Re-retread: Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions

Revealed: the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions breathlessly announces the Graun. Of course it is nothing new; it's just a minor update to Retread: Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions? It makes the same mistakes as before: evil fossil fuel companies don't emit CO2; nice consumers like you and I and our friends do. Their other error, viz 1965 was chosen as the start point for this new data because recent research had revealed that by that stage the environmental impact of fossil fuels was known by industry leaders and politicians, particularly in the US, isn't new either. All of this is great fun to feed to the hungry choir, but will fall apart in the courts should it get there.

Update: no such article would be complete without Monbiot getting it wrong too, in the Graun. He isn't happy with it being the fault of the people that actually burn the fuel ("The big polluters’ masterstroke was to blame the climate crisis on you and me") and repeats the nonsense that evil fossil fuels companies knew stuff that wasn't public1965. This was the year in which the president of the American Petroleum Institute told his members that the carbon dioxide they produced could cause “marked changes in climate” by the year 2000. They knew what they were doing. And 1965 is far too early for any of this to be any better than speculative. See-also Early oil industry knowledge of CO2 and global warming?



* +++Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++
* Fiscal Monitor: How to Mitigate Climate Change - IMF - September 2019
* More of thesame from the Graun: Coal from six biggest miners in Australia produces more emissions than entire economy.
Norway: We Are Not Responsible for Climate Impacts of Burning Our Oil - ClimateLiabilityNews


Tom said...

Considering that as late as 1992 the IPCC hadn't found a 100% concrete signature of AGW, 1965 would perhaps have called for a bit of soothsaying.

Victor Venema said...

How about both?
100% of producers are responsible for 100% of global emissions.
100% of consumers are responsible for 100% of global emissions.

100% of countries are responsible for 100% of global emissions.

The high percentages for 20 or 90 firms mostly shows how bad the concentration of power has become and how far we are away from the original ideal of the free marketeers.

William M. Connolley said...

> 1965 would perhaps have called for a bit of soothsaying


> How about both?

I don't think that works; there's only one unit of responsibility available, you have to divide it up.

> how far we are away from the original ideal of the free marketeers

I don't think that makes sense. There is nothing in free market theory that requires more than 20 or 90 producers per product.

Phil said...


High carbon taxes now are a political nonstarter.

William M. Connolley said...

> Declining CO2 price paths
Kent D. Daniel, Robert B. Litterman, and Gernot Wagner
High carbon taxes now are a political nonstarter.

That's an odd way to parse that article, which I'd skimmed before. I thought it was largely non-pol: it's about optimal econ, no? Also you don't define high; they go up to ~140 and (despite the thrust of the article) their prices over the next-century range are near constant.

David B. Benson said...


See your dentist.

Phil said...

I was far too terse.

Implementing modest carbon taxes ($10 to $30 per tonne) seems unlikely. Yellow vest protests in France, recent Australian elections, etc. Zero Republican officeholder support. Yes, Canada, but Canada is saner than much of the world... excluding hockey.

Ramping up a modest carbon tax to something that might be effective over time is sub-optimal. This part is new, see DLW. Contrast with:


"starting now, with a lowish price, and ramping it up -W"

You are proposing a sub-optimal plan.

Implementing $140 carbon taxes seems very unlikely. Political nonstarter. Now or later, until carbon fuel usage is already falling rapidly. And by then a lower carbon tax might well be effective.

Implementing subsidies on alternatives that effectively set a price of $140 per tonne on carbon or higher has been done for decades. As alternatives are a tiny fraction of the market, this is far cheaper than taxes on the vast majority of the market. Cheaper in the sense of needing less government. This advantage will reduce, of course, as the alternatives grow. Electric cars were once less than 1% of car sales, so 100 times more effective than a tax. As sales have grown, the advantage of subsidies is lower, but even at 10% of sales is still an order of magnitude more effective at the same cost.

"That puts the focus on near-term action and on the large costs of delay." Which puts the focus on doing something now rather than later. Subsidies are easier to support now than taxes.

So again why are you against subsidies for alternatives to carbon fuels?

William M. Connolley said...

> This part is new... You are proposing a sub-optimal plan

That ramping it up is sub-optimal economically is nothing new; but you are mixing economic and political optimality and judging one by the other. Their plan is (or so they claim, subject ot various simplifying assumptions) economically optimal; but they say little or nothing about the politics.

In https://wmconnolley.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/carbon-tax-now-1/ (that's a better link that the old science blogs one) was addressing the politics: different people disagree on what the value is that we know (discount rate, where we have Lord Stern versus the world). There are a couple of solutions to this difficult problem: the one I’d favour is to not worry about it too much. Set your costs at a reasonable best-guess level; or even start by setting them deliberately low, and then ramp them up as clarity arrives, or it becomes clear that people can tolerate them. That also to some extent addresses the how-well-do-we-know-things problem, whereas their rather unrealistic "trajectory" approach assumes we don't learn anything in more than 200 years; and that we're happy to plan to a 200 year timescale (we're not).

As to the subsidy discussion: is there anything new to say? They are economically inefficient and in my opinion politically undesireable; they are the wrong direction to go; a direction that all too many people are eager to take.

Phil said...

Politically a carbon tax isn't realistic at this time. Desirable or not, a carbon tax isn't a choice. Yet.

Economically, a subsidy to much smaller alternative technologies is cheaper, even if less efficient, than a tax on the majority technology, for the same net cost of carbon. And subsidies for alternatives have worked, as the cost of solar has fallen to the point where solar is starting to be installed even where it doesn't qualify for subsidies. So subsidies have worked, and we need policies that work as well as being politically realistic. Even if you find them "undesirable".

I'll repeat that I'm not against carbon taxes in general, just against carbon taxes that are not politically realistic.