A Free-Market Energy Blog

Taylor at RFF: Don’t Assume the Problem, Debate It (why price carbon dioxide?)

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- March 1, 2016

“With the RFF moment at hand, it is timely to give voice to the old Jerry Taylor to challenge the new Jerry.”

Will Jerry Taylor speak truth to power or power to truth at tomorrow’s seminar at Resources for the Future (RFF) on public policy toward climate change? This question was asked in yesterday’s post on the (ultra-strange) reinvention of Jerry Taylor to climate alarmism/forced energy transformation.

With the RFF moment at hand, it is timely to give voice to the old Jerry Taylor to challenge the new Jerry. These same questions should be asked of Ray Kopp, who has made a living of assuming rather than debating the fundamental issues surrounding climate change. And to the extent that RFF is a scholarly organization (it is not when it comes to climate change under the very partisan Phil Sharp), every staffer there should take the questions to heart and challenge authority.

Here are a baker’s dozen questions:

Physical Science

1. Are climate models running too hot; equilibrium climate sensitivity estimates coming down; and the ‘pause’ reconfirmed (all in the face of predicted increases in CO2 concentrations)?

2. Are weather extremes increasing with higher atmospheric concentrations of CO2?

3. Can climate science link the human influence on climate to particular weather events, even extreme ones?

4. Are there positive ecological effects from the enhanced greenhouse effect (carbon fertilization, moderately warmer and wetter trends)?

5. Has the distribution of “fat tail” (worst-case) climate probabilities fallen in recent years, joining lower climate sensitivity estimates?

Climate Economics

1. At lower climate sensitivities, are there positive externalities to the human influence on climate, and at what point are the benefits net positive?

2. At lower climate sensitivities, what is the cost/benefit of (government) mitigation versus free-market adaptation?

Carbon Tax (your proposal)

1. Can a US carbon tax in the first ten years be close to the height of what committed environmentalists believe is the social cost of carbon so that a grand swap (tax for regulation) can be made?

2. Does the ‘tax interaction effect’ show that a carbon tax cannot be supported on a stand-alone recycled-revenue basis? (If so, does this remove the case for conservatives and/or libertarians supporting a CO2 levy, climate change considerations aside.)

Public Policy: General

1. Is there an intellectual case against introducing carbon taxation from a Public Choice/political economy perspective?

2. Can unilaterally or globally pricing CO2 avoid what F. A. Hayek called ‘the fatal conceit’?

3. Is climate planning the new central planning for the economy?

4. In light of the above three questions, should libertarians fight against or surrender to government ‘stabilizing’ the climate?