Richard Tol on the Climate Debate

Richard Tol has written a new paper on The Structure of the Climate Debate, and apparently it has ‘sailed through’ the peer review (pal review?) process. Somehow the editors must have found reviewers up whose nose the paper did not get.

The abstract says:

First-best climate policy is a uniform carbon tax which gradually rises over time. Civil servants have complicated climate policy to expand bureaucracies, politicians to create rents. Environmentalists have exaggerated climate change to gain influence, other activists have joined the climate bandwagon. Opponents to climate policy have attacked the weaknesses in climate research. The climate debate is convoluted and polarized as a result, and climate policy complex. Climate policy should become easier and more rational as the Paris Agreement has shifted climate policy back towards national governments. Changing political priorities, austerity, and a maturing bureaucracy should lead to a more constructive climate debate.

As he remarks in his tweet, it is likely to “get up everyone’s nose”, by calling for an increasing carbon tax and at the same time criticising activists for exaggeration.

After the introduction, section 2 is called “The case for climate policy”, but this section does not do exactly what it says on the tin. In fact most of it is a criticism of environmentalists and some climate scientists (he singles out the notorious Potsdam group) for their “construction of all climate change as necessarily bad”. He mentions the various positive aspects — fewer cold-related deaths, less heating needed, carbon dioxide as plant food — and says that even with the negative effects he expects from more pronounced warming, the impacts will be moderate, so there’s little case made for climate policy.

Section 3 presents Tol’s preferred solution of an escalating carbon tax, but the obvious question of how this is to be achieved in a global and fair way isn’t discussed. Higher carbon taxes in the UK would just drive production elsewhere — which has already happened of course — resulting in no decrease in global emissions.

The main content of the paper is three pages on the climate policy debate, in section 4. He lists a number of factors that get in the way of a sensible policy debate:

  • The fear narrative, preaching doom in a religious or tribal way.
  • Virtue-signalling politicians: “This offers the opportunity for politicians to channel their inner Bruce Willis and make grand promises about saving the world.”
  • Deflecting attention: Why is Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, spending so much time pontificating about climate change rather than focusing on financial matters?
  • Inflated bureaucracy: “Emissions have hardly budged, but a growing and by now vast number of civil servants have occupied themselves with creating a bureaucratic fiction that something is happening.”
  • Promotion of other agendas: World government, gender issues, fair trade… and these obscure the main issue.

Finally there is a discussion of the progress in climate policy and the Paris agreement — which Tol describes as a step forward, not despite but because of the fact that it does not try to set legally binding emissions reduction rules.

It’s all clearly written and quite easy to read, so go and read it. Did it get up your nose?


A few related recent blog posts:

Paul Homewood has a post on James Hansen, who like Tol supports a carbon tax, but “slams” the Paris agreement.

Reiner Grundmann comments on the climate debate, climate policy and “wicked” problems.

Anthony Watts finds a wikileaks email from Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook that describes a carbon tax as “lethal” and says “I don’t want to support one.”

146 thoughts on “Richard Tol on the Climate Debate

  1. For the record, I hardly know the editor and have no clue about the identity of the referees.

    I had expected a lot of opposition, but the referees had a few minor things, and want me to set out the case for a carbon tax in greater detail — “read Baumol & Oates” is apparently not enough.


  2. Thanks Richard. In my experience the refereeing process is a bit of a lottery. Sometimes you are lucky and it goes through with minor alterations, other times they can be really awkward and really slow the process down, or of course just recommend rejection.


  3. Interesting and well written paper. However, for this to work there would have to be a global carbon tax. Otherwise everyone would cheat. Who would apply and collect this tax – the UN? How would you stop billions of dollars from being stolen or used for funding various ‘interest’ groups? Who decides who the good guys are ?

    The real problem with climate change policy is that no one alive today really knows or will ever actually experience whether 600ppm CO2 is a long term threat to humanity or not. No CMIP5 model will tell you a definitive answer either. The only proven solar powered renewable energy are horses. They powered Europe and Asia until the beginning of the 20th century. I suppose we could fall back on them but keeping warm could be a problem. We would drastically hack to curb energy consumption as current UK needs would need 3 million horses and half the worlds grain production to keep them fed.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. International tax harmonisation is unrealistic and, some say, undesirable.

    However, while a uniform carbon tax is best, a carbon tax that is close to trading partners’ carbon tax is almost as good. You see this in Canada, for instance: The proposed carbon tax is set with a close eye on the US government’s social cost of carbon. You see this in France: The proposed carbon tax is close to that in the UK.


  5. So carbon-intensive industry and production just moves to countries with no carbon tax, whose economy booms. We in the West still buy all the same consumer crap, we just ship it over from China, with corresponding extra carbon emissions.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting comments about resistance to carbon tax. I’m not sure that it follows.

    If I remember properly, Lomborg and Pielke have both argued for microtax on energy use, and to use the fund to drive energy R&D. I don’t think that would have been met with the ill will that regressive and punative or behaviour-modification taxes have generated.

    Ross McKitrick also proposed some more enlightened, evidence-based approaches to carbon tax.



    Some may object. And Clive raises some good questions. Chiefly, who gets to benefit from the fund, and on what basis. But politics is often about compromise; I’d rather have had the likes of Stern et al trying to get their fingers into that pie — with oversight — than, as it happened, radical mitigation policies and ridiculous subsidiy schemes for premature technology followed to no good end whatsoever.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. So if you impose a modest but escalating carbon tax, supposedly the idea is it will encourage the smooth and orderly transition to a low carbon economy. This will be achieved principally via greater energy efficiency (eco-homes and eco workplaces?) and a switch to ‘alternative energy sources’. Like wind and solar (technologically, environmentally, socially and economically illiterate solutions to low carbon energy generation), but not the dreaded nuclear option generally speaking. Likewise, energy efficient eco-homes might keep us toasty in the depths of harsh winters which, increasingly, will cease to exist (so we are told), but currently bake their hapless residents alive during summer and leave them gasping for fresh air and gagging on their neighbours’ recycled curry. Other ways by which we might reduce carbon emissions, or lower atmospheric carbon, or mitigate the ‘inevitable’ rise in global mean surface temperature are “reduced population growth, slower economic growth, carbon capture and storage, and geoengineering”. Some might consider these solutions several orders of magnitude loopier than the first two. All in order to solve a ‘problem’, the quantifiable, evidential case for which has not been sufficiently made.

    In summing up the actors in the climate debate, Richard identifies “those opposed to climate policy” who “use weaknesses in climate science to derail the discussion”. I’m sure there are a few such people who are opposed to climate policy per se, but there are many more who argue that weaknesses in climate science do not actually justify the imposition of national or global climate policy in its current (haphazard and ineffective) form, or indeed in any hopefully more effective future incarnation.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. @jaime
    If you argue that there should be no climate policy, then you argue that the social cost of carbon is zero. The social cost of carbon is zero if the climate sensitivity is zero or if climate change has no impact. Either position is untenable.

    Note that if you argue that the climate sensitivity is small and climate change mostly beneficial, then the social cost of carbon is negative — that is, we should subsidize rather than tax emissions.


  9. At last! Something we can disagree with without feeling we’re arguing with idiots. There’s enough meat in this to keep us fed for months.

    It is beautifully written, with lots of jokes that will be lost on the Green Brigade (I bet this is the first time Schiller has been cited in the climate debate) and there are some lovely ‘ouch’ moments, e.g.

    Climate research is a young discipline studying a complex subject, so there are genuine concerns about both the state of knowledge and the standard of evidence [citing Spencer, Pielke, Curry and Lindzen]. At the same time, the desire to block climate policy is a clear incentive to exaggerate the things that we do not know and understand about climate change and its impacts, and to emphasize the unscholarly behaviour of a handful of climate researchers.
    Some environmentalists have responded in kind to these challenges [citing Cook, Gleick, Mann, Hansen, Oreskes (twice) and Lewandowsky (four times).]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The search box on my browser found only one occurrence of the word “nuclear” where it occurred right before the word “phase-out”.


  11. I’m not arguing that there should be no climate policy or that climate sensitivity is definitely small Richard. I’m just saying that climate policy in its current form is, in my opinion, unjustified, being based more on risk than actual observable, physical evidence, but that, even if the risk were to be justified by an increasing abundance of evidence, climate policy in its current form is technologically incompetent and socially, environmentally and economically insane as a response to an urgent need to decarbonise.

    I’m not sure we should be subsidising or taxing a natural constituent of our atmosphere and oceans and the fossilised remains of plants buried deep beneath the surface of our planet. We should definitely be rationalising our consumption of energy, ever looking for more efficient ways of generating and using energy, reducing our wasteful and profligate consumption of goods and energy; not because we are ‘polluting’ our atmosphere with CO2 which may or may not detrimentally affect our climate, but simply because it makes sound economic and environmental sense.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. One solution: slowly and predictably rising revenue-neutral national carbon taxes with tariffs for all imports from nations that aren’t doing their bit. Use the carbon tax to reduce regressive taxes like VAT or do Hansen’s dividend thing.


    Unless the tranzicrats and/or libertarians block the tariffs. (The EU would, of course, block VAT reductions, but that’s fixable.) And unless it would be too fiendishly difficult to calculate and administer without offering opportunities for those who would game the system, which it might be.

    But apart from that…

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Jaime: I agree on current climate policy, which enriches a few at the expense of the many while creating new bureaucracies, and all without cutting emissions.

    I recommend that all existing climate policy be abandoned, all climocrats fired, and replaced by a modest carbon tax.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. RICHARD TOL (14 Oct 16 at 5:53 pm) @jaime

    The social cost of carbon is zero if the climate sensitivity is zero or if climate change has no impact. Either position is untenable.

    But in your article you state that initial effects of carbon-induced warming are overall positive and only later negative. Since neither climate sensitivity to CO2 nor the cross-over point where negative impacts outweigh positive ones can be calculated to give us a date when bad stuff starts happening within a half century or so, discussion of a tax to prevent something happening which might go on being good for us for quite a while seems a bit premature.

    More importantly, the idea that the sign of the result of subtracting projected negative impacts from projected positive ones has any policy relevance to the real world of 200 nation states seems – naïve, and would be so, even if such benefits could be calculated to the nearest magnitude (which doesn’t seem to be the case – see your reference to Stern).

    Applied to nineteenth century capitalism, it would be easy (with hindsight) to argue that the overall effects were positive, and that therefore the working classes had no justification for complaining. But they did, and that affected the equation. (I don’t mean “the equation” of course. I mean the course of human history, which is what we’re talking about.)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. If there is an actual net social cost to carbon, it occurs way out in the future where its value is dependent on events that are very uncertain. Would anyone argue that in the near term (say, within a decade) that this net cost is not negative?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. The social cost of carbon depends on the time scale. On a timescale of hundreds of years impacts are mainly regional. Equatorial temperatures will hardly change whereas temperate climatic effects will increase some negative and some even positive. Sea level rise could will affect coastal areas. This will have an economic impact but far less that the second world war which ended only 60 years ago.

    However on a long timescale enhanced CO2 may save us from another ice age which would have much worse far reaching effects. We are very lucky that human civilisation developed in an era of low eccentricity of the earth’s orbit. Otherwise the next glaciation would already be underway. We would be wise to keep CO2 levels above 300ppm for the next 15,000y


  17. @ PAUL MATTHEWS 14 Oct 16 at 5:13 pm
    “So carbon-intensive industry and production just moves to countries with no carbon tax, whose economy booms. We in the West still buy all the same consumer crap, we just ship it over from China, with corresponding extra carbon emissions.”

    But “By international agreement, all countries prepare inventories of their GHG emissions.
    In the case of shipping and aviation, this presents a problem. If a ship sails from China to the UK, the emissions occur in international waters – should they belong to China, the UK, the country where the ship is registered, or the country where the ship owner is based?
    In practice, this question has not been resolved. If a ship sails from one UK port to another, it is considered ‘domestic’ shipping and the emissions will be included in the UK inventory. Emissions from international shipping, and aviation, are recorded and reported for information purposes, but do not currently form part of any country’s official inventory.”

    Page 49, here:

    Click to access ghg-freight-guide.pdf


  18. Joe Public, you don’t think there might be a bit of fibbing over emissions? I play my World athletics doping card, my FIFA scandal card and the global banking crisis ace. Oh and how are those cease fire pacts going in Syria? In an ideal world, all sorts of things are possible.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Why tax carbon? This is illogical. Is it not the molecule Carbon DiOxide that people fear?

    If we must tax, then let’s be clear who does what with the money, and all sources (including people, owners of land on which volcanos exist or may exist in future, etc.) should be taxed.


  20. Geoff, Clive
    Indeed. An additional tonne of CO2 emitted today will first bring additional benefits, mainly through carbon dioxide fertilization, and later bring additional damages. Benefits and damages are different at different points in time, and at different locations. The social cost of carbon is the sum of all these positive and negative changes — each of which is hugely uncertain.

    The upshot of this is that estimates of the social cost of carbon are very sensitive to model specification and parameterisation, and to assumptions about how to make trade-offs between people, over time, and across risks.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. There is an epidemic of obesity in the UK, caused by excessive consumption of sugar and carbohydrates. This adversely affects the economy as more people become unfit for work and health costs rise. The solution then is to impose an incremental sugar tax on high calorie foods.

    This might work in the same way that alcohol and tobacco taxes have ‘worked’. By making something artificially expenses you reduce overall consumption. Would this also work for carbon taxes to reduce consumption of fossil fuels?

    Yes it would likely reduce unnecessary personal consumption, producing so-called energy efficiency gains. However such a policy can never deliver zero consumption because, just like food, energy is essential for life. Can we substitute fossil fuels for renewable energy is like asking can we substitute high calorie food for low calorie food. The answer to both is of course yes in both cases, as a result millions of poor people would starve to death, especially in the developing world.

    Take the UK. Energy consumption (electricity, heating, transport) is the equivalent of a continuous power output of 300GW. I suppose optimistically we might halve that through carbon taxes. David MacKay estimated the maximum renewable energy that could conceivably be produced by all sources (wind, solar, tidal, hydro) in the UK was 18kwh/day per person. That is 14% of current demand or 28% of future carbon taxed inhibited demand. However there is another worse problem.

    Modern society depends on always available power. If power goes down then society stops. There are no phones, no internet, no ATMs, no refrigeration, no sewage pumps – nothing, and if a large city like London is without power for more than 12 hours rioting and looting would quickly take hold. It is therefore inconceivable not to ensure that we have reliable energy at all times.

    Therefore any future energy plan for the UK must be able to meet demand even on the coldest evening of the year in winter with no wind and no solar . Renewable energy can never under any realistic scenario meet even 30% of that target. To imagine that battery prices could fall enough to make wind and solar backup such enormous power demands is simply a delusion. A battery that could power the UK for one day would require more than all the existing lead-acid batteries in the world.

    Liked by 4 people

  22. I like McKitrick’s proposal, tying the carbon tax to actual temperature measurements (although it may be even better to tie it to actual temperature AND sea level change). I do wonder what’s the impact on the economy if there’s a gradual increase in oil and gas prices (caused by resource depletion and inability of substitutes to fill the gap).

    Regarding the tax on ships, that can be levied by countries on a trip by trip basis. This may lead to some cheating, but it would be better than leaving that sector untaxed.


  23. Fernando,

    “I like McKitrick’s proposal, tying the carbon tax to actual temperature measurements . . . ”

    Yes, every time NOAA and NASA make adjustments to their temperature data, the UN or whoever can raise global tax rates on carbon.


  24. We again have the trap of talking about “Carbon” rather than Carbon Dioxide”. The whole business of AGW is political, it is not to do with climate.

    “Why is Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF, spending so much time pontificating about climate change rather than focusing on financial matters?”

    Why indeed? Could it be because she was a member of Ban Ki Moon’s High Level Climate Finance Panel, set up after Copenhagen, to garner $100 billion a year from the West for “renewable energy” in the developing world.

    See http://scienceandpublicpolicy.org/science-papers/originals/high-level-climate-finance

    Members of the panel included, as well as Lagarde, (then French Finance Minister), Lord Nicholas Stern, who at the time was involved in “carbon” trading via IdeaCarbon, Jens Stoltenberg, then PM of Norway, now head of NATO, our very own Chris Huhne, hedge fund billionaire George Soros, a major Democrat/Clinton funder and Caio Koch-Weser of Deutsche Bank. Stern (and Pachauri) were one time members of Deutsche Bank Advisory Board on climate change.

    “The Advisory Group emphasized the importance of a carbon price in the range of US$20-US$25 per ton of CO2 equivalent in 2020 as a key element of reaching the US$100 billion per year. The higher the carbon price, the steeper the rise in available revenues and the stronger the mutual reinforcement of abatement potentials and different measures.”

    This is the continuing objective, a global “carbon” price, although Figueres would not push it at Paris, where she said it would be a deal breaker, leading to failure to get a “Paris Agreement”.

    Lagarde’s former position in the French government is still causing her problems, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-35121022, but it did not stop her being appointed as Head of the IMF. They clearly wanted one of their own in this key international role and the whole Strauss-Kahn affair was a convenient sting to get her into position.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Jaime, I wrote “actual temperature measurements”. These of course have to be agreed upon. For example, we could just have thermometer readings at locations where large telescopes have been installed. After all, this is a taxation issue.


  26. Besides carbon taxing and rationing policies, there is also the “dreaded” specter of government picking winners and losers among the various energy technologies. I would argue that our government has already picked solar and wind at the expense of nuclear. Besides “picking” there is also “finding” — that is research. Do we need a clean energy Manhattan project? We already had one. It was called the “Manhattan Project”! I don’t know how anyone can look at an energy pie chart without concluding nuclear is important.

    More research on nuclear is the biggest no-brainer I can see. There’s all kinds of tantilizing prospects with thorium, molten salt, traveling waves, breeders … etc. Maybe Lockheed Martin will solve it all with fusion and start a lunar tritium boom! By all means try to find better batteries (or supercapacitors, or something similar), but if there is something like that out there, it seems like some small entity is sure to find it and it will be unstopable.

    While no one can predict the long term future with certainty, it is not illegitimate for governments to look at long term prospects and create strategies. There is the possibility that too much CO2 might really be a problem along with the much derided (sometimes by me) concept of peak oil.

    I’d also like to point out that Michael Shellenberger has a new TED talk:


  27. Richard Tol states in his paper

    Only a modest carbon tax is needed to keep atmospheric concentrations below a high target but the required tax rapidly increases with the stringency of the target. If concentrations are to be kept below 450 ppm CO2eq, the global carbon tax should reach some $210/tCO2 in 2020 or so (Tol 2013).

    The 450 ppm CO2eq, would produce 2C of warming from pre-industrial levels if a doubling of CO2 on its own produces 3C of warming. The UNFCCC produced a graph for COP21 to illustrate the global emissions pathway needed to ensure 2C limit :-

    Whereas even with the all the vague policy proposals fully implemented global emissions will be about 10% higher in 2030 than in 2010, the 2C pathway has emissions 10-30% lower. That means a carbon tax of $210/tCO2 (now £170) would have to turn around the global relentless rise in emissions and have them falling rapidly. I am deeply sceptical that such a global policy would achieve anything like the that difference would be achieved even with an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent planner to impose the tax. The reasons for that scepticism can be found by applying the tax to real world examples.
    First let us apply a £170/tCO2 carbon tax to petrol, which produces 2.30kg of CO2 per litre. With 20% VAT applied is equivalent to 47p a litre added to the retail price. (Current excise duties with VAT are equivalent to £300/tCO2, the diesel £250/tCO2). For a car doing 15000 miles at 39mpg, this would generate an additional cost to the owner of £820 per year. Maybe a 15-30% increase in the full costs of running a small car in the UK. There is plenty of empirical visence of the effect of the oil price movements in the last couple of decades (especially in the period 2004-2008 when the price increased) to show that costs increases will have a much smaller effect on demand, whereas for the carbon tax to be effective it would need to have a much greater impact than the percentage cost increase.
    Second, let us apply a $210/tCO2 carbon tax to coal-fired power stations. They produce about 400kg of CO2 per megawatt, so the cost would rise by $84MWH. In China, coal-fired electricity will retail at less than $30 MwH. China would rapidly switch to nuclear power. Even so, its power generation emissions might not start falling for at least a decade. Alternatively it might switch to gas, where the carbon tax would be half that of coal.
    However, there is another lesson from oil prices, this time over the last three years. A small fall in demand leads to large falls in price, in the short term. That is the market responds by offsetting the cost of the global carbon tax. To use terms of basic economics the demand for fossil fuels is highly inelastic with respect to changes in price, and the supply of fossil fuels in the short term is highly inelastic to changes in demand. Emissions reductions policies have not just turned out to be pretty useless in practice, they are pretty useless in theory (with real world political constraints removed) as well.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. @manicbeancounter
    Indeed. A carbon tax of 47p per litre of petrol is political suicide. Therefore, we will miss the 2K target.

    Note that these climate policies consist of two components: An initial carbon tax, and its rate of increase (4-6% a year).


  29. Pingback: Richard Tol on a Global Carbon Tax | ManicBeancounter

  30. If I can understand Manicbeancounter’s argument then I suppose the dimmest politician or think tank wonk can do so too. Unless either his calculations or assumptions can be shown to be wrong, it seems to me he’s blown a big hole in the carbon tax argument.

    It would be good to have the opinions of other experts – historians for example. My knowledge is limited but I believe history shows that taxing necessities with inelastic demand like salt or sherry has dangerous unintended consequences, like wars and revolutions.

    Of course, there are influential people who argue that certain things considered necessities (meat, aircraft fuel) aren’t so. All you have to do is persuade people to stay home and eat their greens. That we can all be turned into Guardian-reading vegans stretches credibility, but then credibility is highly elastic, unlike the desire for hamburgers and holidays.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Manic,

    As we’ve only seen about 1C warming for an increase in CO2ppm of about 120, it seems rather unlikely we will hit the 2C target at 450ppm. Maybe it will happen, if anthropogenic aerosols have been masking a substantial part of the GHG warming so far (doubtful), but then you also have to consider how much of the warming is due to natural causes, because if a substantial contribution to the observed warming comes from internal (PDO/AMO etc.) or external (solar, decreased volcanic aerosols) variability then climate sensitivity will need to be pegged much lower than e.g. 3C. If it’s as low, or lower, than 1.5C (the IPCC’s lower bound of their ‘likely’ range), one wonders if there should be any need at all to impose a carbon tax.


  32. The stated objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) quoted in Article 2 is to “stabilise atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system.”

    The definition of “Dangerous Climate Change” has driven the agenda ever since and the current widely quoted definition of “dangerous” climate change is a rise of two degrees above pre-industrial levels, although there are now efforts to re-introduce an old target of 1.5 degrees.

    The whole argument fails on the fact that there is no evidence available to show that reducing emissions of CO2 will somehow control “global” temperature. The paleological record shows no such cause and effect. Archaeological and historical records show that there is nothing unique about today’s climate. In fact we are experiencing a rather benign period in climate history.

    The 2 degree meme is just that, a meme, first given an airing by economist Bill Nordhaus in 1975, when he stated: “If there were global temperatures more than 2 or 3° above the current average temperature, this would take the climate outside of the range of observations which have been made over the last several hundred thousand years.” He repeated it in a further paper in 1977 for the Cowles Institute:

    “This temperature increase is in fact well outside of the natural limits of the past 10,000 years during which agriculture and civilization developed. It is also higher than has existed over the past couple of million years.”

    The statement was not true, as there is considerable evidence of higher temperatures than today in past millennia. Even in recent times, there is evidence of considerably less ice in the Arctic in the early part of the last century, when Amundsen negotiated the NW Passage.

    In his 1975 paper entitled “Can We Control Carbon Dioxide”, (1975!) Nordhaus was quoting the gloomsters of the time, in particular, Mikhail Budyko, who was predicting that the Arctic would be free of ice within a decade. What happened to that? This moveable feast is manifested today in the outpourings of Peter Wadhams, a climate advisor to the Pope.

    A World Climate Conference held in Geneva in 1979 continued the efforts of the 1972 UN Conference on Human Development [organised by Maurice Strong] and led to the World Climate Programme.

    The UN Environment Programme “Ad Hoc Working Group of Legal and Technical Experts for the Elaboration of a Global Framework Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer” was established by decision of the UN Environment Programme Governing Council decision 12/14, part I. The first part of the fourth session of the working group was held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from October 22 to 26, 1984.

    Following on from this, the UN Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, and the International Council of Scientific Unions proposed a major scientific conference to assess the carbon dioxide/ozone and climate question in October 1985 at Villach, Austria.

    The participants at the Villach Conference were a small group of environmental scientists and research managers in non-governmental organizations. Some are still involved in the process, eg Michael Oppenheimer of Princeton, formerly of Environmental Defense, (still an advisor), a co-founder of the Climate Action Network and a prominent member of the IPCC.

    The whole ethos was a perceived threat to planetary climate stability, which was to be controlled within a strategy that was consistent with sustainable development, eventually incorporated in the Brundtland Report. [Agenda 21, now Agenda 2030].

    They anticipated an unprecedented rise of global mean temperature in the first half of the 21st century. The scale and actual increase in global mean temperature was expected to be higher than any rise in the record of the planet’s history. Whilst there are constant attempts to realise this claim with the annual “hottest on record”, satellite temperatures have shown nothing of the kind.

    Another result of the work by the participants at Villach was the establishment of the Advisory Group on Greenhouse Gases in 1986, (AGGG). This group was established to ensure continued academic and public interest in the effect of rising levels of greenhouse gases on the ozone layer and on climate change.

    The Brundtland Report, published in 1987, popularized sustainable development and advocated the development of a low-energy economy and subsequently led to the 1988 “Conference on the Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security”, in Toronto, which called for 20 percent reductions in CO2 emissions.

    The 1988 Toronto Conference then led to the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with the mandate for continuing international research on climate change. The Advisory Group followed that up by preparing the Meeting of Legal and Policy Experts in February 1989 in Ottawa, which recommended an umbrella consortium to protect the atmosphere.

    The AGGG recommended that the global average temperature not be allowed to rise more than 1ºC, using the Precautionary Principle. Their recommendation was based on not exceeding the historical temperature limit that they claimed had existed throughout the age of agriculture.

    We are already supposed to be there and the sky has not fallen in. The 1 degree target became 1.5 degrees and then morphed into 2 degrees, as the EU’s global temperature target of 2°C above pre-industrial was first established in 1996 during preparations for the Kyoto negotiations, and has been reaffirmed subsequently in various Environment Council and European Council conclusions.

    This limit was first promoted in 1996 by John Schellnhuber, Director of the Potsdam Institute and also a climate advisor to the Pope. He used the Nordhaus reasoning, together with modelling results from the IPCC 2nd assessment. In 1997, Greenpeace International Political Director Bill Hare, was proposing a limit of 1.5 degC and promoted the idea of the carbon budget, whereby we all had a lifetime allowance of CO2 emissions, which we in the West had exceeded.

    Hare subsequently, in 2002, became esconced at Potsdam, still as a Greenpeace employee. He has been a significant IPCC contributor and driven a lot of the policy statements coming from Potsdam. He is now also the head of Climate Analytics, part of the Climate Tracker group of affiliates which is monitoring the INDC’s agreed at Paris and is responsible for re-introducing his 1997 aim of 1.5 deg C.

    And there you have it, the scientific basis for controlling global temperature to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial, (when it was actually pretty damn cold, coming out of the LIA).

    It is all about power, politics and money, with a global agenda of a global carbon price, to be controlled by the UN and administered by the major financial institutions. Trillions of dollars are at stake. Controlling the energy supply is the mechanism for the ultimate control of populations.

    All the claims and counter claims about climate and CO2 are, as Joe Bastardi has said, arguments about how many angels you can get on the head of a pin, The Agenda moves on regardless.

    Liked by 5 people

  33. Richard Tol @7.44am
    I agree that it is politically unacceptable, but do you agree that demand for fossil fuels in highly inelastic , so the carbon tax would be ineffective?
    My example of the carbon tax petrol prices is probably the most extreme example of demand inelasticity. In the USA it would be more effective simply because there is very little excise duty at present, so current typical car size tends to be somewhat larger than in Europe. But the carbon tax would probably have the biggest impact on emissions in emerging economies in two ways.

    First, with higher fossil fuel emissions per $1000 of GDP the impact on output would be relatively greater in the emerging economies than in the OECD. A globally uniform carbon tax would end up transferring back some manufacturing back to the more energy efficient economies, slowing economic growth and thus emissions growth. Rough figures of kg of CO2 emissions per $1000 of GDP are
    1450 Russia, Iran, South Africa
    900 China, India
    300 USA, Japan, Canada, Australia
    225 Germany, Netherlands
    120-200 France, Italy, Spain, UK

    Second, is that emerging countries have large parts of the population with very low energy consumption. Even those with access to gas and electricity have much lower energy consumption than is typical in the West, whether from heating, air conditioning, cooking, or private transport. Pushing up the cost of energy will massively slow down the spread of consumerism and consequent living standards.


  34. @MBC
    The price elasticity of energy demand is indeed very low in the short-run. It is much higher in the long run.

    The big worry for climate policy, studiously avoided by the majority of its advocates, is that you need lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development.

    Liked by 4 people

  35. Not a lot of people seem to have noticed Richard Tol’s article outside this blog. One who has is our frequent commenter AndThen.


    In an article complaining that he can’t understand why people won’t change their minds, even when he tells them they’re wrong, he criticises the Royal Society for letting Matt Ridley give a speech there. He admits he doesn’t know what Ridley is going to say, but he knows it will be wrong because he’s associated with the GWPF. Then he says that the article by Tol, who is an Academic Advisor to the GWPF, is “actually mostly quite sensible.”

    We’ve often accused AndThen of trolling here, because of his incoherent illogical comments. Now we know better. He trolls everywhere, even at his own blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  36. RICHARD TOL (16 Oct 16 at 5:17 pm)

    The price elasticity of energy demand is indeed very low in the short-run. It is much higher in the long run.

    One is tempted to quote a famous economist’s comment to the effect that in the long run we’re all as inelastic as old knickers.

    More to the point, the short run is about persuading voters to accept a 50% increase in a major slice of their household expenditure to benefit someone, somewhere sometime, perhaps. You can talk about risk and waggle your fat-tailed distibution in their face all you like, but there’s always an election coming up soon. Forget it.

    The long run is about weaning a billion people off ever-so-renewable dung-fired heating on to something more efficient and less hard on their lungs. This is what the Chinese are doing by selling cheap coal-fired power stations in Africa. No worldwide tax plan will stop this.

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Richard Tol @ 5.17pm
    I agree with you that the price elasticity is much higher in the long run. With respect to fossil fuel energy costs this might be difficult to observe, as in real terms in the very long run they have fallen and certainly fallen as a proportion of average income in both advanced economies and globally. In terms of oil price, the real cost I believed has more stabilized in real terms than risen, as production costs have risen.
    The question is how long is the long run? I think that it might be considerably longer than would be commensurate with the UNFCCC’s 2C emission pathway. The reason’s for this are clear. Households invest in better insulation, more efficient heating systems, and low-power appliances. They also spend more time commuting and optimizing their energy usage, and take less long-distance holidays. Eventually people move into smaller, more energy-efficient homes. But real incomes will also be increasing which will partly offset the impact. In emerging economies with high rates
    In terms of supply, if the carbon tax is large enough there will be a switch from fossil fuel usage to other sources. On the basis of a $210 carbon tax phased in, it would be from coal to gas. Nuclear is an unpopular option and more expensive, whilst no rational economic actor based on a carbon tax alone would go down a predominately wind-based route.

    On the second part of your comment, I quite agree that lots of power is needed for economic development. The empirical evidence is confirmed by assuming that the $210 carbon tax is applied without any change in demand at all. I will extend my comment of 4.09pm using the estimated CO2 emissions from fossil fuels for 2013 from CDIAC http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/emis/meth_reg.html and the IMF 2015 GDP figures for ballpark estimates.
    Global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels were about 33.8 billion tonnes. A $210 carbon tax without any effect on demand would generate $7100 bn. This represents nearly 10% of global GBP of $73500bn.
    Here is the same calculation for selected countries.
    30-33% Iran, Russia, South Africa
    19-20% India, China
    16-18% Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam
    11-14% Poland, Czech Republic, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia.
    7% Bangladesh, Phillipines
    6-7% USA, Japan, Canada, Australia
    4-5% Spain. Germany, Nigeria
    UK 3.4% France 2.9%
    In general as a countrys’ economic growth takes off its energy usage (usually fossil fuel usage) per unit of GDP increases to a peak. It then declines as the economy matures. The hardest hit by a uniform global carbon tax are those economies with a combination of rapid economic growth and similar or higher rates of emissions growth. The least hardest hit are the mature European economies with low emissions per unit of GDP. So, in terms of constraining global emissions a uniform carbon tax targets the right area. That is those the emerging economies which are lower-middle to middle income, with over half the global population. Morally that is the wrong area.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Geoff, AndThen has a long standing and still active Jihad against Ridley and the GWPF. Previous Fatwah targets include Richard Tol and Paul Matthews. But the Fatwah against Tol has apparently been rescinded, despite his association with the GWPF. Some people must simply lack the skepticism to think seriously about something before they give vent to their instincts. It rather fits the Lew crowd AndThen likes to write papers with though. The bottom line here is that if what you say is true and consistent, these issues become a lot easier.


  39. Richard Tol, you said: “The big worry for climate policy, studiously avoided by the majority of its advocates, is that you need lots of cheap energy in the early stages of economic development.”

    You seem to be an advocate of a carbon tax, or so I gather from “First-best climate policy is a uniform carbon tax which gradually rises over time…”

    Am I right to assume that you don’t avoid the “big worry” and if so, how do you square this with your support for a “uniform carbon tax”. Is it that the tax must vary depending upon the country and so that a uniform tax isn’t actually “first best” in practice, even if it might be in theory?

    Also your list of reasons for the debate on climate policy being difficult omits a rather obvious source of conflict – that fossil fuel companies put a lot of effort into derailing the formation of a coherent climate policy by undermining confidence in the science. And that parts of the political spectrum took up this effort by claiming the whole thing is a hoax, that the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist, etc.


  40. @MBC, Geoff
    The long-run is ill-defined. Staying with the example of the automotive sector, in the short-run you have little discretion over how much petrol you use. Over time, you’ll change your car, more fuel-efficient models appear on the market, patterns of work / study / leisure change, alternative modes of travel appear, and cities change their shape. Some of these things will happen in the next decade, others after our death — but basically all agree that these changes are too slow to lead us to 2K warming (unless Dick Lindzen is right about the climate sensitivity).


  41. Slight correction to my first comment:
    15 Oct 16 at 11:50 am

    Lord Stern was in fact a former member, as an economist, of the Potsdam Scientific Advisory Board, not the Deutsche Bank Climate Advisory Board. That was another Lord, Lord Oxburgh, who exonerated UEA scientists in one of the Climategate enquiries. Schellnhuber, Director of Potsdam and Climate Adviser to the Pope, was also on the Deutsche Bank advisory board and is a member of Stern’s Grantham Institute Advisory Board.

    Lord Oxburgh was identified in a UEA press release at the time of Climategate as being ‘President of the Carbon Capture and Storage Association and Chairman of Falck Renewables’, a company involved in construction and operation of windfarms. Stern is on the International Advisory Board of the CCS Institute in Australia, set up initially by Kevin Rudd.

    Another LSE Grantham economist, Sam Fankhauser, has been on the UK Climate Change Committee since its inception in 2008, and advises the government on climate policy. He has commercial interests
    as an Associate Director of Vivid Economics. https://www.theccc.org.uk/about/structure-and-governance/committee-on-climate-change/ and was previously involved with Stern’s Idea Carbon consultancy, as was recent IPCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, before taking up the UN post.

    Forty one years on from economist Nordhaus and his 2 degrees, they are still recycling the same stuff and none of the billions spent on “climate measures” has made an iota of difference to the earth’s climate, but a lot of people have become richer.

    Follow on from my second comment, 16 Oct 16 at 11:30 am:

    The IPCC First Assessment Report was in 1990, chapter 7 of WGI said this “A global warming of larger size has almost certainly occurred at least once since the end of the last glaciation without any appreciable increase in greenhouse gases.” That negates the whole AGW paradigm, but we know what has happened since then.

    In 1992, after the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the Commission on Global Governance was formed at the suggestion of Willy Brandt, a former West German chancellor and then President of the Socialist International. It recommended that “user fees” should be imposed on companies operating in the “global commons.”

    Such fees could be collected on international airline tickets, ocean shipping, deep-sea fishing, activities in Antarctica, geostationary satellite orbits, and electromagnetic spectrum. The main revenue stream would be carbon taxes, to be levied on all fossil fuels. “A carbon tax,” the report said, would yield very large revenues indeed.


    Sound familiar? The objective is still the same, Paris is another step along the way.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. On a theme!


    The figure of 13 climate conferences should however be 21, with 22 coming up:

    “The 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UNFCCC is scheduled to take place from 7-18 November 2016. During COP 22, parties will, inter alia, begin preparations for entry into force of the Paris Agreement.”



  43. Layer upon layer upon layer of complexity emanating from the science itself, from risk assessment analysis, the economics, the politics, the administrative bureaucracy of climate change and its mitigation, sociologists arguing about ‘climate justice’, etc. etc. tends to obscure the rather simple choice which faces humanity. We either accept that, on the basis of the evidence presented so far, it is more likely than not that climate sensitivity to CO2 is sufficiently large to worry about reducing CO2 emissions drastically right now, or we don’t. All this nonsense about keeping CO2 equivalent below 450ppm if we are to avoid ‘dangerous’ climate change (arbitrarily defined as 2C above a pre-industrial hypothetical mean global temperature which we can’t really measure with any real accuracy anyway) at some point in the future (generally supposed to be about 2100) just detracts from the real issue: How can we empirically demonstrate – with sufficient accuracy in order to form the basis of a definite global emissions policy – the sensitivity of global climate to increasing CO2? I think the answer is, we can’t. Next major existential issue threatening humanity and the planet please.

    Liked by 3 people

  44. No Ken, Richard was just pulling your leg so you would come on here and ‘substantially contribute to the conversation’ by saying, “Are you seriously suggesting . . . . “

    Liked by 2 people

  45. Ken Rice: ’m genuinely struggling to see…

    We note that Ken generally ‘genuinely’ struggles to see. Do we believe that this myopia can contribute here?

    The discussion here is about the structure of the climate debate, and in particular the POVs that exist on the issue of one point of debate in particular — the rights and wrongs of a carbon tax.

    Someone else’s struggle to ‘genuinely see’ doesn’t seem to be on topic. Moreover, we can see from that person’s own site that he has contempt for debate, and is thus urging the closing down of a perspective in the debate, because just one organisation has hired a room from another, which to that person who struggles to see genuinely, signifies some nefarious goings on, in spite of the same room having been hired before for the same ends, and zero of what this seemingly signifies took place.

    I suggest that we remind Ken that there was an interesting discussion going on here, and that if he cannot contribute to it, he should stick to merely reading it.


  46. Ben,
    Okay, Richard has written a paper on the structure of the climate debate. He appears to be suggesting that cliscep is a site that others should use an example. In particular, that they should follow cliscep’s example. I find that there is little – if anything – to recommend about cliscep and the only example that I can think of would be an example of what not to do. I genuinely find it quite remarkable that someone who has published a peer-reviewed paper on the structure of the climate debate would suggest cliscep as an example of good practice.


  47. Nobody here cares what you find ‘genuinely remarkable’, Ken. Nor do they believe that there is much genuine about your incredulity. Hence, it is only likely to be seen — here — as trolling to disrupt, as has been explained to you many times. Perhaps a discussion about what you find ‘genuinely remarkable’ would interest your own readers.

    If you don’t like this site, it is remarkable that you would read and comment on it so regularly — more often, in fact, than many of the site’s authors.


  48. Richard, indeed, it has been a very constructive discussion here. As well as not insulting you, most people have engaged directly with the points you raise in the article. No questions have been raised about your funding, and nobody has tried to imply that you must be wrong simply because of the people you choose to talk to.

    In return, you have calmly debated the issues with those who disagree with you.

    As you say, this is how climate blogs should work, though they rarely do.

    In the interests of continuing a constructive debate, comments that are less constructive may be removed on this thread.


  49. @paul
    Please accept my apologies for changing the subject.

    The discussion plays at two levels:
    What is the best way to regulate greenhouse gas emissions?
    How stringent should the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions be?

    Economists like Mendelsohn and McKitrick would agree with me (or rather with Weitzman) that a carbon tax is the optimal form of government intervention, but would argue for a carbon tax that is near zero.


  50. Richard, you are forgiven.

    I’m still concerned with the global issue, the problem of carbon emissions simply moving to the least regulated part of the planet, as is already happening.


  51. @Paul
    That is possible in theory. The question is how strong it is in practice. These are the four most influential papers.





    And here is a survey:

    The survey concludes as follows
    The main findings of the vast literature on the relationship between FDI and environmental regulations can be summarized in the following manner. The empirical studies show that it is very hard to find widespread support for the PHH that is triggered by FDI flows from developed to developing countries. For many industries and many firm types, ECC are not found to be a major determinant of FDI. In particular, in most polluting industries and natural-resource-seeking firms, anecdotal evidence of industrial relocation from developed to developing countries is available. In this sense, pollution haven effect is present; however, PHH is not empirically supported. At this point, it is important to note that any empirical investigation of this issue is not without challenges: there is neither a clear measure of ECC nor a consensus over the definition of ECC, there are various problems with the availability and quality of ECC data for the developing countries, and the other possible factors that shape FDI are not entirely identified.

    PHH = Pollution haven hypothesis
    FDI = Foreign direct investment
    ECC = Environmental control costs

    Liked by 2 people

  52. “Layer upon layer upon layer of complexity emanating from the science itself”……”How can we empirically demonstrate – with sufficient accuracy in order to form the basis of a definite global emissions policy – the sensitivity of global climate to increasing CO2?”

    It is enlightening to see how much progress has been made by climate science since 1990.

    Climate Sensitivity

    FAR (1990): “The range of results from model studies is 1.9 to 5.2°C, a value of climate sensitivity of 2.5°C has been chosen as the best estimate. However, models results do
    not justify altering the previously accepted range of 1.5 to 4.5°C.

    SAR(1995): “The range in estimated climate sensitivity of 1.5 to 4.5°C is largely dictated by this uncertainty (clouds).”

    TAR(2001): “Climate sensitivity is likely to be in the range of 1.5 to 4.5°C. This estimate is unchanged from the first IPCC Assessment Report in 1990 and the SAR. ”

    AR4(2007): “Climate Sensitivity is likely to be in the range 2°C to 4.5°C with a best estimate of about 3°C, and is very unlikely to be less than 1.5°C. Values substantially higher than 4.5°C cannot be excluded, but agreement of models with observations is not as good for those values.”

    AR5(2013): ” Equilibrium climate sensitivity is likely in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C (high
    confidence), extremely unlikely less than 1°C (high confidence), and very unlikely greater than 6°C (medium confidence). The lower temperature limit of the assessed likely range is thus less than the 2°C in the AR4, but the upper limit is the same.”

    Pretty impressive stuff – Eh!

    Liked by 4 people

  53. Indeed Clive and that, at least to my mind, must be the
    fundamental building block for policy decisions. Tax payers
    should be asking serious questions about why the billions of
    dollars poured into research has not reduced the uncertainty
    in this value for ~30 years.


  54. Prof. Tol, it is still unclear (to me at least) what you think the best method for reducing CO2 emissions is. You said that the best climate policy is a uniform carbon tax that gradually rises over time, but also that climate policy advocates avoid the fact that cheap energy is needed in the early stages of economic development. So are you saying that although a uniform carbon tax might be the best climate policy from an economic perspective, a practical tax should be more aware of differences in human welfare and instead ask more of countries that are already developed? Or do you adhere strictly to economics (i.e. do you also avoid the fact that developing economies need cheap energy)?

    Also your list of reasons for the debate on climate policy being difficult omits a rather obvious source of conflict – that fossil fuel companies put a lot of effort into derailing the formation of a coherent climate policy by undermining confidence in the science. And that parts of the political spectrum took up this effort by claiming the whole thing is a hoax, that the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist, etc. Was that just an oversight, or do you think this is really not a factor in the debate?


  55. @nino
    A carbon tax is the best way to reduce greenhouse gases. I think that every country should decide for itself at what level it wants to set that tax — an irrelevant opinion as that is what they’ll do anyway.

    I do not believe for one second that big oil derails climate policy. That is a cheap talking point by environmentalists to distract from their failure to formulate realistic climate policy option.

    Liked by 3 people

  56. Ah, okay, so it is just a carbon tax that is best, not the uniform carbon tax you wrote in the paper.

    Do you really think that oil money (or more generally money from those who stand to lose from action against their product or its results) hasn’t contributed to the current state of the climate debate? They put a lot of money and effort to work in the cause of raising doubt about climate (as did other industries such as tobacco, asbestos, lead etc – doubt is the product, remember). They have a lot of politicians playing for them. It would be remarkable the desired end result (the current situation) had occurred coincidentally to their efforts.

    As for environmentalists supposed failure to formulate a realistic climate policy option, are you saying that they don’t favour exactly the policy option you support – a carbon tax? Does the campaign by Hansen’s group for a tax and dividend not represent exactly that policy (with neutrality added on)?


  57. NINO, You have nothing on the oil industry that is worthwhile. The Greens have far more money from Soros, Steyer, and their ilk. That’s why blaming oil money is like burning witches to cure an epidemic. The real cause is that climate policy is not very palatable politically. The oil industry is actually heavily invested in natural gas, which everyone I think agrees is a short term way to reduce emissions.


  58. @Nino
    I’ve closely followed climate policy for 25 years now, and I’ve never noticed that the oil industry is particularly powerful or effective in this debate. David is right, of course, that the amount of money that goes into lobbying for climate policy dwarfs the money against.

    It is the environmental movement that brought us the failed negotiations from Berlin 1995 to Copenhagen 2009, the anti-fracking and the anti-nuclear sentiment, and the premature move to wind and solar.

    Liked by 4 people

  59. Nino asks Richard

    Do you really think that oil money (or more generally money from those who stand to lose from action against their product or its results) hasn’t contributed to the current state of the climate debate? They put a lot of money and effort to work in the cause of raising doubt about climate (as did other industries such as tobacco, asbestos, lead etc – doubt is the product, remember). They have a lot of politicians playing for them. It would be remarkable the desired end result (the current situation) had occurred coincidentally to their efforts.

    The profit motive for intervening in the debate is entirely misunderstood by the green perspective. I can remember Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas appearing on a BBC World Service show in 2008 talking about the possibility of >$200 oil, proclaiming that ‘the era of cheap oil is over’, and that peak oil was a major contributing factor to the then unfolding global financial situation. Appearing alongside Lucas was the owner of an oil well. He couldn’t get enough of Lucas’s peak oil scaremongering, and agreed absolutely with everything she said. The greens and OPEC were well-aligned at the time, and that was the context of DECC’s absurd price forecasts, which green campaigners of all kinds used to make the price case for renewables.

    And that’s why evidence supporting Nino’s claim is non-existent. At the time, I was looking after an old Dutch barge while its occupants were on holiday. It was minus 10 or so outside, and there was all but pack ice on the Ouse. Keeping the place warm for me and the cats cost a fortune in coal and gas. Energy companies knew — and always have done — that renewables are no threat to them, and if it were, they could just as quickly diversify… “Divest” in the green vernacular. What greens never admitted was that any costs of ‘transition’ would always be borne by the consumer.

    Energy companies are far more generous to green organisations. Hence, we find the Sierra Club taking gas money to lobby against coal. (And the ridiculous allegations from NATO that Putin was bankrolling the anti-fracking movement in the UK, which I don’t think stand any scrutiny). But not inconsiderable sums have flowed from Big Oil to green research in Universities, and to political outfits like the Green Alliance and other NGOs. And also to green consultancies as part of CSR, aka ‘greenwashing’ commitments.

    “Doubt” is not the product of companies seeking to protect themselves from regulation or policies. “Doubt” is a concept in legal action. And to the extent that tobacco companies created doubt where there was none from a scientific POV, it was to defend against class action lawsuits. The analogue of ‘doubt’ in policy-making is ‘uncertainty’, but it is no obstacle, thanks to innovations such as the precautionary principle, and the emphasis on the mitigation ‘risk’ (thanks to Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens) that characterises today’s politics. The the modern environmental movement was no less the bastard lovechild of hungry lawyers.

    The who-funds-who arguments are variously the vulgar form of the ‘structure of the climate debate’. As appealing as it is to state ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’, interests can’t be read off so easily, so as to triangulate the ‘correct’ — the least contaminated — position. In the US, a political fault-line exists substantively between old and new industrial sectors, not between right and left. The nominative ‘left’ advances seemingly ‘progressive’ causes — equal rights and the environment — but not to the risk of its billionaire, philanthropic benefactors. That is to say that George Soros’s balance isn’t going to be affected by gay marriage. Accordingly, gay working class married couples aren’t going to be able, when the Glorious Moment arrives, to bargain collectively in their material interests when the industrial sectors that employ them are fully at the mercy of climate regulators. They may instead have to take minimum wage jobs serving skinny lattes to their better-educated counterparts in the IT sector, and hope for tips. Arguably, the quasi-Marxist billionaire philanthropist is far more rapacious than his C19th counterpart.


  60. Today there is an article at Vox about a proposed carbon tax in Washington state called I-732, and why the Democrats are opposed to it, so it’s unlikely to be passed. The ratio of article length to my interest in it is too large for me to explain in one sentence why the left are against it.


  61. Prof. Tol, the efforts of vested interests against climate policy should clearly be in your list of reasons for the state of the debate. That they are smaller than any other contributor doesn’t change that, unless they are insignificant. You say the oil industry is not particularly powerful or effective in the debate, but how would you know? Do you have an accurate record of all the sources of industry funding for the promotion of doubt?

    Also with regard to environmentalists supposed failure to formulate a realistic climate policy option, they appear to support exactly the policy option you support – a carbon tax – as evidenced by the campaign by Hansen’s group for a tax and dividend. That isn’t really altered by the failure of the COP1 to COPx negotiations you mention. Are you saying that environmentalists only recently began to support a carbon tax, or that if they’d been stronger/purer in that support COPx would have ‘succeeded’, or what?

    Ben, your claim that “to the extent that tobacco companies created doubt where there was none from a scientific POV, it was to defend against class action lawsuits” is a ludicrous rewriting of history.


  62. Nino — “to the extent that tobacco companies created doubt where there was none from a scientific POV, it was to defend against class action lawsuits” is a ludicrous rewriting of history.

    Thank you for your hollow opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

  63. @nino
    Let me know when you have any evidence of a significant impact of the oil lobby on climate policy.

    There are, of course, environmentalists who favour carbon taxes. They are outnumbered and outflanked, however, by those who favour direct regulation. This finds its roots in the historical and cultural antecendents of environmentalism. Command and control also fosters the environmental lobby within the civil service.

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Richard, yes. To put it more bluntly, environmentalists tend to have left-wing, authoritarian, big government views (it amuses me that there are hundreds of social science papers saying that sceptics tend to be right-wing, pro-market libertarians, but hardly any of them look at the other side of the coin). So they tend to favour direct regulation rather than a more market-based approach such as a carbon tax.


  65. @nino
    As I wrote the above, the CEO of ExxonMobil repeated his call for a carbon tax. Royal Dutch Shell has called for that for two decades now. BP disastrously flirted with renewables under Browne, but has since joined Royal Dutch and ExxonMobil in their call for a stable climate policy. They do this in public, as you can readily verify, and as far as I know behind closed doors too.


  66. It’s a waste of time worrying what effect the oil companies will have on the climate debate when oil customers will do all the work for them. Who would/does suffer first if there was a tax on CO2? Those who can barely afford energy now. Those voices range from industry to the lowliest of consumers. They are far more mighty and persuasive than any PR guy or company exec. They include the people in power too.

    Silly politicians may not understand enough about electricity or renewables but they can see the effects of energy policy on jobs and trade and public mood. At the moment they keep hoping that the next green grand scheme will work but the shine has gone from their naïve enthusiasm.

    I’m assuming that the idea behind a carbon tax is that it nudges us to make lower energy choices? Maybe, but only in a very limited way. Eg why don’t people buy an electric car? Is it the price? No, it’s range anxiety and refill time. Thousands of people run out of petrol every year. Consider the same event with an electric car – nightmare. In the UK, many homes now have done the easy energy reduction choices. From here on in it gets very expensive and very difficult. A small tax or even a medium tax wouldn’t make those changes viable. All experiments I’ve seen detailing refurbishing old housing stock to high standards are very expensive and take decades to pay back the outlay.


    Even if you add a carbon tax, would the majority be able to pay for the upgrade, never mind live there long enough to recoup the money? What about landlords?

    The price of energy in the US seems to be about half the UK and our CO2 has been about half too. But how much of the difference is due to very different structure and how much is due to higher energy prices? We have smaller homes, smaller cars, less possessions and travel shorter distances, but these are due to the more cramped nature of our country, not because we actively choose to use less energy. In other words, if the US price of energy was the same as ours, would they, could they use the same amount of energy? Probably not. I put it to you that doubling the price of fuel would not be classed as a moderate carbon tax but still wouldn’t seriously dent US emissions.

    Liked by 4 people

  67. Prof. Tol, are you saying the GCC disbanded because it was ineffectual?

    I have often wondered why green movements also tend to be sociaist. But you don’t have to be socialist to think that a carbon tax alone is not likely to end the fossil fuel age quickly. But it will clearly change expectations and alter behaviour in the long term. Meanwhile, I think reguation is also needed. Does that make me a socialist?


  68. Richard writes,

    the CEO of ExxonMobil repeated his call for a carbon tax. Royal Dutch Shell has called for that for two decades now. BP disastrously flirted with renewables under Browne, but has since joined Royal Dutch and ExxonMobil in their call for a stable climate policy.

    Nino replies,

    I think reguation is also needed. Does that make me a socialist?

    I think it makes Nino an oil exec.


  69. Richard –

    I know you are a fan of Tinbergen’s dictum that you need one (and only one) policy for an issue. But this seems a bit like a dogma. Besides, you have to re-define climate change as a problem that is only caused by CO2. What about the other drivers, like HFCs, or methane, or land-use patterns?

    The only successful global environmental treaty to date, the Montreal Protocol, did not rely on a CFC tax. should it have done so?

    Belief in the Tinbergen dogma seems to inhibit an answer to my and Nino’s question: how do we get cheap, zero carbon energy in the short term?

    Liked by 1 person

  70. @paul
    In a constrained optimisation problem, you want to have as many control variables as you have constraints.

    Say you want to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power generation. Suppose you want to do this at minimum cost. Your emission target is your constraint. Your carbon tax is your control variable.

    You can of course introduce a second control variable, say a target for the share of renewables. The second control cannot decreases costs, but it can increase costs.


  71. not expressing myself very clearly

    In a constrained optimisation, you need as many control variables as constraints.

    If you add a control variable, you need to add a constraint.

    If you add a constraint, the optimand cannot improve.

    Liked by 1 person

  72. Nice theory, but reality gets in the way. There are clearly political constraints (the level of taxation needed to reach the emission target may not be politically feasible) to add to the emission target constraint, so it is not a single-constraint problem. A carbon tax alone is hence insufficient.

    Also, you earlier doubted that opposition by vested interests (the oil lobby, among others) had any effect. But you didn’t answer: are you saying the GCC (Global Climate Coalition) disbanded because it was ineffectual?


  73. @nino
    It is not theory. It’s math. You appear not to have read Samuelson either.

    Any feasible target can be met by a carbon tax.* A carbon tax is the cheapest way to meet any target.

    If a target cannot be met by a carbon tax, then it cannot be met by other means either. Any policy intervention has an equivalent carbon tax that meets the same target at lower cost.

    *If you don’t want to read Samuelson (1944), you can find the same result in older math texts under “duality” in British English, “adjoint” in American English.

    Liked by 1 person

  74. You said earlier that a constraint optimization problem needed as many control variables as it has constraints. The climate problem has at least two constraints so it needs at least two control variables. That is your logic, not mine. All you are now doing is defining away the second constraint by addressing only “feasible target[s]”. So if the second constraint (lack of political practicality) makes a carbon tax insufficient, you can just ignore it claiming still to be correct that all we need is a carbon tax. That is just solving the problem you want to solve, not the real one – doubtless academically satisfying, but not very useful.

    Equally, you earlier doubted that opposition by vested interests (the oil lobby, among others) had any effect. But you still haven’t answered whether you think the GCC (Global Climate Coalition, operational during your 25-year period of personal interest) disbanded because it was ineffectual? Is that also not the real-world question you want to answer?


  75. Pingback: Another 97% | …and Then There's Physics

  76. > Nobody here cares […]

    Not only Mr. Pile can edit comments and make sure guest commenters are banned, he can probe many minds at the same time.

    Mr. Pile’s powers only bow to Chuck Norris.


  77. Does anybody here think Willard is contributing to discussion on this site?

    I seem to have upset him, and he is expressing some anger — or possibly some Sunday evening lonely boredom — out on the rest of audience. I suspect he’s still bitter at having been banned from my blog about three years ago. He brings it up routinely.

    Liked by 1 person

  78. It’s probably one of the standard moves in the play book of that game he witters on about.


  79. The explanation for willards appearance is that Ken Rice has recently returned from mostly science to the climate wars, has reissued his Fatwahs against Prof. Tol and this web site as well as Ridley. He has been discussing Ben deletion of comments. Apparently this site has strayed from the non censorship policy a few times in the past but is generally not worthy of notice, except when it allows a Fatwah target to comment a lot.


  80. Looks like Willard is here to do some tiny little pointy sword rattling on behalf of his pals at ATTP who are much peeved at being kicked off/moderated by Cliscep because they have nothing much to say and they take far too long to say it.

    “Not only Mr. Pile can edit comments and make sure guest commenters are banned . . . . . ”

    That’s correct. Other admins can edit comments (though I suspect Willard may have got his ‘can’ in the wrong place), but the decision to ban timewasters and trolls is put to a vote.


  81. And of course, the worst offender in still Real Climate where inline corrections are inserted into comments to rebut them line by line. Generally, however, one must admire Steve McIntyre whose moderation policy is I think excellent. He also is reluctant to moderate disagreeing comments even if they are mostly content free as were those from ATTP in his last appearance there.


  82. In all my years of being around the climate blogosphere, I have learned a huge amount about CFD, science, and climate. Willard has made zero contribution to any of these things so far as I can recall.


  83. Willard has made zero contribution to any of these things so far as I can recall.

    I think that’s probably true. But we should thank Willard for his concerns and all move on.


  84. Willard is free to post as many comments about me as he likes over at Ken Rice’s blog. However, the subject here is Richard Tol’s excellent paper.


  85. I don’t very often completely read scientific papers, but I did read this one and it reads a lot like an article in some sort of political opinion magazine where every third or forth sentence ends in a parenthesized reference. I’m not saying that it’s bad, but I don’t find its conclusion, that a uniform carbon tax, rising steadily over time being all we need is the “first-best” climate policy, to be convincing. If Increased CO2 concentration is a problem, taxing stuff that gives off CO2 when it burns is still a step away from the actual problem. Maybe a more energy intensive world where more carbon stuff is burned, will allow industrial scale processes to remove more CO2 for a net improvement.

    What ultimately determines how much CO2 is emitted or absorbed is what technologies are used. I think the best policy is to increase the menu of technologies. There also needs to be a more critical assessment of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  86. “I’m not saying that it’s bad, but I don’t find its conclusion, that a uniform carbon tax, rising steadily over time being all we need is the “first-best” climate policy, to be convincing.”

    That may be because that is not what the paper is about.

    First-best environmental policy was sorted in the 1970s by Baumol, Oates, Nordhaus, Weitzman, Montgomery, Bradford, Dasgupta, Heal. It’s translation to climate policy was completed in 1999 by Pizer. There is nothing new for me to say. I just paraphrase the old masters.


  87. Richard, yes, the main meat of the paper is section 4 about the structure and framing of the climate debate by the various actors involved (cripes, I’m starting to write like a social scientist!), not about the case for a carbon tax. You make this clear at the end of the intro: “Section 2 revisits the case for climate policy. Section 3 sketches the optimal design of climate policy. These sections are kept short because the material is well-rehearsed”. Perhaps I should have made it clearer in the blog post.


  88. If it is so well rehearsed, you should have little trouble answering my question, yet you are strangely reticent. The climate problem clearly has more than one constraint so according to you and the well rehearsed arguments it needs more than one control variable. In other words, doesn’t your own maths say that a carbon tax alone is insufficient.

    Equally, if the paper is all about the climate debate, why the reluctance to admit the obvious influence of opposition by vested interests (the oil lobby, among others). Do you think the GCC (Global Climate Coalition, operational during your 25-year period of personal interest) disbanded because it was ineffectual?


  89. Ok ,Prof. Tol, humouring you…

    1. Is political feasibility a constraint on policy for reducing emissions?
    2. Do you think the GCC (Global Climate Coalition) disbanded because it was ineffectual?

    Those questions should I hope be understandable for a professor of economics.


  90. Nino —Do you think the GCC (Global Climate Coalition) disbanded because it was ineffectual?

    Jeez. If you read the leaked memos and cross reference it to the Protocols of the Elders of Denial, you’ll see that the Exxon-funded Anti-Science PR UFO where the GCC had its HQ, lost its anti-gravity drive and fell into the sun. The contingency committee of the GCC reformed on Mars in 2008 and have plans to re-establish on Earth by the year 2200, when the replacement flying saucer arrives.


  91. Well, you are right. I don’t really understand. How is political feasibility measured for insertion into the cost function? It is not a discrete knowable value. It has no units. It depends upon public acceptance of both the constraint (emission target) and the control variable (the level of the carbon tax) and probably varies with time. What is it, a probability distribution?

    Also though you claim expertise in the structure of the climate debate, you seem remarkably reluctant to comment on whether the GCC (Global Climate Coalition) disbanded because it had been ineffectual.


  92. @nino
    Politically infeasible means that a blocking minority is unhappy. So, you buy them off (a cost) or you squash them (a cost).

    Just look at Wallonia. CETA is politically infeasible today. It won’t be tomorrow.


  93. Nino’s question about how you measure political feasibility is interesting, and Richard Tol’s response raises more questions than it answers. We can all understand his response with respect to Wallonia. Leaving aside the daftness of the political structure of the EU, which lets Wallonia have a veto and not, say, Sussex, it highlights something we’re all aware of – that democracy is a cost, and one of the prime purposes of governments is to reduce costs to a minimum.

    The example of carbon taxes is more problematic. Those most in favour of such a tax are also those who are most in favour of excluding the 70% of carbon emissions produced by developing countries; France will never tax its agriculture; the West will never tax its basic industries (including armaments of course) out of existence, but can’t nationalise or subsidise without breaking EU rules, and so on.
    Feasibility looks like a variable with a value somewhere between zero and infinity, at least in a chaotic system such as democracy. Of course, we can imagine other systems where the equation might work…

    Liked by 1 person

  94. Nino’s principal purpose for being on this increasingly long-winded thread is to convince us that fossil fuel industry lobbyists have played a significant part in forming (delaying) the implementation of climate policy. He demands that Richard provide evidence that the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists has been negligible but appears not to have provided counter-evidence that it has been significant. In view of the fact that climate policy as currently exists borders on the fanatical/ineffective/economically and environmentally suicidal and would appear not to favour fossil fuel interests very significantly, it seems more reasonable to concur with Richard’s viewpoint. In which case, perhaps Nino could provide us with more definitive evidence for his theory that fossil fuel lobbyists have significantly affected the formation of climate policy. Then we can go from there as to what relevance this has to Prof Tol’s paper.

    Liked by 1 person

  95. @geoff
    “France will never tax its agriculture.”

    Maybe, maybe not. Never is a long time.

    But your concern is easily incorporated in the cost function. If you assume that the cost of taxing agriculture is arbitrarily high, it will never be implemented. In mathematical terms, this is not a constraint but a property of the first-order conditions.


  96. Politically infeasible means that a blocking minority is unhappy.

    Not necessarily. It might be that a majority is unhappy. But either way, feasibility is just a price that is inserted into the cost function. From your lack of explanation and from its time variance and its dependence upon public acceptance of both the constraint and the control variable, I guess it is an arbitrary number (or curve), picked according to whether you want a solution to the equations or not; pick too high a value and the equations don’t resolve. I dare say you can learn from such a model. But at the point where the cost causes the model to fail, infeasibility has gone from a cost to an obstacle (I hesitate to call it a constraint, as that probably has domain-specific meaning). It is no longer just making the emission target more expensive to achieve, but preventing its achieval. And at that point you need other policy options beyond the simple tax. I’d argue we start from that position.

    Jaime, I was pursuing two interesting (to me) threads. The first is the stubborn insistence that only a carbon tax is necessary, despite evidence such as that given by TinyCO2 earlier that even the very high taxes on petrol found in Europe don’t lead (or haven’t yet led) to cleaner technologies dominating. The second is that Prof. Tol’s paper discusses the reasons for the state of the climate debate without even a mention of opposition to climate science and policy by vested interests. I’m not “demanding evidence” for anything, I’m simply expecting an academic, one who has written a learned paper about a subject of which he claims 25 years’ experience, not to completely ignore the influence of vested interests such as the GCC. It may be that he has investigated the GCC and found that it disbanded because it was ineffectual rather than because open support for its activities became politically unacceptable. Of course, if he found the former, it would be nice to have some evidence, but he is unlikely to provide it, especially as he can’t bring himself even to address this aspect of what he considers himself an expert.


  97. Is it just me, or does anyone else think that, where it’s possible to make sense of Nino’s argument, it in fact makes Richard’s case.

    E.g. dragging out the case of the GCC from the tomes of climate alarmist demonology seems to reveal merely a mythological beast, which, even if it existed, ceased tormenting the villages a long time ago.

    It might excite people who read Oreskes and or David Icke before they go to bed. But for anyone with a sense of proportion, the citing of a long-defunkt organisation as an omission from a survey of the debate — an analysis of its structure — is absurd. What counts is what is decisive, not what excites climate conspiracy theorists. If energy companies organised a half-arsed attempt to counter climate change science and/or policy in the late 80s, but couldn’t agree on its aims, there’s prima facie evidence right there that the oil industry simply was not sufficiently concerned, in whole or in parts, to organise against its looming death-by-regulation.

    It’s only in the imaginations of climate alarmists that satanic oil companies will be torn to shreds. Even 20 years late, the best that leading fantasists can come up with to scare the oil tycoons is ‘stranded assets’ — which nobody believes — and the divest campaign, which has only resulted in institutions selling shares to people who still want them.


  98. @nino
    Fuel taxes in Europe have indeed been very high compared to fuel taxes in North America. Commuting distances are much shorter in Europe. Cars are smaller and, weight-by-weight, more fuel efficient. And diesel are far more common. Fuel taxes have led to very substantial carbon dioxide emission reduction in Europe.


  99. Nino, you queried Richard about how exactly the carbon tax would operate and he responded to your questions. You pursued the issue of whether or not the fossil fuel industry had actively sown doubt about the science of climate change in order to derail climate policy, which obviously, a la Oreskes, you consider a reality, but you provided nothing to back up your claim. You say you weren’t demanding evidence to the contrary, but this comes close:

    “You say the oil industry is not particularly powerful or effective in the debate, but how would you know? Do you have an accurate record of all the sources of industry funding for the promotion of doubt?”

    So, in order to demonstrate that Richard should “clearly” have included the influence of fossil fuel lobbyists in the “list of reasons for the state of the debate” you need to provide some facts to back up your assertion. That was my point, and as far as I’m aware, there isn’t much in the form of factual evidence that would lead one to conclude this. As Richard points out, [ridiculously ineffective and often counter-productive] climate policy has been driven largely by environmentalists, not ‘derailed’ by fossil fuel lobbyists.

    I’m not convinced that a carbon tax would achieve a hoped for smooth transition to an economy less reliant upon fossil fuels, but I am reasonably certain that, if indeed it was very modest to begin with (increasing as viable alternative technologies came online), if current climate mitigation efforts and the insane bureaucratic machine which imposes them upon individuals and industry were to be largely disbanded, if climate sensitivity is on the low side (as seems to be the case according to observations) and hence climate change is a modest problem, rather than a ‘catastrophic’ one, then a carbon tax might indeed be ‘best policy’.

    Liked by 1 person

  100. I welcome the many comments that Richard Tol has made. Whilst I disagree with his assumption that the 2k limit on emissions could be reached by a carbon tax of $210 t/CO2e (or anything close), from his comments one can learn that about economically optimal policy; have some indication of why morally or politically a sub-optimal policy might be more desirable; and why there are diminishing returns to policy. That is there are some low-cost high-impact policies, but the marginal impact quickly turns into high-cost low-impact policies when extending more broadly. When we are morally squeamish about imposing low cost policies (as I would be about reducing economic growth in the poorest countries on earth such as Chad & Niger); or destabilizing emerging economies (as Indonesia fear will be the impact from their INDC submission); or introducing high levels of regressive taxation – then we should avoid mitigation policy. If CAGW is inevitable or highly likely, the best policies are (a) high & long-term economic growth (b) getting the expert climate scientists to obtain a modicum of competency in forecasting the time, magnitude and place of the catastrophic impacts, so adaptive measures can be taken.

    Liked by 3 people

  101. Prof. Tol:
    Fuel taxes have led to very substantial carbon dioxide emission reduction in Europe.

    Yes, undoubtedly. But that in no way guarantees that taxes alone can reduce emissions to zero (or any other target).

    Paul Matthews:
    … and of course more people use trains, buses or bicycles in the UK and in Europe than in the US.
    Yes again. But many train and bus services must be subsidised. Prof. Tol’s tax-only solution precludes the obvious introduction of better train or bus services, or even of building of safe bike lanes, at the same time as the tax is imposed/increased with the aim of reducing emissions. Supposedly we just impose a tax; the safe bike routes will appear all on their own.

    Jaime, if asking a question is “demanding and answer” in your version of the English language, then okay, I ‘demanded’ answers. I know skeptics’ understanding of language differs from that of normal people. Prof. Tol should clearly have addressed the influence of vested interests if he wished to be at all comprehensive and even-handed in his discussion, if only because there is a clear history of activity by such groups. His inability to even address the question shows, to me at least, that he had no such wish. I find it odd, as he could easily have used one of his normal put-downs or one-line cryptic replies. But no, it is so sensitive that he can say nothing.


  102. > Not necessarily.

    In this case Nino, I’m finding it difficult to see that the blocking minority is happy about the prospects of being told to keep their products in the ground. I agree with Tol on this much: buying them off or squashing them are the usual options. Either one of those options are likely to be unusually costly.


  103. @mbc
    “Whilst I disagree with his assumption that the 2k limit on emissions could be reached by a carbon tax of $210 t/CO2e”

    That’s not the assumption, it is not an assumption, and it is not mine.

    The “assumption” is the average of the models in IPCC WG3 AR5.

    The “assumption” really is a model result.

    Most importantly, the “assumption” is $210 t/CO2e in 2020, rising at 5% a year. In other words, fossil fuels would be taxed out of existence in half a century.

    Liked by 1 person

  104. I’m finding it difficult to see that the blocking minority is happy about the prospects of being told to keep their products in the ground.

    What do you think OPEC was?


  105. OK Nino, hampered as I am by my sceptics’ lack of understanding of the English language, I shall *ask* you once again to produce some definitive and convincing evidence that big oil corporations/fossil fuel vested interests have funded ‘climate change denial’, that they have deliberately sown – and in some cases even dictated the form of – significant doubt about the validity of consensus climate science, and thereby have directly or indirectly influenced climate policy.


  106. Nino, my understanding of economics is very basic, but I think it’s better than yours. Yes the UK subsidises public transport. In Nottingham we have a nice new tram system for example, paid for largely by central government. But where does this subsidy money come from? Is it just a coincidence that countries with higher subsidies for public transport also tend to have higher fuel taxes?

    As for the GCC, I have never heard of it in my several years following the climate debate. Googling it, almost all the articles are activist sites complaining about how influential it was. This myth of the well organised well funded highly influential climate denial organisations is one of the most comical examples of the inability of climate activists to face up to the real reasons why people don’t take them seriously.

    Liked by 1 person

  107. The GCC was disbanded because its members developed different strategies (Shell and BP signalled they would accept climate policies whereas Exxon did not, see e.g. Rowlands, Ian H. 2000. “Beauty and the Beast? BP’s and Exxon’s Positions on Global Climate Change.” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 18:339–54).

    It is difficult (perhaps impossible) to determine how effective lobbying is. Even the companies who do it will have mixed results. But (especially big) players want to monitor their environment, and influence it where possible to their advantage.

    Which brings me to Richard’s notion of ‘cost’: is this necessarily a monetary cost or can it be a qualitative cost (say preference A over B means less cost, hence better).

    The lobby argument in the above two miles of discussion has deflected attention from the question if taxation is always the best option in environmental policy. I asked specifically about the example of CFCs.


  108. Jaime, you can google as well as I can for information on the GCC and other organisations lobbying against emissions reductions policies. I imagine you will reject whatever you find whether it comes from me or from your own efforts, so it makes no difference. The question I asked Prof. Tol was whether he thought the GCC (as an example) had been ineffectual. I make no assertion that it did and I don’t know the answer, I wasn’t following the issue back then. But Prof Tol has followed it for 25 years, since graduating, at a guess, so he will know. Many people do seem to think that lobbying ad other industry efforts have made a difference, so it is odd that Tol’s paper made no mention of it. Even odder than he cannot even bring himself to comment on it.

    Paul Matthews, of course we subsidise transport. Fuel taxes in the UK aren’t really hypothecated, so we might as well say they are used to pay for education or health. But if we insist that a carbon tax alone is used to reduce emissions we have to justify spending on low-carbon transport options on grounds other than emissions reduction. Fortunately that is easy.


  109. Nino, thanks, I’ve googled GCC and it doesn’t exactly provide the evidence to back up your claim of significant influence. I don’t know why the group folded but RGRUNDMANN48’s comment above suggests the reasons why. I’m also not sure if GCC’s disbandment in 2001 (and the reason for it) has much relevance to the wider question of whether fossil fuel interests have informed (misinformed) ‘climate denial’ and influenced climate policy in general.


  110. Many people do seem to think that lobbying ad other industry efforts have made a difference,

    Many people think that a Jewish conspiracy can explain both world wars, the influence of banks, and the media’s control of information. Many people think that 9/11 was an inside job. Your hectoring comes across, not as a novel line of questioning that challenges the academic, but much like a demand to know what he knows about the grassy knoll. And it’s a line of a attack that we’re all familiar with, but for which the evidence that raises the question is scant, to say the least, as countless rehearsals of it have revealed.

    Let me paraphrase your question: “do you think that the defunct organisation that failed to secure its aims was decisive?”.


  111. > What do you think OPEC was?

    You mean is, Ben? Why not ask them?

    Article 2

    A. The principal aim of the Organization shall be the coordination and unification of the petroleum policies of Member Countries and the determination of the best means for safeguarding their interests, individually and collectively.

    B. The Organization shall devise ways and means of ensuring the stabilization of prices in international oil markets with a view to eliminating harmful and unnecessary fluctuations.

    C. Due regard shall be given at all times to the interests of the producing nations and to the necessity of securing a steady income to the producing countries; an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consuming nations; and a fair return on their capital to those investing in the petroleum industry.

    Outside views often include the words oligopoly, cartel, collusion and sometimes even price fixing.

    New boss, same as the old boss, eh? Well … except perhaps the new boss really does mean, ‘keep it in the ground’, not ‘keep it in the ground until we decide market conditions are ripe to pull it out’.


  112. Right, Brandon, but you said I’m finding it difficult to see that the blocking minority is happy about the prospects of being told to keep their products in the ground nonetheless.

    And the point I made far above is that environmentalists and the majority of oil producers have been aligned on the matters of the scarcity of oil and the need to regulate its production and consumption for most of the history of the climate ‘debate’; it is only environmentalists who imaged otherwise. Which is odd, really, because if we look hard at extant relationships between oil companies and lobbying organisations and knowledge-producers, we find the oil companies supporting the likes of the Tyndall Centre, the ECIU and The Green Alliance, much more than we find them supporting ‘deniers’ — which there exists almost zero evidence of at all. And even fracking companies sell themselves (not yet their product) on the basis of it not being coal! What a concession!

    But don’t tell Nino, because it might blow a hole in his tin foil hat.

    The failure to formulate climate policies at national and international levels has not been the consequence of any undue influence from fossil fuel interests. It is the green movement — included in which I mean street-level and establishment environmentalists — that has failed to push at the open door, marked ‘climate policy’. In Westminster, in Brussels, and at UNFCCC meetings, climate policy-making attempts have gone almost completely unopposed at all, let alone by some nefarious PR covert op. It is people who want climate policies that have produced the failure and the fallout.

    The scale of Nino’s and your absurd fantasy is extraordinary. Corporate interests, banks!, ‘civil society’, political parties from across the spectrum, academia, supranational political bodies, think tanks… There has never been such global alignment on the necessary direction of policy in mankind’s history, and so little public resistance to official will. Yet a mere half a dozen bloggers and the same number of recalcitrant scientists, one or two think tanks, and Christopher Monckton have managed to stand in the way of organisations with combined PR/lobbbying budgets of $billions per year. Massive philanthropic legacies from dead fossil fuel tycoons, the will of almost every Western government, huge tech firms, NASA… None of them have been a match for the GWPF and the Heartland Institute, apparently.

    The scale of your fantasy is matched by your disconnect from more immediate reality. Here, in this thread, is an academic, openly advocating a carbon tax that would lead to the phasing out of fossil fuels… An academic identified as an unmitigated evil denier by the author of the blog you hail from… Yet here we all are, us deplorable deniers, having a reasonable chat with him, interrupted only by someone — hailing from the same blog as you, where the consensus is that the mere mention of carbon tax would cause us anaphylactic shock — demanding the academic give an account of the GCC’s role in the climate debate.

    oligopoly, cartel, collusion and sometimes even price fixing.

    All things that the green movement have demanded, and got.

    That’s the problem with useful idiots… They’re never happy.


  113. > Which is odd, really, because if we look hard at extant relationships between oil companies and lobbying organisations and knowledge-producers, we find the oil companies supporting the likes of the Tyndall Centre, the ECIU and The Green Alliance, much more than we find them supporting ‘deniers’ — which there exists almost zero evidence of at all.

    I posted some earlier, Ben.

    > The scale of Nino’s and your absurd fantasy is extraordinary.

    Thank you for having my fantasies for me. You should try having my nightmares some time.

    The rest of your more standard fare is so broadly-stroked and wide-ranging, it’s probably best for me to admire it from afar and leave it with your connoisseurs to appreciate any finer nuggets of interest.


  114. @jaime
    The Global Climate Coalition was disbanded because it had outlived its usefulness. I don’t know much about them. They were the crowd that asked all the hard questions in the IPCC. I doubt they had much to do with the 95-0 Senate vote of 1997 that killed climate policy stone dead.


  115. Brandon — The rest of your more standard fare is so broadly-stroked and wide-ranging,

    The topic of discussion is Richard’s paper on the structure of the climate debate — i.e. the general. It wasn’t I, or any other ‘denier’ who was concerned with the particular — an organisation that has not been in existence for a generation, and whose influence in the climate debate is much more the substance of climate alarmist conspiracy theories than of any tangible, substantive forces measured within it.

    But what do we expect? Switching between the general and the particular is of course the MO of Consensus-Enforcing deviation. And Oreskes’ conspiracy theories are bed time reading for Consensus Enforcers.

    it’s probably best for me to admire it from afar

    I’m glad you agree. Bye.


  116. Richard Tol @ 25 Oct 16 at 10:58 pm
    Apologies for my previous comment. I am a bit slow on the uptake. You stated @ 16 Oct 16 at 7:44 am

    Indeed. A carbon tax of 47p per litre of petrol is political suicide. Therefore, we will miss the 2K target.
    Note that these climate policies consist of two components: An initial carbon tax, and its rate of increase (4-6% a year).

    This is not clear in The Structure of the Climate Debate, where you say

    Only a modest carbon tax is needed to keep atmospheric concentrations below a high target but the required tax rapidly increases with the stringency of the target. If concentrations are to be kept below 450 ppm CO2eq, the global carbon tax should reach some $210/tCO2 in 2020 or so (Tol 2013).

    A carbon tax of $210/tCO2 is fairly modest, but with a 5% escalator it will double every 14 years. making it $910 in 2050, $3070 in 2075 and $10,400 in 2100. The escalator is the far more important aspect in reducing demand for fossil fuels through a combination of reducing energy use and switching to more expensive (and often less convenient) renewable sources.


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