Global warming reversal?

Rumor has it that George Bush will shift course on global warming and support limits on carbon dioxide emissions.

I suspect that the United States is far more likely to take unilateral action on this issue than to engage in a multilateral treaty.  Americans enjoy feeling like magnanimous leaders, plus they believe that foreigners take advantage of them in treaties.  In contrast, the standard "international public goods" analysis suggests that each country will refuse to restrict emissions unless other major countries do the same.  This analysis neglects expressive voting, whereby voters choose policies to make themselves feel good, rather than to maximize their incomes.  After all, no single voter is decisive over the final outcome, so why not vote your conscience?  This suggests, by the way, that the global warming hold-outs will be the non-democracies.

Comments are open, but don’t debate the science of global warming per se, you already had a chance to do that.


"voters choose policies to make themselves feel good.....After all, no single voter is decisive over the final outcome, so why not vote your conscience?"
The white house does not subscribe to expressive voting or they would not be campaigning on their support of torture. However polls have shown the majority now believe in global warming and want something done, so to resist is bad politics. Also a limit on CO2 emissions can be used to cut back on oil imports, which he has already said he favors.

Right, IR explanations usually neglect domestic variables. But how would expressive voting explain the (very plausible) guess that the US could prefer unilateral action over joining a multilateral treaty? Expressive voting may be a useful concept to explain the upcoming change of policy in the US. But I don't quite see the causal connection with unilateral action.

I've often wondered how effective it is for the U.S. to cut carbon emissions. If the U.S. cuts back on oil consumption, the world price will drop. This will encourage third world countries to use more oil. Since they may not use as effective pollution control technologies, we could very well end up with more pollution. Similary, if we try to cut the pollution caused by the manufacturing of goods, won't other countries without similar regulations gain a comparative advantage. So we might just be shifting manufacturing from low polluting countries to high polluting countries. I am sure some economists somewhere are studying these effects. I would be interested to know what they are finding.

His judgement really is lamentable, isn't it? Two duds in a row, each for two terms. And perhaps little Madam Cattle-Futures next.

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i still don't see an answer to what i understood the question to be: there's no saving of oil we don't use, we just make it cheaper for use by (e.g.) china and india, which likely increases pollution from that given oil (because the poorer countries are likely to pollute more with a given unit of energy). of course, the same logic holds true in the US -- by driving a prius or riding your bike to work, you just make gas cheaper for soccer moms in SUVs, etc.

Dj superflat, I can answer one piece of your question -- poorer countries are not going to emit for carbon for a given unit of oil energy than we do, since the carbon content of a gallon of gas or barrel of oil is fixed by the laws of chemistry.

What will differ is the economic value different countries get from burning a barrel of oil. Mixes of oil vs. coal and nat gas also have different carbon impacts, but we're talking about the price of oil, not about shipping more coal to China.


I generally agree with your point about companies pollution/emission abatement costs being a relatively small portion of their costs, and if they have huge fixed investments they aren't going to shut down and spend a zillion bucks on a new plant in China of wherever.

However, at the margin this will occur. The best way to think of it is in terms of unionized companies where the union is a KoolAid drinking bunch of fools like at GM. There comes a point where the company simply has to say, "ok, our costs will be lower if we close all our US factories and open up new ones in Mexico, even after (naturally) taking into account up front fixed costs.

Companies are making this type of decision all the time, witness textiles for an obvious example. Each extra cost that is imposed on companies in the US makes them that much more likely to close up shop here (US) and go to China or India or Mexico or wherever.

Additionally any analysis is almost certainly going to miss opportunity costs where companies never start up in the US in the first place and instead do not pass go and go staight to China.

So long as even one country like China is a holdout then it really is pretty much of a waste for us to engage in regulatory action for what is a small enough difference it needs to be measured in terms of 100 years from now.

China and India will refuse to remain dirt poor, and it is absurd for us to think we should, let alone could.

The solutions will come via new technology that makes revolutionary gains, not silly things like reducing emissions a few percent below 1990 levels, the latter of which will delay global warming enough to make what would have been x temperature in 2100 occur in 2106 instead.

The goal ought to be to think in terms of carbon sequestration instead of closing down a baddie plant at the margin.

happyjuggler0, the problem is that in theory, these small differences matter "at the margin", but in practice, the margin is lost in the noise. CEO's of companies like GM just don't have time to think about the 0.5% difference environmental costs make vs. say an 80% labor cost and 10% transportation cost. The uncertainty in labor cost estimates will exceed 0.5%, and a CEO will almost certainly put more effort into figuring out the uncertainty in the 80% than in squeezing the last drop out of environmental law evasion. That's not to even mention the risk of new and unpredictable environmental laws in China, or of India trying to get the CEO deported and arrested after a chemical spill, as India is trying to do to the CEO of the company that bought Union Carbide.

But anyway, as I said, carbon is a different game entirely than toxic chemicals. There is a lot more empirical data about toxic chemical regulation. There is very little or no historical data about the effects of brand-new ideas like carbon taxes, and they are potentially MUCH larger and more expensive than past environmental regulations. But, even then, you will have to consider issues like the reliability of the energy grid, the need to be located near ore deposits, etc. before you assume industries will start moving. Most of the highly-energy-intensive industries tend to be more dependent on location and capital than on labor, and they thus may be slower to move than labor-intensive industries.

I happen to know from personal knowledge that China is extensively investing in alternative, clean energy solutions. A company that I am part owner of is in discussions through our representitives with the Chinese govt. right now about this very issue.

Additionally, the indian consul to the US central states said at a meeting that I attended that India is investing huge amounts of money into clean energy of all types.

These two countries simply cannot meet their long term needs through dirty energy. Their population density and total land mass won't allow them to export their pollution to unpopulated areas as we do.

They are right now running into huge pollution problems. They recognize this. It doesn't matter if they sign or not, they are going to act and are acting as though they have.

I happen to know from personal knowledge that China is extensively investing in a lot more dirt, nasty old coal and oil-based energy systems than clean ones. China is growing very fast and adding massive electricity capacity and cars. No more than a few percent of this could possibly be clean energy in the timeframe of the next few years.

I would guess that China adds more power generation capacity from coal next year than all clean sources combined over the next decade. The same goes for vehicles.

I have worked on environmental and clean energy issues in Asia for over 10 years. The Indian consul talking about something means next to nothing.

I commend China for looking to other solutions and think the pressure will be greater on them in the future to do even more.

But this needs to be put in perspective. China is the second largest emitter of carbon and has the fastest growth. India is not far behind.


Attempts to reduce carbon emissions increase the prices of said emissions and make investments in alternative energy sources and "revolutionary gains" relatively more attractive.

There seems to be a glaring information problem here. We don't have a good understanding of the interaction between the atmosphere and the lithosphere, but we're willing to invest billions, or even trillions, in an attempt to reduce one atmospheric gas. This is without any assurance that what is being proposed will even work. What will be the payoff for the investment? Global cooling?

Here's an illustration of the uncertainty involved with this project. The Wall Street Journal ( ) reported recently that the US government has spent something like $8.0 billion to save the salmon species that migrate the Snake and Columbia Rivers. Turns out that those dams are not the only reason for the decline of salmon stocks.

u assholes are crazy

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