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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The carbon tax and the triumph of green


Driving from Calgary to Vancouver reveals some stark contrasts. The vast farmlands of the foothills morph into the majestic Rocky Mountains. The ominous mountain passes lead to an oasis of sprawling lakes in the Okanagan Valley before climbing into the heavens to traverse the Coquihalla Pass. The desolate mountain landscape then fades away to reveal the lush Lower Mainland before heading into the sprawling metropolis of Metro Vancouver.

If one looks closely, however, another stark contrast can be seen. Between the rocky divide that separates Banff and Golden, one may notice a significant increase in the price of gasoline. The price then increases again when you hit Vancouver. This is because B.C. has much higher gas taxes than Alberta. Residents of Metro Vancouver pay 20.5 cents per litre in gas taxes, plus 5 per-cent GST and a six cent transit tax, compared to just nine cents plus GST in Alberta. If this wasn't bad enough, the "right-wing" Liberal government recently imposed a carbon tax, which adds 3.51 cents to a litre of gas and will eventually reach 7.2 cents by 2012. In a show of just how out of whack B.C. politics is, it was the NDP that campaigned against the carbon tax in the last provincial election.

There was a time when so-called "progressive" politicians could at least pretend their policies were designed to help people. If one promises to steal from the rich and give to the poor, it actually sounds like they intend to help the poor. And while I don't agree with these policies, I can see the rationality in electing someone who promises to give you something for nothing. The remarkable thing about the green movement is that they have somehow made it possible for politicians to implement policies that are designed to help no one.

Let's take a step back for a moment. When I was young, the environmental movement seemed like little more than a bunch of under-sexed soccer moms whining about the rain forest. Yet, in a relatively short period of time, they have managed to fundamentally alter the way people think and vote. We are now at a point where people actually think it's in their interest to vote for policies that make all of society worse off. Let's take the carbon tax as an example.

Who benefits from the carbon tax? Businesses certainly don't benefit. It now costs more for them to produce and transport goods. The poor don't gain anything either. They are now faced with higher prices at the supermarket and higher transportation costs. The policy is actually designed to help mother nature and satisfy a far-left constituency. Do I need to mention the fact that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that contradicts the theory of man-made global warming or that even if it is true, higher taxes in one province will do little to solve the problem?

The green movement has successfully devolved public policy to that of ancient times. Government is now in the business of sacrificing virgins to appease their mythical gods. No matter what you think of their politics, this is an amazing feat.

The success of the green movement can partially be attributed to the diverse coalition they have managed to build. Environmentalists who are genuinely concerned with saving the planet; communists who see this as an opportunity to increase government involvement in the economy; enterprising capitalists who realize that there's money to be made off green technology; scientists who see large swaths of government money flowing their way by preaching man-made global warming; and religious zealots who are mesmerized by stories of Armageddon are all working together to change the minds of the populace and affect public policy.

That's right, the same money interests the left usually blames for all the evils in the world suddenly find themselves in the same camp as the socialists and communist extremists. The problem is that many of the policies the green movement is pushing are downright evil. If they had their way, they would wipe out centuries of human achievement. We would be pushed back to the stone age, unable to utilize all the technologies that have brought about the biggest increase in the standard of living in all of human history. Yet, despite the dangers we face, those of us who want to push back can learn a lot from the green movement. Their organizational skills and ability to persuade citizens and lawmakers alike have been remarkably effective. These same tools can be used against them in the quest for balanced policies that protect the environment, don't hurt society's most vulnerable, and leave men free to be innovative and productive. On the eve of this December's global warming summit in Copenhagen, this is something we should all keep in mind.

Further Reading

[Cross-posted at jesse.kline.ca]

Posted by Jesse Kline on September 20, 2009 in Science | Permalink


You people can have Kyoto so long as public expenditures toward it are capped at $1 - that's one dollar. Anything more than that is a waste of money. This does not mean that Ontario's exemption to Kyoto will be forgiven - its repeal is a precondition for even discussing this catastrophe of an idea.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-09-20 4:47:46 PM

One reason conservatives will be left in the dust in Canada and social democrats will continue to oppress us: conservatives think climate change is pretend.

That's not to defend taxation-based approaches to addressing the problem, but it is so that when political people who never question scientific theory start to do so, they do it at their own peril.

If you want to complain about B.C. carbon gas taxes compared to Alberta remember Stelmach's oil royalty changes.

And calling the BC Liberals pretend right-wing compared to Alberta is wildly inaccurate. Gordon Campbell spends far less than his Alberta "conservative" counterparts. And he didn't change the oil royalty regime.

I find the "only Alberta is truly right-wing" stereotype perpetrated in this post morally disgusting.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-09-20 6:43:52 PM

PS BC's Minister of Health supports private healthcare.

Posted by: Robert Seymour | 2009-09-20 6:48:13 PM

I find the "only Alberta is truly right-wing" stereotype perpetrated in this post morally disgusting.

This was not my intention. I am merely stating that Alberta has lower gas taxes than BC, which is true. I also think it's crazy that the right wing party introduced such a left wing policy and that the left wing party campaigned against it.

I am not saying the Alberta PCs are better conservatives than the BC Liberals. I agree that the new royalty regime is horrible, which is why I'm supporting Danielle Smith and the Wildrose Alliance.

Posted by: Jesse Kline | 2009-09-20 7:16:31 PM

But Conservatives DO understand the science behind the prevailing climate change theory. That's why they haven't denounced it. Instead, they offered an alternative plan similar to Kyoto. Mr. Harper has no intention of actually implementing this plan. He can't bluff if he doesn't play.

Chalk one more genius move to Mr. Harper, the best PM since 1992.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-09-20 7:36:44 PM

The actions taken by Western governments to limit CO2 are based on as much sound science as were the actions taken against Witches in Salem. They will have a negligable impact on climate change.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2009-09-20 9:19:29 PM

Climate has always changed. It will always continue to change. Taxing it is every politicians dream. Politicians just love gullible people.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-09-21 12:23:59 AM

The pros and cons of implementing or not implementing a carbon tax aside, as someone who's very familiar with the climate science research community, I'd like to see you substantiate two claims you make in your post:

"Do I need to mention the fact that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that contradicts the theory of man-made global warming"

For one thing, this study just came out:


Do you have a study to counter the arguments made in Kaufman’s study, or any other study for that matter?

If you do, please provide names of the studies, along with their lead authors and/or members of the research team, the name of the university and/or organization they work for, and the full set of data from the studies they have conducted, or a link to where they can be obtained. If you can't back up your claim with facts, then I’m afraid I’m not inclined to believe you.

"Scientists who see large swaths of government money flowing their way by preaching man-made global warming..."

That's hardly true. Researchers make way much more money in the private sector than they do in the public sector. It's a choice between freedom to study what you want to study and a big paycheck. Those who work for a university or publicly-funded research institution receive less pay but get to do research in fields they want to do research in. Those who work in the private sector get a big paycheck but are limited to doing research in the field(s) their company or benefactors want them to do research in.

The thing is, it seems pretty logical to me that if it was possible for researchers to prove that man-made global warming was NOT happening then I'm sure by now someone from the private sector would have financed research to prove that anthropogenic climate warming was not happening, perhaps by coming up with climate models that actually predict that global climate will actually cool over the next 100 years. It hasn’t happened so far, and you’ve got to ask yourself why it hasn’t happened after decades of us talking about global warming.

Just think about how much money the oil, gas and coal companies are spending on greenwashing campaigns, or on buying politicians who run for office, or producing commercials and TV specials that claim global warming is a hoax. Just think. Funding research to prove once and for all climate change was not happening would certainly be WAY more cost-effective than the money they're spending trying to convince people it's not happening. Just use your head. Ask yourself why it hasn’t happened by now.

I've been waiting to see more hard-core evidence from climate change deniers than just repeating over and over again that climate change isn't happening. Producing a TV show and conducting research that produces hard, empirical evidence aren't even close to being in the same ballpark.

I'm waiting to hear some good, hard factual counter-arguments from you, Sir.

If you think you're somehow smarter than people who devote their entire lives to better understanding the Earth's past and present climate system then please, prove to the scientific community that you're smarter than all of them. If you’ve read all the scientific literature and you can counter them with better studies, then please, by all means I invite you to do so.

But if you're not able to support your arguments with good, hard empirical evidence then I'm inclined to believe that you're either someone with an agenda or just another attention-seeking populist.

I'm waiting for a good, honest reply, Sir. Feel free to email me any time. I’ll be waiting to see if you’re willing to put you money where your mouth is.

Posted by: Joe | 2009-09-21 3:36:09 AM

All the climate science ever produced cannot make Kyoto or Copenhagen work. The term "political science" is an academic one, the study of politics - but politics itself is anything but a science. It is mostly irrational, bending and twisted according to public moods. The public may support fighting climate change one day and change its mind the next. In fact, if it failed, then that support would be undermined. It simply won't work especially given the estimated costs and the exemption given to Ontario's auto industry (one of the most privileged groups in the country).

So I recommend that you stop throwing science in our faces because it just doesn't work. Moreover, the green industry's ignorance of the exemptions makes them complicit with corruption. All the work so far has been wasted.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-09-21 6:34:29 AM

We can learn from this movement. Were we to co-opt some of the genuine concern about the environment and propose private property as the solution instead (free market environmentalism) and to co-opt an anti-special interests narrative, we could gain strength. Most genuine environmental problems are caused by "public" ownership of property. The best free market economists have already explained how we can privatize resources.

Corporations have also been using the government to loot the people through corporate welfare. This is an issue we can use, if we choose to stand for true free markets rather than the phony "free market" we currently have.

We need a diverse coalition of our own if we are to turn the tide of growing government. Of course, by co-opting concern over some environmental issues, opposition to war (especially in the US, where this is a major issue and where our leftist president is escalating the wars), and concern over corporate influence over government toward the cause of limited government, we can strengthen our movement.

Posted by: Brad | 2009-09-21 9:08:50 AM

"Man Made" global warming is a complete myth. Its basically a (communist style) propoganda campaign under which you will be further taxed and less able to provide for yourself. Its a "con game".
And the Big City granola crunchers of Vancouver and Toronto (etc.) are playing right into it, simple bunch that they are.

Posted by: The original JC | 2009-09-21 9:17:59 AM

JC: It could have worked if the Liebrals had not granted Ontario's auto industry an exemption. Who knew their corruption would actually help the country rather than a few special interests!

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-09-21 10:08:23 AM

Joe: when people believe that melting sea ice will raise sea levels, I do fear for our survival as a species.

Plaese, don't "lecture" us. Just because a majority of people believe the hype that AGW is, doesn't make the political scientists "right".

When supposedly reputable scinetific organizations and scientitsts refuse to operate under the "scientific process" and fudge the data, destroy evidence, or withold their data from other scientitsts' examinations, they have no credibility.

shreik all you want about what my qualifications are, sorry don't have a PhD in geology, but that doesn't make me any less of a scinetist. I can read, so can you and most others who might be interested.

The planet is in an inter-glacial period, with cyclical climatic effects operating on our "climate". Untill plate tectonics works it's magic and moves continents and mountain chains, we'll be subjected to the vagaries of climate change imposed by forces BEYOND OUR CONTROL!!!

We can't turn the sun on or off, correct orbital or rotational problems. Your MP or dictator cannot control the climate in any way, shape of form. That is the message that needs to be sent out to the unscientific.

As a species, we have learned to "adapt" to our surroundings. That is why the human condition is where it is today. We will adapt to local climate changes and effect as they occur. We always have. If we don't we will die off, but I for one am not going to go quietly when some outfit like the UN, Al Gore or Suzuki "preach" how I live my life while they get filthy rich off me.

Posted by: po'ed in AB | 2009-09-21 10:29:22 AM

Joe: try this one on for practical, common sense debunking of the hype that AGW is:


Posted by: po'ed in AB | 2009-09-21 10:32:57 AM

Joe, you want names?


Posted by: dp | 2009-09-21 10:36:09 AM


Posted by: po'ed in AB | 2009-09-21 10:36:53 AM

If politicians did not have this particular "crisis" to hawk, they would drum up another one. A few that come to mind were: population time-bomb, coming ice age, global warming and now the more inclusive climate change. Still the point remains that even if any of these had been fact, the very idea that governments/politicians could save us is an insult to one's intelligence.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-21 11:18:31 AM

While I have no idea if humans are responsible for "climate change", Brad is absolutely correct. Privatization of natural resources is the best way to combat the problem.

We must also immediately eliminate subsidies to so-called green technologies. They are based on the premise that bureaucrats know where to direct the money and divert financing from those who do: entrepreneurs.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-09-21 12:04:28 PM

"Do you have a study to counter the arguments made in Kaufman’s study, or any other study for that matter?"

How about some common sense. Demonstrating reversal of a trend does not demonstrate an anthropogenic cause of the reversal.

Posted by: K Stricker | 2009-09-21 2:45:13 PM

Isn't it sad that these "scientists" never consulted an economist to ask them how much climate change would affect the economy? Or how much Kyoto would do the same? I think it would be awesome if the solution (Kyoto) wound up costing far more than problem (climate change.)

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2009-09-21 3:52:21 PM


Thank you for your comments. I will briefly address your two points.

1) I do not have the time or expertise to debate the merits of climate science with you. If you will notice, I never said that the theory of man-made global warming is false. I am not a climatologist and do not believe I'm qualified to make such a statement.

However, as you correctly noted, I did say that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that contradicts the theory of man-made global warming. My point is that we don't know enough to conclusively say what the problem is and how to fix it. Therefore, I do not believe the socialist measures that have been proposed to combat the "problem" are warranted. Such solutions would end up doing more harm than good.

If you would like to do some more research on the science behind global warming skepticism, I would suggest starting with the collection of links I referred to in my column. You can also take a look at this brief literature review I conducted on the subject a number of years ago. More recently, a prominent scientist admitted the Earth is actually in a brief period of cooling. Other studies have shown that the planet stopped warming in 1998. Also, a good number of the climate change models have been shown to be inaccurate. Remember, the same guys that can't tell you whether or not it's going to rain this Thursday are trying to tell you what the temperature will be in 50 years time.

2) You are correct that there is often more money in private science, but this is not always the case. If you think that scientists and research institutions around the world are not making big money off government support for climate change research, then you are sorely mistaken.

Posted by: Jesse Kline | 2009-09-21 4:32:42 PM

I'm linking this blog to the group 'Ed Stelmach is trying to "destroy" Alberta' on facebook.

Posted by: Paul Hamnett | 2009-09-21 6:37:01 PM

Just for your info Prof Klimer of Adelaide University has just published a book debunking the CO2 myth. It has over 3000 references if I remember correctly. He also gave a talk on the matter to the Sydney Institute, which may or may not be on the web. He makes some very valid points. Yes, climate change occurs ALL the time. Antarctic ice is increasing not decreasing. In fact if there were no other influence the oceans would be going down and not rising. Something else is responsible. Fact is we do not know what is causing climate change and Copenhagen is a bean feast for the faithful. If it were not for the economic damage these idiots will cause it would be funny.

Posted by: Graham | 2009-09-22 5:45:29 AM

"I've been waiting to see more hard-core evidence from climate change deniers ".

There are no climate change deniers. Climate has changed since the beginning of time. Carbon trading and taxing it will change nothing.All of North America was under ice not all that long ago. Less pollution is a good thing but has nothing to do with climate change.

Welcome to the latest panic. Every generation has one. Next one is 2012.

Posted by: peterj | 2009-09-22 12:39:48 PM

Part of my geology for non-geologists that think that the planet is going to go up in flames:



Posted by: po'ed in AB | 2009-09-22 2:14:51 PM

PoAB, perhaps you can give us examples of problems solved by government. I shall be polite in saying that one has to be extremely naif (or a collectivist) not to understand that. This does not mean that we do not each have a personal responsibility not to destroy needlessly the environment, but to allow government to milk it for all it is worth is unacceptable.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-22 6:43:33 PM

perhaps you can give us examples of problems solved by government.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-22 6:43:33 PM

How many kids do you see wearing braces on their legs today in NA and Europe because they had polio? None. That's because the government paid for and required every kid to be vaccinated. And it wouldn't have happened without government.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-09-22 7:59:46 PM

Stig, your claim that this would not have happened without government does not wash. But go ahead and put your trust in government if that gives you comfort, I have learned not to do so.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-22 8:34:27 PM

Stig, your claim that this would not have happened without government does not wash.
Posted by: Alain | 2009-09-22 8:34:27 PM

Au contaire. Th polio vaccine was available for private companies to sell well before the government stepped in and made it policy to eradicate polio. Smallpox was eradicated in NA and Europe by government policy as well. In both cases private companies were not interested and didn't have the leverage to vaccinate virtually the entire population. This country is free of polio and smallpox because the government decided it was in everybody's best interest to eradicate both diseases. If you want to ignore that, fine. Give me an example where private companies, on their own, with government financing, eradicated a major disease.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-09-22 9:49:37 PM

One reason conservatives will be left in the dust in Canada and social democrats will continue to oppress us: conservatives think climate change is pretend.

One reason those now called conservatives will win out in the end: Climate change is a natural process and what we do will have little if any effect upon it. In the medieval period, the temperature was warmer than it is today—and there were record harvests. Much of the ice cap was gone from Greenland. And low-lying cities like London weren't drowned by rising oceans as a result.

The evidence collected to date suggests that AGW is a crock, and even some climate scientists are suggesting that the temperature rise seen in the latter half of the 20th century hasn't continued into the 21st. Many think that temperatures will actually decline for several decades. That hasn't stopped profiteers like Al Gore from making a killing by milking the innumerable neuroses of the typical urbanite. He is certainly not the first.

Posted by: Shane Matthews | 2009-09-22 11:09:52 PM

"In both cases private companies were not interested and didn't have the leverage to vaccinate virtually the entire population."

Two words: regulations and taxes. But any logical analysis is wasted on you Stig. So yes, given the current regulatory and fiscal status in our economy, private firms did not have the interest or access to capital to eradicate polio.

Posted by: Charles | 2009-09-23 1:58:17 PM

Two words: regulations and taxes. But any logical analysis is wasted on you Stig.
Posted by: Charles | 2009-09-23 1:58:17 PM

And what regulation stopped a pharma company from vaccinating the entire population for polio? And what taxes stopped them? Do the same thing for smallpox.

Posted by: The Stig | 2009-09-23 4:12:03 PM

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