Sorry to post a bunch of links from one source, but this week’s Economist is unusually dense with worthwhile articles about climate change:
There is one on federal legislative efforts in the United States – focusing on the Lieberman Warner bill that has been dominating attention in the Senate. It isn’t as tough as a superior proposal from Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, but it stands a better change of thrashing its way through committee and onto the Senate floor. Of course, even a bill that gets through the Senate would need to be made compatible with a bill passed by the House of Representatives and avoid being vetoed by the President. Even so, the kind of cap-and-trade bills that are appearing in the Senate may well be indicative of the kind of legislation to expect from the next American administration.
American states have traditionally been ‘policy laboratories’ and have often developed environmental policies that were later adopted federally. Examples include rules on automobile emissions and sulphur dioxide emissions which cause acid rain. A second article briefly discusses the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI): one of the two most important regional initiatives in the US, along with the Western Climate Initiative. Again, this is more a sign of what may be to come than a hugely influential thing unto itself.
A less encouraging trend is demonstrated by an article on the increasing popularity of coal. What is especially distressing is that coal plants are even being built in Europe, which has gone further than anyone else in regulating carbon emissions. Clearly, prices are not yet high enough and regulatory certainty is not yet firm enough to effectively discourage the use of coal for electricity generation. The new plants aren’t even being built in a way that can be easily modified to incorporate carbon capture and storage.
One last story is more tangentially related to climate change: tomorrow’s federal election in Australia will partly turn on voters responses to the positions adopted on climate change by the Labor and Conservative candidates, respectively.
In general, I don’t think The Economist takes the problem of climate change seriously enough. They write good-sounding articles in situations where it is the focus, but often miss it completely or mention it only trivially in articles on energy trends, business, or economic growth. That said, their ever-increasing coverage of the issue is probably representative of its ever higher profile in the planning of the world’s most influential people.