It’s the Policy, Stupid

Ignore whether global warming (manmade or not) is happening. Here’s an example of why I’m skeptical of the policy proposals intended to combat it:

The world needs to triple the energy it gets from renewables, nuclear reactors and power plants that use emissions-capture technology to avoid dangerous levels of global warming, United Nations scientists said.

Investments needed to keep climate change within safe limits would shave a fraction of a percent off annual global growth, the UN said yesterday in the third part of its most comprehensive study on warming. A delay in stemming rising greenhouse gases will cut chances to limit the global temperature increase, add to costs and lead to increasingly reliance on unproven technologies, they said.

Energy production, transportation, and cement production are the great producers of greenhouse gases. If people won’t accept curbs on transportation (they haven’t) and the level of investment required to build enough nuclear power plants, large scale windmills, and large scale solar isn’t imaginable (it isn’t), and we keep right on building roads, knocking down old buildings, and building new ones, I think you’re going to hear a lot more about ways to deal with the carbon that’s already been released than about releasing less.

6 comments… add one

  • steve

    Who should pay for the externalities of coal which go way beyond CO2?

    Steve

  • Who should pay for the externalities of coal which go way beyond CO2?

    That’s a very good question. I’d impose a carbon tax which hasn’t received much support. Carbon trading (which hasn’t done much anywhere it’s been tried other than provide more opportunities for graft) appears to be the preferred solution.

    My own preference has been nuclear for the last 40 years. That the U. S. isn’t putting more oomph into the development of thorium reactors is a scandal and an outrage. We’re leaving it to India and China.

  • Ultimately, for all those non CO2 externalities that exist from the fossil fuel economy, when we get rich enough and the alternatives will get cheap enough, we are migrating off of oil. The question is what is the economy size when we do it and how much pollution will we have to mitigate on the back end.

    The prize is a reduction in mortality rates and extra resources to perhaps eliminate certain diseases like malaria. Funny enough, Bill Gates is investing pretty heavily in eliminating malaria and in researching thorium.

  • Zachriel

    TMLutas: The question is what is the economy size when we do it and how much pollution will we have to mitigate on the back end.

    Sure. Of course society can try to look further ahead than the market cycle, to mitigate the damage, and to have the technological and administrative tools in place.

  • Jimbino

    Yes, one problem is that the costs of avoiding climate change are borne immediately and any benefits will come much later. The other problem is that the costs are disproportionately borne by the childfree and the benefits realized by the progeny of the breeders.

    Not only are the childfree paying for a future not of their choosing, but breeders are now given discounts and subsidizies for their breeding. A decent policy would be to force all prospective breeders to buy CO2-pollution credits to cover the enhanced pollution attributable to their brood in an open market–one in which the childfree would presumably benefit from their abstinence, prudence and foresight.

  • Zachriel

    Jimbino: The other problem is that the costs are disproportionately borne by the childfree

    “Hey! You kids get off my lawn!”

    “Next thing you know, they’ll be taxing my lawn to pay for schools. At least that has the advantage of KEEPING KIDS OFF MY LAWN!”

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