Archive for the 'Climate Policy Analysis' Category

A Fee and Dividend but Without the Dividend—How Good Ideas Turn Less Good

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The fee and dividend put forward by conservative thought leaders recently would cause a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and provide us with a more stable climate system. It would also help most low-income families and take the sting out of any increase in energy and transportation prices, if they happen. We know all of that from basic economics and from decades of intensive research on the climate system (and also my posts here and here).

One of the key obstacles the idea will face is that an emission fee without the dividend would provide a new revenue stream. That revenue stream is highly alluring to those who want to create new federal programs, particularly if they can’t win a more direct argument to obtain the federal funding they need to finance those programs. (more…)

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

Friday, February 17th, 2017

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

Friday, February 10th, 2017

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…)

Signals Through the Noise of the 2016 Election

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

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…)

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

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

This is a stripped down version of an editorial that appeared on the American Geophysical Union’s 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?


Salience: On the Eve of the 2016 Election

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

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.


If Lady Chatterley’s Lover, then …

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

If Lady Chatterley’s Lover, then … :

The first paragraph of Sheila Jasanoff’s book, The Fifth Branch, starts

“Scientific advisory committees occupy a curiously sheltered position in the landscape of American regulatory politics. In an era of bitter ideological confrontations, their role in policymaking has gone largely unobserved and unchallenged. …” (1990, The Fifth Branch, Chapter 1, Rationalizing Politics; 2009 Interview with Professor Jasanoff)

The first chapter of The Fifth Branch is something that I think that all managers of science in the U.S. Agencies should read. The book, quickly and compellingly, describes the role of scientists in the U.S. political environment. There are references to and case studies of many instances where scientific investigation is motivating and informing policy. There are examples from environmental science, from waste management, and from approval and management of prescription drugs. The book makes it clear that if scientific investigation suggests a need to change, to regulate, or to restrict a certain practice or behavior, then there is a response to oppose that change, that regulation, or that restriction. The depth and vigor of the opposition depends on the wealth and power of those who perceive themselves as impacted; there is often the funding or the advocacy of “opposition science.”


How to Prevent Climate Change Summit from Failure

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

In December 2009, the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change will meet in Copenhagen. Their aim will be to conclude an agreement that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which terminates in 2012. Given the abysmal failure of Kyoto one may be permitted to ask, Will Copenhagen succeed any better? The answer depends on expectations of what can be achieved in this short amount of time; the answer depends on how “success” is defined.

It is easier to define failure. Most climate watchers would define failure to mean lack of an agreement by states to “commit” to limiting their emissions dramatically. I would define failure to mean repeating the mistakes made in Kyoto in 1997. The worst outcome would be for the United States to “commit” to meet quantitative targets and timetables of emission reduction without being sure that these obligations will be approved by Congress. (more…)

Science and the Carbon Market

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Science and the Carbon Market

With the change of U.S. administrations, there is renewed discussion of climate change policy. Ideas at the forefront are environmental pollutant markets and tax-based controls. The market-based approach, called cap and trade, is posed in opposition with the tax-based approaches. This polarization is not a useful or correct way to advance policy.

The advocacy of a cap and trade market follows from the success of the sulfur market, which controls acid rain. The amount of pollutant that can be tolerated is informed by scientific investigation. This leads to a “cap” on the amount. (more…)

An Insightful and Provocative Keynote

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

Herman Daly delivered a fantastic keynote address to AMS’s workshop on Federal Climate Policy. The text is reproduced here in full.

Climate Policy: from “know how” to “do now”

Herman E. Daly

The recent increase in attention to global warming is very welcome. Most of the attention seems to be given to complex climate models and their predictions. That too is welcome. However, it is useful to back up a bit and remember an observation by physicist John Wheeler, “We make the world by the questions we ask”. What are the questions asked by the climate models, and what kind of world are they making, and what other questions might we ask that would make other worlds? Could we ask other questions that would make a more tractable world for policy? (more…)