June 25, 2010
Posted by Frank Ackerman under Cantwell-Collins
| Tags: climate change
, energy independence
, oil spill
Is the Gulf of Mexico disaster a reason to pass climate legislation – or is that legislation largely irrelevant to curbing our oil use? A Greenwire article Tuesday quoted a number of economists arguing that the leading proposals in Congress wouldn’t do much to change our dependence on petroleum.
The only reasonable response is “yes, of course.” Climate proposals such as Kerry-Lieberman, Cantwell-Collins, or Waxman-Markey will have limited effects on oil consumption for two reasons: first, they are market mechanisms; second, they are weak market mechanisms.
To start with the good news, reducing carbon emissions from electric utilities is cheaper than reducing oil use. Any market mechanism is supposed to prompt us to do the cheapest things first; that’s the whole point. There are many ways to make electricity with lower carbon emissions than a coal plant; putting a price on carbon makes those alternatives cheaper relative to coal. There are also many ways to promote energy efficiency, incrementally reducing electricity use.
For most Americans, on the other hand, there is only one way to make transportation, and it runs on oil. In the short run, with all of us driving the cars we now own, there is very little chance to change our gasoline use. In the closing words of one of the best satirical videos about the oil spill, “BP: You’re not mad enough to not drive your car.” (more…)
April 9, 2010
Paul Krugman’s excellent article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend contrasts a slow, incremental approach to greenhouse gas mitigation (such as William Nordhaus’ “climate-policy ramp”) to more rapid measures better fitting the urgency suggested by the climate science literature. Krugman dubs the latter the “climate-policy big bang.”
Krugman has done a nice job of describing some of the major points of disagreement within the field of climate economics. Here’s his view:
[T]he policy-ramp prescriptions seem far too much like conducting a very risky experiment with the whole planet. Nordhaus’s preferred policy, for example, would stabilize the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at a level about twice its preindustrial average. In his model, this would have only modest effects on global welfare; but how confident can we be of that? How sure are we that this kind of change in the environment would not lead to catastrophe? Not sure enough, I’d say, particularly because, as noted above, climate modelers have sharply raised their estimates of future warming in just the last couple of years.
Krugman concludes that the “nonnegligible probability of utter disaster” should guide our climate policy, and that this “argues for aggressive moves to curb emissions, soon.”
Anyone who has been reading this blog will know already that I feel that the evidence of both the climate science and climate economics literatures overwhelmingly supports a big-bang climate-policy approach. It’s nice to know that Paul Krugman is a supporter of these views, and it’s even nicer to have his clear and influential thoughts on this reach such a wide audience.
March 15, 2010
I understand that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is having some trouble finding appropriately illustrious women to sit on the newly formed High-Level Advisory Group on Mobilizing Climate Change Resources. (Here’s an open letter from 138 women’s organizations asking the Secretary General to reconsider his appointment of a panel consisting of 19 men and no women; since then, France has replaced its appointee with a woman, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde).
Since the panel is drawn primarily from current and former heads of state (four members) and high-level economic policy-makers in national governments or international institutions (10 members), I thought I would help the Secretary General out by identifying their female counterparts. A very small amount of Googling on my part turned up nine current female heads of state and more than 50 current female finance ministers, as well as a host of other current and former high-level female dignitaries.
Here are a few suggestions of other women (looking a little further than government officials) who would be assets to the new climate-change finance group:
Sunita Narain is the director of the India-based Centre for Science and Environment. Her research and writing on climate change have found a wide international audience and made a major impact on the way that climate equity issues are framed. Her work with Anil Agarwal on an equal per capita right to the atmosphere for every global citizen is essential reading for policymakers and climate economics students alike.
Dessima Williams is Grenada’s ambassador to the United Nations and the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States. AOSIS has helped to bring to the public view the disproportionate burden faced by small low-lying countries, where climate change-related sea-level rise is already causing enormous damage.
Elinor Ostrom is a Nobel laureate in economics, best known for her work on the institutions that guide the use and misuse of common resources, including our shared atmosphere.
Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them (you can post a comment using the link above), and I’m sure the Secretary General would, too.