Thursday, November 20, 2008

Good for Spain

God bless 'em;


Billy B said...

noticed a few missing countries which are probably the worst offenders..... CHINA & INDIA. They must have better lobbyist!

Anonymous said...

Like any other data, people forget to adjust emissions to population growth and economic growth.

If they would do so, countries that look good now, like Germany, France, Italy, Japan, would look awfully bad (if you think that CO2 emissions are bad). Countries like USA, Canada, Ireland would move up the ranking (or in this case, down). However, according to my calculations, Spain and Portugal would only swap places, still being at the top of this chart.

Bike Bubba said...

Good point by dtrum, and given negative population growth in most of eastern europe, that mitigates some of what the old Warsaw Pact nations have seen.

And of course, you shut down a few of Stalin's old power plants with a Carnot efficiency of 10% or less and park the Trabants for good, you're going to look pretty good in terms of carbon emissions, too.

FifthBeatle said...

I agree with you on a lot of things, but I don't get your stance on carbon emissions - why are you pro-emissions?

Anonymous said...

Germany probably looks good due to the inclusion of East Germany, where the economy collapsed in 1989. This is also why you see so many formerly communist countries and Soviet Republics in the lower half of the chart.

Alex said...

"I agree with you on a lot of things, but I don't get your stance on carbon emissions - why are you pro-emissions?"

Well, here's a few reasons:

1. Human beings have traditionally prospered during periods of much higher temperatures than those we see today. The greatest eras of expansion and discovery took place during periods of warming.

2. All historic trend lines indicate that we are overdue for a period of cooling. While we have no way of reliably judging just how cold this period is likely to get, we can reasonably say that it's impact on the human species would not be positive. There's a reason why we were worried about "global cooling" in the 80's - a period of low temperatures such as that which occurred between the 14th and 19th century would lead to mass starvation on a global scale, as well as an even faster depletion of our fuel stocks.

3. As a Canadian, I can safely say that I would not be in the least opposed to a rise in our temperatures :) You come deal with one of our winters, and then try and preach about the evils of global warming.

4. We can't even reliably say exactly how much our emissions have influenced climate change. We know that an increase in CO2 levels does cause some warming, but exactly how much - and how it interacts with other factors which affect temperatures - is an open question.

Even if you ignore the 4th point and accept the idea that our CO2 emissions are causing a drastic increase in temperatures, there's absolutely no reason to view warming as a bad thing. There are many benefits to higher temperatures, especially when contrasted against the drawbacks we'd experience during a period of low temperatures.

Also, to correct your question - I don't think anyone here is "pro-emissions". I'm all in favour of controlling our output of sulfur, halocarbons, and other toxic byproducts of industrial activity. What I'm personally opposed to is the demonization of carbon dioxide, and the irrational assumption that any human impact on the environment must necessarily be a "bad thing".

Hot Sam said...

The eastern-european countries have made such large reductions in emissions since 1990 only because their production methods were so filthy when they were communist.

Capitalism and democracry are good for the environment.

Hot Sam said...

Arnold, no one is pro-emissions. Emissions are a natural by-product of production. Production enhances societal welfare.

The optimal level of production is where the marginal benefits of production equal the marginal social cost (marginal production cost plus the marginal external cost from pollution). This level of production is lower than the free-market level, but not zero.

The difficulty is measuring the marginal social cost and determining the best way to reach the optimal level. Perfectly calculated per-unit taxes are one method. Regulation is another. Abatement subsidies are another.

If the taxes or regulation over-compensates for the externality, social welfare is diminished: jobs are lost, profits are lost, and production is lost. Real people suffer real consequences from overreacting.

If we overstate the external costs (e.g. if man-made global warming doesn't exist) then there is a huge, unnecessary loss in societal welfare. Pollution reduction is not a free lunch and is not always cost-effective.

FifthBeatle said...


Thanks for the nice and detailed explanation. I really appreciate it. I need to think a little bit about what you've said, but to quickly respond to point no. 3, you ought to come to where I live to realize that heat is NOT really a good thing! (Not for everyone at least!)

But interesting points these. Thanks!

FifthBeatle said...

@Robert Miller:
Thanks for the explanation. I think I'm starting to get what you guys are trying to say.

Matt said...

I agree. There is no free lunch - even for the environment.

Anonymous said...

Quote from Robert Miller: "The optimal level of production is where the marginal benefits of production equal the marginal social cost (marginal production cost plus the marginal external cost from pollution)."

How do you decide what is "optimal", what is a "benefit" and what is a "social cost"? Who is benefitting and who is paying?

Hot Sam said...


'Optimum' means maximizing social welfare (the sum of consumer and producer surplus). Optimum also means using the minimum cost in resources to maximize this welfare.

Who gets the benefits? Consumers.

Who pays? Producers pay for resources of production but with an externality (e.g. pollution) no one pays for it. That's why the free market is inefficient. There can be a role for government to fix this market failure, but if government doesn't calculate the externality correctly, it could destroy more social welfare than it saves. That is called 'government failure.'