Blogs > Liberty and Power > Alexander Cockburn Replies to His Critics

May 27, 2007 2:11 am

Alexander Cockburn Replies to His Critics

"I began this series of critiques of the greenhouse fearmongers with an evocation of the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages as precursors of the 'carbon credits'—ready relief for carbon sinners, burdened, because all humans exhale carbon, with original sin. In the Middle Ages they burned heretics, and after reading through the hefty pile of abusive comments and supposed refutations of my initial article on global warming I'm fairly sure that the critics would be only to happy to cash in whatever carbon credits they have and torch me without further ado."

Read Cockburn here and here.

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Sudha Shenoy - 5/27/2007

Undoubtedly people's _opinions_ of AGW will change with the prices they are asked to pay for CO2. But according to the SPMs for WGI & WGII, deleterious CO2 emissions are a _fact_, not an opinion. They say CO2 emissions rose (in fact) from an average of 23.5 GtCO2 in the 1990s to 26.4 GtCO2 in 2000-2005. They estimate that the 'social cost of carbon'in 2005 is an average of $US 12 per tonne of CO2, within an extremely wide range (upto $US 130 per tonne.)

So _within_ this framework the real question is the appropriate price which will reduce fossil fuel usage/CO2 emissions to whatever level is deemed appropriate. This, as a _factual_ question, irrespective of people's opinions.

Tim Sydney - 5/27/2007

There was some interesting free market economic critique of some of the problems with Carbon Offsets recently on the TCS site. See article here. And there was a recent article in Business Week (see here) which discussed some racketeering going on in the carbon offset business.

What I find interesting in the political economy of carbon offsets is the huge range in prices proposed by different "carbon offset" deals. The idea is that you calculate the carbon dioxide output of some activity you are engaged in and you "offset" that carbon load by paying some dudes to do things that take CO2 out of the atmosphere.

For example, I was planning a recent trip from Sydney to Vancouver and back. So my "per capita" passenger carbon load from that return trip is calculated at around 6000 lbs of CO2. That's 2.7 metric tons. At least according to one of the online calculators. See here. That's about 13,500 kilometres worth of motor vehicle driving in an early 1990s model car, although late model cars do way better than that.

According to the people at the "Carbon Offset Directory" (see here)
the cost of offsetting that carbon load ranges from a low of $3.56 per ton to $39.48 per ton. That is quite a spread. And to make matters worse, the helpful people at Junk (see here) tell me that the EU Emission Trading System (ETS) works on a $50 per metric ton figure. So it seems that in the market for carbon offsets you have a wide range of "choice". (I have since read that the Stern Report rates carbon damage at $80 per ton, and these guys map the world with it at $20 per ton.)

My non-economist's guess is that there would be plenty more AGW hypothesis supporters at $3.56 per ton than at $80.00 per ton.