79 thoughts on “Emulating TGGWS”

  1. What is the difference between skeptics and septics?
    Skeptics are climatologists and septics are Inhofe-like guys? πŸ™‚ Or skeptics use arguments related to discussion and septics not?

    [Its really down to whether they are being honest about it or not (which honesty includes informing themselves before talking). The “15-year-old” stuff is septic, because its deliberate rehashing of junk. See also http://mustelid.blogspot.com/2004/12/septics-and-skeptics-denialists-and.html -W]


  2. Durkin is now on “version three” of his original ‘faked’ graph.

    However no he has been found out for ‘faking’ graphs – he has had to use a real one and resort to some prestidigitation (or conjuring tricks if you prefer).

    For the Australian version of TGGWS to be broadcast later this week

    There are clips of the programme available on the ABC website:


    If you look at the ‘Part 2’ of these – 1.43 mins in you’ll see Durkin is now on his third attempt at a graph of twentieth century global warming:

    This time it comes from the 2001 IPCC report -and is now a global, rather than Northern Hemisphere one:

    As you can see from this overlay –

    (funny how he missed the rather more striking ‘hockey stick’ graph just below?)

    The voiceover has changed too – he claims temperature has gone up ‘about half a degree’ (although this graph shows 0.8 deg C)

    This time he suggests that most warming took place before 1940 – and says “after 1940 the world cooled down”.

    Using his favourite trick of ‘zooming and panning’ into a graph he seems to demonstrate this by zooming along the line to 1940 – then cutting away.

    He is also suggesting that industrial production, and therefore CO2 production didn’t get going until 1940. This is far from the truth of course – CO2 levels have been steadily rising since the industrial revolution.

    He has now been reduced to sleight of hand to make his points – having been found out that when he forges graphs – people notice.

    This gives tacit support to complaints to the IPCC that he distorted graphs in the first two transmissions of the programme – he has effectively been forced to retract these…

    Durkin is due to be grilled on this after the broadcast tomorrow (8.30 p.m. Australia – effectively Thursday morning in the UK) – I’d be very interested to hear how he gets on…


  3. I suppose this girl is being taken advantage of; her vitriol seems a bit inappropriate. Since she’s being lauded by none other than McI et al on climateaudit, I wonder if she’s being “prompted” by, say, a right-wing Republican daddy.

    But she’s a great strawman they’ve propped up to rehash things, because who would want to look like a total jerk bashing a teen girl for being wrong (James A. in da house perhaps? πŸ˜‰

    [Do you believ it really is a 15-y old? -W]


  4. oh, can’t edit my post above, but here in the US we’ve had a history of these “faux-precocious-kids” — right-wing talk radio loves overreporting the one about the kid who did the science fair project about the dangers of “dihydrogen monoxide” — just to ostensibly show how “liberals get bad science and try to make horror stories over it” ad nauseum.


  5. well it could be a precocious kid just doing it all on her own, if so good credit although I wish someone were guiding her along properly about the scientific method, instead of grabbing onto what she likes and just running with it with no test/modification of her hypothesis etc.

    but anyway, it does sort of sound like the typical sort of Repub “dirty trick” — my guess is at “best” she has a right-wing “dittohead daddy” prompting her, or worse it’s all just a hoax, sort of like how they have “campaign videos” or “liberal exposes” on youtube that are supposedly by amateurs but you find out it’s a fake amateur video, financed by the Republican National Committee!

    and similarly, the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth”, the “Muskie Letter”, the “Watergate Tapes”, *sigh*, I guess I should get back to England ASAP, just had to deal with “Saddam could nuke us in 45 minutes!” πŸ˜‰


  6. FWIW…

    I run an small ‘in house’ Forum at the independent (private) school I work at in the Pacific NW. One of the threads started by a student discussed the film “An Inconvenient Truth”. Of course, we heard from all sides with a few students posting very conservative viewpoints ala TGGWS, The Heartland Institute, etc, etc. The point I wish to make here is that, by referring my students to some of the discussions and info posted -here-, I was able to get this out of one of my most outspoken opponents re: Climate Change.

    “I haven’t been on for a while. Even if he is a major in Geography, that shouldn’t change the fact that he [Timothy Ball] is qualified. For example, Jared Diamond, author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel” certainly knows a lot about history. Yet his true passion is birds, and I believe he teaches biology. He’s still a “qualified” historian.

    I would also like to say that I’ve changed my views. I understand that it is a problem, but sometimes it is overstated and there are better ways to solve it.”

    Thanks again to ‘Stoat’…please carry on.



  7. To me the “15 y.o.” is just another totem: HockeyStick TM, Michael Moore, AlGore, Rachael Carson, Tyrone Harris, etc. It’s how they convey their message, via construct.




  8. >I’m amused to see CC

    err, wrong interpretation for you (as usual πŸ˜‰ — I simply meant you were shameless enough to do it!


  9. http://eheavenlygads.wordpress.com/2007/05/18/ponder-the-brilliance-of-kristen-byrnes/

    here’s an interesting bit I found — apparently it’s an evil stepfather urging her on. And any inquiries they don’t like will be sent to the FBI! Pretty clever having a 15-year old girl attack you; so even if you have the chutzpah of an Annan to send a nasty critique, you may find yourself with a trumped-up pedophile charges!

    “Should you wish to contact Kristen and comment on her paper, be advised that her Stepfather controls the roost – not only will all emails be screened, but any wackos spouting any unsavory retorts may be reported to the FBI. Corrections to her hypotheses are welcomed, but please provide the same diligence in authority as did Kristen.”

    You have to admit, these rotten bastard Repukes know a lot of good dirty tricks! πŸ™‚


  10. PS — the step-daddy is obviously a right-wing nutter who is perhaps “prompting” her — did you see the notice about emailing her that “enviro-terrorism emails will be sent to the FBI.” You have to be a total Limbaugh “dittohead” FreeRepublic flag-wavin’ douche to use a term like “enviro-terrorism.” I mean what the hell are we going to do, threaten ’em with a regional climate model over New England? Let loose the 12 monkeys?



  11. Carl: Please reread your post. Her stepfather controls incoming emails, as any sensible father would if his daughter were propelled to instant infamy. She is probably inundated by hate mail from environmentalists.

    [There are many probablies on this. Mine is that she probably didn’t write it unaided. Yours seems to be uncritical of the site itself. How accurate do you think it is? Eli spotted one gross flaw, do you think Gore made any mistakes as big as that? -W]


  12. Umm, sure Richard. How much hate mail have you recieved recently?

    [Please don’t get carried away. Richard is a big boy in a visible position and likely gets the odd hate mail, but I don’t see that as at all relevant here. As he has said elsewhere, his papers are up for detailed examination anytime anyone wants to try to poke any holes in them -W]


  13. OK William. I wasn’t going to go any further, I was just wondering how he can go around smearing groups of people just like that. In fact I didn’t even know who he was until I did some googling, and he is indeed a big boy.


  14. here’s my last word. as I mentioned, the stepfather’s odd use of “enviro-terrorism emails will be sent to the FBI” sure smacks of the most extreme right-wing psychoses I encounter in the US. I’d hardly call her “propelled to instant infamy” considering that thanks to the right-wing knuckle-draggers all over the Internet, she has something like 70K favorable references in Google saying Al Gore is terrified of her, has setup a “scholarship fund” or whatever, etc.

    But anyway, on a nicer side, if someone could offer her a “scholarship” or free trip to attend AGU or EGU (Vienna would probably be more fun), for her to see the various posters, grad students, maybe meet with a few scientists who could nicely point out her mistakes to help & encourage her, I think that would be a great outcome. Or, since she’s also slamming climate modelling bigtime, perhaps a visit to the Earth Simulator/JAMSTEC, quick overview of modelling etc (do they have any “outreach” money? none left on CPDN since we bought two new SCSI drives ;-).

    I just thought maybe if she saw the normal face of science (which admittedly could include sniping & bitching ;-), and not the perverted view she gets from her stepdad and McIntyre et al (that scientists are communists & liars), perhaps she could see her errors and work on better things etc.

    Perhaps even meet Jim Hansen who she is oddly slamming & slandering? Could a 15-year old girl get riled up over climate scientists that much without some “input” from jerks close to her? I think she exists and is bright but is being put on the wrong track due to an evil stepfather — sounds like a fairy tale, Climatella perhaps? πŸ˜‰

    PS — if anyone is really disgusted with her or thinks she’s a phony, no need for “enviro-terrorism emails” — simply send a note to the local branch or national IRS office as they should be interested in all of these tax-free donations and where they’re going (doesn’t look like a proper tax-free charity that’s for sure).


  15. Guthrie:

    Sorry. I did not intend to imply that every environmentalist regularly sends hate mail. That would be totally unfair and totally untrue.

    However, in my experience and in the experience of colleagues, it is not uncommon that people who are prominent and skeptical about climate policy or climate change do receive hate mail, threats, or worse.

    I responded to Carl, who deduced from the fact that her stepfather wants to protect her against hate mail, that he had written her piece in her stead. There is no logic in Carl’s statement. I also do not understand why one would argue that a 15-yr-old necessarily shares the political beliefs of her stepfather.


  16. Ok, I think most of what she wrote is a crock. The graph really worries me because it is a falsification, and she said she added the line herself. Moreover a lot of her argument flows from it. Not knowing whether she was young or not I was not going to fisk the stuff, but the graph is serious baggage


  17. err wait a minute Tol, the stepdad uses a standard “dittohead” line of “enviro-terrorism emails will be sent to the FBI.” Perhaps in your enlightened European view it’s easy to overlook; but my “Repuke-dar” goes off the scale when scanning a line like that! πŸ˜‰ it’s classic Limbaugh-esque “dittohead” Bush-lovin’ fodder.

    Also, a teen girl doing all she can to appease a (rightwing blowhard) stepdad doesn’t sound too far-fetched an idea either. Certainly it’s more sensible than all the tripe of hers that you are supporting, and your notion of she’s “poking holes in AGW” (which sounds similar to when Creationists claim to “poke holes in the fossil record” to “disprove” evolution — another Repuk-dar event ;-).

    I think other than having her and precocious kids visit an AGU or EGU or whatever for meetings & friendly debate, as I suggested would be an appropriate way forward, and would do her a lot of good.

    I doubt the stepdad would allow that although they’re touting “Al Gore is afraid to debate her!” I think scientists (or politicians) replying to her or “debating” her is a lose-lose situation (it would be like having to rebut every single daily “smoking gun” McI and his lackeys come up with on CA). Also if she’s left on the podium crying from embarassment over her mistakes & forced vitriol, the right-wing blowhards will quickly flip-flop and screech that scientists & Al Gore is even meaner than they thought, by making a poor little girl cry etc etc.

    [I think having her visit A/EGU would be a good idea. RT has been rather vague in exactly what he is supporting – I think he said she had poked holes in Gore not AGW – it would be nice to know what he meant -W]


  18. I think other than having her and precocious kids visit an AGU or EGU

    Carl, I think this is a good idea, and in my discussions on other blogs I have often suggested to people (mostly skeptics, but in general as well) to call up their local university and have a chat with their local climatologists about the science. In my experience, ‘experts’ have always happy to speak to people, and doing so face to face prevents the aggro and extremism that comes out of the faceless anonymity of message boards.

    But what is the most common response I get from the skeptics? That the climatologists are in on the hoax, and of course they would toe the line: their jobs depend on it. So as nice as it sounds to have her go to an AGU or whatnot, you’re likely not to get much of a response.


  19. I’m afraid I’ve come full circle regarding Kristen (or Kirsten). Since I couldn’t see that she posted on any “normal” sites other than hanging around s(k)eptics such as McI’s of CA. You think they would encourage her to take part on, say, RealClimate if only because the CA gang try to insist that their fair & balanced (like Fox News :-).

    So I can only assume that she isn’t really genuine about her scientific interest other than a cheap ploy to come up with these “Achilles heels.” And she seems to have been carried away with her “15 minutes of fame” by right-wing bloggers. So it now seems to me pretty obvious she wants to be the next Ann Coulter, not the next Pielke (at least ;-). A trip to AGU/EGU would probably be a waste on her, but if some org could come up with 10 spots for high-schoolers/6th formers, perhaps there would be hope of redemption.

    It’s easy to poke some holes in Gore/Inconvenient Truth — the jury is still out on the pathogen/disease vectors and tornados and hurricanes attributed to AGW right? but this doesn’t invalidate the other 95% of things. That’s the peculiar “judgements” I always find on the right-wing (and has been mentioned here and elsewhere ad-infinitum) — their zeal to see motes in the eyes of others whilst ignoring the beams in their own etc etc.

    PS — one of the funniest & oddest things I saw that shows Kristen’s logical thought process is an exhortation on one of her “articles” that McIntyre & McKitrick don’t take Exxon money because they have a Paypal link for donations on their website. What irrefutable proof! πŸ™‚


  20. Poor kid.

    I suppose since she’s also asking for donations, that proves _she_ doesn’t take money from Exxon? Maybe the theory is that Exxon’s checks are for big round numbers, with so many zeros that anything smaller is chump change? Could be true.


  21. Carl/William: What I meant to say, and what I think I said but what was twisted by a few punters, is that Kristen Byrnes poked at Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and that at first glance she managed to poke a few holes.

    [Richard – yes indeed, that is what you’ve said before, but you’ve been utterly vague as to what those holes might actually be. Given that she has faked and/or totally failed to understand her T/CO2 graph, exactly which holes are you thinking of? -W]

    Given that she is a 15-yr-old school kid and he a former vice-president with a support staff, that is quite serious. As far as I know, no schoolkid has ever challenged Alan Greenspan and got more than two seconds of the world’s attention.

    [Indeed. So you are arguing that… because she ahs got attention she must be right? Or what? Would you similarly defend TGGWS on the grounds that it got a lot of attention? -W]

    I do believe one can make a case for greenhouse gas emission reduction today that cannot be ridiculed by a 15 year old — and I’m afraid that Al Gore failed to make that case.


  22. William: I’m glad that at least one person understands what I said.

    Given the rapid rise to fame of Ms Byrnes, she must have struck a chord. Not only is she hailed as the new Jeanne d’Arc by the anti-climate-policy camp, the pro-climate-policy camp has offered little of substance in defense of An Inconvenient Truth.

    [Of course she has struck a chord. So did TGGWS. But it was trash, and it faked its graphs. As for AIT – what are you talking about? There is little of substance to defend, because there has been precious little substance in the attacks. But see for example http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=299 or http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/04/the-lag-between-temp-and-co2/ -W]

    If I read “Ponder the Maunder”, I am struck by how easy it is to expose the oversimplification of the glaciers in An Inconvenient Truth; how Gore fell into the Vostok trap and reversed causality; how he blamed Katrina on bad weather rather than bad planning. And so on.

    [If those are your holes, I’m not impressed. Gore did *npt* reverse causality on the ice cores; you have fallen for the septic propaganda. And see-anyway the RC response above. As to the glaciers… they are retreating. Apart from a few specialist cases which the septics will seek to mislead you about: see for example https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2007/07/world_climate_report_lying_by.php . For Kili, see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/05/tropical-glacier-retreat/ . Katrina *was* the result of bad weather, as well as bad planning.

    It seems to me that you are being wildly over-generous to something that is basically a re-hash of the same tired old junk. If K’s piece was an economics paper, you would gleefully rip it to shreds, or perhaps ignore it as trash -W]

    Gore upset me with his suggestion that the increase in natural disasters is due to climate change, and he made me laugh when we overlooked the invention of dikes, a few thousand years ago.

    None of this suggests that climate change is not a problem that needs to be solved — but if one of the main champions of climate policy is so easily exposed …

    [But he isn’t. You’re asserting this point, not demonstrating it. FWIW, I wasn’t too keen on AIT either https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2007/01/grumpy_review_of_an_inconvenie.php but if you want the science, read IPCC -W]

    Going back to the comparison with the Federal Reserve, changes in the interest rate cost way more money than emission reduction and you can hear the grinding of teeth and the wails of terror in industry if the interest rate goes this way or that — but although many would have loved to challenge Alan Greenspan, and many tried, few succeeded. And that is because their research is as impeccable as can be.

    [Quite probably true. But the correct analogue to the FR is the IPCC, which as far as I can tell has no credible challenges. Do you know of any? -W]


  23. Richard, next time someone argues that cutting emissions will cost too much, do you mind if I quote you saying:

    “…changes in the interest rate cost way more money than emission reduction and you can hear the grinding of teeth and the wails of terror in industry if the interest rate goes this way or that…”

    Anyway, the problem with Gore, not that I have seen or read anything by him, is that people latch onto him as a nice figurehead. Then the antiglobal warming crowd think that all they need to do is expose some small error in his presentation and they have disproved everything he has to say. Now I think you are intelligent enough to know that that is not the case. People frequently are correct on many things, including the broad outlook, but get some of the details wrong, but this does not affect the overall picture.


  24. Richard

    Has Alan Greenspan ever commissioned and taken part in a documentary film designed to inform and educate the broadest possible (popular) audience about the internal workings of the Federal Reserve and the complexity of the stock market?

    I don’t think so…however, I would suggest that if he had there would be people lining up in fora such as this to poke holes in anything he came up with.

    Market reports and popular films -> apples and oranges


  25. again Richard, in your enlightened and optimistic European view you fail to realize that Kristen “strikes a chord” means in the US that the usual cast of right-wing hacks have picked up on her story, full of bad if not outright phony science, to prove their political point. I suggest you get a job in the US at U. Alabama or so (the first thing they’d do is shave your head πŸ˜‰


  26. Guthrie: Yes, you can quote me on that. If implemented smartly, emission reduction should not cost a whole lot.

    Hugh: The Chairperson of the US Federal Reserve is a public figure, and the main character in the controversial regulation of a very complex system. Alan Greenspan did and Ben Bernanke does this without getting egg on their face. The climate is a very complex system in bad need of regulation …


  27. “Alan Greenspan did and Ben Bernanke does this without getting egg on their face.”

    Ah yes, the old “answer a different question” trick.


  28. I think Carl’s point about Kristen’s interest in AGW being born of a right wing ideology is valid. Take a gander at this newsbusters post:


    Kristen, or someone, responds in that thread.:

    Now let’s look at the studies you cited. First the NCDC study (now that I’m done laughing) only covers two years. The idea behind urban heat island is that as the city grows, so does the amount of heat. Two years? LOLOL That’s just too funny.


    In case you are not familiar with Newbsusters, it is the rihgtwingin-est media watchdog site out there. They have disproved AGW on many, many occasions. Take that!

    And another quote, about RC:

    Mr. Cook also provided a link to a website called “RealClimate, Climate Science By Climate Scientists.” I have read many of their articles and have noticed many problems. These are very smart guys and their rhetoric is very clever. After reading this site many times and giving them fair consideration, I have concluded that they are not the climate scientists they claim to be, but rather they are political activists with physics degrees.

    Oh no she DI-n’t! Snap!


  29. jeez, I missed her post above re: RealClimate. OK, I can see that she would be brainwashed by her CA idols McI & McK into disregarding Gavin Schmidt & Mike Mann of RC, but also, say, Ray Pierrehumbert? And our own “Stoat?” It’s obvious she’s pretty hopeless and wouldn’t know science if Einstein himself fell out of the sky and landed on Portland High School.


  30. Hey, she’s been on vacation for three weeks, and she’s clearly just come back and is getting a _lot_ of attention from people she thinks well of. She’s a kid. She clearly screwed up her science — but heck, there are kids doing their senior papers on why the Bible doesn’t mention dinosaurs even though it’s obvious they must have lived along with Adam and Eve, eight thousand years ago.

    Could she get a clue? Possibly. But how many 15-year-olds can actually face facts when their families and those paying their bills all claim something’s true that the scientists say isn’t? Not many.



  31. Chris: Sorry. I often forget that subtlety does not work on blogs.

    I assume that you are a friend of Hugh, and that you protest that I did not answer his suggestion that Alan Greenspan make a movie on the Fed without having 15-yr-olds suggesting an alternative monetary policy.

    I cannot speak for Mr Greenspan, but I would think he is smarter than that. Movies are just not the right medium for doing complicated science. Movies are good if you want to be popular, but they are no good if you want to get a policy straight. Greenspan seemed to prefer the latter.


  32. Hmmmm!

    So Richard, for the past 15 years you have been backing a call for action to be taken to reduce emissions in order to limit the effects of AGW?

    However, you also suggest that: “Movies are good if you want to be popular, but they are no good if you want to get a policy straight.”

    So that leaves me thinking that you believe that policy can operate in a vacumn devoid of public engagement?

    My comment was about the effect that AIT had on raising public interest on climate change, not about Miss B or even Durkin [sublety clearly does not work on blogs].

    The Fed, I suppose, can operate to some degree in a parallel universe where it is not necessary to acheive a popular understanding of its machinations. However, I would suggest that to be effective any proposed mitigation policy must include energy efficiency and conservation (one of the seven wedges).

    How do you propose to garner public engagement with this requirement if not through ‘popular’ media formats?

    I’m intrigued as to which question you’re going to answer this time


  33. Hugh: There is a large body of evidence that persuasion does not work for environmental policy. It is naive to believe that raising awareness on climate change will induce people to save energy.

    Raising energy prices does improve energy efficiency. This requires tax reform or public spending reform, which in terms requires public support. As climate is a slow problem, political support will need to survive at least 10 electoral cycles.

    If you want to solve the problem, you go in with a sober and sound analysis. Upsetting the opposition is bad, as they will eventually succeed you.

    If you want to boost your career, you go in with a spectacular story that economizes on the truth. Upsetting the opposition is good, as that will mobilise your own side.

    In my opinion, AIT is great for Al Gore’s career. The positive effects of raising awareness are at least partly offset by the negative effects of increasing polarisation, and will be more than offset if the public decides that Gore twisted the science by too much.


  34. Richard Tol:”I did not answer his suggestion that Alan Greenspan make a movie on the Fed without having 15-yr-olds suggesting an alternative monetary policy.”

    I think the suggestion was hypothetical. They are not going to get egg on their faces from making a movie if they don’t make a movie.

    “There is a large body of evidence that persuasion does not work for environmental policy. It is naive to believe that raising awareness on climate change will induce people to save energy.”

    Persuasion does not work if the individuals are subject to a tragedy of the commons situation but Gore’s attempt at persuasion is intend to influence individuals political choices which is not a tragedy of the commons situation for those individuals.

    “If you want to solve the problem, you go in with a sober and sound analysis. Upsetting the opposition is bad, as they will eventually succeed you.”

    And we wouldn’t want to upset the opposition now, would we, but seriously, political adversaries know that there is a fair amount of hype involved in political contests and they are grown up enough to not get “upset”. Governments change but both sides of politics change in a consistent direction over a long period. Governments last 4 or 5 electoral cycles in Australia at least, so a new policy by a new government is most likely to be permanent.

    “If you want to boost your career, you go in with a spectacular story that economizes on the truth.”

    I would have thought the only thing Gore could do to boost his career was to run for US President. As for being economical with the truth, where is Gore lying?


  35. Chris: Did you actually see An Inconvenient Truth? There are only a few untruths, but many suggestions and omissions. See my post of July 13.

    With “upset”, I did not mean dirty tricks and tactics. I meant a strategic upset — like abortion and gun control in the USA.


  36. The latest issue of the New Yorker has a wonderful example of how public opinion works. In the seventies all surveys of hockey players showed overwhelming support for protective helmets. On the other hand, very few players wore them. The reason was that there was a small advantage in not wearing a helmet because of a loss of peripheral vision.

    When the NHL mandated helmets, everyone put them on immediately with very little to no complaint, because the rule had leveled the playing field.

    You see the same thing with SUV/small cars. If there is no rule, there is a small safety advantage being in an SUV so people buy and drive them while saying they want higher gas mileage. If SUVs were ruled off the road, the field would be level and people would rapidly transition to smaller cars. Same with CAFE standards. These are situations where regulations have to level the field.


  37. Eli: Wrong. Unlike hockey, the economy is not a zero-sum game. True, an unlevel playing field has costs, and these may be substantial. But raising the level of the playing field equally for all players would have a cost too. Energy is a scarce resource. Making energy more expensive will slow down economic growth.

    Your SUV example is wrong too. An SUV has three externalities: safety, congestion, and emissions. SUVs should be taxed three ways. Taxing emissions to solve a safety problem is inherently inefficient, and may well be ineffective.


  38. Richard, the only tool is not a hammer and everything is not a nail. In a world where billions are spent on cosmetics only a fool thinks spending optimally is the only metric.

    Besides your comment on SUV’s is irrelevent. Individuals are willing to spend more on SUV’s for the safety and sexy advantages it gives them. They cheerfully accept the added associated costs, both personal and social. So I listen to an endless stream of fools telling me that all those people driving SUVs is proof that people don’t want less emissions.

    I point out that there is a personal advantage to driving an SUV which for many outweighs the costs for gasoline and you try and crap on me by saying that you know of three external disadvantages to SUVs. THESE ARE NOT SERIOUS DISADVANTAGES TO SUV OWNERS. I WAS TALKING ABOUT WHY PEOPLE BUY SUVS AND WHY THE ONLY WAY TO GET RID OF THEM IS BY POLICY. Got that now.


  39. “Making energy more expensive will slow down economic growth.”

    Richard, can I ask you a couple of questions:

    1. What would be the impact on the economy if energy taxes were increased, but the revenue gained used to offset tax reductions elsewhere?

    2. What would be the effect on the economy of mandating stricter energy efficiency requirements?


  40. Movies are just not the right medium for doing complicated science.

    Right. The movie is to get the word out.

    Come now, Richard. You are not keeping your cards close to the vest. I’m having a poker party at the end of August. What say you to coming over? Smart, interesting folks will be there.




  41. Eli: I made the point that the right regulation does not level the field. I did not argue against regulation.

    Munin: Smart recycling would reduce the economic costs, and may even reverse it. You may want to search the recent issues of Water Resources Research on the name Letsoalo. We just published a paper there on how smart tax reform would reduce the pressure on the environment, stimulate economic growth, and reduce the gap between rich and poor.

    The problem with smart recycling is that it requires smart politicians, and they are in short supply.

    Mandating energy efficiency is just bad old direct regulation.


  42. Richard Tol:”Did you actually see An Inconvenient Truth? There are only a few untruths, but many suggestions and omissions. See my post of July 13.”

    See William’s responses to your post of July 13. BTW, I don’t know why you apply a vastly different standard to “Ponder the Maunder” as to “AIT”. The word “credulist” comes to mind.

    “I meant a strategic upset — like abortion and gun control in the USA.”

    I thought you were talking about the opposition political party, as in “Upsetting the opposition is bad, as they will eventually succeed you.” That’s what I took you to mean. Did you actually mean someone else?


  43. Chris: Yes, different standards apply to schoolkids and senior politicians.

    No, opposition did not mean political party. Heaven forbid that one of the main political parties makes opposition to climate policy one of their defining characteristics. But aren’t certain senior members of another political party trying to make environmentalism a core aspect of their club? Schwarzenegger and McCain are the real heroes, not Gore.


  44. My experience with regulation is that simple declarative rules are easier to enforce and harder to game. Regulations with multiple objectives are inherently complex. Of course, you always need the Chinese backup, e.g. we will shoot you if you take bribes to let bad medicine on the market.


  45. Eli, you’re showing your age. Direct regulation was fine in the olden days of point source pollution. It does not work in the modern era of diffuse pollution. Please update your library. You’re 30 years behind the times.


  46. Richard, RE smart recycling, I assume you mean this article? Thanks, I’ll take a look at that.

    Click to access tripledividend.pdf

    I hadn’t realised that old fashioned direct regulation had fallen so badly out of favour. Can you suggest some new reading material for Eli’s library?


  47. “different standards apply to schoolkids and senior politicians”

    Yes schoolkids can lie their heads off and people, i.e. credulists, will believe them.

    “No, opposition did not mean political party.”

    In that case your argument “Upsetting the opposition is bad, as they will eventually succeed you” is meaningless.


  48. I must say that some kind of direct regulation (looks like that to me anyway) is working fine at my workplace, where we have installed a thermal oxidiser, a bunch of new burners, adsorption canisters of activated carbon, and are planning a water treatment plant for our new factory.


  49. This Kristen Byrnes issue of being real or fraud had me do a check of the Portland Herald news archives.


    The name appears in 2004 for a Sixth Grade Honor Roll, but not later. Honor Rolls for local high schools and community colleges are also published in the Maine Herald. They do not cross reference to Kristen.



  50. Richard Tol appear to believe in the magic wand, the Swiss army policy knife, and of course, his is the real one. As guthrie points out there are many tools that work, many policies that work, and the problem with policy studies, IEHO, is that protagonists sign onto one and spend their lives rubbishing the others.


  51. Direct regulation works fine if you have a narrow, clear problem — like cleaning up toxic waste from a few facilities.

    Direct regulation is expensive and ineffective if you deal with many and diverse sources — instruments like taxes or tradable permits work better and are cheaper.

    This is not an article of faith, Eli, but the result of a large analytical and empirical literature.

    Of course, Guthrie, if your office is subject to a carbon tax or constraint, then it may well be that the best way to acheive emission reductions WITHIN the office is by direct regulation. Taxing office workers for their emissions would be awkward. However, there is no reason to assume that this carries over to the whole economy.


  52. Direct regulation of diffuse sources:
    — removing lead from paint
    — removing lead from gasoline
    — removing lead from plumbing
    — removing lead from solder
    — removing lead from crockery
    — removing asbestos from brake pads
    — separating storm sewers from septic sewers
    — removing lead from shotgun ammunition
    — removing tobacco smoke from air
    — fuel efficiency standards for automobiles
    — air quality standards for automobiles and industry emission
    — requiring publication of water contents by water supply systems, and minimal standards
    — food quality standards

    Just a few off the top of my head, as an amateur. Any professional in the field can speak to diffuse source problems that are being addressed by direct regulation.


  53. Hank: Of course, direct regulation is possible. It is much more expensive than the market-based alternative, though.


  54. Hank points to a number of diffuse and troublesome sources that were regulated. Richard Tol repeats his mantra that the regulations were more expensive in meeting the problems than the majic market would have been. Given the resistance that the majic market put up to removing any of these things, the majic of the market is somewhere between a dream and a lie.

    The majic market WAS NOT DEALING with these problems. When those hurt by the majic market banded together to sue (our libertarian friend’s favorite remedy) the majic market ran to the legislatures to seek regulations stopping the lawsuits.

    The majic market had decades to deal with these problems. The majic market refused to deal with those problems. We have very, very current examples about how the unregulated majic market deals with such diffuse problems with lead paint on toys from China, food contamination, etc.

    So what does the majic market do well, and regulations do poorly. Regulations work best when they set goals. The market does well when it sorts among the possibilities for meeting those goals. Markets suck at eliminating diffuse problems, regulations suck when they try and specify solutions to diffuse problems.


  55. Eli,

    The market works well if there are no externalities (Pigou, 1920). Greenhouse gas emissions are externalities, so the government must regulate. Pigou favoured a tax. This is economics 101.

    Montgomery (1972) suggests tradable permits, and shows that they are much superior to direct regulation. Weitzman (1974), however, shows that taxes are superior to permits under the sort of uncertainty about climate change. This is economics 3xx.


  56. To be fair to Richard, he kind of has a point. However this is probably not the place to expound it, rather it needs a blog of his own.
    Possibly we are at another of these problems with communication. Richard appears to be for legislation to deal with climate change, except that it should be a kind of tradeable permits. Or does he? I’m afraid your last post is confusing, richard.


  57. Guthrie,

    As a purist, I would advocate an internationally harmonised tax. As a pragmatist, internationally traded emission permits are more likely and almost as good.


  58. Tradeable permit systems might work well in theory, but I’m not convinced they’ll work in practice. Take HFCs under Kyoto – abatement costs can be as low as $0.20/tCO2, but permits are worth about $10.

    A similar concern applies to other industrial gases, like NOx.

    This system might like good to emitters and traders, but it’s hardly efficient. Richard, what’s gone wrong, and how would you fix it?


  59. So, the price differs from the cost. What’s new? That’s the market. Does your supermarket sell food at production cost?

    There are many things wrong with the EU-ETS (allocation, coverage, enforcement), but that is because they followed politics rather than economics. It took the US 15 years to get the sulphur permit market right, so let’s give the EU another decade before passing judgement.

    The UN permit market has the additional problem of being overly bureaucratic. Judging from past form, this problem will not go away — and the UN role will simply pass to someone more sensible.


  60. I doubt my supermarket sells many goods at a gross profit margin of 98%.

    The Kyoto mechanism has created huge economic rents for HFC emitters, to the point where some now earn more for abating emissions than for their main products.

    This is inefficient because we’re paying much more than we need to for emission reductions from these sites. An alternative system that paid $1/tCO2e for HFC abatement would work just as well, and cost ten times less. Even “bad old direct regulation” could be far, far cheaper.

    Richard, even the FT and The Economist have picked up on this – are you really trying to tell me that you don’t see any problem?


  61. Hmmm, that’s rather a bold statement to make on such little data, especially as I was merely answering your question. Some supermarkets do sell some produce at below production cost. If you think there’s a problem there, then you should probably address it to the blokes who run Tesco.


  62. Adam: I reacted to your petty post with sarcasm. Munin, probably from North Korea, displayed a peculiar ignorance of markets and you thought it was funny to create confusion. How we laughed.


  63. If there are no externalities there is no market, no people, nada. However I am amused by the formulation that A PROVED x in 1830, but B later proved Y in 1950, X being the opposite of y, that, of course, being economics 3yy.

    Richard appears never to have heard about loss leaders, but then again he lives and shops in Germany which has a long tradition of enforcing trade prices. Another example of things being sold below production costs are ink jet printers, where all the profit is in the cartridges. I am certain that is economics 3zz and 2ww respectively.


  64. Eli,

    Sorry for not expressing myself clearly.

    Pigou showed that taxes can solve externality problems. Coase showed that permits can solve externality problems too. For a while, people thought that taxes and permits were equivalent in efficiency but opposite in equity — but then Weitzman showed that, although both taxes and permits solve the externality problem, they are not equivalent in efficiency terms. For stock externalities (e.g., climate change), taxes are preferred.

    Now, on the selling at a loss thing. Maybe one day Tesco will offer carbon permits at a discount to lure people into their shops. Until then, it is safe to assume that companies will sell permits at a profit, that is, above cost price, just like they sell their average product at a profit.


  65. Hmmm, who used the sloppy example? He also seems to fail to understand that sarcasm can be answered with sarcasm. But then .


  66. Actually, apologies to Richard for that last post, he posted while I was writing. Thank you for explaining it a bit better – that may have been the best way to start. Still, I can understand while you’re being a bit defensive based on the original post. Needless to say we get nowhere by being sarcastic (which you started with Munin).

    Finally, I wouldn’t put it past Tesco to offer them at a loss.


  67. Sorry, guys, I got a little frustrated.

    So, everyone seems to agree that in a normal market companies sell most of their stuff at a profit.

    Munin seems to be worried that some profits are “excessive”. I doubt that the FT and the Economist worried about that. Some producers are just lucky, or smart enough to command a really high mark-up. It’s the same in this case. HFC23 is dead cheap to reduce, but there is not enough of it around to drive down the price of CERs.

    The concern here is not about the market, which does exactly what it should do — bring money from those who want it to those who have it. The concern is also not about profits. Some people are getting rich fast. Good for them.

    The concern is about the international regulation of this market. It was put in place without much thought. HFC23 is being created only to be destroyed. This is perfectly legal, and profitable for all parties. It does not help reduce climate change one bit.

    All this was predicted. Markets should be designed by people who understand markets, not by diplomats and environmental scientists at 4 am. This is just the result of amateurism by the climate negotiators.


  68. “So, everyone seems to agree that in a normal market companies sell most of their stuff at a profit.”

    Yes, though my badly made point (so badly made I didn’t really make it) was that markets can be distorted by large enough players. This may be irrelevant in this discussion really, which probably didn’t help your frustration, but the supermarkets are very well known to do this (books for example). They are also in the UK well known for keeping the cost of petrol down (especially a few years ago), though they probably mark down a lot less than they used to. If carbon permits were traded on an individual basis then they would probably start off (at least) selling them at cost or a loss.

    Of course I know this is nothing new to you, but I just thought it was worth making generally.

    On the HFC23 side it would be interesting to see what could/should have been done instead. Any links?


  69. What should have been done on HFC23, is a regulatory analysis before the regulation was made. Common sense, really, but common sense often escape climate regulators.

    That’s too late now. The issue here is that CDM-CERs work from a hypothetical base line, and the safeguards against manipulating that base line do not withstand the profits made from HFC23. The structural solution is to get rid of the base line nonsense, the easy way forward is exclusion of HFC23 from the market.


  70. Richard, I agree with your easy solution, but I don’t understand your structural solution.

    I assume that “base line” refers to the hypothetical emission scenario that would have occurred were a CDM project not to go ahead. How would you get rid of this – what other method could be used to allocate permits?


  71. Munin: Developing countries should either adopt absolute targets for emission reduction, or be excluded from emissions trade. The gains of emissions trade are such that they would be inclined to adopt a target, even one that is somewhat below their predicted emissions.


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