition that a green economy is a win-win proposition… oh… er… okay, right, Dion tried and failed. But the problem wasn’t the message. It was the messenger – and an electoral system which causes vote-splitting amongst several Progressive parties to result in a government supported by the one-third of voters who buy into the quite literally bankrupt ideology of anti-government market-god.worshipping ranters. Once we have a leader who actually implements the changes we need, it will take no more than a few months for the screams from Albertan oilmen and Uncle Milton’s fan club to die down, as the expected economic meltdown fails to occur and people get on with their well-paid jobs building HVDC transmission lines, setting up wind turbines and retooling car factories for EV production.

  31. Climate disuption ??????

    Fer crying out loud at least settle what you’re going to call it , we all know the science is settled .

  32. Sorry , Climate disRuption , was coughing too hard .

    • Bill, I consider climate disruption a more accurate term than either global warming or “climate change” and I’ve been using it since 1990 because it reflects what is happening and will happen at the regional level, with more flooding in some areas, drought in others, wild swings in termperature from extreme heat to extreme cold in other regions, and so on.

      The people that negotiated Kyoto didn’t give us the straight goods, didn’t tell us we’d need to reduce atmospheric CO2 by 50% (or more) by 2050 to prevent the destructive effects of ghg buildup and they didn’t give us a term that reflected the urgency either.

      My point has always been that we’re talking about a human-induced disruption of the CO2 balance, not the normal variabilty that climate science obfuscators pretend is happening of the “Change? Of course there’s change, there has always been change, etc.” variety.

      I laugh bitterly when the IPCC and the proponents of Kytoto are dismissed as alarmist radicals because in my view they’ve been altogether too conservative in their approaches, incorrectly assuming that incremental goals and less alarming terminology would create the impetus for action. Instead it has produced two decades of inaction.

  33. “wrong on all counts”

    The broad stroke dismissal. I’m pretty sure you actually didn’t ponder a single of my points – all of which are true.

    The very fact that the declarations of “settled[ness]” are themselves folly, goes a long way in explaining the reliance on these attempts to shut down debate, the rush to implement policy based on unreliable/untested, and now proven untrue (recall eight years ago we were supposed to be well on our way to an inferno by now) theory,

    and the left’s highjacking the debate for their purposed of justifyiny massive government controls of our resources.

    The last point is the crucial one. The death of classic marxism following the collapse of the Soviet Empire the famine in N. Korea and the destitution of Cuba (among some other smaller states that attempted to have a government controlled economy),

    has given rise to a new breed of socialism: one founded on the eradication of disaster.

    Disaster socialists, who primarily have relied upon the mass hysteria of the faux disaster, that with each passing year looks more and more rediculous as it fails to come to fruition, is now moving from the “Green Movement” to the “the great depression” movement.

    One has to wonder how an AP headline which speaks of “sales plunging!!!” over the holiday period based on a drop in….gasp 2-4% sales (yup, after adjusting for the drop in gasoline prices which explained a full half of the drop in ‘spending’ is was a measely 2%), is justified and savoured by the left:

    the reason: the new disaster and the correpsonding only solution – massive new government controls (the notion of letting the market settle things itself is almost of the “denier” variety heresy.

    Disaster socialists.

    Get used to the term. It’s real.

    It’s happening now.

    And only the true old school journalist will dare to shine the light on it.

    • kody, you are just a little off base ascribing the notion of reliance on apocryphal hysteria to the left. It’s an effective sympathy generator for both ends of your theoretical spectrum. The War on _________ was brought to you by the right, using exactly that tactic. Drugs? “Those horrible (choose your ethnic group stereotype according to the drug of choice) are going to seduce our white daughters!” Guns in the home? “Those horrible (choose relevant ethnic group for your local area) are going to intrude and rape our white daughters!” Terrorism? “Those horrible (choose your ethnic group according to circumstance, but, let’s face it, the muslims have been a little scarier than the Irish lately) are going to invade and blow up our white daughters!”

      Fear? It’s an equal opportunity sales tactic.

    • Ah ! A perverse version of the Shock Doctrine. Naomi has a lawyer, kody.

  34. Cdn in Europe
    I am all in favor of regulations and laws that prohibit pollution and would like to see moreof them. I have no tolerance for corporations dumping poisons into the air or water. As for US being de-regulated, dream on. It is more regulated than many european countries on certian issues, usually to the benefit of select corporations.

    You are making it pretty tough to maintain a debate here when you characterize opponents of carbon taxes as saps who “buy into the quite literally bankrupt ideology of anti-government market-god.worshipping ranters”.

    Paul – can I havea ruling here? Is “quite literally bankrupt” an acceptable abuse of the language?

    • I give up. The trouble is, I’m interested in solutions, not in debating, and you aren’t offering any. You’re “opposing carbon taxes” without offering alternatives. You aren’t nearly as kooky and sad as tin-foil-hatted conspiracy nutter Kody, though, or the denialist JMD who claims it’s now been “proven” that GHGs don’t result in global warming, I’ll give you that.

      By the way, it’s incoherent to support regulations prohibiting pollution and to oppose measures to provide disincentives against (or prohibit) dumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, because GHGs, now that we have far more than 280 ppm of them in the air, are the most serious form of pollution going.

      • But carbon is not a pollutant, any more than water is (unless there is a tidal wave of it headed your way). I don’t see any workable way to accurately assess the costs of what you propose as against the benefits (aslo unmeasurable) so I think a big tax chnage is rash and should be avoided.

        Instead, I propose tidying up concrete sources of pollution, removing subsidies from suspect activities and seeing where that takes us. If your doomsday predictions are correct, we shoiuld see enough bad results shortly to get us motivated in the right direction, or maybe not, in which case my more “conservative” approach seems more prudent.

        • And I say we end all conflict in the Middle East by invading Qatar. it’s close to Afghanistan and Iraq, after all!

        • Yes, Bill, CO2 in excess of somewhere around 280 to 300 ppm (the appropriate and safe level) is indeed pollution. Water is nice, but not if you’re drowning. Same with CO2. You need to read more about climate science, you really do. If you did so, you would understand that there is a several-decade delay between increased GHGs and increases in mean global air temperatures over land, because the oceans act as a vast heat sink. It’s like when you go into your house and turn up the thermostat. The house doesn’t instantly heat up to the temperature you chose; it takes a while to heat up. So it is with atmospheric GHGs, except on a different time-scale. We’ve cranked up the planetary thermostat, and it will take decades for the planet to heat up to the level we’ve ALREADY committed to by today’s huge increase in GHG levels (compared to those of the past few million years). Adding EVEN MORE GHGs to the atmosphere will put commit us to planetary temperatures several decades hence with truly extreme consequences (read “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas for a laypersons’ overview). The upshot, as the IPCC AR4 and a whole slew of prominent mainstream climate scientists have repeatedly said (people who do actual science, Bill, drilling ice cores, building physics models, measuring stuff, and so on — people I personally know and work with), is that we have no time left to “wait and see what happens”. The climate system has enormous momentum – momentum on a planetary scale – and the CO2 we’re pouring gigatonnes of into the air every year is accumulating. If we wait, and keep pouring in more gigatonnes, self-reinforcing spirals of GHG releases from melting permafrost and other sources will keep heating the planet even if we shut down every coal-fired power plant. It’ll be too late. That’s why it isn’t “prudent” to wait and see what happens. There are time lags involved, there is systemic inertia. Just like you can’t turn a supertanker on a dime, you can’t reverse climate change if you wait until every kook in the denialist landscape finally admits to himself that maybe Richard Lindzen is full of shit after all. If you’d done your homework, you would know this. Now stop posting (this is my last post too, you’ll be glad to know), and go spend a few weeks reading up on realclimate.org and other mainstream sources. Try to open the window a bit to new-to-you ways of thinking rather than just repeating Harper’s talking points. Turns out his ideology isn’t as great as you’ve comfortably assumed for all these years. Come back when you know more about the genuine science. And for God’s sake, don’t just go reading rubbish online that only reinforces your existing talking points. This isn’t just entertainment. The raw biophysical conditions of life for your grandkids (if you’re planning on spawning) really are in play. And everyone else’s too. This isn’t some kind of tiresome academic debate about a minor issue on which ideologues can play debating games. This is about reality. Atmospheric chemistry doesn’t give the slightest damn about ConBot hostility to “government intervention”. We need to implement pragmatic, real-world solutions, whatever works, as fast as we frickin’ can, mate. We really do. It’s that bad. You just don’t know enough about the topic to realize this yet, and your ideological blinders are making it hard for folks like you to even listen to what the best experts are telling us about the urgency and magnitude of this problem. We can’t negotiate with Mother Nature, or bully her into changing the laws of physics so we can avoid the consequences of our actions. We need to make a shift to a decarbonised economy, we should have embarked on it twenty years ago. We are very late to the party. Some scientists worry we may already be too late to avoid self-reinforcing spirals of GHG releases. We can no longer afford to indulge crackpots and ideologues. Adults committed to achieving timely real-world results need to take control of the situation. I hope Obama and Ignatieff are up to it.

          • Wow, talk about having it bass-ackwards, Euro Canuck. Studies of air trapped in deep Greendland ice cores show that increased atmospheric CO2 LAGS increased temperatures. It therefore cannot be the cause.

      • There we go! That’s what I want to see! It’s the pollution, stoopid, as they like to say.

        Oh, and for the deniers, I believe that there exists a study done of the 9/11 no fly period that demonstrated that the temporary absence of airplane contrails alone resulted in a net reduction in surface temperatures.

        • Holy cow, this is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. You will believe anything.

          • These reply thingies are not always perfect, but in the off chance you were directly referring to my suggestion that contrails effect surface temperature changes as being ridiculous, the NASA scientists who wrote an article for the American Meteorological Society (Volume 17, Issue 8, April 2004) seem credible to me. If you google around, others seem to think so as well, although some are definitely kool aid drinkers on the global warming apocalypse caravan.

            So, to be clear, I believe I am fairly discerning in my consumption of information. When I am not certain, I say so. When it is someone else’s work, I don’t claim it as my own thoughts. When it is my anecdotal experience, I say as much, allowing for the fairly high probability that my personal experience may not be the perfect scientific test of the veracity of my observations.

            So, if I am correct, and you think my comments were ill considered and “ridiculous”, say you’re sorry. If it is a simple case of mixed up reply buttons, then please accept my apologies for being so touchy.

          • No, you understood me correctly. What you have said is ridiculous. While I believe you that there may have been a study out there about contrails and surface temperatures, what you said was completely different.
            What you said is that the temporary absence of planes in the sky will reduce temperatures on earth. You suggested that the 9/11 no-fly period demonstated this. This is complete hogwash.
            Firstly, even the climate people will admit that the climate does not change in a matter of days. You are talking about weather, not climate. Secondly, the impact of all the planes over the United States cannot possibly change the atmospheric composition. You would need a billion planes to make any measurable impact whatsoever.

          • referencing our exchange, I will take a small hit in exchange for a major return slam. I recalled the details incorrectly, but the effect of the 9/11 no-fly experience was, apparently, nothing short of dramatic. Please go read the easy-reader version at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020808075457.htm

            In short, the absence of contrails led to the largest 3-day range of temperatures in a 30 year period. The article and analysis leave absolutely no doubt about the direct correlation between the contrails and surface temperatures.

            “We show that there was an anomalous increase in the average diurnal temperature range for the period Sept. 11-14, 2001,”

            “Sept. 11-14, 2001, had the biggest diurnal temperature range of any three-day period in the past 30 years,”

            “The fact that the three jetless days were in the late summer should suggest that there was less of an effect than would have occurred during a cooler time of the year when more contrails occur,”

            My error was in incorrectly recalling that the daytime temperatures dropped – they in fact increased, while night time temperature averages dropped. However, to me the important point is that human activity can be clearly demonstrated to be having an effect on our climate and that, therefore, you, sf, are wrong. Wrong to suggest that my anecdote was ridiculous and wrong to say “the impact of all the planes over the United States cannot possibly change the atmospheric composition. You would need a billion planes to make any measurable impact whatsoever.”

            I see, too, later on in this string, that you take this self-evident conviction of yours to other arguments. You make assertions of your own, based on pickle-barrel, common sense calculations of your own concoction and try to pass them off as valuable pieces of the conversational puzzle. So, I guess my response is:

            “Holy Cow! This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. You will make anything up to make your point.”

        • No: a net increase in land temperatures, if I remember right. Less air pollution of certain kinds (sulfates, reflective of sunlight) mean more sunlight gets down to the Earth’s surface. Scientists estimate that existing pollution is masking the equivalent of about 50 ppm of carbon dioxide — in other words, warming will actually get a lot worse once we stop certain kinds of air polluting. Catchphrase is “global dimming”.

      • Maybe if there was a problem I’d be interested in a solution.

        There are enough envirpnmental problems already, I’m not interested in these false and fabricated AGW theories that are not problems at all, rather they are speculations in the process of being debunked by reality, as it unfolds.

        • You’re a crackpot.

          • No he’s not. He just doesn’t like yr speculation interferring with his certainty of what reality is. Simple really. Don’t see what all the fuss was about.

          • Now, in case you are having trouble wrapping your head around this, take a look at this picture, and tell me why most global warming fanatics like to show us temperature graphs that start with the year 1860.


          • Now, Mr. Canadian in Europe, you can go crawling back to your European church of fantasy.

  35. The GE CEO wants the government to impose carbon pricing in the USA because he hopes to make gobs of money by developing green technology and exporting it to India and China. Bill, do you think you have a better handle on how carbon pricing affects business than Immelt? By the way, Immelt is pushing for cap and trade because he doesn’t think politicians can sell a carbon tax.

    At The Wall Street Journal’s ECO:nomics conference earlier this month, several speakers, including General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, suggested that although a carbon tax might make sense, the word “tax” is too polarizing to be politically acceptable. [from GreenTech Media]

    • There’s probably a big market for carbon-reducing technology, but it’s unlikely to be in China.

      • Immelt argues that as China’s middle class expands they will demand an alternative to burning coal because they will demand a cleaner environment.
        China has already bought a lot of wind energy technology and infrastructure from Sweden (which has had a carbon tax for decades, by the way.)

        • But Canada is an almost entirely middle class country with a free media, and even we don’t demand that of our politicians.

    • Any time a large corporation supports a new tax, you had better hang onto your wallet. Why you would invoke GE (which is practically an arm of government it is so big) is beyond me. Even Milton Friedman was frightened of these guys and he was the arch-capitalist!

      • Bill, Immelt’s arguments on carbon pricing and how it effects US companies makes more sense to me than yours.

        • Catherine,
          How do you think GE sees this? You don’t suppose that they expect to be on the receiving end of the new grants and tax breaks do you? There is one corporation in the states that is lobbying ofr a huge subsidy to build a massive windfarm in Arizona. When large corporations and government collude together, you should be very afraid, because it is the tax payer who is getting screwed.

  36. So there you have it , Paul. You have three categories of thought here:

    1. Carbon tax
    2. Cap and trade
    3. Deniers


    • 4. And Kody

    • 1. Carbon tax for no reason
      2. Cap and trade for no reason
      3. Intelligent people who believe in doing something for a reason

      • whatch out the deniers are back!

    • That’s 2 categories of thought and 1 of thoughtlessness.

  37. Maybe if the world were actually getting warmer, then there would be a sliver of a possibility that AGW was correct, and the argument for a carbon tax or cap and trade would be a little more persuasive.

    But with the world cooling for the last 10 years, the empty rhetoric is getting more and more tiring.

    There are real environmental problems such as biodiversity loss and the loss of arable land that are actually and truly deserving of attention.

  38. I decided to noodle around on the interwebby thing the idea that the deniers might be on to something. Then I noodled those ideas around to see if they held up. The big one seems to be that the sun is in a bad mood and is the natural cause of all this so called warming. But then I stumbled across this:

    “There is considerable evidence for solar influence on the Earth’s pre-industrial climate
    and the Sun may well have been a factor in post-industrial climate change in the first half
    of the last century. Here we show that over the past 20 years, all the trends in the Sun
    that could have had an influence on the Earth’s climate have been in the opposite
    direction to that required to explain the observed rise in global mean temperatures.”

    This is an abstract from the highly suspect Royal Society, whose report on the subject may be found at www dot publishing.royalsociety.org/media/proceedings_a/rspa20071880.pdf (I hate the delay of instant gratification of seeing my words online that is instanced by the autocensor of all web links).

    So, from deniers I would like to see a refutation of the above that is not a) an ad hominem attack on pommy scientists or b) a recitation of the list of television weathermen and astrologers who are not in consensus with the “other” scientists on climate junk, just as I would like the Warmers to stop leading with their chins and using “consensus” among scientists all the time.

    • The pt you made earlier re: the GW crowd making strategic errors in getting their message to sound plausible is spot on. One of the first rules of effective communication is consider yr audience. That most of us aren’t boffins seems to have ,understanderably perhaps, escaped their attention. If yr thesis is that the world is quite likely going to end in some ghastly manner, maybe you should not sa so in so many words. People, unfortunately being people, they need to be coaxed downstairs [ or whereever] one step ata time. Elementary communication, surely? Just what were those guys thinking?

    • The quote “all the trends in the sun that could have had influence” says it all. More junk.

      The Earth’s climate is driven almost completely by the energy produced by the sun. All other effects are minimal in comparison. To actually claim to have quantified “all the trends in the sun that could have had influence” instantly identifies the study as bunk.

      • Like all true hypocrites you’re completely blind to the fact. You castigate us for believing all those unproven, biased assertions of GW’s, fair enough as far as that goes. But then you insult our intelligence by pleading yr case as f it too were holy writ, only this time of course, it’s yours so that makes it all right. Since you don’t claim any expertise re: CC i’m forced to assume yr certitudes aren’t in fact based on original research, but are in fact the regurgitated 2nd hand opinion of a keen amateur; much like the rest of us in fact. Convince me otherwise.

      • “more junk”. From the Royal Society. Yet you reference the equivalent of the National Inquirererererer to “support” your nonsense. I came into this string less convinced of GW and man’s role in it than I am coming out. For that, I am thnkful to you and yours.

        Happy New Year.

  39. So far I’ve heard an argument about whether its getting hotter and whether we have anything to do with that, but very little argument about whether the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are much higher than they have ever been in the last 100,000 years. So why don’t we just agree that we are putting too much CO2 in the atmosphere and that we’re not sure, but this could do something harmful to the way we like the planet, so just to be on the safe side we’ll bring those levels down before things go too far. I agree that a carbon tax is a faster way to make carbon emissions more expensive, but based on what we have just seen happen in the financial sector, if you can cook the books than you can also cook the climate. You just have to figure corruption and looking out for number 1 into your policy models. So my view is that we start taking these funds that we are calling ‘bail outs’ and ‘economic stimuli’ and start targeting a healthy chunk of them towards carbon free industries. This is I believe going to be the task of the new Climate Change minister, Carol Browner, in the US. We all just need to let go of the idea that by simply tweaking the ‘free’ market with a tax here or a credit trade there you are going to get this done at the scale that’s necessary. My apologies to all the economists and thanks for the memories.

  40. Brad,

    except that the war on…..drugs (drugs actually kills many, many people). The use of the term war? You’re right is probably not the best term, but misplaced fear it is not.

    The war on……terrorism? Many, many people have been killed by radical terrorists (in this generation primarily of the radical islamic variety), and many more intentionally threatened. Again, not really fictional. The level and manner of response is debateable. That radical terrorists exists and seek to do us harm is not debateable.

    Yet not a single person on this planet has died because of “global warming”, because, in fact, the globe has not warmed as predicted.

    Recall the dire threats almost a decade ago now of middle North America turning into a hot dust bowl, the coastal cities flooding (ice levels – contrary to dishonest media reports of the single ice berg variety – have seasonally fluctuated on normal levels), massive crop failures due to excessive heat ect, ect.

    Ironically what may be more real, and far more damaging to us from a climate perspective, given how many people live on the threshold of livibility of cold climates, is the mondar minimum returning. And folks studying the sun have very real concerns about it. It’s not theory, in fact we know its already happened. And it is indeed getting cooler, in the last two years dramatically so.

    Yes a cold snap in any given location cannot say much. But continental cold snaps, and all all of the continents over a multi-year period and directly in line with solar scientist predictions is real.

    Watch over the next several years, Canadians deal with ever increasing coldness while the likes of Al Gore tell us its getting hotter and hotter.

    • Hi kody – hope you had a merry Christmas out in your neck of the woods.

      You are right, drugs do kill many people – legal ones (such as alcohol and tobacco) far more than the others combined and then squared – heck, maybe cubed. Even amongst the illegal ones that kill, oftimes the death results because it was mixed and mashed with mean Mr. Alcohol hisself. There have, of course, been many more lives _wrecked_ because of the War on Some Drugs, but that’s a whole different ball of wax.

      Deaths from terrorism are, sadly, far too real. It is somewhat curious, though, how there has now been more Americans lives lost _bringing peace_ to Iraq, than were lost on that grim and terrible September day. Doubling down on the bet, so to speak.

      Now, I’m certainly no expert on this whole Global Warming (aka Glow-Bull, aka Glo-Bull, aka Pinko Lefty Shrillbot Lies) thing, but I believe that the deaths are predicted to come well into the future, when that so-called point of no return has been passed, and the sweating planet starts paying back her tormentors in spades….or something like that. Waterworld, Cropsmoke, and that kind of thing.


    • But kody, the point is that on topics all over the place, where people on the stereotypically right end of the spectrum differ vehemently from those on the left, the right use the same fear mongering you ascribe to the left. You just happen to believe, in your gut, that the right is, well, right. Not for any really good rational reason, but because your life expereience, worldview, whatever, takes you there. The leftards are no different from you in that regard.

      Contradicting my satirical response with “except that drugs really are bad” just proves my point. Sure, drugs are bad, you shouldn’t take drugs. But in Canada, the reason half of the drugs are on the naughty list isn’t because anyone “proved” they were bad. They were there because they convinced – which is different from proved – everyone that the chinese or the negroes were using their drugs to seduce our stalwart young men into lives of decadence and our virginal white women into lives of lascivious, wanton carnal relations – with those same ethnic groups.

      In other words, the opponents of drugs used fear, not reason, to develop a prohibition regime, not a public health response. Same goes for suspending basic human rights in the war on terror.

  41. A cherson,

    the problem with “playing it safe” is very often the “cure” is much worse than the purported malady. The eradication of DDT for instance caused nearly a million people their lives in deaths by malaria.

    Carbon, contrary to the popular press mythology, is not a noxious substance. It’s emitted by all living things, and emitted pretty much every time anyone does anything. Lowering carbon means lowering economic development.

    While we’re chasing these ghosts with our swords, we’re slashing real people.

    Lost jobs for the middle class. Lost lives for those in devoloping countries on the brink of destitution. While we sip cappucino in Toronto (feeling good about ourselves that we’re ‘playing it safe’ ….for the good of all mankined no less!!) there’s a small business owner in Turkey who’s right now contemplating laying off his staff because he can’t afford the high carbon tariffs, and theres those in the developing world shuddering at the notion of the rich Western powers saying “the developmental party’s over for you…you’ll just have to stay starving…..we need to save mankind after all.”

    All the while the planet cools (just as it did in the middle ages).

    • Lowering carbon means lowering economic development.

      That is the most preposterous thing I’ve heard in my life.


  42. Cap-and-trade is a complicated mess that is open to corruption and perversion at just about every step. But it might have had a snowball’s chance above the Arctic Circle if the global-warming chicken-littles could have converted the majority of us to their cult. That has failed. And I join many in hoping that the Tories are all talk, no walk, on this one.

    A carbon tax is simple and draconian, and would be politically popular if the global-warming chicken-littles could have converted the majority of us to their cult. That has failed.

    As mentioned above: AIR QUALITY could have scored politically, big time. But this was surrendered for some bizarre reason. Put up highway tolls in major congested urban centres. Tax the gas sold within an hour’s drive of major urban centres. Special levies on pollution-belching industries. None of these are political best-sellers, but MIGHT have had a chance if air quality was the selling feature instead of the allegedly-extinct (not!) polar bears and allegedly drowning (not!) coastal cities.

    Lead counts are way down since legislated unleaded gas. Acid rain and air quality have improved somewhat with legislated emissions reduction of the foul nasties that created these clearly identifiable problems.

    Global warming, when the planet is cooling even as carbon output rises? Bah…

    • For god’s sake, make up your mind! Is it warming, or is it cooling. Why should i believe yr assertion than theirs?

    • “AIR QUALITY could have scored politically, big time. But this was surrendered for some bizarre reason”

      It was surrended because of ridicule from the opposition in a minority parliament that required the cooperations of one of the opposition parties to pass legislation.

      I do agree with you though, that it would have been well-received by the Canadian public if they could have found a way to push ahead.

  43. “air quality”

    Madeyoulook is bang on.

    Harper tried to stake this out, but bowed to political expediency. I believe he failed to foresee the drop in Green support (or like many, bought the overhyped purported AGW belief among the populace, and the eqating AGW with real environmental controls).

    Unlike AGW, pollution is real. It costs real lives, creates real sick children, and in the end wreaks havoc on our economy (sick people are far more expensive than healthy productive ones). How ironic that the natural substance of CO2 has become the enemy, while we ignore carbon monoxide, and other dangerous pollutants.

    That the left has highjacked the Green movement for the sake of massive government control, and in the end actually caused pollution to be ignored under the guise of saving the planet from computer modeled ghosts, is the great untold story of our generation.

    This is why the founder of Greenpeace is one of the biggest opponents of the AGW theory. He is also correct.

    • If yr talking about patrick moore, he’s a sell-out a- hole. I personally know people he screwed over enviro issues on the coast. Kody why is it ok for just you to cheery pick your supporting facts and personalities.

  44. I love it!

    AGW “deniers” like to show graphs. Only, like the good researchers they are, they don’t have labelled y-axes. They don’t give any information about what the data points are and how they are derived. But by golly it just all proves agw is a hoax!

    And what is it with those guys talking ’bout carbon? Why that’s the most natural stuff you can have! How the heck is it a pollutant? Oh…except it is really “carbon-dioxide equivalents”, a way to standardize all the sources of pollution and GHGs to a common scale.


    P.S. And yes…it is true, carbon (the soild that it is) is emitted to varying degrees by all living things. But as can be witnessed by the comments here, clearly some emit way way more than others…

  45. I jumped aboard the Liberal bandwagon with Dion and the Carbon Tax, and Ignatieff has done nothing yet to cause me to want to jump ship. Even if it isn’t The issue in the next election, I think the Liberals would be fools to take it off the table. Harper declared with his 2¢ per litre reduction of the taxes on diesel fuel that they are the anti-environment party. Lines have rarely been so clearly drawn. The only question is, are their environmentalists in the West and do they want in too?

    And even if Global Warming is a hoax, who’s going to argue that shifting taxes from income – work – to pollution is a bad thing? Tax the coal fired – mercury spewing (all you thimerosol mercury conspiracy advocates) – power generators out of existence, while encouraging research into more efficient wind machines and photovoltaics?

  46. I’m coming to dislike the offshoot reply feature of WordPress that you’ve implemented here at Macleans.ca. It actually makes the conversation harder to follow, and I find I’m giving up on following it earlier and earlier. Sorry, just my honest .02. And I did try for awhile before complaining.

    • Agreed.

  47. >I do not know a single climate scientist who thinks warming is not being caused by release of anthropogenic GHGs

    The community of climate scientists is deeply vested in its views for political and social reasons as well as what they hold to be their scientific reasons, and they are obtaining all of the limelight. It would be very helpful to focus some attention on what is being measured and reported by astronomers who study our sun.

    No offence to Cdn in Europe, but:
    – the data available to climate scientists are irregularly and haphazardly gathered, sparse when compared to the volume of information which could be gathered, and subject to other influences which impact the data in amounts at which climate scientists can only guess.
    – the models are not in any proper sense of the word “validated”, nor have they any predictive value. If the case is otherwise, I am very interested to learn of a model which has predictive value given a set of historical initial conditions.
    – climate science is still in its infancy. Relative to the layman, a climate scientist knows much of his subject; relative to the breadth and complexity of the subject, a climate scientist knows very little.

    If the measures of AGW turn out to be noise in the data or the artefacts of selective bias, and the models continue to be accurate only when retrofitted with additional assumptions to match historically observed performance as it unwinds, and most importantly if changes in solar activity turn out to be the primary climate driver by several orders of magnitude, then adaptation and not prevention will be the only affordable course of action.

    Resources expended on pointless measures are resources unavailable to deal with other crises. This is the essential point of Bjorn Lomborg’s criticism. It is a standalone statement of economic reality.

    Carbon taxes can be justified purely on the basis of “internalizing” some economic externalities. However, there will be negative as well as economic impacts. Availability and affordability of energy correlate well with prosperity and human well-being, and we can not assume there will be a green economic revolution to offset the ill effects of policies which cause productivity to contract. I believe a strong argument can be made that a warmer climate is better than a colder one.

    This is a good time to keep our powder dry. Chicken Littlism aside, the first point of concensus should be that we do not know enough about which way the overall climate is trending – warmer or cooler. Before we commit massively to programs to deal with climate change, we should first invest in a massive program to measure and be reasonable certain of the sign (plus or minus) of the change.

    • if is true that advocates of GW theory are assuming to many unknowables, then at least as strong a case for wishful thinking can be made for those who assert that a warmer climate is better than a colder one. The fact is no-one knows – whatever we do or don’t, we will still be throwing the dice on our future.

      • During cooler periods of history agricultural output was reduced; during periods of reduced agricultural output famine was more prevalent; where famine was present, disease soon followed (poorly fed people are not as resistant to illness). The recent problems with rice and grain harvests are just a hint of possible outcomes if slightly cooler average global temperatures knock off a fraction of agricultural output, particularly in the poorer nations with less technological leverage to supercharge their harvests.

        • Granted, but if the GW theory is correct there’s no guarantee that the warming will be controlled, gradual or in the places we most want it. Indeed, as i undestand GW theory the climate will become extreme in ways that are at least as dangerous as too much cooling. My pt is that with CC of any extreme sort the rapidity and unpedictability of change is the real elephant in the room.

    • Thank you, Brad Sallows, for a thoughtful contribution to this sordid debate. I hope Cdn in Europe reads it.

      I drafted a detailed addition but lost it by mistake, while cutting and pasting references. There are alternatives to following the IPCC dogma espoused by Cdn in Europe and most politically-correct folk. One web site that contrasts realclimate.org has already been mentioned in this thread: “Watts up with that”. On the true climate science front, I can recommend Roger A Pielke, Sr: http://www.climatesci.org. Dr. Pielke is a respected scientist who has been publishing in peer-reviewed journals on many aspects of the climate debate for decades.

      His recent overview should be required reading for all policy advisers that influence politicians on carbon taxes and Cap-and-Trade follies:

      Pielke Sr., R.A., 2008: A broader view of the role of humans in the climate system. Physics Today, 61, Vol. 11, 54-55.


      This is my two pennies worth to the thread – happy New Year!

      Ulrich Lobsiger

      • Thank you, Ulrich, for bringing this fellow to our attention. He certainly appears to be a bona fide respected scientist, as opposed the list of tv weather men and astrologers others like to tropt out.

        From a quick, preliminary review of his work, he appears to conclude that the IPCC stresses the CO2 side of things too much, while not adequately recognizing other human impacts on the environment; that global models are not as useful as local/regional models; and that global warming should not be the focus because it is not as important in evaluating overall climate change as is the evaluation of temperature changes in the oceans. Is that about right?

        He also seems to feel that current modeling is not sufficiently sophisticated to accurately predict the full range of impacts of not acting versus the different options of acting. I suppose he would agree that it would be like choosing from among a range of neurosurgery options without having witnessed the range of accompanying outcomes or withour accurate imaging equipment. Many choices will have to be made on educated guesses based on what he would hope are more robust models than currently exist – do no harm.

        If it is true that IPCC is cherry picking stats to create an alarmist view, then shame on them. However, my impression is that Dr. Pielke is neither an alarmist nor a denier. Instead, he appears to be struggling amid both orthodoxies in favour of greater scientific rigour. I can certainly get behind that.

        Finally, while Dr Pielke is certainly no fan of the IPCC or its conclusions, he is also unequivocal about his opinion that humans are impacting the climate and that serious mitigation efforts need to be devised. So, while he may believe carbon impact is overstated, he probably would still agree, from what little I have read, that carbon based ghgs should be mitigated, although he would say that a radical action that would seriously impact in a negative way other sectors, such as the economy, are not yet justified by the science.

        What I don’t think Dr Pielke represents is a drop dead life line for those who believe nothing needs to be done and that we should all just “move along, nothing to see, nothing happening here…”

  48. So a few more Republicans have come out of the carbon tax closet. Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina and supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, unequivocally endorsed a revenue neutral carbon tax. Many of the lines of these Republicans sound a lot like that lefty Dion:

    “We need to impose a tax on the thing we want less of (carbon dioxide) and reduce taxes on the things we want more of (income and jobs).”

    Dion always said he was a fiscal conservative, and this is how the Republicans put it:

    “Conservatives don’t support tax increases that are veiled as “cap and trade” schemes for pollution permits. But offer us a tax swap, and we could become the new administration’s best allies on climate change. …. Fiscal conservatives would gladly trade a carbon tax for a reduction in payroll or income taxes, but we can’t go along with an overall tax increase.”

    Of course, no sane person would ever mistake Harper for a “fiscal conservative”. Neo-conservative Charles Krauthammer has also endorsed a revenue neutral gas tax. A few Democrats have been pushing revenue-neutral carbon taxes for years. Perhaps something will come of this, now that more Republicans are coming out of the carbon tax closet too.

    • Dion’s “Green Shift” was not – unless it was poorly explained by everyone who attempted to do so – revenue neutral. It appeared to be in part engineered to increase revenues in order to increase spending. If that was not intended, then a lesson has been learned: articulate clearly how taxes from column A are moved dollar for dollar into column B and include a mechanism which prevents new spending from being slipped in (ie. commit overages to buying out debt).

      Along with C02, one of the things we will have less of (if we tax C02 output) is energy. That will mean, in turn, “less of” many other things. Unfortunately, we don’t track the national “energy budget” (from where the ergs come, and to where they go) with the same level of attention as the national fiscal budget. If more people understood the relative magnitude of some of the sources and sinks, the quality of the debate would improve. We would at least begin to share an understanding of which alternatives are practical and which are not.

  49. Folks, GW is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of atmospheric chemistry and radiative forcing. For folks like KC, the nutter posting in this thread who has been consistently repeating the bizarre claim that the Earth has been cooling for ten years, this blog’s fpr you: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/category/climate-science/instrumental-record/

    Now get this clear: RealClimate.org is written by bona fide, working professional climate scientists. I know some of them personally, and have worked closely with one of them for more than a year (a scientist who goes to Antarctica and various glaciers drilling ice cores, and who has a whole labful of analytic chemistry equipment to analyse those cores). Let me be absolutely clear: If these people are “perpetrating a hoax”, they have been diabolically clever about it. They have managed to conceal any such hoaxy intentions not only from the world, and from their scientific peers, and from their employers at several of the world’s finest universities, but from me personally. The idea that KC and nutters of his type carry around is: “RealClimate.org is written by people who do not agree with my obsessive belief that GW is a hoax; therefore it is a “biased” source that should be ignored.” KC, try to achieve a moment of clarity: You, not these world-class scientists, are the punk here. YOU are the biased source. You have a blind belief, and you keep feeding it pre-filtered crap, repeating only the pseudoscientific crap that justifies you in your obsessive belief.

    As for Dick Lindzen, Roger Pielke et al.: There are very few bona fide working climate scientists who cast doubt on the impact of rising CO2 levels on global temperature projections (remember, there’s a time lag of decades before we’ll feel the full effects of increased GHGs, because of the thermial inertia of the oceans). There are, however, a few. Why? No matter what the subject, for any scientific question of complexity, you’ll find some people taking extreme positions, and contrasting this with the mainstream scientific view – or, more cannily, staking out no clear position of their own, and just casting doubt on the mainstream instead. Sometimes this is from a stubborn obsession with the idea that they know the Truth that everyone else has overlooked; sometimes it’s a love of notoriety – today, the easiest way to get undeserved celebrity as a climate scientist is to take some kind of “skeptic” position, since you’ll become an instant hero to the KCs of the world; sometimes it’s just crackpottiness, since it turns out even some folks with PhDs aren’t immune to the same kind of obsessive insistence that the world as they imagine they’d like it to be is the world that must be. What is clear is this: If you understand anything about how the enterprise of science works, how its peer review and professional status system works, you will know that the idea there’s some kind of a vast conspiracy amongst climate scientists to hide The Truth is not only laughable, it is actually impossible. Moreover, you will understand that you should be far more skeptical of what scientists on the fringe of the mainstream consensus say than of the mainstream scientists. Mainstream science is mainstream for a reason. It’s overwhelmingly more likely to be accurate, especially, as in this case, where multiple independent lines of evidence ranging from paleoclimate data to direct measurements of the transparency of various atmospheric gases to visible light and to infrared light all converge on the same conclusion: Massive climate change due to GW is in the pipeline because CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide are transparent to visible light but opaque to infrared (unlike N2 and O2, which are transparent to both).

    Try to understand that atmospheric chemistry is not a matter of political opinion. Insisting it’s a hoax doesn’t make it a hoax. There is no rule other than Rush Limbaugh’s Rule of Right-wing Sheep Following Opinion Leaders Blindly that says “conservatives” should deny mainstream scientific opinions they are not qualified to judge, simply because a few right-wing opinion leaders paid off by the oil and coal industries have parrotted some talking points for their clueless listeners to obsessively repeat. If you think mainstream climate science is a hoax, you are a clueless sucker. Sorry to break the harsh news to ya. Happy new year.

    • Right on, but perhaps you have confused KC with SF?

      • thanks john. i was dreading getting into a slanging match with cie. he’s informative but a little too windy for me.

      • Sorry, I think I was confusing KC and Kody. But SF and Kody are pretty much interchangeable. My apologies to KC.

        • Apology accepted. I had a look at Piekkes site ; he didn’t seem a nutter to me. Healthy skepticisim of mainstream ideas are both healthy and necessary. I empathise with yr frustration with the Kody’s/sf’s of this world, but resorting to mud-slinging will simply get us all covered in mud. Something i’m sure will delight the Exxons of this world. I’ve said earlier in the thread, that i think , for whatever reason, allowing the debate to be recast in moral/ gaia terms [ emoitional ] has been a stategic error. I have much symphathy with the enviro agenda, but a sensible, practicable communication strategy is an imperitive. ‘ Habit is not to be thrown out of the window by any man, but has to be coaxed down stairs one step at a time’ Twain.

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