Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Help--I hate blogging about carbon! ;)

I concluded the last post with this:
I hate to think that my intellectual energy will be consumed by deniers :(
And then, after responding to the comments, I thought to myself, "hey, this is merely blogging.  I don't even have to do it.  It is not like I am getting paid anyway."

Meanwhile, it was Deepavali in the old country.  My mother, having recovered enough from the fracture that knocked her into inaction a year ago, on top of the deaths in the family for two years in a row that wiped out any celebration, apparently made two different sweets this time around.  And I get to blog about carbon?  Talk about coal in the stockings! ;)

Oh well, I fear it will be a long month before the climate talks come to an end!

In the comments to the last post, I referred to the carbon pricing that has not come to happen.  Of course, it is thanks to one major political party that shall not be named; all I can say is that the party's three-letter abbreviation begins with a G, ends with a P, and has an O in between ;)

Why that kind of an intense opposition to carbon pricing?  That comes down to a sub-group within that party.  The first part of this sub-group is the hot drink that Ramesh's favorite queen drinks from a cup with her pinky sticking out ;)
Back in 2014, Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, told the Times that any Republican Presidential candidate who supported a carbon tax or regulations “would be at a severe disadvantage in the Republican nomination process.” Based on their current positions (or lack thereof), the candidates seem to have received the message.
You perhaps are thinking, "come on, some of those party's leaders know better," right?  Yes, they did.  Guess what happened?  Here is an example:
In 2009, Bob Inglis, then a Republican representative from South Carolina, introduced H.R. 2380, or the “Raise Wages, Cut Carbon Act,” an upstream carbon tax that would have used all revenue to reduce payroll taxes. In the 2010 primary, he was challenged by a Tea Party candidate and defeated.
You read that right--carbon revenue to reduce taxes, and the guy lost in the primary!

Oh, you want another example?
“In 2003, the leader in the Senate on climate change was John McCain. And, if you fast-forward to 2008, there wasn’t much debate on climate change, because then-Senator McCain and then-Senator Obama had almost identical, ambitious cap-and-trade proposals to tackle the problem.” Ryan Lizza has written in the magazine about what happened next. In short, a confluence of the Great Recession, garden-variety partisanship, and, finally, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill served to kill whatever momentum had built on the issue. ... (McCain was also challenged from the right that year, and subsequently backed away from climate policy.)
I suppose if Charlton Heston were alive, he would thunder in his awesomely impressive voice that we will be able to take that carbon only "from my cold, dead hands."  Or, maybe Clint Eastwood will talk to an empty chair about how is so happy that the chair is all carbon and the green hippies won't be able to that carbon away!

But then it is not merely the politicians.  Their think-tanks feed them stuff like this:
Benjamin Zycher, a resident scholar at the A.E.I. who works on energy and the environment, questioned the efficacy of any carbon tax or fee on future average temperatures. He poked holes in the historical temperature data, and wondered aloud whether it was “really an accident that the dominant effect of climate policy is an increase in energy costs in red states relative to blue ones.” (“Do not underestimate the power of wealth redistribution as a force driving policymaking in the Beltway,” he has written elsewhere, about the Obama Administration’s approach to climate-change policy.)
Such an intense opposition means that even Greg Mankiw--a Harvard economics guy, who chaired Bush's Council of Economic Advisers and then was Romney's adviser, is unable to influence a decent number of GOP leaders with stuff like this:
Sure, there are skeptics about the climate science behind these claims. But science is always a matter of probabilities, not certainties. Even a reasonable skeptic should be willing to embrace modest steps to curb carbon emissions.
Policy wonks like me have long argued that the best way to curb carbon emissions is to put a price on carbon. The cap-and-trade system President Obama advocates is one way to do that. A more direct and less bureaucratic way is to tax carbon. When polled, economists overwhelmingly support the idea.
To recap, it comes down to this: an overwhelming consensus among scientists is that we need to tackle the carbon that we are burning, and an overwhelming majority of economists support taxing carbon use.  Yet, we continue to have this discussion in these United States of America.  To borrow from Yakov Smirnoff, "America, what a country!"


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