Michael Hoexter: Should the US Federal Government Invest $4-$6 Trillion Per Year on Climate Protection? (Part 2 of 2)

By Michael Hoexter, a policy analyst and marketing consultant on green issues, climate change, clean and renewable energy, and energy efficiency. Originally published at New Economic Perspectives.

Part I | Part II

 4. “We shouldn’t invest $4 to $6 Trillion per year more in federal dollars to save humanity because we already have carbon pricing instruments that are doing the job and are still under attack from opponents of climate action. We should stand by, applaud, and not “rock the boat” because serious climate policy makers are only talking about carbon pricing (cap and trade or carbon taxation) and not your full-scale mobilization proposal with its high price tag and dirigiste, mission-driven role for government.”

There are several assumptions in this objection that need to be addressed separately for a completely open and rational discussion to take place:

  1. Are carbon pricing instruments alone effective in reducing emissions at all?
  2. Are they effective ENOUGH given the ultimate purpose of stabilizing the climate?
  3. Is it politically wise to “shut up about” an alternative even though it doesn’t support your potential allies? Are you supporting your mutual enemies, the fossil fuel industries and climate deniers, by offering a “more radical” but potentially actually effective alternative that is critical of mainstream climate action advocates?

I will try to address each of these briefly here:

  1. Carbon pricing instruments have had mixed record of effectiveness with some leading to or at least associated with a plateauing of emissions, though causality is hard to prove.
    1. The cap and trade instrument, more popular with policymakers besotted with the idea of “markets”, which auctions off and allows trading in permits to pollute rather than sets an across-the-board price, creates a complex bureaucracy around that instrument that tends to serve the purposes of carbon traders rather than the paramount overall purpose of cutting emissions rapidly.  Cap and trade has evolved into a way for large polluting entities to be both encumbered by bureaucracy yet also delay investments in cutting emissions.  At best it can be viewed as a holding pattern that dangerously is mistaken as effective climate policy by creating a class of stakeholders that believe they are doing “the right thing” when they are only serving too modest goals if any effective goals at all.  The adoption of cap and trade policies tends to lead to political leaders and pundits taking their eye off the ultimate goal of cutting emissions in the real physical world.
    2. Carbon taxes have been tried with some clearer results, including most recently in British Columbia. However the reductions from these measures have all been modest as they have also been imposed timidly, with a low carbon price.  No public investment has been foreseen as a result of this carbon taxation that is “sold” to the public and powerful stakeholders as revenue neutral, i.e. a substitute for other taxes, as has happened in British Columbia.  Viewed within the carbon pricing framework, the government as creator of real resources by investment is conceived as a bystander in the effort to reduce emissions and not a leader of the effort.
    3. At higher tax levels we would see definitely some lowered emissions but always on the assumption that an incremental path is how one would achieve the “end goal” of climate policy
  2. As implied above, both carbon pricing instruments unrealistically view an incremental path to an ultimate goal that is often described as 80% of current or 1990 emissions by the year 2050. This goal is unrealistic from the point of view of rapidly reducing emissions to net zero and mitigating human impacts on the climate system.  We need to reach net-zero emissions (100% reduction) and much more quickly than by 2050 to have a shot at stabilizing the climate.  There is no point in undertaking a climate policy that does not shoot for very rapid reductions and for a net-zero outcome.  A gradualistic approach (targeting at first lower emissions) does not get us rapidly to that goal and creates stakeholders in a lower but not net-zero carbon economy and infrastructure.
  3. Finally there is the political question of whether, for the sake of solidarity or strategic alliance, one should hold one’s tongue and back the dominant view among those who claim they are concerned or about to act to prevent climate catastrophe.
    1. I think that given the above, that it would be wrong to hold my tongue if I am of the belief and can back that belief up, that what is being proposed as climate action is grossly inadequate and more of a political “holding pattern” or “fig leaf”. A decisive switch is the only way forward given the time constraints as well as the physical, social, and technological systems involved.  The only argument that speaks against truth-telling and a decisive switch is based on credulous belief within a political consensus that has been built up around demonstrably false ideas about the “normal” economy as well as an economy that spurs climate action.
    2. While some may assume the contrary, this is not a radical pose or a holier-than-thou stance; it is simply realism in the broadest sense of the word versus hapless and now very dangerous idealism. Believe me, I would personally much prefer to “go with the political flow” but I feel compelled to speak out about what I believe to be true at some risk to me and with annoying consequences in terms of a missing public dialogue about real options.
    3. Furthermore, my stance and the US Climate Platform cannot be interpreted as support for the fossil fuel industries as it spells out their demise as a line of business more explicitly than advocates of carbon-pricing-only or divestment. The US Climate Platform calls for the stepwise, orderly liquidation of the fossil fuel industries, so it would be hard to consider this in any way a love-letter to them and is instead, if it is adopted, a more significant threat than carbon-pricing or divestment alone.


5. “We shouldn’t invest $4 to $6 Trillion per year more in public funds to save humanity because governments spend money inefficiently as compared to the private sector.”

One of the shibboleths of our age is that government is always and only inefficient and ineffective as compared to the private sector or “markets”.  This has been a view that has been widely propagated and is held by the political “center” and moderate Left as well as, of course, the right wing.  Uncritical market worship is one of the cornerstones of the erroneous and propagandistic neo-liberal governing ideology.

Instead of the categorical smear of government’s efficiency propagated by neo-liberalism, one should say instead: “it depends”.  It depends on the government institutions involved, their internal accounting and oversight mechanisms, the domain in which government is spending money, and the historical demands upon society as a whole at any given period of time.

In many areas (and I will address this below as well) governments have been MUCH more efficient than the private sector in the use of funds and therefore the control of inflation of costs.  In health care, every developed country spends less than the United States per capita because of either government monopoly management of health care or strict government regulation of non-profit entities that administer insurance programs. The belief that somehow private health insurers are an integral part of the US healthcare system has meant supporting a healthcare system that is bloated and inefficient.  Similarly in those domains where very large and expensive infrastructure is required to deliver basic services, government entities like publicly owned electric utilities generally deliver those services more cheaply.

Markets work better in those sectors of the economy where individualized personal service and varieties of taste are driving factors in the successful delivery of goods and services.  Restaurants are examples of areas where markets work very well.  Markets work less well in the area of supplying food for human need and this is where we often find the almost universal practice of subsidizing farming because basic food supply is a “need” and not, as with the choice of restaurant meals, a “want”.

If the platform I am proposing were to be realized, the government would be most often operating or heavily regulating and restructuring sectors of the economy where it is MORE LIKELY that it could do so efficiently and without placing undue strain on the resources of the private sector, in particular households and businesses delivering real goods and services.  Expensive infrastructure projects like train systems and electrical transmission networks are areas where the government could deliver services effectively and efficiently as compared to the private sector.

However there should be oversight and continuous monitoring of the government’s ability to serve the public and the purpose of achieving net zero carbon emissions.   With the increased power of the government should come the strengthening or founding of watchdog agencies that look out for abuses and inefficiencies.  Best however, would be if an ethic of service were to be reinforced and built into the culture of governing as well as in discussions of the process of governing and monitoring government more generally.  Starting with the assumption of self-dealing as an expectation is the current default assumption that will only create more self-dealing and possible corruption.  The point of departure should be the expectation of service to the public in combination with enlightened self-interest, enabled by adequate compensation, benefits, and appropriate government work rules.  The possibility of self-dealing should be ALSO allowed for in institutional arrangements and funding, monitored, investigated, and, if need be, prosecuted.

6. “The climate mobilization entailed by this massive program of government investment will change society a great deal and my family and I are quite comfortable as we are and are wary of change. I enjoy driving my car as much as I like and taking as many trips by plane as we can afford or make sense to us. We need a large SUV to get my whole family into.  We know small business people who depend on driving almost a thousand miles a week for deliveries or business meetings. Therefore we shouldn’t undertake this program even though it appears the climate is changing for the worse and we may have a role in it”

The above objection is one that few people would articulate explicitly yet it can be assumed that some act as if these are their values and beliefs.  It is a composite of a number of possible personal and small business objections to the climate mobilization. Present satisfactions and sources of income loom for most people larger than large scale social and environmental challenges.  Risks to those satisfactions and income are for those who focus on the everyday are to be avoided.  Those satisfactions and lines of work depend now, for the most part, on copious use of fossil fuels.  A commitment to these satisfactions can often coexist in the same person with an understanding that fossil fuels cause dangerous or catastrophic climate change.

The last sentence above describes very common middle-of-the-road and left-wing forms of climate denial.  A mental partition is maintained between “right-thinking” understanding that we are changing the climate and continuing a lifestyle and political life as if that climate change is something that doesn’t really concern us right now and decisive action can be postponed.  This partition enables these day-to-day climate deniers to enjoy both the satisfaction of being “right” about climate change in the abstract while continuing to live their lifestyle as they would without awareness of the threat of climate catastrophe looming.

The left-wing version of climate denial refocuses political awareness on either peripheral issues related to climate change or to the traditional concerns of either the Left or environmental movements, relabeling those “climate” activism.  For instance, an example of the latter that is very common are various anti-fossil fuel campaigns that focus on the particular local damages associated with fossil fuel extraction, refining or transport.  This activism is often now couched in terms of “climate justice”, where the notion of injustice and corporate malfeasance are direct extensions of traditional Left politics.  In this framework, there is no near-universal problem of fossil fuel dependence, only the familiar victimization of outgroups or less powerful groups by powerful corporations or elites.

Closely related to left wing concerns about climate “justice”, where climate concern is subordinated to a demand for social equality in the contemporary generation, are middle-of-the-road “green” or environmentalist forms of climate denial, where the focus remains on the local damages to local and regional environments rather than the global problem of a changing climate system due to dependence on fossil fuel.  That the “green” lifestyle of nature appreciation is often critically dependent upon fossil fuel use to “escape” civilization is often not publicly acknowledged by those who continue to focus only on local pollution and local, visible environmental disruptions.

Ultimately to accept that we must act as a society to change our energy system in the very near term means also accepting risks to current satisfactions and ways of life.  To countenance a climate mobilization, large sectors of the population that are now in various forms of climate denial will need to realize that some things must change pretty rapidly and that they are willing to make adjustments or even spearhead change in their own areas of interest or expertise.

7. “I criticize society and government ‘from the outside’. I cannot take up an advocacy position that commits to so many defined projects and changes in direction. It will ruin my stance as an independent critic.  I want to remain devoid of commitments that would endanger my reputation for independence and weigh me down.”

Again, another inferred but likely position of some, especially in the Internet age where many people, including this writer, can make their voice heard to large numbers of other people.  The US Climate Platform, that is in its current stages provisional, would demand a commitment of to a complex and involving project that is an attempt at a solution to a devastating problem, not simply pointing out and lamenting that problem.

Those who are enamored of the stance of a critic will definitely shy away from pushing for positions that open themselves to criticism.  Critics tend to want to “see” but not “be seen” in terms of the content of their own positive commitments.

My response to this (inferred) objection is that there is a physical world that makes one’s critical stance possible in the first place.  The activities which support intellectual activity are all “prior to” or fundamental to criticism, an intellectual activity.  If we are in the process of destroying the ability for us and those in the future to be critics, preserving one’s own critical stance at the expense of action, could be an expression of narcissism and ingrained habit.

8. “We shouldn’t save civilization.

  1. We should go back to a pre-civilized way of life.
  2. Or at least we should thoroughly overturn the current civilization because it is based on capitalism, racism, colonialism, patriarchy, ecocidal tendencies and the oppression of gay and transgender people.
  3. Or we humans are all already fundamentally asocial and civilization is a thin coating on our basically savage human nature.”

In this objection I compress the views of three distinct groups into a single objection:  what they share is a sense that it is not worth it to preserve almost anything of what we currently have in this civilization.  The first group are those that might be called explicitly or implicitly neoprimitivist.  The second group are those that claim to be so disgusted with features of our current society that they would rather destroy it rather than rescue it, and claim to advocate or sympathize with social and cultural revolutionary ideas.  The third group are a mostly reactionary group that see society as a “jungle” where they are entitled or driven to carve out what they want without regard for the state of society as a whole.

  1. Neoprimitivists think of themselves often as radical environmentalists who see society as so destructive of the natural world, a world to which they claim to be close, that it should be destroyed or broken up into small quasi-tribal units. Neoprimitivists tend to promote an idealized view of tribal life and of nature itself, even though, often they live lives that are distinctly modern.  If they touch on the upcoming climate catastrophe they either think they have the right programmatic solution or they think that by dint of the destruction caused by climate upheavals that people will spontaneously adopt a tribal/primitivist lifestyle.  Neoprimitivists claim not to “care” about civilization, so would not go to extraordinary lengths to save it.
  2. Social and cultural revolutionaries or those who claim sympathy with the idea of such revolutions think that the basis of our current society is fundamentally flawed, usually attributing the flaw to some combination of capitalism, the institution of government itself, racism, neo-colonialism, patriarchy or various sexual oppressions and exclusions. Therefore to attempt to salvage parts of it or rescue civilization, to these groups, is a reactionary or even deadly act; the society we live in is supposedly so toxic that the social structure in its entirety must be somehow gotten rid of first before we address climate change (or they believe somehow getting rid of the society will spontaneously address humanity’s climate impacts).  People who espouse these views claim not to be against the idea of civilization but want, it appears, only an, in their view, perfected civilization to survive or emerge.  They evince, it might appear to many, an extreme sensitivity to injustice and slight and a distaste for social hierarchies and compromises with social reality, a distaste which some might call naïve or otherworldly.  The technical details of cutting emissions seem to be uninteresting to these people or they do not have the patience to absorb those details.  In their view, the Revolution or similar cataclysmic social event will make attention to such details redundant as it will solve all social and environmental issues.  This is a contemporary secular version of millenarianism, the belief that a Millenium or millennial event will invert or destroy the mundane world, ushering in a new era of justice.
  3. In the final group are mostly right-wing reactionaries, who are often mislabeled as “conservatives” by themselves and by their supposed liberal opponents or liberal commentators. Reactionaries in the US tend to evince a scorn for civilization or at least the work of maintaining a civilized society, seeing in the dependence on (different) others a personal weakness or danger that they seek to guard against or to symbolically destroy.  Many on the American right-wing fantasize that they already live in a Hobbesian State of Nature, where aggression and subversion of social rules is the norm rather than the exception.  Civilization is considered to be an “effeminate” concept within this group.  However, American reactionaries think that their individual merits, drawn heavily from the stereotypical masculine, which they imagine to be not the product of culture or civilization but an individualized gift from Nature, justify a hierarchical distribution of wealth or advantages.  The, to reactionaries, thin veil of civilization is something to be used and exploited but does not, in their view, merit great effort in maintaining.  Therefore such an effort as proposed in the US Climate Platform would be something that many on the right-wing would instinctively fight against because the entire premise contradicts their idea that society is a veil over a state of Nature, as above.

As the reader might guess, my position is at variance with all three of these rather nihilistic tendencies.  I think both that civilization is worth saving and that to either maintain or improve civilization requires work, money and demand creation by governments.  It requires the building of institutions or the utilization of existing institutions for different ends.  All of these groups, neoprimitivist, social/cultural revolutionary, or reactionary, believe that institutions are essentially corrupt or useful insofar as they are a source of raw material to be expropriated for their individual or small-group ends.  The US Climate Platform recognizes that laws and institutions are extremely important and must be altered or thoroughly transformed to meet the enormous challenge ahead.


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  1. Romancing the Loan

    How about: It is just plain impossible that we can actually reduce carbon emissions to zero or near zero and maintain an industrial civilization even remotely like the one we have today. Our supply chains and all our infrastructure are completely dependent on fossil fuels and so-called ‘renewables’ wouldn’t even begin to fill the giant gaping hole even if we bankrupted all our governments trying to change over as fast as possible. Fortunately (I guess) the terrible effects of continuing climate change and the increasing costs of fossil fuel extraction are going to wipe out said industrial civilization anyway long before we manage to cook the earth to a cinder. Get ready to resume a low-tech lifestyle whether you like it or not, and maybe don’t buy waterfront property.

    1. Synoia

      Absolutely correct, except for:

      Fortunately (I guess) the terrible effects of continuing climate change and the increasing costs of fossil fuel extraction are going to wipe out said industrial civilization anyway

      6.5 Billion will die, because of the collapse of supply chains. The remainder may enjoy a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

      Which speaks volumes about those who will survive. Best if one is already a hunter-gatherer. Some may remain in Africa, and New Guinea.

      1. jrs

        Well if we’re going to have 6.5 billion dead anyway (how wonderful – I do think we have a moral responsibility to resist this), I hope it is hunter-gathers in Africa and so on that survive. And not the 1%, and not the west and western culture (the 1% on a world basis). It is it’s colossal failure afterall … and it has dominated and eradicated all other cultures until now. I do hope if it happened that the last were first.

      2. Romancing the Loan

        The 1700s didn’t have fossil fuels and we weren’t hunter gatherers. We can have a perfectly nice civilization (even healthy global trade – hello aluminum-hulled sailing ships!) using much less energy. It just won’t resemble what we have now. I think we’ll get there after a couple hundred years of refusing to adapt and then being forced to by circumstance.

        Where do you get the 6.5B figure from? It seems to assume that supply chains will collapse all at once, a baffling and totally incorrect assumption. Global population will go down from where it is now, sure (our own live birth rate and public health in the US is already suffering) but what that looks like in practice and from an individual perspective is a gentle decline – fewer births, earlier deaths from varying causes including diseases, wars, etc.

        In other words if you’re expecting a vengeful Gaia to wipe out everyone other than the saintly hunter-gatherers, prepare for disappointment. I sense some #3 from the article in your comment – and he’s right, that’s silly.

        1. jgordon

          There will be long periods of slow decline, punctuated by dramatic drops in various locals. For example, I’d say that in the first six months to a year or so of fossil fuels becoming widely unavailable (something that could happen within a matter of a few days) the population will be dramatically reduced.

          Anyway I think you are right over all. The earth could easily support a population of 20 billion people, if we properly managed and cared for it. Absent a horrific crisis there doesn’t seem to be much will for change. So, let’s just have the crisis.

  2. JTMcPhee

    Want to see what skills and level of physical condition and tolerance for “less of everything” might be what it takes to “survive” with a low-tech (actually highly-skilled, technically very refined) lifestyle? A little video tour through the construction of a tile-roofed, centrally heated home in the woods:

    “Building a Tiled-Roof Hut,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P73REgj-3UE Memorize this — no WiFi and youtube in that coming future to help you look up what you need to know…

      1. JTMcPhee

        if you can look at the video, you’ll see how a young, fit male with all his joints working and some pretty deep understanding of primitive technologies like kilns and what kinds of soils to use for what kinds of muds, can over what appears to be weeks of work (no indication of when he forages for food or what his water supply is) put up a mud hut with fired-clay tile roof and a ducting system for heating the interior via a fire that requires a constant supply of combustible kindling and twigs.

        The tiles are made by collecting the right kind of soil, making mud of the right consistency out of it, knowing how to whip up forming frames from withes, standing the slabs with neatly formed lugs on their bottoms to dry for a while, then building and firing up a kiln also fueled with wood, knowing how hot and how long to get the tiles and firing 6 or 10 at a time, then adding stretchers across the basic peak-roofed hut frame’s end rafters, and hanging the tiles via the lugs, a few at a time. And then making a load of mud blocks to build the walls. No windows, a simple door, no bedding seen, not even clear that the tiles would shed rain and snow. but an example of what humanity might be reduced to, maybe WILL be reduced to if you’re as pessimistic as I am, to “survive…”

        I’m guessing a fella who knows how to make a Neolithic stone axe from scratch also knows how to make the kinds of blades useful for killing fellow humans, and what an atlatl is, and short and long bows, and different kinds of arrow points, and eventually how to build a nuclear weapon from three rocks and some gunpowder, and around we go again…

        1. Nick

          Forget gathering moss in the forest, we’ll have industrial sized 3d printers fabricating our buildings in a few short years.

      2. Kurt Sperry

        As tile roofs predate widespread fossil fuel exploitation by centuries if not longer, it’s safe to assume they can be made minus FF inputs. In fact *every* technology preceding the coal era and many since can be obviously done minus any FF inputs. The primeval hunter-gatherer scenario being the only option for a post FF world ignores the copious and advanced technologies developed by every culture prior to the coal era. And don’t forget the hypothesized apocalyptic future will be one in which there’s still lots of coal easily available to burn (as well as charcoal, which is a remarkably energy dense fuel that is nearly carbon neutral and can be used to make cast iron) if it’s a matter of survival. The problem of course is population, a pre FF society only works sustainably if there are a lot fewer people. Climate change and lack of clean water and the ensuing stresses will perhaps bring us to that point sooner rather than later.

        1. craazyboy

          Actually, I think coal fired kilns go all the way back to the Bronze Age. But I would worry about how to make a nail long before I’d worry about tile. Tile and adobe are easy.

          Not to say the War Lords will let us have any coal.

          1. subgenius

            …yeah, but coal didn’t used to come from mountaintop removal, massive open pits, or deep seams.. All of which become problematic in any scenario where current energy and material supplies become diminished…

            1. Kurt Sperry

              I was looking at a construction site near my house where a development was being built and the bulldozing had uncovered a seam of coal. It might not be the best coal, I don’t know, but I could dig a few tons out at ground level with naught but a shovel over a few weeks I’d bet. It was only a few feet below the surface.

  3. NOTaREALmerican

    I think spending 4-6 T bucks will work as long as the current top 10% get most of the loot. Otherwise, not sure what the point of proposing new spending would be.

  4. docg

    Based on the scientific reports I’ve been reading: NO, there is no evidence that droughts have increased along with CO2 emissions. NO, there is no evidence that the incidence or severity of hurricanes or tornadoes has increased either. NO, there is no evidence that the ocean depths have gotten progressively hotter. NO, there is no evidence that the glacial melt in the West Antarctic is due to climate change (the most recent research points to volcanic activity). NO, there is no evidence of a clear and consistent correlation between increased temperatures and CO2 emissions over the long term (i.e., during the course of the 20th century). YES, we still have good reason to believe there’s been a hiatus in global warming during the 21st century, despite the many and varied attempts over the years to exorcise that demon.

    As for sea level rise, that’s going to happen even if we cease all CO2 emissions tomorrow. So Mr. Hoexter, you can save your trillions for a new condo in Brooklyn — it’ll probably cost that much before long. OR we can invest our trillions in doing things that would actually benefit mankind, such as feeding starving children or providing the indigent with health care.

    1. Synoia

      Based on the scientific reports I’ve been reading

      Links please. Otherwise your comment is a set of meaningless assertions.

      Also drought on the West coast of N America, 1,000 year rainfall in South Carolina. to name two.

      OR we can invest our trillions in doing things that would actually benefit mankind, such as feeding starving children – we agree.

      But we have to turn off out Civilization as a heat engine.

      1. bdy

        Starving children might be fed by giving their parents a job building a levee, tending a forest of structural bamboo, or installing wind turbines and evaporative coolers.

      2. Lisa

        Sad viewpoint of what human beings are facing. Change takes courage. I can look at my garden after 40 years of change and know we are getting hotter. Adjusting our expectations takes a willingness to accept reality and act on it. As the seas change temperature, so does the world. Mother Nature is not concerned with human activity but we are concerned for the survival of our species.

        1. different clue

          Exactly. We don’t have to “save” the planet. The planet will save itself, thank you very much. What we want to save is our own future and the kind of existence to which we would like to stay accustomed. As to Mother Nature . . . she got along fine before she met us, she’ll get along fine when we’re gone. If it comes to that.

    2. different clue

      What explains the glacial melt all over everywhere else where there isn’t any sub-glacial volcanic activity?

      1. andyb

        Over the centuries, glaciers have receded and expanded and will continue to do so without any obvious explanation. Same with the Arctic and Antarctic ice mass. In spite of Al Gore’s forecast, the Arctic ice mass has expanded and to the considerable consternation of global warming researchers who were recently trapped in the ice and had to be rescued by ice breakers.

        1. different clue

          Over the past few decades the glaciers have one-way persistently receded more than they have done for the last few thousand years. The higher-than-world-average warmup in the Arctic and subArctic was predicted before it happened by the warmist theorists. The fact that it is preferentially warming as predicted by the theory impresses me with the predictive value of the theory.

          I would like to know if the last year-or-so regrowth of the Arctic icefields has made back all the Arctic ice that has disappeared over the last 20 years or so. Also, I would like to know what was the cubic volume of ice that has disappeared, and what is the cubic volume of the recent ice that has blocked icebreakers just lately, and be able to compare the two volumes. That would tell us how much refreezing there has really been lately, in terms of net de-warming.

  5. Socal Rhino

    This is in line, I think, to the positions taken by the Arch Druid. Use the tools associated with fossil fuels to accomplish the transition to their sharply reduced use. Do not wish for the end of industrialization or of culture because the aftermath of transitions tend to be nasty for all. Develop skills and crafts now that will prove useful later and pass such knowledge down to younger folks to preserve.

  6. TomDority

    The tax system is set up to favor financialization and disfavors actual investment in productive work, advacement, classical wealth creation.
    6 trillion in research, infrastructure, technology to insure habitable to of our only home is a good deal but, the tax structure need change to make economic rent seeking far less profitable and turn those wasted and misdirected gains toward the habitability of this planet. The current financial system is geared toward reward for unearned income (it’s named unearned for a reason). 6 trillion could be easily gotten for public purpose and would reward real wealth creation, labor, research, advancement etc instead of the lazy, selfish unearned incomes made thru financial BS that the plutocrates, oligarchs tout as the only way to go. Classical economics and taxation to make rent seeking less inviting is the way to go rather than the seldom and idiocy of Chicago school warfare economics we have today. Shit, we spent how many trillions for a war and how many trillions to support the absolutely criminal financial sector which, through it’s privatization of the commons is vectoring us and our essential cohabitants toward extinction. Public spending on public works has a return on investment far beyond the lunatic money gains and may be the only thing to prevent our children from being consigned to oblivian. Stop the bloviating about how we can’t do anything and Tina and resource scarcity (complete drose) and hand wringing about how we can’t. It’s time to act like how we regard ourselves instead of pretending that we are NOT acting like a bunch of idiot chimps throwing our feces at anything that moves.

  7. griffen

    Regarding action on climate change, I’ve a question to pose. How did the ethanol plan work out, when we’d all be driving E-85 vehicles off the abundance of corn-based ethanol? I may be off on the preciseness of when it passed, but that was the mid-aughts when 43 was still in office.

    It occurs to me that the Congress plan, once initiated, resulted in agriculture choosing to grow corn over/above other cash crops because they received a veritable certainty that the additional corn crop would be easily sold. Some market distortion did occur, primarily due to how the gubmint plan encouraged one crop for that plan.

    Since after all, we are discussing the US govt and their plans of action.

    1. jrs

      The ethanol plan was never a serious plan and I think that was evident from day 1 when W proposed it. It was always a boondoggle, it was never meant to be a serious plan to address fossil fuel dependence or anything else. There is no analogy between it and any serious climate plan.

      Of course you might just be making the point that our government is corrupt. Yes well … it still doesn’t mean we don’t need a serious plan to deal with climate change.

      1. griffen

        The analogy might be a slim one, but the impact of gubmint spending, and in this instance largely directed / aimed at a certain industry.

        These commentaries suggesting that government can direct several trillion in additional spending, and be low-impact / non-inflationary to varying US sectors of industry while also being effective and efficient with said trillions is, well, for me, a stretch.

      2. craazyboy

        GWB liked it because it takes an equal amount of oil energy to make… and you can get the corn lobby + Iowa to go along. nuff said.

    2. Gaianne

      It takes roughly a barrel of oil to grow and process the corn to make a barrel’s-worth of ethanol. No gain, right?

      Ah! But the beauty of it is that you have replaced one barrel of oil production on your books with two barrels–on your books.

      In a financialized economy the only barrels of oil that matter are the ones on your books. They are collateral for your next round of borrowing.

      Real barrels of oil are for losers.


  8. susan the other

    Since the late 70s or early 80s the oil majors have known about global warming caused by fossil fuels. So they and government have been remiss to continue with promoting the lifestyle of personal automobiles (the worst offender) and allowing all sorts of lies to go unchallenged (aka VW). For what? For capitalism and the idiotic free world, of course. So nobody believes in that stuff anymore, and how nice, so politically it should be possible to make the transition away from cars and fossil fuels now – because it really is now or never. Not to do so is just so damn dumb it is incredible that anyone objects.

    1. Romancing the Loan

      I suspect any remaining honest politicians think that telling a bunch of people who are already steadily getting poorer that they’re going to have to sacrifice more, much more, is a route straight to electoral defeat or a speedy guillotining. Can’t say they’re wrong.

    2. Ignacio

      “Not to do so is just so damn dumb it is incredible that anyone objects.”

      If we consider that humans are the most intelligent creatures in the world we must also assume that, as a consequence, we are also the dumbest. The question is how to redirect intelligence to climate protection and stupidity to…TV series?

  9. tz

    The late ’70s we knew we would be in the middle of an ice age about now. There is a big controversy about the science, but I won’t address that here because alarmists are religious true believer zealots and even if the sun dimmed and the average temperature dropped 3 deg C next year causing crop failures, blizzards, ice storms, and other problems, they would still be talking about “global warming”. Somehow the Sun God “Ra” will be punishing us by freezing weather for using carbon?

    Apropos of the “comfortable SUV”

    All those who are complaining about climate change are usually the worst examples. Al Gore has a huge mansion and jets everywhere. (How about those at this blog). Energy austerity is still austerity, and perhaps a more severe version, “conservation for thee but not for me”. Bill Nye saw no irony in taking Obama’s Air Force One to go somewhere to talk about “climate change”. How did the Pope get around when he was here? Or the thousands of private jets that flew into Davos to talk about “climate change”. What is a good term for a Climate “Bankster”?

    And what no one has ever asked to my knowledge “What is the carbon footprint of our MILITARY?” All those jets, tanks, APCs, and just getting from here to there – they don’t even have EGR or catalytic converters. If our military outputs more pollution than the civilian sector, why should the civilians change first? There’s also the depleted uranium, radioactive waste, toxic waste, general environmental destruction, but that doesn’t seem to bother the left, they don’t want to reduce the military, only businesses and individuals

    1. jrs

      Oh shrug Al Gore, you really want us to be distracted by your A.D.D. distraction. Who here cares what Al Gore does, for one thing while I may not promote the lifestyle, one person’s lifestyle by itself is irrelevant to GLOBAL climate change, it’s the aggregate that matters. Second if we are all fossil fuel users in the west which I’m afraid is the case (even the hardest survivalist may have been born in an ordinary middle class family) and there are none so pure they could not be branded as “hypocrites” for caring about the world then … care about the world and embrace the hypocrisy!!! I’m a hypocrite, so what? You really want to turn a serious discussion of climate issues into some gossipy back fence game by bored neighbors of who is the most hypocritical.

      I’ve heard plenty of leftists complain about the carbon impact of the military, though it isn’t always front and center.

    2. different clue

      I remember the late ’70s. And I remember the “be in the middle of an ice age by now” prediction. Actually, it wasn’t an “ice age” prediction. It was a frosty-chill cooldown interval prediction. The MSM dramatized up to “ice age”.

      A University of Wisconsin professor named Reid Bryson, an early organizer of the discipline to be known as climatology, made some of these very plausible-at-the-time predictions. Here is an interview he gave to Mother Earth News Magazine at that time.

      I also read elsewhere later a little article about some quarternary paleoecologists predicting a coming cooldown. They based it on reading the annual pollen-layer buildup records going back several thousand years in certain bogs. The pollen in each layer would tell you what plants were around to cast that pollen. And one assumed ( safely in my opinion) that those plants had the same climatic requirements for life that they have today. So evidence of changing plant-mixtures would be evidence of changing local climate regimes around the bogs. So they said . . . if the natural cycles run into the near future exactly as they ran in the past up to this point, climate should cycle back down to a cooler regime in-around the temperate zone punctuated by all these far-apart-scattered bogs.

      It all seemed reasonable to me at the time and it seems reasonable to me today. But it didn’t happen.
      It is offered as evidence by mmgw deniers of how worthless all the climate science is. They were so wrong then, why would they be any righter now? But were the frosty chill age predictions wrong? Or were they overtaken by events? I believe they were “right” at the time, and would have occurred as predicted if the natural cooling cycle had not been cancelled by man-made heat-trapping.

      tz’s point about Gore and all the other Carbon BigFooters talking de-warming is better taken than many wish to face. The Archdruid has said the same thing in a couple of his articles without naming names. People talking up the need for global dewarming will have to be ready for the question: “oh yeah? What’s in YOUR footprint?” In my own life, I have noticed that my relatively smallerfoot carbon emissions lifestyling has gotten me a respectful hearing among carbon skeptics. Whether any minds have decided to change is unknown to me, but the hearing has been respectful. The reason for being a “credible witness” in one’s own behavior is so that one has the credibility to be heard-out when advocating the society-wide changes which will be needed to address de-warming when the sum total of individual changes are not enough. That said, if Nye’s carbon-emmissions have led to Nye’s spreading information around that allowed the people it reached to dis-emit more overall carbon than what Nye emmitted by traveling on Air Force One, then Nye’s own carbon emmissions have been an investment in carbon dis-emission. And since Air Force One was going to fly anyway, having Nye on it made its flight a little more passenger-fuel-miles efficient than it would have been without Nye on it. But still, the larger point is well taken.

      No one has ever asked about the Military carbon footprint? I somehow suspect someone has. Maybe someone could find it and bring it here. I also suspect that the sum total of civilian emissions is bigger than the sum total military emissions. But it would be nice to see the figures to prove that right or wrong.

      About all the other things tz accuses the left of not caring about, I have heard the left caring about all those things. So that would appear to be a counterfactual statement on tz’s part.

  10. Paul Tioxon


    A very small amount of square miles of solar panels can replace all fossil fueled power and nukes.

    That’s because the sun provides 1366 watts per square meter in a day. More energy comes from the sun to our planet in 1 hour, than humanity uses in a year!

    This will stop millions from dying right now, every year and millions more suffering from heart and lung diseases. That will reduce health care costs. We don’t have to wait for a future holocaust, we are all suffering from it right now. The climate changing consequences will add incremental and eventually cascading crisis after crisis, which the current global pollution of air and water are just the opening chapters.


    “The Great London Smog of 1952, in which some 4,000 died, that helped, eventually, to produce our clean air acts, was one of many such incidents, albeit particularly severe. Its most deadly component was sulphur pollution from coal burning, which is what the Westminster government’s secret lobbying is now seeking to deregulate.”


  11. washunate

    Why does it cost $4 – $6 trillion a year? That seems to be the unanswered question. The author proposes paying JG workers $15 an hour. That’s something on the order of 100 million full time workers.

    And why not fund it by taxing the rich? Inequality is one of the fundamental drivers of environmental destruction. The author is artificially linking climate change action with the belief that deficit spending is inherently good.

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