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Voluntary Environmentalism



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Kerry argues that there is not one example of voluntary measures solving an environmental problem. Newt disagrees, as a former teacher of environmental science. So would these guys.

There’s No Downside, says Kerry



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He actually argues that if he and his friends are wrong, then the worst that can happen is that there are more jobs in America. The EIA would disagree.

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Kerry on Europe’s Mess



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He argues that the Europeans don’t know how to do cap and trade, but America does…

A mistake by Newt



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I’m surprised that Newt makes a basic debating mistake by asking Kerry to clarify his plan, which he then uses as an excuse to make another full speech.

Kerry Responds



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He doesn’t think a carbon cap will be bureaucratic or invite litigation, again citing rent-seekers’ demands for regulation as evidence of their good intentions.

He claims that his approach is a market one. The father of free-market environmentalism disagrees.

He also says that China wants to limit its emissions. Really?

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Newt Responds



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He argues that a coercive regulatory litigation regime is just impractical, enormously complicated and transfers a massive amount of power to bureaucrats.

Newt then praises Theodore Roosevelt and argues for tax credits. Ah well.

Yet he then reminds us of the mess that is Superfund, which he sees as the way any carbon bureaucracy will go.

He next reminds us of how the EU is exporting pollution in the name of its emissions trading regime.

Ah, but then he endorses the massive ethanol boondoggle and praises carbon capture and storage, which is a promising technology but even with massive investment many years away from being a working one.

It’s a Moral Issue



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…says Senator Kerry. As my colleague Marlo Lewis argues when Al Gore raises this point, the argument goes both ways.

He finishes by arguing for a “global price for carbon.”

Kerry Backs the Rent-Seekers



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John Kerry says that General Electric, Wal-Mart, PG&E, and DuPont are all screaming for a national price on carbon. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?

Kerry Begins



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…by saying Newt is actually a global warming denier, then goes on to the litany of scientific complaints, including agreeing that we don’t know much about temperatures over 400 years ago but then, essentially, saying that we do know enough…

He praises Jim Hansen as one of the best scientists America has to offer, and suggest that these scientists believe in a “tipping point of catastrophe.” Even the alarmists are a little more subtle than that. He also argues for a very low target for CO2 concentrations – which even sir Nicholas Stern says will be “extremely costly” – before arguing that it won’t be costly.

Newt’s Final Point



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Newt remembers the Second Earth Day and the spirit of catastrophism. He reminds how how spectacularly wrong Paul Ehrlich was. He also points out mankind’s adaptive capacity – which the IPCC ignores, as he says. Above all, he is optimistic.

Newt on the science



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He begins by re-emphasizing that we know very little about global temperatures over 400 years ago. Then he reminds us that there is no consensus that humans are the only factor influencing the climate, and points out that computer models are only computer models, and even those only suggest moderate sea level rise.

After that, he reminds us of the role of economic development. Failure to commit to economic growth will consign billions to poverty and disaster.

Now Newt gets to the meat – China is going to have cars, India is going to have air conditioning. His focus is on developing new approaches and incentives to ensure those developments. His preferred incentive is prizes, not grants. That’s good.

Newt praises Kerry’s book



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Newt begins by saying that he agrees with 60 percent of John Kerry’s book “A moment on the Earth,” to whit to those points that demonstrate how local leadership is often better for the environment than central government. That’s a fair point.

Liveblogging the Gingrich-Kerry debate



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I’m going to try to liveblog the Kerry-Gingrich debate on global warming starting now, which you can watch online here.

Make all the Bush Jokes You Want...



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…or maybe it should be the FoMoCo CEO joke. But I’m staying away from “Ford’s hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid” and anywhere you might juice one up. Is their idea of clever design on that the average harried Joe (or U.S. President) has the ready, socket-compatible option of plugging it in properly or blowing it, himself and his immediate environs up at the service station just off the ramp? What are these, being built for markets in certain, ah, other geographical regions?

This has to be some kind of sick joke. You want to place a car bearing a compressed store of hydrogen that requires a plug for an electrical source into the land of millionaires made from the trick of spilling hot coffe on their lap?  When and where I attended law school they had courses specifically designed for engineers. How quaint.

Markets work. And let me posit that it’s going to take a(nother) federal subsidy to get these bad boys road-ready, because no insurer would touch something like that intimated in the piece. I think violating the protocol of the President’s personal space is the least of this chap’s worries.

Or, someone’s telling a fish story.

A cat speaks...



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I agree, a carbon tax is a lot better than a cap and trade scheme. But the optimal carbon tax is $0.00.

Dogs and Cats, Living Together...



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Now, I know that the idea of a carbon tax isn’t exactly popular with everyone around here, but I’m also pretty sure that everyone agrees that it makes more sense as policy than cap-and-trade.  On the other side of the ideological fence, TNR’s Bradford Plumer agrees, and, noting Ron Bailey’s interest in the idea at Reason, wonders if “maybe we’ll see some bizarre alliance between greens, right-wing economists, and libertarians on the issue.” I don’t know if we’ll ever really see an “alliance” in any true sense, but I think that it’s at least somewhat plausible that we’ll see enough rough consensus on the issue to nudge U.S. policy-makers intent on enacting some sort of global warming policy away from cap-and-trade and toward a straight carbon tax.  

A rsising tide floats all boats...



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Viewers of An Inconvenient Truth will remember the terrible images of the fishing fleets stranded in the desert that was once the Aral Sea, a disaster caused by Soviet central planning, not by climate change, of course.

Well, increased political freedom combined with ambitious engineering are reversing that catastrophe and growing the Aral Sea once more. A new dam has risen the sea level by 8 meters (yes, sea level rise is a good thing here) and 30 million fish will be released into the Sea this year.

The Aral Sea is far from saved, but mankind’s resiliency is helping to restore it slowly.

The Hybrid That Could Have Made Dick Cheney President



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From the Detroit News:

Credit Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally with saving the leader of the free world from self-immolation.

Mulally told journalists at the New York auto show that he intervened to prevent President Bush from plugging an electrical cord into the hydrogen tank of Ford’s hydrogen-electric plug-in hybrid at the White House last week. Ford wanted to give the Commander-in-Chief an actual demonstration of the innovative vehicle, so the automaker arranged for an electrical outlet to be installed on the South Lawn and ran a charging cord to the hybrid. However, as Mulally followed Bush out to the car, he noticed someone had left the cord lying at the rear of the vehicle, near the fuel tank.

“I just thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’ So, I started walking faster, and the President walked faster and he got to the cord before I did. I violated all the protocols. I touched the President. I grabbed his arm and I moved him up to the front,” Mulally said. “I wanted the president to make sure he plugged into the electricity, not into the hydrogen This is all off the record, right?”

We’re doomed! Doomed! Part II



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One of the baffling things about the IPCC Working Group II document released on Friday is how much it ignores mankind’s ability to progress. Time after time it fails to take into account any increase in adaptive capacity as the world gets richer. Essentially, it assumes we spend all our money on iPods while our feet get wet. But it’s even worse than that. Indur Goklany sums it up:

In the few cases where they consider that existing technologies will be adopted more widely because of increasing wealth, these studies don’t generally allow for new technologies. This is the case for some of the studies of agricultural production and hunger, for example. These studies estimate impacts for 2085 using technologies from the 1990s or earlier. This is like estimating today’s food production and levels of hunger using technologies from the 1910s! You are bound to underestimate food production and overestimate hunger. In developing countries prevalence of chronic hunger declined from 37% to 17% between 1970 and 2001, despite an 83% increase in population, in substantial part because of new technologies. These improvements would not be captured using the above methodologies had they been applied in, say, the 1960s to estimate hunger in the 2000s. [This view -- that adaptive capacities and technologies are static -- was exactly why Paul Ehrlich’s predictions in the Population Bomb, for example, bombed in reality.] Not allowing for secular technological change or for technologies developed specifically to alleviate any impacts of climatic changes does not reflect “business-as usual” as the IPCC scenarios claim to do. One should expect the greater the potential food shortfall, the greater the adaptive response. It means that net negative impacts for the future are overstated.

Indeed, even where it’s quite obvious that existing technology will help, the IPCC doesn’t go far enough to pointing this out. While the New York Times suggests in its web-only sidebar on the release (which very creditably shows how the report was made more alarmist in some ways) that this statement is watered down,

Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk

…there’s actually a very good scientific basis for that. The underlying documentation makes it clear that the number of displaced people drops by 90 percent if the world keeps investing in sea defenses at the same rate as it is today.

As Goks concludes in his as yet unpublished analysis, the report:

· Overstates negative impacts and understates positive impacts

· Overstates the level of confidence that should be attached to the impacts on both human systems as well as “natural” systems (because the latter are also affected by human actions)

· Fails to examine the impacts of climate change in the wider context of other stresses affecting humanity and the rest of nature

· Fails to examine the relationship between climate change and sustainable economic development more fully, which could mislead policymakers into opting for policies that would divert resources from dealing with today’s urgent problems in favor of policies to pursue longer term, and more uncertain, problems.

That’s no basis for a report to policymakers. Governments should refer this back to the IPCC with a request: Please Try Harder.

Struggle for the WaPo’s Soul



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Today’s Washington Post carries this story by Steve Mufson, “Europe’s Problems Color U.S. Plans to Curb Carbon Gases”. That’s not just a nice title but, for the Post, not a bad take on the matter (you remember last week’s absurd piece touting Europe’s glorious success).

Key take-aways from today’s article are a) the advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitting that “higher electricity prices are ‘the intent of the whole exercise’” and b) WaPo itself admitting that cap-and-trade is “rationing” (see the 2d paragraph, under “US pioneered system”).

Yet despite the piece simply tossing in a line in the penultimate paragraph about the major dispute over whether to auction emission allocations or give them away, in toto, it clearly buttresses objections to freely awarding them instead to well-connected mandarins, a mistake that Europe’s Member States made in buckling to industry pressure resulting in windfall profits when industry passes along the “cost” of these allocations to the electricity consumer, on the grounds that, hey, they could’ve sold them, so simply using up their ration coupons with emissions is a cost.

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