Measurements Depend, Of Course, On What You Measure

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Greenpeace and the like want to tell us that burning plastics produces emissions. Sure, obviously, this is true. Plastics are hydrocarbons, burning them produces emissions. So, and therefore, we should all be recycling plastics, not burning them. This being a failure of logic:

Carbon emissions from waste disposal are increasing because of the expansion of energy-from-waste incineration plants, a coalition of campaigners has warned.

By 2030 the government’s push to increase incineration of waste will increase CO2 emissions by 10m tonnes a year, mostly from the burning of plastics, the groups said. They argue that the growth in energy-from-waste incineration means the UK will not be able to meet its commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

OK, let us just accept all of that as being true. They’re thus calling for:

….a recycling target of 70% by 2030 under the environment bill, as per the Committee on Climate Change recommendation for meeting the UK carbon budgets and a net zero carbon economy by 2050;

And what’s the bit we’re not being told? Quite – what are the emissions from recycling?

There are costs, as well as benefits, to any- and every- thing. It is not true that recycling is exempt from this fact. What we need to know is that are the costs – in this case emissions – from recycling? Only then can we work out whether burning the stuff – and capturing the energy, don’t forget – has higher or lower costs than the recycling.

There’s even an easy way to do this. Stick a carbon tax upon everything and that decision is already embedded in the market prices everyone faces. Every decision in the economy will therefore contain that vital information. Presumably there’s some reason why Greenpeace is against the obvious solution.

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Spike
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Spike

Sorry; again, we are not made to act rationally by the government declaring an arbitrary “price” for emitting hydrocarbons. It is not “measurement” if the government can change the marks on the yardstick on a whim. And we know they will never stop and never slow down, never lower the carbon tax even if our understanding improves. It’s deliberately invisible and no one is accountable.

Bathroom Moose
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Bathroom Moose

Clearly we are though, as can be seen by all the people living in cold houses rather than burning expensive gas, and walking to places they could easily drive to rather than burning expensive gas.

It doesn’t matter if not every single individual behaves rationally WRT every single incentive, people are allowed to value different things differently. In aggregate we do, and that’s what matters.

John B
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John B

What is rational about living in the discomfort of a cold house when a warm house is entirely possible?

Was wearing a hair shirt riddled with lice in days gone by, to atone for one’s sins, deny the flesh and please a deity rational?

What is rational about making gods out of abstractions and fetishising rituals to appease them?

Bathroom Moose
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Bathroom Moose

> What is rational about living in the discomfort of a cold house when a warm house is entirely possible? The money required to be spent to heat it is instead being used on something else with higher utility. How you define utility is not necessarily rational (or everyone would do so the same), but using your money on what provides the most utility-per-money is. You could apply the same argument to heating your garage, for the trip from the car to the house would be more pleasant if the garage were warm, but notice how most people don’t. It’s… Read more »

dodgy geezer
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dodgy geezer

In practice the utility factor varies quite considerably. In the 1950s central heating was a luxury few could afford. As it became more accepted (the 1960s/70s were particularly cold) there was greater uptake, and it ceased to be a luxury. By now, central heating is installen in practically all houses in the UK, and is much cheaper due to economies of scale. If you have a house with no installed central heating it will be difficult to sell, and the price will need to drop – it has become an essential service. The utility calculation for central heating would have… Read more »

Spike
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Spike

Moose, of course we decide in accordance with our own values, and each person’s differs. We lower costs, both monetary and non-monetary. So how does imposing a tax on decisions that do not conform to the taxer’s values, qualify as measurement?

“Clearly we are” what? “Made to act rationally”? According to your values, or the person acting?

John B
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John B

They should start measuring the carbon emissions and carbon dioxide emissions from all those wood and dung fires in poor Countries. Carbon admissions – aka soot – plus other chemicals is the primary cause of respiratory tract diseases, including cancers, in developing Countries. Aggregate CO2 emissions will be substantial but are never included in comparisons between developed and undeveloped Countries. Fossil fuel generated electricity and natural gas would be a positive benefit in poorer Countries on many levels, but mustn’t upset God the Planet, God the Environment and God the Climate. Amen.

TD
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TD

Global warming is perceived by the left as presenting the greatest opportunity to press for government control of absolutely everything and so they are doing their damndest to take advantage of it. A carbon tax wouldn’t appear to advance that agenda as it still leaves people able to act with considerable freedom. Who knows what they might do or come up with when the likes of Greenpeace already “know” what to do. They’d argue the idea is inefficient and could lead to wasteful experimentation when all you have to do is ask Al Gore.

Mrveryangry
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Mrveryangry

Yep. They envy the power of the medieval catholic church.

TD
Guest
TD

The midieval church is envied almost as much as Cuba.

Barks
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Barks

Why add the complexities (and graft and corruption) of a so-called carbon tax. What is the market not now signaling and doing that will be enhanced by an additional tax?

Boganboy
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Boganboy

Since I’m being forced to pay for all this nonsense, I insist that all our energy comes from breeder reactors. That way the Greens get what they say they want, and I enjoy watching them all die of heart failure.

Michael van der Riet
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Michael van der Riet

Your belief in a carbon tax is just timfoolery. You vigorously avoid debate on this issue, which puts you in Spud territory. (Still waiting for a retraction on China BTW.)

Leo Savantt
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Leo Savantt

“Stick a carbon tax upon everything ” yes why not tax the building block of life. Doing so is no different from taxing oxygen and quite a disgusting proposal, worse even than the window tax; especially considering that the UK’s anthropocentric CO2 emissions make up just one part in a million of the atmosphere (0.0001%) and are falling. Is there no end to the cult of Greta, where major policy decisions supported by a mentally ill child, threaten to plunge untold millions into poverty and indirectly cause enormous environmental damage?

rhoda klapp
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rhoda klapp

Indeed Leo, two-thirds approx of CO2 is the oxygen bit. Therefore a so-called carbon tax is more appropriately called an oxygen tax. Let’s see them try to sell that.

Charles
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Charles

So how does this carbon tax work? For example, suppose I buy a plastic chair. After years of use, it breaks, so I want to get rid of it. If it gets buried on landfill it emits no carbon, while if it gets incinerated it emits carbon worth $5 in carbon tax. Does this mean that when I originally buy it I have to pay the $5? If so, I have no incentive to avoid eventually incinerating it as I have already paid the tax, but if not, then how does the tax get collected? And what if it’s a… Read more »

Chester Draws
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Chester Draws

It will break down in the landfill and release the carbon. Some insect will eat it.

And if it isn’t burnt then something else will be, or we will go cold.

So not burning waste is actually doubling the carbon released.

Charles
Guest
Charles

But we are assured by the Greens that plastics are evil and take “up to 1000 years” to break down. And it almost certainly won’t be by insects eating it but by bacteria.

Esteban
Guest
Esteban

Recycling is as much an article of faith as global warming. It’s far from clear that recycling is a good idea, and yet it’s mandatory in many places and the source of great peer pressure.

A 2nd batch of big trucks driving around to pick up the recyclables, put it on a ship to a 3rd world country with lax controls and sloppy methods. What could be better?