Friday, December 16, 2011

Under Attack?

Apparently I'm guilty of "repeatedly espousing destructive policies" and am to be "attacked" for it. (Not really, just on the Twitter). Even though this charge does have rather the ring of "corrupting the youth and impiety" (hah!) I'd like to make my position as clear as I can.

I don't espouse any particular energy policy, "Carbon Tax", trading arrangement or whatever. I don't know enough about all the particular policies to have serious opinions on them. I'm pretty much in agreement with the "polluter pays" principle, and I accept the reality of "liberal democratic" government. At the same time, while not being simplistically anti-capitalist, I'm aware that capitalism doesn't necessarily well serve the general good. I know that national governments aren't world governments, but they are governments in the world.

I'm not convinced that taxation (per se) is necessarily bad for an economy. Perhaps some taxes are bad (counter-productive / above revenue maximising rates / squandered / etc).

I have (on the twitter) posted links to interesting documents on Carbon Emissions, Climate Change and what might be done about it. Most recently:
"Bridging Emissions Gap for 2C Target Do-able , but we couldn't be bothered. Sorry kids. Daddy broke the world."

(The reference is to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme)

The point I was trying to make is that it appears that the 2°C target is technically achievable; however, politically (even given the success(?) in Durban it looks a bit unlikely - to say the least.

Obviously, here at Stringers, we're interested in the Climate Change and Emissions thang. We're somewhat interested in Fossil Fuel Dependence, and stuff like that. We're very interested in Autonomy, which is why we we feel we should internalise our true energy costs, as far as possible, ourselves - hence our 100% renewably powered position (for which we pay a small premium). We don't wait for The Man to force us to do the Right Thing.

Anyhoo, the main point leveled against me (by @GreatHeckBrew), as far as I can figure it, is that
"carbon reduction policies of European governments are well intentioned but counterproductive. They increase global emissions"
ie. it's suggested that EU policies transfer emissions to the developing world, resulting in a net increase in Carbon emissions. The mechanism proposed seems to be that the burden of EU policies on EU based business impairs competitiveness, so dirty (less regulated) developing world industries gain an advantage and expand.

Now, to "prove" that EU policies leads to an overall transfer of emissions to the developing world (or as we might say, "Exports Emissions"), you'd need to, as a minimum, show two things:
  1. Emissions are exported (overall).
  2. This is due to EU policies.

I'm not aware that this has been done.

30 Dec 2011:
Right, nothing from my "attacker" (golly) so that's a "shut up" having failed to "put up" thing.


HardKnott Dave said...

On capitalism, I think it's a necessary evil. Without it most people would have no incentive, that's human nature. Pure capitalism would create a very unfair and unbalanced society. I'm extremely happy that in this country we a free to discuss the finer points of where a compromise is appropriate.

Taxation is absolutely essential in any civilised society. I just wish it was simpler to administer and less of the money was wasted on silly things. From that point I disagree with Europe because I think it leads to more wastage with very little benefit. I do however think the Europe is absolutely the place to deal with global issues such as the rant I am about to embark upon.

I am less worried about the environment as such. 100,000 years after man has become extinct The Earth will barely know we've been here. 100,000 years is nothing compared to the 14 Billion years since The Big Bang. Anyway, when I think about either The Higgs Boson or The Big Bang I wonder if we really have things in perspective anyway, but I digress.

What does worry me is the future of Man. I do not believe that we can continue to have population increase or economic growth at the rates we want to maintain. Indeed, I have a suspicion that economic growth depends on population growth. Either way, it is clear that there are only so many resources in the world and they are going to become increasingly difficult to extract, harvest and utilise.

I worry that over the next few decades, or if we are optimistic, centuries, increasing conflict between countries, governments, cultures and societies are likely to lead man down a path of self destruction.

I do very little to help this pending potential disaster other than worry about it. Is taxation the answer? I don't know. Regulation? I'm not really in favour of that, but doing nothing may well become a non-option before long. I just hope we learn enough before it becomes necessary and if that means a little bit of taxation being wasted on windmills or other experimental schemes then so be it.

StringersBeer said...

An aside on Economic & Population growth. N.B. I'm not an economist.

Dave, yes, a increase in population with no fall in per capita income will, by definition, give us a corresponding increase in gross measures of economic growth (such as change in GDP).
Since GDP, by definition, equals the sum of individual incomes over the whole economy. I think. Doesn't it?

I'd be happy to live in a world with zero GDP growth but with a general (and personal) improvement in quality of life. GDP isn't a good measure of that kind of thing.

An aside on Limited Resources. N.B. I'm still not an economist.

Yes, all the planet's resources are strictly limited. We live on a (near) sphere surrounded by (near) vacuum and exchange only electromagnetic radiation, comet dust,a trace of gas and the odd spaceship with the rest of the universe.

Of course, there's more stuff on the planet than we'll ever get around to using (unless we're planning to make a whole new planet) although some of it is becoming increasingly hard to get at, which is why we hear arguments based on how increased scarcity means increased value which will either support increased effort for accessing those resources, or the development of alternatives. And so on.

Unfortunately, some of our resources are rate-limited. It really doesn't matter if the worlds oceans can sink a thousand years worth of our CO2 in total, if they can only sink 3 months worth annually. If you don't develop alternatives quickly enough, you're screwed. Beaten by the clock.

I think it's foolish to base our plans for the future of humanity on the dogmatic assumption that the market will take care of this for us. We've seen market failures. This would be the biggest ever.