New Deal for U.S. Climate Policy?

This guest post was submitted by James K. Boyce, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been a proponent of a “cap-and-dividend” policy to curb global warming while protecting the incomes of American families.

Last Friday, Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) unveiled the CLEAR (Carbon Limits and Energy for America’s Renewal) Act, which could break the impasse in the debate over U.S. policy on climate change (McClatchy coverage is here.)

CLEAR has won a favorable reception from a broad swath of the political spectrum, ranging from ExxonMobil to Friends of the Earth. The scroll of supportive statements on Cantwell’s website includes praise from the AARP, the American Enterprise Institute, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Alaska’s Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, and MoveOn.org.

CLEAR is a “100-75-25-0” policy:

  • 100% of the permits to bring fossil carbon into the U.S. economy will be auctioned from day one – there are no permit giveaways.
  • 75% of the auction revenue is returned directly to the public as equal per person dividends.
  • 25% of the auction revenue is devoted to investments in energy efficiency, clean energy, adaptation to climate change, and assistance for sectors hurt by the transition from the fossil-fueled economy.
  • Zero offsets are allowed: polluters cannot avoid curbing use of fossil fuels by paying someone else to ostensibly clean up after them.

The Cantwell-Collins bill also strictly limits the buying and selling of permits to prevent carbon market speculation and profiteering.

In all these respects, the 39-page CLEAR Act differs markedly from the Waxman-Markey (ACES) bill that passed the House in June, whose cap-and-trade provisions (Title III) alone run to 410 pages. Waxman-Markey initially gives away 85% of the permits. Dividends to the public eventually would grow to about half of the permit value pie, but not until the 2030s. The House bill’s offset provisions would turn the emissions cap into a sieve, and have stoked worries about creating a “subprime carbon market” (see and Annie Leonard’s animated primer). We need to cap carbon, but we do not need to cap-and-trade or, especially, cap-and-give-away. Instead, we should cap-and-dividend.

The New York Times reported on the  on the legislative sausage-making that went into Waxman-Markey. The redolent process, lubricated by special favors to special interests, has stalled since June with legislative arteriosclerosis; its backers now hope that passage can be cleared by implanting stents to boost nuclear power and transform America into “the Saudi Arabia of clean coal.”

The road to a Senate-led compromise is open: CLEAR could replace Title III of the House bill, while keeping the other titles that set forth non-price policies to promote energy efficiency and clean energy. The resulting comprehensive climate policy could have a real chance of becoming the law of the land – and the air – in the year ahead.

By James Boyce

61 responses to “New Deal for U.S. Climate Policy?

  1. Ranging from Exxon-Mobil??? wow!!! — a broad “swath” of the political spectrum??? Ok I give up.

  2. I love you baby!!! GOD bless you all!!!!!!!!!
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  3. Yes I agree, Ozzy Osbourne should be a great nominee for bank regulator, since that way the message of everyone being responsible for their own decisions and not to trust any PhD in nice combed hair when they recommend their carefully screened credit rating agents, would be loudly disseminated in the markets… Can you imagine the savings from having had scary screaming Ozzy instead of sweet-talking Alan?

  4. As projected by financial writers, China, India and Brazil (if not already) are evolving into the new centers of gravity, as markets and investment capital flow into their countries which have an over abundance of cheap labor – it’s been about a race to the bottom on wages and outsourcing (and then, may be do something about those pesky C02 emissions).

    I would challenge Congress to address how a global economy is realigning for the benefits of their campaign coffers while undermining the social and economic safety net of American workers. There is this Democratic Congressperson (CA) whose company outsourced over the span of eight years, a large portion of their electronics division to India. During the height of the financial crisis of last year, Bank of America was trying to get Congressional members to vote on a bill/amendment (can’t recall the HR #) to relax restrictions on green card admittance for foreign nationals who would work out of the bank’s New York offices as, get this—financial analysts—while taking TARP funds on the other hand. During this same period, IBM also made their announcement to send even more jobs abroad (if you wanted to maintain your employee compensation package, IBM would help you to relocate to places such as New Deli). That, coupled with firms continuing to fight over the taxing of overseas earnings isn’t making for good optics here at home.

    If our politicians are going to outsource (first) manufacturing jobs and now, mid-level and professional positions overseas, the least they should be proposing is to invest more in retooling the U.S. workforce through additional educational opportunities (grants, scholarships, higher education, trade schooling, subsidies, tax credits, etc..).

    While attending the G20 meeting in London last April, President Obama wanted to let the G20 members know that Americans don’t eschew wealth per se, but that we do strive to improve our material surroundings like any good-meaning capitalist–(however, what Obama really wanted to say to the G20—don’t hate us just because we’re a nation of exceptionalists and snarks).

    BTW, it looks like that posh astro-turf island of Dubai is get a bailout from their neighbors, after all….. http://tinyurl.com/yb7ot73

  5. So…does anybody have any opinions actually related to this post?

  6. Where have you guys been? Haven’t you ever heard of
    Climategate? You know the scandal of thousands of leaked emails from the University of East Anglia going back ten years that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “man made global warming” is a hoax and a fraud.

    Let see there’s:
    • Cherry picked tree ring analysis from only 12- count ’em 12 trees.
    • “Adjusted” temperature data showing an upward temperature “hockey stick” curve, where the raw data (that remains) actually shows a decline. Of course, most of the raw historical data has somehow been flushed down the toilet. How inconvenient.
    • A rigged computer program that will always show the “hockey stick” curve no matter what the data shows.
    • Numerous emails pressing the need to ‘hide the decline” of temperatures and the need to adjust the temperatures of the very warm 1930’s and the Medieval Warming Period.
    • “Peer Reviews” by friendly interested parties.
    • The proof of a credible experiment is the ability to duplicate and verify it in another outside lab over and over. Gee, after all these years, that’s not possible because until the leaked emails and other revelations, the programs were never released and the raw historical data has been obliterated.

    Exceptional claims demand exceptionally strong proof. There has only been a exceptionally strong conspiracy to deceive and defraud, without any proof.

    And actually I have a dog in this hunt. I own a considerable share of an alternative energy company that would benefit greatly from carbon emission restrictions. However, the prospect of destroying what’s left of the economy, putting additional millions out of work and completely ruining the investment climate won’t help anyone but the con artists.

  7. Yes I am opposed to creating a vested interest in collecting upfront on the sale of rights to emissions that will primarily affect our children and grandchildren.

    To phrase it as “75% of auction revenues are given back to consumers directly each month on an equal per capita basis to offset energy cost increases. 1) Average annual refunds for a family of four are estimated to be approximately $1000. 2) Sending auction revenues directly to consumers means 80% of the American public will incur no net costs and the lowest income population will receive net positive benefits. The remaining 20% percent – the highest income earners—will see less than a 0.3% decrease in income”, is plainly wrong. We need to face higher energy costs because there will be higher energy costs.

    If the climate threat is for real and emission a serious sin… you do not sell indulgencies and pocket the proceeds.

  8. C&D may be a good idea.

    There are many good ideas out there. None of them will make it into the final legislation.

  9. Here we go again. Chump change for the folks. Is the dividend taxable? I bet it is. The average consumer saving on globalization (ie. Made in China) is $300 per year. For this we have traded 19% unemployment.

    All this would be funny if we could simply wake up tomorrow in 1955. Then, all we had to worry about was Soviet nuclear bombs.

  10. CLEAR is the way that Cap and Trade should be done. If Waxman-Markley becomes the framework, Congress will be forced to re-visit climate change legislation in less than two decades because it will have failed to meet its top-line objective, resulted in massive corporate giveaways, and likely wasted a significant portion on fees paid to speculative brokers in the new permit markets.

    If CLEAR can’t be passed, we need a simple carbon tax. It’s the next-best alternative, but the Waxman Bill is one of the most horrendous displays of legislative whoring I’ve seen in quite some time. It cannot be allowed to become law.

  11. No, if the climate threat is truly serious then any cap-trade scheme allowing some to buy the right to emit is wrong no matter who gets the moneys. If the climate change threat is not serious then a cap and trade is basically just another sort of non-transparent derivative and that somehow CLEAR finds less bad since all the consumers will be in on it.

  12. How much are you going to pay us so that we allow cap and trade in order to stop destroying the world of our children? An outright crazy and totally immoral concept!

  13. Seems like Baseline needs some moderation …

    CLEAN sounds good to me, but if I recall correctly, Waxman-Markey also started off sounding good.

  14. The closer the vote will have to be, the more special interest crap will dilute the CLEAR concept. The House bill had to be heavily watered down to buy off coal-state Congressmen, because the Republicans flat-out boycotted it. A massive collective action problem is created when 200+ Congressmen have to negotiate with 10-12 who can hold up the bill.

    The group that can really ensure that we get a good bill are the Senate Republicans. A coalition of Collins, Murkowski, Snowe, Graham, and maybe even McCain could force the Democrats to keep the bill clean. Sitting around and waiting months for cloture only invites Louisiana-Purchase type deals, and put the Senate in a favorable and credible position in conference.

    The left and environmentalists should push for a clean climate change bill. A bill with giveaways and offsets will actually do what the right claims any effort to control carbon will do – destroy our economy and do little to dent global warming. A simple cap and trade program will actually allow the market to sort out the energy mess without polluting.

  15. It’s better than the House Bill. I’m still thinking this through…

  16. Not entirely a fair comparison to indulgences.

    The “Cap” piece of it is simply the inverse of a tax program. The question is how to manage transferability of “rights”, and what to do with revenues.

    The limits in transferability, and in particular the 0% limit on offsets, is probably necessary – offsets are far too abusable.

    The mechanism – make energy costly, but subsidize expenses, keeps incentives intact without destroying incomes. As a higher income earner, I suspect I will bear the brunt of this, but I’m relatively OK with this. I’m not being taxed based on my earnings – my alleged contributions to society – but on my consumption. I can always have high earnings and low energy consumption. Yay for me.

    The allocation of 75/25 (dividends to targeted energy programs) is probably not ideal – but this is a distributional issue. Any economist would tell you it’s better to use this revenue to offset tax deadweight losses, but the 75% dividend might also get this whole thing passed.

    It’s by far the best cap-trade proposal I’ve seen… if it gets killed, it will almost certainly die at the hands of the conservative dems from high-energy-usage states.

  17. Heck ya. Bring back McCarthy and the Red Menace and racial segregation in the South and cars without catalytic converters and cigarettes without warning labels and no FDA regs and toxic sulfurous coal emissions and the Berlin Wall and…

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Honestly, this is a pretty decent deal for the folks. If this passed intact, it would represent a monumental improvement in our future prospects.

  18. Do you not think a tax neutral carbon tax is “cleaner”?

  19. I think the two are close enough in the impact. If this bill gave back 100% in dividends, then the neutrality is the same (although there are distributional impacts). The difference is the implementation mechanism (govt sets the price, or govt sets the quantity).

    Note that in this bill, govt auctions the credits _every two years_, so these are not permanent licenses to pollute with one-time-cash-grants. Even without the price floor/ceilings on trading, this would also limit the total liquidity that gets sucked into the market for these quotas simply by virtue of the fact that total price and price volatility of a two year license is vastly less than an infinite license (with a 5% discount rate). It would probably be better if they managed rolling-auctions (the initial batch is auctioned with expirations of 1 month to 2 years, and each time a batch comes up for expiration, it is re-auctioned). That would prevent a bi-annual blitz and keep the average expiration date around 1 year, but that’s a minor point.

    Dividends are distributed tax-free (OK, that’s what they _claim_) on a monthly basis (benefiting larger households, of course).

    As to the desirability of revenue neutrality, it’s actually highly desirable from an efficiency standpoint that it’s NOT neutral (IF we could guarantee that the revenues were used to displace more harmful taxes, like income taxes), but this would also be regressive. 75/25 strikes an interesting balance.

    And if both Senators from Maine start off on-board with this legislation and committed to keeping it clean, there’s a chance it might stay clean.

    On a five star scale, I’d give this four stars.

  20. CBS from the West

    @ Per

    I don’t understand where you are coming from here. Is _all_ CO2 emission to be banned because it is immoral? How will we breathe?

    Clearly the goal has to be to _reduce_ CO2 emissions to levels the environment can tolerate, not eliminate them altogether. That, one hopes, can be accomplished through economic incentives. Does it make a difference whether it’s a tax or a cap-and-trade system? They seem equivalent to me. If you go cap-and-trade, you explicitly set the amount of allowed emissions and an auction determines the prices that will achieve that. If you go with a tax, you may have to calibrate the tax rate to drive emissions to the intended levels. Either way I think you get the same result in the end. Am I missing something?

  21. I think they’re mostly Climategate Deniers around here.

    Really, the elites of climate science have hung themselves by their own words. It makes no difference that the media won’t actually dig into the raw data to see what manipulation has been going on. There’s no way to put their self-incriminating emails into a context that makes them look anything other than biased and willing to distort the truth for the sake of their religious cause.

    I am a skeptic, but I’m still willing to follow an honest trail of data to the truth. If we can go back to the drawing board, round up all of the original temperature data, have completely open analysis of it — no hiding from FOIA requests — and let the chips fall where they may… Are we warming? It looks like we have warmed a bit, but less catastrophically fast than has been documented in the proxy temperature records of climate history.

    It is known that the warming effect of CO2 itself is not sufficient to raise earth’s temperature by more than a fraction of a degree. A catastrophic scenario depends on a hypothetical multiplier effect built into the climate models.

    Unfortunately, the climate models have not yet been able to predict anything with any sort of precision, hence the recent leaked email from a lead IPCC author admitting that the current non-warming could not be accounted for, and it was a “travesty.”

    That ought to be game, set, and match for the controversy for the time being, if only the Climategate Deniers would face reality. *sigh*

  22. James, hang on. Do you see the targets? (4% off 1990 levels by 2020) Do you see any ecological debt repayment to victims of climate change? (?) Do you see why the G77 walked out of Copenhagen today? Do you want to be on the wrong side of history on these critical points? You, James, of all people, with your great record of analysing Northern financial resource extraction from the South? (And in any case, do you really think there’s chance in hell it’ll pass if it doesn’t have all pro-coal/oil/nuke/trading pork those corporations have come to expect?) Cheers, Patrick

  23. CBS from the West

    I’m not a climate skeptic. And I’m not knowledgeable enough about climate science to judge for myself the robustness of the evidence about warming if you remove the pieces that we now know have been tampered.

    But as a researcher in another domain, I _am_ incensed that the climate community has been largely silent about “Climategate.” From what I have seen of the e-mails, there is a prima facie case of professional misconduct or worse. It cries out for investigation and condemnation. Yet we see the likes of Paul Krugman say that it “just proves that climate scientists are human.” I guess Bernie Madoff just proves that financiers are human.

    Even if they don’t value integrity for its own sake, the climate community ought to be outraged over the faking of results because, if nothing else, when it gets caught (as, eventually, it would, one way or another) it discredits their own cause and bolsters the credibility of even their most insane opponents.

  24. “Where have you guys been? Haven’t you ever heard of
    Climategate? You know the scandal of thousands of leaked emails from the University of East Anglia going back ten years that prove beyond a reasonable doubt that “man made global warming” is a hoax and a fraud.”

    While I can sympathise with your response it is not close to being beyond reasonable doubt. Here’s just one item from thousands:http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=methane-a-menace-surfaces

    But as is argued by me elsewhere, in the end reasonable people cannot determine the truth of this matter and we are better assuming the worst and being wrong, than the other way around.

    What staggers me is that there hasn’t been a concerted effort to determine how to measure the truth of man-made global warming.

    As “The Economist” puts it, speaking about saving the planet: “It is all about politics. Climate change is the hardest political problem the world has ever had to deal with. It is a prisoner’s dilemma, a free-rider problem and the tragedy of the commons all rolled into one.”

    I also believe that governments are very happy to use global warming as a trojan horse to increase power and taxation of peoples.

    But to say that man is not affecting the climate of the planet in a detrimental way is a very risky proposition.

  25. I take carbon taxes any moment because they are easier to monitor and if we are going to invest in fighting climate change we need as much credibility we can get. I also prefer the signal sent by a having to pay for carbon (sin) than paying for the right to carbon (sin)… and of course it sort of reduces the intermediation.

  26. Shame on those who turned the global climate change challenge into a class war issue, seeding the idea of reparations in Copenhagen? This has created much absolutely unneeded confusion.

    Local money for climate change mitigation should go where global climate change mitigation is most effectively produced; local money for climate change adaptation should go where local climate change adaptation is most needed; local money to assist the poor should go where globally it is the most needed; and money for job creations should not be expected to go anywhere else than where local sustainable job creation seems to be most possible.

    To put all that money in one sack and then let all the agendas compete for it cannot produce good, transparent and sustainable results, and unfortunately it would seem like that in Copenhagen there are too many interested in fishing and being fished in muddled ponds.

  27. We’ll see. Can I offer you a nice safe CDO?

  28. Ted K: You’re showing your age. ExxonMobil has been a single company for more than a decade…

  29. eric: “I am a skeptic, but I’m still willing to follow an honest trail of data to the truth.”

    Skepticism is good. :) Let’s start with some basic facts.

    1) CO2 is a greenhouse gas. You can verify this with greenhouses. Rock solid science.

    2) The planetary greenhouse effect exists. Example. Venus, our sister planet. We know what the Venusian atmosphere and temperatures are. Rock solid science.

    3) Temperature is approximately proportional to CO2 levels. CO2 is not the only greenhouse gas, and there may be other factors, so the picture is not simple, but the CO2 level is a good predictor of global temperature, going back hundreds of thousands of years. I do not know how well the details are established, but the overall picture is clear.

    4) The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is not only increasing, it is accelerating. The data are clear.

    5) Global temperature does not move in lock step with CO2 concentrations, in the short term. This is not a surprise.

    “If we can go back to the drawing board, round up all of the original temperature data, have completely open analysis of it — no hiding from FOIA requests — and let the chips fall where they may… Are we warming? It looks like we have warmed a bit, but less catastrophically fast than has been documented in the proxy temperature records of climate history.”

    If you mean that current temperatures are cooler than we would expect, based upon CO2 levels, that is what I have heard, too.

    “It is known that the warming effect of CO2 itself is not sufficient to raise earth’s temperature by more than a fraction of a degree.”

    You have been misinformed. The greenhouse effect of CO2 is real, and not tiny. Check it out.

    “A catastrophic scenario depends on a hypothetical multiplier effect built into the climate models.”

    I do not know what you mean by that. If temperature is proportional to CO2 levels, that means that you can predict temperature by mulitplying the CO2 level by a constant. There is nothing out of the ordinary about that.

    “Unfortunately, the climate models have not yet been able to predict anything with any sort of precision,”

    That depends upon the time scale, doesn’t it?

    “hence the recent leaked email from a lead IPCC author admitting that the current non-warming could not be accounted for, and it was a “travesty.”

    “That ought to be game, set, and match for the controversy for the time being, if only the Climategate Deniers would face reality. *sigh*”

    Which controversy are you talking about? Climategate? Or global warming?

    Global warming is real. The big question is how close are we to a runaway feedback cycle that will make the earth unlivable. Other questions concern the rate of desertification and coastal flooding, and the social and political problems that they would cause.

  30. Paul Handover: “I also believe that governments are very happy to use global warming as a trojan horse to increase power and taxation of peoples.”

    Maybe so. OTOH, they have certainly had their chance to do so, based on the Kyoto Protocol, and they have not done so.

  31. Paul, I suggest you read:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hockey_stick_controversy

    The NRC – national research council – published a report in 2006 that basically concurred with you that the MBH data was flawed, but that the conclusions are mostly accurate. This report was generated during the Bush Administration, when Congress was clearly under the control of the Republicans.

    Supplemental data seems to confirm the general 20th century trend – including ice core data, for example. Other highly visible information (glacial retreat, sea ice, polar caps, etc.) is also confirmatory.

    I’m not one to argue we know _absolutely_, but in the interest of risk aversion (given the stakes) it seems prudent to limit emissions. I think you overestimate the economic impact – indeed, I think efforts to build a better (domestically sourced) energy infrastructure will benefit economic acvitity during a 3+ year utilization gap.

    Exxon, it seems, agrees with me –

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Exxon-Mobil-makes-29B-bet-on-apf-1196652678.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=9&asset=&ccode=

    Indeed, Exxon’s purchase of XTO, and of large Malaysian resources, is the strongest signal I have seen to date that we are likely to get movement on greenhouse gas emissions within the year.

    I have seen some data suggesting temperature increases might be slower than previously estimated (flaws in data gathering), but against this is positioned simulation work from several models that suggest large scale positive feedback mechanisms as snow coverage/reflectivity is reduced and natural carbon sinks (like the tundra regions) reverse.

    My sense is that a lot of people are turning skeptical because it’s convenient to believe theories that are economically beneficial to oneself.

    In addition to global warming potential, we also have challenges due to ocean acidification, particularly as it relates to oxygen levels, coral reef health, fish populations, and indigenous peoples.

  32. Thank you! I’m in the market for bridges as well. :)

  33. Piling on Min’s post:

    Climate has changed considerably, warmer and colder, over geological time. Changes of Earth’s climate over time is more of a geological topic than a climatological one. Climate has been warming since the end of the last ice age. This is a multi-millennial trend, so the decade or so being pointed to as “cooling” is a rounding error on that time scale.

    Water is also a greenhouse gas. As temperatures increase, the amount of water vapor that can be dissolved in air increases exponentially, compounding the greenhouse effect.

    Ice cores are used to directly measure atmospheric gases from a particular wet season (usually annual). The increase in CO2 coincides with the industrial revolution. Correlation doesn’t mean cause, but this would be quite a coincidence. Stable isotope ratios, used to estimate dewpoint temperatures, also show increases in dewpoints over the same time frame in the ice cores.

    Then there’s paleobotanical evidence of global warming, the cooling effect of particulate pollution that may have mitigated the effect of CO2 until recently, methane (natural gas – another major greenhouse gas), … I’ll stop here.

    Even if each of the persons involved in “climategate” fabricated ALL of their data, that leaves several tens of thousands of studies that indicate the climate has changed over geologic time, and over the last 10,000 years or so climate has gotten warmer.

  34. Where have I been? Some of the time I’ve been researching climate change…

    Having worked in both academia and still working in the sciences, I’ll bet that you have never had the chance to get a bunch of scientists to agree on something. They tend to always disagree on something, even if trivial, simply because this is how research is done – agreement does not stimulate new ideas. To get tens of thousands of scientists to agree on something does indeed require overwhelming evidence.

  35. I agree that this is the best cap-trade proposal to date. But reducing carbon emissions leads to another problem: water.

    Clean carbon technology uses many times the fresh water than the scrubbers currently in use to remove soot, metals, sulfates, etc.. Fresh water use in the US is generally unsustainable without adding this demand to the resource. Imagine paying 5-10 TIMES, not percent, your current water bill for the same volume of water. It might be enough to make desalinization cost effective, but that would increase energy demand and create a feedback loop…

  36. So, let’s put aside our arguments for and against the concept of global warming. CLEAR really is amazingly logical, and a path to containing the pollutant pestilence. Even if our emissions don’t add to the fact that we are in a global warming cycle, they definitely have a detrimental impact on the ozone (our protection against harmful solar radiation and other negatives). It’s time to take the chance that the scientists (and perhaps Al Gore) are at least somewhat right. It would seem patently clear that something constructive needs to be done.

  37. I do not think we need scientists or Al Gore to tell us that something is frightfully wrong with the way we abuse planet earth and that if we do not do anything about it that will carry serious consequences to all us indigenous to the planet. In this respect I much prefer to trust my own eyes and instincts.

  38. This is a worthy concern, but my guess is that’s it’s not immediate.

    In the early days of sulfur cap/trade, everyone thought permits would be hideously expensive due to scrubber technology. It turned out that the market met the needs relatively effectively by substituting low-sulfur coal (mined from the west) with high-sulfur eastern coal. (But, this was not something that government could possibly legislate due to political reasons.)

    Similarly, I think that the 23% target by 2030 is going to be met much LESS by “carbon sequestration” or similar strategies, and much more by simple shifts in fuel usage. Just due to carbon chain and efficiency considerations, Coal generates twice the CO2 as methane, and Exxon’s huge purchase of natural gas resources (combined with recent technologies that dramatically expand prove reserves – 35% or more in just 2 years) means that we’re likely going to meet most of our CO2 target simply by fuel switching.

    As 2030 approaches, and CO2 reduction targets become steeper, policymakers hope technology will have caught up (after a 20 year period of complete non-investment from 1984 to 2004). The cost per KwH of solar will drop substantially by then, even without a “breakthrough” technology.

  39. But there is no low carbon fossil fuel. It is all carbon. I am currently working in this field in terms of water supply, and the water demand for carbon scrubbing at a coal plant is astounding. In this economy, I’m glad to have the work. But there will be consequences for using that much water for power generation rather than drinking, public health and safety, or even for food production.

    If demand rises 5 to 10 times, the price per gallon will go up proportionally (exact ratio TBD).

  40. It is nice to have peer-reviewed evidence to support the gut feeling and first hand experience…

  41. Min, CO2 is not proportional to temperature. As you push CO2 higher, the warming effect is less and less per number of parts per million CO2 increase.

    As I said before, the climate models have a built in multiplier effect, based on a hypothetical positive feedback involving — if memory serves — water vapor. This is in dispute. Lindzen recently published a paper in Geophysical Review Letters that takes carefully collected measurements and disputes the positive feedback alleged in climate models. In fact, Lindzen’s measurements show a negative feedback — that the climate is actually resisting a temperature increase caused by increased CO2. And doesn’t that fit the lack of warming we are now measuring???

    Also, you can see in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica that CO2 levels follow the temperature up and down. CO2 does not lead. Therefore there are much greater forces at work. You have been misinformed.

    A lot of what is presented as science news on this topic is not put in proper context. The best thing I can advise people is to look at the temperature record locked in the ice cores of the past half million years. Greenland shows we’ve been on a slight cooling trend for the past 6000 years, and the recent uptick is not as high as past warm periods. We are overdue for another ice age — these things are cyclical — and frankly that should be our real fear.

  42. Cap and dividend does not in and of itself preclude trading the permits. Prohibiting trading almost certainly makes the process less efficient. Permits will be traded anyway, but traders will have to be more creative. Subsidiaries holding permits can be bought and sold. Mergers and buyouts may be built around permits. And I am not really a creative finance type. I am sure there will many ways to get around the prohibition on trading the permits.
    Perhaps we should accept it and just tax any change in the ownership of a permit.

  43. [climate community has been largely silent about “Climategate.”] realclimate.org

    [there is a prima facie case of professional misconduct or worse] Point to even one. I noticed some name-calling, but I happened to agree with most of that, too. There really are morons in the GW decipticon community.

    [It cries out for investigation and condemnation.] Hyperventilate much?

    [just proves that climate scientists are human.] Um… this is a true statement.

    [I guess Bernie Madoff just proves that financiers are human.] Um… but they are. I think you meant to use “are greedy sociopathic bottom feeders” but that wouldn’t rhyme with your previous statement.

    [Even if they don’t value integrity for its own sake] Ad hom attack. Kindly fuck off, sir.

    [the climate community ought to be outraged over the faking of results] They would be, nothing was faked. On the other hand they often spend their time unwinding the faked “results” of professional climate deniers. A real shame anyone on earth needs to still spend even a femto-second on useless crap like that.

    [as, eventually, it would, one way or another] Oh yes. It’s called “peer review” and is the foundation of science. Read about it sometime. Oh wait, you said you were a researcher. Then I guess your stuff isn’t peer reviewed eh? Then you are a rookie. Get another hobby and leave serious work to the older boys.

    [it discredits their own cause and bolsters the credibility of even their most insane opponents] No, actually, that was YOUR job. Nicely done! How much you get paid for this kind of hatchet job? Is there a trick to getting your connections? Do you pass the money under a table in a brown envelope?

    Oh and look up “Dunning–Kruger Effect” sometime. It’s you, baby!

    In a way I can’t really care any more. If this is how people want it, they can have it. Stupid bunch of morons anyway.

    cougar

  44. [these things are cyclical] look up “Milankovitch cycles”.

    I don’t understand how an intelligent person can point to earth change on geologic scales as being all good and natural so AGW doesn’t matter. It’s like saying that setting your house on fire doesn’t matter because, you know, the continents are moving anyway so it’s going to fall down eventually.

    I need my house today and for many years and I don’t care what geology does in 160,000 years. Likewise our 5,000 year old Western civilization was born between ice ages, and while the next natural ice age would be really bad for us I’d rather wait 100,000 years or so to worry about it. AGW has the potential (a fact) to change the climate right out from under us, or some number of us — this very century. That really sucks. And we did it to ourselves, thank you.

    We’re not very smart. Some are smarter than others, seems.

    cougar

  45. [prefer to trust my own eyes and instincts] You and about 6 billion others. If you happen to guess right, well great. But if not, or if your “instinct” is clouded by your “greed” then I guess that was just your instinctive call too.

    There is a reason for the scientific process; it is intended to eliminate the role of instincts. Get your brain around it: realclimate.org

    cougar

  46. I am a technical person, so I tend to look at problems that way. I understand the carbon tax, or cap & trade or whatever are important. But, until I hear more discussion of HOW we are going to do this, it seems a little unreal to me. I do hear some vague stuff about wind/solar/smart grid, etc., but when I look at the numbers (power generation, cost, land use, etc.) I come to the conclusion that only Nuclear power has ANY chance whatsoever of actually moving the dial on climate change. I hate to see the BS artists (ethanol, clean coal, wind, solar) and the fossil fuel industry burying the only technology that could actually bring a utopia to the world. I know all the negatives suggested for nuclear energy. I can’t write a book here, but I believe these are all myths and irrational fear. Nuclear IS the answer. I hope we see it in time to prevent a catastrophe. We may end up learning it from China and India, but it would be faster to figure it out for ourselves now.

  47. You are absolutely right the only bridge we have between today and a future of alternative energies that can really make a sustainable dent in climate change is called “nuclear” but that is actually getting more recognized each day to the chagrin of those who want to push their own cute little pet energies.

  48. Yeah yeah just like we trusted the credit rating agencies you mean. By the way I am convinced, on my own, without needing any scientist to tell me that, that we have indeed a very serious problem on our hand. But one of the problems I have with some scientists is that after they have made a good case for the emergency, then they go out and implement absurd solutions, like buying themselves a hybrid car, instead of putting that money to better green use, which makes one wonder whether the scientists themselves believe in what they are saying, or they are just beeinf stupid brilliant scientists.

  49. Cougar is correct – Northern Hemisphere was slightly warmer about 6000 years ago but the Southern Hemisphere was colder due to Milankovitch effects. Tropical areas were essentially neutral during the time period you refer to based on stable isotope measurements from corals and cave deposits.

    Models are a simplified representation of reality and are inherently inaccurate due to the simplification. Some models are better than others. But pointing to a model does not constitute evidence until empirical studies confirm the predictions of the model.

    CO2 and temperature show a strong positive correlation over time. Obviously, the changes in CO2 in geological time (not recorded history) are not related to human activity. Correlation does not mean cause. However, adding CO2 to the atmosphere by combustion of carbon fuels over the last few hundred years is not part of the natural system, so this trumps natural systems in the short term. Sure CO2/temperature fluctuations over geological time are normal. So are the resulting sea level changes. There is ample evidence for changes in climate occurring over very short time periods. Do we really want to push the envelope and keep adding huge volumes of CO2 to the atmosphere?

  50. And you are correct that the water problem is not immediate. It will happen as the carbon emitters upgrade. Some areas will be affected more than others.

  51. If it isn’t a class conflict already, it sure seems like it is.

  52. Even if global warming is not true (not my opinion), convincing the world that it is and supplying the alternate technology would make someone an enormous fortune (probably G-f’n-S). And it would enable the US, China, Europe, everyone to give a one-fingered salute (two for Brits) to OPEC and the whole Middle East. Just that part alone would be priceless.

  53. Magnesium concrete is carbon negative. Think of the amt of concrete/cement manufactured each year and this could have an effect on Carbon emissions – a small reduction relative to carbon fuel combustion, but a reduction nonetheless.

  54. Per, you claim nuclear energy is the right alternative to fossil fuel dependence. I have some questions:

    (1) Does your consulting work include working for the nuclear power industry?

    (2) How would the nuclear power industry be safely regulated if nuclear power became the dominant alternative to fossil fuels?

    (3) Are you concerned that nuclear power plants can be converted to produce weapons grade materials?

    Thanks

  55. No I do not claim it is the “right” alternative, I claim it is the only real alternative at hand and as you I pray for better.

    I do not nor have I ever worked for the nuclear industry but I might do so in the future.

    I completely share all the apprehension implicit in the other two questions but if I have to pick to face these against having to face a truly runaway climate change I would not have any other choice than to go for them and do as good as I can.

    We will and perhaps should be investing trillions in developing other energy sources but perhaps we should invest a good chunk of these funds in seeing how we can diminish the nuclear risks of using nuclear energy instead of solely lamenting ex-ante.

    Can’t we ship out all nuclear waste into space? Cheers!

  56. Since the industrial world has run out of land fill, should we start sending our non-nuclear garbage out into space first?

  57. “Should we start sending our non-nuclear garbage out into space first?”

    If it makes energy sense and you can send it faraway enough why not? Just that I thought that nuclear energy could provide sufficient energy to launch its own excrements very far out in space. But, hold it there… I am no experts on this… far from it.

  58. String theory has identified thus far up to 20 or so alternate dimensions. There might be another option for nuclear and non-nuclear garbage. (Assuming of course the theory is correct.)

  59. Hey, I thought the original post was an excellent summary of cap and dividend. A good change to a too-complicated Waxman-Markey pork package.

  60. If we want a global, Brussels-style-controlled life, this is good.

    Any cap-and-trade, cap-and-giveaway is fine. Like health care “reform”, if the global control objective is achieved, then, well….

    Climate science. What is that? Five minutes ago, there was meteorology, oceanography. There was paleo-oceanograhy, I think. When did “climate science” happen? What’s the course? Outside of Phil Jones, Michael Mann, Keven Trenberth and their thugs, who awards degrees in this? Do you have to hug a tree in the Amazon to get an A?

    How little math, statistics, and physics can you get away with in climate science?

    Science must be repeatable. None of these clowns will allow their “science” to be repeated.

    Forget the decade of damning emails. Read the pathetic (but funny!) “Harry Read_Me” file and you will understand that these jo-jo’s are not very bright lightbulbs in league with God-knows-who to achieve some political end which has demanded “scientific consensus,” and, thus, they have broken intellectual kneecaps on behalf of the IPCC for some time.

    They are jerks, thugs, know nothing of science. This is politics and a scam (as is health care “reform.”)