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August 08, 2007


Rick Cecil

Very interesting post. I think I'll have to read this book.

I like the idea of making carbon-based fuels more expensive. Instead of adding a carbon tax, though, why not increase the rarity of these fuels by decreasing the amount that we import? This prevents yet a another tax from further complicating an already over-complicated tax system. Plus, alleviates the issue of properly measuring the amount of carbon each person/family uses.

For example, if we were to stop importing oil from the middle east, demand for oil would far outweigh supply and would create an situation in which cheaper, alternative (and renewable, ideally) fuel sources would have a chance to grow and thrive--if we're paying $5 a gallon for gas, then $4 a gallon for an alternative fuel would be much more accepted and adopted that much more quickly.


Stopping or limiting the import of oil from the Middle-East is practically and politically next to impossible. Fortunately, a properly designed revenue-neutral carbon tax would not create the problems that concern Rick.

As set forth on the Carbon Tax Center's web site, a carbon tax should be imposed as far up the distribution supply chain as possible. The tax should be imposed at the mine or the wellhead, with the costs presumably then passed through to ultimate consumers. The result would be a powerful price signal to use less carbon-intensive energy and to substitute less carbon-intensive energy (wind, solar and biomass) for more carbon-intensive alternatives (coal and petroleum products). The carbon tax proceeds should be returned to all Americans via offsetting tax reductions (e.g. payroll or sales taxes) or monthly rebates. The revenues returned would be on a per capita basis as opposed to being based upon how much tax was paid for two important reasons: 1) if money returned simply equaled money paid, there would be no effective price signal; by returning money on a per capita basis consumers will effectively receive a fund that will be more or less than they actually pay in carbon taxes based upon how much energy they consume (or is consumed in making products that they buy); and 2) there is no reason to track the amount of carbon each family or business uses.

It's important not to simply rely on letting market prices drive up the cost of energy, since that would open the door to carbon-intensive fuels like "coal-to-liquid" and ethanol produced using coal-fired generation.

Lou Grinzo

The issue of carbon taxes really comes down to a matter of urgency. If you think we've already waited too long to begin making serious strides in reducing CO2 emissions, then we need a high carbon tax. If you think we have the luxury of time, and we can encourage renewables and let the market shift us away from carbon, then we don't need a high carbon tax.

Based on my study of these issues, I'm not willing to bet many millions of human lives plus economic chaos on the second scenario. Nearly all of the climate science discoveries have been bad news--faster melting in Greenland, greater coral die-off, etc. We can't honestly say that we know how bad the current situation is, but it's highly likely that it's worse than we know with any certainty.

And I'm not at all convinced by Lomborg's argument for why Antarctica will be gaining, not losing, ice. This is the first time I've heard this particular reasoning, and I wonder how well it stacks up against actual measurements and the ongoing calving of glaciers.


I'm somewhat confused by the non-sequitur. Why attack what he believes to be bad rhetoric, if he believes "that [...] global warming is clearly happening and is human-caused" - did he just have pages to fill or does it strengthen his later argument for light taxation/more R&D funding?

Mentor Muniz Neto


Frank Randall

Also: note that melting ice in the Arctic, not the Antarctic, is what often draws much media attention.

It seems that Lomborg is picking and choosing his arguments to quibble with, as a rhetorical device, without really contradicting the fundemental facts that global warming is 1) happening 2) human created and 3) doing very bad things to the planet.

Seems to me that his "provacatively counter-intuitive" argument that really just about picking at the margins. Oh - and I've read the book, too, so I'm going on his argument, not your summary.

Alex Tolley

Lomborg is wrong about Antarctic ice.

Firstly, we already know from data that sea levels have risen to much higher levels in the Eocene. We also know that the Antarctic ice is not so old that it hasn't melted previously when the climate was warmer.

Secondly, as to mechanism, Greenland's ice melt is raising sea levels, so that will expose more Antarctic ice to warmer ocean water, fostering melting.

Thus there is a race between increased snowfall due to a more humid climate and faster melting. It is my understanding that the melting is teh stronger of the two processes.

Jim Rait

I haven't read the book but my senses made me think your summary of the Antarctic Ice Shelf was an incomplete consideration of a component of a very Complex Adaptive System; I realised I had read this -Huge sea level rises are coming – unless we act now
25 July 2007
NewScientist.com news service
James Hansen
[snipurl not working so search at New Scientist's website].

It includes these paragraphs relevant to your blog:
"Another negative feedback is increasing snowfall on ice sheet interiors, because of the higher moisture content of the warming atmosphere. Some models predict that ice sheets will grow overall with global warming, but those models do not include realistic processes of ice sheet disintegration. Palaeoclimate data confirms the common-sense expectation that the net effect is for ice sheets to shrink as the world warms, as the GRACE satellites show is happening already.

The findings in the Antarctic are the most disconcerting. Warming there has been limited in recent decades, in part due to the effects of ozone depletion. The fact that West Antarctica is losing mass at a significant rate suggests that the thinning ice shelves are already beginning to affect ice discharge rates.

So far, warming of the ocean surface around Antarctica has been small compared with the rest of the world, as models predict, but that limited warming is expected to increase. The detection of recent, increasing summer surface melt on West Antarctica raises the danger that feedbacks among these processes could lead to non-linear growth of ice discharge from Antarctica.

This problem is urgent. The non-linear response could easily run out of control, both because of the positive feedbacks and because of inertias in the system."

Please read.. its very important, especially to the people who live on the coast!


If you have any doubts about what's going to happen to ice (arctic, antarctic, greenland) and what that will do to sea levels in the next 100 years (try 5 meters higher than the present within a century) I suggest you peruse the latest thinking of James Hansen (who you may know as the NASA scientist whom the current administration attempted to silence) on the subject:

Huge sea level rises are coming – unless we act now
25 July 2007
NewScientist.com news service




Another angle on the carbon tax idea, of course, is to phase it in. And perhaps to have the final target higher than otherwise as a result. So, perhaps target, say, $6 / ton, 11 years out; start at $0.50/ton NOW. On the "market" side, perhaps cap the tax at no higher than 50% more than the market price for sequestration (to a given high-quality standard), giving incentives for source sequestration to the extent possible.




On Kilimanjaro, story is more complex (a little). Role of global warming not proven, but local drying (and thus decreased precipitation, and thus less snow) very likely to be human caused (local deforestation). The odd thing is that Bjorn says that there's nothing to be done. In fact, I wrote an op ed in the NYT publicising and to some extent advocating my friend Euan Nisbet's idea that we could preserve the remaining ice (which contains very interesting climate records) pretty well with tarpaulins. A little oddly, to my mind, the editorial board responded the following week in a leader saying that it would be better if we let the ice go as a monument to humanity's general waster crappiness. This struck me as pretty poor argument, in that the monument would be paid for by the victims of the crappiness (a quite poor third world country that would be losing its greatest or second greatest tourist draw). In a way it was my own little Lomborg moment, in that it brought home the degree to which global warming has to be seen as irredeemable. Which was why I was a little disappointed to read that he thought this problem was unsolvable, too. Preserving all the galaciers is indeed beyond us -- but preserving a few of specific value is not.

Derek Tipp

Climate is much too complex to say that we know how it is changing. Statistics tell us that the world has not warmed in the last decade. The hottest year on record was 1998. An excellent alternative cause of climate change is described in the book "The Chilling Stars".

I agree that developing alternative energy sources is important, as Bjorn Lomborg suggests. The most economic way to do this is gradually, as current plant needs replacement. The rapid option would be very costly for all of us.


Anthropogenic global warming is a load of crap.

Nasa's recently re-reduced data sets make that clear. And "Carbon Offsets" and "Carbon Taxes" are simply attempts to collect and redistribute revenues on the basis of some fictitious problem which a less-then-scientifically-literate population has embraced and uncritically accepted because Al Gore was out of work and decided to make a movie. Carbon neutrality is more about "Feel Good" politics than rational science.

Instead, let's concentrate on problems which really exist and which truly need our immediate attention, like preserving our ocean fisheries before they collapse from overfishing, protecting clean water supplies and reclaiming those already polluted, and, yes, we should decrease our dependence on oil through renewable energy. We should do the latter not because of Al Gore's Global Warming hoax, but because it makes rational economic and environmental sense to do so regardless.

On balance, we urgently need to find solutions to problems which actually exist and which have been extensively documented to exist and which we know are extremely time sensitive, not screw around debating ridiculous "carbon taxes" and offsets based upon incomplete computer modelling, i.e. wasting time and resources finding solutions for problems which don't exist.

Steve Borncamp

Why not go heavy on the carbon tax, have an across the board income tax cut - to put the money back in people's pockets, then increasing the per child tax credit? Thus, if you are a single person driving an SUV for status... you feel some pain. If you need a large car for your large family, you would have a larger offset.

Talking more about shifting the focus of taxation rather than increasing taxes should be acceptable to a broad range of non-oilmen.


I have read "The Skeptical Environmentalist" and have great respect for Mr. Lomborg. What amazes me is that he still buys in to the Global Warming myth. I agree that there are many good economic and political reasons to de-carbonize and democratise energy sources but "changing the weather" is not one of them.

hipotecas & prestamos

Climatic Change is Not a Problem of the Future

The diagnosis of the future of the planet cannot be gloomier. To the numerous elements that damage the environment, we must now add others, like the direct consequences of turning food into fuel, established as the economic policy guideline of the United States, designed and defended at all costs by the US president.

The issue has been presented on many occasions as a warning of the potential danger that, if continued, will affect the indispensable conditions for the life on the planet. Evidently at the service of the large transnationals, which produce 25 percent of the contaminating gas emissions, the White House has justified its position and has systematically refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

The inhabitants of the planet are required to act urgently. Maybe it's not too late.

Carlos Menéndez


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how to grow taller

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

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