[ I am not speaking to the game-theoretic analysis of New Zealand leaving Kyoto -- Bjorn's swaying this way or that notwithstanding, there is no rational reason for NZ to stay inside Kyoto, unless it was seen as the price for signaling environmental concern. ]
Attempted to post comment to Offsetting Behaviour - Eric Crampton : Yer either fer us or agin us
The same climate scientists that Lomborg disparaged for stating evidence of high sensitivities for carbon emissions are now the same climate scientists he will trust to run geo-engineering. This is the the most embarrassing contradiction of Lomborg's evolving stance.
The Copenhagen Consensus cost-benefit analysis put carbon taxes at the bottom by valuing stewardship of the environment for future generations at zero. The same way pre-school for my toddler would be at the bottom of a cost-benefit analysis of all uses of my money, if I valued his own future earnings and quality of life at zero.
If you are standing on the train tracks with a freight train coming in five minutes, you have the choice to leap off the tracks. A "compromise" position of shifting over a few inches will have no effect, no matter how much you value "moderation and reasonableness". If you limit your analysis to only the next step minutes and fifty-nine seconds, the energy expended in the leap is a waste.
I wish we had the choice to live in an "warmer average" world -- it would be nice. If you put two bullets in a six chambered gun to play Russian roulette, on "average", you are still alive but with a headache. But the "average" is an abstraction, and in reality you have to deal with the consequences of the spun barrel. The risk is not a warmer world -- the risk is an over-energetic world that no longer has the climate stability that allowed civilization and large-scale agriculture and inexpensive & quick transportation to be developed and maintained.
It is fine to consider all possible humanitarian uses of scarce capital. The weight that stewardship of the environment for future generations should not be infinite, lest you indulge in pointless profligacy towards but a single goal. But that does not imply that stewardship of the environment for future generations should be weighted at zero.
[ This implies value placed on trying to give future generations a "western/first world" standard of living much like what we currently enjoy. If we are satisfied with a few hundred thousand on each continent living under conditions like indigenous peoples, living along the new raised coastlines and grasslands freed from permafrost, with climate instability but the net warmth & wetness still giving the ability to feed from the meat of small grazing animals, the costs we would bare would be slight. ]
Edit 9/21/10: Reply via Google Buzz from Eric Crampton:
If investing in tech reduces more warming per dollar spent than do other things, what's the problem with redirecting spending towards tech?Copenhagen valued future generations the same way that cost-benefit analysis typically values future generations: by applying a standard discount rate. That doesn't say that future people don't count; rather, it says that future people might prefer being given cash.
"""That doesn't say that future people don't count; rather, it says that future people might prefer being given cash"""
If I am the victim of blunt trauma, I may not value a cash dispersal later over a medical intervention now. There is a rational case to be made that the two are hardly substitutes in some circumstances.
I agree that I should have been more careful and said "valuing stewardship of the environment for future generations, *particularly* in reducing the risk of the very worst outcomes". I will be more careful in future.
"""If investing in tech reduces more warming per dollar spent than do other things, what's the problem with redirecting spending towards tech?"""
No argument here. But the lack of breakthrough tech *now* implies non-zero carbon taxes *now* (and there is a moral argument for quite substantial taxes now). I am certain it will take a few decades of people seeing global military preparation for the worst possible outcomes of climate disruption before it is plain that environmental stewardship may be worth 5 or more points of global economic activity. It is not surprising that substantial carbon taxes have near zero political traction in the two largest economies, now.