Today’s Climate Embarrassment & Green Weenie Award

Stiff competition for the biggest climate embarrassment of the week.  It could be the screenwriter of Sharknado 2, the improbably named Thunder Levin, who said on MSNBC that climate change could cause Sharknado to come true.  Said Levin:

“You know we just felt it was time that the world was alerted to the perils of global warming and bio-meteorology, so it was just a matter of doing our research and getting the facts out to everybody.”

This is perhaps just a clever attempt to cause The Warmlist site to crash irretrievably.  Or maybe Levin is actually a climate skeptic punking MSNBC, and no one noticed.  In which case he deserves an Emmy for Sharknado instead of a Green Weenie.

The Washington Post gamely tries for the prize with speculation that global warming will increase the spread of flesh-eating bacteria.  Can zombies be far behind?  (Oh wait: Been there, done that.  From NASA, no less.  And you thought “climate zombies” referred to Michael Mann and such.)

But the winner belongs to that repeat champ, the New York Times, which on Wednesday ran an op-ed from a purported economist named James K. Boyce advocating for a “cap-and-dividend” idea that would put more money in everyone’s pocket!  Like this:

What if we could find a way to put more money in the pockets of families and less carbon in the atmosphere without expanding government? If the combination sounds too good to be true, read on.

If it sounds “too good to be true,” it’s because it is.  Boyce’s argument requires more sleight-of-hand than a bad Vegas street magician.  Pay close attention and spot the fallacies:

Paying dividends to all isn’t rocket science. The state of Alaska has been doing it since 1982. That’s when the Alaska Permanent Fund, the brainchild of Gov. Jay S. Hammond, a Republican, began to pay dividends from oil royalties based on the principle that the state’s natural wealth belonged to all its people.

Of course, the production of Alaskan oil represents the creation of new net wealth.  Cap and trade ideas don’t create anything new—it promises, at best, to shift around the source of energy production, very likely resulting in a net loss of overall wealth since most “clean energy” sources are more expensive.  But let’s keep going:

The number of permits initially would be capped at the level of our 2005 carbon dioxide emissions. This cap would gradually ratchet down to 80 percent below that level by 2050. Prices of fossil fuels would rise as the cap tightened, spurring private investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. Energy companies would pass the cost of permits to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices. But for most families, the gain in carbon dividends would be greater than the pain. In fact, my calculations show that more than 80 percent of American households would come out ahead financially — and that doesn’t even count the benefits of cleaner air and a cooler planet.

As the cap tightened, prices of fossil fuels would rise faster than quantity would fall, so total revenues would rise. The tighter the cap, the bigger the dividend.

Boyce seems not to notice that people would be getting paid dividends with their own money.  Oh wait, not really, as Boyce goes on to explain:

The outsize consumption — and outsize carbon footprints — of the richest 10 percent of Americans means that they’ll furnish a similarly high fraction of the carbon dollars generated by household spending on gasoline, electricity, airplane trips and so on. For these households, the dividends won’t outweigh the costs. But the affluent can afford to pay for their emissions.

So in other words, this “cap-and-dividend” scheme is nothing like the Alaska oil dividend, and is simply another attempt to set up a wealth transfer from the rich.

Other than that, looks just fine.  Oh yes—how much would such a plan, if fully implemented, reduce global warming?  Silly—it’s not about reducing global warming (the correct answer is zero, of course).  Kudos to Boyce for disguising the real purpose so poorly.  He’d better not try this kind of misdirection on the sidewalks in Vegas.  He’ll get worse than booed.  And worse than just a Green Weenie.


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