The commons are still tragic

by on May 9, 2014 at 9:22 am in Economics, Food and Drink, Law | Permalink

Kevin Grier reports:

Paul Krugman points us to the success story of the rebound of US fish stocks. He then makes an amazing leap to climate change saying, “Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.”

I actually agree with the first part, and the Vox article that Krugman links to makes the point pretty well, just not in the way Paul wants it to be made.

Now the big caveat: Yes, US fisheries seem to be recovering. But that’s not true for much of the rest of the world. And, given that the United States imports around 91 percent of its seafood, this is a pretty crucial caveat.

All told, the best-managed fisheries around the world — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland — only make up about 16 percent of the global catch, according to a recent paper in Marine Pollution Bulletin by Tony Pitcher and William Cheung of the University of British Columbia.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of the world’s fish are caught in the rest of the world, in places like Asia and Africa — where rules are often less strict. The data here is fairly patchy, but the paper notes that many of these nations are less likely to follow the UN’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and there’s evidence that “serious depletions” may be occurring…

In other words, overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own. Our fish stocks are rebounding, and our carbon emissions are falling, but much of the rest of the world is moving in the wrong direction on both issues.

The full post is here.

S May 9, 2014 at 9:30 am

One country cannot get the climate to stop changing all by itself.

James T; Kirjk May 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

“But one man can change the present.”

ladderff May 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

Nice, S.

mulp May 10, 2014 at 4:15 pm

But one country can prepare itself for climate change while all the others ignore the risk until the predicted events denied actually occur.

The point about the fisheries is missed. The US is acting to prevent total collapse of its fisheries with the goal of rebuilding them. The future might be the US produces sustainably 100% of US consumption of seafood.

The next question is whether the rest of the world consumes no seafood at all, or whether 100% of their seafood comes from the US et al, and US consumers pay very high prices for a fraction of the seafood they as voters acted to preserve so they could have seafood in the future. Logically, US consumers should pay high global prices because of most US production being exported because US consumers are a big part of the demand for pillage and plunder of global fisheries.

On acting on climate change, should the US help the rest of the world deal with the consequences? Well, given the US has been the biggest cause of climate change, even after paying for both becoming post carbon and defending against the impact, the US needs to support the rest of the world by allowing immigration from flooded nations and pay for building carbon free replacements for destroyed carbon energy assets. The US population has benefitted from job killing fossil fuel imports in times when US labor was in short supply – eg WWII, and had greater leisure and luxury in the 80s as millions of workers got to retire in their 50s by US economic labor policy. A great deal of capital was burned literally and figuratively during the 80s to eliminate US workers. Hundreds of thousands of workers in the oil industry lost their jobs as policy promoted declining production. Further, policy promoted preventing that labor from being employed in non-carbon energy production. Reagan ordered destroyed a non-carbon capital asset, installed on orders of Carter, to make that point.

mofo. May 9, 2014 at 9:40 am

The Montreal Protocol was an international agreement. Id say that it actually reinforces what the OP said:

‘In other words, overfishing, like Ozone Depletion, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own.’

Cahokia May 9, 2014 at 9:42 am

The reason why humans have the ability to completely deplete the stocks of food species is because we’re so adaptable. We don’t suffer boom and bust episodes as we exhaust prey populations like other predators. If Canadians overfish northern cod, that doesn’t mean mass starvation, it just leads to people eating other kinds of fish or meat. Just like the Maori survived and prospered after wiping out the moa in New Zealand, we’ll do fine if we overfish x number of species around the world.

Axa May 9, 2014 at 10:12 am

On “free speech” http://www.xkcd.com/1357/

Man up!

dearieme May 9, 2014 at 12:55 pm

“Just like the Maori survived and prospered after wiping out the moa in New Zealand”: prospered? They lived on the edge of starvation, and indulged in cannibalism in the search for protein.

Cahokia May 9, 2014 at 1:29 pm

There were maybe 100,000 Maori at the time of European contact, a pretty robust population compared to other indigenous peoples. Cook described the Maori as a “strong-made, healthy people” and indeed their average life expectancy at the time was higher than in some European populations.

Jon May 9, 2014 at 9:45 am

I think this is a mistaken interpretation of Krugman’s point. “isn’t all that different…” does not mean “identical.” The point of similarity is the role of government action in correcting the problem. Unfortunately, one of the differences, is the size, scope and number of governments required for taking action.

Libertararians often seem to forget that the definition and enforcement of property rights in itself is a form of regulation–usually a very effective one.

Geoff May 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

+1

Just Another MR Commentor May 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

Enforcing property rights is a natural state not a regulation

dstraws May 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Yeah right. What you actually mean is that property rights are available to those with the power needed to enforce them,

Slappy McFee May 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Yep, because living in a society were people voluntarily leave each other alone is the same as a living in a society where they are forced to leave each other alone.

I don’t beat my wife because it’s wrong, not because it’s illegal.

Thor May 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

But, Slappy, WHEN did you stop beating your wife?

Clover May 9, 2014 at 2:11 pm

Yep, because living in a society were people voluntarily leave each other alone is the same as a living in a society where they are forced to leave each other alone.

No, there is a big difference. The latter is reality, the former is imaginary.

Jon May 9, 2014 at 10:20 pm

What do you mean by “natural state”. Is the registry of deeds part of nature? A policeman with a gun? Or killing members of another tribe to enforce your property rights (or seize theirs) more “natural”?

ThomasH May 10, 2014 at 9:21 am

The right not to be harmed by CO2 emissions without compensation is not a “natural state.” It does not appear that tort law will be able to deal with this problem ans so it will require regulation or taxation.

Z May 9, 2014 at 10:36 am

Like all irrationalists, Krugman likes to sabotage success words. The phrase “isn’t all that different” implies the two are the same. That’s what he wants the reader to infer. It’s a subtle form of lying. When he gets called on it, his toadies rush in and say, “isn’t all that different…” does not mean “identical.”

The Other Jim May 9, 2014 at 11:23 am

Exactly, although I would not call it subtle. It’s a well-rehearsed and obvious schtick that is common to warm-mongers.

For instance, “humans play a role in climate change.” (Sure, to the same extent that when a toddler pees in the ocean, it gets deeper.) The statement is technically true but completely meaningless. In other words, perfect for convincing people we need a crushing carbon tax.

derek May 9, 2014 at 10:40 am

No, it is a transfer of control and power. The Newfoundland cod fishery collapse is an example. Politicians made their careers protecting the fishermen from the evils of whoever wanted them to not fish, the fisheries department was a typical bureaucracy dependent on the usual nonsense to maintain their influence and budgets. The fish were at best 6th down the line of importance when decisions were made, until their commercial disappearance put them first.

The argument wasn’t advanced seriously at the time, or not where I heard it, but I can hear the arguments against private property rights of fisheries. The first one would be inequality. The second would be the transfer of power, and the bureaucracies would be vigorous in protecting their influence. The loudest would be the politicians seeing their source of popular support evaporate.

Of course it is all academic, there aren’t any fish to argue about, it was managed by the bureaucrats and politicians into commercial extinction. Problem solved.

tt May 9, 2014 at 9:48 am

i still dont understand, the world is on fire so we should set our house on fire ?

Art Deco May 9, 2014 at 9:51 am

In other words, overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own

It’s not a global problem unless stocks in coastal fisheries in country A are dependent on stocks in country B or dependent on quanta of marine life in the middle of the ocean. You’re referencing accounts which say there are divergent trends in fish stocks, so evidently these do move independently of each other. It’s a series of localized problems which have a global manifestation in the form of prices in fish markets.

You have institutional inertia and you have the remarkable capacity that tiny lobbies have in suborning the modern administrative state. When the lobbies are economically ruined, that might just persuade foreign governments to build and maintain effective marine patrols to police fish harvests. An international agency might provide governments such as Tanzania’s with technical aid toward that end. What more do you need?

Ufdufduf May 9, 2014 at 11:05 am

Curious use of “suborning”.

Rob42 May 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm

you forgot about “the United States imports around 91 percent of its seafood,” which means it is a global problem to the extent the United States wants to continue to eat seafood. US fisheries have recovered because we’ve outsourced our fishing, and US CO2 has dropped because we’ve outsourced much of our industry.

Rich Berger May 9, 2014 at 9:53 am

Every time I read Paul Krugman, I am reminded of Dr. Haber in Ursula LeGuinn’s Lathe of Heaven. The same breezy confidence, dismissal of contrary views (when not finding them simply evil) – in short, the perfect oracle for NYT readers. Never a discouraging word, progressives!

The Other Jim May 9, 2014 at 11:25 am

>Every time I read Paul Krugman

Well, there’s your problem.

Unfortunately, even when you are savvy enough to avoid him, there is often someone else who wants to mention him anyway.

Art Deco May 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Cannot recall the character in the novel well. Kevin Conway’s portrayal in the film version wasn’t given to malicious verbal combat or falsehood and was, at least initially, aware of some of his own defects.

Art Deco May 9, 2014 at 2:28 pm

I also recall that Dr. Haber is eventually ruined, left in a wheelchair and unable to speak. Krugman has not suffered professionally for allowing his wife to use his byline for vicious polemics these last 13 years (bar in the opinions of economists who were not bothered by him prior to 2001 and whom he professes to find contemptible; most of them with a public voice ignore his grossness).

Axa May 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

What would be the price of fish and seafood in the US if the imported 91% came from environmentally friendly fisheries?

Laval May 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm

Just right!

David May 9, 2014 at 10:00 am

“overfishing, like climate change is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own”

Like income inequality. Hence the proposal for a global tax on the superrich.

Anymore likely with fish?

On inequality, was the Rockefeller’s wealth/oil barron’s capital forcibly split up through government intervention and the encroachment of the state into private sector activity during WWII, or was it dissipated?

Alexei Sadeski May 9, 2014 at 11:53 am
Cosmotarian Overlord May 9, 2014 at 4:42 pm

Obviously we must enact global taxes and construct a global bureaucracies in order to save us from all sorts of problems. Even the libertarians agree with that.

We are fortunate to have Tyler Cowen on the good team.

Tom Donahue May 10, 2014 at 3:08 pm

“Obviously we must enact global taxes and construct a global bureaucracies in order to save us from all sorts of problems.”

Well, my response to that is, given that we have these problems, some of which were clearly caused by allowing selfish individuals to pursue their short-term interests, how is more of the same going to solve the problems? What is the mechanism?

I think that’s a very hard question to answer. It’s much easier to deny that we have the problems. Hence the comments in this thread.

Milton Friedman at least tried to answer questions like that. But you don’t see much of that anymore. All you see is facile cynicism — whatever the solution may be, it won’t work.

Jon Rodney May 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

Are we to understand that the US, acting on it’s own, can do nothing to fight climate change?

Jonathan May 9, 2014 at 10:32 am

Yes, once you remove the apostrophe.

LonelyLibertarian May 9, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Yep – just as we should understand the nothing the US or any human alone or collectively has done thus far has had ANY impact on the climate.

I am amazed at the arrogance – the hubris of progressives in thinking that we are important enough to matter – no
way we can come close to competing with a really good asteroid collision or volcano eruption – best we can do is
“pee in the ocean” – to think other wise is almost sinful

Steven Kopits May 9, 2014 at 10:13 am

Fishing is not in all ways similar to CO2. Some fish types migrate large distances and are subject to international pressures. Others (lobster) are essentially regional or spend most of their time in the coastal waters of one or two countries (Atlantic sea bass) which makes fisheries regulation easier. Thus, some fish stocks (whales, cod) resemble a true global commodity, others are effectively national or regional issues and resemble topics more like water management.

As for CO2, there is no agreement that more CO2 in the atmosphere is bad. If we were using the fishing analogy, we could say that the stock of oxygen, on which we depend, has fallen per unit of air. At the current rate of CO2 emissions, this would represent a decline equal to 38 fish per every 1,000,000 population per year. A 1% decline in oxygen per unit of air would thus require 260 years of CO2 increases at the current pace.

As for CO2 and temperature: Satellite measured temperatures have not increased in 12-17 years, even as CO2 has soared. Further, there is no agreement as to what the theoretical optimum temperature is for the earth. If we take the view that the 1 deg C increase since 1880 was man-made, then we are already living in the period of climate catastrophe. If that’s true, people seem to prefer it. Seven of the ten fastest growing US states by population are either hot or dry, or both. And I can assure you, after this year’s brutal winter on the east coast, I would happily take another couple of degrees more for the average temperature.

The Other Jim May 9, 2014 at 11:31 am

>Satellite measured temperatures have not increased in 12-17 years, even as CO2 has soared.

Entirely true, and even quite obvious, if you understand how radiation works. Hint: more CO2 is not analogous to sleeping under a second blanket to “stay warmer.” It’s more like putting a 1755th lock on your door to “be safer.”

>after this year’s brutal winter on the east coast, I would happily take another couple of degrees

If there were even a hint of scientific validity to AGW, I would surround my house with a moat of burning coal.

Benny Lava May 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

You should do that anyways.

Ronald Brak May 9, 2014 at 7:48 pm

Here’s a graph from NASA that clearly showing one year, five year, and 11 year temperature means:

http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/2011/Fig3.gif

Could you give me some help interpreting this? For some reason I can’t seem to see the no increase in temperature in the past 12 years. Or is it 17 years? If I pick a point in the middle, say 14 or 15 years, I still can’t see it. Please tell me what I am doing wrong and explain in simple words as I mustn’t be very bright to be able to see it.

lxm May 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

You don’t have the right glasses on.

Ronald Brak May 12, 2014 at 7:25 am

Maybe I just need to turn my laptop upside down? Oh yeah, there it is! Global temperatures heading down, problem solved! Tragically, this other graph I have now shows that US road deaths have really shot up.

ThomasH May 10, 2014 at 9:36 am

“As for CO2, there is no agreement that more CO2 in the atmosphere is bad.” Some people mis-conceive climate change as temperature change divorced from any other effect. Who would not like a couple of degrees more for the average US East coast winter temperature if there were no downsides to it? Unfortunately the global climate doe not work that way.

derek May 9, 2014 at 10:32 am

The Montreal Protocol worked for a few reasons:

The products in question were commodities at commodity prices, and the replacements were substantially more expensive, patent protected in some cases. You could fill an executive conference room with the producers and come to an understanding.

The products were with a few exceptions rarely consumer products. Industrial solvents, refrigerants, foam blowing agents. All had replacements available and a car seat with CFC blowing agent was not materially better than one without.

No one lost their job as a result of the Montreal Protocol.

To suggest that it was successful as an international agreement, hence international agreements are a solution to other problems is as silly as you obsession about GMU.

chuck martel May 9, 2014 at 10:59 am

How would you prove that the Montreal Protocol actually “worked”? All the CFCs made up to that time, the source of the problem, have either gone into the atmosphere or eventually will do so. They’re still being manufactured and used in much of the world, supposedly continuing to destroy the ozone layer. In the run-up to this silly international agreement there were television newscasts every night about Patagonian children being unable to walk to school because of the intensity of the ultra-violet light and farmers’ sheep going blind. The day after the agreement was reached the stories were no longer heard and haven’t been since, although the transition to other refrigerants has been a long, drawn-out process and CFCs continue to reach the upper atmosphere, according to the computer models of Rowlands and Molina. There’s never been any physical evidence tying CFCs to ozone depletion, a natural phenomenon. It’s always been theoretical. The Montreal Protocol is an example of a US guilt trip for its economic success, happily enforced by the rest of the world.

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 12:17 pm

‘How would you prove that the Montreal Protocol actually “worked”?’

Empirical data, over several centuries. (Admittedly, this does face the long run problem of all of us being dead first.)

‘They’re still being manufactured and used in much of the world’

Not really – ‘Production of new stocks ceased in most (probably all) countries as of 1994.[citation needed] However many countries still require aircraft to be fitted with halon fire suppression systems because no safe and completely satisfactory alternative has been discovered for this application. There are also a few other, highly specialized uses. These programs recycle halon through “halon banks” coordinated by the Halon Recycling Corporation[10] to ensure that discharge to the atmosphere occurs only in a genuine emergency and to conserve remaining stocks.

The interim replacements for CFCs are hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which deplete stratospheric ozone, but to a much lesser extent than CFCs.[11] Ultimately, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) will replace HCFCs. Unlike CFCs and HCFCs, HFCs have an ozone depletion potential (ODP) of 0. DuPont began producing hydrofluorocarbons as alternatives to Freon in the 1980s. These included Suva refrigerants and Dymel propellants.[12] Natural refrigerants are climate friendly solutions that are enjoying increasing support from large companies and governments interested in reducing global warming emissions from refrigeration and air conditioning. Hydrofluorocarbons are included in the Kyoto Protocol because of their very high Global Warming Potential and are facing calls to be regulated under the Montreal Protocol[dubious – discuss][13] due to the recognition of halocarbon contributions to climate change.[14]

On September 21, 2007, approximately 200 countries agreed to accelerate the elimination of hydrochlorofluorocarbons entirely by 2020 in a United Nations-sponsored Montreal summit. Developing nations were given until 2030. Many nations, such as the United States and China, who had previously resisted such efforts, agreed with the accelerated phase out schedule.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorofluorocarbon#Phasing-out_of_CFCs

‘There’s never been any physical evidence tying CFCs to ozone depletion, a natural phenomenon.’

This very accessible link disagrees with you, while providing the mechanism (the first C in this case being Cl or chlorine) – http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/process.html

chuck martel May 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

You’re trying to school a person that’s been in the refrigeration industry for over 35 years. The link puts forth the argument but it doesn’t present any physical evidence because there isn’t any. For instance, the EPA propaganda tells us that the escaped CFC molecules, which are much heavier than the rest of the atmospheric components, are mixed by the wind and rise to the level of the stratosphere. Prove it. That’s just one example of the many holes in Rowland’s theory, still unproven, that has led to the ban of some of the most useful and harmless chemicals ever developed and earned Rowland himself a Nobel Prize, evidently the same kind of thinking that accounts for BHO’s Nobel prize.

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

‘are mixed by the wind and rise to the level of the stratosphere. Prove it.’

Well, these people might take issue with that objection – http://science.nasa.gov/missions/aura/

But then, that is what empirical data is all about.

Ronald Brak May 9, 2014 at 2:13 pm

You find yourself catching on fire a lot down there in the oxygen layer then?

Boonton May 11, 2014 at 8:33 am

For instance, the EPA propaganda tells us that the escaped CFC molecules, which are much heavier than the rest of the atmospheric components, are mixed by the wind and rise to the level of the stratosphere. Prove it

Notice you are presenting a theory of your own here: That the atmosphere is ‘sorted by weight’ with heavier elements dominating closer to the ground and vice versa. Prove your theory?

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/ozone-depletion/intro/ notes that heavier elements like Krypton are not in higher porportions near the ground and much lighter elements like Helium are not more common higher up.

GW May 9, 2014 at 10:54 am

To the extent that fish stocks respect national borders, this list of countries — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland — has enormous advantages in that they each have long stretches of coastline without immediate neighbors, limiting competition (at least to some degree) and making control over the fisheries (again, to some degree) more manageable.

So Much For Subtlety May 9, 2014 at 10:30 pm

Actually it is simpler. This list of countries — the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Iceland — is made up of White Protestant countries. They have relatively honest uncorrupt governments. They are democracies.

Notice the one country that is missing from that list – Britain. The British have been forced to allow EU fishermen in their waters. Spanish, Portuguese , Italian and French fishermen have open access to British fish. They also have large territorial claims of their own. The French own islands all over the world. Many of them in important fisheries – such as the Grand Banks. But their fisheries are not on the list.

It is not the ease of control, it is the people who do the controlling.

Harold May 10, 2014 at 9:45 am

“They have relatively honest uncorrupt governments.” Open borders would soon fix that.

Bill May 9, 2014 at 11:43 am

Another silly post.

Think of the logic of the post for a second.

Statement 1: US fisheries are recovering, as are those of other countries which manage the commons in their area of jurisdiction.

Statement 2: Some jurisdictions poorly manage their fisheries.

Conclusion: “overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own “. ??????

Statement 1 says those who are managing their fisheries are rebounding. Overfishing is occurring in those places where there is no regulation. That doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t regulate where you can, or that where you regulate doesn’t mean you can’t capture the benefits of your own regulation.

The missing term in the posters syllogism is that a failure to regulate in Indonesia affects the fish supply in Newfoundland.

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

That since the Montreal Protocol, and its proven empirical success, a number of American interests learned from their failure, and have been studiously ensuring that another such effective international framework will not come into existence – at least with American participation.

There is even a book which details much of how this works – ‘Merchants of Doubt is a 2010 book by the American historians of science Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway. It identifies parallels between the climate change debate and earlier controversies over tobacco smoking, acid rain and the hole in the ozone layer. Oreskes and Conway write that in each case “keeping the controversy alive” by spreading doubt and confusion after a scientific consensus had been reached, was the basic strategy of those opposing action.[1] In particular, they say that Fred Seitz, Fred Singer, and a few other contrarian scientists joined forces with conservative think tanks and private corporations to challenge the scientific consensus on many contemporary issues.[2]

The Marshall Institute and Fred Singer, two of the subjects, have been critical of the book, but most reviewers received it favorably. One reviewer said that Merchants of Doubt is exhaustively researched and documented, and may be one of the most important books of 2010. Another reviewer saw the book as his choice for best science book of the year.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchants_of_Doubt

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Such careful policing of the discussion – this is reaching DeLong levels of zealousness.

And since when did S. Fred Singer become so infamous?

chuck martel May 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

Then there’s this:

Worldwide production of R-22 in 2008 was about 800 Gg per year, up from about 450 Gg per year in 1998, with most production in developing countries.[1] R-22 use is increasing in developing countries, largely for air conditioning applications. Air conditioning sales are growing 20% annually in India and China.

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Yes, production of replacements has increased, as seen in Australia – ‘HCFC-22 (also known as R22) has been commonly used in residential heat pump, air conditioning and refrigeration systems since the 1990s following the phase out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in developed countries in 1995.

——————————

As releases of R22, including from leaks, contributes to ozone depletion, Australia has a legislated phase out of HCFC, in line with its obligations under the Montreal Protocol. Australia will largely phase out the import of HCFCs from 2016, apart from 2.5 ozone depletion potential tonnes a year (equating to around 45 tonnes of R22) which will be permitted until 2029 to service equipment.’ (google link – http://www.google.de/url?q=http://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/43a62028-f4f8-4aea-963f-ccf848599d55/files/fs-r22-phaseout.doc&sa=U&ei=QwdtU–ONsPMygPVv4HAAg&ved=0CCUQFjAB&usg=AFQjCNGdi8hmv8VlG1Qhufx9lZpDPS1fSw)

That a replacement has its production ramped up is not exactly surprising – it would actually be considered a sign of success for the Montreal Protocol.

chuck martel May 10, 2014 at 12:39 am

R-22 has been in use as a refrigerant since 1935. It’s being replaced now.

prior_approval May 11, 2014 at 6:00 am

Maybe it was not used broadly because other compounds were considered better? And its production only ramped up after those other compounds were phased out? Or maybe the Australian provided information is just an example of an outlier case?

Lee A. Arnold May 9, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Comparing the problems of climate change to the collapse of fisheries is very misleading. If the big countries such as the US promote or accentuate the development of non-carbon technologies, then those technologies become cheaper and easier to use in other areas as well: thus the developed world can, in essence, “solve the problem all on their own”, by leading with technologies that others can adopt. The working of the preference is VERY different from the catching of more fish.

There are two other false premises underlying this argument and others like them:

1) that the rest of the world will surge ahead, oblivious to climate change. –No, in most countries in the world including China, the publics have polled (at one time or another) 70% or more in favor of climate action. The U.S. is the laggard due to its peculiar rightwing tribalism– http://crookedtimber.org/2014/04/30/right-wing-tribalists-a-lost-cause/#comment-525389

2) that government climate mitigation will be more costly than letting the free market churn on its own. –No, that ignores: A) the possibility of accelerating change or breakpoints that could be faster than market response and cause a crisis requiring even MORE government intervention later (e.g. the financial crash, or a heatspike foodcrop collapse); B) the fact that long-term connections in a N-compartment system make current costs unimportant when the final accounting could be a net benefit; and C) the Coasean theory that institutions–including government–can reduce transaction costs of getting stuff done now.

It is really time for economists to step up to the plate on this, and stop pretending that “opinions on the shape of the earth differ.” You are not doing your own discipline any commendatory service.

Art Deco May 9, 2014 at 2:31 pm

The U.S. is the laggard due to its peculiar rightwing tribalism–

Then quotes ‘Crooked Timber’. Irony is dead.

Lee A. Arnold May 9, 2014 at 6:53 pm

That would be ME at Crooked Timber, trying to school those nudniks too. Lack of “reading comprehension skills” at Marginal Revolution is never dead.

Andrew' May 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm

“in most countries in the world including China, the publics have polled (at one time or another) 70% or more in favor of climate action. The U.S. is the laggard”

Simple question: Are those 70% polled in other countries in favor of US action? Is this “US action” what the laggard US isn’t excited about?

If not, why are they still building coal plants?

Lee A. Arnold May 9, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Oh sorry, I thought the question was whether US action couldn’t make a difference, because of some phony reason.

Thomas May 10, 2014 at 12:37 am

Like phony evidence?

Lee A. Arnold May 10, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Exactly. Like the idea that coal-burning plants cannot be cleaner. Or the idea that fishery depletion is akin to atmospheric carbon deposition. Of the idea that the Chinese will not conquer the photovoltaics market in the U.S. while U.S. conservatives sit around with their free-market fingers up their own butts. Indeed the “evidence” that “the free market always does things better” has been selective and ginned-up all along: Phony.

So Much For Subtlety May 9, 2014 at 10:44 pm

There is a comparison between Global Warming and fishing in one respect – the solution may be painless technological development. It is likely that solar will continue to drop in price until it is actually viable. It isn’t now. It is also possible that fish farming, which is surprisingly difficult, will develop as fish becomes more expensive. You already see it for the more expensive fish like salmon and tuna. That development is likely to take place entirely in the West.

I am sure that most countries have polled in support of climate action. If you ask people if they want truck loads of money from the West in reparations, of course they will agree. The number of countries who have agreed to do diddly squat about climate change is roughly zero outside the West. In fact China and India killed the last round of talks by flatly refusing to even consider reducing their outputs. So your figure is grossly misleading. At best.

It may be that doing little is more expensive than government blundering. But it is not likely. You cannot cherry pick the worst case for doing nothing and the best case for regulation. Real life is not likely to be either. Although as there is no evidence of global warming at all, doing nothing seems the best response.

Current costs are, of course, *always* more costly in the final accounting. As the Stern Report made clear – but was not brave enough to say – waiting is the best option. Technology gets cheaper and better. The world gets richer.

As for economists, they have no standing on scientific issues whatsoever. They are not competent to comment. They can suggest which options cost what. Which is what the Stern Report did and what the IPCC reports have done. They all suggest all out economic growth is the best option. So we ought to do it. And economists should not allow their ideological prejudices influence their professional opinions.

Tom Donahue May 10, 2014 at 4:16 pm

“As the Stern Report made clear – but was not brave enough to say – waiting is the best option.”

That’s an interesting take. The conclusion of the Stern report was that failing to invest now is foolish because the damage will be many times more expensive to repair. You’re making it say the exact opposite. How clever.

“Technology gets cheaper and better. The world gets richer.”

Well, yes, but that doesn’t addess the fact that we are already crossing tipping points that will be essentially impossible to reverse. You think we have time. We don’t. Reducing emissions at some future time won’t work, because by then it’s too late.

The situation we are in right now is like a house with bad wiring and a breaker that doesn’t work. Smoke is coming out of the walls. You want to wait to buy a fire extinguisher because years from now they will be more affordable. Well, OK, but that’s not going to do a lot of good after the house has burned down.

So Much For Subtlety May 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Stern had to sex up his report by using utter unrealistic discount rates. If you actually read the report, rather than the summaries, it is obvious that it is better to wait.

Which tipping points are we crossing? Oh wait, you don’t know. Someone has taken a mildly fashionable phrase and applied it to Climate Change. We have no idea if there are tipping points or not. But probably not. The Earth has been much warmer and with much higher CO2 levels in the past. But no tipping points. So we do have time. Or at least we have no reason to think we don’t.

The situation we are in right now involves the total absence of smoke. We have some self-interested people screaming that the house is burning down, but it is the same comfortable house it has always been, there is no sign of smoke much less fire, it is actually getting bigger and more comfortable all the time, but the people doing the screaming are insisting we sleep outdoors in a home-made teepee from now on. Because. White men are evil or something.

It is not like there is any evidence whatsoever for Global Warming.

Tom Donahue May 10, 2014 at 10:57 pm

“Which tipping points are we crossing?”

Well, off the top of my head, dieback of boreal and tropical forests, permafrost melting, ice cover melting. These are all things that have started already. They amplify global warming and could spin out control, depending on the amount of waste we dump into the atmosphere.

“The Earth has been much warmer and with much higher CO2 levels in the past.”

Sure. You do realize that in such a climate you would die of heatstroke if you ventured outside. Even if you were standing naked under a tree, in a breeze.

“We have some self-interested people”

You can’t think of any reason why someone would want to avoid that state of affairs except narrow self interest? Pretty pathetic, if you ask me.

byomtov May 9, 2014 at 3:21 pm

In other words, overfishing, like climate change, is a global problem that the US can’t fix on its own.

They are also problems that can’t be solved without the cooperation of the United States.

I really don’t get the criticism of Krugman here. I know it’s fun to throw out the meat every now and then, but this is pretty weak stuff, Tyler.

Andrew' May 9, 2014 at 4:01 pm

“do the obvious”

Start there. You don’t get it? Is this that hard?

usfoodpolicy May 9, 2014 at 3:50 pm

But let’s comment on what seems to me the most outrageous howler of the quoted passaged: “[O]ur carbon emissions are falling, but much of the rest of the world is moving in the wrong direction….”

That is hypocritical, self-serving, and unjust to the rest of the world. Nobody in the world has ever had higher per capita carbon emissions that the United States. Not other rich countries (Europe, Japan). Not poor countries (China, India). Not our own country in previous periods of our history. Nobody.

Even as they seek to lift large numbers of people out of poverty, and even as their populations are still passing through the demographic transition we have already completed, neither China nor India will ever have anything near the average carbon emissions of an American’s enjoy today and will enjoy for the next several decades.

To portray the U.S. as doing well on carbon emissions, while portraying other countries as doing badly, is like a person who has gorged himself on a great feast congratulating himself for keeping a diet (because he is no longer still eating), or a child who has made a terrible mess of his room seeking to dodge parental scolding (because he has now stopped adding to the mess and has picked up the first two toys and announced plans to put them away).

Andrew' May 9, 2014 at 4:05 pm

I’m of the assumption that they aren’t “good” on CO2 because they are great guys. It’s because they’ve suppressed their economies for centuries.

If they could pump more carbon they would. And they are. So yeah.

Andrew' May 9, 2014 at 4:10 pm

As I’ve suggested before, now that they can copy what worked for us, they are are going to.

So far, none of our CO2 has caused a problem. It is speculative. The problem is the marginal CO2. It is not clear that they have any more right to it than we do if they are just using old technology.

Had they had the ability, I suspect they would have crammed the atmosphere full. My evidence is the results with other pollutants and treatment of other commons, like fisheries.

In my opinion, you’ve got a lot of this stuff backwards.

Sid May 9, 2014 at 4:19 pm

I’ve never commented before, but this has to be called out for being one of the most ignorant posts I’ve seen.

“carbon emissions are falling, but much of the rest of the world is moving in the wrong direction”

Seriously? Is the author so devoid of reality as not to realise that by offshoring their industrial base to Asia, the US and Europe have essentially outsourced their carbon production? Does he not realise that one of the biggest abusers of East and West African fisheries are actually European boats precisely because their are few ways of enforcing the rule of the seas in those regions?

So long as consumption is a predominantly Western activity, the US and Europe cannot simply shrug off their responsibilities. The attitude that wreaks in such articles as the one quoted is that – “hey, we’re cool we should keep our consumption patterns, it’s those Asians and Africans that are the problem, let’s go lecture them”

Kodiakbear May 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

You Know… It’s been scientifically proven that if you don’t believe in man made climate change that you also think that the world if flat. At least that’s how the propaganda cookie crumbles.

Dallas Weaver, Ph.D. May 10, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Being an actual high paid “consultant” in aquaculture, I follow fisheries very closely and so this article was a must read.

It is ironic that neither Krugman, nor the article he quoted, mentioned how the government somewhat successfully regulated the fishery. Fisheries were a classic “open commons” problem where the self interest of the individual fishermen to maximize his individual catch was contrary to the interest of the overall fishery to maintain adequate breeding populations. The classic solution to the problem is to give the individuals control over the actions of others making the common interest dominant. The question becomes how to do achieve that goal with many options.

If you define the commons as being owned by all the citizens, the most rational way of solving the problem becomes auctioning off the fishery “rights” or “quotas” to the highest bidder, thus the revenue is to the benefit of all the citizens. The ancient political way was for the King to franchise the rights or quotas to a Baron and get tribute in return. The modern political method is to give ITQ (Individual transferable quotas — rights to the fishery) to supporters of the political class (often the existing boat owners that may own a whole fleet of boats) who have paid tribute to the political/legal class. The extra value created by having the fish value increase by restricting the supply then flows to the political class as tribute, not the citizens who pay the high fish prices.

The ITQ approach is now becoming the standard with these huge rents going to boat owners who many or may not actually be fishermen or even live in the fishing community. It was this type of mechanisms of franchises and monopoly creation with tribute to the King that was the basis for the extreme wealth concentration a century or more ago that people like Krugman and Piketty discuss. Krugman’s great solution to the fishery problem is a continuation of this grand rent seeking solutions.

A pure revenue-neutral carbon tax with tax reduction in highly negative taxes such as payroll taxes could be a solution which would lead to a net economic stimulus. However, this wouldn’t allow the political class to collect tribute.

Duracomm May 10, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Important to note that overfishing is driven by government policy. As is often the case we are trying to solve a problem caused by government policy by applying more government policy.


Europe’s Rift on Overfishing and Subsidies

The bloc’s fisheries policy has long been the target of wrath for conservationists and taxpayer advocates. In the conservationists’ case, it is because the policy has contributed to a system in which 68 percent of European fish stocks are overexploited, according to the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

On Monday, Ms. Rodust articulated the position of many subsidy foes when she said there that no money should be provided to build new boats when there was already an excess of capacity.

Boonton May 10, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Sadly it seems whenever the topic is climate change so many people here put all their innovative energy (a resource that is neither infinate nor sustainable I suspect) into figuriing out reasons for NOT doing anything rather than doing something.

chuck martel May 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm

There’s no empirical data at that link. It’s all talk.

prior_approval May 9, 2014 at 1:22 pm

I’m sorry that a mission profile of a NASA satellite was not sufficient to find the data.

Maybe this link is sufficient? – https://earthdata.nasa.gov/data/near-real-time-data/data/platform/aura

And this link is specifically related to various chemical compounds, several of which are relevant to this discussion – http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/Aura/data-holdings/MLS/index.shtml

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