The Prisoner’s Dilemma: let everyone else tackle climate change first

Given how easy it is for charlatans to demonise, I’m frankly amazed that any countries in the world – let alone thirty-two – have managed to implement a carbon price or emissions trading scheme.

Basically, it’s the prisoner’s dilemma. If we continue to emit greenhouse gases at such a high per capita rate, we can hardly expect other countries to limit theirs for us. But the only way of not doing that is to slightly reduce, in the short term, our standard of living as we adapt to a more sustainable lifestyle and develop the technologies to make that lifestyle more comfortable. The only way to avert a serious problem for all of us is for us all, in all countries around the world, to work together – but we already know that our diplomats and politicians are incapable of achieving anything of the sort. We could conceivably act and then find that China and India won’t act and climate change happens anyway. It could already be too late.

No wonder so many people are determined to believe that NOTHING IS HAPPENING and will continue to insist that right up to the point where it’s definitely far too late to do anything about it. (One charming kicker from nature in this debate is that global warming is a self-reinforcing process; once you get to a certain point, it runs completely out of control. See: Venus.)

So the upshot is, we look after our own selfish short-term interests and, if climate change is happening, we do nothing about it. The Opposition is banking on Australian voters being unwilling to consider a small drop in their standard of living to reduce the risk of a massive drop in their standard of living later; it’s banking on us being short-sighted and hypocritical. (Hypocritical in the sense of, let the much poorer people in China and India live on even less before we consider tempering our unsustainable consumption.)

It’s a bit bizarre, since the “cost of living” pressures of any carbon price the ALP is going to propose will be small – much smaller than, for example, the GST was. And of course problems like the housing crisis, that both parties (through their support for negative gearing, inflationary grants and low capital gains tax rates) have no intention of tackling, are going to do a lot more to hurt Australians than any carbon price or tax.

In that context, and in the context of a world in which it is (a) clear that there is at least a real risk of catastrophic climate change; and (b) we can’t expect others to do what we won’t do ourselves, you’d think that it wouldn’t be such a hard sell convincing a rational electorate of the reasonableness of legislating a workable mechanism to reduce our carbon emissions.

But instead we have an electorate informed by the hysterical ravings of shock jocks, and Rupert’s boys and girls, and the lazy hacks on the commercial TV stations, and an ABC that thinks “balance” is running every story through the filter of Opposition talking points.

So – again I find myself hoping against hope that the deniers are, despite all the evidence, right. Because, in the absense of rational, risk-minimising action by our governments supported by rational, risk-minimising voters, that’s all we’ve got left: blind hope.

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65 responses to “The Prisoner’s Dilemma: let everyone else tackle climate change first

  1. Splatterbottom

    The only way to solve the prisoners’ dilemma is by consensus. Failing that anything individual countries do will have no effect and only serve to destroy their economy.

    If the climate Chicken Littles were actually serious they would look at other ways of reducing global temperature or taking carbon out of the atmosphere. The fact that they are not doing this indicates they are not serious about global warming as such and that they are far more interested in the political advantages they think will flow from higher taxation and the destruction of industry.

  2. Jeremy said

    how easy it is for charlatans to demonise

    And then SB said

    the climate Chicken Littles … are far more interested in the political advantages they think will flow from … the destruction of industry.

    And so I didn’t really have to say anything.

  3. by ‘climate chicken littles’ presumably you mean scientists?

  4. Splatterbottom

    Defixio, science allows verification. Climate ‘scientists’ hide the data, hide the decline and generally make their work unverifiable. Then say “trust us” and demand control of trillions of dollars of expenditure. That is not science. At best it is venal politics.

  5. hmmm, interesting. So, do you see this process as more of an effort of the government, giving the ‘scientists’ tax dollars to control public opinion, or do you think it is more of a separate effort of the ‘scientists’ toward mind-control, in which the government are also at the mercy of the ‘scientists’ they fund, as much under the thumb as the public, I mean?

  6. Splatterbottom

    Defixio, this is more like a 20th century version of an old-style millenarian cult. Every weather event is a portent from Gaia that all is not right with the world. Gaia must be appeased by collective mortifications offered up by society. Those unable to make the sacrifices in their lifestyles can always purchase indulgences which are now called carbon credits.

    For those involved there is a felicitous confluence of interests. Scientists get truckloads of funding political kudos and public prestige. More famous members of this priestly caste get royalties, speaking tours and highly-paid publicly-funded jobs. Politicians get to control massive streams of revenue, and an endless supply of pork. Fringe groups that want to de-industrialise society and fund institutions of international governance are wide-eyed and wanking at the possibilities presented by climate politics. Banks and brokers see markets to be manipulated and fortunes to be made. Energy prices see the opportunity to clip the ticket as they pass on increased prices.

    In the end the massive cost of it all will be borne by ordinary people whose lives are reduced to poverty and misery while the opp0rtunists on the gravy train dream of cashing in like Fat Albert Gore. Remember folks if it doesn’t cause you to get by with less of everything the incentives are failing. By your pain you will know Gaia is pleased with you.

  7. Splatterbottom

    Energy prices = Energy utilities.

  8. Looks like the charlatans are busy at work demonising, just as Jeremy predicted.

  9. narcoticmusing

    I’d started writing a response to your ridiculous head in the sand is better than action fear mongering arguement, SB, but it is just not worth the energy. It doesn’t matter what evidence I present to you, it doesn’t matter that we just had the head of BOM – someone worthy of great respect and is not paid by any interests to have a particular view – that climate change IS real and the skeptics are misinformed because it is convenient for them to be. What is the point? You are not interested in debate, just fear and conversion.

  10. SB you are utterly, utterly fascinating.

  11. Splatterbottom

    Here’s the thing Narcotic, early on I was taken in by the (now discredited) hockey stick graph. I believed that AGW was a real problem, that we may be nearing a tipping point and that we ought to do something about it.

    Then I found that things weren’t as advertised. The ‘science’ wasn’t settled. The climate ‘scientists’ had no interest in having their work checked or verified and wouldn’t make available the information necessary for this to happen. Activists resorted to vilification rather than reasoned discussion and pariah status was assigned to all dissenters. Gore’s film was shown to be seriously flawed, and unsurprisingly Gore refused to debate anyone on the issue.

    All this has caused me to become sceptical about the ‘science’. More importantly I am completely at a loss as to why Australia has to sacrifice its economy without any kind of consensus among the large emitters. it is clear that absolutely no climate benefit will be achieved by this.

    Enough damage has already been done. Look at the ridiculous desalination plants recently acquired by various states. They cost many times more than what a dam would cost and they are utterly useless. All because some ‘scientists’ made stupid predictions. The billions spent on these white elephants could have provided real benefits to people who need them.

    My current view is that we should not spend a cent more on Co2 reduction until there is a significant degree of certainty that the expenditure will produce results. At the moment it is certain that the proposed carbon tax will not reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide at all.

    I am always open to persuasion. I’ve changed my mind on this once and I am willing to change it again, but only when there is some verifiable and compelling scientific evidence that requires agreement.

    Voters have lost faith with the climate ‘scientists’. To restore that faith the ‘scientists’ need to make their work available to be audited by their critics. Then we might actually have a basis for making sensible policy. If governments want to hurry this process along they should fund an independent and critical audit of the workings and findings of the IPCC.

  12. Splatterbottom

    Probably not in a good way defixio, but I try to live up to my name.

    RM, do you really think that acknowledging that a ridiculous tax is easy to criticise negates any criticism?

  13. returnedman

    Actually, SB, it’s this sort of stuff that I find absolutely impossible to take seriously:

    Scientists get truckloads of funding political kudos and public prestige. More famous members of this priestly caste get royalties, speaking tours and highly-paid publicly-funded jobs. Politicians get to control massive streams of revenue, and an endless supply of pork. Fringe groups that want to de-industrialise society and fund institutions of international governance are wide-eyed and wanking at the possibilities presented by climate politics.

    I’ve heard more reasoned arguments from the British BNP and the French National Front. Oh, and One Nation, for that matter.

  14. Every weather event is a portent from Gaia The LORD God that all is not right with the world.

    Fixed it for you.

    Before science came along, everybody thought it was a magic sky fairy causing all the brouhaha. Now we (and by that I mean “some of us”) are smarter than that and realise that we can actually influence our environment, for better or worse.

    It’s often only those who think the world is bigger than it really is (either because of religion or another form of ignorance) who would deny that.

  15. The usual stuff and nonsense from SB.

    Wild and unsubstantiated allegations against scientists, based on nothing much at all, which are completely immune to correction via application of the facts.

  16. you’d think that it wouldn’t be such a hard sell convincing a rational electorate of the reasonableness of legislating a workable mechanism to reduce our carbon emissions.

    Jeremy – the question for most reasonable people isn’t “should we do something to tackle climate change?”, it’s “what should we do to tackle climate change?”. I think that the majority of the electorate, even SB, would get behind a management plan if they could be convinced that it had a real chance of producing a meaningful and positive outcome for the environment but was also constructed so as to carefully protect the Australian national interest.

    There are a great many options that could be explored in-between the extremes of “doing nothing” and “implementing a carbon tax”, but as the great unhinging continues all we are seeing is people lining up behind those extremes and digging in for battle.

    The value of a political position can be measured not just by those who oppose it, but also by those who support it. If a carbon tax is exciting to the genuinely loopy fringe of Green politics, the tiny % of nutters who really do want to destroy capitalism and industry (and who SB loves to idiotically pretend are actually mainstream Left-wing policy setters) then it’s probably not the best policy.

    Cool heads are not prevailing in this debate and we’re all going to suffer for it. The carbon tax policy needs to be dumped and a more intelligent, effective and moderate plan needs to be proposed by Labor.

  17. More ‘moderate’, Mondo?

    Just to be clear , this is not really a tax, just a phased intro of an ETS.

  18. Splatterbottom

    Dezinerau, it is those who think they can alter climate with a tax that are parting company with rationality. We are a long way from being able to fine-tune climate. It is just as irrational to believe humans have a greater influence than they actually have.

    To deny science in favour of religious explanations is as ridiculous as suggesting that the current state of science is sufficient to explain the universe. Aristotle, one of the wisest of the ancient scientists was right in seeking the golden mean. Until we understand everything about everything (and there are limits to that) a balanced approach is required. This involves recognition that there are things that we don’t know and also things that we don’t even know that we don’t know. False dichotomies such as the one you presented above are unhelpful.

  19. jordanrastrick

    (One charming kicker from nature in this debate is that global warming is a self-reinforcing process; once you get to a certain point, it runs completely out of control. See: Venus.)

    Careful with the alarmist slant on the science there, Jeremy. We have no real idea where the critical points lie for the system. Venus is sufficiently different from Earth (atmospherically, geologically, chemically, astrophysically) that it makes for extremely weak evidence that we should expect a positive feedback cycle here any time in the next couple of centuries.

    Defixio, science allows verification.

    Science isn’t so much verifiable as falsifiable, SB. Well actually, to emphasis the more modern Bayensian take on Popper, we’re interested in observations that are low probability under our existing models and so lead to a large update on the priors…

    Tell you what. Never mind. You must know more about both the philosophy and practice of science than all the world’s scientists, naturally. So I won’t even bother going there.

    If the climate Chicken Littles were actually serious they would look at other ways of reducing global temperature or taking carbon out of the atmosphere.

    They are. See in particular this incredibly well thought out talk on geo-engineering by a self-professed “climate Chicken little”.

    For those involved there is a felicitous confluence of interests. Scientists get truckloads of funding political kudos and public prestige. More famous members of this priestly caste get royalties, speaking tours and highly-paid publicly-funded jobs.

    This has to be the absolute worst of the many bad climate change “skeptic” arguments going around.

    If its all about teh research grants, why on Earth would scientists be saying “spend $1 trillion on an ETS to cut carbon emissions right now” instead of “play it safe, gives us $2 billion in funding to spend another 10 years studying the problem so we can be more certain about the answer?”

    Seriously, SB, you’re smart. Are you so committed in this issue to the kind of ideologically motivated groupthink you supposedly despise, that you missed the behaviour of scientists actually pointing to the exact opposite conclusion drawn by anti-AGW talking points?

  20. Interesting to see the conservativre arguing that price mechanisms cannot change behaviour .

    Of course , it’s a bit too cute to try and construct the counter-argument as ‘tax changing the climate’.

    But, if humans are affecting the climate, and the evidence supports this, then measures that affect human behaviour can, obviously, “alter climate”.

    Really, it’s not that hard to understand, despite those who wish to feign stupidity.

  21. Just to be clear , this is not really a tax, just a phased intro of an ETS.

    “Carbon Tax” is acceptable shorthand for a levy imposed on Australian businesses based on their CO2 profile. But in the end it doesn’t matter what you call it – it’s still at the more extreme end of the spectrum of ways to address the potential AGW threat.

    Even if you don’t agree that it’s too extreme for mainstream Australia you should at least accept that it’s too easy to portray as extreme to mainstream Australia. Either way the outcome is the same: Labor will get its arse handed to it by the electorate.

    I believe that this will become more and more clear as polling data becomes available.

  22. Whatever Australia’s National Interest is, it isn’t the interest of the people that make a fortune out of our resources and charging us for energy.

    Basically the real advantage to a Carbon Tax/ETS is that the money will be there to fund research into other forms of energy, and like or not we will have to do that very very soon, cos oil has peaked/is peaking production wise.

    Seriously fuck the economy and fuck the market. Tax it back to the stone age. There are plenty of smart people and enough tech right now that some of us will create vibrant sustainable safe technological communities that look after themselves. (Its called resilience.) We will do that without, or despite the influence of the almighty free market and the economy. Those things have had their day and are evolutionary dead ends in terms of our development as a planet full of people from here on in.

    Those resilient communities are the way of the future. Possible the only future we have.

    Hopefully this Carbon tax will kill the coal seam gas industry too. The sooner the better. (The fuckers are messing with my water table now. Most of us have had enough of this shit if the carbon Tax doesn’t kill them something else will. Perhaps we can litigate them out of existence.)

  23. Seriously fuck the economy and fuck the market. Tax it back to the stone age.

    Jules puts his hand up as part of the tiny % of nutters who wants to destroy capitalism and industry.

    There are plenty of smart people and enough tech right now that some of us will create vibrant sustainable safe technological communities that look after themselves.

    Naturally jules assumes that he’ll be included in this group. Those not smart like him will presumably be left to roam the anarchic countryside like the hungry dead in Resident Evil.

    What a wonderful vision for the future (that’s not at all completely unhinged).

  24. jordanrastrick

    Either way the outcome is the same: Labor will get its arse handed to it by the electorate. I believe that this will become more and more clear as polling data becomes available.

    I wish I could disagree with you Mondo, but the instincts of the journos/hacks/pollsters/pollies I know seem to concur 😦

    Hopefully this Carbon tax will kill the coal seam gas industry too. The sooner the better.

    Au contraire. Until someone invents scalable energy storage, complementing wind or solar with gas is pretty much the only way to make renewables useful (unless like me you want to go heavy on Nuclear for baseload).

  25. returnedman

    Speak for yourself, Mondo. I would love to see an end to the ravages of the free market and polluting industries like coal seam.

    Dunno about the Stone Age, though. Plenty of decent eras to stop at between here and there (as long as you take out the bloodshed and mayhem). I wouldn’t mind a stint in Victorian England – oh, as long as it’s not straight out of Charles Dickens.

  26. Splatterbottom

    Mondo, if we are to do anything we should be fairly sure it is going to work. There is no point in suffering pain for no real benefit. If we are to something it should be something that might work. How would you mid-range option actually change anything?

    Nawagadj: “this is not really a tax”
    Gillard: “It’s effectively like a tax”

    Jordan, geo-engineering does not attract the same traction or funding as emissions reductions. do you know of any serious push to examine this option.

    Narwagadj, if Gillard’s tax closed down the entire Australian economy, it will not have any measurable impact on climate. It is an entirely useless tax from that point of view.

  27. Splatterbottom

    Jules: “Seriously fuck the economy and fuck the market.”

    I think that is exactly what Gillard has in mind.

  28. jordanrastrick

    Narwagadj, if Gillard’s tax closed down the entire Australian economy, it will not have any measurable impact on climate. It is an entirely useless tax from that point of view.

    Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma, SB. Even if Australia’s contribution were negligible in an absolute sense, when the countries that can afford it beginning to cut carbon, it becomes much easier to build a case for global action. “Look, we’ve stopped screwing you, so now you can safely opt to not screw us.”

    Obviously focusing on cutting in non-trade exposed sectors first (as Labor have always proposed to do) is the best starting point. Power generators can’t just shift overseas to a laxer juristiction….

    Jordan, geo-engineering does not attract the same traction or funding as emissions reductions. do you know of any serious push to examine this option.

    Developing geo-engineering technology has some very scary potential consequences; they make the proliferation risk of widely adopted Nuclear power seem pretty benign I think.

    Nonetheless, I think its inevitable we will go down that path to some extent. Its sooooooo much cheaper than cutting emissions, and also doesn’t suffer all the collective action problems that are screwing us over at the moment. In 100 years I expect we’ll be doing it already, for sure. I can’t recommend that TED talk enough – it goes into this all at depth.

    As far as I’m aware, the most “serious” geo-engineeing research is currently being done by Intellectual Ventures, as detailed in SuperFreakonomics.

    But to be honest it wouldn’t surprise me if China and/or the U.S. also had secret government funded efforts investigating it.

  29. Splatterbottom

    Jordan: “Look, we’ve stopped screwing you, so now you can safely opt to not screw us.”

    We are not screwing them as far as I can tell. It is more like “Look, I’ve chopped my arm off now will you please chop yours off”.

    I’ll look at the TED talk when I get home. I am actually interested in that stuff.

    Proliferation is a serious risk. Resources should be put into nuclear alternatives that don’t have a significant proliferation risk.

  30. jordanrastrick

    We are not screwing them as far as I can tell. It is more like “Look, I’ve chopped my arm off now will you please chop yours off”.

    Conditional on accepting that AGW is real with high probability, which even Tony Abbott does (in public at least), we are indeed all screwing each other.

    Now you’re of course entitled to take a policy stance based on scientific illiteracy; you have plenty of company considering how many people are outspoken advocates of at least one of:

    Anti-vaccine, anti-GM, anti-antibioitics, pro-horoscopes, pro-creationism, anti-radiography, anti-psychiatry…. well I could be here all day really….

    But for the sake of clarity can we please keep the arguments about whether AGW is happening separate from those about what we should do if it is.

    Proliferation is a serious risk. Resources should be put into nuclear alternatives that don’t have a significant proliferation risk.

    For sure. A lot of Gen III+ and Gen IV designs are very promising in this regard. Pebble beds seem funkiest to me, although I’m no nuclear physicist.

    In the meantime, selling more uranium only to Non-Proliferation Treaty adherents (tough luck, India), or best of all using it ourselves domestically, is clearly the safest option.

    I note also SB that you haven’t responded to my criticism of the absurd “scientists are making this all up for cash” argument. So I’m going to take your silence as indicative of an agreement with me, and a retraction by you of that particular point 😉

  31. Splatterbottom

    Jordan, that wasn’t an argument so much as response to this question from defixio:

    So, do you see this process as more of an effort of the government, giving the ‘scientists’ tax dollars to control public opinion, or do you think it is more of a separate effort of the ‘scientists’ toward mind-control, in which the government are also at the mercy of the ‘scientists’ they fund, as much under the thumb as the public, I mean?

    I don’t think it is that far from the truth.

  32. “Jules puts his hand up as part of the tiny % of nutters who wants to destroy capitalism and industry.”

    Yeah ‘ken oath. I’m jack of capitalism and industry, at least massive capitalism and industry on a huge scale. Fuck it all. Its run by and for selfissh arseholes with no clue. Those things are sposed to exist for our benefit not the other way round. The modern Capitalist Industrial (prison mil etc etc etc) Complex is basically like the Combine in Half Life 2 – a culktureless exploitation machine. Fuck em. I don’t owe em a living.

    If that offends your religious sensibilities tough.

    “Naturally jules assumes that he’ll be included in this group. Those not smart like him will presumably be left to roam the anarchic countryside like the hungry dead in Resident Evil.

    What a wonderful vision for the future (that’s not at all completely unhinged).”

    Not round here they won’t. We (as in my local community) worked out where to blow the roads back in the 90s (the other side of Uki for a start). Good luck roaming round here… besides, anarchaic countrysides will be better than what we have now. If you noticed the anarchy in Egypt you’ll have noticed the emergent properties of humans – basically forming communties and societies is a natural human process thats why they won after a few days, (and Mubarak didn’t notice).

    They formed their own state spontaneously as the other one failed to meet their needs. The survivalist, hungry hordes myth is an invention of Americans, basically a reflection of the more psycho self centred aspects of their culture. (Even Mad Max, our awesome apocalyptic dreamtime myth shows the way resilient communities will attempt to form.)

    And of course I’ll be in that group, especially if I’m living around here. I have various useful skills. But by definition a “resilient community” means everyone in the community, even the neighbours that shit you.

    Mondo you are wrong if you think we depend on the market and the economy. Its the other way round. They are just power structures, and within 20 years the West will no longer dominate them. Then people will see them for the parasitic things they are. Come that day I’ll be tomorrows mighty Ironbark – just a little nut that stood its ground. (Unless some capitalist chops it down and sells the wood.)

    That TED talk is interesting. Isn’t that what happened with ww2 – injecting ash into the atmosphere and the associated drop in temp rises?? (I just started listening to it.) Dr Strangelove’s* idea of spraying the sky with aluminium particles (or sulphates) springs to mind.

    Ok heard it all, that was great Jordan cheers. Its definitely a debate we need to have.

    *Ed Teller

    About coal seam gas. People are pissed off. You guys have no idea how angry some people are. If some arsewipe mining co started exploration on my place I would be too. Especially if they did the half arsed job they seem to be doing. Plenty of angry monkey’s and more than a few wrenches lying around.

  33. Nawagadj: “this is not really a tax”
    Gillard: “It’s effectively like a tax”
    ” – SB.

    What Gillard actually said;

    “We went to the 2010 election saying we need to price carbon and the best way of doing that is an emissions trading scheme where the market prices carbon. What will we deliver? An emissions trading scheme where the market prices carbon.
    Yes, there will be a period where the price is fixed, effectively like a carbon tax. But we will end up exactly where we promised Australians we would go.”.

    So, yes, it’s not actually a tax, but an interim measure on the way to a full ETS.

    Narwagadj, if Gillard’s tax closed down the entire Australian economy…” – SB.

    I’ll leave you to your hysterical hyperbole.

  34. Splatterbottom

    Jules: “If you noticed the anarchy in Egypt you’ll have noticed the emergent properties of humans – basically forming communties and societies is a natural human process thats why they won after a few days, (and Mubarak didn’t notice).”

    In case you didn’t notice Egypt was taken over by the military.

    Narwagadj: “it’s not actually a tax”

    You could argue that is a temporary tax, but it makes no sense to say it is not a tax. The government might call it a fee or a charge or a levy or a duty or any other name you can think of. The fact that it is an impost of the government that makes it a tax. The name doesn’t matter.

  35. Makes quite a bit of sense.

    This is not a general revenue raising measure. The revenue raised by the measure is to be used to offest the costs to some sections of the public and in adaption to an ETS.

    This is an ETS with a fixed price. It’s not a taxc as you can’t trade in taxes, unless there is something you know that you’re not telling the rest of us.

  36. SB for weeks the functions of the state – including medical care, security and even street cleaning were spontaneously emerging from the crowd. This was during the period when the Egyptian military had no control over the situation, while Mubarak was still clinging to “power” (tho he had sweet FA by then). The army weren’t in charge at that point. No one was actually.

  37. If we are to something it should be something that might work. How would you mid-range option actually change anything?

    Obviously I’m not a scientist, and obviously any suggeted solution I put forward should be treated as relatively simplistic and uninformed, but my view is as follows.

    Assuming AGW is a genuine threat to our way of life, I think we’ve reached the point where we need to accept that it can’t be addressed through reductions in energy use. As many have argued, even if Australia shut its economy down entirely we would not make any meaningful difference to the predicted rate of warming given that the world’s biggest emitters will continue unchecked.

    The solution, if it comes at all, will come from technology and science. It will come in the form of new low or zero-emission energy creation methods coupled with carbon cature and a viable alternative to fossil fuel-driven vehicles. Much of what is discussed at TED, and much of the work being done by the Gates foundation shows that there are inspired, cheap and creative alternatives that are worth pursuing.

    The government can do much to assist these endeavors, from direct funding, tax incentives and subsidies to the creation of a legal framework that defends exciting new developments from predation by the massive fossil fuel industry. Inteligent, targeted funding and investment in science and R&D seems so much more likely to succeed, and so much more beneficial to us as a species, than simply slowing down our economy.

  38. If that offends your religious sensibilities tough.

    I’m neither religious nor offended jules. I have no ideological affinity for capitalism over any other ‘ism’ – but I do have an intellectual and personal affinity for systems that have worked well to deliver prosperity to me, my family, my community and my country.

    If capitalism is ultimately jettisoned as the path to further prosperity, as you suggest, then I won’t weep for its demise. I’ll embrace whatever works.

    But in the meantime you’ll forgive me if I reject your vision of an awesome Mad Max inspired future as the ravings of an utter madman.

  39. Splatterbottom

    ‘Gadj in tax trading occurs via loss companies and franking credits. If you couldn’t arb tax, tax advisers would be out of a job.

    More importantly the carbon tax is not a credit trading scheme, from what little we have been told about it. The trading comes later, if you believe Juliar.

    Jules the Egyptian revolution had aspects that you won’t see among the fairies at the bottom of your garden.

    Reporters were attacked and raped, the military kept some semblance of order and the giddy press emphasised the peace love and understanding aspects.

    The dark side of the revolution was on full display when the Qaradawi, spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood, addressed a million people in Tahrir Square. Wael Ghonim the Google employee who received so much attention was forcibly prevented from taking the stage. Qaradawi, by the way, believes Hitler did Allah’s work in killing all those evil Jews and he prays that next time Allah will confer that honourable task on muslims.

    In any mass of humans you get the good guys and the bad guys. If you want to see what else can happen when order breaks down, look at Somalia. Not much peace love and understanding there.

    The outcome of the Egyptian revolution is far from predictable. Even if the majority get to institute their own system it is not clear that it will be an improvement. In Egypt a majority support sharia law, killing apostates and blasphemers and circumcising women.

    So while we hope for the best outcome, for the Egyptian military to bring forth its George Washington, it is bit early to celebrate the triumph of human decency. History suggests that there are many possible outcomes, not all of them pretty.

  40. The solution, if it comes at all, will come from technology and science. It will come in the form of new low or zero-emission energy creation methods coupled with carbon cature and a viable alternative to fossil fuel-driven vehicles – mondo

    This is whole idea behind an ETS.

  41. “‘Gadj in tax trading occurs via loss companies and franking credits. If you couldn’t arb tax, tax advisers would be out of a job.” – SB

    You simply can’t trade in taxes, as your attempt to infer an indirect means, clearly shows.

    Calling it a ‘tax’ is a PR strategy to oppose, not an attempt to discuss it’s merits or lack thereof.

  42. SB According to people in Egypt that I corresponded with during the uprising (and since) rates of sexual abuse, and crime (that wasn’t inspired by the regime) dropped significantly. Who attacked the reporters? With the exception of the high profile sexual abuse case, which afaik, hasn’t been attributed to any side, the attacks on reporters all came from the regime not the people resisting it. That certainly implies the high profile abuse case you’re referring to was also carried out by pro regime thugs.

    What happened before Mubarak stepped down had nothing to do with the MB (who represent a minority of Egyptians). I know the MB’s ugly Nazi supporting history, its no different to Allen Dulles support of Nazis. Well it is/was, cos he was sposed to be at war with them at the time, the MB weren’t.

    “In Egypt a majority support sharia law, killing apostates and blasphemers and circumcising women.”

    Got an accurate source for that claim? I thought not.

    Somalia … I know a guy who was there. Massive mess, and the result of an all out civil war, not the same as the simple removal of state power from a reasonably functioning nation.

    None of what I wrote above has anything to do with the fact that during the chaos of the uprising societal and community functions normally organised by the state spontaneously emerged from the crowd/mob. (Tho I did notice the absence of female circumcision in the square during the uprising, obviously its not a high priority for actual Egyptian people.)

  43. This is whole idea behind an ETS.

    I understand that nawagadj, but an ETS is an indirect way of achieving it (and a gamble at that).

    It’s a bit like seeing a wild boar charging you in the bush and shooting a koala in the tree above it in the hope that the koala will fall on the boar and kill it.

    I’d rather we just shoot the boar.

  44. “But in the meantime you’ll forgive me if I reject your vision of an awesome Mad Max inspired future as the ravings of an utter madman.”

    My vision?

    “Seriously fuck the economy and fuck the market. Tax it back to the stone age. There are plenty of smart people and enough tech right now that some of us will create vibrant sustainable safe technological communities that look after themselves. (Its called resilience.) We will do that without, or despite the influence of the almighty free market and the economy. Those things have had their day and are evolutionary dead ends in terms of our development as a planet full of people from here on in.

    Those resilient communities are the way of the future. Possible the only future we have.”

    There you go, thats my manifesto for a Mad Max inspired future.

    I suggest you research the concept of a resilient community. Its kind of the opposite of what you imply it is. It is an old concept tho, the first Diggers, aka True Levellers were into it, tho it didn’t originate with them.

    “I have no ideological affinity for capitalism over any other ‘ism’ – but I do have an intellectual and personal affinity for systems that have worked well to deliver prosperity to me, my family, my community and my country. ”

    In that case “the economy” and “the market” probably aren’t your friends. It may seem as tho they have delivered some prosperity to some people in this country (not all of course and these days less than ever) but they also screw over my family in other countries. Well one country specifically.

    I’m not talking about micro industries and small scale capitalism either, I’m talking about the bloated over entitled machine that is represented by the likes of Charlie Aitken on Lateline Business the other night:

    “Well I’ve got to say, I think it’s the carbon tax. Foreign investors are getting sick of the Gillard Government moving the regulatory goal posts in Australia.

    Already this year we’ve had a flood levy, we’ve got carbon tax apparently, we’ve got changes to the resource rent tax and now even rumours to how pathology rebates are handled and you saw the two big pathology stocks, Primary Health Care and Sonic get smashed today.

    So, regulatory risk is something foreign investors are getting a little upset in Australia and that’s why we’re underperforming, Ticky.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/business/items/201103/s3152421.htm

    If thats the voice of the market and the economy it can fuck off and die for all I care.

  45. Splatterbottom

    Do you even know what a tax is, ‘Gadj? The proposal is to set a “price” which is the basis for the imposition of an obligation businesses in (not yet specified) industries to pay money to the government on the basis of the price and the amount of C02 they emit. Call it what you like, it is a tax.

  46. jordanrastrick

    The solution, if it comes at all, will come from technology and science. It will come in the form of new low or zero-emission energy creation methods coupled with carbon cature and a viable alternative to fossil fuel-driven vehicles. Much of what is discussed at TED, and much of the work being done by the Gates foundation shows that there are inspired, cheap and creative alternatives that are worth pursuing.

    The government can do much to assist these endeavors, from direct funding, tax incentives and subsidies to the creation of a legal framework that defends exciting new developments from predation by the massive fossil fuel industry. Inteligent, targeted funding and investment in science and R&D seems so much more likely to succeed, and so much more beneficial to us as a species, than simply slowing down our economy.

    ……

    I understand that nawagadj, but an ETS is an indirect way of achieving it (and a gamble at that).

    It’s a bit like seeing a wild boar charging you in the bush and shooting a koala in the tree above it in the hope that the koala will fall on the boar and kill it.

    I’d rather we just shoot the boar.

    For all your defence of capitalism, Mondo, you don’t seem to have much faith in it.

    You want the government to pick technologies to invest my income tax dollars in. Lets (generously) assume governments can get over their horrible popular-driven obsession with insanely inefficient schemes like solar panels for people’s roofs, and actually fund some more promising avenues of R&D.

    What should they be researching? More efficient solar cells? Concentrated Solar Thermal? Modular Nuclear? Gates’ Travelling Wave Nuclear? Underwater Plastic bags for energy storage? Biomethane? Offshore wind?

    You know what’s easier and better than gambling my income tax dollars on what non-emissions technology will prove cheapest? Making carbon-heavy technology cost more, and letting entrepeneurs gamble *their* capital on finding the right solution.

    If 19/20 of the approaches don’t work out, then that 95% of wasted R&D funding is private money (not taxpayer money which anti-ETS advocates clearly have little prudence for) and we still end up with a solution. Hurray!

    But like Tony Abbott you seem to think bureaucrats are better judges of allocating research funding than private markets. Some capitalist!

    Calling it a ‘tax’ is a PR strategy to oppose, not an attempt to discuss it’s merits or lack thereof.

    The electorate is full of irrational people who hate anything called a ‘tax’ even where the word is used in the same sense as ‘fee’, ‘levy’, ‘tarriff’, ‘fine’….

    Hence, Tony Abbott called the original ETS a great big tax.

    Arguing about how we should choose to define words are incredibly boring and pointless.

    In the context of the carbon debate, “tax” is commonly understood to mean a fixed price (as opposed to a variable one under an ETS.) Julia Gillard herself is now clearly on record as accepting this defintion, which means she has broken her promise not to introduce a “tax” by temporarily using a fixed price scheme until the ETS model is phased in. Anyone with a clue about this debate realises that a price on carbon is a price on carbon, that an ETS and a Tax both have pros and cons, but that the ultimate impacts of either on the average person will likely be similar. However, most people don’t have such a clue, and can fairly consider themselves mislead directly by the PM’s words (as opposed to their own ignorance, which would have tripped them up if they’d implictly assumed a tax would raise prices but an ETS wouldn’t.)

    Now can we stop this semantic nit-picking crap already? Its so tedious.

  47. For all your defence of capitalism, Mondo, you don’t seem to have much faith in it.

    LOL – I guess that’s a fair comment. Although I’d prefer to say that I don’t subscribe to capitalism as an article of faith in all circumstances (like some do) and that I continue to harbour socialist tendencies. I am a lefty after all.

    Like I said, I’ll go with whatever I think will work to increase the prosperity of Australia and Australians. Maybe that’s a market-based solution – but given the position of the global marketplace at the moment I tend to think not.

  48. Arguing about how we should choose to define words are incredibly boring and pointless.

    As you say its only relevance is in determining whether our current PM broke an election promise. Pointless in a policy sense, but very relevant in a political one.

  49. A quote from Bjorn Lomberg in his interview last night on Lateline:

    But let’s be honest and say you should not have governments pick winners. I would envision – and that’s why I helped organise something called the “Copenhagen consensus for climate” where we asked 28 of the world’s top climate economists, three Nobel laureates, what are the smartest solutions to climate change and they actually said spend money on research and development, but spend it across the whole area. Spend it on all the different technologies. We shouldn’t be picking winners, but the point is because researchers are incredibly cheap, you can afford all of this at a cost of 0.2 per cent of GDP. That would be about $1.6 billion for Australia.

    TONY JONES: Per year.

    BJORN LOMBERG: That would be a fairly little cost. It’d be about five – yeah. About five times what Australia’s spending right now, and the amazing thing is: we don’t have to have all of those technologies come through. Most of them are probably going to fail. But that’s OK if a few of them are going to become cheaper than fossil fuels over the next 20 to 40 years, those are the ones that’ll power the 21st Century.

    It makes more sense to me than a carbon tax, price or whatever you want to call it.

  50. Splatterbottom

    Jules have a look at this.

    The female circumcision rate in Egypt is over 90%.

    It is all very well to get information from educated English speaking Egyptians, but that is far from the whole picture. They are more of a minority than the Brotherhood. We all hope that this will end end well, but at the moment the military controls the place, and it is not clear what the majority want even if they do get a free vote.

  51. That’s why you’ve got to make sure it’s a constitutional democracy where citizens’ rights are protected by a firm Constitution that 51% can’t simply overturn to oppress the other 49%.

  52. jordanrastrick

    Some of the most serious problems with Lomberg’s argument:

    * How does he know $1.6 billion is enough? It’ll buy all the research he wants to do, but there’s no guarantee that will get us a breakthrough in 40 years.

    * If carbon were reasonably priced globally, you’d get well more than $1.6 billion of private capital funding going into R&D. Hell, I’d guess there is bucketloads more than this at play already – look at all the research-heavy companies in Nuclear, CST, PV, Wind, Biofuel, Smart Grids, Electric Cars, Reforestation….

    * How does Lomberg know his experts are better at investing research capital than accumulated expertise of a free market? Why not just offer a $1.6 Billion prize to the first team to come up with a renewable source cheaper than Coal?

    * If there are the unstable equilibria in the system that Jeremy alludes to – which we certainly can’t rule out – and if geo-engineering proves to be a really bad option, as it well might – then 40 years to get to cheaper than coal is no good, given the massive time lags between a) discovery of techs and their widespread commercial rollout, and b) the lag between cutting emissions and temperature rises stopping.

    * Basic physics dictates its pretty unlikely that renewables as we know them – ground level wind turbines, solar panels or mirrors, geothermal sources – will get more efficient than coal. We need kites in the stratosphere or solar panels in space or nanotechnology or something, and these are all a long way off.

    Whereas Nuclear’s problems are more regulatory and political than scientific – if Gates built his Wave Reactor tomorrow the Greens would still oppose building one in Australia. The world would be OK, because China would switch ASAP and the U.S. wouldn’t be far behind. We’d get a bit screwed, though.

  53. Splatterbottom

    True Jeremy. The question is how to get there. The Egyptians need to work this out for themselves. Even if they don’t get it right this time, at least they have taken the first step.

  54. Do you even know what a tax is, ‘Gadj? The proposal is to set a “price” which is the basis for the imposition of an obligation businesses in (not yet specified) industries to pay money to the government on the basis of the price and the amount of C02 they emit. Call it what you like, it is a tax.” – SB.

    Yep.

    And a price that will fluctuate according to market forces is in no way a ‘tax’.

    Harping on about it beng a ‘tax’ is just tactical semantics, not debate.

  55. Mondo,

    The problem Ihave with Lombergs idea is that it’s the old classic – there will be a technological fix some time in the future.

    Superficially attractive, but potentially a recipe for inaction.

    There is no doubt that govt funded and directed research is vital, but I think it goes hand in hand with an ETS. The ETS (at least in part) addresses the structual problems that currently inhibit the further development of cleaner energy. There’s nothing stopping new research cominng along right now, or yesterday for that matter, to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels, but it hasn’t happended. Part of the problem is the sructural disincentives to move away from fossil fuels. More research won’t change that.

    While I’m cautiously optimistic about an ETS, ‘the market’ also gave us the GFC.

  56. Splatterbottom

    “Gadj: “And a price that will fluctuate according to market forces is in no way a ‘tax’.”

    That put that has nothing to do with the fixed carbon price Gillard is setting as a basis for her tax. It may come later if and when we get the ETS, but the current proposal for the next little while is for a tax.

  57. Superficially attractive, but potentially a recipe for inaction.

    Lomberg’s proposal is hardly one of inaction Nawagadj. He wants Australia alone to inject $1.6 billion in additional funding into R&D around sustainable energy creation. If that model was replicated worldwide there would be an enormous and very well-resourced human push forwards.

    Perhaps you and Jordan are correct that there also needs to be a market-based mechanism involved at the same time, but I truly believe that it would be a side-game, not the main game. Without co-ordinated government support and protection for a large-scale investigation of R&D opportunities anything we do will be essentially pointless.

  58. This is precisely what it’s about – the fixed price is the interim step to a full ETS, when there will be a market-driven price. In the mean-time there will be the opportunity to look at what adjustments are required for both business and the public.

  59. Mondo, the problem with R&D is that is definitely isn’t immediate action.

    Perhaps substantial progress will be made in a year, but maybe it will take 10 or more. Until that time, a R&D focus delivers nothing substantial. Any fundamental breakthroughs still need to be developed for mass production, which tends to be a very lengthy process. And then they need to compete with existing technology – and this is the crux – that means competing, in the absence of an ETS, with artifically cheap fossil fuels and their associated technologies.

    There is already plenty of existing technology that has offered energy efficiency gains and alternatives, but they have always struggled to make an impact in the face of a skewed game. An ETS can at least ‘unload’ the dice to some degree, and it would probably bring a flood of private $$$ into the R&D game.

  60. Splatterbottom

    Gadj: “the fixed price is the interim step to a full ETS”

    Call it an interim step if you like, it is still a tax!

  61. SB Both of those links are broken. But I did a bit of sussing it out, and it turns out FGM is an ancient Egyptian practice!!!!

    http://www.suite101.com/content/female-circumcision-in-egypt-a194378

    Wow I didn’t know that.

    I can’t find any post 2000 figures either, but I didn’t realise it was so wide spread in Egypt.

  62. Just went and had a look at pew research, who did the survey you quoted in the Reuters article. Overall the majority of Muslims in Egypt favour democratic govt, with a strong Muslim influence. I certainly don’t agree with some of the punishments proposed, but then I don’t agree with the puritanical punishments dished out to people in Australia on the basis of their drug use either.

    I think thats a very positive thing cos it appears that if democracies are left alone to function for one or two hundred years their overall trend is toward less oppressive societies. It happened with us in the English speaking world, so I assume it’ll happen with anyone else too.

    This is miles from my original point tho, which was that self organisation emerges spontaneously from chaotic situations, especially wrt organising human society. And I made that in response to the idea that loathing the “free market” and “the economy” as they exist today does not automatically mean you want to live in a post apocalyptic world where people cave in their neighbours heads and feast on the bloody goo inside at the drop of a hat. (Tho that does obviously has its attractions to leftists like me…) To me that idea is on a par with the claims of fundies of any faith (cept maybe Buddhism or Taoism) that society needs God’s guiding hand or we all start murdering each other in our beds.

    Ain’t digression a wonderful thing tho.

  63. Splatterbottom

    Jules the machine keeps rejecting my attempts to repost, but it looks you’ve found them anyway.

    Humans have some capacity for forming orderly societies, but looking at history, it is a long painful process, with many twists and turns. Even democracies can head off in the wrong direction. Some of the most democratic constitutions have produced some of the worst monsters.

    The problem for Egypt is that if their is an actual or implied provision that the rest of the law is subject to sharia principles you end up with the ridiculous blasphemy and apostasy cases that you see in Afghanistan now.

  64. But it does lead back to the idea of a Carbon tax or an ETS, for its own sake even.

    Making money by hiding the cost of the environmental damage you do is an act of bastardry. Whether its increasing atmospheric CO2, poisoning water tables, or dumping the toxic chemicals you use in your ecky or ice kitchen down the sink or by the side of the road in some out of the way place.

    Its bullshit. I’m expected to pay a fair price for stuff and I certainly don’t mind adding the cost of the environmental damage my lifestyle causes to whatever I pay for. Regardless of how effective a carbon price will be, resisting it is simply a selfish act by a pack of jerks who basically want something for nothing. Thats a symptom of a far greater problem – short sightedness and way to much selfishness basically.

  65. “The problem for Egypt is that if their is an actual or implied provision that the rest of the law is subject to sharia principles you end up with the ridiculous blasphemy and apostasy cases that you see in Afghanistan now.”

    Honestly I don’t know if there is as clear cut and straight a line from one to the other as you seem to think it is, but I guess thats a moot point. In many ways our culture is simply an extension of the New Testament. The influence of the Bible on western law is huge. And it hasn’t always been pretty.

    I have no problem with that aspect of Christianity influencing our culture. Ultimately you can draw a line from Jesus saying “Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone” and the end of the Death penalty in Australia, not a straight line with no branching nodes on the way, but a line nonetheless. And I guess thats the same as the one you (SB) have drawn between sharia and the worst abuses of sharia law.

    Yet the New Testament can be used to justify ugly many things, including a ban on gay marriage (in a secular society) and anti semitic laws in Europe over the last 2000 years. But still the ideas of individual salvation and social justice that jesus allegedly promoted have resulted in our culture (in Australia) having one of the best systems for limiting oppressive power and guaranteeing individual rights that we have seen in history. And even then we have a system thats far from perfect. But its slowly slouching toward something pretty good.

    If the fundies have their way with Australia then it would be a country I would be ashamed to live in. But thats not gonna happen cos plenty of people, even many Christians, prefer a secular state to a religious one. I think this is a natural human tendency and I expect it applies in most societies that aren’t suffering insane levels of duress, and I wouldn’t say Egypt was suffering insane levels of duress. High levels sure, but not insane.

    So I honestly don’t think sharia and fundamentalism will have the power some do.

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