Politics

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 emissions. If we allow more dirty coal plants, all our other efforts will be in vain. That’s why James Hansen and Al Gore return to the subject so often. Dem presidential candidate Chris Dodd has called for such a policy in blunt language: "The Dodd Plan requires all new plants to capture and sequester CO2. No exceptions." Most enviros seem to think that John Edwards …

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 as other enviro-friendly measures. “Starting in early 1999 we had people down in the White House basement with word processors and legal pads making lists of things we wanted to get done before we left,” says John Podesta, who was chief of staff at the end of the Clinton administration. The Bushies, he says, have “probably got people down there right now with chain saws …

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!

To everything, turn turn turn

One inconclusive set of international meetings yielding weak climate resolutions ends — another begins.

There’s one

Chris Dodd comes out in support of Dingell’s carbon tax proposal. Think anybody else will?

Republican, global warming denier, and sun worshiper

Fred Thompson’s confused stance on climate change

He's running for president now, so let's revisit Fred Thompson's climate change confusion. He took some standard denier myths and threw in a dash of his own unwarranted sarcasm to create this mishmash on the Paul Harvey radio show: Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says the Martian South Pole's "ice cap" has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter's caught the same cold, because it's warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our SOLAR system have in common. Hmmmm. SOLAR system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn't even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There's a consensus. Ask Galileo. I thought Thompson was a member of the Churches of Christ, not a heliolater or perhaps a Druid. I have previously debunked this bit of denier disinformation and will expand on the key facts below -- especially his misguided sun worship.

Christians against coal mining

Rev. Allen Johnson calls on churches to condemn mountaintop-removal mining

This is a guest post from Rev. Allen Johnson, whom we interviewed last year as part of our God & the Environment series. Johnson heads Christians for the Mountains, a group fighting to protect the Appalachians from mountaintop-removal mining. This post is reprinted with permission from the Moyers Blog. ----- On August 22, The New York Times published an article that began, "The Bush administration is set to issue a regulation on Friday [August 24] that would enshrine the coal mining practice of mountaintop removal." Enshrine? An oddly appropriate word, I thought -- a biblical word, even. A place where dwell the gods; in this case, the gods of money, comfort, and power. For over two years I have been involved with a network organization, Christians for the Mountains, to engage Christians and their churches to take on the moral question of mountaintop removal. The massive scale of beheading coal-bearing mountains, obliterating headwater streams, and building multi-billion-gallon toxic slurry impoundments begs biblical and theological activity.

Bush administration will propose quicker deadline for phasing out ozone-depleting chemicals

Nearly 200 nations will gather on Sept. 15 to discuss the Montreal Protocol, a 20-year-old treaty put into place to phase out the nasty chemicals that contribute to the thinning of the ozone layer. At the meeting, a dozen countries plan to suggest that participating nations move up the deadline for a full phaseout of refrigerating chemicals called HCFCs; the most ambitious plan will be presented by the Bush administration. No joke. The U.S. hopes to move up the deadline by a decade, to 2020 for industrial nations and 2030 for developing nations. U.S. chemical companies are in favor of …

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