The Conservatives’ Fee and Dividend—The Advantage of a Focus on Emission Prices

February 17th, 2017 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Last week I wrote about a new fee and dividend climate policy put forward by a group of conservative policy makers (which you can download here or read about here and here). It’s a fee starting at $40 per ton of carbon dioxide that increases over time. All revenue would be returned on a per-capita basis to the American people with checks coming every three months.

The approach would provide serious climate protection, as much or more than anything anyone has tried so far. Yet past policy debates (like the Washington State initiative I wrote about here) suggest there will be criticisms of the approach that have at most a thin basis in reality. These criticisms will be important to avoid (or refute) if this new approach is to receive a fair look. So my next few posts will look at some of the most common misunderstandings likely to arise with this new approach. (more …)

Conservative Climate Policy

February 10th, 2017 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Earlier this week, a group of prominent Republican policymakers put forward a new climate proposal (you can read about it here, here, and here). The approach is very interesting because it would almost certainly sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is, in my view, among the most effective proposals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that has been offered.

The approach would start with a price of $40 per ton of carbon dioxide and that would increase over time. The revenue would be returned on a per-capita basis to the American people through a check that arrives every three months.

Putting a price on emissions makes sense. (more …)

Organization, Presence: Adaptive Management in the Trump Administration

February 3rd, 2017 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Organization, Presence: Adaptive Management in the Trump Administration

The transition from the Obama administration to the Trump administration has jolted the climate-science community, indeed, the science community in general. The open reporting supported by social media fuels and amplifies conflict and anxiety. Fears are propagated as facts.

We are at a moment where how we, the community of scientists, organize and respond will be critical to how the U.S. science enterprise appears in 4 years, 8 years, and 12 years. What I am going to do in this blog is to think about how to monitor and manage what, presently, feels like convulsions from one outrage to the next. This blog follows from my EOS editorial Take the Long View on Environmental Issues in the Age of Trump and my previous entry on ClimatePolicy.org, Fear and Loathing, Irony and Deception. This blog will be followed by further analysis as rhetoric and positioning are replaced by actions. (more …)

The Climate Uncertainty Shuffle

January 20th, 2017 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Quantifying and characterizing uncertainty is among the most important contributions that scientists make to the advancement of knowledge and understanding. Mischaracterizing uncertainty and using it to mislead public audiences is among the most common tricks of those who oppose climate policy.

Scientists work hard to understand sources of uncertainty and to accurately characterize that uncertainty. It is often the central goal of scientific research and, done well, leads to peer-reviewed articles—often highly valued ones—which are the foundation for researchers’ professional advancement.

One great example of rigorous uncertainty characterization is climate sensitivity, which many scientists have worked very hard to understand and quantify over multiple decades. (more …)

Fear and Loathing, Irony and Deception

January 14th, 2017 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Fear and Loathing, Irony and Deception

Several colleagues have told me that my last blog / editorial was a struggle to find optimism. After finishing that blog, I had no sense of optimism. (I expect an updated version of the editorial will be published in the February print edition of EOS.)

During the presidential transition, a number of statements hostile to climate science and climate scientists have risen and, perhaps, fallen. There was the request for names of climate scientists in the Department of Energy. There were the statements about NASA’s Earth observations being cut or eliminated – some sort of merger with NOAA, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. There is the ongoing anxiety, in some cases panic, about the collection, management, and provision of climate data by the U.S. government. There are the many concerns about the future of the Environmental Protection Agency. (more …)

Signals Through the Noise of the 2016 Election

January 7th, 2017 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

The outcome of any election hinges on many factors. So it was with Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. No single reason can fully explain the outcome. But one important factor in all elections is what stands out to voters above the messy static of messaging throughout the campaign season. This signal-to-noise issue also makes climate change risk management difficult despite our having straightforward and well understood response options.

Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton each had attributes that stood out strongly to voters. He was one of America’s most prominent businessmen. He was also an outspoken political outsider who emphasized toughness on border security and immigration. She was among the most experienced politicians in the country. She was also a woman—the first nominated by a major party—who emphasized inclusion across race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation.

These were strong attributes that often cut both ways. They resonated powerfully with each candidate’s supporters while also angering and motivating each candidate’s opponents. The net impact of these attributes is difficult to assess.

But Trump had two signal-to-noise advantages over Clinton. (more …)

Champions of Climate Change?

December 8th, 2016 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Last month a Washington State ballot initiative to help protect the climate system went down in defeat. The initiative was remarkable for being one of the most straightforward and promising approaches to climate change risk management ever tried in the United States at any level of government. That it failed is remarkable because some environmental groups contributed to the defeat.

(more …)

Take the Long View on Environmental Issues in the Age of Trump

December 2nd, 2016 <-- by Richard Rood -->

This is a stripped down version of an editorial that appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s EOS.org. Also note the formal citation at the end. Please read it there to give them the page counts. Thanks. r

I have a collection of documents on the presidential transition at this link.

Take the Long View on Environmental Issues in the Age of Trump

Donald Trump will be the next president. What will this mean for the environment?

Normally, we rely on a politician’s past behavior to frame the future. However, we do not have any record of environmental policy or practice on which to base an analysis of what to expect. Our best information relies on the appointments to his transition team and interpretation of statements he made in the latter part of his campaign.

Judging by these appointments and statements, I see a strong chance that President Obama’s climate policy will be rapidly disassembled. How do we face this head-on?

(more …)

New Attempts in Climate Change Communication

November 20th, 2016 <-- by Paul Higgins -->

Scientists have failed to communicate with the public about climate change risks in a way that resonates with people and that enables informed decision-making.

We emphasize what we don’t know and the ways that what we do know might not be entirely correct. Scientists are better at describing the potential limits of individual studies than we are at synthesizing multiple independent lines of evidence into highly robust conclusions. Often, we overlook the potential for awful outcomes or incorrectly characterize outcomes with unknown likelihood as having a “low probability” of occurring.

(more …)

Salience: On the Eve of the 2016 Election

November 6th, 2016 <-- by Richard Rood -->

Salience: On the Eve of the 2016 Election

Salience is a word that in the social sciences has come to mean relevance, or perhaps, goodness of fit of knowledge to a particular problem. I use salience in class when I talk about making climate-change data and knowledge usable in planning and decision making. In conversational English, salience refers to something being important or most notable.

On my list of to-do blogs in the run up to the election was a reflection and analysis of climate-change policy during the Obama administration, and then a discussion of the climate-change positions of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. However, the way the election has evolved, climate change and environmental policy do not appear to be very salient to voters. There is certainly no meaningful nuance of policy and positions from any analysis I might provide.

About a year ago, I was writing about some of our students at University of Michigan preparing to go to the climate negotiations at the Conference of the Parties in Paris. Even at that time, I commented about our behavior seeming to be a concerted effort to accelerate our decline into the Dark Age. That particular comment was motivated by the accumulated impacts of the anti-science movement. More broadly, however, there is a dangerous anti-knowledge movement in the U.S. Science-based knowledge has become conflated with political and cultural groups of people; it is tribal knowledge. Knowledge that is, therefore, untrusted outside of the tribe.

(more …)


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