29 May 2017

Monday funnies

Trump makes sense after watching this.

Time for a new word for the idiocy of Trump (a la Santorum)? How about Trump, as in "that was a fucking Trump move, idiot!" or "A 4,500 year old earth? What do you think I am? A Trump?"

26 May 2017

How will we live in a climate changed world? (Part 2)

Last year, I crowdsourced 29 visions of life in a climate-changed world from 27 authors. Those visions were published on the Life plus 2 meters website as well as in a book, Life Plus 2 Meters, volume 1, which is free to download or cheap to buy.

Now I'm back for a bigger and better volume 2. The first goal is to raise $600 (at least!) to award prizes to authors with the best visions. The second goal is to get a lot of submissions from around the world.

Here's the promo video:

To learn more about the fundraising, please visit the Kickstarter campaign here. The deadline is 25 June, but pleas contribute early (and often!)

To learn more about contributing your vision (there are prizes for best storyteller, practitioner, under-25, and from lower-income country), then please go here. The deadline for submissions is 31 July.

You can follow the project by subscribing to the newsletter or on twitter :)

Friday party!

Death is inevitable; sadness is not.

25 May 2017

Unexpected water reallocations

Damian used to blog with me here. He just published a paper that's worth your time
Park, Damian (2017) "California water reallocation: where'd you get that?" Natural Resources Journal 57:183.

Abstract: When thirsty, Californians often avoid going to the market for more water. Instead, they might borrow some from their rich neighbors, they might sue them or more commonly, they simply take more from users without much of a voice (e.g. the fish or future generations). These alternatives are often superior to using markets.* Within markets, a surprising detail emerges – it is uncommon for farmers to fallow fields in order to sell water to another user. Rather, many water transfers are structured so sellers can have their cake and eat it too. While some of these transfers rightly bring about jealousy and criticism, they likely do facilitate efficient water use. In discussing these points, I provide a more holistic description of how water users reallocate water as well as a richer understanding of how California’s water market actually works.
* My interest in this paper comes here, where you see that political feasibility trumps economic efficiency and/or social justice. That's a major point in my paper on desalination.

23 May 2017

So what would a carbon tax really cost?

While writing my paper on the tragedy of the commons and desalination, I was a little shocked to see that the cost of paying for CO2 permits -- or even the much higher social cost of carbon -- was actually quite small, i.e., the cost of offsetting carbon emissions at $12/ton would be roughly $3.60 per San Diego resident* -- a number that's a tiny fraction of people's water costs (let alone their latte budgets). Increasing the cost to $30/ton CO2e (one estimate of the social cost) would mean that San Diegans could offset the GHG-cost of 100 percent desalinated water for only $9 per year, which is about equal to the price of one hour of downtown parking.

This situation was interesting to me because it -- like the example of running a pig farm to meet clean water codes (most violate many of them) at an additional cost of $0.05/kg -- shows how absolutely CHEAP "doing the right thing" really is. If you listen to politicians, talk radio hosts and lying lobbyists, you'd think that a carbon tax (or the cost of cleaning water) would put your parents on the street, your ancestors' headstones for sale, and your kids into prostitution. But the cost is really just a tiny amount of money.

How can that cost be so low and why are people so opposed to it if it is?

The first answer is that a little cost can have a big effect if its spread across enough people. Wal-mart regularly breaks conservation records by shaving 0.2 percent off its shipping distances or packing weight. Five cent charges for plastic bags have dropped use by 50 percent or more in many cities. So the key is the total effect, not the lack of effect on you or small effect with any given person.

Second, the people who oppose these moves often face a much higher cost than the average person because they are in the oil selling, pig selling or bottled water selling business. We know about oil and pig lobbyists, but I am just as sure that Nestle, Pepsi and Coke are ALL opposed to (refundable) deposits on plastic water bottles because they do not want to raise the price of their product from $1.00 to $1.05 per liter (for example) because such a move might remind consumers that they can switch (in many places) to "practically free" tap water.

So those are the theories, but let's look at how much more things would cost (spreadsheet with numbers and sources) if we added a carbon tax of $30 per ton of CO2 (double the costs below if you're feeling a sense of urgency).

A gallon (liter) of gasoline would cost $0.27 (€0.06) more
NB: Gasoline in the Netherlands now costs €1.64/liter, which is $5.65/gallon**

One thousand cubic feet (one cubic meter) of natural gas would cost $1.59 (€0.06) more
NB: Our household uses about 30m^3 per month, so our bill would rise by €1.80 per month

One kWh would cost $0.012 (€0.011) more***
NB: Our household uses about 139 kwh per month, so our bill would rise by €1.50 per month

"Typical" meat, vegetarian, or vegan diets would cost $79, $42 or $32 per year more.

Looking into individual food prices:
  • Beef would cost $0.37/pound (€0.74/kg) more.
  • Cheese would cost $0.18/pound (€0.37/kg) more.
  • Chicken would cost $0.09/pound (€0.19/kg) more.
  • Eggs would cost $0.07/pound (€0.13/kg) more.
  • Rice would cost $0.04/pound (€0.07/kg) more.
  • Tofu would cost $0.03/pound (€0.05/kg) more.
Bottom Line: The "right price of carbon" would add trivial costs to the cost of living in richer countries, but it would do a lot to encourage changing consumption habits at the aggregate level (and changing production patterns at the corporate level). Too bad politicians seem more interested in listening to fossil-fuel lobbyists than to economists (and others) urging price signals as a cheap way to mitigate carbon emissions and the dangers of climate change.

* I assumed the same emissions for supplying desalinated water to ALL citizens, not just the 7 percent the plant can now supply.

** This price reflects existing "green taxes," which makes me wonder how much Dutch prices would change -- if at all -- under a carbon pricing scheme. I guess that it would have a low impact on households that already pay such taxes (as we do on electricity and natural gas) but a bigger impact on farmers and industry that are usually exempt from "anti-competative" or "job killing" taxes (see the pig example above for the truth in that lie!)

*** US Energy Information Agency data are very difficult to understand so I used EU data.