Why conservatives should love carbon taxes


in Economics, Politics, Rants, Science, The environment

Climate emergency

The National Post – Canada’s right-leaning daily newspaper – has publicly stated that it believes climate change is real, and also that the current government has the right approach to dealing with it. In particular, it praises Environment Minister Jim Prentice for avoiding the “creation of state-managed “green economies” — socialism with a Gaian face.”

Whether such a creation is possible (and whether it would be desirable or not) are questions that can be set aside for a moment. The irony that seems to be paramount when it comes to the relationship between conservatives and climate change is how they stress a desire to interfere in markets and individual choices as little as possible, while rejecting the mechanism that would do that best: a carbon tax. A carbon tax doesn’t force anyone to drive a small car or, terrifying thought, forgo automobiles all together. It doesn’t force people to choose small pets, give up flying, or make other specific sacrifices. It also doesn’t rely upon the government deciding which energy technologies should succeed, whether that means renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and storage, or something else. It encourages low-carbon technological development in the most hands-off and market-friendly way possible.

All a carbon tax does is take the price imposed on strangers by greenhouse gas emissions and makes it ‘internal’ to the decision-making of individuals and other economic actors throughout society. It comes the closest to retaining the libertarian ideal in a world where interconnectedness forces us to take into consideration the consequences our actions will have on others. I have talked before about the irony of how laissez faire climate policies will inevitably fail and force governments to take employ more coercive measures. That outcome can only be avoided by sending a clear price signal on greenhouse gas emissions, and doing so early and at a meaningful level. Indeed, a carbon tax can be said to be a way of protecting property rights, given that it reduces the degree to which emitters will harm the property and prosperity of other people around the world.

It should be noted that the important policy change here is to put a price on carbon emissions, to represent the harm they cause to other people. The establishment of such a price is more important than the precise mechanism through which it is done, whether that is a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system in which 100% of the permits are sold at auction. The choice of instrument is less important than moving quickly to put a price on carbon in one way or another.

It is an open question whether conservatives will realize the extent to which they are undermining their own aims and ideals through opposition to carbon pricing. Part of that is the paleoconservative stance that climate change isn’t happening, that it is benign, that it is inevitable, etc. Among conservatives with enough basic awareness about the world to know that those arguments have been discredited, we should hope that support begins to grow for the idea of dealing with the climate problem in the way that involves the least expansion of the state and the least infringement on liberty: a carbon tax.

While there may well be cause for accompanying such a tax with other regulations – such as a ban on coal power – at least gaining conservative support for some kind of carbon action would change the tone of the debate. We would finally stop pretending that we can ignore climate change indefinitely while the economy keeps ticking on just fine, and begin to appreciate and implement the steps required to build a low-carbon future.

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{ 87 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary November 10, 2009 at 7:40 am

Good article, I look forward to reading your next one.

I agree with you completely, one problem is that the left-liberal groups have a monopoly on environmental concern. As the UK Conservatives have shown, it’s perfectly possible for a centre-right party to be taken seriously on the environment.

Tris November 10, 2009 at 9:38 am

It’s a bit mistaken to use the notion of “conservatism” to tell conservatives what to do – since there have been no “real” conservatives in about 75 years.

Milan November 10, 2009 at 9:42 am

Pointing out why something is compatible with a person’s pre-existing values is a pretty ancient method of persuasion.

Once the conservative mainstream finally accepts that something must be done about climate change, it would be good if they were open to policies with a good shot at being effective, carbon taxes foremost among them.

Milan November 10, 2009 at 9:45 am

[I]t’s perfectly possible for a centre-right party to be taken seriously on the environment

Probably, but they need to satisfy at least two criteria: have awareness and recognition about the serious environmental problems we face and be willing to enact policies to deal with them. Supporting a wooly notion of conservation and planting a few trees are not an adequate response.

alena November 10, 2009 at 12:25 pm

I like the photo and your entry is interesting. This week I learned a lot about environmental policy in China thanks to your links.

Sarah November 10, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I think you’re making the mistake of assuming that people’s beliefs are logically consistent, whereas in fact people tend to proclaim a set of principles and then favour policies which clearly contradict those principles (e.g. neoliberals arguing for a small state and cost effectiveness, and then massively expanding incarceration at huge cost & virtually no benefit). My guess would be that the Globe is trying to maintain a credible rightish leaning stance and since being a climate change denier is increasingly not credible, and moreover because denial would lose them market share amongst a lot of educated people, they’ve conceded that climate change is real but don’t want to alienate the business and oil lobby by suggesting that anything should be done. Their position makes sense in terms of the incentives & pressures to which they are responding.

Tris November 10, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Since when are conservatives libertarians? Conservatives support protectionism and welfare for corporations. The libertarian wing of the Republican party has been pushed off to the Ron-Paul right, and in Canada I’m not sure if there ever were any libertarians.

Conservatives are all for externalizing costs when it helps “economic development”.

Tris November 10, 2009 at 5:31 pm

“(e.g. neoliberals arguing for a small state and cost effectiveness, and then massively expanding incarceration at huge cost & virtually no benefit).”

There is a principle, it’s just not the one explicitly endorsed. The principle is act in the interest of business and the elite, whether or not that happens to be in the general interest of the population as a whole. That’s the point of the bailout. That’s the point of twenty years of delay on climate action. There’s no “master plan”, there is just power perpetuating itself.

The existing political system will work to solve climate change exactly when the powers it serves decide it is in their collective interest. Incidentally, just like how in the U.S. health care reform became politically possible (though there has been overwhelming public support since the 80s) only after major business interests demanded it (i.e. downfall of American auto industry).

Dave November 10, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Thank you for the article, interesting.

There does appear to be a consensus that placing a price on carbon is the most effective means of reducing GHG emissions (with a carbon tax probably being the most effective mechanism).

That being said, I think the article minimize the difficulties associated with implementing a carbon tax and has a “just do it” tone. While it may be extreme to say that a carbon tax would literally take away all of a person’s liberties, you cannot minimize the impact that this government action would have on Canadians’ lives.

Proposing that a carbon tax is a hands-off approach that doesn’t ‘force’ people to change their behaviour is inaccurate. A carbon tax would directly impact people’s lives by making certain day-to-day activities more expensive. For 99% of Canadians, price is a major (if not the primary) determinant for decisions.

Thus, if due to government intervention, it becomes more expensive for a person to drive to buy groceries, or to fly overseas to visit a relative, and that person has to forego the activity due to cost, then the government is in fact taking away some of that person’s liberties.

This is actually the desired outcome of a carbon tax though. Its goal is to directly influence people’s decisions and essentially force them to lead a low-carbon lifestyle. Just because this outcome (a low carbon society) is a desirable one, it does not mean it doesn’t infringe on people’s liberties.

In other words, just because this particular government intervention would help save the planet, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take away the liberties of those who contribute to destroying it.

Milan November 10, 2009 at 9:04 pm

The point is, it takes away only liberties directly related to the environmental harm being caused, and it lets people choose how they cut down their emissions.

There is no completely painless mechanism by which human greenhouse gas emissions can be cut to nothing, but letting people choose which luxuries they forego seems preferable than having the government restrict options by decree. At least, that’s a position I think libertarians would agree with.

Carbon pricing would also drive investment decisions and technological development, eventually making it possible to do some things that are carbon-intensive today in a less carbon intensive way. Over time, that would partially restore the ability of people in general to do what they like, while not causing significant harm to others.

Dave November 10, 2009 at 9:46 pm

The way I see it though is that a carbon tax doesn’t let people decide how to cut their emissions. The government defines a specific set of activities / puchases that would be subject to the tax, and people would be forced to comply. In many instances, there are no other viable options, and therefore there is no decision to make (i.e., someone who cannot afford to drive to work anymore due to the tax, yet there are no viable low-carbon alternatives). In many cases, the government is in fact restricting options by decree.

The only way people would be able to decide on their own how to cut their emissions would be to allocate a certain amount of carbon each indvidual is allowed to emit. Each person could choose how they will remain under that level, and pay taxes for anything over. Each person would be responsible for reporting their emissions to government, which would be kept in a database…………. This is obviously not feasible.

Further, re: “a carbon tax would ‘only’ take away those ‘liberties ‘ directly associated with the environmental harm being caused”: Sorry to be blunt, but I just don’t think this statement is in touch with reality. Almost everything people do every day causes some sort of environmental harm. And many of these activities are hardly ‘luxuries’.

Look, am not arguing against a carbon tax. I just don’t think we can minimize the profound profound impact it would have on many Canadians’ lives. While a carbon tax would be an excellent way to reduce GHG emissions, we need to be up front and honest with people re: the sacrifices that will need to be made.

Milan November 10, 2009 at 11:28 pm

The way I see it though is that a carbon tax doesn’t let people decide how to cut their emissions. The government defines a specific set of activities / puchases that would be subject to the tax, and people would be forced to comply.

Ideally, you would impose the carbon tax as high up as possible: at the point where fossil fuels are produced or imported, and where other greenhouse gasses are generated. The price signal would then filter through the economy.

Emissions intensive things would get more expensive – that’s the whole point – but people would be able to respond to price signals in the same way as with any other change in input prices (such as an increase in hydrocarbon prices).

In addition, you could use most of the revenues to make periodic grants to taxpayers. People who emitted the average amount could more or less break even. Those who emit less than average could actually get more in credits than they pay in taxes. Naturally, those who emit a lot would end up paying more than they received.

Over time, the impact would be profound in the sense of changing the energy basis of society. That said, given changes in investment and technology, there might not be that much change in what people actually do. Cars will go from running on petroleum to running on renewable forms of energy; forests products will be produced sustainably; there will be less and more efficient air travel; etc.

The alternative – allowing climate change to proceed unmitigated – is far less desirable.

Milan November 10, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Here is some more on carbon pricing.

In particular, you may want to have a look at the cap and dividend idea.

Tris November 11, 2009 at 8:49 am

“The way I see it though is that a carbon tax doesn’t let people decide how to cut their emissions. The government defines a specific set of activities / puchases that would be subject to the tax, and people would be forced to comply.”

This just doesn’t make any sense to me. No one should get to decide whether or not to include the negative costs to others in their decisions – carbon tax is just an attempt to internalize these costs so you don’t have a choice about whether your decisions are based these costs or not. Having carbon costs included in your choices means you are left free to choose whichever carbon reductions you choose. For example, if you really value incandescent light, but are willing to give up driving, you can simply choose to pay more for light and less for fuel by consuming more or less of different modes of energy.

What it would mean to take away choices would be to, instead of imposing carbon taxes, simply ban certain activities. For example, banning fast cars, banning traditional lightbulbs, etc… This would be a real restriction of choice – and since even energy efficient technologies can be used inefficiently, probably a bad one (although it is certainly the road we’ve been traveling down).

It’s interesting how stupid the population is assumed to be in these out-right bans. We have free education up to grade 12, and a huge proportion of people going to post secondary, and yet policy makes absurd assumptions like “the car gets such and such a fuel economy”, when anyone who thinks knows that a car’s economy has as much to do with driving style than with anything else. Also, we ban incandescent light bulbs, but not electric baseboard heaters – when anyone who has taken a high school science class should be able to see they amount to the same thing.

Tris November 11, 2009 at 8:54 am

“Almost everything people do every day causes some sort of environmental harm. And many of these activities are hardly ‘luxuries’”

The term luxury is difficult. In a sense “luxury” is an entirely subjective term – what is a luxury for me may be a need for you depending on how we’ve been socialized. There is another sense of “luxury”, however, which includes things that are luxuries “objectively”, but do not appear as luxuries “to you”. For instance, a computer, to me, appears to be a need – I could not function in the way I consider normal without one. But, if my having a computer was putting undue strain on others, it would be hard for me to justify that damage because this “need” has been only recently constructed, and I could certainly learn to function in a different way.

Similarly, driving is for many a “need” because of the way their built environments are constructed. For instance, when I’m in Surrey, B.C. I need a car – without a car life there is awful. But, that built environment is contingent, is itself a luxury! Low density housing turns luxuries into needs, and so my choice to live in low density housing relies on my being able to treat luxuries as if they were normal everyday things. Do I have a right to live in low density housing if it is putting an undue strain on others? Certainly not – since I could live in another kind of community.

Tris November 11, 2009 at 8:58 am

“The only way people would be able to decide on their own how to cut their emissions would be to allocate a certain amount of carbon each indvidual is allowed to emit.”

I think this plan would produce even more inequality than a carbon tax system, since a lot of the working poor rely on auto transportation since they’ve been priced out of dense areas and taught that they should have many children. I don’t think we should pick any global warming solution that criminalizes the life of those who live by need, whereas those who live by luxury can simply buy their way out of emitting carbon.

oleh November 11, 2009 at 4:08 pm

This is a very interesting article and subsequent discussion. I agree with the article and the introduction of a carbon tax.

Also, I do not think that a carbon tax will either not cause hardship or be inequitable.

I do not think that proponents of a carbon tax are saying that it will not effect people’s decisions and people’s lives. It will. The purpose of it is to effect people’s decision making by including the environmental costs in the cost of the products they consume.

Also it will not be equitable as rich people will simply be prepared prepared to pay for the included carbon tax than poor people. We already have the situation that rich people can afford more than poor people.

A key to introducing the carbon tax is for people to realize that it is for the greater good and in the end the cost of not changing to prevent climate change will outweigh the costs of introducing a carbon tax to counteract it. The key would be for the introduction of such thinking worldwide.

Thank you for providing me with an argument (s) to put forward in discussions with conservatives.

Tristan November 11, 2009 at 11:20 pm

“Also it will not be equitable as rich people will simply be prepared prepared to pay for the included carbon tax than poor people. We already have the situation that rich people can afford more than poor people.”

This is an interesting point. It seems to me there is a straightforward way to fix it – make it a progressive tax. It cannot be immediately progressive because that would require the rate of tax to be charged to be dependent on your income at the time of purchase – impossible. However, it would be possible to make the rate high, then issue monthly refund checks based on income.

Milan November 11, 2009 at 11:35 pm


Actual carbon pricing schemes (whether tax based or cap-and-trade based) also need to choose between an approach based purely on internalizing the cost of carbon and one that also seeks to advance other goals. One motivation for the second option is political; it can be used to defuse opposition to carbon pricing within groups that are politically influential. Another motivation is the ethical notion that different people should pay more or less the same amount to combat climate change. Another motivation is the pure redistributive preference that exists within some political views and ideologies.

In the end, I don’t think any of these arguments is terribly strong. It makes sense to charge more to those who pollute more. Not only is that a matter of fairness, it is a matter of prudence. Knowing that the group is going to split the bill in a way that renders shares more even, a selfish diner will consume an above-average amount, counting on those who consume a lesser quantity to subsidize him. A revenue neutral carbon tax achieves the opposite: with heavy polluters paying dividends to those who are more restrained. Granting special treatment to politically influential groups also risks reducing the effectiveness of the carbon pricing scheme, partly because it becomes more worthwhile to try to game the political system, rather than cut emissions.”

Tris November 12, 2009 at 8:34 am

You are employing a false notion of neutrality to distinguish between the two sorts of schemes. In reality, just about every tax is either regressive or progressive since the value of money decreases as you have more of it-just like any other commodity.

Milan November 12, 2009 at 9:30 am

Still, I think there is a very strong case to make the sole objective of a carbon tax encouraging emissions reductions.

Leave progressivity (whatever level you want to have) to the income tax system.

aber November 16, 2009 at 7:33 am

The Canadian National Post – believe that “climate change” is real, without asking whether the term makes sense, as a look at the UNFCCC shows
Article 1 of the FCCC providing definitions offers none on the term “climate”, and if it had been based on the common explanation on “average weather”, the word “weather” would have required a definition as well. That the drafters failed to do so is a clear indication that they either lacked the scientific competence to do so, or they knew it would make no sense, because ‘average weather’ is statistics, and remain statistics regardless of any name given to the set of statistics. Instead the FCCC defines in
· Para. 2. “Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
Para. 3. “Climate system” means the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.
Further details at: http://www.whatisclimate.com/ )

Milan November 16, 2009 at 8:45 am

Allow me to refer you to my climate primer and previous arguments with so-called climate ‘skeptics.’

If you really want to argue that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – which differs from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – doesn’t understand what ‘climate’ means, let me know. In reality, the IPCC reports consider the natural functioning of the climate system in great deal, as well as identifying and attributing the warming trend induced by human greenhouse gas emissions.

aber November 16, 2009 at 10:06 am

If someone wants to say that weather and climate is different, after having stated that: „
Climate is generally defined as average weather, and as such, climate change and weather are intertwined.”, seems to have problems. A highlight is such an explanation:
As an analogy, while it is impossible to predict the age at which any particular man will die, we can say with high confidence that the average age of death for men in industrialised countries is about 75.
To find at FAQ, 1.2 , IPCC 2007 : What is the Relationship between Climate Changeand Weather?
http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/Report/AR4WG1_Print_FAQs.pdf, which starts as follows:

Climate is generally defined as average weather, and as such, climate change and weather are intertwined. Observations can show that there have been changes in weather, and it is the statistics of changes in weather over time that identify climate change. While weather and climate are closely related, there are important differences. A common confusion between weather and climate arises when scientists are asked how they can predict climate 50 years from now when they cannot predict the weather a few weeks from now. The chaotic nature of weather makes it unpredictable beyond a few days. Projecting changes in climate (i.e., long-term average weather) due to changes in atmospheric composition or other factors is a very different and much more manageable issue. As an analogy, while it is impossible to predict the age at which any particular man will die, we can say with high confidence that the average age of death for men in industrialised countries is about 75. Another common confusion of these issues is thinking that a cold winter or a cooling spot on the globe is evidence against global warming. There are always extremes of hot and cold, although their frequency and intensity change as climate changes. But when weather is averaged over space and time, the fact that the globe is warming emerges clearly from the data.

Have a look at this text: What is Weather? http://www.whatisclimate.com/c305-what-is-weather.html

Milan November 16, 2009 at 10:11 am

This is just confused.

For any unit of time, you can measure a statistic like mean global temperature. Obviously, this varies due to factors like season.

That being said, if mean global temperatures are rising year-on-year, it is perfectly correct to say that the climate is changing. Beyond thermometers, this manifests itself in things like glaciers melting, species migrating north and uphill, flowers blooming earlier in spring, etc.

We have good temperature records going back for decades, and can collect data going further back using techniques like tree ring and ice core analysis. Climate scientists certainly understand the difference between climate and weather, and none of what you say undermines the argument that the climate is changing, greenhouse gasses are the major cause, and that further change will likely be dangerous.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 10:14 am

This chart from the IPCC shows three things:

Attribution of climate change, from the IPCC 4AR

In blue are what climate models project would happen in the absence of rising greenhouse gas concentrations. In pink are what the models project based on the emissions humanity has been producing. The black line shows measured mean temperatures.

The observations detect that climate is changing, while the modelling makes a compelling case that anthropogenic GHGs are the cause.

aber November 16, 2009 at 1:17 pm

My comment is about terminology and in this respect WMO, IPCC and others are not up to resonable scientific standards, see FN 1, at http://www.whatisclimate.com/:
The WMO site has a theme-section, which include the two terms in question. Concerning weather the section “Weather” offers no explanation but has the opening sentence: “Everyone is interested in the weather”, while subsection: What is Climate begins with the sentence: “At the simplest level the weather is what is happening to the atmosphere at any given time.” In the same section the Organization offers for climate three options namely:
· in a narrow sense Climate is usually defined as the “average weather,”
· in a more rigorously way, Climate is the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time, and
· in a broader sense, Climate is the status of the climate system which comprises the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the cryosphere, the surface lithosphere and the biosphere.

. November 16, 2009 at 1:23 pm

“In the 160 years since explorer John Franklin perished in the Canadian Arctic, the enterprise of science has succeeded in overturning the old, yet persistent, Greek idea of climate as a stable property of the natural world. ‘Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get’ is no longer an adequate aphorism because we have come to believe that climate, just like weather, is constantly changing. Our expectations of climate have changed. This is the insight that Louis Agassiz applied over the very longest of time-scales. This to is the more recent insight offered us by Tyndall, Callendar, Broecker and colleagues.

Thje view, dominant over the first half of the twentieth century, which led Hubert Lamb to remark, in 1959, ‘not so very long ago.. climate was widely considered as something static, except on geological time-scale[s], and authoritative works on the climates of various regions were written without allusion to the possibility of change’, is as anachronistic to us today as the notion of a flat Earth. Physical climates change, they change on all time-scales, and we humans have become an active agent of change.”

Hulme, Mike. Why We Disagree About Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction, and Opportunity. (p.61, trade paperback)

aber November 16, 2009 at 3:55 pm

# Just some news; 16Nov, 01:23
HH Lamb was presumably one of the best in the field few decades ago, saying also this :
· __Definitions of climate and climatology have varied. That (still widely) definition of climate as “average weather” must surely be regarded as quite inadequate. Climate comprises the totality of weather experienced at a given place. As long ago as 1845, Alexander von Humboldt defined climatology as a division of meteorology taken in its broadest meaning as the physics of the atmosphere and the causes and relationships of atmospheric phenomena.

· __Only thirty years ago climatology was generally regarded as the mere dry-as-dust bookkeeping end of meteorology.

(H.H. Lamb, Meteorological Office Bracknell, Berkshire (UK), “The New Look of Climatology”, NATURE, Vol. 223, September 20, 1969, pp.1209ff)

However the scientific terminology is the same as 100 years ago, which means the same as the ordinary people use it since ancient Greek’s time.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 3:57 pm

So what exactly are you arguing? That climate change is happening, but that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change doesn’t define terms in the way you like?

Nobody else seems to think this is a problem. Climate change is happening because of human emissions, and we need to stop. That is basically the situation.

Milan November 16, 2009 at 4:08 pm

The UNFCCC text defines terms in the very first article:

1. “Adverse effects of climate change” means changes in the physical environment or biota resulting from climate change which have significant deleterious effects on the composition, resilience or productivity of natural and managed ecosystems or on the operation of socio-economic systems or on human health and welfare.

2. “Climate change” means a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.

3. “Climate system” means the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions.

An alternative way to approach the issue would be to define climate change to include “natural climate variability” and specificy anthropogenic climate change as the sort induced by human activity. That being said, it is perfectly rational to call natural variability just that, and use the term ‘climate change’ to refer to anthropogenic climate change.

aber November 17, 2009 at 2:17 am

Define first CLIMATE in a scientifically reasonable manner, and then go for CLIMATE CHANGE. If that is impossible, and you wish to use the word climate, then give it with regard to studying atmospheric behaviour a reasonable meaning, for example what is the most relevant aspect of atmospheric dynamics, respectively the driving source.
___One source is certainly the sun. BUT the sun does not makes the weather on this planet (see the moon, which is in relation to the sun in the same situation).
___Consult Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) who has said: “Water is the driver of nature”.
___Chose the prime driver on earth, and say: “Climate is the continuation of the oceans by other means”; as expressed in a Letter to the Editor, NATURE ,1992, Climate Change, Vol. 360, p. 292; http://www.whatisclimate.com/1992-nature.html

Conclusion: With the oceans in focus the climate change debate would presumably be going very differently.

Milan November 17, 2009 at 10:52 am

I am totally confused by you.

It doesn’t seem like you are denying that anthopogenic GHG emissions are causing the climate to warm. I can’t really understand what you are so up in arms about. The UNFCCC seems to define its terms in a reasonable way, and I find the premise of your website perplexing as a result.

Tristan November 17, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Aber’s argument seems to be: if we assume that climate is a result of some internal change in the ocean, then we can conclude that climate change is caused by something internal to the ocean. That’s begging the question.

Resolution: This house believes “Begging the question” is reasonable grounds for censorship.

Milan November 17, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I find it remarkable that Aber has set up an entire website, but cannot express his key point in a form I find comprehensible enough to respond to.

mek November 17, 2009 at 5:02 pm

The timecube-style formatting should be setting off alarm bells.

aber November 18, 2009 at 2:04 am

# Milan November 17, 2009 at 10:52 am “I am totally confused by you”

“Until one has experienced the sea around one,
One has no idea of world and its relation to the world.”
(Johann – Wolfgang v. Goethe , 1749-1832, “Italian Voyage”, 1787)

Hence here is oceanology in 30 seconds:
___the oceans hold 1000 times more water than the atmosphere,
___the average temperatures of the oceans is below 4°C,
___only a very thin ocean surface layer and at lower latitude regions have more than 10°C,
___The atmospheric vapor is completely exchanged every two weeks.
___ The upper 3m of the ocean surface layer has the same heat capacity as the whole of the atmosphere. Hence the heat required to raise the temperature of the atmosphere (10’000m) by 1ºC can be obtained from cooling the upper 3m of water by the same amount. As weather takes primarily place in up to 1000 m, the mentioned heat supply into this sector could be easily 10 and more degrees.

“Everything comes from water!
Everything is maintained through water!
Ocean, give us your eternal power!”
(From the drama Faust II, Thales, by Johann-Wolfgang v. Goethe, (1749-1832)

Milan November 18, 2009 at 8:52 am

Are you saying that we shouldn’t worry about climate change because the oceans will absorb any additional heat in the planet system?

It would be helpful if you would be less poetic, and more willing to express yourself in clear statements.

In any event, it is clear that the extra heat being trapped isn’t all going into the oceans. Just look at observed changes in temperature on land – not to mention melting glaciers, earlier flowering dates for plants, migration of species, etc.

If you want to learn more about the importance of the ocean within the climate system, I recommend that you read Richard Alley’s The Two Mile Time Machine.

P.S. I would be rather surprised if there is only 1,000 times more water in the oceans than in the atmosphere. At sea level, air has a density of around 0.0013 grams per cubic centimetre, compared with 1.0 for water. Air also gets less dense as you go up in altitude. The percentage of the atmosphere consisting of water vapour is also only around 1%.

While the troposphere may be between 17km (at the equator) and 7km (at the poles), the average depth of the ocean is 3,790m.

To summarize, there is more volume of atmosphere than of ocean, but the ocean is nearly 100% water and is 100 times denser than air at sea level. I would guess that this means the ratio of water content in the oceans to the atmosphere is greater than 1000:1.

Milan November 18, 2009 at 8:56 am

This page includes the following statistics:

Volume of Earth’s Oceans: 1.310302 to 1.5 billion km^3

Volume of water in the atmosphere: 12,900 km^3

That suggests there is about 100,000 times more water in the oceans than in the atmosphere.

R.K. November 18, 2009 at 9:59 am

It is also worth noting that without the natural greenhouse effect, the whole planet would be around -20 °C and the seas on the Earth would be frozen solid. Obviously, the composition of the atmosphere has the capability to affect the oceans.

Not that any of this has much to do with carbon taxes…

. November 18, 2009 at 10:17 am

17 November 09
Bankrupt National Post Eats Crow on Climate Change

According to the Post:

“The Earth is warming, and human activity is likely to blame. Climates are changing across the world, including in Canada’s far north. In other parts of the world, some crops will fail, some species will be pressed to extinction and some low-lying territories will be flooded.”

Imagine that. Only about two decades after the scientific community came to exactly the same conclusion, Canada’s most business-friendly newspaper has belatedly acknowledged that several of its most prominent and vociferous critics of climate science don’t apparently have a clue what they are talking about.

aber November 18, 2009 at 10:54 am

# Milan November 18, 2009 at 8:52 am
My point is:
Understand the oceans better and take more care of the seas, and if interested read here: http://www.seaclimate.com/,
or this
Letter to the Editor,
NATURE 1992, “Climate Change”, Vol. 360, p. 292;
“SIR – The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the earlier struggle for a Convention on Climate Change may serve as a reminder that the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea has its tenth anniversary on 10 December. It is not only one of the most comprehensive and strongest international treaties ever negotiated but the best possible legal means to protect the global climate. But sadly, there has been little interest in using it for this purpose. For too long, climate has been defined as the average weather and Rio was not able to define it at all. Instead, the Climate Change Convention uses the term ‘climate sys- tem’, defining it as “the totality of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and geosphere and their interactions”. All that this boils down to is ‘the interactions of the natural system’. What is the point of a legal term if it explains nothing? For decades, the real question has been who is responsible for the climate. Climate should have been defined as ‘the continuation of the oceans by other means’. Thus, the 1982 Convention could long since have been used to protect the climate. After all, it is the most powerful tool with which to force politicians and the community of states into actions. ”

Milan November 18, 2009 at 11:01 am

I certainly don’t disagree with the notion that we should try to understand the oceans better, and that we should take better care of them. Look at my posts on fisheries or ocean acidification, for instance. That said, your position on climate change remains unclear.

As for that letter to Nature, did they really print it in 2002, or did you just post it on their website in 2009?

In any event, I would prefer if people could stick to the topics of carbon taxes and conservatism, in the discussion of this post.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 3:29 pm

For some reason, the above exchange with ‘aber’ is being reproduced on this site: Open Letter On Climate Legislation.

This makes it seem more likely that aber is in fact a climate change denier, albeit one who expresses himself very poorly.

Milan November 19, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Oh, and one page linked above seems to provide conclusive evidence that ‘Dr. Arnd Bernaerts’ is a crackpot: Climatic changes due to naval warfare.

“Large-scale anthropogenic weather modification and climatic changes resulted from two destructive sea wars. This became particularly obvious when an arctic winter befell Northern Europe only four months after World War II had started. To establish a definite connection between war at sea and climatic change, climatic data for first few months of WWII are analyzed in fourteen theme papers. Thereon further climatic data is analyzed in respect of subsequent two war winters of 1940-41 and 1941-42, in six supplementary papers. It can be seen that record cold winters occurred in Europe only.”

Once again, I am astonished by what ludicruous things are believed and argued outside the reasonable scope of debate on climate change.

AlGore November 21, 2009 at 3:27 pm

“95% water vapour” Global warming debunked by New Zealand Meteorologist


Water vapour was responsible for 95 per cent of the greenhouse effect, an effect which was vital to keep the world warm, he explained.

“If we didn’t have the greenhouse effect the planet would be at minus 18 deg C but because we do have the greenhouse effect it is plus 15 deg C, all the time.”

The other greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen dioxide, and various others including CFCs, contributed only five per cent of the effect, carbon dioxide being by far the greatest contributor at 3.6 per cent.

However, carbon dioxide as a result of man’s activities was only 3.2 per cent of that, hence only 0.12 per cent of the greenhouse gases in total. Human-related methane, nitrogen dioxide and CFCs etc made similarly minuscule contributions to the effect: 0.066, 0.047, and 0.046 per cent respectively.

“That ought to be the end of the argument, there and then,” he said.

“We couldn’t do it (change the climate) even if we wanted to because water vapour dominates.”

Milan November 21, 2009 at 3:43 pm

This analysis is incorrect. See: Calculating the greenhouse effect

Yes, water vapour is a greenhouse gas. That said, the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere depends on the temperature of the air. As such, adding other greenhouse gasses (like CO2) to the atmosphere warms the air, allowing it to hold more water, which then causes further warming.

See also: Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget (PDF)

Also, it’s weird to call yourself ‘AlGore’ when you are so thoroughly lacking in knowledge about climate science.

Milan November 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Jack Carradice was also confused about water vapour.

. November 21, 2009 at 3:48 pm

‘Climate scientists dodge the subject of water vapor’—No, they really don’t

Not a single climate model or climate textbook fails to discuss the role water vapor plays in the greenhouse effect. It is the strongest greenhouse gas, contributing 36% to 66% to the overall effect for vapor alone, 66% to 85% when you include clouds. It is however, not considered a climate “forcing,” because the amount of H2O in the air basically varies as a function of temperature.

If you artificially increase the level of H2O in the air, it rains out immediately (in terms of climate response times). Similarly, due to the abundance of ocean on the earth’s surface, if you somehow removed all the water from the air, it would quickly be replaced through evaporation.

This has the interesting consequence that if you could somehow instantly remove all CO2 from the atmosphere, the temperature would begin to drop, causing precipitation to remove H2O from the air, causing even further drops, in a feedback effect that would not end until no liquid water was left, only ice sheets and frozen oceans.

CO2 put into the air by burning fossil fuels, on the other hand, stays in the atmosphere for centuries before natural sinks finish absorbing the excess. This is plenty of time to have substantial and long-lasting effects on the climate system. As the climate warms in response to CO2, humidity rises and increased H2O concentration acts as a significant amplifier of CO2-driven warming, basically doubling or tripling its effect.

wozza.xing November 23, 2009 at 7:49 am

I think now the Hadley CRU is exposed, we have more chance of a PH based economy than a CO2 one. Well written article.

Milan November 23, 2009 at 10:45 pm
Milan November 23, 2009 at 10:58 pm

It is also worth nothing that the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre are not the same institution.

The first is a university body, the second is a government body.

Tristan December 1, 2009 at 10:03 am

You know, the original post is actually correct. Conservatives should love carbon taxes. Better – conservatives do love carbon taxes. Therefore, there aren’t any conservatives. This seems the most likely conclusion.

R.K. December 2, 2009 at 9:52 am

Better – conservatives do love carbon taxes.

What is your reasoning here?

. December 3, 2009 at 2:30 pm

“A good policy framework would include some regulation in areas where the market doesn’t work well, such as the energy-efficiency of buildings and appliances. It would include a modicum of subsidy, on research into technologies that are still a long way from being marketable, such as carbon capture and storage. But it would rely largely on by far the most efficient tool in the policymaker’s kit—a carbon price.

A carbon price sends business a price signal to invest in clean stuff not dirty stuff. It doesn’t involve micromanaging business, which regulations do. It doesn’t impose a burden on taxpayers, or require governments to pick winners, which subsidies do. It is, according to an American study, twice as efficient as any other policy.

Economists prefer carbon prices, especially those set by taxes rather than cap-and-trade systems, which are more vulnerable to capture by the polluters they are supposed to penalise. Sadly, though, the views of economists carry little weight. Governments and businesses both tend to like subsidies.”

Milan December 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

I would also be curious to see why the lack of support for carbon taxes proves that there are no conservatives.

As the NDP has shown, there are plenty of reasons why it can make political sense to oppose them.

Tristan December 9, 2009 at 1:28 pm

I think the NDP has better demonstrated why it can make political non-sense to oppose them.

However, conservatives need to love carbon taxes because their notions of individual freedom and autonomy, and the perfection of the free market, require the inclusion of externalities to fulfill their own ideal. The idea that taxation is theft because I do not enter into it as a contract extends to every negative externality being theft because you are effectively taking from people you do not have contracts with, who are not engaging in acts of consensual economic interchange.

If you believe in individual freedom and autonomy, but don’t believe that the state should restrict the autonomy of the ruling class when its free actions effectively steal from others and from future generations, you are not a conservative but a fascist. Fascists do not believe in the rule of law, or in equal application of principles to different classes of society. Conservatives do – it is part of their ideal of freedom and individual rights.

Ergo, there are no conservatives. Instead, we have weak, proto-fascists who don’t know what they are because they’ve been watching too much TV.

Milan December 9, 2009 at 2:06 pm

You can also be ‘conservative’ in the sense that you believe existing institutions have value that is demonstrated by their survival through time. You can be skeptical of reform and change, because you think it is likely to produce disruption and strife rather than improvements in outcomes.

The trouble with this sort of conventional Burkean conservatism is that it cannot respond to genuinely new circumstances. While there aren’t many conventional conservatives who haven’t – for example – incorporated nuclear weapons into their world view, there are plenty that have not yet accepted the fact that humans could render the planet very hostile or uninhabitable by wrecking the climate.

Milan December 9, 2009 at 2:07 pm

Incidentally, that sort of Burkean conservatism has a lot in common with parts of the modern environmental movement: organic unity, agrarianism, high culture, localism, etc.

Prince Charles’ environmentalism also seems similar.

Tristan December 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Well, I don’t think we have any strong strains of that kind of conservatism either. The senate and “big government” are institutions which would have this value by virtue of their survival through time. And yet, the main strands of “conservatism” in the US and Canada respectively expend much wind desecrating them.

“You can be skeptical of reform and change, because you think it is likely to produce disruption and strife rather than improvements in outcomes.”

This isn’t a serious moral position. Slavery resulted in improved conditions for slaves between 1750 and 1850 – is this an argument for slavery? Of course not.

A conservatism based on principles (i.e. freedom and autonomy) at least fulfills the basic requirements of a moral position. This Burkean position appears the worst kind of utilitarian anti-ethics.

Milan December 9, 2009 at 2:29 pm

There are practical principles behind the Burkean view: particularly regarding human fallibility. The fact that we cannot easily rebuild societies to our liking should be all the more obvious, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan.

Tristan December 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm

“The fact that we cannot easily rebuild societies to our liking should be all the more obvious, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan.”

This isn’t a good argument. In Iraq, the US have continually blocked the progress of democracy because a democratic Iraq would likely ally with Iran. In Afghanistan, the idea that an invasion of guns and tanks (rather than an invasion of roads and hospitals) would produce a democratic or equitable outcome is not serious. All we do is support some warlords against other warlords.

Every political gain is the result of demanding an ideal be realized in concrete. Many occur when said ideals are already in circulation, but hypocritically so, i.e. abolitionism in American appealed to principles in the Constitution which could not be harmonized with slavery.

Tristan December 9, 2009 at 3:34 pm

“The fact that we cannot easily rebuild societies to our liking should be all the more obvious, post-Iraq and post-Afghanistan.”

More generally, isn’t every political improvement in history an example of us “rebuilding society to our liking”?

Maybe you are making an equivocation between “improving and reforming institutions” and “violent revolution”. Sure, violent revolution rarely, if ever, accomplishes the desired aim – but certainly such an equivocation is fallacious.

Milan December 9, 2009 at 3:38 pm

I was talking about radical change of the ‘simply expropriate the assets of the 25 Canadian companies which produce 80% of the C02 and shut them down‘ variety.

Such approaches are:

(a) fairly unlikely to succeed
(b) likely to use up a lot of political capital to attempt
(c) not certain to reduce GHG emissions, even if they succeed.

At least to begin with, the stealth approach looks more promising.

Tristan December 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Canada has run large national crown corperations before. Quebec nationalized its hydro power under Levesque. BC Hydro is still a crown corporation. The federal government bought Great Northern when it went under and that became Canadian National, a crown corporation until the late 80s.

We have a strong history in this country of national industry. It’s not a “grand political experiment” to propose nationalization of the energy sector as the best and fastest way to deal with climate change!

Milan December 9, 2009 at 4:13 pm

The same objections raised here apply.

. December 17, 2009 at 11:59 am

“[Promiment Republican Mike Huckabee] thinks the climate summit in Copenhagen is a waste of time. He favours a voluntary cap-and-trade system for curbing carbon emissions, which is like arguing for a voluntary income tax. As it happens, he favours a voluntary income tax, too. Or rather, despite the rapid deterioration of the government’s finances, he would abolish income tax and ramp up consumption taxes instead.”

. January 18, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Clean energy conservatives can embrace

By James Murdoch
Friday, December 4, 2009

Conservatives champion the essential characteristics of America: liberty, enterprise and ingenuity. As world leaders consider how to transform the way we make and use energy in the face of a changing climate, it’s time for an energy policy true to that spirit — and it shouldn’t be anathema to the American right.

Conservatives have a robust tradition of principled concern for the environment. It was, after all, Teddy Roosevelt who created five national parks and signed the Antiquities Act. It was Richard Nixon who established the Environmental Protection Agency, and George H.W. Bush who ushered in one of the greatest environmental success stories, the 1990 cap-and-trade plan to take on acid rain.

Today, Americans of all political persuasions want to see their country on a path toward an economy powered by energy that is clean, safe, secure and stable. With climate legislation pending and a binding global treaty being negotiated, conservative leadership is critical because the only way to get the job done is with broad bipartisan agreement.

. April 13, 2010 at 3:24 pm

“What you hear from conservative opponents of a climate-change policy, however, is that any attempt to limit emissions would be economically devastating. The Heritage Foundation, for one, responded to Budget Office estimates on Waxman-Markey with a broadside titled, “C.B.O. Grossly Underestimates Costs of Cap and Trade.” The real effects, the foundation said, would be ruinous for families and job creation.

This reaction — this extreme pessimism about the economy’s ability to live with cap and trade — is very much at odds with typical conservative rhetoric. After all, modern conservatives express a deep, almost mystical confidence in the effectiveness of market incentives — Ronald Reagan liked to talk about the “magic of the marketplace.” They believe that the capitalist system can deal with all kinds of limitations, that technology, say, can easily overcome any constraints on growth posed by limited reserves of oil or other natural resources. And yet now they submit that this same private sector is utterly incapable of coping with a limit on overall emissions, even though such a cap would, from the private sector’s point of view, operate very much like a limited supply of a resource, like land. Why don’t they believe that the dynamism of capitalism will spur it to find ways to make do in a world of reduced carbon emissions? Why do they think the marketplace loses its magic as soon as market incentives are invoked in favor of conservation?

Clearly, conservatives abandon all faith in the ability of markets to cope with climate-change policy because they don’t want government intervention. Their stated pessimism about the cost of climate policy is essentially a political ploy rather than a reasoned economic judgment. The giveaway is the strong tendency of conservative opponents of cap and trade to argue in bad faith.”

. June 18, 2010 at 3:04 pm

Some more thoughts on a carbon tax

Jun 18th 2010, 5:57 by T.C. | LONDON

THIS week, in advance of its “emergency budget” on June 22nd, we wrote about how Britain might close its deficit, which currently stands at 11.1% of GDP. One idea we advocated was a carbon tax. We commissioned some modeling on the subject from Cambridge Econometrics (who have a model specifically designed for this sort of thing). I wrote up the headline results in a small piece to accompany the main article, but space constraints prevented me going into too much detail. Happily, space constraints don’t apply on the web.

The Economist has long advocated a carbon tax as the best way to deal with climate change. Carbon taxes are a subspecies of Pigovian tax; taxes that are designed primarily to change behaviour rather than to raise revenue. The idea is to try to manipulate the price of a good or a service in order to capture all the negative externalities it imposes. Pollution is the standard example: neither the owner of a factory nor the buyer of its goods, for example, care very much that the local river is being filled with nasty chemicals as a byproduct of the factory’s work. Those who live by the river do care, but, not being party to the transaction, there isn’t much they can do about it. The uncompensated costs imposed on locals by the factory-owner’s activities represent a market failure. In theory the government would step in and impose a tax on the factory owner designed to compensate the locals for the damage caused by his actions (in the jargon, the government would make sure the private cost of producing the goods was equal to the social cost).

It’s the sort of dry, neat idea that appeals to professional economists, but there are reasons for advocating carbon taxes in the real world, too. Having one, unchanging price for carbon offers certainty to businesses and the public (unlike cap-and-trade schemes such as the EUETS, which has seen big price fluctuations), an important benefit to industries like power generation, which produces a lot of greenhouse gases and which must be confident that an expensive new power station will stay profitable for several years. And yes, before you rush to the comment button, there are important downsides, too. I’ll explore some of those below.

With all that in mind, we investigated two different basic scenarios. One applied an economy-wide carbon tax that aimed to raise 1% of GDP in revenue by 2020; the other applied a tax set at a level designed to ensure that Britain meets its commitment to cut emissions by 34%, relative to their 1990 levels, by 2020. In both cases, to keep things simple, we scrapped all the other policies that aim at the same outcome, such as Britain’s membership of Europe’s emissions-trading scheme, subsidies for renewable energy and so on. The results of the first scenario are set out in the print piece, but briefly, electricity prices fall as expensive subsidies for renewable energy are replaced by the carbon tax. That provides an economic boost, the government gets an extra revenue stream, and output is 2.5% higher come 2020 than in the baseline scenario. Somewhat embarassingly, emissions of carbon are slightly higher than in the baseline scenario. But we chose 1% of GDP as our target figure for convenience more than anything else. There’s no reason the tax couldn’t be tweaked a little to reduce emissions, although a high enough tax would presumably start to drag GDP back down again. At any rate, the modeling strongly suggests that a tax would be much more efficient than the present arrangements.

Milan July 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

Speaking of populism:

Ontario shelves eco fees after fierce backlash

Karen Howlett

Toronto — From Tuesday’s Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Jul. 19, 2010 8:54PM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 20, 2010 3:22AM EDT

The Ontario government is pulling the plug on its controversial program that slaps eco fees on thousands of household products, after a growing backlash from retailers and consumer groups.

Environment Minister John Gerretsen will announce on Tuesday that the government plans to eliminate the new fees charged on aerosols, cleaning products and thousands of other potentially toxic items, according to government sources.

The cancellation comes less than three weeks after the fees were introduced, marking another hasty policy retreat for the McGuinty government. Premier Dalton McGuinty shelved a new sex-education curriculum last April amid complaints from parents and religious groups

. July 26, 2010 at 2:12 pm

“It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon. All serious estimates suggest that we could phase in limits on greenhouse gas emissions with at most a small impact on the economy’s growth rate.”

. July 18, 2011 at 7:31 pm

It is encouraging that the Council of Chief Executives is reiterating its support for putting a price on carbon at the national level (National Energy Strategy Gains Clout – Report on Business, July 11). A particularly simple and transparent way to do this is a carbon fee and dividend: Charge a fee on fossil fuels at their source of production that reflects their carbon content, then distribute the revenue raised directly back to Canadians, e.g. as dividend cheques. People get both more money in their pockets and an incentive to spend it on less-carbon-intensive products and services as the cost of carbon propagates in an efficient manner throughout the economy. Only when fossil fuels’ real cost to our planet is reflected in what we pay will we be able to move toward the low-carbon future necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change.

James Booth, Toronto

. September 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm

When it comes to emissions, we have bureaucracy run wild

Since their first day in office, the Harper Conservatives have been both big spenders and users of the tax system to achieve social (and political) objectives. What they haven’t done is deploy regulations to achieve their objectives.

Instead, they’ve railed against excessive regulations. They even established a Red Tape Commission to reduce regulations that got in the way of doing business.

They’ve been quite clear: Spend and tax to achieve objectives, but don’t regulate. Except, it seems, in one huge area – greenhouse-gas emissions. In this case, the Harper Conservatives have jettisoned their usual approaches and opted for the least economically efficient methods imaginable: regulations and subsidies. Predictably, the government is failing to meet its own targets.

It has recently been announcing regulations for new coal- and natural gas-fired plants. Later regulations will arrive for existing coal-fired plants. Still later, perhaps at the end of 2012, will come regulations for oil operations. These will be so detailed as to be specific to each plant across the country, a task of mind-boggling complexity designed by civil servants.

. March 7, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Oil sands, green groups unlikely allies in push for carbon tax

Ottawa is facing growing calls for a carbon tax from some surprising quarters as it pursues plans to regulate industrial sources of greenhouse-gas emissions.

Oil sands producers and some environmental groups that agree on little else have opposed the Conservative government’s regulatory approach and endorsed the idea of carbon pricing. Now, that idea is being pushed in a new paper to be released Thursday by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

. July 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Republicans Tired Of Climate Change Deniers Launch Initiative For Global Warming Action, Carbon Price

Former GOP Rep. Bob Inglis is “urging conservatives to stop denying that humans are contributing to global warming.”

Inglis, a South Carolina Republican beaten by the Tea Party in 2010, is launching the “Energy and Enterprise Initiative” at George Mason University to push “conservative solutions to America’s energy and climate challenges.”

. September 4, 2012 at 10:51 am

Federal approach to environment undermining energy industry, say experts
Former Syncrude CEO Eric Newell calls for national carbon pricing strategy.

Published: Monday, 09/03/2012 12:00 am EDT
Last Updated: Monday, 09/03/2012 2:00 pm EDT

. September 17, 2012 at 8:50 pm

Remember the federal election of 2008, when the Conservatives championed a carbon tax? They promised a tax on everything that would kill jobs. And they won, beating Stéphane Dion’s Liberals.

This might seem like revisionist history, but it’s perfectly consistent with the “facts” you can find on the Conservative website these days.

The website quotes NDP MP Nathan Cullen as saying he prefers a cap-and-trade system to a carbon tax, but that what matters is putting a price on carbon — which either system would achieve. The Conservative “fact check” concludes: “A ‘price on carbon’ is a tax on carbon. That makes it a carbon tax.”

If so, the Conservative platform of 2008 clearly called for a carbon tax when it promised the Conservatives would work to develop “a North-America-wide cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gases and air pollution, with implementation to occur between 2012 and 2015.”

Here we are in 2012 and the Conservatives’ promised cap-and-trade system is nowhere to be seen. But political parties not keeping their election promises is nothing new. What is new is demonizing Idea X by saying Idea Y is better, then a few years later, when a different party is in Opposition, claiming Idea Y is identical to Idea X.

anon July 12, 2013 at 12:59 am

Dragged toward a third-best emissions solution


Jeffrey Simpson
The Globe and Mail

Published Friday, Jul. 12 2013, 12:00 AM EDT
Last updated Friday, Jul. 12 2013, 12:00 AM EDT

anon July 12, 2013 at 1:00 am

“The oil and gas industry over many years has brilliantly delayed any implementation of federal regulations in one of the most concerted and successful lobbying efforts in modern Canadian history.

The best policy for reducing carbon emissions – a policy called for by various oil company executives – would be a price on carbon, or a tax, with the revenues recycled in the form of lower personal and corporate taxes. Another possibility would be a cap-and-trade market system. Either method would use free-market principles that the federal Conservatives and their erstwhile cousins in the Alberta Progressive Conservative government are supposed to favour, but do not for oil and gas.”

. July 18, 2013 at 2:07 pm

In the past year, a movement of conservatives outside of Congress has pushed a market-based solution to climate change. This conservative alternative envisions a phase-out of subsidies for all sources of energy coupled with a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap. This is exactly the kind of proposal that gives Republicans the chance to win both in a messaging battle and on policy merits.

Energy subsidies come in many forms and most serve as a proxy for a price on carbon. Conservatives want to get rid of subsidies because they’re wasteful and inefficient and allow government to pick winners and losers in the market. Government subsidies also result in market uncertainty, rent-seeking problems, and inefficient allocation of capital. Importantly, getting rid of these wasteful expenditures can help reduce our deficit.

As the subsidies are being phased out, a revenue-neutral carbon tax swap should be phased in. A proposal like this wouldn’t force individuals to choose one energy source over another. It would simply “internalize the externalities” associated with the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of greenhouse gases, and the market would sort the rest out.

There is a crucial piece of the carbon tax swap puzzle that will separate many liberals from conservatives. The left will attempt to use the carbon tax as a cash cow for the federal government, using the revenues to pay for legislators’ pet projects or to keep subsidies flowing to the preferred energy source du jour.


. September 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Australian carbon tax to be repealed by incoming conservative government

Rod McGuirk

The Associated Press

Australia’s new government prepared to take control of the nation Sunday, with Prime Minister-elect Tony Abbott vowing to immediately scrap a hated tax on carbon polluters and implement a controversial plan to stop asylum seekers from reaching the nation’s shores.

Abbott met with bureaucrats to go over his border security plans and said his first priority would be to repeal the deeply unpopular carbon tax on Australia’s biggest industrial polluters.

. July 26, 2014 at 11:37 am

Australia became the first country in the world to repeal a measure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions when the Senate voted to overturn the carbon tax, which Tony Abbott, the prime minister, promised to ditch when his party won an election last year. In a bad week for Australia’s image, it was also heavily criticised by the UN and Amnesty for returning a boat filled with Tamil asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka. See article

. July 26, 2014 at 11:42 am

More than conviction, it was populism that drove Mr Abbott’s campaign to abolish the tax. As voters’ support for action on climate change wavered, he branded the tax a “wrecking ball across the economy”, raising the cost of business and destroying jobs. He forecast that industrial cities such as Whyalla in South Australia would be “wiped off the map”. These predictions have not come to pass. Indeed, there were signs that the tax was starting to work, by encouraging Australians to switch to cleaner forms of energy. The Climate Institute, a research outfit committed to green policies, says the proportion of Australia’s electricity sourced from brown and black coal has fallen by a tenth in the two years since the tax started, while that from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, has risen by more than a third—though from a very low base.

The carbon tax brought the federal government revenue of more than A$7 billion ($6.5 billion) last fiscal year. In its place, Mr Abbott proposes a “direct action” plan. Details are sketchy, but its main feature is a public fund worth about A$2.5 billion over four years to pay big polluters to cut emissions. The plan is a nod to greens, and suits business by shifting the cost to taxpayers. But it sits oddly with the Liberal Party’s free-market instincts, and there are doubts about whether it will achieve Australia’s (bipartisan) commitment to cut carbon emissions by 5% from 2000 levels by 2020. Mr Abbott, meanwhile, is resisting a bid by Barack Obama to include climate change on the agenda of the G20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane in November.

. December 9, 2014 at 12:40 am

Preston Manning argues Conservatives should support carbon pricing

Back in 1997, Reform Party leader Preston Manning and Liberal Finance Minister Paul Martin faced off over the Kyoto Protocol in the House of Commons. Seventeen years later, carbon emissions are even more pressing of n issue…. for the environment and the economy.

But Preston Manning, now an elder statesman of the Canadian conservative movement, seems be sounding a different tune on carbon… and courting controversy with some fellow conservatives in the process.

Today, Preston Manning leads his own foundation and conservative think tank in Calgary — the Manning Centre for Building Democracy. Its annual networking conference is a must-attend event for many of this country’s opinion makers and decision makers.

He’s also a member of the new Canadian Ecofiscal Commission, a privately-funded group of economists and former politicians whose agenda includes putting a price on pollution.

. January 3, 2015 at 7:39 pm

Twenty years after Kyoto, Preston Manning has become Canadian conservatives’ most prominent green advocate

Manning’s basic argument is the negative aspects of any economic activity should be rolled into the cost of the development

. February 20, 2017 at 12:13 pm

“Federal Conservative leadership candidate Michael Chong was in the rhetorical hot seat Sunday, defending his proposal for a carbon tax from skeptical rivals vying to take the party into the 2019 election.

The opposing viewpoints prompted pointed jabs during the second of two debates held in the Lower Mainland over the weekend – a gathering of about 300 people in a downtown theatre organized by the Vancouver Centre electoral district association.

But Mr. Chong insisted the cheapest way to reduce emissions is a revenue-neutral carbon tax, and noted it would consist of a tax cut. Mr. Chong has proposed a levy that would reach $130 a tonne by 2030 and help finance an $18-billion tax cut.


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