Thursday, 4 March 2021

Killer Arguments Against Citizen's Income, Not (32)

From The Guardian:

The Conservative candidate for London mayor, Shaun Bailey, has been criticised for arguing people paid a universal basic income (UBI) would blow the money on “lots of drugs”...

Bailey also questioned whether it could “drive prices up for basic goods when we know people could just buy them because the money’s there”. He added he was “concerned about work incentive” and a UBI was not clearly defined.

There's not much point responding to that, apart from pointing out that Bailey has proved himself to be totally clueless or an utter shit. Or both.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Institute for Economic Affairs on top form

From the IEA:

* The UK could have a tax system that has a low negative effect on welfare and efficiency, with small compliance and administration costs; a system that is nondiscriminatory, avoids double taxation, and that is transparent and easy to understand.

* As such, we suggest that the TV Licence, Inheritance Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax, the stamp duties on buying shares, the Apprenticeship Levy, Vehicle Excise Duty, Capital Gains Tax, the bank surcharge, and duties on alcohol, tobacco, and gambling, could be scrapped.

* Other property taxes such as Council Tax, the Community Infrastructure Levy, business rates and affordable housing and other s106 obligations, could be replaced with a single land value tax. Under this proposed system, disincentives for property improvements and housebuilding would be removed.

I would have added "the TV Licence, Inheritance Tax, Stamp Duty Land Tax... Capital Gains Tax" to the next list of truly wealth/land-related taxes to make it clear to Joe Public that LVT is a like-for-like swap. In more detail...

A land value tax

Our solution to the problems raised with the four previous taxes would be to create a land value tax system to provide a reliable source of income to local authorities, encourage development and reduce complexity in the tax system.

A single land value tax would tax the owners of property only on the value of the land itself. Buildings, improvements and land use would be of no concern to the tax system, avoiding the current disincentives for property improvements or housebuilding. Such a tax would also enable councils to receive part of the planning gain (the increase in the value of land when it is re-zoned for development, such as agricultural land being granted planning permission for housebuilding), giving local communities a major incentive to allow development.

I don't understand the insistence on LVT being a 'local tax' and hence inherently regressive, but it's an excellent start.

Monday, 1 March 2021

The size of an iceberg depends on where you live...

From Bedford Today: An iceberg which has been dubbed 'the size of Bedfordshire' has broken off from Antarctica, near to a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) station. The 1,270km2, 150 metre-thick chunk of frozen water separated from the Brunt Ice Shelf this morning.

Their fifteen seconds of fame didn't last long.

From The Metro: A huge iceberg nearly as large as Greater London has broken off the Antarctic ice shelf near a British research station.

From Paris Match: Un iceberg géant de la taille de Paris se détache de l'Antarctique

From IJsberg ter grootte van provincie Utrecht breekt af van Antarctica

From Iceberg the size of Co Monaghan calves in Antarctica

From In der Antarktis ist ein riesiger Eisberg vom Schelfeis abgebrochen. Das teilte die Organisation British Antarctic Survey (BAS) am Freitag mit. Der Eisberg mit einer Fläche von 1270 Quadratkilometern (etwa halb so groß wie das Saarland) war Teil des Brunt-Schelfeises, einem Gletscher in der Antarktis.

Bonus points to, who didn't describe its size in relation to anywhere in Belgium: De ijsberg ter grootte van de agglomeratie rond Parijs of Londen is losgekomen van het ijsplateau Brunt.

What's interesting is that in Dutch/Flemish, they capitalise the I and the J.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Here we go again...

From the BBC:

A mortgage guarantee scheme to help people with small deposits get on the property ladder is set to be announced at next week's Budget. The government will offer incentives to lenders, bringing back 95% mortgages which have "virtually disappeared" during the pandemic, the Treasury says.

An extension to the Stamp Duty Land Tax "holiday" is also on the cards.
From The Daily Mail:

Biden bombs Syria border crossing and 'kills 22' Iran-backed militia fighters in retaliation to rocket attacks that injured American troops and killed a contractor in Iraq.

The poor sods will be looking back fondly at the Trump years.
And for a bit of light relief, a "global warming causes cooling" story from The Guardian:

Rahmstorf said: “We risk triggering [a tipping point] in this century, and the [Gulf Stream] would spin down within the next century. It is extremely unlikely that we have already triggered it, but if we do not stop global warming, it is increasingly likely that we will trigger it.”

Research in 2018 also showed a weakening of the AMOC, but the paper in Nature Geoscience says this was unprecedented over the last millennium, a clear indication that human actions are to blame. Scientists have previously said a weakening of the Gulf Stream could cause freezing winters in western Europe and unprecedented changes across the Atlantic.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Not sure why this is anybody else's problem.

From the BBC:

Local MP Liam Byrne spoke about the problem in the House of Commons this week. It is, he told MPs, "a story of two nations - rich and poor".

This is not unique to Birmingham. It is a pattern that is being repeated across the country. The people who are most at risk from the virus are the ones, it seems, who are least likely to come forward for vaccination.

Detailed data on uptake down to a community level is not being published by the government to the frustration of many - the figures for Birmingham were published by the council. But what information is available suggests the poorest and most ethnically diverse communities (there is a huge overlap between the two) are seeing the lowest levels of uptake.

The vaccines seem to be working - hooray
Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, the UK govermnent and the NHS between them are handling it all well - hooray
The vaccines are 'free' and well advertised - hooray
They are not compulsory - hooray
The corollary of 'not compulsory' is that some people, for whatever reasons, will refuse to have it. Fair enough. That's the price of freedom.

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

RE: ozone depletion - how does the extra Ultraviolet B radiation affect clouds?

That's a question to which I have found no obvious answer, but I assume that if there is a bit of extra high intensity UV-B hitting the atmosphere, it will evaporate some of the clouds, i.e. turn water droplets back into water vapour. The wavelength of UV-B is orders of magnitude less than that of infra red, so the chances of it being absorbed by a molecule in a tiny water droplet is commensurately higher. And 'absorbed' just means that radiation energy is converted to some other form of energy.

This can lead to a disproportionate effect on surface and atmospheric temperatures. This theory might be totally wrong of course but it seems plausible to me. The effect must be warming, however slight. I've not put numbers on the effect because you have to make far too many assumptions so that would 'prove' nothing. This is a wait and see operation. If I live long enough to see the 'ozone hole' repair itself (perhaps by the middle of this century?) and temperatures fall again even though CO2 levels have increased (and they will), then that would support the theory but not really 'prove' it either way:

1. Starting position pre-ozone depletion

Some sunlight hits the surface, most of it hits clouds and is partially reflected: 2. There is now more UV-B (imaginatively coloured violet, even though it is invisible)

Some hits the surface; most of it hits clouds: 3. Cloud cover is reduced

Some of the energy in UV-B evaporates water droplets and so is converted to latent heat of evaporation (no measurable temperature increase). That thins the clouds slightly and reduces the amount of cloud cover. This allows more sunlight at all other wavelengths through to the surface.

So it's not so much the bit of extra UV-B which warms the surface; it is all the other sunlight that isn't reflected and that now gets through. An average reduction in cloud cover of 2% reduces albedo and increases the amount of sunlight getting through by about 1%, sufficient to cause about 1 degree of surface warming: 4. At night, the water vapour condenses into clouds again

The energy converted to latent heat of evaporation during the day turns back into extra thermal energy when the water vapour condenses again (or the rate of cooling is lower than it otherwise would be). This warms the atmosphere slightly. The surface is also slightly warmer. The pink arrows denote the extra infra red and warmth generally:

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Access to LVTC site blocked?

Here for general reference, an email reply from the people who run the LVTC site:

The "you have been blocked" message comes up when a visitor triggers the website's firewall by doing something untoward, e.g. repeatedly attempting to log in to the admin area.

You get three chances before you're blocked for a day, and if you're blocked three times you get permanently blocked by the firewall.

To block visitors the firewall uses their IP address. Unfortunately, because IP addresses are usually shared that does mean some genuine visitors will also get blocked. This appears to have happened [name].

I have cleared the block lists, so [name] will have access. If he doesn't please advise him to clear his browser history (the same thing will apply to anyone else).

Going forward, I've revised the firewall configuration and changed part of the warning message to say:

"Contact with your IPv4 address (visit if you believe you were blocked in error."

Vaccinations are helping drive down new infections. Or not, as the case may be.

The UK government is doing a fine job with vaccinations, which started in December 2020 and really got up to speed in January 2021, averaging 2.5 million vaccinations per week. These appear to be driving down new infections (all data from
Slam dunk, you might think, 1-0 to the UK's strategy!

That is, until you look at daily new cases in other north European countries which have barely started with vaccinations. In these three countries, daily cases also peaked in late December or early January and have been falling since then. I am aware that you could also cherry pick countries which show a slightly different pattern, but that is not the point. More things for which there is no obvious explanation:

Saturday, 20 February 2021

"Silver bullet housing policy could make homeowners millions"

Lola emailed me a link to this regurgitation of the press release:

New modelling shows that the average homeowner who did take up the scheme could make hundreds of thousands, or even millions of pounds, depending on where they live – after building costs and costs of finance. One worked example in the paper shows how a post war cul de sac in Barnet could voluntarily decide to uplift. This would transform the 26 bungalows worth £14 million in total, to be given an additional £54 million in uplift, £10 million of which goes to the council, £44m of which goes to the homeowners (£1.7 million each).

Economist Sam Bowman tells Guido that the policy could solve the housing crisis by unusually making everyone a winner:

“This is the silver bullet that could solve the housing crisis – unlike almost all other proposals, this one works by enriching existing homeowners when they allow more homes to be built. The solution to this decades-long problem is to make it a win/win for people who own their own homes and people who want to. If the government goes ahead with these plans it could make Thatcher’s right-to-buy look like a drop in the ocean in terms of increasing homeownership in Britain.”

This superficially sounds like the grey market in air rights in Manhattan or some Home-Owner-Ist Ponzi scheme. So I followed the links to the actual proposal in order to see if it really was that dumb.

It isn't actually. What it boils down to is that under current rules, one person on a street puts in a planning application to significantly extend his home, and all his neighbours oppose it. Under their cunning plan, those on a street who want to extend come up with a planning application for the whole street which gives every owner the same right to extend, and they all take a vote. If a majority agrees, then everybody can extend up to the new maximum.

Those who are opposed will vote against. Those who aren't bothered either way have to make a calculation - being surrounded by larger/higher buildings depresses the current rental value of a home, but the automatic right to extend it by a certain amount increases its potential selling price. If it's a net uplift, then it makes sense to vote in favour and bank the uplift.

So actually it's quite a sensible suggestion. In theory, it pushes the balance towards densification rather than sprawl, which is believed to be A Good Thing. But clearly, it will make very little difference to anything. I can only see it taking off on streets where all homes are similar, so everybody's uplift is the same.

And as per usual, it just funnels money/value towards people in high value areas. In an average residential area with averagely spaced semi-detached houses worth £200,000, the ones with a third storey are worth (say) £50,000 more, but the third storey costs £50,000 to build. In an expensive area where an average semi-detached costs £600,000, the extra storey might increase the value by £150,000 for a build cost of £50,000, so that's a straight profit of £100,000 for just ticking the "yes" box.
As ever, this is a job for Land-Value-Tax-Man.

For a start, existing buildings would be used more efficiently so there's less need for new construction.

Councils can also be more generous with the right to extend. Every time a home is extended (or improved), the average rental value of all homes in that area goes up ever so slightly, so everybody's LVT goes up slightly. The first ones to extend (or improve) are getting a good deal, because they are only paying for a small fraction of the extra rental value.

When enough people have extended (or improved), the last few who haven't might as well extend (or improve) as well (or sell on to somebody who will) to catch up - there is no point paying for something (i.e. the market value of planning permission i.e. the LVT bill as if they had done an extension or improved) which you aren't using.

This is a very gradual thing, but it sorts itself out in line with market forces. If it's a low demand area, few will extend so there's not much impact, LVT bills don't go up and not much gets extended. Even if the council in a low demand area gave everybody permission to extend by two-storeys, very few would bother - it would be cheaper to just move to a bigger house. In high value areas, it will be a more rapid race to the top.

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

"My confusion and anger ended when our host showed me the real physics"

I did a bit of light trolling at Science of Doom and elicited this response:

You are confusing several topics.

No I'm not. They are confusing the issue, as he later confirms:

Elsewhere I have discussed why it is simplest to consider the steady-state balance or imbalance at the TOA [top of atmosphere]. An imbalance at the TOA is created by rising GHGs slowing down the rate of radiative cooling to space. DLR is an internal radiation flux that moves heat WITHIN our climate system and therefore isn’t important to the radiative imbalance at the TOA. A “rising effective emitting layer" is important to the balance at the TOA.

Since AGW is a very complicated subject, it is often explained with a variety of models paradigms including: Increasing DLR “warms” the surface, CO2 “traps” heat, CO2 acts as a blanket or insulation, GHG’s act as shell or layer around the Earth (Willis promotes a “Steel Greenhouse” Model) and a “rising effective emitting layer” model (promoted here and by Linden among others). IMO – and others probably do disagree – all of these models are flawed.

Which was exactly my point. Notice how he first says that the "'effective emitting layer' is important" and then says that the "'rising effective emitting layer' model [is] flawed". I have spent a year wading through these endless layers of crap:

When I first came here (on the advice of Steve McIntyre), I was continuously frustrated and intemperate, because I KNEW that doubling CO2 would double the number of photons emitted by CO2 and usually halve the distance they traveled between emission and absorption. I couldn’t see why doubling CO2 would change anything – which turns out to be an excellent first approximation to the truth. The reduction in radiative cooling [to] space from 2XCO2 is barely more than a 1% change despite doubling the emission of photons by CO2. (As best I can tell, the rising effective emitting layer model doesn’t take into account the doubled emission of photons by doubled CO2.)

Luckily, Salvation is at hand for those Who Know And Want To Believe:

My confusion and anger ended when our host stopped talking about models and paradigms for AGW and showed me the real physics: Schwarzschild’s equation for radiation transfer. This is the equation that climate scientist use to predict that a doubling of CO2 will slow radiative cooling to space by about 3.5 W/m2. Unfortunately, this equation is a differential equation that must be numerically integrated over the path radiation takes, and therefore may or may not be meaningful to you...

I do not pretend to understand this equation numerically, but the gist of is what common sense would tell us: some gases are better 'insulators' against radiation than others, in the same way that some gases are better for thermal insulation than others, so radiation (or thermal energy) comes out of one side more slowly than went in on the other - but it still gets through in the end. Wow, big deal.
Basic physics tells us that everything can radiate (we are told hat N2 and O2 can't, let's just accept that) and that the temperature of the atmosphere falls with increasing altitude (because of the gravity-induced lapse rate). Therefore, stuff which is higher up will be radiating less than the surface. Outgoing radiation is about one-third from the warmer surface and two-thirds from cooler clouds (which themselves have only about 75% emissivity) and if you average those out, you get the same answer as what is actually observed, which is what is needed to keep the atmosphere at a steady-state temperature.

PS, the figure of 3.5 W/m2 (which he himself dismisses as "barely more than a 1% change") is a key part of the Alarmist belief system. This was originally derived by simply assuming that warming over an arbitrarily chosen time period was directly caused by changes in CO2 levels. They later reverse engineered the answer they wanted from an equation not necessarily designed for this purpose. Even if correct, that equates to a surface temperature which is about 0.7 degrees warmer for every doubling of CO2. Again, big deal. (This is of course wholly at odds with Al Gore's claim that temperatures rise by about 1 degree for every 5% extra CO2, not that he ever retracted it or that the Alarmists even notice the discrepancy - if Al Gore's chart had been a good predictor, then temperatures would be about 10 degrees warmer than they actually are.)