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Monday, December 16, 2013

Being alarmist @wattsupwiththat about the transition to the clean energy economy

Sou | 6:53 PM Feel free to comment!

Alarmist (adj.) creating needless worry or panic

HotWhopper doesn't often get into discussions about climate policy, measures that can be taken to reduce CO2 emissions.  However I was reading some of the alarmist reactions at WUWT in a discussion on carbon emissions.  The reaction from the fake sceptics includes almost all those you'll have read before from the denialati, so I took this opportunity to summarise some of the main themes.  I haven't commented on the main article, which is a mish mash of various statistics and selected quotations with no clear message, except at the bottom when Ed Hoskins (the author) argues that "it's the sun".  The WUWT article and comments are archived here.

CO2 Emissions and Atmospheric Levels

First let's look at CO2 emissions from CDIAC.  At the aggregate level CO2 is increasing a lot, still. The chart below shows emissions in gigatonnes of carbon (not CO2). 2013 emissions are expected to be higher than 2012. Click the chart to enlarge it.

Data source: CDIAC
Boden, T. A., Marland, G., and Andres, R. J.: Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions, Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. , 2013.

Here is a video looking back at atmospheric CO2 levels in recent years and then going back over the past 800,000 years.

Below is an animation showing how emissions have changed around the world.

Credit: Robert Andres, CDIAC. Visualization created by Vesta Animation

WUWT opinions on reducing CO2 emissions

Not all the WUWT opinions can be classed as alarmist.  Some of them are self-serving. I also found it interesting that there were more comments about the merits or otherwise of different policy options than there were comments about whether CO2 reduction itself was important.

Below are a selection from WUWT with my comments.  Ellipses indicate the quote is an excerpt from a longer comment.

False assumption plus alarmism: "a carbon tax will be an onerous burden on individuals." It doesn't need to be. In Australia the cost impact was offset by cuts in taxation for the majority of taxpayers - all those in lower and middle tax brackets.  And by an increase in benefits to those who receive them.
We need a carbon tax so we can atone for our sin of living a healthy, prosperous and long life. (Pathway: December 15, 2013 at 11:07 am)

False assumptions: "A carbon tax won't reduce emissions" and "governments won't use it to reduce emissions". It will reduce emissions if administered properly. On its own it is unlikely to be sufficient.  It is only one of several policy options.
...It’s simply another tax, to enable Governments to spend our money how they seem fit. (Adam Gallon: December 15, 2013 at 11:07 am)

Falsehoods, false assumptions and logical fallacies: This comment from dbstealey: (December 15, 2013 at 11:13 am) is rife with flawed assumptions and logical fallacies plus alarmism:
Excellent charts. They really tell the story: the U.S. is decreasing its CO2 emissions, while China’s emissions are rising rapidly. [Sou: True. However China's per capita emissions are currently less than half those of the USA at 7 tonnes of CO2 per capita compared to 16.2 tonnes of CO2 per capita. The problem, as Smokey points out, is that China's emissions are still rising rapidly while those in the USA have started to fall.]
Therefore, there is no reason whatever for a “carbon” tax in the U.S. [Sou: False. The USA remains one of the largest sources of CO2 emissions.  As a nation it is second only to China. In 2012 USA emitted 5,090 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent while China emitted 9,568 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.  A tax is one policy instrument that would reduce emissions further.]
And China certainly is not going to impose a tax on itself. [Sou: False: China has started an emissions trading scheme and is considering a carbon tax.]
The whole [unstated] rationale for such a tax is to transfer the country’s wealth, via much higher prices, into the pockets of government bureaucrats and into the irresponsible, unaccountable and opaque UN coffewrs. [Sou: False. Authoritarian-based conspiracy ideation.]
Anyone advocating a “carbon” tax is a treacherous fool or a self-serving tax-sucker riding the government’s gravy train — at the expense of hard working Americans. Enough! We do not need more taxes. We need LOWER taxes! [Sou: ramping up the conspiracy ideation plus confusing a carbon tax with other taxes. Eg income tax could be reduced when a carbon tax is introduced.]

Economics of taxation: A comment from economist, Richard Tol, on different taxes:
An increase in taxation is, I think, a reasonable starting point. Others disagree. In any case, the economic damage done by a tax is roughly proportional to the square of the level of the tax. Therefore, if you want to increase taxes, you should increase those taxes that are currently low (e.g., a carbon tax). If you want to keep taxes as they are, you should decrease those that are high (income, capital, consumption), and increase those that are low (carbon). If you want to reduce taxes, a carbon tax would still allow for deeper cuts in income taxes etc. (Richard Tol (@RichardTol): December 15, 2013 at 11:15 am)

All around ignorance: Bob is ignorant on the history of income taxes.  Governments often change income tax.  For example, the Bush administration reduced income taxes for the rich. Australia reduced income taxes for the low and middle income groups when it introduced a carbon price.
...If you believe any guvment will ever reduce income taxes, I have a bridge in NY to sell to you. Don’t feed the beast. (Bob - December 15, 2013 at 11:43 am)

Conspiracy theorisation: Lance's comment has flawed logic and suggests he is a conspiracy theorist (of the UN / Agenda21 / NewWorldOrder type). Carbon taxes can be introduced in any country around the world. The aim is to reduce domestic emissions.
...So the carbon tax in the West pays for China’s pensions and India’s infrastructure? Just what the UN and IPCC want! (Lance Wallace: December 15, 2013 at 11:46 am)

Logical fallacy: Ian introduces a common logical fallacy.  He has a black and white view and does not allow for the fact that the world needs to ease into the new energy economy, albeit at a faster pace than it is currently doing.
...The very fact that the catastrophic AGW proponents will allow emissions to continue as long as the tax,is paid is proof that they do not believe in the catastrophe...(Ian W: December 15, 2013 at 11:50 am)

Tragedy of the Commons: Potter Eaton enunciates the Tragedy of the Commons. The impasse of "I won't do anything if you won't". It is individualistic yet its not just groups that suffer. Ultimately individuals suffer the consequences.  It is selfish not altruistic and one of the real human failings. This can be overcome through international diplomacy.  It is why the UN is the avenue for negotiations of intergovernmental agreements on the subject.  Carbon pollution is a global problem and needs a global solution.
Carbon taxes in the West also have a hidden affect: they increase costs of production and transportation of all goods that are manufactured, thus putting Western manufacturers at a disadvantage in world markets. (Potter Eaton: December 15, 2013 at 12:12 pm)

Muddled ignorance: The following comment shows an ignorance of economics.  Nik seems to be arguing that putting a higher price on carbon will lead to more carbon emissions, rather than substituting a cheaper energy source. At the same time he is arguing that coal will be replaced by gas.  Nik is very mixed up.
Ironically, a carbon tax may increase emissions drastically, for the good of the biosphere at least in the short term, since once governments rely on this tax, they will want more and more of that revenue, not less. And citizens benefit since they then obtain more energy as fracking becomes a real revolution, paid for by Mother Earth. (NikFromNYC: December 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm)

Deluded: I've not yet mentioned the deluded, who actively seek disaster.  Jimbo wants to see atmospheric CO2 levels higher than they've been  in more than 800,000 years - well before we humans appeared on earth.
Why do people want to reduce our co2 emissions? We need to get the ppm up to a nice and healthy 600 to 800ppm. Geologically we are at the low end of co2ppm in the atmosphere.  (Jimbo: December 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm)

Looking at the comments at WUWT, they cover a wide spectrum of opinion (archived here).  Many if not most comments show that WUWT-ers for the most part are ignorant of government policy and economics. Quite a few of them are conspiracy theorists.  Many of them are driven by their own homegrown version of free market ideology, often quite extreme.  A few comments showed some insight and suggested some commenters have had an education beyond primary school, maybe even at a college or university.

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