Archive for the ‘Schmidt’ Category

Duelling climate policy parables: in the face of RealClimate`s "tragedy of the commons", MasterResource`s Emperor has no clothes

May 26th, 2009 No comments

I`ve done a bit of blogging over the past few weeks regarding the “The tragedy of climate commons” post by climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and ensuing discussion at the RealClimate website.  Schmidt wrote the post in response to the implied suggestion by Chip Knappenberger at the MasterResource blog that, since unilateral policy action by the US would by itself be unlikely to significantly affect future climate (given the the rapid growth in CO2 emissions by China, India etc.), the wisest course for the US would be to do nothing.  

Knappenberger has now responded to Schmidt, this time with a parable of his own.  Knappenberger has good points, but he and Schmidt are talking past each other.  Since Rob Bradley, CEO of the Institute for Energy Research (BTW, no longer funded by pro-carbon-tax Exxon, all of you Exxon-haters out there) and founder/manager of MasterResource, won`t let me post at his self-proclaimed “free-market energy blog”, I put up a few thoughts at RealClimate, which I copy below (one typo fixed and link added below):


Allow me to stir the pot a bit, as it doesn`t appear that anyone has noticed Chip Knappenberger`s response to Gavin, in tbe form of his own climate parable, using the “Emperor`s new clothes” theme.

Waxman-Markey appears as the new clothes, with Chip apparently taking on the role of the bright and persistent voice of the insufficiently jaded little boy who can`t help but to see the truth, and bravely refuses to be cowed.

Some of the criticisms of W-M seem fair to me – after all, they manifest precisely the reasons that Jim Hansen has taken a strong stance in favor of more transparent and rebated carbon taxes over the pork and bureaucracy that comes with cap and trade.

1. But Chip is still failing to address the main premise of Gavin`s tragedy of the commons fisheries analogy: there is a commons problem that requires coordinated action (a multi-player, repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma), and the only way out requires initial measures at trust-building, with more effective measures to follow when the parties can agree on burden sharing and enforcement.

Thus Chip is simply perpetuating the problem that I have noted here:

“Unfortunately, what passes for discussion on climate change (and other environmental issues) is too often people talking past each other (frequently with all of the hallmarks of a tribal battle): some correctly see a looming commons problem that requires government regulation but ignore the risks of pork, partiality and wasted resources in the policies themselves, while others, not anxious for government to expand its regulatory purview, downplay or dismiss the resource problem and focus on the downsides of government action or the motives of those calling for government action (while ignoring those invested heavily in a status quo that is replete with moral hazard).

Capitalism, the destructive exploitation of the Amazon and the tragedy of the government-owned commons

2. Further, while Chip has good reason to criticize all of the pork that is loaded into the W-M hairshirt – there certain ARE plenty of corporate interests seeking to use climate policy to get sweet deals from government – it`s more than a bit coy of him to paint the critics of W-M as relative innocent truth-tellers, while somehow failing to note all of the sweet deals built into the status quo that fossil fuel firms, utilities, automakers and their investors have long enjoyed. (Not to mention that these interests have hardly been turned away from the W-M and other pork troughs.)

Chip`s convenient oversight might have something to do with the fact that the public advocacy firm he shares with Pat Michaels is funded by coal interests, as Marion Delgado points out in #677, and as I have previously discussed directly with Chip: Pat Michaels – scientist AND paid advocate. Correspondence with Chip Knappenberger.

It doesn`t end there, unfortunately, as Chip is posting on the “MasterResource” blog run by Rob Bradley, who is CEO of the coal-industry-funded Institute for Energy Research. For the sin of pointing out the political-favor-protection game that IER and MasterResource are engaged in, Rob Bradley has exercised his Constitutional right to ban me from the MasterResource blog (mid-conversation with, but without notice to, Chip, as it turns out).

So sure, let`s fight the pork as best we can, Chip, but let`s not ignore the fact since there are NO property rights in the atmosphere or climate, markets are not protecting it, but instead steadily producing an ever-growing tragedy of the commons. Care to acknowledge that, or to offer any suggestions?