Presentation on near-term American climate policy


in Economics, Politics, The environment

Dr. Holmes Hummel has put together a useful Powerpoint deck and presentation about American climate change policy in the period before and immediately after the Copenhagen negotiations. The slides are available here, along with an mp3 of the spoken presentation. Hummel is a Congressional Science Fellow, currently developing climate and energy legislation through the office of Congressman Jay Inslee. I wholeheartedly hope that she is correct in anticipating the proposal of a 100% auction cap-and-trade system from the Obama administration in 2009.

Her website has a number of other presentations.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Business February 2, 2009 at 9:02 am

If you want to know in advance how much climate change the U.S. executive will allow, just look at the interests of the business lobby. I don’t know what those are exactly, but whatever amount of climate change the business lobby sees as acceptable (this includes the perception of risk), is the amount that will be allowed to occur. The important thing is not to confuse on the one hand, the propaganda to confuse the public and keep them from mobilizing behind anything, and on the other hand, the actual (as perceived) interests of powerful lobbies (which are kept secret, of course).

Milan February 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

The ‘business’ lobby certainly isn’t monolithic, and it has interests that vary across timescales.

In a world where effective mitigation does not occur, the business lobby won’t even be around for a terribly long time. In a world where it does occur, it seems like it will be in their interests to get started with it quickly and develop the technologies and approaches through which it can be successfully achieved.

A few sub-sections of industry are definitely dinosaurs, with no real hope of survival in a low-carbon world. That being said, there is some truth to the notion of capitalism as creative destruction. Just as the horse industry today is tiny compared to what it was 100 years ago, I expect the coal industry to be a small remnant by 2100 or so.

Tristan February 2, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Maybe, but there is a crucial difference between the demise of the horse industry and the demise of the coal industry – the horse industry was destroyed by the car industry without the need for political intervention to make the horse industry unprofitable (i.e. including externalities). So, sure, maybe coal will go away, but it will take political will which was unnecessary in the case of horses.

You say the business lobby is not monolithic. That may be true, but certainly the military industrial complex has a strong organized lobbying force. It’s kind of funny, when you recognize that defense spending is so massive mostly to stimulate the non-military sectors of the economy – the U.S. really is a partial command economy. (I.e. without military spending no computers, no internet, no high tech industry in general).

Milan February 2, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Certainly, the transition to a carbon neutral economy will be more difficult than the transition from horse to motor transport.

That being said, there are two alternatives: a world where business has adapted to be compatible with a stable climate and a world where catastrophic climate change is ongoing. More intelligent members of the business community should have realized this by now.

Milan February 2, 2009 at 11:45 pm

This video, featuring the CEO of Google, makes a decent argument that climate change mitigation actually has negative net costs for business, in the medium term.

Tristan February 3, 2009 at 9:34 am

I find it relatively funny that people generally believe that sustainability, climate change mitigation, etc… does not preclude continued growth. Growth – even at very moderate rates like 1 percent – means the doubling of whatever is growing every 70 years. So, population certainly can’t continue to grow, and the economy can only continue to grow if the tendency is towards more and more valuable products, rather than a greater number of less valuable ones (I’m measuring value here in dollars, or labour-time if you like, it makes no overall difference).

Milan February 3, 2009 at 3:39 pm

It is tautological that all stable systems must eventually reach an equilibrium or macroscopic steady state, at least insofar as material and energy inputs and outputs are concerned.

Magictofu February 3, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I agree with both Milan and Tristan that production growth has limits. However, I think economic growth could be achieve while reaching environmental goals. Replacing coal-fired electricity generation with wind power for instance will generate a number of economic benefits (jobs, etc.) and might even provide efficiency benefits in the long term since wind does not have to be mined and trucked in to power wind turbines. I could be overly optimistic though.

Milan February 3, 2009 at 4:09 pm

I definitely think it is logically possible for humanity to continue getting ‘richer’ even while remaining within the physical limits that the planet can provide. What is much harder to determine is what level of restriction on individual liberties, as well as what types of restrictions, would be necessary for achieving that outcome.

R.K. February 3, 2009 at 5:19 pm

The financial pie charts in that presentation are quite visually striking. They certainly convey just how enormous the war and bailout expenses are when compared with other spending.

Tristan February 3, 2009 at 7:00 pm

I agree with Milan and the Tofu.

Milan February 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm

If we’re thinking in the really long-term, it will eventually be necessary to get rich enough to leave this rock – if only for purposes of deflecting lethal comets and asteroids.

In the even longer term, we have a future red dwarf stage of the sun to worry about.

. February 3, 2009 at 9:00 pm

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