That the Ganges and Indus will run dry thing

Because, you know, the glaciers and snow melt will all be gone?

The world\’s greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.

The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.


Now, as you all know, I\’m generally on board with the idea that climate change is a) happening and b) something we ought to do something about. That something being a minor change in our taxation system, apply a revenue neutral Pigou Tax to emissions and cut taxes on something else.

Whether or not climate change is happening this is probably (OK, weaker than that, I could make the case that it is possibly) economy enhancing anyway. Reducing some of the very bad taxes we have (say on capital or corporates) and replacing them with less bad taxes (said carbon tax) could be beneficial all in and of itself.

A carbon tax is after all a consumption tax and consumption taxes have lower deadweight costs that capital or corporate taxes.

I would want the Nordhaus version though: low now and rising over the years so that we are working with the technological and capital cycles, not attempting to short circuit them.

The one area where I do stray from the narrow path of the media consensus (which isn\’t, as we know, quite the same as the scientific consensus) is that I don\’t see climate change as being something immediately catastrophic. It\’s a decades or centuries long problem and it\’s thus one we\’ve got decades at least to try to deal with.

As this story about the Himalayas tells us: it was the IPCC wihch hilariously allowed a prediction that all that snow and ice would be gone by 2035 into a report, wasn\’t it?

Which leads me to about as sceptoical a position as I am comfortable with. I\’m perfetly happy with the basic science of climate change. I\’m not entirely certain that the IPCC reflects it properly. And I\’m absolutely certain that the economic ideas that are proposed to deal with it, what governments are actually doing, are wrong.

20 thoughts on “That the Ganges and Indus will run dry thing”

  1. We live in a really strange world, where politicians would rather promote the most expensive solutions to climate change (in the case of Corn Ethanol to take one example, its not even making a contribution), rather than use the carbon tax approach, because:

    a) They want to micro manage everything
    b) They are scared of making any costs explicit

    Meanwhile the public is happily letting them get away with it.

  2. Serf: Good confirmation of that in Australia at the moment. Alcoa says they’re reducing their carbon emitting operations in response to the carbon tax, and the PM explodes at the suggestion. There’s no votes in unemployed smelter workers.

  3. “The basic science of climate change”? wonder what that means. Climate changes all the time, and all the evidence we have demonstrates only that we can’t predict it. The supposed causes aren’t science. I would bet that the hot air spouted about it has created more global warming than any of the so called theories have predicted. BUT my concern is that anyone would take a bad propostition (AGW) to push a good proposition (remove bad taxes). I’m sure that is not what economics is about!!!

  4. I think Tim’s position that the climate on Earth has changed, is changing and will change perfectly tenable. As is his unease about the reasons for change widely promugated ( I say by self-interested parties who have grant income to support) by sections of the scientific community.
    I also think that some sort of carbon tax to be sensible and timely. Where I diverge is that he stipulates a ‘reduction’ of tax in other areas. Can anyone point to a case of the imposition of a new tax that directly leads to a removal of a tax raising the same amount of revenue? Taxes, like European ‘areas of competance’ never get smaller. A little , unnoticed, carbon tax is introduced, sets the precedent and then is ruthlessly exploited. As will any FTT.

  5. This is actually a spectaculaqr example of climate science. They claim that the glaciers have been losing 4 (+/-20) Gt per year of ice. So they could have gained 16Gt per year or lost 24Gt! Mind-boggling stuff.

  6. Since it should by now be clear even to those on board with the climate change thing – even though we have no evidence of there ever being climate stasis – that carbon (and by this presumably CO2 is meant) has no observable significant effect on climate, how on Earth can a carbon tax affect climate?

    It is equivalent to reintroducing a window tax to save the amount of light used up by Human activity.

  7. William,

    As a skeptic I think Tim’s position is admiral. the real danger isn’t that Greenies, or worse Watermelons, are right or wrong on AGW, its that what they propose if madness and will do more harm than AGW.

    By arguing that they are right on AGW Tim can argue what to do about it without being dismissed as a “denier”, which is the level most watermelon’s skills.

  8. The problems with Pigou Taxes; they don’t work.

    a) You can’t actually objectively measure the aggregate cost of the Damned Behaviour, and thus set the tax level.

    b) If you could measure that, it is still a different value to the tax level which will effectively deter the Damned Behaviour. E.g. the Pigou Tax will will *compensate* for the costs of smokers is different to the Pigou Tax which will effectively *prevent* smoking.

    c) Even if you can measure either of them, and decide which one to choose, it makes an aggregation error because the compensation required by Agent B from the costs incurred on him by Agent A is not paid to Agent B, but to the government, who spend it on whatever they fancy.

    d) It is inherently regressive, and thus unjust. A carbon tax has a far more damaging impact on the poor than on the wealthy.

    e) Worst of all, it gives more money to the government.

  9. On the other hand, a statist policy that will have the desired effect of accurately limiting the consumption of fossil fuels is rationing.

    That’s why in World War II the government, in urgent need to control consumption, didn’t bring in a morass of unpredictable-outcome pigou taxes, they printed ration books. Worked pretty well, too.

    Tim adds: Oh for fucks sake, you’re read enough around here. Get with the damn progam would you?

    We do not want to stop people using fossil fuels. For there are uses of fossil fuels which have greater value than the damage that the use of fossil fuels causes.

    What we actually want to do is stop people using fossil fuels where the damages are higher than the benefits but still allow, even encourage them, to use them when the benefits are greater than the costs.

    We don’t use bureaucrats or rationing or politics to do this: partly because they’re crap at it and partly because, of course, politicians and bureaucrats, their actions will be taken to be as more valuable.
    The lying cunts.

    So, we impose a charge on the use, the emission, of carbon. Which everyone has to pay: Yea, even MOD.

    Then, and only then, are people facing the correct incentives to emit, or not emit, carbon or CO2-e.

  10. Jeez, IanB! Hold on! Careless talk costs lives, you know.

    The very thought of reintroducing rationing could induce terminal orgasm in some ‘environmentalist’ circles.

  11. Tim: presuming that there is a Carbon Dioxide Crisis…

    Carbon emissions are not the problem. Carbon extraction (of fossil fuels) is the problem. Once the stuff is in the biosphere, it will emit, absorb, emit, absorb… Why on earth do you want to tax half a cycle? You need to control the extraction.

    So we very much do want to stop people using fossil fuels. That is the very purpose of whatever strategy you choose.

    What we actually want to do is stop people using fossil fuels where the damages are higher than the benefits but still allow, even encourage them, to use them when the benefits are greater than the costs.

    But your Pigou tax doesn’t do that. It has no idea of the cost/benefit analysis of any particular carbon usage. It’s an aggregate tax. All it can do is stop poorer people or marginal businesses using carbon, and allow wealthier businesses and people to continue burning carbon. Taxes are totally blind. That’s the problem with aggregate analsyis in economics; it forgets there is an actual economy full of myriad agents out there, and reduces them to a half dozen variables that are supposedly linked arithmetically, though nobody can agree how.

    If there is a CO2 crisis, there isn’t a nice policy. But rationing is at least less blind than a Pigou tax. They did a pretty good job of it during the last war. It’s doubtful that a tax scheme would have been as effective. Would you really have recommended an array of Pigovian Taxation to Winston?

  12. Blokle In Spain-

    The very thought of reintroducing rationing could induce terminal orgasm in some ‘environmentalist’ circles.

    Only in the hard core. It would be a disaster for the Greens. Most of their support comes from the Statist Middle Class, who can afford to pay Pigou Taxes… but can’t get around a small ration any more than anyone else can. Paying an Indulgence for the sin of driving their Chelsea Tractors, they like that. Make them take the bus with the proles, that’d be unbearable.

  13. William Connelly is of course being as deceitful as usual, from the man banned on Wikipedia for deceptive and downright dishonest editing.

    The IPCC has almost nothing to do with science, and everything to do with politics and very large sums of money being siphoned from taxpayers pockets into a anyone dishonest enough to grab some of it.

  14. Neither Wikipedia’s editing policies nor your desire to burn fossil fuels are going to make WGI’s careful reviews of climate science wrong. Nor are they going to stop anthropogenic global warming. But a carbon tax might help.

  15. BiS,

    “The very thought of reintroducing rationing could induce terminal orgasm in some ‘environmentalist’ circles.”

    Concentrate on the word “terminal” not the word “orgasm”. Every cloud has a silver lining.

  16. The government cannot determine the right rate to set the Pigou tax to precisely offset the damage (if any), but perhaps the market can.

    Futures markets are used to offset uncertainty about future prices, funding measures to mitigate shortfalls or cut back on impending gluts. If a shortage is foreseen, farmers can get better prices selling futures, raising funds to expand production.

    So sell climate futures – bonds that pay out depending on climate outcomes, whose value depends on the market’s belief in oncoming climate catastrophe. Pay for your fossil fuel in assets that lose value as climate disaster approaches, that reap profits as climate disaster recedes. Pay for your renewables in assets that do the reverse.

    Now set your Pigou taxes, but in units whose true cost varies with the future external cost you seek to minimise.

    Trade is based on reciprocal, not common purposes. The more we differ; the more we can benefit from trade. If we differ in our beliefs about the future, we can trade consequences, and everybody wins.

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