Discounting the future

pnbrownMay 25, 2013

I'd like to further explore the interesting phenomenon of discounting the future. It's well known that people have a strong tendency to discount the future, and in a non-linear fashion. Two years out is discounted more than twice as much as one year, IME. No doubt there are very sound reasons why humans do this, immediate survival reasons.

Marshall's link in the most recent GW thread points out how this is the key dynamic in the failure to slow carbon emissions. Most people discount the future so strongly that they would not save for old age. Hence social security programs - forced old age pensions. So of course very few indeed will plan for future generations in a time when they themselves will be gone.

Social security programs work when there is lots of wealth in a society. Some of the excess wealth is distributed to those who failed to plan, to save, to curtail present consumptions. Could something similar be done to prepare for climate change effects?

A deep future tax, taken in the form of reserved fossil fuels, unburnt. The governments gather the tax now, and buy portions of reserves to be left in the ground for future generations to decide what to do with. The tax would of course have be calibrated by income or assets. Politically possible?

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youngquinn_gw

are you talking about a tax on individuals PN ?
To be honest I think that would be a hard sell , given the amount of ignorance that abounds in most communities these days (regarding GW)
Political suicide.

Australia has the controversial carbon tax, recently introduced , which has raised the priced of electricity etc for everyone.....the Government compensated pensioners and those on low incomes with a yearly cash payment.
Industry has to buy carbon credits if it wants to use more than its allocated share. The incoming Government (that it looks like we will have in september) has promised to repeal this tax. sigh

Here is a link that might be useful: carbon tax suggestion for USA

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 8:38PM
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jodik_gw

Introducing a tax, or bringing up the idea of a tax, that would go toward "a better future" might actually make some corporations, industries, and even individuals think a little harder about how we all treat our planet now... it could be a good motivator toward cleaner energy?

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 9:54PM
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david52_gw

I'm seeing trends going in the opposite direction - I got mine - you're on your own, sucker.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 10:13PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

And just to make sure I get to keep mine, I'm buying guns and ammo to defend my right to anything I want anytime.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 11:36PM
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pnbrown

I think all agree that any shred of chance of actually slowing the pace of conversion of fuels to CO2 depends entirely on massive and powerful government action. If that is politically impossible then the pace will not be slowed.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 7:37AM
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jodik_gw

That's what I keep saying... without lawmakers and industry on the same page moving toward cleaner energy, it's not gonna happen. The little guy just barely has a voice, or a choice.

But I do think if it came down to lawmakers actually trying to implement a federal law that would cost them big money in taxes... you might see industry move to comply in order to keep that tax from being implemented.

In the "prepper" scenarios, David, I see two kinds of people... those that you describe, the hoarders that are willing to kill so they don't have to share... and those who are thinking more in terms of co-ops and local communities banding together to help one another, anyone invited to play a part in community sharing and survival.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:10AM
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pnbrown

Industry will happily adopt efficiency measures, but never willingly comply with austerity. Neither will government, for a host of reasons.

Because that is what reducing CO2 production really means: austerity like no one alive today has ever known. In fact, no society has ever willingly undergone the kind of austerity that would be required.

Because we all to a great or slightly less great extent discount the future, no one of us or collective will choose such blistering austerity on the chance that it will make things better for a time when we will be gone from this earth.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:27AM
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terrene(5b MA)

I think a carbon tax is a no-brainer. Make all producers and consumers pay a flat tax for the carbon they are spewing into the atmosphere. Period.

Unfortunately, it appears our corporate rulers are primarily interested in short-term profit and could care less if they are discounting the future. And most consumers probably don't think much further into the future than the short-term either.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:12AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Hi Pnb, didn't see your "blistering austerity" comment prior to posting above, but can you elaborate? Exactly how austere do you think people have to get?

I can think of lots of things people can readily and immediately do to reduce carbon emissions. Reduce the amount of meat and other animal products eaten; reduce the amount foods eaten that are not locally produced; reduce travel, leisure activities, and other luxuries that are fossil fuel intensive; reduce all cosmetic and fashion purchases; reduce number of children produced; and many others.

These types of reductions are hardly what I would call "austere".

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:32AM
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woodnymph2_gw

Well, it is one thing to imagine we in the US might force such austerity tenets upon our own society, but what of the rest of the planet? What of Brazil, for example, that keeps destroying its rain forests in order to graze more cattle, in order to produce more meat, which we consumers demand to eat? That's only one example. The United Nations cannot even agree on certain practices. How do you suppose we negotiate with rogue countries in other parts of the world that do not even subscribe to Western values?

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 11:18AM
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david52_gw

Because that is what reducing CO2 production really means: austerity like no one alive today has ever known. In fact, no society has ever willingly undergone the kind of austerity that would be required.

The old "You environmentalists want us to live in caves"

but hey, we keep getting things like this last night....

"Heavy rains Friday night and Saturday morning caused floods around San Antonio. One death has been recorded.

The National Weather Service estimates that nine inches of rain fell between San Antonio and Leon Valley. "

Keep getting storms like this, with tornados and what not, and we'll end up living on rafts.....

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 12:07PM
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pnbrown

I am attempting to shine a brighter light on the mechanics of why there will be no reduction in the global pace of emissions. Some of you are exposing the reasons:

Bottom-up reductions via individual choices like Terrene describes are small and entirely cancelled by the vast increase in access to energy around the globe. Why should a peasant in south Asia or in Brazil care the slightest about some people in energy-hogging regions deciding to use less? They wouldn't, and don't. All they care about is improving their own circumstances - their discount of a future point where civilization may be thrown into disarray is 100%. Which is quite rational.

Regarding a top-down authoritarian control over extraction of fossil-fuel, which IMO is one of two possible limiting factors, it won't happen in large part for the reasons Woodnymph mentioned. IOW, there is no authoritarian world government which is what would be required, and that entity would have to believe that we are effectively in a war where survival for civilization is at stake.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 12:16PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Dystopian future for humans then? I am much less concerned about the weather being too hot and rains too heavy. I'm more worried about widespread pandemics taking out people and food crops and animals. The resulting chaos might trigger wars and other conflicts pitting the numerically more numerous against those that have access to better resources and developments. The Arab Spring comes to mind as reactions to drought and economic declines rather than as uprisings against dictators and autocratic rule.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 12:34PM
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pnbrown

It seems rather more likely than not, doesn't it? In which case we should think about how to prepare.

In your region and in much of the US being functional in Spanish would be a no-brainer for a start. People are less likely to mistreat you or kill you if you can even somewhat speak their mother tongue. Regarding the spread of numerous peoples in the event of serious agricultural breakdown, or fleeing epidemics (I hear there are quite a lot of people in Mexico City).

I agree with Jodik that most people will be willing to cooperate and that those people will survive longer in dystopia.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 12:48PM
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PRO
Brushworks Spectacular Finishes(5)

Good luck convincing our political leaders from all parties to divest from the riches they earn by being invested in the CO2 industry.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 7:17PM
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elvis

"I'm seeing trends going in the opposite direction - I got mine - you're on your own, sucker."

Except for brief lapses, it's always been that way with humans. We're not as smart as we think we are.

That being said, I'm for it.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 7:26PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

For what? Getting and keeping your own? Being not as smart as you think? :P

BTW, I'm getting 100% germination on the brown-headed Helianthus you sent. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 7:43PM
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jodik_gw

I'm concerned about the future of our planet, but more because of the fact that I have children and grandchildren that will have to share it with the rest of humankind. It would be mighty nice if we, the generation that did the most damage, would at least try to clean it up and salvage it for the next generation.

There most certainly exists the ways to slow Climate Change... but what doesn't exist is the will to implement something before it's too late. And I'm sorry, but I have to insert the word "greed" here... greed and gluttony on a grand scale.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 8:00PM
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youngquinn_gw

"How do you suppose we negotiate with rogue countries in other parts of the world that do not even subscribe to Western values?" Im sorry woodnymph and mean no disrepsect but I think there may be some bits of information that you are missing.

The USA was the only western nation to refuse to ratify the kyoto protocol in the 1980s. This was because developing nations were given smaller targets to achieve and the USA did not want China to "get ahead of it"
Granted that USA did reach the requested reduction in emissions a few years ago...but this was simply a result of the GFM.
Self interest still comes first.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:17PM
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elvis

â¢Posted by marshallz10 z9-10 CA (My Page) on Sun, May 26, 13 at 19:43

"For what? Getting and keeping your own? Being not as smart as you think? :P
BTW, I'm getting 100% germination on the brown-headed Helianthus you sent. Thanks."

For what? Why, I'm for "A deep future tax, taken in the form of reserved fossil fuels, unburnt. The governments gather the tax now, and buy portions of reserves to be left in the ground for future generations to decide what to do with. The tax would of course have be calibrated by income or assets"

Glad to hear about the sunflowers--they are magnificant (and tall; about 7'). I'm glad you mentioned them; I need to get some nasty seeds in the ground tomorrow without fail. They do best direct sowed for me (as do the sunflowers). I look forward to hearing how the SF's do for you.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2013 at 9:58PM
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pnbrown

My idea now looks quite absurd in the bright light of a blue -skyed monday morning. Of course all the fuels will be burnt! Good Lord, have we never sat at a super-highway rest area and ruminated upon the staggering flow of energy pouring by? Every minute of every day all over the world?

Funny the things one will think up in the course of a long grey spell....

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 7:04AM
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jodik_gw

It's not a bad thing to care about the planet's future. The problem is, we can't get everyone to cooperate fully in its salvage. To some people, wealth is more important in this life, and it will always be that way, I suspect... more's the pity.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2013 at 8:13AM
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