A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Friday, February 24, 2006

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Action on Global Warming is Suicide

(Part of the How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic guide)

This article has moved to ScienceBlogs

It has also been updated and this page is still here only to preserve the original comment thread. Please visit A Few Things Ill Considered there. You may also like to view Painting With Water, Coby Beck's original fine art photography.



  • At March 15, 2006 9:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not the question whether there are alternatives (there are), but that they are economically unsound. As a student of engineering, I have come into contact with many "new" forms of generating energy and most of it, except Water, Heat (e.g. Burning of fossil fuel) or nuclear power, is not feasable. A solar panel for example has a physical ideal limit of efficiency around 15% (and this is in an ideal world). So, there is just nothing more in solar panels to go to. And thus without a miracle (and it has been researched for decades), there won't be an economic use of solar power on earth.

    So, yes, change is possible, but the cost would be a class world, where some rich folks would work in habitat cities and most of the population (60-70%) would be living in desolate circumstances, because they can't afford those clean technologies and are forbidden to use the cheaper old ones. There are almost no scientific or economic studies on this, because there can't be any on a global level. The only estimate they can make is on observations from the past and if the price of goods gets over a specific point, it is called luxury and not affordable to the general public. This exactly would happen if energy costs skyrocketed due to inefficient power generation.

    BW, Max

  • At March 15, 2006 9:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Like we don't live in a "class world" now. Our class world is mainly an artifact of the social and economic systems we have chosen. In. the U.S., we have exacerbated our economic class differences through tax cuts. That is a choice.

    You have only referred to the theoretical efficiency of PV, without considering other alternatives and without considering cost breakthroughs in reaching the efficiency. It is not the efficiency that counts but the cost of reaching that efficiency.

    And do you think in a world that has been subjected to the consequences of global warming that we will not be living in what you call a class world? Do you think our economic system will prosper in a world of floods, massive air conditioning, massive health costs, heat deaths, species death, hurricanes, decreased agricultural productivity, etc. etc. etc.

    So I guess your prescription is that we do nothing because PV has an efficiency of 15%.

    As far as economics goes, let's start with conservation. We can spend billions of dollars on conservation and get positive econonomic paybacks. Almost any level of conservation is better than paying $60 for oil.

    Read Amory Lovins and it will be clear that fixing global warming is a win/win for everyone except those who are profiting from our current wastefulness, like the oil companies and the coal companies.

  • At March 15, 2006 9:55 AM, Blogger coby said…

    If you truly believe that that is the future without burning oil, then that is the future regardless of what we do about global warming, as oil will run out. Now, the question is do we face that future in a world of mass extinctions, severe droughts, flooded coastal cities and no oil based manufacturing, or do we face that future with a stable climate where current agricultural practices still work and with oil still availabel for its thousands of other fantastic uses?

    But I totally reject the notion that society will collapse without indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels, we did it before, we can do it again in much better style thanks to the technology developed since the horse and buggy days.

    Specifically in answer to your numbers about solar panels, this is not an area I know much about but 15% ideal limit of what? There is a huge amount of solar energy striking every m^2 of the earth's surface, so absent some context your argument is not effective. I also know people who run the houses on solar only.

    I have read plenty of other opinions that say a combination of many types of alternatives, together with cleaner burning technologies and basic no-brainer conservation can hugely reduce our emissions and I believe that.

  • At March 21, 2006 5:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Photovoltaic power isn't the only renewable. Wind turbines and low head hydroelectric generation can also contribute. The biggest problem is a concentrated portable source of energy for powering transportation. This could partly be replaced by electric railroads.

  • At March 24, 2006 1:28 AM, Blogger GRLCowan said…

    I don't follow photovoltaics very closely but would guess that the most economical PV for terrestrial solar electric generation now is at 15 percent conversion efficiency, sunlight to DC.

    The most efficient PV cells for sunlight are in the mid 30s. Mirrors concentrating sunlight on the hot sections of Brayton turbines or Stirling motors are also near there.

    I foresee nuclear generation of oil undercutting its extraction from fossil deposits. This might be done carbon-neutrally by calcining limestone and then letting the quicklime into the environment to find CO2 -- although it would be important to choose the right part of the environment for this -- or, what I think will be preferable for many purposes, cheap nuclear production of boron, intrinsically carbon-neutral because carbon just isn't involved at all.

  • At April 24, 2006 6:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    an MBA did a self admittedly crude analysis of the costs of cutting out Co2. 'Crude' as the future can't be easily predicted.

    Sadly it is not followed by an analysis of the costs unchecked sealevel rise. Nor better yet analysis of a happiest possible medium between the two.


  • At April 25, 2006 1:50 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Sam,

    Thanks for that link, I glanced through it. I can not offer a detailed critique but it is beyond me how we can have a conclusion that per capita income in today's dollars was $2400 in 1900. It is not possible to live on $2400 today and peope did live back then so right away there is something seriously wrong.

    It also makes the classic and ludicrous assumption that there is no replacement with alternatives when you reduce CO2 producing energy.

    How shallow is that?

  • At May 05, 2006 10:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Coby,

    Per capita income and per capita production are the 2 sides of the same coin. Since production of goods and services was much lower in 1900 than it is today you can bet than indeed people then lived being able to purchase/produce a much lower amount of goods and services.

    And they surely managed to survive with those low consumption levels. Even in the Paleolithic many humans managed to survive, didn’t they?

    I haven’t had the time to read that analysis but I’m afraid that the critique you offer is, to use your own words, pretty shallow.



  • At May 05, 2006 10:21 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Mikel,

    I have no choice but to confess ignorance of economics. But to me I can not make anything meaningful out of such a statement as 100 yrs ago everyone had the wealth of someone with 2400$ income today. I'll be honest and tell you I have a lot of difficulty with all this "we are all getting wealthier" as the economy grows forever stuff, especially as it is clearly intended as a proxy for well being and/or happiness.

  • At May 06, 2006 9:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Coby,

    In fact, you have raised an interesting point that is closely related to the climate change debate: why hampering economic growth is so bad and should only be done on very solid grounds.

    These intertemporal comparisons of wealth are, as explained, measurements of how the number of goods and services at our avail have increased (or in very few countries in the last decades decreased). With all existing goods and services being so heterogeneous in nature it’s necessary to homogenize their values in monetary units, which may complicate the understanding of what’s being expressed. But that’s all there is to it.

    The happiness factor that you introduce is a very difficult one to handle. However, economic development is indeed a very good proxy for such things as life expectancy, health, literacy and a myriad of things we commonly associate with a good quality of life. There are tons of evidence showing how both correlate (which on the other hand is pure common sense). In fact, for many people living in “underdeveloped” countries achieving economic growth is still a matter of life or death.

    It’s very difficult to imagine how, without a continuous economic growth in the past century, I would have managed to be exchanging my ideas with you over this sophisticated electronic medium, which I’m very happy to be able to do.

    Now, going back to your first post, I suppose that if you tried hard enough, you would be able to find some statement by some politician somewhere in the world claiming that “action on global warming is suicide” or that “any actions to mitigate Global Warming will result in the destruction of the global economy and the deaths of billions of people” (!). Still, I would welcome your providing some citation or link. Maybe the arguments put forth to oppose ideas like the Kyoto Treaty on economic grounds are usually much sounder and you’re not giving here enough ammunition to AGW theorists to combat them.

    Faced with a restriction to emit less CO2, industries that depend on CO2-emmiting technologies can only 1) Reduce production (more unemployment) 2) Pass the restriction costs to the price of their production (higher inflation AND more unemployment, via an accumulated lower purchasing power of consumers of that production) and 3) Try to develop alternative technologies that are economically viable.

    1 and 2 directly lead to less economic growth, with the consequences (big or small) outlined above. One can surely hope that the final result will be a generalized and successful outcome of 3. But this desire faces 2 important problems: A) Until this happens (nobody knows when) the consequences of 1 and 2 will keep operating in an irreversible manner. B) As long as my memory goes back, huge efforts have been made by scientists, technicians and public institutions in order to develop alternatives to fossil fuels. The incentives have always been there. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, dirty and volatile in its price and supply. But as yet, compared to existing alternatives, they are cheaper so they continue to make economic sense and thus enable us to maintain economic growth and, as explained above, everything that comes along with it. It’s highly doubtable that this additional incentive will do very much in the near future if the pre-existing ones didn’t manage to do it. Remember that it’s not just the US or Canada, but many highly developed countries that still depend entirely on foreign fossil fuels for their energy needs.

    My country Spain enthusiastically adhered to Kyoto-1, which, as you have recognized elsewhere, cannot conceivably make much impact on climate. But our Ministry of the Environment is already announcing that by 2010, instead of emitting 15% more CO2 than in 1990, as the agreement forces us to do, we will be emitting 52% more. They admit that this will cost us 3 billion euros in penalties and/or “carbon permits”. And on top of that we have the cost of actually trying to comply with Kyoto-1 until 2012. As far as I’m aware, our government didn’t find it necessary to inform us of how much we would have to pay for this. But some independent studies have calculated this cost to be in the order of 20 billion euros.

    For an economy of our size (more or less that of Canada), which struggles with a 9% unemployment rate, these figures necessarily mean less employment, with all the human associated costs this brings about, less growth (same of the same) and more inflation.

    These are hard facts, not based in any model, but obtainable through simple arithmetic calculations based on official statistics and, as such, as solid as national statistic figures go.

    Do you think that the science arguing the reality of catastrophic global warming due to the increase of trace gas CO2 is equally solid?

    Even if it were, do you think that warning the environmentalist and, in general, leftist crowds that the actions they demand to avert those possibilities DO have an economic and human cost is hysterical or "Chicken Little" alarmism?



  • At May 07, 2006 9:52 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Mikel, sorry for a tardy reply...

    I think the mitigate or not debate often quickly boils down to a personal judgement about what is more essential and what is more complex/delicate, the economy or the environment. You say hampering economic growth is bad, well I very strongly think that the environment is more essential to survival and health. The economy is fundamentally a human contruct so it can be reformed by humans. The natural environment is orders of magnitude more complex and far far less under our control. I am also continually struck by the idea that "economic growth" is essential, an idea which flies in the face of the practical reality that contiuous growth is quite simply an impossibility. I have seen a .sig somewhere that asks if humans are smarter than yeast, it seems an open question.

    I am not at all sold on the idea that "economic development is indeed a very good proxy for such things as life expectancy, health, literacy and a myriad of things we commonly associate with a good quality of life". I think it is an important ingredient but there are enough examples of non-correlation out there that we must admit it is neither necessary nor sufficient. There is even less evidence that once a society reaches a certain level that any additional economic growth has any correlation at all with additional quality of life indicators. Just look at the supposedly booming US economy and the concurrent growth in poverty and decline in health and education. Look at the barely functioning economy in Cuba and some of the highest literacy rates and low infant mortality, good health etc. Again, I don't deny that economic growth is generally helpful but it is far from the whole story and therefore should not be seen as essential.

    I too am happy for the technology we have available today, but you must be careful about assuming that capitalism is the only way achieve technology, even if (and I don't grant this, btw) it were the only example history offered.

    Regarding the "Kyoto is suicide" line, this post was relatively early in the evolution of the site and I have come to this issue from usenet, so probably tend to take obvious crackpots too seriously. I am also reluctant to get into too much economics so I have surely overstated the opposing viewpoint here. I guarantee you I have wrestled with people you have made these claims. Eventually the site format is going to change and I will rectify this one.

    Regarding your 3 options for emissions reduction: reduce production, increase costs, find alternatives, you are missing improve efficiency. There is an awful lot of room for improvement here and it will *save* money. Not the whole story, for sure, but don't leave it out of the picture. As for increasing costs, I think there are huge costs that are simply hidden in the current cheap oil economy and they will be paid one way or another eventually, it is better to face reality.

    Yes I think the scientific case saying we are in grave danger is, in fact, much more solid than the economic predictions of disaster, which are in my mind "Chicken Little" alarmism.

    May I offer a quote from Sallie Baliunas:

    "The burden of regulations is about to ratchet up. One expensive increase will result from removing chlorine-containing refrigerants, such as Freon and other CFCs, from society. CFCs are thought to gradually erode the ozone layer of the stratosphere. The bare cost of replacing or retrofitting equipment is roughly $100 billion, because chemicals do not exist that can be simply dropped in to existing equipment. A short-term cost of $2 trillion will rip through the U.S. economy according to a 1993 estimate contained in House Resolution 291."

    ...and yet we have all survived the Montreal Protocol.

  • At May 08, 2006 2:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The assumption that oil will run out is clearly without any real foundation. Even given that here is a finite amount in the Earths crust, it is quite clearly enormous compared with what we have already extracted. The cost of getting it is another matter, but the history of oil exploration is for the production costs to continually fall despite having to drill ever deeper and in more hostile places. We will no doubt one day, probably not too far off, have much less use for oil than we do now, but that will be because people have come up with something better,cheaper and cleaner.The stone age also ended, but not for want of stones!
    That said, in the short term the best we can do to prepare fture generations for any effects of climate change is to leave them as much wealth as possible, and that means using the most cost effective means of powering ur economy in the short term. Rich people can cope with just about anything, whereas poor people are at the mercy of the climate, and have no choice but to despoil their environment to live. If the trends of the past century and a half continue (and why shouldn't they), mankind will have conquered poverty all but completely by the end of this century. As long as we dont stuff it up crippling our industries in a vain attempt to turn back the inevitable! Your disbelief at the income of people last century is clear proof that you do not understand how far we have come, and have little imagination for how far we can go, in making ordinary people's lives longer richer and healthier.

  • At May 08, 2006 12:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Not at all, Coby. I actually admire your ability to keep this site running, read lengthy posts like mine and reply to them.

    BTW, Peter Wilson has just given you a very tough one to rebut!

    I think the mitigate or not debate often quickly boils down to a personal judgement about what is more essential

    I agree. And I think that we’ve already found out where we more or less stand in our personal political judgements;-) But note that in my posts above I did not take any side on the need or not to take the actions you propose. All I tried to do is argue that those actions do have an economic cost and that this cost, like it or not, translates to human suffering.

    You just seem to think that people are too concerned about the economic costs of a mandatory CO2 reduction. But I rather think that the problem is most people neglecting the serious economic consequences that regulations like that bring about, especially on this side of the Atlantic.

    contiuous growth is quite simply an impossibility

    I am unable to imagine how continuous economic growth (larger production of good and services to satisfy human needs and desires) must necessarily stop at some point. Could you please explain how exactly this necessity would emerge?

    I think that you’re dealing with a very old proposition that has once and again been turned down by historical events. Do you know what’s repeatedly happened to famous environmentalist Ehrlich’s predictions and what the outcome of his bet with economist Julian Simon was?

    I am not at all sold on the idea that "economic development is indeed a very good proxy for such things as life expectancy, health, literacy and a myriad of things we commonly associate with a good quality of life"

    The best thing I can do to dispel your doubts here is recommend that you read the many UN reports that deal with this issue (all of them very leftist btw). With your country Canada having had the honour of heading the UN Human Development ranking more than any other one, you must be familiar with it. Do read the last one, draw 2 lines representing economic and human development levels for each country and let me know if you see a strong correlation or not: http://hdr.undp.org/

    Just look at the supposedly booming US economy and the concurrent growth in poverty

    The continuous growth of poverty in the US is another myth that doesn’t stand a reality check. The US Census has done an excellent job, quickly imitated by other nations, at measuring poverty since at least the sixties, when this index was over 20% and it has done nothing but decline steadily since then. Last time I checked it had reached an all-time low in 2001 but had increased slightly following the recession that began that year. The news about this last event quickly translated in the progressive circles to an “ever-growing” index of poverty in the US. I once had to ask some compatriots of mine in a web forum to just not rush to send donations to the US poor, they may actually be worse off than them: the poverty threshold in the US was then about $19000/year for the average poor family. I could discuss at length about why pockets of poverty exist in very rich but very heterogeneous, multiracial societies but that would lead us very far away from the central topic of the weblog, I’m afraid.

    Look at the barely functioning economy in Cuba and some of the highest literacy rates and low infant mortality, good health etc.

    Another myth. I have Cuban émigrés among my acquaintances. One of them actually tried to escape from there in a boat, risking all he had. We will never know how many Cubans, including infants, perished trying to escape the daunting conditions of the island but we do know, if we care to find out, that Cubans now survive on rations of a 2 pounds of meat per month per head (or whatever the rulers decide for them at any given time), which causes problems of malnutrition rarely seen elsewhere. Doctors lack proper training, proper instruments, proper medicines and are very much isolated from medical advances in the rest of the world.

    BTW, communist leaders, and most notably Cuban ones, have always been the champions of economic growth. Pop idol Che Guevara once promised that Cuban per capita GDP would surpass that of the US by 1980.

    you must be careful about assuming that capitalism is the only way achieve technology, even if (and I don't grant this, btw) it were the only example history offered.

    Of course Technology appeared long before a capitalist order of the economy spread among the world’s important nations. But this latter fact made humanity develop as it had never done before. You can certainly conceive economic systems where technology would still advance or present historical cases where this happened but not at the same rate. According to a recent UNCTAD report, 75% of all R&D costs in the world are assumed by the 50 largest companies. Which countries do you think these companies emerged in? What, apart from their incentive to produce economically sound and profitable goods drives this huge technological effort?

    Conceive we can anything, but I wouldn’t put my children’s welfare at risk with yet another revolution for a better system, when the one we have has accomplished so much.

    you are missing improve efficiency. There is an awful lot of room for improvement here and it will *save* money

    I’m sure companies affected by Kyoto must be doing everything in their hands to improve efficiency. If they weren’t doing it before Kyoto that simply means that they didn’t operate in a competitive environment. But it’s true that I didn’t exhaust the options those companies have to face CO2 restrictions. I implicitly assumed that these restrictions would be tolerable and they wouldn’t opt for a) Close down and use what’s left of their capital for more profitable activities or b) Move their plants to restriction-free countries. There are many fears that in the real world this last option is a serious possibility. The report I mentioned by the Spanish Ministry of the Environment explicitly mentioned that threat. And the people in charge of that ministry are as leftist as you get them to be in the European political arena.

    Yes I think the scientific case saying we are in grave danger is, in fact, much more solid than the economic predictions of disaster

    What I requested from you is to compare the reliability of those predictions of “grave dangers” with the concrete numbers I gave about current economic costs of Kyoto. You can insist in refusing to “buy” whatever theoretical there was in my post but if you think those numbers are wrong you should explain why. And please let me know how I can reliably compare the costs of doing nothing to avert those dangers to the cost of doing what you ask for. Whatever our priorities are, it’s just going to be impossible to make a sound judgement if we cannot trust economic calculations based on standard national statistics.

    Likewise, another way to advance in this debate would be to specify what those grave dangers are, according to the current scientific consensus. Could you briefly detail them?

    ...and yet we have all survived the Montreal Protocol.

    I cannot comment on the accuracy of Balliunas’ figures. I once read in some economic paper that the cost of phasing out CFCs (in the developed countries) turned out to be smaller than expected. The technology was there and had already been implemented by some companies before Montreal. But it certainly is possible for a country like the US to have regulations costing trillions of dollars and still manage to grow economically. That is exactly what is commonly assumed to have happened in the past decades. Hence the emergence since the late 70s of a strong movement to reduce those regulations that has proven rather successful if we look at the economic results.

    Indeed I will give you that Kyoto-1 will not do so much harm (I am certain that this is precisely why its goals were so modest -to the point of making it pretty useless-, poor countries were left out of the agreement and the rest had little difficulty selling its ratification to its citizens).

    All I ask you in return is to acknowledge that CO2 restrictions do have an economic cost and that this cost inevitably translates into human suffering.

    From a global perspective, and considering the many other regulations our economies manage to function with, Kyoto-1 may look like something pretty harmless. But each person who loses their job, especially after a certain age and in economies affected by high unemployment rates like most in continental Europe, is a lot of human suffering that should never be neglected. Not to mention the suffering of people who will fail to escape poverty in the 3rd world because of a lower global economic growth. It is the role of economists to remind policymakers that for these people certain decisions do mean DISASTER.

  • At May 08, 2006 12:55 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Peter,

    Though I disagree completely with your claim that oil won't run out, I won't argue about it. Instead I would like to point out that there are certain fundamental things that technology, no matter how advanced, can never get around. And the crucial relevance of that observation to the topic at hand is that there comes a point where it takes so much energy to extract the oil that it losses any value as an energy source.

    I don't know where to begin with this notion of "leaving future generations enough wealth to deal with climate change". We are clearly talking at cross purposes. It does not matter how much money you have, or how big your tv set is or how many cars are in the garage, money doesn't grow on trees, if I may put a cliche to different usage here, but food does. If there are not enough trees left to provide this food, what good does "wealth" do you?

    BTW, can you show me some evidence that poverty is disappearing, preferably in real terms, not GDP growth rates; terms like numbers of hungry people or infant mortality rates?

    If I may return the derision of you last remarks, your notions about how rich people can cope with just about anything has all the insight and depth of knowledge exhibited by a long ago friend of mine who, after returning from a trip to Brazil said "life in Brazil is great! Everybody has there own maid." See if you can figure out just where that logic goes wrong.


  • At May 08, 2006 5:27 PM, Blogger Glen said…

    For evidence poverty is improving, try this chart.

    Regarding the claim that you can't live on $2500/capita, the per-capita GDP in Russia is less than that today. Regarding the practicalities, keep in mind that statistic is per capita, not per household. So a household of four has $10k/year to play with; a household of 8 has $20k.

    The main way we coped in the past was with drastically less living space per person. Houses were smaller, people lived with their parents and grandparents longer, couples stayed together for economic reasons. People didn't own as many clothes. A man might own ONE "good suit". There's no washer or dryer; clothes are washed in a bucket with a washboard and dried on a line. There may not be electricity or indoor plumbing. Dishes and clothes and furniture were passed down from one generation to the next. Things that broke or tore tended to get repaired, not replaced. And so on.

    We are hugely richer than those who lived in 1900 and the measure of that wealth is not the size of our TV sets but that we have spare money, time, and effort we can afford to spend on any cause we set our mind to because economic progress has made all the basic necessities of life ridiculously cheap compared to our income.

    The best thing we can do for future generations is make them as much richer than we are now as we are than those who lived in 1900. If that happens, then either adapting their lives to climate change or adjusting the climate itself to suit their future needs is likely to be much, much easier for them then than it is for us now.

    Acting on global warming now is probably a bad idea. Thinking about it and studying it and considering various proposals for the next 50 years or so seems like a much, much, better idea. If we don't hamstring the economy now - if we don't tie one hand behind our backs - we'll be much better poised to solve whatever problems present themselves in the future.

  • At May 09, 2006 5:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Glen pretty much sums up my response. I would add that both "The Sceptical Environmentalist" by Biorn Lomberg, and "The Ultimate Resource" by Julian Simon provide more concrete examples of the reduction of poverty, hunger, disease than one could possibly mention in a post like this.
    Wealth does not mean just the size of your TV, (or how many servants you have), it means education, freedom from overcrowding, disease, the ability to do the things that make life worth living. AND to care about the environment. Because the wealthy of the world do not want to live with pollution and filth, which is why the developed countries have strict anti pollution laws. Nor do the poor, but they have no choice, and thats the fundamental difference.
    Also, your response about not having enough to eat in future is ridiculous. Agricultural production has rocketed, on less land, in the past century, and will continue to do so. And the increase in CO2 levels will only help! Climate change, whatever else it may do, holds no threat at all for our food supplies.

  • At May 09, 2006 6:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Because the wealthy of the world do not want to live with pollution and filth, which is why the developed countries have strict anti pollution laws. Nor do the poor, but they have no choice, and thats the fundamental difference."

    That's ridiculous and offensive. The poor have no choice about living with pollution because the rich impose it on them. This happens both globally (e.g. processing of electronics waste in rural China) and within countries (how many rich communities have landfill sites nearby, how many of the urban poor have to breathe fumes from the cars of the rich). You make it sound like its their fault.

    Health outcomes are as strongly linked to relative as they are to absolute poverty.

    As a tangent regarding GDP / per capita blahblahblah a 100 years ago. A lot of the ways that people would live have become commodified. If you grow your own food on your own land, the contribution to GDP is less than after you are moved off that land to make way for sheep, tobacco, coffee. This has been going on at least since the Highland Clearances.

    GDP has increased so the country is "wealthier" and that is at the expense of the poor.

  • At May 10, 2006 10:28 AM, Blogger coby said…


    Thanks for that chart, I have no reason not to accept its conclusions. Re $2500/capita I think this was a US analysis. But you bring up some interesting questions that I do not know how economists answer. How can you put a dollar value on "wealth" when as you point out in some countries X dollars lets you live like a king while in others it is poverty line? Sorry if it is Econ 101, but I don't know how these things are really defined.

    What do you think about the idea that growth in wealth and continuous economic growth is pure and simple a reflection of the "discovery" of N and S america and southern africa (sorry indigenous people everywhere) and other smaller expansions. As we now know the globe is not infinite, shouldn't we expect that we have filled our petri dish and had better start thinking about sustainable, not growth oriented development?

    I am happy you mentioned throwing away vs repairing. If I have and discard 10 kitchen tables in my life, am I therefore 10 times wealthier than if I use only one well made one?

  • At May 10, 2006 10:49 AM, Blogger coby said…


    I accept that climate change mitigation involves economic costs, maybe even net costs.

    About growth, see my comment to Glenn about the influence of expansion on growth. I don't know how to explain that growth of anything real (ie not just numbers in a bank account) can not continue forever. The earth is not infinite.

    Thanks for the link to hdr.undp.org, lots of research material there! BTW, I have no interest in any revolution in any of the developed nations. By and large they have all the tools necessary built in to effect change. In fact, I am mostly of the mind that simply applying the existing principles behind the existing institutions consistently would be 75% of the battle won.

    The grave dangers are:
    - loss of biodiversity
    - ocean acidification
    - increased droughts
    - more frequent heat waves
    - displacement of coastal populations

    Each of these things has many far reaching implications some of which strike me as very hard to quantify monetarily.

    Thanks for the extensive and thoughtful comments.

  • At May 11, 2006 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I’ll try to keep it short. After all, we seem to have established some common ground.

    Unfortunately that’s not the case with Anonymous, who seems to live in a world where poverty has not decreased in the last 200 years. In my world at the time of the Scottish Highland Clearances most every human being was living in abject misery (even more so by today’s standards) whereas now only 17% is in that situation, according to the UN and World Bank statistics (and around 40% still live in poverty but both figures keep shrinking: http://www.worldbank.org/). So I don’t think that any communication will be possible with someone living on such a distant planet.

    As regards the first paragraph of your answer to Glenn, if I may, the short answer is PPP (purchasing power parity). Check any international income or production statistics to see if they’re measuring in dollars adjusted for PPP, as they usually do, or in nominal dollars. In the former case, your problem is solved.

    As for the limits to economic growth, no, there aren’t any really. Bear in mind that the idea is to produce goods and services that will serve to satisfy human needs and desires. It is precisely because our world is finite that we will always want to have more of everything that satisfies our wants, and of a better quality. Unhindered, humans will always tend to produce, exchange and acquire more, which is why economic growth does not stop, even after basic needs have been covered. Some material resources may become scarce in a particular form, but that’s when technology formulates new ways of using, combining or recycling the same or new materials to satisfy the same purposes. And we still haven’t begun to use any resource from outside our planet…On the other hand, when a society reaches a certain stage of development, services become an increasingly important share of the national production (70% in the US).

    Thanks for the list of grave dangers. I’ll come back to that at some other time.

  • At May 12, 2006 3:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "Anonymous, who seems to live in a world where poverty has not decreased in the last 200 years"

    That's not at all what I said, Mikel, and doesn't address the main point I was making.

    I guess we do inhabit different worlds. You want high numbers on balance sheets, I want the people who control those numbers to stop imposing their idea of limitless economic growth on the rest of us. Which wouldn't be so much of a problem if we really were on different worlds. Except where we are, economists continue to play Pangloss while inflicting earthquakes on the majority world.

    Just because more "markets" are identifed and created from previously uncommodified resources does not mean than the world is a better place. The physical resources are still limited (you couldn't allow crofting and still profitably farm sheep on the same land). Physics trumps economics, so them with the power and an economic interest carry on exploiting others and telling them that it's progress and will increase GDP, the economy needs it, everyone will benefit in the long run from being displaced (Clearances), poisoned (dirty industries), or crippled (repetitive factory work).

    What the marketisation of pollution, carbon emissions etc will lead to is a world where the rich can afford their increasing "prosperity" because this comes at the expense of the poor. Deprived of their land and made dependent on a money system run by the rich West, they'll have no choice but to accept whatever work they're offered, no matter how toxic and unhealthy that is.

    The "freedom of choice" for East Indian ship breakers or Chinese metal-recoverers amounts to: die quickly of starvation, or slowly from this work that no-one here will do. I mentioned the Highland Clearances because it seems to me part of the same process.

  • At May 13, 2006 10:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi Anonymous,

    Sorry if my remark about your living in a different world sounded harsh. But the problem is that I suspect you haven’t checked any of the provided links and references, lack of any better data to base your assertions on but still somehow “know” that they are right and refuse to listen to “economic blahblahblah”.

    I also have the impression that in your last post you’re ignoring my explanation above about the practical absence of physical limits to economic growth. To put it a different way, a chunk of copper ore (for example) is pretty worthless to satisfy any human need. However, technology has devised ways to use it in many ways that will eventually make it useful for ordinary people. They may use copper pots to heat their food in or have electricity or telephones in their houses thanks to copper wires. Any natural resource, in the end, needs to satisfy human needs/wants to be worthy, otherwise people will not voluntarily use their limited incomes to purchase products made of them. Once resources start becoming scarce, their price goes up and entrepreneurs have no choice but to devise new ways to satisfy the same needs at an affordable cost with the same or different material resources. It’s not material resources what matter but human needs.

    Since I presume you’re living in a democratic country, I don’t see very well what prevents you from retiring to some plot of land where you could lead the “self-sufficient” way of life (presumably without internet) you seem to think would be so good for everybody. Nor do I understand how we economists can impose our (often conflictive) views on the majority of the people. Don’t these people have the choice of electing different policymakers?

    I do agree with your crude description of how many people still live in the developing world. That is the big issue I think humanity should try to find solutions for (and, as Lomborg says, a much more important one than consequences of possible climate change). However, you should note that A) Those people you refer to at least now have a choice. Before their countries opened to globalisation, they had none. And indeed millions of them used to perish due to malnutrition and curable diseases. B) You have chosen the very 2 countries (China and India) whose very fast *Economic Growth* is making the figures of world misery and poverty shrink rapidly, as I noted in my previous post. C) Misery, scarcity and hunger have been humanity’s companions for millennia. Some societies have achieved an unprecedented development in the last 200 years but before that they were in the same or worse situation as today’s poor (Ireland is today the 2nd richest country in the world –in per capita GDP- but 150 years ago suffered from a devastating famine that killed a significant proportion of its population). What sense does it make, now that some countries are moving in the same direction that made rich societies slowly become what they are, to ask them to shoot themselves in the foot and stop growing?

  • At May 24, 2006 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "now have a choice. Before their countries opened to globalisation, they had none."
    - I see the current wave of globalisation as the impostion of Western economic orthodoxy on people who are in no position to choose their own path because the wealth is held by the same interests pushing that orthodoxy on them.

    "Don’t these people have the choice of electing different policymakers?"
    - Different policymakers maybe, but I see very few of them offering different policies.

    "any natural resource, in the end, needs to satisfy human needs/wants to be worthy"
    - I didn't mention this because it seems to be confusing an economic ideology (unlimited growth) with immutable physics (entropy). Anthropomorphic and divorced from physical reality. A tonne of metal in an irretrievable form can "want to be worthy" all it likes. If it can't be gotten out, no amount of dollars will do it.
    But if you want to carry on that line of thinking I would point to my example above regarding waste "recycling". Entrepeneurs have spotted that human health is worth less in some countries than solder and trace elements in waste from others. Technology may be one way of extracting profit from materials but it's far from the only one.

    "You have chosen the very 2 countries (China and India) whose very fast *Economic Growth* is making the figures of world misery and poverty shrink rapidly"
    I was under the impression that the UN development indices had shown a slide back on measures such as helath, education and access to clean water during the 1990s. I'm not in a position to hunt them down right now, but I would say again I regard GDP as a meaningless figure that can be made to grow by monetising previously common resources.

    More generally, I wasn't advocating isolationist self-sufficiency and have no Romantic attachment to the peasant life. Perhaps my emphasis was there because of the fundamental gulf between our positions. There's been Enclosure of resources and dispossesion of inconvenient communities hand in hand with apparent economic growth that is still occurring today. I cited the earliest examples that came to mind as they also seem like a decent explanation for the question of how could people x years ago survive on y amount of money.

    What I am attached to is the idea is that those who do the work should benefit from it directly and control it and their lives. Most crudely, those who work the land get first shouts on the food, not your hypothetical benevolent entrepeneur who claims to "own" that land.

    Your notion of free choice seems only valid to me if it takes place between people with equal amounts of power. As we don't yet live in a world where a farmer in Tanzania has power equal to an economist in Washington DC, it is absurd to argue that there is any meaningful freedom of choice.

  • At May 25, 2006 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I was under the impression that the UN development indices had shown a slide back on measures such as helath, education and access to clean water during the 1990s. I'm not in a position to hunt them down right now

    That’s not true. I gave above one of the best possible links to get the most reliable information on all those issues and many more regarding human development and poverty: http://hdr.undp.org/. With a couple of clicks you would have arrived to http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/rc_2005.cfm, where you can select any index you want. You would have found, for example, that for all developing countries life expectancy increased early 70s to early 00s from 55.6 to 64.9 years (well above the US life expectancy at the beginning of the 20th century!), the % of population with access to a sustainable source of improved water 1990-2002 increased from 70 to 79 and youth literacy rate has gone up from 81.1% in 1990 to 85.2% in 2003. That’s just to satisfy your concern about the 3 measurements you mentioned with the best available figures. And yes, sorry, these human development improvements go parallel to per capita GDP increases, that’s just the way things work.

    By ignoring all these facts and putting your ideology and theories in front of them you are indeed building a gulf that makes communication ineffective and moreover you give the impression of not being very concerned with the real situation of the poor people in the world.

  • At May 25, 2006 1:03 PM, Blogger coby said…


    Any idea how much of those trends is due to the rapid development of China? That would be an interesting thing to know. Considering their huge population they may well single handedly (well, billion handedly ;) change the global outlook.

  • At May 26, 2006 7:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, that’s a good point Coby. I mentioned this somewhere above. I don’t have any concrete figures (they would be easy to obtain for any index or set of indices from the link above) but the huge economic growth of China (and some other eastern Asian countries) in the last decades explains most of these HD improvement figures. Fortunately India has more recently followed the same steps of economic growth. Less people live in misery and millions of people are actually escaping from poverty. Which of course does not mean that we now live in a rosy world (or that we’ll ever will), as some seem to infer when one mentions this!

    However, the trend is similar for most of the developing world. With less dramatic figures, Latin America, the Arab countries and many African ones have equally improved their HD indices. Just check the UN figures for any given period in the link above and you’ll get this picture confirmed. The 90s were a particularly good decade for most countries. The exception are some (but not all) Sub-Saharan African nations, where economic depression, war and AIDS made HD indices go back.

    This ties in again with the discussion we had earlier. Let’s formulate it like this now: could anyone blame these countries if they refused to adopt economically damaging CO2 emission cuts? For most of us it’s “just” a bit more unemployment and higher energy bills (with the current technology and assuming reasonable CO2 caps) but for them it’s nothing less than essential HD: bringing people out of misery.

  • At May 26, 2006 7:46 AM, Blogger coby said…

    No one could blame them if this were the complete set of choices. I am particularily mindful of an tangentially related example I read in Jared Diamond's "Collapse", a chinese farmer who in the very recent past had had to spend months hauling tons of river mud on his back to fertalize his fields every year. He now uses manufactured fertalizer and this task takes a matter of days.

    But I am not convinced that the choice is between CO2 or live in poverty. The idea behind the Kyoto protocol was for gov't pressure to produce innovation, innovation people climbing out of poverty do not have time to come up with. This innovation would then be spread and we would have globally sustainable and environmentally benign development all around.

    There are options.

  • At May 26, 2006 8:11 AM, Blogger coby said…

    I should have filled out my chinese farmer story a bit. The down side of that is the destruction of fisheries downstream from fertalizer run-off and an increase in red tide events from one every five years to over 100/yr. No one wants that farmer's life back to what it was, clearly what is going on won't work.

    That is the dilema we face now. No one wants to live like a Quaker farmer, but clearly what is going on now won't work.

    I don't believe that there are no solutions. One of my favorite sayings is "whether you believe you can, or you believe you can't, you're probably right."

  • At May 29, 2006 2:56 AM, Blogger Peter K. Anderson said…

    When there is nothing obviously broken, it is not advisable to attempt to sanction repairs, especially if the 'opinioned repair' is 99% guess work in its attempts to 'outline the problem'.
    That is the case with Climate, it is not discernable in any humanistic time frame that there is any actual issue needing 'attention', so apart from the usual need for pollution concern, there is nothing needing being 'done' to remediate a supposed 'climate problem'.

    Your's, Peter K. Anderson a.k.a. Hartlod(tm)
    From the PC of Peter K Anderson
    E-Mail: Hartlod@bigpond.com

  • At May 29, 2006 7:10 AM, Blogger coby said…

    The dilema is not whether or not we should try to fix a complex and vital system we don't fully understand, it is whether or not we should stop meddling with a complex and vital system we don't fully understand.

  • At May 29, 2006 4:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There are options

    Which ones?

    I think that the developing countries represent another good reality-check for the thesis that alternative sources of energy are nowadays economically sound as well as for some common conspiracy theories.

    These countries desperately need to grow economically but unfortunately they don’t have enough capital (be it in the form of domestic savings or external funds) to invest in machinery, factories, power plants, education, infrastructure and all the things that enable rich societies to give a good quality of life to its citizens. As soon as any of them manages to develop, as China is doing through its free-trade, cheap labor policies, they immediately start burning huge amounts of fossil fuels. It is estimated that, at the current trend, China will surpass the US as the first emitter of CO2 in a couple of decades, with India trailing behind. It would be silly for a country so desperately in need of capital to invest what they have in sources of energy that are not as cost-efficient as their alternatives, wouldn’t it? So why do they do it? Because the technology is simply not there yet (except for nuclear, maybe).

    If all developing countries managed to start growing economically now, as I assume most of us would want them to do, what options are there but to put up with more CO2 emissions?

  • At November 23, 2006 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am working on a paper and don't really have the time to get into the details. You all seem to have an unlimited amount of time to spend pondering these arguements online though, so I'll try to give directions.
    To my knowledge, by signing the Kyoto Agreement a country agrees to make CO2 reductions in any way it wants. If a country signed it and didn't create and implement programs to actually do it, obviously there will be economic fall out. However, this is not because there are not ways to do it less expensively than the penalties for not doing it. It's because there was clearly a break down in the chain of events necessary: 1 inventory current emissions sources, 2 Analyze most efficient and economic areas for improvement, 3 Create specific plan, 4 implement and monitor plan.
    It is ridiculous to base an arguement on one country's lack of follow-thru.
    Please read Climate: Making Sense and Making Money; Rocky Mountain Institute; 1997(google it). This report, as well as many others I have found online, makes this entire line of arguements invalid. In short, conservation and energy efficiency reduces CO2 emissions AND can generate a proffit.

  • At December 02, 2006 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm posting this kind of late in the game, but there was one point that I felt fell by the wayside.

    coby, I mostly agree with you, but you seem to be comparing the economy/ standard of living/GDP too closely with biological models of increases in population. Food resources for a given species in a given location may not increase over time, and physical resources for human beings may not increase over time, but other things do. Technology allows increases in productivity and the ability to harness new resources (like solar energy, which before we could only profit by through using plants as an intermediary), which is not the situation you'd find in a population model. Both of these things lead to an increase in productivity, which leads to a higher standard of living and a higher GDP. I'm not an economist, but when they talk about economics in the news, on Wikipedia, etc. they mention this link between productivity and standard of living.

    If you look at the REALLY big picture, perhaps a population-style model still works. There may be a point where we can't increase our productivity any significant amount. Certainly that's true of using technology to improve productivity in specific machines. But I don't think we'll see that for quite some time.

    I grew up seeing the "snowball" model for technology--that technology is growing faster and faster because the existing technology makes it easier to create more technology. I think that you're probably right that there will eventually be some limit to economic growth, because eventually we won't be able to maintain productivity growth, but I also think that right now we're still in the exponential growth phase of our s-curve (logistic curve). But I'm getting off track.

    Anyway, the fact that our technology/productivity keeps increasing only makes it harder for me to believe that not using fossil fuels will lead to economic collapse. And it also makes it harder to believe that PV cells will always be too inefficient to be economically feasible. Because the economic question wouldn't be, "what percent of the solar energy hitting the cell can you extract," but rather, "how much will it cost to produce the PV cell and to extract the energy from it?" And even today, putting solar panels on your house does pay off your investment in the panels eventually, even though it takes a decade or more.

    Of course the developing countries cannot afford to invest in technologies that only offer a long-term payoff, if any. But part of the purpose of the Kyoto protocol was to offer incentives for other countries to invest in these technologies. We would then share/sell the technologies to the developing countries once the technologies became more cost-effective to implement.

    I find it hard to believe that in the long term it's not more efficient to get power from the sun, wind, and water than to dig up stuff from the ground and burn it. So one of the most frustrating parts about the economic argument for me is that it's probably more economical in the long run to make the technological investments now, but the returns on the necessary investments won't come soon enough for businesses to want to make the investments. (A corporation may last a hundred years, but the CEO, stockholders, etc. won't be around to benefit from the success of the investment, so where's the incentive for these individuals to make the investment?)

  • At December 07, 2006 1:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    From the perspective of a layman with a technical rather than economics background, I find myself troubled by statements like:

    All I ask you in return is to acknowledge that CO2 restrictions do have an economic cost and that this cost inevitably translates into human suffering.

    This blanket statement may be true in specific cases, but I believe it is generally false. The troublesome parts are the idea that all types of CO2 emissions restrictions come with similar sorts of costs, and that there is no way to manage those costs except to make someone suffer. I don’t believe those assumptions are generally true.

    If someone’s car reaches the end of its service life and they replace it with a more fuel-efficient car, their fuel use per mile will decrease and they will purchase less fuel from the fuel retailer. Whether that decrease in volume sold translates into a financial benefit for the car owner and a loss for the fuel seller is dependent on the variable unit-price of fuel, which is itself dependent on many other factors that are largely under human control and can be managed to reduce harm. This strongly influences the question of whether there will be a change in the level of human
    suffering on either side of the fuel transaction. Suffering certainly isn’t a given, especially when
    efficiency is the method of restricting CO2.

    Even restrictions that do directly increase consumer costs need to be kept in perspective. Using statistics from 2004 found at:


    ...we can look at ballpark numbers for the consumer costs of switching some carbon-intensive electricity generation to wind power. In 2004 in the US, there were 1,976,333 GWh of energy generated with coal, and 117,591 GWh generated from fuel oil, for a total of 2,093,924 GWh from
    those two sources. That was about 53% of the total electricity produced in the US. The average
    price of the total energy produced was about 7.57 cents per KWh. The site doesn’t say what the price per KWh was for coal and oil separately, so to be slightly conservative I’ll assume an average of 8 cents per KWh for coal and oil generated electricity. Also note that this price is the average of all users, where retail prices are often two or even three times the industrial rates that end up embedded in the retail price of manufactured goods.

    Suppose wind power suddenly replaced half of the current coal and oil fired generation capacity (This isn’t possible, of course , but it allows us to look at the effect on the consumer of a drastic change.) This change would mean that (2,093,924 GWh / 2) = 1,046,962 GWh of energy per year would then be generated using new wind power. It is generally held that properly sited wind power can be generated for 6 cents per KWh and within the next decade might be generated for the equivalent of 4 cents per KWh. For the sake of this discussion, and to be quite conservative, I’ll
    assume that the average price charged for this wind power to all consumers is 16 cents per KWh,
    which is twice the average charged for the current mix of energy sources.

    The added burden this places on consumers (i.e. the difference between what they paid before
    and after the change to wind power), averaged over both retail electricity and the embedded
    electricity cost of manufactured goods, is generously estimated at (1,046,962 GWh/year) x
    ($0.16/KWh - $0.08/KWh) = $83.76 billion / year

    Keeping in mind that this probably overestimates the added cost by a factor of 1.5 to 2, lets put that annual added cost in perspective with the consumer impact of the recent spike in oil prices.

    From 2004 to 2006, crude oil prices rose approximately $30 - $35 per barrel. For the sake of this
    discussion, lets say it was a rise of $30 per barrel, and that the price increase over that period was
    linear. This would represent an average price increase of $15 per barrel for the two year period.



    During this period the US consumption of oil was over 20 Mbpd, or over 7.3 Gbpy. With an
    average price increase of $15 per barrel for that two year period (compared to 2003), this is an
    added burden to the consumer of about ($15/bbl x 7.3 Gbpy) = $109.5 billion per year average
    added burden for each of those two years.

    But that’s just the average added burden during the years of price increase. If oil prices now
    stabilize at $30 per barrel higher than in 2003, this represents an annual added cost to the consumer of $219 billion per year compared with 2003.

    This number is clearly larger than the generous projection of the increase in electricity cost to the
    consumer if 50% of all US coal and oil generation were converted to wind power. And what was/is the effect on the US economy of the oil price spike? It slowed growth a bit. There was no recession except perhaps in certain key sectors heavily dependent on oil, and those losses appear to have been made up for by growth in other sectors.

    The point I’m trying to make here is that the costs of even this really drastic change are manageable in an economy like the US, and in real life it would take at least 10 - 20 years to switch half of the 500 GW of coal and oil electric generation to wind power. Over that time frame, the ramping up of electricity costs for the consumer would be lost in the noise of general inflation.
    And as a side benefit the wind turbines can be built in factories in the country that will use them,
    perhaps offsetting job losses in the regions dependent on coal revenues.

    It is worth pointing out that the rapidly developing economies of China and India are actually in
    somewhat the same boat. China and India did not go into recession during the spike in oil prices, and that lends some credence to the idea that they too could absorb the costs of some carbon restrictions with a transition to renewable energy such as wind power, without any increase in human suffering.

    If I’ve made an error in this ballpark analysis, I’d appreciate it if someone more knowledgeable would clarify that for me. At the moment though, it appears that the real issue here is whether the societies will accept the real, manageable costs of carbon restrictions, and accept the somewhat intrusive regulations that allow the restrictions to be implemented in a controlled fashion that avoids human suffering. There is no question that suffering will occur if the change is poorly managed, but the numbers above suggest that starting these changes immediately, and at the maximum currently achievable rate, won’t cause any real suffering in the US if properly managed. And similar things can be done without suffering in both China and India if the will exists.

    PS - thanks for your enormous effort Coby! Great work.

    Steve Ward

  • At February 20, 2007 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oil consumption is directly proportional to a nation and/or person's wealth. Reduce Oil consumption, reduce wealth.

    But this isn't the strategic goal of the neo-Communists. The goal isn't to reducing Oil consumption, but to give power to an international neo-Communist government (UN), to build up an army and redistribute wealth for their International Socialist Utopia.

  • At April 04, 2007 11:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am curious about "renewable energy" as a solution. I would like to suggest in reality it is not any solution.

    All energy is going somewhere, even energy mankind is not using. If we tap into any form of energy, aren't we preventing it from going to where ever it was naturally meant to go?

    How can this not have an effect on nature and the enviroment?

  • At April 04, 2007 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I do not disagree that there are many ways to combat global warming, but the issue is who will pay for it.

    Any cost placed on companies to cut greenhouse gas emmissions will be passed on the consumer. Any goverment action will be at the tax payers expense.

    Any manditory requirements for effiecent light bulbs etc will be billed to the end consumer.

    This is fine for those who make enough money to shrug off such added expenses. But what of people who are already marginally making it, living month to month? How do they just absorb a 50% increase in their electric bills, or a 50 cent per gallon tax on their gasoline?

    The only possiblity I can see is to remove energy production from the capitalism system. If you could recap the huge profits of this industry and turn them agienst the problem you maybe could fund it.

    Otherwise, the poor and the working poor will pay the brunt of the cost of any greenhouse gas emmission reduction.

  • At April 04, 2007 11:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The problem with renewable energy is that it also effects the enviroment.

    It seems that enviromentalist are in favor of renewable energy only in principle. But when a power plant is proposed they protest it. Solar takes up large land areas, destroying the enviroment. Hydro-electric power dams rivers and effects wildlife. I have even heard the complaint that wind farms kill birds with spinning blades!

    It truely does seem that enviromentalist envision us all either extinct or living in tents.

  • At April 08, 2007 3:04 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Re energy use itself affecting the environmnet: the amount of energy fluxing in and out of the global climate system is orders of magnitude larger than all human energy use combined. Any such effect will be negligible.

    Re wind farms and birds: I think this is an urban myth. Can you provide an example of any environmental organization making the claim that wind farms kill too many birds? My impression is this was just made up somewhere to tarnish environmentalists...

  • At June 17, 2007 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    anonymous (3 posts up)
    Things involving efficiency of course save money for the consumer. If light bulbs, computers, and other devices are more efficient, the person who buys it necessarily saves money in the long run.

    As for things like renewable energy, fossil fuels already are running out so we have no choice. But if we start now, it will be MUCH better than later. If we don't at all, I assure you things will be far far worse than paying a little more for gasoline. Also, fuel efficiency standards should be raised so new cars don't cost more to run.

    The idea that they're "tied up" in regulations and that things like this dramatically hurt consumers is little more than corporate propaganda. When companies save money, by for example getting regulations cut or not innovating, they don't pass the savings back onto the consumer but rather use it for things like hundred million dollar bonuses for executives and more lobbying.

    The rich already are able to be (relatively) self-sufficient and stay rich with little work. For example just consider George Bush's ranch with all the solar panels. Developing new technology will help the rest of us get by without oil and its negative effects, unfortunately that's a good reason why many special interests and Bush himself will say nearly anything to prevent it.

  • At October 10, 2007 9:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just want make a point to the "anonymous" that claimed getting rid of oil will get rid of wealth because of the direct correlation between oil use and wealth.
    The number of leaves that fall in one's yard is directly proportional to how many trees are in the yard. Therefore, if you rake the leaves up, the trees will die.
    Does that make sense? No! Yet, it contains exactly the same arguement flaw your statement contains. Direct correlations do not prove cause and effect. More oil is used in wealthy nations because wealthy people can afford to buy the oil and the items that use oil. They are not wealthy because they use oil. Most wealthy people can also afford to buy drugs but that is not a good reason to actually use drugs.
    Please, you owe it to yourself and your country to get an education.

    And to all of the people on here claiming that renewable energy is sooo expensive, switching would cause people to suffer, particularly the poor:
    If renewable energy was subsidized as much as petroleum products are currently subsidized, we would practically be getting paid to use it. It is neither accurate nor reasonable to compare the consumer cost of a subsidized energy source to that of an unsubsidized one. And in case you aren't aware, EVERYONE suffers if we continue to use nonrenewables irresponsibly. All people will not be able to purchase petroleum products eventually and all people will suffer the effects of global climate change. Stop living in denial!

  • At December 20, 2007 3:14 AM, Blogger charles edwards said…

    Even if we found good clean energy sources the fosil fuel companies would not want to release it to the public nor would the goverment it would drastically alter the economic balance all over the world, these politicians sat in there posh offices with the Air conditioning units on full have no intentions of sharing anything that will lose them revenue or their campaign supporters (business) profit. We are doomed by our own greed and lust for power and it will be our downfall.

  • At February 25, 2008 9:18 AM, Blogger The Gregor said…

    I concede that humans are causing climate forcing, that it will be a disaster however is unscientific conjecture. Using government to forcibly reduce fossil fuel usage will be an economic disaster. I don’t think that it’s very smart to take measures that we know will be a disaster in hopes of preventing a potential one.

    Also the idea promoted by Cody earlier in this thread that the economic growth in the past is because of the discovery of N S America and S Africa is preposterous. Look at the concentration of wealth in NY City alone. Was any of that there when the first settlers arrived? No, because wealth is created by free individuals working to better their own lives.

  • At July 11, 2008 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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