Climate Sensitivity and the Carbon Tax

August 20, 2018

by John McClaughry

My friend Marlo Lewis of the Competitive Enterprise Institute writes that after a speech opposing the Curbelo carbon tax bill in Congress, a reporter asked him for his views on climate change. Marlo repliedThe most important issue in climate change research is climate sensitivity –  how much long-term warming results from a doubling of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas concentration.

Polar Cap: Still There.

In its 2007 report the UN IPCC concluded that 3°C was the “best estimate” of climate sensitivity. But in its 2013  report, IPCC  said climate sensitivity is “likely” to range from 1.5°C to 4.5°Centigrade. That was also the likely range in the IPCC’s First Report in 1990. No improvement in accuracy over 27 years.

During the Obama administration, the Environmental Protection Agency developed a climate policy impact estimator called MAGICC, that  allows us to calculate the decrease in average global temperature from any quantity of emission reductions under alternative climate sensitivity guestimates.

Even assuming high sensitivity, the Curbelo carbon tax bill would avert warming of less than three hundredths of a degree Centigrade by 2050, well below the MAGICC program’s eleven hundredths of a degree error range. That means the bill’s maximum  climate impact is literally undetectable.

Yet to achieve such inconsequential results, the Curbelo bill would force a household of four to spend about $1,000 more each year for gasoline and utilities, and hit the U.S. economy with $800 billion-plus in new taxes, according to the Columbia University report promoting the plan.

That’s a really dumb idea, and the argument for a Vermont carbon tax is even dumber.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

William Hays August 25, 2018 at 2:29 am

The terms “Global Warming” and “Climate Change” are hoaxes. I can live with “Climate Sensitivities” studies, but that, too, is a stretch.


John McClaughry August 25, 2018 at 5:37 pm

No, that’s not a stretch. That’s a valid scientific term, albeit hard to calculate convincingly. If the sensitivity is 3 degrees C/doubling of CO2, one can build a case for alarm. If it’s one degree, ho hum – mildly beneficial.. The most recent studies I have seen are just above 1.


Kyle August 26, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Climate change, and humans causing climate change, is unequivocal. The debate is around what to do about it.


Jeanne V August 25, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Hope more people get on the wagon against the carbon tax. PLEASE! As calculations indicates, it would cost too many people too much more, who don’t have a lot of income or are on fixed retirement income, for such a negligible impact on pollution. Ridiculous.


S August 27, 2018 at 12:43 am

The real purpose of this is to drive Vermonters out of their homes and off of their land.


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The Ethan Allen Institute is Vermont’s free-market public policy research and education organization. Founded in 1993, we are one of fifty-plus similar but independent state-level, public policy organizations around the country which exchange ideas and information through the State Policy Network.

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