Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

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Millennie Al
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Millennie Al » Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am

Woodchopper wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:32 am
In general, attempts to reduce consumption by making some products and services more expensive will affect poorer people much more than rich people. Making air travel from the UK five times more expensive will affect a nurse from the Philippines far more than a banker from Hong Kong. The former may not be able to fly home to see his family, while the latter may just decide to downgrade her ticket from first class to business class.
...
Secondly, the proceeds from the carbon taxes could be channelled to poor people. But we can’t just increase incomes via benefits or tax credits as that that money could be spent on the more expensive carbon intensive products or services. Spending would need to be focused on low carbon sectors. Hypothetically, the nurse might not be able to fly home, but might benefit from free adult education.
There are two reasons to have carbon taxes: to reduce carbon or to raise money to spend on mitigating the effects. In the second case it's impossible to redistribute the money raised as the defeats the purpose of the tax, so I'll only consider the first.

Your nurse from the Philippines does not need any money from the tax. Suppose the tax raises the price from £250 to £1,250 so it is unaffordable. That means the nurse now has £250 he would previously have spent.

The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:00 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
Woodchopper wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:32 am
In general, attempts to reduce consumption by making some products and services more expensive will affect poorer people much more than rich people. Making air travel from the UK five times more expensive will affect a nurse from the Philippines far more than a banker from Hong Kong. The former may not be able to fly home to see his family, while the latter may just decide to downgrade her ticket from first class to business class.
...
Secondly, the proceeds from the carbon taxes could be channelled to poor people. But we can’t just increase incomes via benefits or tax credits as that that money could be spent on the more expensive carbon intensive products or services. Spending would need to be focused on low carbon sectors. Hypothetically, the nurse might not be able to fly home, but might benefit from free adult education.
There are two reasons to have carbon taxes: to reduce carbon or to raise money to spend on mitigating the effects. In the second case it's impossible to redistribute the money raised as the defeats the purpose of the tax, so I'll only consider the first.

Your nurse from the Philippines does not need any money from the tax. Suppose the tax raises the price from £250 to £1,250 so it is unaffordable. That means the nurse now has £250 he would previously have spent.

The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.
A flight to the Philippines would cost a lot more than £250, but anyway, yes that money is available to be spent on other things. But still, its likely that not meeting their family in person would cause a major detriment to their quality of life, which wouldn't be compensated by spending the £250 money on other things. Sometimes goods and services aren't very fungible and the value for an individual is higher than the market price.

To take another example, lets say that the nurse drives an internal combustion car. Carbon taxes mean that they can't afford to use it to commute to work and they can't afford to an electric car. So instead they use public transport but doing so doubles the journey time. Yes, they have saved some money but in terms of quality of life that may not make up for the time lost.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:58 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
Woodchopper wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 11:32 am
In general, attempts to reduce consumption by making some products and services more expensive will affect poorer people much more than rich people. Making air travel from the UK five times more expensive will affect a nurse from the Philippines far more than a banker from Hong Kong. The former may not be able to fly home to see his family, while the latter may just decide to downgrade her ticket from first class to business class.
...
Secondly, the proceeds from the carbon taxes could be channelled to poor people. But we can’t just increase incomes via benefits or tax credits as that that money could be spent on the more expensive carbon intensive products or services. Spending would need to be focused on low carbon sectors. Hypothetically, the nurse might not be able to fly home, but might benefit from free adult education.
There are two reasons to have carbon taxes: to reduce carbon or to raise money to spend on mitigating the effects. In the second case it's impossible to redistribute the money raised as the defeats the purpose of the tax, so I'll only consider the first.

Your nurse from the Philippines does not need any money from the tax. Suppose the tax raises the price from £250 to £1,250 so it is unaffordable. That means the nurse now has £250 he would previously have spent.

The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.
As an economist, I wouldn't agree with the words I have emphasized. You are perhaps thinking that redistribution in such a case implies giving people money back in proportion to the money raised in tax from that person, which would indeed defeat the object. But, for example, you could instead use money raised from the tax to increase means-tested benefits. In what sense is that either impossible, or defeating the purpose of the tax? Though political possiblity is something else, it is hard to imagine a conservative government doing that.

Evidently reducing consumption means reducing consumption. In a price system, the rich are always going to be better placed to afford whatever you are trying to reduce consumption of, or affording some more expensive alternative, even if you redistribute. The purpose of redistribution is to try and ensure that overall, the poor are not poorer than they were before, even if they inevitably move away from that specific consumption. This can result in different ways of organising your lives. Long-haul remote working is a lifestyle that depends on cheap long-haul transport. 150 years ago when long-haul transport was slow (sail ship) and relatively expensive in comparison to wages, remote long-haul working was rather less common, and without the expectation of frequent vfr transits. Rather, longhaul labourers either didn't have dependents, or expected them to follow on soon after if they were successful, or it was a one-off journey expecting to return after a few years having made your fortune.

You might think that the trick is to take price out of it. Sometimes that's quite effective, at least if what you are doing is expanding supply rather than reducing it (eg, NHS, universal free primary/secondary education). But when supply is getting more constrained, the rich are often even better at navigating administrative systems. So making higher education free in Scotland, while reducing the quantity available (because the government couldn't afford so much as when students paid), has reduced the proportion of people from poorer backgrounds in higher education.

Probably that's part of why the likes of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pol, Robespierre, Chávez/Maduro, etc, resorted to more ruthless and certain methods of deprivileging the privileged. Although you generally get a replacement privileged class. It might seem tasteless, but we can record the history of whether income distribution was flattened, once things had settled down. I would guess that was so in the case of Stalin and Robespierre, but probably not in the case of Mao and Chávez/Maduro, at least when assessed over a longer period.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by nekomatic » Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:00 am

Fishnut wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am
I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices
This is a very simplistic answer, but surely the idea is that any time one supplier chooses to simply pass on a cost directly to the consumer, another starts figuring out what they can do differently so as to pass on less cost and win the consumer’s custom.

That can have unintended consequences, of course.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:02 am

Fishnut wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am
I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices, which would hurt already economically-disadvantaged people the most.
It's a very good question, and there are lots of possible solutions. I'm no economist, so am wary of getting too specific with details, and there are currently few well-developed proposals due to a lack of buy-in from policy-makers.

What I'd like to see is a tax that heavily penalises carbon emissions at source, which means the companies taking fossil fuels out of the ground (as seen in the recent Shell case, and other cases currently in various courts), as well as logging and other land-use changes (responsible for 24% of emissions). As nekomatic says, this would provide a price advantage to lower-carbon alternatives, which could of course be topped up with some subsidies.

I'm wary of the carbon credits / offsetting model, because it can and has been used for ineffectual b.llsh.t. But it would be possible to design a scheme based on ecological restoration of degraded habitats - wetland restoration, reforestation, protecting grasslands etc. - that would be more effective for getting carbon out of the atmosphere than the current reliance on greenwashed commercial forestry.

You would need some kind of border tax to prevent offshoring of emissions, and to penalise countries that still subsidise wrecking the climate.

I'd also like to see some or all of the money hypothecated for what's generally called a "just transition". Better mass transit. Insulating houses. Fast, reliable internet for home-working. Reskilling workers in the fossil fuel and meat industries. Charging infrastructure for EVs. Overcoming whatever hurdles remain for renewable energy.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:22 am

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.
The richest 1% emit more carbon than the poorest 50%. The richest 10% are responsible for over half of emissions. A hundred companies are responsible for 71% of emissions.

So actually yes, there are enormous inequalities in who is doing the emitting, as well as who is on the receiving end of the worst impacts.

People whose lifestyle involves lots of flying and meat will definitely have to reign that in, or pay through the nose. People who mainly travel locally and eat a plant-based diet won't notice much difference. For the poorest who currently have a low standard of living, the hope is that sustainable development can raise that without the negative global and local consequences of fossil fuels.

And investment in lower-carbon models also bring benefits, disproportionately to the more vulnerable. When I was a kid in a rural area, I couldn't see my friends during the holidays if my mum was at work, because the buses were sh.t. So I stayed at home or went to work with her. The poor, the young, the old, the disabled and so on would all benefit from better public transport (and internet).

I've always been a renter. In my first year of uni I regularly had ice inside my bedroom window. In my final year, my bedroom was a converted bathroom and the pipes from the shower to the outside were sealed with duct tape. I slept in three layers, hats and gloves. UK housing stock is often sh.t. In Portugal we freeze in the winter and bake in the summer. Less wealthy people would benefit if landlords were incentivised to insulate houses. Less wealthy homeowners would benefit from the same subsidies.

When I flick a light switch I don't care how the power was generated. For almost all my journeys an EV would be fine, if I could afford one, and I don't care how deliveries and taxis etc are fuelled. The most expensive things in our shopping basket are already cheese and meat (and booze, to be fair), so a wider selection of plant-based alternatives would help us save money.

And then there are the immediate benefits, such as lower air pollution in cities, which in a lot of developing countries (and London, and Eastern Europe, and parts of the US) is a serious cause of morbidity and mortality. It generally affects areas where poorer people live.

So I don't really buy this argument that everyone has to lower their quality of life. Most of the issues, even with my relatively high western standard of living, are systemic matters out of my control that could be changed without me doing anything much at all.

There are edge cases. Flying doesn't have an easy route to decarbonisation in the next few years, so we have to reduce it. In west Europe surface transport is generally pretty good. When I lived in central France it was roughly the same amount of time and money to take the train home as fly, with much less of the unpleasant standing around at airports. The bus is cheaper than flying. So short-haul flights can be easily replaced. The US and many Asian countries are investing heavily in high-speed rail already.

Long-haul flights, such as the worker from the Philippines (or my wife from Mexico, for that matter) are trickier. There's not even an affordable way to get across the Atlantic, only cruises or fancy suites on cargo ships. And of course, it's slower. Options include
- just sucking it up, and trying to make savings elsewhere
- low-carbon biofueld
- a frequent-flyer tax - most workers probably only have time for 1 or 2 trips home a year, so we allow them that, and ramp up the tax on flying after 2. Basically rationing people. Again, the wealthy would notice the difference but most people wouldn't.

Climate justice is social justice. It really is a problem that's mostly caused by the rich, and disproportionately affects the poor. Changing behaviour and redistributing resources via a tax would be the quickest and fairest way to tackle the emergency.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 12:17 pm

One example of a carbon tax proposal I'm aware of, from the US, is here https://citizensclimatelobby.org/price-on-carbon/
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Fishnut » Mon Aug 23, 2021 12:59 pm

Millennie Al wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 1:21 am
The whole point of reducing carbon is that we need to reduce our standard of living and that means everyone. There is a very common idea that people have which is that they personally won't lose much but that there are other people who will pay. That is not possible. There just aren't enough rich people extravagantly emitting carbon that all reductions can come from them.

It's also pretty obvious that individual changes aren't anywhere near enough to make a significant and sustainable impact. Those of us in the UK have massively curtailed many activties over the last 18 months yet the country only achieved a 10% drop in carbon emissions, and that's now being undone as people make up for lost time.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 23, 2021 3:26 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:22 am
People whose lifestyle involves lots of flying and meat will definitely have to reign that in, or pay through the nose. People who mainly travel locally and eat a plant-based diet won't notice much difference.
It'll be a bit harder than that.

From UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2019.

Total 2019 UK emissions were 454,8 MtCO2e. Of which:
Domestic Air Transport: 1.4 MtCO2e or 0.3%
Beef production (including enteric fermentation): 21.6 MtCO2e or 4.7%

So if everyone completely stops using domestic air travel and stops eating beef that's 5%. The UK won't even get that because people will use other means of transport and eat other things (which will cause carbon emissions, though probably fewer).

The biggest contributors are:
Passenger cars 67.7 MtCO2e or 14.9%
Residential combustion 67.6 MtCO2e or 14.9%
Power stations: 58,5 MtCO2e or 12.9%
Industrial combustion and electricity: 44.2 MtCO2e or 9.7%

Those four make up 52.4% of emissions within the UK. They need to be cut a lot.

A household needing to significantly cut those will have to make a lot of changes - eg not driving a car or buying an electric car, paying for new insulation and more carbon efficient heating (eg replacing the gas boiler with electric) or living in a colder house because they can't afford to heat it.

Reducing industrial carbon emissions will affect normal people. They may lose their jobs if old production process are exchanged for new low carbon alternatives (eg the old plant is shut down and a new one started up somewhere else). If the low carbon production methods are more expensive the price of products people buy will rise, this means they have less money for other things.

So far reducing emissions from electricity generation has been relatively painless. Hopefully it'll continue that way, but it may not if suppliers need to introduce demand management.

I'll see if I can find some international air travel numbers.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 23, 2021 3:39 pm

From here, it appears that international air travel in 2018 was responsible for 36,3 MtCO2e or 8% of the 2019 total. Cutting that will be important.

The combined 2019 total for UK beef and air travel is just 13% of 2019 emissions.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 23, 2021 4:46 pm

nekomatic wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 9:00 am
Fishnut wrote:
Sun Aug 22, 2021 12:40 am
I know this is a very basic question, but how does a carbon tax actually work? Speaking from a place of complete ignorance on the subject my fear is that the costs will simply be passed on directly to the consumer rather than them forcing companies to change their practices
This is a very simplistic answer, but surely the idea is that any time one supplier chooses to simply pass on a cost directly to the consumer, another starts figuring out what they can do differently so as to pass on less cost and win the consumer’s custom.

That can have unintended consequences, of course.
Typically you would tax raw materials, whose main use or potential is releasing their carbon, according to how much carbon they might release.

So, for example, suppose there is tax of £200/tonne of carbon. You could rate it on carbon contained, or CO2 released. So if that £200 is reckoned on tonnes of actual carbon contained, then the equivalent tax in terms of CO2 released, assuming 100% release then £200/ tonne (C) = £200 x 12/44 = £54.55 / tonne (CO2 released). I think it is more common to describe it in terms of the CO2 price rather than the C price, but the C price is easier to use.

So, for example, on this basis the tax for methane (CH4) would be about (1x12)/(1x12 + 4x1) x £200 = 12/16 x £200 = £150 per tonne of methane
And the tax on petrol, taking that as roughly C8H18 (octane) would be about (8x12)/(8x12 + 18x1) x £200 = 96/114 x £200 = £168/42 per tonne of petrol
And the tax on alcohol (ethanol, C2H5OH) for combustion would be (2x12)/(1x12 + 1x16 + 6x1) = 24/46 x £200 = £104.35 per tonne of dry ethanol
And so various taxes on other fuels can be calculated, according to their composition, the above are simple examples for pure fuels. Often they are not pure. For example, ethanol often has 4% water content, natural gas often has a material proportion of argon and other impurities.

That's all fairly straightforward. We have a good idea of the make-up of these simple fuels, and can tax them fairly precisely on their carbon content, which we can reasonably expect to be all released. I think you would expect to pay tax on petrol, even if your intended use was cleaning your bicycle chain.

But it is less clear for alcohol, a lot of thta is not combusted. But it creates a potential loophole if some alcohol is not subject to the tax. Limestone is even more problematic. A lot of limestone is converted to lime by burning he CO2 out, but probably more of it is used as aggregate. Limestone is highly variable in actual composition.

Who is taxed?

Suppose you buy a bottle of beer at a shop. VAT is clearly a consumption tax applicable to the final consumer. If you go into the shop, change your mind, and don't buy the bottle of beer, VAT isn't will not be charged and the VATman gets no money today. But the customs man has already taken the duty on the beer sitting on the shelf. It was payable at the point of passage across a "duty border". That can be point of importation or on leaving beer the factory, or on leaving a bonded warehouse. I recently bought 6 bottles of wine made in 2003. They have sat in a bonded warehouse ever since arriving in Britain around about 2005, and were only withdrawn from bond shortly prior to me buying them. Duty was payable at the rate chargeable in 2021. But I might equally have bought them from a private unbonded cellar, and duty might have been on them paid back in 2005, at the 2005 rate.

The merchant also has local land taxes, employment taxes, and vehicle and fuel taxes on the vehicle that delivered the wine to my house. The businessman needs to cover all of these costs. But they are paid and incurred at the time, only the VAT is conditional on the final sale.

With carbon taxes, I expect we would largely charge them as close to source as possible, to minimise collection cost and reduce avoidance. Though, as pointed out, probably with some things, like limestone, you have to distinguish what they are being used for, and so won't necessarily charge at the quarry exit.

When you buy electricity, some of which si made by burning gas, I would not expect you will be charged an explicit carbon tax on it. I could be wrong, there are more ways of doing this. But in line with common taxation practice in this country, the gas will be more likely be taxed at point of entry to the country, or exit from the well. So it is already refleceted in the cost of the gas the power station pays. That then goes into the cost of the electricity the power station exports, if it is to cover its cost. Similarly, the cost is already bound up in other carbon heavy products like aluminium and cement, because the manufacturers will have had to pay carbon tax on the carbon emitting ingredients. Though how to handle the limestone going into cement, when so much of it is used instead as aggregate, is tricker than how to handle the gas which will almost certainly be burned, or used in a chemical process.

The point of his taxation is to make manufacturers recognise the tax cost of the fuels, etc, they use, and seek to minimise the cost of production by reducing carbon output to the extent practical.

There is a general conundrum in economics on "who bears a tax, producer or consumer?" Suppose the government introduces a new tax on crisps of £5 a kg, to discourage us from eating them. Suppose a 100g packet of a particular brand currently sells for 80p. (For simplicity, I'll ignore other taxes taht might apply.) So at 100g, there's 50p tax on it. But some of the 80p is profit. The new profit-maximising price of the packet of crisps is in general going to be a less than £1.30. Suppose it happens to be £1.25. So in a sense the consumer only bore 45p of the new tax, and the producer/retailer bore 5p of it. But philosophically you can also argue that is meaningless, as it is context-dependent and depends where you start from.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Sciolus » Mon Aug 23, 2021 8:59 pm

Remember that the UK and EU have emissions trading schemes (ETS), which are cap-and-trade schemes. So you need to distinguish activities which are within the ETS (roughly, energy intensive industries, the power generation sector and EEA aviation) and those that aren't. So, if the cap is low enough and the scheme is generally functioning properly, then you can take a flight within the EEA knowing that the CO2 emitted will have to be balanced by a reduction somewhere else.

I believe the cap was rather generous in early years but is being reduced by 2% per year. The price of allowances seems to oscillate wildly and there are various price tinkering mechanisms, so it's hard to get a simple picture of whether the cap is biting, at least if you're thick like me.

Total emissions from the UK’s EU ETS participants in 2019 were just under 130 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (down from 236 MtCO2e in 2013 at the start of the EU ETS Phase III), it says here, or a bit under 30% of the UK total.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:44 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 3:26 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:22 am
People whose lifestyle involves lots of flying and meat will definitely have to reign that in, or pay through the nose. People who mainly travel locally and eat a plant-based diet won't notice much difference.
It'll be a bit harder than that.

From UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2019.

Total 2019 UK emissions were 454,8 MtCO2e. Of which:
Domestic Air Transport: 1.4 MtCO2e or 0.3%
Beef production (including enteric fermentation): 21.6 MtCO2e or 4.7%

So if everyone completely stops using domestic air travel and stops eating beef that's 5%. The UK won't even get that because people will use other means of transport and eat other things (which will cause carbon emissions, though probably fewer).

The biggest contributors are:
Passenger cars 67.7 MtCO2e or 14.9%
Residential combustion 67.6 MtCO2e or 14.9%
Power stations: 58,5 MtCO2e or 12.9%
Industrial combustion and electricity: 44.2 MtCO2e or 9.7%

Those four make up 52.4% of emissions within the UK. They need to be cut a lot.

A household needing to significantly cut those will have to make a lot of changes - eg not driving a car or buying an electric car, paying for new insulation and more carbon efficient heating (eg replacing the gas boiler with electric) or living in a colder house because they can't afford to heat it.

Reducing industrial carbon emissions will affect normal people. They may lose their jobs if old production process are exchanged for new low carbon alternatives (eg the old plant is shut down and a new one started up somewhere else). If the low carbon production methods are more expensive the price of products people buy will rise, this means they have less money for other things.

So far reducing emissions from electricity generation has been relatively painless. Hopefully it'll continue that way, but it may not if suppliers need to introduce demand management.

I'll see if I can find some international air travel numbers.
For sure. But the point I was making is that changing the technology used to generate electricity or keep homes warm doesn't massively impact most consumers' lifestyles. Running a television off coal is the same user experience as running it off solar, and needn't be more expensive. Electric heating is just as warm as gas heating.

Replacing fossil cars with electric will also take a while, and there are edge cases where current EV technology wouldn't work. But for most people/journeys there'd be no perceptible difference.

The only areas where most people's lifestyles need be affected are those areas where there is no alternative currently available: copious cheap meat and dairy, and long-haul flying. People working in specific industries are a special case, needing special attention.

The narrative that tackling climate change means we all have to sit at home shivering in hemp jumpers eating yucky food is damaging, and stems from fossil industry propaganda that tried to shift the responsibility for emissions from producers onto consumers. But in fact we can continue to improve most people's standard of living, not despite tackling the climate emergency by doing so.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by discovolante » Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:53 pm

Gas is cheaper. And I'm a bit worried that both private and social renters will end up with a lot of piecemeal work e.g. heat pump systems installed but no decent insulation, possibly very crappy old gas boilers as gas is phased out etc... not that you haven't raised this but it could get complicated, and will obviously vary from country to country e.g. it could be more complicated to get a leaseholder landlord of a flat in a mixed tenure block to get insulation than one who owns the freehold of a house.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:03 pm

discovolante wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:53 pm
Gas is cheaper. And I'm a bit worried that both private and social renters will end up with a lot of piecemeal work e.g. heat pump systems installed but no decent insulation, possibly very crappy old gas boilers as gas is phased out etc... not that you haven't raised this but it could get complicated, and will obviously vary from country to country e.g. it could be more complicated to get a leaseholder landlord of a flat in a mixed tenure block to get insulation than one who owns the freehold of a house.
Yes, there's a lot to do. It will require some vision, competence, and targeted legislation*.

The capital costs should be met at least in part from taxes on emissions (whether directly by a carbon tax, or whatever), rather than by heavily penalising consumers.

The watered-down Green New Deal that Biden's having a go at isn't too bad at joining up all the different parts.

It ought to be an easy thing for any government to sell - economic stimulus plus lots of nice things for everyone. There was some modelling a while back that suggested that "green" investments like this would be the most effective target for post-covid recovery money in purely economic grounds - I'm sure I posted it here, but obviously can't find it again now.

*I'm afraid there's no guarantee that countries with incompetent, unpleasant governments (naming no names) won't stuff it up. But they'll either be crap for vulnerable people and not tackle the climate emergency, or crap for vulnerable people while tackling it. I don't think climate legislation should be construed as a potential cure for Toryism (I know that's not what you were saying either, don't worry!)
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:10 pm

And yes, I know some of these things have high short-term costs. But
- increased government spending will probably be used to get out of the post-pandemic recession in a lot of places (though perhaps not the UK if Sunak gets his way)
- it'll be much cheaper and easier than adapting to 3+°C of warming, which is our current trajectory.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by discovolante » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:12 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:03 pm
discovolante wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:53 pm
Gas is cheaper. And I'm a bit worried that both private and social renters will end up with a lot of piecemeal work e.g. heat pump systems installed but no decent insulation, possibly very crappy old gas boilers as gas is phased out etc... not that you haven't raised this but it could get complicated, and will obviously vary from country to country e.g. it could be more complicated to get a leaseholder landlord of a flat in a mixed tenure block to get insulation than one who owns the freehold of a house.
Yes, there's a lot to do. It will require some vision, competence, and targeted legislation*.

The capital costs should be met at least in part from taxes on emissions (whether directly by a carbon tax, or whatever), rather than by heavily penalising consumers.

The watered-down Green New Deal that Biden's having a go at isn't too bad at joining up all the different parts.

It ought to be an easy thing for any government to sell - economic stimulus plus lots of nice things for everyone. There was some modelling a while back that suggested that "green" investments like this would be the most effective target for post-covid recovery money in purely economic grounds - I'm sure I posted it here, but obviously can't find it again now.

*I'm afraid there's no guarantee that countries with incompetent, unpleasant governments (naming no names) won't stuff it up. But they'll either be crap for vulnerable people and not tackle the climate emergency, or crap for vulnerable people while tackling it. I don't think climate legislation should be construed as a potential cure for Toryism (I know that's not what you were saying either, don't worry!)
Or, see my MMT thread ;) I was just setting out some differences where it isn't quite as straightforward as a technological switch, broadly speaking where there isn't already electrification. Otherwise I agree with you, I'm not exactly in the 'but how will we pay for all this' camp because if nothing else that is short termism at its finest.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 23, 2021 11:20 pm

Yes, I do agree with you there - there will be a lot of work to upgrade equipment and so on. It will need investment in personnel as well as equipment.

I'm looking forward to that thread - I'm one of the people who knows less about economics than you :) But I suspect something like QE will be on the horizon anyway, so the money might as well be spent where it'll do most good, rather than ending up offshore like most QE money did.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by IvanV » Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:46 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:44 pm
Running a television off coal is the same user experience as running it off solar, and needn't be more expensive. Electric heating is just as warm as gas heating.
Sadly, this is not quite the case.

IThe present user experience of television watching is that electricity to watch your television is nearly always there when you want it. This is a much more difficult/expensive trick when you use very little fossil fuel. Fine if you only want to watch in nice bright weather, but on the whole that's not whan you want to watch your television.

The recommended forms of electric heating - generally heat pumps - are not as warm as gas heating. Electrical radiant heating can be as hot as you like, but that is very expensive because it requires using almost 90% as much electricity as you currently use gas, when the price of electricity is 5 times the price of gas. And if lots of people did that, it would require huge output of electricity and resizing of the wires. Air source heat pumps in particular struggle to be warm enough when it's cold outside. Ground source is more reliable, because temperature underground varies less, especially if you have a deep vertical bore system. But they do not get the water in the radiators as hot as gas boilers do, and so you need to do other things to ensure they are adequate. Retrofitting the necessary insulation can be more expensive than retrofitting the heat pump.

I strongly recommend National Grid Future Energy Scenarios as a very serious attempt to try and grapple with these problems from an engineering, not political, point of view. It is not the point of them, but you will see how inadequate is the political attempt to achieve these things when you read it. You can also download the data if you want to play with it.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 1:47 am

Hot water radiators never feel that hot however they are heated anyway. Forced hot air feels warmer at lower working fluid temperatures, and so is much more suited for heat pumps. Adding fans to radiators would help, mind, possibly as ceiling fans in rooms, as the problem with running radiators cooler is the reduction in convection.

And forced air is directly compatible with cooling as well.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 24, 2021 2:17 am

IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:46 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 23, 2021 10:44 pm
Running a television off coal is the same user experience as running it off solar, and needn't be more expensive. Electric heating is just as warm as gas heating.
Sadly, this is not quite the case.

IThe present user experience of television watching is that electricity to watch your television is nearly always there when you want it. This is a much more difficult/expensive trick when you use very little fossil fuel. Fine if you only want to watch in nice bright weather, but on the whole that's not whan you want to watch your television.
Yes yes, obviously batteries/storage (and a mix of generation technologies) are necessary, not just a solar panel plugged directly into the telly. Everybody knows this already.

IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:46 am
The recommended forms of electric heating - generally heat pumps - are not as warm as gas heating. Electrical radiant heating can be as hot as you like, but that is very expensive because it requires using almost 90% as much electricity as you currently use gas, when the price of electricity is 5 times the price of gas. And if lots of people did that, it would require huge output of electricity and resizing of the wires. Air source heat pumps in particular struggle to be warm enough when it's cold outside. Ground source is more reliable, because temperature underground varies less, especially if you have a deep vertical bore system. But they do not get the water in the radiators as hot as gas boilers do, and so you need to do other things to ensure they are adequate. Retrofitting the necessary insulation can be more expensive than retrofitting the heat pump.
My impression is that electric (especially underfloor) heating is what people are generally going for in new builds. I might be way off on that, or people might be choosing a rubbish technology I suppose. And fossil boilers are being banned from 2025 anyway so I'm sure the market will find good solutions quickly.

In urban areas there's always the option of doing ground source etc. at scale with community heating (and even hot water), like they have here in Iceland.

And yes, insulation is certainly very important, as noted above.
IvanV wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:46 am
I strongly recommend National Grid Future Energy Scenarios as a very serious attempt to try and grapple with these problems from an engineering, not political, point of view. It is not the point of them, but you will see how inadequate is the political attempt to achieve these things when you read it. You can also download the data if you want to play with it.
The UK is an odd place, in that it seems so often to have world-class experts coming up with sensible plans for stuff, but sh.t-for-brains heartless reptilians doing something totally orthogonal in government.

Who do we have to guillotine to get an eco-technocracy installed? It might be humanity's only hope. ;)

(Thanks for the link - will try to remember to have a browse when I'm back home)
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Aug 24, 2021 7:40 am

Bird on a Fire, sorry I don't have time to go through your points individually.

Overall, you seem to be ignoring the large costs of transition to low carbon alternatives.

Yes, someone who swaps an ICE car for an electric car probably won't have a big change quality of life (unless they usually drive long distances).

But the costs of buying an electric car could well have a major negative effect on their quality of life. There will be lots of things that they can't afford because the money is being spent on car payments instead. The aim of a carbon tax is to push people into making different choices. So someone that drives an ICE car will see their transport expenses increase until they calculate that it will be cheaper to buy an electric car. So there will be a long period when they have to allocate more of their income to transport. The people who will be hit hardest will be those for whom an electric car isn't practical (eg if they rely on street parking). They'll just have to cope with the increasing transport costs.

Increasing costs of carbon intensive industrial production will provide a powerful incentive to industry to switch to lower carbon methods. But as fishnut pointed out, the result in the short run will be higher prices paid by consumers. The higher prices will be embedded in many parts of the production process that use energy - eg transport of raw materials, refrigeration of food products, production of metal components etc etc.

For a long period after the introduction of carbon taxes (I guess a few decades) people are going to find that very many things become more expensive. Poorer people will be impacted far more then the well off. Certainly, government can use the money raised to help, but governments aren't always very effective at doing that.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:07 pm

The money is certainly an important issue. But all I'm trying to say is that passing the costs onto individual consumers isn't an inevitability - it would be a political choice.

Governments already spend billions on subsidies, and give them to the fossil fuel industry, the meat industry, logging companies and so on. Governments respond to recessions by printing money and offering cheap debt, and then give the money to bankers in a laissez-faire manner.

It isn't a necessity of upgrading technology that the costs should be borne by individual consumers. The current emergency is the result of a pathway of political inaction, deliberately chosen because it was expedient. We urgently need a culture now of making it politically expedient to take action, and ensuring that the relatively powerless consumers are shielded from the economic impacts is an important part of that.

Demanding that individuals accept huge reductions in their quality of life, or feel guilty for participating in society in the only way prevailing socioeconomic conditions make plausible, is unfair, and has been an absolute blinder of fossil industry propaganda for decades. That narrative needs to be rewritten.

Realistically, as you say, governments aren't likely to go the whole hog. But we're entering a period of urgent negotiations between the majority and the powerful, and at the very least people need to be aware that they can and should demand a socially inclusive transition away from f.cking the climate.
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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by dyqik » Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:29 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Tue Aug 24, 2021 7:40 am
Bird on a Fire, sorry I don't have time to go through your points individually.

Overall, you seem to be ignoring the large costs of transition to low carbon alternatives.

Yes, someone who swaps an ICE car for an electric car probably won't have a big change quality of life (unless they usually drive long distances).

But the costs of buying an electric car could well have a major negative effect on their quality of life. There will be lots of things that they can't afford because the money is being spent on car payments instead. The aim of a carbon tax is to push people into making different choices. So someone that drives an ICE car will see their transport expenses increase until they calculate that it will be cheaper to buy an electric car. So there will be a long period when they have to allocate more of their income to transport. The people who will be hit hardest will be those for whom an electric car isn't practical (eg if they rely on street parking). They'll just have to cope with the increasing transport costs.
Most people change cars every 10 years or so at most, and those that go longer between changes usually are doing fewer miles. Switching to EVs will happen over that kind of time frame - few cars on the road are older than 15 years. Those that pay the premium for new cars frequently do so on lease or in ways that they can get another new car in a few years, passing the used one on.

That won't impose large new costs on consumers - an eight year old second hand Leaf is under $10k here, about the same price as a similarly aged and specced ICE runabout, just with limited range (which is fine for most use). Second hand Volts and Bolts are priced competitively as well (not quite as cheap as equivalent ICE vehicles, but then there's the fuel costs and lower servicing costs - even once you factor in battery replacement). The problem is that most secondhand EVs here are premium priced Teslas. The second hand car market here is a completely different beast to the UK though.

House heating systems are much longer lifetime, and probably a more conservative market, and so changing those quickly will take a massive infusion of cash to train workers to do it and to subsidize it.

Over here, that's easier, because forced hot air heating and central air conditioning is common enough that most heating companies already handle heat pumps. Houses built with oil or gas fired steam or electric resistive baseboard heat are largely getting mini-split ductless heat pumps as the price of gas and oil rises relative to electricity. Obtaining AC as part of that deal is a key powerful incentive, and also an efficiency saving over the common window AC units used in houses without central AC. The extra cost of installing reversible heat pumps instead of straight AC is covered by state and federal tax credits and cash incentives.

Mini-split heat pumps would be suitable for retrofitting in UK housing stock without getting the disadvantages IvanV mentioned above of trying to decarbonize forced hot water heating.

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Re: Tackling the Climate Emergency:Economic and judicial instruments

Post by Bird on a Fire » Tue Aug 24, 2021 12:39 pm

Mini-splits are what people tend to have retrofitted in Portugal. They're pretty quick to adjust the temperature, with the advantage that they can heat in winter and cool in summer, which might help to reduce the death toll of heatwaves.

They also give you control over different rooms, if you keep doors closed at least. Must be possible to link them to some "smart" technology to run a home automatically?
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