9/11, unity, and the chattering of chipmunks

The clarity that crisis brings is not necessarily our friend

I’ve had a post rattling around in my head for a while now, and the anniversary of 9/11 seems like apt moment to finally have a go at it. One of the most uncomfortable facets …

The power of voluntary actions

Social scientists respond to Mike Tidwell

The following is a guest essay in response to Mike Tidwell’s recent piece on Grist, “Voluntary actions didn’t get us civil rights, and they won’t fix the climate.” It is signed by a collection of …

New rules for action

Advice for political leaders on how to deal with climate change

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, Executive Director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. I'd like to propose a few new rules our political leaders might keep in mind as they figure out their role in addressing global climate change.

Markey and the FTC

Rep. Markey asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate voluntary carbon offsets

Rep. Markey has asked the FTC to investigate whether or not the sale of voluntary carbon offsets violates the Guides for the Use of Evaluating Environmental Marketing Claims, as laid out by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC has responded and agreed to commence an investigation, noting that: The FTC staff has been monitoring this nascent market as part of the Commission's ongoing consumer protection programs in the energy and environmental areas. The carbon offset market poses potential consumer protection challenges. Carbon offset claims may present a heightened potential for deception because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to verify the accuracy of the seller's claims. At the same time, the sale of carbon offset products afford interested consumers the opportunity to participate in the market for products and services that may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the benefits that this developing market may provide, we want to better understand the market to avoid acting in a way that could restrain innovation or harm consumers. For full details, see here. There is clearly a potential for fraud and cause for investigation, but my personal guess is that this is also a good example of the cost of not participating in Kyoto. The accounting for GHG offsets is really complicated, and the formal, audit-worthy work on that topic is now being done in London and Brussels. Voluntary markets are an attempt to bridge that gap, but will never carry the rigor of a Big-4 audited statement. In any event, this will be worth following to see how the story develops.

Six explosions rock oil and gas pipelines in Mexico

In what appears to have been a string of politically motivated attacks, explosions rocked at least six oil and natural-gas pipelines in Mexico’s state of Veracruz on Monday. The pipelines that were hit are all …

Edwards not as green as you thought: When a ban isn't a ban

Why Edwards’ ‘ban’ on coal plants does little good against climate change

John Edwards. Photo: kk+ via flickr One of the most meaningful steps the U.S. can take to fight climate change is to forbid construction of new coal plants unless they capture and sequester their carbon …

Bush administration begins plotting its legacy

Presidents traditionally wind up their tenure by pushing through as many executive regulations as possible. Bill Clinton was no exception: he instituted the famous roadless rule in the last days of his presidency, as well …

Backseat policy-making

Ex-heads of state tell current heads of state how to solve climate crisis

If you're into exclusive clubs, check this one out: the Club de Madrid, membership limited to former heads of state. (Actually, even heads of state can get blackballed.) Those former heads of state are trying to get their successors to do what they couldn't and tackle the climate crisis. In collaboration with the United Nations Foundation, the Club today released their recommendations for what the world should do on the next round of climate crisis. The ex-heads acknowledge the severity of the crisis and call for current leaders to facilitate rapid reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, or face massive disaster: Avoiding such a future requires global greenhouse emissions to peak in the next 10-15 years, followed by substantial reductions of at least 60% by 2050 compared to 1990 -- a formidable task that requires international cooperation and collective action without further delay. The cost of taking action now, however, is small -- about 1% of global GDP, according to the Stern Review -- and the benefits are large compared with the much heavier penalties of postponing action. The costs of both mitigation and adaptation will rise substantially with delay. They call for all countries, developing and developed, to take on concrete greenhouse-gas-emission targets, but note that that will only happen if the next round is perceived to be equitable (i.e., the United States and other rich countries make cuts themselves and don't just lecture poor countries about what they should do). Here's the crux of their recommendation: All countries should commit to reduce collectively global emissions by at least 60% below the 1990 level by 2050. Developed countries should take the lead in emissions reduction by adopting effective targets and timetables. As a first step, this could include a commitment to reduce their collective emissions by 30% by 2020. Rapidly industrializing countries should commit to reduce their energy intensity [greenhouse gas emissions per unit of economic growth] by 30% by 2020 (an average of 4% per year) and agree to emissions reduction targets afterwards. They also call for an international carbon tax system, but are light on details of how this would work. They argue that carbon taxes are "easier to implement than cap-and-trade schemes and are economically efficient. A system of harmonized, universal carbon taxes should be agreed by the international community." Uh, if we can't even get cap-and-trade, how are we going to get a carbon tax? And how do we deal with the problem that carbon taxes don't provide certainty about exactly how much reductions will be achieved -- maybe people will just to decide to bite the bullet, pay more taxes, and keep on polluting. More info and discussion below the fold.

Bringing the Doddmentum

Dodd doesn’t have the boldest climate goal, but he’s got the boldest policy proposals

Chris Dodd says the right things. To my mind, he's every bit as good on climate change as John Edwards and Bill Richardson, if not better. Putting aside political feasibility and the electability of any of these candidates, what's the best way to look at their policy proposals? I think there are two important things to note. The first and most obvious is a policy's particular goals. On that score, Richardson wins. He calls for a 90 percent reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels by 2050, which is better than Dodd and Edwards who call for 80 percent reductions over the same time span. The second, though, is the likely effectiveness of the policies themselves, and here Dodd is second to none. Unlike Richardson, he's not biochemically averse to the idea of tax hikes, so he's combined a cap-and-trade program with a carbon tax and increased CAFE standards -- and in doing so, has compiled the boldest menu of emissions-fighting tactics of any of the candidates. What may be unanswerable is the question of how much invisible impact setting more ambitious goals has. In a strictly academic exercise like this one, it may not matter. (And I'd be stuck in a state of inconsolable joy if any of these plans became national policy.) This is all just to say that Dodd deserves his share of support from environmentalists. Postscript: The other question that may not be answerable is how sincere Dodd or any of his peers are about environmental issues. This funny little exchange, though, suggests at the least that Dodd hasn't been thinking about this issue very long or in great depth: [AGL]: What environmental achievement are you proudest of in your career? [Dodd]: That's a good question. It's been a lot of support for things rather than anything I've actually initiated. You know, the issue dealing with the Alaskan, you know, the ... [AGL]: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? [Dodd]: Yeah, I've been a strong supporter of that. Yeah, that one!

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