02 September 2010

The Smart Ideas Behind Lomborg's New Views

Bjorn Lomborg is in the news again.  This time the story is apparently that the once skeptical environmentalist has changed his tune.  Except of course that is not really true.  What is missed in the false, personality-driven narrative is that there are some serious ideas behind the policies that Lomborg has now decided to advocate for (the sources of which you probably won't hear much about from Bjorn).

Specifically, his proposal for a low (starting and rising) carbon tax to fund innovation comes directly from the work of Isabel Galiana and Chris Green (in the video above) of McGill University, written up for Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus exercise on climate change last year, and available here in PDF.  (I have collaborated with both, most recently on The Hartwell Paper, and I also was a participant in Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus.)

Some, predictably, are trying to exploit that fact that Lomborg is unpopular in the environmental community to cast doubt on the proposals that he now espouses.  After all, it is far easier to judge ideas simply by who holds them rather than on their merits. As usual such an ad hominem approach to policy analysis is a bad idea.

Say what you will about Bjorn Lomborg, he knows a good idea when he sees it, and the policies for decarbonization that he now advocates offer the best alternative to the top-down approach of setting a high global carbon price through a comprehensive global treaty.  (His advocacy of geoengineering is another matter.)  Lomborg's support for such policies should be welcomed, not dismissed.

Lomborg offers the potential to bring along many of his supporters to a new view.  Climate activists must decide if they are engaged in an endless battle against those that they deem the bad guys (regardless of the policies those bad guys espouse), or if they are pragmatists looking for effective policies.  If the latter they should welcome Lomborg's new view with open arms.


  1. Alright, let's oppose the policy! Taxation as a way of driving innovation is a left-wing fairy dream that never works. Taxation inevitably slows growth (decreasing innovation) and government funding of "innovation" inevitably funds the wrong things.

    This policy type is in the same stream as Gordon Brown's "the state is the economy" way of thinking and is just plain wrong.

  2. The idea of a carbon tax that starts low and rises over time is from Nordhaus (1977), but goes back to Hotelling (1931).

    Earmarking tax revenue is daft.

  3. As the climate continues to cool, as Polar Ice expands, as oceans cool . . . it will be very, very difficult to sell a carbon tax to over taxed people.

    The last 30+ year warming period was the perfect opportunity to do so . . . and the international environmental industries tried so hard with all the fear campaigns.

    They failed then and they will fail again.

    The carbon fear idea is as dead as Obama's economic policies.

    Time for new ideas Bjorn, not re-cycled stuff that no longer resonates.

  4. The time horizons here make sense as does the fundamental reliance on market forces. What does not make sense is the absence of an explicit endorsement on the base power generating technologies that are needed to replace coal powered power generation. The lack of specificity about the technologies reminds me of all those silly economic theories that assume the fungibility of capital, labor and technology. The devil is in the specifics.

  5. As one often critical of Lomborg, I do welcome any shift from "it's a problem but we should solve it much later - look our low discount rate!" However, the camp of 'carbon tax for R&D to accelerate decarbonization' has it only partially right. Deployment is a critical step in the advancement of any technology, and the government does have a pretty poor track record at choosing which technologies to back at this stage, when it occasionally backs any (see Solyndra). So the truly tough policy nut is not how to throw a bunch of cash at a bunch of researcher and get a bunch of interesting lab results - that's straightforward and the government has a pretty fair track record at that. It's how to move de-carbonization technologies to market, or market transformation. And really the most effective lever there is either a (noticeably) higher price on carbon or direct consumer incentives for classes of technologies. The latter has been effective getting solar off the dime in California, Colorado, New Jersey, but is only a spotty success nationally. The idea of a clear, certain rising price on carbon creates a clear market incentive for decarbonization, but the rub is in what specifically to do with the money raised, and how to shield low-income families from financial burden.

    And to all the flat-earthers who refuse to acknowledge the multiple GHG-caused problems: you are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts.

    A good parallel discussion of this topic (R&D vs deployment) from the perspective of venture capitalists and clean technology developer is here:


  6. Roger,

    It looks like the time for your ideas is now. I notice that you have a soul mate in Bill Gates.

    The main point on which I disagree with you is this:

    If a tax is used to fund innovation, then the government will select who gets the funds. Given government's remarkably poor history with picking technologies (Ethanol anyone?) how do you allocate these funds without causing the most capable researchers to focus their efforts on securing government dollars instead of end results.

    I'm all for a carbon tax. Even if AGW were false it would be a great idea. But having government give out hundreds of billions of dollars to favored research projects is scary.

  7. -5- Sam,

    I think you've confused conjecture with fact. Or correlation with causation. Not to mention insult with effective communication.

  8. he was slammed (albeit, in an odd way) in the guardian earlier in the week.

    "He argues that there are 'smarter solutions to climate change' than a focus on reducing CO2. This is hardly smart: it's insanity."


  9. As a free market economist advocating a carbon tax, I wonder whether there are personal financial reasons for this change in Lomborg's direction.

    This was heralded in the Guardian, because whether they like it or not, environmental pressure groups like Greenpeace, FOE and The Breakthrough Institute are tacitly supporting carbon trading by playing the Co2 game. No matter how honest or explicit their objections to it are.

    Same goes for James Hansen who has joined me in blaming the oil companies and banks for promoting it. They are a lot bigger and a lot smarter than Hansen. They love him, even if he calls them criminals, because the voters only see the Co2. Dupe would be the best description.

  10. This is a reply to Tol's comment. The slowly rising carbon tax is not a pigouvian tax (as in Nordhaus and Hotelling and many others) and thus has significantly different consequences. The tax proposed in Galiana and Green is much lower that a 'efficient' tax and its purpose is strictly to fund the development of cleaner technologies. It is not meant as a tool to alter behaviour.

  11. re Chris Green and the need to reduce Co2

    Let's remind ourselves that only 26% of Britons believe in AGW, despite a propaganda campaign that dwarfed the entire cold war. Policy = democracy.

    Independent, intelligent opinion favours sceptics. For example Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaever (Nobel Prize), Robert Laughlin (Nobel Prize), Edward Teller, James Lovelock, Robert Jastrow and William Nierenberg.

    Jeffrey Marque, editor of Physics & Society, published by the American Physical Society also wrote

    "There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are very probably likely to be primarily responsible for the global warming that has occurred since the Industrial Revolution"


    Global warming is being driven by individuals who have strong political, environmental or religious views, unacceptable to the majority of British voters.

    James Hansen, John Houghton (Christian) , Mike Hulme (Christian), the Realclimate gang, John Cook (blogger, Christian) and many, many more.

    They would be voices simpering in the wilderness if it weren't for BP, Shell and Goldman Sachs' multi trillion dollar carbon trading bonanza.

  12. "Taxation as a way of driving innovation is a left-wing fairy dream that never works."

    Au contraire. If it weren't for taxes on certain ingredients to make ale, we never would know the nectar known as Guinness. Companies trying to get around taxes has always been a key to innovation. How efficacious that method is can always be debated.

  13. Roger, you state that, "Some, predictably, are trying to exploit that fact that Lomborg is unpopular in the environmental community to cast doubt on the proposals that he now espouses. After all, it is far easier to judge ideas simply by who holds them rather than on their merits." You link to http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/02/climate-change-bjorn-lomborg

    But the linked text does engage the merits of Lomborg's (err, Galiana and Green's) proposal:

    "However, his strategy is alarmingly risky – invest heavily in R&D and hope that this alone will keep atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases low enough to avoid the risk of serious and damaging impacts from climate change. This might work, but it might not.

    A more robust approach to managing the risks of climate change would be not only to invest in R&D, but also to use a carbon tax (or cap-and-trade) to discourage greenhouse gas emissions in the short run. The latter, not raising revenue, would be the primary purpose of introducing a carbon price. But to encourage enough emissions cuts in the next few years to keep greenhouse gases at low enough atmospheric concentrations, a carbon price considerably higher than Dr Lomborg's $7 per tonne is required."

    Sure, they say it "would be wise to remain wary of his pronouncements," but that's hardly uncalled for or inappropriate. We should be wary of anyone's pronouncements.

    Then, you state, "Climate activists must decide if they are engaged in an endless battle against those that they deem the bad guys (regardless of the policies those bad guys espouse), or if they are pragmatists looking for effective policies.  If the latter they should welcome Lomborg's new view with open arms."

    Why is the only choice - (1) engage in endless, and in your apparent view, pointless battles or (2) agree Lomborg is looking for effective policies? Can't they just say, his proposed policies are not effective and explain why? And in the course of that point to where he's been wrong in the past (at least in their view). It doesn't really matter if Lomborg is "looking for effective policies" Who care what's going on in Lomborg's head.

    The question is whether his new proposed policies will be effective. I think the most that can be said is, as stated above in the text you linked as an example of ad hominem attacks, Lomberg's proposal "might work, but it might not." Can anyone point me to proof it will work or even a reasonably explanation of how it's likely to work that isn't complete speculation?

  14. -13-Cliff

    Thanks for your comment. Do you really see those two paragraphs as an engagement of the Galiana and Green proposal? Set aside the cursory nature of the critique, it is factually way off base. So I don't see it as an engagement of G&G, more like a strawman (to be kind).

    You ask, "Can anyone point me to proof it will work or even a reasonably explanation of how it's likely to work that isn't complete speculation?"

    The only "proof" that a policy can work or not is gained from actual implementation and evaluation. On this count we have almost 20 years of effort trying to implement the FCCC (and its KP/CDM etc.) and the dismal track record suggests to many people that it is time to try something else.

    The G&G proposal, The Hartwell Paper, The Climate Fix, TBI, Bill Gates and others represent a coalescing of views around what a set of options proposed as better alternatives.

    Lomborg's support for such alternatives is welcomed. Those who seek to cursorily dismiss him as the LSE folks did are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

  15. "Do you really see those two paragraphs as an engagement of the Galiana and Green proposal?"

    It's a letter to the editor in a newspaper. Presumably the authors have developed their positions more fully elsewhere, e.g., www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/ppt/20091201%20Lord %20Stern2.pdf

    "Set aside the cursory nature of the critique, it is factually way off base. So I don't see it as an engagement of G&G, more like a strawman (to be kind)."

    How is it factually off-base? Is it wrong to say the "R&D" approach is risky? Why? Could you point me to some written documents that explain why this is not risky and/or there is reasonably likelihood of it suceeding?


    "You ask, 'Can anyone point me to proof it will work or even a reasonably explanation of how it's likely to work that isn't complete speculation?' The only "proof" that a policy can work or not is gained from actual implementation and evaluation."

    OK, so we don't know it will work - but we assume it will? How about a reasonable fact-based explanation of how it's likely to actually work.

    "On this count we have almost 20 years of effort trying to implement the FCCC (and its KP/CDM etc.) and the dismal track record suggests to many people that it is time to try something else."

    That doesn't explain how the G&G or Lomborg proposal will be effective - it's a shift to saying some other proposal won't work. Further, isn't the question first a scientific one - what's the problem and what's needed to stop it? Then maybe we ask, is that solution politically feasible. It doesn't do much good to go forward with what's politically feasible if it won't actually solve the problem.

  16. -15-Cliff

    Thanks for the reply.

    First, the link that you provide does not include a response to Galiana and Green ... so no, the authors critique is not actually elaborated there as you suggest.

    (BTW, better link: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/publicEvents/events/2009/20090824t1229z001.aspx)

    As far as where to start your reading, ummm ... how about Galiana and Green? ;-)

    They explicitly address your concerns:

    "We should, however, step back and acknowledge that there is nothing to guarantee that the technology-led policy will succeed. . . But at this juncture there is no reason to believe a technology-led policy will fail, while there is plenty of evidence that alternative mitigation approaches would either be hugely costly (see sections III and VII) - and still not assure success - or have no chance of stabilizing climate at an "acceptable level.""

    Can you "guarantee" that the LSE approach will succeed? Of course not.

    Your characterization of the G&G approach as an "R&D" approach is misleading (at best), as their focus is much broader than simply R&D (read their paper).

    The problem is not "first" scientific. It is a complex societal problem informed by scientific considerations. It will be addressed politically.

    Do read G&G, and after that The Hartwell Paper and if you are still interested, maybe TCF after that ;-)

  17. From my blog: http://www.climate-resistance.org/2010/09/lomborgs-technology-led-policy.html

    I think this idea is a mistake, for two reasons.

    First, I don’t think that the policy comes after an understanding of what has driven the search for ‘climate-friendly’ energy policies. It comes after accepting the premises of climate-alarmism, and environmentalism.

    Second, innovation of energy technology should be a worthwhile end in itself. It does not need climate change to justify it. If we can’t see the value of cheaper, and more abundant energy to increasing the possibilities for development, or any form of human progress, then we’ve already lost the moral argument. Why should we make it a condition that any form of energy production in the future must be ‘clean’?

    This isn’t to say that climate change is not a problem, but to say that it is possible that the fact of people living without sufficient access to energy might be a bigger problem. Indeed, it’s far easier to quantify than the problems of climate change — which is what Lomborg was quite good at. Indeed, we could even say that a lack of access to energy makes climate change — if it is a problem — a bigger problem than it might be, were energy more abundant.

  18. Roger, thanks for the replies and suggestions. First, there's no intent on my part to mislead as to G&G. I'm happy to read their paper to try to find out what besides R&D they advocate. I'm somewhat new to this debate. So I do indeed need to read more. But I have to admit I'm skeptical of an approach based on a wishful hope we'll contain the problem without any kind of mandated CO2 reductions, hard goals or carbon taxes at the levels necessary to achieve real reductions. I'm skeptical but open-minded to other approaches though - I'm just saying show me how you think this or that will really solve the problem.

    Maybe that explanation is out there in some of the materials you refer to. I'll have to look into that. But I don't find it encouraging that G&G themselves admit their proposal may not work. Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the authors. And if "other mitigation approaches" that have been floated won't work, then guess what, we should look for ones that will work. Moving from one ineffective proposal to another one isn't progress.

    And the standard here for evaluating proposals shouldn't be "guaranteed to succeed" as G&G seem to imply. Nothing is certain or "assured". The question is - does the proposal have a reasonable likelihood of solving the known problem. Now I realize people disagree on the extent of the climate problem -- which I wonder if that's more like the real issue here, but I digress.

    Again, my main point for today is that focusing on "alternatives" that nobody can say with any reasonable level of confidence will work is just -- not good sense. I won't say dangerous or some other "alarmist" term if that makes everyone feel better.

    Best regards,


  19. -18-Cliff

    Thanks again ... a quick reply, as Belgium vs. Germany is calling ;-)

    First, I suspect that where you'll differ from G&G is not on the need for technological innovation (indeed, everyone agrees on this), but rather, on how to stimulate it. They (and I) think that a direct approach is far preferable.

    It is important to recognize that targets do not reduce emissions, technology does.

    Some think that an immediate, high price on carbon is necessary. It is just not going to happen. I am 99.999% certain that such an approach will not work (how is that for certainty?;-). And experience thus far bears that out ... so we must look for other ways.

    Admitting that a proposed policy in a highly contested, incredibly complex context may not work seems prudent and wise to me. Why? Because then we can start thinking about back-up plans.

    Anyway, I am happy to continue a discussion!

  20. -17-Ben Pile

    I recommend to you The Climate Fix ... let me know if it presents a more palatable argument from your perspective.

  21. I'm struck by the remarkable faith in the free market by both sides.

    The carbon price promoters expect that higher costs will naturally reduce consumption, presumably by market innovation or efficiencies rather than by people starving and freezing. Well I can almost see the innovation argument but I didn't notice any emissions reductions from very high European fuel taxes.

    While the anti-tax side likes to repeat a myth that governments have "a bad track record" for choosing energy technology. Oh really? The French were pretty smart at going nuclear. They mainly use the resources they already have or can buy cheaply: The US uses coal because it's the Saudi Arabia of coal. If wind, sun or water are available then that's what the government will promote - not an astoundingly difficult decision - and by the way, you'll notice that all the lights are still on thus far! When cocksups come along they are just as likely to be from the failings of the private sector (Enron anyone?).

    At this point the only technology that has potential to substantially reduce CO2 emissions is CCS. Of course nobody will like this reality because it's just not real decarbonisation, it's not encouraging people to mend their overconsumptive ways and it's not nuclear. These 3 hidden agendas rule the CO2 policy propaganda.

    Just a pedantic side note: I've not yet heard any French person use the phrase "au contraire". They say "par contre" or "en revanche". Useful info maybe..

  22. Roger, your defence of Bjorn Lomborg strangely omitted any reference to this paper by the economists who worked with him on the Copenhagen Consensus last year, indicating that they aren't particularly happy with the way he has presented their work: http://www.worldscinet.com/cce/01/0102/S201000781000011X.html

  23. -2-Bob Ward

    Your comment, if I may be blunt, is particularly absurd, even in the context of your past comments here.

    The paper that I highlight here (Galiana and Green) has absolutely nothing to do with the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 effort (which is the focus of the critique that you link).

    If you have a substantive critique of G&G then let's hear it (do you?). I am happy to air it here ... in fact I'll be happy to feature such a critique as a guest post, to highlight your views.

    Sorry for the strong tone, but trying to pass off something completely irrelevant as somehow being relevant to this post is just embarrassing and unprofessional.

  24. -7- Matt

    I think you've confused obstructionism and stubbornness with the methods of science. Even the blog moderator acknowledges some of the anthropogenic GHG issues we face, and advocates for decarbonization. Not you?

    Flat-earther is only an insult because is connotes the foolishness perceived fully only in hindsight of those who resist scientific consensus before that consensus is popular consensus. Why there are even those today who do not believe in the scientific theory of evolution. Can you imagine?

    Perhaps we should ignore/deny/resist/delay executing a policy response to the accumulating evidence of current and future GHG damage because an asteroid might hit tomorrow, or for lots of different reasons. But that does not leave the scientific conclusions open for debate.

  25. Ben Pile said... 17

    "innovation of energy technology should be a worthwhile end in itself."

    Not without knowledge of future energy costs.

    From 1990-2000 the mine mouth price of coal in the US declined 4.2%/year. From 2000-2008 the mine mouth price of coal increased 5.9% per year.

    If coal prices increase at 6%/year then solar panels will be cheaper in 20-30 years. Time to invest in solar panel stocks.

    If coal prices decrease by 4%/year solar panels will never be cheaper. Time to invest in utilities that own a lot of coal fired electricity plants or carbon capture, anything related to coal.

  26. Here is Bob Ward giving a personal hostility master class in the context of faux outrage during a television discussion. Every PR professional should see this.


    Bob's employer (The Grantham Research Institute) is funded by $100 billion hedge fund owner Jeremy Grantham who recently wrote

    "Global warming will be the most important investment issue for the foreseeable future. But how to make money around this issue in the next few years is not yet clear to me. In a fast-moving field rife with treacherous politics, there will be many failures.


  27. Roger --23

    I take exception to your strong rebuke. If you had scoped the topic to highlight the work of Galiana and Green, then fine. However, you introduced Lomborg into the discussion. Lomborg has always been about letting the numbers and priorities, as established by those with skin in the game, decide. I don't know what is at the worldscinet site, as it is behind a pay wall, but taking as "true" that economists take issue with presentation of their input certainly seems relevant regarding Lomborg and his previous process of priority selection.

    I would appreciate a clarification of the "delta" of Saul Lomborg now Paul. Is this a conversion or a modification?

  28. -27-Craig 1st

    Nope. The link Ward provides has nothing -- zero, zip, nada -- to do with anything in this post. Ward should know better than to play such games.

  29. Roger--28

    I'll take your word for it as I haven't see it. However, The Guardian's Howard Friel takes exception to the new and improved Lomborg: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cif-green/2010/aug/30/lombard-missing-questions-climate-change#start-of-comments

    ...in Smart Solutions to Climate Change, a new volume edited by Lomborg, he writes: "The risks of unchecked global warming are now widely acknowledged" and "we have long moved on from any mainstream disagreements about the science of climate change". This is the lipstick, but the pig is still a pig. This is because Lomborg still argues in this book, as he did in the others, that cost-benefit economics analysis shows that it is prohibitively expensive for the world to sharply reduce CO2 emissions to the extent required by the scientific evidence: "Drastic carbon cuts would be the poorest way to respond to global warming."
    ===end quote===

    His "innovations" perhaps have more to do with adaption. Perhaps also the packaging of his new enlightenment has more to do with book sales than establishing an altered course of allowing stakeholders to establish priorities and the means to fund them. I look forward to his book to see what all the chatter is about.

  30. -24- Sam,

    I've confused no such things. I see no reason to advocate for decarbonization, any more than I think that we should throw our money into a lake. When decarbonization makes sense, it will happen, simply because it will be cheaper than the alternative. However, I'm not aware of anything currently that could produce such an outcome. I'm certainly not interested in having a government force us to decarbonize.

    If you're honest, you'll admit that the "consensus" is anything but. I get that you're sure that the science is settled. From what I've seen, however, there's very little to recommend the alarmist position. It's a theory that has still has plausibility, but still very little evidence to support it, and a fair amount that works against it.

    And even if you believe it, I think there a many better ways to deal with it than willfully reducing our standard of living, not to mention preventing the rest of the world from improving theirs.

    I think it would be fitting if in the future CAGW were viewed as flat earthers, but I rather suspect they'll be mainly ignored along with other misanthropes like Paul Ehrlich.

  31. Craig 1st

    Howard Friel does not work for the Guardian.

    He is 'a US independent scholar, and the author of The Lombard Deception: Setting the Record Straight About Global Warming'.

    Even if he did, it wou

  32. "misanthropes like Paul Ehrlich"

    It seems to me that environmentalism has been to a large extent driven by academics with a contempt for commercialism, the mass market, and the behaviour and tastes of the masses.

    The support of broadsheets like the Guardian is part of their general class warfare agenda which embraces such right wing liberal topics as immigration / multiculturalism , the price of alcohol, Islamism and Barack Obama.

    The Guardian is largely funded by the CO2 spewing conspicuous consumption of the British upper middle classes. The hypocrisy comes as standard.

  33. Roger, I'm not surprised that you are so keen to dismiss the paper by Blanford et al., given that it completely undermines the position set out by Lomborg, which you apparently support. I understand that the main point of your post was to congratulate Lomborg for aligning himself with your own ideas, but you can’t hide from the fact that the approach that he has put forward has been disowned by the economists who took part in the Copenhagen Consensus in 2008.

    Just in case you have trouble finding it, here is the relevant statement from the paper by Blanford et al:

    “Unfortunately, the panel chose an R&D programme by itself (not a proposal on our list) as the preferred climate policy approach. R&D is undoubtedly crucial, as most observers agree that it is not politically or economically feasible to deeply cut greenhouse gas emissions with currently available technologies. At the same time, successful R&D only puts new technologies on the shelf. Mitigation policy is needed to take technologies off the shelf and put them to work in the marketplace. Although including mitigation effort along with R&D in the benefit-cost calculation leads to a lower BCR (still greater than one), it substantially increases net benefit by internalizing the externality of climate damages.”

    The main flaw in the approaches put forward by Lomborg and the Hartwell Paper is that they provide no indication of the impact of the proposed policies in terms of reducing emissions and hence of where we would expect to end up in terms of atmospheric concentrations. Without this, it is impossible to tell the extent to which the policy you are advocating would be successful in terms of avoiding damaging impacts from climate change.

    Oh, and one more thing. Although it has long been apparent that you become enraged if anybody disagrees with you, it might be better if you refrain from simply resorting to obnoxiousness – otherwise your blog will become indistinguishable from the ranting over at Climate Depot.

  34. Bob Ward--19

    "Although it has long been apparent that you become enraged if anybody disagrees with you..."

    Well, I am one of those anybodies and I have been treated with respect and courtesy, especially when I was wrong. Perhaps you should speak on behalf of yourself.

  35. correction: s/b Bob Ward--33, not 19.

  36. -22 -23 -33
    Bob: as one of Blanford's co-authors, let me assure you that that paper is a response to another book by Lomborg.

    As the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 and the Copenhagen Consensus for Climate 2009 were structured in a different way, the critique by Blanford et al. does not carry over from CC08 to CCC09.

  37. #36 I stand corrected. If the analysis in the Blanford et al paper does not apply to Lomborg’s latest stance, then he must have completely reversed his position on mitigation policy, even though the only reference to this issue in the article in ‘The Guardian’ is “he is still deeply critical of the dominant, cutting-carbon approach”.

    Perhaps you could reveal at what concentration Lomborg’s policy is designed to stabilise greenhouse gases in the atmosphere?

    And Roger, how about doing the same for the Hartwell Paper so that we can see if you agree?

  38. Bob Ward said... 33

    "The main flaw in the approaches put forward by Lomborg and the Hartwell Paper is that they provide no indication of the impact of the proposed policies in terms of reducing emissions"

    "Raj said the three organisations are joining hands because there is a national challenge. "Development of this technology is one such challenge which when becomes successful will result in huge savings for India.

    According to him, 40 percent of the projected 800,000 MW power generation capacity by 2031 will comprise of coal- based power plants, which, in turn, means a huge investment on thermal power plants."


    "According to the latest report by research firm Crisil, Indian projects are estimated to receive 246 million CERs by December 2012, a three-fold rise from 72 million in November 2009. This will cement India's second position in the global CER market, the report said."

    Not only is India the worlds second largest seller of carbon credits, they are also the worlds second largest market for COAL FIRED power plants.

  39. -37 Bob
    I do not speak for Lomborg.

    I would put a price on carbon rather than a cap on concentrations. The former is hard, the second impossible.

  40. #16. Sorry should have pointed this out before - Roger, you portrayal of the G&G proposal is at odds with this comment from their paper

    “We should, however, step back and acknowledge that there is nothing to guarantee that the technology-led policy will succeed. Monies can be spent on research and development, but we cannot assure discovery. The search may fail in the sense that R&D will not produce an adequate carbon-intensity reducing return. If this is the case, modifying the policy by accompanying it with stronger mitigation controls, or in the worst case aborting the policy, may become necessary. But at this juncture there is no reason to believe a technology-led policy will fail, while there is plenty of evidence that alternative mitigation approaches would either be hugely costly – and still not assure success – or have no chance of stabilizing climate at an “acceptable level”.

    That seems pretty clear. On the one hand they believe that mitigation policies that explicitly seek to keep concentrations of greenhouse gases at an “acceptable level” are too expensive, but acknowledge that their “cheaper” technology-led policies might fail to keep concentrations below the “acceptable level”.

    So the key question becomes: at what point would you be able to tell whether the “technology-led” policy was sufficient or not, and if it wasn’t, would you be in a position to embrace a stronger mitigation policy, given that you are likely to be at a higher atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, and therefore in a more difficult position than today?

  41. #39 Fair enough. Could you indicate at what level you would set the carbon price (US$7/tCO2 as Lomborg suggests?), and what would this lead to in terms of atmospheric concentrsations by the end of the century?

  42. Bob Ward.

    What do you think of the world's greatest living scientist, James Hansen's view that

    "A carbon fee is the only realistic path to global action. China and India will not accept caps, but they need a carbon fee to spur clean energy and avoid fossil fuel addiction.

    Governments today, instead, talk of "cap-and-trade with offsets", a system rigged by big banks and fossil fuel interests. Cap-and-trade invites corruption. Worse, it is ineffectual, assuring continued fossil fuel addiction to the last drop and environmental catastrophe."


    He didn't mention hedge funds, but you get the picture.

  43. -41

  44. Richard, many thanks for providing a link to your paper. I assume that this is the best summary of your conclusions:

    “A government that uses the same 3 percent discount rate for climate change as for other decisions should levy a carbon tax of $25 per metric ton of carbon (modal value) to $50/tC (mean value). A higher tax can be justified by an appeal to the higher level of risk, especially of very negative outcomes, not captured in the standard estimates.”

    So you seem to be suggesting a carbon price of $6.80/tCO2 to $13.60/tCO2, or perhaps higher. However, I cannot see in your paper an indication of what atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases these would lead to.

    But this does show that the level of carbon tax proposed by Lomborg appears to be based on your work rather than on that of Galiana and Green, who suggest a tax of $5/tCO2 rising gradually to $80/tCO2 in 2050. Indeed, as I am sure you know, Lomborg cited your work in justifying a social cost of carbon of $7/tCO2 in this newspaper article in July: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/7867422/The-EUs-response-to-global-warming-is-a-costly-mistake.html

    Last August, he had cited your work to justify a carbon tax of $2/tC: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203706604574376442559564788.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    As you note in your paper, there is a wide range of estimates for the social cost of carbon, and a great number of uncertainties, which have a bearing on the determination of the appropriate carbon price.

    Roger, I think this discussion shows that the Galiana and Green paper provided the basis for Lomborg’s proposal for investing $100 billion per year in R&D (which Lomborg proposed last August: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203706604574376442559564788.html?mod=googlenews_wsj), but not his proposed level of carbon tax. And Galiana and Green acknowledge that there are risks in their proposed ‘technology-led’ policy, because it could lead to inadequate mitigation controls on concentrations of greenhouse gases. Much as our letter pointed out.

  45. -44
    Here's another paper for you to read:

    Here's the summary: Regulate the price of carbon. Forget about the quantity.

  46. -44-Bob Ward

    Thanks for admitting your mistake.

    All policy implementation comes with some risk of poor performance or even policy failure. Do the policies that you advocate come with a performance guarantee? ;-)

    Overall, you are confusing the ends of stabilization policy with the means. I can't speak for anyone else, but in my new book I argue that the approach that I recommend is the best way forward, whether your ppm target is 350, 450 or some other low level.

    It is my opinion that the approach that you advocate (presumably Stern's mitigation via a high carbon price) is politically impossible, and thus guaranteed to fail.

    That is one guarantee I am willing to offer.

  47. Roger, you seem confused about who has made the error!

    Why do you continue to stall about the expected impact of your policy on greenhouse gas concentrations? Surely you don't think it is unimportant - that would be very odd for a climate policy, don't you think?

  48. -48-Bob Ward

    I'll be visiting the UK in November.

    I would be happy to participate in a public debate at LSE on policies focused on decarbonization with Stern. Perhaps it could be focused on the merits of advocating for an immediate high carbon tax vs. one that starts low (which near as I can tell is the point of difference that I have with Stern -- whose views you are representing here) Indeed, one of our mutual colleagues has already proposed such a thing.

    Shall we set this up?

  49. -47-Bob Ward

    If you want to argue about the importance of targets, then perhaps you might argue with Yvo de Boer, who finds such a debate "irrelevant."


  50. -48
    Roger: Don't hold your breathe. Stern chickens out of debate.

  51. Roger, why won't you answer a straightforward question - what impact would your advocated climate policies have on greenhouse gas concentrations and the climate?

    And instead of trying to create a distraction by making a public challenge (a tactic you have obviously copied from Christopher Monckton), why not write a paper describing your policy ideas and submit it to a peer-reviewed journal?

    #50 Richard: are playground insults really the best you can do? You really don't need to sink to that level.

  52. -51-Bob Ward

    I find it hard to believe that you can be so ill-informed before going on the attack. Are you not embarrassed?

    Anyway, in direct response to your query (and indeed to this conversation more generally), here is a peer-reviewed paper on UK decarbonization policy:


    In it I argue that:

    "The approach to emissions reduction embodied by the Climate Change Act is exactly backwards. It begins with setting a target and then only later do policy makers ask how that target might be achieved, with no consideration for whether the target implies realistic or feasible rates of decarbonization. The uncomfortable reality is that no one knows how fast a major economy can decarbonize."

    What I do know are those steps that are most likely to lead to an accelerated rate of decarbonization -- and such steps are elaborated in The Hartwell Paper and in my new book. Once we figure out how to accelerate decarbonization, then we can discuss how far we want to go -- values which have been discussed in international policy as 450 ppm stabilization and an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050.

    For the third (fourth? fifth?) time -- the difference between my views and those of Stern, Copenhagen, etc etc. have nothing to do with the goals of climate policy but the means. I remain puzzled why this rather straightforward point has proven so elusive for you to grasp.

    Anyway, can I take it that you are declining my offer to help set up a debate? ;-)

    You have compared me to Morano and now Monckton. Do they teach such things in PR school?;-) I thought I could expect a bit better from you.

    Anyway, if you'd like to have a substantive debate, then let's do so. What in the analysis in my UK Climate Change Act paper do you disagree with? Where are the calculations wrong? Let's hear your reply . . .

  53. And Bob, let me reiterate my offer ... if you can write an intelligent critique of Galiana and Green OR The Hartwell Paper OR my UK Climate Change Act paper OR my new book . . . I will be more than happy to feature this critique as a headline post on this blog.

    It is notable that you are spending your time instigating a slanging match deep in the comments rather than respond to my offer to actually show where these arguments are flawed.

    So, the offer remains open. I hope that you'll take advantage of it.

  54. Richard Tol

    You are being unfair, Stern may be extremely busy with his credit ratings agency.


    Stern launches carbon credit ratings agency

    Lord Nicholas Stern, author of the UK’s Stern report on climate change, will launch a new carbon credit ratings agency on Wednesday, the first to score carbon credits on a similar basis to that used to rate debt.



    "Do they teach such things in PR school"

    Yes they do. Almost every Guardian sourced climate article has some reference to American cartoon political characters. Like Sarah Palin, the tea party, Glenn Beck, Mike Morano, idiots who think Obama is a Muslim, Rush Limbaugh etc. The underlying message is that all right wing Americans are profoundly stupid and utterly contemptible.

    Our very own publicity seeking buffoon, Lord Monckton gets a few mentions too. He is right wing and contemptible also.

    Along with the denier insult, it reduces the debate to a knee jerk emotional level.

  55. #22 Bob Ward has a record of posting totally irrelevant comments on blogs. See the link at
    where he posted something on Revkin's blog about a newspaper removing an article, thinking it was about him, when it quite obviously wasn't.

    Now he is repeatedly asking you to come up with some irrelevant and meaningless target number.

    As a self-publicist, Bob Ward is up there with Lomborg!

  56. -51 Bob
    I was just stating a fact. Every time I had a debate scheduled with Lord Brentford, he withdrew. I'm now looking forward to Rome, but I expect another cancellation.

  57. It is interesting that you are allowing your blog becoming a noticeboard for pathetic jibes at Nicholas Stern.

    As for your public challenge to a debate, why don’t you just contact his office instead of writing it on your blog? As I mentioned, this is the same kind of stunt that Christopher Monckton used against Al Gore when he wanted to attract attention to his views. I’m afraid that much as I would like to help you sell copies of your new book, I won’t be able to recommend that it would be the best use of his time.

    However, you are clearly seeking a critique of the Hartwell Paper so I’ll give it some thought. As I’ve indicated, its central weakness is that it offers no indication of how the policy it advocates would impact on climate. So how would you evaluate its success or otherwise? It might look cheaper and easier than some of the other alternative approaches, but then that might be because it would be less effective. The paper by Galiana and Green at least admits this possible outcome of their suggested approach. In the meantime, I recommend this thoughtful paper by Robert Falkner and co-authors as an alternative to the Hartwell paper: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publications/WorkingPapers/Working%20Papers/WPapers%2020%20-%2029/WP21_climate-policy-copenhagen.pdf

    But I’m most intrigued by your claim in #46 that a “high carbon price” is “politically impossible”. Such expressions of absolute certainty are indeed rare in the climate change debate these days! Perhaps you could elaborate by indicating what the cut-off value of a carbon price is beyond which it would be politically impossible? Is it higher or lower than the $25/tC to $50/tC proposed in Richard Tol’s paper? Are you, for instance, advocating a carbon tax of $2/tC, which was proposed by Lomborg last year and which Richard Tol’s paper for Copenhagen Consensus suggested would lead to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide of well over 800 parts per million by the end of the century? Would that be a successful outcome of climate policy in your opinion?

    Perhaps I could also respond to the good point raised by Richard in his post at #45. I understand the basic point that one could approach this issue by setting a carbon price or capping the quantity of greenhouse gases. But even if one decides to set the carbon price at a particular level, one should have an expectation of what this would lead to in terms of atmospheric concentrations (as you calculated for various carbon taxes in you paper for the Copenhagen Consensus). Therefore, what would Richard expect atmospheric concentrations to be by the end of the century if a global carbon tax of $25/tC or $50/tC was introduced?

  58. -57 Bob Ward
    You are missing the point. See http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4513