Friday, September 07, 2007

Channel 4 tonight

Barring any major suprises I should be on Channel 4 at 7.30pm in the programme "The Great Green Debate". Essentially the format is four panelists who are disproportionately green (3 to 1) trying to convert an audience which is disproportionately sceptical.

It made for an interesting dynamic. Mark Pennington, as the sceptic on the panel, was excellent. He didn't challenge the science, accepted that the weight of scientific opinion was that global warming was happening and caused by humans, but challenged the idea it should be our sole objective and that it can justify big new interventions into the capitalist economy.

The audience also did well. They more than held their own against the 'experts' who wound up beating a hasty retreat on green taxes in particular. I helped this in a sort of 'expert in the audience' role. I was asked, as a representative of the TPA, why people were cynical about green taxes. I told the programme that people are right to be cynical about green taxes; they're set too high and are just a device to raise revenue.


Vino S said...

Surely any tax is designed to raise revenue? In terms of the social costs that green taxes are aiming to internalise, i suspect there is reason to differ as to what the total social costs are. And, presumably, ecologists are aiming to use green taxes to _reduce emissions_ and, as such, unless emissions fall they would say the taxes are too low.

As I said on my blog, if you rule out green taxes (the most market-based solution) you are left with emissions caps and with adaptation. And, since I have yet to see any detailed ideas re adaptation and how to fund it, I strongly suspect that you are putting all your eggs in that basket which doesn't seem like a prudent course of action to me.

Gracchi said...

Matt you have said previously that you think Global Warming is happening. You have said previously that you are against 'green taxes' to deal with it. What is your alternative policy- I understand that you might be in favour of building barriers to say stop flooding but what would you do about Bangladesh and other places which will flood and don't have the money for protection. Every time you post about this subject you attakc the other answers to this problem and they may be wrong- but out with it what is your policy.

Alan said...

Hey great stuff! You're the first one to get an applause on this! Rock on!

Matthew Sinclair said...

This picture of my position as entirely negative is entirely innaccurate. I've posted positive recommendations in two key areas:

Adapting. Both taking measures like ensuring proper flood defence and not compromising the economic growth provides the raw material for options for adaptive strategies in the future.

Technology. Jim Manzi's National Review article set out a plan for technology prizes that could, by offering an alternative to the monopoly grant of a patent, allow us to encourage technological development in particular areas.

A combination of those two strategies seems the sensible way forward to me.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Sorry, that's the proper link to the ConHome piece on adaptive responses.

Vino S said...

Hi Matt, its good to see what the positive proposals you favour are. However, I think we will have to disagree on their use as the _sole_ way of dealing with global warming. I think you are putting all your eggs in one basket with regard to whether we will be able to adapt. You are also making assumptions that the rate of climate change will be relatively small (since what compensation for a 1 degree rise is different from a 5 degree rise). Also, I am not convinced that countries will be able to adapt rapidly enough to avert problems.

I would thus favour a mixture of approaches since I think that your view is pollyannish and - furthermore - that your ideological dislike of taxes and state regulation is blinding you to problems that require political solutions.

Matthew Sinclair said...

I had two areas!

edmund said...

i think an important point to Gracchi points is that if an acion costs more than what i's pren ving you don' have to provide a diffent way of solivn the same problem- if to lose a mill9on i have to spend 2 million then lose a million.

Also Vilno point does deal with the fact there is no real way of stopping this even granting the scinefi assup of the IPCC and other lobbyists for such actions- India and China won't go along and it won't happen.

Matthew Sinclair said...

Thank you Edmund. Absolutely right.

Gracchi said...

Ok I suppose I better respond. Matt to be honest I'd forgotten your solutions from earlier apologies.

The technological route is definitely interesting- the question is what can be achieved in that line and how fast- I know there are possibilities in some areas- I have a friend with a patent on a particular type of electrical generation through hydrogen but I don't know the state of the science. Better forecasting does strike me as something we should do as well- but again I doubt that with a chaotic system that can produce the results that you would hope for- afterall if a bee lands on a flower in South America and it can cause a hurricane in the Pacific I doubt anyone can. The interesting question then is at what point does the weather system go out of equilibrium and cause a disaster and whether global warming brings you closer to that point. There may be and you may be right here, indeed I think you are, ways that government can incentivise pursuing 'green' technology- but in your report you criticise such measures as skewing the market- they would but would you object!

To your second issue- that is adapting through flood defences etc. The problem I have there is the massive redistribution that that too requires. To take an example Bangladesh would be one of the first victims of an outbreak of global flooding but is a very poor country- who would supply it with the funds to build the infrastructure to protect it- and if as Edmund suggested privately to me that Bangladeshis should all move (an unrealistic option in my view) who would coordinate that move- who ultimately would pay for their accomodation and on what land- who would give them land- would we give them Kent or force someone else to give up a slice of their country. Obviously the UK or US can protect themselves through barriers but what about poorer countries- and have you done any estimate on the comparative cost of building defences for every degree rise in global temperature to taking action against it.

Ok lastly on Edmund's point- the problem is that at the moment I don't see that the argument on cost as being fairly driven. Yes there are massive costs to a policy of stalling the growth of emmissions- of course there are- but what are the costs of providing flood defences, dealing with the crisis of water deprivation in the Sahara and Middle East (already effecting politics there is an aspect as you know to the present conflict between Israel and Syria that is about the water resources of the rivers flowing into that region) and how do those costs compare with the costs of dealing with carbon emmissions.

I agree with you about India and China- that is a severe problem- and your own solution involves other as I have pointed out above serious diplomatic problems- for you Edmund I have to ask given your plans for moving Bangladesh where would those people and their government go- who would give up the land. I would have thought that proposal would be harder to achieve than a global climate treaty.

Vino S said...

I agree with Henry's last point. I haven't seen details of how much adaption would cost - Edmund is just assuming that it would cost less than reducing carbon emissions.

Additionally, the question re Bangladesh is a good one. I don't think that Edmund has thought this one through. If Bangladesh is in danger of flooding, and if this is because of global warming, it seems to me there is a moral duty for the richer powers to assist them as it is our pollution that has put them in a situation where they face a big problem.