Thursday, June 14, 2007

AGW Denier Suggests A Warming Tax

Ross Mckitrick is a Canadian economist who has made his name as a AGW Denier by raising a few trivial methodological issues against Michael Mann's Hockey Stick Graph. Recently, however, he has come up with an intriguing proposal: institute a carbon tax linked to actual levels of warming. From a Fin. Post article earlier this week:

The approach is based on two points of expert consensus. First, most economists who have written on carbon-dioxide emissions have concluded that an emissions tax is preferable to a cap-and-trade system. The reason is that, while emission-abatement costs vary a lot, based on the target, the social damages from a tonne of carbon-dioxide emissions are roughly constant. The first ton of carbon dioxide imposes the same social cost as the last ton.

In this case, it is better for policy-makers to guess the right price for emissions rather than the right cap. Most studies that have looked at that the global cost per tonne of carbon dioxide have found it is likely to be rather low, less than US$10 per tonne. We don't know what the right emissions cap is, but, if we put a low charge on each unit of emissions, the market will find the (roughly) correct emissions cap.

Second, climate models predict that, if greenhouse gases are driving climate change, there will be a unique fingerprint in the form of a strong warming trend in the tropical troposphere, the region of the atmosphere up to 15 kilometres in altitude, over the tropics, from 20? North to 20? South. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that this will be an early and strong signal of anthropogenic warming. Climate changes due to solar variability or other natural factors will not yield this pattern: only sustained greenhouse warming will do it.

Temperatures in the tropical troposphere are measured every day using weather satellites. The data are analyzed by several teams, including one at the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) and one at Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) in California. According to the UAH team, the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly (its departure from the 1979-98 average) over the past three years is 0.18C. The corresponding ing RSS estimate is 0.29C.

Now put those two ideas together. Suppose each country implements something called the T3 tax, whose U.S. dollar rate is set equal to 20 times the three-year moving average of the RSS and UAH estimates of the mean tropical tropospheric temperature anomaly, assessed per tonne of carbon dioxide, updated annually. Based on current data, the tax would be US$4.70 per ton, which is about the median mainstream carbon-dioxide-damage estimate from a major survey published in 2005 by economist Richard Tol. The tax would be implemented on all domestic carbon-dioxide emissions, all the revenues would be recycled into domestic income tax cuts to maintain fiscal neutrality, and there would be no cap on total emissions.

There is more to the article (and I would suggest it be read in its entirety), but this is enough to give a flavor of the idea. Such blogosphere reaction that there has been, has been mostly from Conservatives/Deniers (see here for a sample), and their opinion seems to be that mainstream scientists and politicians ("warmers" in the parlance) would never go for such a thing, as it would "call their tax", essentially ask them to tie a carbon tax to the alleged reality of the warming phenomenon.

Well, there are some fairly formidable practical obstacles to getting such an idea off the ground; just try to convince 190 plus nations to implement it, for example. And there might be all sorts of debate as to what constitutes the favored global warming "footprint".

But one more serious issue, that I have not seen discussed elsewhere, concerns the lag time between emissions and the warming that results from these emissions. Specifically:

Recent studies in the world’s leading scientific journals indicate that due to the lag time between emissions and the earth’s climatic adjustment to them, we have already committed the planet to a certain warming trajectory we cannot halt. In other words, even if all anthropogenic emissions ceased tomorrow, we would still be committed to about a doubling of the warming we have already experienced.

So, under McKitrick's proposal, it seems that we might begin to cut emissions immediately, and still have our T3 tax bill increasing for decades because the price of the GWGs we are emitting (even if this number goes down) is driven upwards by warming already in the pipeline. And this makes me think that taxing emissions strictly by volume, rather than by volume X some temperature-based figure, is a more efficient means of meeting our problem.

(In fact, on further thought it seems to me that the T3 tax might provide a perverse disincentive to carbon emissions cuts even where the "fingerprint" clearly indicates warming. A direct tax on emissions offers the polluter an either/choice: cut emissions or pay more. McKitrick's tax, given the time-lag noted above, hits polluters with both increasing taxes in addition to whatever costs might be incurred in "going green", perhaps to the point where the best solution might be to pay the tax and emit like crazy)

(PS. McKitrick pointed out an obvious error in the original post, as did one of the commentators. Since the point still holds, I have adjusted the text above in response to this. Although read Ianf in comments)


Ding Dong Kyoto's dead said...

Tax me, I'm a Liberal.

As a Warmist, even you can be taxed into the poor house.

I'll bet China, India, Indonesia, Brazil et al will sign up for this program, just like they stampeded to support Kyoto.

Anonymous said...

"by raising a few trivial methodological issues against Michael Mann's Hockey Stick Graph."

Well said Herr Goebbels.

If the issues are so trivial, why has the IPCC Hockey Team pulled the graph.

It was fraud buddy, not methodology. It was making happen what the Believers like you wanted to see.

You have the Faith, but not the science.

Anonymous said...

The Sound Of Settled Science

John Brignell;

Huxley was one of a long tradition of British sceptical philosophers. From the Bacons, through the likes of Locke, Hume and Russell, to the magnificent climax of Popper’s statement of the principle of falsifiability, the scientific method was painfully established, only to be abandoned in a few short decades. It is one of the great ironies of modern history that the nation that was the cradle of the scientific method came to lead the process of its abandonment. The great difference, then, is that religion demands belief, while science requires disbelief. There is a great variety of faiths. Atheism is just as much a faith as theism. There is no evidence either way. There is no fundamental clash between faith and science – they do not intersect. The difficulties arise, however, when one pretends to be the other.

The Royal Society, as a major part of the flowering of the tradition, was founded on the basis of scepticism. Its motto “On the word of no one” was a stout affirmation. Now suddenly, following their successful coup, the Greens have changed this motto of centuries to one that manages to be both banal and sinister – “Respect the facts.” When people start talking about “the facts” it is time to start looking for the fictions. Real science does not talk about facts; it talks about observations, which might turn out to be inaccurate or even irrelevant.

The global warmers like to use the name of science, but they do not like its methods. They promote slogans such a “The science is settled” when real scientists know that science is never settled. They were not, however, always so wise. In 1900, for example, the great Lord Kelvin famously stated, "There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement." Within a few years classical physics was shattered by Einstein and his contemporaries. Since then, in science, the debate is never closed.

The world might (or might not) have warmed by a fraction of a degree. This might (or might not) be all (or in part) due to the activities of mankind. It all depends on the quality of observations and the validity of various hypotheses. Science is at ease with this situation. It accepts various theories, such as gravitation or evolution, as the least bad available and of the most practical use, but it does not believe. Religion is different.

Ti-Guy said...

There's nothing sadder than little wingnuts dipping their chubby toes all the way to their cankles in philosophy when discussing science, politics or economics.

Dilettantism and blowhardism fueled by a conceit born of narrow expertise. The rig pig as "ressource expert" the computer engineer as "epistemologist;" the tax consultant as "economist;" the grunt as "military expert."

*sigh* Get off the computer and go read a book or get laid, already.

Anonymous said...

And we'll get a rebate when it starts cooling?

Anonymous said...

(def'n) ti-guy: elitist, arrogant, and ignorant.

There have never been conservative philosophers, oh no. We all just dig ditches and serve our liberal overlords. And no conservative was EVER a scientist, because we're all too busy being religious zealots.

Are you 17 yet ti-guy? Your responses range from juvenile retorts to pre-pubescent name calling. Let me guess - you also post on, don't you.

Take the advise you've given to others so often, and you know which acronym I mean. You obviously can't articulate the other side's point of view, indicating your own lack of research and knowledge on any subject at hand. Just keep on being a good little ideologue, and just parrot the words they tell you.

Now you'll have to excuse me, I have some women and minorities to oppress.

IanF said...

Zero emission = zero tax, which seems to be the same as the current pay as you pollute Carbon Market. With the in-built warming, then C02 emitters are just going to have to pay more for their C02 in the future than they do now. And a way to mitigate that would be to set the tax a little higher at inception, to build in the cost of that warming. This could be adjusted not only on the basis of change in temp, but also as the science refines itself and models get better at prediction. That adjustment could work up or down.

But I wouldn't worry about it, because it isn't going to happen anyway - there is very little in it for Goldman Sachs...

Ti-Guy said...

Anony at 11:39: Shut up, ya blowhard. ;)

Anonymous said...

"a few trivial methodological issues against Michael Mann's Hockey Stick Graph. "

Uh huh . . denying the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period happened is "trivial"

Only a Believer, a WARMonger could come up with that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't have to be a mandatory tax. All you believers can start contributing money out of your own pocket right now, to prove what a good little global saviour you are. Let's start at $2,000 from each card-carrying Lib, NDP, or Greenie out there as a means of establishing your bona fides as someone who actually walks the walk. Just cut a cheque to the gov't, as simple as that.

Ti-Guy said...

a WARMonger

Hey, I kind of like that. Wit from a righty...who knew?

Jay said...

"Uh huh . . denying the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period happened is "trivial"

No one deny's these occured, it's just the reasoning deniers use to explain these phenomenon are quite out to lunch. The little warming is always inferred using precipitaion and crop yields to mean temperature. A no no since wind patterns can change precipitation. The medieval warming and the following little ice age (caused by reduction in human produced CO2 due to the black death) were NOT global phenomenon. They were restricted to the Northern hemisphere, and mainly the part of the Northern hemisphere containing the Atlantic ocean.

No one overlloks these two "anomalies" because they are meaningless in the LONG TERM TREND.

Cripes, how many times do you have to spell it out for these ignorant knobs.

READ A GODDAMN BOOK! The internet is useless as a source for anything anymore. All the liers like the anons here have had there greasy lying hands all over the place.

Anonymous said...

No one deny's these occured,"

Oh yes dude . . . Mann's Hockey stick graph wiped them out . . . goners, just like Norwegian Blues.

Rather than read a book, you might want to think about getting off yer lazy liberal arse and taking some courses in Climatology, Geomorphology, Glaciation etc.

Then you to might be of the educated class.

Anonymous said...

Wooo Hooo . . good for Canada eh !!

Global warming good for Canada, Yale study shows


Associated Press

June 14, 2007 at 5:25 PM EDT

GHENT, N.Y. — It's not in Al Gore's PowerPoint presentation, but there are some upsides to global warming.

Northern homes could save on heating fuel. Cities might stop losing snowbirds to the South. Canadian farmers could harvest bumper crops. Greenland may become awash in cod and oil riches. Shippers could count on an Arctic shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific. Forests may expand. Mongolia could see a go-go economy.

This is all speculative, even a little facetious, and any gains are not likely to make up for predicted frightening upheavals elsewhere. But still ... might there be a silver lining for the frigid regions of Canada and Russia?

“It's not that there won't be bad things happening in those countries. There will be — things like you'll lose polar bears,” said economic professor Robert Mendelsohn of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. “But the idea is that they will get such large gains, especially in agriculture, that they will be bigger than the losses.”

Dr. Mendelsohn looked at how gross domestic product around the world would be affected under different warming scenarios though 2100. Canada and Russia tend to come out as gainers, as does much of northern Europe and Mongolia.

This is largely because of projected gains in agricultural production in those areas. Many researchers believe that if the world warms up, the sweet spots for growing crops will migrate toward the poles.

The future may have arrived already in icy Greenland, where fishermen are thrilled by the return of cod and farmers are reporting higher yields.

“Maybe the turnips get a little bit bigger, and the potatoes get a little bit bigger, but that's important,” said Kenneth Hoegh, a government agricultural adviser. “We are right on the edge here for agriculture.”

Jesper Madsen, who directs Arctic research at the National Environmental Research Institute in Denmark, said Greenland's agricultural gains would seem like small potatoes economically if the retreating ice there clears the way for more oil drilling.

Still, people shouldn't book a beach vacation in Iceland just yet. A likely warm-up would be gradual and might even be mitigated if the world cuts greenhouse gas emissions.

Currently, the “optimal holiday destination” has an annual average temperature of about 61 degrees (think Atlanta, or Barcelona), according to a group of European researchers. A worldwide warming will essentially drive tourists away from equatorial regions toward the poles and up the mountains, said one of those researchers, economist Richard Tol of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland.

While oceanfront cities might have to build seawalls to hold back the ocean in a warming world, some researchers believe the freshwater Great Lakes will evaporate a bit. But a projected 11-degree boost at the turn of the next century could be a boon for chillier cities even knocking them into the “optimal” holiday range.

Looking around the world, a list provided by Tol said the biggest winner in a warmed-up world would be — no surprise — Canada. It would see a 220 per cent increase in international tourist arrivals by the end of the century, followed by Russia with a 174 per cent jump, and Mongolia, up 122 per cent.

Of course, the caveats are significant when trying to make any long-term global forecast. There are so many variables.

A longer growing season does a farmer no good if resulting rain patterns bring a drought. Dr. Mendelsohn said northern residents saving on winter heating fuel will end up spending more than that to keep cool in the summer. Great Lakes cities might enjoy balmier weather, but could suffer if lower lake levels cut off shipping lanes. And global warming could present deadly new opportunities for parasites and disease.

Ti-Guy said...

Funny...the Conference Board of Canada didn't zero in on the appalling ignorance of the righties as a reason for Canada's innovative mediocraty.

Can't soil your own nest, I guess.

lexington said...

There are a few of problems with McKetrick's proposal. First, the measurements of tropospheric temperature seem rather unreliable - there is about a 33% difference between the UAH and RSS numbers, which is enough ambiguity for climate change deniers to drive a truck through.

Furtheremore, it isn't apparent to me -and I'm not a climate scientist, but then again neither is McKetrick- how well tropospheric warming tracks global climate change. Unless their is a close and long term correlation between the two tying a tax regime narrowly to tropospheric warming may not produce the intended outcomes.

Finally, it isn't apparent to me that such a tax regime is actually going to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The most likely result is that GHG emitters simply pass the tax on to comsumers in the form of higher prices rather than reduce emissions. Even if did result in some reduction in emissions, there is no guarantee that the tax in itself would be enough of an incentive to cut emissions quickly enough to avert catastrophic climate change.

Ed Bo said...

Jay -- Thanks for one of the funniest posts I have read in a long time. You can't even keep the party line straight!

You state that "The medieval warming and the following little ice age (caused by reduction in human produced CO2 due to the black death) were NOT global phenomenon. They were restricted to the Northern hemisphere, and mainly the part of the Northern hemisphere containing the Atlantic ocean."

Where to begin? The party line states that CO2 levels have global effects and that this is one of the "fingerprints" that can distinguish it from more local causes. Yet somehow the LIA cooling was both limited to the North Atlantic AND caused by falling CO2. You can't have it both ways.

And you've got your history all bollixed up as well. Significant cooling in Europe preceded the Black Death -- it didn't follow it. European weather turned suddenly cooler and wetter in the 1310s, causing massive famines for many years. Its quite probable that the weakened state of the survivors contributed to the severity of the epidemic, which hit Europe in the 1340s. Following this, Europe warmed back up again, the population rebounded somewhat, but then the temperature crashed again in the 1500s and 1600s. Read a ****** book, as someone said here recently -- I suggest Brian Fagan's "The Little Ice Age" (good on chronology, not so good on underlying causes).

Besides, another tenet of the party line is that both CO2 levels and temperatures were low and stable until the massive emissions of the 20th Century, and mainly in the second half of 20C. Did all those (dead) 14th-Century European peasants stop driving their SUVs? (I know, I know -- the deaths meant land went fallow and started to return to forest, but by the time this happened, the temperature was warming again.

Oh, and if you had bothered to actually read the scientific literature, you would have seen that the hockey stick graph in question is a (supposed) reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperatures, so saying MWP and LIA were restricted to NH is no defense of it.

And if you go to the actual papers of the scientists who actually collected the data used to create the hockey stick, you see that the hockey stick authors completely misused the data. Over and over again, they ignored the conclusions of the scientists that the medieval period was warm around the globe -- that treelines were higher in both altitude and latitude, for example in California, Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia -- and instead tortured the data to get rid of the warmth.

McKitrick and McIntyre have been confirmed correct in every substantive criticism of the hockey stick, both by the National Research Council and the Wegman report of top statisticians commissioned by Congress. Even if you accept only a few of these criticisms, the hockey stick shape of unusual 20th century warming disappears.

lexington said...

ed bo wrote:

McKitrick and McIntyre have been confirmed correct in every substantive criticism of the hockey stick, both by the National Research Council and the Wegman report of top statisticians commissioned by Congress. Even if you accept only a few of these criticisms, the hockey stick shape of unusual 20th century warming disappears.

As I pointed out in a previous thread this statement is indefensible as it applies to Wegman.

As for the NRC, since you're obviously so much better informed than the rest of us I would invite you to provide a citation.

It's ironic you can assume airs about other peoples' ignorance of the literature yet in eight paragraphs of bloviating the only source you provide is a book by an archaeologist that doesn't even deal with climate change since the Industrial Revolution.

Ed Bo said...


You aren't seriously trying to defend Jay's assertion that LIA cooling was both (a) local, and (b) caused by falling CO2, are you? I've heard both assertions individually before, and while you can make a case for either one individually (although I'm far from convinced), but they are mutually incompatible according to AGW theory.

I didn't realize that footnotes were required for comments on this site (and I cited more than most commenters) but I cited Fagan's history book to demonstrate that the historical record in Europe shows that the cooling from the MWP preceded the Bliack Death, counter to Jay's assertion.

You are just incorrect that Fagan's book does not cover the modern period. (Read the book, to paraphrase Jay.) Of course, given the title, the main focus of the book is on the LIA, but he does have chapters on both the medeival and modern warm periods. What I found most fascinating about the book is his struggle to reconcile the historical record with the then newly released hockey stick and related studies. I think he fails miserably at this. Throughout the book he cites evidence of medeival warmth matched not even now, then uses the new scientific studies to assert that modern warming is unprecedented even in Europe.

Jay also seems to have embraced the logical fallacy that absence of (written) evidence is evidence of absence. Of course, we have our best written historical evidence of MWP/LIA from western Europe (although there is a decent amount from China as well). But this in no way means that because we don't have written historical evidence from a region, there couldn't have been this type of pattern as well.

For example, in California's Sierra Nevada mountains, treelines were 300-500m higher during the MWP than they are now. You can see remnants of these trees in the high Sierra far above existing treelines. US Forest Service scientists and academic researchers estimate typical temperatures then about 3C higher than in the 20th Century (and there has been no trend in recorded temperatures (at most 0.1C).

Are you saying I was incorrect in pointing out that the hockey stick concerns Northern Hemisphere temperature, not global temperature? I checked this assertion with the actual paper. Do I need to cite it?

Are you seriously trying to defend Mann's technique of taking the variance of a data set about the mean of a different data set? (He used the mean of the 20th century calibration period, then calculated the variance of the entire data sets about this mean.) It's like taking the variance of human height about the mean of adult males. This is Statistics 101 stuff -- the variance literally has no meaning except when it is taken about the mean of the same data set.

And this is not a "trivial methodological issue", as our host would have it. Calculate the variances correctly and the anomolous 20th Century warming disappears. Why? Because Mann's technique weights the data sets by their variance. Any data set with a substantially different 20C mean from overall mean gets a huge variance and therefore a huge weighting factor in the final average (and the hockey stick is nothing more than a weighted average).

And the dataset that gets overweighted by this technique is tree-rings for strip-bark bristlecone pines, which show accelerated 20C growth. They end up getting weighted almost 400 times heavier than most of the other data sets, which effectively means that the whole hockey stick is just a pass-through for the bristlecone data.

A few interesting things about this data. First, the growth shows absolutely no correlation to measured temperature in the calibration period (most of these data sets have a correlation of about -0.02). Second, Mann took his data from a study entitled "Detecting the Aerial Fertilization Effect of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment in Tree-Ring Chronologies" (Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 81-95, March 1993. -- there's your cite). The whole point of the study was that recent growth increase of these trees could not be explained by temperature. Yet Mann used this data as the key to showing unusual 20C warming. Remember these trees are in California's Sierras which have shown no 20C warming.

Without the strip-bark bristlecone pine data (even with the faulty statistics) the hockey stick disappears. What's worse, Mann knew it and didn't disclose it. Instead he claimed his results were robust against the removal of all tree-ring data. But in data grudgingly provided under pressure from Congress, in a directory amusingly named "Censored" (you can't make this stuff up), were the calculations repeated without bristlecones, with no anomalous 20C warmth. If this had been done in the corporate world, in a corporate prospectus or a clinical drug study, the authors would be subject to long jail terms.

These specifics are what McIntyre and McKitrick found, and what the NRC (better called NAS - National Academy of Sciences) report and the Wegman committee report confirmed. I haven't been able to find a link to the NAS report, but I remember that you have to get by the summary and into the specifics to see these confirmations.

Ed Bo said...

Just to be clear -- in the above post, "20C" is a shorthand for "20th Century", not "20 degrees C"