Debunking the Great Carbon Tax hype

Britain's anti-carbon war has hiked taxes, provided a windfall for government, driven up energy costs, hobbled industry competitiveness, and dumped masses into fuel poverty. Where's the benefit?

Are we wasting out time reducing our "footprints"?
Peter C. Glover
On 23 July 2012 14:08

With global temperatures flat-lining for 15 years, climate alarmist arguments are looking far more fragile than the earth’s (actually robust) eco-system. Of late, climate activists of all ideological shades have thus attempted to posit a “third way” between the “extremes” of interminable left-right, alarmist-sceptic arguments.  

Thus the new climate mantra is for a global carbon tax. It is, so we are told, the best way to “incentivise” people to act on the “problem” and provide a “solution”.  Step forward Tim Worstall of the UK’s Adam Smith Institute (ASI) and his “third way” contentions.    

Now I like Tim Worstall (TW). Tim is a senior fellow at the excellent UK ASI free market think-tank. Generally speaking, Tim contributes a great deal of worthy economic analysis on public policy issues. But in his belief that “climate change is a problem and yes, we have to do something about it” TW has, quite simply, “lost it”.

Let’s be clear, TW is not, as he pithily puts it, a “tits up for humanity” doomsayer. Fine anti-alarmist publications such as The Register are happy to run his articles such as “Global warming is GOOD for the environment”. But even there the alarm bells begin to sound.

In it TW hopes that the upcoming fifth IPCC report “will report honestly and openly” so that we can assess whether it's worth “ditching industrial civilisation” or not.

So whether the industrial revolution was a massive mistake, for TW, rests entirely on the integrity of a highly politicized body which has already proved to be involved in massive scientific and data tampering (the hockey stick fiasco, Climategate, to name but two).

Clearly TW has bought into the notion that man is able to ‘manipulate’ the climate both for ill and for good, the Warmist argument of Greenpeace and co. TW’s case is, therefore, that we need to act on climate change. To that end he purports to show that Britain already provides the blueprint for action having already imposed a raft of green taxes that amounts to carbon tax.   

To make headway, Worstall first insists we must: “Put the [James] Delingpoles over here, the vileness that are Greenpeace, FoE and the rest of the forward-to-the-Middle-Ages crowd over there”. In other words, ditch what he perceives as ‘extreme’ positions.

Unfortunately, Worstall conveniently circumvents any need for empiricists actually to prove the scientific case against CO2 which they have still to do, bizarrely citing scientific “uncertainty” as grounds for acting.

In a recent Forbes column TW thus agrees with the case made in a NY Times op-ed calling for the substitution of a carbon tax directly on emissions rather than green taxes on “good things” like consumer items. According to Worstall, “a carbon tax brings us the right amount of climate change” by pitching it at “whatever the ‘social cost’ of carbon is.” The goal: “to change people’s incentives and then see how they solve the problem.”

Worstall explains how, if we convert all the methane and associated gases into CO2 equivalents and add this to CO2 creating CO2-e, the effect would be to “a 0.7 degree rise in average temperature”. This “straight physics” he maintains is demonstrated “in all the IPCC reports”.

But that is “not the end of the story”. For TW the key to action is “the feedbacks”, that is “processes started by that 0.7 degree warning”, which are then able to “amplify...the initial direct impact of CO2”.  He admits that we don’t know whether these “feedbacks” are actually “positive or negative”.  Indeed, “we don’t know where they will lead”.

So for clarity, let’s sum up. Even though a 0.7 degree warming would have all sorts of vegetation growing benefits, it isn’t actually happening, but, theoretically, it could. That in itself is not necessarily a problem but the possible “feedbacks” might be, even though we have no idea whether those “feedbacks” would be “positive or negative”.

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