Happy birthday to the GWPF "inquiry"

Moyhu wins the prize for actually bothering to track the GWPF and its waste-of-time “inquiry”. That’s about all there is to say, really. I could take the piss out of them a bit more I suppose but it hardly seems worth the effort. Terence Kealey (chairman) (now deadlink; see the archive instead) ends up looking like an idiot, which in GW terms he probably is; rapidly heading Emeritus I’d guess.

I must remember to add it to WATN in 2016; speaking of which, has anyone seen any life out of AW’s poor stillborn paper?

NS must be an elephant: he can also remember the OAS.


* Moyhu: apparently RP Sr may be writing the report.
* Twitter maps via Sou.
* Cooling America – Tamino.

Yet more carbon tax

TL;DR: nothing new to see here.

Anyway, I was pushing my favourite theme, How to decarbonize? More free market! and to my absolute astonishment it didn’t go down terribly well. A number of questions in the comments were re-hashing stuff from Carbon tax now but no-one ever re-reads old blog posts just because I link to then, so I’ll repeat myself.

When I say, or rather imply, that everyone hated it I’m not being accurate. Eli offered The goal is a system which can minimize gaming. Trading schemes maximize gaming, A broad tax does does a much better job of minimizing it which is a pretty good summary.

Disclaimer: I’m going to have to venture into economics, which I don’t understand. If you don’t like that, go argue about carbon taxes with someone who does.

Free markets

In the course of comments, rc made what was (to me) the novel assertion that a carbon tax wasn’t very free market; for example “If you don’t consider ETS a “free-market solution” then neither is a carbon tax, which is arguably less free-market”. That seems to me obviously wrong, but perhaps not everyone agrees what a free market is. I’ll use Wikipedia’s definition

A free market is a system in which the prices for goods and services are set freely by consent between vendors and consumers, in which the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from any intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority. It is a result of a need being, then the need being met. A free market contrasts with a regulated market, in which government intervenes in supply and demand through non-market methods such as laws creating barriers to market entry or price fixing. In a free-market economy, prices for goods and services are set freely by the forces of supply and demand and are allowed to reach their point of equilibrium without intervention by government policy…

Adding on a tax to prices is clearly an intervention, but arguably the minimal possible one; in particulalr I think it satisfies “Friedrich Hayek argued in The Pure Theory of Capital that the goal is the preservation of the unique information contained in the price itself”. So before you read free from any intervention too literally, look at Laissez-faire where we have

Laissez-faire (/ˌlɛseɪˈfɛr-/, French: [lɛsefɛʁ] ( listen)) is an economic system in which transactions between private parties are free from government interference such as regulations, privileges, tariffs, and subsidies.

Note that taxes are not one of the things being listed as transactions having to be free from. And note that no-one (apart from the most wild-eyed of libertarians) is proposing markets that are entirely unregulated; most would accept, say, food safety standards quite happily. “Free market” is short hand for either “desire for minimal govt intervention” or “less govt intervention”, in most discourse. Like here.

By contrast to a carbon tax a carbon trading scheme requires more government intervention. But, as wiki says, it is still a market based approach. The problem is that it either requires pre-allocation of permits – which is inevitably gamed, and is subject to pols interfering, see the ETS – or an auction every now and again, and has the problem of who sets how many permits are to be issued. I don’t think the generally perceived success of the US Acid Rain Program can be used to conclude that a similar scheme for CO2 would be effective1.

But it might not reduce emissions!

KON says the goal is to reduce emissions & virtually *eliminate* the externalities – not make them simply economically pay for themselves. If producers and consumers are willing to pay the tax *without* reducing emissions has the tax succeeded?. This I did my best to cover in CTN so if you didn’t like what you read there you won’t like what I’ll say here, but never mind.

With cap-n-trade the Great and the Good get to decide what level of emissions is acceptable, and in theory permits are issued to this level. The ETS shows how badly this can work; arguably the Common Fisheries Policy shows similar. Allowing pols to set acceptable emissions levels seems to me to be doomed to be gamed to failure. But anyway, once you’ve done that, your job is done, and anyone worrying that the price of permits has fallen to low is stupid and has failed to understand what the system is for. That doesn’t stop people saying it; the sort of people who like ETS-like schemes like to keep fiddling, which is yet another reason for not having it.

With a carbon tax you work out what the externality is and charge people that (yes, I know it isn’t possible to work it out exactly, any more than it is possible to work out the correct emissions levels for permits exactly; it isn’t a problem; just set a level and (slowly) ramp it up (inevitably; in theory down is possible too) as required). In which case, people are paying up front the cost of their emissions, and you can no longer complain that they are getting a free ride. In this case, unlike cap-n-trade, you are not guaranteed emissions reductions. But anyone who thinks that cap-n-trade would actually guarantee reductions is fooling themselves.

Worrying that this might not reduce emissions is reasonable in theory but not in practice; no-one doubts that carbon tax levels of, what, $50 per tonne CO2, would reduce emissions.

But I’m still skating over the question of “what if you really do want to reduce emissions”. I think – but am not sure; I told you I don’t understand economics – that this really becomes a non-economics question. Wanting to reduce emissions, as a goal in itself, is non-economic. If you re-frame it into economic terms – say, wanting to avoid future damage to the Earth – then you’re back to the externalities. And all economics can do is require you to pay those externalities. Deciding you’re not happy with that – that you want the damage to be guaranteed not to occur – is a non-economic requirement. I think. Cue “ha ha that just proves economics have no soul” etc etc. But as a useful practical argument I think this is meaningless, per previous paragraph.

Timescales for externalities

In theory, externalities are calculated by integrating costs out to infinity, deflated by appropriate discount rates. In practice, no-one bothers, because so many other unknowns intervene that it would be a waste of time. I can’t see any point of trying to go beyond 2300, and indeed even that seems too far. We can’t possibly usefully try to plan that far ahead, except in the most vague and general terms. Even 2100 is pushing it. See discussion from 2009.


1. You might find carbontax.org/cap-and-trade-problems more convincing than my hand waving.


* From the Carbon Tax Center, A Call to Paris Climate Negotiators: Tax Carbon via VV’s twitter feed.
* The Problem of Carbon Tax Border Adjustments from IER. Disclaimer: I haven’t read it and I think they’re just trying to put you off.
* MMM makes some points I like in #15 about when you might prefer tax or cap; or even when you might prefer reegulation.
* Polluters’ Profits and Political Response: Direct Controls versus Taxes. James M. Buchanan, Gordon Tullock. The American Economic Review provided by DZ who also offers his Pigouvian taxes do NOT produce deadweight losses.
* Praise Canada, Finally Someone Does The Right Thing – Timmy, Forbes, 2016 / 10.

How to decarbonize? More free market!

mt has a nice post pointing at an article by Ray Pierrehumbert, How to decarbonize? Look to Sweden. mt and I both like the article, though we choose to emphasise slightly different aspects of it. I offer you:

In my experience, inaction on restraining carbon dioxide emissions does not stem from insufficient understanding of the science or insufficient fear of the consequences of warming. Instead, it is more due to excessive fear of the nature of the solutions… The problem is not too much capitalism, but rather too little, and even a lack of faith in the power of the ingenuity unleashed by capitalism to solve big problems… Sweden is emphatically not socialist. In fact, all this has been carried out within a vigorous free-market economy that fosters innovation and entrepreneurship…

In short, a thinly disguised Carbon Tax Now. He even quotes Timmy with something like approval.

The wacko right wing is convinced that GW is an evil socialist plot to steal their precious bodily fluids, and therefore chase themselves down bizarre ratholes trying to disbelieve the science. Meanwhile the wacko left wing do their best to foment this attitude on the right wing, by insisting on ever more regulation and stupid doomed nonsense like the ETS1. Both sides are doing the world a disservice by refusing to confront reality: on the right, by denying the science; on the left, by denying the economics.


1. This is far too casually written, which is my way of saying “well it might be wrong but I’m not going to admit that explicitly”; I was pulled up by #3. The regulation criticism is fine – the left is far far too keen on regulation as a solution2; as for the ETS, I suspect the left prefers ETS to a carbon tax because the ETS is stupider; but the alternative view – that the left dislikes the ETS because it is a market based mechanism – is also defensible and even more deeply stupid of the left.

2. Limited, market-based, regulation is fine. But it should do its best to avoid being intrusive, and to allow people to solve the problem in whatever way seems best to them, rather than mandating exact solutions.

Phew, wot a scorcher!

Time for some re-posting of everyone else’s news, just to reassure regular readers after the Exxon stuff that I haven’t gone over to the dork side. First though a link to more of the bleedin’ obvious, Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming by Bart Verheggen, or Devastating Reply To Richard Tol’s Nonsensus In Peer-Reviewed Journal by Collin Maessen.

Anyway, enough of that, on to the recent run of hot months. This pic shamelessly ripped from HotWhopper but you can find similar at Moyhu or Open Mind. Gavin, perhaps only slightly recklessly, is already laying down all his worldly goods on 2016 being a record warm year; but I’m not going to offer to bet against him.

Speaking of which, sea ice, hmmm, my $10k isn’t looking terribly safe. But don’t worry, it is still early in the year, all to play for, and it is currently snowing in Oxford.

On to the space fillers – I do so hate it when the text runs out alongside an image – I went running again in the Rotterdam marathon but disgraced myself with 4:16:51. Clearly more training is required.

Yet more Exxon drivel

The drive to distract us from reality continues. Quite why otherwise sensible people are so keen on stuff like Pressure on Exxon Over Climate Change Intensifies With New Documents – I saw it via Stefan Rahmstorf’s fb feed – I don’t know, because it is utter drivel. To let Exxon have their rebuttal first, because they are right,

Alan Jeffers, a spokesman for Exxon Mobil, called the new allegations absurd. “To suggest that we had definitive knowledge about human-induced climate change before the world’s scientists is not a credible thesis,” he said.

And now to quote the other side talking bullshit

The documents, according to the environmental law center’s director, Carroll Muffett, suggest that the industry had the underlying knowledge of climate change even 60 years ago. “From 1957 onward, there is no doubt that Humble Oil, which is now Exxon, was clearly on notice” about rising CO2 in the atmosphere and the prospect that it was likely to cause global warming, he said.

The idea that anyone knew anything useful about the future direction of climate change in 1957 is stupid. I haven’t dredged through enough of the nonsense to find out where 1957 comes from (2021 update: now I have), so let’s skip ahead to 1968

In 1968, scientists with the Stanford Research Institute reported to the American Petroleum Institute about their research on atmospheric pollutants of interest to the industry. Summarizing the available science, the scientists saved their starkest warnings for carbon dioxide (CO2). They cautioned that rising levels of CO2 would likely result in rising global temperatures and warned that, if temperatures increased significantly, the result could be melting ice caps, rising sea levels, warming oceans, and serious environmental damage on a global scale.

So, first and foremost note what I’ve been saying about this from the start: the Exxon had no privileged knowledge at all; all the SRI are feeding them here is “the available science”. With that alone the entire claim falls apart. Allow me to rub that in your face by excerpting one of their dox:


Yes, that’s right. One of the “damning” quotes – so damning it needs to be outlined in scary yellow – is simply quoting what Revelle had already told anyone who was prepared to listen (ter be honest, I don’t understand the second sentence. I can’t tell if that’s the report stating it as a fact, or whether they are quoting Revelle. The sentence is stupid though, so is unlikely to be Revelle: significant temperature changes *are* climate changes. Notice that sentence doesn’t say the changes will be upwards). However, the idea that the available science in 1968 justified doing anything is also stupid. The blockquote (“In 1968…”) above misrepresents the state. The report itself is available here except it isn’t the whole report. Its only selected bits. I think that’s dishonest of them; I think they’re deliberately avoiding putting bits of the report they don’t like online. But even that fails.

Here’s one bit. Notice what they’ve outlined in yellow. Then notice what follows, that they’re desperately hoping that you won’t read, because it destroys their entire thesis:


FFS, these people are cretins. I think their quote “They cautioned that rising levels of CO2 would likely result in rising global temperatures” is a lie; I certainly can’t see a source for it, and it would be directly contradicted by what I’ve inlined above. The report does say, and I paraphrase slightly, that “if the temperature increases significantly then some things will happen, like Antarctic melting, sea level rise, warming of the oceans, blah blah blah”. You may call me overly picky, but I don’t think a report that warns that temperatures going up might, just possibly, lead to warming gets many points for depth of perception. Nor do they get much for T up implies SLR; or even Ant melt.


* The same nonsense is available from the Graun
* Exxon’s Support of a Tax on Carbon: Rhetoric or Reality?
* The “Exxon Climate Papers” show what Exxon and climate science knew and shared – archive of post by Andy May at – gasp – WUWT. It isn’t actually good, due to not being able to accept the current state of the science, but largely agrees with what I’ve said; and provides useful links to some of the papers. Also available from a less tainted source if you prefer.

Storelvmo et al. by proxy

Disentangling greenhouse warming and aerosol cooling to reveal Earth’s climate sensitivity (T. Storelvmo, T. Leirvik, U. Lohmann, P. C. B. Phillips & M. Wild; Nature Geoscience 9, 286–289 (2016) doi:10.1038/ngeo2670) doesn’t seem to have garnered much attention. I glanced at it, I think, thought “that told me what I thought I knew already”, and thought no more. Life is so much simpler when you need think no more. But then a correspondent who wishes to remain anonymous (and before you start guessing, no, it isn’t JA, he is quite forthright) offered me some thoughts, and I thought I’d share them with you.

I notice that subsequent to me typing this in but prior getting round to press submit, there’s another Storelvmo paper out, though she isn’t the lead of that one. JA wasn’t impressed.

Essentially, what the paper is trying to do is estimate TCS by trying to take account of the cooling affect of aerosols. Which is does by taking the GEBA dataset and throwing at it a pile of “Statistical methods commonly applied to economic time series”; or as they say Observations from the ∼1,300 surface stations considered were used to estimate the free parameters of a set of equations predicting temperature at individual stations as a function of CO2,eq and DSRS, using dynamic panel data methods that allow for potential long-run cointegrating links among component global time series yadda yadda. Or as my correspondent put it, and I paraphrase, the novelty of the study is use of statistical techniques from econometrics which are unfamiliar to climate researchers… the climate research community has not in general understood the paper… the techniques are totally inappropriate in this context.

So, what do we have? “The analysis further yields a best estimate of the TCS of 3.1 K over land, with a 95% confidence interval of 1.7–4.4 K”; this is fair enough on its own terms; then “Given that land has warmed at exactly double the rate of the ocean over the past century” they deduce that “TCS for the entire globe is estimated to be ∼2.0 K (95% confidence interval 1.1–2.9 K)”, by setting the bit-due-to-ocean-fraction to half that due to land. That seems a bit of a stretch, although not obviously wrong. However, back in the abstract, the TCS is “(2.0 ± 0.8 K)”. This is also numerically different to their text. I’ve never been too hot on such things, but I gather that those who care about such things do care about the difference between CI’s and +/-‘s as well.

Also, I found their eqn 1 puzzling. In it, they define TCS as F_2x * delta_T / delta_F. F_2x is the forcing due to doubling CO2. delta_F is the “net RF” and delta_T is “change in global mean temperature”. But they’ve already defined TCS with the conventional defn of “the temperature change that occurs at the time of CO2 doubling” so they’re not allowed to re-define it. Presumably they mean that eqn 1 may be used to estimate TCS using present-day observations.

If you look at their fig 1, you’ll see that the correlations between SO2 emissions, and DSRS (Downward Solar Radiation at the Surface), is quite high: R(1964−1985) = −0.83, R(1986−2010) = −0.78. It isn’t clear whether that is important or not. Certainly, they say they are relating DSRS directly, not via SO2. However, on the off chance that it does matter: notice that they don’t give the correlation for the full period. I’m told that if you work it out for yourself for the full period, its an unimpressive and certainly unsignificant -0.2.


* Cystitis by Proxy E6 6b

The ETS is stupid, part n + 1

I don’t think I’ve insulted the ETS recently but the Tata Steel brouhaha provides yet another excuse.

Emil Dimantchev, also a climate policy analyst with Thomson Reuters, said membership of the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS) had delivered Tata Steel’s European operations a £780m windfall through the over-allocation of carbon credits between 2008 and 2014. In estimates that Dimantchev considers conservative, the Port Talbot works alone received more than £239m over that period.

Source: Graun. And that’s the ETS for you: a scheme so badly designed that something that should have helped reduce emissions instead delivers profits to people who emit. There’s more, in a similar vein, though not directly related:

The UK operates a carbon floor price, which it recently doubled and has now frozen until 2020, which does affect the competitiveness of UK industry with its continental competitors. But research from the UK government Committee on Climate Change (CCC) found that this was compensated to a large degree and thus was a small factor in the struggles of the steel industry.

So, again, madness: we have a carbon price floor, which in itself is stupid, but then we help people evade it.

These trading schemes are so riddled with political abuse that they are worthless. Carbon Tax Now.