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Jason D Scorse's Posts

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Republicans for Environmental Progress: An Endangered Species

For most of modern American history, the two major political parties in America have largely agreed on the desired long-term environmental outcomes for the country: there was a consensus among Republicans and Democrats that it was a good thing to press for cleaner air and water, less toxins in the environment, biodiversity preservation, and mitigation strategies for clean energy and, mostly recently, climate change.   The disagreements were largely centered around how to achieve these outcomes, and to some extent the pace of change and the absolute targets. Democrats by and large preferred a heavier regulatory approach (i.e. “command and …

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Environmentalists Need to Reclaim Economics

My book entitled, What Environmentalists Need to Know About Economics, comes out this week. The aim is simple: to show in a concise and clear manner why economic reasoning and analysis is crucial for solving the world's major environmental problems. But there is a subtext: environmentalists have often been wary of economics and dismissed economic analysis because of its supposed bias towards free markets and the commodification of natural assets. This suspicion has been aided by decades of attacks on environmental regulation by the pseudo-economists that dominate many of the corporate-sponsored rightwing think tanks, who routinely make all sorts of …

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Will the real conservatives please stand up?

Conservatives used to take environmental issues seriously. Despite the usual linking of environmental policy with the Left, in fact it was conservative Republican presidents who initiated some of the most ground-breaking environmental achievements: Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970; Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol to combat ozone depletion in 1987 (for a fine paper on how his Administration approached the issue, read this); and George Bush I began the widely-heralded cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide in 1990. In addition, would-be-president John McCain was a strong supporter of cap-and-trade legislation for greenhouse gases until he was defeated …

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A Few Final Thoughts on the Population Issue

I've looked over all of the comments on both population-related posts and I'll end with a few final observations: 1. A lot of this argument is one of semantics and logic. Many of the population-is-the-problem folks posit the issue like this: A. Humans are doing destructive things B. There are lots of humans C. There is therefore lots of destruction so..... D. We should dramatically reduce the number of humans  2. I find this logic self-defeating for two reasons: A. There isn't much we can do at this point to get less than 9 billion people by 2050 (which is …

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Response to the population doomsayers and Robert Walker

Thanks for all of the responses over the past two days to my queries about proposed solutions to the population problem and the "optimum" global population. So here are some observations followed by my response to the questions Robert Walker posed in his piece claiming that population is still a major issue: "Doomsayers" is an appropriate term for many of those who think population is a huge problem; nowhere do I see more apocalyptic and defeastist rhetoric in the environmental movement. For many, it seems like the battle is lost and all we have to do now is watch humanity's …

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To the population doomsayers: What do you propose?

Fred Pearce's recent blog post on why population is not the issue shouldn't be controversial; it's what most sensible environmentalists have been saying for over a decade. But a quick perusal through the comments section and it is clear that there are still many in the environmental community who think population is the main culprit of environmental decline.  So for those in this camp, I have two questions: If population is a key driver of environmental decline, what do you propose as solutions?  What in your view is the "optimum" population of planet Earth? And why? Please, only serious and …

Read more: Climate & Energy, Living

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What's Next for Climate Change Negotiations?

COP 15 and the Copenhagen Accord were widely criticized and a successor Protocol by 2010 is unlikely. Regardless of what happens at Cancun, climate change will be addressed in one form or another.             Prior to Copenhagen, the Bali Action Plan proposed several objectives; only “limiting global temperature increase to 1.5-2° Celsius” appeared in the Accord. However, its “50% reduction by 2050” and “target date for peaking global emissions” goals influenced negotiations. The failure of the UNFCCC’s dual negotiating tracks (AWG-KP and AWG-LCA) made an agreement at Copenhagen unlikely.             At COP 15, negotiations remained stymied until 30 countries drafted …

Read more: Climate & Energy

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Enemies of the Earth

It is extremely disheartening that serious climate change policy appears unlikely to pass Congress this year, and may very well not be on the agenda for years to come (if ever). I blame Obama for not making comprehensive energy reform a serious priority, and not using the disaster in the Gulf to make a forceful and passionate case to the American people that now is the time to break our addiction to fossil fuels. Whether the political battles of the past year, the persistently weak economy, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have drained Obama to the point that …

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Note to Environmentalists: Economists are on your side

There is a tendency among some environmental writers to dismiss “classical”, “traditional”, “neoliberal”, or “mainstream” economics as somehow inimical to environmental interests.   The problem is that more often than not these writers get the facts wrong.   It’s almost as if the knee-jerk aversion to economics that exists among many environmentalists prevents them from acknowledging the truth: that mainstream economics is very much on their side. While criticizing economics may help them polish their leftist credentials and demonstrate the contrarian-independent thinking that grabs headlines, it ultimately leads to sloppy thinking.   Case in point are recent pieces by David …

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The EPA to the rescue?

With the Copenhagen meetings under way, the potential for a breakthrough on global carbon reduction targets looks better than it has for quite some time. Obama is set to arrive at the end of next week to help seal a deal, which he hopes will give increased momentum for the proposed cap-and-trade legislation that has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate. On Monday, the first day of Copenhagen, the EPA announced that it has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, which is a none-too-thinly-veiled warning to Congress that if it doesn’t act the EPA may. Since EPA’s …