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Wayne Kernochan
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Sorry, but as presented the argument seems clearly flawed -- perhaps fatally. You are, it appears, talking about a wealth, not an income, tax. Such taxes must factor in a long-term better return that inflation that effectively yields approximately 9% per year after inflation for stocks, and 1-3% for bonds. With an index fund to diversify, therefore, an 8 % return on investment after inflation is indicated. To achieve a disincentive for keeping things in capital as opposed to "consumption" (which is not a realistic option for a billionaire), you would have to therefore have a 7-8% tax on total wealth. If you see such a thing out there, let me know. And no, you don't get to argue that capital gains taxes involve taxing things twice -- a careful analysis shows that after careful assessment of just who owns what and net present value effects, the additional tax burden is minor. Finally, because the "capitalist" is concerned with returns to capital, and income/returns to labor are minor to him, it is in his interest to drive the capital rate far below where it should be -- because he is not rational -- or believes that this "capital monopoly" is actually better for him. To put it another way, he will simply seek to offload all taxes on someone else and will accept a monopoly "overshoot" from the government market he controls.
Naive question for dorlomin: "bang on" -- are you talking about extent? It appears from NSIDC that antarctic melt is skewed from normal, as if circumpolar currents are able to rotate the ice more than usual. This could be explained if sea ice is more fragmented than usual (i.e., less area than usual), allowing the current to push the edges of the ice farther, before and after the peninsula. This, in turn, would mean than more ice is "spun" off into lower latitudes, increasing the amount that melts during the summer season.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2010 on Open Thread 2 at Arctic Sea Ice
I hate to weigh in on this, but over the past 3 months I have been reading some of the literature, including Heidi Cullen's Weather of the Future, Peter Ward's The Flooded Earth, and James Hansen's Storms of my Grandchildren (the key quote there is something like "if we use up all our present fossil fuel resources (oil, gas, coal) there is a significant chance of a runaway greenhouse gas effect. If we also use up all the oil shale and tar sands, I view [runaway greenhouse gas effect] as almost certain." Put together with some of the research noted on, these publications by scientists do indeed lay out a possible path to extreme disaster. Here is a scenario (heavily shortened, some of details deduced): Stage 1: Disaster 2010-2050 (worst-case) Drought affects most of area south of northern Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. Excessive heat makes low-altitude tropics and south of temperate zone above the equator uneconomic to live in, including parts of US South/Southwest, Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, and Southern China. Rising sea level and increased storm surge effectively makes Miami, New Orleans, Galveston, Boston, south New York City, most of Holland, and almost all of Bangladesh uninhabitable. Flash-flood amount and hurricane-force increases make effective home insurance in all areas skyrocket. More than 500 million people move, and perhaps 5 million die as a result of all of the above. Stage 2: Tragedy Severe drought affects most of area south of northern Canada, Scandinavia, and Siberia. Oceanic dead zones make Caribbean, Pacific islands effectively uninhabitable, and reduce availability of fish drastically as food source. Drying of major rivers from reduced snow/ice and drought, and/or loss of estuaries from rising sea levels, especially the Amazon, Ganges, Nile, Mississippi, Indus, Yellow. Rising sea level to about 25-50 feet of increase makes most of Florida, much of New York City, Long Island, Cape Cod, Washington, DC, London, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denmark, Tokyo, parts of Chinese coast, Alexandria, parts of Australia uninhabitable. Melting of permafrost and 20 degrees rise in temperature make northern Canada and Alaska, Siberia, and parts of Greenland habitable but difficult to travel in. 30% of ocean species and 30% of land ecosystems become extinct, beginning to reduce available food. More than 1.5 billion people move, and perhaps 100 million people die as a result. Stage 3: Murder Total increases in global average temperature reach 20 degrees F, making many areas in southern US, India, northern Africa, northern Australia, the north coast of South America, effectively uninhabitable. Sea level rise to about 120 feet makes most of east/west/south coast of US, Mediterranean and Atlantic European coasts, most coasts of England, parts of Brazil and India, the coasts of China and Japan uninhabitable – involving the present residence of perhaps 2 billion people. More than 1 billion people move, and perhaps fifty million die as a result. 70% of all species become extinct as oceanic dead zones spread and remainder of land ecosystems that cannot migrate north/south vanish. Increasing downward shocks to the global economy due to reduced availability of fossil fuels (because of less international trade) and decreases/movements in arable land lead to massive famines and inability to cope with famines, which in turn lead to the death of 1 billion. Stage 4: Collapse/Extinction Total increases in global average temperature reach 25-30 degrees, making most of existing tropical zone and much of existing temperate zone either unlivable or uneconomic to live in. Sea level rise reaches its maximum at 240 feet; almost the entire Earth is ice-free. Further migration from coasts, including Black Sea and Canadian and Siberian Arctic. Few humans in Australia, northern 2/3 of Africa, Middle East, most of India, Southern and western China, Southeast Asia, almost all of US, northern coasts of Latin America, Mediterranean, area of Black Sea. Oceanic dead zones continue to spread, beginning to endanger Arctic fisheries. Loss of additional arable land and beginnings of decreased productivity from the remaining arable land due to over-production, leading to additional famines and the death of another 1 billion. Addition of low-oxygen water to oceans creates new bacteria whose huge release of hydrogen sulfide poisons residents of seacoasts and breaks down ozone layer, leading to an additional 20% species extinction and 1 billion more human deaths (Medea hypothesis, Ward, as evidenced by some geologic data). Stage 5: End of Life on Earth Human burning of all fossil fuels, including tar sands and oil shale, makes carbon in atmosphere reach a “tipping point” that triggers runaway greenhouse effect that cannot be stopped (James Hansen, “Storms of my Grandchildren”). Oceans become so acid that in most areas they cannot support life. Eventually, land temperatures become hot enough to prevent most vegetation from growing, and carbon cannot be sequestered, since the ocean will not create limestone; so it stays in the atmosphere. Massive methane and carbon releases from permafrost drive carbon in the atmosphere, and therefore the temperature, far higher (note: this may occur in stage 4). Somewhere after this point, the oceans will boil, the atmosphere will become unbreathable (primarily carbon), and most life on earth will become extinct – including humans. Extremely high surface temperatures will eliminate the rest of life on Earth, leaving a planet much like Venus. Please note: as we have been for the last 30 years, under "business as usual" we are now on a path to 1100 ppm carbon in the atmosphere by the end of this century, which would effectively take us almost to the start of Stage 4. Also, geo-engineering may save us from stages 4 and 5; but so far, it is not clear how.
Toggle Commented Nov 24, 2010 on Open Thread 2 at Arctic Sea Ice
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Nov 24, 2010