Re: Global warming: It's happening
by Kevin E. Trenberth
Date: Sun, 18 Jan 1998 18:26:59 -0800
Subject: Trenberth's Vested Interest
A Carbon Tax and Global Warming
The biggest vested interest in the global warming debate is the tax-and-spend governments of the world, the biggest being Trenberth's own employer, who can't wait for huge fuel-tax increases. The enormous economic havoc of AlGorist measures would far exceed the price tag of a 500-mile sunshade positioned at the solar L1 point, a million miles sunward. If the IPCC was so sure of its conclusions, then why did it change the Scientific Panel's words without asking them? We see here the danger of government-funded science: it's bound to be politically correct.
–Bill Parkyn, one severely overtaxed dude who is utterly weary of paying for government-funded Chicken-Littles.
In fairness to Dr. Trenberth, it should be noted that his article (Global Warming: It's Happening) makes no mention of a fuel or carbon tax.
In fairness to ourselves, since we have advocated a carbon tax (see: Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gases Achieves Little), it should be noted that the question of whether to impose a carbon tax and the question of the overall burden of taxation are separate issues. This is so, because, on the introduction of a carbon tax, adjustments can be made in other taxes to achieve an overall tax-neutral result. In Canada, for example, where this is written, the introduction of a carbon tax would provide the Federal Government an excellent opportunity to live up to its 1993 pre-election promise to abolish the much hated Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The proposal for a sunshade to combat the adverse effects of burning fossil fuel reminds one of the rhyme about the old lady who swallowed a fly, then swallowed a spider to catch the fly, and then a mouse to catch the spider, and so on with ultimately fatal consequences. Easier, it would seem, as a means of combatting global warming, than to blot out part of the sun (with effects that could require corrective measures of their own) would be to curb the impulse to take the four-wheel drive to the superstore across town merely to save twenty cents on a can of Clamato juice. A carbon tax would curb such an impulse without prohibiting it. The choice would remain between expensive energy-intensive forms of consumption and cheaper less-energy-intensive forms of consumption. And in any case, whatever the technical merits of a sunshade, it would surely detract from the romance of the setting sun for the word "Coke" to be inscribed in a shadow over the reddened disk.
If to say that "government-funded science is bound to be politically correct," means only that its objectives tend to serve the interests of those with political power, then the statement is no more than a truism, though an important one (for a discussion see Richard Levins: Is Science Failing Society?). If, however, it is intended to imply that the results of government-funded research are somehow predetermined by political considerations, the claim is untenable. Governments do, from time to time, try to bend scientific truth, but such efforts are strongly resisted by any scientist worthy of the name (see: Science, the State and Freedom of Speech).