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November 1, 2014

With Climate Change, Obama Should Fake it Till He Makes it

Financial Times Editorial Board argues that “… unless the US can show it is serious about putting a price on carbon, it will have little chance of bringing the rest of the world along.”

“Washington still refuses to act on the principle that prevention is cheaper than cure. Part of its reluctance comes from the boiling frog syndrome. Most Americans accept that global warming is happening. Yet they chafe when confronted with the higher bills they would have to pay to avert it.”

“Next month the EPA will issue new rules limiting power plant emissions …  Rule-based economics is certainly less efficient than market signalling. But if the framework is intelligent – and avoids picking technological winners – it can simulate many of the benefits of an actual carbon market.”

“The White House lacks the power to set up a carbon market in the US – and the authority to tell other countries to do so. But the more Mr Obama acts as though a carbon market is inevitable, the sooner it is likely to happen.”

  • Bruce Russell

    In the past 50 years, the Federal Government has been given mandates for poverty, housing, education, military invasions. The record is abject failure, and you want them to put a price on carbon?

    • moderatesunite

      there have been some mandates in regards to povertym housing and education. At worst those results have been mixed and up for debate. There are millions of Americans, and millions of american children who are above the poverty line because of programs like SNAP. The American education system is pretty bad, but arguably better than it was in the absence of even the limited and often voluntary standards we have today. I am simply unfamiliar with housing issues.

      I don’t know of any mandates related to military invasions, that one seems random.

      Regardless, putting “a price on carbon” is not by definition a mandate it is something we did in the 1980’s with CFC’s, and with Sulfur Dioxide to reduce acid rain. In both cases the pollution was reduced faster and at a much lower cost than predicted, even as jobs were created by the competition that was spurred to reduce emissions.

      The Presidents that proposed and sign those plans today known as cap and trade were Reagan, and Bush Sr.
      As the article states Rule based changes do not have quite as good results, however, the mindset of democrats and many environmentalists changed as a result of the success of those cap and trade programs so that they think more in terms of market based solutions and will incorporate them where possible, the only reason these rules are necessary is the refusal of modern republican politicians to help create a Reagan style response to an environmental issue.

      • ninetyninepct

        Carbon “cap & trade” is a huge scam. It failed horribly in Europe and made a very few people very very wealthy with no benefit. If Obama brings it in, we will be looking at $12 gas prices. All the solar and wind power in the world won’t save the USA then. We could likely see America spelled Greece, with 80% unemployment.

        • moderatesunite

          cap and trade had problems in Europe, largely because of the way it was set up but it is not in any way a “scam”
          it is a system based on on market forces. It also made far more people jobs per amount invested than fossil fuels does.

          Cap and trade reduced emissions of acid rain causing polluttion, and the emissions causing the ozone hole at incredibly low cost. It was developed by republicans as attempt to solve environmental issues through market forces and succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, only to be abandoned by modern “the world I live on doesn’t matter” type conservatives

          Gas prices are not incorporated into cap and trade, there is simply no good way to do that.

          The responses to gas is either a direct carbon tax, or
          fuel standards(which actually reduce demand for oil and thus reduce prices)
          Oil prices are going to go up though, and it will happen regardless of what we do. demand is rising around the world, and even the new supplies we have found are much more expensive to produce than the oil we used to make.

          The solution is to switch away from oil as a transport fuel. electric cars are part of the answer, better biofuels are part of the answer (there is still some science to do here though to get advanced biofuels mass produced in an economic way). Perhaps even hydrogen or natural gas trucks are part of the answer. If we get moving on this stuff now then we’ll be better off. If we don’t we’re in for a sudden shock instead of a gradual transition.
          In all that there’s even room for some enterprising oil company to continue making obscene profits into the far future, by switching the fuel they produce.

          Solar and Wind might even end up being exactly what saves us from high gas prices if we get enough electric cars on the road.

          • philofthefuture

            While I agree it’s not a scam, it can easily be scammed. The results are the same. The problem with “Government is our savior” attitude is just what the EU went through. It tickles me no end to hear people rant about how corrupt government is then turn around and want it to wipe their noses. If government abuses power and wastes taxpayer money do you really want to give them more power to abuse and more money to waste? Never understood that logic.
            With all the crony capitalism, picking winners and losers, etc. going on in this country do you honestly believe we’ll do better than the EU. I predict far worse.

      • philofthefuture

        As stated below it is real easy to scam cap & trade. I actually prefer hard limits but congress should have a say, not just the EPA. Too many decisions are left in the hands of those who are not accountable to the public.
        C&T just allows big polluters to pay the money and keep polluting, in the end raising pricing on consumers. While that may seem fine it is actually very regressive. Gore doesn’t care if gas goes to $10/gal, how about the family living hand to mouth?

        • moderatesunite

          Gas prices are not incorporated in cap and trade plans.

          I am of 2 minds on this actually, on the one hand if cap and trade had passed in 2009 or 2010 it likely would have required some concessions to entrenched interests. At best it would have meant a fair bit of less than optimal spending on Nuclear and CCS but given renewables more juice to take off with. At worst it might have allowed significantly more coal plants to be built because of the infusion of immediate money into the industry.

          Coal of course has gone into decline in the US because of the combination of low cost natural gas, the rise of renewables, and campaigns by environmentalists to shut down old plants and prevent new ones from being built. Regulation has had relatively little to do with it.

          On the other hand, strict limits are very hard to establish on an issue like this with infrastructure that will take time to replace. For example natural gas plants pollute a lot less than coal, but they still pollute. How do you get them both to reduce their pollution under a strict limit system? It can be done, but its complicated, which is partly why the EPA has been wading into this so slowly. Cap and Trade provides a much simpler system involving market forces, that will slowly increase the cost of pollution. It allows rewards for companies or technologies that find ways to pollute less, regardless of whether the starting point is relatively high or low. That economic incentive is why it worked so well to reduce the pollution causing acid rain and the Ozone Hole. Some cap and trade systems also include rebates to utility customers if there is a significant increase in prices.

          As for congress being involved in determining the right level of emission. I would be thrilled if the conversation could advance to the point of what should the limits be? what is the cost- benefit analysis? The current system of EPA doing the regulations with congressional hearings and oversight but more or less on its own is the inevitable result when one party controls a branch of government and is more interested in denial, than solutions.

  • carlos

    Notice the first little gimmick in use here, the term “carbon”. None of these propagandists will ever use the term carbon dioxide, simply because so many average Americans know better. Geological data from the distant past has revealed CO2 levels many thousands of times greater than today with no significant alterations in surface temperature. As more information about Al Gore and his cronies and their plans for a carbon tax investment market become clear,
    even the most strident climate zealot will have to admit that this is at its heart one of the biggest money scams in US history. As for Obama faking it, he’s pretty much done that on and off the golf course from the very start.

    • moderatesunite

      simply and completely false. CO2 has not been higher than it is now in several million years, and when it was temperatures were higher.

      If you want you could look at the ice core data, the soil sample data, the arctic ice data, the temperature record, its all available from multiple sources if your at all interested in looking at how the world is actually changing instead of blindly attacking those you perceive to be political opponents.

      • ninetyninepct

        Do you get your information from Gore and the IPCC? If “man made” CO2 is so bad, then show us what the numbers would be if all “man made” CO2 were deleted from the equation. Bet you that you nor anyone else can do it. The climate is changing, suck it up and adapt.

        We hear that Obama has installed solar panels on the White House. He is still connected to the grid so therefore he is a hypocrite as it has probably come as a surprise to him that the sun doesn’t shine at night.

        Why is he so intent on destroying the USA? Various previous governments and big corporations like Nike have made China the new World power and now the USA is second rate and dropping. Pretty bad.

        • moderatesunite

          To answer your legitimate question:
          If all the CO2 emitted by humans over the last 100 years was removed then the it would be ~280 ppm(parts per million).
          How do we know this? because we have been measuring it directly for more than 50 years. We have a variety of other data including air bubbles trapped in deep ocean sediment and in ice to measure before then.
          this information is available freely in summary or in part from a variety of sources including Nasa, NOAA, the IPCC, more than 10,000 published journal articles last year alone, and other agencies and independent observers in Canada, the UK, Europe, and around the world.

          the solar panels are a symbolic gesture, but I do not blame the president or anyone else for the emissions we produce. blame is not important. The important thing is we all do what we can to solve the problem.

          The USA is still a very rich country and is not really “falling” in terms of economic strength. China is quickly increasing it’s economic and industrial power, and they have large fossil fuel reserves of their own, but they also are investing heavily in renewables and are now the worlds biggest producers of solar panels.
          They best way to “destroy america”, or ensure we become “second rate” would be to ignore these technologies and let other countries make them, establish the industries, eclipse us in technology, and get the jobs and economic growth.

          Fortunately that is not happening, despite challenges and objections by people like you the US has more total renewable capacity than any other country, Wind, and Solar have been expanding and increasing jobs dramatically in recent years, and combined with higher fuel standards, energy efficiency, and natural gas displacing coal, The United States has reduced emissions more than than most countries that signed Kyoto. If we actually starting lending more support to these things we could create more jobs spur and more economic growth more quickly.

          • ninetyninepct

            Thanks for the quick response. Rather than go on about the IPCC’s “peer review” scam, take a look at the following.

            http://www.themoralliberal.com/2014/05/07/more-obama-climate-lies/

            The Moral Liberal seems to be mostly pretty good. Sometimes they are way out but not always.

          • moderatesunite

            So lets see, you don’t trust scientists collecting measurements, competing against each other having devoted their lives to rationality. They Debate and challenge one another, and disagreed over climate issues for decades, any one of which would gain notoriety if they could prove the others wrong. But all suddenly came into agreement and sounded an alarm, apparently just cause they could.

            But you do trust an article on a website with a political bent ( mainly libertarian/conservative) quoting people so plainly self- interested as “the institute for Energy”, and “The American coalition for clean coal electricity.”

            There is some very sketchy logic here.

          • Daniel Matuska

            The number of us in the scientific community that agree is far from the unanimity with which you have been inculcated. A large number of us have resigned in protest from such organizations as the American Physical Society because of political positions outweighing scientific considerations. First of all, consensus is not science, the science is never settled, second of all what is the best temperature, thirdly, would you destroy the worlds economy over this issue? The most important so-called greenhouse gas is water vapor at 2% of the lower atmosphere, carbon dioxide is at .04%. CO2 is required for plant life. Even the self-proclaimed experts in the IPCC admit that cutting off all fossil fuel consumption will not have any verifiable effect. When you agree with these catastrophic predictions, you are relying on models that can’t even predict the past. I have been involved in developing and using computational physics models almost 50 years, and I would never consider them valid without experimental confirmation.

          • moderatesunite

            I agree that consensus is not science and make an effort to provide actual data rather than relying solely on the 90some% agree line. Although the vast amount of scientific literature on the subject should be indicitive.

            I do not think there is a “perfect temperature” for the planet, but I do think that the current rate of change, and the fact that it is human caused means that we have responsibility to address the problem. I also think that the threat to human infrastructure and complex ecosystems on which humans depend justifies devoting resources to it.

            Your third question is irrelevant because nothing that “destroys the economy” will be accepted unless something really catastrophic occurs.

            I do not promote suddenly turning off all the fossil fuel in the world, what we want is a transition to make everything we make now in a clean and efficient way. If solving the problem meant cutting economic growth by a bit per year then in my opinion that would be worth it, however, I don’t think even that is necessary. I believe that the work of creating the new infrastructure, implementing the technology, and the increase in efficiency and power available will spark a second industrial revolution and create a increase in jobs and economic growth.

            water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas but if it were the only one in the atmosphere, the models indicate earth would be as much as 30 degree C colder.

            If you don’t trust models then how about actual data measuring temperature

            Overview of changes
            http://climate.nasa.gov/

            measurements in last 100 years

            http://climate.nasa.gov/key_indicators#globalTemp

            800,000 year record of co2 and temp.

            http://milo-scientific.com/pers/essays/gwfig1.php

            announcement today on decline, and instability in part of the west antarctic ice sheet.

            http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-148

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