US Climate Policy: Take Five

By James K. Boyce, who teaches economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and whose latest book is Economics, the Environment and Our Common Wealth. Cross posted from Triple Crisis

“For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.” These words in President Obama’s State of the Union address came as music to the ears of environmentalists. Do they herald a real effort to break the climate policy impasse in Washington?

Obama urged Congress to pursue a “bipartisan, market-based solution,” citing as a model the cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman.

The McCain-Lieberman bill failed to clear the Senate in 2003. It failed again in 2005. So did two subsequent cap-and-trade bills, Lieberman-Warner in 2008 and Waxman-Markey in 2010. Any new effort to enact a national climate policy will be the fifth try.

Environmentalists blame Republicans and climate change deniers for the past defeats. But if there is to be any chance of forging a successful policy this time around, some deeper introspection is in order.

An insightful essay by Harvard political scientist Theda Skocpol offers a good starting point. Skocpol doesn’t downplay the role of fossil-fueled extremists in blocking climate legislation, but neither does she ignore the fatal weakness in the Democratic party’s past strategy: relying on insider bargains, lubricated by carbon permit giveaways to energy corporations, to get the votes needed to pass a bill.

This time, she argues, climate policy proponents should follow a two-pronged strategy that combines legislative initiatives with popular mobilization of public demand for proactive policies. Broad-based democratic mobilization (with a small ‘d’) was notably lacking in the efforts of the last decade. Instead pollsters and ad-writers were enlisted to design “messages” that were supposed to win voter approval for backroom deals reached in Washington. The public’s role was relegated, in Skocpol’s apt phrase, to a “background chorus that, hopefully, will sing on key.”

Opponents of climate policy avidly exploited this weakness. A well-funded campaign rebranded the legislation as “cap and tax,” claiming it could cost American families an inflated $3,100 per year in higher fuel prices. “By imposing a tax on every American who drives a car or flips on a light switch,” House speaker John Boehner declared, “this plan will drive up the prices for food, gasoline and electricity.” Editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal echoed the cry, warning that cap-and-trade would be “the biggest tax in American history.” Instead of confronting the fuel-price issue head-on, Democrats whined that the Republican numbers were wrong. They were, but the opponents scored a political bull’s eye regardless.

The result: “Opponents did a better job of scaring citizens than the proponents did of arousing enthusiasm.”

Skocpol’s critique has met a cool reception inside the Beltway, but climate policy proponents would do well to take heed. Public mobilization ought to be a centerpiece of the strategy, not an afterthought. History teaches us that the greatest changes in America do not come from the top down. The Social Security Act of 1935, for example, was not merely a product of visionary leadership: the path to it was paved by widespread public demand for Congressional action, illustrated by the petition in favor of old-age pensions that was signed by millions of Americans.

What sort of climate policy could win comparable public support? Skocpol points to the little-known cap-and-dividend bill that was introduced in December 2009 by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Cantwell-Collins proposed to auction all carbon permits (no giveaways to polluters, no trading by speculators) and to return 75% of the money directly to the public as cash “dividends” that would protect the purchasing power of working families. A new version of this bipartisan bill is likely to be unveiled this spring.

Returning carbon money straight to the people – rather than turning it into windfall profits for corporations or tax revenue for government – also features in a new bill introduced this month by Senators Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), which would levy a carbon fee and recycle 60% of the money to the public.

The political appeal of these proposals goes beyond protecting family incomes. They also face up to a fundamental moral question: Who are the rightful owners of the environment? Who should be paid for the privilege of using it, subject to limits we set to safeguard it for future generations? To this question, both bills give a clear and compelling answer: We, the people. It’s an answer on which a bipartisan majority of legislators might be able to agree – especially if the people demand it.

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  1. whatatool

    [YS: deleted ad hominem attack]

    Mr. Royce, CLimate Change is a faud!

    The only “Crisis” is a manufactured one by the Left to grab money and power.

    [YS: deleted 5 more ad hominem attacks]

    Yves here. The New York Times has an important article up discussing research on how ad hominem attacks distort perceptions of information:

    I am going to embark on a policy (to the extent Lambert, Richard, and I have time), of removing ad hominems in comments early in any comment thread and leaving substantive remarks untouched. I’ve separately observed how comments early in a thread have a disproportionate impact on how a conversation goes.

    I don’t like doing this but if that is what it take to get people to stop engaging in spurious name-calling, so be it. And newbies who start out on this blog by breaking house comment rules (as this guy did throughout his comment) are blacklisted. If it looks like a more minor infraction, they’ll be put in moderation and either let out if they refrain from ad hominems in future comments and will be banned if they don’t. And banned is banned. One you’ve been banned, if you somehow sneak back in, those comments are expunged as soon as any of the site administrators sees them.

    1. chris

      Yay Yves and Lambert!

      Great post.

      NC is really attracting the desperate loonies and you should take it as a measure of your success. Mr. Tool wouldn’t even bother bleating if you weren’t pushing the right buttons and gaining the respect and the readership that scares the pants off the paymasters and their troll brigade.

      Thanks for the belly laugh, tool

    2. Ben Johannson

      I like this new policy very much. If more donations are needed to pay for staff to continue it, you can count me in.

    3. Really?

      Nonetheless, the ad hominems reveal the real difficulty in getting people to address climate change with the gravity it deserves: fear. The implications of it for they and they’re children simply scares the shit out of them and they’d rather retreat into denial than face it. Somewhat understandable I guess.

      1. Zachary Smith

        *** Nonetheless, the ad hominems reveal the real difficulty in getting people to address climate change with the gravity it deserves: fear. ***

        I don’t believe I agree with the ‘fear’ part of what you say – if the billybob deniers had even half the fear I do, they’d be agitating for a change of direction. But we’re totally on the same page with the Denial.

        In his later novel The Gods Themselves Isaac Asimov has a conversational exchange about a dangerous energy source humanity was using.

        *** “But why should they want it, if it means death?”

        “All they have to do is refuse to believe it means death. The easiest way to solve a problem is to deny it exists. ***

        That attitude makes the general population easy prey for the Energy Companies. Your typical citizen doesn’t know much if any science, and when the issue comes down to He Says vs She Says, choosing Denial is the easy way out. I saw what one of the early trolls was chanting last night. Nuclear good, but wind and sun bad. Drill more. He/she wouldn’t have a clue about how expensive a reactor is to build and operate, or the dangers inherent in the waste products, but it’s a feature of his FAITH. And on a side note, what can you say about poor people who agitate for policies which will do immense damage to their own prospects. When JoeSixpack wants to kill Social Security and Medicare, close the Post Office, and go with a Flat Tax, he’s testifying about his political Religion.

        I was very pleased to see the NYT link about the dangers of troll infestations, for on a NC thread several days ago I was searching (without success) for that exact piece. As I said then, both paid and volunteer trolls can do tremendous damage to intelligent discourse. The brainless chanting I saw wasn’t going to convince anybody, but so what? Disruption was the only goal.

        I’m starting to see a note of despair in the Science Blogs – we’re reaching the point of no return with Global Warming. If we’ve not already passed it. All those dead kids at Sandy Hook didn’t budge the gun nuts, so would a genuine ‘Pearl Harbor’ climate disaster change anything? I’m starting to doubt it.

        On that note, a brief bit of the script from the Star Trek show “The Inner Light” haunts me.

        PICARD: My grandson. Breaks my heart… he deserves a full rich life, and he’s not going to get one.

        I won’t live to see the worst of the coming disasters. But the little ones in my family will. And as things stand now, they’re not going to die of old age.

        1. different clue

          Fear can reach the point of getting scared stiff. And that can be where denial comes in.

    4. Robert Wilson

      So, if one doesn’t totally believe in the environmentalists’ take on “global warming”…? Does it require a “speech impediment”? Does it release other readers from an opportunity to judge any and all comments as they stand? Just asking.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        Google “ad hominem.” Apparently you are unaware of the fact that an ad hominem attack has for thousands of years been classified as an invalid from of argumentation. On top of that, as the research cited by the Times indicates, it nevertheless biases readers. It is a technique meant to poison thought rather than promoting a discussion on merits.

        If you can’t communicate objections without resorting to ad hominems, you don’t have an argument. We aren’t interested in name calling. As I said, we are leaving the substance of any objections up. And in case you missed it, I can delete comments at any time. If I were really interested in getting rid of certain points of view, I have ways to do that which demand a lot less of my time than editing comments.

        If you don’t like this policy, please read another blog. The web is a big place.

      2. different clue

        You should take a trip to one of the melting glaciers. You can bring a megaphone and read to it your talking points on why there is no man made global warming. Perhaps you will change the glacier’s mind. Perhaps you will convince the glacier that it is melting for no good reason. Perhaps you will get the glacier to start growing again.

    5. Ernesto Lyon

      Why even tolerate a troll as a lead comment at all?

      The troll wins if he derails the conversation from what could have been. It doesn’t matter if he is successfully refuted.

      A troll comment that appears later in the thread is less powerful.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I have only so much time in the day. I’d rather make an object lesson of them by showing how little of substance they have once you take the name-calling out. I think that will disincentivize them more over time. There are some NC regulars who also do this sort of thing and I will be trying to reeducate them too.

        I can’t edit all comments. I don’t have time. And I do get rid of the really bad ones. Moreover, the way WP works, if I delete any comment to which someone has replied, I have to delete the reply too, otherwise the “reply” function does not work for ANY later comment. All comment appear in time sequence.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorHAL

        So let’s “rerail” the conversation. The question was whether Obomba’s mention of global warming in the SOTU means finally he wants to do something about it. Answer: No, of course not. The way to figure out what this Manchurian Candidate-in-Chief will do is to listen to his silvery words. And then watch as he does the opposite.

        1. different clue

          I predict: Obama will approve Keystone XL Pipeline Northern Half just as soon as he feels he can get away with it.

    6. Francois T

      “Mr. Royce, CLimate Change is a faud!”

      The only fraud around here is you trying to engage against fully grown educated adults.

      Now, take a hike to the Kergelen Islands and leave the grown ups alone before an angular kinetic move land with devastating impact upon your Joyful Two…assuming you have any, that is!

  2. Zachary Smith

    I suspect a reason that Cantwell/Collins bill is so little known is that it’s not appealing to anybody. IMO it’s just something tossed out there to muddy the water – what do 2 WOMEN know about climate change?

    They surely didn’t take much time preparing their bill – the thing is full of holes.

    Another issue barely mentioned in the link above is the “safety valve” hole you could drive an oil tanker through.

    I expect the Obama Pipeline to be finished as a monument to his growing legacy of not giving a damn about anybody but his wealthy backers.

    BHO is mighty good at running his mouth about climate change, but he’s done less than nothing in attacking the problem.

    1. Really?

      Pretty good at running his mouth for political purposes only for just about everything, isn’t he? The consummate politician.

    2. Really?

      Way too many special interests aligned against AGW for it to stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being addressed until it’s a catastrophic emergency. It’s really a dead issue altogether already as far as meaningful political remedies (potentially lucrative “green” initiatives notwithstanding), even were our current system not completely ossified (for crying out loud, we can’t even get a freaking budget passed!). This is one lesson we’re just all gonna have to learn the hard way.

      1. LifelongLib

        Not just special interests. Truly addressing AGW will require painful changes in the daily lives of all of us. When I think about it I’m selfishly glad I won’t be here to see the worst of whatever happens.

  3. Chris Engel

    Not all of us have the luxury of worrying about climate change.

    I don’t think it’s fair to demonize skeptics who are more concerned with jobs and growth than the agenda of eco-warriors.

    Climate change is real. The anthropogenic contributions are real (the extent is debatable). And cap-and-trade and other policies are good moves toward disincentivizing fossil fuel use and trying to incentivize use of renewable energy.

    But there’s somethinig to be said of priorities. Why should any unemployed or marginalized member of society parrot anti-growth pro-eco-friendly policies? Maybe once we rectify imbalances in our regulatory and tax structures in society, then there will be more support for active policies against climate change.

    Also, taking a unilateral policy approach (for the US) isn’t very helpful, it just exports the waste and pollution to developing countries who rightfully care more about their current lifestyle than some hypothetical situation in the far-off future.

    Frankly it’s insulting that champagne liberals try and force the climate change discussion on people who are more concerned with supporting their immediate family, having a job, and being offered an opportunity to share in the prosperity that is mostly being distributed upward.

    Forgive the general public for not caring as much about the issue when they’re faced with stagnant wages and perpetual booms and busts in asset markets that leave them indebted and jobless.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      This is why I said yesterday, that environmentalists needed to be Kenyesian, and was stunned that the comments thread pretty much rejected it.

      You are not going to get people to sign up for climate change unless you convince them they will not be worse off. And I don’t mean “worse off” in terms of lifestyle changes (more public transportation, flying less often, keeping the house cooler in winter, etc) but in terms of the impact on jobs and wages. If they want to play into the hands of the anti-climate change crowd, this is the way to do it.

      1. Chris Engel

        And I agree with that wholeheartedly.

        It’s not that I think fighting climate change can’t benefit workers, I think it’s clear that we could get a redistibutory effect out of cap-and-trade.

        My point is more that, in a Maslowian sense of an individual’s needs and priorities, you can’t get someone to give a crap about climate change until their basic needs of a job and some savings buffer and hope for the future are met.

        It’s why I refer to the push for adressing the climate change issue as a luxury set forth by limosine liberals. They’ve got their needs met to the point where they can actually spend their time and energy worrying about deep-future issues regarding sustainability.

        But for the average joe on food stamps trying to figure out how he’s going to take care of himself and family, he rationally can ignore such issues, because what’s the point in preserving a planet that houses a system that is marginalizing him? From his point of view, preserving the planet will only preserve and further the injustice that is being inflicted on the masses in the current system.

        Give him a job, give him a decent standard of living, and then he’ll use more of his spare time being concerned about climate change and sustainability.

        1. JTFaraday

          You know, maybe–just possibly– you have this whole thing backwards and “he” should just man up already and accept some social responsibility

          1. JTFaraday

            It’s like you want the lmousine liberals to “give ‘him’ a job” when you’re already defined “him” as a purely self centered entity, who justifies his self centered nature in relation to “the job” you want the limousine liberals to give him.

            Not exactly inspiring.

          2. from Mexico

            Yep. “He” should just fall in line and follow the outstanding example set by the 1%, who by sheer force of character and unprecedented self-sacrifice have soared into the blue empyrean when it comes to “accepting social responsibility.”

            Really, JTFaraday, sometimes the stench of the double standard becomes unbearable. It’s OK for the 1% to be self-interested and socially irresponsible, but if the 99% tries it, why that’s a moral travesty!

          3. JTFaraday

            When the many powerless exercise their right to be selfish individuals running in the rat race, they usually end up screwed by the more powerful.

            [YS: deleted ad hominem attack]–even if you’re privileged to use “he”– is not just a matter of morality, it’s a matter of realpolitick.

            That double standard to which you object in high dudgeon is already baked in, in any system of inequality, which his rat race is rigged to effect in the first place.

          4. Chris Engel

            I’ll defer to the response by “from Mexico” to represent my sentiment. Can’t word it better than they did.

          5. Ms G

            @JT Faraday.

            If being consumed with how you are going to eat today, or how you will pay this months’ electric bill, or how you’re going to get to work when your car’s broken and there’s no public transportation in your area, or your wife just got cancer and the insurance policy you’re paying for turns out not to cover $500,00 of it …

            is what you consider “navelgazing” (as a proxy for not focusing too much on the broader issue of climate change and our environment)

            then I think we have a fundamental disagreement about the meaning of “navelgazing” — particularly in the context of this discussion.

        2. from Mexico

          JTFaraday says:

          When the many powerless exercise their right to be selfish individuals running in the rat race, they usually end up screwed by the more powerful.

          Ah yes. Passive nihilism deflects the convulsive self-obliteration that active nihilism seeks by putting in its place a doctrine of universal pity. It wants to go out not with a bang but a whimper. This is the path of the Crucified.

          This doctrine of passive nihilism you advocate the 99% follow, however, has almost no place in contemporary Western society, that is for everyone except for a very small percentage of the population. Most people operate very differently than this. They are strong reciprocators. They have a strong sense of what is fair and what is just. These individuals respond kindly toward actions that are perceived to be kind and hostily toward actions that are perceived to be hostile. They have a predisposition to cooperate with others, and to punish (at personal cost, if necessary) those who violate the norms of cooperation, even when it is implausible to expect that these costs will be recovered at a later date.

          Your argument might have worked back in the 5th to 15th centuries, when people believed in the afterlife and were willing to make great sacrifices in this life to get there, but in the 21st century this argument has gotten just a little stale, to say the least.

          1. JTFaraday

            What the h*ll are you talking about?

            I’m the one who told him to man-up and accept some social responsibility, instead of– paradoxically– advocating individual selfishness for himself while demanding the “limousine liberals” stop being selfish and fix everything up for him— just so he can go on being selfish until his pile is big enough, when he’ll suddenly be converted overnight to the true religion of selfless citizenship.

            This mentality is exactly what is wrong around here. He could not have created a better exhibit A of what ails the US if he actually tried.

            Just stop. You apparently aim to project things onto me and philobabble away until you tie yourself into incomprehensible knots.

            Don’t bother.

          2. from Mexico

            @ JTFaraday

            Oh I don’t think anybody needs to project things on you. From your comments on this thread you’ve expressed your position loud and clear.

            But if you see nothing wrong with the notion that the 99% should fall on their own swords so that the burn-and-waste regime, as Richard Kline so beautifully put it, can go own burning and wasting with abandon, then what more can I say?

          3. Yves Smith Post author


            Did you miss that unemployment, counted accurately (by Hugh) is around 12% and underemployment is around 16%? Tell me how people are supposed to help themselves when there are no jobs? And it’s going to get worse as a result of fiscal tightening.

          4. Zapster

            “When the many powerless exercise their right to be selfish”
            Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one…

      2. Stephanie

        But to follow a prescribed set of policies, i.e. to implement a top-down approach (even if it is Keynesian), is to ignore the social justice aspect of sustainability. This is a common problem in so-called sustainable development, and is one reason you get so much resistance to the idea. You don’t only get public buy-in by “showing” the public how they will benefit, but by asking them to participate in the terms of the debate and the indicators that will define sustainability (sustainability of what? sustainability for whom?). It is also better to think of “sustainability” as “sustainabilities.” No two places will have the same set of goals and indicators to get them to more sustainable development. Diversity in approaches is really what sustainability requires.

        Sustainability surely does come off as an elitist, modernist project…and to that you will get resistance. Making it Keynesian doesn’t make it any less so….which is why the points about making it a moral and social project on that other thread were important.

        1. diptherio

          Good points. I think the resentment among the populace that is caused by even the most well-meaning of technocrats is something that is often overlooked. Even if taking my medicine is good for me, I want it to be my decision, not a command from on-high.

          1. Susan the other

            Agree. We do not have time to bribe people with a severance tax ala Alaska. To coopt them into complacency just for a loaf of bread. We need a crash effort like the Manhattan Project to make our existence sustainable. Any tax or fee imposed on fossil fuels should go directly to such an effort, along with more than matching funds. And that in turn will provide lots of jobs.

      3. Claudius

        Yves, I don’t get why you are ‘stunned’ by this.
        As with Chris Engel I too, intellectually, agree with the Keynesian sentiment. And, like many of us, fifteen or even ten years ago many middle-class free thinkers would be out on the streets voicing their support.

        But, who were these middle class free thinkers fifteen years ago, and who are they now?

        Then, they were the 1st ‘new generation’ product of FDR’s social contract; the middle class of the 50/60’s; the like of which America had never seen before – a class of people that owned homes, had job security, money to send their kids to college and had comfortable retirements. The same middle class that gave us their next generation, one that had the freedom and opportunity think about externalities such as the environment (war, peace, art, drugs, whatever) and what it meant for their future and their kids future; and not just nationally but internationally, and globally.

        And now? These same middle class free thinkers are middle-aged products of an unprecedented assault on the working and middle class – an assault that drove down wages, broke the social contract of welfare, healthcare and education; deregulated, privatized, gave tax breaks for the rich, and signed-off free trade treaties and, finally, trickled-down the economic ‘benefits’. It was thirty years of nothing more than income redistribution scams created and negotiated by the rich and the richest, culminating in a debtor nation; a bruised, battered and broken middle class that has just bailed out its assailants.

        What we are seeing now is an entire generation of working class and much of the middle class that is literally and emotionally bankrupt. Their priority and focus now is on what most count to them on a day-to-day basis – simple survival. That’s how far we have moved: from the ideals and noble notions of ‘Keynesian Environmentalism’ and the like, to food stamps, insecurity, despair and desolation.

        I see comments such as “a bill of right for the planet’, ‘Eco-restitution’, ‘eco-tax”, etc on previous posts. Well, frankly, screw that, give the middle class a bill of rights, give them tax breaks and restitution; enable them to once again have the economic freedom and opportunity to voice and participate in the discussion; otherwise, it can all go the hell in a hand basket. Because, without a vibrant middle class to support Keynesian Environmentalism (and the rest of it), it’s just a group of elitists acting as a Greek chorus to the 1%.

        1. JTFaraday

          That’s a lotta “gimme” from you too. Who or what is it exactly that’s doing the “giving” here?

          1. Claudius

            It’s not a personal manifesto.

            Still, I’d be happy for anyone (FDR, Obama, Santa Clause or the folk who did the takin’) to prioritize and deliver/restore any of the ‘gimmes’ for the middle class.

          2. Chris Engel

            “Santa Claus” came in the 80’s for the wealthy who passed favorable legislation that redistributed income and then wealth upward, breaking the social compact set by FDR that markets would be steered toward benefiting a middle class that empowers America and fights inequality.

            I will point you now to Emmanuel Saez’s ( work on measuring income inequality, and his data on the Share of Income to the Top 10%, here’s the chart for simplicity:


            Note anything from the 80’s onward? This is echoing a theme that most well-read Americans are cognizant of now: We began to reject work, wages stagnated, productivity began to distribute to the capital owners at the expense of workers, and crony monopolistic shadow-bankster capitalism rose up.

            This isn’t because of brilliance of the 10% or 1%, or the 0.1%, this is because of bad regulatory and tax policy that fueled this inequality.

            It’s not about “gimme gimme”, it’s about the 10%ers who took our country from the middle class. So instead of “gimme” in a “taker” sense, it’s more like, “hey, gimme back my country”: give us back the middle class, give us back the dignity that used to come with working full-time, whether as a manual laborer or as a middle manager or as a low-level economic consultant/researcher.

            And yet you want us to accept the rabid inquality, high personal debt, low wage, stagnant status quo and cheer for environmentalism instead of financial dignity? Dream on, Americans have priorities, the system as it is now necessitates prioritization based on financial incentives, so just because you “won that game” and can spend your free time philosophizing about the certain doom from climate change risk, those who have LOST the game and are struggling to stay above water don’t really have the same moral obligation you claim to find irreconcilable.

          3. JTFaraday

            Chris, dude.

            [YS: deleted ad hominem]

            b). Just yesterday, the site owner had a post up on environmentally friendly “green jobs,” the fact of which she just informed you up thread.

            Newsflash!! I just said “job”–[YS: deleted ad hominem].

            [YS: deleted ad hominem]?

          4. JTFaraday

            “So, who the F is it that you’re here arguing with again?”

            Wait! I can answer my own question. You’re here arguing with those who suggest that you yourself take some social responsibility while you’re busy ordering them around, telling them to fix your problems for you.

            That’s who you’re arguing with. Nice.

          5. Chris Engel

            Pathetic ad hom. Especially considering the comment you responded to didn’t even use the word “job”.

            Disgraceful behavior.

        2. jrs

          those “elitists” might actually speak to the 3rd world, the global south, or whatever it is called these days, which will be hurt most by environmental destruction and they are the real down and out, not the american middle class (the American middle class is mostly down and out relative to the 1%, of course the american middle class is also very poor in non-material things).

        3. jrs

          What if American prospertity in the golden era was based not on just more equal distribution of income, which it was, but also always ever was based on exploitation of the rest of the world? Now it’s true and obvious that funneling all the money to the 1% doesn’t stop the exploitation, it just increases the pool of victims, but what if there never a just time to begin with?

          1. skippy

            Grandfather was a bit of a pedo… but… he put food on the table and a roof over our heads… soooo….

      4. Borsabil

        What’s all this about ‘fighting climate change?’ forgetting for a moment that there has been no measurable global temp increase for seventeen years (source the uber pro AGW British Met Office) how will the US or any other western country making minuscule cuts to the amount of CO2 produced lower the temperature of the planet when we live in a world where the likes of China and India are currently engaged in a coal fired power station building boom and their newly minted middle classes are discovering the wonders of private automobile usage? As a fairly frequent visitor to China let me assure you all, it would take a global war to make the average citizen of the PRC go back to riding a bicycle to work, killer smog or no.

        Like much that obsesses the post. Christian progressive mind, [YS: deleted ad hominem]

        Isn’t this site against austerity? Aren’t we all going to enjoy a massive growth spurt once Obummer and Bernanke decide to print/borrow squillions? So on the one hand we will be enjoying massive economic growth and a return to full employment and on the other we will be deliberately taxing into extinction our most energy dense fuel source. [YS: deleted ad hominem]

        1. Susan the other

          Yes China and India can obliterate any gains. They have to be on board too. China theoretically is. India is unreadable. Ironically we encourage China to use coal because they have lots of coal and because, if we keep cutting them off from oil resources, they have no choice. I don’t understand that part. Maybe it is the particulates that make the difference tolerable – coal warms the atmosphere, but the particulates also then cool it. Regardless, we need to create a sustainable world. We also need to decide what we can and cannot live without.

        2. different clue

          There has been a global heat increase. The glaciers and non-polar icefields have responded to it by shrinking back and melting. The Arctic Ocean Ice Cap has resonded by shrinking and thinning. Permafrost is responding by thawing out. For now it is becoming seasonal “TemPermafrost” and it due course it will become melted down Permaslop. And I have read that the permafrost on the Tibetan Plateau, where the Chinese have built their resource-extraction demographic characteristics change-facilitating (massive ethnic Han settlement) railroad . . . is melting down, forcing the Chinese to put in de-Permafrost re-freezing technological systems.
          Temperatures not going up to suit you? There’s where the heat is going. Into the ice. Into the permafrost.

    2. Really?

      Not to worry. I don’t see anyone successfully forcing the conservation on anyone these days – champagne liberals or otherwise. And if the experts are correct, by the time it does become an economic priority, it will be entirely too late to do anything about it anyway and people will wake up to their folly in ever considering this issue through the lens of mere economics in the first place.

    3. from Mexico

      Chris Engel says:

      I don’t think it’s fair to demonize skeptics who are more concerned with jobs and growth than the agenda of eco-warriors.

      If we accept that capitalism is all about jobs and growth — production and consumption and creating demand — then it seems that capitalism and environementalism are diametrically opposed to each other.

      However, there is a dissident interpretation of capitalism that challengers the assumptions of both liberalism and Marxism, assumptions which have become all but axiomatic in our thinking. Fernand Braudel, in Civilization and Capitalism, argued that capitalists have typically been monopolists and not, as is usually assumed, entrepreneurs operating in competitive markets. He argued that capitalists did not specialize and did not use free markets. He thus diverged from both liberal (Adam Smith) and Marxian interpretations. In Braudel’s view, under capitalism the state has served as a guarantor of monopolists rather than as the protector of competition usually portrayed. He asserted that capitalists have had power and cunning on their side as they have arrayed themselves against the majority of the population.

      If Braudel’s view of capitalism is correct, then it is not difficult to see how capitalism and environmentalism could dovetail very nicely. Capitalism, after all, really isn’t about maximizing national aggregate utility — the “weath of nations” as Adam Smith put it — but about establishing monopolies, toll gates and rent-seeking. Therefore in a capitalist regime as envisioned by Braudel, your skepticism regarding evironmentalism is not without merit.

      Braudel longue durée approach stresses the slow and often imperceptible effects of “structures,” space, climate and technology on the actions of human beings in the past. He used the word “structures” to denote a variety of organized behaviours, attitudes, and conventions, as well as literal structures and infrastructures. Braudel argued that the continuities in the deepest structures of society were central to history. Upheavals in institutions or the superstructure of social life (what Marx and the various strucuturalist schools that sprang up in the 20th century placed such great emphasis upon) were of little significance on history, he argued, and history lies beyond the reach of conscious actors, especially the will of revolutionaries.

      If Braudel’s interpretation of history is correct, then it counters the apotheosis of man which began in Western Civilization in the 16th century and was complete by the last part of the latter 18th. The Promethean ethos so integral to both Marxism and liberalism is no longer believable, and man may have to proceed with lesser confidence and greater modesty.

      1. Sufferin' Succotash

        One of the major difficulties with Braudel’s longue durée approach is that it can’t convincingly explain changes when they do take place. In his “Capitalism & Material Life” Braudel wrestled with the problem of distinguishing “capitalism” from a “market economy” without much success. I suspect that the main reason was that capitalism is about change–for good or ill–and Braudel always had issues with change.
        It’s probably no accident that his magnum opus “The Mediterranean in the Age of Philip II” deals with a pre-liberal and pre-Marxist era when the deep structural approach could still be convincing. Thanks largely to Adam Smith and Karl Marx we now believe we can change the world, deep structures or no deep structures. And we’re going to act on that belief. The question is: how?

        1. Really?

          Thanks largely to Adam Smith and Karl Marx we now believe we can change the world, deep structures or no deep structures. And we’re going to act on that belief. The question is: how?

          And it seems that AGW is now answering that question for us, loud and clear. Bigger question: who will listen?

        2. from Mexico

          I certainly agree with you statement, “Thanks largely to Adam Smith and Karl Marx we now believe we can change the world…”

          But does belief constitute reality?

          Nature, both human and physical, seem to be placing a rather large question mark on that assumption. It seems nature is adamant upon having the last word.

          1. Sufferin' Succotash

            If AGW is real–and it is–then we’ve already changed the world and willy nilly we’re going to go on changing it.

          2. from Mexico

            @ Sufferin’ Succotash

            Ah, but there’s a rub.

            We’re talking human will, and the ability of the human will to prescribe, dictate and shape change. The change that has actually occurred, however, is a far cry from that which was envisioned. Here’s the change envisioned, from John Gray:

            The Positivists believed that as societies came to be based on science they were bound to become more alike. Scientific knowledge would engender a universal morality in which the aim of society was as much production as possible. Through the use of technology, humanity would extend its power over the Earth’s resources and overcome the worst forms of natural scarcity. Povery and war could be abolished. Through the power given it by science, humanity would be able to create a new world…

            Through their deep influence on Marx, Positivist ideas inspired the disastrous Soviet experiment in central economic planning. When the Soviet experiment collapsed, they re-emerged in the cult of the free market. It came to be believed that only American-style ‘democratic capitalism’ is truly modern, and that it is destined to spread everywhere. As it does, a universal civilization will come into being, and history will come to an end.

            –JOHN GRAY, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern

            Are we so quick to forget Karl Rove’s Promethean swagger?

            That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.

            — KARL ROVE, as reported by Ron Suskind

        3. from Mexico

          One of Braudel’s successors is considered to be World-systems theory, whose leading light is Immanuel Wallerstein.

          It’s not as pessimistic as Braudel’s thinking, because during periods of secular decline and crisis there is considerable room for the exercise of human freedom, the opportunity for human will to shape and influence the new emerging system.

          Neither the French nor Russian revolutions, however, occurred during a time of secular crisis, and therefore they changed things very little. We can see this in contemporary Italy, where there is scant difference between the policies advocated by the communits and the neoliberals.

          1. from Mexico

            Wallerstein, by the way, argues that the world-stystem of capitalism is in secular decline and crisis — it’s on its deathbed.

            The internal contradiction of capitalism — the problem of underconsumption, wherein the drive-down of wages increases the profit for the capitalists on the short-run, but considering the long run, the decreasing of wages has a crucially harmful effect by reducing the demand for the product — has become too great to overcome.

          2. nobody

            “Deathbed” might be a bit of an exaggeration — he sees its demise coming in half a century or so. If its lifespan is about six centuries or so, then if you translate to human years it’s in terminal decline but has still got half a decade or more before the grave.

    4. JTFaraday

      “Frankly it’s insulting that champagne liberals try and force the climate change discussion on people who are more concerned with supporting their immediate family, having a job, and being offered an opportunity to share in the prosperity that is mostly being distributed upward.”

      So, people can’t “force the climate change discussion” on American employees and would-be employees– who are, due to their condition as employees, incapable of even contemplating “a discussion” that ranges beyond their own navels and is of relevance to the good of the whole.

      This seems to suggest that there is something to the old aristocratic notion that economic dependents, like children, cannot be trusted with the public good.

      I’m sure that there are a number of people who will be very happy to hear that!

    5. taunger

      Because the eco-warriors and your own interests are actually the same, and regardless of how succinctly enviros put the Keynsian message, it’s almost always a backdrop. Basically, you have to go pretty far to the fringe to find enviros actually arguing against growth and jobs. Most simply want commonsense regulations like the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act to be enforced (which are beneficial based on saved health costs); to minimize carbon emissions (which, yes, will cost money, but maybe together you and I can find a way to get it out of the criminals that live in the banking and oil industries?); and to protect portions of our land from development to sustain the diversity of life that brought us so far. It’s easy to argue how this is anti-growth, but how about affluent communities in key geographic areas using zoning to enforce inefficient housing, from large, expensive houses to low levels of density that can’t support public transportation. Isnt that anti-growth, too? Never mind the banking criminality this site is dedicated to – and you’re concerned with the group advocating for responsible resource management and consideration of economic externalities?

    6. diptherio

      I find this analysis a little on the specious side. There are plenty of gainfully employed red-necks (that’s a term of endearment, y’all, not a slur) around here who couldn’t give two poops about the environment. There are also plenty of down-and-out, minimally employed liberal types who are also environmentalists.

      From what I can tell, peoples’ views on the need for environmental regulation and “green development” is mostly unrelated to their employment status, having more to do with their overall politics and background. Progressives don’t stop being progressives when they lose their job, or take a pay cut.

      I think the real issue is that people who spend 40-60 hours per week trying to make ends meet, regardless of their political persuasion, don’t have the time or energy to inform themselves about political issues or engage themselves in political action. We’re ridiculously overworked, which doesn’t leave us time for personal reflection or for community dialogue. The political life of the country cannot but suffer for it.

      FWIW, I think Maslow’s hierarchy is overly-simplistic. Travel to the third world (or hang out with some homeless people here in the US) and you will find that there is no simple rank-ordering of needs that get filled one after the other: people do their best to fill both the “higher” and the “lower” human needs, regardless of their current situation.

      Plenty of folks worry about the environmental destruction, social inequality, Western imperialism, etc. despite being themselves unemployed. I currently fit that definition, and I imagine I’m not the only one here who does.

    7. Francois T

      ” don’t think it’s fair to demonize skeptics who are more concerned with jobs and growth than the agenda of eco-warriors.”

      The eco-warriors are a vocal minority, but a minority nonetheless. Those who think (I know! a rarity when it comes to climate change) quickly realize that there will jobs APLENTY if we’re smart and comprehensive in our approach to mitigate the effects of climate change.

  4. timotheus

    The citizenry as a background chorus that will “sing on key” as directed is an excellent metaphor for the Clinton/Obama Democrats’ approach to its base. We are expected to emerge obediently at election time, then go home and let the big guys handle things from inside.

    The extra-party and independent Occupy movement was a good lesson in what happens when the same citizenry acts independently of these channels of control–it was attacked directly by the security state under Obama.

  5. burnside

    I’m hesitant to comment, since the prevailing views of host particularly and the commentariat generally are inimical to my own, but may I say that the casual characterizations here of skeptics as persons in denial – and the assumption that anyone in any camp whatever imagines climate is unchanging – are two of the engines which drive discussion in the direction of trading insults and away from substance.

    Skepticism is the engine of science. And without it, we have somthing faith-based, that is to say, something not science at all.

    1. Stephen Nightingale

      But well argued, ad hominem free, fact-filled, opposing views are required to help shed full light on this crucial question. Please enlarge.

    2. Laughing_Fascist

      Intellectuals are prone to delusions that they possess the “truth” just as much as anyone. AGW is a good example. Proponents consider themselves guardians of the environment when most in fact don’t know even the most elemental aspects of the theory. Hence all the nonsense about “extreme” weather and “AGW has already started.” The less one knows about AGW, the more likely he/she is to launch an ad hominem assault on someone expressing healthy sceptism.

      Another intellectual delusion in the U.S. is that the U.S. gov can solve this. One possible result will be a bill that goes through Congress (maybe called “Save the Children from CO2 Act) that gets strong support from the guardians and leads to a zero reduction in CO2. And the $billions in funding for the bill strangely will end up in the hands of the usual suspects – Dem/Repub supporters that fund elections and provide jobs to former regulators.

    3. Hugh

      Nice try but it doesn’t scan. The inbuilt assumption is that there are two sides, each with a defensible point of view. But this is often not the case. Flat earthers and holocaust deniers don’t have a defensible point of view. They aren’t “skeptics”. The preponderance of evidence is against them. The same is true of climate change deniers and more particularly those who deny man-made climate change. Here too the preponderance of scientific evidence is against them so their refusal to accept climate change is not skepticism. It’s not “scientific”. It’s denial.

      1. Save the redneck Children

        Denial is strictly for the proles. The US government has a comprehensive climate-change policy that suits them fine. Here it is. Climate change has been defined as a security threat.. That leaves it to the sole discretion of the executive branch. The security state will not permit tinkering by the congressional peanut gallery.

        No joke. You’ll see – soon, if you live in the Colorado River basin.

        1. Susan the other

          Those PSA signers are all old Bush cronies. It would help to further the thesis that Little George went into the Middle East to gain firm control of oil not for imperialist motives but for human survival motives; it also would indicate that our twist to the Pacific was for the same reason; that the KXL ditto; that all our diplomacy for the last frenetic 5 years has been toward that goal as well. That the shit has hit the fan. So if this is true let us hear about it. Otherwise nobody will believe any of it and the confusion will just make everyone more skeptical and ultimately less trusting and willing to help. At this point its a boy who cried wolf story because we have been so manipulated by the media.

      2. & mawkish benefit concerts!

        They don’t need the public’s help. What they need is passive complacency until the time comes to pen up dustbowl Okies and coastal populations and disaster refugees, and reallocate the productive land that remains to corporations and elites.

    4. Larry Barber

      Skepticism is important to science, but skepticism can also be self-serving and used to promote the status quo. There is a time for skepticism, but there is also a time to accept what science says, particularly when the future of our civilization may be at stake. Creationists claim to be skeptics, too. But just as with climate change denialists, no amount of evidence will change ever change a creationist’s mind, they are not skeptics, at all. First climate change deniers claimed that climate change was not happening at all, then they claimed that it was beneficial (carbon dioxide is a fertilizer!), then they denied its anthopogenic origins. Not sure what they’re claiming now, since I’ve decided it’s a waste of time to listen to them.

  6. Hugh

    The original cap and trade bill (ACES) was a disaster and got shelved so Obama could concentrate on selling us with Obamacare. ACES would have given 85% of carbon vouchers away for free with a gradual phase out. The vouchers were set up as financial instruments that speculators could and would have gamed the hell out of. Then there was a plan for 2 billion tons in bogus offsets, that is investing in carbon reducing projects, domestically and abroad. James Hansen criticized ACES because it envisioned cutting carbon too little too gradually and because regulation of power plant emissions were too restricted.

    The Cantwell-Collins bill, as far as I know, was a riff on the ACES bill but with the 75/25 split in revenues going to consumers and renewables, respectively.

    A carbon tax on producers with rebates to consumers was generally considered to be a more effective approach (because it placed a non-gameable carbon fee on greenhouse gas producers), and this looks like the approach taken in the Sanders-Boxer bill. Unfortunately, it is hard to take this bill seriously because of its sponsors. Sanders is a serial caver and Boxer is notoriously ineffective. When the Senate version of ACES came up, Boxer should have been the lead name on it but she was considered so inept that the lead was given to Kerry who, nevertheless, failed to win any bipartisan support for it.

    While I agree with the author that no one in the White House and the Congress is serious about climate change, I don’t think his small “d” reform approach will work. Kleptocracies can not be reformed. The only movement that will work is the one which removes all current officeholders and prosecutes them for their misdeeds. Then and only then can we have an effective response to climate change, and many other things as well. Anything short of that is like going hat in hand to bank robbers and asking them for some of your money back. Nawgonnahappen.

    1. Laughing_Fascist

      Exactly. Advocating major and costly legislation considering the nature of the gov that is reigning over us is a crime in itself. The #1 priority is that the gov needs to be changed. Trying to establish a legit healthcare system or limiting pollution is putting the horse before the cart and will lead to self destruction for the prols.

    2. John

      Hugh, you said;
      “A carbon tax on producers with rebates to consumers was generally considered to be a more effective approach (because it placed a non-gameable carbon fee on greenhouse gas producers)”
      Wouldn’t this be like taking money from one pocket to put into another? Don’t you think producers have the ability to pass along an increase in their costs to the consumers?
      My thoughts on the matter coincide with those above who seem to realize that the economic costs of anything like this cascade to the middle class. Why should they give a damn when thats the case?

      1. jrs

        No, it’s not taking out of one hand and putting into the other, or at least it’s not *just that*. How the carbon tax proposals I’m aware of work: tax carbon (let’s say at the point of extraction), use the money to cut a check to everyone.

        So now you’ve got a check and your heating costs more. That’s exactly the point, to make things that use carbon cost more than those that don’t or those that use less carbon (via the workings of the market). Now let’s say for example, insulation starts to look like a very good deal compared to the cost of heating. It’s all about *relative* costs.

    3. Enslavedlikeme


      This profound insight was posted a few days ago.

      “kleptocracy is violent, violent in both the getting and the keeping of its loot. Kleptocracy can not be reformed away. It controls and owns all the levers of reform. It can only be overthrown. And its overthrow will entail great violence, and the principal source of that violence will come from those who say they work for us but do so in name only and, in fact, are loyal to and serve institutions which the kleptocrats own and control.”

      …those with ears let them hear.

      * * * * *

      1. John

        You sure have the part about violence from the kleptocrats right. Truly, who do you think foments most all the violence in this world we live in? Then blames it on terrorists or whatever? Its those same klepto’s. The biggest terrorists in the world reside in washington DC. Beware taking those cocksuckers on.

    4. Embalmers Local 12

      Kleptocracies can’t be reformed, true. I gave up on the local provincial Occupy group when they started writing down piecemeal incrementalist reform shit (not even dreaming it up themselves, but parroting Dem slogans and imagining what they might mean.) Classic example of Taibbi’s gibe, ‘submitting incisive policy white papers to Leonid Brezhnev,’ and proof they don’t know what they’re up against.

      We’re not getting anywhere till we knock over and replace this criminal regime, and that’s going to require concerted support and assistance from the outside world.

    5. From the inside

      Correct analysis on the cap-and-trade bills. Even if they had a shot at passing they would have been ineffective.

      And so we don’t forget, this was with a President that ran on “clean energy” campaign, with a majority in the House, a super-majority in the Senate, and an “in your face” environmental disaster (Deepwater Horizon) all occuring simultaneously. That is “the stars aligning” as much as they ever will in the forseeable future.

      Given how far away Congress was from passing a bill that would have hit reduction targets to match with our best science, pursuing similar insider strategies in the future should obviously futile to anyone who follows politics and understands cap and trade. Only a reorganization of strucutral incentives in government could allow elected representatives to deliver any legislation in the long-term public interest.

  7. Sieren

    I have to point out that the “Keynesian” environmental argument has already been wholly adopted by the environmental movement. This was the logical behind the whole ‘green jobs’ push that the Obama administration adopted circa 2010 when it decided that ‘climate change’ was not a sellable message. See here:

    The strategy didn’t work at all. The environmental movement now views it as a big mistake because they gave up the moral side of the argument in exchange for a wishy-washy green jobs message that the public didn’t buy or bite on.

    All this aside, there is something wrong with with qualifying climate change as being a concern of ‘environmentalists’ I tend to think of my concern with the issue as being related to the fact that I am a human that lives on the planet that is something I have in common with others, whether they are environmentalists or not. There is a false dichotomy is saying, “Economy of environment” and a misunderstanding of the environment in saying that it is an elitist issue. In fact, it is the poor–in the United States as well–who live in areas that are most affected by climate change, or by the effect (cancer, asthma, heart problems) of the pollution caused by coal fired power plants. The effects have real costs that are not properly priced and are not considered by people who say that cleaning up the environment is harmful for the economy or will disproportionately impact the poor. Further, environmental disasters like Sandy or Katrina also disproportionally affect the poor who are not as protected against the loss of their homes, who tend to be more impacted of income due to work stoppage, etc., and less protected against the negative health impacts that come from flooding, cold, living in shelters, etc. The poor, in fact, stand to benefit more than the wealthy by improving the environment and taking care of the commons. The rich need the commons less, of course, because they are, well, rich.

    This is not say that a carbon price would not affect the poor through increased fuel prices. For this reason, Skocpol is right to advocate for a fee and dividend because it gives protecting to the most vulnerable and is the most progressive form of climate policy. The problem with an income or payroll tax shift is that there are simply too many people in America right now who do not any income at all.

    She is also right to point the finger at environmental groups for getting behind a policy that was convoluted, fundamental weak, and hard to sell to the public. However, I think in her analysis she was too light on the Obama administration that has failed to lead on this issue from the beginning. (See above article from the guardian).

    But the fact is, people who care about climate change and the environment are enough of a block already to affect political change, we just need to get out there. More of my thoughts on that here:

    1. Sieren

      Larry, Boxer/Sanders dropped a carbon tax bill, with no offsets, last month. Granted, they are not going to be the dealmakers that will get this bill, through, but there are plenty of people discussing a carbon tax. Late last year, the conservative Think Tank AEI held closed door sessions on passing a carbon tax. If you are interested in a carbon tax, I would recommend you join this group, which is a grassroots movement that advocates for a carbon tax.

  8. Larry Barber

    The only reason “Cap and Trade” is on the agenda at all is that it will give Wall Street another market that it can manipulate/blow up. The Pigou tax approach makes a lot more sense and would be much easier to administer. Simply tax carbon (or any other pollutant) where it is initially produced, then use the proceeds from this tax (all of them not just 75%) to reduce payroll and income taxes. Not only will this reduce pollution and global climate change, but it will provides inventives for working. But it wouldn’t provide Wall Street with another market, so it’s not even being seriously considered.

  9. Tom

    Climate change is real – it was cold this morning and now…it is warmer with some clouds. AGW is real…termites change their micro-climate because of their construction of termite mounds and bio-activity….why can it bot be accepted that humans, with all their construction have not changed the global chemistry affecting climate – as only one of many effects.

    Beyond the hyperbole – a ridiculous argument is being pushed around and getting accepted, that work on infrastructures, energy production and use, transportation advancement, materials science advancement, preserving bio-diversity etal. are somehow bad for jobs if they require consideration of the environment. – total bull crap. You have all these idiots who point to solyndra (whatever that solar panel company was) losing money (half a billion- whoopty-do)while denying AGW had anything to do with the hundreds of billions of dollars lost to weather phenomenon outside the sigma scales.

    Look, we humans do not need to go back to agrarian living (the plutocrats would love nothing better IMO)in order to save the bio-diversity and habitability of this planet – quite the opposite. Our problem is -IMO- that we have fallen far behind in the application of research, development and productive work aimed at the problem. As frightening as it sounds, I would estimate that the current global population does not have enough employees to do all the work necessary to ameliorate the past collateral damage done by our (symbiotic) parasitic species to our host planet.
    We already know that our different governments can produce trillions of dollars toward warfare at a moments notice. The question is; why can it not produce trillions of dollars to prevent the collective suicide of our (and many other) species? Are we to lazy as a species to save our own butts? Would we rather live lives in quiet desperation in our own filth, poverty and need? What is needed for any economy is demand – so, climate deniers, What is wrong with creating demand to employ idle workers in advancing the human race’s ability to co-habitat this earth sustain-ably. The huge amount of people, that cleaning up this planet, would employ is astronomical.
    Ya know, E=MC(2) and because of that – we have only tapped a small little tidbit of the energy resources available – both passive and active- we are just too sophisticated to tap those potentials – it costs too much? pure swill – pure defeatism, pure short term economically contained (self imposed) horse shit.
    Resource scarcity? another pile of fetid hogwash!! All the resource extraction performed throughout mans history – all that material still exists on this planet today!!! yes, we have managed to break some of it down into constituent parts and, in so doing, have altered the chemistry of our planet in an unsustainable way but, that is just a resource mis-allocation – primarily driven by our inter-human political and economic laziness, apathy and greed. – Resource scarcity? we are literally killing ourselves in a sea of resource abundance – we have just moved the stuff around and are drowning in our own effluent and waist.
    To claim that being environmentally positive as a species requires that we have less in the way of jobs, standards of living, slowed progress etal. is the biggest damned lie in existence. Those perpetuating this lie are the ones that are benefiting the most as things stand – status quo.

    Normally, seeing a small group of people spending billions of dollars to push an agenda specifically designed to benefit it’s self…why that is laughable. Why on earth would these few spend so much if their ideas are so good….they are spending so much because their ideas are so bad….so bad that they must bribe, steal, defraud, and monopolize all communication channels (money, radio, tv, political process etc.) just to get their vapid idiocy believed by just enough people to keep the game going.

    It’s as if the plutocrats (use your own terms to suit) are advancing the notion that we all should commit suicide – because it would be best. I don’t know about you all but, nobody is going to bribe me into killing myself – yet the (plutocrates) seem intent on trying to bribe enough folks to kill themselves that the rest will just go along as the horror of it all becomes to much.

    1. Zachary Smith

      *** I don’t know about you all but, nobody is going to bribe me into killing myself – yet the (plutocrates) seem intent on trying to bribe enough folks to kill themselves that the rest will just go along as the horror of it all becomes to much. ***

      They may not be able to “bribe” you to suicide, but they can arrange matters where that’s the net result.

      The Super Rich Elites are not all stupid who inherited their money from great-grandpa, so it stands to reason they have a “Plan B” with regard to climate change. I believe we need to spend more time watching what they’re doing rather than listening to the propaganda they fund.

  10. From the inside

    This post, as well as the paper it referenced are indeed an outsider perspective that misses the big picture of U.S. politics.

    Congress, is and has, been beholden to a special interest “donor” class that has much different short-term interests than the American public.

    Kerry-Lieberman failed to recieve a vote in the Senate in 2010 for two main reasons: (1) no Republican, whose party is beholden to the fossil fuel lobby was willing to vote yes on the bill; and (2) Blue dog democrats in LA and WV would never vote yes on a bill that would potentially have such a detrimental impact on the prime economic movers in their state.

    Beyond that, the actual Waxman-Markey bill and the Kerry-Lieberman bills would likely have been failures in their implementation with one billion in essentially unverifiable international offsets and near term caps that appeared too low, which would have likely collapsed the trading market, as has been the case with every prior market pollution trading program.

    Simply put, as currently configured, our government is incapable of putting into place policies that achieve goals 30 years out while also adversely impacting current large financial vested interests(such as the fossil fuel industry).

    1. Sieren

      inside, I agree but grassroots pressure has the ability to change the reality inside Washington and the environmental movement has not yet exerted its full strength on this issue. Saying no Republican can vote for this issue will do nothing. Organizing in Republican districts, however, will pay dividends.

  11. Jackrabbit

    The insidious way that monied interests make their case deserves a post all its own. Time and time again we see twisted language, false claims, bogus research, and pretended concern for others, among other things.

    Here is a good example:
    On climate change: jobs will be lost! (maybe YOURS)
    On deficit reduction: think of the children!

    Yet climate change is, arguably, a greater threat to your children (and their children) than the deficit; and deficit reduction (austerity) may have a greater impact on your financial well-being than any well-constructed response to climate change.

  12. JTFaraday

    “So, who the F is it that you’re here arguing with again?”

    Wait! I can answer my own question. You’re here arguing with those who suggest that you yourself take some social responsibility while you’re busy ordering them around, telling them to fix your problems for you.

    That’s who you’re arguing with. Nice.

  13. from Mexico

    Chris Engel says:

    Frankly it’s insulting that champagne liberals try and force the climate change discussion on people who are more concerned with supporting their immediate family, having a job, and being offered an opportunity to share in the prosperity that is mostly being distributed upward.

    I just happened to think of a book you might want to check out: Peter Skerry’s Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority. Skerry examines all the nuts and bolts of how the limousine liberals operate.

    The limousine liberals prey mostly on black and latino districts, which are populated for the most part by blue-collar, working-class constituents. The word Skerry uses to describe the limousine liberals is “elite-network politicians.” As he demonstrates with a great deal of polling data, the Grand Canyon would easily fit between the legislative priorities of these elite-netowork politicians and the priorities of the people who live in the districts they supposedly represent. He goes into great detail describing the tactics these elite-network politicians, whose only political currency is the grotesque amounts of money which comes flowing in from the statewide and national elite-networks they are plugged into, use to keep their constituents confused and in the dark.

    Another book that is germane is Daniel Yankelovich’s Coming to Public Judgment: Making Democracy Work in a Complex World. Yankelovich explains that if one wants people to listen to what one has to say, one must first listen to what they have to say. “If you address this preoccupation,” he says, “they will listen to what you have to say.”

    1. Chris Engel

      Ideally the working class of both the GOP and the Dems would get together and the plutocrats puppeteering both sides would be ousted.

      But the current state of the GOP and DC politics in general necessitates focusing energy on getting Democrats power so that some sensible policy can get put through. Then perhaps there’s a long-game beyond that.

      As an aside, it’s interesting that in this medium of NC comments one can see the “true face” of the liberal plutocrats, who show disdain for the working class in Rmoney-like proportions. Sort of makes you wonder how sincere they are on the issues they do agree to in order to push their agendas in areas like environment and so-called “social justice”.

      I’ve read Yankelovich, will look into Skerry’s book. Thanks.

  14. Brooklin Bridge

    A big part of the problem as with so many things is the main stream media where a hell of a lot of people still get their picture of the world. Watch “the weather” on any news channel. Facts about climate change, even the term climate change, are avoided like leprosy – on a weather program! – even during massive droughts, hurricanes and tornadoes! If that represents a “discussion”, it’s like the discussion of Communism we had in the 50’s. Data data everywhere and not a drop to drink. Watching people watch the news (and I think this is global) is like watching the clinically obese literally starve to death gorging themselves in McDonald’s where – with billions served – not so much as a single bite of actual nourishment ever makes it past the counter.

    1. Sieren

      Also agree, and public understanding of climate change tends to track very closely with media mentions, and when media mentions drop so the issue in the public’s mind. The Yale Climate Change Opinion Survey identifies meteorologists as one of the best avenues for spreading information on climate change as they are highly trusted by the public. The American Meteorological association also encourages meteorologists to talk about climate change and extreme weather, though few of them do. If this concerns you, I would recommend looking into, being a part of, or supporting an organization like Forecast the Facts, which does an excellent job of keeping the media accountable on climate change.

  15. JeremyGrimm

    I haven’t read all the comments to this post yet, so please excuse me it someone else has already covered these points:
    The severe negative impacts of Global Warming show signs that they may not be concerns for the distant future. Many scientists are concerned the poles seem to be melting much faster than predicted by most of the models. We could see an ice free summer Arctic as soon as 2030, or even sooner. Right now we are seeing extreme weather events attributed to Global Warming, including long term drought affecting major food production areas. Food prices could be impacted as soon as this summer. The droughts are not expected to end any time soon, and some models predict that we will see the same kind of extremely dry conditions in the Southwest that characterized the Great Dustbowl. Fresh water is becoming scarcer as rainfall patterns shift and as more and more water is drawn from the existing aquifers, but not replentished.
    These impacts are predicted from the Global Warming resulting from the CO2 in the atmosphere right now. It will take several decades for us to see full impacts of all the warming that’s already ongoing, without adding any more CO2 or other green-house gases. Much worse impacts are predicted if we continue on our present path of adding CO2 to the atmosphere, and we aren’t talking about the far distant future.

    Professor G. William Domhoff, at U.C. Santa Cruz documents a compelling case that Social Security isn’t the product of the common man standing up for some of his basic rights (at least not directly):
    The change in direction suggests that those powers that helped make Social Security legislation, and have now joined the fight against Social Security, must have changed their minds about whatever reasons they had for championing Social Security to begin with. Did the unrest and violence of the 1930’s make them afraid? Are they no longer afraid? Is it because they don’t think the population will rise up again or is it because they believe that the growing police state will be more than able to manage any ‘difficulties’ that might arise?

    1. John

      “Is it because they don’t think the population will rise up again or is it because they believe that the growing police state will be more than able to manage any ‘difficulties’ that might arise?”
      Jeremy, Id say theyre gearing up right now. Look up in the sky, see any thing? I do think they’ll be surprised though.

    2. LifelongLib

      Thanks for the link. More than I have time to read right now, but it looks very interesting.

  16. steelhead23

    once again I come so late to the conversation that I am tempted to paste a reply in the name-calling section – but I wish to be cordial as well as be heard.

    Modifying the political approach to developing meaningful climate policy may not be the most effective expenditure of environmentalists’ energy. Frankly, I am sick to death of tax credits being used to create incentives for real change. They become a kind of top-down approach in which pushes technology change to acquire credits while the consumer gets bent over to pay for it.

    I happen to believe that the first step in reducing carbon emissions is conservation, not new generating technology. Many folks believe that with Energy Star appliances and in some locations, inverted tier-pricing (where unit price increases with consumption). It is also assumed that punitive pricing is the key to changing consumer behavior. What if we use a carrot instead of a stick? The first item on Steelhead’s carbon reduction agenda would be price signatures that reflect the demand signature inverted. That is, if demand in the system is low (as it is from midnight to around 6A) then the cost TO THE CONSUMER should also be low. At the Mid-Columbia hub, it is not unusual for the cost to the wholesalers during low load hours is one-half or less of the high load hours. These signals are seldom passed to consumers as they pay the same for a kWh used at 3A as they do for one at 8A, while the price their utility pays vary substantially. If those price signals were relayed to end consumers, and assuming a rational customer (I know, I know), a greater portion of total load would be shifted into low-load hours.

    How would that reduce carbon production? First, it is peak demand that drives new powerplant development. If we shifted to using more energy during low-load hours, say to recharge our cars, we could reduce the demand for more powerplants. Further, it is devilishly difficult to bring fossil fueled boilers up and down, so it is usually more flexible sources, like hydro and combustion turbines that go up and down like a yo-yo. Hence, the system burns more carbon because the loads vary so widely during each day.

    This means price-sensitive metering (smart meters) and regulations to force utilities to provide time-sensitive retail pricing that mimicks their demand-sensitive wholesale costs. After we accomplish all we can using rational consumer choice, we can start talking about cap and trade. But, given what I have seen in the industry (gaming the regulations), I remain skeptical.

  17. Generalfeldmarschall Von Hindenburg

    This just all fits Obamas pattern. He’s got a formula down, just like Clinton. Surprised?

  18. klem

    ” a new bill introduced this month by Senators Bernie Sanders (Ind-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), which would levy a carbon fee and recycle 60% of the money to the public.”

    Wow, getting paid for doing nothing basically. A plan straight out of the soviet playbook.

    I wasn’t born yesterday, every so-called ‘revenue newutral’ tax, or any other tax plan always sounds great at first. Like recyclce 60% of the money to the public might sound great initially. But after the the first year or two, the 60% drops to 50%, then to 20% then a few years later it drops to nothing. Seen it before, too many times.

  19. different clue

    A serious response to excess CO2 loading into the atmosphere would require the reduction or abolition of using coal, gas, and oil as fuels. If “society” were to do that successfully, many coal, gas, and oil workers would lose their jobs, homes, futures, survival, etc. Would anyone be surprised if they fight their hardest to prevent and abort any CO2 emmissions reduction policy response?

    A possible way to get coal, gas, and oil workers to aquiesce in the reduction of their industries and the extermination of their jobs would be to offer them lifetime unemployment at a decent lost-pay-replacement level in return for having their jobs exterminated by public policy.
    If “the public” is not ready to think about that, then “the public” should not be surprised when the coal, gas, and oil workers are not ready to think about permitting public polices aimed at atmospheric carbon de-loading. But if “the public” WERE ready to think about unemployment-for-life for the targetted victims of engineered mass-jobicide, then those workers might be peeled away from the coal, gas, and oil bussiness OWNers who currently use those workers as human shields against any efforts to shrink the coal,gas, and oil industries down to survival-compatible levels.

    1. different clue

      Though in the medium-term meantime, urban masses of people living in areas without their own reserves of coal, gas, and oil could work on energy decarbonization policies in their own regions . . perhaps reviving the City-State concept in practice . . to withhold what money they can from the Merchants of Carbon. They (we) would have to realize the collateral damage such medium-term approaches would do to the Field Slaves of Carbon . . . the coal, gas, and oil workers slaving away on De Ol’ Carbon Plantations.

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