We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution?

Way to go, lefties. Via ATTP on Twitter I find Eric S. Godoy and Aaron Jaffe in the Op-Eds of the NYT1. I think it popped up because of Marx thought of the human body as part of the natural world and called nature an extension of our bodies. Following Marx, contemporary theorists like… and if you’re trying to alienate the right wing – and indeed, almost everyone – invoking Marx is an excellent way of doing it2.

The ostensible theme of the article – that it might be better to think of climate change in terms of “revolution” rather than “war” – I find uninteresting. The bit worth commenting on is perhaps best summed up by their summing up:

In this light, Exxon and its climate science obfuscation is not so much an enemy as a paradigmatic symptom of the worst kinds of behavior generated by profit-driven systems. The enemy is the violence perpetrated by racial, gendered, political, juridical and existing economic metabolisms with nature. Their exploitative organizations would remain unconcerned with climate justice even if the nation were mobilized to mass produce solar panels and wind turbines. In other words, Climate change demands not only a race to develop and deploy new energy technologies, but a revolution to democratize all forms of power — fossil fuels, wind, solar, but most important, economic and political power.

So – perhaps via Climate science identifies the problem – it can’t tell us what to do in response? – there are two4 (have I said this before? It is sounding awfully familiar in my mind. Perhaps I’ve just thought it a lot) contrasting approaches to “solving” Global Warming:

1. Revolution! As exemplified near-perfectly by the above. Capitalists are evil but not only that, our entire society is riddled with violence perpetrated by just about anyone you can think of, except for the Marxists of course. Any solution that leaves people or organisations “unconcerned with climate justice” in unacceptable, regardless of it’s actual effects on climate.
2. Just slap on a carbon tax.

Approach number 1 appeals very strongly to all those people who, for whatever reason, don’t like our society anyway. Or who like it, but can see ways that it could be so much better if they and their nice friends were in charge. As a way of actually solving GW it is a disaster area of course, since it will alienate large numbers of people you need to convinced. If you’re of the Marxist persuasion this is no great problem: you’re writing from an ivory tower, it is all more of an intellectual exercise in speculative world-building, and your life has no real problems to solve anyway other than finding outlets for your wurblings. Plus, of course, it is “your sort” of solution. people like solutions that are within their domain of expertise. Pols like solutions that involve negotiating and talking. Teachers in the department of social science and cultural studies like solutions that involve interesting social and cultural change. None of these people have much of a clue about economics, so the last thing they want is a solution mediated by expertise other than their own, that they don’t really understand, and which if adopted would diminish their ability to write Op-Eds in the NYT.

Approach number 2, alas, appeals to all too few people. Those on the left can’t quite bring themselves to abandon option 1, and those on the right are so busy being riled by people pushing option 1 that they have the perfect excuse not to settle down quietly and think about option 2.

I find I’ve written a rather more cynical and bleak article than I intended.

Notes

1. And I quote: Eric S. Godoy teaches in the department of social science and cultural studies at the Pratt Institute. Aaron Jaffe is an assistant professor of philosophy and liberal arts at The Juilliard School. This is not promising.

2. Ooooh, even better: “Perhaps, as some have suggested, “revolution” is the better path.” And the link is to http://monthlyreview.org/product/marxs_ecology/. I am, BTW, largely ignorant of Marx – and intend to stay that way, please don’t bother to try to “educate” me – so I’m prepared to believe he might have said some sensible things. But if you find yourself tempted to say that, you’ve missed the point.

3. I think the stuff about “the poor” is confused, too. “…refers to the world’s poor, who have contributed only a small amount of the total greenhouse gases while richer countries produce higher carbon emissions… solar panels won’t purify Flint’s lead-ridden water or lower asthma rates in the Bronx”. But essentially no-one in the USA is amongst the poor, as measured by world-grade poverty. The two need to be clearly distinguished.

4. Or these are two ends of the spectrum. Or something. Don’t push me too hard on this one.

Refs

* The same issue, but in much milder form, comes up in 70% of US CO2 Reduction Due Simply to Cheaper Natural Gas at QS

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52 thoughts on “We Don’t Need a ‘War’ on Climate Change, We Need a Revolution?”

  1. To boot if we put a carbon tax on we can eliminate the subsidies for renewable energy, since the carbon tax will make the renewables cost competitive in the same way that without a carbon tax the subsidies did.

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  2. Via ATTP on Twitter
    IIRC, I think this was mainly because I was trying to – unsuccessfully – point out to someone that just because some might use something (climate change, for example) to further their own political goals, doesn’t suddenly mean that that something is now somehow wrong. As you say in the post, though, any mention of Marx will tend to immediately alienate some. However, it does appear as though some people are desparately looking for excuses to become alienated.

    [Yes, I saw your comment, which is true enough. And I’m not addressing the science here because I agree with it already. I’m not sure “desparately [sic :-)] looking for excuses to become alienated” is fair though (though I don’t rule out having written similar myself): many people’s contact with climate science really is through pols or lefties talking about it, rather than reading IPCC, and if they see it spoken of in these terms they’re going to be alienated without needing or seeking excuses -W]

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  3. It’s a shame you wish to remain ignorant on Marx; whether you like him or not he was probably the single most influential political philosopher of all time. Your taking up of an ostrich pose has an interesting echo of the “sceptic” suspicion of experts and as AT points out, if not Marxist academics, the “sceptic” movement would doubtless find some other reason to behave as they do. It’s not as if these academic Marxists have any real influence, certainly not in the US.

    [I’ve read TOS&IE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Open_Society_and_Its_Enemies) if that helps :-). I thought it was excellent. You certainly want to have read Vol 1; and I’d recommend Vol 2 as well -W]

    My (extremely amateur, I hasten to add) understanding is that the original writings of Marx were not all as caricatured today. You might be surprised by some of what you learn; did you know, just for instance, that his co-revolutionary and longtime financer Engels was a mill owner and managed a factory in Manchester?

    Your monotheistic advocacy of a carbon tax as the One True Solution to climate change does though echo some of the more unbending interpreters of the German philosopher’s longwinded output.

    There are many examples we could look to as to how to best reduce CO2 emissions. Reduction in smoking rates (education, taxation, regulation), CFCs (pure regulation), SO2 emissions (cap n trade US, regulation EU) provide some models. I’m not sure there are any examples of pure taxation approaches driving change. Perhaps EU gasoline duties driving engine efficiency relative to other developed economies could be argued.

    Advocating an ultra-simplistic economic model treating us all as rational agents under a taxation regime perfectly encapsulating the externalities is, I fear, naïve at best.

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  4. ‘I am ignorant of subject X and wish to stay that way’ never sounds good, especially if you have strong opinions on subject X.

    Having said which, I regard enforcing mass behavior change as wrong headed, on the grounds that you need to go all Stalin to enforce it. And in this case, I’m not even sure that our mass behavior change would fix the problem. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence* that a carbon tax on it’s own won’t fix the problem either – it may give us a big ol’ pile of cash and a f**ked climate, which isn’t helpful, but rapid decarbonisation, no.

    Interestingly, both of these end members share the same conceit; that the actual domain experts – the engineers, physicists, chemists, etc – cannot be trusted to fix the problem and cannot give any useful planning input. For a problem as well-posed and well-constrained as ‘How do we supply reliable energy without emitting CO2’ this is codified insanity. By analogy; I have a funny looking mole on my arm, should I visit a witch-doctor or crowdsource a diagnosis on twitter? Now, crowdourcing on twitter might be slightly better than a witch doctor, but in either case a domain expert would be vastly better. Unless you are channeling Michel Gove.

    *UK fuel duty, raised to the limit of political acceptability, and applied to a deep and broad car market, has given a modest improvement in MPG. Expecting better things from applying a smaller carbon tax to categories of problem with higher capital investments and lower equipment turnover is, well, ivory-towerish.

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  5. [I’m not sure “desparately [sic :-)] looking for excuses to become alienated” is fair though]
    It’s certainly simplistic. Seems clear that there are some who are looking for any excuse, but I agree that there are probably many who are not looking for an excuse to become alienated but simply don’t agree with the ideologies of those who promote this and.

    Getting back – a bit – to the topic of your post. My one concern is that if we don’t do something substantive pretty soon we may end up following your path 1, rather than your path 2, and I think that would be very unfortunate. I agree with others that I don’t think a carbon tax alone will be enough, but it would certainly seem to be a very obvious step.

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  6. Yes a serious carbon tax needs to be a significant part of the solution, but if you look at things like smoking and road safety there was also a significant effort to change societal attiudes to smoking, drink driving, seat belts etc. It seems to me that in order to get a significant carbon tax to stick through different government you need to do the societal attitude changes too.

    It’s worth going and having a look at Marx’s grave as a monument, Highgate Cemetary is a fascinating place so it’s not as if you are making the trip to look at one bust..

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  7. those on the right are so busy being riled by people pushing option 1 that they have the perfect excuse not to settle down quietly and think about option 2

    Sure, the notable reluctance of anybody on “the right” to even consider countenancing any kind of tax rise, ever, under any circumstances, is entirely the fault of “lefties” (aka the dirty fucking hippies), and not a carefully cultivated political pathology that’s been actively promoted for several decades by a bunch of very, very rich people who don’t like paying taxes. Right.

    [As I said, they have the perfect excuse. And it is. But no, it’s not the entire fault of the lefties. I’d hope your text-parsing skillz were rather better than that -W]

    I’ll file this notion in the same round file that holds the idea that the dirty fucking hippies are the only thing preventing a mass roll-out of nuclear power…

    Hippy punching: it’s the fun game for all the family that means you never have to ask why your ideas fail.

    Have you ever considered the possibility that people might favour Approach 1 because they have absolutely no faith in either the possibility or effectiveness of Approach 2? I mean, sure, I’m personally all in favour of an effective carbon tax (with extra emphasis on “effective”), but like a great many other things I’m in favour of, I reckon there’s absolutely no fucking chance of it ever happening.

    [And do you believe there is any chance of option 1 happening? I think there is more chance of option 2 occurring than option 1 -W]

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  8. “Just slap on a carbon tax” requires a revolution (or victory in a civil war) in the U.S.A. So, for America, you’ve really laid out two options that are in reality the same.

    Marx, OTOH, would say that successful climate policy cannot succeed unless and until society is ripe, and that ripeness will be a result of slow processes of technological, social, and economic change.

    Washington state, the kind of place where passing a carbon tax should be a no-brainer, has one on the ballot next week. ‘YES’ is currently leading in the polls, but only with 40% and a large chunk of undecideds – so the outcome is quite in doubt. And, of course, perfect is always the enemy of good.

    Fossil fuel interests spend big to defeat Washington carbon tax

    The most dramatic climate fight of the election is in Washington state

    Perhaps this battle will end up being won one state at a time, but it will have to be done largely through referendums (like marijuana initiatives) because state legislatures will not do this themselves.

    I’m sceptical we’ve reached the point where the general public is going to accept and vote for tax increases (even in Washington state) – especially as wages have stagnated for so long.

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  9. [And do you believe there is any chance of option 1 happening? I think there is more chance of option 2 occurring than option 1 -W]

    No, I don’t think there’s a hope in hell of either happening. (At least, not in any sense that a sane person would want.*) I’m of the opinion that we have already made it entirely clear what we’re going to do about climate change, and that is nothing whatsoever. Oh, we’ll make encouraging noises from time to time, and we’ll wring our hands a bit, but we’re not actually going to do anything meaningful, and that is exactly how almost everybody (well, everybody who matters, anyway) wants it.

    Given that, it’s not entirely surprising that you see people grasping at straws… Which of the straws on offer is the flimsier is not a debate I’d particularly want to get too bogged down in, although it does provide bountiful opportunities for everybody to grouse at the people they already dislike anyway.

    (*Eventually our current society and its associated economic system will probably break down – at least partially as a result of climate change impacts – as societies under extreme ecological stress tend to do, but I’m pretty sure that’s not Godoy and Jaffe have in mind. In that sense, the problem is self-limiting.)

    [Ah, OK, that’s clearer. And I wouldn’t strongly disagree. I had previously interpreted your Have you ever considered the possibility that people might favour Approach 1 because they have absolutely no faith in either the possibility or effectiveness of Approach 2? as being a leaning in favour of option 1 being more likely -W]

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  10. WC may be amused at this, but I’ve probably spend more time arguing with Marxists than I have criticizing his libertarian views 🙂

    Yet Marx’s main contribution to our lexicon of philosophic and economic thought — historical materialism — is exactly the tool needed to pry open the policies that have brought us to today – and the policies that may move us forward.

    Consider that the U.S produces far more electricity from nuclear power than any other country in the world, but the U.S *hasn’t* constructed a new nuclear power plant in 40 years! While China has 20 under construction and dozens more planned and will likely pass the US in nuclear power generation within a few decades.

    Of course transportation has an even bigger carbon footprint than electricity generation. Again, historical materialism can explain why Europe averages about (US)$3.00/gallon in gasoline taxes, but the US only about $0.50/gallon.

    Once we understand *how* we got here we can use that knowledge to construct plans moving forward. Instead what we typically see is ‘historical idealism’ — which is great if you’re the plenipotentiary and omniscient ruler of the world or everyone simply recognizes the brilliance of your proposals.

    Now it is pretty obvious that social and economic conditions vary from country to country and even within countries from region to region. Historical materialism requires we look at each situation independently; there’s unlikely to be one plan that will work across the board. I.e., the overarching goal may be the same, but accomplishing that goal will have to take into account the varying social, economic, and technological factors on a case by case basis. Otherwise,The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft agley

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  11. Carbon tax was sold as being revenue neutral. Cuts in other taxes and such.

    Major problem is that the tax cuts are rather larger than the carbon tax, so funding for schools, roads and bridges becomes a bigger problem if passed. Is already a problem.

    I voted in favor.

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  12. There are quite a few chickens and eggs haunting us. The unreal energy party due to fracking is a temporary distortion of oil price trend. The revenue-neutral carbon tax may be the most politically viable. And I hope the stupidity of continuing BILLIONS of dollars per year of subsidies to energy companies becomes much more obvious very soon. As in many other fields, education will be key. But of course the energy companies will continue trying to distort the public discourse, and now in the US they can pour even more dollars into buying politicians.

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  13. ” It’s not as if these academic Marxists have any real influence, certainly not in the US.”

    Holy Gramsci, ATTP !

    Current American climate polemics have been shifted into the infrared by half the climate communicating alumni of The Nation Institute and the Center for American Progress reading Naomi Klein. cover to cover-
    There’s even a ‘Dialectics” heading in the K-Street climate playbook commissioned by the former White House Chief of Stall

    [Handcuffed by data! Kinky, eh? -W]

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  14. wiki says: “Moreover, the term “dialectic” owes much of its prestige to its role in the philosophies of Socrates and Plato, in the Greek Classical period (5th to 4th centuries BCE). Aristotle said that it was the pre-Socratic philosopher Zeno of Elea who invented dialectic, of which the dialogues of Plato are the examples of the Socratic dialectical method.”

    But of course any use of the word ‘dialectic’ must import Marxist influence.

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  15. And in that universe was a tiny planet, called Tiny. Population 40. Half the population lives in Richtown, burning fossil fuels to power a luxury lifestyle, half in Poortown, burning no fossil fuels. The income and wealth of Richtown was well over ten times that of Poortown. One day the wise leader of Richtown noticed that the CO2 content of the atmosphere was rising. He calculated that the climate would change, and the changing climate would impact the economy of Tiny by 50% over a number of years distributed equally per person. But no worry, a revenue neutral carbon tax could replace the other taxes of Richtown, and reduce the impact to only 10% per person living on Tiny over the same period with very little impact on the lifestyles of Richtown.

    After the period passed, and the climate changed, the residents of Richtown gathered celebrated the wisdom of their leader. There were no residents of Poortown available to comment, as the global economic reduction put the economy of Poortown to zero.

    This example is simplistic.

    [It isn’t simplistic; it is just wrong. Poortown folk in you fable burn no fossil fuels, so the carbon tax doesn’t fall on them. Since it is revenue-neutral and replaces other taxes, they gain -W]

    The impact is equal in cost to everyone, but in reality the costs are unequal: some rich will be wiped out by climate change along with many poor. The poor also burn fossil fuels, and reducing that will have a large impact on them. The climate change isn’t going to stop after some period, but will continue far into the future, so a tax based on a time period isn’t going to be the end solution.

    Some key thoughts to consider;
    1) Climate change hurts people who didn’t gain much if any from fossil fuels. Carbon taxes don’t match gain to harm. At most, carbon taxes make it easier for the emitters to reduce harm.
    2) Carbon taxes set at a level for the ideal outcome for Richtown are different than for the ideal outcome of Poortown, or of Tiny as a whole.

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  16. Real bunch of philosophers there on K Street , Kevin.

    Here’s the presocratic party line according to the ones the White House hired to write the linked memo:

    “To achieve victory, we must treat climate change as… a true political social movement to create change…one cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind..the magic will not be in the precision of specific words…

    × Dialectic. At the end of the day… one needs to have an organizing platform that defines … the opposition as morally responsible for an issue that threatens the health and welfare of the American people… The power of this approach is that it … fits into what we call the Troglodyte Narrative (anti-women; anti-Latino; anti-gun safety; anti-common sense fiscal policy; and anti-science) that is raising basic trust issues for the Republican Party …

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  17. ” It’s not as if these academic Marxists have any real influence, certainly not in the US.”

    Holy Gramsci, ATTP !

    VTG, rather than ATTP, I think.

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  18. “It isn’t simplistic; it is just wrong. Poortown folk in you fable burn no fossil fuels, so the carbon tax doesn’t fall on them. Since it is revenue-neutral and replaces other taxes, they gain -W”

    Initially, yes, to the minor extent they actually pay Richtown taxes. Poor people don’t pay much in taxes, generally, and pay even less in taxes to governments other than their own.

    At the end of the fable, Poortown is wiped out by climate change. How is that a gain again?

    [I misinterpreted your the global economic reduction. I assumed you meant that came from the tax changes. But you mean from climate changing. In that case, it isn’t clearly wrong, merely arguably wrong. You’re assuming the scenario you need to make your fable work -W]

    Let us consider the case of a Tiny government. Tiny, the planet, that is.

    Suppose the idea of a global carbon tax was put to the global voters. Poortown and Richtown would both want to maximize their future wealth. Richtown would want rates just right to prevent most damage to their economy from climate change, and equal or lower than existing taxes. Poortown would want rates high enough to prevent climate change from destroying Poortown.

    [There is certainly an issue of non-equal impacts from GW. But it is a known, and IMO non-killer, issue -W]

    Looks like interesting politics.

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  19. Phil’s allegory gets even more interesting if the people of Richtown outsource many of their most carbon-intensive activities (resource extraction and processing, manufacturing, and so on) to the people of Poortown, whilst retaining the high-value, low-carbon-intensity economic activities around the use of the products thus created for themselves…

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  20. You would think perhaps that reading (misreading) purloined emails would be a subject approached with some caution given the history, but the lesson Russell has learned is apparently not the one I would have suggested.

    Fabiani and Lehane are lawyers by training and political consultants by trade. The offending (!?) sentence reads in full:

    While public opinion research can certainly help guide and refine any approach (particularly in how to talk about who is right and who is wrong), one cannot be handcuffed by data on a fundamental moral issue of this kind.

    From my cursory knowledge of the English language, I would suggest that the data being discussed is polling data. Imagine that – political consultants talking about polling data!!!

    But hey – Marxist conspiracies have been built from smaller molehills.

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  21. Kevin, the question regards VTG’s assertion that marxistante academic discourse does not impact politics:

    ” It’s not as if these academic Marxists have any real influence, certainly not in the US.”

    So before somebody cries Comrade Godwin ask yourself , do you really want to deny .that ThinkProgress founder commissioned a 104 para climate framing manifesto from K-Street’s premier crisis managers ?

    Far from denying it or raving about a vast right wing conspiracy, they seem rather chuffed at all the ink , and are certainly not feigning indignation the way Heartland did when Gleick outed their climate framing playbook.

    Sorry for the thread slip ,ATTP & VTG

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  22. Russell – yes, the assertion *is* that Marxist academic discourse does not affect politics. You apparently object, but your evidence doesn’t even amount to circumstantial.

    Is Podesta a Marxist or Marxist academic?
    Are Lehane or Fabiani Marxists or Marxist academics?

    Is it a campaign chairman’s job to solicit exactly the kind of issue-related white paper (or as you would have it – “manifesto”) that Lehane and Fabiani produced?

    Where exactly is the tie to Marxism? The word ‘dialectic’?
    Where exactly is the tie to Marxist academics?

    I can find equally discombobulated conspiracy theories all over the internet from the typically insane alt-right. All you’ve left out are Jews and Saul Alinsky, otherwise you’d fit right in.

    Should the true reading of the partially quoted sentence be:
    This issue is too important to worry about how it polls in focus groups.
    ???

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  23. Kevin says:

    Again, historical materialism can explain why Europe averages about (US)$3.00/gallon in gasoline taxes, but the US only about $0.50/gallon.

    Historical materialism – is there anything it can’t explain?

    [You must have read Popper -W]

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  24. Russell Seitz:

    the Troglodyte Narrative (anti-women; anti-Latino; anti-gun safety; anti-common sense fiscal policy; and anti-science) that is raising basic trust issues for the Republican Party

    And no wonder there are trust issues with the Republican Party. Their official strategy has long relied less on moral dialectics than on hijacking science outright. They’re unconcerned about being handcuffed by data because they cleverly make up their own. I presume everyone but Russell is familiar with political consultant Frank Luntz’s 2002 memo to the GW Bush administration*. To refresh your memories, the salient points were:

    Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate, and defer to scientists and other experts in the field…You need to be even more active in recruiting experts who are sympathetic to your view, and much more active in making them part of your message. People are willing to trust scientists, engineers, and other leading research professionals, and less willing to trust politicians. If you wish to challenge the prevailing wisdom about global warming, it is more effective to have professionals making the case than politicians…

    Let’s not forget which party can afford the highest-paid communicators in this “debate”.

    * Shub Niggurath, of all people, has kindly made available a scanned copy of the original memo.

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  25. Kevin, asks:
    Where exactly is the tie to Marxism? The word ‘dialectic’?
    Where exactly is the tie to Marxist academics?

    the link is in the top of the page,sentence two, to two marxistante academics advertorialising their dialectic in The New York times thus”
    climate science obfuscation is not so much an enemy as a paradigmatic symptom of the worst kinds of behavior generated by profit-driven systems. The enemy is the violence perpetrated by racial, gendered, political, juridical and existing economic metabolisms with nature. Their exploitative organizations would remain unconcerned with climate justice even if the nation were mobilized to mass produce solar panels and wind turbines. In other words, Climate change demands not only a race to develop and deploy new energy technologies, but a revolution to democratize all forms of power — fossil fuels, wind, solar, but most important, economic and political power.

    As to the chilling effect of dialectics on the discourse of climate science , it may exacerbate your 1950’s blues to recall that Candidate Academican Vladimir V. Alexsandrov, a climate modeler by trade, suffered a slight case of liquidation after powerfully contradicting the party line on radiative forcing laid down by no less a Marxist than the Chief Ideologist of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union ,Boris Ponomare’ev.

    As of this writing he is still dead.

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  26. Tom C – You, much like Popper, seem to have missed the entire point. Historical materialism is a method of studying history. In what sense would or should it be ‘falsifiable’? Is there some ‘falsifiable’ method of studying history that provides ‘better results?

    Just because it sprang from Marx it should not be conflated with Marxism or how some Marxists have attempted to use it.

    Are you claiming the opposite? History is *not* dependent on the specific social, economic, and technological conditions that existed. Or are you simply using a cute quote because you have no clue how to actually posit an argument on the subject? I’m suspecting the latter.

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  27. Russell — you wrote: “There’s even a ‘Dialectics” heading in the K-Street climate playbook commissioned by the former White House Chief of Stall [sic]”

    I’m asking for the Marxist link to Podesta, Lehane and Fabiani. So far we have the word ‘dialectic’.

    The link to the original NYtimes article has zero to do with Podesta, Lehane or Fabiani – I fail to see the connection.

    Do you agree that the “handcuffed by data” refers to polls/surveys. I also provided what I believe is a true reading of the offending (?!) sentence you partially quoted. Do you agree my reading is correct? If not, why not?

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  28. Well Kevin O’Neill, I admit to not knowing exactly what pure strain of historical materialism you were citing. But you do contradict yourself – arrogantly as usual – by saying that HM “explains” why the tax rates on gasoline differ between the US and the EU. I thought it was just a method of studying history.

    I would be inclined to say that the tax rates differ because cultures around the world differ, and as a result their economic practices differ as well. No need to appeal to some arcane theory that only a select priesthood can interpret.

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  29. Russell – I’ve read the document several times.

    I don’t see anything Marxist about it. It’s a political policy paper – yawn.

    Neither Lehane, nor Fabiani, nor Podesta are Marxists – yet you point to the document as proof of influence. You have not supported that assertion and gave the wrong meaning to the ‘handcuffed by data’ sentence.

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  30. As discussed before, “slap on a carbon tax” does not “solve” global warming. I tried to push you on the question “Carbon tax…and then what?” and you avoided answering by stating “[h]ow about we just try to get to the good start, before worrying too much about what comes afterwards?” (http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2016/04/26/yet-more-carbon-tax/#comment-56038).

    It’s rather easy to sit comfortably in your ideological bubble when you avoid the “carbon tax..and then what?” question, while throwing stones at other ideological bubbles. Heck, at least those other ideological bubbles are attempting to address the “and then what?” question (not that I agree with them). Rather than hippy punching, perhaps you’d like to give your own answer.

    [As you’ve noticed, we’ve already had this discussion. I can’t see the point of having it again -W]

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  31. rconnor – David Roberts as a good example of your point in his latest article on Vox, What we can learn about carbon taxes from British Columbia’s experiment

    The takeaway:
    The BC example may show that it is possible to pass a revenue-neutral carbon tax. But it doesn’t show that it’s possible to pass one that does what’s needed. As a climate policy, the BC carbon tax is weak. It is weak along the metrics that matter most for climate policies: It doesn’t reduce emissions much, doesn’t spur much innovation or deployment of clean energy, and doesn’t seem popular enough, at least at the moment, to build on itself or spread to other jurisdictions. Other policies in Canada, like Ontario’s decision to ban coal plants, have reduced emissions much more dramatically. (See Mark Jaccard, a professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, for more on this.)

    The metric where BC’s carbon tax most excels, namely “how much economists like it,” doesn’t actually matter for shit in the real world.”

    Did someone mention ‘feelgood’ solutions?

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  32. WC,

    We already had the discussion on why a carbon tax is a good start to addressing climate change. And I agree with you.

    We already had the discussion on why a carbon tax, by itself, would not be enough to address climate change. And I believe you agree with me.

    [No, not quite. I deliberately evaded that point because I didn’t think it would be fruitful to argue it, and you didn’t notice 🙂 -W]

    We never had the discussion on what, in addition to a carbon tax, is required to address climate change. You’ve repeatedly avoided that discussion.

    Kevin O’Neill,

    I agree with WC that, to start, we need solutions that are agreeable with enough of the population to have a chance to be enacted (education and awareness efforts are extremely important here), otherwise we tend to further entrench ourselves in our ideological bunkers. A carbon tax appears to be one of the more widely supported options and therefore is a good, and important, first step.

    But I also agree with you and the article you reference that a carbon tax is certainly not enough to address climate change.

    So, let’s push for a carbon tax but also address the “and then what?” question. The latter may require some people to understand that regulations, legislation, tariffs and other libertarian swear words may be required to address climate change…

    Like

  33. WC: “I deliberately evaded that point because I didn’t think it would be fruitful to argue it, and you didn’t notice :-)”

    Don’t confuse people disagreeing with you with it being unfruitful ;-).

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  34. I think it was Myles Allen who caused a stink at an AGU meeting in 2013 by suggesting that a ‘carbon tax’ does not work, and that imposing CSS ratios is the only way to really reduce carbon emissions.

    Myles’ reasoning makes sense : We essentially already pay a “carbon tax” by paying for gasoline. If the price of gasoline goes up (due to a carbon tax or oil price) we really don’t reduce our driving. We just pay a bit more.

    it seems that Myles has created a bit of a controversy with his position, since his talk was duly mis-interpreted by the climate sceptic mis-informationists :
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2331057/Why-I-think-wasting-billions-global-warming-British-climate-scientist.html
    http://judithcurry.com/2013/05/26/myles-allen-why-were-wasting-billions-on-global-warming/

    and as a result even the very informed and trustworthy “skepticalscience” web-site has taken offense with his position :
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/MissbyMyles.html

    Any way, I still think Myles Allen has a point.

    Like

  35. Rough estimate – How many right wing political parties/think tanks are advocating for a carbon tax in the UK? Ratio left/right?

    [I think all the parties in the UK are in favour of carbon permits and other nonsense, and / or regulation or intervention. Few if any are in favour of a carbon tax. But then again, few if any are in favour of free trade so all are economically illiterate. The left, in particular, is averse to carbon taxes, because it has an instinctive fear of economics -W]

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  36. Keviin is evidently too busy looking for red-baiters under every bed to recall that this post’s subject is Godoy & Jaffe’s floridly marxistante climate policy op-ed

    Marx thought of the human body as part of the natural world and called nature an extension of our bodies. Following Marx, contemporary theorists like Jason Moore and John Bellamy Foster describe our changing, and dangerously unstable metabolic relationship with nature…

    However, if we understand that the enemy is not our physical environment, but the unjust social relations that allow some to gain at the expense of and risk to others, then technological solutions can be a part, but only a part, of the plan. Crucial to this plan is gaining social control over the private, exploitative and even irresponsible direction of the human-nature metabolism.

    For this reason, Naomi Klein has called for solutions that go beyond the technological…We want to follow Klein’s lead in shifting the conceptual focus from technologies of power to relations of power…

    Anything there likely to raise eyebrows at ThinkProgress or The Nation Institute?

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  37. RD: “Myles’ reasoning makes sense : We essentially already pay a “carbon tax” by paying for gasoline. If the price of gasoline goes up (due to a carbon tax or oil price) we really don’t reduce our driving. We just pay a bit more.”

    Short term, yes. Long term, no, but a carbon tax isn’t a complete solution. A local carbon tax will reduce carbon emissions locally, but doesn’t solve the “Commons” issue, and doesn’t solve the distribution of gains and losses issue.

    [Myles’ argument is obviously stupid, and I’m astonished he made it in that form. I’m tempted ot rip the whole thing to shreds, old and weak though it is. The US isn’t paying any kind of carbon tax on gasoline. The UK is. But that’s only a fraction of our GHG emissions, so isn’t terribly relevant to the big picture -W]

    For example: Tomorrow I need to get to work, which is a large fraction of total driving. Basically I have one way to get there, drive. For me, bus service isn’t very practical, car pooling is a hassle at best, work is too far to bicycle. I need to get paid, so I need to get there, so if the price of gasoline goes up, I just pay it.(*)

    Next time I buy a car, however, if the price of gasoline is high I’m likely to look more carefully at the fuel economy of the car I’m buying. Witness what happened to average fuel economy of new cars around 1980 and 2007, as well as the decrease in average fuel economy after the gasoline price drop in 2014.

    https://static1.squarespace.com/static/530bc001e4b0252b6af38e8d/t/569d78ce0ab377ab2b51d3d1/1453160655160/

    (*)”I” in the generic sense. I mostly don’t burn gasoline. I drive an electric car, fueled by mostly hydroelectric. Electric cars are a joy for reasons other than lowering your carbon footprint and not caring much about the gasoline price on the pump.

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  38. Phil, yes, it may be that the correlation expressed in your last graph holds. If so, that would mean that a 50% change in oil price infers a 5% change in consumption (by fuel efficiency).

    Even with that correlation, it is clear that even that (long term) efficiency improvement is not enough to reduce carbon emissions by any substantial amount in the long run.

    So even if carbon tax has some effect, it is not a silver bullet.
    Myles’ argument is that the only way to GUARANTEE carbon emission reduction is to DEMAND a CSS ratio that increases over time, so as to stay within the 1 trillion ton that would warm our planet 2 C. I’m not sure why William thinks that idea is “obviously stupid” and I expect he will explain accordingly.

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  39. “The carbon tax in Washington state, I-732, looks headed for defeat. With 63% reporting it trails 59% to 41%.”

    This is “explained” by historical materialism.

    Like

  40. Historical materialism presumably is also responsible for the defeat of California Proposition 65, promoted by “The American Progressive Bag Alliance” — which would have repealed California’s ban on throwaway plastic bags.

    The history of petroleum products has, finally, made people understand that many uses of these materials are stupid.

    Like

  41. PS, further evidence that full and complete disclosure of information is needed for the free market to work:

    https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-11/uop-sdp111016.php

    “In August 2016, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee published a report urging the Government to ban the use of microbeads in cosmetics, as part of a wider inquiry into the potential of microplastics to cause environmental harm.

    This study, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, involved social scientists, marine scientists and psychologists and was funded by the University’s Sustainable Earth Institute.

    Lead author Alison Anderson, Professor of Sociology at the University of Plymouth, said: “Participants in the study reacted with shock and disbelief when they were shown the quantity of microbeads in the sample products. If microbead content was labelled more clearly we would expect to see a positive response from consumers and also broad support for a ban.”

    Like

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