Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Drumbeat

I looked in the Oregonian yesterday and thought: "Hey! No global warming article!"

Then I found it - an entire page devoted to the "extreme weather events" of 2006. A month by month chronicle of the rain, the cold, the wind, the storms. They didn't explicitly blame carbon dioxide, of course, but on the heels of the relentless propagandizing they've been doing on global warming, this was obviously the implication.

In today's news on Global Warming, the Governor has called for CO2 emission caps, and will be lobbying other western state governors to do it too. He wants to establish a system of tradeable credits to enforce the caps.

He's all excited about the supposed boon for Oregon's economy to be found by controlling CO2, since we are such leaders in renewable energy and conservation technology. He says that the New York investment bankers have told him that there's a lot of money to be made.

The Governor has a global warming task force that has made a bunch of recommendations to him. [Note: I'll bet there were a buch of global warming skeptics on that panel, right?] The task force told him that if Oregon established CO2 limits, that electricity prices would go up, but people would end up spending less on electricity because all the new energy saving devices would result in them consuming less.

I'm not sure where to start with this completely illogical and bassackward assertion. But if it represents the quality of economic advice our good Gov is listening to, then we are in for a long four years.

First, I've seen nothing but claims that Oregon is somehow a leader in so-called "sustainability," whatever that is. They act as if as soon as we put Draconian limits on CO2, the world will beat a path to our door so we can show them how we make energy without a lot of carbon dioxide emissions. I guess we will give them a tour of Bonneville!

Second, if our big competitive advantage requires that we regulate competitors out of business, then we are in trouble. Remember when the use of freon was prohibited because of the supposed effects on the ozone? Guess who lobbied for that? The producer of the replacement chemical, who had a patent on it.

Well, that is about the same thing as Oregon demanding CO2 limits and then hoping to make money off sources and uses of energy that produce less CO2.

Carbon dioxide is NOT A POLLUTANT! It is necessary for life on Earth. We can't let them regulate CO2 because that will give them control over the blood supply for the world's economy, which is what they are really after.

A system of tradeable carbon dioxide credits as a way to limit emissions is simply a strategy. They think that free-market types will buy in, since tradeable credits is indeed the most efficient way to actually limit emissions of harmful chemicals.

But CO2 is not a harmful chemical.

As Peter Drucker once said: "Nothing is less worth doing than to do more efficiently that which should not be done at all."


Anonymous said...

Dare I compare this CO2 thing, or the application of principals of property rights, to the Magnuson Fisheries Conservation Act of 1976 where we claimed an economic zone that extended 200 miles?

You too could read "Limited Entry" from an OSU AREc professor.

The problem was a tragedy of the commons problem where individual actors seeking individual gain destroy the resource. By establishing an ownership interest (limited entry and permits) the permit holders (regardless of the equity or inequity of the distribution of original permits) have a stake in preserving the value of their permits, which are dependent on preserving a described resource to which the permit gives to them a prescribed share of the benefit. It is enforced, of course, by way of prohibiting non-permit holders from accessing the resource. But, it remains subject to uncertainty as to who it is that must bear the cost of maintaining or enhancing the resource among one class of permit holders, or allocation of costs between the public and the permit holders.

Given that CO2 issues and the negative effects are not localized, but worldwide, any Oregon specific effort to apply principals of property rights so as to LIMIT our own contribution to Worldwide levels of output (assuming that it is all bad, like PCBs, for the sake of argument) does not translate to any statistically significant improvement of our own immediate well being. The remoteness, our contribution relative to the world, is even less than if I were to individually say that I personally would adhere to some theoretical Permit Level of consumption of a fishery resource off the Alaskan coast even if there was no permit system and no 200 mile economic zone.

If the problem that one seeks to remedy is worldwide then the best that Oregon could do is to pass a non-binding resolution that expresses support for some national or international scheme. But such resolution would have to pegged to universally adopted rules to apply equally across jurisdictions and to permit holders.

Back to fish. The primary consideration, and justification for public involvement, is to preserve some SUSTAINABLE level of OUTPUT of fish. It was NOT designed to sustain some level of overfishing by non-local fisherman (Russian fleets for example) to fishery resources within the proposed 200 mile economic zone. Any local scheme (but targeted at worldwide pollutant levels) to preserve levels of excess air pollutants (assuming CO2 is one, and we spew disproportionate levels of it) by treatment of the same as a property right enforced by the state to preserve the value of the permits to pollute would be the same as if Russia passed their own permit scheme, alone, that enabled Russians exploit groundfish off the Alaskan coast within our claimed 200 mile exclusive economic zone.

Applying a property rights permit process to a negative externality (air pollution here with assumed worldwide impact) to some OTHER beneficial activity would make as much sense as if among a class of permit holders for a fishery resource they each had the right to exceed their permitted limits. It, permitting a negative externality --overfishing or overpollution -- just seems to defeat the whole purpose at the outset.

I am comfortable in concluding that the real limited resource is reasoning skills, and that the polluters (assuming CO2 is all bad like PCBs) have a disproportionate share of superior economic and political expertise. The efficacy of the proposed permit process for a posited negative externality to achieve the stated goal is zero, or less (as the state would have locked themselves into the scheme for a while).

I have left out discussion of the equity of the initial distribution of the permits, which typically only includes folks that cause some negative externality.

I cannot help but offer a snarky comment that the value of clueless frontmen is priceless. Imagine if you had to design a PR campaign to make it sound good to allow Russian fishing trawlers into our 200 mile economic zone, as it would be in our best interest; which is the challenge for Ted on the World stage, with a straight face, as to locking-in a commitment to pollute no less than X.


Rob Kremer said...

Interesting, Nag. You are absolutely correct that local efforts to limit CO2, even if done through the property right/market approach, simply cannot "work" if the problem is global.

But the crux of the issue is whether CO2 does indeed cause the externality of global warming. That is far, far from demonstrated, yet it is taken as an article of faith among the alarmist crowd.

Anonymous said...

The means -- the permit process -- can only make sense if the output of CO2 is a GOOD thing, in isolation. Like a sustainable harvest of fish. I don't care, for purposes of the tradeable credit thing, whether someone says CO2 output is bad, because that is quite upside down from the obvious and proper application of creating tradeable rights to the BENFITS from a limited resources (here the crafting of a limited right to expel CO2).

The more interesting angle for review is if everyone were to view the CO2 output as neutral. That is, where the CO2 good/bad dichotomy is wholly irrelevant except so far as to give the illusion of debate about something. And, where everybody knows that it is silly to debate whether CO2 is itself bad or good. The test is the permit process for a PRESUMED negative externality. It is like a trial balloon, to measure public malleability and persuadability.

Ultimately, for other types of output, and for other players, the permit process sets up a scheme to erect barriers to entry to anyone else that might colorably introduce a new source of so-called bad output. While the "trading" of permits has the flavor of competition it disregards the negative effects of reduced competition among enterprises (as to features of an enterprise quite unrelated to negative externalities) that might fall under the umbrella of some arbitrary agency action. A regulator could declare a winner or loser based on fake, but unchallengeable by a judge that defers to the "experts" as to "facts," BELIEFS as to a CO2 type debate.

It extends standardless government authority. That is, it is consistent with complete arbitrariness, and without any effective judicial review. It is thus thoroughly modern and fully bipartisan.


Anonymous said...

Some Comments on the recently released
National Academy of Sciences Report on global climate change
( Report is at: )

The below is cut and pasted from the report with our comments in [brackets]

Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years
Committee on Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years,
National Research Council
From Page 111 (sheet 126) bold added:


Based on its deliberations and the materials presented in Chapters 1-11 and elsewhere,
the committee draws the following overall conclusions regarding large-scale surface temperature
reconstructions for the last 2,000 years:
* The instrumentally measured warming of about 0.6̊C during the 20th century is also reflected in borehole temperature measurements, the retreat of glaciers, and other observational evidence, and can be simulated with climate models.
.......[This verifies that there was about a 0.6̊C temperature increase during the 20th century (see below)]
* Large-scale surface temperature reconstructions yield a generally consistent picture of temperature trends during the preceding millennium, including relatively warm conditions centered around A.D. 1000 (identified by some as the “Medieval Warm Period”) and a relatively cold period (or “Little Ice Age”) centered around 1700. The existence and extent of a Little Ice Age from roughly 1500 to 1850 is supported by a wide variety of evidence including ice cores, tree rings, borehole temperatures, glacier length records, and historical documents.
......[This re-affirms the existence of a “little ice age”]
Evidence for regional warmth during medieval times can be found in a diverse but more limited set of records including ice cores, tree rings, marine sediments, and historical sources from Europe and Asia, but the exact timing and duration of warm periods may have varied from region to region, and the magnitude and geographic extent of the warmth are uncertain.
....[This re-affirms the existence of a “medieval warm period”]
....[Remember the famous “hockey stick” chart? It DOES NOT show either the “little ice age” or “medieval warm period”. This omission disproves the “hockey stick” chart and the data/methods used to create it. Much of the climate field uses similar data and methods.]
* It can be said with a high level of confidence that global mean surface temperature was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. This statement is justified by the consistency of the evidence from a wide variety of geographically diverse proxies.
....[This is the headline for many newspapers. Most forgot to mention that the “preceding four centuries” started in the middle of the “little ice age (above). In other words, we are warming up after the little ice age.]
* Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600. Presently available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. The uncertainties associated with reconstructing hemispheric mean or global mean temperatures from these data increase substantially backward in time through this period and are not yet fully quantified.
* Very little confidence can be assigned to statements concerning the hemispheric mean or global mean surface temperature prior to about A.D. 900 because of sparse data coverage and because the uncertainties associated with proxy data and the methods used to analyze and combine them are larger than during more recent time periods.
.....[ This says that we really don’t know enough about climate before A.D 900. This suggests that we are incapable of judging today’s climate in a proper historical context, considering that there has been 12,000 years of ups and downs since the last ice age. We only know about 10% of this time span to a sufficient degree.]

---------------------------------- From page 21 (sheet36) Bold Added ------------------------------------
Based on the analyses presented in the original papers by Mann et al. and this newer supporting evidence, the committee finds it plausible that the Northern Hemisphere was warmer during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period over the preceding millennium.
.....[Note that this claim is only “plausible”, not likely or probable or “supported by a wide variety of evidence” (see above)]
The substantial uncertainties currently present in the quantitative assessment of large-scale surface temperature changes prior to about A.D. 1600 lower our confidence in this conclusion compared to the high level of confidence we place in the Little Ice Age cooling and 20th century warming. Even less confidence can be placed in the original conclusions by Mann et al. (1999) that “the 1990s are likely the warmest decade, and 1998 the warmest year, in at least a millennium” because the uncertainties inherent in temperature reconstructions for individual years and decades are larger than those for longer time periods, and because not all of the available proxies record temperature information on such short timescales.
....[Here is the often heard statement that we are the warmest in 1000 years. It is given “less confidence” than “plausable” (see above). Effectively, it is shown to be baseless.]

--------------------------------- Some Thoughts About the Above Report ------------------------------

We believe that the two most gripping claims about global warming have been shown to be wrong. The other major claim, that we are the warmest in 400 years is essentially a statement that we are warming after the “little ice age.” Is that bad?

------------------------------ Are you being lied to? ------------------------------

Stephen Schneider of the National Center for Atmospheric Research described the scientists' dilemma this way: "On the one hand, as scientists, we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but-which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but; human beings as well. And like most people we'd like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public's imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This `double ethical bind' we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both."
From: DISCOVER, OCTOBER 1989, Page 47, bold added (Note: Stephen Schneider is founder and editor of the scientific journal Climate Change.)
------------------------------Further reading ------------------------------

The whole NAP report:
The Wegman factsheet:
The Wegman report:
Website run by Mann:
Website run by critic of the hockeystick:

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