Oh for fuck\’s sake!

Carbon emissions have risen at most of the UK\’s universities over the past five years, a new league table published by the Guardian reveals, prompting concern that institutions will fail to meet strict targets for reductions by 2020.

….

According to milestones set in the higher education sector\’s carbon reduction strategy, a maximum increase in emissions between 2005 and 2012 of 1% would be allowable to keep it on track to meet the 2020 target.

People & Planet\’s climate campaigns and communications manager, Louise Hazan, said: \”The planning is there, the policy is there, to a certain extent the resourcing is there, but the performance is just lagging behind. On current trends the sector is nowhere near reaching the emissions cuts required of all public sectors by the Climate Change Act.\”

Can we just shoot these twats now please?

No, we really do not need an ever expanding list of people with clipboards devising plans, policies, delivering resources and measuring performance. They should fuck off and so something useful like wipe babies\’ bottoms.

We do not want to have a committee for universities, one for vocational schools, one for secondaries, for primaries, a team measuring the methane output of the sure start centres.

We want and need just one simple system that forces all to look at emissions.

All enterprises, whether for profit, public sector, private, have exactly the same issues: what are the emissions from running the buildings? So we want just one simple scheme that looks at reducing emissions from buildings. Similarly, the transport sector, the farming, industry itself and so on.

That simple scheme is and should be a straight carbon tax.  Use the damn price system in what price systems are good at: providing the incentives for people to change their behaviour.

Stick that $80, that $120 a tonne CO2-e on everything and fire, hang or shoot the bureaucrats. And lower other taxes by the amount you\’ve raised.

You know it makes sense.

22 comments on “Oh for fuck\’s sake!

  1. Tim, mate, the Labor govt in coalition with Greens in oz are pushing a carbon tax. But there’s not a whisper about lowering other taxes to offset it. And there’s talk of sending of the 50% revenue generated to consumers to compensate them for increased energy bills, and 10% off to the Un, what for no one knows, and the rest for investment in energy from anything but coal and nuclear. That’s what a carbon in the real work looks like – utterly ruined by politics.

  2. “Can we just shoot these twats now please?” Nope. Boil ‘em in oil first. Organic oil, natch.

  3. If you want to reduce carbon addition to the biosphere, thre is ony one way to do it; quotas on extraction of fossil fuels. That is simple to apply, because only a few large enterprises mine coal and oil, and they are very easy to inspect, while smuggling of fossil fuels on a large scale if very difficult, because they are so bulky.

    So anyone arguing for controlling “emissions” on any basis is being an idiot. An emission is just part of a cycle; any carbon atom will be “emitted” in these terms again and again. But it’ll only be extracted from the ground once.

    If carbon addition to the biosphere is a problem, then stop it being added. Trying to stop it being used once it’s already there is total fuckwittery on an unimaginable scale.

  4. Let’s just remember it’s unlikely that AGW exists, if it does it’s also unlikely that carbon dioxide is playing a significant role, and if it is, the UK is under 2% of world output.

    So the right policy on this is NOTHING.

  5. Just out of interest, are there any statistics on how much carbon extraction has been reduced since governments started setting low carbon policies, emissions targets, etc?

  6. Ian B – the statistics on carbon extraction are biased. The eastern Europeans (including the Germans) got a big drop in CO2 by closing a lot of massively uneconomic (and polluting in other ways) Communist era industrial plants, and the UK got a big drop by switching to gas for power generation. Both groups of actions were done for reasons other than climate change.

  7. “…lower other taxes by the amount you’ve raised…”

    rotflmao.

    Tim, that is either naive, or very bad sarcasm.

  8. @William M. Connolley: you’ve come to wrong shop if you want to spread generalised warmist insults. We think for ourselves here. /troll

  9. There is a simpler alternative – the universities grt themselves exempted on the grounds of ideological purity. Back door commitment to provide favourable research to the State, etc

  10. Aren’t there already several layers of taxes on energy? In what way do they differ from a carbon tax?

  11. Tracy W,

    I said extraction not emissions. Are we pulling fewer carbon atoms out of fossil sources now globally than we were 10 years ago? That’s the only figure that matters in terms of impact. How they’re released for the first time into the biosphere doesn’t really matter.

    Has anyone done a study of how many fossil carbon molecules we pulled out of the ground last year?

  12. PeteB,

    I’m not arguing for a “fee” or a tax or anything like that. If there is a problem, the rational answer to me is extraction limits.

    Pigovian taxes are just an appallingly bad idea in general, because they accrue profit to the political system by force. It is a particularly dunderheaded approach in this situation, presuming the situation is real.

    I swear, if slavery were extant these days, everybody would be saying we need a Slave Tax, that’ll fix the problem. And some regulations on minimum slave housing standards and how many times per month you can whip one.

    If the planet is being ruined by extracting sequestrated carbon, you just have to stop that being done. Bollocks to taxes, I say.

  13. what happens if nothing is done. Being old I will be alright. In fact I will be better off if electricity is not priced up.
    Why not let those future children we always hear about sort it out when whatever happens happens.
    Yes i know but selfishness is great.

  14. Ian B,

    If the planet is being ruined by extracting sequestrated carbon, you just have to stop that being done.

    I think it is more nuanced than that.

    There is a cost associated with continuing burning fossil fuels at an increasing rate. The cost of this is not completely clear yet, but it likely to be substantial and an outside chance of it being really bad with huge costs associated with it.

    We have to make a decision before this is fully clear

    There is also an economic cost of moving away from fossil fuels, which will also cause real human suffering.

    It is how you balance the two.

    The thing that seems great to me about a Pigovian tax, is that it will differentiate between the different uses of fossil fuels. Some areas (e.g. Power Generation, Agriculture) seem to me to be reasonable easy to move away largely from fossil fuels, some areas (aviation), there is no realistic alternative. Pigovian taxation will minimise the economic disruption.

    Also, you can adjust the tax as the scale of the problem becomes clearer. (Although governments really do need to resist their natural tempation to raise extra revenue and instead make it Revenue neutral)

    I fully agree there are some areas where there is a ‘moral imperative’, where you should resort to prohibition rather than Pigovian taxation (Murder !, Slavery, etc) and some areas where Pigovian taxation is more appropriate to cover the external costs (e.g. drugs, CO2)

    Tim adds: Amusingly, the Anglo-Saxon approach to murder was a Pigouvian Tax. Blood money.

  15. PeteB, I’m just assuming for argument’s sake that a worst-or-bad case scenario is the truth. I don’t know whether CO2 is entirely harmless or will burn the planet to a crisp in 50 years. If it’s the former we don’t need to do anything, but that’s not what I’m discussing.

    But if it’s the bad-case scenario, a Pigovian approach makes no sense. I’m also arguing that in general, Pigovian approaches are just fundamentally bad; for among other reasons, the simple problem that a Pigovian tax is giving the State profits on something the State is supposedly trying to prevent, which is two incentives pulling in opposite directions.

    Think of this; suppose you want to stop prostitution. So, you appoint a tax farmer to levy a tax on every prostitute he finds. What’s his vested interest? To set his levy at that level which will maximise his income from taxing prostitutes. The last thing he wants to actually do is end prostitution, because then he has no income. He wants to set his per-prostitute tax at a level that keeps a nice number of prostitutes paying him a regular tax. The State is no different.

    The Pigovian approach is a fundamentally Progressivist worst-possible-solution.

    It also has the unpleasant characteristic of being regressive; that is allowing rich folks to do bad things, but stopping poor folks doing them. Which is why Pigovian Morality Taxes (beer, baccy, etc) are fundamentally unjust.

    Anyway, back to the main point as I see it. The narrative is all about carbon usage; but it isn’t usage which is the core problem. It is extraction which is the core problem. If you don’t want more CO2 in the biosphere, you’ve got to stop extraction of it; which can easily be done, compared to the hard problem of taxing billions of people for using it. Why do the hard thing, when you can do the easy thing?

    Tim: Are you saying that all compensation is actually Pigovian taxation? Isn’t there a fundamental difference between me compensating you for an injury, and me being charged for injuring you by the State?

  16. Ian B

    I don’t know whether CO2 is entirely harmless or will burn the planet to a crisp in 50 years.

    But it’s not going to be either of those. It’s a problem, that in the long term will have somewhere in the range of moderate to severe net negative consequences (there will be some positives too, particularly in the shorter term)

    Some of these consequences we be able to adapt to, some of which (e.g.species loss) we won’t but also need to be factored into the equation .

    Unfortunately the solution will also have negative consequences – it’s how we balance the two in a way where we hopefully mitigate the worst consequences of global warming but minimising the economic impact.

    The level of taxation would be set to pay for the damage caused (which is effectively what Stern did)

    Incidentally, I think the simplest method would be a ‘minehead’ or ‘port of entry’ tax ( for the reasons you state).

    Hansen’s suggestion was :

    All funds collected should be distributed to the public on a per capita basis to allow lifestyle adjustments and spur clean energy innovations.

    Would that address the issues regarding it being a regressive tax and the temptation for governments to set the tax at a maximum revenue level ?

  17. The level of taxation would be set to pay for the damage caused (which is effectively what Stern did)

    Unfortunately that is an impossible figure to calculate; which is the other problem with Pigovian taxes. But then, it has to be said that I can’t think of a single supposed Pigovian tax that is based on any such calculation anyway; they are generally set at whatever level the State thinks it can rip people off by calling them antisocial. See for instance the obvious example of tobacco tax.

    How would you even start to calculate such a figure? If some poor subsistence farmer is going to lose his land to the sea, what do you pay him? The market price of the land before it was realised it was going to be flooded? Or the costs of his relocation? To where? To set up a new life in a safer country (the costs of which are themselves unpredictable)? The costs of relocation to minimal safety (e.g. a refugee camp)?

    There is no possible way to calculate the prices in the (inherently radically) unpredictable future.

    Anyway, what I’m trying to do is get away from this cranky progressive idea that tax is a social tool. Tax is a way for citizens to pay for whatever services they want from the State. If you want to stop people digging stuff up, tell them they’re not allowed to dig stuff up. Why involve the tax system? It’s not an economic problem. It’s a world-getting-hotter problem. That really is a different thing.

    One other way I could put it; let’s say I live in a vulnerable area to marine inundation. I don’t want compensation. I want my land not to be flooded. That’s the problem I want fixed. You do not have a right to choose to cause my land to be flooded, then toss me some arbitrary compensation. It’s not a money thing.

    (If you believe in AGW; I’m a skeptic. I’m just trying to get to the what to do if it is real problem).

    Tim adds: I fear you’re missing the point of Pigou taxes. They’re not to compensate. Nor to enable the government to compensate.

    There are times when the market does not properly process prices. Because there are things which are not included in the market. These are known as “externalities”. Pollution is one of these. There are also positive externalities: basic science perhaps.

    There are certain costs and or benefits that are not used in calculating prices in a market. Thus the market price will not be optimal. We’ll get too much of the bads, to little of the goods.

    The solution is to adjust the market prices to account for those things not included in the calculation of what market prices are. The point is not to raise revenue, not to raise funds to compensate for the bads. It’s entirely and purely to correct market pricing.

    Thus what we do with the money, who is compensated how, have nothing at all to do with it. We could burn the money raised and a Pigou tax would still do what we want it to: correct those market prices.

    Sadly it’s possible for people to take almost anything to be an externality (I’ve seen it said that inequality is one such) but the basic idea is indeed entirely sound.

  18. Tim, that’s surely the point I’m making. The Pigovian idea can’t work because there is no way to calculate what the price ought to be. What you do with the money indeed doesn’t matter. But in the example there’s no way to calculate what the cost of global warming is, in any objective sense. The same is true for any externality. So you can’t calculate the correct Pigovian tax level in the first place.

  19. But in the example there’s no way to calculate what the cost of global warming is, in any objective sense

    There’s certainly some uncertainity (which should decrease over time), and different people will value different things differently (how much do you value species or habitat loss?).

    But making an estimate at it seems a lot better way to proceed than not making an estimate. There’s certainly quite a body of literature around on estimating the cost (Stern, Richard Tol, William Nordhaus). A lot of the cost comes from the outliers of low risk but high impact scenarios (e.g.very high climate sensitivity), if we can start to rule these out the carbon tax rate would also reduce.

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