Tag: climate change policy

The Current Wisdom: The Administration’s Social Cost of Carbon Turns “Social Cost” on Its Head

This Current Wisdom takes an in-depth look at how politics can masquerade as science.

                      “A pack of foma,” Bokonon said

                                                Paraphrased from Cat’s Cradle (1963), Kurt Vonnegut

In his 1963 classic, Cat’s Cradle, iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut described the sleepy little Caribbean island of San Lorenzo, where the populace was mesmerized by the prophet Bokonon, who created his own religion and his own vocabulary. Bokonon communicated his religion through simple verses he called “calypsos.” “Foma” are half-truths that conveniently serve the religion, and the paraphrase above is an apt description of the Administration’s novel approach to determining the “social cost of carbon” (dioxide). 

Because of a pack of withering criticism, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is now in the process of reviewing how the Obama Administration calculates and uses the social cost of carbon (SCC).  We have filed a series of Comments with the OMB outlining what is wrong with the current SCC determination. Regular readers of this blog are familiar with some of the problems that we have identified, but our continuing analysis of the Administration’s SCC has yielded a few more nuggets.

We describe a particularly rich one here—that the government wants us to pay more today to offset a modest climate change experienced by a wealthy future society than to help alleviate a lot of climate change impacting a less well-off future world.

Is Warmer Better? Florida Soon to Surpass New York as Nation’s Third Most Populous State

Hmmm. A pounding blizzard hits the Northeast, followed by an Arctic cold blast. All the while, Florida is set to oust New York and join California and Texas as the top 3 most populous states in the U.S.

Here is the story according to the Associated Press:

So while some folks yammer on about the perils of a warming climate (and try to force regulations upon us aimed at “doing something” about it), a great many others are actively seeking out warmer places to live. Perhaps not entirely for the climate, but that factor is almost assuredly not out of mind.

Maybe the public doesn’t think that its “health” is as “endangered” by a warmer climate as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contends.

Major Sports Organizations Discuss Climate Change with Bicameral Task Force

Seriously?!?

Tomorrow [today] Rep. Henry A. Waxman and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, co-chairs of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change, will host representatives from five of America’s major sports leagues, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC), to discuss the effects of climate change on sporting activities and the work these organizations are doing to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  The group will meet for a closed-door discussion, followed by a press availability.

Now, admittedly, even as a climatologist, I do spend a fair amount of time discussing sports.

But I do so around the water cooler or at the local bar, not with Congressional task forces.

Your tax dollars are probably better served that way.

The President’s Climate Action Plan: Intervention Where It Isn’t Necessary

In his speech today, President Obama laid out his plan—formulated around executive action—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of mitigating future climate change.

Funny thing is, absent his Climate Action Plan, the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have been on the decline for a decade, and now are at about the same level as our emissions in the early 1990s. In fact, the decline in emissions is taking place at a rate faster than the one sought by the president.

So why mess with a good thing? There is no way that introducing a bunch of new government regulations is going to improve the situation. If the Great Recession is any indication, the outcome of government involvement in the energy industry will be a poor one.

And to what end? As I have repeatedly shown, reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions has no significant impact on the future course of climate change.

On top of that, new science is accumulating that indicates that the future course of climate change is likely to be less steep than our current climate model-based estimates.

And despite the president’s long list of supposed climate wrongs that are consistent with human-caused climate change, there is an equally long list of climate wrongs that have been averted for reasons “consistent with” climate change.

Taken together, declining U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and declining estimates of climate change, should have been enough to convince the president that things were already on the proper track—no government intervention necessary.

But this administration is characterized by intervening where it is not necessary. The president’s Climate Action Plan is more of the same. 

French Folly

Following the dubious example set recently by U.S. legislators, French politicians have informally proposed slapping punitive tariffs on goods from countries who refuse to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The German State Secretary for the Environment has, quite rightly, called foul:

There are two problems – the WTO (World Trade Organization), and the signal would be that this is a new form of eco-imperialism,” Machnig said.

 ”We are closing our markets for their products, and I don’t think this is a very helpful signal for the international negotiations.”

I have a paper forthcoming on the carbon tariff issue, but in the meantime here’s a recent op-ed (written jointly with Pat Michaels) on climate change policy mis-steps.