Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Denier weirdness - Anthony Watts favours taxation to reduce carbon emissions - is he a closet socialist?

Sou | 4:13 AM Go to the first of 4 comments. Add a comment

This post is short.  It's to show how inconsistent deniers can be.

Anthony Watts, who rejects global warming because he doesn't like paying tax, has a new post up (archived here).  He is praising the incoming Australian government for shifting to a taxpayer-based carbon reduction program.  Anthony Watts is a closet socialist.

Australia adopted a market-based scheme where the polluter pays and it doesn't cost most taxpayers a penny.  They get any costs passed on to them as a result of the scheme, reimbursed through a tax cut and for those who don't earn enough to pay tax, through an increase in social security.  (People on high incomes do pay more but the majority of people don't.)

This new government has pledged to get rid of that market-based program and replace it with one paid for directly by taxpayers.  That means that either the tax cuts will have to go and our tax will go up, or services will have to be cut which is effectively the same thing.  We'll have to buy services elsewhere or do without - both of which will come at a huge cost.

The government is also going to recruit a green army to go and plant trees on land, presumably purloined from farmers, for the purpose.  That won't work too well as studies have shown, which will mean taxpayers will have an even bigger burden down the track.

The main ones to benefit as far as I can tell will be the polluters, who will be able to claim money from the government if they reduce emissions while they go to the bank laughing.  In other words, it's we taxpayers who will be paying the polluters that reduce emissions.  (This is the opposite from the current scheme whereby polluters pay for polluting.)  The ordinary person will be out of pocket where they weren't before.

Should we complain as long as the carbon emissions get cut?  Yes, I think we should.  The direct action plan will cost more and there is no guarantee of results.  It's a very risky path and the risk burden falls squarely on the shoulders of the taxpayer.

Deniers are really and truly weird.


  1. The Direct Action Plan has some endearing features lacking in the market based program... it has a set limit on the amount spent on mitigating climate change, it is money spent directly on programs to meet our reductions target rather than on lining the pockets of carbon traders AND those who earn more ultimately contribute more towards tackling the problem (as they pay more tax).

    1. I don't mind that you prefer to pay more tax to reduce carbon. There isn't a single policy solution.

      I don't think Direct Action will work or can work. Some parts will have a small effect but important parts are designed to fail. As well as that it's not efficient and it's got the wrong people paying for it (ordinary taxpayers instead of the biggest carbon polluters).

      There is no set limit that I'm aware of. Tony Abbott has said he'll limit carbon reduction and break Australia's international agreements rather than spend more than some as yet undefined amount of spending, but that's only because he knows that the plan won't work - it's not part of the plan itself as far as I know.

      As I see it, your point two is like saying you'd rather pay tax than put money into the share market. It's trying to compare two things that are unrelated. Carbon trading or emissions trading is fundamental to an emission "trading" system. Existing systems aren't perfect but market based systems are thought to be more efficient than 100% government-run 100% taxpayer funded systems like Direct Action.

      (As an aside, while I'm not saying you don't approve of the share market, it surprises me that so many libertarians and supposed "free-marketers" say they are against emissions trading. The logical deduction is that these same people are against trading shares and other instruments too).

      I personally don't like it that Abbott has buried carbon reduction programs inside consolidated revenue. Unlike the carbon pricing scheme, there will be no way for anyone to keep track of just how much his system is costing for what benefit.

  2. The commenter above appears to be very confused.

    The Direct Action Plan is the biggest con job in the history of Australian environmental policy. It would take many posts to actually deconstruct, but for starters...

    1) It is ludicrous to operate on a premise that climate change mitigation requires only an arbitrary predefined spending limit that has no basis in reality, no reflection of environmental debts already incurred, and no capacity to respond to future debts incurred.

    2) The money is being spent on programs that are not always (or even frequently) related to appreciable carbon reduction. I've worked with mangrove rehabilitation and stream projects myself, and whilst they were worthy endeavours I can say with confidence that the carbon sequestration potential in these areas is usually nil.

    3) Many of the programs that will be counted as a response to climate change are programs that would have been enacted as a response to another of humanity's damagings of the environment - habitat destruction. In such cases "direct" action is simply an exercise in shifting numbers from one column to another.

    4) Soil sequestration, whilst an admirable and necessary action, will in most cases be mostly replacing carbon lost by human land-use activity, and hence make no appreciable contribution to addressing the larger 'greenhouse' gas problem of fossil carbon emissions.

    5) Soil sequestration is an asymptotic approach, so even if more carbon can be put back, each additional increment sequestered becomes more difficult to achieve - exponentially more difficult, in fact.

    6) Soil carbon is labile, and much of the additional carbon added would return to the atmosphere over a period of several years, especially as other manifestations of global warming (such as wildfire and flooding) occur with greater frequency and reverse the efforts to put carbon into the soil in the first place.

    7) Projects such as tree planting require huge input of constant post-planting care, which is never properly applied, and a large proportion of the calculated carbon sequestering will not even occur in the first place, as saplings die in their protective plastic tubes. (This is a big bugbear for me as I spent a summer in high school rehabilitating a mine site and most of that time was in what was regarded as a pointless exercise - watering - and yet when our contract was completed many of the trees subsequently died of thirst...)

    8) Paying money to rich entities, to perhaps reduce carbon emissions somewhat, will not allow them to "pay more taxes" to an amount that would reflect the cost required to offset the true cost of their emissions.

    I could keep going, but this is a start.

    As I said, the Coalition's "plan" is the biggest joke in Australian envirnmental management history.

    Bernard J.

    1. That's an excellent start, Bernard J.

      I'll add a question. Where do Tony Abbott and Greg Hunt propose to plant all the trees? Are they going to acquire existing farmland to do so? That would put a serious dent in farm exports and as you say, will require an enormous management input not to mention the cost of tree planting. Look at all the forestry schemes that have gone belly up over the years.

      The green army while worthy environmentally, will come at a huge cost too, although I wouldn't be surprised if the government is thinking of simply repackaging existing efforts of groups like LandCare and maybe Greening Australia. It may end up that it's just replacing not adding to work that is being done already but with added costs: management, recruitment, insurance (workers comp), training etc.

      The biggest flaw is their soil sequestration, which you've discussed. Australian farms are pretty good in terms of farm techniques - minimum tillage, LandCare etc. All it takes is floods like those in 2010-11 that saw such huge areas under water right across Australia from Queensland to Victoria to Western Australia and all through central Australia - that it put a big dent in the sea level charts. Floods, droughts and fires are not good for soil sequestration - and Australia has all three of those and it will only get worse.

      The time has come for Greg Hunt and Tony Abbott to show if their words are empty promises or if they are really able to deliver. They will have to set up benchmarks and report on them. The next year will be the test.

      As for paying polluters rather than charging them - that is the saddest, most loathesome trick they've pulled on the world.


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