Climate & Energy

The political climate is changing: Part II

How should the presidential candidates convey the issue of climate change to the public?

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- We've seen in Part I that the political climate is changing. How should presidential candidates talk about climate in the 2008 campaign? My advice to the candidates is to love the global warming deniers and delayers to death and to handle the economic issue head-on. Invite them into constructive discussion. Elevate the dialogue. Emphasize without stopping or deviation that climate change is not a partisan issue, and it should not be a political issue. Talk about the massive new global markets awaiting innovative American technologies, about climate change as the next great challenge for the nation's genius, about how tackling climate change is our path to security and prosperity in the 21st century. It happens to be the truth. Follow Barack Obama's example of truth-telling. He had the guts earlier this year to tell the Detroit Economic Club that we need to raise CAFE standards. He won praise from Time columnist Joe Klein this week for refusing to pander to voters. Klein spent a day with Obama in Iowa and watched him handle a question about global warming. Obama talked about the need for a cap-and-trade regime to reduce carbon emissions, then said: "One of the themes of this campaign is to tell voters what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear ... So I've got to tell you there will be a cost to this -- and the utility companies will pass it along to consumers. You can expect a spike in electricity prices." Then he added the critical message: new technologies will eventually bring prices back down. Obama also could have said this:

Lieberman introduces bill to designate Arctic Refuge as wilderness

Part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be designated as wilderness under legislation introduced today by Sen. Joe Lieberman and 25 colleagues. Wilderness designation for the 1.5-million-acre coastal plains region would rebuff seemingly nonstop attempts to drill for oil and gas there. Says Lieberman in a stroke of analogy genius, “America’s strength is not in our oil reserves, but in our reserves of innovation.”

What price carbon?

How high a price on carbon is needed to make renewables competitive?

I’ve argued before that electricity cost comparisons are, in Walt Patterson’s memorable phrase, "an artifact of prior decisions otherwise concealed" — i.e., based on unstated moral, social, and economic assumptions. Most of those assumptions, for reasons of habit, custom, and occasionally pecuniary interest, are weighted toward the traditional way of doing things: a hub-and-spoke electricity grid driven by massive coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro plants. (To take just one example: the costs of grid transmission and distribution are not counted against central plants, even though small-scale distributed generation substantially reduces those costs.) In my moderately informed but widely broadcast opinion, …

Climate change and Pakistan's priorities

Climate change mitigation is related to building democracy and decreasing poverty

While the climate change "issue" is covered frequently in the press and is implicitly or explicitly part of the U.S. presidential campaign, for developing countries it is just one of many pressing issues. For the man on the street, at least in many of the countries I visit, climate change is important but not urgent. The same could be said of many other issues, of course, but what distinguishes climate change is that it is perceived as "an act of God" on which individual actions have only minimal impact. Unless it is linked to issues of social justice, energy security, economic growth, and the aspirations of a growing middle class in developing countries, support for action on climate change will remain pegged to the fortunes and attention of environmental liberals in the developed North. While on a recent trip to Pakistan, shortly after the Nobel Committee's Peace Prize announcement, I asked several people, "What do you think of Al Gore and the climate change issue winning the Nobel Peace Prize?" or alternatively, "What do you think climate change means for you and Pakistan?" Even to me these questions seemed ridiculous given what's going on in Pakistan -- especially the events of the past week, whenpa a U.S.-sponsored general showed what kind of friend he is to democracy. Answers ranged widely, from a sophisticated intellectual who had attended a viewing of Al Gore's film as part of a film discussion club, to people who had heard of Clinton but not Al Gore, to a few who said they had never heard of climate change. I looked in vain for any mention of climate change in the opinion pages of local newspapers, and while there was vibrant debate over important international issues (e.g., the nature of democracy, government ineptitude, pollution, poverty, the U.S. playing kingmaker, and energy shortages), there was nothing on climate policy. (Aside, that is, from glowing mention in a few blogs of the fact that one Pakistani national, Professor Adil Najam at Tufts University in the U.S., is a member of the IPCC and thus partial recipient of the Nobel Prize -- read his blog here.)

Energy demand, greenhouse-gas emissions expected to soar, says report

The International Energy Agency has released its annual World Energy Outlook, and it’s fair to say that the outlook is, um, not good. World energy demand is projected to surge by 55 percent by 2030, with China and India accounting for nearly half of that increase and China overtaking the U.S. as the globe’s primary energy glutton. Think $100-a-barrel oil is spendy? That’s nothin’, says the IEA, which predicts the price of crude could reach $159 by 2030. The IEA also expects a 73 percent jump in demand for coal by 2030. Relatedly, it predicts that greenhouse-gas emissions will be …

Lurching along on $100/barrel oil

Why we’re not conserving like it’s 1980

On Tuesday, the price of oil set yet another all-time nominal high, leaping above $97/barrel. More importantly, it has just about reached its all-time inflation-adjusted high, reached amid the turmoil of the Iran hostage situation way back in 1980, the Associated Press reports: Crude prices are within the range of inflation-adjusted highs set in early 1980. Depending on the how the adjustment is calculated, $38 a barrel then would be worth $96 to $103 or more today. Back in 1980, sky-high energy prices sparked a wave of efficiency measures within corporate America and in households. Today, not so much. Detroit …

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