Timmy elsewhere

Tim Worstall, senior fellow at Adam Smith Institute, a London think tank

Brexit could immeasurably improve British climate change policy, for it would enable us to have a sensible one.

Freed from the penchant of the continental cousins for regulation, targets, feed in tariffs and the rest, we could do what the Stern Review, William Nordhaus, Richard Tol and every other economist who has studied the problem has been urging us to do.

Stick on a carbon tax of the appropriate size, declare the problem solved and go off and do something more interesting.

47 thoughts on “Timmy elsewhere”

  1. Femke de Jong, EU climate policy officer at Carbon Market Watch, a Brussels advocacy group

    “Brexit would leave Britain at the sidelines rather than as a frontrunner in the EU’s low-carbon transition.”

    So, no downside at all then.

    It seems the ‘Out’ side has all the arguments currently.

  2. Yes, although it’s not quite correctly distributed. We should be taxing petrol less and farmers more for example.

  3. So the answer to excess carbon in the atmosphere is to give government your money?
    Can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something about this I don’t like.

  4. There is no discernible problem, the appropriate tax rate is £0 per tonne. Can all the economists please just piss off and concentrate on lowering tax rates and not raising them to solve a non-problem .

  5. Talking of farmers, I suggest we abolish all farming subsidies. Then one or two years’ worth of the Foreign Aid budget could be used to subsidise ex-farmers out of farming and into the rest of the economy, after which the benefits to the backward world of being able to export their ag products to us, free of tariffs and subsidised competition, would be clearly a far better boon to them than Foreign Aid was anyway. After that two year transitional protection, the ex-Foreign Aid budget could be put to reducing taxes.

  6. Nordhaus’s latest estimates seem to imply a tax of around $30 per tonne of CO2, is that more or less than the number y’all have in mind?

  7. Meanwhile, in complete contrast with Femke de Jong, Nick Mabey, chief executive at E3G, a London think tank:

    ” A vote for “Brexit” would significantly damage the UK’s ability to manage climate risks to UK citizens, business and global interests.  The UK has been a leading advocate for ambitious EU climate policy since 1997. Through its world-class diplomatic networks the UK has greatly multiplied the impact of European climate policy internationally.

    Without the UK, the balance of forces inside the EU would shift towards lower…”

    So will Britain miss out on Europe’s great green future or has Europe been dependent upon Britain all along? My guess is the latter; well, it’s not a guess.

  8. Question for you TIm?
    How do you abolish a carbon tax?
    Let’s say it worked exactly as it says on the tin. Incentivised a reduction in carbon emissions. Carbon levels in the atmosphere fall to pre-industrial levels.
    But government’s habituated to the income from carbon taxes. How do you get them to stop taxing carbon?
    The point where we all lose the breathing reflex due to low CO2 in the atmosphere?

  9. It’s just a tax. It will have its destructive effect on the economy.

    The idea that it will change anything/fix anything is patently silly.

  10. Of course if you think the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is a risk… OK

    But I am (along with many scientists and lay people like myself) with Patrick Moore on this one and the whole carbon (actually not carbon but CO2) thing is a crock of shit and not only unnecessary but actually damaging; economically in the short-term (our lifetime) and the long-term (watch out for the ice age).


    Go on read it! It’ll do you good. He challenges people to prove what he is saying is not true. As always, there will be no rebuttal from the alarmists. There never is. Insults and ad hominems yes, rebuttal no.

    I do not care whether the correct answer to a genuine global warming problem caused by our emissions of CO2 is a carbon tax. There is no global warming problem and even less one caused by our activities, so the tax is useless.

  11. Not far off it. Tol says it can be lower. Stern says higher. But Nordhaus says that rate now then rising strongly into the future. We want to work with the capital cycle after all. We’re not that worried about people running stuff they’ve got now, but we want the replacements as they wear out to be low or no carbon.

  12. “Why do you need to abolish it? As people emit less the amount paid goes down….”

    You wouldn’t be interested in buying a bridge, would you? There’s a very nice one in New York I just happen to be holding title to.

  13. Some years ago, Jay Leno was introducing the Foo Fighters and their new album. Leno said, “and 40% of the proceeds from the album will go to fight foo.”

    You may as well claim that the Carbon Tax will be used to fight foo. That’s all it will do.

  14. “You may as well claim that the Carbon Tax will be used to fight foo. That’s all it will do.”
    I could get alongside a Carbon Tax if it was directly hypothecated to removing the amount of carbon being taxed.
    Plant some trees. Tim’s seeding the ocean with iron to promote algal growth. Even liquefying air & distilling off the CO2.
    Doesn’t have to be economically sensible. Doesn’t matter if it isn’t.
    But it’d stop a carbon tax being a slush fund.
    Investment in “carbon friendly industries” or “alternative energy”? You can f**k off right there. We’ve done that one. Anything puts dosh in the usual suspects’ pockets would qualify. Even going to fighting foo’d be better.
    The point is it mustn’t line someone’s pockets. And mustn’t become part of the government’s normal revenue stream.
    Or it’s a boondogle.

  15. Some places (Scotland? Minnesota?) might be pleased with a bit of global warming.
    Taxing them against their own interests sounds like double jeopardy to me.

  16. @BiS

    ‘I could get alongside a Carbon Tax if it was directly hypothecated to removing the amount of carbon being taxed.’

    Yes, I think this is my position. If AGW/CC is happening, and if it’s a problem, then let’s address the problem, let’s not take money from people who want to fly and give it to pressure groups and people like Arnald. People like Arnald should be forced to earn a living rather than greedily stealing it from the rest of us via a ‘social housing’ scam. He should be whipped for thievery and then put to planting trees by hand for the rest of his working life. £1 per tree to start, with a rise to £1.50 after five years.

  17. “We’re not that worried about people running stuff they’ve got now, but we want the replacements as they wear out to be low or no carbon.”

    Only up to the point where there is a net saving. Pushing it beyond that point results in a net loss – reducing carbon emissions at a massive cost for negligible gain.

    But really, the objections are about the basis on which we set the price. Some people think it’s high, some think it’s low, negligible, or even negative. If one set or the other gets into power, can they impose their choice of price on the rest of us? This is just command economy thinking.

    The only way to set a proper price without market distortion is through the market, and there are ways to do exactly that. Set up an exchange in ‘climate futures’ the financial value of which depends on the outcome of climate change, let the market reach equilibrium so their value to each of us simultaneously balances all our individual beliefs, and then fund your mitigation and compensation using climate futures as your currency.

    If you wish to charge your emissions tax in a currency that only has value if climate change is a genuine threat, I’ve got no problem with that. It means that mean it is eventually revealed as a crock, I’ll get my money back with interest.

    And similarly, true believers cannot object to us being made to pay in a currency whose solid value is backed by their peerreviewedscience, and therefore unarguable. How can they lose?

    Why would you support a command economy solution when there’s a perfectly viable free market solution available?

  18. “We should be taxing petrol less and farmers more for example.”

    As a farmer with a vested interest in that statement, what exactly do you mean? Do you mean fuel used by farmers should be more expensive (because its taxed lower today) or do you mean farming per se should be taxed (because its a net producer of CO2 for some more fundamental reason)?

    If the former I reckon farming could survive, not least because it would benefit from cheaper road haulage etc) but if the latter, surely all you are going to do is end up with less farming, globally if such a tax were global in scale, and that can hardly be good for anyone, given we all need to eat?

  19. Yes Jim, I know what you do for a living. Thus my comment. 🙂

    Actually it’s nitrogen that’s the problem. Complex too. Carbon sequestration in soil vs NOummsummat from fertiliser.

  20. ‘Why would you support a command economy solution when there’s a perfectly viable free market solution available?’

    What “free market solution” are you talking about ?!?!

  21. “What “free market solution” are you talking about ?!?!”

    The one I just explained. Use climate futures to create a financial instrument whose value depends on who’s right, and then get people to pay their carbon taxes in that. Then whoever turns out to be wrong pays the bill.

    Traded on a free market, the futures will set a market price for carbon that reflects the market’s collective best estimate of the true risk of climate change, and will move as the information available improves. People buy in or bail out as they become more or less confident, and thereby pay only for the damage they’re responsible for – whether that’s damage to the environment or damage to the economy.

    There are more details in the comments thread here if you’re interested.

  22. Tim, for a guy whos intellect I normaly admire, your obsession with carbon pricing is, well, deeply worying. Do you really believe the CO2 meme, or are you just keen to push an economists solution, even if the problem is imaginary?. I thik you should tell us

  23. “Yes Jim, I know what you do for a living. Thus my comment. 🙂

    Actually it’s nitrogen that’s the problem. Complex too. Carbon sequestration in soil vs NOummsummat from fertiliser.”

    That’s the root of the VW issue. Europe concentrated its regulation of CO2 which achieves fuck all, the US focused its regulation on NOx which as far as I know actually needs regulating.

    More enlightened dudes please jump in…

  24. There is no carbon tax on petrol so it is hard to see how it is currently too high. There is duty and VAT. We are yet to add on the carbon tax.

    VED is a rather indirect carbon tax. We could get rid of that and add the appropriate amount on to fuel.

  25. “NiV, from which unicorn rectum are you going to get “climate futures?””

    Ummm. Is the a trick question? From the rainbow-coloured one, of course…

    Or you could just set it up the way any financial instrument is set up. Issue a negotiable bond consisting of a contract to pay the face value plus interest at a generous rate if and only if sea level rises (or does not rise) by more than X metres, or whatever specific climate doom you’re especially worried about.

    I mean, people write contracts that pay out a set amount if a particular ship sinks, or if a particular person dies, or if a particular house burns down, right? There are ‘options’ and ‘futures’ and ‘short selling’ and Black-Scholes-priced derivatives. Climate futures would be pretty simple by comparison. This is not rocket science!

    So long as there are people who value the things differently, because they judge the probabilities of the events happening differently, there is money to be made! Indeed, the only reason I can imagine that it hasn’t been done already is that it would reveal people’s true beliefs. Nobody actually believes in multi-metre sea level rises, and if the propagandists were challenged to demonstrate their belief by sinking their life savings into the relevant species of climate bonds, there’d be a bit of an embarrassed shuffling of feet.

    Still, maybe there’s some other simple, logical reason I’ve missed for the financial markets to be turning down free money this way. I know there are people here who know a lot more about high finance than I ever will. Is there any reason it would be difficult to do?

  26. “Actually it’s nitrogen that’s the problem. Complex too. Carbon sequestration in soil vs NOummsummat from fertiliser”

    The funny thing is, farmers would love fertiliser to be banned. Would cut food production across the board, and raise prices quite substantially. Good for business really. Not so good for the hungry masses though.

    Which was my point – taxes on air travel aren’t going to kill anyone. Taxes on food production might. You can’t just put a blanket tax of X per tonne on carbon emissions from any source, as you don’t want to discourage all human activities at the same rates. Food production, discourage not at all really, air travel, perhaps quite a bit, production of Rolls Royces, discourage entirely.

    (Thats if you believe in the Global Warming/Climate Change bollocks, which I don’t)

  27. You can take your carbon tax and shove where the sun don’t shine, mate!
    There is no sane reason for a tax of this nature.
    There are many sane reasons for reducing pollution. Taxing carbon will not achieve this objective.
    Vigorous enforcement of existing regulations would be a good starting point.
    Once a satisfactory level of enforcement has been achieved then, perhaps, one might re-examine things.

  28. We don’t need a carbon tax, we just need to rely on the good sense of the public. The take up of offset schemes by consumers hovers around the 1% to 2% mark, showing clearly what ordinary people think of paying their money to solve this “problem”.

    You can abolish a carbon tax, you just have to elect a PM who promises to abolish it like the Australian people did. The problem we now have is that Green and Labor voters, through endless polls, persuaded wussy Coalition MPs to support the treacherous, soft centre Malcolm Turnbull to stab the elected PM in the back. Turnbull is an utter bastard ho would have, as leader of the opposition when KRudd was PM, would have given us an ETS.

  29. There is indeed a carbon tax on petrol. Ken Clarke said, when he brought in the fuel duty escalator, that it was “to meet our Rio commitments”. A Stern Review sized carbon tax would be 11 p a litre. The escalator has added 23 p last time I looked. Thus we do indeed have a carbon tax on petrol and it is too high.

  30. My full point is and always has been: “Whether or not climate change is real or is a problem is irrelevant. Because enough people believe it is that they’re going to do something. The Stern Review showed us that the cheapest way to deal with it, if it is real and a problem, is a revenue neutral carbon tax. Thus, if people are going to keep screaming that we must do something therefore we should have a revenue neutral carbon tax. And I would implement that by adding the carbon tax and also raising the NI and income tax allowances to minimum wage. At which point we have solved climate change.”

    I would also note that we in the UK are already paying the appropriate carbon tax. No, really, we are: the various rules, the fuel duty escalator, minimum carbon price and so on all add up to being a carbon tax. It’s actually too high in fact. But a proper accounting would tell us that the UK has already solved climate change according to the Stern Review. Only we’ve done it in an inefficient and expensive manner.

  31. Tim,

    That’s a rather ‘spirit of the law’ interpretation of a politicians pronouncement, legally it means nothing, the letter of the law which you are usually interested in says it’s still only duty and VAT, not a carbon tax.

    You might just as well say the simultaneous increase of VAT on domestic fuel is a carbon tax, but it ain’t it’s just VAT in the big general taxation pot.

    Look at it another way, if the government decided to introduce a carbon tax on fuel at the Stern rate, would they have any legal cause to take account of the current duty rate, or could they just slap the 11p on top of what is already there?

  32. Economics and the law, as you may have noted, are two rather different things. As far as the economics is concerned the UK has pretty much already done what is needed to beat climate change.

  33. So is your position that as long as duty is above 11ppl then the carbon issue is covered? In which case why mention the FDE? Why now say it is only ‘pretty much covered’? Duty was above 11ppl before Lamont used carbon as an excuse to increase revenues.

    You sound like you are hedging because there is no explicit carbon tax. Either the FDE matters to you as a “carbon tax”, in which case you are wrong, or it doesn’t matter, in which case stop mentioning it as it confuses your argument.

  34. “Whether or not climate change is real or is a problem is irrelevant. Because enough people believe it is that they’re going to do something.”
    Tim, you are indulging the followers of a New Age religion; you would not be so indulgent with a bunch of RoPers demanding the end of usury. A carbon tax is a tax on civilisation, warmth, mobility, extending life into the dark hours, refrigeration and transport of food. To accept it, even in a token way, is to accept these folk’s aim, to return us to the Dark Ages. The oil price is below $50 so this is not a resource in imminent danger of exhaustion and the satellite record (the only unmanipulable one and only one to use actual rather than projected measurements,) shows no warming for over 18 years despite China’s coal fired stations adding record amounts of plant food to the atmosphere.

    Ecological fundamentalists are more dangerous than Islamic ones because they have infiltrated the highest levels in politics, academia and the media. We should be fighting them every inch.

  35. “I would also note that we in the UK are already paying the appropriate carbon tax. No, really, we are: the various rules, the fuel duty escalator, minimum carbon price and so on all add up to being a carbon tax. It’s actually too high in fact.”

    Which proves a Carbon Tax is an attempt to herd cats.
    Giving government (made up of politicians) a revenue stream as a way of pricing anything can only end in politicians running it up to the maximum price
    It’s not that it isn’t a good idea in theory. It’s that there’s no way it can work in the real world.
    Because politicians will price their own interests higher than the costs of climate change.

  36. By the by. I don’t see it as any accident the champions of the whole climate change thing have been big government & socialists. It’s entirely about money & any aspect about the environment is purely coincidental & trivial.
    They found a way of making people want to pay taxes. It was like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They’d be equally happy if the issue was global cooling & they were taxing us for not burning enough carbon.

  37. I think it is clear that the majority do not see climate change as a problem worth spending their money on or that should cause them to change their lifestyle. The actual problem is that the wrong people (in every sense of the word wrong) see it as an opportunity to push their agenda whether they actually believe it to be a problem or not.

    These people, who are the enemies of humanity, civilisation and freedom, need to be combated, not accommodated and appeased.

  38. “Whether or not climate change is real or is a problem is irrelevant. Because enough people believe it is that they’re going to do something.”

    You’ve got the causality the wrong way round. There’s a list of things they want to do, climate change gives them a plausible excuse for doing it, and because enough people believe it is they might get away with it.

    The purpose of ‘climate change action’ is not and never has been about responding to climate change. It’s about setting up a world government with authority over nation states, taking control of their economies, and redistributing wealth from the rich and industrialised nations to the poor and ‘developing’ ones. (They’ve actually said this.)

    Back in 1996 the USA passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution stating their policy: – that yes they did believe in anthropogenic climate change, that it required concerted action by all nations, since the climate doesn’t care about the nationality of CO2, and they’d join in with effective action to address it. They wouldn’t agree to any proposals that would disproportionately damage the American economy while having no effect on climate. This has been the American policy for two decades now (from both Democrats and Republicans), and it is why the international negotiations failed, because everyone else is pushing for ‘climate justice’ (meaning world government and redistribution) and have no intention of doing anything about the climate, and the US are refusing to go down that path.

    That’s why the ‘climate justice warriors’ reject any plan with a hope in hell of succeeding, and instead go mad for any useless, expensive, impractical, small-scale technology that will just waste time and money. That’s why they push trivial but highly visible schemes that have no meaningful effect on emissions, like banning lightbulbs and telling people to unplug their TVs at night instead of leaving them on standby, while they continue to fly out on private jets to climate conferences. It’s all campaigning to shift public opinion. If it was a genuine planetary emergency, their response would have been entirely different. They’re just playing politics.

    I’m inclined to sympathise with your argument as a way of demonstrating the economic incoherence of their proposals; to show that what they’re saying makes no sense. And the point that even according to their own arguments and calculations we’re already sacrificing too much is a good one. But it’s sort of like responding to the ‘rape culture’ moral panic by advising they give more funding to the police to investigate accusations, or suggesting that if they want to deal with the problem of pervasive corporate tax evasion they ought to spend so much on tax auditors and that would fix it. By treating their imaginary hobgoblin as if it was a genuine problem, you lend support to their real intentions. It then becomes just an argument about methods to be used, the problem now being jointly agreed, and they’re a step further forward.

    Yes, if they wanted to deal with climate change, a carbon tax would be a reasonable way to do it. (Not the best, but better than a lot of schemes.) But the point is they’re not trying to deal with climate change; they’re just using that as an excuse to reform society more in line with their own authoritarian politics. They’ll simply ignore your proposal (which is useless for their purposes) and seize on your admission that there’s a problem. That’s not helpful.

    Which is why your stance is so annoying. 🙂

  39. Dear Tim

    Looking at this graph


    and assuming that any warming is attributable to human produced CO2 (rather than the far larger amount of naturally occurring CO2) would you really say that there is a huge problem with runaway temperatures?

    And even if there was (let’s be hypothetical here) wouldn’t it be outweighed by the benefits in higher crop yields?

    Taking into account that the population at the end of the period is at least six times what it was at the beginning and that we have a far higher energy usage per capita, Wouldn’t you have expected our temperatures to have rocketed up?

    It’s worth noting also that the chart is maintained by the Met Office so that any bias in adjustments will be in favour of a temperature increase.

    By the way, the anomaly from the 1961-1990 temperatures for 2015 looks like being zero at the highest.

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