Should we put a carbon tax on China?

by on May 15, 2009 at 10:06 am in Economics | Permalink

Paul Krugman seems to say yes:

As the United States and other advanced countries finally move to
confront climate change, they will also be morally empowered to
confront those nations that refuse to act. Sooner than most people
think, countries that refuse to limit their greenhouse gas emissions
will face sanctions, probably in the form of taxes on their exports.
They will complain bitterly that this is protectionism, but so what?
Globalization doesn’t do much good if the globe itself becomes
unlivable.

I cannot agree with what I think is his recommendation.  I am not a global warming denialist but:

1. The Chinese are often paranoid (arguably for good reason) and we will get further being nice to them than by being confrontational.  Krugman himself admits that they don't seem themselves as culpable on this issue.  Chinese citizens wanting clean air at home are possibly our biggest ally so let's not alienate them.

2. Last I checked China was funding a big chunk of our government's debt.  Confronting them would have to be bundled with a regime of extreme fiscal conservatism and unilateral foreign policy.

3. It can be very hard to identify and isolate the energy inputs into an exported product, especially if the host government is uncooperative and a lot of money is at stake.

4. We cannot credibly penalize the Chinese until we solve our own pollution problem.  Even under Obama's proposed policies, in their purer forms, that is at best decades away.  In the meantime, what is it that is really being advocated?  Non-credible threats?

5. Once the political process gets its hand on such tariffs they will be directed against, say, Chinese cars, including maybe relatively clean ones, rather than the dirtiest Chinese exports.

6. Last I checked there was something called the United Nations and China sat on its Security Council.  The UN is the (supposed) forum for handling problems of this nature.  Yes, we could construct an alternative "League of Democracies" as John McCain (!) had suggested, in part to deal with global warming and other multilateral problems where the non-democracies won't cooperate.  I don't favor this change but if we are going to do it we need to realize how radical a foreign policy step it would be and how Russia would respond as well. 

One lesson I take from Krugman's piece is just how thin support for multilateralism really is.

I do understand the basic instinct of "this problem is really bad so we must do something…and now!"  I would suggest that we keep in mind the less obvious, but no less important intuition: "this problem is really bad and that means a lot of what we are tempted to do could make it even worse."

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 10:20 am

I agree with most of this post, but I’m puzzled by this statement:

“Last I checked China was funding a big chunk of our government’s debt. Confronting them would have to be bundled with a regime of extreme fiscal conservatism”

If China chose not to buy our government debt, someone else would buy it. We might have to raise the interest rate. But that increase might be small. If the total amount of global investment remained constant, it seems unlikely that a shift of Chinese savings from one “riskless” investment to another would have a significant impact.

Zamfir May 15, 2009 at 10:30 am

We cannot credibly penalize the Chinese until we solve our own pollution problem. Even under Obama’s proposed policies, in their purer forms, that is at best decades away. In the meantime, what is it that is really being advocated? Non-credible threats?

Your decades seem to come from the moment that CO2 exhaust in the West will be low. I would say that the pressure on China will start once the West starts significantly lowering (compared to a baseline growth), not when that process is finished.

Point 5., the process can be politicized, seems like an excellent reason for China itself to start its own CO2 reduction scheme. A carbon import tax is only inevitable if China doesn’t start a CO2 lowering program while the West does.

If China does a significant amount of work to lower CO2, an import tax might not be needed.

JDM May 15, 2009 at 10:38 am

Your whole blog revolves around the theme that people respond to incentives.
If people whether Chinese or American or whatever have no direct incentive (like minimizing a tax) to reduce carbon production, it won’t happen. If it doesn’t happen, the scientists tell us the consequences will be catastrophic. You seem to think that the enormous and very real environmental and economic consequences of large increases in average global temperatures ought to be less of a concern than offending delicate Chinese opinion because they’re funding our debt. Keeping in mind your rather obvious “no less important intuition”, I don’t understand what you propose as an alternative to a carbon tax or tariff. It sounds like your alternative is to just do whatever our Chinese creditors want us to do on this issue (no tax, no tariff), in part because you are afraid of them. Correct me if I’m wrong.

mk May 15, 2009 at 11:03 am

We made money polluting a lot, and China is now starting to make money polluting a lot. But now pollution needs to be stopped. So China won’t get as many “fat” years as the US did. That seems unfair.

So logically, international policy should be guided by the notion of a “retroactive carbon cap-and-trade” which simulates the US buying permits for all of its “fat” years of already-emitted pollution.

The simplest way to simulate retroactive global cap-and-trade is to pay China billions and billions of dollars to institute cap and trade.

So shouldn’t we just do that?

willis May 15, 2009 at 11:21 am

This is the worst post you have ever had. Krugman is saying that, if the rest of the world is spending big bucks to control carbon emissions, but China’s emissions are growing at a rate that overwhelms the rest of the world, and if it is a global issue, then China needs to be a part of the global solution. Otherwise, why should the rest of the world spend the big bucks on a problem that cannot be solved alone? It is the Tragedy of the Commons that you argue against….unless you really are a global warming denialist, which is fine, but would have to be admitted to be a valid defense.

M.G. in Progress May 15, 2009 at 11:28 am

I am sometimes appaled by the international economic diplomacy of some economists including Krugman. Once is a currency problem, then is treasuries now is pollution. This is deperate international diplomacy!!! It reminds me few years ago when we used to tell Brazil not to cut Amazonia because we, US and Europe, need it for our oxygen.
“From a humanist perspective…†
“As a Brazilian I would always argue against internationalizing the Amazon Rain Forest. Even though our government has not given this patrimony the care that it deserves, it is still ours. As a humanist who fears the risks posed by the environmental degradation the Amazon is suffering, I could imagine its internationalization, just as I could imagine the internationalization of everything else of importance to humanity.

If, from a humanist perspective, the Amazon must be internationalized, we should also internationalize the world’s petroleum reserves. Oil is as important for the well being of humanity as the Amazon is for our future. The owners of the reserves, however, feel that they have the right to increase or decrease the amount of oil production, as well as increase or lower the price per barrel. The wealthy of the world feel they have the right to burn up this immense patrimony of humanity.

In much the same way, the wealthy countries’ financial capital should be internationalized. Since the Amazon Rain Forest is a reserve for all human beings, no owner or country must be allowed to burn it up. The burning of the Amazon is as serious a problem as the unemployment caused by the arbitrary decisions made by global speculators. We cannot permit the use of financial reserves to burn entire countries in the frenzy of speculation.

“Let’s internationalize all the world’s children as patrimony of humanity†
Before we internationalize the Amazon, I would like to see the internationalization of all the world’s great museums. The Louvre should not belong merely to France. The world’s museums are guardians of the most beautiful pieces of art produced by the human genius. We cannot let this cultural patrimony, like the natural patrimony of the Amazon, be manipulated and destroyed by the whims of an owner or a country. A short time ago, a Japanese millionaire decided to be buried with a painting by a great artist. That painting should have been internationalized before this could happen.

The United Nations is holding the Millennium Summit parallel to this meeting, but some Presidents ohad difficulties attending due to U.S. border-crossing constraints. Because of this, I think that New York, as the headquarters of the United Nations, should be internationalized. At least Manhattan should belong to all humanity, as should Paris, Venice, Rome, London, Río de Janeiro, Brasilia, Recife… Each city, with its unique beauty and its history, should belong to the entire world, to all of humanity.
If the United States wants to internationalize the Amazon Rain Forest to minimize the risk of leaving it in the hands of Brazilians, we should internationalize its nuclear arsenals, if only because the country has already demonstrated it is capable of using these arms, causing destruction thousands of times greater than the deplorable burnings done in the forests of Brazil.

In their debates, the US presidential candidates have defended the idea of internationalizing the world’s forest reserves in exchange for debt relief. We should begin by using this debt to guarantee that each child in the world has the opportunity to go to school. We should internationalize the children, treating them, all of them, no matter their country of birth, as patrimony that deserves to be cared for by the entire world. Even more than the Amazon deserves to be cared for. When the world’s leaders begin to treat the poor children of the world as a patrimony of humanity, they will not let them work when they should be studying, die when they should be living.

As a humanist, I agree to defend the internationalization of the world. But, as long as the world treats me as a Brazilian, I will fight for the Amazonia to remain ours. Ours alone.†

Do we now want to de-internationalize China?

Rafi May 15, 2009 at 11:33 am

“As the United States and other advanced countries finally move to confront climate change, they will also be morally empowered to confront those nations that refuse to act.”

I am a humble amateur economist, but this is the second occasion that I have seen Krugman make an appeal to his sense (described as “our” sense) of morality as a justification for public policy. What moral principle is he referring to? Why isn’t China “morally empowered” to use the most affordable energy source to raise the standard of living for hundreds of millions of poor? Maybe my highest moral good is freedom so China should have economic freedom to do what they want to.

As a humble climatologist, I ask, is the debate on man made global warming really over? Is it conclusive that carbon emissions are threatening irreversible apocalyptic climate change? I have many reasons to think not.

PeterW May 15, 2009 at 11:38 am

Amusingly, both left and right only pay tribute to multilateralism when their “allies” conveniently support the positions that they themselves are pushing.

And penalizing an entire country exporting a spectrum of goods is simply ludicrous and should be dismissed as such.

It is striking that Krugman appears to believe global warming is a “moral” issue, not a pragmatic one of cost maximization. Somehow I don’t think this air of superiority is going to win many international friends, except for those who already agree with you.

Tom May 15, 2009 at 11:59 am

Rafi – agreed.
Tyler, by using the word ‘denier’, seems to admit ‘global warming’ is a religion. Being a skeptic used to be part of being a scientist.

I personally am open to global warming, but co2 as a cause needs to go much further before being taken seriously.

Even the EPA is not convinced.
http://hotair.com/archives/2009/05/12/video-epa-memo-says-greenhouse-effect-not-proven/

M.G. in Progress May 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

John Dewey: denialist is somebody who is still looking for a consensus as an excuse to do nothing and care less. The more points you put the lesser consensus you get, it’s obvious. It’s verys simple just accept the polluter pays principle, but do not ask China to do what we do not do. That’s patronizing…

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

in Progress: “denialist is somebody who is still looking for a consensus as an excuse to do nothing and care less.”

If only 10% or 20% of scientists are convinced that global warming will be catastrophic to mankind, why should we now implement a carbon tax? We should not need “excuses” to restrain from implemeting a massive new tax. Rather, before implementing a massive new tax, we should need something as close as proof as we can get that the tax is needed and that the tax will accomplish its objectives. The burden proof should be on those who wish to tax, not on those who oppose the tax,

Hu Kebi May 15, 2009 at 12:38 pm

I bet a more democratic China would also be less environmentally responsible. Just a hunch.

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 12:45 pm

jeffJ: “there is consensus on points 1-3.”

Please provide a link that provides clear evidence of the scientific consensus on point 2, that “a warming globe will be a disaster for humankind”

JeffJ May 15, 2009 at 12:58 pm

Dewey:

Sorry, my mistake. Reading comments quickly, I did not realize your point #2 contained the definitive “will be a disaster.” No one who should be taken seriously would claim that disaster is a certainty – only that it is a significant possibility.

mulp May 15, 2009 at 1:07 pm

Let’s ask a slightly different question:

Should the world bill the developed nations for the carbon they have already put into the atmosphere with the US being billed for 40% of the green house gas excess.

Does it matter when the excess green house gases were put in the atmosphere? Isn’t CO2 as fungible as money? Isn’t that CO2 molecule created a half century ago just as bad as the one created today and in a half century? Does it matter when a dollar was borrowed? Aren’t all the dollars the same?

It does matter why the dollar was borrowed. Wouldn’t those dollars borrowed during WWII to defeat Hitler more justified than the dollar borrowed to buy a 3000 square foot house you can’t afford?

Likewise the CO2 the US spent making concrete to build schools and libraries and other buildings still in productive use is more justified than the CO2 spent driving an extra ton of car per passenger to and from work.

Think of two gold mines. I mine my claim to exhaustion and consume all my profits while you, being less skilled than I, were unable to mine your claim and you starved. Now you have learned from looking at what I did how to mine your claim. Should you pay me a share of your production because I’ve already consumed my claim? Perhaps I should have the right to move into your claim and take half of it?

If I have a family of four, and you have a family of sixteen, but I’m accustomed to a much richer life style, should I get to take half your claim and split it four ways while you split your production sixteen ways because its your fault you have such a large family?

I can’t be too “righteous” about the idea of “property rights” with roots in the US going back to 1640 and the long legacy of taking other people’s property by force. The past can’t be changed, but we should acknowledge it and offer some concessions, like the favored casinos on reservations.

The US shouldn’t impose any carbon tax on China for a few decades, not because it is logical from a “science” standpoint, but because it is a social concession that recognizes our past harmful actions.

Besides, China’s politicians are far ahead of US politicians on all the issue if you measure the current government at 60 years vs the US in 1850.

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

willis,

What really irks me is that global warming catastrophe believers will classify all opposition to their theology as “global warming deialists”. There is a huge differences between:

– one who argues that the earth is not warming;

and

– one who argues that it has not been proven that global warming will be catastrophis;

and

– one who argues that all te carbon taxes and cap and trade programs will not change the warming of the globe.

But you would denigrate all those different positions by lumping them into a single category of “global warming denialist”.

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 1:41 pm

jeffj: “No one who should be taken seriously would claim that disaster is a certainty – only that it is a significant possibility.”

All right, jeffj. Since you are the one who claimed a consensus, please provide a link showing clear evidence that a scientific consensus exists that there is a significant possibility global warming will be a catastrophe for humankind.

willis May 15, 2009 at 1:49 pm

Dewey:

You can take the position, individually or collectively, that (1) the earth is not warming; (2) it has not been proven that global warming will be catastrophis, or (3)all the carbon taxes and cap and trade programs will not change the warming of the globe.

And you can call these positions whatever you want — I don’t intend to lump.

However, if you argue any of these positions, then the initial debate is not about what China does or does not do; rather, it is about what the U.S. is going to do and the consequences. But, if as a matter of U.S. policy carbon caps or taxes are implemented and you lose the debate, then a policy decision with global consequences has been made and the focus does turn to nations like China.

We can debate whether it is o.k. to smoke in the car on a trip, but if we ultimately conclude it is not o.k., then you can’t light up while I chew gum and the kids get sick anyway.

Rafi May 15, 2009 at 1:58 pm

I disagree with willis simply on the grounds that China is its own sovereign nation and unless you start talking about a global governing force then smoking in cars or restaurants is not comparable to being “morally empowered” to tell China what to do. (But lets not even start to think about states’ rights…)

Rex Rhino May 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm

How about the fact that this argument is entirely pointless?

No country, anywhere in the world is prepared to do what needs to be done to stop CO2 emissions. No one. Period.

Check out this article: http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/science/05/13/mackay.energy/index.html

To summarize, “alternative energy” is a joke. To produce just 1/6th of the power the U.S. via wind, for example, would require covering an area the size of California in wind farms (which in itself would have dire ecological consequences!)… And if I did the math with his numbers correctly, we couldn’t even generate 1/6 of the U.S. energy needs even if we covered the entire surface area of the United States in solar cells.

Short of abandoning industrial society, stopping CO2 emissions will require mass construction of nuclear reactors (very roughly 3000 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations), which is politically impossible.

So, given that most attempts by nations to fight CO2 emissions is simply public relations or job creation programs, it seems silly to make significant sacrifices in order to penalize nations for not undertaking the same token PR campaigns. Until there is a climate-change related disaster that is scarier than nuclear power that will make nuclear power acceptable, fighting climate change is a joke.

Dan H. May 15, 2009 at 2:43 pm

“As the United States and other advanced countries finally move to confront climate change, they will also be morally empowered to confront those nations that refuse to act.”

This is a fundamental misreading of what motivates a country. On the international stage, no one cares about anyone else’s ‘moral empowerment’. Countries act in their own self-interest. They don’t act out of guilt because some other country has shown itself to be morally superior.

And that’s why this statement is completely backwards:

“We cannot credibly penalize the Chinese until we solve our own pollution problem.”

In fact, ‘solving our own pollution problem’ will make it harder, not easier to convince the Chinese to do likewise, because it will raise the cost of manufacturing in the U.S., which will give the dirtier countries a comparative advantage. This means that over time it becomes increasingly more expensive for China to cooperate. For example, let’s say that a carbon tax in the U.S. pushes an energy-intensive factory to China. China has gained from this. China now has an added incentive to NOT do the same thing (if it erases this new advantage, the factory it gained before now goes away).

In addition, the more reduction of CO2 we do on our own, the lower the impact on China of China’s own CO2 emissions. So the incentive for lowering emissions on the future cost side also goes down.

Rational foreign policy requires that you not think of these issues in terms of morality, but in terms of appealing to a nation’s self-interest. One way to do that is to threaten a trade war if they don’t comply, or threaten a blockade, or in some other way threaten to create costs greater than the cost of them doing what you want them to do. Or, you can use the carrot approach, and offer to subsidize their energy. I’m not sure we want to do any of that.

Taking unilateral action on global warming makes all this more difficult.

kranky kritter May 15, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Don’t hold your breath JD.

Now Jeff, in the interests of collegiality, I’l go ahead and stipulate consensus on point one, and leave aside any quarrels with the signals coming from the data on the most recent several years.

If you happen to come up a little blank on point 2, how about point 3, the part where we are sure that this is all conclusively attributable to human activity. While I am waiting, I will keep breathing my dangerously warm carbon-dioxide-rich air. It’s not the greatest, but it’s better than nothing.

Andrew May 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

“We spend a staggering amount on our nations military but demand little proof that we face international threats commiserate with our spending, yet we demand an impossible level of evidence before taking comparatively trivial actions to combat an international environmental threat.”

Who is this we?

It’s actually the same problem, not a paradox. A government that cannot be trusted with funds they spend on guns can’t be trusted with funds of any kind.

Gabe May 15, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Club of Rome
this was published in 1988…they were sayign we woudl be cooked by 2005.

The First Global Revolution excerpts starting on page 81

The need for enemies seem to be a common historical factor. Some states have striven to overcome domestic failure and internal contradictions by blaming external enemies. The ploy of finding a scapegoat is as old as mankind itself – when things become too difficult at home, divert attention to adventure abroad. Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one, or else one invented for the purpose†¦.Can we live without enemies?

†¦New enemies have to be identified, new strategies imagined, and a new weapons devised†¦.

In the present situation in the world, the lack of identification of the people with the processes of decision-making is expressed in the form of indifference, scepticism, or outright rejection of governments and political parties, which are seen as having little control over the problems of our times. These attitudes are clearly indicated by a decreasing rate of participation in elections.

In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by HUMAN intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.

Cosmotarian Overlord May 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Perhaps we should require all chinese people to wear tatoos on their forhead that say “CO2 polluter”. It is the only scientifically reasonably option left. It is morally reprehensible to let them get away with destorying the planet the way they are.

Dan H. May 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

“No country, anywhere in the world is prepared to do what needs to be done to stop CO2 emissions. No one. Period.”

This is the hard truth. You cannot credibly lower global CO2 emissions unless you manage to put a global treaty in place. And you can’t put a global treaty in place if you can’t even get individual countries to live up to the agreements they’ve already made. Check out the compliance rate for the signatories to the Kyoto treaty, for example.

The economics of unilateral action are pretty clear. First of all, energy is fungible – especially oil and gas. If the U.S. reduces its fossil fuel consumption, it will simply drive down the cost of fossil fuels, which will stimulate demand elsewhere until a new equilibrium is reached. That equilibrium may be slightly lower than the current one, but this effect means that for every gallon of oil you stop using, world consumption will not go down by a gallon, but by only some fraction of a gallon. This means the cost of CO2 reduction is higher than the cost as measured in a gallon of oil saved, because to save one gallon’s worth of CO2 would you have to reduce your consumption by more than a gallon to make up for the offsetting increases elsewhere in the world due to the local demand drop.

The hard fact to absorb is that every gallon of oil in the ground is going to be pumped up and burned, until it no longer makes economic sense for us to do so. Trying to stop people from burning cheap energy to their economic benefit is extraordinarily hard to do – maybe impossible.

So one answer we have is to stop tilting at windmills and trying to serious limit greenhouse gases, and instead wait for the natural price of fossil fuels to be non-competitive. Other energy sources are slowly coming down in price, and oil is going up. At some point in the indeterminate future, those curves will cross and the world will stop using oil. In the meantime, we can invest more in R&D to get the costs down for alternatives, or start building nuclear plants, which are reasonably cost-effective.

And the other option is to do nothing on the output side, let the market take its course, and work on mitigation strategies such as carbon capture or international agreements to transfer wealth from those countries that benefit from warming (most of the rich northern countries), and pay reparations to those hurt by it (the poor equatorial countries).

Any solution that involves simply voluntarily reducing emissions across the board, which doesn’t involve the entire world doing the same, will be counter-productive and destructive to the economy.

John Dewey May 15, 2009 at 5:16 pm

jeffj: “The piece titled ‘There is no Consensus’ is quite well sourced.”

That may be true, but did you read the sources? Here’s what your link to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reveals about the sea level rising:

“Depending on which greenhouse gas increase scenario is used (high or low) projected sea-level rise is projected to be anywhere from 0.18 (low greenhouse gas increase) to 0.59 meters for the highest greenhouse gas increase scenario. However, this increase is due mainly to thermal expansion and contributions from melting alpine glaciers, and does not include any potential contributions from melting ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica. Larger increases cannot be excluded but our current understanding of ice sheet dynamics renders uncertainties too large to be able to assess the likelihood of large-scale melting of these ice sheets.”

Let me help you understand this. The NOAA says that sea levels are expected to rise anywhere from 7 inches to 23 inches over the next 100 years. Any increases beyond that level are theoretically possible, but our current level of knowledge makes it impossible to assess the probability of that happening.

The idea that the world cannot adapt to sea level changes of a few inches is silly. The idea that the world should implement drastic changes in standards of living in order to prepare for additional unpredictable changes is even sillier.

Maoist sympathizer May 15, 2009 at 5:25 pm

The vast majority of China’s exports are produced by American companies for the American market where they are consumed. In essence, China’s emissions are American emissions that occur offshore. To subject it to a “carbon tax” is just another way of offloading the problem onto others that can ill-afford to pay for it.

Second, the American retail mark-up on China’s natural resources and labour is on the order of 1000 per cent. For every dollar China makes Walmart earns 100 more. American corporations go to China precisely because it has lax environmental and labour standards where they can emit to their hearts’ content. And they do — I’d never seen a clear day in Beijing until I watched the Olympics on TV.

Then to go and blame China for global warming and subject it to harsh punitive sanctions and tariffs is not only the worst kind of hypocrisy, it’s a form of economic colonialism of the kind that resulted in the Opium War and the Boxer Revolution.

Where’s the “morality” in that?

Shadowrider May 15, 2009 at 5:38 pm

Perhaps the way to do this is to impose a tariff but give enough tax breaks to Chinese companies that can prove they do not pollute that it comes out revenue neutral. Those companies that go green get a big competitive advantage over those that do not. It should be implemented out of something similar to the Kyoto protocol so that all nations are treated fairly. Companies from countries not signing the protocol would have to go farther to prove they do not pollute as their energy and transportation are presumed to be dirty.
As for whether global warming is real and dangerous, check out the top flight scientific journals like Science and Nature. I have yet to see an article in either journal seriously disputing either claim.

Matthew May 15, 2009 at 6:10 pm

China, like India and other third world countries, are absolutely filthy. The cities and areas are polluted. No where are they as clean as the US or other developed countries. The focus on pollution–yes, the farce about carbon, too–should address China and third world countries first. We already have the cleanest country. Except for the trash and graffetti in NYC and other overcrowded cities. Still, the air in NYC and LA are cleaner on any day than it is in Beijing or Mexico City. (Yes, I have have traveled to 47 countries over the years and wonder at the naivete of Americans wanting to think that the third world is somehow better, cleaner, or otherwise not as “bad” as us Americans.)

Delirious May 15, 2009 at 6:28 pm

If EPA standards (I’ll use that as my metric, but you pick your own) are not uniform from country to country, why wouldn’t companies go to the lowest rung?

This is insane. Decide what “we” want to do environmentally, but don’t bother unless it can be done across the board.

How do I compete against a third world worker who has a fraction of the regulatory burden per capita that I do?

If you can’t answer, then lets just go ahead and repeal our (American) minimum wage, OSHA reqs, etc. It would be immoral not to.

John Pertz May 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm

The real problem with the left on this issue is that they are such vampires when it comes to taxation. They want big big government, high rates of corporate tax, high income taxes, and now high carbon taxes. Its difficult to break bread with such crazy people who talk about government programs and their funding as though they are a fundamental liberty, which they arent, and now are demanding that the US economy puts on the choker by raising carbon emissions taxes.

Well I am all for science, its supposed consensus on this issue, and having the government do something about it. However, Im not for government action on the environment plus massive European welfare economics. No thanks, that system clearly doesnt work. Please reference France, Italy, and Germany if you need proof. Please dont tell me about Norway because oil rich nations with 5 million white people dont count.

indiana jim May 15, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Read this article (today’s WSJ) by Mitch Daniels, Gov. of Indiana, on the folly of cap and trade imperialism:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124234844782222081.html#

babar May 15, 2009 at 9:01 pm

how about presenting them with the evidence and saying something like:

“we have a political system which makes us unable to deal with problems which are this serious yet which will only manifest in the future. you on the other hand do not have such constraints. we are not asking you to help us with this. we are merely pointing out that we have limitations and if you are smart you can take full advantage.

signed,
the united states of america”

reed hundt May 15, 2009 at 9:40 pm

The most productive path is this: for China and the USA to create an international green bank that financed alternative energy instead of carbon as the basis for the electricity sector in every developing nation. An international green bank can lower the price of electricity, create more demand (for non carbon electricity), stimulate sustainable growth, create new markets, produce global wealth, and bind China and the USA together. So I say, as co chairman of the Coalition for the Green Bank.

Adrian May 15, 2009 at 11:36 pm

You guys are a bunch of little kids playing grown men behind close doors.

abel May 16, 2009 at 12:10 am

“please point to a link where global trash will be disaster for humankind”

when there is famine, no amount of links/money will be able to convince you better than nature’s fury will.

volcanoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfire. They are trying to save this planet from you.

Diego May 16, 2009 at 8:10 am

The West wants China to reduce its CO2 emissions claiming that China is currently the #1 producer of such emissions. China on the other hand claims that the West is historically the biggest producer of CO2, is responsible for most of what is in the atmosphere, and that reducing CO2 emissions at the expense of Chinese growth would be unfair…

To me there seems to be an obvious solution to this problem: the West should contribute to the reduction of Chinese (not to mention their own) CO2 emissions, both in the form of economic and technological transfers, helping the Chinese replace their factories, plants, generators, etc. with greener technology. That way both sides get what they want. If the West is not ready to do this, then to me it seems it just doesn’t want this outcome bad enough.

This is a global problem and should be solved like that, if we expect just one side to do all the sacrifices we will never achieve anything.

JJ May 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm

John Dewey, let me help you out: you’re a global warming denialist. You’re a person who engages in silly sophistry to arrive at a conclusion that you’re ideologically predisposed to. You’re a flat earther and Ptolemaic.

The stupid bullet point exercise you go through is, of course, a game one can play with any policy or scientific position. List out a bunch of objections (including the ludicrous objection that policy advocates haven’t proved with certainty that the policy will be successful). Pretend that the uncertainties involved in each bit of concern trolling should be multiplied. Conclusion: whatever you want it to be. For added measure, portray the majority (and expert) opinion as “zealotry.”

In reality, of course, scientists have reached as close to unanimity on this question as you’re ever going to see on an area of actively developing research. The globe is warming, and anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are the primary cause. Economists have also chimed in: the costs of reducing our fossil fuel use aren’t that great, and they are significantly less than the costs of inaction. The correct policy response is going to take a long time to fully work out, but putting a cost on the negative externalities of fossil fuel use is surely a good place to start.

In conclusion: you have your head up your ass.

Odysseus May 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm

John Dewey: A simple example.
Assume that due to climate change, everything west of the Great Divide (CA, AZ, NV, OR, WA, ID) has total annual rainfall doubled, and everything on the Great Plains and Mississippi River Valley sees annual rainfall cut in half. (MT, ND, MN, SD, IA, WY, CO, KS, OK, AR I’ll leave out TX) Corn is now not a viable crop west of the Mississippi, unless heavily irrigated.

Please explain how this might change American agriculture, what the capital investment required to make that change is, and how population might shift as a result.

assman May 16, 2009 at 10:55 pm

“Of course global warming will be a disaster for mankind. All human habitation in every nation is based upon some kind of climate expectation, whether that be temperate, tropical, desert, or arctic. There will be significant shifts in both variance and climactic zoning in a warming world. The simple disruption of forced migrations alone might well be economic reason enough to cover point 5.”

Time scale. You ignore time scale and its very important. So far we have experience 0.6 degrees of warming over 1 century. Adapting to this sort of change may involve zero economic cost since building will have to be rebuilt in 100 years irregardless of global warming. The change will be incremental and extended over very long periods of time.

Human/Animal migrations by the way happen all the time do to economic and other factors. In fact currently there is a massive shift going on from rural to urban areas.

As for variance…what proof do you have that global warming leads to increasing variable climate?

FE May 17, 2009 at 12:30 am

We know how this will turn out. First, Congress will impose ethanol mandates on China…

D May 17, 2009 at 11:04 pm

I think we should consider some mixture of the following with at least as much seriousness as visiting deliberate economic hardship upon a nation of a billion and a half, with a per-capita GDP of 6000 PPP ($3000 nominal). I take for granted obviously delightsome things like striving for fuel efficiency, increasing public transportation or trying to work out solar power/nuclear fusion/wind energy. I therefore list therefore schemes that are less than ideal in themselves, noting that so is pushing against an economic miracle that has created what I regard as the greatest humanitarian triumph of the past fifty years.

– As much nuclear fission energy as possible
– Large (population displacing, ecology hurting) hydroelectric dam projects
– Reconciling to a reduced, but positive, change in temperature, say 1 C over the next hundred years
– Spewing sulfur into the atmosphere to lower temperatures or seeding parts of the ocean with iron to encourage algal growth and CO2 consumption.

Longer post here

Russil Wvong May 19, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Rex Rhino: “Short of abandoning industrial society, stopping CO2 emissions will require mass construction of nuclear reactors (very roughly 3000 one-gigawatt nuclear power stations), which is politically impossible.”

The other main path forward would be “clean coal”: continuing to use coal-fired power plants, but with carbon capture and storage. Germany started operating a pilot plant last September. The additional cost for electricity generated with carbon capture and storage is something like 30-50% (2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour, falling to 1-2 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2030).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage

CCS is particularly applicable to China, because China relies so heavily on coal for power generation, and is building so many new coal-fired power plants.

A cost increase of 30-50% would have an impact, of course, but not so much as to force us to abandon industrial civilization.

DAWEI Tong May 22, 2009 at 9:46 pm

I agree with “4. We cannot credibly penalize the Chinese until we solve our own pollution problem. Even under Obama’s proposed policies, in their purer forms, that is at best decades away. In the meantime, what is it that is really being advocated? Non-credible threats?”

In fact China has done a lot of work on climate change,and China need development,Now Obama only makes some policy which don’t pass by the USA and we don’t know what will happedn on cop15, so don’t ask what China should do!

Walt French June 28, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Let’s put this meme, that such a tax would penalize China, out of its misery: the purpose of a carbon tax is to HELP China recognize its own self-interest at the same time we advance our own.

China will increasingly become the Enemy of nations like Bangladesh (with huge populations of marginal people only barely above current sea levels), who will identify China as the source of their misery. Ditto other nations who track China as the sole consumer of nickel, copper, etc, butting off the developing world from resources trade with the West.

China will increasingly think they need to desecrate their own nation, fouling the waters to undrinkable and useless for agriculture, if they believe that pollution on a global scale is a short-term opportunity to exploit. While they have stripped many jobs from the West because they can produce cat converters, steel and other commodities without paying for externalities, they will have to shift to sustainable development if they hope to maintain or improve the lot of their own people.

And yes, even if the costs of cap-n-trade, Pigovian taxes or other mechanisms are only a fraction of the optimists’ estimates, competitors will increasingly resent China’s theft of our fresh (not-CO2-saturated) air, resulting in increasing isolation by resentful nations.

Nearly half of capitol hill is populated by lawyers and we have a fair number of actual negotiators, bureaucrats, etc to do the important work of getting all nations on board for our mutual benefit. It’s ludicrous to think that something so important is non-negotiable before we even try.

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