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Cap,Trade, Fail:

Sebastian Mallaby has an interesting column warning that an ill-conceived and poorly designed cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions will not do much to control emissions or encourage environmentally responsible development in poorer nations.

It would be great if carbon policy could get out of its timid rut: energy bills that raise fuel-efficiency standards, subsidize windmills and so on. It would be great if Congress could get serious about reducing emissions across the whole economy, either by taxing carbon or by capping it. But if Congress creates a mandatory cap-and-trade system that mimics Kyoto's clunkiness, it will funnel billions to Chinese industrialists, creating perverse incentives for greater emissions. And Nicaraguan villagers will be cheated.

Greg D (mail):
No, it would be great if those who claimed to believe in Anthropogenic Global Warming, and who claimed to believe that it is a major issue, actually did believe that.

because if they did, they'd be pro nuclear power.

The fact that they are anti nuclear power tells you everything you need to know about how seriously they take the "problem" of AGW.

Which is to say, not at all.
7.23.2007 3:43pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
Who's this "they," Greg? I believe in anthropogenic global warming and support nuclear power. Try to argue with actual people and not strawmen.
7.23.2007 3:55pm
Smokey:
For those who may have missed this graphic, take a few seconds to look it over. You will see that there is no correlation between atmospheric CO2 and temperature. None.

The only reasonable conclusion: the ''anthropogenic greenhouse'' conjecture has been falsified. Thus, the whole 'carbon' issue [by which they mean CO2] has been completely discredited.
7.23.2007 3:58pm
Thales (mail) (www):
"The only reasonable conclusion: the ''anthropogenic greenhouse'' conjecture has been falsified. Thus, the whole 'carbon' issue [by which they mean CO2] has been completely discredited."

I guess the vast majority of scientifically credentialed climate scientists, who disagree with you, an anonymous commenter on a law blog with a one page graph of unverified provenance and no explanation, are unreasonable then. We all appreciate and applaud your efforts to rid us of our mass delusion.
7.23.2007 4:43pm
Crust (mail):
Smokey:
The only reasonable conclusion: the ''anthropogenic greenhouse'' conjecture has been falsified. Thus, the whole 'carbon' issue [by which they mean CO2] has been completely discredited.

Your graph goes back 4.6 billion years. So we know you're not a Young Earth Creationist. Anyway, your argument might make some sense if people said that CO2 was the only determinant of temperature across all time scales. But in the real world, many other factors effect temperature especially across longer time scales. For example, in a few billion years the Sun is going to expand into a red giant and engulf the Earth. That will obviously make the CO2 and CH4 concentrations in the atmosphere moot. So by your "argument" that would mean atmospheric carbon can't be a major playing in warming today. Hopefully I don't need to explain why that is a silly argument...
7.23.2007 5:06pm
agesilaus:
Smokey is engaging in the typical ad hominum arguments of the religious green party.

If you look into the data you will see that more recent data, over the last several hundred thousand years shows CO2 lagging temperature by 600-800 years. That is temperature goes up and 600-800 years later CO2 also goes up. Most cause and effect believers might thus conclude that temperature is the cause and CO2 concentration the effect. And when you consider the fact that gasses are generally less soluble in warm water (the oceans) one might suspect that warmer oceans outgas CO2 and thus athmospheric CO2 increases.

Lubos Motl uses this to explain what is happening. Suppose you measure the CO2 level inside your nice cool car. You open a can of Coke and then leave the car in the sun for several hours. On returning you notice two things. The car is now very hot inside and the soda is now flat have no fizzy gasses left. You measure the CO2 again and notice that it has increased. You conclude that the increased CO2 has caused the car to heat up. But most people might suspect that the sun has warmed the car and the can of Coke on getting hot outgassed all the fizzy CO2.
7.23.2007 5:45pm
Smokey:
Please look at the graph again. There is NO correlation between global temperatures and CO2. None. Zip. Nada. N-O-N-E. Zero correlation. Do you even understand what 'no correlation' between CO2 and global temperatures means?

Mr. T said:
I guess the vast majority of scientifically credentialed climate scientists, who disagree with you, an anonymous commenter on a law blog with... ad hominem, ad hominem, etc.
You can attack the messenger, but regarding your statement of a ''vast majority'' of scientists, you are wrong.

The UN's IPCC has about 2,500 bureaucrats, most of them non-scientists. Compare that with the well-known U.S. climatologist Dr. Fredrick Seitz' Petition Project, signed by some 17,000 scientists to date. Here is their summary; savor it:

''A review of the research literature concerning the environmental consequences of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide leads to the conclusion that increases during the 20th Century have produced no deleterious effects upon global weather, climate, or temperature. Increased carbon dioxide has, however, markedly increased plant growth rates. Predictions of harmful climatic effects due to future increases in minor greenhouse gases like CO2 are in error and do not conform to current experimental knowledge. To be sure, CO2 levels have increased substantially since the Industrial Revolution, and are expected to continue doing so. It is reasonable to believe that humans have been responsible for much of this increase. But the effect on the environment is likely to be benign. Greenhouse gases cause plant life, and the animal life that depends upon it, to thrive. What mankind is doing is liberating carbon from beneath the Earth's surface and putting it into the atmosphere, where it is available for conversion into living organisms.''

Those 17,000 scientists would not put their reputations on the line by endorsing the statement above.

Furthermore, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- arguably the world's top engineering school, employs Dr. Richard Lindzen -- a *real* climatologist. Dr, Lindzen heads MIT's meteorology/climatology department. It is doubtful that MIT would lower its reputation by allowing a fraud to speak for them regarding this issue. Here is what Dr. Lindzen states regarding the AGW ''consensus.''

I have a strong background as a metrology engineer for the past 30+ years, and I am amazed at the propaganda spewed by the media and others regarding ''carbon.'' We are all made of carbon. Carbon is not evil -- but the people who demonize carbon are evil.

The successor to politics will be propaganda. Propaganda, not in the sense of a message or ideology, but as the impact of the whole technology of the times.

~ Marshall McLuhan
7.23.2007 5:51pm
Curt Fischer:
Lubos Motl uses this to explain what is happening. Suppose you measure the CO2 level inside your nice cool car. You open a can of Coke and then leave the car in the sun for several hours. On returning you notice two things. The car is now very hot inside and the soda is now flat have no fizzy gasses left. You measure the CO2 again and notice that it has increased. You conclude that the increased CO2 has caused the car to heat up. But most people might suspect that the sun has warmed the car and the can of Coke on getting hot outgassed all the fizzy CO2.


Welcome to what is known as a "feedback". There are two essential, inviolable physical facts to note in your coke-in-car analogy. The first is as you suggest: it is the initial temperature increase which drives an accerated CO2 release from the Coke can. The second, and widely unappreciated fact, is that the subsequent temperature increase in the car will be higher than it would have been in the absence of a Coke can. The temperature increase initially begets increased CO2 release. This additional CO2 begets a higher temperature increase, which in turn leads to more CO2 release ... and so on. Feedback.

For some reason, this fact escapes wide notice in many discussions of the cause and effect of CO2 lagging temperature.
7.23.2007 5:58pm
Barney Frank (mail):
--It would be great if Congress could get serious about reducing emissions across the whole economy, either by taxing carbon or by capping it. But if Congress creates a mandatory cap-and-trade system that mimics Kyoto's clunkiness, it will funnel billions to Chinese industrialists, creating perverse incentives for greater emissions. And Nicaraguan villagers will be cheated.--

As much as I disdain funneling billions to Chinese industrialists and cheating Nicaraguan villagers, I find both preferable to the continuing catasrophe that would follow either of Mr. Mallaby's serious proposals.
7.23.2007 6:02pm
Curt Fischer:

Please look at the graph again. There is NO correlation between global temperatures and CO2. None. Zip. Nada. N-O-N-E. Zero correlation. Do you even understand what 'no correlation' between CO2 and global temperatures means?


Smokey, you need to review multivariate statistics, and also geophysics. I understand what "no correlation" means. I also understand that:

1. Your graph does NOT indicate no correlation between CO2 and temperatures. For example, look at the last 600,000 years.

2. Your graph presents with false certainty the CO2 concentration in the ancient atmosphere. In reality, only crude estimates of atmospheric CO2 can be made for time periods longer than 600,000 or 1 million years ago.

3. Your graph ignores a long list of other relevant geophysical variables, such as changes in solar intensity (the young sun was less intense than today's) and atmospheric composition, cataclysmic volcanic eruptions and meteoric impacts, and Earth's axial precession. All credible climate scientists would agree that these factors also affect temperature. No one is saying that CO2 is the only driver. In fact, no reputable climate scientists would deny that the geochemistry of carbon dioxide is an important regulator of global temperature. (Some holdouts may still argue whether anthropogenic CO2 is leading to today's observed temperature increases, I guess.)

In short, your graph is misleading, and even so, your conclusion does not follow from your graph.

You might check out these sites to get you started on bringing your math and geophysics skills up to speed:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geophysics
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation
7.23.2007 6:15pm
bittern (mail):
Just for starters, on Smokey's graph, why is the axis for temperature called delta T? Why not just temperature? Anybody?
7.23.2007 6:30pm
Smokey:
Obviously, Mr. Fischer neglected to read this link, posted again below for everyone's convenience. MIT climatologist Dr. Richard Lindzen thoroughly deconstructs every point Fischer mentions - saving me lots of typing.

For those who enjoy a *real* climatologist making mincemeat out of the bogus 'scientific consensus' preached by Fat Albert the Gorebot, High Priest of the Church of Globaloney, Lindzen's article is well thought out, and destroys the completely bogus 'consensus' argument.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

~~ H. L. Mencken


Keep that in mind when some snake oil salesman talking head tries to sell you 'carbon credits.'
7.23.2007 6:41pm
Smokey:
bittern:

'Delta' = ''change'' in T
7.23.2007 6:43pm
bittern (mail):
Smokey, thanks for linking to the Lindzen (sp?) article. It is about the first warming-skeptic piece I've read in five years that wasn't three-quarters-crazed.

If I skimmed him correctly, he says the primary effect would be towards modest warming, and it's mostly a question of whether water-vapor feedback loops enhance or diminish the primary effect. Jah?
7.23.2007 6:43pm
bittern (mail):

The second, and widely unappreciated fact, is that the subsequent temperature increase in the car will be higher than it would have been in the absence of a Coke can. The temperature increase initially begets increased CO2 release.


Underappreciated because there's no data or theory to support it, perhaps? Why does the CO2 in a car cause the car to heat up, then? Who did the measurement of the two cars, one with coke and the other with iced tea? Please provide support.
7.23.2007 6:47pm
Smokey:
bittern:

Yes, sir. He states that most of the modest warming predicted has already occurred.
7.23.2007 6:48pm
bittern (mail):

'Delta' = ''change'' in T


Yes, yes, yes. But change in temperature from the year before or change in temperature from year zero or what? Straight temperature would be what I was interested in. Is the line different from a straight temperature line?
7.23.2007 6:49pm
bittern (mail):
Aside from Smokey's does-it-exist challenge, I have another question. The U.S. is still the biggest carbon emitter on the planet. Is sending money off to racketeers in China supposed to make us feel better? We're still the top carbon emitter. A U.S. tax on CO2 would be restricted to U.S. emissions, presumably. Why shouldn't a carbon cap be similarly restricted?
7.23.2007 6:59pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Actually, the ad hominem logical fallacy (or mutatis mutandis, its opposite, argumentum ad verecundiam) is committed only when the speaker advances the claim that the proposition is false because the person making the proposition has some unpleasant but irrelevant characteristic. By contrast, there is nothing *fallacious* about the claim that scientific credentials ought to matter in the evaluation of the claims of those who discourse on a scientific subject matter (which was my and others' implicit claim, though I phrased it as a rhetorical attack). Credentials are not dispositive, of course, and experts can be wrong or disagree with one another. But the idea that at present only IPCC bureaucrats and Al Gore think human-caused warming is a serious problem is quite simply bunk. There is also reason to doubt Lindzen's objectivity, given the sources of his funding. article
7.23.2007 6:59pm
bittern (mail):
Smokey:
[Lindzen] states that most of the modest warming predicted has already occurred.

My reading so far of the article suggests that the effect is largely beyond our capacity to accurately predict. I haven't found where he says what you seem to say he says.
7.23.2007 7:02pm
bittern (mail):
Fff. Lotta heat. Not much light. Good night all.
7.23.2007 7:35pm
Dick King:
Sean O'Hara:

"Who's this 'they,' Greg?"

I'll take this one. I'll give you a really solid example of a "them".

Probably the most prominent advocate of the position that huge changes in the US and world economies should be undertaken to prevent catostrophic global climate change is one Albert Gore. You may have heard of him.

He published a book, Earth in the Balance, in 1999 or 2000 if I remember correctly. This book is rather hostile towards use of nuclear power. Don't take my word for that -- use amazon's Search Inside This Book feature within the book's website.

People have a right to change their minds, but he has at no time done so on this issue. Not in any public speeches, not in that slide show he trains high school and college students to give, and not in his movie or book An Inconvenient Truth. Meanwhile he consumes more electricity in a month in his home than I personally consume in mine in three years [I'm a bit below the national average, but not extraordinarily so, at 7000 KwH/year for a 2150 square foot single family home]. However, he buys indulgences carbon offsets, so we should be happy.

I cry when I think of how much CO2 would not be generated in this country about fifteen years after Al Gore unambiguously described nuclear power as part of the solution, given the breadth and character of his following. He has it in his power to make this happen, he almost certainly know it, and he won't do it.

-dk
7.23.2007 7:53pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Sometimes I hate myself when I jump into one of these arguments. No one is going to convince anyone about whether there is global warming or not today.

Nevertheless, I am still struck by the knee jerk reaction that if man is heating up the Earth a bit, we have to compensate for that. But that presupposes a lot of things, many that I am unwilling yet to concede.

The big problem to me is that we frankly don't know if global warming is good or bad. It is just assumed to be bad - based on some Gaia Earth Mother point of view or something. But the Earth has been hotter and it has been cooler during its history. Indeed, it has been both of those while man has been on the planet, and likely within recorded memory of man. So, before we go adjusting the temperature of the Earth, shouldn't we first determine the optimum temperature? Should it be colder? Or should it be hotter? My vote right now is a little bit hotter, as that would seem likely to open up more of Canada and Russia for farming. Also, there seems to be some historical precedent that slightly warmer is better for humans. But right now, I don't think that we have the information required to make the determination of whether we want the Earth to be a bit hotter or a bit cooler, and if one or the other, how much.
7.23.2007 7:56pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
But getting to Adler tried to direct this thread..

There are in my mind a number of problems with cap and trade systems. I read an article in the Economist that pointed out several, and have run into others elsewhere.

One big problem I see is the question of where do the carbon allocations come from? Some, likely from reductions by some industries in the carbon that they are emitting. But that means that legacy industries are likely to have the bulk of them, and, yes, can generate offsets by reducing their output of CO2. But why are they reducing CO2 emissions? Could it be that their industry is in decline anyway, and they are getting essentially paid for that? Or, maybe, just maybe they shifted to a different technology.

I should note that the reason that the Kyoto baseline was set to take advantage of just that - dirty East German power generation plants being shut down in preference for more efficient West German plants, and the U.K. moving from coal to natural gas from the North Sea.

Let us look then at the other side - the emerging industries. If you have a new company, it obviously isn't going to have any caps to work against. Its caps are essentially zero. So, they may be far cleaner from a carbon point of view than the legacy industry they may be replacing, but the legacy industry is in a position to sell offsets to the new one. In short, the new company will be subsidizing the old one. From an economics point of view, I would think that the opposite would be better for the long run - the old declining companies subsidizing the new emerging ones.

Likely, since there are inherent problems with generating offsets and credits from just reductions in emissions by legacy industries, there will be a push to help some industries, likely in the form of offsets and credits. But that would ultimately be just another way for Congress to reward some constituencies with pork - but possibly advantageous since it is somewhat less transparent than much of the pork that we have now.

The Economist pointed out that cap and trade did a poor job at incentivising our economy to actually reduce emissions. And they pushed carbon taxes instead.

I agree with them. A carbon tax is going to be far better at reducing carbon emissions than would a cap and trade system. The incentive is up front - the less someone or some company generates, the lower their taxes. That direct connection is far better at changing behavior than the indirect one of cap and trade.

My biggest reservation is that Congress doesn't need more money to play with. It is spending billions already on unneeded earmarks in order to maintain themselves in office. They don't need any more money to squander. Of course, if the tax could be tied to reducing (or maintaining the reduction) of other taxes, I would be much happier with it.

My other issue is that twenty years ago, we were in the midst of a Global Cooling scare. What happens if the biggest cause of our current Global Warming is solar activity, and when the sun generates less energy, the Earth cools down a bit? Do we continue with the carbon tax, regardless? But that would tend to provide positive feedback in the negative direction (i.e. would keep pushing the temperature down, even when it is lower than we want). So, I think that some sunset provision would be in order for such a tax.
7.23.2007 8:22pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Let me also note that the Europeans got a jump start with Kyoto by getting Gore, et al., to agree to setting a baseline year convenient to them. But in the last couple of years, they seem to be falling further and further away from their goals, and, indeed, may even be doing worse than us. And part of the cause of that is that may be that they are trying to use a cap and trade system.
7.23.2007 8:25pm
Curt Fischer:
@Bruce Hayden

Nevertheless, I am still struck by the knee jerk reaction that if man is heating up the Earth a bit, we have to compensate for that. But that presupposes a lot of things, many that I am unwilling yet to concede.


This is much more interesting grounds for discussion and debate than the "myth"-type arguments that Smokey and others use. I agree, and by the way Bruce, I agree with you on the merits of a carbon tax vs. cap and trade. A tax makes more sense.

An important consideration that you didn't raise, though, is that some cap-and-trade schemes auction the carbon credits instead of allocating them to specific industries or regions. If done properly, this cap-and-trade with auction scheme begins to approximate a carbon tax.

I heard Hill staffers' whose job is to know climate change and energy independence issues describe the calculus that Members seemed to be using for deciding between the two: "With a carbon tax, everyone's a loser; with cap and trade, you might be a winner. So since there is the possibility of being a winner with cap-and-trade, that policy goes down easier with everyone."
7.23.2007 9:14pm
Smokey:
The globaloney scam at this juncture is right out of The Runaway Jury playbook [where the scam artists on the jury shocked the other jurors by casually suggesting that the judgement amount might be $billions. Once that sinks in, the jurors begin to debate really outrageous amounts of money]. Now the Bovine Fecal Purveyance Specialists shoveling their AGW globaloney have sensible folks actually discussing the best way to mitigate CO2 -- when there is no proof whatever that CO2 is a problem!

CO2 is plant food. Carbon is good. CO2 levels have been in the thousands of ppm in the past -- with no effect on Earth's temperature.

And those who constantly profess that there is unanimous [or close] consensus on global warming among scientists are wrong, and always have been wrong. The insistence on a consensus regarding atmospheric climate mechanics reeks of desperation. With good reason. For instance, the predictions that the sea level is rising, and may rise between a few feet and 20 feet is constantly stated by Fat Albert [I shouldn't make fun of the Gorebot, but he did get a D in college Science]. In fact, the sea level has not risen one centimeter over the past 150 years [don't make me look it up. I provide plenty of links, but that one has disappeared. Refute it if you can. You could start here].

Folks, as you can see there is no consensus anywhere on global warming/cooling. That's a good thing. Because there is rarely a strong consensus of any kind in science. If there were, that would mean we knew everything about that particular subject. We don't. Same with AGW.
7.23.2007 9:53pm
Greg D (mail):
Sean,

Please name three environmental groups that support replacing oil or coal fired power plants with nuclear power plants.

Hell, please name one environmental group, with a membership > 50,000 people, that claims that AGW is a big problem, and also supports making it easier to produce nuclear power.

As for the "They" who claim to believe in AGW, but oppose nuclear power, did you catch the Democrat debate tonight?
7.24.2007 12:02am
TokyoTom (mail):
Jonathan, I imagine you recognize that Mallaby isn`t arguing against cap and trade a la Kyoto, but for making sure that efforts are made to fiz the problems in Kyoto. Maybe that will happen when we have an administration that chooses to take climate change seriously; for now, it looks like we`ve simply wasted 8 years. Who did that benefit?

On the development side, perhaps you could point out what a huge problem this is, and the need for serious multilateral commitment to build the law and order infrastrucutre necessary to enable wealth creation, as oppoosed to kleptocracy (see Indur Goklany). It makes sense to link Kyoto to these efforts.
7.24.2007 12:44pm