Terry Tamminen

Terry Tamminen is the former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency and is now a policy adviser and author. His latest book is Watercolors: How JJ the Whale Saved Us.

As the post mortem of Copenhagen is written, was it a lump of coal in our 2009 holiday stocking?

Copenhagen coal in the stocking?

As a kid in Milwaukee, my parents told me that Santa would leave coal in my stocking if I was naughty. As the post mortem of Copenhagen is written, was it a lump of coal in our 2009 holiday stocking — or could this global chunk of carbon actually be a diamond in the rough? For the past three years, over half the states in the U.S., along with states/provinces in Canada, China, Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia, have been acting like nations under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol for climate change policy. States like California have adopted laws and action plans, …

Chicken or Egg – – Health Care or Climate Change?

President Obama, who will personally participate in the Copenhagen climate talks this week, said last Sunday that he expects to get a health care bill on his desk before Christmas. The barriers to meeting that deadline may revolve around the answer to an age-old question: which comes first – – the health care chicken or the climate change egg? Senators who were previously close to signing onto his health care package are hesitating for several reasons, but most of them revolve around cost. That’s not just  worry about the overall price tag, but also a question of how much Congress …

The Governors are Coming

What do a thousand jailed demonstrators, President Obama, a dozen Fortune 100 CEOs, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and a melting ice sculpture of a polar bear have in common? Two things. First, they are all part of the climate talks in Copenhagen that finally start in earnest this week after ten days of street theatre and roller coaster expectations. Second, they are all the wrong people to watch if you want to understand where the most innovative and successful carbon policies and technologies are coming from. In fact, the most practical (and profitable) initiatives won’t be found in proposals …

Girls (and Boys) Gone Wild

Why should policymakers, investors, and businesspeople care about youth in Copenhagen?

Of the estimated 20,000 people converging on the U.N. climate conference this week and next, half of them are expected to be under the age of 30. My colleague in Copenhagen, Kristina Haddad, reports, “I observed that many in the crowds of people were young. Most were wearing t-shirts or passing out flyers that essentially pleaded for the world leaders to do the right thing — to stop the talking and compromise and really do something about this crisis or they will have no future.” She went on to describe how a group from India unraveled a banner at the …

View from Copenhagen: The Zero Sum Game

The deal being discussed in Denmark right now, in the name of climate change, is actually a framework for truth in advertising on a global economic scale. Think FASB on steroids. For example, we spend about three bucks for a gallon of gasoline in the US. In fact, we spend about ten, because of the cost of defending oil around the globe (recall that even Alan Greenspan was among the many government officials who have concluded that the trillion dollar Iraq war was entirely about oil); healthcare costs directly attributable to diseases from petroleum pollution; tax breaks; and other direct …

The high costs of now

Lessons from fossil-fueled rats

New research from Cairo shows that rats become more belligerent when exposed to gasoline fumes and tailpipe pollution. If the same thing happens to humans, it might explain why the guy in the Escalade was waving his Smith & Wesson on the freeway in L.A. the other night, but it may also highlight the co-benefits of a low-carbon economy. While all of us probably feel like trapped rats from time to time, a more relevant recent study, published in the British medical journal Lancet, reports that cutting carbon emissions could save human lives. For example, using cleaner cars in London, …

Mark your carbon calender

December 19 — the day after COP15

Tens of thousands of modern-day crusaders, charlatans, Nobel laureates, CEOs, quick-buck artists, earnest politicians, and assorted movie extras of every conceivable socio-political-ethnic-economic background will descend on Copenhagen for the next three weeks to participate in an orgy of carbon-bashing and flag-waving. The goal will be to agree on a blueprint — not quite the precise Earth owner’s manual that some had hoped for, but at least a quick-start guide — for reducing greenhouse gas emissions fast enough so that the world avoids the most expensive and unpredictable consequences of climate change. As the Danes clean up the mess when the …

A Penny Saved Is…

California is at it again. State regulators just set energy efficiency standards for new TVs, mostly the big flat panel models that gulp kilowatts. As a result, consumers will save about $8 billion in the next decade in the form of lower electricity bills and carbon pollution will drop equal to removing 100,000 cars from the road. As my dad used to say, “a penny saved is a penny earned” – – so why doesn’t the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) want you to get your share of that saved carbon or those 800,000,000,000 pennies? The CEA fears that TV makers …

Would You Like Carbon Insurance With That Latte?

You might not hear that exact question any time soon, but don’t be surprised if companies start shifting carbon risk from their balance sheets to someone else’s, using the time-honored marketplace tool of insurance. And when that happens, expect the price of products to reflect the new reality. China, India, and other emerging economies argue that we became prosperous using up the atmosphere and must now bear a disproportionate share of the burden to fix the problem, at least in the first few years of any new global deal. One proposal floating around before the global climate talks in Copenhagen …

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