Re: [asa] Subglacial Water System Moving Faster Than

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Mon Feb 19 2007 - 12:47:34 EST

Previously Thought
Precedence: bulk

Rich, I think one issue with some of the "skeptical" economists is what
assumptions should be made about the growth of technology to solve
caused by warming. Again, the "population bomb" issue of the early
70's is
instructive here. Many economists maintained that increasing population
would not cause an apocalypse because technology for food production,
distribution and communcation would also improve -- and they were
right, in
spades. Likewise, many economists reject apocalyptic scenarios on the
assumption that markets will develop technological solutions to the
caused by warming as the demand for such solutions increases. The
response today, taking this assumption into account, is to focus on
incentives for new technologies rather than primarily focusing on
disincentives for the old (fossil fuel) technologies.

On 2/19/07, Rich Blinne <> wrote:
> On Feb 18, 2007, at 11:57 PM, PvM wrote:
> I second Rich's concerns. It's one thing to reject policy based on
> concerns, it's quite another to reject good science. Such a position
> does a disservice to science, policy and faith. Janice has shown how
> such a position can lead to much poorly supported arguments, flawed
> logic and failure to do sufficient research.
> So why could Janice not just state that she has a problem with the
> Kyoto policy rather than having to embrace poorly supported
> 'scientific' claims. Would that not have been much simpler?
> What am I missing?
> I split the opposition into two parts those who deny that
> anthropogenic
> climate change is real -- something that is no longer
> intellectually viable
> -- and skeptics of Kyoto that has some merit. As the case has been
> building
> for anthropogenic climate change over the last two decades you see a
> shifting argument with the economic concerns being tantamount over
> everything including irrefutable scientific data. If the charge
> could be
> laid that the scientific results were skewed to obtain a particular
> policy
> outcome it would be on this side of the debate. That this is
> happening is
> not surprising because the skeptics are by and large economists
> rather than
> scientists. The best case scenario is for these economists to be co-
> opted to
> be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. The first
> thing
> that needs to be done is the good faith skeptics -- that is those
> who do not
> use denial of anthropogenic climate change as a ruse to support their
> desired policy results -- distance themselves from those who are the
> deniers. There will need to be persistence here because the good
> will has
> been exhausted and the good-faith skeptics will need to prove
> themselves.
> For example, the Bush Administration now says they believe in
> anthropogenic
> climate change but they want to while solving this problem protect the
> economy. This is a legitimate position to be staked out. The
> problem is
> their association with the likes of Sen. Inhofe and Rush Limbaugh.
> Ironically, a Democratically-controlled Congress may free them from
> this
> ball and chain and allow them to make deals with Senators McCain and
> Lieberman. When Senator McCain signed the Global Legislators
> Organisation
> for a Balanced Environment Globe (Globe) agreement last week he
> said the
> following, according to the BBC:
> "I am convinced that we have reached the tipping point and that the
> Congress of the United States will act,* with the agreement of the
> administration*," he told the forum. [emphasis mine]
> That's what politicians can do, but I want focus specifically on
> skeptical
> economists because their skill set could be used to be a truly
> helpful force
> here. The IPCC was originally formed to provide expert assistance
> to policy
> makers concerning climate change. The scientific community has
> stepped up to
> the plate and done that. The economic one has not been as active.
> The policy
> makers really need solid models to make sound decisions and the
> models leave
> much to be desired -- that is parts but not all of the models are
> inaccurate. The middle of the model, what is the direct forcing on the
> atmosphere given concentrations of GHG is very solid. The back end
> of the
> feedbacks is so-so with the majority of the inaccuracies happening
> when CO2
> levels are very high. This leads us to the Achilles Heel, the front
> end of
> the model, projecting how much CO2 humanity will actually produce.
> This is
> done through a series of hypothetical economic scenarios known as
> While the middle and back end models have gone through considerable
> improvement between TAR and AR4, SRES remains has remained
> unchanged and
> does not take into account any advances in economics knowledge
> since 2001.
> Here is one area where the economists can contribute and update
> these models
> to be more accurate. In fact, a skeptical eye here would be extremely
> valuable. Economists should not be playing climate scientist and
> vice versa.
> The only problem with this is its timeliness because most likely
> the new
> economic models couldn't be incorporated until the next AR
> somewhere around
> 2012.
> Which leads me to a more immediate help that skeptical economists can
> make. They could propose policy alternatives that improve/
> supplement/replace
> the cap and trade of Kyoto. There needs to be a follow up to Kyoto
> by 2012
> anyway and having all voices along the political spectrum would be
> helpful.
> Let me give you an example of what this might look like. This is an
> example
> only. Professional economists would undoubtedly give a better answer.
> One alternative to cap and trade is an inverted VAT/subsidy system.
> This
> could be designed to be revenue neutral. Gasoline would be taxed and
> alternative fuels such as E85 would be subsidized with an even greater
> subsidy given to celluosic ethanol over ethanol from food stocks.
> The why
> behind the inversion of the carbon tax is the realization that
> naturally
> high gasoline prices cause the free market system to automatically
> solve the
> global warming problem. The approach above is only necessary when
> gasoline
> is cheap both absolutely and more importantly relative to cleaner
> alternatives. So, when gasoline is cheap then the taxes and
> subsidies kick
> in. If it gets expensive then they kick out. One economic advantage
> is a
> realization of what corporations really want. They don't
> necessarily want
> cheap prices but relatively low and stable ones. If you have a
> slightly more
> expensive but stable fuel bill this is actually preferred because
> now you
> can do your business planning. The airlines for one would be better
> off and
> not going in and out of bankruptcy court.
> Again, I am not trying to sell this particular approach but to show
> what
> being part of the solution looks like for a skeptic. Hopefully,
> scientists,
> engineers, economists, and policy makers in mutual trust can roll
> up our
> collective sleeves and solve this problem for the good of our
> children and
> grandchildren.

David W. Opderbeck
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Received on Mon Feb 19 17:31:39 2007

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