back to article This Changes Everything? OH Naomi Klein, NO

Given that I'm from the rational, classical end of liberalism, I'm obviously not going to be greatly taken by the spoutings of someone like Naomi Klein. But if an ideological difference were all it was, then I'd have left her new book, This Changes Everything alone after I'd read it. Sadly, it's not actually as simple as that …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not as simple as that indeed....

    I am by no means a fan of Naomi Klein, and even less of her conclusions....

    This being said counterarguments based on the wisdom of unspecified "experts" doesn't cut it for me either.

    Climate change and all that Jazz is a can of worms because everyone has an "expert opinion" and no one points to the (thawed) mammoth in the room: i.e. that we have absolutely NO IDEA of what's going on with the climate. And we know even less how to control it and about the possible effects and side effects of any measures we might take....

    Perfect territory to foster public anxiety and make a quick buck with endless trolling, pseudo scientific pissing contests, emotion laden political debates or snake oil peddling.... (carbon sequestration anyone?) - which is probably why Ms. Klein wrote her masterpiece in the first place.

    Right then - time for a cuppa now that I have made my contribution to the ambient noise.

    1. Steve Knox
      Holmes

      Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

      This being said counterarguments based on the wisdom of unspecified "experts" doesn't cut it for me either.

      Read Page 2. The experts are specified there. Tim even gave you a link to their wisdom. Simples.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        Steve, I think he meant that he doesn't believe the 'experts' (who, in any case, don't all agree with each other,) but he doesn't specify which set of experts; the ones who's continued funding relies on it being true, or the ones who's funding relies on it not being true.

        At least, that's how I read it.

    2. DavCrav Silver badge

      Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

      "This being said counterarguments based on the wisdom of unspecified "experts" doesn't cut it for me either."

      Sure, using arguments from one person to attack another might not be great, but Tim is showing logical inconsistencies in her arguments, and using experts to do so.

      If you present an economic theory that uses half of a body of research but not the other half, then what you are doing is wrote. You cannot pick and choose which bits of a theory you like, for example accepting the hypotheses but not the conclusions, or vice versa. If you want to produce a new theory you have to base it on assumptions. These assumptions need not be sound, but they have to exist. If you weave in and out of standard economic theory, using some parts when you want and rejecting other parts when it contradicts you, you have a weak argument.

      But about not mentioning experts, it is possible to write a 540-page book on motor racing without mentioning Ferrari, but it would look a bit weird, and might suggest that you hadn't done your homework.

    3. maffski

      Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

      '...and no one points to the (thawed) mammoth in the room: i.e. that we have absolutely NO IDEA of what's going on with the climate...'

      But there are some things we do know,

      1) More technologically advanced society's are better able to survive and adapt (humanities spread over the globe and the disease off between European and South Americans are examples of this)

      2) More advanced society's reproduce less - see western world birth rates

      3) Technological advancement changes the focus of resources, meaning we don't deplete the ones we need - when did you last see a headline saying 'Peak Whale Blubber - were doomed'

      So it seems to me the best way to handle the unexpected, the uncalculated, the unknown and the ununderstood, is to race head long into the future, to learn, to improve and to adapt as required.

      So the answer is kind of simple. Make a better mousetrap. And do it again tomorrow.

      1. Havin_it
        Headmaster

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        Not seen that before: approximately the right number of apostrophes, none of them in the right place!

      2. SineWave242

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        Could what you said simply be put into words as "you should learn how to adapt?" ;) And we surely should learn how to do that.

      3. SoaG

        Re: Peak Whale Blubber

        Thumbs for that. I must now endeavour to incorporate this into conversation regularly. Regardless of the actual topic, it's just too good not to use.

      4. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        ... and the more technologically advanced societies are the ones diving the demand and consuming nearly all of the world's resources, producing all that pollution.

        A problem with globalisation is that it tends towards megacorps and political systems which maintain the status quo. Large companies with excess profits borg or crush or outlaw competition before it can disrupt their profits. It is difficult to create centre of expertise in solar panels because there is almost no chance for a small company to compete commercially with the big boys. Predatory pricing, patent litigation and "co-marketing" funds for the channel mean you sell out, are sued out or are starved out of the market.

        Global markets mean that cost cutting is the way to riches rather than making a better product. As long as the product lasts for a few years that's ok. It used to be a question of vendors selling products which were not quite as good as they looked. Now (at least in the tech world) they are deliberately creating them to fail, which produces economic activity and tax revenue which make us poorer. They aren't just cutting costs to increase profits, they are deliberately making sure you will need to by another one on a specific time-scale.

        If you sell 100 cans of beans, cutting the quality of your sauce for an extra $1 profit isn't worth it. If you make 1bn cans of beans it becomes well worth it. That's a problem with globalisation - individuals become unimportant.

        Another problem is that cheap products discourages, "mend and make do." That's great for economic statistics but rather bad for pollution. The hems on clothing these days are so small, that if the hem splits, you have no chance to restitch them -you throw the garment out and have to buy another one. If you rock on most dining chairs, the likelihood is that they will break. Kneel on the coffee table or drop a screwdriver on it and you'll break the legs and gouge through the ultra-thin veneer. It can't be fixed by most owners. If you had solid wood, you could just sand it down and re-oil it and off you go. So many items structural integrity is ensured by their completeness - break any little bit and the whole lot falls apart. This may be profitable and apparently wanted by consumers, but it isn't good for the environment.

        Another problem is that selling a product is more expensive than the product itself. That means that buying wool to make your own jumper is probably more expensive than buying the finished product. This discourages skill development, encourages specialisation and the further entrenchment of the polluting status quo where wool is shipped around the world instead of being used locally.

        I'm not sure there is a good solution for the West. Pretty much every improvement is going to make us poorer and disadvantage those in power. I suspect increasing competition at the price of "efficiency" (which these days means "efficiency of capital / ROI" not efficiency of the process being used to make something) might need to happen. At the very least, the government should balance its books (which will make us poorer now) because we are living beyond our means collectively. That will impoverish people, but I suspect it needs to happen and it might encourage quality at the expense of turnover and make locally produced (if less polished) product financially viable.

        We need to stop kowtowing to the large corporations. If they make $10bn profit total (as reported to shareholders) and the UK is 10% of their market, tax them on $1bn. One set of accounts for the taxman and the shareholders. Let's see just how happy they are to overstate their sales when profits are on the line. If they won't provide sales unit figures, then let the taxman make his own estimate. This is not about bashing the rich, this is levelling the playing field for the smaller players who can't make the complicated financial arrangements the big boys can. This is about increasing competition between products. I want to see products competing, not competition between existing cash piles and marketing funds.

      5. JLV

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        You left out:

        4) More affluent societies tend to emit more CO2.

        We really need to address that, because, if the climate experts are right, that is gonna bite us on the ass. Of course, some of you are gonna debate that the experts don't know, but just consider this is a risk assessment scenario. Just because you don't know everything doesn't mean your best long term bet is to ignore a credible risk.

        In the past, we've successfully managed to dial down other types of pollution, mostly because, as we got richer, we could afford to care and substitute. We need to do that ourselves in this case, and convince newly industrializing countries not to follow in our previous footsteps.

        And, one lesson we need to learn, quickly, is that good intentions, or even spending, counts for diddly wrt to CO2. What counts is hard reductions. If we waste money sponsoring solar in sunny Germany or biodiesel in Iowa that is money not available to pursue better methods. If the Canadian government wastes money on Ontario solar pork, that is money not available for climate change mitigation.

        Naomi, and a whole of other greens, are confusing their political goals with engineering results.

    4. SineWave242

      Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

      Thanks to a minority, but incredibly influential, characters like you, there's hardly anything people do to counteract the global warming. However, we in Europe don't talk so much about it, but do something about it, even on our own if we have to. To me it just seems so much better to have a home that's self reliant on energy and a car that doesn't stink and make noise. Simple - I love clean air and silence! I'm not bothered by what will it cost to acquire that, especially when the benefits so easily outweighs the downsides that are simply repulsive, and simply our daily downsides we encounter as soon as you hit the street. Regarding carbon tax - yes, everybody is to blame, but mostly factories, cars, and cattle raised for meat. That's like majority of all the CO2 emissions.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        Have you seen the great stinking pollution lakes created in China so you can you can have nice "clean" ,"quiet" and "fresh" solar panels or bird killers ? Have you seen pictures of the working conditions of the poor SOBs who extract the required rare earths ? Where are you going to get that nice safe lead or lithium for batteries (for when the sun don;t shine & the wind don't blow) ? How are they going be disposed of ?

        The problem is you may have super deep pockets to pay for all that c**p - I don't, and I resent subsidising people that do (eg here in NSW peak power cost is @50c kwh - under a now grandfathered scheme my neighbour gets a gross solar fit is paid at 60c kwh) - by definition I am subsidising my neighbour's panels.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

          "Have you seen the great stinking pollution lakes created in China..."

          Which is exactly why we need a real 'polluter pays' tax. The producers (whether in China or elsewhere) need to pay to either clean up their act, or pay a tax so government can clean it up for them*. The producers pass the cost on to the consumers, who at that point will be paying for the pollution caused by the creation of their gizmos and widgets.

          Good luck getting that implemented globally though.

          *I'm under no doubt that government can easily bollox this up, but the very idea is that if capitalism is really working, it's cheaper for a private company to clean up than for the government to clean up after them, hence the necessity of high pollution fines.

    5. dogged

      Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

      > no one points to the (thawed) mammoth in the room: i.e. that we have absolutely NO IDEA of what's going on with the climate.

      True. Which makes this statement -

      "In order to work out whether Flipper is going to be boiled or just scalded, we need to run computer simulations of what emissions are going to do to the climate" a particularly impressive bit of bollocks since it's effectively asking a blind man to create a computer simulation of a hologram using only the power of interpretive dance.

      Seriously Tim, how the fuck are you supposed to model "the climate" when it has an almost infinite amount of variables and you don't know how any of them really work?

      1. Nightkiller

        Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

        Start with one that works reasonably well. Add some variables. Check the output. Retain the ones that contribute to a closer approximation. Rinse and repeat.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not as simple as that indeed....

          You forgot: When they all (over 95%) run way too hot, don't change them but spend all your efforts in drowning out those who are trying to point out the flaws in the models. Oh, and add a few more bad models to the mix to broaden the error bands so you can claim that the models now fall inside the (widened) bands.

  2. tony2heads
    Pint

    global versus local

    Global is great for commodity stuff but (to get back to the bookcase example) we went to a local firm to get one made to fit in our specific house.

    If local business wants to survive they will have to go for tailor-made solutions to specific needs. If not going full-on Jermyn Street at least to alterations to jeans (I can never buy ones that fit).

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About that self-professed rational liberalism

    > Given that I'm from the rational, classical end of liberalism

    No, you're not. You only have three ideas:

    - Laissez-faire Capitalism - Good.

    - Globalization and Free Trade - Good.

    - Ensuing Plutocracy - Good.

    And you keep repeating them at nauseam.

    Fortunately, the world we live in is not as simple as your understanding thereof.

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

      I'd add a few more myself:

      Land value taxation: good.

      Welfare state: good.

      Regulation of monopolies: good.

      Poor getting richer: good.

      I'm sure others will come to mind in time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

        Problem is, Laissez-faire Capitalism, Free Trade Globalization and the resulting Plutocratic System of Government make all your feel-good additions - such as Land value taxation, regulation of monopolies and income re-distribution - impossible.

        A Plutocratic System will never vote to regulate the monopolies that enabled it, or to tax the land it owns, or to re-distribute the wealth that enabled it, or to maintain or expand a Welfare State - which is, in fact, another way of creating income re-distribution.

        So, you have a fundamental contradiction here to think about.

        1. Tim Worstal

          Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

          Eh?

          "Free Trade Globalization and the resulting Plutocratic System of Government make all your feel-good additions - such as Land value taxation, regulation of monopolies and income re-distribution - "

          Hmm, so, if we open up trade to all the companies and organisations of the world are we going to have more monopolies or fewer? I would guess, myself, fewer, as competition is a pretty good antidote to a monopoly.

          And as to income redistribution I don't think I mentioned that: rather that the poor becoming richer is a good idea. Given that the last 30 years of globalisation have caused the largest reduction in absolute poverty in the history of our species I think that's a pretty good result for my side.

          Agreed, this is also what has made the plutocrats quite so plutocratic: which is why I can't see any reason why they'd want to stop this poverty reduction through globalisation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

            > Hmm, so, if we open up trade to all the companies and organisations of the world are we going to have more monopolies or fewer?

            You will have more monopolies, not fewer. Case in point, the US.

            Opening free trade to every country in the world does not work as intended: not all countries are equal. Not all countries have the same wages, same labor protection laws, same cost of living, same level of human rights, etc. There are countries in this world today which aren't bound by any restrictions in employing slave labor.

            How does a worker in country X, a country with minimum wage laws, environmental protection laws, labor standards laws, benefit laws, etc, compete with an anything-goes slave labour country Y, with wages and cost-of-living 1/100 those of country X, no labor standard laws, no environmental protection laws, no human rights laws?

            What you are creating by opening trade between two countries with such an out-of-balance and extreme - yet very realistic - economic realities, is an arbitrage opportunity no corporation will pass: high paying jobs from country X will move to country Y, and will not come back.

            Perhaps you can explain this to all of us, here: how transfering a US-based job paying USD $25/hour with decent benefits to a country paying slave-labor 5 cents/hour will raise the standards of living in the US, or will help lift the poor out of poverty.

            For one, you create unemployment: the worker making $25/hour no longer has a job. If they find a new job, it will likely pay less. If it doesn't pay enough to guarantee a minimum subsistence, then this worker becomes eligible for basic Government life-subsistence subsidies: food stamps at a minimum.

            In turn all this translates into less tax revenue: lower income means lower tax revenue, plus the added cost of food stamps which was not necessary for a $25/hour paying job.

            Less tax revenue means reduced likelihood for several of your goals: less money for the Welfare State, less money for anti-trust, monopoly-busting enforcement actions. Lower cost of labor and lower taxes for corporations means more profits, more profits means more buying power for the same corporations, more buying power means corporations go on a shopping spree, for the sole purpose of consolidating a monopoly power, and in the end, you end up with the exact opposite of what you were preaching.

            This is exactly how the US has built its current Plutocracy. Free-trade and labor agreements with under-developed, low-cost countries, which led to massive losses in good-paying jobs, which strained tax receipts, which led to increased influence of corporation on the outcome of elections and the political decision-making system, which led to tax reductions at the top at the expense of those in the middle, constant erosion of the social safety net for those who need it, etc etc etc.

            Once put in place, Plutocracies do not dismantle on their own for the greater good. Their only interest is to maintain the status quo.

            We have all seen this happen during the de-industrialization of Western Europe and US which has taken place over the past 40 years.

            So, why insist on this System of Global Free Trade, which has shown not to work in the best interests of the vast majority of those it is being forced upon?

            1. Tim Worstal

              Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

              "Perhaps you can explain this to all of us, here: how transfering a US-based job paying USD $25/hour with decent benefits to a country paying slave-labor 5 cents/hour will raise the standards of living in the US, or will help lift the poor out of poverty."

              Well, it ain't gonna help that $25 an hour worker, entirely true. It will help every consumer of their former product, they're now paying 5 cents, not $25 an hour, for the labour embedded in their products.

              But here's what also happens. Chinese manufacturing wages were around $1,000 a year in AD 2,000. In 2014 they're around $6,500. I tend to think that's a fair old "help lift the poor out of poverty."

              The system seems to be working for me. The poor are getting richer. That the poor who are getting richer are slighlty yellower of skin than you and I pinkish people are doesn't bother me, nor does the greater incidence of epicanthic folds. The poor are getting richer, Hurrah! right?

              If not, why not?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                > Chinese manufacturing wages were around $1,000 a year in AD 2,000. In 2014 they're around $6,500. I tend to think that's a fair old "help lift the poor out of poverty."

                It did not. While there is now a richer worker in China, there is also a corresponding worker in the US who is now in poverty, but who was not in poverty before their job was exported to China.

                So, on a zero-sum basis, it's simply a transfer of wealth from the former US worker making $25/hour with benefits to the corporation exporting the job. The Chinese worker did not get all the wages of the US worker. The difference was pocketed by the corporation.

                The fundamental problem with this approach is that a country's economic policies - as pursued by that country's Government - should not be designed to transfer wealth to another country. Chinese workers - to use your example - do not pay taxes in the US. US workers do. Therefore the US Government has a fiduciary responsibility towards US workers paying US taxes, not towards Chinese workers paying taxes in China.

                1. Eddy Ito

                  Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                  So, on a zero-sum basis, it's simply a transfer of wealth from the former US worker making $25/hour with benefits to the corporation exporting the job. The Chinese worker did not get all the wages of the US worker. The difference was pocketed by the corporation.

                  You're assuming that it is a zero-sum basis, it's not. For the same money, $25/hr, the company can hire several Chinese workers at $3.25/hr ($6500/year) and even if they aren't as productive seven of them will likely exceed the output of the single US worker with little difficulty. It also keeps the company competitive in their industry which they may not have been and the change could easily mean they don't have to shut the doors which would still put the US worker out of a job as well as the seven Chinese workers. Yes, I know that some jobs will likely open up at their competitors in order to make up for the reduced supply if the first company does go out of business but that's another story.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                    > For the same money, $25/hr, the company can hire several Chinese workers at $3.25/hr ($6500/year) and even if they aren't as productive seven of them will likely exceed the output of the single US worker with little difficulty.

                    Yes, indeed the company can do that. But it is likely that it might not want to. The goal here is not increased production; it is lowering the cost of production. That is accomplished by wage cuts (manufacture in China instead of US).

                    There is no economic gain to be derived by increasing the number of widgets produced. More widgets might not all sell. Their price might tank, and that will eat into profits. Maintaining the same production levels while cutting production costs to a minimum is guaranteed to increase profits.

                    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                      Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                      "There is no economic gain to be derived by increasing the number of widgets produced. More widgets might not all sell. Their price might tank, and that will eat into profits. Maintaining the same production levels while cutting production costs to a minimum is guaranteed to increase profits."

                      Actually, there's a fatal flaw in this statement. It forgets to account for one key element: the consumers. In order to buy things, consumers need money, and that more often then now comes from employment. But if you shortchange workers, you end up with items out of their affordability range. IOW, you torpedo your own market. That's one reason henry Ford always paid generously: to make sure he had customers for his products.

                      1. Tim Worstal

                        Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                        "That's one reason henry Ford always paid generously: to make sure he had customers for his products."

                        I actually ran through the numbers on this for Forbes once. Took the number of workers he had, the cost of that pay rise to $5 a day and the price of a Model T at the time.

                        If every single one of his workers had bought a new Model T each and every year then Ford would still have lost (in revenue mind, not profits or margin, but revenue) some $2.5 million a year.

                        So why Ford did raise pay could be for a number of reasons* but getting his workers to buy his cars just wasn't one of them.

                        *The actual reason was that he had a permanent establishment of 13,000 but he was hiring 50,000 a year to keep that many. That's expensive. So he raised pay to reduce turnover and that saved him more than the higher pay cost him.

                        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

                          Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                          Maybe, but the question's still there. If workers are paid peanuts, how will they (who are also customers) be able to afford your goods?

                          1. James Micallef Silver badge

                            Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                            "Maybe, but the question's still there. If workers are paid peanuts, how will they (who are also customers) be able to afford your goods?"

                            Because your goods are now cheaper to buy, because your production cost has gone down.

                            Whoever it was that posted further above that corporations are sending jobs to China to lower wages and pocketing the difference are wrong. The vast majority of 'the difference' is going to lower product costs, and in that sense, it is being 'pocketed' by consumers (i.e. employees). Some corporations (the successful ones) ARE more profitable, but also quite a few of them have gone bust.

                            It might be the case that median wages in 'the west' are stagnating, but that median wage can now buy you a lot more stuff. Of course it's all more nuanced than that, for example services in 'the west' are still expensive

                2. Tim Worstal

                  Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                  "So, on a zero-sum basis,"

                  Yeah, but the economy isn't zero sum.

                  Back in 1980 global GDP (ie, the total added value and thus, by definition, equal to what everyone collectively gets to consume) was, in constant dollars, smaller than it is today. This is true in aggregate and also true per capita. We've all got richer, both collectively and individually.

                  There's a couple of places that have cocked up, true, but it would be difficult to put Zimbabwe down to globalisation.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                    > We've all got richer, both collectively and individually.

                    Have you taken a look at income distribution and after-tax incomes?

                    The problem with interpreting nominal GDP growth as a wealth creation measure is that GDP calculations are based on a number of accounting factors - such as current account deficit or surplus - having no direct or indirect effect on how much money a US household brings home. In final analysis, that's what it boils down to: how much money per household per year.

                    Here's The Economist - hardly a leftie publication - chart from 1979 to 2008:

                    http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/10/income-inequality-america

                    This is after-tax income. Important: NOT adjusted for inflation. Given that inflation disproportionately affects those at the lower-end of the income scale, and that the US CPI consistently understates the real inflation rate, that picture looks pretty grim to me.

                    You tell us. Has everyone "gotten richer"?

                  2. The First Dave

                    Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                    "the economy isn't zero sum."

                    Positing that as a fact shows that the sums that make up "the economy" _must_ be wrong.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

                "But here's what also happens. Chinese manufacturing wages were around $1,000 a year in AD 2,000. In 2014 they're around $6,500. I tend to think that's a fair old "help lift the poor out of poverty." "

                The trend is for worldwide averages to improve - rich countries are drifting down to the average, whilst poor countries are galloping up to it. Inhabitants of the rich countries feel hard done by and look jealously at the "rich" in their countries who are making out like bandits, but that's been the position of the poorer countries for decades.

                By the way chinese and bangladeshi wages are now so high that manufacturers with the exception of Honn Hai (Foxconn)(*), are moving their factories inland (which relies on better transport that's coming online now) or overseas - Vietnam and Burma(Myanmar(**)) currently being two hot destinations.

                (*) Foxconn's tactic is increasing robotisation of assembly lines. This _is_ the long-term winner as long as they have cheap energy.

                Burma is an interesting case for garment manufacture, because buyers from all western countries are making it clear that any use of child labour or indentured servitude is utterly unacceptable (backed with random inspections) and executives from the garment manufacturer association are trying to argue about it. The end result is that they're losing any potential business, as it's one of those those things that is _not_ negotiable - yet somehow all that lost business is the fault of the buyers.

                (**) Once you get away from Yangon/Madalay/Naypyidaw and the coastal lowlands around them you find that the locals refer to the country as "Burma" and tend to strongly resent it being called "Myanmar"

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

        Nice try Tim, but you repeatedly demonstrate you care more about the system than the output.

        In many ways, you're little different from devotees of Marxism.

    2. Filippo

      Re: About that self-professed rational liberalism

      But he doesn't. He replied to you with some "lefty" concepts he also believes in, and in which a truly rabid free marketer doesn't, such as welfare, regulation of monopolies, and so on. That assertion is well substantiated by his other articles.

      You can say that he's in contradiction (which is arguable, but nevermind), but not that those are the only things he believes in.

      Also, the points in this article are solid regardless of what the author believes. The idea that forcing people to buy locally made panels would help solar power adoption rates is just plain nuts.

  4. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Boffin

    Food for thought

    As always, an interesting and thought provoking article from Tim. I don't agree with everything he says, but he always provokes thought as opposed to endless appeals to nothing more than emotion.

    Which is a good thing, whatever side of the political spectrum you hail from.

    However, the bigger elephant in the room IMHO is money. What is it? Where does it come from? How does it work?

    There's a tacit assumption that everyone knows what money is but I don't think that we do. Our increasing wealth as a species based on the compound interest of human knowledge creates real wealth (e.g. better health care, more efficient machines etc.) but it's money that dictates how this is is distributed.

    Sorry if this seems like a hopelessly naïve question, but I don't think that it is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Food for thought

      > However, the bigger elephant in the room IMHO is money. What is it? Where does it come from? How does it work?

      The definition of Money according to the US Federal Reserve System is printed on dollar-denominated currency bills: "This Note is Legal Tender for all Debts, Public and Private".

      This is true for any sovereign country having a debt-based, Sovereign Fiat Currency System, such as the US, Canada and/or the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. The rest of the EU (outside the UK) is a bit screwed up in this respect because the EU's Currency System while it is debt-based, it is neither Sovereign nor Fiat. Fiat here does not mean the Italian car. The EU member countries cannot issue Sovereign Currency in a Sovereign Denomination - all of them share the same currency, namely the Euro. The outcome of this arrangement being that, Germany being the dominant economy in the EU, the Euro has become a proxy for what used to be the Deutsche Mark.

      In other words, Money is a financial instrument which can cancel any debt. It is actually the only financial instrument having the power to cancel any debt, public or private. I.e., I can't pay my telephone bill - my debt to the phone company - with a Credit Default Swap, but I can always pay this bill with paper or coin Money.

      There are two kinds of Money: coin and printed bank notes (bills).

      Exchanging coin money as an act of canceling debt is - in reality - a barter transaction: the inherent value of the minted coin is - In Theory - the value embossed on the coin. If I go buy one liter of milk at the corner store and pay for it with nickel coin - let's say US quarters - I have bartered N grams of nickel with an inherent value of X for a liter of milk.

      In reality - at least in the US - the value of the metal the coin is minted from is higher than the stated value embossed on the coin. For example, US pennies have an embossed value of one cent - 1/100 of One US Dollar - but the inherent value of the copper each penny coin is minted from is actually 2/100's of One US Dollar. Which is why it is now illegal in the US to melt pennies and sell them as copper metal. Which is also why commodities trading in copper and nickel in the US used to be very strictly regulated. It no longer is.

      Paper Money has no inherent value. Paper Money is a only the material representation of a potential transaction by which a debt may be canceled.

      I can use paper Money to pay for something - i.e. cancel a debt. The creditor - the entity I am indebted to - accepts my paper Money, which cancels my debt. Creditor does not necessarily mean a Bank, it can be a sporting goods store, for example. If I decide to buy (acquire) a pair of trainers, I incur a debt: the cost of transfer of ownership of the trainers, from the sporting goods store, to me (buying something is an act of ownership transfer). By paying for the trainers with paper money, or with coin, I am canceling this debt.

      I do not have to pay for the trainers with paper or coin money: I can choose to stay in debt, by using a credit card to acquire the trainers. In this case, the credit card issuer - the Bank - cancels my debt to the sporting goods store, by transfering money from my credit line to the store's bank account. In doing so, the Bank cancels the initial debt to the sporting goods store, and creates a new debt: I am now indebted to the bank. I cannot necessarily cancel the debt to the Bank by selling my newly-purchased trainers to the Bank: trainers are not Legal Tender for all debts, private or public. The Bank will only accept Money as a debt cancellation instrument.

      If I pay for the trainers with coin or paper money, no money is created. Money - paper or coin - is exchanged between myself and the sporting goods store, in return for the trainers' ownership transfer. This Money cancels my debt to the store.

      If I pay for the trainers with a credit card - i.e. borrow money from the bank to pay for the trainers - I have two choices:

      - pay the full amount due in full directly to the bank. I have 20 days from the date of purchase to do so. In this case, no Money is created. OK, strictly technically speaking, Money has been created by the Bank when it extended credit, but then this newly created Money is destroyed in full when I pay back the full amount to the Bank. 20 days is an insignificant enough amount of time that it does not matter.

      - pay less than the full amount I owe the bank. In this case, Money has being created: the Bank will charge me interest on the credit it extended to me. This Money has been created by the Bank: the Money which canceled my debt to the sporting goods store, allowing me to own the trainers, did not exist before the transfer of ownership of the trainers was executed. And, at the same time, the same Bank is charging me interest on the Money it created for my trainers. The unit-denominated amount that I have to pay back to the Bank, in order to cancel my debt in full, will be greater than the initial cost of transfer of ownership, because the Bank will charge me interest on the amount it lent to me.

      So, the act of Money creation is the result of a commercial exchange transaction between three private entities: myself, the sporting goods store, and the Bank.

      As such: contrary to popular belief, the US Federal Reserve - and Central Banks in general - do not print, or create money. In the US of A, the physical act of minting coin or printing currency is done by the US Department of Treasury.

      Money is created by financial transactions between private parties and private banks, and whenever the outcome of such a financial transaction results in the creation of a debt.

      Whenever the US Government borrows money from private banks - US Treasury Bonds - Money is being created. It is not the Government which creates this Money, it is the private banks lending money to the Government at interest that create Money, just like in the trainers example.

      The US Federal Reserve has the power of canceling debt owed to Banks: The Fed can buy the Treasury Bonds from the private banks, and cancel them. However, and again, contrary to popular belief: the Fed buying Bonds from the banks and canceling them does not create Money. On the contrary, it destroys it: the Money created when private Banks extended credit to the US Government has now been destroyed by the Fed.

      There is no physical act of printing paper bills or minting coin whenever the Fed buys and subsequently cancels US Treasury Bonds: this is a statutory fiat action by the Fed. The Banks do not receive trucks of cash as a result of the Fed canceling Bonds. In reality, the act of the Fed canceling Bonds only allows Banks to purchase more Bonds, or issue more debt - lend money to people, companies, etc. I.e. create new Money, but only after the previously created Money has been destroyed.

      Of course, the Fed does not cancel US Treasury Bonds on a regular basis. Most US Treasury Bonds are traded and held by banks to maturity. Whenver a Bond matures, and it pays back to the Bank everything that was owed, then the Money created by this Bond is destroyed, and the Banks can purchase new Bonds or issue new debt.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Food for thought

        "Which is why it is now illegal in the US to melt pennies and sell them as copper metal"

        You wouldn't get much copper out of them.

        US pennies are copper plated zinc and have been for at least 20 years.

    2. Tim Worstal

      Re: Food for thought

      "Money" is one of those econmoic subjects I've always shied away from. See the comment folloiwng your's for one reason why.

      It's just, well, it's just, Aaaaak. At heart it's simply a medium of account, then it becomes a medium of exchange, then we get to gold, a store of value, then central banks and, just, well Aaaaaak.

      Ask me something difficult, like why state socialism doesn't work, not something simple like what the hell is money?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Food for thought

        > It's just, well, it's just, Aaaaak.

        I will suggest that understanding what Money is is a prerequisite for understanding more complex Economics subject matters such as Free Trade and Globalization.

        And, By The Way: Money has nothing to do with Gold.

        1. SoaG

          Re: Food for thought

          I'll attempt to paraphrase Mr. Smith.

          Money is a unit of measure.

          Unfortunately, while the value of the unit was slightly variable in his time (coin clipping, etc.) in the modern age it is extremely variable. Whereas 340 years ago individual crooks clipped individual coins, now the Federal Reserve clips every single dollar on a daily basis. Economies of scale! (No I'm not arguing for a return to the gold standard)

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Food for thought

        At the heart of it, "Money" is a replacement for barter using standardised tokens and it only works when there's confidence in the tokens.

        The final straw for the Roman empire was a collapse in confidence in the coins - various reasons, but mainly because aftera period of hyperinflation and coin debasement, the new coin issue was of the thickness it should have been and people immediately noticed how thin the old ones were. Shortly after the final coin issue, _no one_ would accept roman coins for face value and the empire was paralysed because it couldn't pay its civil service/soldiers and long-distance trade had been halted. Within a few years the empire disintegrated into fiefdoms. (http://www.coins-auctioned.com/learn/coin-articles/coin-mintage-collapsed-the-roman-empire-is-history-repeating-itself)

        There's a salutary lesson in economics right there. "Any currency is only good as long as there is widespread confidence in it"

        For what it's worth one of the recurrent night terrors facing the governers of the Bank of England is widespread refusal to handle 1 pound coins due to the high levels of counterfeiting - and this is despite the number of pound coins in circulation being a very small percentage of the money pool. They're planning on introducing a new "less counterfeitable" coin, but this will probably have a similar effect - once in circulation odds are pretty good that people will refuse to accept the old Maggies, and meantime the counterfeiters are already flooding the market with fake 50 and 20p coins.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. YetAnotherLocksmith

          Re: Food for thought

          Stupid EE.

          I'll try again.

          Ok, I can only recall seeing 2 fake pound coins, ever. So they either aren't that common, or they are really good fakes.

          If the fakes are that good, it makes no difference to the end users as they are just used. No risk to the system there, really.

          The third option is that the banks and shops are really good at removing them from circulation, but if that were true, banks and shops would check coins carefully because they'd want to avoid losing the (fake) money that was removed. And that doesn't happen.

          So have you got a reference for that claim?

  5. Sureo

    Carbon Tax

    I'm all for carbon tax, except for one problem: it won't make carbon pollution go away, it will just take money out of my pocket and put it in some rich bastard's pocket (or the government's which is worse).

    1. Tim Worstal

      Re: Carbon Tax

      It's a standard axiom that if you tax something you get less of it. Tax incomes and (some) people will (sometimes) work less. Tax capital returns and (some) people will (sometimes) invest less. Tax carbon emissions and (some) people will (sometimes) emit less.

      Petrol pays higher taxes in Europe than in the US. Europeans drive shorter distances in more efficient cars than Americans. Could be a link there somewhere.

      1. crowley

        Re: Carbon Tax

        It would be really great if Tim would explain how I can use Exxon and BP products in my life, and avoid emitting the carbon; if I'm to be deemed personally responsible for any carbon emission tax, the implication is surely that these products are not inherently polluting, so I must have an element of choice by which it becomes meaningful to tax my individual behaviour instead of the producer of the product.

        CCS for my car perhaps? Help me Tim - eBay is not forthcoming.

      2. SoaG

        Re: Europeans drive shorter distances

        I'm Canadian, but largely similar for driving/vehicle purchase habits.

        You can stop right there for a big part of it. It's a 16 hour drive at highway speed to my sister's place (and much, much longer in snow). With several more hours past each other to the East/West borders of the province we both live in. Hell, it's 100 km just to get across the Toronto suburbs.

        Yes there's a lot of city folks buy gas guzzling SUVs either as status symbols, to feel safer in a larger vehicle or just to be higher up and see what's ahead in rush hour traffic. Outside the major centres though, anyone who drives a Smart car is a moron who's not going anywhere once winter comes.

        1. David Roberts

          Re: Europeans drive shorter distances

          I think the point was more directed to wasteful design than size of vehicle.

          For example we hired a motor home in the USA a few years back.

          It was based on a Ford F450 pickup with the 6.8 litre V10 petrol engine.

          In the UK we have a motor home.

          A bit smaller, but there are equivalent larger models.

          It has a 2.8 litre 4 cylinder diesel engine.

          This doesn't however give about a third of the performance.

          Drives about the same as the V10.

          There has been legislation over emissions and tax on fuel which has forced the developmeny of more fuel efficient and cleaner engines.

          The Uk has long journeys and rough terrain.

          Continental Europe even more so.

          So the argument that legislation and taxation has reduced motor vehicle carbon emissions does seem to have merit.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Europeans drive shorter distances

            The engine difference between EU and USA engines is down to reliability.

            There are plenty of places in the USA where if you break down it may take 3-4 days for parts to show up.

            A V8 or V10 will drive quite happily with broken piston rings on most of the cylinders. Try that on your 2.4 litre diesel and you'll need a new engine in short order.

            Lax manufacturing standards also factor into that. Most USA automotive machinery isn't exactly stellar in the reliability stakes (and nor are most USA mechanics), so you have to factor that into your cost of operation along with the question if whether you can afford to be stranded in Numfuck Nowhere for a few days.

            As for Smart owners - you'll probably find they garage 'em over winter and use something else for that period. It's still cheaper than running the SUV all year round.

    2. Nick Kew Bronze badge

      Re: Carbon Tax

      Carbon tax is indeed the rational solution. If fossil fuels were held to environmental and safety standards comparable to those we (rightly) impose on the nuclear industry, burning them would become an expensive luxury: a scented candle for special occasions, rather than an everyday thing.

      However, we can't hike petrol to £100/litre overnight, we should do it gradually, giving people time and incentives to change behaviour, and industry time and incentives to develop alternatives to today's big polluters. The incentive is of course the knowledge of that rising price.

      The politics are another story. John Major introduced just such an escalator for one major polluter. It was accepted at the time, and survived the beginning of Brown’s stewardship of the economy. But in 2000, someone set up a website, and a huge meeja campaign grew up against the escalator, now labelled one of Gordon Brown’s “stealth taxes”.

      First there was a campaign, supported with millions worth of free publicity from the likes of the BBC, called “dump the pump”: motorists were exhorted to boycott petrol stations every Monday in protest at “high” prices. Come the first boycott Monday, the petrol stations reported no difference: if anything a slight increase in trade. After the second week, they abandoned the campaign: the silent majority had decisively rejected it.

      So, after a couple of months of quiet, they took a different tack. Instead of looking for public support, a few thugs took “direct action”, the kind of thing that would probably be described as terrorist today. But they had support from some prominent public figures: notably the Tory leader of the time: a raving demagogue who shortly afterwards took his party to their worst (but best-deserved) election defeat in … well, certainly in my time. And more importantly – indeed crucially – they again had the support of the meeja: if I might make a cheap jibe, London journalists want their cheap travel to their country cottages (having already priced local people out of the market)!

      Having dispensed with the idea that the public (indeed, the motoring public) would support a peaceful campaign, the terrorist campaign was extraordinarily successful. Instead of standing up to the thugs and taking all necessary measures to ensure essential services were maintained (as Mrs Thatcher certainly would have done), the government cravenly capitulated. Green taxes were effectively abolished.

      Now, does that mean they're politically dead for the foreseeable future? Very likely: the current government contains some sworn enemies of the planet (Osborne and Pickles spring to mind) in powerful positions, and noone to take a contrary view. I have tried to suggest an alternative approach: basically tie rising green taxes to an equal fall in tax elsewhere, and concentrate on a target for the falling component (my suggestion being complete replacement of both halves of so-called "national insurance", thus returning money both to people and companies).

      1. Nick Kew Bronze badge

        Re: Carbon Tax

        Damn, I have a premonition some idiot might feel compelled to take issue with my focussing on petrol and ignoring other burning of fossil fuels. So let me preempt any such correction by pointing out that I know very well I'm addressing just one of many issues when I focus on it. I just happen to think it serves well to demonstrate my point about political problems, given the history.

      2. LucreLout Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: Carbon Tax

        John Major introduced just such an escalator for one major polluter. It was accepted at the time, and survived the beginning of Brown’s stewardship of the economy. But in 2000, someone set up a website, and a huge meeja campaign grew up against the escalator, now labelled one of Gordon Brown’s “stealth taxes”.

        You were almost on the right track, but somehow ended up with an epic fail.

        Brown abolished the fuel duty escalator only so he could increase petrol prices at an even faster rate. That is what led to the blockades of refinerys, which as I recall from the forecourt queues, had significant public support.

        Labour greed for still more tax to waste on diversity outreach programmes and fat cat pensions almost ended in revolution. Blair was less than a week away from being the first PM ever to have to deploy the army on the streets of the mainland, against the populace, an act which would rightly have seen the disgusting cretins out of power for a generation.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worsthal v Klein

    It's kind of a straw man argument.

    Sadly nowadays getting a book published is often not linked to having any kind of actual expertise. Klein, Brand - slebonomics and slebPPE.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    tl;dr

    Is this really El Reg material?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: tl;dr

      > Is this really El Reg material?

      Yes, until such date when you become the Supreme Ruler and Absolute Censor of The Register, at which point you will have the power to censor any and all posts exceeding your reading capacity.

      1. Tim Worstal

        Re: tl;dr

        "Supreme Ruler and Absolute Censor of The Register,"

        Aka "The editor". Or perhaps "The Editor".

        1. fruitoftheloon

          Re: tl;dr

          The odds of that are not terribly high, having shared some pints with the aforementioned gentleman i wouldn't hold your breath...

          Ymmv.

          J.

    2. roknich

      Re: tl;dr

      no, this is junk mail from a denialist troll, not really an article from The Register. I checked the roster, and find consolation the author is not on the staff.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wealth

    Only when a nation has surpluses after needs are met can it satisfy environmental wants.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wealth

      First, why a "nation"?

      Second, define "needs".

      We in the West are an awfully long way north of basic food, clothing, shelter and clean water.

    2. Nick Kew Bronze badge

      Re: Wealth

      Jack of Shadows, if you think like that, no nation will ever meet its needs. Think of it as a variant on Parkinson's law: needs expand to exceed the resources available to meet them.

      Look at so-called "fuel poverty". There is the expectation in Britain today that everyone should be able to keep their houses warmer in winter than even the Queen could probably have managed when she was half her present age.

      Or look at housing. We have more house per capita than we ever have in history, yet we're always short of them. That's rising aspiration, at the bottom where even students want their own room, at the top where owning multiple homes has become far more common, and in the middle where many now turn their noses up at the "first time" homes of yesteryear.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wealth

        Indeed! My sister (hence AC) and her husband have decent jobs and were moaning about the cost of heating their home while walking around in winter with T-shirts, rather than turning down the thermostat 5 deg and putting on a jumper.

        While not wanting to start a "four Yorkshireman" rant, there are a lot of otherwise smart folk who complain about today's expectations not being met while forgetting how much better off they are compared to their childhood.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Wealth

          "While not wanting to start a "four Yorkshireman" rant, there are a lot of otherwise smart folk who complain about today's expectations not being met while forgetting how much better off they are compared to their childhood."

          I'll trade off the warmer, dryer house against the endless winter colds and other illnesses (which were probably mould allergies) suffered in cold damp housing that arguably had a much greater economic effect than the heating costs.

  9. Barry Rueger

    TO;DR

    Too obvious; Didn't read the stupid article.

    Suffice to say the author likely missed the points being made, probably read a review, not the book, and came to it with so many pre-conceived notions that he wouldn't have absorbed the central thesis in any event.

    1. SoaG

      Re: TO;DR

      I can't tell if Barry is completely un-self-aware, or a brilliant meta-troll.

      I hope the latter. If so, well played sir. If not, well, he probably won't understand this post anyway...

      ...or read it.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was broadly in agreement with you until this:

    'This is the point at which you should be thinking of Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard doing the facepalm.'

    Don't you dare tell me what I should be thinking, I can work it out for myself.

  11. Ian Easson

    This is an ideological post opposed to an ideological book.

    Choose your morality.

    Then decide.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: This is an ideological post opposed to an ideological book.

      Not really.

      It's an explanatory article opposed to a stupid book.

      The book is self-contradictory and cherry-picks parts of theories while ignoring the remainder of the theory.

      That's like accepting that Gravity holds the Moon in orbit while also insisting that the Moon has no effect on Earthly tides.

      (Feel free to steal that analogy)

  12. roknich

    The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

    This ornate hit piece cites no references, while Klein provides extensive bibliographies from credible peer-reviewed researchers in each of her books.

    The logic of the argument that the oil companies are not responsible for the carbon footprint of motorists is severly flawed. They lobby heavily against ever effort for the public to travel w/out the use of individual gasoline powered cars.

    One good example of why people are stuck with gas-powered cars is the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F

    ... and with this I shoot down the only argument in the entire 2 pages that might attract support. yes, they are responsible. We could have and should have been using renewable sources of energy while the cost of a barrel of oil was low compared to the cost (in barrels of oil energy) of extraction.

    The only reason for the #Climatecrisis is the greed of the fossil fuel industry, and that is why this book is a must-read.

    I would suggest The Register stay with it's strong suit hereafter, and avoid topics where it lacks depth and substance.

    David Roknich

    INDYRADIO

    https://indyradio.info

    1. Diogenes

      Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

      What is the optimum Co2 level for the earth ? Is it 2,000 p.p.m. - late Palaeocene, 500ppm - Miocene, <210 - Paleozoic or todays smidge over 400ppm ?

      For that matter what is the optimum temperature for the earth ?

      Much of the "global warming" that has taken place to date appears to random undocumented adjustments to raw data (Australia's BoM and its laughable ACORN dataset is a case in point - it has at least shared its data, but not methodology unlike 92% of climate "scientists") - NASA's satellite measurements show no warming for 16 years - and its not hiding in the deep ocean either.

      Nearly every "the end of ...is nigh" prediction made by the "experts" since club of rome in 1972 has not come to pass (Drs Suzuki & Flannery come on down).

      I will believe we have a problem when those in charge actually reduce the number and size of houses they own & the amount of energy they use (hello Al Gore and "Brangelina"), sell waterfront property (4 ex environment ministers & Prime Ministers) , stop flying (is that you Greenpeace?) and holding massive conferences about climate change in exotic locations that require thousands of delegates(hello United Nations)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. roknich

        Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

        I don't see that you are directly replying to anything I said.

        Please say one thing on point. I did serve, you do not seem to be trying to return the ball, because you came to the court with a stock of rotten eggs to throw at anyone who challenges the economic depredation you relish.

        Have a nice day.

      3. roknich

        Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

        In a left-handed way you seem to indicate the 97% of peer reviewed scientists who have published in the field and agree that the #climatecrisis is real and caused by humans. That estimate has been reviewed several times, and the data seems to indicate closer to 98% upon closer inspection.

        I expect to find fossil fuel trolls elsewhere, but please spare The Register. I insist, this topic is a sure FAIL for this venue. Stay with IT.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

        "For that matter what is the optimum temperature for the earth ?"

        Up until the point that Antarctica finally separated from South America (10 million years ago) and allowed the circumpolar current to establish itself and ice ages to kick in, the average global temperature was about 20C

        Even the bottom of deep trenches was that temperature. Now the Mariana is closer to 2-3C

        A lot of this has to do with no ocean currents being able to circulate at the same latitudes, which in turn results in an inability for climate extremes to develop.

        The planet is in an Ice Age cycle until the circumpolar current is disrupted by continued continental drift and that that isn't going to happen in our lifespans. One of the products of an ice age cycle is increased climate extremes.

        The GW issue isn't global warming as such, but the RATE of warming being tweaked by anthropogenic sources to the point where it's happening far faster than ecosystems can respond in a stable manner. This kind of thing is generally bad news.

        Sea level rises over a few centuries can be handled by normal population drift (the same population drift which results in the main genetic signal of North Africans from Libya across to Egypt being Gothic tribes from northern europe who were pushed out by roman expansion a couple of thousand years ago)

        Sea level rises over a few decades are a major problem for those who don't have webbed feet. It's already at the point where some cities are uneconomic to "save" and should be abandoned. Detroit shows how quickly that can happen when the population realises it's the case. New Orleans is arguably well past that point but there are national pride issues at stake. Decisions will have to be made about other low-laying cities worldwide soon. Thames-bordering London areas are likely to revert to "largely swampland" just as quickly as that swampland was turned into metro areas (less than 100 years), but "national pride" is likely to result in attempts to stave off the inevitable until there are a few disasters and the population decide to move to higher ground instead of relying on "the authorities" to keep them dry.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

          "The GW issue isn't global warming as such, but the RATE of warming being tweaked by anthropogenic sources to the point where it's happening far faster than ecosystems can respond in a stable manner. This kind of thing is generally bad news."

          Mr Brown, that is as perfect a summary of the situation as any I've ever heard. Have an upvote!

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

      "The only reason for the #Climatecrisis is the greed of the fossil fuel industry, and that is why this book is a must-read."

      No, the reason is the collective "greed" of humans, like the tragedy of the commons. Paying more is something most folk will avoid, and even go in to denial about what the consequences are of their choices. People want, indeed expect, cheap energy and fossil fuels provide that but at a high environmental cost since folk are not paying for the consequences directly, nor are they being charged the "replacement" cost of such a resource.

      Look how much has been done to try and raise animal welfare standards and yet a lot of folk still buy factory-farmed eggs rather than paying a few pence more! The same folk who bitch about petrol costs but won't change their behaviour to car-share on commutes, and need an SUV to take precious Tarquin the 1/2 mile to school, etc.

      While the lobbying and dirty tricks of some of the fuel industry is distasteful, it is not unique to them but a character of our political system where those with money try to keep it by any means.

      Personally I am in favour of "incentive taxes" against polluting or wasteful products, rather than the EU's approach of trying to ban things like filament bulbs, etc, as it gives folk the choice and generally the market will go that way as a result.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

        "need an SUV to take precious Tarquin the 1/2 mile to school, etc."

        At some point you stop relying on traffic calming to protect your kids from being killed by those who insist on driving their kids to school and start putting them in a cage to deliver them yourself.

        The irony of that is that kids (and society in general) are safer now than they have ever been in all of history, yet paranoia levels are so high that it feels different.

        As an 8 year old I used to cycle 5 miles every saturday to the central public library and 2 miles to school every weekday, including cold dark winters. If I was to allow my kids to do that now (on arguably safer roads), I'd be vilified.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

      The electric car has been killed by Chemistry, nothing else.

      No industry has had any notable dampening effect whatsoever.

      People simply want to travel >50 miles many times a year.

      They want to be able to do this without pre-booking, with minimum of delays and at a low price.

      Therefore, they want a private car capable of doing this.

      They also need a vehicle capable of doing their daily commute.

      Electric cars simply cannot do both due to Chemistry, they can only do the commute and not the long distance.

      A daily commute is better served by mass-transit like the Tube or a Metro system - both for minimising environmental damage and the overall economic cost.

      It would be even better if the commute could be avoided by working from home.

      So if anything, the Internet and the London Tube killed the electric car.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: The Register should write about what it knows, this article is a FAIL.

        "It would be even better if the commute could be avoided by working from home.

        So if anything, the Internet and the London Tube killed the electric car."

        Even before the rise of the Internet, it was noted by telcos worldwide that a 2% rise in fuel prices resulted in a 4-5% rise in use of telecommunications systems.

  13. Caoilte

    No, sorry. The WTO is evil.

    Take your example from the book (which I haven't read). There are two problems,

    1) You ignore the political capital required to support change. If the Canadian government are unable to offer jobs to local factories to produce the solar panels then they lose some of the support they require to pass legislation that will (inevitably) require higher taxes. This could be enough to prevent them from ever being able to pass similarly progressive legislation.

    2) By introducing these feeder tariffs - Canada makes its own manufacturing economy less competitive compared to a country using (for example) just coal power. If it cannot protect its own industry from the losses it suffers because of this then the legislation will get rolled back in due course.

    The WTO has created a race to the bottom. This suits financialists because they can play the ends off against the middle but it has disempowered individual country's ability to act unilaterally on a whole host of global problems (eg deforestation, pollution, global warming). Even if you force local actors to clean up their act - they'll likely just export all their bad habits.

    If you weren't so blinkered you'd understand this. Honestly I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to get you to review any book at all (shouldn't there be a fondleslab you can drool over instead?).

  14. Dan King

    This Changes Nothing

    Straight out, I believe it's urgent and important to save and preserve the environment. I've skimmmed thought the book. Sadly Naomi brings nothing new to the table other than an attempt to the hijack the environmental movement with her own anti-globalization agenda. Notwithstanding that elements of green politics tend to swing to the left, this book isn't about environmentalism, it's about Naomi Klein having internaliized the lessons of her own book "No Logo", branding herself as a spokesperson, co-opt and corrupt. There's no new insight that can't be gleaned from other sources, and the advice going forward is generally poor.

  15. Naselus

    Your example is a bit misleading - the solar panels manufactured in Ontario weren't substituted for solar panels made in China, but instead the power they produced was substituted for fossil fuel power. So it's not a case of 'Canadian-made clean energy vs Chinese-made clean energy', it's a case of 'Canadian-made clean energy vs Canadian-made tar sand bitumen'. Likewise, Klein doesn't argue against globalization full stop (nor do most anti-globalization campaigners) - she argues against a globalized legislative framework which actively prevents clean energy growth - essentially through the UN's right hand not knowing what the left is doing. It's a matter of 'no to this globalization' rather that 'no to all globalization'.

  16. Tom 13

    Dear Mr. Worstall,

    We all know that it is pointless to try to discuss the GNP that would be generated by Angels dancing on the head of a pin. Angels get everything directly from God so it's pointless.

    Such is also the case with AGW.

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