Archive for October, 2008

255 Canadian economists say rebated carbon taxes are preferrable to cap and trade and to no action

October 15th, 2008 No comments

More here.

The signatories agreed to the following 10 principles:

  1. Canada needs to act on climate change now.
  2. Any substantive action will involve economic costs.
  3. These economic impacts cannot be an excuse for inaction.
  4. Pricing carbon is the best approach from an economic perspective.
    1. Pricing allows each business and family to choose the response that is best and most efficient for them.
    2. Pricing induces innovation.
    3. Carbon is almost certainly under-priced right now.
  5. Regulation is the most expensive way to meet a given climate change goal.
  6. A carbon tax has the advantage of providing certainty in the price of carbon.
  7. A cap and trade system provides certainty on the quantity of carbon
    emitted, but not on the price of carbon and can be a highly complex
    policy to implement.
  8. Although carbon taxes have
    the most obvious effects on consumers, all carbon reduction policies
    increase the prices individuals face.
  9. Price mechanisms can be regressive and our policy should address this.
  10. A pricing mechanism can allow other taxes to be reduced and provide an opportunity to improve the tax system.

Too bad they didn’t take any initiative in discussing other helpful policy measures, such as eliminating corporate income taxes (or allowing immediate write-off of new investments), deregulating the power industry and eliminating subsidies for particular technologies.

h/t James Calder


Categories: Canada, carbon pricing, climate change Tags:

Climate models and climate "sensitivity" for dummies (me too); a recent bibliography

October 14th, 2008 No comments

Inspired by Bob Murphy’s Mises post on “Economic and Climate Models“, I decided to put together a few links to (i) further information on global climate models, (ii) criticism of them (and responses), and (iii) the state of the science on climate “sensitivity” (that is, the range of temperature increases that are expected to eventually result from a doubling of atmospheric levels of CO2).

1. General information on climate models

Spencer R. Weart, “Simple Question, Simple Answer … Not”, Forum on Physics & Society, October 2008, American Institute of Physics

Discovery of Global Warming site at the American Institute of Physics, created by Spencer Weart with support from the National Science Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation 

Modelling the climate, by

A model approach to climate change (Feb 1, 2007,, by Adam Scaife and Chris Folland of the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research, Met Office, UK, and John Mitchell, chief scientist at the Met Office, UK.

The physics of climate modeling (Physics Today, Jan 2007), by Gavin Schmidt, research scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The IPCC: (regional models)


Principles of Planetary Climate, detailed online book on the physics and modelling of climate by Raymond T. Pierrehumbert (U. Chi.)

The Global Warming Debate, 8. Climate Models


2. Shortcomings of Models, Environmental Information Coalition (EIC), National Council for Science and the Environment.

“A climate of alarm”, Feb 1, 2007, (interview of Richard Lindzen) (Lindzen PowerPoint) (Lindzen – Stephan Rahmstorf dialogue)

“The Sloppy Science of Global Warming”, Roy W. Spencer, Mar. 20, 2008,

Roy Spencer interview,


Lay criticism:, Warren Meyer, who describes himself as “a small business owner and author of Coyote Blog” with “an engineering degree from Princeton and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.”


Responses to critics:

The following posts at Skeptical Science by John Cook, an ex-physicist (majored in solar physics at the University of Queensland): (review of Lindzen’s “iris” theory)

Brian J. Soden, Darren L. Jackson, V. Ramaswamy, M. D. Schwarzkopf, Xianglei Huang, The Radiative Signature of Upper Tropospheric Moistening

“Climate models predict that the concentration of water vapor in the upper troposphere could double by the end of the century as a result of increases in greenhouse gases. Such moistening plays a key role in amplifying the rate at which the climate warms in response to anthropogenic activities, but has been difficult to detect because of deficiencies in conventional observing systems. We use satellite measurements to highlight a distinct radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening over the period 1982 to 2004. The observed moistening is accurately captured by climate model simulations and lends further credence to model projections of future global warming.”

3. The state of the science on climate “sensitivity”

“Sensitivity” refers to the expected equilibrium temperature increase expected to result from a doubling of atmospheric levels of CO2.  The sensitivity reflects not simply the direct warming effects of increased CO2 levels, but the short- and long-term of feedbacks, which are generally expected to be positive, such as increases in atmospheric water vapor resulting from higher temperatures, reduced surface reflectivity (albedo) as ice melts and darker ocean and land surfaces absorb greater solar radiation, and releases of methane (a much more potent GHG than CO2) from permafrosts (and possibly also ocean floor deposits).  Equilibrium effects are expected to be felt over hundreds and thousands of years, so we are already committed to future climate change – of an imperfectly known degree – as a result of the current 1/3 increase of atmospheric CO2 over preindustrial levels.  Plus, atmospheric levels continue to increase, and at increasing increments, as fossil fuel use grows worldwide.

Climate models have been used to estimate a fast-feedback (changes of water vapor, clouds, climate-driven aerosols, sea ice and snow cover) CO2 sensitivity of 3 ±1.5°C., but models cannot define climate sensitivity more precisely, as it is unknowable whether models realistically incorporate all feedback processes.  The model results reported by the IPCC do not include long-term sensitivity (including the effects of changes to long-lived atmospheric gases, ice sheet area, land area and vegetation cover).  Further, as a recent paper (Dana L. Royer, Robert A. Berner & Jeffrey Park) notes, “Most estimates of climate sensitivity are based on records of climate change over the past few decades to thousands of years, when carbon dioxide concentrations and global temperatures were similar to or lower than today, so such calculations tend to underestimate the magnitude of large climate-change events and may not be applicable to climate change under warmer conditions in the future.”

Studies of the Earth’s history provide empirical inferences of both fast feedback climate sensitivity and  long-term sensitivity.  Climate sensitivity has been estimated based on the 20th Century data, the constraints from responses to volcanic eruptions, and the last glacial maximum (LGM); these data have been combined on a Bayesian basis by one group to conclude that fast-feedback sensitivity is very unlikely (< 5% probability) to exceed 4.5°C, but some evidence is inconsistent with this range.  Jim Hansen has argued for a long-term sensitivity of up to 6°C.

A recent paper concludes, based on a comparison of estimations of carbon dioxide concentrations over the past 420 million years with a proxy record, that (1) “a climate sensitivity greater than 1.5 °C has probably been a robust feature of the Earth’s climate system over the past 420 million years, regardless of temporal scaling”, (2) “deep-time geological records exclude the possibility of weak climate sensitivities … the amount of warming for every doubling of carbon dioxide must be at least 1.5 °C.”, and (3) although high climate sensitivities cannot be entirely excluded, their best fit for the past 420 million years was about 2.8 °C per doubling.

Further, scientists have shown that, given the existence of net positive feedbacks, that there is an irreducible uncertainty about the climate effects of GHG increases, but that this uncertainty is not symmetric – rather, physics-based models and empirical evidence force the conclusion that climate change has a long tail on the “bad” side and a very short tail on the “good” side.   Gerard H. Roe and Marcia B. Baker recent article in Science “Why Is Climate Sensitivity So Unpredictable?” concludes:

“we show that the shape of these probability distributions is an inevitable and general consequence of the nature of the climate system. Further, we show that the breadth of the distribution and, in particular, the probability of large temperature increases are relatively insensitive to decreases in uncertainties associated with the underlying climate processes.”

“… it is evident that the climate system is operating in a regime in which small uncertainties in feedbacks are highly amplified in the resulting climate sensitivity. We are constrained by the inevitable: the more likely a large warming is for a given forcing (i.e., the greater the positive feedbacks), the greater the uncertainty will be in the magnitude of that warming.” (italics added)

A quick explanation of the Roe and Baker paper is laid out by John Cook here:  Does model uncertainty exaggerate global warming projections?


Categories: climate change, GHGs, models Tags:

Scientists determine that there is no discrepancy between climate model predictions and tropical troposphere temperature records

October 12th, 2008 4 comments reports that a team of scientists led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has “helped reconcile the differences between simulated and observed temperature trends in the tropics.”

“Using state-of-the-art observational datasets and results from computer model simulations archived at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, LLNL researchers and colleagues from 11 other scientific institutions have refuted a recent claim that simulated temperature trends in the tropics are fundamentally inconsistent with observations. This claim was based on the application of a flawed statistical test and the use of older observational datasets.

“Until several years ago, however, most satellite and weather balloon records suggested that the tropical troposphere had warmed substantially less than the surface.

“For nearly a decade, this apparent discrepancy between simulations and reality was a major conundrum for climate scientists. The discrepancy was at odds with the overwhelming body of other scientific evidence pointing toward a “discernible human influence” on global climate.

“A paper published online last year in the International Journal of Climatology claimed to show definitively that “models and observations disagree to a statistically significant extent” in terms of their tropical temperature trends. This claim formed the starting point for an investigation by a large team of climate modelers and observational data specialists, which was led by LLNL’s Benjamin Santer.

“In marked contrast to the earlier claim, Santer’s international team found that there is no fundamental discrepancy between modeled and observed trends in tropical temperatures.”

(emphasis added)


Categories: climate change Tags:

Great idea? Corporations create a patent commons in order to protect the environmental commons!

October 3rd, 2008 2 comments

Or a frightful thought – corporations cooperating with greenies to advance shared goals?  By sharing patents for free in order to clean up the environment and limit environmental footprints, are corporations being co-opted by socialists?  What corporations in their right minds would do such a thing – give away patent rights and cooperate with Environazis in establishing an “Eco-Patent Commons“? 

How about Bosch, DuPont, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, Sony, and Xerox?

A cynic might say this could be just good “corporate citizen” PR.  But an Austrian would applaud voluntary efforts to contribute to shared resolutions to shared problems, and note that it may make sense for corporations to enhance not only their public image but to strengthen internal cooperation by expressing widely shared preferences and aspirations.

Allow me to quote from a recent press release:

“Geneva, 8 September 2008 – Bosch, DuPont and Xerox Corporation have joined the Eco-Patent Commons, a first-of-its-kind business effort [launched in January 2008 by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD)] to help the environment by pledging environmentally-beneficial patents to the public domain. The three companies and founding member Sony pledge environmentally friendly patents to the public.

“The newly pledged patents include:

  • A cutting edge, Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil;
  • A technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into beneficial fertilizer;
  • Automotive technologies from Bosch that help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy;
  • Technologies developed by founding member Sony that focus on the recycling of optical discs.

“The Eco-Patent Commons … provides a unique opportunity for global business to make a difference — sharing innovation in support of sustainable development. The objectives of the Eco-Patent Commons are to facilitate the use of existing technologies to protect the environment, and encourage collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations.

“Today’s pledges more than double the number of environmentally friendly patents available to the public. They are available on a dedicated Web site hosted by the WBCSD ( Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons may involve innovations directly related to environmental solutions or may be innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution also provides an environmental benefit, such as pollution prevention or the more efficient use of materials or energy.

“Since the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons in January, many of the patent holders have been contacted directly about their patents and at least three patents have already been used by others. “We are pleased that the commons is beginning to have an impact,” said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD. “We hope it will be a positive contribution to the challenge of technology diffusion around the world.”

New RAND report says we need more competent military interventions! How about fewer of them?

October 3rd, 2008 1 comment

Press release here.  Here is the full document.

Maybe the collapse of our financial deck of cards will introduce a small reordering of Americans’ priorities – enough to stiffen spines and to provide a reality check on the misuse by politicians and defense industry insiders of foreign “threats” for political and financial gain.

Categories: defense establishment Tags: