The world will one day adopt a carbon tax—but only after exhausting all the alternatives

carbon-tax-now Says the Economist.

THIS is an unusually busy moment in the unhappy history of efforts to curb climate change. In two weeks at the end of June the world’s three biggest polluters unveiled carbon-reducing measures. In China and America these are more ambitious than previous policies. But they fall far short of what is needed to rein in the relentless rise in global carbon emissions… Many of the American and Chinese moves are of the command-and-control variety… In China there is a public-health justification for this sort of approach. Beijing suffered an “airpocalypse” in January, with smog 40 times above safe levels: too high at any price. America has no such justification. Mr Obama is using measures associated with Soviet central planning out of desperation: he cannot get climate laws through Congress, so executive orders are his only weapons… The trouble is, such measures are not very accurate. Bans or quantitative limits restrict emissions without considering the policy’s full costs… you want the biggest bang for your buck. The way to get that is to use market mechanisms to discover, say, the most efficient way of cutting carbon. America does not have such a mechanism at the federal level and is struggling to set one up. Europe can claim to be ahead here… But the scheme is complex and has been undermined by vast exemptions—flaws which apply to China’s new scheme, too… Winston Churchill famously said America would always do the right thing after exhausting the alternatives. The right thing in climate policy for all the big countries is a carbon tax, which is simpler and less vulnerable to fluctuations in emissions than cap-and-trade schemes.


The right response to Obama’s climate push – when P3 and the R Street Institute agree, you know something must be true.

Evaluating Obama’s speech: follow the money

Need I say more?


Source: QS. Oh go on then. I’ll say more. Here’s a different pic:


which is from Or you can read the PDF. So, full marks for heart-in-the-right-place kind of stuff, and of course he’s fighting a Congress stuffed full of wackos.

The bit that seems to have got most attention – e.g. from the Graun is

But his boldest move by far was the decision to bypass a deadlocked Congress and issue an executive memo to the Environmental Protection Agency, calling for new rules curbing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants… However, the measure ran into fierce opposition from Republicans and industry, even before Obama had delivered his speech.

What the plan actually says is

President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. This work will build on the successful first-term effort to develop greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks. In developing the standards, the President has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to build on state leadership, provide flexibility, and take advantage of a wide range of energy sources and technologies includingmany actions in this plan.

I think if I were a coal seller I wouldn’t be too unhappy with that language – its all tolerably vague.

[Update: I’d assumed QS had cached the pic, but he hadn’t. So I’ve replaced it with a 5-day pic that still shows yesterday’s rise clearly.]


* Critics call Obama’s climate change plan a ‘war on coal’

Read more:

Unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

(I’m sorry, I’m doing it again. I’ll try to stop, honest. Grammatical errors are in the original, don’t blame me guv).

Via Bruce Schneier an interesting article about Spear Phishing Attack Against the Financial Times. What’s so lovely about it is that they’ve used genuine FT email text, and segued straight from warning people about not clicking links in emails straight into providing a link in the email to lure people in. And apparently it worked, somewhat.

Meanwhile (ah, you knew this was coming, I’m sure) anonymous contributor “Abzats” has an essay at WUWT entitled Peer Evil – the rotten business model of modern science. It pretends to be an attack on peer review, but no, its actually an extended exercise in irony. You can tell this because fairly near the top we find:

All the reviewers are anonymous. That is, they know your name but you do not know theirs. This is the first red flag: unless you plan to do something really bad, why do you insists being anonymous?

And, of course, the guest blogger, “Abzats”, is anonymous. Therefore, by his own logic, he’s clearly planning on doing something really bad. Arguably, posting to WUWT fits the bill, but probably isn’t really bad. Therefore, I deduce, he’s a deep cover liberal doing a Sokal on the poor guileless Watties.

Back in the good old days when I reviewed manuscripts, I generally put my name on the review – there was an option to do so. I think that, in general, I didn’t find my peers doing the same in return. But this is a well-known problem, and there is an extensive literature and blogosphere discussion on the topic of peer review, and there are various attempts to fix it, moving away from what one might call “the classical model”. Naturally, you’ll find none of that discussed in the WUWT article, firstly because they’re all to ignorant to know about them, and secondly because the purpose is just a Daily Mail style “stir up indignation”, not to actually try to move forward.

To make up for the contentless nature of this post, here’s a link to JA talking about EGU’s multi-stage open peer review.

It speaks clearly to truth

What a weird phrase. It sort of sounds like it ought to mean something, but it means nothing at all. “It speaks clearly of truth” would be better – but the grammar doesn’t quite work. The alternate title to this post, incidentally, was “Like a trouser, yet not a trouser“. I’ll reserve that for future use.

I picture a large mountain, immaculate and shining with pure snow, glowing with inner fire: Mt Truth, the abode of all that is truthy. And down below, gazing up at the summit glimpsed dimly through the clouds, a small (but clear-voiced) figure speaking. Errm, to the mountain. Is the figure asking a question of Mt Truth? “Dear Mt Truth, I am small and confused, please help me to see further”? Alas no, the figure is hectoring Mt Truth with gobbledegook. Which is probably the fate of all who try to talk to Mt Truth, rather than asking questions of it.


(Here’s my poppy, also glowing with inner fire, or rather with transmitted fire. I like the picture, even though its not really a picture of the poppy – the colours are wrong, the red too orange and not deep scarlet. anyway, on with the show…)

Well, that was a jolly exciting story, no? But what am I on about? Alas, nothing worthwhile. Its yet another of those occasions when WUWT posts nonsense (the “speaks clearly to truth” is part of AW’s intro; perhaps (were we to credit him with sufficient insight) a subtle hint at the garbage to come), this time The “ensemble” of models is completely meaningless, statistically its by Robert G. Brown, some wacko physicist who, in the usual way of these things, may or may not be a competent physicist but is utterly (and like so many physicists, forcefully) clueless outside of his field. Large parts of the post are, I think, literally nonsense; most of the rest and the title point is just wrong, as pointed out by William Briggs, himself a bit of a wacko. But he’s entertaining:

Brown is wrong. What he said was false. As in not right. As is not even close to being right. As is severely, embarrassingly wrong. As in wrong in such a way that not one of his statistical statements could be repaired. As in just plain wrong. In other words, and to be precise, Brown is wrong. He has no idea of which he speaks. The passage you quote from him is wronger than Joe Biden’s hair plugs. It is wronger than Napoleon marching on Moscow. It is wronger than televised wrestling.

That’s Briggs trying to get things through into WE’s thick skull. Naturally enough, it bounces off. Because we’re in New Aristotelians – WE is unable to abstract: he can’t see past his hatred of climate models to the underlying statistics, which is the point that Briggs is trying to make.

I probably shouldn’t snark too much, though. I’ve never been entirely happy with the IPCC habit of drawing spaghetti graphs with little attention to which of the models are any good; and I’ve even got a paper suggesting we might try to weight the models by how much they resemble reality. But really you’re better off reading James Annan.

Oh, but I wanted to add something else: all that stuff is going nowhere; the arguements are not only wrong, but not really interesting or relevant (I’m not talking about JA, of course). They’re just wandering lost in the darkness. But that’s part of the point: for the denialists, the entire point is to go nowhere and understand nothing. I find it hard to believe, though, that very many other than the hardcore really want to go down that path; or that path has any coherence. So while there’t lots of noise, there’s no substance and no weight. The denialists have no “bottom”, to use a seafaring term. The terms of debate are set by the IPCC reports, which are coherent; and the upcoming AR5 will move things onwards, somewhat.

[Update: Briggs says “Update I weep at the difficulty of explaining things” which is fair enough. Its practically a quote from Leviathan in The Deep; or indeed from anyone trying to talk to the more unthinking denialists. On a more serious note, I’m pleased to say that I’m now the #2 google hit for “like a trouser, yet not a trouser” -W]

* Government to reduce cull opposition by demonising literary badgers

Saturn’s hexagon

Isn’t this gorgeous?

Its not new; BA blogged it last year, from Emily Lakdawalla, but I didn’t notice. I forget why I noticed now. Its all fluid-dynamicsy of course; and it (or something very similar) can be recreated in the lab. There’s another very nice image here.

I think its gorgeous partly because you don’t expect hexagons. And note that this isn’t the same sort of hexagon that you get from packed convective cells; that’s a geometrical thing, and occurs because squishing circles together makes hexagons.


* I ran to Ely

How’s my seaiceing?

Its well past time to look at the sea ice extent. I don’t have much to say, so here is a picture:


We’re currently well above the minimum – indeed, we’re pushing the maximum of the AMSR era. That’s not as meaningful as it might be, because 2012 was quite well up until only a few weeks back, so this could all change. But PIOMASS, too, is showing a slight recovery from last year instead of monotonic decline. This should all be no great surprise – we don’t expect monotonic decline.

As usual, if you actually care about seaice you’re probably better off with Neven.


* Girding my loins: sea ice

Super snarky fun!

Yes, its the wonderful Heartland / WUWT own-goal over the Chinese translations of HI’s Climate Change Reconsidered. I have nothing to add except laughter, so you may as well read

* BCL(SB),
* Eli,
* HW.

Not edifying, true, but certainly amusing.

Since I’m here I may as well put up something: can I interest you in this fine photo of a goldfinch, lying symbolically on a bed of peony petals? The peony represents transient beauty, and so it would seem does this particular goldfinch. The culprit may just be circumstance, or may be closer to home.


After a day, she decided to eat it anyway:


Interestingly, in the end, only the colourful bits survived: