Solutions: Cap and Trade bad, Fee and Dividend good

Just finished Chapter 9 of STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN — James Hansen’s (top climate scientist at NASA) book about global warming written for laypersons.  I highly recommend it to all.

Chapter 9 is about solutions, and Hansen thinks Cap & Trade is ineffective and only lines pockets of the rich.  Cap & trade means that energy companies will have caps on how much carbon they emit, but if they emit more, they can buy permits on the “carbon exchange” to pollute, while others emitting below that cap can sell permits to the exchange.  In theory it will favor companies that emit below their caps & encourage all companies to emit less GHGs….but there are many many loopholes and problems with it.  The Kyoto Protocol did not work, and neither will cap & trade within our country work, at least not fast enough to avert serious runaway conditions.

Hansen contrasts C&T with Fee & Dividend, in which a fee is levied on each barrel of oil or ton of coal as it comes out of the well or mine, or into port, then 100% of that money is divvied up among all Americans, and deposited in their banks each month, and for those without accounts given back as debit cards.  It is a much more simple solution without hardly any bureaucracy compared to what C&T will require.

Those who use that dividend money to become more energy efficient/conservative will end up gaining financially, but those who do not, can then use that money to offset their higher bills.  This can start out as really low fees and very slowly be ratched up over the years and decades, giving people enough time to adjust and implement low carbon solutions (many of which save money in and of themselves).  In other words we can still be using the same amount of energy or even more, but the lower carbon forms of energy will be favored and eventually opted for.  In this F&D system it is the rich and profligate who would will be net losers, and the poor, frugal, and efficient will be net winners.

I’m thinking that to keep it within Church teaching, some of that money should be diverted to the poor in poor countries so they can also mitigate AGW and adapt to its harms.  We the rich break it, we buy it.

So here is Hansen’s very astute critiques of Cap & Trade (pp. 212- 219):

  1. They pretend “cap” is not a tax, but it is — it will increase the cost of carbon energy.  Therefore gov will keep the cap high and the increase in carbon energy costs low (so people won’t rail against it), and the effect will be people will go on polluting as usual.  And there will be cheating and wheeling and dealing among energy companies.
  2. The “cap” is actually a “floor.”  Emissions cannot go lower than this floor, bec price permits on the market would crash, bringing down fossil fuel prices and inspiring more pollution.  Altruistic individuals may buy an efficient vehicle, but this would just allow others to buy more polluting vehicles, so such altruistic actions would have no effect on the gross emissions.
  3. Offsets (like having some country plant trees somewhere) cause actual emissions reductions to be less than the cap targets.  The estimation is that with these offsets the emissions reductions will be less than half of the target.  There is also a lot of cheating in this offset scheme, though I think it perfectly okay to give energy efficient or recycled items or offsets as Xmas gifts, rather than things that entail more pollution.  Offset should be gifts, not trading items.
  4. Wall Street trading of emission permits and their derivatives creates a danger of failures and taxpayer bailouts.  The added costs of trading goes to line the pockets of people and companies like Goldman Sachs, with us picking up the tab.

So that’s it in a nutshell.  So why isn’t gov into this much better and more effective scheme of Fee & Dividend?  Do you know how much oil & coal spend on lobbying?  They don’t really want us to use less fossil fuels and save life on planet earth, if it means their fossil fuel sales will shrink down (seems they don’t really know what the word “diversify” means).

If you like neither C&T nor F&D, then how about joining the Green Tea Party (I don’t know if one exists, but it should) and campaigning to get rid of subsidies and tax-breaks to oil and coal, and maybe make oil pick up part of the Middel East war tabs to boot.  GOOD LUCK with that!

May God please intervene with tremendous miracles and get us on the right track here.


7 Responses to “Solutions: Cap and Trade bad, Fee and Dividend good”

  1. Craig Hollis Says:

    Did you know that Hansen was recently accused of, found guilty and admitted to drastically fudging his climate research studies at NASA. You should look into this.
    I do agree with a lot of what you say specifically on the cap and trade issue. You are well informed and you appear to do good research in most cases, but you have dropped the ball on the global warming controversy.
    I do agree that we have recently gone through a period of global warming/climate changes, but I also believe that this is a natural cycle of the earth since its fist moments of existence. The planet has had far greater warming and cooling episodes even before man walked the planet. You should look into that as well.
    Did you know that even before the atmosphere was fully developed and when the ice age begin its melting process far, far, far more-not even comparable amount-of greenhouse gases from the volcanoes and from the melting ice was suddenly released at a much higher rate into the atmosphere and the planet survived not even making a scratching on the atmosphere. You should look into that to.
    Like our bodies the planet is very resilient and has the natural and God given capacities to filter and clean out toxins that the planet herself even creates just like our bodies. Remember God is all knowing, which makes him the ultimate genius and He made the planet like our bodies with the capacity to heal itself and recover from even catastrophic events. Is man capable of destroying the planet despite her resiliency absolutely, but let’s not insult her by assuming she is on her last leg. Earth is a much stronger piece of rock than we give her credit for don’t underestimate her. It will take a much harder punch to knock her out of the game.
    And truly we no vary little about why the planet acts has she does and it’s very arrogant of us to think that we do. Climatologists, meteorologists , geographers and astronomers are still asking questions as to why the planet changes its climate throughout her life.
    Oh, and one last thing, Al Gore’s global warming film has been rejected by a vast majority of private scholarly publishing institutes as a result of its poor methodological standards and deceptive representation of graphing data. You should…well you know what I am going to say. God Bless and keep up the healthy life style

  2. lynnvinc Says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Your claim of Hansen found guilty of fudging climate studies is a surprise. Of course, even if it were true — and I’ll have to have links and more info before I even consider it true — that still does not disprove AGW, which is based on much evidence from many scientists and from many different angles, plus laws of physics. The natural greenhouse effect has been known by scientists for over 100 years, and even back then they were thinking AGW might be possible; but only in 1995 did the 1st scientific studies come out with 95% confidence that AGW was happening (94% confidence for day temps and 96% confidence for night temps). This latter point is important, because unlike ordinary hot spells some 30 or 40 years ago, when it would cool down a bit at night, the nights are getting very warm. That’s what caused so many to die in Europe in Summer of 2003 — the bodies need a cool break during the night to recouperate from the day’s heat during heat spells. It breaks my heart to here the screaming and crying of children in India during the nights in the hot season; I remember 30, 40 years ago and when it got cool during the wee hours of the morning in India during the hot season. Now that doesn’t happen. Plus they are beset with ever worsening floods (another expectation from GW) —

    RE natural v. manmade attribution to this episode of GW, all the natural causes have been ruled out (or at least seen as minor), leaving mainly the human caused GHGs. For instance we are in a solar minima right now, but there is still warming (when we would expect significant cooling). When the solar maximum comes around in a few years, I imagine we will see a lot more warming. Also some aerosols have been suppressing the amount of warming; in a few years or decades once they are reduced (and they should be, since they also cause health problems), we should begin to see the full face of the warming we are causing.

    RE the much greater warming episodes, yes I am aware. In fact climate scientists use these to better understand our current situation. I often point to the end-Permian extinction when a great warming wiped out 95% of life on planet earth. It seems toward the end the super-anoxic oceans started spewing out hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas, that nearly wiped out all the remnants of life left after the other knock-on effects of the warming had done their dastardly deeds — the process has something to do with certain bacteria turning methane into HS under anoxic conditions. We don’t really want to go their with this warming episode, do we? Into climate hysteresis, which could result from our initial triggering by warming the world enough so that nature responses in positive feedback fashion, releasing more carbon, such as methane from melting ocean hydrates and permafrost, which causes more warming, which causes more carbon release, which causes more warming, and so on into an end-Permian type of warming and extinction.

    RE the much higher GHGs in earlier eras, the sun has slowly been getting brighter with more irradiance, and eventually will become a hot red ball and self-destruct. Well before that, it will be so hot that life on earth will cease — in about 1 billion yrs, if we don’t push the system into runaway warming in this warming episode, which BTW Hansen thinks is possible if we burn all oil and coal, including unconventional sources. It is a matter of our emissions happening lickity-split in geological terms, and not giving enough time for long-term negative feedbacks to be effective. I would suggest you read his book STORMS OF MY GRANDCHILDREN. It gives a very good background re climate change science, and how it is based on direct evidence, computer modeling (bec we don’t have 2 earths, one the experimental earth, one the control, not to mention such an experiment would be totally unethical), AND on paleoclimate studies. So, yes, I am aware there were much more GHGs in the atmosphere. However, when speaking about higher levels coming out of a serious ice age or snowball earth, you would have to understand the tremendous amount of heat energy that would be need to melt all that ice, so that is where the heat energy went. Our situation is much different today, as we are in an interglacial time, at a fairly warm plateau between ice ages, and it’s sort of like we’re using this high plateau as a launching pad into a great warming. Things probably would be very different if we were in the depths of an ice age, but I’m no climate scientist.

    I saw Gore’s film when it came out, and I was disappointed that it fairly conservatively followed the conservative science, and did not include things like these positive feedbacks and paleoclimate horrors like HS outgassing. Afterall Gore is an environmentalist, not a scientist. Scientists necessarily strive to avoid the FALSE POSITIVE (making untrue claims); they cannot afford to be the boy who called wolf & need to protect their reputations, so people will believe them. However, we laypersons concerned about life on planet earth and policy-makers (you’d think) should be striving to avoid the FALSE NEGATIVE, or doing nothing to mitigate a true problem and letting it harm us greatly. We cannot afford to the villagers who get eaten up by the wolf, esp when mitigation up to 75% GHG reduction OR MORE can be done cost-effectively, without lower living standards or productivity, saving money right away or in the long run, or with no net cost. And that’s just with off-the-shelf existing tech. The techies are working night and day on even better solutions to AGW.

    The future could look a lot less bleak, if people would try their best to mitigate. I say less bleak bec there is a lot of nasty warming and its consequences in the pipes from what we’ve already emitted — some scientists say up to a 2.4 C warming even if we halt all GHG emissions today, which is impossible (Ramanathan, V., and Y. Feng. 2008. “On Avoiding Dangerous Anthropogenic Interference with the Climate System: Formidable Challenges Ahead.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105.38: 14245-14250).

    You are right re our limited, finite knowledge, but God did give us brains and heart to investigate and understand things, and do the right thing. Science itself arose out of the Catholic tradition, and is respected by the Church (unlike in some other religions). God only expects us to do the best with can with what we know, and I’m thinking it is reckless endangerment not to mitigate AGW.

    We don’t know everything — maybe an asteroid will wipe us out, or God will allow Armageddon to start. We can only work with what knowledge we have, and what knowledge we do have indicates in light of Church teachings and writings of the popes and bishops, and the requirement and virtue of prudence, that we must mitigate AGW.

  3. thew0lf Says:

    Al Gore’s Global Warming film gave the issue of global warming a bad name. It made the issue look to some like a trend or a way to make money, Instead of people trying to focus on the issue itself presented in the film, many have tried to find ways to break its main focus. Claiming that it was a concept to make money in a bad economy by providing a whole new line of production (hybrid cars, earth friendly products, etc). As I listen to the people around me, many who do not believe global warming is happening, is because they are leaning into the “conspiracy” to make money theory. Others might have better explanations on why they disapprove with global warming, but I think it must be an issue none the less if so many scientist around the world are paying attention to it and considering it. I agree that the Earth is a strong and healthy organism that can heal itself when it needs to and that it has been doing this for thousands of years, but there is not one single organism that lives on forever and/or is vulnerable to unnecessary damage.

    • lynnvinc Says:

      I pretty much liked the Al Gore’s film. I thought it was well done, bringing in how we don’t like to face the inconvenient truths when economics are involved — as his family was slow to accept the harms of tobacco, but when his sister died from lung cancer, that made them change and understand that life was more important than economic considerations. My main critique is that it followed the science a little too closely, and science is inherently conservative, but now 5 yrs later the science has far outstripped his film and AGW looks to be much worst than Gore could have imagined.

      Those denialists who are slamming and kicking Gore around, and slandering scientists, may get their final reward in a place a lot hotter than a globally warmed world if they don’t repent and become good. Let’s all pray for their souls.

      RE economics, it is true that there will be folks trying to make money on any new trend — think of all the trinkle sellers near miracle places. And I would applaud anyone developing effective solutions and starting companies to sell things that help mitigate AGW — they deserve their profits. However, the scientists are not making any money on it — accept the denialist scientists, who are heavily funded by Exxon and Koch Industries, etc. Legitimate, working scientists get grants, and that money goes to offset all or part of their salaries at their universities or institutes (and their salaries remain the same as before), and the grants also go to pay for any equipment and expenses related to their studies. I know; I’ve gotten grants before.

      Also, the hundreds of scientists who work to put together the IPCC reports do not get a penny for that, but do it in their meager spare time. (Is it a wonder that a couple of mistakes were made in the 1000s of pages of the multi-section, multi-chapter report, mistakes that were later caught by the scientists themselves). See to see these reports, and you’ll see what I mean.

      It is the denialists who are making big bucks to sow seeds of doubt and disinformation about AGW.

      It is the followers of the denialists who are easily misled by scare tactics — ridiculous claims that mitigating AGW will harm the economy and lead to totalitarian takeover. They are to be pitied, for they too may end up in a lot hotter place than a globally warmed world, if they don’t repent.

      Truth be known, if we don’t mitigate AGW, we may be headed for some REALLY bad economic and political times. But the biggest issue to me is the tremendous loss of life we will be facing on into the future for maybe 100,000 years (and are facing right now, esp in poor countries). It could even possibly lead to a complete wipe out, if we trigger permanent runaway conditions, as on Venus. See esp pg 24 of Hansen’s 2008 AGU Conference presentation —

      Yes, the world can go on, even if nearly all life dies in the process, as happened during the end-Permian extinction warming, when 95% of life died some 251 mill yrs ago, or all life dies due to runaway warming.

      Again, the question is, why risk this when we can mitigate AGW cost-effectively at least down to 75% reduction in GHGs, without lowering living standards or productivity. It’s just pure evil not to do so.

  4. lynnvinc Says:

    Here is a great little video on how bad Cap & Trade is by Annie Leonard (STORY OF STUFF author):

  5. thew0lf Says:

    Exxon’s sponsored media attacks on global warming is unfortunately working on Americans and people around the world who have adapted into wanting to hear the more “interesting” or “supposedly hidden” part of the story. This society, through the media and sketchy government actions has become more interested in looking beyond the facts to try and build conspiracy theories. In this case, the theories that will help them justify their contribution to damaging the planet Earth.

  6. lynnvinc Says:

    RE the allegations against Hansen, no one has even heard of them, including a scientist who works for him. They think it is just a bunch of the old lies about other scientists taken and twisted anew for Hansen. So I would suggest that such allegation be retracted, or one might be guilty of slander, and certainly of sin.

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