November 14, 2006
CO2 Emissions Rate Of Increase Accelerating
Not only is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) getting pumped into the atmosphere increasing but the rate at which it is increasing is itself increasing. In the last 5 years the rate of growth in CO2 emissions was 5 times faster than it was in the 1990s.
The global growth in carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels was 4 times greater in the period between 2000 to 2005 than in the preceding 10 years, say scientists gathering in Beijing today for an international conference on global environmental change.
Despite efforts to reduce carbon emissions, the global growth rate in CO2 was 3.2% in the five years to 2005 compared to 0.8% in the period 1990 to 1999, according to data soon to be published by the Global Carbon Project (www.globalcarbonproject.org), a component of the Earth System Science Partnership (www.essp.org).
The industrialization of some high population countries is behind the acceleration in the rate of growth of CO2 emissions. China has now surpassed Japan and is the second largest fossil fuels user and CO2 emitter after the United States
China might surpass the United States as the largest CO2 emitter by 2030.
One likely contributor is China, whose emissions slowed at end of the 1990s before rising again. China is now the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after the US. On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency released a report predicting that it would become the world’s top emitter by 2030 (see World faces 'dirty, insecure' energy future).
Other growing developing countries, such as India and Brazil, are also fast becoming large emitters.
Rapidly growing less developed countries aren't going to hold back their growth in order to stop the rise in CO2 emissions. Only the development of cheaper cleaner energy technologies can stop the rise of CO2 emissions.
To repeat: CO2 emissions will continue to rise rapidly until cheap technologies are developed that produce energy without emitting CO2.
Interestingly it was Gerard O'Neill who argued in the 1970's for solar power satellites constructed from lunar material and, as part of that argument predicted the industrialization of China would lead to increased CO2 emissions from coal burning that would mandate radical restructuring of global energy technology. It may be too late now to pursue nonterrestrial material SPS since the baby boomer generation, raised and educated to pioneer space from childhood, was denied that opportunity by --- well that is the question of the millennium if not the epoch isn't it? There are almost as many answers to that question as there are religions.
If people talked about setting extra-terrestrial colonies in the 1970s, that was because of nonsense depletion theories predicted by computer models like those of the Meadow's report (the infamous Club de Rome's Report).
Now, the hysteria has been switched to global warming.
No, actually it was because there was an obvious direction in place subsequent to the space race (remember the Apollo program?) that would have been followed through to space industrialization had the launch service industry enjoyed the same protection from government competition that the satellite industry enjoyed:
* (c) Private enterprise; access; competition
In order to facilitate this development and to provide for the widest possible participation by private enterprise, United States participation in the global system shall be in the form of a private corporation, subject to appropriate governmental regulation. It is the intent of Congress that all authorized users shall have nondiscriminatory access to the system; that maximum competition be maintained in the provision of equipment and services utilized by the system; that the corporation created under this chapter be so organized and operated as to maintain and strengthen competition in the provision of communications services to the public; and that the activities of the corporation created under this chapter and of the persons or companies participating in the ownership of the corporation shall be consistent with the Federal antitrust laws.
It wasn't until 1990, when a coalition of grassroots groups across the country lobbied hard for 3 years, that similar legislation got passed for launch services.
The fact that Malthusian paradigm didn't follow the Club of Rome model doesn't change the reality of the Malthusian paradigm given a fundamentally limited biosphere undergoing its largest extinction event in 60 million years. The Club of Rome merely added academic fashion to the urgency of the Malthusian situation still facing the biosphere. The 1970s was the right time to start the drive for space industrialization based on a private launch service industry. It didn't happen, the pioneering culture that founded the US is being replaced by government policy with less pioneering cultures and now we're all facing some increasingly obvious difficulties -- not just pioneer American stock -- and not just humans.
Wind power is getting cheap in a big hurry, and emits no CO2. (Pity that hydropower usually results in the emission of lots of methane from submerged vegetation.)
I think two things are going to come together pretty quickly, possibly followed by a third:
- The industrialized countries are going to slap carbon taxes on energy imports, and proxy taxes on goods imported from outside the carbon treaty.
- Countries which don't play along will find their economic role in the former group severly limited, unless they are petroleum exporters.
- Petroleum exporters may find that their cash isn't safe from suits alleging damages from climate change.
There is one major oil exporter which is also relatively industrialized: Russia. Everyone else would benefit from a transfer of wealth back from producers to their own economies, whether accomplished by carbon-free (and thus petroleum-free) technologies or the courtroom. Expect it to happen.
(Randall, how about putting the security-code box and post button BETWEEN the preview and the entry box?)
Current trade treaties are a legal obstacle to taxing goods based on how much CO2 was generated in their manufacture.
Security code control placement: I really do not like its current location. It is not at all clear that it is needed for Post but not for Preview. Maybe I should put the Preview above it and the Post along side it?
I like techie stuff and enjoy a good hard SF story and was quite taken with the idea of orbital solar power, but after consideration I think the breadth and depth of technological developments needed makes it more a good SF story than any kind of reasonable goal. Better Photovoltaics and better energy storage systems would have to be amongst the lesser technological improvements needed and when we have those then there's significant economic disadvantage to placing them in space rather than on our roofs, walls, windows, awnings, paved surfaces or after that in dedicated power farms.
I agree with you about orbital solar power. The story might change once we have a nanotech beanstalk extending down from orbit to Earth the cost of lifting the photovoltaic satellites into space will fall by orders of magnitude. But that's still some years off and might still end up costing more than a ground-based approach.
We'd be better off spending the money on research to lower the cost of photovoltaics.
Randall correctly points out that trade agreements make focusing on imports nearly impossible. The carbon tax is going to have to hit domestic production equally. This is not too hard because fossil energy production doesn't just happen everywhere. Mines and wells and refineries are not easily hidden. The government already taxes them, no new bureaucracy is needed. And fuel imports are in a similar situation.
Evading carbon taxes by secretly using wood will occur. It doesn't bode well for our forests. Again it will be hard to hide any large users.
Stirring up methane from hydropower sites seems less of a problem than the lack of more hydropower sites. The US doesn't have much left. Maybe E-P was thinking of tidal and offshore current utilization?
Taxing finished goods on carbon content and/or the carbon used in the manufacturing process is certain to be hellishly complex. I prefer taxing the fossil fuel at the extraction sites and choke points.
Solar-in-the-sky surely won't come soon. And meanwhile if we don't solve problems using less glamorous methods the economy probably can't support the research needed to get it ready.
Actually, I was thinking of new projects like Three Gorges. Land-use changes above existing dams can increase methane emissions from their reservoirs too.
I really don't think that existing trade treaties are a big obstacle. The EU is very unhappy with anything which stymies new environmental initiatives, but the USA won't go along with changes and the EU can't do it alone. With a new Congress and president, all of that could flip in a couple of years.
Frankly, I am a lot less worried about Malthus than I am about Marx.
The morons who want us to re-engineer our environment are the same idiots who re-engineered our education system and society. Huge centrally planned market interventions based primarily on ignorance and ideology don't exactly have stellar records.
solar power satellites constructed from lunar material
the cost of lifting the photovoltaic satellites into space
The cost of getting silicon into space from the lunar surface would be orders of magnitude less than launching from earth due not only to the much shallower gravity well but also due to the absence of atmosphere.
No beanstalk needed.
At worst a Dyneema Rotovator would be needed but probably not even that.
Bob, if you want to get rid of market failures then get rid of subsidy of property rights by taxing property rights, that would not exist in the absence of government, at the short term treasury interest rate -- thereby removing taxes on economic activity.
At the end of my political activism in Washington D.C. promoting commercialization of space technology, that's what I finally determined would be required to get rid of the market failures that feed the Marxists.
it occurs to me that one element of the space power idea could have real significance - that of energy distribution. Energy storage is a crucial component of any solar based solutions to future energy, yet there is a way to be less reliant on storage and that's having a grid wide enough and flexible enough to channel power from the places where it's sunny to where the power demand is. A Global grid. Perhaps High voltage DC can be developed sufficiently to make cross- ocean power transmission feasible, perhaps batteries,if really significant improvements are made could make shipping electricity feasible, but perhaps the transmission elements of the space power proposals could be the way to go. I haven't got the time or opportunity right now to look far into this.
It does seem to me that a Global Grid would not be so subject to the price and availablity issues that Oil have and would have less of the security/strategic issues that go with it. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.
A solar satellite would be a quite complex piece of equipment. All of the capital equipment involved in its manufacture would weigh a lot. Suppose the photovoltaics are made of crystalline silicon. Well, then we'd need a crystalline silicon manufacturing facility on the moon.
Would the stuff get manufactured in a vacuum or under pressure? How many workers would labor on the moon? How much stuff would have to get transported to the moon to set up manufacturing facilities and life support facilities? Doctors? Nurses? Repair technicians?
Granted, as time goes on more of that will become automatable. What time line do you have in mind? How does that time line compare to your guess for when photovoltaics will become competitive on Earth?
E-P: Three Gorges? Sorry, I was thinking more about the US options. There is quite a bit of undeveloped hydropower left arount the world. Whether it is a good environmental idea to harness it is another question. But that is up to the nations involved. I understand the US is actually cutting hydropower slowly by decommissioning some installations.
Trade treaties come and go. It still looks like a tough sell to tax imports but not our own production. I actually believe the EU prefers the greater role they have in the Kyoto Club due to the US absence. If we moved to ratify they would try to impede by changing terms.
Bob and James: I don't understand what the 'subsidy of property rights' comments mean.
My best guess comes from Bob - does he want a personal property tax equal to the t-bill rate? How would such a huge new tax stop the government from financing 'planned market interventions'? Which market interventions?
Another interpretation could be that federal programs such as NASA sustain huge contractors - Boeing, Lockheed, etc. - and give them little incentive to progress. It also gives NASA some incentive to hamper independent development of space. Again what has that to do with property tax?
I have no idea what James is on about. It sounds like he wants to toss away property rights like any other Marxist would. Then again, I could be wrong. What he wrote made no sense to me.
Both Marx and Malthus were dead wrong. I worry a lot less about Malthus than Marx. The folks who advocate massive interference to control climate strike me as Malthusians. Given how little we actually know about climate, we should reject calls for massive intervention just like we should have rejected the ideologically driven social engineering and other bullshit education fads of the past 50 years or so.
I think we would get a lot more bang for our bucks by encouraging basic research to improve our knowledge on lots of things like climate, energy storage, energy production etc.
First, the bulk of the materials are manufactured in space from lunar raw material transported to orbital facilities so you don't need to land those facilities on the lunar surface, and you don't have to worry about g-loading the raw materials you are sending to the orbital facilities.
Second, you don't manufacture everything in space -- only bulky materials like solar cells, reflectors, structural members and perhaps klystrons. Only residual materials (raw and manufactured) are of terrestrial origin.
Third, the facility you do put on the lunar surface is there primarily to transport raw materials off the surface, and that facility can be made partially self replicating (as can the orbital facility) under telepresence monitoring with a partial autonomy of basic functions.
The system design as of 1980 would have a doubling time of 90 days. Those numbers and other answers to your questions are in:
O'Neill, Gerard K.; Driggers, G.; and O'Leary, B.: New Routes to Manufacturing in Space. Astronautics and Aeronautics, vol. 18, October 1980, pp. 46-51.
Bob, it's really very Lockean and quite obvious: Compare how things are with government vs things without government and that difference is the service value of government. Property rights beyond simple subsistence animal territory are those first upheld by government hence the proper source of revenue for government is the use fee for those property rights beyond subsistence animal territory. Short term treasury rates are categorized as "zero risk" in modern portfolio theory hence are reasonably classified as economic rent or the profit that derives simply from the monopoly power over a resource created by property rights.
I still don't get it James. You seem to suggest that the value of government should go to the government and not to those who consent to be governed. Are you suggesting to do away with all other taxes?
I'm not clear on your argument either. Though (unlike Bob - and I wish he'd change) I try to refrain from rushing to the first worst possible interpretation of someone's comments.
I can certainly understand that government protects our property rights and therefore it makes sense for government taxes to come from propery tax. But should government get anything more than what it needs to protect property rights? Should it be entitled to all wealth generated as a result of the existence of property rights? Or are you saying government is entitled to a tax on property equal to the T-bill rate?
(and such a tax would decrease the value of property and probably slow its accumulation)
Bob, since the economic rent portion of profit is not due to the merit of the owners of the property but due to the existence of government, I do claim that it is proper to take that portion of the profit stream and redistribute it evenly to all citizens without any prejudice. The main remaining questions are:
* Would this "citizen's dividend" synthesized market be sufficient to replace even police and military organizations with market-created reinsurance networks? I think it is pretty obvious all other government programs could be privatized with this synthesized market base.
* How should the assessed value of a property right be calculated given the spread between 1) the bid price of government under eminent domain and 2) the ask price of the owner under eminent domain?
* What is a "citizen"? That is a bigger question than modern immigration policies would indicate.
Randall asked "Or are you saying government is entitled to a tax on property equal to the T-bill rate?"
Yes but I would tend toward short term rates rather since those are the rates used in modern portfolio theory to calculate net present value of properties given a zero risk profit stream.
It would slow the centralization of property rights but not their overall accumulation. Indeed, I contend that since it would involve more people in the capitalist system and privatize more functions of government, that it would result in a dramatic real-value increase in property and indeed my original impetus was my perception that capital market failures in technology -- leading to government technosocialism like NASA, DoE etc. -- would be radically reduced by such a change.
I see an error in your logic. You assign too much credit to government for the results of a property rights based system.
Imagine two nations with same land area, climate, etc. Imagine they have equally competent governments and citizens which were genetically engineered to rarely commit crimes. But in country A the average IQ is 90 and yet the government is staffed by smart people because the goverment recruits from country B. In country B the people have an average IQ of 110. The second country would have higher per capita income due to the smarter population and much higher demand for land and higher land prices and rent prices.
Would it make sense for the government of country B to collect more in sorta tax-rent? Would the added value generated in country B be due to the government protecting property rights? If it doesn't put any more effort into protecting property rights than is the case in country A then why do the two countries have such different outcomes in per capita GDP?
In fact, we have a property rights based system because the people have sufficient qualities in sufficient number so as to support a government that'll enforce such a system. People do it as jurists. They do it as witnesses who testifiy. They do it with tips to the Cops. The government doesn't deliver justice to us as passive recipients.
James: Your ideas are now a little clearer to me. And I see tax argument is not new. But why would police and armies and other government functions morph into private functions or market-created reinsurance networks just because the government taxes property and sends some of the money to citizens?
Our government gives immense amounts of tax revenues or borrowed money to citizens already. Granted they don't distribute it equally (I avoid the word 'prejudice' because it has so many nuances). Why would a far larger transfer create a 'synthesized market base?'
How would your scheme produce results different than the Alaskan government annually sending each resident a check. (The money is revenue of the state's oil fields?) Is Alaskan government becoming privatized? Are market-created reinsurance networks abundant there? I sure don't know. Maybe an Alaskan will offer some observations?
Randall asserts: You assign too much credit to government for the results of a property rights based system
I assign a well understood amount -- the interest rate on short term treasuries. The rationale is clear: Taking that as the dividend payout for the stockholders doesn't distort the operation of the corporation and indeed prevents distortion by subtracting out the DC component of the signals in the economy/operation.
Think about it from the perspective of a the pre-government negotiating position of the people entering into the a social contract. They'll want a payout to compensate them for their loss of individual sovereignty and they'll quite rationally want to maximize that payout which they will only be able to do by assuming others are similarly rational actors and operating in a positive sum regime where property rights are protected so they can experience collective structural growth over time.
If you don't the short term treasury rate as economic rent then perhaps you can start with Milton Friedman's argument for land value taxation as being the form of tax that is least distorting. It is my contention that since Henry George and other classical economists, modern portfolio theory has provided us with an advance in the form of the net present value calculation's use of short term interest rates as the risk free component of profit streams. We may disagree with each other on the portion of the economy that is defined as "economic rent" but I think it there is a fairly good consensus and argument that it is the preferred source of citizen's dividends for rational actors entering into a social contract for governance.
Imagine they have equally competent governments and citizens which were genetically engineered to rarely commit crimes.
You are asking me to imagine a utopia that simply isn't allowed by nature. As W. D. Hamilton states in the last sentence of "Innate Social Aptitudes of Man":
Some of the main points of this paper can be summarized as an answer to this comment: that often, in real life, there is a law, and we can see why, and that sadly we also see the protean nature of this Dilemma, which, when suppressed at one level, gathers its strength at another.
to the first worst possible interpretation of someone's comments
Randall, you castigate my initial perception of James' position as "worst possible interpretation"; however, I suggest James' own interpretation is far worse than mine was. Please consider the whole pot/kettle issue, too. Without communicating how we perceive each other's messages, how will we measure the effect of our own messages?
What could be more marxist than a direct transfer payment from those who own more property to those who own less?
James offers his tax as an end to market failures. Ignoring for the moment that one person's market failure is often another person's market success, I suggest his tax would only amplify the problems of 'market failures'. He then proceeds to suggest that the government, having taxed away all of the value of governance, should entirely abdicate its obligations under the social contract by relinquishing its monopoly on violence to thugs in the free market.
All property is not created equal. This tax would force all real property into short term production at the expense of dire long-term consequences. For example, forested land has economic value; however, it takes decades or centuries to realize that value. And silviculture creates much more value in a forest than does government. Once one harvests the forest, the value of the land decreases dramatically. A significant property tax on relatively inaccessible forested land would either spell the end of responsible silviculture or spell the end of private ownership of forested lands. The more one spends on silviculture, the more one pays in taxes. The sooner one cuts down the forest the sooner one has money to pay the tax and the lower one's future taxes will be.
This property tax would doom marshland immediately. Effective governance means promoting stewardship of marshland for the public good not taxing it to force economic gain.
I have observed similar things already due to property taxes. My ex-wife's grandfather made very conscious decisions not to improve his home in Milwaukee because the improvements would increase his taxes.
Further, assuming the government controls the money supply, the property tax would spell the end of property rights as the government could seize and redistribute property at will simply by printing more money and handing it to those favored individuals it wants to own the property. The resulting inflation would drive up the 'risk-free' interest rate forcing owners to sell the property to the newly monied or risk seizure for non-payment.
Long-term credit markets could suffer for the same reasons. The money supply is problematic enough already.
Finally, the tax would destroy the government's ability to borrow in domestic credit markets. Any domestic creditor would receive zero gain from holding treasuries leaving only foreign creditors with any incentive to lend to the government.
All that said, given the requirement to pay a tax on the property, who would be dumb enough to use their property for basic research when the return from that research will largely go to others?
Since the tax is on net assets beyond those that one would possess as part of one's animal territory, there is an inherent standard exemption that is basically equivalent to the level of assets protected under bankruptcy: home and tools of the trade. This amounts to something like $300k. That means anyone who has less than $300k is going to find Treasury instruments exceedingly attractive and the banking system's deposit insurance system will be replaced by a banking system that trades Treasuries from pooled savings accounts. Guess what? No more Savings and Loan crises.
Your complaint about "the government, having taxed away all of the value of governance" would be valid, even though taxation is limited to the rate of return on short term treasury debt, IFF the tax-assessed value of the properties were set to value to the owner. However, I did go to some pains to point out that the tax-assessed value should be some function of what the government bids for a property under eminent domain and what an owner asks as under eminent domain. There is a spread there. We could say that function is simply whatever the government bids for the property in which case it would essentially be the banking collateral (liquidation) value of the property.
Your complaint about environmental degradation is well taken and I do admit that the problem of environmental degradation needs to be addressed -- but it is not unique to this system. It is a problem with any system that creates incentives to optimize the net present value of property rights. This system provides a reductio ad absurdum to the idea that humans can get away with mere optimization of their economies without regard to environmental degradation and it does so precisely by optimizing the use of property rights.
The dividing line between basic science and technology development is not as clear-cut as many would like it to be. People make decisions about what they find "interesting" based on their values -- the same values that guide their monetary investments.
"Thugs" are running around all the time currently.... they are called "law enforcement officers" and "the military". The thing that keeps them in check is the limited accountability to the voters via their representatives. If voters are given the franchise not just by some periodic voting system but via market muscle built into the way tax revenue is distributed to the originating sovereigns of the government -- the people -- then abstractions like reinsurance networks guided by market forces replace much of the electoral corruption that leads us into conflicts like Iraq.