Energy and Global Warming News for November 4: Economists see threat in global warming

Survey: Economists see threat in climate change

Researchers who deal in cold numbers rather than warming climates believe the “significant benefits from curbing greenhouse-gas emissions would justify the costs of action,” a new survey finds.

In fact, the survey of economists finds 94% believe the U.S. should join climate agreements to limit global warming.

The survey results to be released today come as debate over the economics of global warming moves center stage in Washington, D.C. Republican senators boycotted a hearing Tuesday over an Environmental Protection Agency analysis about the costs of a clean-energy bill. In addition, the United States and European Union are preparing for a December meeting in Copenhagen to discuss a climate treaty.

“An economist tree hugger is an imaginary creature,” says Michael Livermore of New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, which conducted the survey. “But we found that economists really see climate change poses a lot of risk to the economy.”

The survey approached the 289 economists who had published climate-related studies in the top 25 economics journals in the past 15 years. About half, 144, responded, and 75% agreed or strongly agreed on the “value” of greenhouse-gas controls.

In the survey of economists:

“¢91.6% wanted a tax or “cap and trade” system, where polluters buy and sell emission permits, instead of regulation, to cut greenhouse gases.

“¢84% agreed the effects of global warming “create significant risks” to the economy, particularly to agriculture, fishing, insurance and health.

“¢Of the 94.3% who favor the U.S. joining climate agreements to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, 57% say greenhouse-gas cuts should come “regardless of the actions of other countries.”

This shouldn’t be a total surprise, since most major independent economic analyses show even strong climate action has such a low total cost — one tenth of a penny on the dollar.

Merkel urges Congress to act on climate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Congress and the Obama administration Tuesday to take bold steps to address global warming, even as Senate Democrats and Republicans feuded over whether to press ahead with a climate bill.

peaking at a joint meeting of Congress, Merkel described climate change as one of the “great tests” of the 21st century. She took pains to compliment lawmakers and the administration for viewing “the protection of our climate to be a very important task,” even as she suggested that they move faster.

“We all know we have no time to lose,” she said.

While the entire Democratic side gave those remarks a standing ovation, most Republicans — including key swing voters, such as  Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Ind.) — remained in their seats. When Merkel added that curbing greenhouse gas emissions would spur growth in “innovative” jobs worldwide, the same partisan divide marked lawmakers’ reaction.

Merkel tried to assuage lawmakers’ concerns that any agreement coming out of international climate talks in Copenhagen next month would not include binding commitments from China and India, saying those nations will make serious emissions cuts once the leaders of industrialized nations “show ourselves ready to adopt binding commitments.”

“In December the world will look to us, to the Europeans and to the Americans,” she said.

Obama: Time to “Redouble our Efforts” on climate change before Copenhagen

President Obama today said that efforts need to be redoubled in order to make progress at the Copenhagen climate change summit next month in December.

“And all of us agreed that it was imperative for us to redouble our efforts in the weeks between now and the Copenhagen meeting, to assure that we create a framework for progress in dealing with what is a potential ecologic disaster.”

The President spoke today at the end of the U.S.-European Union Summit in the Cabinet Room with the Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, President of the European Commission Jos© Manuel Barroso, and the European Council High Representative Javier Solana.

The leaders emerged from their hour-long meeting today confident about the status of the climate change negotiations that will culminate next month in Copenhagen. The summit will attempt to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2010.

“Regarding climate change I want to tell that I am more confident now than I was in days before,” Barroso said, “President Obama changed the climate on the climate negotiations because with the strong leadership of United States we can indeed make an agreement.  We are working toward a framework agreement in Copenhagen that will be an important agreement for the world.”

Groups press U.S. and China on carbon

Three prominent American research organizations that are pushing for greater cooperation between the Obama administration and China on the issue of climate change say the two governments should make a priority of supporting the use of carbon capture technology and the creation of a market for carbon.

The organizations, the Asia Society, the Center for American Progress and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or N.R.D.C., are putting out two separate reports this month that urge the two governments to put more money into projects in China that can better develop the technology of carbon capture and sequestration, commonly called C.C.S. The process captures carbon dioxide emissions from industrial and power plants before they enter the atmosphere and stores them underground, usually in geological formations.

President Obama is scheduled to make his first trip to China this month. He and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have said cooperation on climate change is a new top priority in United States-China relations. But the two countries have yet to take concrete steps together on any proposals. Some environmental advocates who have been following the talks say they are growing increasingly pessimistic about the chances of serious cooperation.

Advocates also say that any hope of a meaningful result emerging from the international climate change summit meeting to take place in December in Copenhagen might depend on whether the United States and China first demonstrate that they can reach agreements among themselves.

Senate Dems propose their share of contentious amendments

The Republicans may be boycotting the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee markup of climate legislation, but panel Democrats have been busy, filing 80 amendments for whenever the debate resumes.

EPW Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) opened the markup yesterday on the 959-page climate bill, though she did not get very far after Republicans boycotted the business meeting over what they say is insufficient analysis from U.S. EPA.

Boxer yesterday told reporters she would wait for Republicans “before we do any amendments” — though she walked back from that statement a few moments later and said she had not ruled out proceeding on the bill if the GOP committee members do not show up eventually.

Republicans for the second time yesterday ignored Boxer’s deadlines for submitting amendments, leaving only the 80 Democratic items on the agenda should Boxer proceed with the markup. Some of the amendments focus on hot-button issues like greenhouse gas emission limits and pre-emption from U.S. EPA climate regulations.

Here is a rundown of some of the amendments pending in the EPW Committee:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has offered a series of provisions aimed at changing the bill’s current 20 percent emissions target for 2020, according to his office.

Under one approach, Baucus would establish a two-tiered mid-term target that starts at 17 percent, though it go to 20 percent if other countries adopt and implement their own reduction targets before 2013. Baucus also has an amendment that would set the 2020 target at 14 percent, which is the same level that President Obama used during his presidential campaign last year.

Baucus’ bid to overhaul the 2020 emissions limit may be the biggest fight of the EPW Committee markup. Boxer and the lead sponsor of S. 1733, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), say the recent economic downturn has already driven down domestic emissions and makes their goal that much more achievable. Liberals on the committee, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), have countered that they would prefer an even more aggressive 2020 emissions limit.

But Baucus, the chairman of the Finance Committee, opened the climate hearings last week warning of his own “serious reservations” if the sponsors did not budge on this issue.

Other Baucus amendments include a requirement that any state program with more stringent greenhouse gas limits after 2017 must be approved by that state’s Legislature, as well as presidential oversight of domestic and international carbon offset project criteria.

Further pushing the envelope with his Democratic colleagues, Baucus also is seeking to limit EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act — with specific goals of exempting agriculture and small sources that emit less than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per year.

Baucus also has an amendment that would eliminate EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the law’s New Source Review provisions, which focus on aging industrial facilities. And he would try to block EPA after 2020 from regulating enteric fermentation or manure under the law’s New Source Performance Standards, which deal with new industrial facilities.

9 Responses to Energy and Global Warming News for November 4: Economists see threat in global warming

  1. Under one approach, Baucus would establish a two-tiered mid-term target that starts at 17 percent, though it go to 20 percent if other countries adopt and implement their own reduction targets before 2013. … Liberals on the committee, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), have countered that they would prefer an even more aggressive 2020 emissions limit.

    How about this compromise: start at 17% but go up to 25% if other countries implement their own reduction targets before 2013.

  2. WAG says:

    “73% of the respondents agreed that the uncertainty surrounding the severity of climate change raises the economic value of implementing measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Yet another free market source accepts the climate consensus. How long will deniers keep saying that it’s only socialism and scientists’ need for grants that drive belief in climate change? Take that Jim Manzi! And Stephen Levitt! And Steven Dubner!

  3. SecularAnimist says:

    Max Baucus just got done ensuring that the profits of the insurance corporations would be protected against the interests of the American people in the bogus “health care reform” proposal that he engineered.

    Why not? That’s what the insurance corporations pay Max Baucus to do.

    So now, Max Baucus is hard at work proposing amendments that will protect the profits of the fossil fuel corporations against the interests of the American people in any “climate change” bill that is put before the Senate.

    Why not? That’s what the fossil fuel corporations pay Max Baucus to do.

    The problem is not “Republicans” or the fake, phony, so-called “conservative” pseudo-ideology that they pretend to espouse in order to impress weak-minded, ignorant, gullible Ditto-Heads.

    The problem is that too many Senators and Representatives of both parties are bribed, bought-and-paid-for tools of ultra-rich, ultra-powerful corporations, who systematically and consistently work to protect the profits and power of those corporations against the interests of the American people.

  4. C. Vink says:

    Report on peatland emissions changes global picture
    Wetlands International, November 4 – Wetlands International in cooperation with Greifswald University has presented the first ever overview of peatland emissions and peat stocks per country. The overview presented today turns the official emission figures of many countries upside down. Conservative estimate: decomposition of drained peat causes 1.3 billion tons of CO2 emissions. Peatfires (in SE Asia and E-Europe) and peat mining (for horticulture and fuel) bring the annual figure to around 2 billion tons. (…) In fifteen countries in Africa, Asia, Europe en South America, emissions due to peatland degradation are even higher than their reported emissions from fossil fuels.

    Not What the Doctor Ordered: Rapid Environmental Change Threatens the Foundations of Human Health
    Worldwatch Institute, November 4 – Changes to the Earth’s land cover, climate, and ecosystems are endangering the health of hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of people worldwide and now represent the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century. The scale of these global changes is rapidly undermining human life-support systems and threatening the core foundations of healthy communities around the globe: access to adequate food, clean air, safe drinking water, and secure homes. These are the findings of the new report, Global Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health, published today by the Worldwatch Institute and the United Nations Foundation.

    It’s a dirty business – the new gold rush that is blackening Canada’s name
    The Times, November 4 – A giant mechanical digger gouges out a chunk of topsoil, grass and tree stumps, extending a neat furrow that stretches into the distance. Dozens of similar furrows run parallel with the regularity of a ploughed field. Yet no crop could grow in the pitch-black surface exposed by the machine working 1,000ft below our helicopter. This is the edge of a fast-expanding open-cast mine in the Canadian tar sands, one of the world’s most polluting sources of oil.

  5. NikFromNYC says:

    After years of studying climate science and lately delving into highly technical blogs that debate back and forth each paper on global warming that comes out (who I call the “Bicker Brigade”), I have finally come to a conclusion and have created a “worth a thousand words” picture to fully express it. I present The Central England Don’t Panic Chart!

  6. Stephan says:

    Fortunately this is a more positive topic regarding the economoical point of view that has been shown the most lately. Stories about many (influencial) economists that emphasis the cost of acting against climate change rather than the benefits were more common. This survey shows the difference though and the fact that most economists are, also economically, in favor of acting against climate change as soon as possible.

    For more info on the environment, have a look at this Green News.

  7. paulm says:

    lovely, just lovely…

    The avalanche of evidence
    Gwynne Dyer
    Saturday, October 31st 2009

    This month’s bad news came from the drilling ship JOIDES Resolution (Joint Oceanographic Institutions for Deep Earth Sampling), which brought up cores from the ocean bottom containing sediments dating back 20 million years.

    By 20 million years ago, almost all the ice on the planet had been lost again, due to a prolonged period of volcanic activity in the Columbia River basin of North America. The carbon dioxide emitted by that activity had raised the average global temperature to three to six degrees C above the current level, and all the melted ice had raised the seal level by 25-40 metres. But the actual level of CO2 that caused all that was only 400 ppm.

    We will be there in five years, but we must not stay there for very long or history will repeat itself. In reality, we are going to go to at least 450 ppm, and more likely 500 ppm, before we get our emissions under control, and then we will have to commence the long and arduous task of getting the CO2 in the atmosphere down to a level that will preserve our present climate over the long term. That may have to be as low as 300 ppm.

  8. Sam says:

    Dear Climate Progress,

    While gratifying, it is not what economists think that counts. It is what pension fund managers think that counts. Per FT item by Carola Hoyos on Oct 13 09 below, they appear to think that “business as usual” leading to above 700 ppm is just fine so long as profits are to be made. Until and unless pension fund managers and their constituents get wise, I see little hope. Sam

    To: Carola Hoyos, Chief Energy Correspondent, Financial Times

    Ref: Some questions, regarding your contribution, “Bid to leave a
    smaller carbon footprint” in Modern Energy, FT Special Report Tuesday
    October 13, 2009. (See )

    Dear Ms. Hoyos,

    I appreciate your interesting and provocative reporting on energy
    issues and read with great interest your above mentioned contribution.
    I was particularly struck by two paragraphs (quoted here below).

    “But so far investors, are still betting on the business-as-usual
    scenario. Decisions by investors such as pension funds appear to be in
    line with greenhouse gas concentrations rising to 700 ppm, rather than
    the target 550 ppm, according to the Carbon Trust.

    Within six sectors alone – automotive, oil and gas, aluminium, beer,
    building insulation, consumer electronics – there is potentially
    $7,0000bn in market capitalization at risk if the world does indeed
    move to a more sustainable path, says the Carbon Trust.”

    I would be grateful if you might respond to the following questions
    inspired by your article.

    1.) Would you please send me the URL(s) to obtain reference(s) on
    which you based the two paragraphs quoted above? A key document
    appears to be from the “Carbon Trust”.

    2.) In the first of the two paragraphs quoted above, I was impressed
    with the ability to quantify the CO2 ppm decisions by pension funds to
    be in line with greenhouse gas concentrations rising to 700 ppm. Can
    you provide me with specific examples of these pension funds?

    3.) In the second paragraph, I was impressed with the ability to
    quantify an amount of 7 trillion US dollars in market capitalization
    “at risk if the world does indeed move to a more sustainable path,
    [says the Carbon Trust]”. Can you guide me to an explanation on how
    this calculation was made?

    4.) Are you aware of a recent (8 Oct 09) scientific publication (copy
    attached), which provides compelling evidence the world’s current C02
    ppm (between 385 and 390 ppm) was last observed 15-20 million years
    ago; at which time sea levels may have been more than 25 to 40 meters
    above current sea levels?

    5.) Would you agree that the cost of the sea level rise implicit in
    our current global CO2 ppm might approach or exceed your estimated 7
    trillion US dollars in lost market capitalization associated with a
    departure from “business-as usual” to a more sustainable path?

    Thank you in advance for any response you might be able to provide to
    the above questions.

    Very sincerely,


    Sam Clark
    Geneva, Switzerland

  9. C. Vink says:

    Forests in the desert: the answer to climate change?
    The Guardian, November 4 – Climate change could be cancelled out in a staggeringly ambitious plan to plant the Sahara desert and Australian outback with trees.

    Insurance sector can’t cope with climate change: trade group
    Reuters, November 4 – The general insurance industry may not be able to cope with the increased frequency and severity of floods and typhoons brought about by climate change, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said on Wednesday.

    Mining for Algae: Could Abandoned Mines Help Grow Biofuel?
    Scientific American, November 2 – Backers of algae-based biofuels tout the simplicity of their feedstock. Sunlight and water are all that’s needed to convert carbon dioxide into fuel. Now, some scientists are testing the notion that sunlight might be optional. Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology are planning to grow algae for fuel in abandoned mines using light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

    Carbon markets don’t motivate clean investment, says Deutsche Bank
    Carbon Finance, October 28 – Emissions trading has done little to encourage investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and governments should focus on introducing feed-in tariffs and mandates if they want to prevent the worst effects of climate change by 2020, according to analysis by Deutsche Bank’s Asset Management (DeAM) division.