Monday, December 28, 2009

In reaction to Gore

In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore shows a picture of the land in Tennessee he grew up on.
“You look at that river gently flowing by. You notice the leaves rustling with the wind. You hear the birds; you hear the tree frogs. In the distance you hear a cow. You feel the grass. The mud gives a little bit on the river bank. It’s quiet; it’s peaceful.”
He speaks movingly about his desire not to see its beauty ravaged by climate change. But in doing so, he allows the impression that all we need to do is to make a few changes, and the rest will be business as usual. For us and him on his land.
Change my light bulbs. Drive less. Heat my house less. Fly less. The Sierra Club gives me a list of ten things. I am advised to plant a tree in my garden. Other have longer to do lists for me. Puffing out its chest, Vanity Fair demands another forty things. I should forgo preheating the oven. Not to be outdone, the Palm Beach Post offers ninety nine prescriptions! (Use a hand potato masher instead of an electric one.)
*George Marshall says I ought not to think of any of this as a sacrifice. He says I will feel proud. My new life style “will be a statement of who I am – a smart aware person living in the 21st century.”(p.135) Al Gore and me, standing shoulder to shoulder. Why am I so unmoved? I want to be moved. I want to move. Yet here I sit. Unmoved. My lethargy might be because I really don’t think my actions will make much of a difference. I don’t think my voting makes a difference. But the same thought does not stop me voting. Of course I only have to vote once in a while, so it is an act of minimal inconvenience. Is it that what I am asked to do here is so inconvenient and complicated?
Others tell me something more is afoot. Both Al Gore and I need to change our whole outlook on life to save the planet. *Gus Speth says I have to stop looking at nature as a means to my ends. I am too materialistic and too individualistic. *Bill McKibben says I have to reintegrate human society and nature and foreswear anthropocentrism for a “biocentric” world view. I am told I should embrace a humbler world. If I listen to Speth and McKibben I need to turn my life upside down. Even if I wanted to do that, I don’t even know how to begin. The contours of my life are sown into a web of relations with that makes such a change hard to contemplate except as a fantasy. I give everything away, sever all ties, live in shack, tend my fields and collect firewood. Even if that is fine for some it is not for me. Like Woody Allen says, I get nervous outside my natural environs of a city.
Al Gore whispers in my ear: “Ignore McKibben and Speth! They are naysayers and luddites. Walden pond romantics! Stick with me. Together we can solve this problem. Yes, big changes are needed, but that does not mean our way of life has to change. All we need to do is to commit our nation to producing 100 percent of our electricity from renewable energy and truly clean carbon-free sources within 10 years. When President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon and bring him back safely in 10 years, many people doubted we could accomplish that goal. But 8 years and 2 months later, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the surface of the moon. We must now lift our nation to reach another goal that will change history. Our entire civilization depends upon us now embarking on a new journey of exploration and discovery. Our success depends on our willingness as a people to undertake this journey and to complete it within 10 years. Once again, we have an opportunity to take a giant leap for humankind." [** NOTE: THIS IS PARTLY MADE UP DIALOGUE AND PARTLY QUOTE FROM PHILADELPHIA SPEECH.]
Is it that simple? Merely a matter of will and our (American) ingenuity? Gore makes it seem almost un-American to wonder if there is a technical solution merely waiting for the ambitious to grab. There is always a technical solution to every problem. That is what makes America America! And if my friends still die of cancer or AIDS decades after Kennedy like moon programs were declared, we just have not tried hard enough. But going to the moon was just rocket science and rocket science is not very fancy science. If I am allowed to stamp my foot and command discovery or innovation I too can solve the problem – even respecting the laws of nature. And in the long run, no doubt we can solve the problem. But as Keynes reminded us, in the long run we are all dead.
Al points his finder at me. “Maybe you didn’t listen to my speech carefully enough. I said we can solve this problem in 10 years. All we need to decide to do it do it!”
I don’t get it – don’t facts intrude? Where do we store the power for use at night when there is no wind or light? How do we overcome the finite supply of raw materials for solar panels? What about China and India’s rising energy needs? Gore casts a condescending eye on me. It is as if I am sitting on the bench next to Bush in a debate listening to Gore:
“Of course there are those who will tell us this can't be done. Some of the voices we hear are the defenders of the status quo - the ones with a vested interest in perpetuating the current system, no matter how high a price the rest of us will have to pay. But even those who reap the profits of the carbon age have to recognize the inevitability of its demise. As one OPEC oil minister observed, ‘The Stone Age didn't end because of a shortage of stones.”’
Right. It ended because a more productive cost effective technology came along. Al Gore in his bully pulpit, stamping his foot can’t change the fact that that is just what we lack for now and the foreseeable future. Now he is getting really irritated with Bush and me. We are not tall and he has a way of arching his back that makes him seem even taller than he is.
He looks down on us. “You know, if you had paid attention you would have heard me call for CO2 caps and taxes! It is all so simple.”
“I smell a rat!” says Bush. “You think the American people are going to support more taxes on energy? And b’sides, Bunzl here says there in’t enough of your “alternative” energy to go around. You think those Chinese and Indians are goin to stop growin. You think their goin leave their coal in the ground!”
He elbows me. I become professorial to add some gravitas to my brief. “China will move 450 million people from the country to the cities in the next 20 years. City people use three times the energy of country people. Sixty percent of India’s population lacks electricity. India’s national goal is to be 100% electrified by 2030.”
“See” gloats Bush, nodding at Gore.
“Look, we can make the tax on CO2 revenue neutral by reducing payroll taxes. And I already said we need to be committed to also eradicating poverty and disease worldwide,” says Gore.
Bush takes a short breath and cocks his head in my direction.
“With all due respect, in addition to promising our American lifestyle will not have to change, you now seem to hold that it will cost us nothing and the rest of the world can come to live the way we do as well.”
Bush looks at me suspiciously. “I thought you were on my side. We ain’t changing our lives and we sure ain’t goin to be paying more for them either as long as I am in charge!”
“Except you’ll ruin the planet in the process,” crows Gore. “ Only my way can save the planet, not raise costs, and eradicate poverty and disease.”
I leave them to carry on the debate. It seems too easy. In the end, I am sure I will have to pay more and change at least some of my life. Anything else goes against common sense. 600 million of us got the life we have because of our industrial revolution. Now 6 billion more want to join us.

Monday, December 21, 2009


A few initial remarks about what has just happened, followed by the full text of the "deal". (See also Isabel Hilton's Chinadialogue's remarks republished at

1. The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now over 380 ppm and growing at more than 2 ppm per annum. It is broadly recognized that continued output at these rates for the next decade will make it extremely difficult to achieve stabilization at 450 ppm later in the century. Yet the prospects for a binding international agreement with country specific verifiable limits seems increasingly illusive. Absent such an agreement, what are the chances that the parties can blunder into de facto arrangements that accomplish the same thing?
2. Given how intent China was on preventing binding limits, one has to wonder. At the same time, even with binding limits, the absence of any realistic international enforcement mechanisms would have made such limits inherently weak. The only workable agreement is going to arise if and when the major players see it in their own interest to adhere to such limits. And they don’t, at least now.
3. What is immediately at stake is whether what has happened will help or hurt U.S. efforts to legislate its own limits. At this point it is too early to tell. If the gloss on the “deal” is that it is a plausible first step, things may go one way. If the gloss is along the lines above, I suspect not.
4. Perhaps more important is the fate of the EPA regulations, which if they stand, could do the same job as the legislation and only depend on the Obama’s administration’s determination.
5. Looking to the longer term, the chances of a global cap and trade system being established are surely weaker, and with it, the chances of properly pricing the true cost of carbon. That is bad news for efforts to prime market forces to drive alternatives.

Here is the full text of the tentative climate deal:
The Heads of State, Heads of Government, Ministers, and other heads of delegation present at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009 in Copenhagen,
In pursuit of the ultimate objective of the Convention as stated in its Article 2,
Being guided by the principles and provisions of the Convention,
Noting the results of work done by the two Ad hoc Working Groups,
Endorsing decision x/CP.l5 that extends the mandate of the Ad hoc Working Group on Long-term cooperative action and decision x/CMP.5 that requests the Ad hoc Working Group on Further Commitments of Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol to continue its work, Have agreed on this Copenhagen Accord which is operational immediately.
1. We underline that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities. To achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention to stabilize greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, we shall, recognizing the scientific view that the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term cooperative action to combat climate change. We recognize the critical impacts of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures on countries particularly vulnerable to its adverse effects and stress the need to establish a comprehensive adaptation programme including international support.
2. We agree that deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science, and as documented by the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report with a view to reduce global emissions by 50 per cent in 2050 below 1990 levels,taking into account the right to equitable access to atmospheric space. We should cooperate in achieving the peaking of global and national emissions as soon as possible, recognizing that the time frame for peaking will be longer in developing countries and bearing in mind that social and economic development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of developing countries and that a low-emission development strategy is indispensable to sustainable development.
3. Adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures is a challenge faced by all countries. Enhanced action and international cooperation on adaptation is urgently required to enstue the implementation of the Convention by enabling and supporting the implementation of adaptation actions aimed at reducing vulnerability and building resilience in developing countries, especially in those that are particularly vulnerable, especially least developed countries, small island developing States and tiuther taking into account the need of countries in Africa affected by drought, desertification and floods. We agree that developed countries shall provide adequate, predictable and sustainable financial resources, technology and capacity-building to support the implementation of adaptation action in developing countries.
4. Annex I Parties to the Convention commit to reducing their emissions individually or jointly by at least 80 per cent by 2050. They also commit to implement individually or jointly the quantified economy-wide emissions targets for 2020 as listed in appendix l, yielding in aggregate reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of X per cent in 2020 compared to 1990 and Y per cent in 2020 compared to 2005. Annex I Parties that are Party to the Kyoto Protocol will thereby further strengthen the emissions reductions initiated by the Kyoto Protocol. Delivery of reductions and financing by developed countries will be measured, reported and verified in accordance with existing and any further guidelines adopted by the Conference of Parties, and will ensure that accounting of such targets and finance is rigorous, robust and transparent.
5. Non-Annex I Parties to the Convention will implement mitigation actions, including those listed in appendix II, consistent with Article 4.1 and Article 4.7 and in the context of sustainable development. Mitigation actions subsequently taken and envisaged by Non Annex I Parties shall be communicated through national communications consistent with Article l2.1(b) every two years on the basis of guidelines to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties. Those mitigation actions in national communications or othenavise communicated to the Secretariat will be added to the list in appendix II. Mitigation actions taken by Non Parties will be subject to their domestic measurement, reporting and verification the result of which will be reported through their national communications every two years. Non Amiex I Parties will provide biennial national inventory reports in accordance with revised guidelines adopted by the Conference of the Parties. [Consideration to be inserted US and Chinal. Nationally appropriate mitigation actions seeking international support will be recorded in a registry along with relevant technology, finance and capacity building support. Those actions supported will be added to the list in appendix II. These supported nationally appropriate mitigation actions will be subject to intemational measurement, reporting and verification in accordance with guidelines adopted by the Conference ofthe Parties.
6. We recognize the crucial role of reducing emission irom deforestation and forest degradation and the need to enhance removals of greenhouse gas emission by forests and agree on the need to provide positive incentives to such actions through the immediate establishment of a mechanism including REDD-plus, to enable the mobilization of financial resources from developed countries.
7. We decide to ptusue various approaches, including opportunities to use markets, to enhance the cost-effectiveness of; and to promote mitigation actions. Developing countries, especially those with low emitting economies should be provided incentives to continue to develop on a low emission pathway.
8. Scaled up, new and additional, predictable and adequate fimding as well as improved access shall be provided to developing countries, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, to enable and support enhanced action on mitigation, including substantial finance to prevent deforestation (REDD-plus), adaptation, teclmology development and transfer and capacity-building, for enhanced implementation of the Convention. The collective commitment by developed countries is to provide new and additional resources amounting to 30 billion dollars for the period 2010 - 2012 as listed in appendix lll with balanced allocation between adaptation and mitigation, including forestry. Funding for adaptation will be prioritized for the most vulnerable developing countries, such as the least developed countries, small island developing states and countries in Africa affected by drought, desertification and floods. In the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation, developed countries support a goal of mobilizing jointly 100 billion dollars a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries. This funding will come from a wide variety of sources, public and private, bilateral and multilateral, including altemative sources of finance. New multilateral funding for adaptation will be delivered through effective and efficient fund arrangements, with a governance structure providing for equal representation of developed and developing countries.
9. To this end, a High Level Panel will be established under the guidance of and accountable to the Conference of the Parties to assess the contribution of the potential sources of revenue, including alternative sources of finance, towards meeting this goal.
10. We decide that the Copenhagen Climate Fund shall be established as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the Convention to support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing cotmtries related to mitigation including REDD-plus, adaptation, capacity- building, technology development and transfer as set forth in decision -/CP.l 5.
ll. In order to enhance action on development and transfer of technology we decide to establish a Technology Mechanism as set forth in decision -/CP.l5 to accelerate technology development and transfer in support of action on adaptation and mitigation that will be guided by a country-driven approach and be based on national circumstances and priorities.
12. We call for a review of this Accord and its implementation to be completed by 2016, including in light of the Convention’s ultimate objective. This review would include consideration of strengthening the long-tenn goal to limit the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees.

Monday, December 14, 2009

India's important commitment

Writing in this weeks Chinadialogue, Navroz K Dubash reports provides an informative overview of Indian politics on climate change: “For some, the climate negotiations are seen as no more than an economic containment strategy by the west. These “growth-first stonewallers” argue that even if climate change is real, the objective should be to maximise growth, so that India can better handle the impacts. Until then, the country should not compromise. For others, the effort to prioritise environmental sustainability and equity is stronger. These “progressive realists” are growth critics and, although keen to generate action on climate change, they are deeply cynical about the global negotiations. With the belief that these discussions sideline core concerns of equity, they call on India to take aggressive climate measures, but to do so domestically, de-linking these from the global process. Others believe that India should take on ambitious emission reduction measures and throw its weight fully behind a global climate deal. These “progressive internationalists” argue that doing so will help shift the global debate forward and spur matching action in other countries. Since climate impacts will disproportionately affect India's poor, they suggest that a pro-poor approach is also a pro-climate regime approach.” She goes on to report: “For advocates of a global climate deal, the good news is that the influence of growth-first stonewallers has waned in India. The bad news, however, is that the centre of gravity in India lies firmly with the progressive realists, who shy away from engagement in global climate politics, rather than with progressive internationalists, who seek to embrace it.” But that said, the Indian government has held to a long-standing position that deserves more attention – that India will commit to never exceed the per capita carbon output of the Developed World. You might think there is a trick here: that what is meant is that it commits never to exceed the high water mark that the Developed World has reached – about 20 tons per capita. But that is not what is meant. (I know this from direct conversation.) What is meant is that if the Developed World goes down to (say) 2 tons per capita – which is what it needs to do on a fair per capita basis to stabilize at 450 ppm – that is where India will go as well (even as it also makes a serious commitment to limit population growth). It is not a trivial commitment, even if it is based on a bet that the Developed will in fact never reach it. And it is a commitment that India can also afford to make because it is currently so far below that level at 1.2 tons per capita unlike China which is already at 4.6 tons per capita.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holding my breath (again)

With Copenhagen launching it is hard to think of anything else. So it seems the right time to list some cautionary notes and considerations:
1. Much commentary will revolve around the purloined emails which are a (discomforting) distraction. They don’t undermine the evidence in support of action – that evidence has never been overwhelming. It does not need to be. We are making a decision under uncertainty in which the payoff for being wrong are much lower than those for being right.
2. The absence of a legally binding agreement is a red herring. Legal agreements simply affirm real political agreements. The issue is whether there will be genuine political agreements.
3. Much attention will be focused on who is to pay what for the 3rd world adaption fund. This is a side show. Not that it is unimportant but it is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Most of the beneficiary countries don’t have and won’t have the output to make much a difference.
4. Of those that do, the real issue, as it was at Kyoto, is going to be whether they make commitments to absolute targets instead of carbon intensity targets (which don’t take account of economic growth).

Monday, November 30, 2009

China (again)

China's announcement of a target of a reduction of 40%-45% in carbon intensity by 2020 as compared to 2005 levels is bad news. Bad news because a reduction in carbon intensity as opposed to absolute levels ignores economic growth. At a projected growth rate of 8% a year, in 10 years, China's economy will grow over 17 fold! But China is already emitting 4.6 tons of carbon dioxide per capita today which is more than its "fair share" if we aim for an allocation for a 450 ppm stabilization level. That figure is 2 tons of CO2 per person. In absolute terms (as opposed to carbon intensity), that demands a 90% reduction in current US emissions and over a 50% reduction in China's per capita emissions.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Changing attitudes

I recently gave a talk on why changing attitudes is more important than changing behavior – changing attitudes toward government climate policy. The UK is the only place I know of where a concerted effort has been made to do this. It is instructive to attend to what has been found to work and not work there (as reported by Futerra Sustainability Communications):
What does not work:
• Recent surveys show that people without children may care more about climate change than those with children.
• Fear can create apathy if individuals have no ‘agency’ to act upon the threat. Use fear with great caution.
• The evidence discredits the ‘rational man’ theory – we rarely weigh objectively the value of different decisions and then take the clear self-interested choice.
• Providing information is not wrong; relying on information alone to change attitudes is wrong.
What has been found to work:
• Compelling mental picture of the positive goal
• A choice between the goal or the problem
• A strong and memorable 5 year plan
• Citizen level specifics that fit the goal and plan
• Getting the public talking
• The need for a desirable and descriptive mental picture of a low carbon, climate change adapted economy to open all climate change communications.
• The vision must be positive and it must be salient (i.e. paint a clear, appealing picture).
• Describing a positive solution in response to a problem does not work; leading with the vision is the only way to ensure we are listened to rather than ignored.
• The vision must create social proof (i.e. imply that “everyone” now wants this positive future for their children).
• Make climate change locally relevant.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Copenhagen or bust?

Note to readers: I welcome comments on this blog but can only respond to them if you write using an email address that accepts replies.

So, there will be no binding agreement in Copenhagen. It does not matter. A binding formal agreement is the least important thing in the whole process – especially since, binding or not, enforcement of such an agreement is going to hinge on informal arrangements. What a binding agreement does is to formalize an already arrived at consensus. How you arrive at the consensus is another matter. The challenge of climate is of course this: Nature is not going to send us clear signals that underscore our common interests until it is too late. So one challenge is going to be whether, and how, to create enough of an international consensus to sway dissenters. One thing to keep in mind, it does not have to be an all or none matter – despite the claims of the Tragedy of the Commons. For more on this see my article in Climatic Change 2009 97:59-65. Here is a link to the paper:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Copenhagen Matters

Some are ready to declare Copenhagen dead along with any kind of agreement that depends on long-term commitments by sovereign states. Our chances are better to act unilaterally with international collaboration wherever possible. But I think it is a mistake to see the choice as between successful binding agreements by nation states and unilateralism. What the Copenhagen process offers (and after all it does not need to be concluded this year to be a success), is a context in which parties can create incentives to encourage commitments being taken seriously in the context of a global economic system in which many sticks and carrots exist. The value of Copenhagen is threefold – it creates a framework that can be adjusted if and when our projections of what needs to be done prove to have been too optimistic. It also creates a standard which sets expectation for all parties unlike Kyoto. Finally, it offers a context in which unilateral action by nation states diminishes the risks of others worrying that they will lose out economically if they too act alone.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Behavior and Energy Conservation

An edited version of a memo I recently wrote to someone in the Obama administration:

In the next 20 years we face limited options in reducing our energy use by significantly transforming energy output. Even with the knowledge we have in hand today, significantly reducing the percentage of coal and natural gas will take many decades especially in the light of the projected rise in energy demand. Meanwhile, carbon capture and sequestration has no chance of reaching significant deployment in the near term. As such, in the near term promoting energy efficiency and conservation is not just our best hope but one of our few hopes! That said, how important is the role of the individual citizen in such an effort?
Here I will argue that while changing individual behavior is of value; it is going to be an uphill battle and there are things we can learn from other fields before proceeding. What is more important I will argue, is to change individual attitudes toward the need for collective action of us all as a nation.
The Limits on Behavioral Change: When it comes to energy conservation and efficiency, individual behavior falls into two groups – one off actions, like buying a more efficient appliance and repeated actions, like turning off lights. In both areas, findings of psychology and behavioral economics highlight the significant challenge to promoting such change: i. Significant inelasticity of demand for energy means that price driven change requires large rises in markets that are regulated “for the public good” and subject to political constraints. ii. Even where price begets change at the outset, inurnment to the change overtime combines with habit to reassert old behavior. iii. The overvaluation of money in hand today over savings in the future, forces subsidies to promote energy efficiency upgrades that are extremely costly when done at scale. These are not “killer” objections, but they imply the need to proceed with great care in understanding the range and persistence of conservation efforts that rely in the individual actor acting in isolation.
Alternatives: The problems just alluded to arise from the role of the individual choice in the causal chain that aims to increase efficiency and conservation. But three alternatives sidestep these problems: i. The imposition of universal “upstream” appliance standards. (The most salient success of which has been in the area of home refrigerators.) ii. Exploiting the design environment to bring about changes in behavior subconsciously. (For example, the mere placement of a light switch.) iii. Using elements of smart grids and information networks that can communicate directly with and control (thermostats, appliances etc) in the home environment. But such alternatives, if widely implemented still implicate the individual citizen since they will be hard to defend without citizen acquiescence. Now instead of asking consumer to choose efficient appliances over (upfront) cheaper inefficient ones, we are asking them to acquiesce to their government banning sale of the latter. And instead of asking consumers to turn down air conditioners during peak demand, we might be asking them to cede control to their utility provider.
The Upshot: Winning such acquiescence involves a renegotiation of the social contract. It involves winning citizen support for policies that (in effect) will limit choices that may be preferred in the short run. This is more than “nudging” (a la Sunstein). This is not easy to do. But it is not without precedent. Anti-smoking efforts, seat belt campaigns and above all, social security all involved not just a nudge but the creation of national consensus about the need for us to invite regulation for our own good. The development of an effective climate policy is not simply a technical challenge of science but also a challenge of how to involve the citizens with a sense of ownership over the choices we face.
Recommendations: in the light of these considerations , I would urge:
1. Careful examination of the effectiveness of individual behavioral change programs.
2. Greater use of upstream appliance standards.
3. Use of the design environment to produce energy efficiency and conservation.
4. Mechanisms that directly control the home environment without consumer actions.
5. But above all, an examination of the broader issue of how one can win support of evolving national policy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

EPA Scenarios

In a report, EPA provides a stark contrast between business as usual, G8 only action and world-wide aciton. The data confirm the stark reality about the prospective role of the Developing World. What follows is (edited) from the report ( Economic Impacts of S.1733: The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009,October 23, 2009):

In previous analyses, EPA has looked at the impact of U.S. policy combined with the policies assumed for developed and developing countries on global greenhouse gas
concentrations. However, the assumptions used in earlier analyses for what policies other countries would adopt are not consistent with the recent G8/Major Economies Forum goal discussed above. EPA has now analyzed, using the MiniCAM and MAGICC models, how U.S. targets consistent with the President’s FY 2010 budget proposal (14% below 2005 in 2020, and 83% below 2005 in 2050)22 combined with international action consistent with the G8 agreement could affect global CO2e concentrations and temperatures.

EPA presents data on global CO2e concentrations through 2100 assuming a climate sensitivity (CS) of 3.0. with three scenarios. (The CS is the equilibrium temperature response to a doubling of CO2, and a CS of 3.0is deemed the “best estimate” by the IPCC.):

(1) Reference: no climate polices or measures adopted by any countries.

(2) G8 -International Assumptions: consistent with G8 agreement to reduce global emissions to 50% below 2005 levels by 2050. U.S. and other developed countries reduce emissions to 83% below 2005 levels by 2050, and developing countries cap emissions beginning in 2025, and return emissions to 26% below 2005 levels by 2050. All countries hold emissions targets constant after 2050.

(3) Developing Countries After 2050: US and developed countries same as G8 scenario. Developing countries adopt policy in 2050 holding emissions constant at 2050 levels.

In the reference scenario, CO2e concentrations in 2100 would rise to approximately 936 ppm.25 If the U.S. and other developing countries took action to reduce emissions to 83% below 2005 levels by 2050, and developing countries took no action until 2050, then CO2e concentrations in 2100 would rise to approximately 647 ppm. If the G8 goals are met, then CO2e concentrations would rise to approximately 485 ppm in 2100. It should be noted that CO2e concentrations are not stabilized in these scenarios. To prevent concentrations from continuing to rise after 2100, post-2100 GHG emissions would need to be further reduced. For example, stabilization of CO2e concentrations at 485 ppm would require net CO2e emissions to go to zero in the very long run after 2100.

Given the CO2e concentrations for the various scenarios, we can also calculate the observed change in global mean temperature (from pre-industrial time) in 2100 under different climate sensitivities. Assuming the G8 goals (reducing global emissions to 50% below 2005 by 2050) are met, warming in 2100 would be limited to no more than 2 degree Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels under a climate sensitivity of 3.0 or lower.

It should be noted that the temperature change in 2100 in this scenario is not stabilized, so the observed change in global mean temperature in 2100 is not equal to the equilibrium change in global mean temperature. There are two reasons for this. First, while the G8 international goals stabilize global GHG emissions at 50% below 2005 levels, CO2e concentrations and temperature are not stabilized. Determining an equilibrium temperature under any scenario requires additional assumptions about post¬2100 emissions. If emissions remain constant post-2100, CO2e concentrations will continue to rise. Equilibrium temperature would only be achieved after CO2e concentrations are in equilibrium. Second, the inertia in ocean temperatures causes the equilibrium global mean surface temperature change to lag behind the observed global mean surface temperature change by as much as 500 years. Even if CO2e concentrations in 2100 were stabilized, observed temperatures would continue to rise for centuries before the equilibrium were reached.

Continued GHG emissions reductions after 2100 could stabilize CO2e concentrations at the 485 ppm levels achieved in 2100 in the G8 scenario. In order to achieve an equilibrium temperature change of 2 degrees (assuming CS = 3.0), CO2e concentrations must be stabilized below 485 ppm, requiring continued abatement beyond the level needed to stabilize concentrations at 2100 levels. It would be possible to reduce CO2e concentrations after 2100 below 485 ppm by even further reducing GHG emissions in the next century. An ‘overshoot’ scenario such as this would further reduce the equilibrium temperature change, making it possible to achieve the 2 degrees C target even with a climate sensitivity of 3.0.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How much government?

How heavy is the hand of government going to have to be for use to have any chance of reaching our climate goals? All of the talk of green jobs and growth opportunities associated with de-carbonizing distracts from just how reluctant we all are to make changes on our own. The Economist reports ( that the UK Committee on Climate Change (appointed to advise the government on how to meet its targets for greenhouse-gas emissions) has concluded that far too little is being done. “Although recession is holding emissions back, they are dropping at an average annual rate of under 1%, rather than the 2-3% needed” to reach the 2020 reduction targets. “Consumers are not buying energy-efficient appliances or insulating their houses, carmakers are failing to get emissions down and power companies still prefer fossil fuels to greener alternatives. A bracing dose of re-regulation was prescribed: the CCC suggests compulsory emissions caps for cars, feed-in tariffs to help green-power producers and a state-enforced minimum carbon price to encourage nuclear and “clean” coal power stations.” If the same options arise in the U.S., will citizens accept such policies? Not without a lot more work to convince them of the true cost of not doing so.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Collaring cap and trade

Today’s joint editorial in the NY Times by Senators Kerry and Graham,Q5C8KyeRZyy2585Q3DQ3Dt8Q5EQ3D8Q5EQ5E8yPkFkyF8Q5EQ5Em,ZZjSZcQ3EcM1Q3E2Mn is good news – a “deal” is evolving. Any such deal is going to involve (a lot of) compromises. It should be no surprise that things like nuclear energy and off shore oil exploration would end up coming into the negotiations. But Kerry and Graham also raise another issue which may seem innocuous but needs to be tracked with care. They write: “finally, we will develop a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices. The central element is the establishment of a floor and a ceiling for the cost of emission allowances. This will also safeguard important industries while they make the investments necessary to join the clean-energy era. We recognize there will be short-term transition costs associated with any climate change legislation, costs that can be eased. But we also believe strongly that the long-term gain will be enormous.” The use of such a price “collar” in a cap and trade system has been much discussed as a way of smoothing price changes and avoiding dissociative price shocks. But, and it is a big but, to speak of such collars as a way of “protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices” would be completely self-defeating if the goal of a cap and trade system is to use prices to limit carbon output! There simply is no free lunch here. And the fact of the matter is that to get the changes in carbon output we need prices will have to go up substantially above and beyond the push from increasing demand – especially as competition for energy (especially oil for petroleum) from China and India. Now maybe the talk of protecting businesses and consumers from increases in energy prices is just talk – designed to grease the way for a bill to pass. The bill can be far from perfect. But what it needs to do is put in place a mechanism that can reduce carbon even if its initial targets turn out to be far too low – like the current 2020 target in the House bill. The targets can be changed, as can the allowances under cap and trade. But to do all that, the collar mechanism needs to be a real collar – one that moves up with prices. In doing so, it can’t protect consumers from price increases, nor should it. All it can and should do is to smooth the upward path of those prices.

Monday, October 5, 2009

EPA moves

EPA’s announcement that it is going to act with or without Congress to regulate large carbon emitters is good news – good because it creates an incentive for the Senate to act and good, because if the Senate does not act, at least we get some movement in addressing the regulation of carbon output. But it is important not to overstate the limitation of this sort of move. In his article on the announcement the NYT writes: "Ms. Jackson described the proposal as a common-sense rule tailored to apply to only the largest facilities — those that emit at least 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year — which are responsible for nearly 70 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States" ( But that conflates carbon regulation with greenhouse gas regulation of which non-carbon output by agriculture constitutes a significant percentage. Even looking just at carbon, I am skeptical based on data from the Department of Energy for 2007 – see Looking just at CO2, the really worrisome figure is petroleum which constitutes 2.5gt of the 6 gt total and most which (2 gt) is used in transportation. It will be harder to regulate greenhouse gas output by just attending to the largest facilities. Like it or not, regulation will have to have a much further reach.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The bad news and the good news

President Hu Jintao’s speech to the UN this week offered standard fair in on one hand when he pledged to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020”. That is 15% of a moving target as China’s overall energy consumption is growing at a massive rate. On the otherhand he also said this: “We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions — (inaudible) — GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level” (according to the transcript of his speech provided by the Federal News Service). This is notable because for the first time, we have a declaration of a FIXED target and one that involves a reduction from current and planned levels of output even if the target is the 2005 level itself – which was 5.3 gigatons (billion tons) of CO2. That said, stabilizing at 450 ppm of CO2 is commonly assumed to require a worldwide cut from current levels of 28 gigatons to 18 gigatons. Assuming a world population stabilizing at 9 billion people with China at 1.5 billion, the per capita allocation for China would be 3 gigatons. That is below 5.3 gigatons by a really “notable margin”! There is also the worrisome use of the word ‘endeavor’ in his statement.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Holding my breath

Reuters reports: “The U.N. climate chief said on Monday he expects China to become a "world leader" on climate change after President Hu Jintao announces policy measures on Tuesday. Yvo De Boer said he expects Hu to announce, in a speech to a U.N. climate change summit in New York, a series of measures "that will take Chinese emissions very significantly away from where they would have been and are."” But….. listen carefully to see if there is any commitment to ABSOLUTE levels of carbon output as opposed to decreasing the proportion of it. The latter is only equivalent to the former if you bracket GDP growth – which is currently running, and planned to run, at 8-9% a year. That rate of growth produces massive compound increases in GDP over time and with it, energy needed and associated carbon output unless you grow with “clean” energy. But here is (yet another) inconvenient truth – 80% of current energy is fossil based. The idea that current energy (let alone the energy to fuel growth) can be provided on a clean basis can be produced at the needed scale and be deployed on any politically realistic timetable is a pure fantasy.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fairness – again

The World needs to plan massive cut backs in current and prospective greenhouse gas output. Most people agree that fairness demands an equal per capita share even as the details of history and prospective population need to be taken into account. On this basis, the United States gets about 5% of the world limit which means about a 90% cut from current levels. But there is another way to approach this issue. Pacala et al. (in PNAS)argue that we should look at who is currently exceeding their allocation on an individual basis and generate country obligations for cut backs on that basis. Doing things that way makes hardly any difference in the case of the U.S. But the approach makes a big difference for almost everyone else. For almost every country has SOME people who are using more than their fair share. Not unreasonably, Pacala et al. think that fairness is an individual matter and so that is where to locate the calculus – even though they are willing to also look at some sort of offsetting consideration for the very poor. So a country with rich people who are above their fair share, ought to be able to take into account the fact that it has lots of people who are far below their fair share and need to benefit from economic (and energy) growth to reach some minimum level of welfare. But once you recognize this fact, the logic of such an approach begins to dissolve. For there is a strong defense to be made about fairness assigned by way of national allocations – for better or worse, nation states are the units that enter into agreements on allocational issues globally. How they then divide their allocation internally is deeply relevant to different development strategies. One thing is clear though – all countries need some method of capital accumulation and that usually entails some inequities – be it robber barons or state capitalism. As with capital so with carbon usage.

Monday, September 7, 2009

CCS in China

Anyone who imagines that deployment of carbon capture and sequestration can allow for Developing World growth and needed restriction on greenhouse gasses should pay close attention to a new report on China. In "The Real Drivers of Carbon Capture and Storage at Scale in China and Implications for Climate Policy", Richard K. Morse, Varun Rai, and Gang He. Morse et al. argue that, most importantly that: ".. the primary driver of current CCS projects in China is the strategic development of its energy security agenda, with particular emphasis on diversity of energy supply, reliable and cheap electricity, and the development of domestic intellectual property for energy technologies. Unfortunately, many analysts who are rushing to declare that CCS has arrived in China are confusing these motives for an enthusiastic embrace of CCS for purposes of large scale CO2 emissions reductions. A crucial distinction must then be made: while these energy security drivers are likely to foster the development China’s CCS demonstration efforts(as we are likely to witness in the near term), they do not translate into incentives to deploy CCS at scale. In fact, as we argue later, CCS at scale will place a heavy burden on China’s coal supply chain and is more likely to harm China’s energy security than to help it. The only manner in which CCS would concretely serve energy security needs would be if China were subject to a stringent greenhouse gas reduction regime at some future time, in which case CCS could facilitate the use of domestically-available coal (for either power or for transport using coal-toliquids technology). However, we argue that such a scenario is likely many years from being a reality, mainly because China has no core interest in agreeing to and enforcing such a regime on itself until it has developed economically to the point where a large domestic constituency values climate change action as much as rapid economic growth." For the full report, go to:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Second Thoughts

Two weeks ago ( on August 10), I ended the long slog through a 10 part argument (The Core Narrative of Climate Change) by arguing that in the end, my worries about divergent interests between the Developing World and the Developed World might be misplaced. I argued that high growth trajectories failed to take in to account the effects of the temperature gain on GNP. GNP is an external input in these calculations. I then relied on a paper by In a very interesting paper, Melissa Dell , Benjamin F. Jones, and Benjamin A. Olken (“Climate Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century”) that looks at the historical record to argue that a 1 degree centigrade rise in temperature reduces economic growth by an average of 1.1% but only in poor countries. I argued that using Asian figures in the IPPC scenarios, the difference between A1B and A2 by 2100 is about $100 trillion. (A1B is $207.3 trillion by 2100 while B1 is $105.9 trillion.) Both start the century at $2.7 trillion. For A1B the implied growth rate is 4.4%. So it be 3.3% less the “cost” of global warming of 1 degree more than the B1 scenario. So the projected GNP of Asia would be $69 trillion which is $35 trillion less than the B1 figure. So it seemed that the cost of climate change to output seems to outweigh the gain from more aggressive scenarios. Not so fast!! All of this only applies to poor countries. GDP growth rates for rich countries are not really affected by such changes according to the M.I.T. research – they are less agricultural and more flexible economically. But here is the rub: on the projected growth trajectory for Asia both China and India will move from “poor” to “rich” long before 2050. If and when that happens, at least on the basis of this research, they won’t have offsetting losses to GDP from climate change that would undermine their gains from an aggressive growth trajectory. So, at least on the basis of self-interest, the conclusion I drew two weeks ago is wrong for them. And they are the ones whose output matters most in the Developing World!

Monday, August 24, 2009

China's Plan

Chris Buckley reported (in Reuters last week) that top policy advisers in China have recommended “firm targets to limit greenhouse gas emissions so they peak around 2030” in their “2050 China Energy and C02 Emissions Report”. It would be a big step forward if China’s political leadership were to accept the principle of firm targets over the current commitment to simply improve energy intensity without reference to the growth of GDP. They will only do so, if the authors of this report can convince them that low carbon pathways are compatible with China’s growth targets. Be that as it may, a look at the recommended targets themselves is sobering when you translate them into stabilization levels of atmospheric CO2. The report projects Chinese output of CO2 in 2050 as 3.47 gigatons of Carbon on a business as usual model. The alternative low carbon path puts output at 2.41 GtC. Finally the authors pose an “enhanced” low carbon path that generates 1.4 GtC. So far so good. But now consider the following calculus: it has been generally thought that to stabilize at 450ppm, world CO2 output needs to be reduced from current levels to 18 GtCO2 or 4.9 GtC. Assume we were to do that on the basis of an equal per capita share based on the projected world population in 2050 – roughly 9 billion people. China has declared a goal of a stable population of 1.6 billion which is 17.7% of 9 billion. On an equal share per capita, its allocation would thus be .87 GtC – far below its enhanced low carbon path. What happens if you run the argument in reverse? If you start with the enhanced low carbon path of 1.4 GtC as an equal per capita allocation of 17.7% of the population, that gives you an equivalent world output of 9 GtC (33 GTCo2) – which is more than our current output which we know to be unsustainable! Are U.S. plans much better? Assume the U.S. stabilizes at 350 million in 2050 or 3.89% of the world population. Then its allocation will be .186 GtC which would be roughly equivalent to a 90% reduction over 2006 output levels.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change - 10

Suppose the World proceeds through this century on a high growth trajectory albeit with a “balanced” energy portfolio. On the IPCC scenarios, we end up with the following:
Economic wealth is $528.5 trillion.
CO2 output is 60 gigatons of Carbon per year.
Temperature rise is 2.8 degrees Celsius.
While on the “green” scenario the equivalent figures are:
Economic wealth is $334 trillion.
CO2 output is 30 gigatons of Carbon per year.
Temperature rise is 1.8 degrees Celsius.
So, we gain almost 200 trillion in wealth for a 1 degree rise in temperature as the price. But these projections fail to take in to account the effects of the temperature gain on GNP. GNP is an external input in these calculations. In a very interesting paper, Melissa Dell , Benjamin F. Jones, and Benjamin A. Olken (“Climate Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century”) look at the historical record to argue that a 1 degree centigrade rise in temperature reduces economic growth by an average of 1.1% but only in poor countries. Let’s see how this works for Asia. If we look to Asia’s projected figures in the IPPC scenarios, the difference between A1B and A2 by 2100 is about $100 trillion. (A1B is $207.3 trillion by 2100 while B1 is $105.9 trillion.) Both start the century at $2.7 trillion. Let’s focus on A1B – what is the implied growth rate? It is 4.4%. So what would it be less the “cost” of global warming of 1 degree more than the B1 scenario? 3.3%. So what the projected GNP of Asia on a 3.3% rate rather than a 4.4% rate? The result is $69 trillion. That is $35 trillion less than the B1 figure!
(Note: I could have calculated the 1 degree cost for B1 and a 2 degree cost for A1B to get the same resulting difference.)This is good news! The cost of climate change to output seems to outweigh the gain from more aggressive scenarios.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 9

How much GNP does a country sacrifice for avoiding climate change? We saw a partial answer by using the IPCC scenarios discussed a few weeks ago. (See “The Core Narrative … - 5” below.) The choice becomes A1 versus a low growth family of scenarios (the B family). The contrast now becomes striking when you ask how much economic growth would the Developing World have to sacrifice. Here are the IPCC figures for projected World GNP: A1B: $528.5 trillion, B1: $334 trillion. But that is not the end of the story. This figure does not take into account the costs of climate change itself. But can we arrive at an overall calculus? Through the IPCC, we have a rough accounting of the number of people living in low-lying coastal zone as a proportion of total population. Through Oxfam, we have the same for those more generally vulnerable to the effects of climate change. But that does not really help. Before we consider these populations, we need to ask this: is there some general way to calculate the costs of climate change that we can deduct from the GNP figures above. That is to say, if A1B yields a $194.5 trillion dollar advantage over B1, what is the associated climate cost?

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 8

Why might the hypothetical I raised last week turn out to be real? That is, that I am in fact better off @ $2000 relative to other more prevalent “stressors” in my environment (level of nutrition, health care I can afford, education I can afford etc) AND that improvement is greater than the net negative climate effect. It depends. The effects of climate change depend very much on where you live as well as how you live. Obviously, if you live in low-lying coastal regions, rising sea levels may affect you directly. Otherwise the effects will be indirect. Climate’s effects will be primarily experienced by way of existing stressors that are exacerbated. Can we get a handle on how to quantify this? In doing so, we can pose this as a national rather than individual issue. Here is what we need to answer:
How much GNP does a country sacrifice for avoiding climate change?
But in answering that we need to know how much does climate change costs in terms of welfare?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 7

Here, I wrote last week, is a truth that few dare to speak – growth may pit the interests of the poor in the Developing World against others. Not others in the Developed World but in the Developing World itself. If that is the case we need to know the numbers and also ask if the numbers should count. But wait! Doesn’t everyone loose when it comes to climate change – rich and poor? Not necessarily. Let’s being by considering individuals … albeit hypothetical individuals. Suppose my household economy is improved only by causing climate change – because of the economy-energy function. Suppose I am net worse off in the new climate even though I am richer. (eg. $1000 pa in 450ppm versus $2000 in 550ppm.) But that is not the end of the story IF I am better off @ $2000 relative to other more prevalent “stressors” in my environment (level of nutrition, health care I can afford, education I can afford etc) AND that improvement is greater than the net negative climate effect. So, for example, the probability of my offspring reaching a productive age, in my $2000 pa household may be improved even though it is associated with higher ppm which have adverse effect on that outcome. Might this hypothetical turn out to be real?

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 6

How much economic growth would the Developing World have to sacrifice if there is no technology transfer solution that allows for intended growth at the projected rate AND green energy? Using the IPCC figures, about 25% less growth by the end of the century. But wait a minute:
1. Why think there is no such technology transfer solution?
2. And even if there is none, if fossil fueled economic growth begets climate change, why think the Developed World would be better off?
Here is an overview of where I think the answers lie:
1. The problem of green energy is not just a matter of who pays. Nor is it just a matter of overall energy demand and supply. As the Developing world grows, both solar and wind energy will be of limited value without massive storage capacity to provide for uninterrupted supply. Moreover, even bracketing that problem, if we look at the timetable for growth and associated energy demand, keeping up with that timetable for renewable energy growth in capacity is a central challenge.
2. If fossil fuel (or balanced growth) drives growth, we need a model to estimate how much climate change will undermine the rise in GDP or even overwhelm it. We have good short term estimates of the effects on the poor. But what we need are long term estimates for the Developing World as a whole. Here we have a truth that few dare to speak – growth may pit the interests of the poor in the Developing World against others. Not others in the Developed World but in the Developing World itself. If that is the case we need to know the numbers and also ask if the numbers should count.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 5

Last week’s focus was on whether can provide enough clean energy of the right kind given the growth projections for the Developing World. The IPCC sidesteps this issue by providing a number of scenarios for the rest of this century. The so-called A1 family assume population growth slows but growth is high. That is then combined with a number of associated energy assumptions – coal and oil (A1F), renewable (A1T) and a “balanced” portfolio (A1B). A1B produces enough greenhouse gasses to push all the way to 650 ppm and a 3.5 (degrees Celsius) temperature rise by the end of the century unlike A1T which keeps things in bounds at 550 ppm and 3 degrees. So fine, let’s just plan on doing A1T whoever ends up paying for it. But the problem is that A1T is a thought experiment! It is a hypothetical scenario that assumes the technology is available to provide clean energy in the right form to (literally) fuel the assumed rate of economic growth. Absent the scenario being real, the choice becomes A1 versus a low growth family of scenarios (the B family). The contrast now becomes striking when you ask how much economic growth would the Developing World have to sacrifice. Here are the IPCC figures for projected World gnp: A1B: $528.5 trillion, B1: $334 trillion.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 4

Picking up the thread of 3 weeks ago, whether or not you view to promise of technology transfer as buying you more climate saving than the low carbon plans or essential to them, the key unexamined assumption is this: is the technology available to achieve these goals whoever is paying for it? There are two issues here: 1. Is there enough of it? 2. Is it of the right kind?

As Claude Mandil, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said in May 2004, ‘‘In the absence of strong government policies, we project that the worldwide use of oil in transport will nearly double between 2000 and 2030, leading to a similar increase in greenhouse gas emissions’’ (IEA, 2004).

Significantly, between 2003 and 2030, over 1400GW of new coal capacity will be built. These plants would commit the planet to total carbon dioxide emissions of some 500 billion metric tons over their lifetime, unless ‘‘they are backfit with carbon capture equipment at some time during their life,’’ as David Hawkins, Director of Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center told the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce in June 2003. ‘‘To put this number in context, it amounts to half the estimated total cumulative carbon emissions from all fossil fuel use globally over the past 250 years!’’ (Hawkins, 2003)
Note: I have misplaced where I filched these quotes from – but I think it was from the Center for American Progress.)

You can dream about renewable energy, or hybrid cars but these really are dreams – at these levels of deployment. What about carbon capture and sequestration? Even if you think this can work – and I do think it can work - it is one think to build a demonstration plant and then deploy at scale on new plants. “Backfitting” raises a quite different set of problems – not just of technical feasibility but just how well such plants can be expected to be run, to put it tactfully, given the variety of oversight regimes in place across the World.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Moment Worthy of Reflection

House passage of the Waxman-Markey bill last Friday deserves a moment of quiet reflection. For anyone who has followed the internal politics, it is hard to convey how dicey this looked a few months ago. The bill is far from perfect – the 2020 target is too low and too many permits are assigned gratis. But none of that matters. If something like this bill survives the Senate, it will be good enough to set the United States on a unilateral path to de-carbonization. Never mind that the levels will likely turn out to be too conservative. With a basic mechanism in place to internalize the costs of carbon, as reality sets in we can always ratchet up the targets. And the same is true of the rest of the world. This bill, if it becomes law before the end of the year, may set a low bar for the rest of the world to sign on to. But here too, once there is consensus on a way forward, it will be much easier to push collectively for a steeper rate of de-carbonization. Easier, but by no means easy. There has been a Faustian deal in selling this legislation – that it will be accompanied by economic growth. That may be true in the short run. But in the long run, internalizing the true cost of carbon will extract a high price and an uneven one at that, as some sectors of economy will be much more affected than others. For developed economies there will be enough surplus wealth to ease the transition for those most affected. The Developing World is a wholly different story. There the costs (in terms of lowered rates of economic development) will be much larger and hard to offset than most are willing to admit. As such, the real challenge may not be so much getting an agreement as much as sticking to it.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Interlude – Reflection on the National Academies of Sciences meeting on Geoengineering.

As I have written elsewhere I do NOT think the issues of geo are primarily ethical (in any sense different from ethical issues in rest of science and technology) as much as they are methodological.
The methodological issues arise to the extent intervention is planetary wide– be it albedo geo or carbon capture – AND sub-scale experimentation also has to be planetary wide as well.
Under these circumstances the potential costs of “unknown unknowns” are quite different from lab or limited “field” experiments.
As such, the burden of proof is for researchers to show that we know enough about the atmospheric (and ocean) systems to delimit the range of risk OR that we know enough to project from sub-scale intervention to full scale intervention.
I am not saying such arguments can’t be made – but they have not been laid on the table as yet. I suspect we do know enough about both the atmosphere and the ocean (based on theory, history and volcanic activity) to have high confidence that there would be no large scale catastrophic weird non-linearities.
As such, if that were right one could make an extrapolation from sub-scale to scale in strength or extrapolate in time.
That said, none of this covers issues of social, economic, cultural or agricultural effects. But I doubt these are areas in which the worst case scenarios would be deal breakers – at least when it comes to sub-scale experimentation.
Of course, to the extent that there are non planetary wide geo options they are to be vastly preferred because one can limit risks associated with unknowns in experimental stages.
On moral hazard – this is something about which there is research, we ought not to proceed on the basis of intuition or anecdote. That said, from a policy point of view, I think it is as important to find out if sulfur injection works technically just to take it off the table for policy makers as a fix as to leave it on.
Finally, it is a mistake to view geo as the first time we have engaged in an intentional planetary wide intervention. For example, killing off smallpox was just such an intervention and done deliberately. If you think the later was justified (and most do), you need something more to make the argument that geo is morally impermissible merely in virtue of our hubris.
We are at a fork in the road in which we need to de-carbonize. Can we do that with less risk and damage if we do it with geo or without? That is the crucial comparison class.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 3

The Financial Times (June 13th 2009, p. 4) outlines part of the deal: “In return for funding … [technology transfer] … rich countries want legally binding commitments from developing countries that they will “deviate from business as usual”. That is, curb their emissions so they do not reach the level expected if economic growth continues along a high-carbon path.” But what counts as business as usual? Fancy counterfactual worries aside, you might interpret this within the taxonomy of the IPCC models – as A1F1 – that is, low population growth, rapid technological development and unconstrained reliance on fossil fuels. China and India already have so-called “low carbon” development plans in place. But in the case of China (India’s is not specific enough), “low” means restraining carbon for stabilization at 550ppm (assuming a fair share per capita output basis) and that already assumes technology transfer – at least in the case of India. But whether or not you view to promise of technology transfer as buying you more climate saving than the low carbon plans or essential to them, the key unexamined assumption is this: is the technology available to achieve these goals whoever is paying for it? There are two issues here: 1. Is there enough of it? 2. Is it of the right kind?

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change – 2

Current discussion about international climate change is in part a dance about who goes first. It is also a dance about who will follow. The Developed World is expected to go first (at a credible level) to establish its bona fides and, then, and only then, will the Developing World follow. Will? Or might? And either way, follow in equal measure or if not, how much? Suppose China signals the United States to give enough assurances that it will follow, and follow enough, for the United States to decide to go first, and first at a credible level. What is “going first” going to involve? It has been generally assumed that, whatever else, it is going to involve massive technology transfer to the Developing World as a way of offsetting the United States over production of carbon. The only way to seriously reduce carbon output in the United States is to buy the shares of other countries. As their energy output increases, the carbon they could put out, as within their fair share (on, for example, a per capita allotment) gets produced by clean energy that the Developed World pays for. In the comforting graphs people like to draw, the Developed World carbon output trends downward, prompted by domestic measures, and is offset by a slowed upward trend in the Developing World output - slowed by technology transfer. And if all is to end well, these two trends will sum to a total carbon output in 2050that yields a stable level of atmospheric carbon at 450ppm. So what is wrong with this picture?

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Core Narrative of Climate Change

Debates about climate change are governed and shaped by a core narrative that has two key elements: 1. We (or depending on your perspective, They, the Developed World) caused the problem. 2. They (or, We, the Developing World) are going to be the one's to suffer. Over the next few months I am going to be writing about this narrative and its flaws - for it is only correct in a very narrow and misleading sense. Who did what, I am going to argue, is much more complex and, to some extent, beside the point. Who is going to suffer, also makes for a much more complex story but here the details are far from being beside the point - they are going to be central. Central to an argument that relying on this core narrative is not going to get us where we want to be as far as limiting greenhouse gas output.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For

“Rich nations should cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels as part of a new global climate change pact, China said on Thursday, spelling out its stance ahead of negotiations,” reported Reuters last week. Meanwhile, US legislation looks like (at best) the goal will be a 17% cut over 2005 levels by 2020. That is quite a wide gap! Suppose we start with the budget we have to “spend” on carbon before we reach (say) 450ppm and take history into account. (After that let’s assume we proceed on a fair share per capita basis necessary to maintain carbon output at steady state.) Then (at least by my calculation) the Developed World has already used up its budget in toto!! So on that basis, China’s position seems quite generous. But here is the rub. If we are going to play be these accounting rules, China’s own “low carbon plan” will very soon outstrip its allocation. Suppose we bracket history, and allocate a per capita share of that budget. The result is a little more generous to the Developed World but the message is basically the same. As I have written before, if you look at the prospective carbon output of the Developing World over the next 50 years. On a business as usual basis, it is going to swamp the Developed World’s output, both historic and prospective. As such, calling for drastic Developed World cuts is fine and well. But be careful what you ask for. If the same policy is applied fairly, the Developing World will have to drastically revise its own growth plans.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Geoengineering and Scalability

I have colleagues who are volcanologists. Volcanoes dump a lot of sulfur into the stratosphere when they explode. My colleagues claim these explosions provide empirical confirmation for our climate models. And so they claim we can rely on these models to predict, including what would happen if we put sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to decrease the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth. Rely on them how much? This seems to me like a crucial question. For otherwise, all we have to go on would be the results of experiments we might conduct at low rates of insertion from which might try to extrapolate to high rates of insertion. But extrapolate on what basis? Using what model? Volcanic explosion have the virtue of being really big. So they approach the scale of insertion we would need – but they are of short duration. Extrapolating to what would happen with insertion of long duration is what we seek. But here too we are faced with the same dilemma – on what basis? Using what model?

Monday, May 11, 2009

More on Luck

We like to think we should only be held to account for what we had control over. And how can I have control over that which I am ignorant of and could not even have known if I had wanted to? (Although when you and I do the same thing and by pure luck, your act has consequences that mine does not, things get complicated. A child runs in front of your car not mine. We were both driving with reasonable vigilance. For better or worse, you killed the child. It seems extreme to say that you have no moral responsibility at all. And yet your act and mine we identical.) But here we are not worrying about moral culpability but a fair distribution. How we may feel about this may turn out to be a function of the detail:

• You and I share a well which we assume has an unlimited supply of water. I used more than you. I like children, you don’t. I used the water to grow crops to feed my children. Now a fair share that looks backward as well as forward will not yield enough for my family. Our plans we paid in good faith and upending them will have dire consequences. That seems unfair.
• You and I share a well which we assume has an unlimited supply of water. I used more than you. I had a swimming pool and fountains you did not. A fair share looking forward alone will leave my pool empty – so be it. But a fair share looking backwards will hurt more than that. As long as I am guaranteed some supply for my basic needs that does not seem unfair. I enjoyed my pool. Now it’s your turn.

What is the difference? In both cases, if I had known the truth about the water supply I might have acted differently – had fewer children or not built the pool. But what is done is done. Yet in one case, the plans I laid can be aborted. The pool just stands empty. The children are another matter.

• You and I share a well which we assume has an unlimited supply of water. You used less than me. Your interests lay elsewhere. You could have used more. You simply chose not to. Here including a backward looking claim seems gratuitous.
• You and I share a well which we assume has an unlimited supply of water. You used less than me. You wanted to do more, but you lacked the money to invest in irrigation equipment to extend your fields. Now you have the funds to invest and you want to make up for lost time.

Of course here the difference is that in the second case you had a plan, albeit a frustrated plan. In the first you simply squandered an opportunity. I benefited from your situation in both cases.

If you share my intuitions in these cases, they show how luck is not dispositive. When it comes to a fair distribution, whether history matters or not may depend on the details.

Monday, May 4, 2009


You and I share a well. We both thought it would never run dry. I used a lot more water than you did. Now we discover it is going dry. We need to proceed with care, limiting our use. The well reaches an underground lake that is fed by springs. We have been drawing at a rate that outpaces how fast the springs replenish it. So be it. But who will get how much? I make the following proposal: let each have an equal share going forward, be it per household or per person. You object. You have used a lot less than me over the years. You think that should be part of the accounting. “Yes,” you say, “let there be a fair share, but looking back as well as forward.” But until now, neither of knew the well might run dry. The supply seemed inexhaustible. So my using more than you did not seem to matter to either of us. The idea of a “fair share” makes no sense if what is to be shared is inexhaustible. But it wasn’t inexhaustible, we just thought it was. Should ignorance mater here? Does it make any difference? True, ignorance is said to be no excuse in the Law. But in the case of the Law these is something to be known that it was my responsibility to learn about. Here we had an unknown. Even though neither of us realized it, I got an unfair advantage. Unfair or just lucky? Suppose we say it was luck. I happened to be in the right place at the right time to make use of more of the water than you. Does that luck count in the moral equation of who should get what going forward?

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Hypothetical?

Suppose my household economy is improved only by causing climate change – because of the economy-energy function. Suppose I am net-net worse off in the new climate even though I am richer. (E.g. $1000 p.a in 450 ppm versus $2000 in 550 ppm.) But that is not the end of the story IF I am better off @ $2000 relative to other more prevalent “stressors” in my environment (level of nutrition, health care I can afford, education I can afford etc) AND that improvement is greater than the net negative climate effect. So, for example, the probability of my offspring reaching a productive age, in my $2000 p.a. household may be improved even though it is associated with higher ppm which have adverse effect on that outcome. This hypothetical got me thinking about our failure to take differing risk-reward perspectives into account in thinking about how people stand relative to acceptable ppm CO2 levels. But is this hypothetical reflected in actuality?

Monday, April 20, 2009


In the Washington Post April 13th, Rama Lakshmi reports that “ Scientists at India's National Geophysical Research Institute released preliminary findings from ongoing government-funded research that seeks to inject carbon dioxide into the basalt rock formation called the Deccan Traps, which is about 60 million years old. S. Nirmal Charan, a senior scientist at the institute, said researchers wanted to determine whether carbon dioxide can be trapped for tens of thousands of years within the basalt. He said more simulated laboratory tests are underway, but initial results show the process to be "environmentally benign."” This is significant for a couple of reasons. The first is that the research is (so far) positive. The second is that the research is being done at all. India’s public position to date has been one of passive skepticism about carbon sequestration. “Let the Developed World prove it is safe first” has been the mantra. That is a position that carries the likelihood for long term procrastination. For even if carbon sequestration is researched outside India first, who knows if it will conform to the standard of certainty that might be set – let alone a demand for the research to then and only then be replicated “at home”. Doing it oneself has a way of changing the frame. In doing so, it allows for a debate first about what would constituent success and it allows that test to be done where it counts – locally. India has too much coal and too much need for energy to not do this research.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Congress or EPA?

The much anticipated congressional action on greenhouse gas legislation may go nowhere this year – a victim of other priorities and the allocation of political capital. At the same time EPA is moving ahead with CO2 regulations using a recent ruling that the gas could be judged harmful. There has been much commentary that this is second best but I am not so sure. Whatever the United States does now is simply an overture to the post-Kyoto international negotiations which will have to come back to the Congress for ratification. All that matters now is for the U.S. to establish its bona fides by acting unilaterally. EPA is just as good a vehicle to do that as the Congress. Maybe better. Unlike the Congress, EPA is not subject to the push and pull of regional interests that can force self-interested compromises. But more important, EPA has come to be accepted as a kind of public health agency and public health agency have a protected political status. We tend to accept the regulations they visit on us as for our own good even if they hurt in the short run. Politicians know this and understand that doing unpopular things through such agencies gives them some protection from the political wrath of their constituents.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Changing China

ChinaDialogue has just published an important article in cooperation with Rutgers CSP that deserves close reading - Hu Angang is one of Chinaʼs best-known economists. He is professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University and the director of the Centre for China Study, a leading policy think-tank. Hu has worked as the chief editor for China Studies Report, a circulated reference for senior officials. I say all of this because it is not just the opinion voiced in the article that is important but who is expressing it. Here is what deserves attention: heretofore, China's climate policy has been posed in terms of increasing energy efficiency per $ of GDP. That may be a virtue but with a planned growth rate of 8% in GDP over the coming two decades, any gain in efficiency gets quickly dwarfed by the massive increase in the economy. Here Hu Angang is calling for a change to bring China into line with the rest of the major greenhouse gas emitters in framing goals in absolute terms. And while one may take issue with the figures he sets, that should not mask the significance of what he is proposing as well as the fact that it is he who is doing so.

Monday, March 30, 2009


ChinaDialogue reports: A top Chinese state think tank – the State Council Development Research Centre -- has proposed a global greenhouse-gas trading plan to reflect the varying historic emissions of rich and poor nations, indicating deepening discussion in Beijing about climate-change policy, Reuters reported. Researchers from the centre presented the plan in the current issue of the Economic Research Journal. The think tank recommends setting emissions rights for each country based on historic accumulation, and then allowing nations to trade portions of those rights in an international market. The plan would draw China and other developing countries into clearer obligations to curtail greenhouse gases in the long term. However, it would give them larger per-capita emissions quotas than rich countries, reflecting the developing world’s historically low emissions and “right to develop”. All countries should develop a “historic account” of past emissions, according to the plan. That account would be used to measure whether current emissions fall above or below appropriate levels calculated from population, accumulated emissions and total global-reduction objectives. How countries keep their own future emissions entitlements within agreed levels would be left for governments to decide. Countries could trade emissions rights, on condition that they eliminate their “emissions rights deficit” by a set date – for example, 2050.
How much history should matter depends on some thorny conceptual issues. First, how should we treat the rate of re-absorption of CO2? Depending on where that figure is set, you need to calculate how much of old CO2 output is still in the atmosphere. But even if CO2 put up in (say) 1800 is largely gone from the atmosphere, its effects on ocean warming are not – that has a much longer life. Then there is the issue of population. Suppose you add up historic use. Do you then allocate shares based on population now, in the future (when) or the actual population at the time of output. The United States may be 5% of the World’s population now, but in 1800 it was much less. Finally, in making such calculations, should you take the was figures for usage, or calculate use age above basic needs? Historically, the (now) Developing World has produced about 50% of total CO2. But nearly all of that was used merely to survive.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What If?

In Climate Shocks and Economic Growth: Evidence from the Last Half Century (, Melissa Dell, Benjamin F. Jones, and Benjamin A. Olken report: “Our main results show large, negative effects of higher temperatures on growth, but only in poor countries. In poorer countries, we estimate that a 1◦C rise in temperature in a given year reduced economic growth in that year by about 1.1 percentage points. In rich countries, changes in temperature had no discernable effect on growth. Changes in precipitation had no substantial effects on growth in either poor or rich countries. We find broadly consistent results across a wide range of alternative specifications.” Suppose that is right and right for more than 1 degree. Then does the West have anything to gain by changing its behavior? Societies that can adapt to the effects of climate change will be favored, and those are largely in the Developed World, which has the advantages, resources and the geographical location. But to reap such benefits such an argument has to be taken to the extreme. Only if the climate crisis eliminated the populations of the Developing World would the Developing World reap those advantages by living in a world with a radically diminished population. I would like to provide an economic argument based on the interdependence of the world economy to undermine this argument. But I am not confident that such an argument can be made. A moral argument can be made, but I am not confident that such an argument has much practical force. Instead I argue that it is implausible to think the Developed World could isolate itself from the turmoil that catastrophic climate change would produce in the Developing World. Short term security considerations will trump any long term analysis.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Lecture on Conflicting Valuation

Here is a webcast of a lecture I gave at Princeton a few weeks ago in which I argued against an "ethics" approach to climate and in favor of an approach based on conflicting valuation:

Monday, March 9, 2009

My Lead Foot

I drive with a lead foot – I waste gas accelerating too fast from a stop and I also break too hard as well. Reform of driving habits is perhaps the easiest and most effective to improve auto efficiency and reduce CO2 output in this sector. I have tried to unlearn my habits to drive like a little old lady (or geezer). But old habits die hard. Some modern planes are design to over-ride pilot action when the computer deems those actions dangerous. Why not design a car that does something like that? Program the car to drive as if I were an old geezer and just ignore my lead feet. Suppose a car came with a number of different “performance” profiles. Just make the default the most fuel efficient and most people will choose that one by default. But what if I need performance – in an emergency? One could build in overrides that take advantage of our reflexive actions under duress – like squeezing the steering wheel.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Puzzling Polls

In a recent poll we did (funded by PSEG and designed by my colleague Cliff Zukin), we probed attitudes toward individual and government action on climate. The number crunching is not finished, but we seem to have found two puzzling (and perhaps related) results. As I reported a few weeks ago, more people see a need for government action on climate than those that believe is it man made. But here is what I had not thought through when I made that post. If the result shows up, it means that there is not really a need to convince people about the reality of anthropogenic climate change as a precondition for winning their support for government action on it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More on Valuation

I have been thinking more about how the attitude toward climate risk in the Developing World and the Developed World may drive disagreement going forward. I live in a pretty stable world. Day to day life is quite regular. Disruption is minimal. Not just that, where disruption occurs, life is stable under such perturbation unless it was extreme – which to date it has not been. (I have been in no serious car accidents, nor had serious disease and so on.) For me the calculus of cost and benefit for a 550 or 650 ppm world is negative. Climate change is driven by energy use which is tied to economic growth. I am well off enough that marginal growth does not yield much incremental benefit. Instead, I’d prefer to avoid the increase in potential disruption to my life that such climate change may risk. But now consider my counterpart – a poor person in a Developing Country. His day to day life is filled with disruptions to regularity – uncertainty in food supply, health, energy (if any) and so on. He lives on a knife edge - with little resilience to minor perturbations. You might think he should disfavor the increased risk that climate change would bring more than I would. But that is not obviously the case. For if climate change is driven by his increased energy use as a result of his increased economic growth he may be better off. For notice two things: the same marginal gain to me which is small relative to my income may be huge to him relative to his income. And that improvement may render him more resilient to the effects of climate change than he would have been – poorer in a lower ppm world. But not just that, his increased income will not just increase his resilience in the face of the effects of climate change but across all the other existing disruptive forces in his life.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Soft Support

We just completed the second phase of a poll in New Jersey supported by PSEG on attitudes toward global warming policy. In an earlier poll we had been struck by the high degree of support for more government action. That is confirmed in these results. 66% believe the Federal government should play a major role in combating global warming. We find dramatic results when it comes to specific policy - 84% of respondents believe utility companies should be forced to use more renewable sources of energy and 80% of respondents support mandating higher energy conservation standard in new buildings and renovations – even though only 58% of respondents believe global warming is a fact and is mostly caused by human activity! That is the good news. The bad news is the drop in support when such policies are framed in terms of costs to the respondents themselves. Support for increasing energy from renewable sources drops to 49% when it is associated with 20% increase in utility prices. And support for higher building standards drops to 65% if it were to entail a 10% increase in the costs of construction. Most telling, only 17% would support the use of gas taxes to discourage driving. These results underscore how “soft” support for these policies is and how much work needs to be done to consolidate such support before such policies begin to bite.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Where does talk about rights get you? A climate talk I listened to last week began from a familiar starting point in arguing for the obligations of the Developed World to the rest: rights. Citing the Declaration of Human Rights, the claim was that humans have a right to life, liberty and justice, but also food security, housing, economic well being and … . The contrast here is between what philosophers call negative rights and positive rights. Negative rights arise out of what are sometimes called duties of non-interference. I have a duty not to interfere with your freedom of speech for example. Positive rights are duties I have to do things for you – like a duty to provide you with food. Philosophy is pretty good at generating an account of negative rights. One way to do that is to start with the idea that the benefits of cooperative living bring us into inevitable conflict with each other as we live cheek by jowl. It is in all of our interests to limit the kinds of interferences that can arise under these circumstances. The idea is to maximize our own freedom consistent with rendering the same to others. But none of that generates a duty for any of us to do things for each other. A duty not to drown you is different from a duty to save you if you are drowning. We may collectively arrive at such a positive duty. But it does not flow out of the negative duty. Note that rights here don’t come at the beginning of these arguments, they come at the end. They are the conclusions of arguments not premises. So what about a right to things like food security, housing, economic well being and so on? Of what arguments are these the conclusions? I am not saying there are no such arguments. Just that they need to be provided. You can’t get these rights by just stamping your foot. The beauty of negative rights is that you can get them out of nothing. That is because they arise out of a mutual interest in restraining our behavior. By parallel reasoning, positive rights might come out of our having a mutual interest in assuming obligations. I am not saying you can’t do that. But maybe that is not necessary in the area of climate. Anthropogenic climate change is an effect of our actions. Those effects are visited on some more than others and on many who are not agents of those actions. Why don’t these actions violate duties of non-interference? Leave aside the thorny question of whether we have such duties toward Nature. (Moral philosophy falls very much in the domain of human affairs and we have difficulty extending it except to other agents. It is easy to think of extending it to non-human agents. The problem is of thinking of Nature as an agent.) Why doesn’t the Developed World’s action violate duties of non-interference toward the Developing World? Suppose you and I share a well. I foul it, or take all the water. I have done something unfair. I owe you something. Did I violate some duty of non-interference? If so, toward what? Your right to the water? Then we are back to positive rights even if now it does not generate a duty for me to render something to you. But where does your right to water come from? If there is no water, can you stamp your foot and demand it? From whom? What seems more plausible to say IF there is water, you and I have a right to an equal share to it. (Again this leaves Nature and the problem of rights talk toward it out of the picture.) At least in understanding our obligations toward each other, a prima facie principle of equal share is all we need. The Developed World’s historic obligation does not need to be derived from positing all sorts of rights. The Declaration of Human Rights is in the end a political statement not a philosophical one. The philosophical grounding is simpler to finesse.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Attitudes in China

Here is an interesting and somewhat hopeful (edited) report about climate attitudes in China - in a report by Li Jing of China Daily published lat last year. I am of two minds about this and previous such survey results ... they seem too good to be true, especially when compared to attitudes in more developed countries. Could it be, that the respondents are not as spoiled as those in Developing countries and have less in hand to loose or give up? Or could it be that the sample is urban and educated and not really representative of the whole population?

A recent survey released by the Climate Group, a British-based not-for- profit environmental organization, and Beijing Consumers Association, shows that up to 69 percent of Chinese consumers are willing to change their lifestyles in order to help with global efforts to combat climate change.
The survey, conducted by TNS, a market research company, and Lippincott, a consulting firm on branding strategy, interviewed about 1,000 consumers in 14 major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai.
About 99 percent of consumers interviewed said they are aware of the threat the world is facing as a result of the global warming.
"With the rapid development of China's economy and improvement of people's living standards, Chinese consumers have become more concerned about their behaviors' impact on the environment," says Zhang Ming, general secretary of Beijing Consumers Association.
About 50 percent of the consumers interviewed said they are willing to spend more time in the efforts to fight the global warming, and 29 percent say they would like to pay more.
Among all the measurements, energy saving is one of the key solutions consumers could think of, the survey shows.
Consumers say they would like to do as much as they can to save energy through changing their commuting methods, for instance, avoiding using private cars and relying more on public transportation.
Changing habits in using household electricity and heating to save more energy are also feasible choices for them to address the global warming issue.

Monday, January 26, 2009

And Now it Starts

Greenhouse gas reduction bills like California's AB 32 and New Jersey's legislation use the same legislative strategy. They extract no pain at the front end and buy some time to win voter acquiescence before they kick in and start to extract a real cost. That is when the risk of roll back will be greatest. But as the commentary below illustrates, the calls for roll backs are already starting:

By California Assemblyman Logue (R-Yuba City).

As a new Member of the California State Assembly I have introduce my first bill to suspend AB 32 the so-called California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In 2006, on a party-line vote, Legislative Democrats passed AB 32 over the objections of the Republicans. Authored by then Assembly Speaker Fabien Núñez, ostensibly to combat the effects of global warming, AB 32 forces businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. Appealing to the politically correct crowd of 2006, AB 32 was hailed far and wide by left leaning political elites. They could not have envisioned our economic downturn or the devastating effects of AB 32 on California's economy and it's environment - or could they...

There have been economic slumps in past decades and subsequent recoveries. But there are major differences between then and now. The military build-up of the Regan administration and California's extensive military and defense industry infrastructure fueled the economic rebound of the 1980's. In the 1990's the housing boom spurred economic growth even in the face of the Gray Davis deficit and the legislature's out of control spending. The difference today is that California no longer enjoys a robust military and defense industry economy and California's housing industry is in a shambles.

It gets worse, compounded by California's hostile regulatory environment, businesses are now expected to try to compete in a global economy. Sacramento liberals may say, "Let them eat cake..." but the global economy, by definition, means global competition - for states too. California's implementation of AB 32 has crippled our ability to compete in the global economy. Our prosperity is not just impacted by neighboring states, but by other nations. Competitors like India and China cheer our environmental regulations. Meanwhile, China is experiencing an industrial revolution the world has never seen. They are creating wealth and prosperity while we move money around. China and India are also building 600 coal-fire power plants over the next few years, which, when in operation, will negate any gains achieved by AB 32 in a matter of days.

In response to this, the left claims "We will create green jobs like solar panels." Unfortunately, we are now importing solar panels from China and those panels are being produced by plants powered by coal-fired plants (carbon emissions) and shipped to America. Because of our high land costs, environmental fees, impact fees, and over regulation of business, we will end up buying the green technology and products from Nevada, Texas, Mexico and China. The growing chorus in business is A.B.C...Anywhere But California.

In the last year alone California lost 95,000 private sector jobs and our manufacturing base has been devastated. An Independent economist stated AB 32 is a threat to our remaining 1.5 million manufacturing jobs. AB 32 will hurt our environment. AB 32 is a job killer, businesses can't comply and remain competitive, so they are leaving. This has resulted in less tax revenues for environmental mitigation bringing a halt to many programs that keep our public safe from toxic waste and limit our ability to provide safe, clean, water. As of now, there are thousands of toxic sites in California and no money to mitigate. Given the current state of our economy, AB 32 must be suspended before it suspends our funding for schools, law enforcement, parks, water storage, and any hope of economic recovery. At its most basic analysis - no private sector jobs - no economy - no economy - no tax revenues for the state for anything.We will be broke.

But we will be politically correct and Hollywood will love us!

Originally published at: