"He's a snake in the grass, I tell ya guys; he may look dumb but that's just a disguise; he's a mastermind in the ways of espionage." Charlie Daniels, "Uneasy Rider" On Bob Murphy`s narrow attack on Krugman`s support for the Waxman-Markey climate bill - TT's Lost in Tokyo

On Bob Murphy`s narrow attack on Krugman`s support for the Waxman-Markey climate bill

I just stumbled into Bob Murphy`s June 8 post at the LvMI Daily site, and submitted a few comments.  As it looks like my links prevented my comments from posting, I`ve copied them here (with a few typo tweaks and links added):

Bob, I didn`t realize you had put a post up here.

Allow me first to copy here a few points that I made on your related post at MasterResource, but which freedom- and open-debate-loving Rob Bradley blocked (your truly has been banned there for the past few months):

"The below is copied from MasterResource, where I remain on permanent moderation - IOW, banned - even though Bob and the authors of various threads seem perfectly interested in engaging me.

"TokyoTom { 06.09.09 at 12:53 am }

A few comments, if I may (in the hope that springs eternal that even the “unclean” will be allowed to post): [Note to readers:  rest easy; that the final "I`ve been banned!" reference.]

1. “Cost/Benefit Analysis Cannot Justify Waxman-Markey’s Aggressive Targets”

Why this headline, which is completely unsupported in the post?

You do link to a prior post, where you try to draw the conclusion that “If the whole world adopted the stringent emission cutbacks in Waxman-Markey, then the costs to the global economy would far outweigh any reasonable estimate of the benefits (measured in avoided climate damage)”, but both there and here you fail to address Weitzman, much less more fundamental problems regarding the validity of CBA (aggregating preferences across persons situated vastly differently, ignoring the problems of frustrated preferences, enrtrenched rent-seeking and the continuing lack of property rights or other mechanisms to manage an important commons).

And far from “agree[ing] with you”, the RFF paper much more fairly illustrates some of the complexities in applying CBA to the moving ball of international negotiations.

2. “the costs to the global economy would far outweigh any reasonable estimate of the benefits (measured in avoided climate damage)”

“Yet mainstream models of the global economy and climate system show that worldwide adoption of Waxman-Markey would be foolish as well. It takes heroic assumptions both of lurking climate catastrophes and of international dipomacy to justify support for the current bill.”

Again, you offer conclusions not established here or elsewhere. You appear to acknowledge your overstatements when you say: “If proponents of aggressive government measures want to say the benefits justify such costs, fair enough; but let’s not kid ourselves that this is going to be cheap.”

3. “RFF study, which says the cumulative cost through 2050, expressed today in present-value terms, is up to $43 trillion worldwide.”

Actually, don`t the RFF authors make clear that this estimate is based on universal adoption worldwide and least-cost reductions - 70% of which would take place in developing countries - with a clear indication that such countries are not likely to act agressively for decades? Accordingly, the RFF study implies that global costs will fall below the straight estimate.

4. It is interesting to me that you ignore the dynamics of the international context of climate policy and negotiations. Why no comment on the observations in the RFF paper that likely “leakage” of carbon-heavy industry to developing countries and dampening Western demand for fossil fuels will constitute net subsidies that spur development in poorer parts of the globe?

Your comment is awaiting moderation."

Thanks for putting these up at your own blog.

Further, let me note:

1.  Your criticism of W-M on conventional CBA grounds is limited to W-M, and doesn`t address the many CBA analyses that conclude (as Nordhaus has done weakly for decades) that carbon pricing mechanisms are now justified.  Economist Richard Tol last year summarized the economic literature as follows:

"Firstly, greenhouse gas emission reduction today is justified. Even the most conservative assumption lead to positive estimates of the social cost of carbon (cf. Table 1) and the Pigou tax is thus greater than zero. Yohe et al. (2007) argue that there is reason to reduce greenhouse gas emissions further than recommended by cost-benefit analysis. The median of ... peer-reviewed estimates with a 3% pure rate of time preference and without equity weights, is $20/tC. .... The case for intensification of climate policy outside the EU can be made with conservative assumptions. ... Secondly, the uncertainty is so large that a considerable risk premium is warranted. With the conservative assumptions above, the mean equals $23/tC and the certainty-equivalent $25/tC. More importantly, there is a 1% probability that the social cost of carbon is greater than $78/tC. This number rapidly increases if we use a lower discount rate—as may well be appropriate for a problem with such a long time horizon—and if we allow for the possibility that there is some truth in the scare-mongering of the gray literature.  Thirdly, more research is needed into the economic impacts of climate change—to eliminate that part of the uncertainty that is due to lack of study, and to separate the truly scary impacts from the scare-mongering."

[Cato`s Jerry Taylor has a good summary of Tol`s review here.]

2.  Granted that you focussed narrowly on W-M, but by doing so you completely fail (a) to acknowledge the atmosphere/climate system as an open-access commons under growing infuence by man, and (b) to put forward a "free market" agenda that would serve as a win-win response to the wide array of people, firms, institutions and nations that are concerned about man`s role in ongoing climate change and about the likelihood of future climate change stemming from the growing use of fossil fuels and other human activities.

Are you indeed interested in addressing people`s legitimate preferences regarding climate, and pushing for freer markets?  This is a question that I have asked Rob Bradley at his self-declared "free market" MasterResource blog any number of times.

Rob has stated there in response to me [before he banned me] that: "a free-market approach is not about “do nothing” but implementing a whole new energy approach to remove myriad regulation and subsidies that have built up over a century or more", but he and his co-bloggers (including you) haven`t  seen fit yet to actually recommend ANY free market approaches to climate concerns!

Failing any effort to actually offer policy suggestions, is it unfair to wonder whether you guys are, consciously or not, simply providing cover for the rent-seekers who benefit most by generating pollution and other risks in the manner permitted by current regulations?  (Why did Exxon stop funding Rob`s Institute for Energy Research, BTW?) 

[It`s very clear that Joe Romm and others perceive you this way; are you not seeking to persuade them?]



PS:  Your chief post doesn`t actually link to the comment thread, which readers have to search for.  You might want to fix that.


Published Fri, Jun 12 2009 1:54 PM by TokyoTom