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With the En-ROADS climate simulator, you can build your own solutions to global warming

Posted on 27 January 2020 by dana1981

This is a re-post from Yale Climate Connections

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as “de-nihilism“. One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris accord and limit global warming.

By itself, a carbon tax rising to around $200 per ton of emissions would bring the world about halfway to the Paris goal, according to the En-ROADS interactive tool developed by the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Climate Interactive think tank. Countries would also need to implement other aggressive climate policies targeting the many different sectors of the economy that generate large-scale greenhouse gas emissions. The tool allows a user to figure out how:

– civilization must change the fuel mix supplying the world’s energy and boost efficiency;
– the extent to which more buildings and vehicles must be electrified;
– strategies could help reduce deforestation and how to plant more trees of the optimum species at the right locations; and
– carbon capture technology could be relied upon to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Carbon taxes seen as the most effective tool

According to Climate Interactive’s climate and energy lead, Ellie Johnston, “Behind En-ROADS is a system dynamics model that weaves the interdependencies and feedbacks of our global climate system with the actions that we need to take globally to address climate change.”

The simulation begins with a default business-as-usual scenario leading to 4.1 degrees Celsius (7.3 degrees Fahrenheit) global warming above pre-industrial temperatures by the year 2100. This outcome is essentially a worst-case scenario, assuming that current worldwide climate policies and pledges (which would limit warming to approximately 3 degrees C, or 5.4 degrees F) are not successfully implemented. For context, the international Paris agreement set a target of no more than 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F) global warming, whereas 3 to 4 degree C warming would likely result in disastrous climate change consequences.

In the En-ROADS simulator, taxing carbon pollution is the single most effective way to bridge the gap between business-as-usual warming and the Paris target. A strong global carbon tax that eventually rises to around $200 per ton of carbon dioxide would reduce global warming from 4 to approximately 3 degrees C by 2100, erasing half of the difference between the two scenarios. The carbon tax makes already-expensive coal even costlier, accelerating its replacement by renewables, and also increases consumer demand for more energy-efficient products that become comparatively cheap as fossil fuel energy prices rise. According to a recent International Monetary Fund report, a carbon tax of $75 per ton would more than triple the price of coal and increase natural gas prices by 70%, with gasoline prices rising by about 70 cents per gallon.

A growing body of climate economics research supports a robust carbon tax. For example, an October 2019 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences focusing on risk and uncertainty concluded that the appropriate carbon tax is more than $100 per ton of carbon dioxide, most economically efficient if immediately implemented at that high price. As co-author Gernot Wagner at New York University described their results, “taking risk and uncertainty seriously – and applying standard tools from financial economics – dramatically increases today’s carbon prices. It also reverses carbon price paths over time: high today, declining over time.”

Experts for some time have debated the best way to structure a carbon tax. Some argue that the price should start low and increase over time in order to give consumers a period to adjust, thus making the tax more politically palatable. The new PNAS study argues that from a risk management perspective, the carbon tax should start high because emissions will then fall quickly, reducing the risk of catastrophic outcomes. As Wagner put it, “folks in 2300 will know more about the climate in 2300 than we know today. Uncertainty resolves itself over time.” In the meantime, the reasoning follows, prudent risk management requires taking aggressive steps to avoid a possible climate catastrophe.

However, there are limits to how effectively carbon taxes alone can cut emissions. An assessment by scientists at Columbia University and the Rhodium Group of a specific carbon tax bill introduced to Congress – the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act – found that its rising carbon price would reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 37% below 2005 levels by 2030. That result would more than double the 16% that American emissions are anticipated to fall during that same period under current policies. However, the analysis found that the bulk of these emissions reductions would come from the electricity sector, while carbon pollution from other sectors like transportation would remain relatively high. For example, the resulting increase in gasoline prices by around $1 per gallon on its own would be insufficient to dramatically reduce American vehicular fuel consumption.

Complementary policies are needed

Similarly, the En-ROADS model also shows that a carbon tax alone would dramatically reduce the share of energy generated by coal, leading to continued high emissions as a result of more oil and gas production.

Oil consumption can be reduced in the En-ROADS model by strengthening vehicle fuel efficiency and electrification policies. In the real world, this approach translates to policies like vehicle fuel economy standards, which can mandate increased efficiency and thus accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. Projects to improve and electrify public transportation systems can also reduce demand for oil. Natural gas consumption can similarly be reduced by expanding energy efficiency and electrification of buildings and industrial activities. Together, the En-ROADS model suggests that these steps could curb global warming by one-half a degree Celsius.

TreesSlowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. Combined with a carbon tax, these policies could achieve the Paris climate targets, if implemented globally. However, the En-ROADS tool illustrates just how difficult it will be to meet those goals, and how many different large-scale policies must be implemented to do so.

Meeting the Paris targets would require that countries around the world soon begin implementing aggressive climate policies targeting the many different sectors of the economy that generate large-scale greenhouse gas emissions. Pricing carbon pollution is one of the single most effective steps to curb emissions, but achieving the Paris goals will require additional complementary policies.

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Comments 1 to 16:

  1. En-Roads helps expand awareness and improve understanding of what has developed and the corrections required to develop sustainable improvements for the future of humanity.

    However, like all economic evaluations, it is limited in what can be incorporated. The reality that everyone’s actions add up to create the future is incredibly complex. But that lack of completeness does not make something like En-Roads worthless. What it does is do is require additional awareness and understanding along with En-Roads.

    What needs to be kept in mind when discussing any ‘economic policy options’ is how the actions will actually affect ‘everyone involved’. A particular concern has to be ensuring that the impacts of implementing the policy do not include making anyone less fortunate to the point of facing circumstances that are below a threshold of a decent basic life. No displaced worker, and there will be many, should end up in poverty. And the related concern is the need for parallel actions that continue to assist those who are less fortunate sustainably develop improved living circumstances. Existing poverty reduction cannot be compromised.

    A good understanding of this type of economics is presented in the 2019 book, “Good Economics for Hard Times” by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Ester Duflo. The authors are serious economists who have spent decades pursuing expanded awareness and improved understanding of how to get sustainable economic improvements of conditions for the less fortunate. Though their focus has been on policy recommendations for developing nations, in the book they also apply their knowledge to efforts to assist the less fortunate in more developed nations. And their understanding is also based on awareness of how the currently most developed nations developed.

    • “Good Economics for Hard Times” also includes many well structured surveys that compare the consensus of understanding of serious economists with the opinions of the general population. Like climate science, the authors show that there is a significant difference of understanding in the general population, almost a lag in the expanding awareness an understanding but more likely a persistent misunderstanding. The book includes many examples of understanding related to the imposition of Carbon Taxes where there is a significant consensus understanding among serious economists but there is significant misunderstanding in the general population. Those issues include the following consensus understanding among serious economists: Carbon Taxes would be an effective method to help achieve the required corrections (mentioned in the Yale Climate Connections item).
    • Reduced taxation of the richest is unlikely to result in sustainable improvement of circumstances for the less fortunate (an important understanding when looking at the actions needed to ensure poverty is being sustainably reduced). Though little was able to be understood about this theory in the 1980s because of the lack of historical examples for serious economists to evaluate, there is now ample historical evidence of a diversity of regions where taxes on the richestr were reduced that can be compared to regions where such changes did not occur (the real evaluations of serious economists involve comparisons of a diversity of histories to try to determine the validity of a theory, or the merit of a policy recomendation).

    And a very comprehensive understanding of all of this is presented by Jeffrey D. Sacks et. al. in the MOOC “The Age of Sustainable Development”, and the associated book of the same name.

    A related understanding is that the warming by 2100 is not the complete issue. The maximum future warming is the issue. The unacceptability of any scenario that has not peaked warming by 2100 needs to be elauated based on its maximum warming.

    So the best solution appears require other policy actions along with a Carbon Tax that rapidly increases as required to achieve a maximum warming of 1.5 C. And to be fair, that will require policy action to sustainably assist the less fortunate, and those displaced from unsustainable harmful jobs, develop sustainable improved lives. And that will require increased taxes on the richest. Which will require a certain category of political groups to 'Change Their Mind about Taxes on the Richest' and 'Change Their Mind about the merit of Governments Governing and Limiting what is allowed to happen in the Economy'. And that will require acceptance of the expanded awareness and understanding of serious economists who apply their learning to help develop sustainable improvements for humanity. And that will likely require penalties to be applied to people who try to develop and disseminate misleading marketing. And it may even require the ability to remove elected representatives from office if they show a history of actions resisting expanding their awareness and understanding.

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  2. Recommended supplemental reading:

    Deep Decarbonization: A Realistic Way Forward on Climate Change, Opinion by David G Victor, Yale Environment 360, Jan 28, 2020

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  3. Taxes are always convuluted, avoided, re-directed, sabotaged and distorted. "Serious Economist" is largely and oxymoron.

    Many have shown elsewhere, Paris won't get us to 1.5, more likely will result in 3 by 2100. Likely articles are metioned on this very website.

    They first few versions of any carbon tax in capitalist countries will rest heavily on the middle and lower classes. The argument that you can have a public trust that will be re-distributed is fantasy.

    Even if, by some a-historic miracle you got a Citizens Climate Lobby like plan through, it would take years to be effective. Likely decades. Think of all the plant and equipment relying on fossil fuels. Unless the taxes are incredibly high, companies will continue to use that equipment for years. Ditto households.

    If the taxes are high enough to force a quick change, companies would try to pass that on to customers, resulting in a supply side shock depression.

    If taxes and markets were used to make the change in 1859, when Tyndall discovered the way molecules absorb infra red radiation, it might have worked.

    The only way we'll substantially lower carbon output in a useful timeframe is either a WWII style mobilization, which means heavily controlled markets and means of production, or a complete replacement of capitalism and markets with a rational system of production and distribution.

    Carbon taxes have no place or use in either scenario.

    It's like saying, "alright, the Fascists might be coming across the ocean in a couple of years... let's raise taxes on consumer items in order to fund war production..."

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  4. In my previous comment @1 I meant to add that the authors of “Good Economics for Hard Times” recommend that the most helpful way to implement Carbon Taxes is to rebate the collected money to everyone except the richer people. That allows the Carbon Tax policy implementation to limit the negative impacts on middle income and less fortunate, and help assist the less fortunate. It also becomes a more powerful motivation for the richer people to reduce their impacts (they get no pay-back. For them it is a Tax that is used for actions they personally do not benefit from, like any other assistance for the less fortunate).

    I provided a brief summary of “Good Economics for Hard Times” to encourage it to be read by people who are interested in better understanding the challenges of expanding awareness and understanding regarding climate science and the related required changes of human activity (Jeffery Sachs and Sustainable Development need no ‘summary description’).

    In case some are reluctant to check out “Good Economics for Hard Times” , the following edited extracts from the book may help better understand the authors and their intentions and the value of reading the book (economic academics and climate science academics have similar challenges):

    From the Preface:
    “…Inequality is exploding, environmental catastrophes and global policy disasters loom, but we are left with little more than platitudes to confront them with.
    “We wrote this book to hold on to hope. To tell ourselves the story of what went wrong and why, but also as a reminder of all that has gone right. A book as much about the problems as about how our world can be put back together, as long as we are honest with the diagnosis.
    “…Many of the issues plaguing the world right now are particularly salient in the rich North, whereas we have spent our lives studying poor people in poor countries. It was obvious that we would have to immerse ourselves in many new literatures, and there was always a chance we would miss something. It took us a while to convince ourselves it was even worth trying.
    “We eventually decided to take the plunge, partly because we got tired of watching at a distance while the public conversation about core economic issues – immigration, trade, growth, inequality, or the environment – goes more and more off-kilter. But also because, as we thought about it, we realized the problems facing the rich countries in the world were eerily familiar to those we are used to studying in the developing world – people left behind by development, ballooning inequality, lack of faith in government, fractured societies and polity, and so on. We learned a lot in the process, and it did give us faith in what we as economists have learned best to do, which is to be hard headed about the facts, skeptical of slick answers and magic bullets, modest and honest about what we know and understand, and perhaps most importantly, willing to try ideas and solutions and be wrong, as long as it takes us towards the ultimate goals of building a more humane world.”

    From the first chapter:
    “…The answers to these problems take more than a tweet. So there is an urge to just avoid them. And partly as a result, nations are doing very little to solve the most pressing challenges of our time; they continue to feed the anger and mistrust that polarizes us, which makes us even more incapable of talking, thinking together, doing something about them.
    “…Economists have a lot to say about these big issues.
    “…What the most recent research has to say, it turns out, is often surprising, especially to those used to the pat answers coming out of TY “economists’ and high school text books.
    “Unfortunately, very few people trust economists enough to listen carefully to what they have to say.”

    From the Conclusion:
    “…Good economics alone cannot save us. But without it, we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of yesterday. Ignorance, institutions, ideology and inertia combine to give us answers that look plausible, promise much, and predictably betray us. As history, alas, demonstrates over and over, the ideas that carry the day in the end can be good or bad. … The only recourse we have against bad ideas is to be vigilant, resist the seduction of the “obvious”, be skeptical of promised miracles, question the evidence, be patient with complexity and honest about what we know and what we can know. Without that vigilance, conversations about multifaceted problems turn into slogans and caricatures and policy analysis gets replaced by quack remedies.
    “The call to action is not just for academic economists – it is for all of us who want a better, saner, more humane world. Economics is too important to be left to economists.”


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  5. ilfark2 @3,

    Read "Good Economics for Hard Times" and then respond with specific criticisms. As my comment @4 shows the authors are open to the possibility that are are incorrect on some points.

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  6. ilfark2 @3,

    The first step of the Paris Agreement, the initial commitments, have been confirmed to be inadequate to achieve 1.5 C limit of impact.

    But that is why the Paris Agreement was built to include regular updates of the status of the actions to date with the need for increased corrective actions as required to achieve the objective. The next step being the 2020 update.

    That is a very fundamental understanding of the Paris Agreement. Anyone unaware of it hasn't actually been paying attention.

    But I agree, the lack of responsible corrective action today to undo the harmful popular and profitable socioeconomic-political activity that has developed today will require more forceful corrections of undeserved perceptions of superiority if humanity is to develop a lasting improving future.

    Whether responsible leaders will act to correct popular and profitable activity that has incorrectly over-developed through the past is an open question, as is the future of humanity.

    All that any individual can do is try to expand and improve awareness and understanding of the urgent need to stop supporting groups that have desires that are contrary to rapidly achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and apply that learning to be as helpful as possible.

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  7. ilfark2

    "Taxes are always convuluted, avoided, re-directed, sabotaged and distorted. "Serious Economist" is largely and oxymoron."

    Sure, but taxes still work. Our civilisation has been based on taxation and this has provided a vast range of public good and services for literally centuries now.

    "They first few versions of any carbon tax in capitalist countries will rest heavily on the middle and lower classes. The argument that you can have a public trust that will be re-distributed is fantasy."

    There are already carbon taxes in several countries. I suggest read up on them before speculating. Start with carbon taxes on wikipedia. It's also very easy to give tax rebates or similar assistance to poor people, and that is already done in many countries in respect of general income taxes, so it could be done for a carbon tax. Please explain why it couldn't be done.

    "Even if, by some a-historic miracle you got a Citizens Climate Lobby like plan through, it would take years to be effective. Likely decades. "

    No taxation has immediate effects, even at low levels. The sum of the effects depends on how strong the taxes are.

    "If the taxes are high enough to force a quick change, companies would try to pass that on to customers, resulting in a supply side shock depression."

    This is a valid concern but 1) you can phase things in to soften the blow and 2) carbon fee and dividend neutralises this supply shock.

    "The only way we'll substantially lower carbon output in a useful timeframe is either a WWII style mobilization, which means heavily controlled markets and means of production, or a complete replacement of capitalism and markets with a rational system of production and distribution."

    No. You don't need to control markets in a complete sense or abandon capitalism.  All you need is something like the New Deal of the 1930's where government funded some new infrastructure out of taxes at that time.

    Governments could fund green infrastructure today out of taxes, deficit financing (interest rates are low so this is ideal) or quantitative easing. It requires directing how some things are done, but this falls well short of a total control of markets. This is all a valid alternative to carbon taxes.

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  8. The whole point of a carbon tax, any pigovian tax, is that people will avoid it. Industries will be created to avoid it - ie energy production that doesnt emit carbon.

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  9. I've read a few surveys on carbon taxes that you can find if you're interested.

    Let's look at other taxes for the moment. Gasoline tax has increased gas prices substantially yet 60 to 70% of US emissions are from it's citizens driving around in large, useless circles.

    Look at the effect of tobacco tax.

    Better still, do the arithmetic on how long carbon taxes would take to reduce carbon output substantially. Others have done it.

    Taxes as such were introduced arguably, by the Romans. They proved that all you need is a printing press. They mined gold (using slaves), gave this to their soldiers and told subjects they had to give a certain amount of official gold coin every so often. They only way to get the gold was to supply Roman soldiers. This was an easy way to supply Roman troops. Hudson and Graeber cover this.

    If we took a New Deal approach to the problem, it will take at least 50 years, more likely 100.

    The vast majority of infrastructure, not to mention top to bottom means of production change, happened from 1940 to 1943, and 40 to 60% of the money was printed to do so.

    There are quite a few books on the scope and scale of the New Deal vs. WWII mobilization out there now.

    Instead of me reading "Good Economics for Hard Times", why don't you find a referenced quote in the book that describes a time in history a society was massively changed via tax policy on the order of ten years (other than the French and Bolshevik revolutions). If they found that, I'll happily grab the book and start reading, because I've never read of such a thing.

    In short I challenge readers to point to one instance where massive, short order, societal change occurred from tax policy.

    We have many examples of what happens to revenues that are supposed to go to the people. Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Alaska among others I'm sure. In these cases, various amounts at varying times of the proceeds were skimmed off the top by elites. This is always the case. It is obvious it will be unless you have real democratic accountability which hierarchies never ever do. Look at the massive sums that are skimmed off by gov contractors... somehow the CCL crowd will magically create a separate Carbon Tax department that will successfully sequester and judiciously allocate all they are supposed to? Large organizations have never operated for any substantial time period this way unless they were run by direct democracy.

    But again, if you think we have 50 or a 100 years to get to zero, maybe this would work, but likely not.

    Look at the US congress now vs. in the 1930s.

    Then, they passed the 30 page Glass-Steagal act. You can look it up and easily read it. It's very simple. Banks can't buy stocks. Savings and Loans can only do a very limited number of things. Gamblers and speculators have to go to hedgefunds. Hedgefunds were a vanishingly small part of the financisphere until Clinton repealed Glass Steagal.

    Then there was the crash, then you got Barney Frank and i forget who else, write a bill to reign stuff in. The thing was added to, amended, changed, until it became the useless 2 to 5 thousand page batch of monstronsity, that has done very little to safe guard the financial system.

    Ditto the heritage foundation's Affordable Care Act.

    That is what will happen in the US with a Carbon Tax.

    It might start out useful, but by the time it's done, it will be filled with exemptions, grandfather clauses etc...

    Years will pass until the next better version is considered.

    No one knows how much time we have, but it's possibly too late and even the IPCC talks about 10 years, which depends on untested, unscaled carbon removal.

    The safest path would be massive structural, societal change in less than 10 years.

    The only time we've seen that is with massive government supervision and planning. Sometimes using markets (as in US WWII mobilization), other times not.

    But again, if you think we have 50 plus years and would rather not risk the status quo, there's an off chance tax/subsidy of the current system might work.

    Trust me, I'm not a fan of a WWII mobilization. The one in the US led to one set of elites prevailing over another. It hyper-rewarded capitalists that played ball and left many (especially women, African-Americans and Latinos) behind. It led to the horrible system we currently have. Hopefully a Green New Deal would be more just, but I remain skeptical.

    Some nice books to get anyone interested on how economies have been planned by governments or corporations, see "The End of Reform", by Brinkely, "The Visible Hand of Management" and "Scope and Scale..." by Alfred Chandler Jr., the first few chapters of "Destructive Creation..."  I forget the author, "Debt: The First 5000 Years..." by Graeber, "Economics: A New Introduction" by Hugh Stretton... and of course Richard Woff, David Harvey, Yanis Varoufanukis. For a more mainstream take on taxation see Stephanie Kelton, Michael Hudson (the MMTers).


    You might be right, we might have 30 to 100 years to get to negative emissions, but the Arctic, Antarctic, Australia, Amazon, Siberia, permafrost, methane levels, droughts, deluges (among many other "oh shit that wasn't supposed to happen for another 70 years" scientific papers) suggest otherwise.

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  10. Ilfark2 @9,
    You have not presented any evidence that a Carbon Tax cannot help achieve the required limit of global warming harm to the future of humanity (the 1.5 C limit).

    Your opinion appears to be based on evaluations of a Carbon Tax as the only action taken, and not even an evaluation of a Carbon Tax that increases as required to achieve the result.

    What you have presented is a distrust that government would behave responsibly, which is a related, but very different, matter.

    Regarding the request for a quote in support of Carbon Taxes from “Good Economics for Hard Times” about the benefit of higher taxes (and other policy interventions) I provide the following:
    - The entire Chapter 6: In Hot Water. Understanding a specific economic issue can require thorough reading, not “A Tweet Quote”
    - The following quote extract from Chapter 6 regarding action on climate change raises potential questions about your identified Preferred Presentations of economics.
    “…Mitigation through better technologies may not do the trick; people’s consumption will need to fall. We may have to be content not only with cleaner cars but also with smaller cars, or no cars at all. This is not what our colleagues in economics like to hear. First, because of economists’ ongoing love affair with material consumption as a marker of well-being, and second because they are suspicious of attempts to change behavior, especially when changing preferences is involved. …Economists typically assume most people would not voluntarily sacrifice anything to affect (help, not harm) unborn people or those who live far away (from them)… (However) Many of us (including economists) probably do care about a whole range of outcomes that don’t affect us directly, even if we have a hard time assigning money values to them.” (I added the inserts in brackets because the entire section the quote is from is too large to present in full, but the idea is clear with my inserted brackets – read the book to see what I mean, and that I have not presented it in a misleading way)
    - The Book includes the observation that the USA and many others nations had very successful growth with substantial improvements for the poor when the top tax rates on the rich were very high (the 1950s through the 1970s). Rather than try to build a similar quote to the one above, this is a matter that can be independently verified any way you choose.

    Taxes can be Good, or Bad.

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  11. ilfark2 @9

    I do appreciate your view on this, and partly agree with you on some points. Firstly I agree to the extent that the problem needs tackling fairly urgently like the next 10 - 30 years, not over the next 50 - 100 years. And I've said before on this website that it looks like we are at risk of running out of time to make carbon taxes work, because they would have to be ramped up so quickly it will really hurt.

    If we dont have robust carbon taxes in place soon, we will be forced to consider a huge government infrastructure programme. Or it might end up being both.Whether we call infrastructure projects a war time mobilisation or a new deal might be beside the point. They both require focused government spending and urgency, that's the key point.

    However you get some things wrong and make a few unsubstantiated claims. Im not going to wade through everything because I think its your basic message that counts, but one thing deserves a mention. You said "Let's look at other taxes for the moment. Gasoline tax has increased gas prices substantially yet 60 to 70% of US emissions are from it's citizens driving around in large, useless circles." In fact America still has very low gasoline prices even with a tax, so of course its not an incentive to change behaviour much,  and In fact transport accounts for 23% of total CO2 emissions according to The WHO. Carbon taxes would work as a device, its a question of whether theres enough time left to make them work sensibly, and what mitigation policies the public will run with.

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  12. ilfark2 @9, and all systems whether carbon taxes or war time mobilisations are at equal risk of being rorted by elites and contractors. So its a spurious argument. 

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  13. John Hartz,
    I identify at least two weaknesses in the Yale Connections article you linked:

    1. The article presents “A Pet Solution of The Technology Savior – discounting or dismissing Other Helpful actions and missing the fact that Technology Development created The Problem”
    2. The Nuclear Weapons Solution that the “Pet Solution” is based upon is not a success. Nuclear weapons proliferation would not have occurred if it was a success. If it truly was a success then Canada’s Candu system that is safer against meltdown and cannot be used to make nuclear weapons, and other nuclear power generation systems like it, would have become the only acceptable nuclear power generation systems. The better nuclear solution was actually available, as have the better alternatives to fossil fuel always been available.

    The solution to the Nuclear threat was similar to the solution to Ozone impacts. The solution did not require a significant sacrifice by the average person, and the solution reduced the fears and potential for outrage by the general population at the lack of responsible corrective actions by leadership. But, as pointed out in my numbered point 2., the solution to nuclear weapons was not actually a sustainable solution. And the ozone solution also appears to be in question (recent evidence of foamed plastics in some regions of China creating the banned CFCs because the Central Chinese Government, as effective as it can be at making required corrections happen, cannot police everything).

    What is required is the global achievement of Sustainable Development. And a key part of that is the need to rapidly correct the harmful unsustainable things that have developed. The 1972 Stockholm Conference regarding a sustainable future for humanity was justifiably concerned about Nuclear Weapons and the Ozone Layer. But it included the need to address all other issues related to sustainable development. And the need to limit human impacts on climate change has been a significant focus starting in the 1980s because it is undeniably a significant factor in the success of sustainably reducing poverty and developing other sustainable improvements for humanity.

    Technology development is important for achieving Sustainable Development. But, generically, technological development “Is Not The Solution”. Not even converting all energy generation and energy use to renewable is “The Solution” because materials are consumed by any system. Reduction of consumption is required, along with population limits. And undeniably the richest should be challenged to live better by consuming less, including consuming less energy. And that limited consumption needs to be a focus until virtually eternal artificial technical systems get developed, because that magic solution may never be developed and humanity potentially has 1 billion years to continue to thrive on this planet.

    What is needed is the growth of public awareness and improved understanding of what is going on and its application to the pursuit of achieving Sustainable Development. And the solution will be achieved more effectively and more rapidly the more fear and outrage there is regarding irresponsible leadership by the richest and most powerful failing to do what needs to be done (failing to disappoint people who need to be disappointed while continuing to help develop sustainable improvements for those who need to be helped). The supposedly more advanced who are supposedly more deserving of being leaders need to prove they deserve their status. And the “Promise that technological development will magically make everything better without any sacrifice of perceptions of status and opportunity” is, to quote the authors of “Good Economics for Hard Times” (see my comment @4), likely just another case proving that “…we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of yesterday. Ignorance, institutions, ideology and inertia combine to give us answers that look plausible, promise much, and predictably betray us. As history, alas, demonstrates over and over, the ideas that carry the day in the end can be good or bad. … The only recourse we have against bad ideas is to be vigilant, resist the seduction of the “obvious”, be skeptical of promised miracles, question the evidence, be patient with complexity and honest about what we know and what we can know.”

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  14. Another way to conclude my comment@13, and expand on it, is to point out that what is needed is expanded awareness and understanding applied to correct harmful unsustainable attitudes and actions that undeservedly became popular or profitable, and to develop new sustainable improvements.

    Any attempts to stifle or misdirect the development of legitimate outrage regarding the collective lack of responsible leadership by higher status people will, and should, develop a bigger angrier outrage and correction. It happens often in developing nations. And it can happen in supposedly more advanced nations.

    Anger regarding being legitimately sustainably corrected is not sustainable. But it can be unjustifiably prolonged and grown by misleading marketers.

    The SUSTAINABLE solution "Will Require" system corrections that rapidly identify and effectively correct any and all deliberate and persistent attempts at misleading marketing.

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  15. not sure where i got the 60% from,

    but IEA,,

    notes 45% of US CO2 emission is from petroleum (which would include lots of trucks that should be trains, i imagine)

    In the past all large transformations occurred from either massive government or popular (or both) intervention.

    Taxes and subsidies sometimes played a role, but only a very minimal, marginal role. Best e.g. I know of is the centrally planned US WWII mobilization. Taxes and subsidies played a part, but they were not used in conjunction with a market.

    If you plan to use taxes and subsidies in conjunction with markets, it will take 50 to 100 years.

    A large part of this is capitalist systems become captured by first movers. Rail, coal, steel, autos, financials, media, web, software have all demonstrated this repeatedly. That's why we still have 19th century technology heat engines for transport.

    At this point to get to 0 emissions in a timely fashion, we will have to have planned resource allocation.

    Ideally we'd do it democratically. More likely it would be sort of representatively democratic or even more likely done the way whoever ends up in charge of it thinks it should go (like the US WWII mobilization).

    In any case, taxes and subsidies will play a small, if any part.

    Otherwise we'll bumble along as we are for a while until things get bad enough for somebody to block enough sun with SO2 to trigger snowball earth...

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Link activated.

  16. ilfark2 @15,

    The required correction of what has developed includes 'ending all burning of fossil fuels', not just transitioning the major fossil fuel uses to alternatives. That requires changing the behaviours of 'everyone'.

    You still provide no basis for claiming that Carbon Taxes cannot be a helpful part of the actions taken to rapidly eliminate the production of excess CO2. As a disruptive challenge to dispute your claim, an immediate imposition of a $2000 per tonne carbon tax would cause incredibly significant and rapid disruptions of the developed status quo. It appears you are not discussing the effectiveness of an action. You are discussing the 'Popular support for what can be done'.

    Backing down from the 'very disruptive' immediate $2000 per tonne tax, a high and steadily increasing carbon tax that is rebated to the middle income earning and poorer portion of the population is likely to be a very effective 'disruption' of the status quo that motivates changes of 'everyone's behaviour'. And all of the economic evaluations of the expected results of 'only using a carbon tax' prove that a Price on Carbon would be helpful.

    What can be claimed is that a portion of humanity have incorrectly developed the belief that taxes are bad. And those people are also likely to believe that government motivation and restriction of activity is as bad or worse. Therefore, those opposed to the benefit of taxes would also likely oppose the idea that government intervention could be Good.

    I personally believe that the competitive marketplace can be a very effective mechanism for encouraging the development of new ideas and sorting the effectiveness, incorporating regional differences. The following are harmfully missing from the developed systems:

    • screening to effectively keep harmful unsustainable alternatives from being allowed to compete (they are cheaper and easier to do which gives them a competitive advantage), including screening of activity that has already developed popularity and profitability.
    • effective efforts to ensure that misleading marketing fails to impress people. Expanded awareness and improved understanding applied to help develop sustainable improvements needs to govern all actions.

    The corrective actions I see being required to be used along with helpful evaluation tools like En-ROADS include Government Restrictions on harmful unsustainable activities, including actions to terminate developed but unsustainable activity and actions to make misleading marketing undesirable and unsuccessful. And Government can implement generic incentives for helpful corrections and new sustainable developments. That governing to encourage helpful sustainable developments and limiting of what is allowed, including tax penalties as a method of correction, should be the limit of government in the marketplace but also be required actions of government in the marketplace.

    Government should not be 'the mechanism for identifying the better choices among potential helpful new developments'. Government action towards specific alternatives should only be the expansion of awareness and understanding required to determine what to disqualify because it is a harmful unsustainable alternative.

    Carbon taxes will undeniably be helpful regardless of what type of leadership is in power. Government efforts to direct economic changes could fail to be helpful, and with the wrong type of people in the positions of leadership it can be very harmful.

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