We've moved!

Social Icons

twitterfacebooklinkedinrss feed

Monday, May 24, 2010

Climate Change (and Climate Science) Real, Action Necessary

My day job keeps me from arguing climate science as much as I ought. Fortunately, there are lots of scientists smarter than I who are on top of that debate (via Facebook pals and NYT):

Climate change is occurring, is caused largely by human activities, and poses significant risks for — and in many cases is already affecting — a broad range of human and natural systems....

A carbon-pricing system is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Either cap-and-trade, a system of taxing emissions, or a combination of the two could provide the needed incentives. While the report does not specifically recommend a cap-and-trade system, it notes that cap-and-trade is generally more compatible with the concept of an emissions budget.

Carbon pricing alone, however, is not enough to sufficiently reduce domestic emissions, the report warns. Strategically chosen, complementary policies are necessary to assure rapid progress in key areas such as: increasing energy efficiency; accelerating the development of renewable energy sources; advancing full-scale development of new-generation nuclear power and carbon capture and storage systems; and retrofitting, retiring, or replacing existing emissions-intensive energy infrastructure. Research and development of new technologies that could help reduce emissions more cost effectively than current options also should be strongly supported [links mine, "Strong Evidence on Climate Change Underscores Need for Actions to Reduce Emissions and Begin Adapting to Impacts," News from the National Academies, 2010.05.19].
Read the full reports on climate change from the National Research Council of the National Academies here:
  1. Advancing the Science
  2. Limiting the Magintude
  3. Adapting to the Impacts
I must confess to a little uneasiness at seeing the third title. The scientists appear to be acknowledging that we've made a mess, trouble's coming, and there's no way to avoid it all. Those darn scientists—always such realists.

Update 2010.05.26: Meanwhile, Rep. Don Kopp (R-35/Rapid City) continues to embarrass the state he was elected to serve. He takes to the pages of "Dakota" Voice to perpetuate the pernicious lie of his anti-science climate change resolution.


  1. Economist, Chris Farrell, has been doing public radio for twenty-something years, MPR has him on regularly.

    He advocates for frugal consumptive habits like spending at thrift stores, patronizing local businesses that subscribe to your own ideals even if the prices are higher, taxing polluters, ending subsidies for industrial agriculture. Using market powers to force more efficient fuel and water resources by producing locally.


  2. Here's a better links: http://www.chrisfarrellblog.com/

  3. what and how much cap (tax) do you put on a cow? or does the farmer trade for credits to ensure the cow doesn't create too much methane. does he mix beano in with the food to keep the levels down?

  4. Global Warming (and Climate Scientists' claims on reliable predictions) Fake, actions destructive, and have no purpose.

  5. Thanks for the good links, Larry!

    Doug, we'd charge the livestock producer the same rate we'd charge other businesses for comparable emissions. It's not that complicated, and it's perfectly fair.

  6. I'm sorry, Cory, but the idea of taxing cow farts strikes me as completely ridiculous, and indicative of a regulatory mentality run amok.

  7. Stan, can electrical transmission corridors be designed to carry power in such a way as to generate mag-lev technologies under Interstate highways or light rail?

  8. I don't know, Stan. I would agree that a cow-fart tax could turn ridiculous if we're hooking up meters or methane-capture tanks to each cow. But if methane is a harmful waste, and if cows produce a significant amount of that waste (and we can certainly analyze those ifs), is it ridiculous to call for some kind of regulation on that waste, or charge the waste producers to pay for the impacts and cleanup of that waste? What's more ridiculous about regulating this waste than about regulating solid or liquid waste from feedlots, or the air pollution from other industrial facilities or from automobiles?

  9. Larry, the short answer is, I don't know. Long-distance power transmission takes place with high-voltage alternating current. I do not know how effective (or safe) it would be to run those lines right next to passenger trains. However, I should hope that the engineers would try something like that on the drawing boards as soon as possible!

    Cory, one of my biggest concerns lies with the general tendency of government to keep piling regulation on top of regulation, tax on top of tax, until the system becomes so Byzantine that no one can comply with it, or have any time left to pursue the livelioods that keep the economy going.

    As for taxing all sources -- how about marsh gas (mostly methane)? Should we tax the wetlands? Or seek ways to destroy them? Once we get into the business of trying to tax every single thing that might conceivably harm every other single thing, we're headed towards a point where the whole business will topple -- rejected by an enraged public. We're getting pretty close to that point now, if you haven't noticed.

    If I were running for public office, I might tag myself with the name "The Un-Legislator" or "Mr. Clean" and run on a platform of paring down the laws, not making new ones -- with the objective of making it easier for the everyday business person to do her work unmolested by a system that approaches totalitarianism.

    Already I see a couple of new laws that could impact me adversely in terms of the time it takes to comply, even if they cost me no extra money otherwise. One has to do with 1099 forms for contractors; the other has to do with lead paint. Let the reader understand.

    It's gotta stop, and in November I intend to exercise my power as a voter to stop it.

  10. So far many people think nothing has changed in the last months and their life continues on, so they have no thought to who is running for office, what they stand for, how the fed gov't is growing and growing and growing, the new laws being passed. UNTIL, as with Stan, they suddenly are confronted by some of these laws, and then they say "that's really stupid" ro "why didn't someone do something" or "why didn't somebody tell me." (I don't mean that you don't know what is going on, Stan; I feel you do, but so many don't.)

    As for climate change and cap and tax, even one of the major proponents of cap and tax admitted that it wouldn't reduce carbon emissions enough to be worthwhile! How many people realize that? However, cap and tax will hurt our economy and every citizen (well, not Gore et al because they have built this hyped up scheme to enrich themselves at the expense of the common man.) Do you honestly feel that Gore is into redistributing his wealth as Obama wants the rest of us to do? Is Obama? If you do, I have a bridge....

  11. "Do you honestly feel that Gore is into redistributing his wealth as Obama wants the rest of us to do? Is Obama?"

    Well, actually, Nonnie, I suspect many of the rich "liberals" really are into redistributing some of their wealth! They have so much money that they can afford the hit, and in deference to some of them, a few are generous indeed with what they have.

    Hats off to them for that!

    However, they may not realize that their plans, however well-intentioned, often have unintended consequences that strike hard at the very folks that they mean to help.

    Case in point: The idea of a value-added tax (VAT) that would hurt the poor more than the middle class, and the middle class more than the rich. For that reason, even most Democrats (so far) oppose that crushing tax, and nearly all Republicans oppose it. A joke has circulated: Republicans oppose the VAT because it would constitute a potential engine for rampant government growth, whilst (most) Democrats oppose it because it would be regressive; however, Republicans will learn to like the VAT when they realize that it would be regressive, whilst Democrats will learn to like it (more) when they realize that it could serve as an engine for rampant government growth.

    Nonnie, I confess ignorance. I can't spend all my time worrying about what the government might do to me next year, or the year after that, or the year after that. I'm too busy creating new books to give a whole lot of thought to what the wonks in Washington might concoct; however, I do give these issues some thought, and in recent years I've begun to pay more attention because it appears as if it could become exceedingly difficult for existing small business to survive, and nigh impossible for new ones to start up. If the actual costs don't kill 'em, then the red tape will.

    Oh, but I forget: It's all George Bush's fault, just like the oil spill, just like the whole recession, just like the Great Depression, just like the assassination of Julius Caesar, and just like the extinction of the dinoasaurs, which, if they still roamed, would doubtless serve as far better stewards of the planet than we humans do.

    Gulp. They probably would, wouldn't they?

  12. Stan, I don't value regulation in and of itself. I wouldn't mind a little Jesse-Ventura style clean-up: go through the books, delete the regs that are obsolete or counterproductive at the same time we add new ones. It would be nice if we could have a sort of "Balanced Regulation Act": set a word-limit on regulations and require that you have to cross out an old regulation for every new rule you pass.

    But that's a bit too arbitrary. As we discover new problems, we have to be able to craft solutions for them.

    Wetlands and marsh gas (and volcanoes, for that matter) are different beasts. There's no one to regulate, no one responsible. Ranching is an industry. Businesses make money by increasing cattle emissions, just as they make money increasing coal or other fuel emissions. I could move in nesxt door to you and set up a machine shop. I could make a lot of money running my noisy tools and crew all day and all night. If the noise was keeping you up all night, I'd understand if you asked the city to impose a noise ordinance (and a noise restriction would be better than a cap-and-trade system, since, if I'm making enough money, I could just work away and continue to ruin your quality of life and ability to concentrate on writing at 3 a.m.).

    Again, show me a useless law, and I'll be happy to get rid of it. But if methane emissions are harmful, businesses that choose to emit methane to make money should use at least some of that money to mitigate the harm caused by their emissions (and maybe to help fund science to address marsh gas?). Some rules simply make sense.

  13. Cory, you can rely on your veggies in your garden to eat and live, along with nuts for protein. Most people prefer a different source of protein (meat).


    Here is a link that states, "So cattle are responsible for about 3.5% of US greenhouse gas emissions, on a CO2 equivalent basis. To keep this in perspective:

    2% of greenhouse gas production is in the form of methane from garbage decomposing in landfills.
    Roughly 2% is chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from air conditioners, refrigerators and industrial processes.
    Other industrial processes (especially cement manufacture) produce about 2%.
    Burning jet fuel accounts for more than 3%.
    12% of greenhouse gas emissions are CO2 emitted generating electricity which is used in residential applications like lighting, TVs, computers, and refrigerators.
    17% came from burning gasoline in cars and trucks."

    This article links to the following report also:

    According to this, burning jet fuel acounts for almost the same amount as cattle. Maybe Gore and Pelosi should leave their private jets at home and fly commercial, and maybe Obama should cut back on his trips here and there to promote his latest ideas for gov't growth and control!

    Repeating here, I think it was Joel Rogers, a main promoter of cap and tax, said that this cap and tax scheme would not result in much change at all in CO2 emissions, but it would greatly redistribute wealth, which is what it's all really about anyway.

  14. Your first paragraph is wrong, Linda. I like meat, too (and milk! and cheese!). However, unlike some conservators distractors, I do not think that eating veggies and nuts is reason for criticism. I'm also willing to acknowledge that I may need to pay more for my meat to pay for the environmental damage you acknowledge it causes. I'm willing to pay my way and adjust my habits; how about you?

    As for the rest of your comment, that's all fine. I agree that landfills and industrial processes and jet planes all generate harmful pollution as well. What shall we do? If cap and trade will not reduce emissions, would you prefer we ban those activities altogether? I'll one up you: I'll ban private jet travel not just for Democrats but for everyone. Take the train instead. Is that the practical solution you are advocating? Or do we create an economic system that increases costs to reflect externalities and drives people to either change their consumption habits or pay more? I would think you'd be all about a market-based solution like cap and trade rather than a flat ban on harmful behavior, but hey, I can play it your way, too.

    Note also that even Linda acknowledges that cattle emit greenhouse gases at levels comparable to other industrial processes that we regulate. My question remains: why not regulate cattle production in the same way we would regulate other activities that harm the environment? You can't even drive to town without a government-regulated muffler. Why are you willing to give manure barons like Rick Millner in Veblen a free pass to pollute all he wants, just because he makes milk?


Comments are closed, as this portion of the Madville Times is in archive mode. You can join the discussion of current issues at MadvilleTimes.com.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.