Price v. Tax

Interesting quibble over terminology, or linguistic obfuscation designed to soothe child-like sensibilities? Why not both?

Nordhaus: We have set the bar for our aspirations so high. Aiming for net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century is a very ambitious target.
In my own mind there is a twin set of policies. One is carbon pricing and one is strong support for low-carbon technologies. Both are necessary if we’re going to reach our goals. Carbon pricing by itself is not sufficient. By itself, it won’t bring forth the necessary technologies. Carbon pricing needs the helping hand of government support of new low-carbon technologies.
The analogue here is the covid vaccines. The private sector has incentives of the patent system to make vaccines profitable for pharmaceutical companies. But we went beyond that with the pre-purchase agreements to make sure a strong market was there and guaranteed in advance; this backstop would help these companies make back their investment. It is an unusual way to structure incentives, but it worked amazingly well.

So good so far, to acknowledge ambition alongside calculation, expediency, and urgency risks encouraging cynicism about solutions, aka bedtime stories in a land right here, right now. But great point about vaccines, and of course one of the tools is framing, whether we like having to tell ourselves certain fictions or not. See also, vaccines.

We can use this to think about climate change policies. We can use similar tools to improve our low-carbon technologies.
Mufson: And one of those tools is the carbon tax?
Nordhaus: I think we should use the word “price” rather than “tax.”
Mufson: That sounds better.
Nordhaus: This is not just a matter of rhetoric. It is fundamental. What we really want to do is raise the price of carbon emissions. If you can get it up to $100 a ton, you’re doing a good job. It doesn’t matter whether you do that through a tax or a cap-and-trade system. Canada has a carbon tax. Europe uses cap-and-trade. Others have mixed regimes. Different ones will work better in different environments.
I think it’s true that the U.S. is sort of stuck somewhere in the 18th century, maybe 19th century, on taxes. The rest of the world is moving ahead and we’re sitting here on an island of fiscal denial. One of these days people will wake up and say, “A carbon tax is a good way to reach our goal effectively.”
It is one of the most effective tools. It raises revenues, lowers carbon emissions and reduces mortality from air pollution. Hundreds of thousands of people a year die from the burning of fossil fuels. We’re just so blindered on this that we can’t see what is good for both public health and fiscal health.

In the land of truthfully dispiriting summations, the one-eyed optimist takes a peek. Saddled with the most resources and the least wisdom in using them, the price of dawdling IS the widely-feared tax. See also, vaccines.

Image: … forest… trees.

Are We There Yet?

As the impacts of global warming slam into the present, are you the frog or the boiling water? While you contemplate the metaphor, a brief round up of Notnecessarily the climate-related news:

Temperatures in Seattle reached into the nineties this weekend:

The main reason for the heat watch is because it will not cool down much in the evenings, causing homes to retain more of that heat.

The last excessive heat watch for the area was issued July 29, 2009 when it was 103 degrees.

Oregon is baking under the same heat with highs in the mid to upper 90s forecast in Portland, Salem and Eugene.

Seattlelites were in search of public decks to hang out on to catch the breeze on the waterfront which, in a twist, only the tourists knew about.

The University of Miami (FL) continue to distinguish itself, this time by selling about 88 acres of globally imperiled habitat to Walmart:

To secure permission for the 158,000-square-foot box store, plus an LA Fitness center, Chik-fil-A and Chili’s restaurants and about 900 apartments, the university and the developer, Ram, agreed to set aside 40 acres for a preserve.

Ram also plans to develop 35 adjacent acres still owned by the university.

But with less than 2 percent of the vast savanna that once covered South Florida’s spiny ridge remaining, the deal has left environmentalists and biologists scratching their heads.

“You wonder how things end up being endangered? This is how. This is bad policy and bad enforcement. And shame on UM,” said attorney Dennis Olle, a board member of Tropical Audubon and the North American Butterfly Association, who wrote to Florida’s lead federal wildlife agent Friday demanding an investigation.

You definitely wonder about that, among other things.

Super-Monster(s) of Eventness

Krugman does us all a favor today, by drawing out into the open the massive contradiction at the heart of the debate about doing anything about climate change. Primarily that the same people who say the free-market is so wonderfully dexterous that it is the best mechanism for handling any eventuality also claim that it – and we – would be driven to penury under any regime that would limit carbon emissions.

In honor of which favor I yield the floor to Jacques Derrida, from his essay Typewriter Ribbon: Limited Ink, part of the collection Without Alibi. An aporia is an expression of a kind of doubt or difficulty encountered in establishing the theoretical truth of a proposition, created by the presence of evidence both for an against it.

The machine, on the contrary, is destined to repetition. It is destined, that is, to reproduce impassively, imperceptibly, without organ or organicity, received commands. In a state of anesthesia, it would obey or command a calculable program without affection or auto-affection, like an indifferent automaton. Its functioning, if not its production, would not need anyone. Moreover, it is difficult to conceive of a purely machinelike apparatus without inorganic matter.

Notice I say inorganic. Inorganic, that is, nonliving, sometimes dead but always, in priciple, unfeeling and inanimate, without desire, without intention, without spontaneity. The automaticity of the inorganic machine is not the spontaneity attributed to organic life.

This, at least, is how the event and the machine are generally conceived. Among all the incompatible traits that we have just briefly recalled, so as to suggest how difficult it is to think them together as the same “thing,” we have had to underscore these two predicates, which are, most often, attributed without hesitation to matter or to the material body: the organic and the inorganic.

These two commonly used words carry an obvious reference, either positive or negative, to the possibility of an internal principle that is proper and totalizing, to a total form of, precisely, organization, whether or not it is a beautiful form, an aesthetic form, this time in the sense of the fine arts. This organicity is thought to be lacking from so-called inorganic matter. If one day, with one and the same concept, these two incompatible concepts, the event and the machine, were to be thought together, you can bet that not only (and I insist not only) will one have produced a new logic, an unheard -of conceptual form. In truth against the background and the at the horizon of our present possibilities, this new figure would resemble a monster. But can one resemble a monster? No, of course not, resemblance and monstrosity are mutually exclusive. We must therefore correct this formulation: the new figure of an event-machine would no longer even be a figure. It would not resemble, it would resemble nothing, not even what we call, in a still familiar way, a monster. But it would therefore be, by virtue of this very novelty, an event, the only and first possible event, because im-possible. That is why I ventured to say that this thinking could belong only to the future – and even that it makes the future possible. An event does not come about unless its irruption interrupts the course of the possible and, as the impossible itself, surpises any foreseeability. But such a super-monster of eventness would be, this, for the first time, also produced by the machine.

As a still preliminary exercise, somewhat like musicians who listen to their instruments and tune them before beginning to play, we could try another version of the same aporia. Such an aporia would not block or paralyze, but on the contrary would condition any event of thought that resembles somewhat the unrecognizable monster that has just passed in front of our eyes.

What would this aporia be? One may say of a machine that it is productive, active, efficient, or, as one says in French, performante. But a machine as such, however performante it may be, could never, according to the strict Austinian orthodoxy of speech acts, produce an event of performative type. Performativity will never be reduced to technical performance. Pure performativity implies the presence of a living being, and of a living being speaking one time only, in its own name, in the first person. And speaking in a manner that is at once spontaneous, intentional, free, and irreplaceable.  Peformativity, therefore, excludes in principle, in its own moment, and machinelike [machinale] technicity. It is even the name given to this intentional exclusion. This foreclosure of the machine answers to the intentionality of intention itself. It is intentionality. Intentionality forecloses the machine. If, the, some machinality (repetition, calculability, inorganic matter of the body) intervenes in a performative event, it is always an accidental, extrinsic and parasitical element, in truth a pathological, mutilating, or even mortal element. Here again, to think both the event and the performative event together remains a monstrosity to come, an impossible event. Therefore the only possible event. But it would be an event that, this time, would no longer happen without the machine. Rather it would happen by the machine. To give up neither the event nore the machine, to subordinate neither one to the other, never to reduce one to the other: this is perhaps a concern of thinking that has kept a certain number of “us” working for the last few decades.

But who, “us”? Who would be this “us” whom I dare to speak of so carelessly? Perhaps it designates at bottom, and first of all, those who find themselves in the improbable place or in the uninhabitable habitat of this monster.