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Comprehensive study: carbon taxes won't hamper the economy

Posted on 16 July 2018 by dana1981

Eleven teams participated in a recent Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) project, examining the economic and environmental impacts of a carbon tax. The studies included “revenue recycling,” in which the funds generated from a carbon tax are returned to taxpayers either through regular household rebate checks (similar to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby [CCL] and Climate Leadership Council [CLC] proposals) or by offsetting income taxes (similar to the approach in British Columbia).

Among the eleven modeling teams the key findings were consistent. First, a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution, although the structure of the tax (the price and the rate at which it rises) are important. Second, this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax would have a very modest impact on the economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). In all likelihood it would slightly slow economic growth, but by an amount that would be more than offset by the benefits of cutting pollution and slowing global warming.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are again on the verge of introducing a Resolution denouncing a carbon tax as “detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”

The strong economic case for a carbon tax

The modeling teams examined four carbon tax scenarios, with starting prices of $25 or $50 per ton of carbon dioxide, rising at 1% or 5% per year. These are somewhat modest policy scenarios; CCL proposes a starting tax of $15 per ton rising at $10 per year, and the CLC proposes $40 per ton rising around 4% per year. The most aggressive policy considered by the Stanford EMF teams ($50 per ton rising 5% per year) falls in between these two proposals.

carbon taxes

 The carbon price each year 2020–2050 in proposals by Citizens’ Climate Lobby (blue), the Climate Leadership Council (red), and the four approaches modeled by the Stanford EMF teams (green). Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

The modeling studies consistently found that for all four carbon tax policies considered, whether the revenue is returned via rebate checks of by offsetting income taxes, the direct economic impact is minimal:

in every policy scenario, in every model, the U.S. economy continues to grow at or near its long-term average baseline rate, deviating from reference growth by no more than about 0.1% points. We find robust evidence that even the most ambitious carbon tax is consistent with long-term positive economic growth, near baseline rates, not even counting the growth benefits of a less-disrupted climate or lower ambient air pollution

The last sentence is critical. The analyses consistently found that coal power plants would be the biggest losers if a carbon tax were implemented, and the costs associated with health impacts from other pollutants released by burning coal (e.g. soot and mercury) are substantial. Phasing out coal power plants results in significant health and economic benefits to society.

So does slowing global warming, of course. A working paper recently published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond concluded that US economic growth would slow by an extra 0.2–0.5% per year if we stay on our current climate path (3–3.5°C global warming) than if we meet the 2°C Paris target. This compares favorably to a less than 0.1% per year slowing of the US economic growth rate under the carbon tax scenarios.

In short, climate change will slow American economic growth. If we don’t curb global warming, the economic impact will be larger. If we implement a carbon tax to help meet the Paris climate targets, the economic impact will be negligible, and will be offset by the benefits of phasing out dirty coal power plants.

Carbon taxes are effective at cutting pollution

The Stanford EMF studies also consistently concluded that a carbon tax is an effective way to curb carbon pollution, especially in the power sector:

carbon price scenarios lead to significant reductions in CO2 emissions, with the vast majority of the reductions occurring in the electricity sector and disproportionately through reductions in coal … Expected economic costs (not accounting for any of the benefits of GHG and conventional pollutant mitigation), in terms of either GDP or welfare, are modest

The analyses also found that the rate of increase of the carbon tax was more important than the starting price.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 97:

  1. This study looks at economic history to try to find a statistically significant correlation between changes to tax rates and changes to economic growth, and only finds a very weak correlation at best.

    My understanding is taxes are bad for the economy if they reduce innovation and push too many funds towards the services sector, but carbon tax and dividend would do the exact opposite, by generating innovation and mainly in the industrial, energy and transport sectors. Perhaps it would lead to a construction energy boom analogous to the New Deal in the 1930's.

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  2. Comprehensive study: Increasing the price of absolutely everything won't hamper the economy.

    There, I made it more honest for you. Oh and .....WRONG!

    Same thing is true with carbon capture.

    Same thing is true with recycling.

    Same thing is true with "renewable energy".

    Same thing is true with Permaculture.

    Samething is true with Localization.

    I can go on and on but the point is that everything that we need to do that is "good" increases the cost, particularly because it can only happen if finance/capitalism makes it happen which doubles the cost of everything.

    Even the most important thing we could to do, the one and only thing that will make a difference, DO LESS! makes everything way more expensive.

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  3. Why increase the price of everything? The logical response to higher cost of goods embodying a carbon tax is move to goods that are untaxed. Just dropping the subsidies on FF would obviously increase the cost to consumer of FF, but you are currently paying for it anyway via taxes.

    If you dont think the Stanford EMF model is correct, then what is the error in their model?

    Furthermore, climate change is not free - look at your insurance premiums and expect it to get a lot worse if there isnt an effective policy to reduce carbon emisions.

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  4. Jet:

    I notice that you link no "comprehensive studies" that claim it is more expensive to use renewable energy.  They exist only in your imigination. 

    Fortunately, all of the comprehensive studies like this  and this have found that it is much cheaper to use renewable energy.  They find that we will all be healthier, energy will be cheaper and the trillions of dollars of damages from climate change can be avoided using technologies that already exist.

    You have just spouted the fossil fuel line.  They have no supporting studies.  Are you a bot for a denier think tank funded by the fossil fuel industry?  If you read the comprehensive studies you will find out that we can implement a solution immediately and start saving money.

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  5. I've read arguments that returning carbon-tax dividends as rebates to taxpayers is problematic because it creates a perverse incentive to keep carbon emissions high (so that the rebates also remain high).  

    What do people think of this? 

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  6. bcpierce,

    I have only heard that argument from opponents of a carbon fee an dividend.  It seems uneconomic to me to suppose people will spend more for energy to hope their dividend goes up.  Since most energy is used by industry and the dividends go to individuals, the big users have no incentive to use more fossil fuel.

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  7. bcpierce@5,

    sounds also like an argument from special interests who want to get their hands on the revenue or (e.g. local politicians) who would enjoy giving it away to their pals for whatever green thing they want

    but a moment's reflection reveals that the net benefit to those who receive dividends = (1) the dividends minus (2) the extra costs they pay because everything costs more, especially things with high embedded carbon: surely, then, they can figure out that maximum benefit will be realised by minimizing (2), i.e. minimizing purchases of everything, especially stuff with higher embedded carbon

    it might also arise from a confusion about how much dividend each individual gets, i.e. supposing it is proportional to what they spend on carbon goods, not, as is correct, an equal amount, regardless of their consumption 

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  8. I took a different message from Jef's statement. I think hes saying many useful things we want to do push up costs at least in the short term, but this doesn't make them the wrong things to do.

    I think we just have to be philosophical and accept this, and of minimise costs as much as possible. It's clear carbon capture and storage has a cost for example, that it would be foolish to try to hide. However renewable energy is already cheaper than fossil fuels in many locations.

    Maybe I'm missinterpreting him, it wasn't too clear to me.

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  9. I may have indeed misinterpreted Jef's comment. My apologies if this was so.

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  10. >>The modeling studies consistently found that for all four carbon tax policies considered, whether the revenue is returned via rebate checks of by offsetting income taxes, the direct economic impact is minimal:<<

    As one or two comments above, I cannot for the life of me see the logic here.

    Taxes are (or should be) a means of collecting revenue. Carbon taxes, however organised, are different: they should be, if you like, "punishment" for producing emissions. Returning the cash to the end user in any way reduces or eliminates this argument.

    I wish those advocating carbon taxes would be honest about it, and affirm that they are there to deliberately make your emissions more expensive - there's no point otherwise.

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  11. Returning the money per capita instead of per emissions means that if you use less carbon than average, then you are actually on the make. That is a more powerful incentive to reduce carbon than just paying more your petrol.

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  12. A carbon tax is certainly one way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions but it is only practical if applied by all emitters, preferably at a uniform rate. How is that to be achieved? And how many years/decades would it take to achieve global agreement on the rate and date of application?

    Other approaches are to adopt measures which reduce demand for fossil fuels by making products of fossil fuels less attractive to consumers of electricity, transport and machine operation.

    This has begun and is likely to progress rapidly over the next decade with development of ability to generate and store energy more cheaply from renewable sources and improved battery/hydro storage.

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  13. I dont think you need to have global agreement or even uniform rate - you just apply carbon tax at border to anything that cant demonstrate that tax is paid. The US has enough economic muscle that even if it alone did tax, it would cause a scramble for FF-free energy sources in those trying to sell into US. EU, China and USA between them would bring whole world into line. Increasing the price of something is the pretty standard way to reduce demand for goods.

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  14. The Alberta Carbon Levy and rebate approach also limited the rebate to middle income and poorer. That increases the motivation for richer people to reduce their burning of fossil fuels because they get no off-set rebate. They just pay the added fee. That way the poorest also actually make money from the beginning of the program, and make more money as the carbon levy and rebate increases.

    That highlights the flaw of using a carbon tax to reduce other taxes. The reducton of other taxes often means even bigger benefits for the richer people. It can also mean little or no benefit for the poorer people, just the extra cost of the smaller amount of energy they have to use to survive.

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  15. Carbon Tax is not a helpful term. The following is a lot of thoughts, but it is all related to understanding that point.

    The ideal objective of human activity is to make the future for humanity better than the present.

    As a minimum, the future should not be negatively impacted by the activities of the present day.

    It is essential to have Altruistic helpfulness limit Egoist self interest. The creative development power of self-interest is important, but it must be limited by caring to ensure that what develops is sustainable, not harmful to the future of humanity in any way, with the truly valuable things being developments that are sustainable improvements of the way that humans live.

    The Sustainable Development Goals, which include climate action, are a comprehensive presentation of what is required to be achieved. And most of the goals can easily be understood to be required corrections of what the marketplace competition has developed.

    Climate science, and the related climate actions to develop a sustainable better future, has significantly exposed the unsustainable damaging reality of what competition for popularity and profitability can develop, and has been developing. The push back against the required corrections, the attacks on increased awareness and understanding, has especially exposed the damaging power of misleading marketing appeals for people to be more selfish (greedier or less tolerant of others).
    What needs to be done due to the improved awareness and understanding developed by climate science must be fundamentally well understood. That will result in the understanding that it is incorrect to call efforts to correct what has developed a Tax.

    The currently developed burning of fossil fuels is fundamentally unsustainable. Therefore, to justify it, there must be powerful proof that the future generations would undeniably appreciate that they got a net-benefit from the activity. Making the efforts to slowly curtail the damaging activity a source of tax revenue provides no future benefit. All that happens to the future generations is an increase of the negative impacts, including having less non-renewable buried hydrocarbons available for a potentially developed sustainable use (or for a true emergency use).

    It is not appropriate to refer to any actions that are implemented to correct the incorrect developments of the marketplace as a Tax. They need to be understood to be corrective measures that will rapidly correct what needs to be corrected, to limit the damage that is done. The success of such measures will result in the elimination of the need for the corrective actions. And to make the future better than the present, the corrective actions must also undo the damage that has already been done, or fully fund the measures required to ensure that no negative consequence is experienced at any time in the future. That means that everything that needs to be done to deal with the already created impacts has been sustainably conservatively performed by the generation that generated the future impacts. Conservatively meaning the measures to address the future impacts have been done in a way that will almost certainly survive virtually indefinitely into the future without any additional actions required by future generations.

    So, one acceptable action would be keeping the wealth collected from the corrective actions in a fund that is certain to have value into the future. But, investments in the marketplace will only be certain to have future value if the activities in the marketplace are truly sustainable. That means that, other than the current generation building all the corrections of what has developed to make what is built survive into the distant future, the entire marketplace must be 'only truly sustainable activity'. And the revenue from the actions to correct the incorrect developments can then be invested in that truly sustainable marketplace to actually have future value, to truly benefit future generations. But even that may not be sufficient to negate the negative consequences that have been created.

    So the most important action is to stop making things worse for the future, including putting a stop to excuses like 'the marketplace always grows so the future generations will just be richer because that is the way the marketplace works (a briefer way to say it is 'I declare that things will only get better in the future because of the history of human ingenuity, therefore they will get better, so I don't have to stop creating harmful consequences by using up non-renewable resources').

    Taxes also need to be understood to be 'charitable donations by prescription, not by choice' to provide the funding for actions that are more effectively achieved through a collective approach, for actions that the marketplace cannot be expected to effectively address.

    Many problems can develop if a corrective action is referred to as a Tax:

    • People will not be encouraged to understand why the correction is required or understand that when the correction is achieved things will be more decent (not cheaper or more enjoyable for them, more decent for everyone especially for the future generations).
    • Many people are easily impressed to dislike the idea of taxes. And they will simply transfer that dislike to climate science and be easily impressed to deny the awareness and understanding that climate science has developed, and continues to expand and improve.
    • People who are tempted to 'agree to this action' if they will pay less 'other taxes' will resist the increase of 'other taxes' as this corrective measure succeeds and becomes a diminishing source of revenue. And the reduction of 'proper taxes' will be more beneficial to people who do not need help. It will do nothing to help achieve the other sustainable development goals, and may cripple efforts to sustain any achievement towards those other goals as the revenue from the Carbon Tax declines.
    • As the correction is achieved and the revenue from this source declines there will be reluctance to increase the proper taxes that were incorrectly reduced. This will result in even less help for the less fortunate, or result in deliberate actions by leaders to fail to ratchet up the corrective action to minimize the negative consequences imposed on future generations. This could end up like cigarettes, a damaging relied upon source of popular support and funding.

    What obviously needs to be done is reducing the costs and damage imposed on the future generations. That is what the collected corrective penalty should be dedicated to, along with other tax collection since the collected corrective penalty will not properly penalize the ones who got the most benefit from creating harm to future generations. Being fairer would require a rigorous evaluation of how every rich person got rich since 1990 and assessing back taxes based on how much they benefited from the irresponsible creation of more future problems.

    Tax collection needs to be reasonably reliable, reasonably sustainable. The failure to have a reliable sustainable tax collection system will develop the future surprise of not having the money needed to properly fund actions the decent and ethical provision of help that needs to be done collectively in order to be done for the benefit of all (for the benefit of the poorer and the future generations, and any other things that need to be done that the marketplace fails to properly do).

    Private interests competing to be temporarily perceived to be the winners of popularity and profitability will focus on maximizing short-term perceptions and the interests of the 'customers that matter most' (completely ignoring the interests or needs of portions of the population, especially ignoring future generations, because those portions of the population are irrelevant to their winning).

    Private for profit can succeed by not providing what everybody's needs (Hot Christmas toys do not get produced in time for everyone who wants them for Christmas, and that is fine for Christmas toys).

    Private for profit does an excellent job of meeting the high-end desires of the richest. It does a poorer job of decently developing and delivering what the less rich desire. And, at best, private for profit competition will ignore the needs of the poorest or the future generations. At its worst it will do damage to those 'externalities', those things that are not relevant to maximizing the profitability of a pursuit (read the likes of Naomi Klein's books to understand how damaging the production of 'goods for the middle-class and lower-middle class masses' develops to be and how difficult it is to correct what has developed.)

    Being able to abuse misleading marketing to increase the chances of 'success' of an understandably unsustainable and harmful pursuit of profit is one of the most damaging things that marketplace competition has ever developed. People can be easily tempted by appeals to primitive selfish interests. Those appeals can easily over-power a person's natural ability to thoughtfully consider what is actually going on and determine how they can be most altruistically helpful.

    So, all of that relates to why the efforts to correct the incorrect developments as exposed by climate science should not be referred to as a Tax. If that is too much to consider, then just consider that Tax has been turned into a dirty word in the minds of many (maybe all) of the people who need to be convinced to change their minds so they choose to behave better, do more altruistic self-limiting of their developed and developing selfish desires and interests.

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  16. I think that "levy" sounds better but formally it is a pigouvian tax.

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  17. scaddenp@16,

    It may be pitched as a pigouvian tax, because that is a developed term that sort of relates to this issue. But the real issue is that the future generations are going to face the consequences of the activity that is 'permitted because the ones benefiting paid a pigouvian tax'.

    The reality is that the activity needs to be terminated, the quicker the better, not be excused by having a premium paid to permit doing it. The richest can afford to behave better. Somehow they need to be made to be ethical altruistic deserving winners. A pigouvian tax does not do that. It just legitimizes the understandably unacceptable behaviour, particularly for the richest who can figure out ways to get a net-personal-benefit even with the tax having to be paid.

    And the related understanding is that, in addition to no longer benefiting from the harmful activity, the current generation owes future generations a proper clean up (CO2 rapidly back below 350 ppm), or actually pay to perform conservative mitigation of the impacts done so that future generations do not experience any negative consequences.

    That leads to the understanding that a carbon levy to gradually reduce the rate of additional harm creation is an unethical action by current day generations. Many perceptions of prosperity and opportunity in the current generation are fraudulent. They rely on continuing to get away with understandably unacceptable behaviour.

    An example I am very familiar with is the actions by Alberta business and political leadership (supported by federal leadership) to expand the rate of oil sands extraction in the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. There was little doubt about the unacceptability of trying to get away with that type of action. Places like Alberta should not be 'protected' from facing a significant correction of developed perceptions of prosperity and opportunity, just like any other unsustainable marketplace bubble would burst (and a damage causing bubble should be popped sooner rather than later to limit the damage done - especially when the ones trying to benefit from the bubble may escape any of the damaging consequences).

    And, in spite of all of that, calling it a tax is bound to be less successful because it does not plainly make the case that the activity needs to be rapidly terminated. And tax has been turned into a dirty word, particularly in the nations that have the most changing of ways to achieve, and have to pay the most for the clean up of damage already done.

    I will admit that rapid curtailing of the undeniably harmful activity appears to be unlikely (politics has become highly unethical in supposedly more advanced nations). But I maintain that the unacceptability of the activity and the unacceptability of the response to the understanding that it is unsustainable and harmful, are a necessary part of the required learning process. My bigger concern is that the gradual transition that protects the undeserved perceptions of prosperity and opportunity can result in transitioning to alternatives that are also damaging unsustainable ways of living. It is likely that without correcting the perceptions of what is acceptable, one damaging unsustainable activity will be replaced by another damaging unsustainable activity. The least acceptable way of doing something that can be gotten away with Wins, unless the understanding of what is allowed to compete for popularity and profitability, what is acceptable, changes (that is my ethical engineering methodology - only the truly acceptable alternatives, the ones that are truly sustainable, get to compete).

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  18. OPOF. I agree that need to curtail, but I also think that in the hard reality of western democracies, you have to make policy that isnt totally offensive to conservative sensibilities. Direct curtailment would be.  The ETS or carbon tax are both easier to sell.

    We are partly in this mess because the issue has become polarized on political divides, especially in the US. This polarization has also been fuelled by hard left factions using climate action as an excuse to push other agendas especially anti-capitalist. Why anyone would think that this would be persuasive to conservatives is beyond me but the damage has been done and a way out of that polarization is hard to see. However, climate effects are becoming much harder to ignore so I think ETS and CT have more hope in the future. By constrast, I dont think there is a snowballs chance in hell of pushing anything that amounts to ban on FF use through the US system.

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  19. My two cents worth on a carbon levy and dividend. Firstly I agree with OPOF its probably best to call this "thing" a carbon levy (and dividend) to avoid the connotations of a tax that some find undesirable, and to avoid a negotiation about other taxes being lowered to compensate as has been pointed out.

    In Australasia we consider a levy a temporary form of tax which does sit well with a carbon levy.

    However this is all treading close to using spin to disguise a concept, something that irritates me, and I would suggest fighting hard to deny its some 'form' of tax would be unwise, if pressed into a debate on the subject. If that makes any sense.

    Its a pigovian tax, but has the additional feature of deterring use. So its not entirely just compensating for the damage caused while perpetuating the activity.

    I think this carbon levy is not the ideal  way, but its a very reasonable way in an imperfect world. It is apparently thought to be acceptable to the GOP, but I note they have recently had a vote on it in congress that did not go well for carbon levy and dividend. But this might change.

    Its a hard reality that any proposal is going to have to have wide political appeal.

    Regarding rapid termination of use of fossil fuels, although desirable in theory, it is not possible to do it instantly, because it would cause some form of blow out in inflation, or economic crash that wont really be much help to anyone. The rate fossil fuels are phased down must equal the speed we can realstically create renewable energy, more or less. However the economy of WW2 (a five year period) shows rapid changes in production priorities are possible if desired, so phase down of fossil fuel use could be considerably faster than is currently being achieved.

    So a carbon levy and dividend could be increased quite rapidly over time providing it does not generate unacceptably large inflation. Right now we have more of a global deflation problem anyway, so inflation is not a major concern. 

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  20. The decision making about what to do about the better awareness and understanding that climate science develops is 'political'.

    And in the so-called more advanced nations the power of misleading marketing that gets people to primitively react selfishly has grown in abuse (less ethical behaviour increasing, especially in politics). It is also abused in less advanced nations, but it should be declining in power and abuse in truly more advanced nations.

    In truly more advanced nations the strong majority should be people with advanced altruistic thinking over-powering temptations to be selfish. In those nations that deserve to be considered to be World Powers all activity (business and politics) would be governed by altruistic thinkers helping everyone else be more aware and understanding, helping everyone else become more altruistic.

    Tragically, many of the more powerful nations are experiencing a damaging surge of perceptions governed by primitive selfishness winning power.

    Each person's perception is what they really believe. And when bad people can succeed at convincing easily impressed people to believe and support harmful selfish primitive desires, the result is delays in humanity's progress and advancement (or worse, serious damage done to the future of humanity).

    Calling efforts to correct undeniably incorrectly developed harmful ways of living a 'Tax' plays the political game the way the bad people want to play it (the perception of reality can Trump actual Reality). It plays into their hand because they have been successfully stacking the deck in their favour by convincing many people to believe that 'Tax is Bad'.

    The bad thinking includes discounting the future negative impacts that others would face, and comparing that diminished impact to the perceptions of loss by people today who would have to be stopped from  benefiting from the burning of fossil fuels.

    The reality is that it is simply unacceptable for one group of people to do something that negatively affects another group of people (future generations are Other people). And playing the tax-name game also gets in to creating perceptions of ways that the Tax will benefit people today, even though additional negative impacts imposed on others continue to increase, with the amount of the tax being negotiated based on discounted perceptions of the future costs.

    The 'perception is reality' crowd need to be over-powered and better educated by those who are more aware of and better understand Real Reality. Many perceptions need to be 'corrected' for humanity to develop truly sustainable advancements rather than develop and defend undeserved perceptions of advancement and superiority.

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  21. The correct term for what is being discussed is 'Fine'.

    Fines are applied to activities that are understood to be unacceptable and need to be limited or curtailed. And the amount of fine is increased to the level required to achieve the correction of behaviour that is needed.

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  22. In Alberta, after campaigning on a "lower taxes" pledge, one flavour of the former Conservative Party government introduced a whole bunch of "user fees".

    Looked like a tax, smelled like a tax, targetted at specific government servies, but enough of their supporters bought into the idea that it was different that they got away with it - no election promises broken!

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  23. We had something similar in NZ. The centre right government of the day promoted tax cuts and a general user pays agenda, and introduced partial user charges for surgery costs in what had been a free tax payer funded hospital services. However this did not go well even with the parties own supporters, and was dropped quite quickly. It made no sense anyway.

    However other tax funded public services have been replaced with user charges. I have mixed feelings. Sometimes it makes logical sense, sometimes its obviously driven by ideology. Some politicians would charge people for breathing the air if they could get away with it. If it doesn't have a price it means nothing to them. They know the price of everything, and the value of nothing, and fail to see the wider benefits of easily accessible public services funded through taxes.

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  24. OPOF - I think you are over-estimating completely the amount of thinking going on. The perceptions are based heavily on filtering information sources which in turn are selected by deep biases we all have. You are arguing for moral approach purely based on a harm prerogative. Typical of a liberal mind set. Conservatives balance harm against authority and loyalty to a far greater degree. Too easy to talk past them if you ignore that.

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  25. Scaddenp @24

    A harm perogative has to be the basis of concerns about climate change and a carbon levy (fee, tax) because harm is what we are fundamentally concerned about. But I think you are right its far from sufficient to connect with conservatives.

    I don't know how climate change issues are framed in authoritarian terms, but I think the Democrats might benefit from a slightly authoritarian leader, within reason. Bernie Sanders looked like this to me but so did H Clinton but she was let down by other problems. New Zealand had a centre left / liberal government with a moderately authoritarian leader (Helen Clark) and won three elections in a row. It was a type of benevolent authoritarianism and she was regarded by virtually everyone as very strong, even by her opponents.

    A carbon levy could possibly be framed around loyalty to your children. But the challenge with framing a carbon levy around loyalty is loyalty operates between friends, family, and tribe and country and a carbon levy is intended to fix a problem of global scale. It would almost require extending the definition of loyalty.

    It would be easier to frame the levy around the idea of purity.

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  26. nigelj@23:

    Come to think of it, the Alberta government that introduced "user fees" in the early 1990s was using NZ as a model.

    Some user fees make sense: driver's licence and car registration, recreational facilities, sewer and water utilties, etc.. It's when they get applied to essential government services that they start to look like taxes. Alberta was one of only a few (the only?) provinces that charged health care premiums, rather than funding health care out of general revenue. Low or zero-income families could get a waiver, but the premiums added up and were deducted at source for employees in the same manner as income tax.

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  27. nigelj and scaddenp,

    The basis for my position is the need for good reason to limit or govern what is done.

    I admit that such a position will never connect with someone who will allow personal unjustified beliefs to overpower their inherent ability to understand good reason and the importance of limiting what people do based on good reason.

    Democracy can only develop sustainable good results if it is limited or governed by good reason. The same goes for capitalism or any other system, including communism.

    Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason" is a very comprehensive presentation of what is going on in the USA. It includes the observation that concentration of wealth and power has repeatedly developed damaging results.

    The problem is people abandoning the responsibility to learn and reason, choosing instead to idolize the simplistic appealing claims of demagogues offering prosperity and protection in exchange for more power for leaders to do unreasonable things, things they cannot reasonably justify.

    I consider it to be necessary to change the way that unreasonable people think about things before attempting to help them by use of good reason. Without changing how they think they will do what elected Republicans have done 'remained dogmatically immoveable'.

    That means talking past a person who claims to be a conservative but who is actually an unreasoning faithful fan of dogma with no interest in developing good reasoning as the basis for what they consider to be just and fair.

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  28. OPF - all true maybe but if your chosen path to the future, particularly in a democracy, depends on changing peoples core value system, especially polical values, then well, good luck. Not a lot of evidence for this being possible without major trauma. With few exceptions, people of all sides really do want a better future, do care somewhat about fairness and the welfare of their fellow man. They also care about a quite a no. of other things as well and ignoring that will not create a conversation that leads to meaningful action. I think Antifa, from what I have seen in media, is a absolute gift to far right. Simialarly ecoterrorism is about as counterproductive to ecological action as you can get. The participants feel self-righteous warriors for the good cause while damaging any possibility of a concensus with conservatives.

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  29. scaddenp - The leap of faith from what I am pursuing to claims that my thinking is aligned with the likes of Antifa or Ecoterrorism is exactly the type of lack of Good Reason I argue against. The Sustainable Developments Goals and Good Reason are the basis for my pursuits.

    However, I agree that the leap of faith view you presented would be a 'go to way of thinking' for the people I identify as needing to change how they think, people I would talk past for the benefit of bystanding observers.

    Good Reason can be the basis for the thoughts and actions of everyone, all -isms, even Egoism (though Good Reason would lead to the need to abandon many of Egoisms dogmas).

    However, as an example, people who claim they want to help the poor by personally being able to benefit from burning fossil fuels are making up a lot of non-sense, poor excuses, unjustified by good reason.

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  30. Antifa and ecoterrorism are extreme examples of people talking past each other - thinking that somehow people will be persuaded by your point of view by engaging in activities that they would automatically label as "bad".

    If you present the SDG to people, I am pretty sure that most would agree wholeheartedly. You say that way to achieve that is say a carbon tax and people would instantly split on party lines. Arguing for reason is mostly futile in my opinion. Most people, most of the time do not use reason (including me). They will rationalize (slightly different) from a gut judgement based deep within their value system. If you present something to them in a way where their reaction is governed from a tribal position, then that is all you will get. Moving forward means finding ways to avoid this so that reason is in fact engaged. "Tax" and "fine" both provoke a gut reaction. Emphasize the "trading" in ETS and you have more hope. Yelling at conservatives about harm and fairness when their mind is made up from other considerations doesnt help. It simply identifies you as belonging to the other tribe who arguments should be ignored - because you belong to the other tribe.

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  31. scaddenp,
    I try to focus on Good Reasoning being the required basis for human actions for Good Reason (and I am open to personally developing improved Good Reason).

    This comment will get to Antifa and eco-terrorists, but is mainly about my understanding of the opposition to accepting climate science and the required corrections it has identified.

    My experience is that some people will claim to like the idea of one or many of the SDGs (which include climate action). But they are rarely willing to admit the need to achieve all of them, and the sooner the better, for the benefit of the future of humanity. And they often balk at getting into a reasoned discussion of the corrections of what has developed that are required to actually achieve the SDGs (including the need to un-concentrate wealth and power). They like their developed, but unjustifiable, perceptions of prosperity, opportunity and superiority (they can only rationalize, unjustifiably excuse, their primitive selfish interests). They do not want to understand that their perceptions are unsustainable, undeserved, in need of correction.

    History is full of the bad results that develop when wealth and power get to be concentrated to undeserving people. It is a down-ward spiral that can only be limited by people insisting on Good Reason governing what is done, correcting unsustainable and damaging developments that do not deserve to be popular and profitable.

    When excuse-making for primitive selfishness is not governed or corrected by altruistic Good Reasoning, regional temporary winning can develop that is detrimental to the future of humanity like: the USA backing out of Kyoto and the Paris Agreement, the invasion of Iraq, Alberta pushing to increase the rate of extraction of oil sands bitumen for burning, new-age fascism, religious fundamentalism, and other unjustifiable dogmas excusing demagogues (Read Al Gore's "The Aussalt on Reason").

    Fossil fuel burning is an unsustainable and harmful human development that needs to be corrected. And it does not matter how the need for correction is presented, it will not be liked by people who have developed a taste for the unjustified prosperity, opportunity or superiority that has to be corrected.

    And almost all of the other SDGs require 'a degree of correction of what has developed', not just climate action. Most of them require un-concentration of wealth and power (they require effective political and economic democracy by an aware and altruistic population).

    Debating a Carbon Tax with people who do not care to be corrected has gone the way I expected it would. The first step is actually their denial that what has developed is unacceptable. Instead of admitting that penalties are required to stop the unacceptable behaviour, they want to debate how much the unacceptable activity that needs to be rapidly curtailed 'should cost' (while never intending to agree to any added cost, just using the debate as a delay tactic and propaganda tool to drum up unjustified support). Then the debate over the cost becomes an argument about the discount rate to be applied (which moves even further from the reality that the activity is simply unsustainable and harmful and must be stopped). They push for a higher discount rate to reduce the 'corrective cost' to be applied . And they apply that higher discount rate to an understated evaluation of future harm done. All of this diminishes the corrective action. Then they claim the small added cost will do nothing meaningful or helpful - and they are correct because doing nothing meaningful is their end game (because meaningful helpful actions are detrimental to their developed desires and interests).

    The new-age fascists require distractions, like debating Carbon Taxes, because the Good Reasoned reality is that it is incorrect to limit the evaluation of action on carbon to financial evaluations that try to compare current day lost opportunity or costs to future harms created (some of those evaluations are even used to excuse not doing any correction of the undeniably incorrect and unsustainable developed human activity).

    The reality is that the burning of fossil fuels is an unsustainable and damaging development that needs to be rapidly curtailed to limit the negative impacts imposed on future generations. The Good Reason reality is that there should be no 'protection' for the incorrectly developed perceptions of prosperity, superiority or opportunity. Unjustified concentration of wealth and power needs to be corrected.

    That is the Good Reason basis for discussing Antifa and what is referred to as eco-terrorism. The new age fascists attack every attempt to confront, correct and constrain them. And terrorism is one of their favourite attack terms, as is national security, and declaring that their opposition is Evil (on Satan's side).

    New age fascism is a re-emerging threat to the future of humanity. It needs to be confronted and corrected. Antifa attempts to do that by raising public awareness. Of course any aggressive in the moment passionate actions by the Antifa supporters can easily become new-age fascist propaganda (but they would make it up even if it didn't happen).

    Regrettably, there is no real opportunity to reason with the new-age fascists (the House Freedom Caucus members rarely debate issues in Congress - like the lack of debate that preceded the Invasion of Iraq). They have rationalized poor excuses for what they want. They have rationalized their unjustifiable selfish primitive beliefs and are not willing to use the more human part of their brain to develop Good Reason, learning how to be helpful rather than harmful. The new-age fascists aggressively attack and demonize anyone who tries to confront and correct them (and they do need to be corrected).

    The new-age fascists also like to get away with unacceptable economic pursuits (the 1987 UN Report “Our Common Future” included the chillingly accurate declaration that leaders do what they do because they can get away with it). They will resist being corrected regarding the social and ecological harm done by their unsustainable pursuits of personal benefit. And when they can concentrate wealth and power, like they have done in Alberta, they can 'legally' do all kinds of unjustified things like pushing to increase the rate of extraction of oil sands for burning.

    I am open to better understanding ways to confront and correct the new-age fascists among the Unite the Right collectives of greedier and less tolerant people. But I already have a robust understanding that it is futile to attempt to negotiate a compromise of Good Reason in the hopes of 'getting along with them'. I frankly do not expect them to ever be satisfied (and their actions in pursuit of wealth and power any way they can get away with are proof that I am correct). And my experience to date has confirmed that some Conservatives can understand that they have to 'not vote for' the United Right Conservative Option that may be the only conservative option left in their political system (In Canada the Uniting of the Right eliminated conservative alternatives to try to get people who consider themselves to be conservative to support the new-age fascists/evangelical fundamentalists, and it tragically works).

    A similar Unite the Right new-age fascist group (partnered with fundamentalist evangelicals) are in power in the USA at the moment. And almost all of their actions have been detrimental to achieving the SDGs, especially climate action.

    Pushing for people to learn to have Good Reasons for their actions (particularly for their economic and political choices) is the best way I can see to try to correct the resurgence of rationalized excuses for supporting new-age fascism (concentration of wealth and power). It will also result in more aggressive and effective corrective climate action.

    Democracy and free markets only produce good results when they are governed or limited by Good Reason (same goes for communism, any other -ism, or any religion). As John Stuart Mill warned in “On Liberty”: “If society lets a considerable number of its members grow up mere children, incapable of being acted on by rational consideration of distant motives, society has itself to blame for the consequences.”

    Humanity needs Good Reason to govern what humans do. Everybody can understand that (even the people who are determined to resist admitting it).

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  32. "Humanity needs Good Reason to govern what humans do"

    But it wont happen because people dont use reason and no amount of demanding that they do will change that. If you want effective change then you have to work real human nature not an ideal.

    Your own statements really acknowledge this eg.

    "But they are rarely willing to admit the need to achieve all of them, and the sooner the better, for the benefit of the future of humanity."

    Correct - the moment you hit the "how to", you hit political values. And, if you assume people wont because they are greedy and selfish, then you will end alienating them not persuading them. Political values run far deeper than that.

    "there is no real opportunity to reason with the new-age fascists "

    Again, of course not. Tribal identity (or less politely, racism), loyalty to that and belief in structured heirachies underpinned by authority underly fascism. You wont get far with reason.

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  33. scaddenp,

    The rule of law is the enforcment of better behaviour on those who resist behaving better. It comes into effect when the education of the population fails to develop responsible self-governing individuals.

    Selfishness is not a default human behaviour. It is the result of a lack of better education and of competitions to 'appear' to be superior to others, to 'appear' to be a winner.

    It is actually very dangerous to excuse harmful selfishness as 'what all humans do and that cannot be corrected'. It is similarly harmful to compromise increased awareness and better understanding just to 'get along with people' who selfishly are not interested in being more aware and better understanding how to be helpful to the advancement of humanity through truly sustainable development.

    Openly identifying and admitting the real problem is required to obtain a viable solution. That is the fundamental of Engineering and Business Management and Politics, and everything. Compromising what is understood to be required or corrected, for any excuse, will not develop a Good Result.

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  34. Well I think it is extremely counter-productive to tell people that the reason they behave in some way because they are selfish when their behaviour actually has other motivations. We are all selfish but we are all social animals too. Sure, censure is effective in behaviour. We are incredibly sensitive to traces about what is acceptable behaviour or not. But we take our clues as to what is acceptable behaviour from our identity group and freely ignore what an "outsider" says. However, we have many circles of identity - what our family does, what our community does, what our church does, what our country does. The trick is to ensure the trace has the right identity.

    I still reckon good luck with "Good Reason". I think there is a lot of truth in the "You cannot reason people out of positions they didn’t reason themselves into." As I have said before, I think critical thinking is about as natural as breathing underwater. Effective change comes from strategies better aligned with what we know of human psychology. I happily acknowledge Niki Harre's "Psychology for a better world" as influencing my thinking here. 

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  35. scaddenp,

    I agree that the trends of developed attitudes in western competitive consumerism impression based environments result in many people being unjustifiably selfish (and some of them will spin that into a claim that everyone is selfish).

    How many people are altruistic is a function of the environment hey develop in. People are unique regarding their predispositions for altruism vs egoism. However, the environment they develop in influences the way they 'choose to develop their thinking'.

    The western cultures, particularly the New World countries built by pushing aside existing populations, and especially the USA with it's aggressive imperialist beliefs in manifest destiny and attempts to annihilate the Others (existing populations) of the land they took over, clearly develop more tribal selfish people.

    My understanding comes from my MBA training in subjects like Organizational Behaviour, observing what is going on, and reading many different books, with the ones including references to recent psychological understanding that I have recently read being:

    • Guy P. Harrison "Think" and "Good Thinking"
    • Sean Carroll "The Big Picture"
    • Susan Cain "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking"
    • Al Gore "The Assault on Reason"

    All of those books present the understanding that I have been expressing. People have the ability to apply Good Reason. If they did not develop it before being confronted with the awareness and understanding of the need for everyone to act for Good Reason they can learn to be Good Reasoning people.

    I agree that an unjustified developed sense of personal prestige, prosperity or superiority relative to others (the harmful selfishness I refer to needing to be corrected) can impede a person's choice to become helpful. But I share John Stuart Mill's understanding that for humanity to have a better future it is important to maximize the number of Good Reasoning people to ensure that Good Reason over-rules those other desires.

    There are 3 possible categories for the results of a person's life. They all relate to how the life thta was lived affected others, including how it affected future generations. They are: Helpful, Irrelevant, Harmful.

    I appreciate that many people will be happy to live their life in the irrelevant category. But I feel it is important to help them understand that they should at least try to be on the helpful side of irrelevant. As you say, lots of people want to be helpful. As I say Altruism, not Egoism (selfishness), is the path to being more helpful.

    All that said, I understand that some people do not like to have their choices limited (especially not be limited by Others). As an engineer I face that reality regularly. But as a professional, I never allow the unjustified desires of a manager, client, or even another engineer, over-rule Good Reason. That would/should apply to all professions, and should apply to everyone.

    Increased awareness and better understanding how to help develop a sustainable better future for humanity is what a good life is really all about in the end.

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  36. Actually we continue to disagree. You percieve people are more selfish. I think you are imputing selfishness for behaviours that are identity based. You also seem imply that environment is source of beliefs despite evidence for genetic influence.

    I wish people would use reason but the evidence is that they dont. I dont think you are going to change that.

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  37. In my opinion, the spending priorities of the US federal government have been out of whack for decades as illustrated in the gaphic below. It's mind-boggling to imagine what could be accomplished if one-half of the US Defense budget were to be spent on mitiagting and adapting to manmdae climate change.


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  38. scaddenp@36,

    You said "I wish people would use reason but the evidence is that they dont. I dont think you are going to change that."

    The use of that type of gross generalization is unhelpful, and may be part of why we disagree. Many people are altruistic caring individuals who want to help develop a sustainable better future for humanity, even if doing so is detrimental to their personal acquisition of wealth and material gratification. Many of those type of people were involved in the increased awareness and understanding that was the basis for developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And many others are easily misled into selfishness that they actually are willing to turn altruistically away from when they are made aware of the better understanding that has been developed.

    You also said "You also seem imply that environment is source of beliefs despite evidence for genetic influence."

    Read my comment. I said (for good reason) "People are unique regarding their predispositions for altruism vs egoism. However, the environment they develop in influences the way they 'choose to develop their thinking'"

    A person who acts in ways that are understandably harmful to others is being selfish.

    Actions that are contrary to developing a sustainable better future for humanity (contrary to rapidly achieving the SDGs), are "Selfish, even if they are claimed to be Identity based".

    And the improved understanding of psychology actually is (based on the content of the books I listed): People are born with a range of temperaments, ranging from more altruistic to more egoist. Their experiences influence what direction they develop their thinking relative to their starting point temperament. And temptation to allow primitive gut-reactions to over-power thoughtful consideration can result in the rationalization of selfish behaviour that is harmful to others. Competition to appear to be superior to others breeds more egoism, pushes people to develop that type of selfish thinking. Competition to justifiably be understood to be more helpful to others and to the future of humanity would push people to be more altruistic.


    Thank you for the feedback. It has helped me clarify my thinking.

    The Good Objective of a Human Life: Helping to protect and improve conditions for a robust diversity of humanity sustainably fitting into the robust diversity of life or this or any other Amazing planet.

    I should not have used the term irrelevant when identifying the categories of a human life lived. The categories should have been: Helpful, Inconsequential, Harmful to the robust diversity of humanity sustainably fitting into the robust diversity of other life.

    Thoughtful considerate helpful altruism needs to govern over irrational instinctive primal harmful egoism.

    My Tribe: Humans who want to helpfully sustainably fit into the robust diversity of life.

    My Self Interest: Protect My Tribe and improve the conditions for My Tribe (and all others) into the future.

    Who can be in my Tribe?: Every human has the ability to be a member of My Tribe. Everyone can learn to become more aware and better understand what is actually going on and strive to help develop the new things that will be justifiably beneficial to the future of My Tribe (justified by Good Reason), and correct already developed things that are unsustainable or detrimental to the future of My Tribe (and all others).

    Every human is born with the ability to have their thoughtful consideration govern over their impulse to primitively react. My Tribe can include people from every spiritual belief system as well as atheists and agnostics. And My Tribal understanding/objective can be found in virtually all spiritual beliefs. My Tribe can also include: Capitalists and Communists, People wanting to be in Democracies, People who like to be ruled over by Authorities, Right and Left wingers, Extroverts and Introverts, Hip-Hop lovers and classical music lovers, any identifiable race, speakers of any language, all the robust diversity of gender identity and sexual identity - Everyone is welcome.

    Most serious Threats to my Tribe: People who, when made aware of the importance of being a member of My Altruistic Tribe, deliberately choose to act in ways that are detrimental to My Tribe and its objectives. People who use fear and threats to get support for their unjustified beliefs and desires or to feel superior to others are the enemy of My Tribe. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.

    My Tribe needs to be protected from developments that may be popular or profitable but are understandably harmful to the objectives of My Tribe. Antifa and people that Others refer to as Eco-terrorists actually can be helpful members of My Tribe, as long as they do not unjustifiably harm others (stopping others from unjustifiably getting away with things that are detrimental to My Tribe and its objectives is not harming them, it only disappoints or angers them).

    And My Tribe definitely needs increased acceptance of climate science and the required corrections of what has developed to stop the harming of the future of humanity.

    As always, my thoughts on this are a work in progress. But I am confident that I am developing a more robust way of presenting them.

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  39. John Hartz@37,

    Graphic presentations can be powerful.

    I would add information about the purpose of US Militarization.

    It is claimed to be for Defense, without an explanation of exactly what it defends (freedom is often stated, but whose freedom and what they are to be freer to do is not clarified).

    It clearly is meant to be used as a threat to Others. And clearly some American leaders think that it is a more effective threat if the new technology gets live-action testing on a reasonably regular basis.

    Bush Sr. did Desert Storm to test new systems and deter Saddam (though my understanding is that the US duped Saddam into invading Kuwait for Kuwait's over-extraction of oil from the oil fields on the border between Kuwait and Iraq, but telling Saddam that the USA did not care about Arab-Arab conflicts when Saddam approached them about the problem he wanted to resolve). Clinton was able to test new equipment for good purposes in Bosnia and Serbia. Bush Jr. invaded Iraq. The Obama-era increased the use of drones producing massively damaging effects. And Trump just had to use that bunker buster somewhere. And some 'advisors Trump likes' have said that a small nuclear conflict could be a 'Good Thing'.

    That power to terrorize others can Help or Harm the development of a sustainable better future for humanity. And it is very difficult to justify that the ways the US has used its military and financial powers have been Helpful to anyone other than wealthy exploiters of the ability to do unacceptable things Freer, with a greater sense of impunity (the quote from the 1987 UN Report "Our Common Future" that I refer to that states that global leaders act in the unacceptable ways thta they do because they can get away with it).

    The value of the US military clearly depends on who is winning the leadership influence games in the USA. The Doomsday Clock has moved from 6 minutes to midight in 2010 to 2 minutes to midnight in 2018, through a period of increasing Republican-right-wing-extremists influence in the USA.

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  40. OPF, Ok, I dont live in US but will have a try at the opposite perspective based on reading rightwing media and blogs.

    My tribe are good people who value community, hard work, respect the law, know how to behave and love the freedom we have fought so hard for.

    The Other tribe are bad people who support baby-killing, dont respect our leaders, police, or military and given half a chance would take away our freedoms. The are very unfair and have repeated uses taxes to take from hard-working folk and giving it to people who dont deserve it. Lately they have been letting lots of other very bad tribes into our country because these people would vote for them. In grandpappy's time, everyone in this town belonged to the same tribe. You didnt have to lock your doors and kids could walk safely to school. I'd like it to be like grandpappy's time again.

    Climate change sounds really bad. The measures to fix it were worse. It's been tough for my tribe lately and lots of folk have to drive long distances for work now including my kids. Taxing fuel would force them to leave town. Then I heard my neighbour would lose his job because they wanted to close the mines. America then signed a deal that would give billions of money from workers here to tin-pot dictators in countries so badly run they couldnt cope with change. Wasted money because the dictators would just steal it.

    Then I realised that all the noise was being made by the Other tribe. Some were more honest about it trying to destroy our capitalist system. How can you trust scientists who belong to Other tribe? Fortunately, scientists from our tribe looked at it, and said it was all a hoax by the Others to get power. I am not qualified to judge these arguments but I know who to trust.

    Perhaps others from US could confirm whether I have captured the spirit of their countrymen? I have heard every part of above on blogs.

    OPF, you say But I am confident that I am developing a more robust way of presenting them. If you want to preach to other than the choir, then you need to think about how the others think. When faced with conflicting information, people, especially right-wing as they are wired of it, will trust information that identifies with their tribe.

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  41. scaddenp,

    What I call Good Helpful Altruistic Reasoning should govern/limit the actions of 'everyone'. That includes GHAR people being the majority, and making good changes and corrections in spite of fears among the less altruistic minority who do not like things changing from 'their developed way' 'their developed beliefs'.

    Science is destined to disappoint and anger those type of people. It has to, or it isn't being done properly. (Admittedly as a Professional Engineer in Canada I had to disappoint clients and managers, for Good Reason. So my understanding is that even my good reaoned understanding will not be welcomed by everyone, but that is no reason to abandon standing firm on Good Helpful Altruistic Reasoning grounds. It is called Being Ethical)

    Here are a few quotes from Al Gore's book "The Assault on Reason" for you to seriously consider.

    “The derivation of just power from the consent of the governed depends upon the integrity of the reasoning process through which the consent is given. If the reasoning process is corrupted by money and deception, then the consent of the governed is based on false premises, and any power thus derived is inherently counterfeit and unjust. If the consent of the governed is extorted through the manipulation of mass fears, or embezzled with claims of divine guidance, democracy is impoverished. If the suspension of reason causes a significant portion of the citizenry to lose confidence in the integrity of the process, democracy can be bankrupted.”

    In that book Al Gore also wrote about America's founder's concerns about religion intruding on government:

    “They were also keenly aware of the thin and permeable boundary between religious fervor and power-seeking political agendas. “A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction,” wrote James Madison, but the new American nation would nevertheless be protected against the ungovernable combination of religious fervor and political power as long as the Constitution prohibited the federal government from establishing any particular creed as preeminent.
    This principle was so well established that in 1797 the U.S Senate unanimously approved, and President John Adams signed, a treaty that contained the following declaration “The United States is not a Christian nation any more than it is a Jewish or Mohammedan Nation.””

    America appears to have been losing its way in a dangerous way, starting way before Trump entered the Republican race.

    Leadership is about determining what to encourage and what to discourage, who to please and who to disappoint.

    The USA is struggling to overcome being governed by unjustified made-up beliefs and claims that make some people irrationally fearful and hateful. What you have presented is a fair presentation of the damaging beliefs fueling the extreme right-wing that has unjustifiably taken control of the Republican Party.

    On the climate science front, what appears clear is that some people will need to be shaken out of their fear before they will hear. And having something change in a way that they fear or do not expect to like, then gradually learn that it was good that the change happened (rather than the alternative), is a more likely future than getting the minority of angry fearful greedy people to change their minds first.

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  42. scaddenp,

    Another weakness of the USA is their failure to care for their entire population. They have the lousiest social safety net system of the developed nations. And many developing nations put them to shame on that front.

    Admittedly that lack of concern for 'All of their fellow citizens' can be part of the reason so many justifiably are living horrible frightful existences, in the richest nation on the planet, with some of the richest people on the planet pulling the strings of its leadership by powerful misleading marketing that appeals to a population that is desperate because of unjustified leadersip actions that make the richest even richer.

    That free-for-all competition madness can also explain the lack of concern for the plight of the less fortunate in other parts of the planet.

    And it certainly explains the growing unjustified power of wealthy people who are willing to give religious extremists just enough of what they want to get their votes of support.

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  43. It's telling that the study only examines the future evolution of the U.S. economy. Truly, this is a shockingly naïve oversight of epic proportions. 

    "Consider the above plot, which shows the relationship between the atmospheric concentration of CO2 above a baseline of 275 ppm and the world’s total GDP, adjusted for inflation to 1990 dollars (see Garrett, 2012 for details). Data is taken from a mixture of ice cores for older dates and gas samples for newer dates.

    What is immediately evident is that, on a log-log plot, there has been an extraordinarily tight relationship between GDP and CO2 concentrations for at least 2000 years. As long as we look at global scales, each ten-fold increase in GDP has always corresponded with an approximate four-fold increase in excess CO2."


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Shortened URL and activated hyperlink.  Reduced image width.

  44. Why do you believe that the relationship would continue to exist if we transitioned off fossil fuels? This tells you about the past but it doesnt have to be our future. Not to mention being fairly skeptical log/log plots and estimates of world GDP pre-1700.

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  45. @scaddenp it's not a belief, it's an observation, though I suppose that's not evident from this particular graph.

    This one shows the trend persisting into more recent years. The growth rates of Global Primary Energy production (Global power) and Global GDP accumulated (Global wealth) have remained constant for at least as long as we have been keeping records, and this trend continues unabated despite all our attempts to free ourselves from it.

    There is no evidence in the data that any policy measures, individual actions, or technologies implemented to date have made any difference in fossil fuel consumption on the Global level.


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Shortened URL and activated hyperlink.

  46. I dont think there has been much effort to get off FF yet but the past is no reason to say that we cant do so. Especially as renewables get to point where they can compete with FF on price without subsidy. I will willingly concede power/wealth not changing much but no reason to assume that power=FF into the future. I am willing to bet you could draw similar graphs for animals of burden and water wheels which would suddenly go off trends as technology changed. Give it another decade or so especially we inact actually effective policy.

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  47. I recently asked Katharine Hayhoe about this. She said that FFs and economic growth have already begun to decouple, citing this report from California: If this is true, where is the California-sized dent we would expect in Global CO2 levels, and why does the Keeling curve continue to show CO2 level growth at *precisely the same* rate as it did before California enacted these policies?

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Enacting policies and fully implementing them are two different things.

  48. Trying a very quick Excel plot and using data from I do not reproduce your constant relationship between wealth and power. World GDP in 2011 international dollars, Energy is primary energy production. I get:

    Power to wealth

    I would say world is getting more efficient at using energy to create wealth and that ratio to fossil fuel is dropping more steeply than that of total energy use. What is the source of your data?

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  49. Jevons Revenge,

    Since California only generates 1% of global CO2 source, how big of a dent do you expect to see?  Even if California completely stopped using fossil fuels it would be impossible to see on a graph of world emissions.   Is your question serious??

    In order to solve the CO2 problem everyone has to contribute.  Each countries emissions by itself does not make muc hdifference.  When the US refuses to control emissions it delays other countries emission reductions.  A classic tragedy of the commons.

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  50. @scaddenp this is Garrett's original paper on the subject, detailing how the relation is derived:

    Offhand, I know it used inflation-adjusted 1990 US dollars to calculate global wealth. It's also worth noting that China and several other developing nations have over-reported their respective GDPs and under-reported their energy usage. After all, the continued increases in atmospheric CO2 have to be coming from somewhere, right?

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