Thursday, July 09, 2009

Eli Rabett's Simple Plan to Save the World (Part II)

About a year and a half ago, Eli provided a simple plan to save the world, something that appears to be of interest to your average Nobel Prize winner.

Nations wishing to make major progress on decreasing greenhouse gas emissions should introduce emission taxes on all products. These taxes should be levied on imports as well as domestic goods at the point of sale, and should displace other taxes, such as VAT, sales taxes, and payroll (e.g. social security, health care) in such a way that tax revenues are constant, and distributed equitably.

Recently, it has come to Eli's attention that the developing countries, specifically India, and to an extent China, are behaving badly, something that the denial-o-sphere is celebrating, if not directly, quite passive-aggressively. Even there, India's POV seems to orient towards the audience, much of this is pre-negotiation tactics. There are two principle threads to the argument, the first being that the US and the rest of the developed world own the problem. According to the principal Indian negotiator, Shyam Sara

We see no link between what the United States, as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, does and India assuming legal commitments for emission reductions. The volume of US emissions today constitutes over 20 percent of the global total and 20 tons annually per person. Despite our much larger population, India produces only 4 percent of those emissions -- 1.1 tons per person. Therefore, while we would welcome a positive and forthcoming attitude on the part of a new administration to significantly reduce US emissions -- as President-elect Obama has promised -- this has no bearing on India. It will not lead India to accept rules that go beyond the current UN climate treaty, which does not stipulate legally binding reductions for developing nations.

Eli's simple plan bypasses this. While India and China may reject emissions added levies, there is not much they could do about it in their export lead economies. The second being that everyone owns a per capita emissions cap

Even though there is no legal obligation on India in this respect, the Prime Minister of India made a commitment that India's per capita emissions will at no time exceed the average of the per capita emissions of developed, industrialized countries. We have thus accepted a limit on our emissions and at the same time provided an incentive to our partners in developed countries to be more ambitious.

To wave a red flag, per capita arguments need to confront population growth. Claiming a larger emissions cap on the basis of increasing population should not exactly win any more points than similar persiflage. It is instructive to look at population growth. Europe and Japan (not shown) have essentially flat population since the 1970s, the US population has grown, but a large part of that is immigration. India, well, Eli is a compassionate, fast breeding mammal but still. OTOH, the Rabett recognizes denial when it is on display thus

Eli Rabett's Simple Plan to Save the World (Part II):

India and China and many other developing countries should reduce their emissions of black carbon by 90% or more in the next decade. This will not only significantly reduce warming of the climate, it will make a major contribution to the health of their people. Simple and economical methods of doing this are available.

Anyone doubting the dimension of the problem should read James Fallows reports from Beijing (he recently left) in the Atlantic


More on the Emissions Added Levy (Blogger is behaving badly, but the full text is still in the Google cache)

These should be introduced as an Emissions Added Levy (avoiding the bad jokes). EAL would be imposed on sale for emissions added in the preceding step and inherent to the consumption of the product, as would be the case for heating oil and gasoline. Manufacturers would pay the EAL on electricity they bought, and incorporate this and the levy on emissions they created into the price of the product they sell.

Imports from countries that do not have an EAL would have the full EAL imposed at the time of import. The base rate would be generic EALs based on worst previous practices in the countries that do have EALs, which would be reduced on presenting proof that the actual emissions were lower.

Saving the world is hard work, Eli needs a beer. Comments


thingsbreak said...

I am huge supporter of BC cuts in lieu of binding GHG emissions targets for the developing world. It will hopefully be the only time that I, the Rabett, and Jimmy Inhofe are all on the same page.

[Word Verification chimes in with "ration", but I don't think we're quite there yet.]

FancyRat said...

I agree wholeheartedly. An Emissions Added Levy is the way to go, and will help redirect effort into lower emission activities. People who bleat that a carbon tax would unfairly advantage countries not imposing one seem to be pretending that taxes cannot be applied at borders.

One Chinese leader said lots of their emmissions were for export, so shouldn't be considered their responsibility. An Emissions Added Levy applying to imports as well as local production would help address this.

Wadard said...

Great idea.

Brian Schmidt said...

A 90% BC cut is good, but doesn't solve the ever-increasing per-capita problem.

I'd still stick with a baseline year for per-capita allocations, don't adjust for population growth/decline, do adjust for net immigration.

cynthia said...

Hi Eli,

I have a question for either you or your bunny friends. Is it really true, as Matt Taibbi points out in his latest Rolling Stone piece entitled "The Great American Bubble Machine," that cap-and-trade is specifically designed so that the Goldmans of the World can make money hand over fist at great cost to our economy as a whole? According to Matt, Goldman and other like-minded crooks have bought off Washington in exchange for having first dibs on the cap and trade market. Then as soon as they get done inflating the cap and trade bubble full of hot air, as they've done to so many market bubbles in the past, they'll push the eject button right before this bubble hits the pavement and bursts, causing a flood of damage to occur throughout our economy. In other words, our banksters, led by Goldman Sachs, won't be getting into the cap and trade market in order to prevent life as we know it from being asphyxiated by a thick blanket of atmospheric CO2. They'll be doing so in order to make a killing on Wall Street -- thus putting Uncle Sam in debt up to his eyeballs and sending those of us on Main Street to the poor farm.

Anonymous said...

Rabett, you're a laugh a minute. We had fun with such discussions, one-two years ago. I said the Chinese and Indians would give the world the finger, and they're loving it.
You population graphs just prove Europe and Japan don't matter any more- they can play their Kyoto and upcoming Copenhagen games, and China and India just laugh.

You and your little scurrying friends should just continue to sip the beer, as the world always seems to get better as more beer is sipped. Doze of even, the world won't miss your contribution.


georgesdelatour said...

Why not link the rate of tax to the ten-year averaged global temperature increase?

Horatio Algeranon said...


Horatio thinks James Hansen might be inclined to add a letter to "Cap and Trade":

Counterfeit Bills and Climate Change

bjchip said...

Good... but WAY too complicated !

People won't do what you want. We human types is not mice but cats, and we don't run in herds ( not so I've noticed anyway )...

I support trying but i don't expect it to work. Instead do something that is simple (that is anything that relies on technology(which we are good at), no matter how complex, rather than human cooperation (which we really snck at) ).

Cheap Access To Space- CATS. Hell we had working prototypes - once. We know how to do it if we want.

Once you have CATS you have mirrors to increase or decrease effective albedo which would control the temperature component handily. You also get a whole lot of other benefits, tangible and intangible. Nope, it isn't atmospheric science, and the greens think its a techno-fix and Lockheed-Martin doesn't want it cause they have a business model based on EXPENSIVE access to space.

... but it would solve the immediate problem.


Anonymous said...

We human types is not mice but cats, and we don't run in herds.."

Actually, when it comes to social behavior and "decision-making", humans are much closer to herd animals than they are to solitary animals like cats (or mice, which are also solitary, on the whole. perhaps BJ meant rats?)

Hank Roberts said...

Eli, is there a list, or list of programs, that suits this goal?

> reduce their emissions of
> black carbon by 90% or more
> in the next decade.

Wood fires to stoves?
Diesel engine controls?

thingsbreak said...


Relevant references in this Commentary:

Hank Roberts said...

from Earthjustice