Let Them Eat Steak!

Will Coggin writes at USA Today Let them eat steak: Hold the shame, Red meat is not bad for you or the climate.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and images.

Plant-based meat may enjoy the perception of being healthier than real meat, but it has more sodium and calories and can cause weight gain.

Imagine ordering dinner at your favorite restaurant. You know what you want without hesitation: a perfectly marbled 8-ounce steak cooked medium rare. Just before you order, your date tells you they’ve read that cows cause climate change and that meat might be unhealthy. Suddenly, the Caesar salad seems like a better option.

We’ve all been steak-shamed before. Ever since Sen. George McGovern’s 1977 Dietary Goals report declared red meat a health villain, Americans have been chided out of eating red meat. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, red meat consumption has fallen more than 24% since 1976. During that time, study after study has attempted to tie red meat to a laundry list of health problems. Until now.

So many studies, so many flaws

Three studies published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine did something too few papers do: Ask whether the previous studies had any meat on their bones. The researchers who wrote the report analyzed 61 past studies consisting of over 4 million participants to see whether red meat affected the risk of developing heart disease and cancer.

All three came to the same conclusion: Decreasing red meat consumption had little to no effect on reducing risk of heart disease, cancer or stroke.

How can so many studies be wrong?

Nutritional research often relies on survey-based observational studies. These track groups of people and the food they eat, or try to tie a person’s past eating habits to a person’s current state of health. The result is something akin to a crime chart from a mob movie with a random red string connecting random suspects trying to figure out “who dunnit.”

Observational studies rely on participants to recall past meals, sometimes as far back as a month. Even when eating habits are tracked in real time using food diaries, issues arise. Research has shown that participants don’t give honest answers and often pad food diaries with typically “good” foods like vegetables while leaving out things like meat, sweets and alcohol. There’s also the matter of having to accurately report portion sizes and knowing the ingredients of the food eaten in restaurants.

Beef may be healthier than fake meat

The room for error is huge. A much better form of study would be to lock people in cells for a period of time so that you could precisely control what they ate and did and then measure outcomes. Obviously, there are ethical issues with such a structure, which is why observational studies are more common, if flawed.

Some companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have tried to cash in on the misconception about meat’s healthfulness. According to the market research firm Mintel, 46% of Americans believe that plant-based meat is better for you than real meat. Ironically, the anti-meat messages could be leading people to less healthful options.

Science on your side: Don’t let vegetarian environmentalists shame you on meat

Plant-based meat might enjoy the perception of being healthier, but that perception is far from reality. A lean beef burger has an average of nearly 20% fewer calories and 80% less sodium than the two most popularfake-meat burgers, the Impossible Burger and the Beyond Burger.

Fake meat is also an “ultra-processed” food, filled with unpronounceable ingredients. The National Institutes of Health released a study in May finding that ultra-processed foods cause weight gain. Unlike observational studies, this research was a controlled, randomized study.

Earth will survive your meat-eating

It’s not just the flawed health claims about red meat that deserve a second look. In recent years, we’ve been told reducing meat consumption is essential to saving the planet. But despite what critics say, even if everyone in America went vegan overnight, total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the United States would only be reduced 2.6%.

Eat better meat:Don’t go vegan to save the planet. You can help by being a better meat-eater.

Since the early 1960s, America has shrank GHG emissions from livestock by 11.3% while doubling the production of animal farming. Meat production is a relatively minor contributor to our overall GHG levels. In other countries, it may have a higher impact. The solution is not lecturing everyone else to go meat-free. Sharing our advancements would prove to be a more likely and efficient way to reduce emissions than cutting out meat or replacing it with an ultra-processed analogue.

Those who enjoy a good steak now have a good retort the next time they’re criticized for their choice: Don’t have a cow.

Carbon Tax Trickery

h/t commonsenseevaluation

A tax on carbon is a bad idea–a combination of several big bad things–big government, big corporate influence, big deception, big job losses and big taxes imposed on all of us.

Activists Push Climate Snake Oil

From the “Don’t just stand there, Do Something” file, a recent article points out tonics on offer from climatists. Not only are their prescriptions useless against the supposed problem, worse they do actual harm in and of themselves. Bjorn Lomborg writes at New York Post Climate change activists are focused on all the wrong solutions. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

As it is becoming obvious that political responses to global warming such as the Paris treaty are not working, environmentalists are urging us to consider the climate impact of our personal actions. Don’t eat meat, don’t drive a gasoline-powered car and don’t fly, they say. But these individual actions won’t make a substantial difference to our planet, and such demands divert attention away from the solutions that are needed.

Even if all 4.5 billion flights this year were stopped from taking off, and the same happened every year until 2100, temperatures would be reduced by just 0.054 degrees, using mainstream climate models — equivalent to delaying climate change by less than one year by 2100.

Nor will we solve global warming by giving up meat. Going vegetarian is difficult — one US survey shows 84 percent fail, most in less than a year. Those who succeed will only reduce their personal emissions by about 2 percent.

And electric cars are not the answer. Globally, there are just 5 million fully electric cars on the road. Even if this climbs massively to 130 million in 11 years, the International Energy Agency finds CO₂ equivalent emissions would be reduced by a mere 0.4 percent globally.

Put simply: The solution to climate change cannot be found in personal changes in the homes of the middle classes of rich countries.

The Paris treaty cannot do much — just like the Rio and Kyoto pacts mostly failed before it — because this approach requires rich countries to promise future economic hardship to achieve very little.

The real reason for this: Most of the 21st century emissions are not being emitted by the rich world. Indeed, if every single rich country stopped all CO₂ emissions today and for the rest of the century — no plane trips, no meat consumption, no gasoline-powered cars, no heating or cooling with fossil fuels, no artificial fertilizer — the difference would be just 0.72 degrees°F by end-of-century.

Solving climate change, in fact, requires getting China, India and all the other developing countries on board to cut emissions. But of course, their goal is to lift their populations out of poverty with cheap and reliable energy. How do we square that?

A carbon tax can play a limited but important role in factoring the costs of climate change into fossil-fuel use. Nobel laureate climate economist William Nordhaus has shown that implementing a small but rising global carbon tax will realistically cut some of the most damaging climate impacts at rather low costs.

This, however, will not solve most of the climate challenge. We must look at how we solved past major challenges — through innovation. The starvation catastrophes in developing nations in the 1960s to ’80s weren’t fixed by asking people to consume less food but through the Green Revolution in which innovation developed higher-yielding varieties that produced more plentiful food.

Similarly, the climate challenge will not be solved by asking people to use less (and more expensive) green energy. Instead, we should dramatically ramp up spending on research and development into green energy.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked 27 of the world’s top climate economists to examine policy options for responding to climate change. This analysis showed that the best investment is in green-energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This would bring forward the day when green-energy alternatives are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels not just for the elite but for the entire world.

Right now, despite all the rhetoric about the importance of global warming, we are not ramping up this spending. On the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate summit, more than 20 world leaders made a promise to double green-energy research and development by 2020. But spending has only inched up from $16 billion in 2015 to $17 billion in 2018. This is a broken promise that matters.

After 30 years of pursuing the wrong solution to climate change, we need to change the script.

Bjorn Lomborg is president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School.

It’s Greta’s Worldview We Disavow

Nick Gillespie gets the focus right in his Reason article Think Globally, Shame Constantly: The Rise of Greta Thunberg Environmentalism. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Her future—and that of the planet—hasn’t been “stolen” and the best way forward is through serious policy discussion, not histrionics.

To say that reactions to Thunberg are as extreme as her rhetoric is an understatement. . . But despite the volume and vitriol of the attacks directed her way, it’s vitally important that the worldview she represents and the policies she espouses are refuted. Like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), and a host of other American politicians, Thunberg believes that we’ve only got a few years left to settle the fate of the planet, a basic tenet pushed by supporters of the Green New Deal and by most of the Democrats running for president. In fact, Thunberg thinks that “cutting our emissions in half in 10 years,” the target invoked by many environmentalists, is too little, too late.

Such catastrophic thinking is similar to AOC’s equally apocalyptic statement that “The world is gonna end in 12 years” and Warren’s contention that “we’ve got, what, 11 years, maybe” to cut our emissions in half to save the planet. As Reason’s Ronald Bailey has documented:

Such predictions stem from a fundamental misreading of a 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

That report offered up predictions in the growth of global economic activity, how it might be affected by climate change, and how reducing greenhouse gases might increase planetary GDP. It did not specify anything like a 10- to 12-year window after which extinction or amelioration is inevitable. Writes Bailey:

If humanity does nothing whatsoever to abate greenhouse gas emissions, the worst-case scenario is that global GDP in 2100 would be 8.2 percent lower than it would otherwise be.

Let’s make those GDP percentages concrete. Assuming no climate change and an global real growth rate of 3 percent per year for the next 81 years, today’s $80 trillion economy would grow to just under $880 trillion by 2100. World population is likely to peak at around 9 billion, so divvying up that GDP suggests that global average income would come to about $98,000 per person. Under the worst-case scenario, global GDP would only be $810 trillion and average income would only be $90,000 per person.

“There is no looming climate change ‘expiration date,'” writes Bailey, a point underscored by Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which promotes cost-effective policies to remediate climate change, hunger, disease, and other global issues. Lomborg notes that the IPCC itself has found the evidence does not support claims that floods, droughts and cyclones are increasing.

What’s more, the scientists have found that current human-caused global warming cannot reasonably be linked to any of these extreme weather phenomenon-“globally, there is low confidence in attribution of changes in (cyclone) activity to human influence”, “low confidence in detection and attribution of changes in drought” and low confidence “that anthropogenic climate change has affected the frequency and magnitude of floods”. This doesn’t mean there is no problem-just that the facts matter.

There are only better and worse ways to deal with coming changes. Contra Thunberg, the better ways don’t demonize economic growth as a problem but as a solution. “The most inexorable feature of climate-change modeling isn’t the advance of the sea but the steady economic growth that will make life better despite global warming,” writes science journalist Will Boisvert. The environmental Kuznets curve, by which countries get wealthier and their citizens demand a cleaner environment, is the rule, not the exception. Such a dynamic is predicated upon economic and technological innovation that would be almost impossible under the sort of regulations promulgated by Green New Dealers and activists such as Thunberg and Naomi Klein, who wants to “decimate the entire neoliberal project” in the name of environmentalism. Environmental commons tend to deteriorate as countries begin to develop economically—but once per-capita income reaches a certain level, the public starts to demand a cleanup. It’s a U-shaped pattern: Economic growth initially hurts the environment, Bailey reminds us, but after a point it makes things cleaner. By then, slowing or stopping economic growth will delay environmental improvement, including efforts to mitigate the problem of man-made global warming.

Greta Thunberg’s histrionics are likely heartfelt but neither they nor the deplorable responses they conjure are a guide forward to good environmental policy in a world that is getting richer every day. For the first time in human history, half the earth’s population is middle class or wealthier and the rate of deaths from natural disasters is well below what it was even a few decades ago.

Protecting all that is just as important as protecting the environment and, more importantly, those two goals are hardly mutually exclusive.

Update: At Last A Climate Policy with Teeth

Update August 7 2019:

Tired of all the tokenism in proposals to “fight climate change”?  Like this one from Singapore today: Want to do more to fight climate change? Cut down on driving, buying stuff and eating meat
Or What will it take to kick Singapore’s growing multimillion-dollar addiction to bottled water?

Once again the UK is at the forefront showing how to get serious in fighting climate change. Euan Mearns has the story UK Government to Announce New Energy Policies Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Amidst Brexit chaos, the Prime Minister will today introduce a white paper to Parliament detailing the Government’s new energy strategy. Stunned by criticism that she has failed to listen, the new policies will take full cognisance of the concerns recently raised by striking school children. The new policy has 4 main strands. The Downing Street press release is below the fold.

[BEGINS] In view of the grave concerns raised by 5 to 17 year old children on the impact of CO2 on Earth’s climate, Her Majesty’s government will today introduce legislation that will address the most pressing issue of our times, namely CO2 emissions and the ensuing climate mayhem that they cause (Exhibit 1, Appendix 1). CO2 has risen to record levels from 0.0280% (pre-industrial) to 0.0405% today (see endnote 1). The new energy policy has four main strands:

1. Adult only flights

As of 1 January 2020 juveniles below the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to fly on commercial flights within the UK and between the UK and foreign destinations. A reciprocal arrangement will apply to incoming flights that will not be allowed to land on British soil if there are juveniles on board. The government appreciates this will have a major impact on family holidays and tourism. But that is the policy goal. We can no longer countenance families flying all over the place simply for the sake of seeking some sunshine. Tourism is one of the most useless and resource wasteful activities known to Mankind. What is the point in wrecking Earth’s climate to go and gaze at the Eiffel Tower or to go visit Euro Disney when an equally enjoyable time can be had at our home grown attractions of the Blackpool Tower and Center Parcs (Figures 1 and 2).

The government appreciates this is going to have a catastrophic impact on the airline and airport industries. That is the whole point of the policy. We can longer countenance giving shelter to evil polluting companies on these islands. The UK will press our allies throughout the OECD to follow suit. Given time this should also have a catastrophic impact on the airliner manufacturing sectors where we expect Rolls Royce (engines) and BAE systems (wings) to be hardest hit. We point to the troubled Jaguar Landrover, caused by government policy, as a shining example of government aptitude at wrecking British industry.

2. An end to North Sea Ferries

The government is often accused of lacking foresight and we wish to stress that we are smart enough to recognise that selfish polluting families may simply try to avoid the adult only flight policy by using car ferries instead. The government sees no way of tackling this problem other than to close down all ferry services between the UK and mainland Europe, the Island of Ireland and all other destinations. Car ferries travelling between Scottish Islands comes under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament.

The activity of transporting a two tonne SUV on board a ship running on filthy dirty bunker fuel needs to be consigned to history. The idea of families boarding a ship to simply drive around Europe looking at stuff, while wrecking Earth’s climate, needs to be stopped.

The government is aware that these policies may seem to be anti-tourism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We remain committed to a robust, albeit crippled, tourist industry. British children will simply need to learn how to enjoy beach holidays at home (Figure 3). And to prove this point, children will still be allowed to travel to Europe on all electric Eurostar trains. And really rich families will even be allowed to take cars with them, so long as they are all-electric vehicles.

3. An end to driving to School

With immediate effect, the UK Government is to introduce a ban on children being driven to school by their parents in petrol or diesel cars. We will continue to allow children of very wealthy families to be driven to school in all-electric vehicles. Hybrid plugin electric vehicles will not face an immediate ban but will be phased out over three years.

To enforce this ban children will be encouraged to spy on their friends (or enemies) by taking pictures of children covertly being dropped off just around the corner and sharing these images on social media. This should create a deterrent to illegal child dropping.

4. Phasing out of gas or oil heating systems in schools

In keeping with the recently announced policy of the Dutch Government to phase out natural gas all together and the allied UK policy of ceasing to build homes with gas central heating, the government will bring forward a bill to phase out gas or oil heating systems in all our schools by 2022. Schools will instead by obliged to install all-electric heating that runs exclusively on in-situ, off-grid, renewable energy systems. Using the latest SMART technology it is anticipated that this should be simple and straightforward to achieve.

Here’s the clever part. Children of all ages (5 to 17) will be allowed to participate in designing these SMART heating systems. The Government does not have spare funds to support this initiative so schools will have to pay for it out of existing budgets. However, since renewable energy prices have tumbled, paying for this should not be a problem. If schools struggle to meet this bill, they will be encouraged to either lay-off staff or ask parents to pay for this vital flagship policy. [ENDS]

Thank you Euan.  There is no fool like a Climate Fool today or all year round.

Climate Faith ≠ Climate Works

Protestors march to raise awareness of climate change and ecological issues on the second day of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm, Somerset, England, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Photo by Grant Pollard/Invision/AP) GRANT POLLARD/INVISION/AP

Michael Lynch writes at Forbes Is The Climate Change Debate A Replay Of The Reformation? Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

During the Reformation, there was an intense debate over whether Christians could enter paradise by doing good works, or whether faith alone allowed such a benefit. (See Fatal Discord: Erasmus, Luther and the Fight for the Western Mind by Michael Massing) This reminds me of the current attitude many have towards climate change policy, where some appear to think that faith alone is sufficient to solve the problem.

In the early days of the global warming debate, I read an English writer praising his country’s example of recognizing climate change compared to American skepticism, although he did admit the British hadn’t actually taken steps to address the problem. Similarly, the U.S. has reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than most countries in the past few years, but incidentally, mostly due to cheap natural gas, and it remains the climate villain in the eyes of many because the president is a denier.

Additionally, a lot of energy, well, effort, goes into demonizing actors or actions that have no practical impact on climate. For example, opposing the construction of oil and gas pipelines does not reduce consumption of oil and gas, and usually increases emissions. Suing the oil or auto industries for blocking climate policies or misleading the public about climate science appeals to many, but with no measurable environmental impact. The same with demanding divestment in fossil fuel company stocks.

Some of the new proposals to address climate change put me mind of the debate between faith and works, especially when they seem more for demonstration purpose than actually reducing emissions. Numerous governments have suggested phasing out all carbon-based electricity generation or all petroleum-fueled vehicles by a point decades into the future, and these tend to be hailed by activists as representing, if not solutions, then great strides forward. New York state, for example, just proposed phasing out carbon-based electricity by 2050; France wants to ban conventional vehicles by 2040, the U.K. by 2050. But as Michael Coren notes, “So far, it’s just words.”

Which reminds me of comedian Billy West who, in the persona of a radio personality, bragged to someone about his fund-raising, adding, “…but mostly it’s just pledges.” Governments have been great at setting goals, but implementation has been seriously lacking. The setting of goals seems more an act of faith than a carrying out of works.

And we have been here before. Many other national and sub-national environmental programs were later abandoned; the 1990s saw California enact mandates for electric vehicle sales—requiring 10% of sales in 2003 be zero emission vehicles—which was adopted by a number of other states, primarily in New England. Ultimately, it was abandoned after wasting billions of dollars. Numerous locales in the U.S. signed on to requirements for oxygenated gasoline, only to back out at the last minute when the cost became apparent.

Technology mandates are a mix of demonizing the producers and demonstrations of faith: telling utilities to buy a certain portion of carbon-free electricity is calling on someone else to act, while hiding the cost of the action. Those who believe in works would do better to buy their own renewable power, either producing it directly or from an independent power producer.

Automobile efficiency standards arguably fall into this category as well, that is, making it seem as if the manufacturers are to blame for consumers’ desire to purchase large, powerful vehicles. There are very fuel-efficient vehicles for sale in the United States, and they are much cheaper than the sauropods dominating American highways, so addressing manufacturer behavior is not the issue. Mandating vehicle efficiency is rather like demanding that a portion of butchers’ sales be veggie burgers; Beyond Meat has shown that success for veggie burgers comes from satisfying consumers, not lecturing them on environmental ethics.

This is where a carbon tax comes in: it is designed to change consumer preferences, reducing carbon emissions in favor of other consumables. It would also motivate producers to meet the demand for products that require less carbon emissions, either in their production or operation. Although the impact would grow over time, it would begin immediately upon implementation, and while it could theoretically be reversed, taxes on consumption tend to be extremely persistent.

Comment:

I like the author’s comparing of the climate faithful marching in processions to the religious faithful marching on Holy Days. He is right to point out the hypocrisy of of those obsessed over CO2 demonstrating their belief, while still enjoying fossil fuel benefits. And he ridicules the symbolic but ineffectual policies proposed, noting they are merely another form of showing faith rather than taking action that works.

But he ends up accepting the warmist unproven premise: We are sinners because we burn fossil fuels. Moreover, he seems to suggest that imposing a carbon indulgence tax overcomes the moral shortcoming. In fact Reformers strongly opposed the Catholic Church practice of taking money for future promises they could not deliver. Now this scam returns with governments taking the opportunity to fill their coffers. Further, as Bill Gates explained, the tax has a faulty premise: There is presently no substitute for fossil fuels powering modern societies.

The good news is, today’s weather and climate are within ordinary bounds.  The bad news:  If they actually turn climate faith into works, it is the end of life as you know it.

Carbon Tax Dubious Economics

How could 3508 economists be wrong? Let us count the ways.

Michael Davis writes at Regulation Magazine The signatories of the recent “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends” must address some important issues. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Economists are disagreeable people. And it’s good that they are. Most important economic questions are complex, multi-dimensional puzzles with no obvious, simple answers. But debate and disagreement advance our understanding of the world, and so good economists debate and disagree.

If you heard that thousands of the very best economists actually did agree on something, you’d probably think that it was something glaringly obvious—maybe they issued a joint statement condemning the designated hitter rule or calling for a total ban on Super Bowl halftime shows. But those aren’t the subject of the recent “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends,” signed by 3,508 economists and released by the Climate Leadership Council. The statement supports the creation of a Pigouvian tax on U.S. carbon emissions on the grounds that “global climate change is a serious problem calling for immediate national action,” and that “a carbon tax offers the most cost-effective lever to reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed that is necessary.”

This agreement is remarkable! The environment and the economy are both complex systems. Intelligent people can agree on a few things involving them—of course, manmade global warming is real—but there is vast uncertainty about how the complex climate system interacts with the complex economic system to shape the human condition in the distant future. More importantly, core questions about climate change engage fundamental moral values about intergenerational equity. How to deal with climate change is the very epitome of a “wicked problem.”

[Note: Intelligent people also note that in the world (as opposed to models) manmade global warming has yet to be detected separately from natural global warming. I understand the author is not questioning the science or the impacts (later on), but is raising serious issues about the policy proposal.]

This is a serious proposal advanced by serious people to deal with a serious problem. But it is also a radical proposal. According to a joint study by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy and the Urban Institute–Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center, in the first year the tax would amount to about $2,000 for a family of four. No matter what is done with the tax revenues, this proposal would have far-reaching economic consequences.

And so, before we get too far along, we need a proper argument over this proposal’s merits. Here, then, are five important questions about the plan. Let’s hope these questions lead to some disagreeable, but fruitful, discussions.

QUESTION 1: What if these economists are right about the principle but wrong about the tax rate?

The principle behind the carbon tax makes perfect economic sense. The market price of any good reflects at least some of the costs of making that good. The price of a gallon of gas, for example, needs to be high enough to compensate all those who worked to get the gas into your car. But some goods—and gasoline is one of them—impose costs on others that are not reflected in the price. Economists call these costs “negative externalities.” If burning a gallon of gas causes damage to coastal property, drivers are not paying the full price of their consumption and that distorts their consumption choices. That’s unfair and inefficient.

The obvious solution is to levy a Pigouvian tax equal to the harm caused, forcing consumers to shoulder the externality cost of their consumption and, perhaps, change their consumption pattern. But we have very little idea of the magnitude of the actual harm from a ton of CO2 emissions and so we don’t really know how high this carbon tax should be. Estimates of the “Social Cost of Carbon” published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicate that a ton of CO2-equivalent released in 2020 could cause harm of as little as $5 or as much as $123. (This roughly translates to a range of between 4¢ and $1 of damage from the burning of a gallon of gas.) The $40-per-ton tax suggested by the Statement signatories is a kind of average of several disparate estimates. As such, it is almost certainly the wrong number.

These economists will, no doubt, point out that the current carbon tax of zero is also wrong. But that observation, alone, is not enough to justify the proposed tax because setting the rate in excess of the actual external harm would cause real economic damage.

The economic argument in favor of carbon taxes needs to be coupled with a clear understanding that cheap, abundant energy has been an essential part of recent human progress. Fossil fuels provide food, shelter, health care, education, the arts, and countless other goods. They are not some vile poison, and consuming fossil fuels is not a shameful sin. When something is taxed, less is consumed. If, as seems likely, we consume too much energy from carbon-based resources, a tax can help to moderate that consumption appropriately. But if the tax is too high, we will consume too little. If we consume too little, we will miss out on some of the benefits that come from fossil fuels.

Here’s another problem related to the practical question of the appropriate carbon tax rate: Many fossil fuels are already heavily taxed. For example, the average tax on motor fuels is now about 48¢ per gallon, the equivalent to a tax of $54 per ton of carbon. These taxes exist mostly to raise revenue for transportation infrastructure, not control some other externality. Should the proposed new carbon tax be in addition to those existing taxes?

QUESTION 2: Should the United States impose carbon taxes even if the rest of the world does not?

In 2019 the world will produce a bit more than 35 gigatons of CO2-equivalent emissions. The United States will contribute about 5 gigatons to that total. The U.S. Department of Energy forecasts that, in 2040, world emissions will increase to 43 gigatons while U.S. emissions will drop by a small amount. A 2018 report by the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University forecasts that if we impose a tax of $50 per ton of carbon in 2020 and increase that tax by 2% per year, annual U.S. emissions will fall by 13%–29% by 2030. But by 2030, U.S. emissions will be less than 15% of the world total. Even under the best-case scenario, our carbon tax would reduce global emissions by less than 5% and climate change will continue.

If the rest of the world doesn’t join us, the U.S. carbon tax won’t matter. This leads to a related problem. If the United States levies a carbon tax, it becomes more expensive for U.S. firms to make and transport goods. That means a U.S. carbon tax will reward those countries that don’t do anything to reduce their emissions by giving those places a competitive advantage. Exploiting that advantage will likely be too much of a temptation for others—especially developing countries with desperately poor people—to ignore. It is even possible that by pushing energy-intensive production to places with no controls on carbon emissions, this policy will make global emissions worse.

QUESTION 3: Doesn’t the “border-adjustment tax” that has to be part of the plan present enormous practical and political problems?

This carbon tax should not just apply to U.S. emissions, but to foreign emissions resulting from goods imported into the United States. Assessing a border-adjustment tax on these goods would be difficult from both an economic and political perspective. For example, almost 5% of the world’s carbon emissions result from the production of cement. But different production technologies for cement and different modes of transportation result in vastly different emissions. Even though two different shipments of cement may be practically identical, they won’t have similar carbon footprints. How would U.S. authorities determine which bags of cement face what tax rates?

The political problems are also tough. First of all, to the rest of the world a border-adjustment tax would seem like a tariff. How would we impose this tax without violating treaty obligations and without inviting retaliation? Second, how would we keep the crony capitalists away from the treats? The temptation to game the system for competitive advantage would be enormous.

QUESTION 4: What about adaptation?

All but the most apocalyptic of the potential harms from global warming can be managed through some type of adaptation to the changing climate. Building practices, for example, can be changed to deal with the threat of rising sea levels. There is also the possibility of some sort of geo-engineering solution. Remember that atmospheric CO2 is an otherwise harmless substance and that the burning of fossil fuels is enormously valuable. This means that if it is less costly to adapt to the effects of a ton of CO2 emissions than it is to eliminate the carbon, we should adapt. But to the extent that the carbon tax actually works to reduce CO2 emissions, it creates disincentives to adapt.

The proponents of a tax might say that the estimates of the Social Cost of Carbon already balance adaptation costs. The problem with that argument, though, is that the most effective adaptation solutions probably haven’t been created. New technologies to deal with climate change—altering agriculture practices, geo-engineering solutions, and other initiatives we can’t currently imagine— may well prove extraordinarily effective and efficient. An effective carbon tax reduces the incentive to find those solutions that allow us to enjoy the benefits of fossil fuel use without much cost.

QUESTION 5: Isn’t economic growth much more important than lowering CO2?

Every four years, a distinguished group of analysts delivers to Congress the “National Climate Assessment.” The latest version came out last November and was full of sobering projections. Anyone who chooses to ignore the threat of global warming should read what it has to say. Among the direst warnings was a graphic showing that if the worst-case scenario played out, by 2100 the effects of global warming would reduce U.S. gross domestic product by about 15% from current projections. To put that number in perspective, during the 2008 recession GDP fell by about 1%. That was accompanied by huge increases in unemployment and economic dislocation. Between 1929 and 1933, the worst years of the Great Depression, GDP fell by about 34%. That led to tremendous misery and, arguably, a world war. Remember, too, that the potential decline of 15% of GDP in 2100 isn’t just a short-term event. As bad as the Great Depression was, the economy recovered. The scary scenario is that by failing to address global warming, we will cause future generations to suffer a huge permanent decline in GDP.

But there’s another thing to keep in mind: if the United States could boost annual GDP growth rates between now and 2100 by an additional 0.2 percentage points, by the year 2100 U.S. GDP would be more than 17% larger than is currently projected. Think about it this way: Suppose that you had to pick between two tax policies. The first would reduce U.S. carbon emissions and maybe prevent the potential loss of 15% of GDP by 2100. The second would increase annual growth rates by 0.2 percentage points, increasing GDP by 17% by 2100.

As you’re picking between the choices, keep in mind that even if the carbon policy controls U.S. emissions, it is uncertain whether the rest of the world will go along and climate change will stop. Remember, too, that there is huge uncertainty about the specifics of global warming. The carbon emissions policies target the worst-case scenario. The GDP growth policy, on the other hand, doesn’t depend on the rest of the world and the benefits are guaranteed by the simple mathematics of compound growth.

Don’t try to waive off this choice by saying you want to do it all. We all want many things, but what we can have is bounded by our scarce resources. This particular group of distinguished economists has—quite deservedly—an impressive stock of political capital and prestige. But political capital and prestige are two such scarce resources. Why target carbon taxes rather than growth-enhancing tax reform?

Climate lemmings sticking together.

CONCLUSION

Let’s end where we started, with a call for a conversation. These five questions aren’t intended as some snarky put-down of a silly economic proposal. No good economist—and certainly none of the 3,508 who signed the Statement—should feel disrespectfully challenged by these questions. There are intelligent responses to each of these questions. And at the end of the discussion, we should all have a better idea about whether the answers are good enough to go ahead with the tax.

Don’t Miss the Memo on Climate Change


Marlo Lewis, Jr. provides a web memo entitled A Policy Maker’s Guide to Climate Change Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Here are five things you need to know:

1. Climate change is not a “planetary emergency.”

2. The climate catastrophe narrative is concocted out of overheated climate models, inflated emission scenarios, political hype, and unmerited pessimism about human adaptive capabilities.

3. All metrics of human well-being show the state of the world is improving; sustaining such progress requires greater access to affordable energy.

4. The very real costs of climate “solutions” hugely exceed their hypothetical benefits.

5. Citizens have more to fear from the climate policy agenda than from climate change itself.

This memo provides supporting evidence for those conclusions.For example,

Models vs. Data. Much of what passes for climate science today is model-based speculation about future climate impacts. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) runs an ensemble of 32 model groups called CMIP5.[1] The models on average projected twice as much warming over the past 40 years as actually occurred in the lower global atmosphere.[2]

A reasonable explanation for the models’ lack of realism is that they overestimate climate sensitivity—the long-term change in average global temperature after a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. The average climate sensitivity estimated in two dozen recent studies is 40 percent lower than the average estimated by the U.N. models.[3]

Only one model in the CMIP ensemble has accurately tracked temperature trends in the bulk atmosphere over the past 40 years—the Russian INM-CM4. When INM-CM4 is run with a realistic emission scenario in which natural gas increasingly displaces coal as an electricity fuel, the world achieves the Paris climate treaty’s 1.5°C warming limit with no new climate policies.[7]

Improving State of the World. If climate change were a global ecological crisis, we would expect to find evidence of declining human health and well-being. Instead, we find dramatic improvement in life expectancy, per capita income, food security, and various health related metrics.[8]

Conclusion. Perceptions of a “planetary emergency” arise from overheated climate models, inflated emission scenarios, disregard of basic data on human health and well-being, and relentless exaggeration by political interests claiming to speak for “the science.” The very real costs of coercive de-carbonization outweigh the hypothetical benefits. The more “ambitious” the climate policy, the more likely it is to damage economic growth, consumer welfare, and our institutions of self-government.[42]

Link to WebMemo in pdf format A Policy Maker’s Guide to Climate Change

 

Climate Change NOT as Advertised

Just before the Trudeau government imposed its Carbon Tax, it did a PR release advertising all the bad things we are doing to the planet, changing the temperature and weather by burning fossil fuels. Several skeptics pushed back (see links at end). This post is a synopsis of a complete rebuttal from Friends of Science. The whole document is interestingly written and presented, with only a few of many telling points highlighted here.

Climate Change Your Mind. Responding to the Canadian government’s “Canada’s Changing Climate Report” CCCR2019  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and headers

Federal Government says: Both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming.

Friends of Science say: CCCR2019 used a reference frame that began in a cooler solar minimum and ended in a higher temperature El Nino period.

The CCCR2019 report uses 1948 as a reference point, a time when temperatures dropped significantly. Referring to this low period as a starting point gives a skewed comparison. In addition the referenced period from 1986 to 2005 ends with an El Nino year, where naturally-caused high temperatures were recorded. This gives a false impression that Canada is ‘warming faster than the rest of the world.’

Moreover, in the above graph all five major datasets show that since 2002, temperatures have Flatlined. This is despite a significant rise in carbon dioxide (CO2), shown by the upper squiggly line in the graph. The squiggles represent the seasonal rise in carbon dioxide during winter, when the great plains and forests are covered by snow, and the uptake of carbon dioxide by plants through spring and summer.

Federal Government says: Canada’s climate has warmed and will warm further in the future, driven by human influence.

Friends of Science say: CO2 Influence is not Seen in Canadian Temperature Records.

Canada has a seasonal range from cold to warm temperatures of 50°Celsius in the near land surface air temperature record. Using the recorded daily temperature minimums (TMIN) and maximums (TMAX) from 1900 to 2013 results in the red and blue colored graph above. A black line in the middle range shows the global temperature anomaly, indicating a tiny rise. At the bottom of the scale in the blue, it is clear there is a reduction in minimum temperatures (meaning overall it is less cold during coldest periods) of about 5°Celsius, but this is at the coldest end of the scale. There is no corresponding rise in the temperature maximum (which would mean hotter during the hottest times), which one is led to believe from the CCCR2019 report.

If carbon dioxide (CO2) was causing warming, it should have been visible in an increasing daytime maximum high, but there is no evidence of it.

Federal Government says: The effects of widespread warming are evident in many parts of Canada and are projected to intensify in the future.

Friends of Science say: Climate Models do not Reflect Observations.

If we are to rely on climate models for setting policy, we should expect that the models closely match observations. As you can see above, based on 102 model runs for the IPCC, the models project significant warming; the reality is that both satellite data and thousands of weather balloon records show that global warming has flatlined despite a significant rise in carbon dioxide emissions from human industry. The models did not predict this ‘hiatus. The theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming says carbon dioxide from human emissions drives warming – that is the impetus for the efforts to implement carbon taxes or invent ways to restrict or mitigate carbon dioxide emissions. The theory is flawed, as you can see above.

Federal Government says: Because of climate change, Canadians must face a ‘new reality’ that events such as spring flooding will be happening more and more frequently.

Friends of Science say: No evidence supports claiming seasonal or urban flooding is unusual.

As Dr. Madhav Khandekar, former WMO regional expert, past Environment Canada research scientist of 40 years, past IPCC expert reviewer, peer-reviewer and author of more than 150 peer-reviewed papers says that seasonal flooding in Canada is typically a combination of early warm temperatures over heavy snowpack and ice jams on rivers. If there are warm temperatures while the snowpack is still firm, the water rapidly pools and there is no open land to absorb the run-off. The flood waters often back-up, exacerbated by ice jams on rivers. This is a common occurrence throughout history, and little seems to be done by residents or municipalities to prepare for this reality. Since so many homes are on potential flood plains in Canada, shouldn’t building standards reflect this fact and municipalities require that new homes be elevated to mitigate potential damage?

CCCR2019 highlights the catastrophic southern Alberta/City of Calgary flood of 2013 as ‘probably’ caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming. This claim ignores the evidence that Calgary had eight of its worst floods prior to 1933. Had the CCCR2019 panel looked at the Calgary Public Library website or visited the Glenbow Museum, they could have seen the evidence for themselves.

Federal Government says: Coastal flooding is expected to increase in many areas of Canada due to local sea level rise.

Friends of Science say: Canadian coastlines are challenged by subsidence or erosion, not related to human-caused global warming.

Natural Resources Canada map shows regional uplift or subsidence.

However much of Canada is quite stable. In fact, due to the melting of the ice age glaciers, much of Canada’s land is in the process of isostatic rebound – a subtle, slow rise as the earth rebounds from the tremendous pressure of the kilometers of ice that once overlay our country.

CCCR2019 presumes that sea level rise from melting Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets will cause sea level rise issues to certain coastal areas in Canada, but this is not a foregone conclusion. Even if large masses of Greenland were to melt, the interior of Greenland is shaped as a bowl that would retain much of the meltwater.

As CCCR2019 notes, many northern regions of Canada are facing challenges due to permafrost melt and some communities face eroding coastlines. This may be seen as sea level rise, but it is due to subsidence or erosion, neither of which are related to human-caused global warming. In previous generations, northern residents were nomads, their ancestors simply moved camp to the most advantageous place for fishing, hunting or seasonal camping. Rather than proposing greenhouse gas emission targets, perhaps a more practical thing would be to design housing for northern communities that can be relocated. As more and more permafrost melts, more carbon dioxide and more methane will be released, however, a carbon tax will not stop that from happening. These are natural cycles. We must adapt.

Summary

Who  are you going to trust: Federal Government or Friends of Science?  Consider the evidence.

Footnote:

See also Climate Hearsay

About Canadian Warming: Just the Facts

 

At Last A Climate Policy with Teeth

Once again the UK is at the forefront in fighting climate change. Euan Mearns has the story UK Government to Announce New Energy Policies Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Amidst Brexit chaos, the Prime Minister will today introduce a white paper to Parliament detailing the Government’s new energy strategy. Stunned by criticism that she has failed to listen, the new policies will take full cognisance of the concerns recently raised by striking school children. The new policy has 4 main strands. The Downing Street press release is below the fold.

[BEGINS] In view of the grave concerns raised by 5 to 17 year old children on the impact of CO2 on Earth’s climate, Her Majesty’s government will today introduce legislation that will address the most pressing issue of our times, namely CO2 emissions and the ensuing climate mayhem that they cause (Exhibit 1, Appendix 1). CO2 has risen to record levels from 0.0280% (pre-industrial) to 0.0405% today (see endnote 1). The new energy policy has four main strands:

1. Adult only flights

As of 1 January 2020 juveniles below the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to fly on commercial flights within the UK and between the UK and foreign destinations. A reciprocal arrangement will apply to incoming flights that will not be allowed to land on British soil if there are juveniles on board. The government appreciates this will have a major impact on family holidays and tourism. But that is the policy goal. We can no longer countenance families flying all over the place simply for the sake of seeking some sunshine. Tourism is one of the most useless and resource wasteful activities known to Mankind. What is the point in wrecking Earth’s climate to go and gaze at the Eiffel Tower or to go visit Euro Disney when an equally enjoyable time can be had at our home grown attractions of the Blackpool Tower and Center Parcs (Figures 1 and 2).

The government appreciates this is going to have a catastrophic impact on the airline and airport industries. That is the whole point of the policy. We can longer countenance giving shelter to evil polluting companies on these islands. The UK will press our allies throughout the OECD to follow suit. Given time this should also have a catastrophic impact on the airliner manufacturing sectors where we expect Rolls Royce (engines) and BAE systems (wings) to be hardest hit. We point to the troubled Jaguar Landrover, caused by government policy, as a shining example of government aptitude at wrecking British industry.

2. An end to North Sea Ferries

The government is often accused of lacking foresight and we wish to stress that we are smart enough to recognise that selfish polluting families may simply try to avoid the adult only flight policy by using car ferries instead. The government sees no way of tackling this problem other than to close down all ferry services between the UK and mainland Europe, the Island of Ireland and all other destinations. Car ferries travelling between Scottish Islands comes under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament.

The activity of transporting a two tonne SUV on board a ship running on filthy dirty bunker fuel needs to be consigned to history. The idea of families boarding a ship to simply drive around Europe looking at stuff, while wrecking Earth’s climate, needs to be stopped.

The government is aware that these policies may seem to be anti-tourism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We remain committed to a robust, albeit crippled, tourist industry. British children will simply need to learn how to enjoy beach holidays at home (Figure 3). And to prove this point, children will still be allowed to travel to Europe on all electric Eurostar trains. And really rich families will even be allowed to take cars with them, so long as they are all-electric vehicles.

3. An end to driving to School

With immediate effect, the UK Government is to introduce a ban on children being driven to school by their parents in petrol or diesel cars. We will continue to allow children of very wealthy families to be driven to school in all-electric vehicles. Hybrid plugin electric vehicles will not face an immediate ban but will be phased out over three years.

To enforce this ban children will be encouraged to spy on their friends (or enemies) by taking pictures of children covertly being dropped off just around the corner and sharing these images on social media. This should create a deterrent to illegal child dropping.

4. Phasing out of gas or oil heating systems in schools

In keeping with the recently announced policy of the Dutch Government to phase out natural gas all together and the allied UK policy of ceasing to build homes with gas central heating, the government will bring forward a bill to phase out gas or oil heating systems in all our schools by 2022. Schools will instead by obliged to install all-electric heating that runs exclusively on in-situ, off-grid, renewable energy systems. Using the latest SMART technology it is anticipated that this should be simple and straightforward to achieve.

Here’s the clever part. Children of all ages (5 to 17) will be allowed to participate in designing these SMART heating systems. The Government does not have spare funds to support this initiative so schools will have to pay for it out of existing budgets. However, since renewable energy prices have tumbled, paying for this should not be a problem. If schools struggle to meet this bill, they will be encouraged to either lay-off staff or ask parents to pay for this vital flagship policy. [ENDS]

Thank you Euan.  There is no fool like a Climate Fool today or all year round.