2019-04-23

Melting permafrost in Arctic will have $70tn climate impact?

DSC_8484 Or so claims the Graun. Being totally shit journos they don't even include a link to the paper that is their source, but the answer is Climate policy implications of nonlinear decline of Arctic land permafrost and other cryosphere elements by Dmitry Yumashev et al., Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 1900 (2019). They also don't link to the press release, where we discover that Carbon released into the atmosphere by the increasing loss of Arctic permafrost, combined with higher solar absorption by the Earth’s surface due to the melting of sea ice and land snow, will accelerate climate change – and have a multi-trillion dollar impact on the world economy. A new paper in Nature Communications reveals a combination of these factors has the potential to increase the long-term economic impact of climate change by just under $70 trillion, under mitigation levels consistent with current national pledges to cut carbon emissions (5% of the estimated total cost of climate change for this scenario). Nothing here is terribly surprising, except the $70T. In particular, the roundabout +5% makes it a fairly small effect well within the error margins of other parts: CO2 emissions, ECS, discount rate assumed, whatever.

But $70T is a surprisingly large number to me, in view of stuff like 500,000,000,000 is a small number. This turns out to be The NPV of the total economic effect of climate change, denoted as C_NPV, consists of mitigation costs, adaptation costs and climate-related economic impacts aggregated until 2300 and discounted using equity weighting and a pure time preference rate. So, OK, it's total not annual, OK, that probably makes sense. But then it becomes unexciting.

Refs


Climate change could kill over 500,000 people per year by 2030?
GDP impartially consider'd
4th National Climate Assessment report: Labour
* You Have No Right to Your Culture by Bryan Caplan
Inequality is decreasing between countries—but climate change is slowing progress - NatGeo
* Dalmia's Almost Great Idea on Sanctuary Cities by David Henderson
* Live and Let Live by Pierre Lemieux (Hayek: The possibility of men living together in peace and to their mutual advantage without having to agree on concrete common aims, and bound only by abstract rules of conduct, was perhaps the greatest discovery mankind ever made; PL: The more politics expands beyond this basic level, the less agreement there can be and the more confrontation there must be. In other words, the more politics there is, the less manageable it become)
* Rejoinder to Moller on Immigration by Bryan Caplan

2019-04-22

Carbontaxwatch: Edenhofer, tax, trading, obligations, gilets, FFF

57038408_10157399108227474_4422161309362028544_n Another note in the long Carbon Tax wars. This is Otmar "director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research" Edenhofer in conversation with Sarah Zerback. Since it is in foreign, I have ripped off helpfully included the Google translation below, so I know what I'm responding to.

So it's nice to see "even 20 euros brings something". In true perfect-is-the-enemy-of-the-good style, some people argue for implausibly high levels of carbon price, which is just going to get it thrown out. I think there's a lot to be said for just having an explicit carbon tax, getting people used to it, and worrying about increasing it later1. I don't see him explicitly pointing this out, though. Notice though that the interviewer is pretty keen on getting details of the price and returns to the subject. The other nice part is that he's noticed the Skolstrejk för klimatet2 vs the "Gilets Jaunes" tension and observes - correctly -  that the Sfk stuff is an opportunity: because it is, perhaps, and indication visible to pols that the public is finally willing to make some hard choices.

Less good is his equivocation about carbon tax vs trading systems. He's probably a bit stuck because he isn't allowed to say that the ETS is stupid. But he goes further than that, suggesting the possibility of introduc[ing] a separate emissions trading system for these three sectors, transport, agriculture and heat, to which my response would be FFS not another bloody boondoggle, haven't you learnt anything in all these years? He also wurbles about sector-specific targets at national level, which is also stupid.

Quasi-interesting is the role of "European obligations": We are in a completely different debate. We have European obligations, and all Member States of the European Union have these obligations. Those who fail to comply with these obligations must buy certificates from other countries, and not voluntarily, but this is simply a sanction imposed by the European level on each Member State. He doesn't talk about how binding those obligations might be, if things get tough.

Notes


1. Of course those opposed to a carbon tax are fully aware of this cunning plan, and will tell people that it is just the thin end of the wedge, but there's no point in making their job easy.

2. He - or the Googly translate - uses "Fridays for Future" but I'm guessing it is much the same.

The text


New debate on CO2 tax"Even 20 euros bring something"

The climate researcher Otmar Edenhofer supports the initiative of Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze to raise a CO2 price on gasoline, diesel, heating oil or natural gas. Unlike in the 1990s, he believes that a CO2 tax is enforceable this time. One reason for this: European legal obligations.
Otmar Edenhofer in conversation with Sarah Zerback
Sarah Zerback: I now greet Otmar Edenhofer, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, on the telephone. Good day, Mr. Edenhofer!
Otmar Edenhofer: Hello!
Zerback: You've been pleading for a carbon tax for a long time now. Did the "Fridays for Future" demos only have to come, so that new momentum comes into an old idea?
Edenhofer: Yes. This movement was extremely significant, because a few months ago, when you said CO2 price, then one has been countered by the policy, we want to prevent the yellow vests in Germany. Now there is a new movement that says we want carbon pricing. It does not necessarily have to be a tax, it can also raise CO2 prices differently, but that is indeed giving new impetus to the political debate, which is urgently needed.
Zerback: And above all, there is debate about how expensive the whole thing should be now. What's your suggestion, how expensive, if it was a tax, how expensive should that be?
Edenhofer: First of all, you have to see that we have tasks in two areas. One is the electricity sector and the industrial sector, which is under European emissions trading, and there Christoph Schmidt and I have suggested that there is a minimum price, which now starts at 20 and is expected to grow to 35 euros by 2030.
Now there is a second area, and in this second area - which is poorly understood - we have European obligations, and if we fail to meet these European legal obligations in the agricultural, heating and transport sectors we may have to pay high penalties to the other states Afford. Now begins the dispute, how can the government this price signal, which after 2021 will be yes in Europe, how can this be translated now at the national level.
In the climate protection law one says yes, that should then make the individual ministries. That does not seem to me to be such a good idea, because the Transport Minister has many options to avoid. He can make meaningful spending cuts in his budget.
What matters now is that citizens - motorists who invest in new heat pumps, even in the agricultural sector - should have the incentive to save CO2 and other greenhouse gases. There are basically two ways you could do that. So you could charge a carbon price, a carbon tax for these sectors - that would be an option. But the other possibility would be to introduce a separate emissions trading system for these three sectors, transport, agriculture and heat, and then ensure that the quantity targets that we have been imposed by the European level are actually met. That's what the argument is about.

Order of magnitude for CO2 price still has to be calculated

Zerback: Thank you, that you have in the complexity above all else again aufgedröselt. Let's go into the details again. The President of the Bundestag Wolfgang Schäuble, who says that no matter whether tax or certificates are more expensive, this goes in the same direction. Let's talk about the altitude again. So you say 20 euros now. We have just heard it in the report again. There are others who say that we need at least 50 euros, otherwise it will not help at all.
Edenhofer:First of all, if 20 euros does not bring anything, that's not true. Of course, bring 20 euros already something. We see this in the empirical investigations that this also already reduces the emissions. The key question is, will emissions go down as it is compatible with European obligations, and we do not know exactly how high the price has to be, and therefore it would be reasonable to think about an emissions trading scheme, because then there can control the amount. Then you can set a minimum price that is on this scale. You start at 20, grow up to 35, maybe 50 Euro. Where exactly the orders of magnitude are, we are still in the process of calculating that. If the price rises too much,
Essentially, it will be a question of defining such a price corridor, and this price corridor, where it is now, we are in the process of calculating that and giving more precise information. I'm not going to comment on that right now because we're just doing the research.

"We are in a completely different debate"

Zerback: Yes, the question is really whether national measures bring anything. I'm wondering if you might feel personally reminded of the '90s. Since there was ever the push to tax CO2, as a tax on it to introduce. That is because then failed because it needs unanimity in the EU. So you still see this danger?
Edenhofer: No, I do not see that at all. We are in a completely different debate. We have European obligations, and all Member States of the European Union have these obligations. Those who fail to comply with these obligations must buy certificates from other countries, and not voluntarily, but this is simply a sanction imposed by the European level on each Member State.
It's not about the question of whether we want to formulate our own goals now. From my point of view, one can discuss the national sector targets cheaply, one can make it more flexible where I would be, but there is no way around European law obligations. This has nothing to do with whether there are any majority principles in the European Union, whether a tax is enforceable. We have these national commitments, and any proposal that is to be taken seriously must show that we can actually comply with this European law obligation with this proposal.

Sector-specific savings targets conceivable at national level

Zerback: Nevertheless, the CDU was so far always against it. Now there are voices that join the proposal of the Federal Environment Minister yes. Do you share the worries of Svenja Schulze, that perhaps there is a calculus to avoid other savings targets?
Edenhofer: I think that if you want to introduce a CO2 price that is so low that the savings targets can not be achieved at the European level, that is a suggestion that makes no sense. This is an obvious calculation, and this calculation will quickly hit the wall, because these proposals do not continue. It is only the suggestions that ultimately lead us to say that, after 2021, we are actually actually achieving the emission reduction targets in agriculture, the transport sector and the heating market.
The only dispute we can make is whether we need sector-specific targets at national level in addition to these European goals. I think we would be well advised to allow great flexibility at national level here.
Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not embrace the statements of its interlocutors in interviews and discussions.

2019-04-19

ECS is 5 oC?

So, it would appear, CMIP6 first results show1. This appears a touch implausible to me, and is waay out of line with previous results from CMIP5, as the figure shows, and in comparison with for example ATTP's nice Bayesian analysis of no great vintage, or the long-established consensus for 3 oC. Which models are where can be found in the twitter thread of from here, if you're interested. I await with bated breath James's and RealClimate's analysis, so that I know what to think.

Refs


Climate sensitivity is 5.3C? - JA from 2016
* If you want some arguments against 5 oC, you could read La Curry; I don't particularly recommend it though, which is why I haven't.
So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do.

Notes


1. I don't see a mean or anything, I've just eyeballed it, the mode is clearly the [5, 5.5) bucket but the mean is perhaps around 4.5.


I feel I shouldn't be totally ignoring Anthony Watts joining Heartland, so here's an image (see-also weasels ripped my flesh):

2019-04-16

L'affaire Peter Ridd, part 2

22059024423_45af8a32bd_o So the puzzle posed in part 1 is resolved: it turns out that Peter Ridd is a a Good Colonial whose academic freedom has been trampled on2. The Graun has the story. Unsurprisingly the Forces of Darkness are happy1. The Graun doesn't go into the full gory quotes from the man in a wig, contenting themselves with the university has ‘played the man and not the ball’; but there's more, much much more (including the immeadiately following Incredibly, the University has not understood the whole concept of intellectual freedom which for some inexplicable reason the Graun doesn't consider noteworthy). Let's begin with the main message:
The Court rules that the 17 findings made by the University, the two speech directions, the five confidentiality directions, the no satire direction, the censure and the final censure given by the University and the termination of employment of Professor Ridd by the University were all unlawful. 
No bones thrown to the university at all. And there are some good words on intellectual freedom:
the mission of these institutions must undoubtedly be the search for knowledge which leads to a quest for truth. In reality, intellectual freedom is the cornerstone of this core mission of all institutions of higher learning. This is so because it allows ideas to conflict with each other; to battle and test each other. It is within this “battle” that the strengths and weaknesses of ideas are found out. In this process, there comes “learning”. And with learning comes discovery. At its core, intellectual freedom mandates that academics should express their opinions openly and honestly, while inviting scrutiny and debate about those ideas. Unless opinions are expressed in this way, the growth and expression of ideas will be stifled and new realms of thinking will cease to be explored. That will lead to intellectual and social stagnation and a uniformity of thought which is an anathema to the concept of higher learning and social progress.  Intellectual freedom allows academics to challenge the status quo and encourage critical analysis.
Later on we discover that The hypocrisy [of the university] is breathtaking. And During the course of the trial, I repeatedly asked Counsel for the University to tell me what the conflict of interest actually was. Try as he might, Counsel was unable to do so. Yet he would not concede that this finding was not justified. So in some ways this is a great victory over the faceless bureaucrats. Let's hope some of them are sacked for this.

Notes


1. And selling it as a huge victory for climate skeptics everywhere, which of course it isn't; indeed it has little to do with climate directly, though it is connected to impacts.

2. I think this is essentially the correct verdict. I still don't quite care for the company he keeps, but that's a different matter.

Refs


Paris in October

2019-04-10

The Great Miscalculator

There's a niceish article The Great Miscalculator by Arnold Kling, mostly about markets. But I think:
When a firm's costs are dominated by overhead, price discrimination becomes an attractive strategy, even a necessity. The airline will try to attract price-sensitive customers with a low price while charging a higher price to those customers who are more committed to flying at a particular time rather than searching for a bargain... This also complicates the problem of treating ordinary market failures. For example, suppose that the government wishes to use a tax on airline fuel as a tool to get passengers to internalize the pollution cost of flying. If the airline allocates this additional cost to price-insensitive passengers and leaves its discounts for price-sensitive passengers in place, then the total air miles flown may remain approximately unchanged in response to the tax
is wrong. Because he has done the usual confusion of two different things. The thing that doesn't happen - in this particular scenario - is the that total air miles flown [remains] approximately unchanged. And indeed, many or most people would regard that as a failure of the policy. But that wasn't what he started with: that was use a tax on airline fuel as a tool to get passengers to internalize the pollution cost of flying. That has happened. However - because of the somewhat artificial construction of the example - although the price has been internalised the amount of goods consumed doesn't change, because the customers are assumed to be price-insensitive. But that's kinda OK: the point of the tax is to make people pay the full cost of their choices. If, knowing the full cost, they still choose to buy, then they've chosen rationally.

On a completely different note, he tries to point out that chance - contingency - is important. And it probably is. But he over-eggs it:
The evolution of business practices and industry structure can seem inevitable in hindsight. But this is misleading. The personal-computer industry is famous for the role of start-ups, including Apple, Microsoft, and Dell. But with slightly different business decisions, it could instead have been the province of Xerox and IBM.
We don't know if this is true or not. We can certainly see, now, that IBM could have been placed to make decisions that would have squelched Micro$oft. But was it actually placed to make those decisions? Quite probably not, even if you jiggle the starting conditions somewhat. Even with contingency, some structural constraints persist.

Refs


Book review: the Raven Tower
* Brexit: Governing Ourselves by Pierre Lemieux

2019-04-09

Can Law Save Us From Climate Change?

DSC_0125_crop No. Because it isn't against the law. However calltothebar.org would have it otherwise, writing:
On April 18, 2019, a group of leading lawyers and law professors will convene in person at locations across the United States to discuss the problem of climate change and the role of lawyers in advancing solutions. The locations will all be linked by live video/audio feeds. This is the third year in a row for this national conference on this important subject. This year’s conference will feature leading experts addressing the most important aspects of the climate crisis from a legal perspective. The conference will also address ways in which lawyers can work to make a difference on this subject of grave concern to our well-being and future.
Much of their petition is sane: recognition of GW-as-science1 and calling for carbon pricing. Their arguments for why lawyers-in-particular should be involved are weak, but never mind, they're a bunch of lawyers and can be expected to think that they're important. The bit that I'm less happy with is
Protecting society from harm is the most fundamental purpose of law and government. Faced with clear evidence of impending harm, we as citizens and lawyers have a duty to speak out on the need for effective government action to protect humans now alive and those to be born. We have no right to knowingly continue to inflict severe damage to the planetary ecosystem that sustains all life. To the contrary, we have a duty to protect it.
Why would anyone object to that motherhood-and-apple-pie type stuff? Because as usual, as ever, as always when people talk about this stuff there's the dangerous sliding of words. GW does indeed risk harm to society. But then again, burning fossil fuels provides good to society. That's why people do it, after all. How do you balance the harm and the good? Ah, now we're back to the real problem.

And the problem of balancing harm and good isn't obviously one that is well suited to the all-or-nothing of a courtroom. Lawyers can be rather one-sided. To quote a well-known Alsup:
The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches. The Court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches.

Notes


1. And they get credit for using videoconferencing, too.

Refs


Economics, Law and Ethics
Skolstrejk för klimatet
* The Climate Wars Can Get Rough At Times
Global warming and common law
* And stuff like The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted by George Monbiot doesn't work