Jim, old buddy, old pal, old friend – I think they’re on to us.
A short while ago your editor wrote a series of editorials about global warming and encouraging people to sign an online petition that calls for worldwide referendum on a global carbon tax (www.thepetitionsite.com/286/384/042/petition-for-a-referendum-on-a-global-carbon-tax/).
The editorials seem to have had close to zero impact. The last time I looked there were fewer than 60 names on the petition, of which a tiny handful were local.
Your editor was ready to let the issue rest for a while. Then along came the Rambling Man, Jim Lamberton, with a couple of letters to the editor in apparent rebuttal to my editorials.
I say apparent rebuttal because, although Jim’s letters are humorous in places, he doesn’t really present any serious counter-arguments.
An unbiased person reading his letters might conclude that his real motivation is to give your editor an excuse to keep flogging the global carbon tax petition.
Take Jim’s most recent letter, for example (“Global warming debate continues” in our Dec. 5 issue), which was in reply to my editorial the week before (“Times editor asks, ‘Where’s the heat?’” in our Nov. 28 issue).
In my editorial I wrote that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now more than half again what it was before the Industrial Revolution and that, according to National Geographic, it is likely higher now than it has been for 3 million years.
The Rambling Man’s reply? “Baloney.”
Well, that might or might not be correct, Jim, but most thinking people would want to know why you believe it is baloney.
Otherwise, they might suspect that you are just opening the door for me to talk more about why we need a global carbon tax.
I might, for example, mention Harvard economist Martin Weitzman, who specializes in the economics of catastrophes, among other things.
According to Weitzman, it’s the unusual but extreme events that define the outcome.
The stock market is a good place to invest your money – until it crashes. The dinosaurs dominated the Earth for millions of years – until an asteroid hit and the mammals took over.
Most people are familiar with the bell curve of probability. The majority of events occur within the peak of the curve and those are the ones we usually prepare for and deal with.
However, it’s the unusual but severe events in the tails of the bell curve that you’ve got to watch out for.
The IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) has grossly underestimated the probability and severity of the events in the tails of its predictions, according to Weitzman.
IPCC is predicting that doubling the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could yield temperature increases of 2 C to 4.5 C by the end of this century, with a best guess of about 3 C. That’s with a two-thirds probability – the peak of the bell curve.
That’s scarey enough, but when we look at the tails of the bell curve, things get even more disconcerting.
According to Weitzman, there is a five per cent probability of warming greater than 10 C by the end of this century and a one per cent probability of warming greater than 20 C.
Temperature increases in those ranges would render much of the Earth’s surface uninhabitable by human beings.
Global warming is a global problem that requires a global solution. A global carbon tax would be a central part of that global solution.
Distributing the global carbon tax’s proceeds as a social dividend or basic income grant to all the people in the world, as proposed by climate scientist James Hansen, would help compensate them for the risks to their property and lives that global warming is exposing them to.
Holding a worldwide referendum on a global carbon tax would give it the legitimacy it would need to be successful.
All of this is unlikely to happen unless a significant percentage of the world’s population asks for it through, for example, an online petition.
And that’s no baloney.