Holiday from Sanity

by John Quiggin on May 2, 2008

I was pretty much stunned into silence by the proposal for a gasoline tax holiday put forward by John McCain and Hillary Clinton (not that it matters but I’m not clear which of them came up with it first – can anyone set me straight on this). I won’t bother repeating all the reasons why this is a terrible idea ( when Tom Friedman has your number, I’d say your number is up).

Just a couple of observations. First, I find it hard to see how anyone serious can support either McCain or Clinton after this.

Second, the fact that the proposal has lasted this long suggests to me that the chance of any serious US action on global warming after the election is not that great. Without the US, we won’t get anything from China and India either, so that means we’re setting course for disaster. Perhaps if Obama wins, he’ll be able to turn this around, but this episode has me very depressed.

{ 96 comments }

1

Nordic Mousse 05.02.08 at 8:48 pm

Honestly John, as if you needed reminding that American politicians are silly populists, most of them, anyway

2

Nordic Mousse 05.02.08 at 8:49 pm

Well, alright. Not just Americans

3

tom bach 05.02.08 at 8:57 pm

McCain spoke first.

4

marcel 05.02.08 at 8:59 pm

Neither populists nor “say anything to get elected” demagogues are subsets of each other. The intersection is not trivial. John Edwards comes close to being a populist, but nothing about him has suggested to me that he is a demagogue. I’d have to think more about Obama on this score, but esp. after his speech last month concerning race, I think the same is true of him.

5

Chris Dornan 05.02.08 at 8:59 pm

Yes, it was McCain that started it and Hillary followed.

6

abb1 05.02.08 at 9:07 pm

I like the idea. The only way for this ideology to collapse is to follow it thru. Why prolong it?

7

david 05.02.08 at 9:19 pm

Just a couple of observations. First, I find it hard to see how anyone serious can support either McCain or Clinton after this.

And I don’t see how anyone serious can support Obama after his comments on immunization. I guess it’s Keyes for all of us!

8

Delicious Pundit 05.02.08 at 10:12 pm

…but this episode has me very depressed.

See, if you lived here, you’d have worked through your depression years ago, and would now be spending your time deciding what we should take to high ground to save for people from future civilizations who might discover our remains.

High-fructose corn syrup for everybody!

9

baa 05.02.08 at 10:23 pm

First, I find it hard to see how anyone serious can support either McCain or Clinton after this.

Oh come now! It’s an terrible policy, sure, but in the annals of terrible policies suggested during an election year, I am not sure it’s even in the top ten in terms of predicted bad consequences. In terms of dumbness, maybe. But it’s just another goof-ball give away.

10

tom bach 05.02.08 at 10:25 pm

It is actually worse than it sounds, Clinton now claims that the tax holiday would save families 8 billion dollars. Clinton plans to pay for the tax holiday with a windfall tax on oil companies. I believe she today introduced the necessary legislation.

11

Slocum 05.02.08 at 10:30 pm

Just a couple of observations. First, I find it hard to see how anyone serious can support either McCain or Clinton after this.

Oh yes, it’s surely a stupid idea, but it’s a limited-time-only stupid idea that affects only the U.S. I’m much more worried about the anti-trade demagoguery coming from Obama and Clinton — which has the potential for a much greater, longer term impact and much more likely to negatively affect relations with other countries (already has, in fact — see Columbia).

As for climate change — if the Democratic candidates can’t stomach free trade with China and other developing countries, they seem even less like to be able to stomach a Kyoto follow-on agreement that imposes greater carbon restrictions and costs on the U.S. and puts U.S. industries at a greater disadvantage. The kind of economic nationalism that Clinton and Obama have been banging on about is just not Kyoto-compatible.

12

Colin Danby 05.02.08 at 11:06 pm

I see where Mr. Wolfson has pwned you elitist “experts” with your “facts” and “arguments.” Leaders, as Stephen Colbert has taught us, go with their gut!

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=05&year=2008&base_name=quote_unquote_of_the_day

Ezra has been on a roll lately. This recent bit from the Clinton campaign also has an engaging shamelessness:

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=05&year=2008&base_name=the_pander_not_the_poem

13

Steve LaBonne 05.02.08 at 11:18 pm

Colin, it’s actually a twofer. Not only are those pointy-headed experts no match for her truthiness, but she has announced to Congressional Dems that “they’re either with us or against us” on her holiday from Econ 101. Hmm, all of that has a very familiar ring, doesn’t it? Any day now she’ll start talking in an exaggerated Texas twang…

14

nick s 05.02.08 at 11:26 pm

Clinton thinks this will win her Indiana. She may well be right. Still, Obama isn’t running away from it, running ads right now that describe it as typical Washington short-term thinking.

On a healthier note, this is pure pander, and Pelosi has shown precisely zero enthusiasm to bring it up in the House. Furthermore, Hillary will look very stupid when the Senate GOP strips out the windfall tax before its passage.

15

Sortition 05.02.08 at 11:47 pm

In general, it is a good idea to move from indirect taxation to direct taxation – so Clinton’s idea is a good one. I would only ask why she Clinton goes for a temporary change and why she doesn’t use the opportunity to tax the oil companies out of more of their profit.

[With the air of unanimity and obviousness here I would have been reticent to become a contrarian, but my confidence is boosted significantly by applying the rule of thumb that it is very difficult being wrong by contradicting Thomas Friedman.]

16

jerry 05.02.08 at 11:54 pm

Thank God for Pelosi! What would this past year have been like without her at the reins?

17

otto 05.03.08 at 12:03 am

John Q: I just take this moment to note that in an interesting post-and-comments around a year ago, you initially compared H. Clinton/DLCers with European social democrats/labour. May you be forced to write out ‘gas tax holiday’ a hundred times to learn your lesson.

18

volum 05.03.08 at 12:41 am

“how anyone serious…”

What a crock. I like this blog, but this type of name-calling is straight outta Jonah Goldberg.

I can’t see how anyone serious, would ever use the “anyone serious” line.

uggh!

19

NE1 05.03.08 at 12:54 am

I agree, this post is lame. Regardless of the merits of the tax, using that line was pathetic. I dropped CT a long time ago, but figured I’d follow Delong’s link for once. Nope, not missing out on much. At least the commenters are calling it (the rhetoric in particular is the problem here).

20

Tom McC 05.03.08 at 1:07 am

Just what we need,a deficit enhancing carrot to be dangled for the run-up to the election. Clinton’s proposed tax on the oil companies is a harbinger of what’s needed to get closer to balancing the budget.

21

christian h. 05.03.08 at 1:37 am

On no! Pandering! In a campaign!

Seriously, who cares? They are all pandering, usually to big business, big empire, big economists and such. Why this one pander should be a bigger problem is something I fail to see. Especially since it’s never going to happen.

Don’t worry. They are going to reward the fascists in Bogota with their union-murder supporting deal after the elections, and will forget all about the empty promises they made to voters.

22

Brett Bellmore 05.03.08 at 11:34 am

It’s been a long while since anybody serious could support ANY candidate for President in anything but a ‘lesser evil’ mode.

“Without the US, we won’t get anything from China and India either, so that means we’re setting course for disaster.”

Guess we’re on a course for disaster, then, ’cause we’re not getting anything on global warming from China and India even if we exert ourselves to the utmost. The developing world is not waiting on the US to lead the way before sacrificing their prospects to fight global warming. More likely they’re eagerly anticipating their competitive advantage should we do so.

By the way, I note the ‘climate change’ crowd has now cooked up an excuse why global warming is perfectly consistent with global temperatures staying constant or falling for the next decade or so. So much for the theory being falsifiable…

23

Banker 05.03.08 at 12:04 pm

Agreed that a once off break from a gas tax is a bad idea. It does little to help the average American and seems more of a “trick” to help get elected.

Banker

24

Donald Johnson 05.03.08 at 1:25 pm

“It’s been a long while since anybody serious could support ANY candidate for President in anything but a ‘lesser evil’ mode.”

Dang. I’m in agreement with Brett Bellmore. That doesn’t happen too often. And it doesn’t survive through the rest of his post, but for a brief moment there it looked like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

25

aaron 05.03.08 at 2:11 pm

“Second, the fact that the proposal has lasted this long suggests to me that the chance of any serious US action on global warming after the election is not that great.”

I hope you’re right.

I’m fine with more gas tax, so long as it means less income tax. But we should also remember that it will hurt the poor the most. I think our best course for a policy shift is toward consumption tax and away from income, but at the same time making income tax more progressive (or increasing subisidies to the poor to make up for the increased costs). Tax increase on consumption and decreases on income to match for the bottom 3 quintiles.

26

david 05.03.08 at 2:34 pm

Why is this any different than Obama’s support for gasoline tax holidays?

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/29/politics/main4056059.shtml?source=RSSattr=Politics_4056059

27

Nabakov 05.03.08 at 4:24 pm

“It’s been a long while since anybody serious could support ANY candidate for President in anything but a ‘lesser evil’ mode.”

I’ll join the minute but growing group of people here agreeing with Brett B for once.

And let’s face it, can anyone recall a POTUS election over the past 220 years where the candidates of all political stripes didn’t make dumb and reckless promises and offer up poorly thought through policies?

Same as it ever was.

28

tib 05.03.08 at 5:15 pm

For me agreement with Tom Freidman suggests I need to engage in a little more introspection, mostly because I know who’s number he has. Serious economists may have a view of future prosperity, but they tend to ignore the eggs that get broken to make the omelet. This is also why their advice by itself is useless, in a democracy, for battling global warming. Fighting global warming has costs, you have to gain the support of the people to pay those costs.

29

jim 05.03.08 at 5:34 pm

The federal gas tax in the US is 18 cents/gallon. At current prices, that’s 5%. Pump prices fluctuate more than 18 cents. Which means the gas tax is literally in the noise. The proposal is attacked because it wouldn’t do much, if any, good — it wouldn’t actually reduce the price of gas meaningfully. By the same token it wouldn’t do much, if any, harm. There have been many worse ideas floated: invading Iraq comes immediately to mind.

But the real issue, as John points out in his last paragraph, is symbolic. This is a straw in the wind: it presages inaction on global warming.

But we already knew that. There is no chance, there has never been any chance, the US will unilaterally take effective action to control global warming. The Senate vote against Kyoto told us that. It will require international agreement — agreement with some enforcement mechanism — for the US, together with China and India (at least), to reduce GHG emissions. And it’s very hard to see such agreement being reached. There’s an inequality of vulnerability.

We (nearly) all accept the conclusions of the Stern Report: the cost of controlling climate change is much less than the cost of managing — adapting to — uncontrolled change. But that’s for the world as a whole, not necessarily for particular nations. The US is a large, physically diverse nation with a history of, and a culture that encourages, personal mobility. For the US, adaptation to climate change will, largely, be a question of individuals deciding to move. As over the last fifty years people decided to leave Buffalo, NY or Youngstown, OH or Gary, IN, so over the next fifty years people will decide to leave Phoenix, AZ or St. Augustine, FL. Some of them may even return to Buffalo. And the cost of that migration will be, as the cost of the previous migration was, abandonment of investment: housing, factories, infrastructure; costs which can be, as the previous costs were, absorbed. Yes, there will be other costs: some places will be defended rather than left. But the total cost of adaptation will be much closer to the total cost of control, and the one cost is now and the other, later. US negotiators’ BATNA will be much more palatable than other nations’ BATNAs, but other nations will be very reluctant to agree to take on a larger burden than the US.

Yeah. It’s bad.

30

airth10 05.03.08 at 6:14 pm

Politicians say a lot of things to get elected and when elected it can be a different story. I remember that Bill Clinton was going to get tough with China on human rights but when in office he backed off. He was also sort of against free trade but then supported NAFTA and more trade with China.

A reality sets in when in office.

Remember Bush’s promise of humility in America’s foreign policy.

31

Barry 05.03.08 at 7:25 pm

“By the way, I note the ‘climate change’ crowd has now cooked up an excuse why global warming is perfectly consistent with global temperatures staying constant or falling for the next decade or so. So much for the theory being falsifiable…”
Posted by Brett ‘f*ck links’ Bellmore ·

32

Brett Bellmore 05.03.08 at 7:55 pm

33

Roy Belmont 05.03.08 at 11:59 pm

It’s a wonderful mind Mr Bellmore, that can view the violent disruption of heretofore stable ocean currents as a good thing. Because it will keep us from getting too warm, once the effects of our disruptions of atmospheric systems have cycled out into undeniabilty. Based on manipulative pseudo-journalism presented to keep the social order intact, by reassuring the restless mass. “Get me some good news on global warming, NOW!”
That the reconfiguration of the oceanic currents, without any other of the multitude of serious disruptions to the greater complexities of climate systems and their influence on and interaction with vital ecological systems, would or could be just a nifty counterbalance of benign change, is exceeding wondrous in its fatuity. The seas, meaning not just the water but the living things in it, have already been decimated. Though some kinds of jellyfish are prospering.
At the end of the article:
…said Dr Keenlyside. “This doesn’t change the bottom line on global warming.”
The assumption being that we’ve already been given a clear and definite “bottom line on global warming”. And as John Quiggin communicates responsibly and with very human gravity, we kind of have, and it’s very depressing.
#27:Fighting global warming has costs, you have to gain the support of the people to pay those costs.
And what you’ll be asking the people to do to pay those costs is sacrifice – privilege, comfort, luxury, ease. More the later it gets.
And how many of those who are being asked to sacrifice have been schooled all their lives in selfishness as birthright? And how many of them, when asked to sacrifice for that larger cause, will think immediately of sacrificing somebody else? How much smaller will your collective carbon footprint be when your collective has been made much smaller?
This is one of the taboos still to be broken in the public discourse. You can bet your worried fanny it’s already been broken behind the big shiny doors leading to the inner chambers of the plutocracy.
We don’t just need to get the people to realize they need to sacrifice greatly to even survive into the next century, we need to get the people to realize they’re going to be sacrificed, either way no matter what, if they don’t wake up. And even then it’s going to get rough.
All the smart and thus atheistical folks could do well now to realize their less-endowed brothers and sisters who’ve come to inhabit the Biblical narrative of End Times have already incorporated global warming as nothing more than proof positive of that narrative’s apt and iron-bound veracity.
It’s a hinky part of the vast array of nonsense and mumbo-jumbo brought down to us from who knows who.
The world will end in fire.
The world is ending in fire.
Ipso facto, babies.
It will take courage now just to preserve your own humanity against the dissolving chemistry of the Hive Mind. One such dissolving solution is a cynicism born of futility, which the facts as they come in from scientists on the front lines make increasingly tempting.
Life has always been a pretty temporary thing, made bearable for some by the prospect of further generations, on out to a bright, vague, and possibly endless future. For the selfish heart that’s never mattered anyway. So present circumstances will strengthen the selfish even as they weaken the altruistic. It won’t be possible to resist that without full commitment.
Delusional beliefs help. For those unable to hide in those clouds there’s always the adamant refusal to submit, irrational as it may appear. Screw futility. Assert your humanity, get outside the petty bonds of selfishness.
Even if we’re going, we can still choose how.

34

David W. 05.04.08 at 3:46 am

An Al Gore endorsement of Obama would be timely right about now.

35

bi -- Intl. J. Inact. 05.04.08 at 4:17 am

Who will win in a contest of stupid between Brett Bellmore and Jennifer Marohasy?

36

a 05.04.08 at 5:18 am

As if on cue, from the Independent,

“More than seven in 10 [British] voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll.

The survey also reveals that most Britons believe “green” taxes on 4x4s, plastic bags and other consumer goods have been imposed to raise cash rather than change our behaviour, while two-thirds of Britons think the entire green agenda has been hijacked as a ploy to increase taxes.”

With declining wealth (from housing and inflation) voters are going to turn mean.

37

Hattie 05.04.08 at 7:01 am

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Clinton’s proposal to lower taxes on consumers and raise them on the suppliers?

38

Brett Bellmore 05.04.08 at 10:48 am

I’m not viewing the “violent disruption of ocean currents” as a good thing. I’m concerned with the possibility that very real global warming has been the only thing holding off an ice age, and that it’s starting to fail to do so. Ice ages are, in case you were unaware of it, rather more disruptive to civilization than any but the absolute fringe global warming scenarios. And we’re a bit overdue for one.

And I’m concerned with a global warming community which responds to global warming grinding to a halt for a decade by coming up with a theory that puts off any hope of falsification for another decade.

I think it’s a fair question: What global temperature behavior over the next 10-20 years would convince you that global warming wasn’t in the cards, and that maybe you should buy stock in thermal underwear, and move closer to the equator?

Anyway, the nice thing about some of the ‘geoengineering’ schemes is that they’re capable of providing climate forcing in both directions, letting us respond in both disaster scenarios, the hot AND the cold.

39

bi 05.04.08 at 12:14 pm

Brett Bellmore:

Seriously, are you in some sort of contest with Jennifer Marohasy on who’s more stupid?

And just as a reminder to everyone: there are only three papers predicting some sort of global cooling — Rasool and Schneider, Zhen-Shan and Xian, and now Keenlyside et al. — and the predictions only hold under unrealistic conditions. To suggest that there’s some sort of ‘overwhelming’ evidence for the Silly Ice Age theory is… silly.

40

abb1 05.04.08 at 12:23 pm

Mammoth hunting!

41

Alex 05.04.08 at 1:07 pm

What global temperature behavior over the next 10-20 years would convince you that global warming wasn’t in the cards, and that maybe you should buy stock in thermal underwear, and move closer to the equator?

Well, you’d have to come up with a completely new form of chemistry under which the combustion equation didn’t involve carbon and oxygen, or else discover that the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere wasn’t actually going up because some vast undiscovered process was soaking it up, or a completely new physics under which increased CO2 concentration didn’t cause more heat to be retained in the atmosphere…

What you don’t seem to understand is that this is not some sort of curve-fitting exercise. It is entirely based on the same chemistry and physics that works perfectly for everything else. You don’t need anything fancy – Newtonian physics and Lavoisier’s chemistry (indeed, William Fucking Harvey’s chemistry) will do it, and indeed did for Svante Arrhenius.

If you burn stuff, you emit CO2; there is no equal and opposite antiburning going on, so the stuff must go somewhere. And we *know* it reduces the percentage of the sun’s rays that get reflected back into space.

So, if you add heat at rate X and lose it at rate Y, what happens if we reduce rate Y? Where does it go Brett? Where?

42

anon 05.04.08 at 1:30 pm

Who was it that said “The American way of life is not negotiable?”

The will to wealth in other, rising countries is also not negotiable. Nobody can say “you must not consume” – they will, and if they can’t, then the other path will be taken, where the rivers run red.

We’re doomed, aren’t we?

43

jj 05.04.08 at 2:14 pm

It’s not just heat that’s added at rate X but fine particle pollution into the upper atmosphere which reflects solar radiation and thereby reduces the additional rate X of heat transfer. So we need to simultaneously stop burning more fuel but continue to pollute the atmosphere to reflect more solar radiation from an already overheating atmosphere.

44

Brett Bellmore 05.04.08 at 2:17 pm

Look, Alex, I understand the physics behind the greenhouse effect quite well. I also understand, apparently unlike you, that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere isn’t the only driver of climate. If some of the other drivers are saying “Down!”, increasing CO2 might, or might not, win the fight.

In fact, keep in mind that CO2 is a fairly puny greenhouse gas, and is important only because an increase in CO2 raises temperature a bit, all things being equal, which causes more evaporation, and H20 is a more important greenhouse gas. (Ten times as effective as CO2) Global warming theory is pretty dependent on this positive feedback hugely amplifying the effects of CO2, which by itself would not alter global temperatures enough to notice.

But in this sense, modulation of atmospheric H2O is an amplifier for ANYTHING that influences temperatures one way or the other. Because it’s not responding directly to CO2 concentration, but only to the temperature modulating effect of that concentration. ANYTHING that effects atmospheric temperature, and thus evaporation, will invoke that amplification.

It doesn’t take much change in solar radiance at all to completely cancel out the levels of CO2 we’re talking about. So the idea that CO2 from human activities dwarfs all other factors is a crock.

45

Alex 05.04.08 at 2:43 pm

The other factors, however, are noise terms; CO2 from human activities is going steadily up. There are more factors determining the speed of a car than the setting of the throttle, but if you press down steadily on the pedal, does it go faster?

46

bi 05.04.08 at 2:47 pm

Brett Bellmore:

“If some of the other drivers are saying ‘Down!’, increasing CO2 might, or might not, win the fight.”

Which means of course the best way to win the “fight” is to Do Nothing, yeah right.

= = =

Anyway, James Annan addresses the “falsifiability” question.

But a more useful question at this point is this: How many times must the climate inactivists’ various statements be outright falsified before they’ll admit that they full of crap and just leave things to the real experts?

I’m not talking about falsifiability, I’m talking about falsification which has already happened.

First it was “Hansen predicted global cooling” — false. Then it was “‘scientists’ in general predicted global cooling” — false (as shown by Connolley). Then it was “global temperature drop from Jan 2007 to Jan 2008 cancels out 100 years of warming” — and guess what, in March the temperature shoots right back up. So, inactivists, how many more of your statements must be proven to be completely false before you’ll shut up and find something else to do?

47

Martin Bento 05.04.08 at 3:28 pm

The Clintons are once again working to undermine the Democratic party and even quite moderate and difficult to dispute progressive ideals. What Clinton, like McCain, is doing is forcing a democratic Congress to undermine itself in an election year. Once the “holiday” kicks in, will there not be calls from Republicans to extend it? And the Democrats to do the right thing will have to say no and vote to raise both (perceived) taxes and gas prices two months before the election. She could just talk this stuff up, but instead she is pushing the legislation hard and arguing for it in confrontational terms. Maybe it’s time to consider whether Clinton’s purpose here is not to win (if she does get the nom through superdel coup, it won’t be accepted as legit, and will doom her in the general), but to weaken the party and kneecap Obama. A weak democratic party, as in the 90’s, can be dominated by its rightmost members, like the DLC and blue dogs, because they will ally with the other side, whereas a strong one has hopes of getting progressive legislation through.

48

MR. Bill 05.04.08 at 4:06 pm

It’s strikingly dishonest politics, even if it is popular. But then, there is this economic stimulus thingy…

49

bi 05.04.08 at 4:49 pm

On a not-so-related note: When in the nine hells will the mainstream media start to cover the “Heartland 500″ fiasco?

– bi, Intl. J. Inact.

50

Colin Danby 05.04.08 at 5:02 pm

Paging John Emerson!

“I’m not going to put in my lot with economists,” she said on ABC’s “This Week” program. A few moments later, she added, “Elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantages the vast majority of Americans.”

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/there-goes-the-economists-vote/

51

abb1 05.04.08 at 5:15 pm

I have a better idea: not only the tax should be cancelled, but a negative tax should be introduced; say $3/gallon. And also for beer. But not imported beer. I am so brilliant, why am I not running for president?

52

Alex 05.04.08 at 5:16 pm

By the way, Brett, did you really mean to say that because the climate is a dynamical system with strong positive feedback effects, we should be entirely happy to fiddle with it? I mean, would you use the same logic with, say, explosives?

53

ilan ver 05.04.08 at 9:27 pm

Well, alright. Not just Americans

54

Müzik 05.04.08 at 9:28 pm

On a not-so-related note: When in the nine hells will the mainstream media start to cover the “Heartland 500” fiasco?
—bi, Intl. J. Inact.

ilan ver

55

Charles S 05.04.08 at 10:40 pm

Brett,

And I’m concerned with a global warming community which responds to global warming grinding to a halt for a decade by coming up with a theory that puts off any hope of falsification for another decade.

This is a fantastically absurd question. The climatology community hasn’t responded to global warming grinding to a halt for a decade with anything. They couldn’t possibly, since global warming hasn’t “ground to a halt for a decade.” What you seem to be responding to is that a regional climate model for the Atlantic that can successfully predict the climate in Europe and the Eastern US (but not central Africa) for the 1990’s, when extended to the 2010’s, predicts a decade of slight cooling for Europe and the Eastern US. This is not a matter of climatologists coming up with a theory to explain something, this is a matter of climatologists making a prediction, using models which you seem to suddenly take as gospel when it allows you to argue (incorrectly and unconvincingly) that the global models aren’t accurate.

Furthermore, the prediction they are making is for regional cooling, not global cooling, so this prediction does not necessarily even modify global model predictions of steady global warming. The “little ice age” in Europe was not a period of particularly severe global cooling, even though it was a period of severe regional cooling.

While regional changes that a global model might not show could conceivably be large enough to change the global climate (for instance, warming producing a shut-down of the Gulf Stream producing an ice age, not something these models show), if the regional models prove accurate, that is certainly not a reason to doubt the global models. The ability of regional models to predict the regional climate accurately is an argument in favor of the global models’ fundamental accuracy, not an argument against it.

Certainly, the ever improving resolution of the global models will adjust the global prediction by some small amount, and will make these sorts of regional predictions more common and more accurate, but arguing that the models aren’t accurate, because the ever-improving accuracy of the models allows us to predict regional cooling for the next decade for one particular region, is simply the height of absurdity.

56

Brett Bellmore 05.05.08 at 1:40 am

“By the way, Brett, did you really mean to say that because the climate is a dynamical system with strong positive feedback effects, we should be entirely happy to fiddle with it?”

We’re fiddling with it whatever we do. Even choosing not to do something is a choice. What I mean to say is that if we’re going to deliberately fiddle with it, we ought to have both the brakes AND the accelerator under our control. So that if we put the brakes on global warming only to find that it WAS holding off the next ice age, we’re not left with no options.

And I really think a bit more humility about whether or not we know that’s not the case is in order.

57

John Emerson 05.05.08 at 2:38 am

Hillary can’t fool me. She remains a neoliberal.

58

Hattie 05.05.08 at 6:29 am

I think the government should PAY people to use gas.

59

bi 05.05.08 at 9:49 am

I’ll repeat my question to all climate inactivists including Brett:

How many times must the climate inactivists’ various statements be outright falsified before they’ll admit that they full of crap and just leave things to the real experts?

— bi, Intl. J. Inact.

60

Barry 05.05.08 at 12:57 pm

bi, many of them are professional, paid liars, and will only stop lying when the checks stop clearing the bank (Milloy, Murray, etc.). Others are right-wingers, who would argue against gravity itself if they though that Newton was a Evul Librul. They’ll only stop when they can move on to a new, better set of lies – heck, Brett acts as if being less than 100% fullash*t would lead to some horrible fate. He cranks out BS and flat-out lies as if they were protecting him from a fearsome demon which longs to drag him to hell.

61

newshutz 05.05.08 at 1:00 pm

I have to agree with other posters that why this ridiculous position should be favored over other ones as the deciding factor.

Hillery, Obama – prevent new energy sources

Obama, McCain – unrepentant criminal associates (Ayers, Liddy)

Hillery, Obama – Mess up the US Health Care even more

Hillery, McCain – McCain-Feingold

All 3 — fiscal irresponsibility

If measured only on the lack of stupid policies, then the last US president that was actually qualified for office was Coolidge.

62

Alex 05.05.08 at 1:21 pm

What I mean to say is that if we’re going to deliberately fiddle with it, we ought to have both the brakes AND the accelerator under our control.

Type one error of fact. You’re not arguing for conservatism, but radicalism; you’re suggesting continuing to accelerate.

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Martin Wisse 05.05.08 at 1:51 pm

So am I the only one who sees some positive in Hillary’s willingness to engage in even moderate forms of populism? Trading gasoline tax for windfall tax? Why the fuck not, when Shell and BP just made 7 billion pounds *PROFIT* in the first three months of the year.

It won’t mean anything to the fight against global warming, as tax cut or no tax cut, Americans will have to keep using their cars anyway thanks to the shit state of their public transport; a gasoline tax cut just means slightly more money left over for other things. Meanwhile financial hurting now trumps eco-catastrophe later.

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bi 05.05.08 at 3:17 pm

Barry: Oh well. :|

Martin Wisse:

“slightly more money left over for other things.”

Well, slightly more money in the sense of $30 for this summer, according to Newsweek.

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Bruce Baugh 05.05.08 at 4:20 pm

Martin, if the whole bundle could get passed and enacted, it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever. But we have a substantial history now of Republicans agreeing to go along with such a thing and then stripping out all the provisions they dislike in stages where the Democrats can’t or won’t do anything about it.

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Grand Moff Texan 05.05.08 at 5:59 pm

And I really think a bit more humility about whether or not we know that’s not the case is in order.

This is a rare, bastard child of the argument from incredulity fallacy that one usually sees only among the “there may TOO have been wmd in Iraq!” crowd.

Weaponized ignorance is stuck in a rut.
.

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Alex 05.05.08 at 8:30 pm

May I point out that Brett has gone from denying the existence of global warming (comment 22) to doing the new ice age blood libel thingy (comment 38) to then arguing that the climate is something or other handwave look terrorists (comment 44), and then that not burning everything we can is an outrageous technocratic experiment, unlike burning everything we can which somehow isn’t (argument from pathological projection, comment 56)?

Basically, he’s an obsessive liar. His argument is – let’s go through this in simple steps – that it’s not happening, that it’s preventing a new ice age despite the not-happening thingypoo, that we can’t know if it’s happening or not cos of quantum this bloke in the pub said, and finally that it’s too delicate to risk and so we need to keep kicking it around the carpark.

There is no reason to include this person in anything that passes for civilised discourse; .htaccess, people. It ain’t 2001 no more.

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Alex 05.05.08 at 8:33 pm

And, of course, he’s going to whine like a little bitch.

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newshutz 05.05.08 at 9:21 pm

How many times must the climate inactivists’ various statements be outright falsified before they’ll admit that they full of crap and just leave things to the real experts?
—bi, Intl. J. Inact.

My trigger is when greens start holding demonstrations calling for more nuclear power plants. Till then I won’t take AGW seriously, because they are not.

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Righteous Bubba 05.05.08 at 9:41 pm

Nuclear plants throughout the developing world would go a long way towards easing my fears about the fate of humanity.

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jre 05.05.08 at 11:12 pm

Why, oh, why can’t more people follow the admirable example set by newshutz, and base their beliefs about the natural world on what some caricatured political group ought to be doing and isn’t?

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Brett Bellmore 05.06.08 at 12:35 am

“May I point out that Brett has gone from denying the existence of global warming (comment 22) to doing the new ice age blood libel thingy (comment 38) to then arguing that the climate is something or other handwave look terrorists (comment 44), and then that not burning everything we can is an outrageous technocratic experiment, unlike burning everything we can which somehow isn’t (argument from pathological projection, comment 56)?”

That has just enough relation to what I actually said to indicate that you were reading it, and just little enough to indicate that you’re applying a ferocious mental filter to what you read.

1. The planet, manifestly, was warming up for most of the 20th century. I don’t deny that. Equally manifest is the fact that it hasn’t been for the last decade. A momentary respite? A peak before the temperature heads down again? A minor statistical fluctuation? Whichever it is, that warming took place is pretty much undeniable, and that it could resume is something I’d have to concede is possible, even probable. Damn me for suggesting that it NOT resuming is also possible, if you like: I’m not thin skinned, I don’t need your love.

2. “New ice age blood libel” BLOOD LIBEL??? Sheesh, you need to grow thicker skin, and more tolerance for people thinking that it’s within the realm of possibility that you’re wrong about something.

Blood libel…

3.“to then arguing that the climate is something or other handwave look terrorists(Comment 44)” Ok, I take it back, maybe you weren’t reading anything I wrote. ‘Cause I don’t see how you get “look terrorists” out of anything I wrote.

4.“and then that not burning everything we can is an outrageous technocratic experiment,”

Hell, I think we ought to, as rapidly as possible, switch to nuclear, and when it becomes cost effective, solar. Even if CO2 weren’t an issue, coal is horribly dirty, (It’s even radiologically more dirty than nuclear!) and oil is more valuable as an industrial feedstock, we shouldn’t be burning it.

Alex, you may get your rocks off with this sort of insane rhetoric, but you’re not going to persuade anybody with it who hasn’t drank so much koolaid that they’re sloshing. You sound like a loon, maybe even a dangerous one.

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greensmile 05.06.08 at 1:30 am

Sad to say, John but the vitality of idiocy is quite robust here. The proposal is now officially a separator of the elitist and economist from the populist. Shameless pandering on Clintons part, and typical republican guile on McCains. 200 economists have now signed a statement decreeing the idea brain dead. The result: Clinton boasts having nothing to do with economists. [this was a surprise to the economists among her advisers]

Long live brain dead! All hail Brain dead! Brain dead for president! Anybody not willing to assure the poor SUV driver who bought a house 80 miles from his workplace that he has a god given right to $1.50 gas is an elitist. Anyone who would have the nerve to tell that poor SUV driver he had anything to do with with gas prices going up is a cruel economist. the dreaded label of old was “liberal”, now maybe its “economist” or more likely elitist.

Any exasperation you betray about the pathology of this populism makes you suspect. We get out of practice so fast that stupid populism will do in place of smart populism such as Edwards tended toward.

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greensmile 05.06.08 at 1:53 am

newshutz: the location of your trigger would explain a lot about the bullet hole in you shoe.

I was intrigued when Brand came out in favor of nukes. If you can get through my liberal hyperbole you will find some news on the inadequacy of nuclear plant build-out you may not have heard. In other results, to be honest, no building program of any scale we can afford would put up enough wind power or solar to make up for the oil shortfall that will grow faster as other economies pull even with ours. And as some have noted, biofuels using current technology are a horrible mistake that basically has us burning food in our cars while humans starve and grain prices double by the year. Something really different is going to HAVE to happen and its not something you can sell to a nation hellbent on consumption. Our misfortune is that about 2 billion new people are hopeful of being just as all consuming as we Americans. You will never elect someone who honestly tells you just how screwed you are.

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Roy Belmont 05.06.08 at 3:10 am

….no building program of any scale we can afford would put up enough wind power or solar to make up for the oil shortfall that will grow faster as other economies pull even with….
Still taboo to talk about reduction of scale. The diminishing of carbon footprint by reduction of the size and number of feet. Fewer consumers require fewer btu’s.
Is this unthinkable?
Why, do you suppose?
Is it impossible? Unlikely? Or just kind of you know, ugly-scary.
What’s ahead is nothing but that. Only that. Inevitably no matter which way it goes that.
Nothing but reduction of demand. Ideas that depend on steady maintenance of current growth rates are delusional..
We can go into it ass first or chin up.
That’s pretty much the only choice available.

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bi 05.06.08 at 7:18 am

jre:

Why, oh, why can’t more people follow the admirable example set by newshutz, and base their beliefs about the natural world on what some caricatured political group ought to be doing and isn’t?

Add to that the fact that he decided to totally dodge my question.

And I’m sure, even if “greens” do actually start call for “more nuclear power plants”, he will find some other stupid thing to say. What’s more, of course he can’t be full of crap, by definition. Global warming inactivists can never be wrong.

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Alex 05.06.08 at 8:24 am

Looks like my 68 was bang on the money, then.

Recap: having pretended it’s not happening, pretended it’s happening but it’s a good thing, that it’s happening but doing anything about it would be dangerous, he’s now arguing that it is happening and therefore we need to build a lot of nuclear power stations, which somehow doesn’t count as a massive technocratic intervention of the type he decried in the last iteration.

That’s four mutually incompatible arguments in as many comments, before resorting to “Waah! Dirty hippies! Civility!” whining.

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bi 05.06.08 at 10:05 am

Alex:

Iterative backpedalling. The climate inactivist’s favourite pastime.

And once again, Brett totally ignores my question:

How many times must the climate inactivists’ various statements be outright falsified before they’ll admit that they full of crap and just leave things to the real experts?

  — bi, Intl. J. Inact.

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Brett Bellmore 05.06.08 at 11:06 am

I guess when a child starts babbling, there’s nothing to do but smile and nod. In the end, you can’t pierce the filter with words, when words are what it’s filtering.

Enjoy your world, Alex, may it accidentally agree with reality occasionally.

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newshutz 05.06.08 at 11:50 am

Add to that the fact that he decided to totally dodge my question.

I did not answer your question, because it is irrelevant. As long as those that are crying about AGW not only refuse to be serious about solutions but actively oppose them, then it really can’t be much of a problem.

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abb1 05.06.08 at 12:14 pm

…to be honest, no building program of any scale we can afford would put up enough wind power or solar to make up for the oil shortfall that will grow faster as other economies pull even with ours.

Is that really true? What about this: http://yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1149&p=business&a=2

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Alex 05.06.08 at 12:35 pm

79: I am a serious! I am! Not like those dirty long-haired greenies!

Perhaps you can tell us why you think we should be building lots of nuclear power stations when you also think we should keep burning the coal to prevent an ice age?

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Alex 05.06.08 at 12:37 pm

may it accidentally agree with reality occasionally

I’m the one with the physics. Argument from projection again.

And yes, you’re whining, like a little bitch.

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greensmile 05.06.08 at 1:01 pm

roy belmont #75. You and I see the same world pretty much. I’d only add that given human nature [what an oxymoron], particularly as on display in some comments here, no choice will be made and circumstances will take all choice out of our hands as surely as they have, in several poor countries, already made a choice like “Shall we have the rice pilaf or the risotto?” mockingly empty.

To those who cling to the notion that some miracle will occur and we will find a billion barrels of oil under all the old-growth christmas trees or build so many nukes and wind farms that oil won’t be a problem: read a report from someone who actually did their homework.

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bi 05.06.08 at 1:06 pm

I asked:

How many times must the climate inactivists’ various statements be outright falsified before they’ll admit that they full of crap and just leave things to the real experts?

Brett and newshutz’s excuses are hilarious. It’s a sign that they’re perfectly OK with accepting and propagating outright lies.

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abb1 05.06.08 at 2:52 pm

84: …someone who actually did their homework

I didn’t like this piece. See comments here.

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jre 05.06.08 at 3:35 pm

bi, you’ve failed to appreciate the beautiful efficiency of newshutz’ approach:

I did not answer your question, because it is irrelevant. As long as those that are crying about AGW not only refuse to be serious about solutions but actively oppose them, then it really can’t be much of a problem.

Unlike those silly monkeys who think the world is best understood by observation and analysis of phenomena, newshutz can answer a complex question about climate with a simple measure — the greens nuclear demonstration index — and it’s an index he can pull out of his own ass. The implications for cost reduction in the budgets of GISS, Hadley and NCAR are staggering.

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greensmile 05.06.08 at 5:26 pm

Abb1: I am curious. Can you explain further what you dislike about that analysis from SRI? I suspect its report is more popularized than the underlying data sets and analysis methods…it was written so a broader audience would grasp it.

Do you also consider it wrong in its facts or conclusions? Solar collectors built on rooftops do not require adding a massive road and power grid network to an inhospitable landscape…delivery is not a hurdle to be dismissed. Rooftop implies house implies the resources to construct and perhaps the finances to own and strongly implies a point of use…all of those factors lower the amount of resources any government or other agency must bring to get “free” and clean power where it is needed.

The worst thing about that SRI report is how it will work to kill hope and lead many who were at least trying to go in the right direction to cease all effort as pointless.

The opposite extreme is the optimistic embrace of the factual but impractical suggestion in that Wikipedia art. If we had the money [or, these days, even the borrowing power] to build that daydream system in the Sahara, we could do more practical renwables projects closer to home. The scales required and discussed [by Wikipedia OR by SRI ] are orders of magnitude greater than anything humans have previously done…and the need comes just as we have begun to run low on the wherewithal for massive public projects.

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abb1 05.06.08 at 5:57 pm

OK, fair enough, forget wikipedia; what about the Jeffrey Sachs’ piece I linked in 81:

For example, solar power plants in America’s Mohave Desert could supply more than half of that nation’s electricity needs. Solar power plants in Northern Africa could supply power to Western Europe, while solar power plants in the Sahel of Africa, just south of the vast Sahara, could power much of West, East and Central Africa.

Why not the rooftops? Same reason that running a gas-powered generator 24X7 in your garage is a terrible idea compare to getting your electricity from a large central powerplant. Thr rooftop is much, much less efficient. In a solar powerplant you’ll have various gadgets, like turning the panels to to follow the sun, for example, batteries, transformers, professional maintenance, etc. Not to mention that there’s much more direct sunlight in a desert. You could even clear the sky above your plant. Hell, perhaps you could even place a huge mirror to the orbit and get some light in the middle of the night – why not.

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newshutz 05.06.08 at 10:43 pm

Unlike those silly monkeys who think the world is best understood by observation and analysis of phenomena, newshutz can …

I do think that the world is best understood by observation.

I observe people complaining about a problem and actively opposing the practical solutions. I conclude two things.

1: that it likely not be much of a problem.

2: that even if it is a problem, it cannot be addressed politically until the proponents stop opposing the practical solutions.

I also observe, that it is the same people that have been complaining about fossil fuel energy sources for my whole life that have found a new reason for fossil fuels to be bad, but still are blocking the only reasonable alternative.

Solar and wind power have been the energy of the future for 30 years. They still are. You cannot expect to be taken seriously about AGW and remain opposed to Nuclear power.

The AGW crowd main success has been biofuels. Unfortunately, they require more energy to produce and transport than they provide, so they don’t actually lower CO2, and they are partially responsible for the world food crisis.

good work guys.

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Righteous Bubba 05.06.08 at 10:57 pm

You cannot expect to be taken seriously about AGW and remain opposed to Nuclear power.

Yes you can, as evidenced by the fact that people are taken seriously regarding climate change who remain opposed to nuclear power.

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newshutz 05.06.08 at 11:13 pm

Yes you can, as evidenced by the fact that people are taken seriously regarding climate change who remain opposed to nuclear power.

Ok, sorry, you cannot be taken seriously by outsiders.

I understand that you take yourselves seriously.

very seriously.

But as long as y’all continue to behave like the problems posed by nuclear power are worse than the problems posed by AGW, I will accept that assessment and act accordingly.

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Righteous Bubba 05.07.08 at 12:11 am

I will accept that assessment and act accordingly.

The toilet needs fixing, but some folks don’t like outhouses, so you will poop on the floor.

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Brett Bellmore 05.07.08 at 1:01 am

“The toilet needs fixing, but some folks don’t like outhouses, so you will poop on the floor.”

More like, “We’ve wanted a composting toilet for like forever, but kept getting outvoted. Now that the toilet’s broken, we’re going to fight any other way of repairing it, until everybody agrees to a composting toilet because they’re sick of being neck deep in shit.”

Essentially, you want a particular solution: Renewable energy, AND a drastic reduction in human energy consumption. Most people would prefer a solution that doesn’t so obviously impact standards of living. So you’re going to block every solution but your own until cities are drowning from rising ocean levels, in the hope that in desperation people will accept your solution, with all others blocked.

Obviously, that’s not how people react to what they really believe are existential threats, which is why everybody else ends up doubting your sincerity.

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Righteous Bubba 05.07.08 at 1:20 am

Brett, I will always be fond of this exchange.

Had any world leaders in your living room talking about the space-dust launcher?

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Brett Bellmore 05.07.08 at 1:41 am

Haven’t had them in my living room for my tamale pie muffin recipe, either, and that rocks. Is that your metric for whether somebody’s right: Whether world leaders flock to their living rooms? They’d be going to Brin’s living room, if they were going anywhere.

And, by the way, don’t you know there’s a difference between space dust, and upper atmosphere dust?

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