mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“The Science Is Settled”: In Spite Of What You See Outside, Global Warming Is Real

Cue the igloos.

The winter blizzard set to paralyze the East Coast has given climate change deniers the perfect opportunity to proclaim, once again, that global warming is a hoax, that several feet of snow prove the planet is as cold as ever, that the Earth is flat: You can tell by looking outside. Common sense.

During a similar snowstorm in 2010, the family of one of the nation’s leading flat-earthers, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., built an igloo on the National Mall. His daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren deposited a sign across the structure that read “Al Gore’s New Home,” in mockery of one of the saner voices on the risks of climate change.

This latest storm has produced plenty of igloo material but no evidence that Gore is wrong. Sorry, but the Earth is, in fact, a sphere — no matter what you see as you look out your bedroom window. Similarly, the planet is warming — no matter how cold it is outside your bedroom window.

Earlier this month, climate scientists released a report saying that 2015 was the warmest year on record for the planet, shattering the previous record that had been set by a very warm 2014. El Niño’s winds contributed to last year’s heat, but the bulk of it is a consequence of human activity, scientists said.

By now, the science is settled. Shouldn’t we be talking about solutions? Shouldn’t our politicians be leading a national discussion about ways to build on the climate accord that President Obama signed in Paris?

One of the most promising answers is a carbon tax, a way to raise prices on the fossil fuels that create much of the environmental havoc. A price hike would help to discourage use by everyone, from the executives at coal-fired electric plants to motorists who drive alone to and from work.

A carbon tax is even more compelling in this era of rapidly falling petroleum prices. While cheap gas helps the family budget, it simply encourages us to use more of it. And, oddly, it even encourages car buyers to skip the smaller, more efficient models and opt for bigger gas guzzlers. At the end of 2015, fuel economy for new vehicles was falling, likely reflecting more purchases of pickup trucks and SUVs, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute.

It might seem perverse to suggest a carbon tax — or “fee,” as some prefer to call it — just as average households are getting a break from gas prices. After all, the American middle class is still struggling with wage stagnation.

But those households need not be penalized. There are already detailed plans for protecting low- and middle-income households from the budget pinch of a carbon tax, which would affect not only gasoline but also home energy prices.

The bigger problem is that a carbon tax has no chance of passing a recalcitrant Republican Congress, many of whose members still insist that climate change isn’t real. The few GOP moderates who had, in the past, acknowledged human-caused climate change — New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, for instance — dare not say so anymore.

It hasn’t always been this way inside the Republican Party. As The Wall Street Journal has noted, “Republicans, not Democrats, first championed market-based systems to control pollution.” In 2008, GOP nominee John McCain and his Democratic rival, Obama, had similar proposals for a carbon tax.

Nowadays, though, the carbon tax is anathema to an irrational Republican electorate. Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, has said that any GOP candidate who supported a carbon tax “would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process.” That helps explain why not a word has been uttered in support of it.

But that’s no reason to give up. Environmentalists and their allies have to keep plugging away at rational solutions, playing the long game. There really is no choice. Global warming is a crisis, no matter how big a blizzard batters the East Coast, and no matter how many igloos the Inhofe clan builds.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2007; Featured Post, The National Memo, January 23, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Global Warming | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Carrot And Stick Approach To Climate Change”: The Lame Duck Continues To Quack, And It Sounds Like A Roar

By now we all know that this Congress will do nothing to combat global climate change. And so, what we see happening is that President Obama will use his “pen and phone” strategy to institute both a carrot and stick approach to begin the process of addressing this issue.

On the carrot side, this week the President’s American Business Act on Climate Change initiative made a pretty big announcement.

US corporate giants including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Berkshire Hathaway and Goldman Sachs are looking to invest at least $140bn to shrink their carbon footprints, according to media reports…

The committed funds will be utilised to cut emissions, provide financing to environmentally-focused companies, reduce water consumption, and produce 1,600 megawatts of new, renewable energy, which is enough to power nearly 1.3 million homes.

The announcement comes as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster private commitments to climate change, ahead of a summit in Paris later in 2015. The White House expects to announce a second round of similar pledges later from more companies, Bloomberg reported.

Take a look at that number: $140,000,000,000. That’s not chump change. With more to come.

Tomorrow, President Obama weighs in with the stick.

In the strongest action ever taken in the United States to combat climate change, President Obama will unveil on Monday a set of environmental regulations devised to sharply cut planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s power plants and ultimately transform America’s electricity industry.

The rules are the final, tougher versions of proposed regulations that the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2012 and 2014. If they withstand the expected legal challenges, the regulations will set in motion sweeping policy changes that could shut down hundreds of coal-fired power plants, freeze construction of new coal plants and create a boom in the production of wind and solar power and other renewable energy sources…

“Climate change is not a problem for another generation, not anymore,” Mr. Obama said in a video posted on Facebook at midnight Saturday. He called the new rules “the biggest, most important step we’ve ever taken to combat climate change.”

Yes, coal companies will scream bloody murder, some red states will refuse to comply, and court challenges will be initiated. But the battle will be joined, culminating with the increasing likelihood of a global climate accord in Paris this December.

As Oliver Willis put it:

The lame duck continues to quack, and it sounds like a roar.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, The Political Animal Blog, The Washington MOnthly, August 2, 2015

August 3, 2015 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Renewable Energy | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Wrong Once Again”: Republicans Are Furious About Obama’s Climate Breakthrough With China

Republicans are furious that President Barack Obama has cut a historic deal with China to lower both countries’ greenhouse gas emissions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell just spent his reelection campaign claiming that China would never curb its emissions, so the U.S. shouldn’t either. Many other Republicans have argued the same. And yet China just proved Republicans wrong by committing to reach a peak level of carbon pollution by 2030the first time the world’s largest polluter has set a deadline for lowering emissions.

Republicans won’t admit they were wrong, of course. They’ve already moved on to their next talking point. Remarkably, the party that’s become synonymous with climate-change denial has avoided any mention of it this time. A statement from McConnell’s office stressed only that Environmental Protection Agency regulations hurt coal jobs:

Our economy can’t take the President’s ideological War on Coal that will increase the squeeze on middle-class families and struggling miners. This unrealistic plan, that the President would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.

House Speaker John Boehner stated:

This announcement is yet another sign that the president intends to double down on his job-crushing policies no matter how devastating the impact for America’s heartland and the country as a whole. And it is the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families. Republicans have consistently passed legislation to rein in the EPA and stop these harmful policies from taking effect, and we will continue to make this a priority in the new Congress.

Even Senator James InhofeCongress’ most vigilant climate-change denierneglected to mention what he really thinks of global warming. He emphasized that this deal lets China get away with not making any real cuts, while the U.S. will have to cut up to 28 percent of its emissions by 2025:

In the President’s climate change deal, the United States will be required to more steeply reduce our carbon emissions while China won’t have to reduce anything. It’s hollow and not believable for China to claim it will shift 20 percent of its energy to non-fossil fuels by 2030, and a promise to peak its carbon emissions only allows the world’s largest economy to buy time. China builds a coal-fired power plant every 10 days, is the largest importer of coal in the world, and has no known reserves of natural gas. This deal is a non-binding charade. The American people spoke against the President’s climate policies in this last election. They want affordable energy and more economic opportunity, both which are being diminished by overbearing EPA mandates. As we enter a new Congress, I will do everything in my power to rein in and shed light on the EPA’s unchecked regulations.

That’s not true. This climate accord marks the first time that China has publicly committed to any limit on carbon, at all. As a developing and rapidly growing economy that bears little responsibility historically for climate change, China can rightly argue it won’t act unless the U.S. does. To discredit this deal as a “non-binding charade” is simply misleading; these commitments may be formalized next year at an international meeting in Paris. The announcement now is meant to build momentum for these talks, and convince other countries to put forward their own ambitious targets.

The hardest parthow to move both countries’ giant economies away from fossil fuel dependencecomes next. Republican opposition will be firm, even if their excuses shift away from climate-change denial.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, November 12, 2014

November 17, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, China, Climate Change | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Big Green Test”: Conservatives And Climate Change

On Sunday Henry Paulson, the former Treasury secretary and a lifelong Republican, had an Op-Ed article about climate policy in The New York Times. In the article, he declared that man-made climate change is “the challenge of our time,” and called for a national tax on carbon emissions to encourage conservation and the adoption of green technologies. Considering the prevalence of climate denial within today’s G.O.P., and the absolute opposition to any kind of tax increase, this was a brave stand to take.

But not nearly brave enough. Emissions taxes are the Economics 101 solution to pollution problems; every economist I know would start cheering wildly if Congress voted in a clean, across-the-board carbon tax. But that isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. A carbon tax may be the best thing we could do, but we won’t actually do it.

Yet there are a number of second-best things (in the technical sense, as I’ll explain shortly) that we’re either doing already or might do soon. And the question for Mr. Paulson and other conservatives who consider themselves environmentalists is whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers, and in particular whether they’re willing to accept second-best answers implemented by the other party. If they aren’t, their supposed environmentalism is an empty gesture.

Let me give some examples of what I’m talking about.

First, consider rules like fuel efficiency standards, or “net metering” mandates requiring that utilities buy back the electricity generated by homeowners’ solar panels. Any economics student can tell you that such rules are inefficient compared with the clean incentives provided by an emissions tax. But we don’t have an emissions tax, and fuel efficiency rules and net metering reduce greenhouse gas emissions. So a question for conservative environmentalists: Do you support the continuation of such mandates, or are you with the business groups (spearheaded by the Koch brothers) campaigning to eliminate them and impose fees on home solar installations?

Second, consider government support for clean energy via subsidies and loan guarantees. Again, if we had an appropriately high emissions tax such support might not be necessary (there would be a case for investment promotion even then, but never mind). But we don’t have such a tax. So the question is, Are you O.K. with things like loan guarantees for solar plants, even though we know that some loans will go bad, Solyndra-style?

Finally, what about the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal that it use its regulatory authority to impose large reductions in emissions from power plants? The agency is eager to pursue market-friendly solutions to the extent it can — basically by imposing emissions limits on states, while encouraging states or groups of states to create cap-and-trade systems that effectively put a price on carbon. But this will nonetheless be a partial approach that addresses only one source of greenhouse gas emissions. Are you willing to support this partial approach?

By the way: Readers well versed in economics will recognize that I’m talking about what is technically known as the “theory of the second best.” According to this theory, distortions in one market — in this case, the fact that there are large social costs to carbon emissions, but individuals and firms don’t pay a price for emitting carbon — can justify government intervention in other, related markets. Second-best arguments have a dubious reputation in economics, because the right policy is always to eliminate the primary distortion, if you can. But sometimes you can’t, and this is one of those times.

Which brings me back to Mr. Paulson. In his Op-Ed he likens the climate crisis to the financial crisis he helped confront in 2008. Unfortunately, it’s not a very good analogy: In the financial crisis he could credibly argue that disaster was only days away, while the climate catastrophe will unfold over many decades.

So let me suggest a different analogy, one that he probably won’t like. In policy terms, climate action — if it happens at all — will probably look like health reform. That is, it will be an awkward compromise dictated in part by the need to appease special interests, not the clean, simple solution you would have implemented if you could have started from scratch. It will be the subject of intense partisanship, relying overwhelmingly on support from just one party, and will be the subject of constant, hysterical attacks. And it will, if we’re lucky, nonetheless do the job.

Did I mention that health reform is clearly working, despite its flaws?

The question for Mr. Paulson and those of similar views is whether they’re willing to go along with that kind of imperfection. If they are, welcome aboard.

 

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, June 22, 2014

 

 

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Clean Energy, Climate Change | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who Says Obama Can’t Lead?”: While Obama Is Exhibiting Leadership With Finesse, Republicans Have Run Into A Wall

Last week, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found President Obama tying his record low approval rating of 41 percent. NBC’s Chuck Todd, referring to another poll result showing that 54 percent of Americans “no longer feel that he is able to lead the country and get the job done,” told the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “Essentially the public is saying, ‘Your presidency is over.’”

Similarly, political analyst Charlie Cook, citing Gallup survey data, wrote in National Journal, “There was a point when voters hit the mute button and stopped listening to George H.W. Bush and then to his son George W. Bush. We now seem to have reached that point with Obama.”

But one morsel from the NBC/WSJ poll didn’t fit that narrative: 67 percent of respondents are in favor of the president’s newly announced regulations “to set strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants.” And when the pollsters re-asked the question, after presenting supporting and opposing arguments, including charges of “fewer jobs” and “higher prices,” approval held with a healthy 53 percent to 39 percent margin.

That’s a hell of a lot of support for a major presidential initiative from an electorate supposedly no longer listening to the president.

What did Obama do right?

Adhering to a favorite maxim of U.S. presidents of both parties that it’s remarkable how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit, Obama tapped EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to announce the plan and stump for it in media interviews.  By keeping a relatively low-profile, Obama tempered the media’s tendency to polarize everything while dampening conservative backlash, a strategy that previously helped shepherd the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and the repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy on gays and lesbians.

Additionally, the Obama administration avoided a united corporate front against the plan by reaching out to industries about to be regulated. While the U.S Chamber of Commerce chose to oppose the plan before it was released, the power plant industry’s main lobby refused to reinforce the attack. Instead, it released a positive statement expressing appreciation for the “range of compliance options” offered by the EPA.

The statement was short of an outright endorsement, leaving room for further negotiation.  Days later, McCarthy began that negotiation, meeting with and winning praise from utility executives for “listening to the concerns that we had” and being “willing to have that dialogue.” With the utility industry signaling détente, Republicans couldn’t validate conservatives’ sky-is-falling claims with the voices of those most directly impacted by the proposed regulations.

While Obama was exhibiting leadership with finesse, Republicans decided to run into a wall. Instead of training their fire on the climate proposal in the days following the June 2 release, they obsessed over freed prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl. Whatever one’s opinion of the terms of the prisoner swap with the Taliban, it’s a done deal—and the climate rule is not. Republicans had a moment to redirect the climate debate for the duration of Obama’s presidency away from the losing effort of denying the science and toward the more fertile ground of jobs and prices. Myopically, they used that moment to chase the shiny object of the 24-hour news cycle.

Obama may not have been leading on climate in the conventional sense: preaching from the bully pulpit and rallying the public to pressure Washington to act. But prominent political scientists will tell you that’s not how presidential leadership usually works. As George Washington University professor John Sides explained to Slate, “The idea that presidents accomplish more if they give the right speech is magical thinking.”

Yet, the president has bucked the trend of history and successfully used the bully pulpit to advance another major goal: raising the minimum wage. Anticipating obstinacy from House Republicans, he told the states during his January 2014 State of the Union address, “You don’t have to wait for Congress to act.” He followed up that call with several outside-the-Beltway stump speeches urging states to raise their minimum wage above the federal standard.

The stumping is working. So far this year, eight states have raised their minimums and later this week Massachusetts will make it nine. Others may follow suit as more than 30 state legislatures have been compelled to consider minimum wage measures, and activists in eight states are pursuing November referendums. As with climate, this is not the kind of impact a president makes if the public has “stopped listening.”

But since bully pulpit tactics are not the norm of presidential leadership, it’s not all that important if the public doesn’t “tune in” to hear the president anymore. The test of a president’s leadership is whether he is in-tune enough with the public, and deft enough with the levers of power, to accomplish what is feasible.

If I were a Republican, I would not be savoring Obama’s 41 percent approval rating and presuming his presidency was done. I would be worried about my party’s 29 percent approval rating, its 15 percent level of support among Latinos and Obama’s plans to take executive action on immigration reform if House Republicans don’t act by July 31. If you think Obama isn’t able to lead on immigration, after what he has done on climate and minimum wage, you haven’t been paying attention.

 

By: Bill Scher, Contributor, Real Clear Politics, June 23, 2014

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Carbon Emissions, Climate Change, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: