The climatic case for Obama

by John Quiggin on November 6, 2012

I don’t have a vote in the US election and, even if I had taken the necessary steps, I would be unlikely to live anywhere my vote counted, with the possible exception of northern Virginia. On the other hand, as someone who lives on the same planet as 300 million or so Americans, I do have a stake in the outcome.

If I had a vote that might be decisive, I would vote for Obama. Despite having failed to mention climate change in the campaign, or to push at all hard for the Waxman-Markey bill for an emissions trading, he has put in place regulations that will significantly reduce US emissions, to the point where the announced target of a 17 per cent reduction between 2005 and 2020 looks achievable. Regulation isn’t the most efficient means of reducing emissions, but I’m happy to leave that choice to the US political system.

If Obama wins, fuel efficiency regulations for cars and emissions limits for power stations will be locked in, and there will be hope for more in the future. If Romney wins, they will be repealed or not enforced. That’s enough reason for me to hope that Nate Silver’s odds are right.

{ 145 comments }

1

Tim Worstall 11.06.12 at 11:06 am

“I would vote for Obama.”

Interestingly shocking news there. I sorta doubted you would be voting for Gary Johnson.

And that emissions reduction. How much of that is regulation and how much the switch from coal to shale gas? I’m under the impression that a goodly part of it is the latter.

2

ohreally 11.06.12 at 11:22 am

Environmentalist claptrap, Marxist cant and economic idiocy.

Thanks goodness you do to get to vote here. Go vote for Labour and ruin your own nation; Keep you feeble hands of of ours.

The “Carbon Emissions” nonsense is just a hustle and a racket; and is “renewable energy”. As it is, the UK will be rationing power in 10 years, that and kowtowing to the Russionas and the Middle East, which is exactly what the Left wand

3

john b 11.06.12 at 11:22 am

Tim W: Johnson’s hardly the only 3rd-party candidate; Jill Stein is the official Green candidate and is on the ballot pretty much everywhere.

4

John Quiggin 11.06.12 at 11:30 am

As John B suggests, if I had a vote in a non-decisive state, I’d go for Stein. But if libertarians would only get sane on climate change, I’d put Johnson ahead of Obama. As a contributor to the insanity, Tim, you might want to think about why your side of politics has gone this way.

5

Tim Worstall 11.06.12 at 12:00 pm

“As a contributor to the insanity, Tim, you might want to think about why your side of politics has gone this way.”

I think accusing me of contributing to insanity on climate change is a tad over the top really.

I’ve been arguing for nearly a decade now that it’s happening, it’s a problem, we ought to do something about it. That something being the carbon tax (as recommended by Stern) or cap and trade. I’ve made this argument at the ASI, The Daily Telegraph, Forbes, even at the late lamented TCS.

Darn it, I even wrote a whole book about it.

It’s bad enough when writing in all those places that I get shouted at for taking the IPCC seriously (usually about half the comments are that I’m some sort of commie pinko loonie who wants to suck up to Caroline Lucas) without being shouted at from the other side for taking the Stern Review seriously.

6

Harald Korneliussen 11.06.12 at 12:35 pm

This thing about swing states: Isn’t it a paradox to say that your vote doesn’t matter because you don’t live in a swing state, when even if you were in a swing state the odds that your vote would be decisive are negligible?

7

Trader Joe 11.06.12 at 1:02 pm

Really?

I thought Obama invented fracking? He said he was king oil? Doesn’t he love energy independence more than the spotted owl?

Oh, wait, those were just more lies, half truths and distortions…he didn’t really mean that….just like he didn’t save the auto industry (that was W) and didn’t “create or save” 3 million jobs (that never happened) and didn’t cut the deficit in half (he doubled it).

8

Glen Tomkins 11.06.12 at 1:03 pm

ohreally,

If that really is your name. If this were the Senate contest in CT we were talking about, I’ld hit you over the head with a chair. Don’t worry, it would be a Championship Wrestling chair, and I would tag in before braining you with it. I believe strictly in keeping up the tone of American elections.

Even if every single one of your points against the Democrats were true, and as a Democrat, I have much stronger points against my party, and sneer at your feeble efforts to vilify it, there still remains this reason to vote against the Rs, if not for the Dems — the Rs have made the political process in the US a sick joke. You might get some public policy result from a D administration that wasn’t 100% political main chance, while an R in the WH is likely to start a war just to help out with the midterm elections. And they won’t be using breakaway chairs. Quit trolling on behalf of criminals.

9

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 11.06.12 at 1:29 pm

The troll sounds more like a Tory than a Republican.

10

Martin 11.06.12 at 1:38 pm

Inasfar as the natural gas boom (that is also mentioned in the link) has contributed to a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, can it be attributed to Obama or, for that matter, to any regulation? (I’d also note that not everybody welcomed it – Krugman more or less came out against it in a column, and Romm doesn’t even think one can attribute much CO2 reduction to it. I am a bit lost on the issue, to be honest.) Is this really the consequence of some sort of incentive, or do we just see the coincidence that a ‘new’ cheap energy source also happens to reduce emissions?

11

philofra 11.06.12 at 1:58 pm

How about just voting for Obama because he is the more sincere.

12

Barry Freed 11.06.12 at 2:25 pm

Only ten comments in and already two deranged trolls on the thread. You can smell the flop sweat as their guy goes down for the count. Maybe next time don’t nominate Richie Rich as your candidate.

13

js. 11.06.12 at 2:47 pm

Maybe next time don’t nominate Richie Rich as your candidate.

Though to be fair, let’s not forget who the other options. Mr. Rich was supposed to be the *sane* choice, after all.

14

Glen Tomkins 11.06.12 at 2:51 pm

@9,

Criminals all the same. Often the same criminals, or at least criminal organizations with interlocking boards of directors.

15

Coulter 11.06.12 at 3:05 pm

Ha – a moderate republican from a northeastern state who worked with ted kennedy on healthcare reform, was pro-choice and pro-gay … I guess the republicans need to move further to the right to win …

16

Donald Johnson 11.06.12 at 3:11 pm

“But if libertarians would only get sane on climate change, I’d put Johnson ahead of Obama.”

Why? I’m guessing it’s foreign policy, anti-imperialism, disgust and outrage over our drone policies and also the drug war. But isn’t Gary Johnson sort of insane on economic issues?

17

Cahokia 11.06.12 at 3:16 pm

Election (film release 1999):

“Who cares about this stupid election? We all know it doesn’t matter who gets elected president of Carver. Do you really think it’s going to change anything around here; make one single person smarter or happier or nicer? The only person it does matter to is the one who gets elected. The same pathetic charade happens every year, and everyone makes the same pathetic promises just so they can put it on their transcripts to get into college. So vote for me, because I don’t even want to go to college, and I don’t care, and as president I won’t do anything. The only promise I will make is that if elected I will immediately dismantle the student government, so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again!”

Tammy Metzler: [her campaign speech]

18

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 3:22 pm

.just like he didn’t save the auto industry (that was W) and didn’t “create or save” 3 million jobs (that never happened) and didn’t cut the deficit in half (he doubled it).

Right out of the Rove book.

19

ciaran 11.06.12 at 3:26 pm

The real problem is that Romney isn’t a real conservative , Sanatorum 2016!!! USA,USA!!

20

Marc 11.06.12 at 3:34 pm

I’d be depressed by the comments here if I didn’t have a very strong sense that Obama will win, especially here in Ohio. And there is virtually no group more hostile to environmentalism than the “I’ve got mine Jack” and “I don’t need a social contract” libertarian contingent. In fact, the outright dishonesty and fanaticism on climate change that libertarians employ was what confirmed my deep hostility to the entire enterprise – basically, it’s nothing but a market-as-God cult.

Yes, the increase in fuel efficiency and the prospect of EPA regulations are very strong reasons to favor Obama. As is his receptiveness to renewable energy, as opposed to being completely in the pocket of the fossil fuel industries (e.g. Romney.) We really do have no better prospect than Obama on climate change. It is is an inefficient way to get the job done, but if money blocks the efficient channels I’ll take what I can get.

21

Chris Bertram 11.06.12 at 3:40 pm

Tim Worstall:

I think accusing me of contributing to insanity on climate change is a tad over the top really.

Well as a reasonably prominent member of a political party that declares:

Global warming is not proven – wind power is futile. Scrap all green taxes, wind turbine subsidies and adopt nuclear power to free us from dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil and gas.

It looks like you’re contributing to the problem. Perhaps you’d like to resign from UKIP or at least take a very public stance against your party on this issue and try to change their policy.

22

MPAVictoria 11.06.12 at 3:55 pm

Tim do you ever wonder that a party that refuses to accept the science behind global warming may have other serious issues?

23

Tim Worstall 11.06.12 at 3:57 pm

24

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 4:03 pm

“But if libertarians would only get sane on climate change, I’d put Johnson ahead of Obama. “

Who does, after all, need laws forbidding child labor or racial discrimination in accommodations when the Ineffable Workings of the Free Market have been shown to vaporize such flaws in the long history of LibertopiaVille ?

25

Shelley 11.06.12 at 4:34 pm

In America, the elephant in the room is always corporate power.

26

Eric Titus 11.06.12 at 5:47 pm

While there’s obviously problems with Obama from an environmental standpoints, it’s pretty safe to say that he’s contributed to the ‘greening’ of America, whether it’s green energy or taking the environment into account in government decisions. But obviously, if you were a liberal single-issue voter on the environment (or most other issues, really) you’d vote for Obama. The only reasons you wouldn’t would be holistic (you don’t necessarily approve of Romney but think he’d get us out of this recession quicker), excessive strategizing (you know obama wasn’t the ideal president, but maybe political pressure would force romney to be), or ideologically principled (you know Romney would probably be worse on the environment/taxes/banks/civil rights, but still can’t vote for Obama because of what he’s done).

27

Jon H 11.06.12 at 5:47 pm

“Ha – a moderate republican from a northeastern state who worked with ted kennedy on healthcare reform, was pro-choice and pro-gay “

Pro-gay? Romney inserted the Governor’s office into the process of getting birth certificates when the parents were a gay couple. Parents had to wait for some Romney puppet to give their approval.

That’s not pro-gay.

28

Omega Centauri 11.06.12 at 6:04 pm

Well yes, at least with Obama only a few keys to the country will be given to the oligarchs.

The argument about whether the whole fracking natural gas things has cut carbon emissions revolves around a few potential setbacks. The most obvious is that we haven’t cut coal mining by as much as we’ve reduced burning it, we are exporting the difference. Secondarily, cheap natural gas, makes renewables less competitive. So while we are retiring coal power ahead of schedule, we are letting the transition slip in other ways. Plus natral gas drilling has morphed into “wet” natural gas drilling, where liquid fuels are the real payoff. Our increases in domestic oil production are caused by the same forces that have improved the natural gas production.

Kind of reminds me of Australia, they imposed a carbon tax, but are expanding coal exports willy nilly. I guess emissions don’t count if the actual burning takes place in someone elses territory?

29

Voltaire 11.06.12 at 7:03 pm

How can anyone vote for a man who kills innocent children by drones? True, even Romney will do that, but then the liberal media will oppose and perhaps this killing would stop!

30

John Quiggin 11.06.12 at 7:11 pm

I don’t follow all your writings, Tim, but I’d count this as a contribution to the insanity

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18203/better-change-rhetoric/tim-worstall

especially given the publication venue.

31

Bogdanov 11.06.12 at 7:46 pm

When was the last time climate change was seriously covered by the media? It stopped right when Obama became President because, like everything else, sadly, it is almost entirely a political issue now.

The right is not going to challenge Obama on climate change, and the pseudo-left in the United States clearly isn’t either. Unfortunately, from a realpolitik standpoint, the better outcome is probably a Romney victory after which the pseudo-left would take up its opposition to climate change, American imperialism, etc. once again (at least until another Democrat takes office).

32

Matt 11.06.12 at 7:53 pm

American coal exports have not increased enough to replace falling domestic demand. If Obama stays in office I have some hope that environmental challenges to new coal-export terminals will succeed and American coal production will not rebound.

The EPA’s cap on CO2 emissions per megawatt-hour seems like a fairly arbitrary and inefficient way to clean up electrical production. A new plant that’s 10% over the threshold simply can’t be built and a plant that’s 10% under is treated no differently from a plant that’s 80% under. But I prefer this weird scheme to no mitigation effort at all.

The coal industry has been talking for years about how carbon capture and storage can deliver “clean coal” energy. Now’s the time to step up and prove it. Unless, heaven forbid, the talk about clean coal was just a delaying tactic with no intent to follow through with action.

The shift to natural gas seems like a pretty good thing to me from an emissions perspective. Maybe not so much from a groundwater perspective in fracking areas. But natural gas plants can change output faster than coal, so they match intermittent renewables better, plus they emit only about half the CO2 when directly substituting for coal. The downside is low electricity prices potentially undermining renewable generation, but there’s a lot of state-level laws mandating renewable energy targets that won’t be diminished at all by cheap fossil electricity.

33

Chris Williams 11.06.12 at 8:15 pm

Ouch. Tim, that’s gotta hurt. Response?

A few years ago, a whole bunch of people who weren’t members of the UK’s Green Party started attacking it on the basis that it was full of woo. The GP’s response was to set up a committee of scientists to de-woo itself, which it did significantly. That’s because it’s full of grown-ups. UKIP, clearly not so much.

34

Martin Bento 11.06.12 at 8:19 pm

I’m in a safe blue state, and I’m voting for Johnson. Sure, I like Stein a lot better, but the Greens can only progress at the expense of the Democratics, whereas the Libertarians will mostly cost the Republicans, and where they can draw from Democrats, it will be because of their positions on civil liberties, militarism, and the war on drugs, and the Dems need to feel some pressure in those areas.

Here’s the good news: we may see the death of the Republican Party in our lifetimes.

Major parties in the US do die. The Federalists did. The Whigs did (I am defining “major party” as one capable of producing Presidents). And the unthinkable happens. The Soviet Union was an inescapable fact of life, until, very quickly, it was not.

The Democrat/Republican structure has been stable for a long time. The leftmost party used also to be the party of racism, which enabled and required unusual cross-party alliances. Ironically, the ideological contradictions made the structure more stable. This ended in the 60s, and the consequences have been playing out since. I think we are now at an endpoint.

The Southern Strategy is dead. If Kevin Phillips were given the power of Dr. Frankenstein and tried to create the perfect candidate to use this strategy on, he would have sewn together Barack Hussein Obama, a black man with a name that sounds both African and Arab, partly raised in a Muslim country, with radical associates in his past. But Obama whooped them once, and looks likely to win again (unless voter suppression and electronic voting games will be more effective than people realize). If this strategy fails against Barack Hussein Obama, it will be an utter joke against candidates with names like Clinton and Biden. It’s dead, Jim.

But the GOP is married to the corpse. They must stroke its bony hands in bed and whisper sweet nothings into its putrid remains of an ear. Their only way out is to find a latin lover (blacks are unavailable), but the slightest movement in that direction, the faintest flicking off of the sheets, as Perry learned, brings the wrath of their base. And risking their share of the white vote on a deeply uncertain effort to get a sizable share of the latino one would be suicide.

So they’re painted into a corner, and both racial demographic trends and the differences in attitude between the generation currently coming of age and that currently dying off indicate that corner will get smaller and smaller.

All of which, I realize, is analysis frequently done before, though perhaps less imagistically expressed.

The question is what next?

The usual view is to assume the Republicans will either adapt by expanding their appeal or soldier on as a regional and minority party. But it is not easy to see how they will do either. If they cannot appeal to non-white voters, then they have to expand their appeal to white ones, and/or find non-white ones who will vote based on other facts about themselves than race. There have been attempts. They have been banking on generational warfare, but the clock is running out on that strategy (they may get one last shot in 2016. After that, Gen X itself hits the 55 year-old line that they have drawn, and they lose the opportunity to play to their resentment of boomers). I think the expanded attacks on abortion and such are partly a hope to find Latinos who will vote as good Catholics, rather than as Latinos. I think this likely to fail. Most of the whites who do not support them now are unlikely to be convinced. So how do they rebound?

Minority party then? But this is a party dominated by warriors who want nothing of compromise and whose stridency masks deep ideological divisions. Do you think Paul Ryan enjoyed having to Peterlike deny the love of his life, Ayn Rand, to kiss up to a bunch of old church ladies? Do you think Romney can stand trying to act like a 47%-er regular guy – with their bad cookies and tacky rain ponchoes? What holds this party together is the desire not to pay taxes, but that is not ideology, it is spoils, whatever hogwash apology is dredged up. And a minority party cannot deliver spoils.

Regional? Well, they are back on the states’ rights kick. But there is not that much the states can deliver. They don’t control that much of the money. They can make abortion difficult, but not illegal. They cannot wage war. They cannot control the Supreme Court. Most of the income tax is out of their hands.

There is then the possibility that being shut out of power without a visible path back in could be the death of the party. The main thing preventing this would be that none of the major elements of their coalition has anywhere else to go.

The Libertarians do have a party to go to. They have stayed away from it because they wanted to actually hold power, but if that is not looking likely, it would be better to make your case in pure form, rather than pretending that fundamentalists and tribalists are your allies.

This year Ron Paul showed that the Libertarian element in the Republican coalition, while a minority, is not numerically insignificant. And it is the youth and therefore future of the party. But the party screwed them: changing the rules so as not to seat Paul’s delegates and not even giving him a speaking slot at the Convention.

There was a poll yesterday of Ohio that included the minor party candidates. Johnson got 5% (On the other hand, a Green candidate in Ohio has just sued over suspect voting machines. Probably should not have waited till the last minute). That’s at partisan ground zero. Matched nationally, that’s sufficient to qualify for matching funds and therefore news.

35

Soullite 11.06.12 at 8:24 pm

LoL. This isn’t a ‘climatic’ case. This is snake oil. In no way are increased fuel sufficiency standards and slightly lower emissions going to make the slightest bit of difference. The only way to pretend otherwise is to forget everything we know about how carbon and other ‘greenhouse’ gas sinks work, how feedback cycles work, how the actual mechanisms of climate change work.

Climate change isn’t an issue where the ‘lesser of evils’ makes any kind of difference. We are every bit as screwed with a little bit of evil as we are with a whole lot of evil. Sure, it’s ‘achievable’, but only in the sense that the reductions themselves can be done. Those reductions won’t make any real difference. We’re either too close to the tipping point or already past it.

I find it difficult to believe that the people here don’t already know that.

36

John Quiggin 11.06.12 at 8:26 pm

Coal mines are closing in both the US and Australia
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/81368.html
http://www.smh.com.au/business/more-jobs-go-as-coalmines-shut-down-20120910-25oeq.html

As regards where a carbon tax should be levied, there’s a strong theoretical case for doing so at the point of final consumption, but that’s not practical. From Australia’s point of view, a global tax at the point of extraction would be best, but the international agreement has been to focus on where the emissions are generated.

As an aside, the Australian government did try to tax coal and iron ore more heavily, but they were beaten by the mining companies.

37

MPAVictoria 11.06.12 at 8:40 pm

” I don’t follow all your writings, Tim, but I’d count this as a contribution to the insanity
http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18203/better-change-rhetoric/tim-worstall
especially given the publication venue.”

Tim you have written for the National Review??!!?? What the hell are you doing positing here? Did you get lost on the way to Red State?
/ I feel dirty.
/ So very, very dirty.

38

Hidari 11.06.12 at 8:43 pm

“I feel dirty.
So very, very dirty.”

And not in a good way, I presume.

39

MPAVictoria 11.06.12 at 8:46 pm

“And not in a good way, I presume.”

No Hidari.. Not in a good way at all.

40

scott 11.06.12 at 8:55 pm

Good post, but hasn’t this site been totally discredited by its lack of devotion to the overwhelming importance of an invincible navy? Next to that, the extinction of the planet from climatic change seems meaningless, really.

41

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 9:00 pm

How can anyone vote for a man who kills innocent children by drones? True, even Romney will do that, but then the liberal media will oppose and perhaps this killing would stop!

Indeed. Only guilty children perished when the liberal media opposed Bush’s shock-and-awe. And that was from nice friendly Nader-Approved fighter bomber jets and white phosphorous artillery shells, so it hardly counts as “killed”. And no drones – it was absolutely morally pure. Like white people, in the snow or something.

42

John Quiggin 11.06.12 at 9:34 pm

@scott And, with sea level rise, naval invincibility will become that much more important. Even my last-minute profession of lesser-evilism seems unlikely to restore my reputation, but there you go.

43

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 9:52 pm

The British Navy, according to sources, practiced lesser weevilism.

44

John Quiggin 11.06.12 at 10:21 pm

I think O’Brian may be an unreliable narrator on this point.

45

novakant 11.06.12 at 10:24 pm

Obama is a war criminal, I wouldn’t vote for a war criminal.

46

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 10:45 pm

47

novakant 11.06.12 at 11:25 pm

“lesser of two evilism” has gotten us two parties virtually indistunguishable on “national security” and more than 50/75 % of democrats supporting Guantanamo and drone strikes

48

rootless (@root_e) 11.06.12 at 11:34 pm

“lesser of two evilism” has gotten us two parties virtually indistunguishable on “national security” and more than 50/75 % of democrats supporting Guantanamo and drone strikes

Actually, no. First, 100,000+ dead Iraqis disagree on “virtually indistinguishable”. Buy some moral glasses. Second, the parlous state of US politics is due to the success that narcissistic handwringers have had in helping the GOP win with their self-serving pious moralizing.

49

Leeds man 11.06.12 at 11:40 pm

Soullite @35 We’re either too close to the tipping point or already past it.

Probably. The Homo Sap idea of foresight is making sure there’s enough gas in the tank, and debate lags reality by decades. But debate (OK, mostly shouting) makes us feel good.

50

Antti Nannimus 11.06.12 at 11:42 pm

Hi,

Because of the system we have in the U.S. and the power of money in it, we are always reduced to a choice of lesser evils. Democrats are venal, corrupt, mostly ineffectual, and often completely wrong, but Republicans, and their fellow right-wing travelers, are even worse, metaphysically and murderously evil, and an active threat and danger to all of humanity. Even if Democrats don’t provide a reasonable alternative, I have not yet reached the point of nihilistic cynicism that would prevent me from doing everything I can to oppose these right-wing ideologues, their tactics, their beliefs, and their candidates. I wish I also had a way to do that against the many idiotic Democrats too, but in a two-party monopoly system funded by the wealthiest and most powerful, that is impossible. There were ten different choices on the presidential election ballot this year. Two of them were socialist, plus the Green party, all three which are substantially to the political left of the Democrats. I really wish we had a system were I could have voted for any or all of them without further empowering the right wing conservatives. But there isn’t, so I voted for Obama again, in spite of my disappointment in his first term performance. Perhaps he’ll do better in his second term.

Have a great day!
Antti

51

chris9059 11.06.12 at 11:53 pm

@Martin Bento “the Greens can only progress at the expense of the Democrats, whereas the Libertarians will mostly cost the Republicans, and where they can draw from Democrats, it will be because of their positions on civil liberties, militarism, and the war on drugs, and the Dems need to feel some pressure in those areas.”

You’re correct that to the extent that the Libertarians can poach Democratic voters this might put some needed pressure on the Democratic Party re civil liberties etc. But wouldn’t votes lost to the Greens put pressure on the Democratic party establishment on other issues which are just as important, specifically economic justice?

52

Leeds man 11.07.12 at 12:03 am

Antti @50: Perhaps he’ll do better in his second term.

If there were a way to put the screws to the bastard, he might. I’d love to hear ideas on that from the Americans here. How do you shout louder than Wall Street or Big Pharma?

53

Martin Bento 11.07.12 at 12:32 am

The difference is

1) the Greens will take votes pretty much only from Democrats, though they may also attract non-voters. There are situations where I think it good to support them, but if they did start to make the leap to electoral significance, it would net empower the Repubs unless there was a lot of tacit cooperation with the Dems

2) 12 years later, many Dems are still frothing at the mouth over Nader, making said cooperation impossible. They should take a page from the Conservative Movement. They didn’t waste a decade lambasting Perot voters over Clinton; they recognized that their duty regarding an insurgency (mostly) on their side was to co-opt it: hence, Gingrich and the Contract With America. Two years after Perot spent a debate shredding Bush, the Conservatives were stronger than they had been since Reagan. See also Reagan costing Ford the election in 76, or the Tea Party costing the Repubs the Senate in 2010.

3) The Libertarians will take voters mostly from the Repubs because that is how most of them vote now. To the extent that they take voters from the Dems, it will be obvious what the issues are, which could pressure the Dems on those issues. And on those issues, the Libertarians are good. The Libertarians are better than the Democrats in some ways, but horrible on many other issues. But on most of the issues where they are horrible, they are just like the Republicans, so those positions – Ayn Ryand positions to coin a term – are already in the conversation and in play. It is true that the actual Libertarian economic platform is different than the Repub one, but that is largely because the Libertarians are not big enough to be constrained by reality.

-

54

David 11.07.12 at 2:56 am

Yay for MPA Victoria.

55

Donald Johnson 11.07.12 at 4:22 am

“First, 100,000+ dead Iraqis disagree on “virtually indistinguishable”. Buy some moral glasses. Second, the parlous state of US politics is due to the success that narcissistic handwringers have had in helping the GOP win with their self-serving pious moralizing.”

Well, that and the fact that many Democrats only care about human rights when Republicans violate them. I’m a lesser of two evils voter myself, btw, but see no reason to be happy about the situation.

And there were probably hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying under the sanctions. During both Bush I and Clinton.

56

Watson Ladd 11.07.12 at 4:35 am

Of course, we now have millions of Iraqis living in a democracy, as well as many democratic regions in a government that all to long ago was being written off as inherently uncivilised by the Democrats.

57

Peter T 11.07.12 at 5:32 am

I’m worried about the effects of climate change, but I think I would rather endure them than migrate to Watson’s planet.

58

Salient 11.07.12 at 7:10 am

Victory speech leaves me slightly more optimistic about this — “threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet” is certainly stronger language than I’d anticipated. We might get a fair bit more than locked-in existing regulations. Maybe.

59

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 7:29 am

“Well, that and the fact that many Democrats only care about human rights when Republicans violate them. “

That’s simply false. Many of us dislike, for example, the ICE and the “war on terror”. Our failure to join the Greenwald Brigade is not evidence we don’t care. We just operate in the world as it is.

60

bad Jim 11.07.12 at 8:41 am

“we now have millions of Iraqis living in a democracy”: presumably the ones who fled the country, along with the most recent recruits to the republic of the dead.

I’m encouraged by Obama’s re-election especially because he’s a black guy with an Arabic name. It says something about my blinkered, bigoted country that we were able to do this. We have made at least this much progress. The pious pundits wring their hands and worry that our party didn’t carry a majority of Real Americans, which is to say rural white men, but it’s actually a relief to know for sure that we no longer require a cartoon cowboy as chief executive.

61

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 8:48 am

JQ @ 30.

“Now, no, this does not prove that the whole thing is hype, nor that it’s mistaken. It’s long been known that there was cooling from the 40s to the 70s as a result of the sulphates pumped into the atmosphere and that as we cleaned up industrial emissions this effect declined, the underlying warming coming through.”

Hardly “contributing to the insanity” really.

“Which leads to the conclusion that, really, we ought to go and find out, don’t you think? Before we commit ourselves to trillions of dollars of expenditure and wealth foregone on the basis of what we now know to be, to put it kindly, dodgy figures? Why, we might ask those who have been correcting the temperature figures (and yes, they do need correcting, for things like urban heat effects, replacement or moving of measurement stations etc.) exactly how they have been correcting those temperatures: can we see your data and assumptions please? Perhaps your code?”

Similarly, asking to see the workings is hardly an attack on science is it?

After all, there have been gross errors in the reported science on the subject (Himalayan glaciers come to mind).

And even at National Review I argue in favour of a carbon tax:

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18903/three-brits-and-tax/tim-worstall

Argue against Iain Murray’s views on a carbon tax (and have had this disagreement with him in person at an ASI meeting as well):

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18910/externalites-are-external-arent-they/tim-worstall

Actually, even at Planet Gore on National Review say the following:

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18919/there-economist-house/tim-worstall

“For the sake of argument, let us say that everything the IPCC tells us is in fact correct. Climate change is happening and we’re causing it (roughly my own view).”

And again I support a carbon tax:

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18334/tax-i-support/tim-worstall

I am indeed, as a general position, somewhere well over the polite limits of political debate into anarcho-neoliberalism. But I have indeed been pretty consistent in arguing that climate change is a problem, one that we’re in large part causing and one that we should do something about.

Some of my views have changed, certainly. When Stern first came out I was very dismissive of the discount rate he used. I’m still not hugely happy about it (for all that anyone cares what I think) but that dismissal has been rather changed by reading various people (JQ among them) on the point. Certainly I’m persuaded that a less than market interest rate is appropriate. Even if very unpersuaded by the most recent idea that it should actually be a negative discount rate. Similarly I was dismissive of Weizman’s argument about uncertainty: but now accept it as being obviously true.

As to writing at National Review. Well, where do you want me to write? In The Guardian? Where if I say “climate change is bad M’Kay” I’m just preaching to the choir? Or at NR where I am the only person saying “Yup, we’ve gotta do something about this real problem”?

And I do indeed get attacked precisely because I support a carbon tax:

http://www.thecommentator.com/article/1499/worstall_carbon_tax_and_floating_polar_bear_syndrome

Not that Peter Glover is someone to particularly worry about being attacked by.

62

Bucky F 11.07.12 at 8:50 am

Soullite is absolutely right that decreasing emissions is snake oil. We know that the problem is the CO2 that is already in the atmosphere. And decreasing the rate at which more CO2 is added is totally different from reducing the amount that’s there. Reducing emissions means making the problem worse at a slower rate. It’s as if, on a sinking ship, a proposal were made to take on more water — at a slower rate…

In the long term, humanity will surely opt to reverse the damage to Earth through what science fiction calls “terra-forming.” But this will have nothing to do with Obama or the USA Democrats.

63

Katherine 11.07.12 at 9:33 am

Tim, mate, sometimes you’ve got to look around at the company you’re keeping and decide if you like what you see. It’s admirable no doubt that you plug away trying to persuade the apparently unpersuadable denizens of libertarianism on the environmental facts, but at some point you’re going to admit that the two things seem to be fundamentally incompatible.

64

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 10:37 am

“It’s admirable no doubt that you plug away trying to persuade the apparently unpersuadable denizens of libertarianism on the environmental facts,”

And what else am I supposed to do?

We have it on good authority (Stern, Nordhaus) that a carbon tax is a good solution to the problem of climate change. Given that climate change is a problem that we need to do something about then touting what we’re told is a good solution seems reasonable enough.

65

Hidari 11.07.12 at 11:40 am

“I’m encouraged by Obama’s re-election especially because he’s a black guy with an Arabic name.”

Would you have been as excited if Condoleeza Rice had stood for the Presidency and won?

66

rf 11.07.12 at 12:35 pm

Tim Worstall might be so very crazy on so many, many things. But he did write this

http://timworstall.com/2012/10/28/oh-do-fuck-off-ms-may/

So huzzah for Timmy, and you have my vote if you ever run in my district (this probably isn’t UKIP policy though, I assume?)

67

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 2:09 pm

“this probably isn’t UKIP policy though, I assume?”

Despising Theresa May is, yes.

68

Guido Nius 11.07.12 at 2:52 pm

There luckily were enough cases for Obama. The climatic case is one. Another one has to do with minority rights. And I confess that the word “climatic” made me associate toward the rights of women as well. I read somewhere that if Obama vs Romney would have been in Europe, the smallest percentage Obama would have got in any European nation would have been 85%. The decisive factor in that certainly would have been the lunacy of going back in time on ethical points. Probably with Obama the going forward will still be slow, but it will be much better than status quo.

69

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 3:29 pm

“As to writing at National Review. Well, where do you want me to write? In The Guardian? Where if I say “climate change is bad M’Kay” I’m just preaching to the choir? Or at NR where I am the only person saying “Yup, we’ve gotta do something about this real problem”?”

Oh please. The National Review is nothing but racism/bigotry/sexism/fascism wrapped in a semi intellectual package. They opposed the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Rights Amendment, the repeal of anti-sodomy laws and gay marriage. You should be ashamed of yourself. Absolutely ashamed.

70

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 3:48 pm

“You should be ashamed of yourself. Absolutely ashamed.”

Seriously?

I’m responsible for what I write and say. Not for what other people write and or say in the same publication. I’ve written for The Guardian and I’m not in the slightest responsible for Seumas “Stalin was a misunderstood dreamer for egalitarianism who just happened to run the Gulags” Milne, nor for that newspaper’s tax dodging, Cayman Islands subsidiary nor their contribution to climate change through AutoTrader. Ditto the DT and tax dodging on Sark, The Times and the eeevil that is Murdoch, Express and the porn of Richard Desmond.

I’m a jobbing freelancer trying to make the mortgage each month. Give me a break would you?

71

john b 11.07.12 at 4:17 pm

I do find this aspect of abusing paid writers deeply weird. MPA, do you walk into BP stations and abuse the cashier for being a scumbag?

72

Neil 11.07.12 at 4:22 pm

John b: “A roofer listens to this, not his wallet.”

73

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 4:26 pm

“I do find this aspect of abusing paid writers deeply weird. MPA, do you walk into BP stations and abuse the cashier for being a scumbag?”
and
“I’m a jobbing freelancer trying to make the mortgage each month. Give me a break would you?”

Seriously? So being paid for doing something magically makes it okay? So if I was published in KKK monthly or Aryan Nation Gazette that wouldn’t effect your opinion of me at all? Really? Is that the argument you are making?

74

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 4:28 pm

“John b: “A roofer listens to this, not his wallet.””
You know Kevin Smith gets a bad rap.

75

Harold 11.07.12 at 4:38 pm

It’s a living.

76

john b 11.07.12 at 4:43 pm

I disagree with Tim and have done for a decade. But I’ve never seen Tim adopt an opinion for money that he doesn’t actually hold. Some of them are so fucking weird that there isn’t a payscale in place.

If someone offered me an article in the National Review, whether or not there was money attached, I’d take it. Only difference from being offered a piece in Graun and NYT is I would insist on copy approval.

Your views in front of loons: better than James Taranto’s views in front of loons, AFAICS.

77

Donald Johnson 11.07.12 at 5:13 pm

“That’s simply false. Many of us dislike, for example, the ICE and the “war on terror”. Our failure to join the Greenwald Brigade is not evidence we don’t care. We just operate in the world as it is. “

The fact that you and “many” like you oppose the war on terror doesn’t make my statement false–many Democrats support whatever Obama does.

And Glenn writes a column that is mostly about US human rights violations–he doesn’t order his “brigade”, whoever they might be, to vote a certain way. .

78

Harold 11.07.12 at 5:23 pm

Drone attacks must be stopped. Citizens United overturned. Single payer instituted as promised. Full employment and affordable housing and education (free for doctors and teachers) maternal leave and end to exploitation of temporary workers, must be new goals.

79

Leeds man 11.07.12 at 5:39 pm

@73: So if I was published in KKK monthly or Aryan Nation Gazette that wouldn’t effect your opinion of me at all?

If you published articles there about the horribleness of racism, that would be cool!

80

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 5:46 pm

“If you published articles there about the horribleness of racism, that would be cool!”

Of course that is not what Tim was doing:

“Before we commit ourselves to trillions of dollars of expenditure and wealth foregone on the basis of what we now know to be, to put it kindly, dodgy figures? “

It is also worth mentioning that his article was published on a section of the site entitled Planet Gore….

81

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 5:49 pm

“So if I was published in KKK monthly or Aryan Nation Gazette “

I’d be delighted to cash a cheque from either of them. Just as I would from the Morning Star and would have done from Izvestia or Pravda back in the old days (although the closest I got to that was Kommersant, post Gorby).

But as above, the important thing would be what I said, not where I said it.

“If you published articles there about the horribleness of racism, that would be cool!”

Quite.

82

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 5:54 pm

“I’d be delighted to cash a cheque from either of them. Just as I would from the Morning Star and would have done from Izvestia or Pravda back in the old days “

At least you are honest about your mercenary nature. So I guess you have that going for you.

83

PaulB 11.07.12 at 7:36 pm

I think one should draw the line somewhere; I wouldn’t write for KKK Monthly. I don’t know a lot about National Review, but I think I’d write for them and give the money to a charity they hate. If I had copy approval, as john b says. But they’ve not asked me.

In any case, Tim W should be welcome here.

84

Salient 11.07.12 at 8:15 pm

Isn’t arguing for climate change at the National Review basically an application of the lesser-evil principle? If someone’s supposed to be willing to vote for someone they believe to be a war criminal and mass murderer, I would think people should be willing to write for the National Review or even the KKK Monthly, so long as they’re arguing for something considerably less bad than the consensus opinion there.

(Yes, I get that there’s a big difference between article-writing and voting, practically speaking. I just don’t think that difference is terribly important, morally speaking. Either you take advantage of the options as they are, choosing the best option out of the ones that avail themselves, or you stand on moral principle and reject those options.)

85

Tim Worstall 11.07.12 at 8:16 pm

“At least you are honest about your mercenary nature.”

It’s also known as “making a living”.

I do have this feeling that under the present system of capitalist oppression and the grinding of the faces of labour into the dust that there might, just possibly, be a smidgeon of support around here for the idea that people do work for wages? For the income, no doubt cruelly reduced by the brandy and cigar bills of the oppressors, that it is possible to gain from said worker’s efforts?

Or do we somehow all become prissy when it’s the day labourer by brain rather than the labourer by hand? The second hiring herself out to a willing employer being the oppressed, the first being a”mercenary”?

Myself I consider both as being those selling what they have, labour, for more than the alternative leisure is worth to them. BYVMV.

To go back to the beginning. Shouting at me because of my views or arguments is fine. It’s a good thing in fact, I certainly learned something from the spanking I got right here over the Lancet paper. Shouting at me because of where I spout I consider less reasonable. For, well, you know, I don’t actually have that BatPhone that gives me the NYT front page.

86

Bruce Wilder 11.07.12 at 8:43 pm

“. . . arguing for climate change at the National Review basically . . . “

I fear that, once you step through the Looking Glass, into Topsy Turvy land, the tendency would be to find one’s argument turning into a blueprint, in the same way, say, that Democratic complaints about inadequate voting systems get turned into a plan to suppress Democratic voting or otherwise hijack the electoral system. Consider the conservative economist, Michael Kahn and his book, Climatopolis, which, basically, argues that emissions restraint, though theoretically desirable, is unlikely, so rich people should aggressively use their resources to “adjust”, and screw lots of poor people in the process, because, as Jesus says, the poor are always with us, or something.

87

MPAVictoria 11.07.12 at 8:53 pm

Yes Tim, you are just a poor honest laborer earning your bread with the sweat of your brow.
/Nick Naylor: [out loud] “I just need to pay the mortgage.”
//Nick Naylor: [to self] The Yuppie Nuremberg defense.

88

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 9:19 pm

The fact that you and “many” like you oppose the war on terror doesn’t make my statement false–many Democrats support whatever Obama does.

I have never seen any backup for that argument beyond self-congratulation. People like Greenwald insist that they are brave truth tellers, holding fast to principles that immoral Obots can only dimly even perceive, but that’s just marketing, not an argument.

And Glenn writes a column that is mostly about US human rights violations–he doesn’t order his “brigade”, whoever they might be, to vote a certain way. .

Glenn and his fan club have a peculiar ideology that appears to mix libertarianism with a veneer of “left” concern and fake constitutional analysis.

89

JW Mason 11.07.12 at 9:33 pm

Oh, are we having this argument again?

Then I will ask what I’ve been wondering about since the last go-round: Why do all the lesser-evilists seem to be registered Democrats? Shouldn’t you in general, participate in whichever party seems to have a wider gap between the better and worse ends of viability, on the issues that seem important to you? And in many (most?) cases, won’t that be the Rs?

90

JW Mason 11.07.12 at 9:33 pm

(And yes, I voted for Obama.)

91

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 9:35 pm

92

tomslee 11.07.12 at 9:42 pm

I’m not a fan of Tim Worstall’s writings in general, but he deserves defence here.

Lesser-evilism or not, it’s obnoxious for people (MPAVictoria I’m looking at you) to engage in self-righteous pronouncements about the morality of personal choices from behind a wall of pseudonymity/anonymity. Like many people I have made (continue to make) many compromises of my own in order to earn a living. I’m happy to talk them over in private with someone who will also share their own doubts and mistakes, but stone throwing from on high does not deserve a response. Maybe MPAVictoria is as ideologically pure as his/her stance suggests, but somehow I doubt it.

93

chrismealy 11.07.12 at 9:45 pm

Bruce, it’s Matthew Kahn, and he is terrible. I thought maybe Mark Kleiman knew him personally and figured his commenters could beat some sense into him, but I gave up on that.

94

rf 11.07.12 at 9:55 pm

‘People like Greenwald insist that they are brave truth tellers….’

Jesus, you won the election comfortably. Time to put away the strawmen

95

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 10:04 pm

rf: I’m just not willing to accept the theory that dissidents from the Greenwald line are unprincipled party loyalists. It’s an offensive, counter-productive, and blatantly untrue line of argument.

96

christian_h 11.07.12 at 10:07 pm

JW, not if the issue that is important to you is how early in the alphabet the letter indicating party identification occurs.

97

Donald Johnson 11.07.12 at 10:08 pm

“I have never seen any backup for that argument beyond self-congratulation. People like Greenwald insist that they are brave truth tellers, holding fast to principles that immoral Obots can only dimly even perceive, but that’s just marketing, not an argument.”

Really? So Obama is all by himself on this drone issue then. That’s good to know. (Also untrue.) As for brave truth tellers, what’s that got to do with anything? If you think the drone policy is wrong, then you should say so. If not, then don’t.

“Glenn and his fan club have a peculiar ideology that appears to mix libertarianism with a veneer of “left” concern and fake constitutional analysis.”

Who cares about his “fan club”? What difference does it make if there are people who fit your description? He’s either right about various issues or he isn’t. (I agree with Glenn most of the time and voted for and gave money to Obama, so I suppose the fan club wouldn’t allow me through the door.)

98

christian_h 11.07.12 at 10:15 pm

And now the lesser evilists try to sell themselves as dissidents. It’s the gulag run by Greenwald on his blog that mass their lives as the not adults in the room so very very hard, I suppose. You could not make it up. I agree btw there is often nothing unprincipled about the very widespread support racist state terrorism for example receives from the Democratic party and its supporters in think tanks, academia, the media, and on blogs. It is rather that the majority of the party and many supporters have entirely disgusting principles built around a firm belief in American exceptionalism, ethno-centrism, and all the other ideological trappings of Western civilization we know and love.

99

christian_h 11.07.12 at 10:18 pm

Stupid autocomplete plus typos – it should be “only adults”, not “not adults”. And “makes” not “mass”.

100

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 10:18 pm

Really? So Obama is all by himself on this drone issue then.

Your claim was “Well, that and the fact that many Democrats only care about human rights when Republicans violate them.”

It is possible that many Democrats agree with the use of Drones in Pakistan/Yemen and yet do care about human rights. And it is also possible for people to oppose the drone war without considering it a disqualifying issue – in fact that appears to be your position, but you want to be self-righteous about it for some reason. The issue of human rights is neither limited to drone warfare nor authoritatively prioritized by Glenn Greenwald. The theory that anyone who fails to accept Greenwalds (or Jeremy Scahill’s) position on drone war is, by necessity, someone who does not genuinely care about human rights is just puffery.

101

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 10:28 pm

I love the concept of “lesser evilist” – as if, for example, being a privileged white expat in Brazil, taking money from Cato, and propagandizing for child labor apologist Gary Johnson required a moral purity only obtainable as combination of Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Gandhi.

102

christian_h 11.07.12 at 11:12 pm

I have no idea what you are talking about. None of this has anything to do with moral purity. The problem with your politics isn’t moral. It is political. Ironically it is you who tends to make this all into a question of personal moral failings (eg living in Brazil – whatever is wrong with that – or taking money from the wrong people, or failing to appreciate the moral imperative of embracing the lesser evil).

103

rootless (@root_e) 11.07.12 at 11:26 pm

The claim was that: “many Democrats only care about human rights when Republicans violate them.” In other words, the moral principles of human rights are not actually embraced by “many Democrats”.

104

Chris Bertram 11.07.12 at 11:30 pm

Bruce Wilder: “Consider the conservative economist, Michael Kahn and his book, Climatopolis, which, basically, argues that emissions restraint, though theoretically desirable, is unlikely, so rich people should aggressively use their resources to “adjust”, and screw lots of poor people in the process, because, as Jesus says, the poor are always with us, or something.”

Really? DeLong says that it is a very good book ….

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2010/12/department-of-huh.html

105

John Quiggin 11.08.12 at 3:31 am

Tim, since I mentioned the venue, I’ll clarify my concern, which is that NR doesn’t do dissenting voices. So, while I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to write for such an outlet (I write for The National Interest, which is historically on the right, for example) I doubt that you could write much for NR that would violate its canons of orthodoxy.

In particular, I don’t think the piece I linked would have upset the readers of Planet Gore. And Googling for your writing about the carbon tax at that site only produces a link to this snarky McKitrick proposal for a $5/tonne carbon tax imposed after the fact of rising temperatures

http://www.nationalreview.com/planet-gore/18334/tax-i-support/tim-worstall

By contrast, when writing today for a real world audience you correctly suggest we should be looking at $80/tonne.

I’m happy that you are now on the side of sanity, but the effect of your writing for Planet Gore was mostly on the other side – you wouldn’t have lasted more than a few columns there otherwise.

106

Donald Johnson 11.08.12 at 4:37 am

“It is possible that many Democrats agree with the use of Drones in Pakistan/Yemen and yet do care about human rights. “

Sure. Orwell wrote essay after essay about this fact of human nature–”Notes on Nationalism” is one of the better ones. Osama bin Laden claims to have been upset by Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the killing of civilians there, and by the sanctions on Iraq and there’s no particular reason to doubt him. And even if he was lying about that there are plenty of other people who care about human rights when they are violated by group A, but not when violated by a person or group they support.

Anyway, I gather you are more upset by people who criticize Democrats than by Democrats who support Obama’s drone policy.

“The claim was that: “many Democrats only care about human rights when Republicans violate them.” In other words, the moral principles of human rights are not actually embraced by “many Democrats”.

I amend the statement to this–”Many Democrats” show the same moral consistency as “many Republicans” or many “Islamic fundamentalists” on the subject of human rights. This didn’t start with Obama.

107

Donald Johnson 11.08.12 at 5:03 am

Okay, that last comment was meant in part to be a dig, but I also meant it. The drone policy involves Americans picking out targets to be killed who may or may not be guilty, with no accountability, and with a certain number of innocent victims by any account, not even counting all the fear and terror created in people who never know when death will strike them from out of the sky. So, yeah, I think someone who cares about human rights should find this abhorrent. Americans would never tolerate a similar policy aimed at us. But yet many Americans don’t see it this way, including Democrats who claim to have been horrified by Bush’s policies. It’s not particularly difficult to guess why this might be the case.

108

Bucky F 11.08.12 at 6:25 am

I’m a little disappointed about this worthless discussion of Tim Worstall’s moral purity (or lack thereof). It’s off-topic.

Please, people: Soullite has already pointed to the elephant in the room. Reducing carbon emissions is not solving the problem. A carbon emissions tax can only possibly slow the rate of the destruction, but humanity needs to reverse the destruction.

A tax on carbon emissions is not a ban of carbon emissions.

Even a 50% reduction in the rate of global CO2 output (which is far more than any emissions tax promises, and also more than is compatible with modern industrial society) will do no better than to double the time before the disaster. It will not prevent the disaster.

Reducing the rate of CO2 emissions will not stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Humanity needs an Apollo Mission-scale terraforming project to stabilize Earth’s climate. This will happen. The question is only whether prediction or observation of climatic disaster will impel action.

Emissions taxes are a form of denial, as dangerous as denial of climate change itself.

109

John Quiggin 11.08.12 at 6:38 am

Even a 50% reduction in the rate of global CO2 output (which is far more than any emissions tax promises, and also more than is compatible with modern industrial society)

This simply isn’t true. A 50 per cent reduction is easily feasible using carbon taxes, and entirely consistent with modern industrial society. Britain has already announced it as a target by 2025. The EU is debating 30 per cent by 2020 and it’s clear that it’s easily feasible at minimal economic cost.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/18/us-eu-climate-target-idUSTRE80H19220120118

Reductions of 80 0r 90 per cent, which are what is actually needed, will take a bit longer, but again are entirely feasible over a few decades. That (along with reductions in other greenhouse gases, reforestation and so on) would be sufficient to stabilise CO2 levels at around 450 ppm.

None of this means the necessary steps will be taken – the Tory government is already backsliding in Britain for example. But Obama’s re-election was one of those steps.

110

js. 11.08.12 at 6:39 am

dissidents from the Greenwald line

Do you understand what “dissident” means? (Assuming you want it’s normal political use.) Greenwald is a staff writer (I think?) for a liberal online magazine. Seriously, that’s what he is! You couldn’t be a “dissident from his line” no matter how hard you tried.

111

js. 11.08.12 at 6:41 am

I now see that christian_h covered this point already. And better than me.

112

John Quiggin 11.08.12 at 6:51 am

I should clarify that, in this context, the difference between carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes, which put a fixed limit on total emissions, is immaterial.

113

John Quiggin 11.08.12 at 6:58 am

While drones are an important issue, they aren’t the only one and (because they are to some extent a substitute for other forms of bombing) not the clearest departure from previous US norms – warrantless wiretapping, legal immunity for torturers, indefinite detention without trial, extraordinary rendition, and the war on whistleblowers provide much clearer cases.

It’s obvious that Bush greatly abridged both the civil liberties of US citizens and US respect for the human rights of foreigners. Obama has wound back a few of the worst Bush measures, but has entrenched and extended others. Doubtless Romney would have gone further, but on these issues, Obama can only tentatively be classed as the lesser evil. It’s more that, since evil on this issue appears to be a given in US politics, we have a choice between “a plague on both your houses” or choosing Obama on the basis of other considerations.

114

Tim Worstall 11.08.12 at 7:42 am

“I’m happy that you are now on the side of sanity, but the effect of your writing for Planet Gore was mostly on the other side – you wouldn’t have lasted more than a few columns there otherwise.”

Worth noting that I didn’t actually last very long there either……

115

Tim Worstall 11.08.12 at 11:27 am

Just because I had a free 10 minutes I had a look through the email archives. Re my writing at NRO:

“So, looking at this contribution and those before and after, should I infer that you’ve been hired as the token sane person?”

That was from, umm, one Quiggin, John.

I’d entirely forgotten that the person running NR Online at that time is now Mr. Megan McArdle.

116

Bucky F 11.08.12 at 11:46 am

Bucky: “Even a 50% reduction in the rate of global CO2 output (which is far more than any emissions tax promises, and also more than is compatible with modern industrial society)”

John Quiggin: “This simply isn’t true. A 50 per cent reduction is easily feasible using carbon taxes, and entirely consistent with modern industrial society. Britain has already announced it as a target by 2025. The EU is debating 30 per cent by 2020″

Professor Quiggin, please… do I really have to explain to you why your statement does not refute mine?

A 50% reduction in Britain, plus a 30% reduction in the EU, is nowhere near a 50% global reduction. It’s also nowhere near a 50% reduction in just those areas combined. It’s only 32% of those regions. (And it’s only 5% globally.)

100*(4177817*.3+522856*.5)/(4177817+522856) = 32.22460
c.f. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions

Quiggin: “Reductions of 80 0r 90 per cent, which are what is actually needed, will take a bit longer, but again are entirely feasible over a few decades. That (along with reductions in other greenhouse gases, reforestation and so on) would be sufficient to stabilise CO2 levels at around 450 ppm.”

What you are saying here is that even a 90% global reduction is insufficient to stabilize CO2 levels. (It would require an additional “and so on.”) That’s correct. I would like to highlight again that even the insufficient 90% global reduction is nowhere near what is being proposed.

As far as the question of whether a 90% global reduction(!) in CO2 emissions, in “a few decades,” is compatible with existing industrial society — I think you’re fooling yourself here. But I won’t argue the point except to say this: there’s a reason nobody is proposing such drastic reductions.

117

rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 1:14 pm

Sure. Orwell wrote essay after essay about this fact of human nature–”Notes on Nationalism” is one of the better ones. Osama bin Laden claims to have been upset by Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and the killing of civilians there, and by the sanctions on Iraq and there’s no particular reason to doubt him. And even if he was lying about that there are plenty of other people who care about human rights when they are violated by group A, but not when violated by a person or group they support.

One of the most charmless aspects of the Greenwald line is the assumption that its moral principles are so self-evidently correct that failure to subscribe must also be self-evidently due to moral blindness or worse. Because, for example, nobody could argue that reducing US assaults on the Middle East from shock-and-awe scale air and artillery bombardments that pulverized whole cities to rubble plus infantry attacks supported by helicopter gunships was an improvement and possibly the best possible in a short period of time given the geopolitical and internal political constraints of empire and oil. Nobody could argue anything like that. Instead failure to boo on cue from Mr Greenwald or to applaud Mr.Scahill’s ridiculous naive pieties about “international law must be motivated by blind nationalism or devotion to a political leader. Nobody could have doubts about the wisdom of letting Pakistan’s stash of nuclear weapons fall into the hands of people who would most likely use it to murder hundreds of millions of people in India, because the true moralists like Mr. Greenwald and his colleagues and their narrow, ahistorical, solecism featuring the US as the only actor of interest, is the self-evidently definitive moral narrative. Nobody could think about the ugly moral tradeoffs inherent to politics in which there are no possible outcomes in which all hands remain clean. Instead, it is self-evident that on one side are the pure and clean handed denouncers, and on the other side are the moral cripples who witlessly cheer on their Great Leaders. There is nothing to discuss. No need to actually try to think about history, economics, power etc. – just an easy moral formula that has no positive concrete consequences but makes its adherents feel satisfactorily superior.

Anyway, I gather you are more upset by people who criticize Democrats than by Democrats who support Obama’s drone policy.

I am upset by ignorant self-righteousness and self-congratulatory handwringing that is marketed as some sort of political analysis.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 1:31 pm

Do you understand what “dissident” means? (Assuming you want it’s normal political use.) Greenwald is a staff writer (I think?) for a liberal online magazine. Seriously, that’s what he is! You couldn’t be a “dissident from his line” no matter how hard you tried.

“disagreeing especially with an established religious or political system, organization, or belief “

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rf 11.08.12 at 1:55 pm

Rootless they’re offering a narrative of what is happening. One that is, by your own admittance, a minority interest. Whether they do it in a tone you find offensive is neither here nor there. Argue the case itself not whatever beef you have with Greenwald et al which is frankly boring and irrelevant

“Nobody could have doubts about the wisdom of letting Pakistan’s stash of nuclear weapons fall into the hands of people who would most likely use it to murder hundreds of millions of people in India”

How is the drone war preventing this? Isn’t it more likely destabilising Pakistan further?

What are stated aims? (Weaken Al Qaeda) Is it achieving these? (Probably) What is blowback? (Look at recent polling on Obama in Pakistan) Is human cost worth it? What is actual threat from Islamist terrorism? (negligible) Are methods used, both int and dom, counterproductive? (Imo, yes) Do they pick on one specific politically marginalised demographic? Is that reason for lack of concern? (Of course)

“Because, for example, nobody could argue that reducing US assaults on the Middle East from shock-and-awe scale air and artillery bombardments that pulverized whole cities to rubble plus infantry attacks supported by helicopter gunships was an improvement and possibly the best possible in a short period of time given the geopolitical and internal political constraints of empire and oil.”

This is a strawman

So is this

“featuring the US as the only actor of interest, is the self-evidently definitive moral narrative. Nobody could think about the ugly moral tradeoffs inherent to politics in which there are no possible outcomes in which all hands remain clean”

Argue the merits of the case, this is just an absurd caricature. Try and analyse threats in coherent coolheaded manner, rather than with this nonsensical hysteria

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Watson Ladd 11.08.12 at 3:13 pm

Donald Johnson: War is not about guilt. In war you can kill anyone who is a combatant, even if they never pick up a gun or touch a grenade. Pakistan can end this tomorrow by ensuring that no fighters reach Afghanistan from inside Pakistan. Otherwise, it isn’t neutral but enemy-occupied territory, and the US is more then justified in carrying out operations against members of the Taliban there from a laws of war perspective.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 3:15 pm

@rf
The argument I find offensive and non-productive is of this kind:

The fact that you and “many” like you oppose the war on terror doesn’t make my statement false–many Democrats support whatever Obama does.

This basically a claim that “people who disagree with me do so because they are morally bankrupt blind followers of Obama”. And, in fact, this is the argument that Greenwald and others make. It’s fundamentally not an argument about US foreign policy and imperial war, it is an argument that the Democratic Party is too morally compromised to merit support – that is the libertarian argument. I have never seen any coherent presentations from this crew either about what Obama could plausibly do to improve US policy in the ME given the constraints of US politics or what a principled left opposition should be advocating. In fact, Greenwald, who supported Bush in 2000 is not advocating a left wing point of view, he is advocating a Libertarian Party Line and a morally and politically incoherent diatribe glorifiying such racist fuckwits as Ron Paul, as if Paul had not supported the use of US mercenary privateers to ransack the middle east.

So, my objection to these argument is not that I find the US war in Pakistan to be so wonderful ( btw, this is a good summary
http://www.juancole.com/2 012/10/the-us-pakistan-the-mr-mrs-smith-of-foreign-policy-hiro.html ) but that I find the Libertarian Party Line to be morally objectionable.

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Tim Worstall 11.08.12 at 3:24 pm

“Pakistan can end this tomorrow by ensuring that no fighters reach Afghanistan from inside Pakistan.”

That would assume that the Pakistani State is in control of the border areas. Historically, it’s not really been true that anyone at all has been in control of these areas.

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rf 11.08.12 at 6:12 pm

Whats this re “as if Paul had not supported the use of US mercenary privateers to ransack the middle east” out of curiosity? Alaways good to have something on ‘im (considering the odd libertarian turn in Irish/Brit society)
Don’t read GG that much tbh, so didn’t realise the extent to which he was Rep/libertarian. Still don’t think it matters particularly, but can see how it could be annoying.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 7:21 pm

http://diplomatdc.wordpress.com/2011/05/21/marque/

In fact, only one US Congress member had the courage and brains to oppose the Afghanistan AUMF and her name is Barbara Lee. Paul not only voted for the war and the open grant of authority but he proposed giving George W. Bush open authority to charter privateers.

http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=433×829909

It is very revealing that Paul is a hero for many of our supposed principled opponents of the war, and Barbara Lee is not ever mentioned.

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Donald Johnson 11.08.12 at 7:30 pm

“Don’t read GG that much tbh, so didn’t realise the extent to which he was Rep/libertarian. “

He’s not Republican at all. I gather he only became serious about politics sometime during Bush’s time in office. He’s libertarian, but on civil and human rights issues where libertarians overlap pretty strongly with the left–I don’t recall ever seeing him making libertarian economic arguments, attacking the welfare state, etc… To the extent he wanted people to listen to Ron Paul it was because Ron Paul was the only candidate in either party who was making anti-imperialist arguments. He’d have been defending Dennis Kucinich if Kucinich had launched a quixotic campaign for the Democratic nomination. You don’t read GG, so maybe you don’t read liberal American blogs either, but among those that support Democrats they tend to split into two categories–people who are horrified by the drone policy and can read Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of Democrats without becoming apoplectic, and people who seem to identify so strongly with the Democrats that an assault on them is more important than whatever issue is being discussed. In rootless’s case if you don’t support drones then you are siding with, I don’t know, the Taliban as they take over Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons. Though of course one of the arguments against the drone policy is that it infuriates ordinary people there and makes them more likely to support extremism.

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christian_h 11.08.12 at 7:38 pm

I do not at all agree with Greenwald (or anyone else who thinks like him) that anything good can come out of a political alliance with right-wingers of any kind;of course this doesn’t mean we should avoid making an argument just b. I do however find it a bit rich when this complaint comes from people who have spent the last many months arguing explicitely that we MUST vote for a right-winger for president and we MUST not even criticise his right-wing policies (apparently even after he has been re-elected). That’s just projection.

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Donald Johnson 11.08.12 at 7:38 pm

“It is very revealing that Paul is a hero for many of our supposed principled opponents of the war, and Barbara Lee is not ever mentioned.”

Yeah, isn’t it? It’s almost as though Ron Paul ran for President and Barbara Lee didn’t.

The point you just made here is, well, revealing. You’re looking for some dark pro-Republican and/or libertarian motive when it could just be that some people are disgusted by US human rights violations no matter which party is responsible. GG is basically the new Chomsky , though Noam always made a point to say that the Democrats were the lesser of the two evils.

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christian_h 11.08.12 at 7:40 pm

Ok don’t know why this posted before completion… the first sentence should continue “[... just b]ecause right-wingers make a superficially similar one”.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 7:48 pm

You don’t read GG, so maybe you don’t read liberal American blogs either, but among those that support Democrats they tend to split into two categories–people who are horrified by the drone policy and can read Glenn Greenwald’s criticisms of Democrats without becoming apoplectic, and people who seem to identify so strongly with the Democrats that an assault on them is more important than whatever issue is being discussed. In rootless’s case if you don’t support drones then you are siding with, I don’t know, the Taliban a

Actually, I oppose the drone war. Think about why you assumed otherwise.

And the reason GG does not mention Barbara Lee is that she is a genuine leftist, not a Citizens United defending, Gary Johnson supporting, Libertarian fabulator like GG.

What I find objectionable in GG’s criticisms of Democrats are: he’s grossly
dishonest, he doesn’t know any history, he doesn’t know how governments function, he cannot tolerate discussion – anyone dissenting from his line is an immoral hack or wors – and he’s a fucking Libertarian and I find Libertarianism a despicable ideology.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 7:52 pm

“GG is basically the new Chomsky , though Noam always made a point to say that the Democrats were the lesser of the two evils. “

I think you are correct. Noam Chomsky is a leftist, an Anarchist, a pretty deep thinker, and a scrupulously honest researcher. Further, Professor Chomsky lived his ideals – he was very close to serious jail time during the Vietnam war. Greenwald is a Libertarian, a dishonest slapdash writer who cuts and pastes and adds meaningless citations to provide the impression of research just as he affects indignation to provide the impression of principles. He’s the modern Chomsky and a perfect symbol of the end of the US Left as a serious political and intellectual force.

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LFC 11.08.12 at 8:14 pm

I don’t read Greenwald regularly so I’m not going to get into the debate about him. But it’s a little bizarre to pick one writer whom you don’t like and go from there to “the end of the US Left as a serious political and intellectual force.”

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rootless (@root_e) 11.08.12 at 8:25 pm

Greenwald is just representative. One finds the same phenomenon in economics where Libertarianism has also infected “left criticism”. The Democratic Party at this moment is the party of the working class in the USA and it incorporates most of what is still alive in what we used to call “the left”. The mostly white middle class “intellectual left” that is contemptuous of the Democratic Party is then forced to drift into Libertarianism as its natural ideological base.

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John Quiggin 11.08.12 at 9:17 pm

@Bucky F “there’s a reason nobody is proposing such drastic reductions.”

Again, simply not true. The EU and G8 have had an 80 per cent reduction as their target since 2008, and there is plenty of economic analysis to show that this can be done at minimal economic cost.

http://www.raponline.org/featured-work/roadmap-2050-designing-a-decarbonised-power-future

Of course, the EU isn’t enough. To restate the point of the OP, that’s why it’s important that the US should join the effort

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Matt 11.09.12 at 5:21 am

Of course, the EU isn’t enough. To restate the point of the OP, that’s why it’s important that the US should join the effort.

Definitely. And one fervently hopes that China will join too if the US gets on board. A good guess is that China will surpass CO2 emissions of the US and EU combined either this year or the next. India can wait somewhat longer, since it already has an emissions-curbing system of coal shortages, load shedding, and failure to meet planned electricity targets.

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Matt 11.09.12 at 5:38 am

Actually it’s worse than I realized. According to “Trends in Global CO2 Emissions: 2012 Report” by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China already emits more CO2 than EU and USA combined. In 2011 China’s share of global CO2 emissions was 29%, USA 16%, EU27 11%. In another year or two China should also surpass the EU on per-capita emissions, though they would remain far from the per-capita figures of the USA, Canada, or Australia.

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John Quiggin 11.09.12 at 6:55 am

China’s rapid growth in both output and emissions has caught everyone by surprise. The situation isn’t totally hopeless though – they are already huge producers of solar panels and are being forced to eat their own dogfood. And the trends in the US and EU are actually better than in most of the projections from 2000 or so.

To restate, unless China and the US take action, we’re screwed. And by far the best hope is that the US takes action unilaterally and China sees the need to get in line with the rest of the world on this.

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Bucky F 11.10.12 at 11:16 am

Professor Quiggin, your response to me is more a rhetorical trick than a real argument. You are relying on two false implications:

(1) That the emission-reduction possibilities available to the richest nations in the world are representative of the world as a whole.

If anything, emissions reductions in the G8 should be taken as an upper limit of global emissions reductions. There is absolutely no reason to assume, for example, that the possibility of 80% reduction in the G8 implies that (say) African emissions will not increase in the next three decades rather than be decreased at all (let alone by 80%). In reality, we know that African emissions will increase. And Chinese emissions, too, will increase for some time. When Chinese CO2 emissions eventually begin to decrease, will not decrease at the rate of the G8.

(2) That 80% emissions reductions are “close” to 90% emissions reductions.

The trick here is to talk about this in percentages, which makes 80% to 90% sound like the equivalent of 70% to 80%. But a simple rephrasing shows how deceptive this is.

To go from current emissions to 12.5% of current emissions (without reducing production) requires doubling efficiency three times. As you have acknowledged, even a 90% reduction in global CO2 emissions is insufficient to stabilize atmospheric CO2. A 90% global reduction, without a change in production, implies more than 3 doublings of energy efficiency, globally.

Realistically, we can expect global production to increase for some time. Approximately four to five doublings of global energy efficiency are necessary to reach atmospheric CO2 stability. Each of these doublings will probably require as much time as the last. That is, to go from 80% to 90% emissions reductions requires as much time as going from 60% to 80% reduction. And 90% is not enough.

So, the “80% by 2050 in the G8″ assertion that you make — which I won’t contest, although you certainly haven’t proved it — is very, very far from implying over 90% globally by even 2100.

Please, I implore you to consider carefully these two numbered points, which I will reiterate: (1) the G8 is far from representative of the whole of Earth; (2) repeatedly reducing emissions by half will not become easier as emissions are reduced, but harder.

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John David Galt 11.10.12 at 5:40 pm

The Libertarians are the sane side on climate change. EPA’s mileage rules kill hundreds of people every year by forcing them into smaller cars where they’ll die in wrecks; meantime, it’s been thoroughly proven (see Montford, “The Hockey Stick Illusion”) that Mann and his colleagues cherry-picked both the formulas and data that produced the “Hockey Stick chart” to serve pre-chosen political conclusions. Anyone who really “believes in” human-caused climate change (and I doubt the Left’s leadership do, honestly) is deluding himself.

“As a contributor to the insanity, Tim, you might want to think about why your side of politics has gone this way.” It’s gone this way because the Left’s policies of subsidizing out-of-wedlock breeding by shiftless teenage girls (to the extent that they’re now 40% of all births in the US) has made an old horror movie come true: The Marching Morons.

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Nick 11.10.12 at 6:11 pm

Interesting.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr61/nvsr61_01.pdf

“The birth rate for U.S. teenagers 15-19 fell 10 percent in 2010, to 34.2 per 1,000, reaching the lowest level reported in the U.S. in seven decades.”

John, the report also shows that shiftless teenage girls, married and unmarried, were responsible for 9% of total births.

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Harold 11.10.12 at 6:29 pm

“The EPA’s mileage rules kill hundreds of people every year by forcing them into smaller cars where they’ll die in wrecks.”

John David Galt @ 138 must be a parody, witting or unwitting, since thanks to government safety regulations and public education, motor vehicle deaths have steadily been declining for the last twenty years.

From 1979 to 2005, the number of deaths per year decreased 14.97% while the number of deaths per capita decreased by 35.46%. Traffic fatalities in 2010 were the lowest in 62 years.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_motor_vehicle_deaths_in_U.S._by_year

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Donald Johnson 11.10.12 at 8:09 pm

Just got back to this thread. Pretty silly summary of Greenwald, rootless. He writes about American human rights violations, much as Chomsky did, and he gets attacked by mainstream Democrats for the same reasons Chomsky was bashed. Personally I would like it if Greenwald wrote a little bit more on economic issues, but it doesn’t really matter. Dean Baker does a much better job on that than some lawyer ever could.

I’m following your argument in the Corey Robin thread. I don’t trust Obama in the economic area either, but am not really sure what he believes. He seems to be a centrist, for the most part, with some Keynesianism thrown in, but I’ll be happy if he turns out to be the progressive hero you think he is. I was hoping for more of that back in 2009–a tough attitude towards Wall Street would have been nice. But instead he was more of a Clintonian–the harsh primary battles of 2008 seem rather pointless in retrospect.

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rootless (@root_e) 11.10.12 at 8:20 pm

. Pretty silly summary of Greenwald, rootless. He writes about American human rights violations, much as Chomsky did, and he gets attacked by mainstream Democrats for the same reasons Chomsky was bashed.

Pretty much the same except Chomsky was a scrupulous researcher with a viewpoint informed by a sophisticated left wing political understanding and Greenwald is a sloppy confabulator who knows nothing about history and thinks Gary Johnson is admirable.

I don’t think Obama is a progressive hero.

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Donald Johnson 11.10.12 at 9:03 pm

I don’t even know what to say to that, rootless. You have an extremely high opinion of Chomsky (who was a fierce critic of Democrats, but acknowledged that they were a shade less evil in foreign policy than Republicans) and an extremely low opinion of Greenwald, even though their stances on US foreign policy and human rights violations are virtually identical. So I’ll bow out.

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John Quiggin 11.11.12 at 3:23 am

@Bucky To clarify my position a bit. As I understand the numbers (I’ll post a link when I can locate a good one), we could stabilize the global climate if CO2 emissions per person in the world were about 20 per cent of current European levels which is 10 per cent of current US levels, and if we got a net gain by reducing emissions of methane and other GHGs (because methane is short-lived, reductions in emissions imply reductions in stocks in reasonable time) and by reversing deforestation. So

* My 80-90 per cent isn’t meant as deception: it’s the range required for developed countries
* The calculation allows for an increase in very poor countries, or for them to sell emissions rights in a tradeable system
* There’s no reason to think costs of mitigation are higher for China. That’s not to say they will reduce emissions fast, just that, like the EU and US they could do so at modest cost if they chose.

To restate, it’s entirely possible to stabilize the global climate, with or without radical changes to the existing social order. Whether we will do so is another matter.

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engels 11.12.12 at 1:02 am

Shorter John David Galt: My political side has not contributed to any insanity. I can say this with confidence because my name is Napoleon and I am wearing my underpants on my head.

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