Climate & Energy

650 million years in 94 minutes

A History Channel production on climate is worthwhile

A coworker lent me an amazing piece of work called A Global Warning? It does an excellent job illustrating the chaotic nature of terrestrial climate and explaining the theories behind some of the most dramatic climate transitions. It's not a perfect movie, but if you won't read With Speed and Violence, it's probably the best thing there is. It gets into both ocean clathrates (methane hydrate crystals) and the melting permafrost (more methane). Best of all, not a single denialist or confusionist in the whole thing. It simply says "most scientists," cites the IPCC (the only appearance by Gore is him picking up the Nobel), and makes a strong case that while climate may undergo some rapid changes without us, we have our collective finger on the trigger on the climate howitzer. No James Hansen, but lots of Lonnie Thompson (Ohio State), whom people will recall from The Weather Makers and other good books on the climate crisis.

Impossible emission force

Emission prices don’t reduce consumption sufficiently

Recently, I pointed out that emission prices do in fact get passed along to consumers. However, it's important to add that making low carbon alternatives cheaper won't by itself ensure that they are adopted. My online book Cooling It! No Hair Shirt Solutions to Global Warming documents numerous profitable-but-overlooked energy-saving alternatives. Numerous other people have pointed out the same thing. The Rocky Mountain Institute produces megabytes of examples. Economists refer to the fact that profitable opportunities to save energy tend to be overlooked as "low demand elasticity." You can find out more about why this tends to occur in an annotated bibliography I put together, currently posted as a Word doc at the Carbon Tax center website. Just to correct some ambiguities, this is not to say that an emissions price won't accomplish anything or is not needed - simply that it is not sufficient. That if we want the problem solved without absurdly high carbon prices, we need to use other policy tools, and not limit ourselves to putting a price on emission.

Obama on gas prices

If you can overlook the silly “price gouging” bit, this strikes me as an enormously effective push-back against Clinton’s attacks:

The mirror, not Malthus

The rhetoric of population in the hunger crisis

Perhaps you saw the recent UNESCO report on the future of agriculture. It calls for a major paradigm shift in agriculture away from fossil fuels toward organic agriculture and greater equity of distribution. Wow, I wonder why no one ever thought of that before? Seriously, this is the largest single report ever to tell us what we already knew: the status quo is not an option. That is, we cannot go into the future as we are. We all know this on some level.

Thought of the day: Social engineering and climate chaos

Social engineering can’t be avoided; why make it benefit only the rich?

There is passionate opposition in some circles to combining "social engineering" with fighting climate chaos. But the fact is, an emissions cut is social engineering. To cut emissions, we are trying to make some of the biggest changes in individual and social behavior ever. Putting 100 percent of that change on the backs of ordinary people by giving away emissions permits that are then sold and incorporated into the prices of consumer goods is also social engineering -- social engineering that transfers income and wealth from ordinary people to the wealthy.

Climate poll

Via E&E ($ub. req’d), a new Harris poll found that "66 percent of respondents say it is important for the president to have a policy …


Sam Stein: “Expert Support For McCain-Clinton Gas Plan Appears Nonexistent“ Stein’s not kidding, either — he looked for experts who’d support it. No luck.

Passing on taxes

Empirical data and theory both show that emissions taxes get passed to consumers

Sean asks, "If you put a price on GHG emissions, will it raise the cost of energy?" and answers, "Mostly, no." I wish he were right, because I really dislike carbon taxes and was only gradually convinced to support them by overwhelming evidence. But pretty much every empirical study that has ever been done about sales tax and other broad-based taxes on gross revenue shows that such costs do get passed along.

Green strings

Let’s make all jobs greener with ‘climate quality standards’

Good Jobs First held its first national conference May 7 and 8, 2008, near Baltimore. ----- "Green my job." As I track the emerging "green jobs" debate about renewable energy, energy independence, and green pathways out of poverty, I am struck by how disconnected it seems from progressive tax policy. There are some large "policy forks in the road" being taken, although environmentalists seem unaware they are making choices. As an antidote, I offer two observations and a trial balloon. Observation #1: Some new energy proposals are corporate copycat Some green-jobs policy proposals call for new economic development subsidies to promote the construction of manufacturing facilities for making renewable energy products. However, the average state already has more than 30 different economic development subsidy programs, and companies routinely get 8 or 10 subsidies in a single deal. Manufacturing has long been the most coveted kind of jobs investment. Build a windmill gearbox factory in a major industrial state in America today and it will be showered