The Green Shift that might have been

The instant, universal wisdom after the election — the more instant, the more universal, as always — was that the Green Shift was second only to Stephane Dion as a Liberal vote-killer.

Dion’s failings as leader are not in dispute here. And the Green Shift, as written, plainly failed to catch fire. You can’t argue with a popular vote of 26%

But if the argument is that any plan that involves shifting the burden of taxation from income taxes to carbon taxes is unsaleable, that has not been established. 

Why didn’t this Green Shift work, this time? A number of factors came into play:

1) Dion. The best product in the world still needs a good salesman. A complicated new product needs a really good salesman. Dion did not sell this at all well.

2) Timing. The policy was put forward at a time of skyrocketing oil prices. That doesn’t negate its usefulness as policy, as I’ve explained elsewhere, but it did make it a harder sell with the public. 

The credit crisis, erupting in the middle of the election campaign, made matters worse, adding seeming weight to the Conservatives’ message that now was not the time for “risky” experiments. Again, there wasn’t much substantive validity to this — not least since the Conservatives’ own cap-and-trade plan is just as costly, and twice as risky — but it sounded persuasive.

3) The NDP. Had the Tories been the only one demagoguing the issue, pretending that a carbon tax would be added to consumer prices but the costs of complying with cap-and-trade would not, the Liberals might have been able to make their case. But with the NDP as the Conservatives’ wingmen, it was no contest.

4) Most important, they botched the specifics. They lost their nerve; they tried to make the plan do too much at one go; they listened to the old pros who told them to use the money to pay off traditional Liberal constituencies, rather than just cut taxes. In sum, it wasn’t a tax shift, or not enough of one.

First, it wasn’t ”revenue neutral,” except in the apparent Liberal definition of the term — as “we spent every dollar we took in.” Some $14-billion of the four-year, $40-billion revenue yield of the carbon tax would have been given back, not as tax cuts, but as tax credits — spending by another name. This gave just enough truth to the Tory charge that the plan was a revenue grab to make it stick.

Second, so far as they did cut taxes, they chose to cut from the bottom, rather than the top. Because they applied the tax cut at the fattest part of the base, they could only afford a one percentage point cut in tax rates — and none at all to the top bracket: so small as do little good economically, and none at all politically. Indeed, the tax cuts were forgotten almost as soon as they were announced.

Had the Liberals produced a real tax shift, one with deep, headline-grabbing cuts in income tax rates (by my calculations, the plan would have yielded enough revenues by the fourth year to cut the top rate of personal income tax to 20% or less), it would have been impossible for the Tories to paint it as just another tax grab — especially if the Liberals had sold the plan as a tax cut, financed by a carbon levy, rather than the other way around.

As it was, the plan was undermined by a deep, and arguably fatal, internal contradiction. On the one hand, the Liberals were asking us to save the world, or rather to set a good example to other nations in that regard, since Canada’s emissions, at 2% of the global total, are too small to make much difference on their own. That’s a pretty abstract, altruistic idea. It asks us to make choices based not on immediate calculations of self-interest, but on a vision of Canada’s role in the world.

But then, on the other side of the ledger, the Liberals invited us to be completely self-interested: you can save the world, and it won’t cost you a dime! Here, use our handy calculator to see how much your family will save! This played into the Tories’ hands. If the only basis on which voters were to assess the plan was whether they personally profited from it, the Tories could point to all the tangible, real-world things that would cost more immediately, while the Grits could only talk about the savings that eventually, maybe, might materialize on their income tax form. 

If the carbon tax was about a bold, world-changing vision of Canada, it should have been matched by an equally visionary approach on the tax cut side. It should have asked voters to think, not about whether my family gains or loses a few dollars in the short run, but about transforming the Canadian economy — from today’s high-tax, low-investment plodder into a low-tax, high-investment, high-productivity “tiger,” like Ireland.

I know, I know: you can’t sell “tax cuts for the rich.” But the Liberal plan was a tax cut for the rich: the rich would have gained just as surely as the poor and middle class from those cuts in the bottom rates. But, unlike cuts in top marginal rates, it did not give them any incentives to alter their behaviour. As written, the plan cut taxes on the income they had already earned, rather than on the next dollar earned — on the income earned “at the margin,” on new investments in particular.

I don’t think it’s true that every voter measures every issue according to whether it benefits them personally. A Green Shift that promised to make the whole country richer — not in an immediate cash sense, but as an investment in higher productivity — might well have proved popular, and might yet in time.




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The Green Shift that might have been

  1. but it sounded persuasive.

    Yeah, but the rest of us thought people like you would know better and see through the huckterism.

    Oh, well. Live and learn.

  2. Two comments:

    (1) It is a myth that Canada’s GHG’s are insignificant. If the top 15 countries outside of the US and China took that view (we are around #5 of this group) then we would be ignoring about 25% of GHGs. So to the extent we can influence other folks in this group, it is HIGHLY relevant. Source is Wikipedia.

    (2) There is good reason to shift more of the cuts to higher-income folks – they would cover more of the green shift tax burden. Contrary to popular opinion – more affluent folks -people with bigger/multiple houses – would have been hit harder by the Green Shift than folks with smaller homes.

  3. PS Andrew….a very well-thought argument. I have had enough people saying that because it didn’t happen in this election, the concept of a carbon tax will never fly and is DOA.

  4. What if the plan had used harper-conservative style cuts of millions of extremely targetted but miniscule tax credits?

  5. It’s very important to remember that the Green Shift would impose far more costs than either of the proposed cap and trade systems. This is something you are consistently garbling. $40*(all fuel) is bigger than $65*(some emissions). This kind of changes things from “demagoguery” to “accurately describing the relative impacts”.

    And Dion was in trouble because his plan was less certain about its effects on reducing emissions. If carbon was under-priced, the Green Shift would not have the reductions predicted. After fifteen years of failure on Kyoto, Canadians may have been sceptical about whether the Liberals would deliver on these reductions…

    It also mattered that increased costs would hit the prairie provinces (through the tar sands and through electricity costs) while the income tax cuts would be shared across regions. Essentially, there was a wealth transfer from the prairies to Ontario and Quebec (the ‘hydro’ provinces).

    Finally, the Green Shift exempted the one product that makes economists fond of carbon taxes – gas for cars.

    So, Dion was forced to defend his policy with a series of misrepresentations (revenue neutral, preferred by economists, strong on environment) while it was attacked for real flaws (increased costs, transfers between provinces, uncertain effects). Not that Turning the Corner is any great shakes as a policy, but it went out of its way to avoid a lot of these mistakes…The Tories produced a policy that seemed more appropriate for Canada.

    And your argument that the Green Shift could promote productivity needs more elaboration – how is diverting spending into buying different fuels supposed to boost productivity? I guess you’re saying that cutting corporate tax rates is key to promoting productivity, but the evidence of this is really not that strong. The investment and competition reforms promised by the Tories are probably more important…

  6. I don’t know if Canadians will ever warm to a carbon tax in the future, we’ll see, but I am guessing we won’t because global warming isn’t happening and few of us will be keen to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

    About Green Shift, it was the equivalent of three card monte. Reduce taxes, reduce carbon, reduce poverty all by tinkering with tax code. Why did Dion stop there, a little more tinkering and maybe we could have also had world peace!

    I never took Green Shift all that seriously because no numbers were presented on how well the carbon tax would work or how much carbon reduction would take place. It seemed to me that if carbon taxes were going to be transfered to fund other programs, mainly child poverty reduction, than there was an inbuilt feature that discouraged reductions. More carbon = more money for child poverty, less carbon = more starving kids.

  7. And what if Superman was on the side of the Axis in WW2 instead of America?

  8. And if the idea is to create more investment by cutting income tax at the top levels, the idea is foolish and inefficient. if you want people to invest, give the tax benefit for investment at any income level (either on the initial investment or its results), don’t just reduce the money you collect and hope it will be invested.

  9. Well, since Mr. Coyne was candid about “instant widsom,” I’m not going to take issue with his impressionistic understanding of why something didn’t work. Hopefully, something a little empirical will show up soon.

    All’s I know is that The Globe and Mail didn’t plaster the cover of its Saturday edition with the slick Green Shift logo, whereas The Toronto Sun offered a full-frontal yellow graphic with the shrugging Dion that weekend.

    And I suspect most Canadians, when asked about either policy can’t tell you the first thing about them.

    Kind of like the GST…

  10. Coyne is correct…it was a mongrel of a policy. And quite frankly stupid politics.

    Good ideas (or not so good in this case) that are proposed by parties that never win either get stolen or left by the side of the road. Thats why the politics of it matters. The old PC’s fought an election to defend their impementation of GST not proposing it, and if it was proposed it was so soft soaped and buried under a refoorm and improve the manufacturers sales tax to improve productvity.

    Point being, it was sold wrong and quite frankly it was designed wrong. The Green Party had the better carbon tax proposal.

    Here is the big differenc though…the GST was defended as eliminating a hidden tax, one you paid anyway, and one that was killing jobs in canada because it made manufacturers less competitive and people could poit to VAT rates in Europe. So not really a tax but a more effecient replacement.

    This one….totally new without the productivity sell. In marketing terms you are asking people to buy into a couple of preconditions before you get to the solution, the tax. Hard to sell, never ever do it during an election. Win government and then implement and then defend in the next election.

    The poor political judgement alone was enough to disqualify Dion from being Prime Minister.

  11. I am guessing we won’t because global warming isn’t happening and few of us will be keen to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

    Good Lord. No wonder you’re into homoeopathy.

  12. So, uh, what’s wrong with tax credits? And why don’t they count towards “revenue neutrality?”

    I realize Coyne is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, but is he really trying to argue that low-income Canadians should be forced to suffer disproportionately from the effects of consumption taxes?

    (What’s next? That GST thing?)

  13. Coyne is correct…..

    The correct formula is “Coyne…gets it.

    You guys are going off-script.

  14. By the by, according to pretty bog-standard macroeconomics, spending tends to stimulate the economy more than tax cuts do.

    A certain percentage of any tax cut is going to be squirrelled away and have no significant growth effect, whereas spending (if done wisely) really does help push things along. Not only do you get the positive effects from whatever it is the government is using that money to buy–and in the case of things like infrastructure that can be significant, but even social security actually helps the economy in a variety of ways–but the wages and profits it pays for get plowed right back into the economy too.

    The only people who really think that tax cuts are inherently superior are those who believe that nothing government does can possibly be useful. And in an age where banks are getting nationalized and Keynesians are winning Nobel Prizes, why pay attention to those Reaganaut throwbacks?

  15. I just went to check the spending numbers in the Green Shift and it actually seems to have disappeared from the internets. I assume this was on Warren Kinsella’s advice…

  16. (And speaking of disingenuous nonsense, the “tax cuts were forgotten” because Harper and his various friends in the media persisted in ignoring the tax cuts involved.

    While it is, perhaps, possible to argue that they would have been more inclined to champion a de-facto move towards a flatter tax system that rewards the wealthy and punishes the destitute, I think that says more about them than it does about the policy.)

  17. Coyne, there are a few holes in your reasoning.

    A carbon tax is regressive. Lowering the top income tax rate is regressive. Ergo, both changes are designed to stiff the people working part-time at Tim Hortons earning $12,000 per year.

    Secondly, lowering the top marginal rate changes incentives to work for only a small percentage of the population, those whose incomes fall in that range or close enough for jazz. What percentage of Canadians is that? A few percent?

    This is tantamount to a wealth transfer from low income and middle class taxpayers to the top few percent of income earners. In a word, political death.

    You raise the case of Ireland. If you want Canada to replicate Ireland, you should be proposing lowering corporate tax rates. Lowering that tax is what will see increased investment in Canada, and thereby higher productivity.

  18. All carbon pricing, whether a carbon tax or cap and trade, is regressive. Unless you want more people living in poverty, the tax cuts and credits do have to be shifted toward lower income. Even the Republicans, not exactly a socialists, recognize this and the US Congressional Budget Office has studied just how regressive a cap and trade or carbon tax is.

    Now the Green Shift did probably shift too much to low income because Dion wanted to address poverty as well. Sadly, addressing poverty is not a vote-getter, and I notice Pembina and Sierra and other environmental groups who recognize the regressive nature of carbon pricing and who say plans must account for this, gave the NDP a free ride on their cap and trade which would have increased poverty rates. So, yes, the Liberals, sadly, should probably ditch the poor too, but it still should at least not create more poverty. If the NDP and the environmental groups don’t care about this, the Liberals are not going to get any mileage by caring. So, the Liberals should correct for the regressiveness, but probably not do anything beyond this.

  19. Wow, it is now disingenuous nonsense to downplay any potential positives of your opponent while focussing on the negatives?

    Forgive me, but I will classify as disingenuous nonsense the sense of obligation to be a sales and marketing rep for one’s political opponent.

  20. madeyoulook, purposely trying to mislead Canadians is simply the Conservative way under Harper. The Liberals need to assume that Harper will lie to Canadians about whatever platform they put forward, and be prepared for this.

  21. “$40*(all fuel) is bigger than $65*(some emissions).”

    Half the emmissions but on a sliding scale because outputs will be efficiency-based. Relative to their stated targets and using government projections for credit costs anything more than 2.45% growth will yield a higher levy under Turning the Corner.

  22. Yes, and if Harper does actually implement Turning the Corner, because cap and trade is noticeably less efficient than a carbon tax (extremely well documented by the US Congressional Budget Office) it will cost all of us a lot more.

  23. OK, catherine, let’s take your twisted logic, obligating a politician to fairly assess an opponent’s policy, be it a bill, or a campaign platform, whatever. Take, oh for example, any of the last handful of Budgets presented to Parliament.

    Before the Minister of Finance has finished mister-speakering, all party leaders are out in the foyer: “Nothing for lesbian farmers! Nothing for Native amputee veterans! Nothing for autistic adults! Nothing for foreign strippers! That evil man chose to apply the surplus against the debt while real Canadian families struggle to stay afloat! Shame!”

    Begrudgingly conceding the merits of your opponent might be wise in your fantasy world, but out here NO party engages in it. But sweet dreams tonight, dear catherine, secure in your misconception that “misleading Canadians” was invented by a single evil party, who I will presume will never enjoy the pleasure of your vote. La, la, la, la, …

  24. All the bureaucracy you can eat. That rule book is going to be whopper.

  25. madeyoulook, I’m not obligating anyone to anything. I am simply pointing out that Harper lied (i.e. created a false and misleading impression) about the Liberal platform and that they should assume that Harper will continue to lie about the Liberal platform in the next election. That’s all.

  26. I call bull again, catherine. Harper is under no obligation of Fairness Doctrine to highlight and lowlight an opponent. No other party is / did either. To single out one party or leader as a “Liar!” is extremely blinkered thinking. Show me any fair assessment (including positive elements) of ANY ONE party’s position by the other four parties. Zip.

    If the Liberals refused to define adequately for Canadians the merits of their own platform, that is neither Harper’s problem nor his fault.

  27. Harper lied about the Green Shift, about the Liberal plans for the child credit and the GST. Perhaps others, but those are the lies I recall. I’m simply responding to your claim that this should not be called disingenuous nonsense. Fine.

    I don’t recall Dion lying about Harper’s environmental plan, his tax plan or his credits. If you think he did, feel free to document them.

  28. What sane people call exposing negatives and avoiding discussion of positives, you call lying. What every politician does about any opponent, you call “Harper’s the only liar.”

    You list three Liberal “things” about which Harper allegedly lied, without actually saying what the lie(s) was(were). I call that being dangerously economical with the truth, bordering on libel.

    And, if you would kindly read, what I am calling “disingenuous nonsense” is Demosthenes’ calling out Harper for “ignoring” the Green Shift’s tax cuts, as if it’s his job to sing the praises of his opponent. I know that freedom of speech has become more and more iffy, but surely it hasn’t become that bad around here.

  29. Perhaps you are confused about what it means to lie? To purposely create a false or misleading impression is to lie. The Green Shift was a proposal to shift taxes from income to carbon. It involved income tax cuts and new taxes on carbon. That is what it is. It is not a tax on everything. It is not a trick meant to screw everyone and divide the country. Also, Dion was not going to raise the GST. Dion was not going to take away the child credit. These were simply lies.

    Harper spent a lot of time purposely misleading Canadians about Dion’s plans. In other words, Harper spent a lot of time lying. I don’t know what it is you don’t get about this.

    Did you believe Harper when he said he would not run a deficit?

    I’d advise you to stop trying to defend Harper against charges of lying. It’s a losing proposition. Remember Riddell and Harper saying there was no deal? The judge found otherwise and Harper was sued for libel. Let’s see whether it is Harper or Zytaruk is telling the truth about the tape.

  30. Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Nowhere pleasant, but somewhere. Deliver rhetoric catherine disagrees with, and you’re a liar. “Tax on everything” and “divide the country” are debating points, madam, not lies.

    “Harper gets his neo-con marching orders from the GWB White House” is what then, exactly, if we apply your definition of a lie, catherine? It’s the god’s honest truth, because you happen to feel comfortable with the bizarre assertion? Or it’s the proven truth, based on “well, just look at him and what he’s done!” ??

    “The Tory’s neo-con hidden agenda controlled by –spit — Christians — spit — will put women’s right to choose in danger” (2006). What will you call this?

    “Dion and May are obviously in cahoots!” (Harper & Layton, 2008). Go ahead and enlighten us all with a name tag on this one, too, please.

    “When I’m Prime Minister…” (Layton, 2008)

    “Dumb and damaging Tory tax: Scrap da tax!” (Chretien)

    Etc. Etc.

    If your definition of a lie is “saying something nasty about my guy who is just too nice and honest to fight back in an election campaign,” well, you’re in for a lifetime of electoral anguish, my dear.

  31. Is that the actual wording on the Bush line? Harper obviously has followed Bush’s lead on Iraq, Guantanamo, and other matters. In slightly different times, Harper himself would have said so openly. What was the actual statement made?

    What distinquishes Harper is he says the lies himself (rather than just putting them in ads, or having some MP say them), and he made very specific lies about Dion’s platform. Why that is relevant is because Dion was trying to fight an election on a platform and on ideas and policy. By directly and repeatedly lying about Dion’s policy, Harper undercut that whole strategy, and ensured this would not be an election about policy or vision, no matter how hard Dion tried.

    I see Angus Reid now claims to have documented the number of people who stayed home because of Harper’s ads (11%) and interestingly, even though people said the ads were lies, unethical, unCanadian and disgusting, 10% switched their votes from Liberal to Conservative because of the ads!

  32. You know there is all this talk about a carbon tax. If only there was some jurisdiction in Canada that was experimenting with a carbon tax, then we could see how it works politcally and functionally.

    If Gordon Campbell backs off the carbon tax as it is due to be implemented, we know that his polling has told him he will lose the spring election if he sticks with it. And if he dumps it, then I think that is the last we see of a carbon tax until the US has one.

  33. Catherine. I won’t respond to most of your silly points about lying, but I feel obliged to comment on the false accusation you make about Harper lying in the Riddell case. I happen to know a lot about that casew and I don’t think you could ever show that the PM lied. Any deal that was made was not between the PM and Mr Riddell directly. Moreover, the focus of the suit was not related to any instance of libel by the PM.

  34. Quebec implemented their carbon tax in October 2007. In the US, Boulder has a limited carbon tax.

    The US government has proposed adding features to a cap and trade to try to mimic a carbon tax. This is because a cap and trade is expected to be easier to sell (it is more complex — the simplicity of a carbon tax works against selling it as the costs are transparent). However, a cap and trade is much less efficient, so it ultimately costs consumers (and the overall economy) even more. The US has designed ways to make a cap and trade more like a carbon tax, which increases the efficiency. I suspect they will go that route. It costs a bit more than a carbon tax because of the extra regulations and the possible gaming, but it replaces fixed caps with flexible caps which almost set a fixed cost – just like a carbon tax would. It’s a pretty good system.

  35. Two cents, Riddell said they had an agreement for him to step aside as a candidate.

    “There is no agreement and he hasn’t been paid anything,” Harper told reporters in December 2005.

    Justice Denis Power of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that there was an agreement and it was valid and binding.

    Riddell then sued Harper for libel. Harper invoked Parliamentary privilege to avoid testifying and then quietly settled out of court. Confidentiality terms of the agreement were so strictly managed by the Conservatives it took three days for the end of the 18 month battle to reach the news.

    Seems obvious which one of Riddell and Harper was lying and which one was telling the truth. Now let’s see about Zytaruk and Harper. Cadman’s daughter has asked Harper to apologize to Zytaruk for saying his tape was doctored and Dona Cadman has said she is proud of her daughter for doing so. No word yet from Harper.

  36. So is someone giving odds that a contender for the Liberal leadership is going to run on a platform of a carbon levy that funds tax cuts for the richest Canadians?

    I dunna think so.

  37. Catherine, save your finger strength, Bozo and MadAtLife can’t hear, their ears are too plugged with fecal matter for having their heads firmly wedged between their high-knees during the past 33 months.
    If there was a grain of truth in what they believed, it’s kind of dispelled by the fact that Harper refused to run on his cap’n trade plan, just throw everything at the other guy’s. He wasn’t interested in running on a plan at all until he was caught out, which resulted in the pamphlet stuffed with his holiday photos. Next thing they’ll be denouncing the opposition for demanding answers on harper’s nuclear power ambitions — which they’ll say was written in the snow with radioactive urine.
    Riddell – good catch. The ability to buy the silence of those who can beat you in court obviously was adapted for their new candidates. Silence is golden-ish. Integrity, not so needed on that side of the house.

  38. Demosthenes “So, uh, what’s wrong with tax credits? And why don’t they count towards “revenue neutrality?””

    Well, let’s use my example. I have a 20 year old daughter in her first apartment, heat and hot water included, as virtually all urban apartments are. She therefor incurs virtually no direct carbon tax, but as a low income person, will significantly benefit from the “green shift.” This shift merely takes money from my pocket and shifts it to hers, something which I don’t need the government to make happen. It will also shift money from her landlord to her, as they are the ones paying the carbon tax for her heat and hot water. This is just another redistribution scheme, but the mark was missed, because most 20 year old net beneficiaries, don’t vote, 40 year old carbon tax payors do.

  39. Peter:

    If you owned the apartment building, would you have an incentive to reduce costs and avoid a carbon tax?

    That’s the whole point, is it not? This is really about incentives versus sanctions, no?

    I simply do not buy half thought out arguments.

  40. Why won’t the landlords simply pass on the cost by raising the rent which your daughter can then pay from her tax cuts/credits? How many landlords simply swallow rising costs rather than having the rent reflect those costs?

    Landlords could use the Green Shift retrofit program, combined with some rent increase, to pay for upgrades which would reduce the consumption. That would benefit them the most in the long term.

  41. Taxing fuels for their carbon would likely centralize fossil fuel consumption to energy companies. (Much of our electric is still fossil fuel produced). This would create very little in overall emissions and consumption while driving up demand and prices for electricity. Consumers would have fewer market alternatives simply burden the load. (If they had money to for energy rebate programs they would have gone and done it already.) Find vast and cheap enviro electricity and carbon tax away!

  42. Coyne is delusional. Using the carbon tax to cut taxes for rich people would have put the NDP at 30%

  43. “If the carbon tax was about a bold, world-changing vision of Canada, it should have been matched by an equally visionary approach on the tax cut side. It should have asked voters to think, not about whether my family gains or loses a few dollars in the short run, but about transforming the Canadian economy — from today’s high-tax, low-investment plodder into a low-tax, high-investment, high-productivity “tiger,” like Ireland.”

    Andrew, every time you lay out pros and cons on this issue, you seem to always lose sight of the fact that the primary purpose of the Green Shift was behavioral change in terms of getting Canadians to rethink their approach to pollution. Cutting income taxes was not the primary intent but rather just a means to get reticent Canadians to accept the policy.

    It is my understanding that other jurisdictions where the carbon tax was applied, an income tax cut didn’t even come with it. It appears as though these jurisdictions had citizens who understood the need to address pollution and they didn’t need to be bribed with a tax cut.

    Notwithstanding your good points on the failings of the tax cutting components of the Green Shift, that’s just not the point, Andrew.

    So what if the policy was not perfectly neutral? The point here is that we can no longer afford to go on polluting for free. A price tag must be attached. If the Libs also offer us a tax cut along with it, all the better.

    Complaining that the cut wasn’t big enough is just totally missing the point.

  44. Coyne’s not the only one to be constantly raving about Ireland when our Tax-to-GDP ratio is on par with it. white noise

  45. Geiseric, all taxes are not created equal. Canada probably has a worse tax regime, even if the total revenue generated is the same as a proportion of GDP.

  46. “Geiseric, all taxes are not created equal.”

    at the macroeconomic level they are. that’s what makes Layton’s “stick it to the man” policies so absurd.

  47. Boudica, the countries which implemented a carbon tax years ago also had very hefty social nets and low poverty rates. Carbon taxes and cap and trade are both regressive, and since Canada’s poverty rate is already not that low, one needs to correct for the regressive nature. The US plans to do this as well, with their cap and trade. So, one does need some tax cuts/credits in the low-income brackets.

  48. BTW, the fact that the NDP did not plan to correct for the regressive nature of their own cap and trade shows just how hypocritical they have become under Layton – in case working with Harper to keep May out of the debates and attacking carbon taxes weren’t enough to convince you of that.

  49. “Carbon taxes and cap and trade are both regressive, and since Canada’s poverty rate is already not that low, one needs to correct for the regressive nature.”

    Catherine, I’m not suggesting that the tax cut isn’t necessary. I’m simply reminding Andrew that cutting income tax is not the primary purpose of the Green Shift.

    The way he lays it out, the Green Shift is supposed to be a vehicle for reducing income tax and that this proposal wasn’t agressive enough in doing so.

  50. boudica, we are in agreement on that.

    It was probably a political mistake to shift so much of the money to those with little or no income. When even the NDP throws the poor under the bus, and spins some soundbites around it, Liberals cannot win by making poverty an issue. The Green Shift did more than simply compensate for the regressiveness, while the NDP simply ignored the regressiveness.

    However, tax cuts in the highest income bracket would have been a political nonstarter. Not enough people up there. More money could have been put into green infrastructure.

  51. Catherine – I don’t believe you’re seriously arguing that the Liberals become more redistributionist than the New Democrats. It seems more likely you’re lying (i.e. ignoring all the redistribution, social spending and other equity enhancing measures in the NDP platform).

  52. “I don’t believe you’re seriously arguing that the Liberals become more redistributionist than the New Democrats.”

    Style, not the Liberals. Dion.

  53. No Style, look into the NDP platform yourself. There were no tax cuts or credits associated with the cap and trade and their financial assistance to low-income in other parts of their platform was only about $3B. This is significantly less than the Green Shift, despite the fact that their fixed cap and trade is the least efficient means of carbon pricing (fixed caps means greatest price uncertainty and costs associated with that), which means it is even more regressive. I think Layton wanted to stick to his simple message that cap and trade wouldn’t cost people anything, which is why he ignored the regressiveness.

    boudica, is right, this was Dion. Dion wanted to make fighting poverty, particularly child poverty, an issue.

    It is frustrating that people never took the time to study the platforms. If you voted NDP just assuming they were taking care of people with less income, you were mistaken. They never costed their cap and trade, but there are lots of models available which give you estimates. The $3B made sense in the ABSENCE of any cap and trade, but was grossly inadequate with the specific NDP fixed cap and trade proposal.

  54. For comparison, the Green Shift targeted over $4B to low-income and with the fixed price in a carbon tax, this is the most efficient system so the cost to everyone, including low-income, is less — even though the Green Shift is more comprehensive — than in the NDP fixed cap plan. Using models for fixed cap and trade systems, the NDP should have targeted at least $8B, probably more, to be comparable to the Green Shift in aiding low-income. The Bloc targeted almost $5B to low-income and I’m not sure if their caps were also fixed, or flexible (which reduces the overall cost).

  55. Catherine, the carbon tax would have been much more expensive than cap and trade. This goes back to my $40*everything is bigger than $65*somethings. So the Liberals had to do much more to offset the regressivity of their proposal. Dion did not make fighting poverty a priority, not any kind of poverty. He branded offsetting the regressivity of a bad policy as “poverty fighting”. I believe you have called this “lying” in other contexts. Under your rules, when you quote only the negative aspects of another party’s platform and exaggerate the positive aspects of another platform, that is lying. The New Democrat platform includes a commitment to introduce a Poverty Elimination Act to eliminate poverty in Canada by the year 2020. That’s pretty progressive.

  56. “Using models for fixed cap and trade systems, the NDP should have targeted at least $8B, probably more, to be comparable to the Green Shift in aiding low-income.”

    Where are you getting this number from?

  57. sigh

    “This goes back to my $40*everything is bigger than $65*somethings.”

    “Half the emmissions but on a sliding scale because outputs will be efficiency-based. Relative to their stated targets and using government projections for credit costs anything more than 2.45% growth will yield a higher levy under Turning the Corner.”

    cost being calculated as the difference between target and the 2006 baseline. graduted in the case of the Green Shift, scheduled in the case of Turning the Corner.

    btw, none of the current Turning the Corner documents explain how 20% of half the emmisions equates to 20% of all emission. its a scam.

  58. I am using the US Congressional Budget Office comparisons for a carbon tax to a fixed cap and trade and assuming the Liberals and NDP are aiming for roughly the same reduction in emissions.

    Green Shift X 35/40 (difference in prices) X 2/3 (because cap is less comprehensive) X 5 (factor in short-term cost for FIXED caps according to CBO) X 3/5 = approximately Green Shift X 2.

    The last factor of 3/5 is an estimate of the amount of the increased cost borne by industry and passed on to consumers. This would be the price uncertainty cost and market manipulation costs, and would exclude the cost of extra regulations and other government costs associated with cap and trade. This is explained in various CBO reports and references therein.

    Of course, the thing about cap and trade is that the guts of the system is contained in the caps and this was not spelled out by the NDP, although their targets are (and, in principle, this determines caps). I assume they would set caps to meet their targets in the above calculation. If they didn’t, they could get into the situation of the EU where the carbon market plummets, in which case, it costs consumers a lot less (although more than you would guess, because uncertainty in price costs industry money and they will get you to pay for that uncertainty).

    I think the only way to make price comparisons with cap and trade systems is to assume they will be implemented so as to meet the targets that they parties say they will set.

  59. Sorry, the above calculation should not contain the 35/40 factor, because the calculation is under the assumption of the same targets. The cost to consumers is essentially the same even if the permits are given out for free because the value of the permits a company holds is set by the resulting market, not by the initial auction. This doesn’t change the rough estimate.

  60. As a person who wants to be a role model and walk the talk, I parked my car last year and bought an electric bike and use public transit.
    The public transit is inconvenient and we know the truth about why that is so.
    Cry your hearts out at the pumps folks, because I am going to demand my government(s) increase their coffers through making drivers of nonservice vehichles pay for the infrastructure needed to support their habits.

  61. Thanks catherine, I’ll take a look at the CBO models, but my impression is cap and trade should be more efficient than the Green Shift carbon tax.

    This is a bit confused: “The cost to consumers is essentially the same even if the permits are given out for free because the value of the permits a company holds is set by the resulting market, not by the initial auction.”

    The costs come from the caps themselves and the costs of reducing emissions to meet them, with the permit prices reflecting these costs. Those costs are the same as the costs under a carbon tax. But with trading, any firm who can reduce below their cap for less than the industry average cost would make deeper reductions and sell the resulting permits to other firms. So, you should get the same level of reduction at lower overall cost to the economy. Like I said, I’ll search out the CBO models. If you remember a specific paper you’re relying on, it would be useful to have its title.

  62. Style, the CBO has a dozen or so useful publications on this, all filed under the environment on their publication list. Their publications also give references for any factual statements they make. Here is one particularly relevant one, as it compares a carbon tax to a fixed cap and trade (the NDP model):

    http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/89xx/doc8934/02-12-Carbon.pdf

    The economics is quite different if you have flexible caps, and there are many ways of implementing that. The CBO publications discuss these too.

  63. Style, in the document I link to, this is one key part of the table comparing the tax to fixed caps:

    ———
    Research indicates that the net benefits of a tax could be roughly five times as high as the net benefits of an inflexible cap. Alternatively, a tax could achieve a long-term target at a fraction of the cost of an inflexible cap.
    ———

    That’s the factor of 5 in my equation. You then have to look into how these costs are distributed between industry and government to get the factor of 3/5 I put in (from some of the references given), but I believe that 3/5 underestimates the fraction for industry (and, consequently, for consumers).

    Harper is not proposing fixed caps, so this calculation would not apply to his plan. The criticism of his plan is that the intensity-based targets and resulting caps are still less efficient than a tax, while not compensating with any certainty in emission reductions. In other words, his plan is not expected to achieve much, but it will still cost more than it should have. His own government report (which he buried, but was obtained under FIA) advised him that a carbon tax would be more efficient and better for the economy than the estimates for Turning the Corner.

    While there are specific sectors which can benefit from cap and trade, overall (averaging over all sectors) a carbon tax is more efficient. This is why Dion said he would also work toward a cap and trade — this would benefit some specific sectors, but it takes time to design this correctly, so that they actually do see the benefits. Otherwise, market manipulation and regulation-overload can wipe out the benefits even to those specific sectors. I haven’t looked into the sector specific costs/benefits in any depth, but I recall that agriculture is one which can benefit from a well-designed cap and trade.

  64. “But with trading, any firm who can reduce below their cap for less than the industry average cost would make deeper reductions and sell the resulting permits to other firms.”

    That argument is specious since under a tax any firm reducing below targets realizes greater savings.

  65. I have more confidence in science than pundits.

    It is inevitable that Canada will adopt a carbon tax, and probably sooner rather than later. This is because global warming is the ultimate out-of-control externality (a fact that largely escapes most in economics, politics and the media). Our CO2 bathtub has been full for decades. Yet because CO2 pollution is “free” we keep opening the taps wider and wider, and more and more is fooding into the house. Because there’s a huge time lag before the damage shows up, every day that passes increases the probability that really bad things will catch up with us, and all those bills in our pocket will come due.

    Pay now, or pay much, much more later.

  66. MacLeans kind of reminds me of the Star, unable to accept simple truths.
    As a westerner, I rejected the Green Shift (as did everyone else around here). Dion wants to substantially increase my power and heating bills (we are coal fired and gas in SK) while those on hydro and nuclear will not be penalised. He further added “we need to change our ways”. But the irony is there is NO other alternative now or in the next few decades. So we in SK should just pay more than the rest because of where we live. Tough sell.
    Our premier rejected the idea and proposed that maybe SK should just keep the 3-4 billion and build a nuclear power plant. This idea was rejected by Dion who said “its a national program”. Meaning that welfare, day care and other funded programs get one half while tax cuts for the poor get the other half.
    Why don’t the Liberals come up with a green plan that has ALL the money going into tax cuts for ALL or invest it in green technology. Not some social agenda.

  67. Arnett Sheppard speaks truth.
    The Liberal ‘TEAM” must have been hanging out in the old boys bar while Dion was left on his own to try to explain it.
    BCers were confused.
    Prairie people seem to be particularly reactionary to lifestyle threats and having grown up in rural Saskatchewan I know about “pea souper” mentality.

  68. Ontario Power is the largest single emitter, so making this into an east-west thing is silly. Yes, some forms of fuel would rise more than others because some are worse for the environment than others. Everyone would get tax cuts sufficient to cover their increased heating costs if they are not mindful of conservation. There are plenty of things one can do to conserve if your usage is above average, and many of these don’t even cost much.

    The attitude that “I can’t do anything” is part of the problem. A $10 carbon tax would likely increase your heating bill by less than $200/yr and if you are on the low-income side, you would get at least this or more returned. Meanwhile, if you and your province and the supporting industries can’t figure out anything to do in a four year time span as the tax increases, then you really are the problem. We need to save the planet from people who think all is fine the way it is and they don’t need to do anything.

  69. Catherine, do you know that Canada only contributes 2.3% to total GHG?
    So, in 4 years I am paying an additional $1400 a year to heat my home and an additional $1200 for electricity while China puts online two or three NEW coal fired plants a WEEK I am supposed to think “wow, I hope the Chinese are watching my green ways!”
    China’s emission growth (not the total) for 2007 was larger than Canada’s total GHG contribution for the entire year.
    If the world wants to stop GHG then the world will have to do it together. A nutty Liberal plan cannot possibly do anything but divide the country.
    Funny thing is the globe has actually been cooling for the last 8 years……..

  70. Ontario Power is a large emitter because it provides power for a large number of Canadians. But the percent of Ontario electricity that comes from hydro is much larger than for other provinces. In Quebec, about 100% comes from hydro. Electricity users in both those provinces will see their rates rise much less than in the prairies where coal etc. produce a larger share of electricity. It does seem Ontario and Quebec would get a disproportionate advantage under the Green Shift.

  71. Darryl, won’t you ultimately end up paying anyways in a cap and trade system? The coal and gas people will pass their tariffs down to you (and me).

    The bottom line is that emission pricing is coming, polluters are going to pay. Some schemes are more effective and efficient than others. At the most basic level, Turning the Corner is poor in that it deals with intensity based targets and softer targets. I am proud to say that I would prefer an imperfect carbon tax to an imperfect Turning the Corner, and I took this belief with me when I voted.

  72. Catehrine, I think the CBO is using a definition of “efficient” that many of us wouldn’t expect. They are talking about economic efficiency – where a tax is most efficient because it best balances the costs and benefits of the reductions. Basically, they say a tax is efficient because it can perfectly price the externalities. This doesn’t mean that a tax reduces emissions by a certain amount at less overall cost to the economy.

    They then go on to explain how a trading scheme could improve its efficiency: having a price ceiling and allowing companies to bank permits for future use. Turning the Corner has both of these features: the technology fund sets a ceiling of $65, and firms are allowed to bank credits they generate through verified reductions. The Green Shift is only more efficient under this definition if the benefit of reducing a tonne of carbon is $40. I’m not sure the Liberals ever made that claim – my impression was they argued the $40 was necessary to reach a certain reduction target. That would not be considered efficient by the CBO.

    Finally, you’ll note that the CBO concludes that a carbon tax that is set too low will not achieve its emission targets (but a cap always will). I’d add that a tax that is set too high will be politically indefensible. That means, in the real world, the tax is more likely to be too low than too high. Which means the tax is likely to reduce emissions less than a cap and trade system.

    I’ll read through more carefully later, but the CBO recommends a tax over cap and trade for reasons that don’t seem to apply for the comparison between the Green Shift and Turning the Corner. These reasons are also pretty academic – they don’t mean taxes are cheaper for the economy than caps. I haven’t found the CBO arguing differently in the document you suggested, but I’ve only read through it quickly.

  73. Harper just discussed trade with the EU and as part of that meeting issued a statement committing Canada to pricing carbon. Canada is in the process of establishing regulations and reporting procedures.

    As Smitty says, this is coming no matter what. Do you want to do it in a way that will be most efficient and will achieve something or do you want to do it in a way that costs you money with no tax relief, is inefficient, and will likely get little results? Those are the two proposals we had to chose from on Oct 14. We’re going with costs with no relief and little results.

    I hope those of you who are so concerned about costs and not having alternatives, read Turning the Corner and the related government documents, even though Harper tried to hide them during the election. I did.

  74. Uh. Of course Ontario and Quebec “would get a disproportionate advantage under the Green Shift.” They have a disproportionate amount of non-emitting power sources. That’s kind of the point, isn’t it?

    This disproportion would then encourage the development of non-emitting sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal out in the praries.

    Hell, geothermal is a natural in the prairies because if there’s one thing we know how to do well out here, it’s how to drill.

  75. Thwim, their non-emitting power sources are waterfalls. I doubt the Green Shift will encourage the development of waterfalls on the prairies. And hydro is a much cheaper way to produce electricity, than the alternative sources you list. So Ontario and Quebec get rewarded with income tax cuts for choosing to use their waterfalls to produce cheap electricity, while people in other provinces will pay even more for their already expensive electricity.

  76. Style, the key phrase here is “net benefits” which I (not CBO) simply translated into efficient, but you are correct, they also talk about economic efficiencies.

    The CBO clearly states that a carbon tax can achieve the same emission targets at a fraction (roughly 1/5) of the cost of a fixed cap and trade, and that is the point I wanted to make. The price fluctuations and uncertainties (risk) translate into real money. There are other costs including the extra regulations and market manipulations. These all add to the cost of fixed caps, some to cap and trade in general. Note, Harper’s government documents made the same point, where from these you can compare the change in GDP due to a carbon tax and due to Turning the Corner. These documents found that the carbon tax costs less in the short term (as fraction of GDP) and gives greater economic growth in the long term. The differences were not huge (like the CBO’s fixed cap comparisons) because the caps are flexible, but a carbon tax is still cheaper. The Green Party had one of these documents on its website and the other was on a government site.

    As I pointed out, the comparison is most striking for hard, fixed caps (NDP model) not for turning the corner, which includes some of the flexibility recommended by the CBO. Once you move away from fixed, hard caps though, there is no longer certainty in the reductions. That is the same in a carbon tax and in flexible cap and trades. They trade off against each other. However, any cap and trade and carbon tax is updated regularly to realign with the long-term targets, so this is not a problem. It is not what one achieves in one year that is important, but the reduction over several or even many years.

  77. Catherine, cap and trade also prices carbon. It will be less expensive than the Green Shift, but more accurate in its reduction forecasts. The New Democrats and the Tories are cutting taxes overall, rather than shifting taxes as Dion proposed. The New Democrats would also eliminate poverty by 2020, if you’re concerned about equity.

  78. Re: Mr. Coyne’s post, it strikes me that the fatal flaw in the “revenue neutral” Green Shift was not the convoluted non-neutrality – i.e. treating the carbon tax as revenue with some income taxes thrown in – but rather the fact that there is no natural correspondence between the two taxes (carbon & income).

    If I had been dreaming up the Green Shift, I’d have pledged to spend every penny of the carbon tax on mass transit, which we desperately need and currently can’t pay for. (In doing so I’d have avoided that weird word “infrastructure,” btw, which perhaps 1 in 3 Canadians understands.)

    Meanwhile, cutting income taxes could be pursued or disdained on its merits; ditto the corporate tax cut. But the income-carbon balancing act balanced apples and oranges, asking people to think of the issue simultaneously as a collective effort (carbon tax) and as personally beneficial (income tax cuts). Too much cognitive dissonance there.

  79. Net benefits means the tax can equal the benefit of reductions. I still don’t see this 1/5 number, nor do I see anything in the document that suggests this. Is the secret government report you’re referring to the one that says on page iii that the $50 charge could be either a tax or the price of permits under cap and trade?

  80. After all is aid and done the Green Shift never had an actual figure in reduction of emissions.
    Furthermore, what would the Liberals have done if the Green Shift actually reduced emissions to the point of a reduction?
    They would have less and less money each year to spend on their social programs.
    I agree with others here. If you are going to tax carbon then let all revenue go to further reduction.
    Otherwise its a wealth transfer from some provinces to others suporting more social programs.
    Dion said it himself that it would take SK 10 years to recover economically from the Green Shift.
    Now thats a vote seller!

  81. Style, as I mentioned above, the NDP platform only had $3B/yr in total funding for low-income, compared to $4B/yr in the Green Shift, and the NDP FIXED cap and trade is the most expensive of all — so, no, the NDP wouldn’t be eliminating poverty by 2020. They wouldn’t even be holding it steady. The NDP platform and words under Jack Layton often don’t match up — Layton is very slippery and willing to say whatever is politically expedient.

    Darryl, just like cap and trade can’t tell you a fixed price, carbon tax can’t tell you fixed reductions. You can use models to estimate these. Cap and trade has an initial auction price (which is what people are quoting above) but this is not likely to be the actual price. When the cost to industry is the same, the reductions are the same. However, this is not as simple as matching up the price (say $40/ton in either carbon tax or cap and trade) because price fluctuations/uncertainty cost money and market manipulations take money out of the system. Furthermore, there are costs to government which vary between implementing/regulating the two systems.

    Style, re CBO: it is explictly mentioned in a couple places. Here is one, below Table 1:
    ____
    Specifically, available research suggests that in the near term, the net benefits (benefits minus costs) of a tax could be roughly five times greater than the net benefits of an inflexible cap.2 Put another way, a given long-term emission-reduction target could be met by a tax at a fraction of the cost of an inflexible cap-and-trade program.

    This large difference can be reduced substantially by flexible caps with ceilings, floors, safety valves, circuit breakers, borrowing, banking, but price fluctuations cannot be completely eliminated without simply going over to a fixed tax. All these extras make the system more complex and more costly to regulate. Other costs, like market manipulation are also difficult to eliminate completely.

  82. Jack Mitchell, if you did that you would dramatically increase the number of Canadians living in poverty. Carbon pricing costs people (whether it is tax or cap and trade) and it costs those with the least income the greatest fraction of their income. Even the US Republicans (not exactly socialist bleeding hearts) acknowledge that one needs to give tax credits and/or cuts to low-to-middle-income families if one implements either a carbon tax or cap and trade.

    It does make sense to invest in transit and green infrastructure. The CBO also studied this. One thing to be careful about is not investing billions in current technology, when near-term-future technology would be so much cheaper and better. For that reason, the CBO and other experts recommend the money mostly going back in tax cuts/credits and in incentives which don’t try to guess technological winners/losers.

  83. Catherine, whomever you are, you are awesome. I have just read this entire AC post & more importantly, the consequent thread, and your patient tutoring of the commenters, up until your 8.58pm comment. Frankly, your multiple explanations are the best comments I have ever read on a blog, given the somewhat difficult subject matter, and the clearest explanation of the technical aspects I have come across in such a hurly-burly forum.

    I would only like to note, as someone who vigourously campaigned for Dion & the Liberals (and only the former could have led me to the latter), that at the door, the policy was popular if one took five minutes to explain it and give the links. The problem, as a campaigner, is 5 minutes is about 4min & 30sec longer than you want to spend at a door (and even 30sec is about the max you want to spend). Generally, you want to identify your vote and maybe spend a little bit extra time pushing Green, NDP & undecideds over. This time, that was easier with Greens, harder with the rest, including soft Liberals. I loved our programme and admired our leader, so I was happy to put the effort in and I won every poll I worked, most of them toss-up polls (if I say so myself). But obviously, like the workers of all parties but the Greens, most Liberal campaigners are not an issues-focussed bunch, except for one or two easily digestible symbolic issues (Cons: low taxes& small gov’t, NDP: fight for the little guy, Bloc: fight for QC, Greens: fight for environment). And that discomfort with the mechanics of a relatively simple policy, along with the time “lost” explaining it, even to regular Liberal voters, was killer. We now know that 100 000s of Liberal voters stayed home and could have made the difference. And Green voters often refused to vote Liberal even when their votes would have beaten the Cons in 20+ ridings and elected the greenest PM possible (emphasis on “possible”, given politics). And NDP voters, well, as someone born and bred in a family that’s been left-wing for generations, and who helped build the CCF & NDP – words do not suffice do describe my frustration with their knavishness. Layton & the gang are indeed hideous demagogues working against the objective interests of the very people they claim to champion, but still, what can you say about the voters themselves? Think of the 3000+ in Saanich-Gulf Islands who voted for Julian West and again allowed Gary Lunn to come up the middle and nip Briony Penn at the post.

    I am one of those ridiculous few who actually read platforms and this was my favourite platform of all time – did anyone notice the elegant financial trick to get high-speed rail built in the obvious corridor through the Infrastructure Bank? (reaked of the Bay Street savvy of McCallum & Brison). And the Liberals were actually running a Canadian hero for PM. But for a variety of reasons that everyone knows, it didn’t work.

    I will conclude that you are 100% right to focus on the Layton NDP’s dishonour. That a supposedly left-wing party would oppose the Green Shift, contrary to every respectable left-wing economist & government in the world, and in so doing, not just give political cover to the Cons but actually pile-on the attacks…it makes me want to upchuck. It also goes to show just how useless the “left” is, as any honest principled left-winger knows. All talk beforehand, but where were the great demonstrations in favour of Dion? The loud unequivocal endorsements? When they had the chance to defeat a neo-con Kyoto denying gov’t and elect as enlightened a PM as Canada has had, they couldn’t bring themselves to offend their friends in the NDP or Greens, or to put their funding at risk, so they quietly mouthed useless “ABC” agendas. Was the “left” to have any influence it would have had to come out strongly & unmistakably for Dion. But all the NGOs etc., didn’t. And so we have Harper. And the Libs will now turn to the centre-right. And the mythology will grow: carbon-tax/environment is an election loser. And since only one of two catch-all parties can take power in our system, and they will both be on the centre-right and the environment discredited as electorally important, let alone fighting poverty, we will get more terrible policy. And maybe that’s how the NDP, the NGOs and the “left” want it, so they can feel increasingly self-righteous & superior as the country tilts evermore to the right. Once upon a time, the great obsession of marxists was to be realistic in their politics, to actually espouse a political philosophy, and employ strategy & tactics that would make life better for the vast majority of humanity, and not get tied up in ridiculous panglossian or anti-panglossian (candidian?) fantasies. But now, in Canadian federal politics at least, they have shown themselves to be nothing more cultists & cranks. The only good thing about them is the spiritual & psychological sustenance they give to very unhappy & confused people who find little elsewhere. But serious politics? There’s as much of that as there are NDP MPs from Saskatchewan.

  84. “Think of the 3000+ in Saanich-Gulf Islands who voted for Julian West and again allowed Gary Lunn to come up the middle and nip Briony Penn at the post.”

    Think of them not being able to vote the New Democrats, who came second to Lunn in the last election, because the Liberals pushed the NDP candidate of the ballot..I don’t think the Liberals win many votes when they criticize other parties for running candidates…

  85. I was shopping at the Loblaws which is supposed to be an easy pick up spot when I spotted a hot babe in a GREEN SHIFT. I followed her into the produce. (Men and women compete for FREE THINGS.) I’ve SEEN FRIGHT on my FREE NIGHTS shopping. But when men from THE FRINGES of civil society, like me, read a sign which says, FRESH! GET IN! well, we rush in for deals like the REGENT FISH (one of the REEF THINGS apparently). It may well have been the FREEST NIGH, but if I am too slow, THEN’S GRIEF. Lemme tell ya, cuz if she is faster, she GETS HER FIN, and me, poor slob, well, goes home, whips out his credit card and HE RENTS FIG. And I would have given anything to be HER NEST FRIG. :(

  86. I can agree with most of your comments, Eugene, but – and it’s a big but – the decades of Liberals campaigning left and governing right has blown any trust the “left” may have in that party right out of the water. They’ve been viewed as marginally better than the Tories/Cons because they could, occasionally, be shamed into doing the right thing.

    Trouble is, a lot of the “left” is not sure they can trust the NDP any more, either.

    No matter. A few years of severe recession pushes the reset button anyway.

  87. Sadly, Style makes my point for me. This is today’s federal NDP. Bad as they are for the very people they claim to care about, at least I know that voting NDP & feeling self-righteous, whatever the real-world consequences of their politics, does them good, psychologically & spiritually, if not materially, objectively. So at least 18.2% of Canadians got that warm NDP buzz. Only 2.7% of Americans got to feel the same after their 2000 election.

    By the by, AC should have said “can’t argue with popular vote of 33%”, given carbon tax was also central to Greens. All things considered, 1 out of 3 Canadians voting for “a tax on everything” to save the environment is quite impressive.

  88. It’s a shame even the Liberals’ strongest supporters, like yourself, don’t feel good voting for them. If only more of you would vote for a party that gives its supporters a buzz (even a self-righteous one), we might actually elect a progressive Government…

  89. Catherine, I didn’t read your 1:58 post properly and missed that you had clearly pointed out where the CBO paper explained the efficiency differences between the two approaches. It seems like:
    - if the NDP reduces emissions more than the Green Shift would or
    - if the NDP include no safety valves in their plan (banking, ceiling)
    Then their plan would be more expensive than the Green Shift.

    The first point isn’t much of a selling point for Dion (if his intent was to reach the Kyoto targets). Given the literature on this, it seems the civil service would quickly correct PM Layton on the other point.

    That would still make his approach as costly as the Green Shift, and the costs would be distributed just as regressively. So, as you say, the party would need to reduce other taxes (or increase other spending) just to offset this. And they would need to do something about inter-regional transfers.

    My impression was that the Tory plan caps emissions by individual firms, and has penalties for exceeding this, rather than selling permits for all emissions. If that’s right, it will have lower costs since firms would only pay once they exceed their limit.

  90. “If only more of you would vote for a party that gives its supporters a buzz…”

    Unfortunately that tendency seems to be on the decline.

    Marijuana Party results
    2000: 66,258
    2004: 33,276
    2006: 9,171
    2008: 2,319

  91. Style, the NDP has repeatedly emphasized that they have FIXED, HARD caps that they would enforce and not allow flexibility and they used this fact to criticize the Green Shift.

    You say, if Layton becomes PM the civil service would set him straight? What planet do you live on? Gee, perhaps we should ignore all the parties’ platforms, because the civil service will get the PM to do the right thing. So, ignore the fact that Layton proposed a plan that studies show would on average cost $75B/yr to a achieve the same results as the Green Shift would do for $15B a year!??!

    As to Saanich, 7 of the women involved in the West incident (when they were girls) wrote to the NDP before this became news. Three went public with their names. They said they had fought this when West was with the Green Party and been assured he would never be a candidate. There is absolutely no indication that they would not have done the same thing if West was a Liberal candidate. Unless you have some concrete evidence that all those women are Liberals, you are simply using the same tactics as Harper – smearing people who speak out about something as supporters of another political party than your own. Layton behaved despicably by not immediately acting on their letter and by standing by the misogynistic bully, McKeever.

  92. Eugene Forsney, thanks for your note. The reason I call out Layton’s hypocrisy on the environment and on poverty, is because I supported him up until 2007, so I understand how people can be fooled into thinking the NDP still cares about these things.

    I don’t think there is another politician in Canada doing more damage to the environment than Layton – well, perhaps the BC NDP leader, but Layton came out strongly supporting her axe the tax tactics and Layton is national. In case anyone missed it, ***Layton attacked Harper for not attacking the BC carbon tax vigorously enough*** I kid you not, here is one example: http://www.ndp.ca/press/new-democrats-consistent-opposition-carbon-tax-conservatives-not-so-much

    No one expects Harper to be an environmentalist. He can do damage while he is PM, but Layton is misleading a generation, as one can see from some NDP sites and blogs. In BC, the NDP is now the home for anyone who believes climate change is a hoax.

    Layton has lied about critical environmental matters, doing his part to help Canada do nothing, turning people against an effective tool for fighting climate change. As Elizabeth May said when he let down the environmentalists in 2006 (I didn’t notice and voted NDP) – I don’t know how he sleeps at night. It’s all politics to Layton. Anyone who thinks Layton cares has not taken a hard look at his words and actions.

    On poverty, as I mentioned, the NDP platform was good only if you ignored the cap and trade and assumed it would never be implemented. Taking the NDP platform as a whole would guarantee more people living in poverty.

  93. Bravo to Catharine and others for this brilliant discussion. No better way to smack down MadeYouLook, Kody, et al, than blowing them out of the water with facts. It’s a refreshing change on this blog.

  94. I find it amusing that madeyoulook, jwl, etc didn’t have anything to add to the comments once facts were presented. I wonder if they just didn’t have a retort, or if they just moved onto a different Macleans blog post.

  95. I agree with Anonymous. Thanks to you all for this brilliant discussion. Now if we can only simplify the language and figure out a way to get the information to the masses so that they have a better understanding of the merits of a green shift. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to able to rely on the media to do it for us and the political parties seem incapable of open honesty.

  96. In sum, it wasn’t a tax shift, or not enough of one
    This hits the nail on the head. People claim he did not sell it well enough. But the more people looked into it, the more they realized that it really was an increase in taxation and spending, on two levels. Firstly, the tax credits are spending, not cuts. Secondly, it was easy to see that anyone except lower income people would pay more taxes.

    The people who knew little about it would be afraid of the unknown.

    The people who did know the details knew it was a fraud, that it was more tax-and-spend disguised as an environmental policy.

    Even on its own merits, taxing something that we breath out of our own lungs is a tough sell. Last year’s global temperature was the lowest in 70 years. Carbon is the farthest thing from a pollutant.

    Tax-and-spend is also a tough sell.

    Combining tax-and-spend with a dubious environmental policy? Dion is a fool.

  97. sf, everyone benefits from the income tax cuts in the lower brackets. The minimum income tax cut for people in the middle to high income range was $800/yr, more if they had children or dependents. This would cover an average carbon footprint, but, since people with high incomes tend to have large carbon footprints — sure they would pay. Still, if they wanted to conserve, they could come out ahead. It was up to them.

    Meanwhile, Harper is implementing his Turning the Corner cap and trade which, Canadian Business and fiscal conservative groups, not to mention Harper’s own government studies, recognize will cost even more and likely achieve almost nothing. You won’t be seeing that $800/yr under Harper’s plan. Harper played politics and threw away the most cost-effective way to price carbon, because scoring political points in his quest for a majority was more important. Harper’s plan is not based on either sound economics or sound environmental policy, and he knows it. But do you? There is a good reason Harper refused to release any financial information on his cap and trade plan until after the election. Nevertheless, some information was obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and various government documents, and those who were concerned that the Green Shift would cost them too much would have been well advised to read those documents.

  98. Catherine: Clearly you believe anyone that disagrees with you is a liar, and that you are right about everything. Fair enough I guess. I prefer humility.

    The numbers you throw out as fact are mostly silly. They are invented numbers, not numbers borne out by experimental evidence. Sometimes you quote numbers invented by other people.

    Then you cite all kinds of relevant and non-relevant stuff, completely ignoring the fact that the economy is a complicated thing, that the economic transactions and decisions taking place in the economy are all unique, based on the indivudal considerations of millions of people and their own unique situations.

    Throwing out anecdotal evidence to support your claims is pointless. Clearly though, you do read a lot.

    For example: “Green Shift X 35/40 (difference in prices) X 2/3 (because cap is less comprehensive) X 5 (factor in short-term cost for FIXED caps according to CBO) X 3/5 = approximately Green Shift X 2.”

    There are a billion variables that your equation is missing, by the way, and the small number of variables you have included are guessed. So it’s completely worthless.

    “We need to save the planet from people who think all is fine”

    Clearly you would make a fine dictator, from the new environmentalist angle on tyranny.

    I think history has shown that we need to save ourselves from dictators.

  99. “If you owned the apartment building, would you have an incentive to reduce costs and avoid a carbon tax?

    That’s the whole point, is it not? This is really about incentives versus sanctions, no?

    I simply do not buy half thought out arguments”

    Oil was $140/bbl until last week, energy efficiency, global warming be damned, is already good business practice, and already top of mind for companies which own things like apartments. You clearly can’t afford to buy my half thought argument when you only have a quarter thought response.

  100. The Harper government has estimated the GDP impact of their cap and trade to be as high as 0.4% annually.

    The Harper government commissioned M.K. Jaccard and Associates to calculate the impact of carbon taxes. Their report – Cost Curves for Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction in Canada: The Kyoto Period and Beyond – finds the GDP impact of a $50/ton tax shift is less than 0.1% of GDP per year until 2010, is virtually zero during the next five years and is then positive after 2015 (see chart). Further, the report projects net financial savings to those who take action as a result of the tax shift, after taking into account the investment in emissions reductions. At $50/ton, that windfall comes to $13.8 billion by 2010 and climbs from there (see chart).

    You can believe what you want, but the studies commissioned by Harper advised him that a revenue neutral carbon tax would significantly reduce emissions and that Canadians and the whole economy would be better off financially, whereas his own cap and trade is expected to cost more overall and do less. Harper has not been a good financial steward of our country and this issue is just one example of that.

  101. Clearly you would make a fine dictator, from the new environmentalist angle on tyranny.

    Oh, well. You can’t please everyone.

    sf=Loon.

  102. Catherine — thanks for finding information on carbon taxes, etc.

  103. Make sure you screen cap your comment, Sharon. Wells is being a regular Winston this evening, wielding the speakwrite with primitive abandon.

  104. Now that I live in a world where people think it is perfectly natural to put a tax on CO2, I can’t wait for the O2 tax and the H2O tax, coming soon from an enironmentalist or politican near you.

  105. Catherine looks hot in that green shift.

  106. Catherine looks hot in that green shift.

    This is really stupid and juvenile. Wells, delete this.

  107. It’s satire, numbskull. You hormones are supplying all the lurv.

  108. Gustav’s earlier post about the “hot babe in a green shift” already exposed him as a sexist boor with nothing to add to the discussion of carbon pricing. He’s simply confirming that.

  109. For those who do not want to read CBO reports, here is a good, simple summary:

    http://cboblog.cbo.gov/?p=65

    Note, it states that “Flexible cap-and-trade programs could achieve some, but not all, of the efficiency-improving/cost-minimizing advantages of a tax” and goes on to mention safety-values, floors, banking, borrowing, circuit-breakers,…

    Why jump through so many loops, just to mimic a carbon tax and call it something else, knowing it still will cost more than a carbon tax? Is this “leadership”?

    Interestingly, the CBO study found that even if the rest of the world implemented a cap and trade, it would still be economically more advantageous for the US to implement a carbon tax which hooked into the global cap and trade.

  110. sf, the whole world is adopting emission pricing, even our new government. Short of electing a Libertarian government, yes you will be paying for CO2 and maybe H2O in the future. Recognizing this, the best thing is to get the most bang for the buck.

    Yes, the Green Shift was a tax and spend program, and I can understand why people, especially those that consider themselves to be fiscally conservative, don’t like that phrase. As pointed out, the “spend” was required for low income Canadians since it is a regressive tax. But I think we need to look at the fundamentals of things like Green Shift. Fundamentally they are about trying to curb emissions. They are not about grabbing tax and spending it on social housing, corporate tax cuts, new roads, election campaigns, etc. As well, different emission pricing programs may spend tax money on building new industry related to new energy sources, sustainability programs, etc. Dion mentioned this very often and I think this is the forgotten part of the “shift.” It’s about ensuring a future for our kids.

    Often I hear people disparagingly referring to our governments as being babysitters. But you know what? Darn rights they are. There are a hell of a lot of babies, children and young adults in this country that need to depend on the government for making the right choices so that when they grow up, they’ll have as many opportunities for success as their parents had.

  111. Doug Smith:
    How do you manage to ensure that the government does a better job of helping “babies, children and young adults” than parents?

    I’ve seen a lot of examples around the world, of governments doing a lot to ensure that “babies, children and young adults” are denied any opportunities at all, if they do not have the necessary pedigree. Governments are not a replacement for God. You cannot hand over all power over your own life and expect only good things to happen. More often than not, this causes only bad things to happen. The people in government tend to be wrong more often that the people who are not, typically because governments are not experts in anything except governing.

    The scientists who “believe” in global warming are already starting to doubt themselves, because all the empirical evidence from the last 5 years or so has been undermining their theory. Most continue to battle on, ignoring the evidence, because they have so much invested in the theory. Followers pay no attention at all, because they would rather believe the world is flat, because that is what they have been believing for so long.
    Yet you claim we are on a freight train to regulation, regardless of whether the science is right or wrong. We’ll see, I suspect this is one area where the nations of China and India (and many ohter) will be given leg up as the developed world handicaps itself.

  112. sf, turn to a credible scientific source, like the National Academy of Sciences, if you want to understand the evidence for climate change. What you say about scientists is wrong.

    However, if you don’t believe in climate change, you might be interested in listening to what someone who insists he is not an environmentalist, has never voted Democrat (he is an American who supports the Republicans), and is interested in making lots of money, has to say on this subject.

    Immelt, the CEO of GE, one of the world’s largest companies, says governments already have their hands in every industry, and it is just a matter of whether it is a positive hand or not. He is pushing for the US to impose a price on carbon, because he sees a window for GE and other US companies to develop green technology and then export that technology and products resulting from it to China and India. He thinks the US economy will be stronger if they impose carbon pricing now.

    Do we want Canadian companies to be in on this, or are we happy to sit back, burning fossil fuels, and leave the money and future industries to other countries?

  113. Any evidence to back up this claim of scientists doubting themselves? Or is this just more inactivist propaganda?

  114. Sexist boor? Nope. It was an innocent indulgence in anagrams. Their outcomes often oddly create an loose but inescapable family of associations. Something Christopher Bok discovered when he wrote a book of poetry consisting of chapters making use of only one vowel at a time. The vowel “u” pretty much dictated a vulgar but very funny chapter. “Ubu gluts lulus dugs” kinda thing. “Green shift” caught my eye. No offense meant.

  115. Hi sf,
    In my above comment I was referring to babysitting only in the context of climate change. While many parents may take action on this topic, in general I would say that the individual, acting as individual, is ineffective in asserting change. As an example, most of the people I work with recognize or agree that CO2 and global warming is a problem, yet I’m almost the only one that uses bicycle or public transit to commute to work.

    As to whether AGW is real, I have yet to find substance behind this assertion. Whenever I’ve encountered this in past, the debate referenced back to things like the Oregon Petition, Lipzieg, etc. Not only do these origins have weak foundations (assertions by non-experts in the field), but they have ties to pro-oil lobbies. Only a few weeks ago I heard a panel speak about climate change and this panel even contained members from the Albertan oil industry. While the oil industry representative wasn’t necessarily pro emission pricing, there was no doubt that he and I presume the industry he was representing treat the issue very seriously and see it as a problem.

    “… because all the empirical evidence from the last 5 years or so has been undermining their theory. Most continue to battle on, ignoring the evidence, because they have so much invested in the theory.”

    I find the above quote to be similar to the propaganda that the Cons spread about the Liberals and Green Shift. It is not factual and it spreads misinformation.

  116. Catherine, that is the point I’ve been trying to get across on this whole pricing carbon thing. Thank you for finding a credible source and making the point so efficiently.

    I think its a real shame the Liberals focussed so much on the climate change rather than emerging technologies aspects.

    I’m attending a lecture this week on “Keeping our Cool: Canada in a Warming World”. Hopefully the presenter will touch on the ‘empirical evidence in the last five years that’s undermined their theory.’ If he does, I’ll report back.

  117. Catherine: The CEO of GE is clearly qualified to decide the issue? Because of his expertise in global commerce and light bulbs? I would not give his opinion more weight than yours or mine.

    Thwim, I wanted to post some links, but this blog would not allow it, so the links have become titles:

    Evidence of a global cooling trend:
    -THE NELSON LECTURE By Dr Gerrit J. van der Lingen
    -Lorne Gunter wrote a nice summary on October 20 in the National Post

    A cooling trend for the last decade worldwide:
    “Three of the world’s major climate monitors have announced that the earth’s temperatures dropped over the last 12 months—by enough to virtually offset the entire “unprecedented warming” of the last century.This comes after nine years of no warming, and a net warming since 1940 of just 0.2 degrees”
    -Dennis Avery Center for Global Food Issues, March 2008

    Despite scientis predictions that 2007 would be the warmest year on record, when the data comes in, it’s not even close, it’s the coolest in 3 decades:
    -A summary on the strata-sphere blog, July 5, 2008

    Measurement of ocean temperatures contradicting global warming theory:
    -article from National Public Radio March 2008

    Here’s a nice summary of some other issues with global warming “science”:
    -Accuracy in Media, Jerry carlson, February 2008

    In some articles I read, the authors go through great pains to stick with the prevailing anthropomorhpic GW theory, no matter what the evidence is saying, at times trying to spin their own data in ways that allow them to ignore it! This is typical of fraudulent science. Here are a couple of examples, but others are easy to find:
    “That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren’t quite understanding what their robots are telling them.”
    “Trenberth and Willis agree that a few mild years have no effect on the long-term trend of global warming. But they say there are still things to learn about how our planet copes with the heat.”

    And just to show that a global majority of scientists can be wrong, “scientific consensus on man-made ozone hole may be coming apart”:
    -Nature magazine, September 2007, Quirin Schiermeier
    -article CCNet September 2007
    -study by Qing-Bin Lu, University of Waterloo, September 2008

    And one further point – typically in science, it is incumbent upon the proposers of a theory to design studies and experiments to challenge it. The burden of proof falls upon those promoting the new theory, not the skeptics, and with AGW this simply has not been done. Theories that have been inadequately challenged are worth little until they have.

  118. Dr. Gerrit J. van der Lingen? He says he is a “climate change consultant”, but good luck trying to find a single peer-reviewed paper by him on climate change science. A search of 22,000 journals came up with zero.

    Science is an endeavor where people publish their results in peer-reviewed journals. van der Lingen is not a climate change scientist and he should change his title to “layperson – climate change skeptic”.

    The CEO of GE is interested in making money. GE suffers from a weak economy and benefits from a strong economy. That was the whole point of my reference to him.

    Jenn, in the Dion speeches I heard, he emphasized how the environment and the economy are interlinked. The media didn’t cover this much (or at all?) and seemed intent on focussing on silly things.

  119. Catherine, yes you’re right. It was the media not picking up on that part. It is difficult to encompass a big idea into a soundbite, I guess.

    SF–This is great. I’ll just print out these other points of view to have on hand while listening to the lecture. Hopefully then I can take notes on the specific subjects to which they refer.

  120. Frankly, Catherine, I don’t have the time to list the peer reviewed journals for you. I posted a list of articles that themselves link to peer reviewed journals. But I cannot post the links to these articles, I tried and the blog system rejected the post. However, if you googled these sources I listed, you would find plenty of references to recent papers.

    In fact, my post listing the links to two graphs of global temperatures, one 1980 til now, the other for the last 5000 years, that post is “awaiting moderation”, so I don’t know if anyone can see it. But I would encourage anyone to look at them both, so they themselves can get a sense of what some of the data is showing.

    Frankly, you and David Smith seem to enjoy attacking sources rather than attacking arguments.

    And frankly, I am perfectly aware of how science works, how peer review works, in fact I publish scientific papers myself sometimes, although unrelated to this topic.

    Science relies on the scientific method. In the scientific method, all theories are valid until rejected by evidence that discredits them. The most valuable theories are the ones that have been (1) been subject to much experimentation and (2) been able to predict events in the future accurately.

    Even Einstein’s theories of time dilation have been subject to real-world experimentation, and his theories held up. They have also predicted real world events that would not have been predicted otherwise. Some of his other theories have been rejected due to real-world experimentation.

    (1) AGW has not been subject to experimentation whatsoever, due to the difficulty of conducting experimentation on real world weather and climate. In fact, weather forecasters can only forecast a week at a time due to the complexities of the science.

    AGW is reliant on models and past data, neither of which subject the theory to real world experimentation. Both models and past data are subject to the errors of omission and the statistical errors of the people creating the models and collecting the data.

    (2) Climate scientists have completely and utterly failed with most of their predictions of both future global temperatures and future incidence of weather events.
    They predicted higher temperatures, while the last decade has shown temperatures holding steady or dropping.
    They predicted more hurricances, we have seen less.
    They predicted less ice cover, which has been seen in nothern latitudes, while ice cover has been increasing in the south.
    They predicted warming ocean temperatures, and so far measurements have shown no ocean warming whatsoever.
    The list goes on and on.

  121. sf, you posted a link of sources and I stopped at the first one because I saw that the person had no scientific creditials in the area he was talking about, climate change. I don’t have time (or the interest) to look at all the people who claim to know something outside their scientific expertise.

    If the majority of climate change scientists are wrong, but we act on their best advice, what do we risk? Preparing our economy for economic rise of India and China and the end of cheap oil a bit earlier than needed? What is the worst that happened to Sweden that introduced a carbon tax in 1991? Their economy grew significantly and they export wind energy to China now? What’s the worst you can think of, if we start putting a price on carbon, cutting income taxes, and developing alternative energy sources?

    Meanwhile, if you and the skeptics are wrong, but we fail to act, what do we possibly risk? Loss of species, widespread famines, massive droughts, large parts of the earth uninhabitable, masses of refugees,…

    Experts who really understand the science feel there is absolutely no comparison between the risks on these two sides. Essentially all the related scientific bodies, from the top general science ones, like the National Academies and Royal Societies, to the specific Physics, Geology, Atmospheric, … organizations around the world, have come out emphatically and said the science says we must act now and not take this risk. I agree with them.

    Europe and Scandinavia, which has always been more scientifically literate than North America, starting acting over a decade ago. The US has a scientific elite, but is largely scientifically illiterate as a country, often taking fundamentalism in religion over science (as evidenced by the majority rejecting evolution). Even the US is likely to react sooner than Canada. What is our excuse?

  122. You are (or the research you cite is) being disingenuous, sf.

    A single data point does not make a trend. Look at the month-to-month annual changes from the beginning.

    When you start to see an overall trend spanning at least three years indicating that global temperatures are going down, then get back to us.

    Austin

  123. Catherine: your argument that we must assess the damage if I am wrong vs you are wrong is the worst argument of all.

    Taking this argument to its logical conclusion, if I state the world will explode due to the use of the Hadron Collider, and I present to you dubious evidence, then does that mean the Hadron Collider should be shut down because of my dire warnings?

    Your argument that there are consequences to be feared (some people love to use the word apocalyptic) is as dubious as the original argument that anthropomorphic global warming is real. There is no evidence for any of the scare mongering.

    “Loss of species, widespread famines, massive droughts, large parts of the earth uninhabitable, masses of refugees”

    All of that is pure bunk, cooked up by the imaginations of propagandists.

    “Europe and Scandinavia, which has always been more scientifically literate than North America”

    Are you kidding me? You must be joking with that statement. Do you realize that in the latter half of this century, more than half of the Nobel prizes in science have been awarded to residents of the United States? Did you know that 90% of the top science universites, by almost any measure, are in the United States?

    Regardless, characterizing one continent as dumber than another, that is complete bunk.

    Austin: If you bothered to look at the data, you would see that the data IS showing a trend of global cooling from 2003 to 2008, which is a period longer than 3 years. Additionally, the long term data over the last 5000 years shows the the increase in temperature in the latter half of the last century is nothing unusual.

  124. sf, what of the acidification of the oceans, and what that is doing to coral reefs and other such vital yet fragile ecosystems? Not global warming, but caused by heightened atmospheric CO2 levels just the same.

    It is similarly not well understood what ramifications there will be to a significant change in ocean pH.

  125. I’m on your side on this issue Andrew, but I think you’re indulging in some wishful thinking in your post here.

    The simple fact is that any policy that has the word tax in it will be deeply unpopular regardless of common sense, logic, revenue neutrality or anything else.

    Take the B.C. carbon tax example. It avoids many of the concerns you expressed about the federal Liberal one, and after 7 years of continuous tax cutting, the government in power had surely earned some credibility on the tax front, but if anything, people were/are even more deeply opposed to the carbon tax here in B.C.

    I see newspaper articles which talk about urban Vancouver areas where they write things like ‘Burnaby residents are facing a plant closure which comes as a tough blow as they are already dealing with the new carbon tax…..’ when of course people in Burnaby are net beneficiaries of the carbon tax.

    Your post is attempting to make a lot of complications out of the simple fact that people are idiots and that is why we’re all just going to have to sit back and see what ever escalating levels of greenhouses gases due to our climate and our ecosystems.

  126. Sorry last sentence in the above post should read, “see what ever escalating levels of greenhouses gases DO to our climate and our ecosystems.”

  127. I had the patience enough to move on to the second reference you made – Denis Avery CGF.

    It turns out his statement was based on an article that appeared in the American Physical Soceity newsletter. This is not a peer-reviewed journal. The author of the article is Christopher Monckton. The APS subsequently said, “Some people and news services misinterpreted the Newsletter publication of one editor’s comments and Lord Monckton’s article as a retreat by the American Physical Society from its official position on the contribution of human activities to global warming. Consequently, the APS felt it necessary to ensure that its official position was known both to those who logged on to the APS website and those who had followed a link to Lord Monckton’s article on our website and were unaware of the context in which it appears.” Monckton caused quite a stir with his article and there has been quite a bit written about its accuracy. As for Avery himself, he appears to be a piece of work. He has lobbied against organic farming and he co-authored a book with Fred Singer. Singer was behind the Leipzig Declaration, and his close associate is Fred Seitz, the guy behind the Oregon Petition. Both men are also tobacco lobbyiest. Actually, that’s almost not quite true. A memo from Philip Morris stated that Seitz was “quite elderly and not sufficiently rational to offer advice.” That was in 1989… These guys are quite the cabal, and not really the type of people that I would trust when looking for expert opinion. Oh, they also receive funding from Exxon.

    I then looked up the Lorne Gunter National article and the Accuracy in Media article. Gunter actually references the Accuracy in Media piece. The Carlson article refers to Robert Carter from NZ, who is a global warming skeptic. His argument, similar to others, is that the earth has cooled over the last 10 years. The rebuttal to this is that climate changes can only be observed over a 30 year period and that 10 years is too short and only reflects changes in weather. I think this rebuttal also applies to the quote “Despite scientis predictions that 2007 would be the warmest year on record, when the data comes in, it’s not even close, it’s the coolest in 3 decades.”

    The hurricane stuff likely emminates from William Gray, an expert on hurricanes and an AGW denier. Of course there are rebuttals to his work too but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. What is interesting though is that his theory of climate change not only argues against the CO2 theory, but it also argues against the solar energy theory which is (I think) the prevalent thought behind most AGW deniers. So if you are firmly in the Gray camp then you certainly will be in a very lonely position.

    Another problem with AGW denial is exemplified by the Gunter article. It’s these kinds of piece-meal pick and choose examples that take things completely out of context. Gunter refers to the work of David Douglass and John Christy as having dealt a “devastating blow” to the “True Believers.” Then Gunter finishes his article with “It may be that more global warming doubters are surfacing because there just isn’t any global warming.” Apparently Gunter also picks and chooses what parts of Christy he wants to believe too, since Christy does believe in global warming and Christy also believes that it is partly manmade (he just doesn’t think much of the CO2 contribution).

    In the end, most of the anti-AGW arguments boil down to a core of people and scientists. Many of these people simply cannot not be trusted for expert opinion. Others, such as Carter, I would assume and expect are acting on their own studies and good faith. ie some critics use junk science and others are scientists with contrarian views.

    So what is the difference between the contrarian scientist and those that are firmly behind the AGW theory? For one, the contrarian is getting a hell of a lot of press and media exposure. Robert Carter (as an example) has become well known for his views but is there anything special about his knowledge? My understanding is that most climate scientists don’t pay much attention to his argument because his idea is not accepted for the most basic of reasons. That’s not to say that he cannot be correct, but it surely is not a ringing endorsement. The point is that there are contrarians to the AGW theory but it is not a tidal wave of dissent by any stretch of the imagination. For every Carter there is, how many comparable scientists are there behind AGW? By comparable I mean scientists that have the same or similar background, with no great stake in the matter.

    No doubt sf is correct about problems in modeling and empirical evidence and everyone is entitled to make up their own mind of course. The important thing is to not get distracted or sidetracked by the lobbyists and try to get a balanced view on things. I have no problems in attacking sources when required. I am certainly not going to spend too much time attacking arguments in elaborate detail, as I am not: a climatologist, physicist, geologist, atmospheric scientist, etc. I’ve read enough to make up my own informed opinion though. Unfortunately I see that too many people stop “believing” after exposure to the Fred Singers of the world. FWIW, I don’t think this is the case with sf.

  128. Just to be clear, I mean that sf has come to his own informed opinion.

  129. You can do one link per post. Here’s a good one for you: http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    That has the most common inactivist arguments, complete with their debunking. “The world is cooling” is #4.

    Now to address some of the other stuff you’re spinning: A theory doesn’t need to be testable, it needs to be falsifiable. There’s a difference. And it’s true that several of the earlier forms of the theory have been shown to be inaccurate — they have, in fact, been falsified. However so far the climatologists have been able to determine logical modifications to the theory that keep it from being completely disproven. This is exactly how science works. A theory is proposed, holes are found, the theory is modified to remove the holes. That’s how science works.

    There are two ways to displace a theory:
    1. Find evidence that no modification of the theory can incorporate.
    2. Find a theory with more explicative and predictive power.

    Currently, no evidence has managed to fit #1, and no theory has been created that explains more of the evidence that we see than AGW. (#2)

    Now, as to your critique of Catherine’s post, I’d agree with it if all Catherine was doing was posting the pascal’s wager type of theory, but she added one important point which you conveniently glossed over.

    If an overwhelming majority of the people who have the most training and education in the gathering and interpretation of climactic system evidence agree that something is happening, we would be far wiser to believe them than we would the small minority who do not — especially when that minority has
    A) Not definitively managed to falsify the prevalent theory, and
    B) Not proposed any other theory that contains more explicative or predictive power.

    Given that we always have limited information, it strikes me that the best course to act on is the one suggested by those with the majority of knowledge at the table.

  130. Doug has taken the time to go through your list, sf, and note, for example, that the the 2nd reference does not reflect the position of the American Physical Society (where it appeared, not refereed). Here is their official position:

    ———
    American Physical Society
    (Adopted by Council on November 18, 2007)
    Emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are changing the atmosphere in ways that affect the Earth’s climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide as well as methane, nitrous oxide and other gases. They are emitted from fossil fuel combustion and a range of industrial and agricultural processes.
    The evidence is incontrovertible: Global warming is occurring. If no mitigating actions are taken, significant disruptions in the Earth’s physical and ecological systems, social systems, security and human health are likely to occur. We must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases beginning now.
    Because the complexity of the climate makes accurate prediction difficult, the APS urges an enhanced effort to understand the effects of human activity on the Earth’s climate, and to provide the technological options for meeting the climate challenge in the near and longer terms. The APS also urges governments, universities, national laboratories and its membership to support policies and actions that will reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.
    ———–

    You will find a similar position from the all the top scientific organizations (the ones the Nobel Laureates you refer to, belong to) with expertise in climate change.

  131. I’d also like to emphasize the my first worst case scenario — pricing carbon, cutting income taxes, providing incentives to develop alternatives to burning fossil fuels now — just does not have much of a down side. The GE CEO argues carbon pricing will make the economy stronger, Harper’s own government commissioned report found exactly this for a revenue neutral carbon tax. As far as the GE CEO is concerned, the environmentalists just tag along for the ride.

    Even if you don’t believe the science of climate change, what is wrong with starting to develop our economy now in recognition of the finite supply of cheap oil and the growing economies of China and India? Why not think of what else we could be profitably exporting to those countries 5 or 10 years from now?

  132. If an overwhelming majority of the people who have the most training and education in the gathering and interpretation of climactic system evidence agree that something is happening, we would be far wiser to believe them than we would the small minority who do not — especially when that minority has
    A) Not definitively managed to falsify the prevalent theory, and
    B) Not proposed any other theory that contains more explicative or predictive power.

    ***

    QFT. I am continually surprised by laypersons who read a single fringe paper on a topic and say ‘I agree with this theory!’ When dealing with specialized technical knowledge, what’s important is not what you think is right, but what the majority of people actually in the field think is right.

  133. I like some of the points, especially by Doug Smith, who, despite his position on the issue, at least shows respect for a diverging opinion.

    However, I have given this issue much thought, and in my opinion, AGW has come nowhere to the level of scrutiny a scientific theory should be subjected to, before being accepted as truth.

    Thwim: you are wrong about displacing a theory, a theory cannot be displaced by “2. Find a theory with more explicative and predictive power.”

    Either a theory is falsified or it is not. If it is not capable of predicting anything, it cannot be displaced (it is more like a religion), but on the other hand, it has little value.

    The existence or non-existence of alternative theories has nothing to do with the scientific method. BTW, there are alternative theories, of course, but I choose not to go into them.

    Secondly, your assertion that those that do not believe AGW have “Not definitively managed to falsify the prevalent theory” is also another falsehood about the scientific method. This is the “burden of proof fallacy”. It is not up to the skeptics of a theory to deny its truth, the burden of proof falls upon the proponents of a theory. The proponents of AGW should be able to predict an observable measurement, a measurement that would have not been predicted otherwise, in the real world, that would not be predicted otherwise. This is called experimentation. Since, historically speaking, there is nothing unusual about current global temperatures and temperature variations, the burden of proof lies upon the proponents of AGW to support their assertions.

    MIke T: “what’s important is not what you think is right, but what the majority of people actually in the field think is right”

    If I remember correctly, the majority of people with expertise (economists, bankers, financial experts) felt there was nothing risky about banking and financial practices in the United States from 2001 onwards. The majority of experts did not see a stock market crash occurring, and in fact the majority of experts continued to assert there was nothing unhealthy at all, until the damage was obvious and the financial collapse was well underway. The majority of financial institutions in the developed world are currently under threat of extreme losses, and many of them are threatened with complete bankruptcy, despite the number of experts in their employ.

    A majority of people thought the world was flat, including the finest astronomers and scientists of the day.

    For a very long time, a majority of people in the developed world, including the experts in biology and anthropology, thought that blacks had less intelligence than other human beings.

    Frankly, I do not put much faith in the majority, I put faith in people who follow practices that are tried and true. Most proponents of AGW have completely abandoned the scientific method, and for this reason, those peoples’ opinions I refuse to acknowledge as being more valuable than others’. I really don’t care how many of these sheep there are.

    I would like to repeat, those that have not done so already, should look at the data, the data showing global temperatures, in order to have a better understanding of what the issue is.
    You should realize that it is only this data, along with other scientific measurements of CO2 and other factors, along with computer models invented by humans, that are the basis for AGW. Nothing else. This is nowhere near the level of scrutiny required. You should also keep in mind that climatological science is understood just as little as the human brain is understood. In other words, scientists have shown no particular skill at making predictions in climatological science with any accuracy, ever. Climate science experts have NEVER predicted future climate events, EVER, with any accuracy at all. They are only just beginning to understand the extremely complex systems involved in the real world. It may be hard to believe, that having sent a rover to Mars, that scientists know so little about the Earth, but it is true. And the best climate scientists would be the first to agree with this. Those with a background in physics or math would understand the extreme difficulty modelling the real world, and the extreme difficulty in finding solutions to the existing models, and the extreme number of variables in the models, the extreme unreliability of the existing models, and so on, and so on. It is the worst climate scientists, the ones with no humility, that disagree, the ones that claim they know everything and that their science is developed and very accurate.

    Catherine: I see nothing wrong with attempts to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but I think technology is the only route to do so. The existing technology simply cannot do the trick, the only hope is for future technology. Brute force taxes and cap-and-trade systems will only harm people for no reason at all. They will increase poverty and reduce our standard of living. The costs involved are immense.

    I also think that there are numerous environmental issues that are not experimental and need immediate attention, and these environmental issues should be given our attention instead. One such issue is the loss of biodiversity on the planet, this issue is being smothered by the Kyoto crowd. Other issues are the global plagues of malaria, AIDS and the other worldwide scourges. These are the real environmental issues, the ones we know that truly exist.

  134. Both the Green Party and the Liberal Party shifted more than enough money to low-income to protect them from the carbon tax. As I’ve said, the carbon tax is the cheapest anyway. Admittedly the NDP and Conservatives did not protect low-income or others, and it is the latter we will pay for.

    BTW, economics is not a science and so majority does not have the same meaning. Not that it was a real majority in economics anyway, it was simply the power club. Nice to see Krugman get the prize this year, but, of course, that only came when the other crowd had been thoroughly exposed.

  135. I’m just the “ordinary tax payer” that ekes out a slim existence on the margins of the computer industry. You can call me “Joe the self under-employed consultant.” I’ve been around long enough to know TANSTAAFL, and Dion’s marketing plan did nothing to convince me that I would end up keeping more of my ill-gotten gains than I otherwise would have. Your argument that postulates “If the only basis on which voters were to assess the plan was whether they personally profited from it, the Tories could point to all the tangible, real-world things that would cost more immediately,” resonates with me, and the only real reason Dion couldn’t break through to me. I suspect it was the sticking point for a lot of others as well.

  136. Why didn’t this Green Shift work, this time? A number of factors came into play:

    5) The plan would have been ineffective and inflationary.

  137. Why would it have been ineffective? Carbon pricing is one important ingredient in reducing GHGs. As for inflationary, a carbon tax costs much less than a cap and trade, so it is not as inflationary as cap and trade. The tax cuts (in either system of carbon pricing) help consumers pay the extra costs.

  138. In the past couple fo years I have replaced most of my lightbulbs with CF’s, bought a new energy efficient washer and dryer, and slowed down while driving. I have had a programmable thermostat for 11 years and let my house go to 15C through the night. We recycle everything we can. I did this all without a Green Shift and a Green Shift won’t incent me do any more. I resent being called a “polluter” by Dion simply becasue I want to heat and iluminate my house and don’t live in Quebec and can do it with habitat-destroying hydro power. All you greenies should stop your whining and just get off your butts and start acting. The Green Shift was not revenue neutral to me, Ed, it was going to cost me and there was nothing more I could do to offset the higher taxes.

  139. “I did this all without a Green Shift and a Green Shift won’t incent me do any more.”

    That’s where you went wrong, Ed. Whether you change your behaviour or not, those individuals and firms which supply your consumption (say, your friendly neighbourhood grocer) will endeavor to serve you while lowering costs (ie, lowering fuel consumption). Thus, there will be less indirect CO2 emitted on your behalf.

    Beyond that, I highly doubt there wouldn’t be a single energy saving retrofit or practice you would put in place in the future. And even further, if you are so energy efficient, you would likely come out ahead with a shift from income tax to carbon.

  140. I agree with Andrew.

    I’ve taken the same steps as you, Ed, carpool to work, and went ulta-high-efficiency when I had to replace my furnace. Because of this I’d expect to be ahead too, but I’m also happy to find more things I can do. It’s people who don’t take some of these steps who would pay more unless they changed their habits.

    Industry would pay the most under the Green Shift because their emissions account for most of the emissions covered, and they would find ways to use less fossil fuels as well.

  141. Ed B, I don’t think people would call you a polluter, at least not in a real negative context. I would also think that you wouldn’t be put out of pocket, if you take normal, rational steps in your every day life to increase energy efficiency. This is what I believe was the biggest propaganda against the Green Shift, the idea that everyone was going to pay money.

    sf, you bring up a very big part of the Green Shift, the part that was hardly spoken about. Dion did discuss it on during the debates and I don’t think the significance was noticed. Green “Shift” – he wanted to use taxes collected from the biggest polluters to help kick-start new technologies and industries that would lead to a new era in Canada. Dion cited Germany as being successful at this.

    I also support the idea of a carbon tax on another very basic level. Even if a person doubts AGW, the idea of carbon tax is good. Pollution is pollution, whether it heats, cools or does nothing to the climate. I’m all for incentives that can decrease pollution. If a carbon tax was successful in decreasing the number of people driving 1/2 ton pick-up trucks for non-work purposes in Vancouver then I see that as a good thing. To me, I don’t see much of a losing aspect of the Green Shift. Again, I would rather have an imperfect carbon tax as opposed to anything at all.

    Like most things that deal with pollution, we require the government to draw a line in the sand. From toxic waste to banning 2-stroke engines, etc. It can’t be left to individuals and companies. My point is that we should move that line in the sand while trying to develop new technologies to help us in the future. Carbon tax is one tool that I think helps in this regard.

  142. And what if Superman was on the side of the Axis in WW2 instead of America?
    Well, for one thing he’d probably be called Ubermensch instead…

  143. Stephane Dion said he was going to tax pollution.

    That makes me a polluter, for heating my home, for lighting the darkness, with natural gas and electricity generated by burning coal, because I live in Alberta, not in Quebec.

    Propaganda? Come on. Some of us can think for ourselves and do. I beleived I was going to pay. Me. Ed. Because I was. Personally, and indirectly by having the good fortune of living in Alberta, at whom the green shift was targeted.

    The whole green movement is propaganda if you ask me. The notion that Canada at 2% of global emissions can make a material reduction in the CO2 content of the atmosphere is asinine. The notion that shutting down the Alberta tar sands, at 8% of Canada’s emissions, to save the planet, is equally asinine and economically devastating for everyone.

  144. The Green Shift ….

    (a) came at the wrong time (actually, the worst possible time — economic crisis; bad example of negative public opinion in British Columbia to province’s own carbon tax)

    and

    (b) was bogus in terms of “tax relief”. The way Dion drafted it, there would have been no tax relief for hardworking Canadians — and even if it had been the way he claimed it was, it still wouldn’t have provided the tax relief that is long overdue (Canadian households lose 45% of their annual income to taxes alone, and this is simply unacceptable).

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