Hansen mostly recycles myths in his mostly pointless attack on U.S. climate action

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"Hansen mostly recycles myths in his mostly pointless attack on U.S. climate action"

UPDATE:  Predictably, Swift Boat smearer Morano has made Hansen’s post his top story at ClimateDepotted, again revealing that Hansen’s recent attacks are helping the deniers and delayers.

Much as I am happy to devote many Climate Progress posts to publicizing Hansen’s leading edge climate science analysis (see links below), I am unhappy to have to waste any time at all debunking his bleeding edge climate policy analysis (see “Memo to Hansen: Your opposition to Waxman-Markey is ill-conceived and unhelpful. There isn’t going to be a carbon tax nor should there be. Get over it and move on” and “Memo to Hansen 2: Why is the country’s top anti-science blog reprinting your stuff?“).

Still, his arguments need debunking because he is mostly recycling myths that others are pushing — and with the country’s top climate scientist putting his name on this collection of false and misleading statements, they will no doubt be parroted by yet more people.  Hansen has just written, “G-8 Failure Reflects U.S. Failure on Climate Change” for The Huffington Post.

Let me go straight to his needlessly (and pointlessly) provocative attacks on the “counterfeit climate bill known as Waxman-Markey,” which is filled with right-wing and left-wing myths — and very little understanding of the basics of either this bill or cap-and-trade systems.

Hansen claims “For all its ‘green’ aura, Waxman-Markey locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like ‘cap-and-trade’ scheme.”  Not so.  I have previously explained why W-M takes us sharply off of the BAU emissions path over the next decade, probably reducing coal use more than 25% by 2020 (see “Game changer, Part 2: Why unconventional natural gas makes the 2020 Waxman-Markey target so damn easy and cheap to meet“).  And then it requires a 42% emissions reduction by 2030 and an 83% reduction by 2050, which will drive a massive energy transition over the next few decades.

The global economy is indeed a Ponzi scheme, but this is the first piece of legislation by any major country that makes a serious effort to end that Ponzi scheme.

Hansen then lists “a few of the bill’s egregious flaws”:

  • It guts the Clean Air Act, removing EPA’s ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.

No.  The EPA doesn’t have the “ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.”  EPA might well use its recent endangerment finding to get that ability [partially and eventually], but it hasn’t asserted that regulatory capability yet.

More importantly, the CAA authority is most readily translated into regulating emissions from new power plants.  Regulating CO2 emissions from existing power plants would take a long time, engendering a great deal of litigation.  As John Podesta, former Clinton Administration Chief of Staff and now CEO of CAP, recently said, “it would be difficult for the EPA to enact a CO2 cap and trade without congressional cooperation.”

Moreover, for a man who wants to “phase out coal emissions over the next two decades,” as Hansen does, this is a pretty pointless complaint.  The Obama EPA was certainly never going to use the endangerment finding to do anything like that.

This “EPA can solve the problem on its own” myth is so commonplace that I will do separate post next week addressing it.  I certainly agree with NRDC that the bill should be changed to allow EPA to retain its CAA authority, but I wouldn’t list this among the bill’s top 4 flaws, let alone put it first.

Hansen’s next “egregious” flaw in W-M:

  • It sets meager targets — 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year’s level — and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious “offsets,” by which other nations are paid to preserve forests — while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.

Not quite — though the first part this statement is the bill’s biggest flaw (and the only truly serious objection Hansen raises here).  The 2020 target is inarguably too weak from a scientific perspective (although using this deep-recession/near-depresssion year as the baseline and not the bill’s 2005 base year is a critique that should be beneath Hansen).  That unfortunate outcome came about principally because the Bush administration did nothing for eight years, which meant that any U.S. climate bill passed now that starts in 2012 was never going to have a 2020 target like Hansen (and developing countries) wanted, which would have required the equivalent of a 40% cut in 8 years.  I guess Hansen and others can trash the Obama administration and leading environmental legislators like Waxman and Markey for that, but I see that as worse than pointless.

[Note to Hansen:  Congress was never going to pass a carbon tax that would “phase out coal emissions over the next two decades.”  You can pretend it was — and vent your misplaced wrath at cap-and-trade proponents — but even if a carbon tax could pass Congress, it would ultimately be little different from W-M in its outcomes, and would lack the targets needed to move the international negotiations process forward.]

And it is really quite out of character for Hansen to make such a factually untrue assertion as

and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious “offsets,” by which other nations are paid to preserve forests — while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.

Of the more than 1000 Clean Development Mechanism projects funded and sold to date as international offsets (CERs) under the Kyoto process, 3 have been forestry.  Hansen has repeated an absurd and rather destructive myth, which will no doubt resonate around the blogosphere.

Why destructive?  Because one of the single best things in the entire W-M bill is that utterly separate from the offset provisions, it sets aside allowances to create a huge pool of money for the United States to contribute to a new international effort to stop deforestation using national-accounting based methods — a strategy explicitly designed to stop the very problem Hansen (falsely) claims the bill will accelerate.  Indeed, the funding in W-M is so great that the United States contribution alone is aimed at stopping deforestation equal to some 720 million metric tons of carbon dioxide — equal to 10% of U.S. emissions in 2005 — which is on top of the emissions reductions mandated by the bill.

Finally, the offsets complaint is a bit odd in a piece whose basic thesis is that the first-ever attempt by the United States to take climate action — which includes a requirement that this country cut greenhouse gas emissions 42% in two decades and 83% in four decades — is the entire reason for the failure of rich and poor countries to agree on an emissions pathway this week.  Hansen writes

With a workable climate bill in his pocket, President Obama might have been able to begin building that global consensus in Italy. Instead, it looks as if the delegates from other nations may have done what 219 U.S. House members who voted up Waxman-Markey last month did not: critically read the 1,400-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and deduce that it’s no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.

That, of course, is poppycock.  The delegates haven’t read the bill, and they certainly only care about the targets.  They could care less about the other 1300 pages of the bill that so bother Hansen (which he hasn’t bothered to read, or even read a summary of, as we’ll see).  Yes, the 2020 target is too weak, but that is true of Japan’s new 2020 target — and frankly even Europe’s proposed target wouldn’t satisfy what many developing countries have asked for.

More to the point here, the Kyoto process created international offsets, and the Europeans are committed to keeping them (and improving quality and oversight). Whatever complaints the developing countries have about Waxman-Markey, the fact that it makes use of international offsets is not high on their list.  In fact, they want a mechanism by which rich polluters help them develop with clean energy.

I am not a big fan of offsets, but after much research and discussion with leading experts, I’ve come to the conclusion that they do not vitiate the targets (see “Do the 2 billion offsets allowed in Waxman-Markey gut the emissions targets?“).  The bill is written in a manner that should allow the United States to strengthen oversight of international offsets, but in any case, it is difficult to blame the United States for the current state of the CDM.  And again, what the bill does on global forest preservation is not an “egregious flaw” but a central contribution to stopping global warming.

Hansen’s third “egregious” flaw:

Its cap-and-trade system, reports former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert Shapiro, “has no provisions to prevent insider trading by utilities and energy companies or a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives.”

This is an utter falsehood.  Indeed, it is a repackaged version of a falsehood that anti-scientific anti-clean-energy Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour put forward (see “Barbour utterly tries to scare public with wildly implausible Chinese scheme to manipulate the emissions market“).  So let me repeat for the record:

There are many provisions (and realities) that would stop “insider trading” [whatever the heck that is in this case] and “a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives.”

First off, the permit market is huge.  Even purchasing 2% of the permits in, say, 2015, would probably cost $1 billion.  And speculators would have to purchase several times that to significantly run up the price.

[As an aside, Hansen should really like speculators because they increase the price of the permit]

Second, it will be so easy to meet the targets for at least the first decade (see here) that the “real” price of a permit will probably be slightly below the auction price (which has a floor).  So it will be highly unprofitable to buy lots of permits, which would run up the price, in an effort to make money selling those permits sometime in the future.  I can’t imagine a plausible scenario in which this would make economic sense for any entity even if they could get away with it, which they cannot.

Third, the bill requires EPA to promulgate regulations to cover the auction.  As CQ‘s summary of the bill explains:

  • Bidders must disclose all parties sponsoring their bids;
  • Individual bidders would be limited to purchasing up to 5% of allowances sold at any quarterly auction;
  • EPA would have to publish information about winning bidders

So it would be very difficult to do any major purchasing in secret, any major “insider trading,” and virtually impossible to acquire a large fraction of the permits.  Indeed, in this context, “insider trading” looks to be just a collection of meaningless scare-words.  Hansen can do better.

Fourth, the bill has a whole section devoted to “Carbon Market Assurance.”  As the WRI summary describes it:

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is given regulatory authority over allowance and offset markets and allowance derivative markets (Sec. 761, pg. 449). The President is also delegated authority to instruct agencies to take on pieces of market regulation based on existing authority as long as regulations are consistent with this section. The draft makes it a federal crime to commit fraud or manipulate any carbon market. In addition, the regulations facilitate and maintain market oversight and transparency and require market monitoring to prevent fraud, manipulation and excessive speculation.

That section explicitly includes derivatives, with further oversight by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Fifth, the bill has a Strategic Reserve (with tons originally skimmed off from each year’s total target) that an entity can purchase permits from if the price sees a short-term run up of about 60%.  So again the bill will is designed to prevent someone from cornering the market.

So this charge by Shapiro and Hansen is utterly false.  Now Hansen apparently hasn’t bothered to look at the bill or any of the many summaries.  I would note that essentially all of these oversight provisions were in the original March draft — so they should not be a surprise to anybody.

Since Hansen really doesn’t follow this sort of policy issue closely — even though he opines on it — I can understand why he might just parrot Shapiro.  But Shapiro is, as Hansen notes, former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs and co-chair of the U.S. Climate Task Force.  So he should know better.  Then again, one of the two (!) advisors listed for the U.S. Climate Task Force is “Kevin Hassett, Director of Economic Studies for the American Enterprise Institute.”

Now AEI remains a leading anti-climate-action, anti-clean energy right wing think tank.  For instance, AEI continues to assert (without any supporting evidence), “No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly,” and it continues to parrot utterly false denier talking points like “For the last decade, warming peaked, and has recently declined: we’re back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978″ (see “AEI: Still crazy with denial and delay after all these years“).  I simply can’t imagine any group that wants to be taken seriously on climate policy having a senior AEI staffer as an advisor.  So for now, the analysis of “The U.S. Climate Task Force” and its leadership should be ignored by anyone who wants to be taken seriously on climate policy.

But Hansen isn’t content to quote Shapiro’s falsehoods once.  No, his fourth and last egregious flaw is:

It fails to set predictable prices for carbon, without which, Shapiro notes, “businesses and households won’t be able to calculate whether developing and using less carbon-intensive energy and technologies makes economic sense,” thus ensuring that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short.

Uhh, no.  In fact, the bill does set a very predictable (and rising) floor on the auction price.  And again, since the 2020 target is so easy to meet with abundant, low-cost domestic clean energy — like efficiency, conservation, renewables, and fuel switching from coal to gas — I think the carbon price is likely to hug the floor price through 2020.  But that’s what I think — not what the industry believes.

Hansen has this argument exactly backwards.  One of the biggest plusses of a cap-and-trade over a tax is that participants tend to think that the cost of meeting the targets — and hence the cost of the permits — will be much higher than they actually turn out to be.  So they do more than is necessary, especially once they find out how easy it is to cut emissions. That is why in previous cap-and-trade programs, like sulfur dioxide, the targets were achieve faster and cheaper than anybody expected.

Remember the industry-funded economic models show very high permit prices.  That’s why the industry ends up acting as if the permit price is going to be high.  I already know medium-sized energy-intensive companies that have done bupkes on energy for decades who are now scrambling to figure out what this bill means for them.  They will inevitably put in place basic energy efficiency and carbon mitigation strategies of the kind that I detail in my book Cool Companies (see “Cool Companies, Part 1: How the best businesses boost profits and productivity by reducing greenhouse gas emissions” and “The United States of Waste“).  That will be repeated by hundreds of different companies, ultimately leading to far more emissions reductions at a far lower cost than all the economic models project.

So it is sheer nonsense — and the exact opposite of the truth — for Hansen and Shapiro to claim this bill will ensure “that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short.”

Yes, those who like carbon taxes think that predictable prices are preferable.  But I’m with Nobelist Krugman, who writes, “The claim that carbon taxes are better than cap and trade is, in my view, just wrong.”  In particular:

One objection “” the claim that carbon taxes are better than cap and trade “” is, in my view, just wrong. In principle, emission taxes and tradable emission permits are equally effective at limiting pollution. In practice, cap and trade has some major advantages, especially for achieving effective international cooperation.

Not to put too fine a point on it, think about how hard it would be to verify whether China was really implementing a promise to tax carbon emissions, as opposed to letting factory owners with the right connections off the hook. By contrast, it would be fairly easy to determine whether China was holding its total emissions below agreed-upon levels.

Now Hansen can keep pointlessly pushing his carbon tax if he wants to.  Heck, he can argue the merits of Betamax and John McCain and Adam Lambert, if he wants.  But trashing Waxman-Markey and its supporters based on recycled myths touted by others remains ill-conceived and unhelpful.

Related Posts:

Memo to Hansen 2: Why is the country’s top anti-science blog reprinting your stuff?

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42 Responses to Hansen mostly recycles myths in his mostly pointless attack on U.S. climate action

  1. Dean says:

    As somebody who has generally seen eye-to-eye with Hansen on this bill, I have nonetheless decided to support it and just sent letters to each my my Senators. Although I probably don’t have a lot to worry about with them (Cantwell and Murray), we need for them to hear from us too.

    Here are my reasons for coming to this decision.

    First of all, opponents of the bill (and I’m not referring to deniers) seem to have some belief that if it fails, a much better one will come along quite soon. Get over it. For God sakes, it took 15 years to get a second shot at health care reform, and that’s an issue for which the average voter gets it. And even if a new bill comes up relatively soon, it still has to be written by Waxman and Markey – they are the committee chairs. If this bill fails, we probably won’t see anything for a while, and the message won’t be that it failed because it was too weak. And if the next bill doesn’t come from Waxman, it will come from McCain. The other result of a failure probably is Anthony Watts giving victory interviews on CNN. Give me a barf bag.

    Secondly, I remain unconvinced that anybody can be absolutely sure what the bill will do. So while even its supporters don’t consider it a silver bullet, the actual impacts will probably not be what either supporters or opponents expect. We can only hope that it avoids the worst pitfalls, and that maybe some of the worst aspects can be improved.

    I don’t know how likely that is, but it’s a hell of a lot more likely than getting a new AND better bill any time soon (enough). We have no great choices here, but I simply can’t conceive that a “good” bill is on the table if this fails, given the press for health care reform, the economy, and particularly given the horrendous play a failure would get.

    And here’s a third reason. Getting China to take this issue seriously probably has little to do with the content of what we try to do. If we don’t pass anything, they won’t do anything. If we pass something, even something weak, maybe we start along the way of bringing them on board.

    PS – I asked my Senators to do what they could to prevent any further weakening.

  2. Jade in San Francisco says:

    Thank you very much Joe for not letting Hansen’s Huffingtonpost blog go unchallenged. I was at work today browsing around Huffpo when I came across Hansen’s blog post. After finishing what I thought would be an insightful analysis as to why the Waxman Markey bill needs more teeth, I was aghast at what I had just read! I couldn’t believe how utterly confused this man was about ACES. Obviously climate politics/economics and energy policy are not Hansen’s strong suits as you so eloquently pointed out. He needs to stick to what he knows best. The only logical explanation as to why he would write something like this is that he’s feeling a little helpless. After working so hard to get Obama elected I guess he was hoping that the President would be able get on television, wave his magic climate change wand, and all of sudden both houses of congress would fall in line. Not going to happen.

  3. KJ says:

    For all of Waxman-Markey’s faults, I think it gets two things right: (1) allowance set-asides to fund tropical forest conservation, and (2) a meaningful price floor. These measures move U.S. policy closer to the rational and pragmatic goal of minimizing emissions within limits of cost acceptability. However, they leave W-M with no coherent policy foundation, because its other regulatory mechanisms — the cap, trading, economy-wide linkage, banking, borrowing, and offsets — all operate to achieve the converse objective of minimizing costs within limits of a predetermined (and unsustainable) emission cap.

    The irrationality of the latter objective is demonstrated by the U.S. SO2 trading system, which continues to focus regulatory incentives on further cost reductions — not emission reductions — even when allowances are selling at a fraction of what was expected when the cap-and-trade system was enacted, and even when quantifiable benefits of further emission reductions would exceed costs by a factor of 25.

    [Note to JR re “… So they do more than is necessary …”: That is because of banking, which has the effect of shifting the over-allocation into future compliance periods. They do more now only so they can do less later.]

    Suppose that the SO2 allowances had been sold at fixed price (no emission cap), with sales revenue distributed according to the same proportionate allocation formula that was used for allowance allocation (or any other preferred formula). If the price were set at the lower limit of the original expectation level (about $650/ton, compared to the actual market of about $200/ton) then SO2 scrubber technology would have been adopted much sooner, and the more ambitious goal of the EPA’s recent Clean Air Interstate Rule might have been achieved years ago without further regulatory intervention.

    But that’s not the kind of program that Hansen and other carbon-tax advocates are propounding for GHG regulation. Their proposals are very similar to Obama’s original 100% auction, 80% tax dividend plan, the main difference being that allowances would be sold rather than auctioned. Obama, to his credit, knows how to recognize a brick wall when he sees it and he backed off on his original plan. The carbon-tax lobby, by contrast, is still banking its head against the wall in its insistence that carbon taxes operate primarily to extract revenue from the regulated industry. In my view, it is this dogged and dogmatic adherence to a “punitive” regulatory approach that leaves W-M as “the only game in town”.

    However, if tax revenue is used only to finance or incentivize emission reductions in the taxed industry, then I think there would be three consequences: (1) Industry costs would be dramatically lower (even if emission-reduction incentives are much higher than cap-and-trade’s), so pricing instruments would lose their political stigma. (2) Price certainty, in addition to low costs, would make pricing instruments much more attractive to industry. (3) Pricing instruments would be more compatible with sectoral policies having limited scope, and hence limited political opposition. (Monolithic, economy-wide policies like W-M’s tend to lead to “monolithic, economy-wide” political opposition, but the rationale for economy-wide linkage disappears when the policy objective is minimum emissions — not minimum costs.)

    Passage of W-M is not a sure bet, so it would be prudent to start thinking about some kind of viable “Plan B”.

  4. Hansen fails only because he is stepping away from science and moving into politics. Expertise does not transfer.

    Politics is going to fail miserably before destabilizing climate. Anybody can model the years 2050 and 2100. But the near future next few are very difficult.

    The biggest challenge will be just whether government can still rule in the face of easy-to-predict events like: drought, heat, crop failures and climate refugees, floods. Or in the more difficult to predict: disease and climate wars.

    Taxes are easy and fast. Cap and bubble are more fun, but neither will be a real solution.

  5. Tim R. says:

    I’m afraid your Clean Air Act analysis needs debunking. It is on this issue that you split hairs so fine, you make clear how important this issue is. That the CAA doesn’t give EPA authority to regulate CO2 without an endangerment finding is a distinction without a difference. So what, there is an extra step. The important point is that EPA could move forward to regulate just about every important source of GHGs with existing CAA authority, if they wanted to.

    That EPA might not have authority to enact cap and trade without Congress, so what? They can do better than cap and trade. They can command and control regulate and force Congress to do better. Strict regulation would completely change the terms of who needs 60 votes to get business done in the Senate and then the greenest 41 could stop the other 59 from rolling back an aggressive EPA. Strong action by EPA would clearly lead to strong action by Congress in response. It would be unavoidable. Litigation is not a great fear. The Supreme Court has spoken clearly on this issue and I am sure that plenty of federal judges would take that cue in 2009 and 2010 and run with it.

    Which brings us to your third CAA point. Obama’s EPA was never going to use the CAA to move aggressively. Now we come to the crux of the issue that people at a Democratic think tank can’t bring themselves to admit out loud. Obama is not moving aggressively on the climate issue. That, and primarily that, is why ACES is so weak.

    The first step to addressing a problem is to admit what the problem really is. Obama gets energy, but he doesn’t get climate. Or else he is scared to move forward on it in a scientifically defensible way. If he did, Obama would have to take the heat.

    No guts on Obama’s part. And maybe no guts for those that will defend his lack of action at EPA.

    Just an example in parting: why isn’t the endangerment finding moving forward under every single relevant section of the CAA simultaneously? Why wasn’t an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking put out in parallel with the endangerment finding? Why did the endangerment finding ignore what this website has called the second most important greenhouse pollutant – black carbon? Finally, why, given all you know about the hell and highwater we are facing, will you not call EPA for dragging their feet and hiding behind Waxman?!

  6. hapa says:

    both wrong. the time to say what the bill “will” do is when there’s a version of it on the senate floor, for a vote. until then we’re arguing because we’re lost in the “woulds.”

  7. Greg Robie says:

    I have noted in comments on this blog that some would like scientist to be more strident in advocating for what they know. This essay by James is an answer to that desire. In the last month he has been arrested at a mountain top removal coal mine. He was present to be arrested at the block of the DC Power Plant in February (though Speaker Pelosi effectively out maneuvered Climate Action, PowerShift 09, Greenpeace, etc. on that one). If scientific knowledge is, like all things, political, and politics is not always about science—as is the case with the targets and baseline(s) of ACES/W-M—isn’t Hansen being more rational (scientifically political) in his actions and critique (details/audience issues withstanding) than CAP/CP? Isn’t there logic to his actions?

    The following is a link to a comment I made to the previous dis-ing of Hansen here are CP (see http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/05/james-hansen-waxman-markey-carbon-tax-cap-and-trade/comment-page-2/#comment-47625 ). Because what seems to be agreed on by both James and Joe is that the 2020 targets are inadequate, and the “Key Message 3” of the synopsis report of the ISCC says “Weaker targets for 2020 increase the risk of serious impacts, including the crossing of tipping points, and make the task of meeting 2050 targets more difficult and costly.”, my previous comment applies here as well.

    As politically pragmatic as it may feel to advocate for ACES/W-M, the laws of physics will dictate what is real and render irrelevant astute political negotiations. The comment above by Richard, about the challenge of governing in the climate changes that are already assured, cannot be dismissed lightly. An unaddressed question among us may be when—not if—such a breakdown in civil order will happen.

    I spent some extended time in the last week or so interacting, like I do here, at a conservative denier’s blog to see if I could be versatile enough in my use of language to make the points about the constitutional crises I advocate for to redress AGW. Since AGW is a conspiracy theory at that site, I was trying to argue with motivated reasoning, and that is a fools errand, and—interaction aside—I was ineffective. Even so, from the interchange I observe that the affect I experienced was not that different from what I experience among those holding their noses and pushing for this legislation. Both are non-rational (which is the hallmark of motivated reasoning).

    Unless I am lost to my own iteration of motivated reasoning, when faced with the latest science, and the trends in that science concerning global warming, marking the collapse of an economic bubble (and paradigm) built on consumer credit, considering the social fractures effected by our different experiences of morality and our dividedness about this, I wonder if we have all but arrived at that time in history when “In the course of human events…” The four Constitutional crises I’ve identified, to the degree they are such, would suggest that politics aren’t what they used to be. If so, isn’t trusting politics as usual just another iteration of facilitating BAU?

  8. Alastair Breingan says:

    I disagree strongly with your point on Hansen’s comment:-
    “It sets meager targets — 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year’s level — and sabotages even these…”
    The UK was recently blasted by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research which called their 34% cut by 2020 “dangerously optimistic” and you have the cheek to try and defend what is a poor piece of legislation with many to many caveats.
    Hansen is just reacting properly to the science. I can’t help thinking you have got too close to the politics.

    [JR: I agree with Hansen about the 2020 target. But his important critique of that is lost and all the nonsense he is spouting. The UK has every right to tout its leadership and criticize this country. But United States is not going to agree to a 34% cut below 1990 levels by 2020, so people can keep beating their head against the wall about that or try to move forward with what is possible now. Hansen has been the one true leader in the scientific community warning about the science — but he has failed in what I would view as a more important task than this unproductive venture into trashing his allies, namely rallying the scientific community to speak out more educate the public about the urgent need for deeper emissions reductions.]

  9. pete best says:

    The entire edifice of reductions seems to be one of what we need to do and not how to do it. How exactly is the strategy going to be implemented? I would imagine that is what concerns Hansen and others most. The G8 spelled out no means of achieving anything leaving it to the individual countries or larger bodies such as the EU etc.

    The united states burns around 1 billion tonnes of oil per year (8 billion barrels) which is an amazing amount of energy and equal amounts of gas and coal combined. The idea of combating electricity generation seems easiest to do first and tackles the most carbon emitting source (coal). The USA has plenty of wind corridors, geothermal, solar power in its many forms etc but it has no strategy and as yet not the grid to do it. Once the world has tackled electricity it can move on to oil and transport, road and air. The issues lies in the fact that it is all tied up in 1400 pages of very complicated emissions reductions path generalisations which is not very good or simple to understand.

  10. Joe P. says:

    I agree with Tim R. As someone following this issue, it’s seemed obvious that Obama could have the EPA start the process to regulate CO2 in order to move a bill. Is there some reason to think we don’t have the 41 votes it would take to allow EPA to save the world, if it comes to it? Why is there no serious mention of using the CAA to club the recalcitrant along?

  11. Jim Beacon says:

    I don’t like the horribly weak Waxman-Markey bill either, but unlike Hansen I accepted that there was no alternative to facing the political truth: This was the best we could get out of this particularly pitiful excuse for the U.S. House of Representatives. The idea some people still cling to that if W-M had been killed that somehow a “better, stronger bill” would have been put forward and passed is naive fantasy at best and delusional at worst. If W-M had died, the possibility of *any* large-scale bill addressing climate change would have died with it. Permanently. The time is now. We either get something through right now or it’s game over.

    And those who think the EPA could prevail where the Congress and President failed are doing worse than day-dreaming. They simply haven’t been paying attention to the state of the EPA for the past 20 years. It’s a hollow shell of its former self and could never tackle and succeed at something this big on its own. A “finding of endangerment” does not suddenly endow the EPA with magical powers and the ability to leap tall buildings at a single bound, folks.

    So, the only remaining hope is that the bill can be strengthened in the Senate. If not, at least it should not be weakened any further. If that were to happen, I would have to withdraw my tepid support for it and let the Obama administration know in absolute terms that they had to do better or face widespread abandonment by a large chunk of those who voted them into power. They must hold the line here. In fact, they really must *advance* the line by at least a few more yards. The target for 2020 needs to be at least 22% or we will run out of time to avert the infamous “tipping point”. It’s great to talk about a 42% reduction by 2030 and 83% by 2050, but that’s pie in the sky… it’s pure myth that will never be achieved if we can’t do at least 22% by 2020.

    It’s a damn shame that after working so hard to get the bill to the Senate in time for the summer session that the Senate has now decided to table it until the fall. That’s not an encouraging sign. Suddenly it looks like Climate Change is going to take a back seat to Health Care. Which ain’t never gonna get solved in the summer session (what are they smoking?) and will take over the fall session and probably the winter session as well. I thought the whole idea was to get the climate bill passed *before* the hurricane of health care debate hit Capitol Hill and tore the roof off the place?

    [JR: It ain’t tabled until fall. In fact, this is a good thing, if you want a bill passed, that is.]

    Look, we actually *do* have to make up for some of the time lost during the inaction of both the Bush and the Clinton years. We don’t have the luxury of only mandating a 13% reduction from last year’s emissions by 2020. That’s what the rest of the world is telling us, and they are right. If the vast resources and technology of the United States can’t do better than that by 2020, then those higher figures for 2030 and 2050 will never be realized. By then we will have run out of time, resources, economic power and the geopolitical stability necessary to achieve them as a result of the deepening crisis.

    Joe keeps saying he *thinks* we will do 25% by 2020 — that by some miracle of enlightened self-interest the economic Powers that Be will exceed the 17% target on their own without a legal requirement to do so. Dream on, Joe. I thought you were advocating facing reality here. Right now those Powers are drooling at the thought of being able to drill for more oil in the soon-to-be ice-free Arctic. And the coal industry can’t wait to get its hands on the $60 billion slush fund Waxman-Markey is going to hand over to them.

    [JR: Wow! You have no idea what I wrote, do you? I did not expect this gross misrepresentation of something I have written and explained many times from you. I will give you the opportunity to reread what I wrote and then apologize, but for now, like everybody who misrepresents what I wrote in order to attack me, you go on moderation.]

    Bottom Line: Waxman-Markey does not really send the strong, clear message that we can no longer do business as usual. It says instead that, hey, dudes, we can hang loose and wait until, say, around 2025 for that. Hansen is absolutely right in this regard. It must do better. The President needs to personally step up to the plate now, on a daily basis if necessary. He needs to push an improved version of Waxman-Markey through the Senate. We are out of time. Does anyone seriously believe Western Civilization can survive with no Arctic Ice? It is *the* global air-conditioner for the northern hemisphere. But see the latest NASA report on new satellite data proving arctic ice thinning is far worse than previously believed:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090708103212.htm

    P.S. How is it that this blog failed to report on this critical new report from NASA?

    [JR: First, this is OLD news for any reader of this blog, since NSIDC published an almost identical analysis a couple months ago. So it is on my list of things to blog, but not on top.]

    P,P.S. Man, I *really* miss that PREVIEW button! Sorry for the sloppiness of this post.

  12. Chris Dudley says:

    I stand with Hansen in calling the bill too weak and I disagree with him about using a tax and you about using cap-and-trade. The only sound argument for cap-and-trade is given by Krugman: everyone else is doing it [and we are too late to provide leadership so just go along with it]. But both proposals permit emissions rather than banning them and that is a mistake. Further, they monetize carbon emissions and thus provide the wrong metric for moving forward with emissions cuts in the most beneficial way. You like natural gas, and you are correct in this. Don’t include it yet in emissions controls then. Cap-and-trade or a carbon tax can’t possibly recognize the benefits of having a stronger natural gas infrastructure as a backup to renewables and the complete foolishness of building any new coal plants at all because they only count carbon atoms, they don’t allow for strategic planning. They can’t foresee the economic benefit of immediately cutting US oil consumption to lower the world oil price, or the pernicious effect of encouraging tar sand and oil shale development with a high world oil price. Both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade fail to deal with the differences in our fossil fuels in a sophisticated way and so they are a stupid approach.

    But, these things can be fixed after the bill becomes law. People will continue to work to stop coal plant construction. State regulators may be persuaded to plan ahead for renewables by replacing coal generation with natural gas in some states. Certainly some of the more played out coal states will be doing this since they have much of the tight gas. And, at some point, we will wake up and realize that we are the largest player in the world oil market and oil prices are up to us, not OPEC, so that we can disrupt tar sand and oil shale development worldwide.

    I don’t like the weakness of the bill, and I think Hansen has a point that Obama’s hand is weakened by this. But the process is incremental because it is political and we are seeing some climate progress.

  13. Dano says:

    I think the bill is a POS. I also think it is the best the American political process can do. Neither of the preceding two sentences I just typed make me happy.

    Best,

    D

  14. Mike#22 says:

    Here is yesterdays G8

    DECLARATION OF THE LEADERS THE MAJOR ECONOMIES FORUM ON ENERGY AND CLIMATE

    http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/MEF_Declarationl,0.pdf

    and a quote “We recognize the scientific view that the increase in global average temperature above pre-industrial levels ought not to exceed 2 degrees C. In this regard and in the context of the ultimate objective of the Convention and the Bali Action Plan, we will work between now and Copenhagen, with each other and under the Convention, to identify a global goal for substantially reducing global emissions by 2050.”

  15. Phil Eisner says:

    JR and Jim Hansen need to come together. He desperately believes we need a strong bill; you desperately believe we need a bill. Time is wasting. The American public is luke warm about stopping CO2 emissions, probably because what is happening to them, recession and higher energy costs, does not seem to them to be due to excess emissions of an invisible gas! Congress and president Obama are keenly aware of public attitudes and beliefs. If Obama does not educate the public and lead strongly, all is lost.

  16. Leland Palmer says:

    We have a technological problem to solve: How do we stop the growth and then reduce greenhouse gas concentrations, while avoiding catastrophic effects on the economy?

    A subset of that problem is: What do we do with the coal fired power plants?

    If we solve the technological problem, the bickering will go away, IMO. In the absence of a technological solution, we will be left with the present debate, and lack of effective action.

    We need to seize the coal fired power plants, and convert them to biochar fuel, enhanced efficiency via oxyfuel combustion and a topping cycle, and then deep injection or mineral carbonation of the resulting stream of CO2. This would convert the coal fired power plants to carbon negative power plants, and start putting carbon from biomass back underground.

    It’s all about carbon sources and sinks, IMO. We have been transferring carbon from the ground, into the air, by combustion of fossil fuels. We need to start taking biomass carbon, whose ultimate source is the atmosphere, and put it back underground.

    It looks like some geological carbon storage sites are much better than others. It looks like it’s possible to inject CO2 into basalt formations, for example the Juan de Fuca plate off the Pacific Northwest, and have it react chemically with the basalt to form carbonates. There might be volume and mass balance problems, though, leading to plugging up the injection sites.

    It might also be possible to use the heat of the deep deposits to vastly speed up this reaction, in a positive feedback manner.

    Right now we are arguing with each other because we have not yet solved the technological problem of how we put massive amounts of carbon back underground cheaply and effectively. A related problem that has been mostly solved is how we decarbonize energy production, and avoid adding to the greenhouse gas problem.

    We need to solve the technological problem, and make sure that whatever climate bill gets through the Senate does not foreclose on technological options, and in fact encourages technological solutions.

    So, Hansen is right, Waxman/Markey is not enough. Joe is right, IMO, it’s the only game in town, right now, and it’s arguably better than nothing.

    Some positive things about Waxman/Markey are the integrated approach, the clean energy bank, and the fact that specific problems are addressed in a specific manner. Also, it appears to encourage innovation, and we need that – because we still have not solved the technological problem of how we put carbon back underground cheaply, massively, and effectively.

  17. paulm says:

    Hansen plays an essential role. You cant have everyone offering carrots.

    And some one has to remind us just what the real picture and effort require is otherwise we will start deluding ourselves.

    The bill is mainly inspirational, but that can/will lead to more adiquate action.

  18. JeandeBegles says:

    I agree with the mood of the latest comments, and specially with Jim Beacon’s.
    Joe and Hansen share the same analysis but differ on the asessment of the merits of the WM bill. For Joe it is a first (small) step forward, for Jim it is absolutely not enough.
    Please Joe, don’t demonize Hansen by accusing him of spreading myths or faslehood like any GW denier does. You favor cap and trade, but it is VERY easy to show the flaws of any financial market (OUR CLIMATE, NOT YOUR BUSINESS! was the slogan of activists against a carbon traders meeting in Copenhague).
    He favors a carbon tax, and OK it is VERY easy to show that people and politicians (including the smart Obama) don’t seem ready to support it.
    However, the basis of the global solution is quite simple. A universal carbon tax, collected at the point of production of the fossil fuel (mine, oil land, ..) and credited in a ww Climate fund, shared between every country on a strict eqal basis per capita every year. This is the Hansen system, not on the USA scope but on the world wide scope, giving the true (and very low) value of the redistribution.
    I know this is very hard to install and that a lot of regulations must be in place, but these basic principles respect the individual human entiltlement of the same share of CO2.
    In France, we are arguing about these principles with the preparation of a carbon tax proposed by the government for the CO2 “diffuses” emmissions not concerned by the european cap and trade (ETS).
    Please visit our web site in french and give us your remarks:
    http://taca.asso-web.com/

  19. gmo says:

    I feel like I am in a basketball game, down 15 points with not much time left, and have some teammates who do not want to shoot the ball because they think waiting a little longer will see a 15-point shot introduced to the game.

    We are in big trouble, and we may not get ourselves out of it. You can try to rationally make the case that the science says we must avoid X and we can do that through Y. That rational case however is not going to convince everyone, just like the uber-head-in-the-sand-ers are continually unconvinced by the rational explanations of climate change and debunking of their faulty beliefs. I think most people of all stripes have a mental block when it comes to understanding that many other people do not think like they do. We cannot snap our fingers and make everyone “get it.”

    As sure as we can be about what the science tells us of how bad BAU would be, our vast experience with society tells us most people will be highly unresponsive to this vexingly slow and incremental threat. I believe any climate “Pearl Harbors” that could really sway opinion would not occur it is too late and our speed and inertia will still lead to our injuriously careening at least some of the way off the cliff.

    The “magic wand” solutions that could really address the problem in one big swoop are not fantastical because they are physically unrealistic but rather because they are “people”ly unrealistic. No, ACES is not going to solve the problem. But trying to pass ACES then working twice as hard to continue to gain ground seems to me a much better strategy than hoping that explaining it to people one more time will get them to finally understand and agree on all the meaningful points of what we need to do.

  20. cougar_w says:

    Everyone here seems to agree with Hansen that the bill is too weak.

    [JR: I agree the 2020 target is too weak. But 2020 ain’t the be all and end all.]

    The difference is in the unspoken assumption regarding what it is “too weak to do”.

    Hansen and many other climate and environmental scientists are increasingly alarmed. It bears repeating: Increasingly alarmed. For many, the W-M bill is simply too weak to save us.

    These are people who have zero to gain in being alarmed, and much to lose. They are becoming increasingly alarmed because of the alarming changes being observed in our natural support systems. These changes are alarming because they are potentially lethal to life on the planet. And we’re no longer limiting the discussion to polar bears in the context of “lethal”. Human lives are at stake.

    So if the situation is alarming and verging on lethal, what does an intelligent, moral and thoughtful person do? Such a person throws themselves in front of the tractors digging the coal out of the ground and shouts “stop this madness!” One writes opinion pieces saying “stop this madness!” And one goes into the chambers of power and shouts “stop this madness!” and throws their hard-earned reputation onto the sacrificial fires of public ridicule because people are not noticing that the situation is alarming and verging on lethal.

    I am on the same mind as Hansen. We are out of time. Full stop. Any activity that hauls another ton of coal out of the ground is madness and eventually lethal. Any activity that allows another barrel of crude out of the ground is madness and eventually lethal. Any legislation that does not recognize the increasing alarm and rapidly narrowing options (and the risk of a very short timeline for effective approaches) is madness — is epic failure — and eventually will prove lethal.

    BAU is over. We don’t know what business will look like in the long run. In the short run we can steer things in hopeful directions, and that’s all we can do. The short run is maybe 10 years, starting last year. Anything less that 100% focus on landing us outside fossil fuels within 10 years of last year is folly, useless, cowardly, and eventually profoundly lethal.

    You don’t have to like it. You must deal with it. We. Have. No. Time.

    cougar

    [JR: Awesome, cougar. So you agree with Hansen that we should kill this bill — and then what? There ain’t no plan B.]

  21. Tim R. says:

    Plan B is for the EPA to aggressively pursue command and control regulation of GHGs under the Clean Air Act and thereby force Congress to undo that harsh reality by coming up with a climate plan. The new plan will be better than ACES because the forces of darkness, not the greens, will need something to pass Congress. Those that can rely on the status quo hold the power in the U.S. Senate. The status quo is a strong CAA up to the task of making life for emitters miserable. The tragedy is Obama’s cautious approach, failing to use the tools at hand.

    [JR: Nice fantasy, as I’ve explained many times, including here. I try to focus on reality. Your strategy will not only achieve no domestic emissions reductions for the foreseeable future, but will kill any prospect of an international treaty or a deal with China.]

  22. Alastair Breingan says:

    Sorry gmo but we are not playing a basketball game; we are more like a man caught in a railway tunnel who needs to run at 20mph to avoid being run down by the train, and who says “I am only prepared to run at 10mph”. If the USA is only prepared to accept the W-M then China won’t do its bit, and then in the words of that well known climatologist David Letterman “We are screwed” … “We are walking dead people” … “We are dead meat”.

    So while W-M may be better than nothing, we desperately need anyone to push like hell for more. The leaders of the G8-20 just committed to keep warming under 2 degrees C but how in hell they are going to do that under W-M I don’t know.

    As you keep saying JR we must peek before 2015. W-M doesn’t have a chance. No wonder folk (including Hansen) are getting a bit twitchy and throwing everything at it.

  23. Modesty says:

    Joe:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think I’ve seen the administration justify targets in the range of 15-20% below 2005 levels by 2020 by blaming Bush.

    You instead blame Bush for making sure the US will not set the goal of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. You have a serious point, while the administration’s talking point seems phony.

    Have you or will you call them out, beyond stating that the 2020 target is too weak, on this?

    Thanks.

  24. Doug says:

    Joe — I strongly suggest you do what you can to get onto the Thom Hartmann radio talk show as a guest. He’s a leading progressive host, and he’s still echoing the Hansen-style arguments against Waxman-Markey. (e.g. that it’s just going to be a giveaway to wall st. traders and won’t really do anything about coal.) This even though he’s had Waxman himself on as a guest. If he could talk directly to someone like you, who’s experienced at arguing against such junk, that could be a big help to rectify this. (I missed hearing his discussion with Waxman, but as a politician who is good at collaborating, I suspect Waxman was probably not as forceful as needed.)

  25. Doug says:

    Joe — I notice in someone’s post above, you say:

    …but for now, like everybody who misrepresents what I wrote in order to attack me, you go on moderation.

    My previous comment here is “awaiting moderation.” I don’t believe I’ve ever attacked you or misrepresented what you said. Why are my comments moderated?

    [JR: Some words trigger moderation. It doesn’t mean anything, except I try to minimize attacks by deniers.]

  26. Leland Palmer says:

    [JR: Nice fantasy, as I’ve explained many times, including here. I try to focus on reality. Your strategy will not only achieve no domestic emissions reductions for the foreseeable future, but will kill any prospect of an international treaty or a deal with China.]

    Uh, Joe, in this atmosphere of massive commercially motivated disinformation, I’m wondering how you can be so sure of your position.

    We all think we can cut through the clutter and disinformation, and perceive the truth in an atmosphere of massive commercially motivated confusion and disinformation.

    At least some of us are wrong about this, because of the huge diversity of opinion out there among well motivated people.

    Is Waxman/Markey better than direct action using existing EPA authority?

    If a court fight ensues, who would win?

    Is the information about how difficult a court battle would be disinformation, meant to con the Congress into giving up existing regulatory authority?

    We all like to think we know fantasy from reality, but in this atmosphere of confusion and disinformation, how sure can we be of our sources of information?

    I think you’re right, Joe, on most days, about Waxman/Markey.

    All we can do is keep trying, keep digging, keep investigating, keep hoping for understanding.

    Is a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?

    Depends on the bird, doesn’t it?

  27. James Thomson the second says:

    I agree with every word of Hansen’s piece.

    W-M is a gesture not a solution. If it isn’t part of a solution the it becomes part of the problem, getting in the way of real action.

    [JR: Never would have pegged you as someone who agrees with B.S. I take it you are campaigning vigorously to stop the use of international offsets by European countries — and indeed are campaigning vigorously to stop the cap-and-trade system.]

  28. James Thomson the second says:

    And now Australia are rallying around their own home-grown denier, Professor Ian Plimer…

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/the-magazine/features/3755623/meet-the-man-who-has-exposed-the-great-climate-change-con-trick.thtml

  29. James Thomson the second says:

    Re previous post, the book has received a “mixed” response!

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25433059-5003900,00.html

  30. If the 2020 standard is sooo easy to meet, why not meet it in 2012?

    [JR: Run for President!]

  31. Heard on WQAD-2 weather channel ~1 AM 11 July 2009:
    Mumbai India has received only 1/4 of the normal monsoon rain so far this year.

    The first kill mechanism of climate change is a famine that foreign aid is helpless to stop. In fact, foreign aid will only cause famine at home. Revise downward my estimate of 5 to 10 years before the probable collapse of civilization.

  32. «I try to focus on reality.»

    Political reality or physical/scientific reality? Well, it seems that you agree that the target for GHG reduction is too low, according to what science recommends. Isn’t that the most important? If Nature is saying : your politics is not enough, shouldn’t we all, in the US and elsewhere, be campaigning /educating (as you do in fact!, but in this case being too “cynical”, may a say?) in that direction to show it is not enough, instead of being “«politically realistic»”?

    [JR: I try to be both a scientific realist and political realist — hard to do and doesn’t please everybody, but this is my blog. That said, the 2020 target, while too low, is only one piece of this bill.]

  33. Phil Eisner says:

    I vitally believe that an improved form of the House global warming bill must pass the Senate, survive the joint committee’s compromises, and be signed by the president. Otherwise, bye-bye a strong Copenhagen agreement and strong global warming mitigation. It seems that only a powerful push by Obama combined with a coordinated campaign by scientist and environmental lobbyists will be able to overcome doubting senators abetted by powerful and moneyed industrial lobbyists. Maybe Obama is planning this after he makes a big effort for his health reform. If not, how do WE organize a “BIG PUSH”?

  34. David Lewis says:

    I find it hard to believe Hansen is lying or spreading lies on purpose. Both Romm and Hansen are doing valuable work.

    The US domestic climate action may be the best that can be done right now, but it is a fact that the entire Obama policy, domestic and international, rests on the fallacy that it will prove to be acceptable to our descendants that in every year from now until 2050 the forces driving global warming were allowed to increase.

    Obama’s G8 position is ludicrous. If you dig out population and emission figures and do the math, you find that under the G8 plan each G8 citizen will have the right to emit 2.5 tonnes of CO2 in 2050 whereas each non-G8 citizen will be restricted to 1.45 tonnes.

    Here is what Ghosh, India’s former environment secretary, said as the 2007 G8 meetings approached:

    “This is our challenge to the West. ‘You do the best you can, and we’ll match it’. If the West thinks that India will subscribe to any long-term solution that is not based on per capita emissions then it is very misguided.”

    And all this leaves aside whether there is any planetary capacity to absorb CO2 left. That is Hansen’s point. The G8 and the developing world are fighting over who is going to get the right to emit what, when no further emissions are advisable. In Hansen’s world, a reasonable bare minimum domestic US and international G8 position would be that the US and the G8 will aim for negative emissions (taking net C02 out of the air) as quickly as possible.

    I’ve read Romm saying Hansen’s assertion that there is too much CO2 in the atmosphere already is “only one study”. Is Romm in denial, or is Hansen off his head? We should try to clear this up. Hansen is claiming “the relevant experts” share his fears: “The validity of this statement could be verified by the National Academy of Sciences”. (from http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20081229_DearMichelleAndBarack.pdf ) Romm should say Hansen is lying about this, or stop saying Hansen’s position is based on “only one study”?

    [JR: This is not an accurate representation of my many lengthy posts on Hansen’s work.]

    The 2009 Joint Science Academies G8+5 statement contains a warning: “Feedbacks in the climate system might lead to much more rapid climate change”. I don’t see how you get a group of groups of the world’s most respected scientists issuing a warning like that unless the fear is that too much greenhouse gas is present in the atmosphere already.

    So I think Hansen is on sound ground when he criticizes US domestic climate policy and the US and G8 international position, however hard it is for those who are doing their best to do what is politically possible to hear his critique, and even though Hansen may not be finding the best way to express his position.

    We all owe Hansen a lot. We should be encouraging him to find a more powerful and better way to state his position, not roasting him for it.

    [JR: Many of us have tried. He has decided to put his reputation on the line pushing myths and attacking the only realistic chance we have of putting the nation (and the world) on the path towards sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.]

  35. Nataraj says:

    Hansen wants something that will work.

    The question is very simple. Will this bill ENSURE that the global temperatures won’t go up by more than 2 degrees ? If not, it is not that useful – it may be better than nothing – but that shouldn’t be the objective.

    [JR: I’m afraid that “very simple” question is also meaningless — since nothing of the United States does by itself can ensure that global temperatures won’t go up by more than 2°. Again, the 1987 Montréal protocol would not have stopped the ozone layer from being destroyed. The question is not whether this one bill will solve the worlds problems by itself, which is quite impossible. The question is whether this bill is consistent with stopping global temperatures from going up much more than 2°. I have previously blogged on that and the answer is yes.]

  36. SecularAnimist says:

    I would like to know why my comment yesterday was not posted. Is it because I wrote that — whatever your disagreements with Hansen about the efficacy of Waxman-Markey or the realistic political possibility of alternatives — it was wrong, unfair and beneath you to say that Hansen is “giving aid and comfort to the deniers and delayers”?

    I notice that you have now changed the language in your “UPDATE” at the top of the article to “helping the deniers and delayers” rather than “giving aid and comfort to the deniers and delayers” which is what it said yesterday.

    [JR: Because it was not an accurate representation of what I had written.]

  37. David Lewis says:

    Re: Waxman-Markey being the only realistic chance we have…

    Here’s a partial transcript from the Bloomberg Suveillance podcast aired not long ago which was entitled “Gallagher Says Fed Won’t Adjust Interest Rates This Year”. Although Tom Gallagher, head of policy research at I.S.I. is a guy not normally known for his climate debate insight, I thought his opinion was interesting, and worth sharing here regarding the current Congress:

    Interviewer: “Do they [Congress} have too much on their plate?”

    Gallagher: “I often think it is rare that if something doesn’t get done its not because there’s too much on the plate, its because what’s there isn’t appetizing. Especially remember that we’re in the first half of the first year of a two year Congress so there’s plenty of time left to get things done. If they don’t get health care done, or climate change done, or financial re-regulation, its not really because they ran out of time, its they couldn’t get a consensus on what they want to do. So I’d really look at the substance of the issues rather than how much is on their plate.”

    Interviewer: “What gets done and what doesn’t?”

    Gallagher: “I think the Democrats want a good outcome on health care… and I think they’d settle for a good start on climate change, and I don’t have a good feel for what gets done at all on financial… On health care obviously the Democrats have long experience with this… When they invest political capital its going to be on health care…. deadlines are rarely about when things need to be done by, they are just trying to create incentives for the committee on each stage of the process in order for it to work…”

    “On climate change, although the House is going to act this week… but boy I think it is going to be really hard to get a cap and trade bill through the Senate. So my guess is they have a Plan B there where they do more subsidies for more alternative energy and they do more subsidies for renewable fuel standards that sort of thing. But I think cap and trade is going to be hard to get through the Senate.”

    And in the end, because it takes two thirds of the Senate, not 60 Senators, to ratify any treaty, what is going to be able to be signed at Copenhagen that the Senate will ratify?

    But I certainly agree with Joe that “putting”, or trying to put “the nation on the path towards sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions” should not be stopped.

  38. James Thomson the second says:

    For those that have not encountered the sprawling monster that is W-M, this is it:

    http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h2454pcs.txt.pdf

    In my view W-M is simply approaching the whole problem of CO2 from the wrong angle. To take one minor example buried deep in the text towards the end, why even open up the “domestic offsets” can of worms? Coal companies can make some token effort towards replanting areas damaged by beetle infestation so that they can burn as much coal as ever.

    SEC. 502. ESTABLISHMENT OF OFFSET CREDIT PROGRAM 16 FROM DOMESTIC AGRICULTURAL AND FORESTRY SOURCES.

    How carbon moves around in the primary carbon cycle is neither here nor there. What matters is how much new carbon we are transferring from the secondary cycle (i.e. coal, oil and gas) into the primary cycle. The rules for this would not have filled even 1 page, never mind 1400. This is where Hansen is coming from.

  39. James Thomson the second says:

    [JR: Most people would say this is a good provision.]

    This is a section of W-M describing how domestic offsets work. IMHO the rules are so complex and qualitative that the intended purpose of the act will be lost in a never ending process of litigation.

    8 (b) SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS.—
    9 (1) EXISTING OFFSET PRACTICES.—In estab10
    lishing the methodologies under subsection (a), the
    11 Secretary shall give due consideration to methodolo12
    gies for offset practices existing as of the date of the
    13 enactment of this title.
    14 (2) CERTAIN FACTORS.—As part of the meth15
    odologies established under subsection (a), the Sec16
    retary shall establish a formula that takes into ac17
    count the components of the practice, the character18
    istics of the land on which the practice is applied,
    19 the crop produced, and such other factors as deter20
    mined appropriate by the Secretary.
    21 (c) ACCOUNTING FOR REVERSALS.—
    22 (1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in sub23
    section (d) with respect to issuance of a term offset
    24 credit, for each type of practice listed under section
    VerDate Nov 24 2008 23:34 Jul 07, 2009 Jkt 079200 PO 00000 Frm 01399 Fmt 6652 Sfmt 6201 E:\BILLS\H2454.PCS H2454 tjames on DSKG8SOYB1PROD with BILLS
    1400
    HR 2454 PCS
    1 503, the Secretary shall establish requirements to
    2 account for and address reversals, including—
    3 (A) a requirement to report any reversal
    4 with respect to an offset practice for which off5
    set credits have been issued under this title;
    6 (B) provisions to require emission allow7
    ances or offset credits to be held in amounts to
    8 fully compensate for greenhouse gas emissions
    9 attributable to reversals, and to assign responsi10
    bility for holding such emission allowances; and
    11 (C) any other provisions that the Secretary
    12 determines to be necessary to account for and
    13 address reversals.
    14 (2) MECHANISMS.—
    15 (A) IN GENERAL.—The Secretary shall
    16 prescribe mechanisms to ensure that any se17
    questration of greenhouse gases, with respect to
    18 which an offset credit is issued under this title,
    19 results in a permanent net increase in seques20
    tration of greenhouse gases, and that full ac21
    count is taken of any actual or potential rever22
    sal of such sequestration, with an adequate
    23 margin of safety.
    24 (B) SPECIFIC MECHANISMS.—The Sec25
    retary shall make available one or more of the
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    1 following mechanisms to meet the requirements
    2 of this paragraph:
    3 (i) An offsets reserve, pursuant to
    4 paragraph (3).
    5 (ii) Insurance that provides for pur6
    chase and provision to the Secretary for
    7 retirement of a quantity of offset credits or
    8 emission allowances equal in number to the
    9 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents of green10
    house gas emissions released due to rever11
    sal.
    12 (iii) Another mechanism if the Sec13
    retary determines it is necessary to satisfy
    14 the requirements of this title, taking into
    15 account whether the reversal was inten16
    tional or unintentional.
    17 (3) OFFSETS RESERVE.—
    18 (A) IN GENERAL.—An offsets reserve re19
    ferred to in paragraph (2)(B)(i) is a program
    20 under which, before issuance of offset credits
    21 under this title, the Secretary shall—
    22 (i) subtract and reserve from the
    23 quantity to be issued a quantity of offset
    24 credits based on the risk of reversal;
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    1 (ii) hold those reserved offset credits
    2 in the offsets reserve; and
    3 (iii) register the holding of the re4
    served offset credits in an offset registry.
    5 (B) PRACTICE REVERSAL.—
    6 (i) IN GENERAL.—If a reversal has
    7 occurred with respect to an offset practice
    8 within an offset project, for which offset
    9 credits are reserved under this paragraph,
    10 the Secretary shall retire offset credits
    11 from the offsets reserve to fully account
    12 for the tons of carbon dioxide equivalent
    13 that are no longer sequestered.
    14 (ii) INTENTIONAL REVERSALS.—If the
    15 Secretary determines that a reversal was
    16 intentional, the offset practice developer
    17 for the relevant offset practice shall place
    18 into the offsets reserve a quantity of offset
    19 credits, or combination of offset credits
    20 and emission allowances, equal in number
    21 to the number of reserve offset credits that
    22 were retired pursuant to clause (i).
    23 (iii) UNINTENTIONAL REVERSALS.—If
    24 the Secretary determines that a reversal
    25 was unintentional, the offset project devel-
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    1 oper for the relevant offset project shall
    2 place into the offsets reserve a quantity of
    3 offset credits, or combination of offset
    4 credits and emission allowances, equal in
    5 number to half the number of offset credits
    6 that were reserved for that offset project,
    7 or half the number of reserve offset credits
    8 that were canceled due to the reversal pur9
    suant to clause (i), whichever is less, ex10
    cept that the Secretary may lower this
    11 amount based on undue hardship in the
    12 event of a catastrophic occurrence.
    13 (C) USE OF RESERVED OFFSET CRED14
    ITS.—Offset credits placed into the offsets re15
    serve under this paragraph may not be used to
    16 comply with section 722 of the Clean Air Act.
    17 (d) TERM OFFSET CREDITS.—
    18 (1) APPLICABILITY.—With respect to a practice
    19 listed under section 503 that sequesters greenhouse
    20 gases and has a crediting period of no more than 5
    21 years, the Secretary may address reversals pursuant
    22 to this subsection in lieu of permanently accounting
    23 for reversals pursuant to subsection (c).
    24 (2) ACCOUNTING FOR REVERSALS.—For such
    25 practices or projects implementing such practices,
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    1 the Secretary shall require only reversals that occur
    2 during the crediting period to be accounted for and
    3 addressed pursuant to subsection (c).
    4 (3) CREDITS ISSUED.—For practices or projects
    5 regulated pursuant to paragraph (2), the Secretary
    6 shall issue under section 507 a term offset credit, in
    7 lieu of an offset credit, for each ton of carbon diox8
    ide equivalent that has been sequestered.
    9 (e) CREDITING PERIODS.—
    10 (1) IN GENERAL.—For each offset practice type
    11 within an offset project, the Secretary shall specify
    12 a crediting period, and establish provisions for re13
    enrollment for a subsequent crediting period, in ac14
    cordance with this subsection.
    15 (2) DURATION.—The crediting period shall
    16 have a term of up to—
    17 (A) 5 years for agricultural sequestration
    18 practices;
    19 (B) 20 years for forestry sequestration
    20 practices; and
    21 (C) 10 years for other practice types that
    22 reduce or avoid greenhouse gas emissions or se23
    quester greenhouse gases.
    24 (3) ELIGIBILITY.—An offset practice, within an
    25 offset project, shall—
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    1 (A) be eligible to generate offset credits
    2 under this title only during the crediting period
    3 of the offset practice; and
    4 (B) remain eligible to generate offset cred5
    its, only during the crediting period, subject to
    6 the methodologies and practice type eligibility
    7 list that applied as of the date of the project
    8 approval.
    9 (4) REENROLLMENT FOR SUBSEQUENT CRED10
    ITING PERIOD.—
    11 (A) REENROLLMENT AUTHORIZED; TIME
    12 FOR REENROLLMENT.—An offset project devel13
    oper may reenroll for a subsequent crediting pe14
    riod, to commence after termination of the cur15
    rent crediting period, subject to the methodolo16
    gies and practice type eligibility list in effect at
    17 the time of reenrollment. Reenrollment may not
    18 occur more than 18 months before the end of
    19 the crediting period then in effect.
    20 (B) LIMITATION.—The Secretary may
    21 limit the number of subsequent crediting peri22
    ods available for a particular practice type.
    23 (f) ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY.—In establishing
    24 the requirements under this section, the Secretary shall
    25 apply conservative assumptions or methods to ensure the
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    1 environmental integrity of the cap established under sec2
    tion 703 of the Clean Air Act is not compromised.

  40. David Doty says:

    It is unconscionable, Joe, that you would lash out like this against the most respected climate scientist of our generation – the one most singularly responsible for bringing scientists around the world to appreciate the climate challenge. A reasoned, cogent response as to why the W-M bill might achieve real emissions reductions (beyond those that would be achieved with no bill, simply because Americans and the DOE are beginning to care) might have been helpful. All the emotion (that characterizes so many of the posts on this site) is not helpful. Part of what Hansen appreciates is the enormous administrative burden an incomprehensible 1400 page bill will bring, while not giving what is needed to those trying to provide rational guidance to technical decision making – a predictable price on carbon. Paul Krugman is one of my favorite economists, but he doesn’t understand the magnitude of the energy and climate challenges. (He didn’t start to worry about peak oil until about 16 months ago.)

    We won’t solve the combined climate, energy, and economic challenges by passing legislation that mostly just tells businesses they need to fix the problem or face penalties. Scientific innovation was the primary driver of the improved standard of living over the past 70 years, and that is still our best hope. Unfortunately, even with the (meager) expected funding level of ARPA-E, under 2% of the total renewables energy budget goes to support of investigator-initiated research (and you’ve been just as irrationally against ARPA-E as you are now for a bureaucratic nightmare). How can a person of numbers and science not understand that radically increased support of innovative research (not a rush to premature deployment) will be required to solve these problems?

  41. Modesty says:

    Joe:

    I don’t think this is one of your better pieces of writing.

    [snip]

    [JR: I don’t consider your critique to be especially responsive to what I (and Hansen) actually wrote. But the reason for deleting it is that I have been way too patient with your fake name and fake email address for a long time, even though it is in direct contradiction to the Terms of Service here (and most other places). If you want to criticize my analysis, that’s perfectly fine, but then have the courtesy to finally of identifying yourself like the overwhelming majority of people here.]

  42. Tim R. says:

    Hmm. In response to my last post, I got an attack in return, with no explanation.

    You think the Clean Air Act cannot be used to achieve meaningful GHG reductions in a reasonable amount of time relative to ACES. But it seems like some of the best litigators working on climate issues disagree. Look for example at the comments of groups like the National Resources Defense Council or the Center for Biological Diversity on the endangerment finding or on Bush’s previous Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. Or check out the writings of distinguished Georgetown Law Professor Lisa Heinzerling. Those folks seem to think the CAA can play an important role in achieving meaningful reductions soon. They explain exactly how it would work, CAA section by section. Mr. Romm, you simply say it can’t work without any rationale.

    Likewise, without rationale, you claim that the world will have more respect for ACES than for an Obama Administration using every part of the CAA aggressively to attack GHG emissions. That makes no sense at all. The world already has no respect for ACES. It proves we are not serious as a nation, as does Obama’s refusal to use the CAA to its fullest potential. If, on the other hand, Obama’s EPA were right now proposing command and control regulations that seriously stung industry, the world would receive a much different message.

    Hey, I was glad, once the vote came up, that ACES passed the House. If the Senate were voting on ACES in current form, I’d root for a win. But I refuse to pretend like the only option for the Obama Administration is to work for ACES passage in the Senate. There are levers of power sitting idle so that Obama can play it safe politically.