Arnold Kling  

Climate Debate Daily

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Henderson Beats Wikipedia... The New Economics of Marriage...

No, I am not planning that here. It's the name of a new web site, which bears a not-coincidental resemblance to Arts and Letters Daily, an old favorite on our blogroll. Current links include a Time Magazine portrait of Lester Brown.


At the heart is a call to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions 80% by 2020 — far more aggressive than anything you'll hear from political leaders or even most activists.

...Brown argues for a worldwide carbon tax to be phased in at $20 per ton each year between 2008 and 2020, topping out at $240 per ton.


I think that Brown differs from most Pigou club members (a) in the amount by which he wants to reduce carbon emissions and (b) in his elasticity optimism. If you think that the demand for energy and the supply of alternatives are both highly elastic, then you can achieve large reductions in carbon emissions at low economic cost.


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COMMENTS (4 to date)
Buzzcut writes:

80% reduction in 12 years? Yeah, good luck with that.

In 12 years, I fully expect to not only be driving the car I bought in 2007, but the one I bought in 2002 as well. Replacing these cars "early" would be a HUGE cost.

And for what? What's the opportunity cost.

Remember the Ayn Rand book "We the Living", where society has reverted to Maoist-style peasant life? Sounds like the natural outcome of trying to limit carbon emissions quickly.

JRip writes:

Arnold,

I am much more interested in energy than global climate change but as they are intertwined I have to pay some attention.

IT seems to me we are pelted with either radical statements such as cut 80% in 4 or 5 years or insufficient efforts such as do carbon sequestering for a new power plant which while perhaps succeeding in the narrow goal is equivalent to trying to move a sandy beach one grain at a time with a tweezers.

Perhaps if you know or if you encounter the answers to my questions you might post them some time.


If CO2 levels we have today are causing warming...
1. What is the current CO2 level in the atmosphere?


2. What level(range of levels) of atmospheric CO2 would cause temperatures to stabilize where they are today?


3. How much CO2 are we producing every day/year...? how much by transportation sector? by home heating? etc.


4. What is the natural balance point? By that I mean at what point does how much we add balance with the ability of the oceans and plant-life to absorb?


5. What is the level of atmospheric CO2 we wish we had? aka What was it in the Good-old-days?


6. Then nail down the situation we face.
a. how much we would need to reduce production of CO2 coupled with
b. the various methods to mitigate CO2 levels post-production.
to achieve any particular goal. e.g. stabilize or reduce to the level of XXX?

Thanks for covering this issue from an economics viewpoint.

Filip writes:

Tell them to fix their RSS feed and then maybe I'll start reading it.

aaron writes:

The assumption is that there are good alternatives to CO2 emitting productivity. Such a large increase is likely to simply result in inflation.

Finance can influence economics, but ultimately the resources that are available will determine how we produce the goods and services that use. Making the primary resource that our large economy uses as input four magnitudes higher will simply make everything cost four magnitudes more, including the production of alternatives.

Or, it could increase employment as manual labor is required to replace carbon fuels. Of course, carbon fuels will be used to produce the calories needed to do the work. But, we produce and consume many more calories than we need anyway, so in that case there wouldn't be much more carbon needed. However, if that is the course that would result, there would be a huge impact on the economy as productivity would be severely constrained by the biology of man and availability of people to work at all hours. And the time to transport resources would be greatly increased while the effectiveness would decrease.

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