Steven Mufson’s a good reporter, but I swear to God, something about the conventions of traditional journalism just drives people to do things that might as well be deliberately designed to obscure the truth. Take …
This is the fifth in a five-part series exploring the details of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. See also part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. I close out this series with one small, specific thing that Lieberman-Warner gets wrong -- not necessarily because it's the biggest or most important thing it gets wrong; rather, because it illustrates the challenge faced by big and complicated legislation: it's really hard not to mess up the little stuff. Not out of malice, necessarily, but simply because it's hard to get that much right. And sometimes -- as in this case -- the little things you get wrong can have big consequences. When all is said and done, good government policy isn't that much different from good human resources policy. If your employer makes it clear to you how your actions convert into your salary, you tend to work well together. On the other hand, if your employer gives you a 10-page incentive compensation plan with individual, department-wide, and corporate-level targets, bonus points for how many team-building sessions you go to, credit for attending various training seminars ... you get my point. In a nutshell, that's the crux of the problem with Lieberman-Warner. Rather than starting simple and adding on complexity only as needed, it starts really complicated and virtually ensures that lots of those little details are wrong, misdirected, and/or in conflict with one another. In this final post, I'll look at just one of those details: utility decoupling.
I see the pundits are still lobbing up chinstrokers about how addressing climate change is going to require "sacrifice -- serious wartime sacrifice." This sounds Very Serious. The only quibble I have is that it's probably not true. "Going green" in a carbon-constrained economy won't feel like sacrifice to most people. It will feel like shopping. Meaning, it will feel like all the decisions we make every day, but tilted imperceptibly by the price ramifications of a carbon cap. Studies suggesting that the overall economic effect of climate change legislation will be fairly small just keep piling up. The most recent one was from the environmental radicals at the IMF. So why all the sacrifice talk? Maybe because it's just plain hard to imagine what a decades-long economic transformation will look like. We tend to extrapolate crudely from where we are now. If you want to cut your individual carbon footprint 80 percent today, you might have to sell your car, give up flying, move into a smaller house, and start foraging for food. But that's not how this will go down. Fully decarbonizing will take several decades. The process will be unpredictable, creating winners, losers, opportunities, and benefits. Come with me now to Strained Analogy Land. Imagine going back in time to meet your hippie forebear ...
Fred Krupp. Fred Krupp has been piloting Environmental Defense Fund since he left private law practice in 1984. It hasn’t gone badly: Under Krupp’s leadership, the group has become an influential player in the deepest …
The margin was narrow -- 4 percentage points. And 5 percent of those polled didn't choose sides. But a CBS News/NY Times poll released Sunday just might signal the moment when Americans began to grasp the intertwined realities of climate, energy and national security. The poll [PDF] found that 49 percent of Americans think suspending the gasoline tax this summer is a bad idea, while 45 percent approve of the plan (see Question 49). If memory serves, this is the first time in at least a generation that the American public expressed a willingness to be taxed more rather than less for energy.
As the most ardent Gristophiles know, this site is hosting a lively debate over the degree to which prices imposed on carbon emissions will impact energy costs. To recap, if prices do impact costs, then a carbon tax provides an investment incentive. If they don't, then we need some carrots to go with the stick of a tax. Hot off the presses comes this bit of news from Greenwire ($ub req'd): Duke Energy Ohio is asking federal regulators to approve the transfer of its Ohio power plants to companies owned by North Carolina-based Duke Energy Corp. whose rates are set in a competitive market instead of by state regulators. Why, you ask?
A trio of fine letters in The NYT today, taking Richard Cohen to task for his reflexive praise of sugar-cane ethanol.
Bill Gates. Unlike his bridge buddy Warren Buffett, who recently canceled six planned coal projects, Bill Gates is still pushing coal. Cascade Investment Management, his personal investment company, is the largest stakeholder (9 percent) in Otter Tail Corporation, the lead sponsor of the controversial Big Stone II coal project. Last week, eight Minnesota legislators, led by Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL) of Minneapolis and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL) of St. Paul, wrote to Gates, asking him to visit Minnesota in order to investigate green investment opportunities that would "align the values of your foundation with your investment strategy." In April, NASA's James Hansen appealed to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to oppose Big Stone II: "You can help inspire your state and the rest of the country to take the bold actions that are essential if we are to retain a hospitable climate."
The Nature article ($ub. req'd) that has caused so much angst about the possibility that we are entering a decade of cooling -- "Advancing decadal-scale climate prediction in the North Atlantic sector" -- has been widely misreported. I base this in part on direct communication with the lead author. In fact, with the caveat from the authors that the study should be viewed as preliminary, and should not be used for year-by-year predictions, it is more accurate to say the Nature study is consistent with the following statements: The "coming decade" (2010 to 2020) is poised to be the warmest on record, globally. The coming decade is poised to see faster temperature rise than any decade since the authors' calculations began in 1960. The fast warming would likely begin early in the next decade -- similar to the 2007 prediction by the Hadley Center in Science (see "Climate forecast: hot -- and then very hot"). The mean North American temperature for the decade from 2005 to 2015 is projected to be slightly warmer than the actual average temperature of the decade from 1993 to 2003. Before explaining where the confusion came from -- mostly a misunderstanding of how the Nature authors use the phrase "next decade" -- let's see how the media covered it:
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