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How I lived through a carbon tax and survived to tell the tale

Posted on 8 April 2011 by Dan Moutal

A guest post by Dan Moutal, the voice of the Irregular Climate Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @ScruffyDan

Just over three years ago the province of British Columbia (BC) on Canada’s west coast implemented a revenue neutral carbon tax. And the world didn’t come to an end.

But three years on it is easy to find people who continue to unfairly criticise the policy and show that they simply don’t understand it.

For example this article from the New York Times:

John Hunter despises [the carbon tax].

"I've already insulated my house to be energy efficient. I already turn down my thermostat. Why should I have to pay $20 on my natural gas bill for something that is doing nothing for me?" the 64-year-old engineer said in an interview from his home in North Vancouver, British Columbia. His anger about the C$21.85 charge on his C$263 December bill prompted a protest op-ed in a local Vancouver paper. (One Canadian dollar equals roughly 1.02 U.S. dollars.)

What John Hunter might not realize is that the the carbon tax here in BC is revenue neutral. Meaning that every penny collected by the tax is returned to the public in the form of tax rebates (aka cheques in the mail) and lower income and corporate tax rates. So while John Hunter might have to pay a little extra to heat his home, he gets to keep more of his income in his pocket, and so does his employer. In fact it is entirely possible that Mr Hunter’s income tax savings are a fair bit larger than the $20 monthly charge on his home heating bill.

And since Mr Hunter has already taken steps to insulate his house and make it energy efficient, he is emitting less carbon and thus paying less taxes. The carbon tax gives people some amount of control over how much taxes they end up paying.  Instead of taxing the good (aka income), the carbon tax taxes the bad (aka GHG emissions). Emit less and you pay less taxes.

In fact thanks to the carbon tax, BC has the lowest income tax rates in Canada for people earning up to $118,000, as well as very low rates of corporate and small business taxes.

Yet that is rarely mentioned when the tax is criticized.

But let's back up a little; what exactly is the carbon tax policy here in BC? I need to be upfront and say that the tax here is modest. It started out at $10/tonne and has been increasing by $5 each year untill it reaches a maximum of $30/tonne in 2012. And as I mentioned earlier, all the money raised by the tax is refunded back to residents and businesses in BC.

So how has my life changed since the introduction of the tax? The short answer is that it hasn’t really changed much at all. The biggest change is that I get quarterly carbon tax rebate cheques from the government, because I fall into the low income tax bracket.

Sure gas and home heating is a little more expensive. But the economy did not collapse and I am proud to say that at no time did we travel back in time to the Stone Age.

And that price on carbon is exactly the point. By pricing emissions there are now greater incentives everywhere to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Activities or products which lead to lots of emissions are now relatively more expensive, while their low carbon counterparts are not. This leads to millions of small individual choices that result in less emissions. Those renovations Mr. Hunter made will pay for themselves sooner than they otherwise would, because of the carbon tax.

But there are limits to what a modest carbon tax like the one here in BC can do. At the maximum rate of $30/tonne, the results will never be sufficient to reduce BC’s GHG emissions enough to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, to say nothing of the GHG emissions of the rest of Canada or the world for that matter.

For that the carbon tax would have to be higher, with coresponding larger tax decreases elsewhere, and apply to a much larger jurisdiction.

Here in BC we have just taken a successful first step.

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Comments 101 to 150 out of 248:

  1. So Marcus you contend that the set of SRES scenario is far from covering the whole set of possibilities ? Now it is unclear for me what you're really calling "BAU", since they already encompass a very large set of various trajectories. Could you please tell me what you mean exactly by "BAU" ? how do you recognize a "BAU" from a "non-BAU" scenario ? do you have a practical rule that I could apply without asking you, another time (when you may not be available to tell me if it is BAU or not ? ) Michael sweet : for which facts are you asking for references ? ( -Snip- ).
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Moderation complaints removed.

    [mc] Another thread driven radically off-topic as predicted. Further comments that do not include some 'carbon tax' content will be deleted.

  2. "do you know an OECD country for which the CO2 consumption per capita could be generalized to all people in the XXIth century, yes or no?" This question *makes no sense at all*. Seriously, if you can't ask *real*, *sensible* questions, then I really don't know why you even bother posting at this site.
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  3. This is a typical post of Gilles which should be deleted because it wastes everyone elses time to read it. If Gilles is unable to determine what BAU is he needs to do his homework. He is splitting hairs to make up arguments.
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  4. "Michael sweet : for which facts are you asking for references ? I posted a number of graphics- unfortunately some of them disappeared quickly, but complain to the moderation." Gilles, posting graphics without a link-& in a tiny font to boot-is pretty dodgy, especially as we've already exposed your tendency to doctor graphics to suit your agenda. You see, it keeps coming back to this-on the one hand you tell us that global fossil fuel consumption will continue to increase, yet on the other you claim that there are insufficient fossil fuels to meet an increase in consumption-so *which is it*?!?! You seem to want to have it both ways. The fact is that there *is* enough fossil fuels in the world to create a massive increase in CO2 emissions-in the near term-& that the warming it causes will cause a release of CO2 from natural sources-which I'm pretty sure the SRES scenarios account for too. Seriously, Gilles, when are you going to contribute ( -Snip- ) to any of these blogs?
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    Moderator Response: [DB] Do not let him make you angry; that is a mission objective.
  5. "This is a typical post of Gilles which should be deleted because it wastes everyone elses time to read it." I tend to agree. Gilles is a massive time waster, & I think we've *all* been far more patient than he deserves.
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  6. So, to get away from Gilles pointless distraction, the main point of this article is (a) a carbon tax can make the unit cost of fossil fuel energy more expensive-leading to people using it more efficiently. (b) if the per-capita use of fossil fuels decreases, & the cost of extracting them increases, then the incentive for extracting fossil fuels will decline (c) A carbon tax will also make renewable energy options more attractive which, coupled with improved energy efficiency, will reduce fossil fuel consumption even further still. (d) Obviously this will lead, ultimately, to the fossil fuels being increasingly left in the ground. All of Gilles Hand-waving & wishful thinking doesn't change the above facts.
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  7. well sorry for abusing of your patience, Marcus, but after all, if you're posting here, is it not to convince unconvinced people? because you would agree that it is a waste of time to convince already convinced people ! there're much more interesting things to do in the world ! now I come to the most weird aspect of the carbon tax , that I didn't address up to now. (Yes , there is worse ! ) if your "above facts" are true , why wouldn't the natural increase of extracting costs do exactly the same effect ? in other words, if a carbon tax is efficient to reduce the consumption, why wouldn't the consumption decrease with the mere influence of growing extraction costs - even without a tax - and why do all SRES scenarios predict a growing FF consumption, even after all cheap conventional resources would have been exhausted for a long time ?
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  8. [snip] Michael "-on the one hand you tell us that global fossil fuel consumption will continue to increase," Sorry but which post of mine are you referring to ? I don't remember having addressed this point. I said the oil consumption is to level off. For the other FF, there is still a margin for progression , but limiting the CO2 around 550 ppm at most - see Hansen et al. 2008 if you need a reference.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] attempted moderator trolling snipped.
  9. Regarding hard data on BC greenhouse gas emissions, apparently there is a two year lag on emissions reporting (although one would think fuel purchases would be more readily available). So measured emissions results won't be available until sometime in 2012. While I am in favor of these regimes - their first effect will be a run-up in burning things - like wood and grass and.... It isn't clear that this will be a net positive (as bio burners exist that are inefficient).
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  10. Based on new car sales data for British Columbia since 2001, it is evident that the increase in gasoline prices has caused many consumers to buy more fuel efficient vehicles. The market share of subcompact and compact passenger car sales has increased steadily while the market share of larger cars, SUVs, pickups and minivans has declined. http://www.fin.gov.bc.ca/tbs/tp/climate/A6.htm {not much in the way of information...} This is where it should be: http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/manuf32k-eng.htm (energy information is censored) GREAT site! (especially in regards to my earlier point about the best way to change human behavior) http://scorecard.sightline.org/energy.html The best I found was this: http://www40.statcan.ca/l01/cst01/trade37c-eng.htm The upshot is gasoline up, diesel down (2009 compared to 2008) Canada apparently censors data on fuel and coal usage (and many other things).
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  11. "it is evident that the increase in gasoline prices has caused many consumers to buy more fuel efficient vehicles." That belongs to the "A" category only....
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  12. Gilles: "Marcus, but after all, if you're posting here, is it not to convince unconvinced people? because you would agree that it is a waste of time to convince already convinced people !" You are wasting time. You also contradict your own argument/views in your statement.
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  13. Re: Canada fossil fuels. If it helps anyone, here are some resources: map of oil and gas producing areas: http://atlas.nrcan.gc.ca/site/english/maps/economic/energy/oilgas energy sector statistics: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/eneene/statstat/index-eng.php energy use database 1990 to 2008. http://www.oee.nrcan.gc.ca/corporate/statistics/neud/dpa/comprehensive_tables/index.cfm?attr=0 I have noticed that many Canadian science-related sites are slow to update. I get the impression that this is a funding problem.
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  14. @ Gilles " in other words, if a carbon tax is efficient to reduce the consumption, why wouldn't the consumption decrease with the mere influence of growing extraction costs - even without a tax" There are many reasons. First there is already a global infrastructure set up for FF use, which brings with it a whole lot of inertia that resists change. Add to that the massive political pressure that FF companies exert on politicians. And finally the cost of FFs are artificially low (even though they are rising), and still cheaper than the alternatives (which not only need to be cheaper but need to overcome the FF inertia). Why artificially low? Because the true cost of FF is externalized. No one (except in a few ares which have implemented carbon pricing) pays to dump GHG emissions in the atmosphere, despite the well established science that indicates that this will have severe costs in the not to distant future (actually there are costs even now). Add to that the cost of particulate emissions (mainly from coal) and you have massive externalities which are not reflected in the price of FF. That is the crux of the problem. But it sounds like you are arguing that higher prices wont lead to a reduction of FF use. Is that correct?
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  15. Howard Seaward wrote : "Name just one example where socialism or communism solved anything. If FF are truly the issue that many think they are (and many don't), and there becomes a great demand for the solution, then some ingenuitive capitalist(s) will find a way to solve the problem." Coincidentally, I am currently watching a programme on UK TV about the Soviet space program and next week is the 50th anniversary of the first man in space - accomplished by the same country that put the first satellite in space. Can you remember what form of government they had then ? And I believe China is now leading the world in investment in renewables and is fast increasing the share of its energy coming from renewables. That should solve some problems. What system of government do they have in China and how do their figures compare with the Capitalist West ?
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  16. "But it sounds like you are arguing that higher prices wont lead to a reduction of FF use. Is that correct?" Well, obviously I have some difficulties to be understood - because I'm arguing exactly the opposite - the high price of FF will lead to a reduction of their use anyway, with or without tax - and much likely much more than with a tax. The contradiction is by those who claim that a tax would be efficient to reduce it, but not the rise of extraction cost - because for the customer, the effects are the same and it is illogical to think that the demand would decrease in one case and not in the other one. So actually the tax is useful to avoid using FF... that wouldn't have been used anyway because they're much more expensive that the tax could produce.
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  17. @Gilles "the high price of FF will lead to a reduction of their use anyway, with or without tax - and much likely much more than with a tax." Eventually yes. We certainly agree on that, but the fact that eventually the price will be high enough to discourage FF use is mostly meaningless. At least in the context of climate. What matters is will that happen fast enough to avoid the significant costs associated with climate change? The answer is almost certainly no, because the price is artificially low (see my previous comment).
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  18. Gilles#116: "the high price of FF will lead to a reduction of their use anyway, with or without tax " It's purely wishful thinking that increased 'extraction cost' is sufficient to decrease demand. The actual cost you mean to say is no doubt 'replacement cost,' the cost to a company to find new reserves equal to the volume they've produced in a year. And that's not moving up fast enough to dent anyone's thirst: El Paso Corporation Reports $1.40 per Mcfe Reserve Replacement Costs With an average natural gas price of $4.50/mmcf last year, we will have to wait a long time before finding cost has much of an effect. You're really just proposing another 'do-nothing' approach.
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  19. #Dan 117 , and muoncounter: what is an "artificially low" price for oil, following you ? how much do you want to tax carbon, on an equivalent barrel basis for instance, and how does it compare with the recent rise in energy price ?
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  20. for instance for BC, how high was the tax compared to the price of barrel of oil or a mmcf of natural gas ?
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  21. "The actual cost you mean to say is no doubt 'replacement cost,'" I mean the extraction cost, not the replacement cost - this is only the cost of finding new reserves, not extracting them !
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  22. @ Gilles " what is an "artificially low" price for oil" I already explained why I say that FFs are priced artificially low. As I said above, the most significant costs are externalized. Giving you an exact number isn't really possible (one would need at the very least a proper economic model to do that), but it should be clear that the true cost of oil or coal should be a fair bit higher than say solar or wind (or even nuclear), because the the GHG emissions alone (to say nothing of particulate pollution or MTR mining) impose massive costs on society as a whole. Now obviously all the costs can't be internalized overnight, but over time the cost of FF should incorporate more and more of the externalized cost. As I mentioned in a previous comment Mark Jaccard (an environmental economist who has advised both the BC and federal government on exactly this issue) has mentioned that the price might need to go as high as $200/tonne. And before you freak out remember three things. 1) Low GHG sources of power would not be affected by this price, and would certainly provide us with a far grater percentage of our daily power requirements. 2) The price will be introduced overtime, with a corresponding decrease in other taxes. So while overall the amount spent on energy would increase the amount 'spent' on income taxes would decrease. 3) this wont work unless without buy-in from other countries. No one is suggesting that GHG be priced so high only in one jurisdiction.
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  23. @Gilles I have to ask you, what do you propose to achieve the necessary reductions in GHG emissions? And are you opposed to policy which looks to internalize externalalities?
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  24. 122 : I didn't ask you "why", i asked "what" . If you don't have an answer, how can you decide the amount of tax ? now you mention 200$/t . 1 t of oil is arount 7,5 barrels, so this means around 25 $ /bbl. Only 10 years ago, the barrel was sold 20$, now it's over 100 $, meaning a rise of at least 3 times the amount of the proposed tax that hasn't been yet decided anywhere - and much more rapidly. And of course it has had an effect on the consumption, that decreased by several % in all western countries, much more significantly that all what I heard about the effect of a tax. so what do you want me to "propose" since the natural increase of the cost is already doing much more than what you can dream of ?
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  25. A side remark : as the customer and the industry does sees the overall cost of the energy, if it were possible to adapt rapidly to a high price to switch to renewables without any loss of wealth , there is no reason that this shouldn't have happened during the rallye of oil prices.Instead, we've got only a strong recession which explains basically the decrease of consumption - but at the expense of economic activity. Of course it is easy to reduce FF consumption if we lower the average income. The open question is if it possible without loss of income. Up to now, facts are saying : not so much.
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  26. "Low GHG sources of power would not be affected by this price, and would certainly provide us with a far grater percentage of our daily power requirements." Are you saying that burning a lot of low GHG sources of power lowers the total amount of emissions ?
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  27. @ Gilles The figure is for emission of GHGs. Not the weight of oil. Remember the point of a carbon tax isn't to tax energy. The point is to tax emissions. That is what we care about. We also don't just care about the emissions from oil. Coal is just as important to deal with if not more so. So your number are way off. And I'll ask you again. What do you propose to do to reduce GHG emissions? And are you opposed to policy which looks to internalize externalalities? Please answer the questions. As for the Recession/oil price connections, there is probably something to that. BUT the effects of high oil prices (where money crosses national borders) and high carbon taxes (where money does not leave the country) are very different. Especially if the overall tax burden remains the same.
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  28. BTW for anyone who is interested (and who is still following this long comment thread) Here are two interviews with Mark Jaccard that he did on the CBC science show Quirks and Quarks. Well worth a listen for anyone who is interested in Carbon Pricing. Carbon Pricing Hot Air
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  29. @ Gilles "Are you saying that burning a lot of low GHG sources of power lowers the total amount of emissions ?" Obviously that depends on how low and how much they are used. But no. What I was getting at was that energy sources with low or no GHG emissions would (if the carbon tax was ramped up) provide us with a greater percentage of our energy and would buttress us from large price increases due to the ever increasing taxes. BTW I suggest you listen to the two interview I linked to above. This is discussed there, and what Jaccard's economic model finds is that we should roughly expect out total energy costs to go up by less than the tax (roughly 1% annually for the next two decades or so), due to these low carbon energy sources increasing in prominence.
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  30. "Of course it is easy to reduce FF consumption if we lower the average income." There you go making false claims again. Plenty of Countries have *significantly* reduced their FF consumption *without* lowering average income-so please stop claiming otherwise, it doesn't assist your credibility. Also, the fact is that the fossil fuel industry continues to enjoy significant subsidies in a number of Countries, & so they will keep using those fossil fuels as long as they continue to evade the full cost of their activities.
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  31. "Are you saying that burning a lot of low GHG sources of power lowers the total amount of emissions ?" Why exactly would you need *lots* of low GHG sources of power? You'd need a *hell* of a lot to equal the emissions of just a single coal-fired power station, especially when you consider the fact that most coal-fired power stations have to supply energy to large geographic areas-resulting in significant losses during transmission & distribution. Again I think you *really* need to check your facts in future.
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  32. "And I'll ask you again. What do you propose to do to reduce GHG emissions?" I carefully introduced the distinction between three different meanings of "reducing emissions" here precisely because I anticipated this question (which shows that my post wasn't OT, because it precisely addressed the question of what a carbon tax is supposed to "reduce" actually). So can you be more precise and specify which meaning A,B or C you give to "reducing GHG emissions" ? I cannot answer if the question is too vague. "we should roughly expect out total energy costs to go up by less than the tax (roughly 1% annually for the next two decades or so), due to these low carbon energy sources increasing in prominence." I don't see any hint that it is a reasonable hypothesis; remember that no economist had predicted the burst of oil prices, and ask yourself why .... Marcus#130 "There you go making false claims again. Plenty of Countries have *significantly* reduced their FF consumption *without* lowering average" : yes, but only those who had already a FF consumption much above the world average - and it has just allowed the others to increase a little bit more their own consumption, giving on average a continuous increase of global CO2 emissions. Again, there are plenty of poor people who need these FF- believe it or not, it's just plain facts, and all official agencies and governments reckon it. Marcus #130 : "Why exactly would you need *lots* of low GHG sources of power? " good question: why ? you should ask the SRES team .... I make you a gift : a graph that you never see anywhere, although it is a mere compilation of public data : the set of all SRES scenarios natural gas production forecasts. dashed red line is the Hubbert fit of the amount of conventional natural gas reserves, all the rest is unconventional (so, a priori, NOT cheap !) resources. Why exactly do they think we need so much low GHG source of power ?
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Stop playing games. If you had already anticipated the first question, you will already have answers prepared for meanings A, B and C, so why not just give them. Asking for further clarification is just trolling for attention, and likely to irritate anyone making a genuine attempt to discuss the issue with you.
  33. OK, yes I have my own answers : for A : a carbon tax can be useful to reduce carbon intensity - but it's role would probably be minor compared to the rise of FF prices that are necessary anyway to make the exploitation of unconventional resources profitable. I mean that if the above production curves are realistic (which is not granted), it can be only through an increase of the extraction costs -which would probably be much larger than any tax you can imagine, and help improving carbon intensity. Although the range of carbon intensities of SRES scenarios is very wide and doesn't always lead to an improvement (a very weird aspect of these figures is that the range of carbon and GDP energy intensities in the past years is very large, although we KNOW rather precisely the real values of them, and were already very large at the beginning, in 1990 , although it seems fairly easy to extrapolate the smooth variation of the black line. I cannot figure out how these people are working : why do they start with obviously wrong initial data, thus automatically insuring that their curve are wrong ? and what's worth comparing them with current data if they've been already wrong for 20 years before ? I must confess that this kind of "science" is totally beyond my own capacities of understanding) * concerning B : the annual production of CO2 - I don't see any reasonable way of insuring it will decrease at a global level, even with a tax. As I said, only rich countries can afford reducing their energy consumption , but the only result is to allow more poor countries to use them - that's actually what is really happening. I don't see how a tax can avoid that - because the increase of B is just due to the increase of GDP,and increasing GDP means richer people and so more able to pay any tax. So a tax has never limited the GDP growth - and isn't intended for that. Reducing A doesn't result always in reducing B - it may happen,but it cannot be granted. The only way to limit B is to put strong quota to all FF consumption of ALL countries - needless to say we're very far from being able to do that. * concerning C : still worse, because we have to insure that future people won't burn the FF we have spared now - people who will leave after us, who won't care about us, not more than we care about what people thought 100 years ago. It *may* be that they will give up FF because they have found better alternatives - or not. I don't see any sensible way to insure now they will. It would require at least a strict limitation of the FF resources (banning for instance totally any unconventional resources, such as tar sands, shales, clathrates, etc...). Again, we're very far to even think it would be possible to do that.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Concerning C - it has already been pointed out to you that we don't need to ensure that future people won't burn the FF. Whether atmospheric CO2 rises depends on whether our emissions exceed environmental uptake (plus any sequestration we actuall achieve), hence it is the rate that matters, not the total integrated emissions. We can burn it all if we like, provided we burn it slowly enough.
  34. "I make you a gift : a graph that you never see anywhere, although it is a mere compilation of public data : the set of all SRES scenarios natural gas production forecasts." So once again, Gilles, you provide a graph *without* attribution & which-based on your past form-is probably completely doctored from its original source. Evidently you haven't heard of a little thing called *bio-gas*, which can be cheaply extracted from land-fill & sewerage treatment plants, amongst other places (like farms & plantation forests). These biomass power stations actually have a net *negative* impact on GHG emissions, yet are entirely capable of meeting base-load energy needs. Geothermal power stations also produce *very* small amounts of GHG emissions, yet have a capacity that usually exceeds that of a coal or natural gas power station. So, yet again Gilles, your claims are proven to be without *any* foundation. Please actually *check* your facts in future.
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  35. "yes, but only those who had already a FF consumption much above the world average - and it has just allowed the others to increase a little bit more their own consumption, giving on average a continuous increase of global CO2 emissions." ....and again, Gilles, you make claims without *any* foundation. Between 1997-2010, Finland, France, Germany, Denmark, Iceland & the United Kingdom have all achieved some level of GHG emission reduction-in spite of already having emissions below the global average in 1997. I'm curious, Gilles, do you *deliberately* not get your facts straight before you post?
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  36. "Again, there are plenty of poor people who need these FF- believe it or not, it's just plain facts," For the record, Gilles, *claiming* that something is "plain facts" doesn't make it so. Most of the poor countries of this world could achieve per capita energy consumption *equal* to that of most Western European nations *without* having to use fossil fuels. The nations of North Africa & the Middle East have access to solar energy resources that are the *envy* of most of the world. Most African nations could also tap large quantities of bio-gas, wind, hydro-power (both small & large scale) & Geo-thermal. Most of Asia & South America could also meet Western-style energy needs from a mixture of Geothermal, Wind & Solar. Then, of course, you have tidal power-which can be exploited by any nation-rich or poor-that has a coastal border. So you see, Gilles, that in spite of your "facts" the only people who really *need* fossil fuels are the corporations who mine & sell them. Technologically speaking, the rest of the world could very easily do without them.
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  37. Marcus : I think I'm able to download an excel spreadsheet and to draw graphs from it - and I assume you're, too. I just took the data provided by IPCC You can download them here too and check my graph. http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/sres/emission/data/allscen.xls I don't see the relevance of your remarks : these are data for fossile natural gas and not biomass. "Between 1997-2010, Finland, France, Germany, Denmark, Iceland & the United Kingdom have all achieved some level of GHG emission reduction-in spite of already having emissions below the global average in 1997. " Are you serious ? what do you think is the global CO2 production per capita in the world ? "Most of the poor countries of this world could achieve per capita energy consumption *equal* to that of most Western European nations *without* having to use fossil fuels." OK, tell that to the SRES team, because they don't think to know it. As I said, you persistently seem to ignore that many western countries have already achieved a carbon free electricity production : Iceland, Norway, several canadian provinces. France has also a very low carbon intensity for nuclear electricity. So they have already solved your problems. However, they continue importing oil, gas and coal, even if they're totally deprived of them - which would make no sense if your claims were true.
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  38. "However, they continue importing oil, gas and coal, even if they're totally deprived of them - which would make no sense if your claims were true." Wrong again Gilles-you really do make a bad habit of that. First of all, nations like Norway & Canada don't *yet* have carbon free electricity. Countries that do-like Iceland-might still import oil for vehicular transport, but even they are in the process of developing alternatives to fossil-fuel based transportation. Iceland, however, does *not* import or consume natural gas or coal (or at least not according to the CIA factbook). Of course, just because these countries might *currently* import fossil fuels of one type or another, does not mean they *have* to do so. Unfortunately, as long as global energy policy continues to be dictated by the fossil fuel industry, then nations will go on believing that they *need* fossil fuels, when in fact alternative sources of energy will more than suffice.
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  39. "Are you serious ? what do you think is the global CO2 production per capita in the world ?" According to the figures I've seen, its around 7t-8t per capita, but its almost certainly *higher* than that if you exclude the developing economies-which were the economies I was addressing. i.e. my point was that plenty of developed economies-in spite of having CO2 emissions below the average emissions of the developed nations-have still managed cuts in their CO2 emissions (&, therefore, a reduction in their fossil fuel consumption) without cutting their income. So again, in spite of your pedantry & hand-waving, you're 100% *wrong* yet again-which is going to keep happening as long as you put fossil fuel industry propaganda ahead of the *facts*!
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  40. Harry Seaward, your use of the word 'socialism' in relation to a carbon tax suggests that you are following the modern U.S. 'conservative' definition of the term. Basically, 'Anything which restricts generation of profits'. That is, setting a tax on carbon emissions would decrease the profit potential of the fossil fuel industry and is therefor 'socialism' under this definition. Historically, socialism has actually meant, 'Common ownership of means of production and distribution of goods.' This contrasts with capitalism which is, 'Private ownership of means of production to generate profits which can be used to acquire goods.' Given that a carbon tax is inherently tied to the concepts of 'profit' and 'wealth' it actually couldn't exist as such under a truly socialist system. Theoretically socialism would handle the same sort of issue by collectively determining that fossil fuels are harmful and transitioning away from them as a group decision. In practicality that sort of collective forward thinking is one of the many things socialism tends to handle poorly. However, all that being said, the benefits of 'socialism' under the 'conservative' re-definition of the term should be self-evident. Child labor laws and laws banning child pornography restrict the generation of profits from exploiting children... and are therefor 'socialism' per the same re-definition which makes a carbon tax such. Ditto laws preventing the dumping of toxic chemicals into drinking water, all product safety requirements, all taxes on materials which can cause harm to people other than the user (e.g. tobacco & firearms), laws requiring people to have completed appropriate schooling to perform dangerous tasks (e.g. no brain surgery if you are not a doctor), et cetera. Just because something restricts the ability of some group to make a profit does not automatically make it 'bad'. U.S. 'conservatives' have advanced that argument for decades by calling it 'socialism', but by that (false) standard most of the institutions holding our society together are 'socialism'. Take away all restrictions on the generation of profit and what you have left is 'survival of the most vicious'. Hardly a foundation for the advancement of civilization. If we accept the proposition that carbon emissions are harmful to people other than just those causing them (and if you don't you should take it to one of the threads discussing the harm) then a carbon tax is the capitalist (historical definition) solution to the problem... imposing a penalty on emitter profits to compensate those harmed by the emissions.
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  41. "OK, tell that to the SRES team, because they don't think to know it." Wow, you really are completely *clueless* aren't you? SRES projections, as I've said time & again, are mostly based on *business* *as* *usual* scenarios. If you're simply not going to accept this basic fact, then I really don't see the point in debating the issue with you-as your understanding is so clearly & fundamentally *flawed*. Also, when are you going to decide which argument you actually support? After all, you've had *dozens* of posts where you've told us how fossil fuel use is going to increase well into the future-yet you equally claim that they're going to run out. Seems, Gilles, like you're *really*, *really* confused & contradictory. That's something very common amongst contrarians.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] AFAICS only A1F1 is strictly speaking "business as usual", i.e. fossil fuel intensive rapid economic growth. Others are clearly not "business as usual", for instance A1T (rapid economic growth with technological emphasis on non-fossil fuel energy sources). However this is not something I am that familiar with (I just gleaned that from p140 of Houghton's "Global Warming - The Complete Birefing" [sic] fourth edition). The B2 family also is not "business as usual" as it involved restricted economic growth in favour of environmental sustainability.
  42. 69, actuallythoghtful,
    ...there actually is a 4th way - social pressure.
    81, theVille,
    ...you missed out education from your list...
    Sorry, I had a bad flu bug all weekend and was totally incapacitated. But I'd put both of these as either variations or factors under my second method, a "moral imperative," since social pressure and education are the places we primarily get such more imperatives... although I'd agree that this ultimately would be the very best way to do things. I find it amazing that we glorify the role of America in World War II, where people made great personal sacrifices and the will and power of the entire country was single-mindedly bent on the greatest threat democracy had ever faced. Yet today, people are too selfish to give up their Disney vacations and flat screen TVs and SUVs to fight the greatest threat civilization has ever faced. Of course, back then we had great, focused leadership (Roosevelt) and Pearl Harbor to shove us into action. We lack any serious political leadership today, and if we wait for an impetus such as Pearl Harbor it will have been far, far too late to take action.
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  43. DSL @ 55 Please explain what you meant with the following statement. Are you talking about a return to a more agrarian or even hunter/gatherer society? Are you implying population control? How is more sickness a good thing? How in the world is a carbon tax going to help any of this? "What we're doing with carbon taxing is paying for the sins of our grandfathers and fathers, many of whom are still alive. Had we had the collective foresight and the means to materially express that foresight, we'd probably have simpler machines, fewer people, less killing, more sickness, less medical fraud, a more effective democracy, less expensive but weaker armies, and certainly an atmosphere that isn't developing into a giant pain in the market."
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  44. Forgive the length of this post. I generally deplore long comments, but I couldn't help myself. 58, Harry Seaward,
    Name just one example where socialism or communism solved anything.
    How about 5?
    • The U.S. Armed forces
    • Public education
    • Public police and fire services
    • he U.S. Center for Disease Control
    • The Federal Emergency Management Agency.
    All of these invaluable services can only be provided through socialism... i.e. through taxation, and the collective use of the gathered funds for the general welfare of society, organized and provided by the state.
    If FF are truly the issue that many think they are (and many don't), and there becomes a great demand for the solution, then some ingenuitive capitalist(s) will find a way to solve the problem.
    This fails because by the time the climate effects are so strong that they are painful enough to create a profit motivation, it will be too late to do anything about them. Then capitalist efforts will instead go into the more expensive prospect of mitigation, which will in turn go only to those with enough wealth to pay for it, leaving billions of people to suffer unimaginable hardships. This fantasy that completely unrestricted capitalism is the only answer to all problems is not only silly, but obscene. Human history is a list of failed and imperfect systems. They are all imperfect. Some are useless (communism, anarchism), some are good for some things but not others (socialism, capitalism), some worked at some points in human history but we have outgrown them (absolutism), and some are downright evil (fascism, totalitarianism). As intelligent human beings it falls to us to find meaningful solutions to problems using our intelligence, not to develop knee jerk allegiance to some methods (capitalism) and knee jerk abhorrence to others (socialism) just because that's what we grew up with -- in a completely different world (the Cold War) -- or because that's what Fox News tells us to think. The fact is that some sort of tax (cap and trade, fee and dividend, something else) is the only solution to this problem that will have an effect soon enough to make a difference (eventually people will do it because they believe in it, once it becomes that obvious and painful, but as I've said, if we wait that long to start it will be too late). But what falls to us now is determining what tax mechanism will work best, not whether or not to do it. The capitalist minded should have been in love with cap-and-trade, because that's a capitalism modeled tax, but it wasn't good enough. Fee-and-dividend should have been a good next choice for the only-capitalism crowd, because it puts all of the power into the hands of the consumer and the economy, and leaves the least room for abuse. That was similarly assaulted. It soon becomes clear that it's not the mechanism, but the idea of regulating the indirect cost of FF (AGW) that is what bothers people. I will point out two more things. First is oil industry subsidies. If you are so in favor of market pressures, why are we helping an industry that already controls the energy and therefore lifeblood of the world? Why are we tipping the playing field toward fossil fuel use? Second is tobacco use. There is an unseen cost there, in health costs, that is paid for by society, the largest segment of which benefits from neither the "joys" of smoking, nor the profits of selling tobacco. I object very strongly to having to pay for "their" healthcare (through my increased premiums) just so that "they" could foolishly and callously smoke and tobacco companies could make huge profits. How does that fit into pure capitalism? This this is exactly the same as FF use today. Those who benefit from FF will suffer the consequences, as will everyone else, but there is no direct tie between the use and the consequences. Most people, like you, are thinking (your words) "If FF are truly the issue," and aren't ready to take action until we suffer a Pearl Harbor type event and things are undeniable. But unlike in WW II, in this case, that would be far, far too late to do anything about it. What distinguishes human beings from animals is our intelligence. It is our ability to see things like this coming, and to avoid it rather than trust to luck, that separates us from 450 million years of evolutionary dead ends. Or so I hope.
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  45. Sorry, in my above post where I said "more expensive prospect of mitigation" I meant "more expensive prospect of adaptation."
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  46. Gilles #137 "you persistently seem to ignore that many western countries have already achieved a carbon free electricity production : Iceland, Norway, several canadian provinces. ... However, they continue importing oil, gas and coal, even if they're totally deprived of them - which would make no sense if your claims were true." Your fascination with Iceland is touching, but irrelevant. Their percapita CO2 emissions are higher than the world average (Iceland approx 7.5 vs world approx 4.7 tons per World Bank figures), but are vanishingly small on a total emissions basis. Iceland's development of hydro - and geothermal - gives them one thing many western nations do not have and desperately crave: a measure of energy independence from foreign oil supplies. And you've forgotten that many countries still use coal and natural gas for heating and for industrial purposes. You've also forgotten conditions in eastern Germany and Poland due to excessive coal use prior to the '90s. Or maybe you favored the pollution of the Black Triangle as a symbol of Europe's industrial wealth? Once again, all of this absurdity drives the thread further from topic and closer to topics about which you enjoy pontificating. But you can make no case against the BC carbon tax presented here: it is revenue neutral. Any resultant reduction in carbon use under this tax does not alter individual 'wealth' at all.
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  47. If FF are truly the issue that many think they are (and many don't), and there becomes a great demand for the solution, then some ingenuitive capitalist(s) will find a way to solve the problem. Ingenious capitalists did find a way to solve the problem: By denying it exists. That's precisely why you can say that "many don't" accept a theory that has just as much evidence as theories they do accept. Markets depend on information. Bad information = bad decisions = bad outcomes. Why is it that the staunchest defenders of the "free market" always seem to overlook this basic point?
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  48. @Gilles I strongly suggest you go back and listen to the two interviews I linked above with Mark Jaccard. You are lacking understanding of some of the basic principles of a carbon tax. I would also suggest to you read this (which I stole from Forbes a while back). But you still haven't really answered the questions I asked you (and raised a bunch more). All you did was explain some difficulties in reducing emissions. And you completely ignored the second question. I am loosing patience with you, and beginning to see why others were so quick to do so.
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  49. Muoncounter : ( -Snip- ) Now I don't care about revenue neutral taxes. Actually I don't care about taxes - it's a normal way of smoothing inequalities and favoring good behaviors. I am *not* fighting against the principle of taxes. I'm just saying it won't reach the goal you seem to assign to it.
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    Moderator Response: (DB) Off-topic thread derailment meanderings and moderation complaints snipped.
  50. sorry dan, I asked you to make clearer what you mean by "reducing emission", you didn't answer, so I gave 3 different answers for each meaning - what more do you want ? concerning "And are you opposed to policy which looks to internalize externalalities?" really : I don't care, it won't change the real problem - the lack of cheap energy in the near future. It's not that we disagree about solutions - it's that we disagree about the true issue.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] It should be obvious to you that carbon taxes are intended to reduce the use of fossil fuels by those who are subject to the tax. If you are unable to work out what that implies for your A B and C criteria, perhaps you don't understand the issues as well as you think you do and perhaps should read a bit more and post rather less.

    The availability of cheap energy is clearly off-topic. If you want to discuss that, please do so elsewhere, and allow the discussion of the topic of this article to continue uninterupted. You have made your point.

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