Why not a price on carbon, a tax with cap-and-trade capabilities?

October 29, 2015

Tax on air pollutants with a cap-and-trade process worked wonders cleaning up acid rain in the U.S.  Is there any rational reason to oppose such a plan, in the U.S. or anywhere else, to help clean up carbon air pollution to slow or stop global warming?

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a call for a carbon pricing system. Who will listen?

It’s a feature story from World Bank, who seems to have figured out that global warming poses great threats to commerce and growing the world’s economies.

Heads of State, City, Regional and Business Leaders Unite to Call for Price on Carbon

October 19, 2015

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

For the first time Heads of State, city and provincial leaders have come together with the support of leading companies to urge countries and companies around the world to put a price on carbon pollution.

  • Carbon pricing is a key building block to tackle climate change and drive investment in a low carbon future.
  • Launched today, the Carbon Pricing Panel is an unprecedented alliance of Global Leaders united to put a price on carbon pollution.
  • The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

What can be done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect our environment, and help support people most vulnerable to climate change?

The answer is simple: A key element for any strategy to tackle climate change must be to put a price on carbon pollution. The transition to a cleaner future requires government action and the right incentives. Carbon pricing is a key building block to help cut pollution and drive investment in a low carbon future.

It’s a point recognized by leaders from Europe, across to Africa and Asia, who have today – for the first time – come together with the support of leading private companies to urge countries and businesses around the world to put a price on carbon.

Convened by World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and the International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde, the high-level Carbon Pricing Panel is calling on their peers to follow their lead and put a price on carbon. They are joined in this effort by OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria.

The call by the leaders comes on the first day of the last round of negotiations ahead of the Paris climate talks in December. The leaders aim to seize the momentum generated by the Paris talks to spur further, faster action towards carbon pricing, as a necessary path to a low carbon, productive, competitive economy of the future.

Members of the Carbon Pricing Panel include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, French President François Hollande, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, Governor Jerry Brown of California, and Mayor Eduardo Paes of Rio de Janeiro.

Private sector support is spearheaded by Anne Stausboll, CEO of US Institutional Investor CalPERS, Gérard Mestrallet, CEO of ENGIE of France, Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra Group of India, and Feike Sijbesma, Chairman and CEO of Netherlands-based Royal DSM.

” There has never been a global movement to put a price on carbon at this level and with this degree of unison. It marks a turning point from the debate on the economic systems needed for low carbon growth to the implementation of policies and pricing mechanisms to deliver jobs, clean growth and prosperity. The science is clear, the economics compelling and we now see political leadership emerging to take green investment to scale at a speed commensurate with the climate challenge. “

ImageJim Yong Kim
World Bank Group President

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Summary map of existing, emerging and potential regional, national and sub-national carbon pricing instruments (ETS and tax)

Around the world, about 40 nations and 23 cities, states and regions have implemented or are putting a price on carbon with programs and mechanisms covering about 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing instruments has nearly doubled since 2012, reaching an aggregate market value of about $50 billion.

And already more than 400 businesses around the world are using a voluntary, internal price on carbon as part of their investment strategies, with prices ranging from US$4 to over US$100 per ton of CO2. This is a tripling in the number of companies compared with last year reporting that they price their emissions.

Carbon pricing delivers a triple dividend.

Firstly, it is good for the environment and it reduces emissions – lowering social costs of health impacts on people, as well as tackling the global warming.  A price on carbon can help alleviate health and environmental problems like premature deaths from exposure to outdoor air pollution. According to the World health Organization, an estimated 3.7 million people die prematurely from outdoor air pollution.

Secondly, carbon pricing is an essential part of getting prices right for the move to a low carbon more resilient growth. It raises revenue efficiently, making it possible to reduce more distortionary taxes, and it allows for targeted support for clean energy solutions rather than harmful subsidies that do little for poor people or the environment.

And thirdly, it drives innovation and critically needed investments in low-carbon solutions, boosting private sector investment in clean tech research and development, and offering the prospect of job creation in the sectors of the future.

Why is is it important to act now on carbon pricing? Because strong public policy gives the private sector the certainty and predictability to make the necessary long-term investments in climate-smart development and prevent catastrophic impacts from climate change. Carbon pricing is the cornerstone of a package of policy measures designed to achieve emission reductions at lowest cost.

Today, countries and regions are learning from one another and creating a set of successful approaches to pricing carbon. Some early lessons are described in the World Bank Group publication The FASTER Principles for Successful Carbon Pricing – which lays out principles for effective, efficient and fair pricing of carbon.

Some examples include:

  • The Canadian province of British Columbia was an early mover on carbon pricing, with the creation of a carbon tax in 2008, with the tax used to cut income taxes and fund tax credits. Also, British Columbia is home to a growing clean technology sector, with more than 150 firms in 2013, accounting for 22% of Canada’s clean tech presence in a province with only 12% of Canada’s GDP. Several experts attribute this growth to the carbon tax.
  • California, Quebec and the European Union allocate a portion of their emissions trading scheme (ETS) auction revenues to designated green technology funds and innovation, to support sectors affected directly or indirectly by higher carbon costs.
  • In Chile, the government has passed legislation on a carbon tax – effective as of 2017 – as part of a much larger tax reform package with the explicit aim of providing additional resources for education and other social protection programs.
  • In Northeastern United States, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is expected to save people money on energy bills. The RGGI states have invested over $1 billion from ETS proceeds in energy-efficiency program, which are expected to return more than $2.3 billion in lifetime energy bills savings to 1.2 million participating households. Also, from 2008-2012, RGGI invested more than $130 million to help energy and electricity customers in need.

The high level panel provides political momentum to complement the voices of government and industry leaders in the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC), a working coalition that is being formed on the back of support for carbon pricing from 74 countries and 1,000 companies, at the 20014 UN summit on climate change.

Putting a price on carbon can be done in many ways: using an emissions trading system (ETS), like the one in Europe, or introducing carbon taxes and fees, like in Sweden and Norway. Most importantly, the “polluter pays” principle applies – those who are responsible for the pollution face the cost of it.

Annals of global warming: Would you worry if it shrinks your paycheck?

October 26, 2015

Then worry.

Scientists estimate the impact of climate change on the world economy - from Nature Magazine

Scientists estimate the impact of climate change on the world economy – from Nature Magazine via MarketWatch

MarketWatch’s Silvia Ascarelli wrote:

Your grandchildren may pay a bigger price for global warming than you thought.

A hotter Planet Earth will cool down national economies, according to fresh research from scientists at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley.

Average U.S. income could shrink 36% by 2100 because of climate change from what it would be without global warming, they say. That is more than other, earlier studies have suggested.

But not all countries will suffer. Russia, Canada and countries in Northern Europe should benefit from warmer temperatures, according to the scientists’ models, because they have yet to reach what the scientists called the optimal average temperature for an economy — 55 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly where the U.S. is now.

“We were surprised at how important temperature is for the global economy,” said Solomon Hsiang, an associate professor of public policy at Berkeley and one of the co-authors of the study along with Marshall Burke, an assistant professor in earth system science at Stanford, and Edward Miguel, Oxfam professor in environmental and resource economics at Berkeley.

Global per capita gross domestic product will be down 23% at the turn of the next century if global warming isn’t slowed, the study found. The impact will be more severe in China — average income will shrink 43%—and Mexico, where average income could plunge 73%.

More at MarketWatch.

Should we worry? Can we afford global warming?

Beautiful photograph; but where are the glaciers?

October 6, 2015

Stupendous photo of evening advancing on Glacier National Park.

The Wilderness Society Tweeted out this shot of Glacier National Park (I cannot read the photographer to whom credit belongs).

The Wilderness Society Tweeted out this shot of Glacier National Park (I cannot read the photographer to whom credit belongs). “Wow. Outstanding sky over @GlacierNPS.”

I know. It’s summer. But still I wonder, where are the glaciers? Where did they go?

Annals of Global Warming: Warm the oceans, raise the sea level

September 15, 2015

Svein T veitdal is one of those rare scientists who can explain why science observations are important in effects on people in just living their lives. A good man to listen to (you can follow his Twitter account: @tveitdal).

Recently he sent this notice:

Critics of the science of climate change and the work to slow or halt warming don’t like charts like that. Sea level is something measured by humans, worldwide, for a long time. That’s real data.

And it’s scary.

T veitdal’s Tweet was just a small part of a very large graphic from NASA, explaining the observations that tell us sea levels rise, how the observations are made, and what it means to you and me.

NASA infographic on sea level rise

NASA infographic on sea level rise: We know seas are rising and we know why. The urgent questions are by how much and how quickly. Available to download, this infographic covers the science behind sea level rise, who’s affected, how much melting ice is contributing, and what NASA is doing to help.

Yeah. “Your planet is changing. We’re on it.”

As Ban-ki Moon said the other day, there is no Planet B. We have only one Earth.

General science teachers, geology teachers, physics and chemistry teachers, history, geography and human geography teachers should see if someone at your school has a plotter and can print this thing out for you, poster size.

Annals of Global Warming: A roadmap to the UN climate change treaty process

August 25, 2015

Alas, the U.S. has led a large contingent off-road.

From the Cut the Fluff blog:

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

A quick flick back in recent time to take a look at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in one mapped infographic via The Climate Group.

If you stop the average climate change action opponent on the street (as many as 25 out of every 100 people, or every other person in Texas in my unscientific sample) they will be able to tell you they think scientists are all liars making big money off of scamming citizens and businesses, and that there is big money to be made in faking research. But they cannot seriously describe evidence to back their claims, nor can they describe the history of international work to stop human-caused warming.

As you might imagine, they cannot discuss the pending meetings in Paris, either. Heck, most scientists and well-informed people can’t explain the meetings, either.

I hope this helps.

“COP” and “UNFCC” are UN acronyms for Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The Sustainable Information Forum (SIF15) explains the Paris Conference In not-too-turgid prose:

COP – What’s it all about?

The international political response to climate change began at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where the ‘Rio Convention’ included the adoption of the UNFCCC. This convention set out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” The UNFCCC which entered into force on 21 March 1994, now has a near-universal membership of 195 parties.

The main objective of the annual Conference of Parties (COP) is to review the Convention’s implementation. The first COP took place in Berlin in 1995 and significant meetings since then have included COP3 where the Kyoto Protocol was adopted, COP11 where the Montreal Action Plan was produced, COP15 in Copenhagen where an agreement to success Kyoto Protocol was unfortunately not realised and COP17 in Durban where the Green Climate Fund was created.

In 2015 COP21, also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, will, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C.

France will play a leading international role in hosting this seminal conference, and COP21 will be one of the largest international conferences ever held in the country. The conference is expected to attract close to 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society.

Now you know, I hope.


Are those flames? Is that fiddle music I hear? Greenland is melting faster (Annals of Global Warming)

July 28, 2015

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

Discover Magazine caption: Greenland as seen by NASA’s Aqua satellite on June 29, 2015. (Source: NASA Worldview)

What is the price of our delay?

Greenland’s ice is melting faster than scientists predicted a few years ago. Incredibly, a sizable bloc of people work to stop action against climate change, claiming that it’s not occurring, or that it’s natural and shouldn’t be stopped, or that we can’t afford to save the planet this time.

Polar oceanographer Mark Brandon calls our attention to a good lay article in Discover Magazine’s .blog Imageo, by Tom Yulsman:

As brutal heat grips parts of Europe, Asia, North America and South America, another place is also experiencing a spike in temperatures — one that you may not have heard about.

It’s happening in Greenland, and high temperatures there over the past two weeks have caused a sudden jump in melting at the surface of the vast ice sheet (seen in that great expanse of white in the satellite image above).

Science critics argue the warming is slowing down, and will soon stop. Wish they were right. 18 years of their being wrong makes me skeptical.

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

Caption from ImaGeo: In the graph above, the red line traces a sudden increase in the extent of surface melting in Greenland. (Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center)

In the meantime, as Galileo might have said, “Eppure, lei si scalda!”still, she warms.


Greenland is Melting, band graphic

Greenland is Melting, band graphic

Wind power ready for its closeup?

June 27, 2015

Climate Progress used this photo in a Tweet touting Denmark’s wind power progress:

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898   (No other photo information in Tweet)

Denmark sets world record for wind power production http://thkpr.gs/3608898 (Photo credit: flickr/Vattenfall)

Awesome photograph, a 21st century version of those photos of men, machines, bridges and other industrial objects admired for their symmetry and sharp shadows from the 1920s and 1930s. I would guess it was captured by an airplane passenger passing over the at-sea windfarms springing up around Europe’s Atlantic Coast, off the coast of Denmark, if Climate Progress editors were careful.

Scientifically, the photo shows what happens when windmills reduce the air pressure downwind of the blades — condensation can suddenly become visible.  Condensation trails from windmills (won’t that vex the hell out of chemtrails tinfoil hatters?).

The photo illustrates what should be good news:

Denmark has been long been a pioneer in wind power, having installed its first turbines in the mid-1970s when oil shocks sent the import-dependent nation on a quest for energy security. Thirty-seven years later, the country has set a new world record for wind production by getting 39.1 percent of its overall electricity from wind in 2014. This puts the Northern European nation well on track to meet its 2020 goal of getting 50 percent of its power from renewables.

The news of Denmark’s feat adds to the national records the U.K. and Germany set for 2014 and further establishes Europe as a leader in the wind power industry. This is especially true when it comes to offshore resources, as countries like Scotland, England, and Denmark build out their offshore wind farms. Wind generated enough electricity to power just over 25 percent of U.K. homes in 2014 — a 15 percent increase from 2013. In December, Germany generated more wind power, 8.9 terawatt-hours, than in any previous month.

A big source of the surge of Denmark’s wind production this year came from the addition of around 100 new offshore wind turbines. In January of 2014, the peninsular country got just over 61 percent of its power from wind. This is more than three times the overall production of 10 years ago, when wind only made up 18.8 percent of the energy supply. The country has a long-term goal of being fossil fuel-free by 2050.

Anti-greens, and rational conservationists, see trouble though. Anti-greens holler that the windmills “kill birds,” as if the coal power plants the windmills displace do less environmental damage.  They will bring this up in every discussion of alternative energy sources, and in every discussion of working to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to decrease pollution and damage from climate change.  I suppose they want us to throw up our hands and give up on conservation.  (Industry agents like CFACT have no compunction against giving half-truths on these issues.)

Conservationists, like Chris Clarke, see the dangers.  Bird kills do occur at wind farms, in greater numbers than any conservationist is comfortable with.  Off-shore wind farms could hammer migrating populations of songbirds and other migratory fowl, in addition to the sea-dwelling birds.  Few solid studies on bird damage exist.  We are particularly the dark about the songbirds, who migrate in enormous avian clouds at night.  An article in Nature sums up issues:

Wind turbines kill far fewer birds in general each year than do many other causes linked to humans, including domestic cats and collisions with glass windows. But wind power has a disproportionate effect on certain species that are already struggling for survival, such as the precarious US population of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos canadensis).

“The troubling issue with wind development is that we’re seeing a growing number of birds of conservation concern being killed by wind turbines,” says Albert Manville, a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Arlington, Virginia.

It is good news that wind power can replace fossil fuels. But industrial-sized enterprises inherently create environmental problems. Our policy makers need to be alert to the issues involved, and create incentives for development of alternative energy sources that will prevent our falling into the rut of industrial development that comes at enormous costs pushed to future generations.

Who is looking out for the birds? Can there be anyone who argues we should give up on climate change because of problems from alternative energy, really?

Chris Clarke tells us the problems, that we need accurate, relevant information, and we don’t have a methodical process to get it:

The issue of eagles being harmed by wind turbines in the U.S. is a huge topic, to put it mildly. And yet a paper documenting two eagle mortalities at a wind turbine facility in the last 20 years is “conceptually novel” enough to merit publication in a prestigious wildlife science journal.

Put it this way: The scientific community has more information on deaths among marine mammals, which spend much of their time in places it’s hard for us to get to, than it does about injuries and deaths to rather conspicuous birds in industrial facilities. Hell, we have better, more solid data on planets outside our solar system than we do on eagle mortalities at wind energy plants in California.

One could ask the rhetorical question “why is that the case,” but it’s almost a waste of time: it’s because wind energy companies would strongly prefer that data never gets released to the public.

And that’s what peer-reviewed journals are, for all their abstruse language and incomprehensible math and absurd paywalls: public information. Once that data gets analyzed and put in context by independent biologists, it becomes available to us all.

[USGS research ecologist Jeffrey] Lovich puts it this way:

Minimizing wildlife mortality at wind farms is a major goal of conservation, although research on how best to do that is in short supply. Compiling and publishing accurate data on mortality of Golden Eagles over time is an important first step in efforts to protect these iconic birds.

And doing so in the clear light of day is crucial if we in the public are ever to make scientifically sound decisions about our energy policy, regardless of whether we put windpower or wildlife first.

Who will provide that information? Who will even ask for it? If we can’t get consensus on whether we should save humanity’s home on Earth, how can we get consensus on asking the questions about how to go about it, and how to learn how to do it?


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