Archive for the 'Climate Policy Analysis' Category

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…)

How Optimism and Pessimism Shape Our Views on Climate Policy—Part II: Evidence

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In my first post on this topic, I explored how optimism and pessimism can influence policy preferences for dealing with climate change. I mentioned two key issues relating to policy choices: 1) society’s sensitivity to earth system disturbance, and 2) our potential to mitigate. Each can be viewed with optimism or pessimism, which leads to four possible perspectives: the true optimists, true pessimists, earth system optimists (who are mitigation pessimists), and mitigation optimists (who are earth system pessimists).

Today I’ll focus on the evidence that can support or diminish the standing of each of the four perspectives. (more…)

Designing Post-2012 International Climate Change Policy

Friday, December 7th, 2007

The 2007 UN-sponsored climate change negotiations opened in Bali, Indonesia this week. By the end of the conference on December 14, the world community may agree to a two-year “roadmap,” as called for by the UN Secretary-General, for negotiating an agreement to guide climate change mitigation efforts after the end of the Kyoto Protocol’s 2008-2012 commitment period. A number of academics, analysts, nongovernmental organizations and related processes have proposed various ways of moving forward with international climate change policy, including the Pew Center on Global Climate Change’s Dialogue at Pocantico, the UN Foundation and the Club of Madrid’s Global Leadership for Climate Action, and the Centre for Global Studies’ L20 concept of engaging the most important developed and developing countries on this issue, which is similar to the Bush Administration’s Big Economies process. (more…)

CLIMATE POLICY? IT’S A HUMAN CHOICE

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Readers of ClimatePolicy.org may remember a four-volume assessment of the social science research relevant to global climate change that appeared about a decade ago, entitled Human choice and climate change, edited by Steve Rayner and Elizabeth L. Malone. If not, here’s a bit of background. This was a truly extraordinary effort, centered on a Vancouver meeting in 1997, and involving more than one hundred contributors. Especially intriguing was a small satellite document issued with the assessment entitled “Ten suggestions for policymakers.” To quote Rayner and Malone:

“What can public and private decisionmakers learn from a wide-ranging look at the social sciences and the issue of human choice and climate change that illuminates the evaluation of policy goals, implementation strategies, and choices about paths forward? At present, proposed policies are heavily focused on the development and implementation of intergovernmental agreements on immediate emissions reductions. In the spirit of cognitive and analytic pluralism that has guided the creation of Human choice and climate change, we look beyond the present policy priorities to see if there are adjustments, or even wholesale changes, to the present course that could be made on the basis of a social science perspective. To this end we offer ten suggestions to complement and challenge existing approaches to public and private sector decisionmaking: (more…)

THE RISKS OF CLIMATE POLICY

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

This post identifies real and perceived risks of climate policy and explores ways to minimize those risks. I’ll focus on four risks:

1) Damage to the economy as a whole
2) Damage to some sectors within the economy
3) Lost opportunities from the investment of limited resources on climate change
4) Potential political costs of supporting climate policy

Most risks, perceived & real, can be managed well but not all can be eliminated entirely. (more…)

Cap-and-Trade vs. Emission Tax – Design Issues

Monday, August 20th, 2007

The cost and environmental efficacy of either a cap-and-trade program or an emission tax will depend on several important design issues: the point of regulation; the coverage of emission sources; “complementary” programs; and possible hybrid policies that integrate elements of both approaches.

Point of regulation. It would be infeasible to regulate all greenhouse gas emissions at the very point where they enter the atmosphere – monitors will not be placed on every car and truck tailpipe, every home that heats with natural gas or heating oil, as well as every smokestack in the industrial and electricity sectors. One approach – often referred to as upstream regulation – would impose the emission tax or the requirement to hold permits on energy suppliers, such as at coal mines, natural gas wellheads, petroleum product refineries and importers. The carbon content of all fossil fuels that enter the U.S. energy system would be covered by this approach. This approach would be administratively simple and straightforward because it accounts for almost all U.S. CO2 emissions (more than 98 percent) by focusing on a relatively small number of firms; incorporates existing monitoring and measurement of fuel supplies; and takes advantage of the fundamental molecular properties of fossil fuels that allow for precise measurement of emissions based on the physical amounts of these fuels. (more…)

Cap-and-Trade vs. Emission Tax – Differences

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Building on my previous posts in this series providing an overview of cap-and-trade and emission taxes and a discussion of their similarities, this post illustrates some of the differences between cap-and-trade and an emission tax: the trade-off between cost certainty and emissions certainty, incentives for R&D, and revenue generation.

Cost certainty versus emissions certainty. In an uncertain world, it is impossible to design a policy that simultaneously guarantees an emissions outcome at a certain cost. An emission tax provides cost certainty – the incremental increase in energy prices is transparent and fixed under a tax – while cap-and-trade provides emissions certainty by capping aggregate emissions. Under a tax, emissions in aggregate can vary depending on the realized costs of abatement (that cannot be predicted ex ante with certainty), economic growth, relative changes in energy prices unrelated to a carbon policy, etc. These factors can likewise drive the variation in costs under a cap-and-trade program. (more…)

THE IPCC WORKING GROUP III REPORT AND SOME KEY POLICY QUESTIONS

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released Working Group III’s (WG-III) contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report, “Mitigation of Climate Change,” earlier this month with the Summary for Policymakers and the pre-copy edit chapters. The House Committee on Science and Technology held a hearing last week with four WG-III lead authors. Let me address some questions policymakers may have about climate change policy and how the IPCC WG-III report addresses them.

How should we choose a goal? (more…)

HOW TO DEAL WITH UNCOOPERATIVE NATIONS

Monday, April 30th, 2007

One of the most paralyzing obstacles to adopting climate policies is the genuine need for (and difficulty getting) international cooperation on efforts to reduce emissions. As I discussed in my previous post, perceptions can differ over how strongly and when different countries need to act. Nevertheless, eventually all nations will have to constrain and reduce their emissions if we’re going to stop the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Nations that refuse to do their fair share will make climate policies less effective and harder to implement for everyone else.

Today I’ll briefly mention two strategies for encouraging international cooperation on emissions reductions: 1) national approaches that automatically respond to international efforts, and 2) trade penalties for countries that subsidize their industries’ greenhouse gas emissions. (more…)