More On International Climate Policy

From the knowledgeable resident scientist at Crumb Trail:: more on contraction and convergence, as Ronald Bailey discussed in the article I pointed to in this earlier post today. Mr./Ms. Back40 (who, I may remind you, was responsible for finding the fix when I switched to MT and couldn’t get my stylesheet to behave) is skeptical about C&C as a viable and robust policy, pointing out that its proponents also do a poor job of relative risk assessment:

The main argument for C&C is that people in developed countries emit much more CO2 than people in undeveloped countries on a per capita basis though each has an equal right to do so. The way to reduce such emissions is to make the people in developed countries pay the people in undeveloped countries for exceeding their allotment. People in developing countries can use that money to develop and begin to make their own emissions but would then lose the payments.

This is quite a bizarre idea when you think about it. Countries that are overpopulated now and that will experience massive population growth in the near future are to be paid for their inability to manage themselves by people who have done a better job of it. It’s another crackpot idea that utterly fails to consider whole systems. Population growth is a far more pressing problem than CO2 emissions but C&C will provide incentives to increase population.

I also very much appreciate the conclusion:

The only useful thing people can do is develop better techniques that use material more gently, less wastefully, more effectively. The problems we have are a result of the techniques we have developed thus far. We can abandon them as a bad job and revert to a pre-industrial life style or press ahead with new urgency in developing better techniques. Those who have the talent and training to develop new techniques are doing just that. They are impeded in part by politicians though they could be aided. This is where we need political reform. The wealth and energy we squander on bureaucratic boondoggles such as Kyoto and C&C must cease. The impediments thrown up by politicians to development and implementation of improved techniques must cease. There is no positive contribution politicians can make. All they can do is a quartermaster function, the acquisition and distribution of material and funds required by technology developers to do their work.

Get out of the way, eh?

2 thoughts on “More On International Climate Policy

  1. What’s to appreciate? This is just another anti-government polemic aimed at people who already agree with its author’s views. Most of the “pro-Kyoto” politicians this fellow froths at the mouth over aren’t even Americans.

    “Techniques that use material more gently, less wastefully, more effectively…?” this is just empty rhetoric. Absent changes in the price of using material the way we do now the likelihood is that it will continue to be used the way it is now. This applies to energy especially, and is true because individual users of inputs have scant reason to voluntarily incur costs to reduce the negative environmental consequences of that use. The further removed in space or time those consequences are the less reason users have to do anything about them.

    Raise the price of an input, like energy, through taxation and the equation changes. Regulate how a given input may be used or subsidize a different method’s development and the equation also changes, though it changes differently. Do none of these things and changes will still happen; they just won’t be anticipated or planned for, and if negative consequences result the “technology developers” will be content to see someone else pay the price.

    Now, what does this say about what government ought to do in a specific policy area? Not very much, I’m afraid. Academics are fond of reducing discussion of policy issues to principles they can write about and teach. The responsibility of implementing policy or even for acquiring in-depth knowledge of specific real-world issues is not something most of them want or feel they need, but responsibility and knowledge are at the core of policymaking. They are the things that must guide government’s decision on whether, say, to change its approach to regulating air pollution from large point sources, reduce expensive regulations on solid waste disposal or promote energy efficiency by raising gasoline taxes. I’d like to have more confidence in the contributions to policymaking made by people with a wholly academic background, but frankly most of them strike me as being more out of touch and windy than politicians are.

  2. Zathras,

    You’re entirely too dismissive of academic backgrounds and should come down off the policy-making cross. We need the wood.

    Kyoto is an example of policymaking that is absolutely disastrous economically and it doesn’t even solve the intended problem. It delays maximum temperature — if global warming is real — and never lowers it. It ignores geoengineering as part of the solution — the Geritol solution, carbon sequestration and, most recently, carbogation, which has the added benefit of reducing water use in agriculture.

    When a policy is developed that doesn’t create economic wreckage and actually solves the problem, then we can talk. Kyoto is a perfect example of policymakers being everything you claim academics to be.

    No, I’m not an academic.

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