Tag Archives: Joe Romm

Bringing Out The Hockey Sticks At The End Of August

Rosalind Helderman at The Washington Post:

An Albemarle County Circuit Court judge has set aside a subpoena issued by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to the University of Virginia seeking documents related to the work of climate scientist and former university professor Michael Mann.

Judge Paul M. Peatross Jr. ruled that Cuccinelli can investigate whether fraud has occurred in university grants, as the attorney general had contended, but ruled that Cuccinelli’s subpoena failed to state a “reason to believe” that Mann had committed fraud.

The ruling is a major blow for Cuccinelli, a global warming skeptic who had maintained that he was investigating whether Mann committed fraud in seeking government money for research that showed that the earth has experienced a rapid, recent warming. Mann, now at Penn State University, worked at U-Va. until 2005.

According to Peatross, the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act, under which the civil investigative demand was issued, requires that the attorney general include an “objective basis” to believe that fraud has been committed. Peatross indicates that the attorney general must state the reason so that it can be reviewed by a court, which Cuccinelli failed to do.

Peatross set the subpoena aside without prejudice, meaning Cuccinelli could give the subpoena another try by rewriting the civil demand to better explain the conduct he wishes to investigate. But the judge seemed skeptical of Cuccinelli’s underlying claim about Mann, noting that Cuccinelli’s deputy maintained in a court hearing that the nature of Mann’s fraud was described in subsequent court papers in the case.

Jillian Rayfield at TPM:

Mann, who now works at Penn State University, left UVA in 2005. As TPM previously reported, Mann was one of several climate change researchers who were connected to the “Climate-Gate” emails that “showed some scientists discussing ways to keep views skeptical of global warming out of peer-reviewed journals, among other things.”

Three major UK investigations have since exonerated the “Climate-Gate” scientists of any wrongdoing. Mann himself was additionally let off the hook after an investigation by his employer, Penn State.

Cuccinelli’s probe had been denounced by climate change believers and skeptics alike as a “witch hunt” and a threat to academic freedom.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress:

Mann is one of America’s top climatologists.  Few if any climate scientists in the world have been as falsely accused — and thoroughly vindicated — over both their academic practices and scientific results as Dr. Michael Mann (see Much-vindicated Michael Mann and Hockey Stick get final exoneration from Penn State — time for some major media apologies and retractions and Final ‘forensic’ UK report on emails vindicates climate science and research underlying the Hockey Stick).

Here is Dr. Mann’s response to this ruling:

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All This Presupposes That Elvis Is Actually Dead

Al Gore at The New Republic:

The continuing undersea gusher of oil 50 miles off the shores of Louisiana is not the only source of dangerous uncontrolled pollution spewing into the environment. Worldwide, the amount of man-made CO2 being spilled every three seconds into the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding the planet equals the highest current estimate of the amount of oil spilling from the Macondo well every day. Indeed, the average American coal-fired power generating plant gushes more than three times as much global-warming pollution into the atmosphere each day—and there are over 1,400 of them.

Just as the oil companies told us that deep-water drilling was safe, they tell us that it’s perfectly all right to dump 90 million tons of CO2 into the air of the world every 24 hours. Even as the oil spill continues to grow—even as BP warns that the flow could increase multi-fold, to 60,000 barrels per day, and that it may continue for months—the head of the American Petroleum Institute, Jack Gerard, says, “Nothing has changed. When we get back to the politics of energy, oil and natural gas are essential to the economy and our way of life.” His reaction reminds me of the day Elvis Presley died. Upon hearing the tragic news, Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, said, “This changes nothing.”

Jim Manzi at TNR:

For years, much of the political right has claimed that global warming is a scientific hoax perpetrated by statists in order to justify further government control over the economy. I have repeatedly pointed out that this is more or less nonsense, usually to audiences that are far less amenable to this message than the readership of The New Republic, with predictable results. It is certainly true, of course, that there are political actors for whom climate change is a convenient excuse for amassing power, and scientific researchers, bankers, and businesspeople who are just jumping onto a funding gravy train; but this doesn’t mean that the underlying technical risk assessment is invalid.

The political left has its own conspiracy theory on the issue. It was on almost perfect display in Al Gore’s article (“The Crisis Comes Ashore”) in the June 10 TNR. Gore argues that public confidence in the warnings of “looming catastrophe” presented in “the most elaborate and impressive scientific assessment in the history of our civilization” is being undermined by a “cynical and lavishly funded disinformation campaign” paid for by “carbon polluters.” It is certainly true, of course, that some oil companies and other interest groups have funded PR campaigns in pursuit of their narrowly-defined self-interest; but once again, this shouldn’t change our rational evaluation of the environmental impact of greenhouse gas accumulations one way or the other.

Gore agrees in his article that the proper response to this issue is not to be found in the political sound and light show, but in a rational assessment of risks, saying that “rather than relying on visceral responses, we have to draw upon our capacity for reasoning, communicating clearly with one another, forming a global consensus on the basis of science…”. Gore goes on to suggest a technical foundation for this reasoning process:

Over the last 22 years, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has produced four massive studies warning the world of the looming catastrophe that is being caused by the massive dumping of global-warming pollution into the atmosphere.

So, what does the IPCC actually have to say about what we should expect to happen as a result of our “massive dumping of global-warming pollution into the environment”

According to the IPCC’s currently-governing Fourth Assessment Report, under a reasonable set of assumptions for global economic and population growth (Scenario A1B), the world should expect to warm by about 3°C over roughly the next century (Table SPM.3). Even in the most extreme IPCC marker scenario (A1F1), the best estimate is that we should expect warming of about 4°C over roughly the next century. How bad would that be? Also according to the IPCC (page 17), a global increase in temperature of 4°C should cause the world to have about 1 to 5 percent lower economic output than it would otherwise have. So if we do not take measures to ameliorate global warming, the world should expect sometime in the 22nd century to be about 3 percent poorer than it otherwise would be (though still much richer per capita than today).

Prior to consideration of the more detailed economic issues—e.g., costs versus benefits of attempts to forestall the problem; the danger of worse-than-expected outcomes, etc.—pause to recognize that according to the IPCC the expected economic costs of global warming under the plausible scenarios for future economic growth are likely to be about 3 percent of GDP more than 100 years from now. This is pretty far from the rhetoric of global destruction and Manhattan as an underwater theme park.

[…]

The only real argument for rapid, aggressive emissions abatement, then, boils down to the weaker form of the uncertainty argument: that you can’t prove a negative. The problem with using this rationale to justify large economic costs can be illustrated by trying to find a non-arbitrary stopping condition for emissions limitations. Any level of emissions imposes some risk. Unless you advocate confiscating all cars and shutting down every coal-fired power plant on earth literally tomorrow morning, you are accepting some danger of catastrophic warming. You must make some decision about what level of risk is acceptable versus the costs of avoiding this risk. Once we leave the world of odds and handicapping and enter the world of the Precautionary Principle—the Pascal’s Wager-like argument that the downside risks of climate change are so severe that we should bear almost any cost to avoid this risk, no matter how small—there is really no principled stopping point derivable from our understanding of this threat.

Think about this quantitatively for a moment. Suspend disbelief about the real world politics, and assume that we could have a perfectly implemented global carbon tax. If we introduced a tax high enough to keep atmospheric carbon concentration to no more than 420 ppm (assuming we could get the whole world to go along), we would expect, using the Nordhaus analysis as a reference point, to spend about $14 trillion more than the benefits that we would achieve in the expected case. To put that in context, that is on the order of the annual GDP of the United States of America. That’s a heck of an insurance premium for an event so low-probability that it is literally outside of a probability distribution. Gore has a more aggressive proposal that if implemented through an optimal carbon tax (again, assuming we can get the whole word to go along) would cost more like $20 trillion in excess of benefits in the expected case. Of course, this wouldn’t eliminate all uncertainty, and I can find credentialed scientists who say we need to reduce emissions even faster. Without the recognition that the costs we would pay to avoid this risk have some value, we would be chasing an endlessly receding horizon of zero risk.

So then, how should we confront this lack of certainty in our decision logic? At some intuitive level, it is clear that rational doubt about our probability distribution of forecasts for climate change over a century should be greater than our doubt our forecasts for whether we will get very close to 500 heads if we flip a fair quarter 1,000 times. This is true uncertainty, rather than mere risk, and ought to be incorporated into our decision somehow. But if we can’t translate this doubt into an alternative probability distribution that we should accept as our best available estimate, and if we can’t simply accept “whatever it takes” as a rational decision logic for determining emissions limits, then how can we use this intuition to weigh the uncertainty-based fears of climate change damage rationally? The only way I can think of is to attempt to find other risks that we believe present potential unquantifiable dangers that are of intuitively comparable realism and severity to that of outside-of-distribution climate change, and compare our economic expenditure against each.

Unfortunately for humanity, we face many dimly-understood dangers. Weitzman explicitly considers an asteroid impact and bioengineering technology gone haywire. It is straightforward to identify others. A regional nuclear war in central Asia kicking off massive global climate change (in addition to its horrific direct effects), a global pandemic triggered by a modified version of the HIV or Avian Flu virus, or a rogue state weaponizing genetic-engineering technology are all other obvious examples. Any of these could kill hundreds of millions to billions of people.

Consider the comparison of a few of these dangers to that of outside-of-distribution climate change dangers. The consensus scientific estimate is that there is a 1-in-10,000 chance of an asteroid large enough to kill a large fraction of the world’s population impacting the earth in the next 100 years. That is, we face a 0.01% chance of sudden death of a good chunk of people in the world, likely followed by massive climate change on the scale of that which killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. Or consider that Weitzman argues that we can distinguish between unquantifiable extreme climate change risk and unquantifiable dangers from runaway genetic crop modification because “there exists at least some inkling of a prior argument making it fundamentally implausible that Frankenfood artificially selected for traits that humans and desirable will compete with or genetically alter the wild types that nature has selected via Darwinian survival of the fittest.” That does not seem exactly definitive. What is the realism of a limited nuclear war over the next century—with plausible scenarios ranging from Pakistan losing control of its nuclear arsenal and inducing a limited nuclear exchange with India, to a war between a nuclearized Iran and Israel?

Brad Plumer at TNR:

Let me start by saying that Manzi is easily one of the smartest, most interesting conservative writers out there when it comes to global warming. Many people on the right, unfortunately, still stick to the crazed view that climate science is all a hoax. Manzi wants nothing to do with those folks. He agrees with the mainstream scientific consensus that human activities are heating up the planet and that this poses a problem (and he’s taken a lot of flak from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh for staking out this position). Where he parts ways with most liberals is on just how big a problem a hotter planet will be.

Manzi bases his argument on his reading of the IPCC’s 2007 Fourth Assessment Report. According to the IPCC’s own estimates, he points out, a temperature rise of 4°C can be expected to reduce global GDP by about 3 percent in 2100. And on the flip side, the IPCC pegs the cost of keeping carbon concentrations in the atmosphere below a “safe” level of 450 parts per million at around 6 percent of GDP. And so, Manzi concludes, mitigation probably isn’t worth it. (To be fair, he has elsewhere expressed interest in a small carbon price to fund clean-technology research, so he’s not in the “do-nothing” camp.)

I see a couple problems with this argument. The first is that Manzi is clinging way too tightly to the IPCC report. Yes, the IPCC puts out the best summary of scientific knowledge about our climate system. I rely on it all the time. But the 2007 report is also dated. Climate science is a rapidly moving field, and more recent research has suggested that things may be bleaker than was projected three years ago. What’s more, the 2007 report had some glaring holes in it. The panel avoided making predictions about how melting ice sheets would affect sea levels because, at the time, ice-sheet dynamics were too difficult to model. This isn’t me offering up a strained reading of the IPCC’s work—the 2007 report was explicit on this point. Given that sea-level rise is likely to be one of the costliest consequences of global warming by 2100 and (especially) beyond, this is a huge omission for any sort of cost-benefit analysis.

Second, it’s a bit too simplistic to use a single global GDP figure when talking about the effects of climate change. True, a 3 percent drop in global GDP may not sound so bad. We’ll all be much richer in 2100, we can take a hit. But that top-line figure can obscure some serious distributional issues. Climate change, after all, is expected to hit developing countries much harder than wealthier ones. And as Nate Silver once noted, you could completely wipe out the poorest 81 nations in the world, with a total population of 2.8 billion, and the blow to global GDP would “only” be about 5 percent:

From a cynical utilitarian perspective, sure, maybe it would be worth it to devastate a bunch of impoverished African countries if it makes the rest of the world richer on balance. But that raises quite a few glaring ethical questions, and I’ll just note that most conservatives wouldn’t leap at this trade-off in other contexts (very few on the right would support seizing property through eminent domain for the greater good of economic development, for instance).

Third point: Harvard economist Marty Weitzman has recently been arguing that there’s plenty of uncertainty in climate projections, and the worst-case scenarios could be really freaking bad. Like, civilization-destroying bad. And that prospect, even if it’s slim, is a great reason to cut emissions—think of pollution curbs as an insurance policy against total annihilation. In reply, Manzi accuses Weitzman of doing “armchair climate science.” But that’s unfair. There are plenty of actual climate scientists who are exploring these worst-case scenarios, too. A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences concluded that there’s a roughly 5 percent chance that rising temperatures could render vast regions of the planet—like the eastern United States or most of India—simply uninhabitable. An insurance policy against that doesn’t sound too shabby.

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

I’ve been waiting for Brad Plumer to write a response to Jim Manzi’s argument, which he’s been making for several years, that preventing climate change is not worth the cost. Now that he’s done it, I urge you to check it out. Like Brad says, Manzi’s argument is probably the most persuasive case you can find against reducing carbon emissions. But it’s still not very persuasive.

Mori Dinauer at Tapped:

Bradford Plumer‘s response to Jim Manzi on climate change addresses my No. 1 complaint about conservatives who, while not denying climate change is real, think the threat is exaggerated. The do-nothing analysis is that the economic impact of pricing carbon or curbing emissions will be so great that it will be worse than doing nothing. Plumer goes into the technical reasons why we should be skeptical about this position, but I want to note that Manzi shows little interest in the non-economic consequences of climate change — it’s just one big Econ 101 puzzle to be solved.

Heather Horn at The Atlantic

Joe Romm at Climate Progress

Why would you trust a magazine that doesn’t trust itself?  In a baffling display of ‘balance as bias’ — or perhaps ‘balance as baloney‘ — The New Republic has hired right-wing misinformer Jim Manzi to spread confusion about their articles.

Maybe magazines don’t bother employing fact checkers anymore, but when I coauthored the cover story for the Atlantic Monthly in 1996, “MidEast Oil Forever?” Drifting Toward Disaster, the magazine not only edited the piece, they made me provide a credible published source for every claim.  Even today, I know magazines like Wired fact-check every article.

But TNR appears to have proudly hired Manzi to un-fact-check their articles — at least in the area of energy and the environment, Manzi mostly spreads misinformation.   Indeed, as I will show, Manzi utterly misrepresents the important work of Harvard economist Martin Weitzman, which he discusses at length but doesn’t appear to know the first thing about.

I say TNR “proudly” hired Manzi because editor Franklin Foer has a June 22 column bizarrely titled, “The In-House Critics: Keeping TNR Honest” touting this self-inflicted wound to its credibility:  “it is an honor to be the subject of their criticism.”

I know, you probably thought that the “center-left” magazine paid Foer and Martin Peretz and a slew of other editors (and, one hopes, fact checkers) to keep them honest.  How wrong you are!

As an aside, what’s doubly annoying is that you can read Manzi’s full on misinformation, “Why the Decision to Tackle Climate Change Isn’t as Simple as Al Gore Says,” in full here, but the piece he is nominally debunking, Al Gore’s, “The Crisis Comes Ashore,” from the June 10 TNR is behind their firewall.  You can read extended excerpts of Gore’s accurate piece here.

Manzi’s debunking has already been partly debunked by Time’s Bryan Walsh and TNR’s own Bradford Plumer.

Joseph Lawler at The American Spectator, responding to Romm:

It seems as if it is because of Manzi’s track record of being honest, open, and accommodating that Romm is unable to stand his arguments in a liberal publication without trying to undermine his credibility. It was for that same reason that many conservatives found Manzi’s criticism of Levin so grating — it’s in a way easier to deny global warming altogether than to argue on Manzi’s level. At the time, a number of liberals cast the reaction to Manzi-Levin as a sign that conservatives are close-minded, despite the fact that National Review did publish the piece, after all. But now that the tables have turned and Manzi is writing for TNR, some of the same liberal observers are questioning his motives and accusing him of “lowering the standard of discourse.”

It is to National Review‘s credit that they published Manzi then, it is to TNR‘s credit that they publish him now despite the left-wing outcry, and it is to Manzi’s credit that his soldiers on producing impeccably factual articles only to be derided as dishonest by both the right and left. If only the same could be said of Romm about his willingness to consider reasoned challenges to his assumptions.

(By the way, Romm’s post originally contained a clear factual error: he cited someone who incorrectly claimed that Manzi was the CEO of Lotus (I can’t find a cached version, but it’s noted in a comment left in the morning). Since then Romm has fixed the error, but there is nothing in the post indicating that it has been changed. A meaningless mistake, but suffice it to say that the “misinformer” Manzi would not make a factual error and then fail to acknowledge it in the post.)

Ezra Klein here and here. Klein:

Letting greenhouse gases build in the atmosphere is a bit like letting a tree grow roots beneath the foundation of your house. It may not be that bad this year, or next year, or even the year after that. But with each year that goes by, the problem becomes incrementally more severe, and harder to reverse. So even if Manzi is right that the costs are manageable into 2100 — a century, after all, is a long time for a human, but not for the atmosphere — what does that do to our descendants who have to deal with a scorching planet between 2100 and 2200? And then into 2300, and then 2400?

I think Manzi’s answer is that technology will save us by then. And maybe he’s right. But maybe he’s not. And if he’s not, then we’ve let the problem become unimaginably bad for our descendants. If you bet on technology and you’re wrong, it’s not like we’ve got another of these planets waiting in the back somewhere.

The appropriate technological approach, it seems to me, is to pair a strategy of aggressive emissions reduction with a huge effort to develop technological solutions. Then, if the research begins to pay off, we can transition over to those technologies and ease up on the regulations. But if we don’t so mitigation and instead trust in technology, we may let the situation get so bad that by the time we’re ready to do mitigation, the problem is essentially irreversible.

Manzi responds to Klein:

When thinking about taking actions now to shape the future environment, we should start with the recognition that our ability to make meaningful predictions generally declines as we look further and further into the future. This proceeds in shades of gray from, illustratively, “2030” to “10,000AD.”

At several points in my post I described the projected impacts of climate change through about the year 2100. This is because numerous IPCC forecasts are done through about that point in time, due to the view that projections beyond this point are too speculative.

When thinking about time after 2100, we have, in cartoon terms, two choices: (i) simply treat it as unknowable fog, or (ii) attempt to guess. I think that if we take the first choice, then we simply try to forecast through the next century, and let future generations worry about the world beyond 2100 (though I’ll point out that it is a very unusual political debate in which we call trying to manage the entire world for about the next 100 years as “short-termism”).

If we take the second approach, how far out do we try to guess? The Nordhaus economic calculations that I cited in my post as formal attempts to compare odds-adjusted costs versus benefits actually extend out for 250 years. That is, they consider expected costs and benefits to about 2250. Therefore, Klein’s point is really about potential damages beyond 2250,not 2100. That’s a long way off.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t care about problems that might occur hundreds of years from now, just that I don’t care much about current predictions about those problems.

UPDATE: Bryan Walsh at Time

Matthew Yglesias

UPDATE #2: Jim Manzi has a round-up at The American Scene

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Filed under Environment

How Did John Kerry Find Time To Write A Bill With All The Blogging He’s Been Doing?

John Kerry at Huffington Post:

I don’t think there are many people left who really question that we need a major transformation in the way we produce power, the disaster in the Gulf being the latest wakeup call for anyone who was still sleeping. It was the most recent reminder that 40 years after Richard Nixon started talking about “energy independence,” we’re still stuck or moving backwards — our economy constantly rattled by the volatile price of oil, our planet’s climate increasingly unstable thanks to the pollution we’re pumping into the atmosphere.

And, oh yes, we’re sending billions of dollars a day overseas, with the global oil market enriching some of the most autocratic and anti-American regimes around the world. Here’s one fact to stiffen the spine: as my friend Jon Powers and his band of veterans remind me, every day we keep going with what we’re doing makes Iran $100 million richer and takes over a billion dollars out of our economy. Every single day.

That’s why I’m doubling down on the proposal I’m rolling out today with Senator Lieberman, a work product that reflects six months of contribution from Lindsey Graham, and hundreds of meetings with our colleagues: major energy and comprehensive climate change legislation that meets this big challenge. It’s a practical pathway to finally end our addiction to oil, put Americans back in control of our own power production, and release the innovation and ingenuity of Americans to build the clean energy economy we need to build prosperity in the 21st century.

It’ll help us create nearly 2 million new jobs, develop new products, and support the research and development to help us maintain leadership in the global economy. And it’ll even reduce the deficit by about $21 billion in nine years.

And we’ve got to pass it this year.

I’m asking you to look at it on the merits, but also knowing that we have to find 60 votes in a tough atmosphere in Washington, on an issue where even a lot of good Democrats have been reluctant to act over the years.

The big details:

In the bill, we finally start to bring down carbon pollution by sending a clear price signal on that pollution. This market is tightly controlled, with only folks who need the permits able to buy the permits in the initial auction. No Wild West of speculation, no big banks coming in to buy up permits. Then the corporations who buy those permits can trade among themselves, so if a company makes great strides in bringing down their carbon pollution, they get the benefit of being able to sell off their permits, and if they don’t, they need to buy more. It’s simple, fair, and rewards those American companies who work hard to bring down their emissions of carbon pollution. And much of the proceeds of that carbon auction get sent straight to the American people, helping out consumers with their energy bills. Bottom line: it does what President Obama told the world we’d do — it reduces greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and 80 percent below 2005 levels at 2050.

We also set up a tough, WTO-consistent border adjustment mechanism so that there won’t be any “carbon leakage” of companies manufacturing things overseas in countries that don’t manage their emissions. Imports from those countries will have to pay a fee at the border. This will protect American industry and make sure jobs stay here at home. And we threaded that needle in a way that President Obama can support — you’ll remember he was concerned about the way it’s been handled in previous bills.

Next, we know we’re in the middle of a major catastrophe in the Gulf, and we need to learn all the right lessons. The big lesson? Get us to the day when oil spills are infinitely less likely because we’re not scrambling to pump every last barrel of oil out of every inch of the earth. You do that by transforming energy in America.

But there’s more we do in the short term. This bill starts tightening up federal law around offshore drilling, adding two major reforms. First, any state can veto drilling less than 75 miles off their coast. Second, each new rig needs to be studied for the effects of any potential spill, and any state that could be affected has the right to call a halt to the project. This creates important local control over the beaches and waterways of our country.

More John Kerry at Grist:

Busy day here — started early with some curtain-raising morning television to kick off the discussion a bit about the American Power Act that Joe Lieberman [I-Conn.] and a unique coalition are talking about later today.

But sometimes those morning-show interviews are a bit of a reminder of how much detailed discussion we lose when we’re crammed into a two- or three- or five-minute back-and-forth, which is especially tough on an issue like a comprehensive approach to climate and energy.

Which brings me to why I wanted to come by Grist — because of the in-depth discussions you’ve already had here again and again on this issue.

But — and here’s the but — I don’t want to swing by and just sort of preach to the choir. We’re true believers — we already get the imperative of the threat our addiction to carbon-emitting energy poses. You know the science, you know the reality, and so do I.

So, what I do want to talk about is this: We need to take a deep dive together on the Senate strategy, and on the real details of the bill that make it important for the things you and I care about. So, I hope I bring something new to that discussion that we can use as a jumping-off point.

First, the Senate dynamic — the politics of this place. I want to be candid about this, and I do so with a record on this issue that I think earned me the spurs to say this. We’ve been at this a long time. Al Gore and I held the Senate’s first climate-change hearings in the Commerce Committee way back in 1988. Since then, precious little progress has been made and ground has been lost internationally, all while the science has grown more compelling. I can barely even count any more the number of international summits I’ve attended, or press conferences we’ve held after losing climate-change votes in the Senate where our message was, “Next year, we can get this done — don’t give up on the United States or the Senate.” Two Congresses ago, we had 38 votes for a bill. Last Congress, we had 54 votes for cloture out of 60 needed — and we said then — me, Joe, Barbara Boxer [D-Calif.] — that this Congress we could get to 60 and pass a bill.

So what have we done? A lot of meeting and listening — between me, Joe Lieberman, and Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.], hundreds of meetings one-on-one with our colleagues to find out what they needed to support a bill. And I absolutely believe we’re closer than ever to getting across the finish line — but make no mistake, it remains difficult, even with President Obama in the White House, and even with the House of Representatives having passed their bill by the slimmest of margins last summer. But we’re going full-steam ahead because, in my judgment, this may be the last and certainly the best chance for the Senate to act, especially with the fact that I think the next Senate — given a 2012 presidential campaign added to the dynamic and a lot of new senators — is going to be less likely than this one to find a path to the 60 votes needed for passage. So we’ve got to get it done this year.

Hear me out on this one — you know where I’ve been and continue to be on all the major environmental fights since even before I became a senator. As a lieutenant governor, I focused on acid rain and we laid the groundwork for the successful fight on the Clean Air Act in 1990, with the support of the first President Bush and bipartisan support from Congress. In stark contrast to that effort to find a bipartisan way forward, I led the successful filibuster — against the urging of many in our Democratic caucus — to defeat the second President Bush’s plan to drill in and destroy the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I point to these twin examples because I think they’re evidence that I know when to dig in and fight, and I also know when and how to find the path to getting something done across the aisle.

Joe Romm at Climate Progress, yesterday:

You can read the leaked 21-page draft Section-by-Section description of the American Power Act here (big PDF).  You can read the leaked 4-page “draft short summary” by clicking here.

Before offering my thoughts on individual sections, here’s Dan Weiss, CAPAF’s Director of Climate Strategy:

“The Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act jump starts efforts to adopt comprehensive clean energy and climate polices that would cut oil use, increase security, reduce pollution and create jobs.  The BP oil disaster is like a signal flare warning us that we must reduce our oil use via investments in more efficient, cleaner energy technologies.  President Obama and Senate leaders must work together to craft a comprehensive program that achieves these goals.”

Many analysis have shown how clean energy legislation will create 1.7 million jobs and opportunities for low-income families, including lower energy bills.

So let’s go through this, starting with the summary.

“From day one, two-thirds of revenues not dedicated to reducing our deficit are rebated back to consumers.”  The rest goes to low-carbon energy development and deployment along with things to aid industries in transition to a low carbon economy.

In the later years, every penny not spent to reduce the deficit will go directly back to consumers.

You might call it cap-and-dividend, were the name not taken.

Yes, much of this money goes back to consumers through the local regulated utilities, but that was not only inevitable from a political perspective — to keep utilities and Senators from the mid-west and south from immediately bolting — it’s actually a good idea from the perspective of regional equity (see here and here).  There’s just no other way to construct a bill that could have any chance whatsoever in either house of Congress.

The auctioning is done along the lines I suggested here:  How the Senate can fix cost containment in the climate bill with ‘price collar plus’.  The floor price starts at $12 in 2013 and rises 3% plus inflation each year.  The ceiling starts at $25 increasing 5% plus inflation annually.

The bad news is that, after the regular allowances are auctioned off — and then after the strategic reserve is auctioned off (explained here) — the hard ceiling is maintained by providing unlimited new allowances.  The “good news” is that I can’t see us getting near the ceiling price until well into the 2020s since  the emissions targets are so weak compared to where we are today — EIA Stunner: Energy-related CO2 emissions are now down nearly 10% from 2005 levels — and since there are so many low-cost clean energy strategies available, many of which are directly incentivized by this bill (see “Game changer part 2: Unconventional gas makes the 2020 target of a 17% reduction so damn easy and cheap to meet).”

I will do a post soon on why these floor and ceiling prices are sufficient to drive significant clean energy into the marketplace, including fuel switching from coal to natural gas.

Yes, there are still 2 billion offsets, but they won’t vitiate the 2020 target because, again, it’s too easy to meet with efficiency, conservation, renewables, and natural gas fuel switching.  Large quantities of offsets aren’t gonna be cheaper those solutions.  As I wrote here, I doubt offsets will comprise even 3% out of the 17% target achieved by emitters in 2020.  And yes, I would take a bet on that.  The oversight provision seems pretty solid to me.

Moreover, I expect most of the offsets sold will be domestic ones — if we get an international deal (which is really only possible if we can pass a climate bill), then I expect international offsets will be fairly pricey by 2020.  And CBO said half of the domestic offsets are actual emission reductions in uncovered sectors.

Daniel Foster at The Corner:

The perversely-named “American Power Act” retains the cap on carbon emissions “credits” and a tax of at least $12-per-ton on carbon produced by large emitters, while imposes broad new regulations on industrial, transportation, and energy infrastructure. It aims to reduce carbon emissions by 17 percent over 10 years and 83 percent over 40 years. The tax “floor” of $12 would indexed at inflation plus 3 percent, while the tax “ceiling” would be set at $25 and be indexed to inflation plus 5 percent. The proposed federal cap-and-tax system would eliminate existing state-run efforts, and pay off those states for lost revenue.

At the same time, the bill includes a grab-bag of costly subsidies to affected industries, including billions in cash subsidies and tax credits to the transportation industry, loan guarantees for nuclear plant builders, and a number of exemptions from emissions caps and other protections for favored industries like steel and Big Ag. The bill also appears to contain a plethora of government-funded “pilot programs” for the green tech sector in which so many high-profile supporters of cap-and-trade hold large financial stakes.

In light of the Gulf spill, Kerry-Lieberman makes a complete 180 on offshore drilling. While earlier drafts of the bill were aimed at expanding offshore drilling, the released version makes it more difficult — if not impossible — for the federal government to pursue such efforts, allowing states to opt out of drilling up to 75 miles off their coasts. States will also be able to veto any drilling efforts that would have a major adverse impact in the event of a drilling accident.

Reactions from usual-suspect stakeholders have been slow to come in, as their lobbying and policy arms are no doubt balancing the bevy of direct and indirect taxes against the dollar-value of the subsidies and giveaways.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

Basically, the bill bribes just about every player in the energy sector in the hopes that they will set a price for carbon and allow a cap. It’s nearly impossible to see how this cap would be enforced, however, given all the allowances and exemptions and giveaways. Over time, this may push us toward a new regime of cleaner energy. In the near term, it kind of looks like a mess. And because the other two major planks, energy efficiency and renewable energy standards, are so poor in this bill, it makes it much harder to say that it will usher in a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions. If those pieces were significantly strengthened, those willing to lay down for this bill would at least have an argument.

Ronald Bailey at Reason:

Not having had time yet to analyze 987 pages of proposed legislation, it is still the case that what government is likely to do about global warming will be worse than global warming.

Steve Benen:

As for the APA’s prospects, as we’ve discussed before, getting a climate/energy bill through the Senate was going to be tough under normal circumstances. Now, the challenge is arguably even greater — Kerry and Lieberman have to find a way to break a Republican filibuster; they have to keep business interests on board; they have to keep Midwestern Dems from jumping ship; they have to thread a needle on increased oil drilling; and they have to consider what happens in the House in the event the Senate actually passes their bill. Oh, and they have to do it all rather quickly, while Republicans try to run out the clock, and with other agenda items battling for attention.

But I give Kerry and Lieberman credit for tackling this, despite the odds, because it’s absolutely necessary. Republicans will almost certainly make significant gains in the midterms, and much of the GOP considers climate science some kind of nefarious plot cooked up by communists. If the bill dies this year, after having already passed the House, we may not see another vote on the issue at all until 2013, at the earliest.

And we really can’t wait that long.

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Prepare For The Igloo Bubble, Stock Market

David Rose at The Daily Mail:

The bitter winter afflicting much of the Northern Hemisphere is only the start of a global trend towards cooler weather that is likely to last for 20 or 30 years, say some of the world’s most eminent climate scientists.

Their predictions – based on an analysis of natural cycles in water temperatures in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans – challenge some of the global warming orthodoxy’s most deeply cherished beliefs, such as the claim that the North Pole will be free of ice in summer by 2013.

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007 – and even the most committed global warming activists do not dispute this.

The scientists’ predictions also undermine the standard climate computer models, which assert that the warming of the Earth since 1900 has been driven solely by man-made greenhouse gas emissions and will continue as long as carbon dioxide levels rise.

Don Suber:

Professor Mojib Latif, a leading member of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the newspaper: “A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles – perhaps as much as 50 per cent. They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer. The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.”

But global warming lives on. It has more lives than a litter of kittens.

The experts don’t know. Climatology is a budding science. As Rose pointed out, temperatures have risen and fallen before.

But the UN or a Nobel Peace Prize won’t get funding if it says it does not know. And so we get these wild swings — more bipolarity than science.

Tom Maguire:

So what does this mean?  Some possibilities:

(a) It’s a vital reprieve giving us additional time to do things we should have been doing anyway.  For instance, rather than scrapping a perfectly useful coal-fired plant we can replace it at the end of its useful life with newer, greener technology not yet perfected.

(b) it’s a head fake, and when the next mini-warming cycle starts in thirty years we will set heat records all over the world.

(c) it is the death knell for adequate public support for slapping a price on carbon emissions.  Is America, where two thirds of adults are overweight or obese, really going to spend twenty years on an energy diet while temperatures drop?  We aren’t that good at taking the long view, especially when the science is in flux (Not related, yet related –  eventually the rise in autism, obesity, diabetes and other things will be linked to the rise in the use of sunscreen.  Yeah, because we listened to the scientists who told us that sunshine was dangerous.)

I am hoping for (a) but would bet on (c).  But in (c) I do would support a simple revenue neutral carbon tax, not the preposterous cap and trade that Dems are backing as a jobs program for an expanded AFSCME unionized government bureaucracy.

I am hereby taking up a new cause:  the relocation of the US capitol to, say, Raleigh.

Not that I am taking predictions of the weather all that seriously.  ‘Twas but a few months ago when I was reading the climate change community writing that the recent cooling trend had been a fluke, and that we were scheduled to return to record warm temperatures . . . why, this very winter!

Oops.

Still, it might be worth investing in some long johns . . .

Flopping Aces

Mikkel Fishman at Moderate Voice:

I just saw a piece in The Daily Mail that talked about how an expert “predicts” up to three decades of global cooling. At first I was surprised, but then I saw the name and it all made sense. I’d been debating about whether to write about it, I mean The Daily Mail is just a tabloid, but on the other hand George Will and others have had similar pieces based on the same research. Then Pete had to go and have a post about it which forces my hand.

Personally I think that Dr. Latif should sue for libel. I’m not sure that this is anywhere close to it, but it should be. The opinions ascribed to him are in complete disagreement with his own, and pieces like this are damaging not only to his reputation but more importantly, it helps invalidate his work — which personally would hurt my emotional and mental well being, an aspect of libel laws.

What am I talking about? Well read this interview with him.

UPDATE: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

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And The Estate Of Rick James Is Suing, Too

Joe Romm at Climate Progress:

Any religion, meanwhile, has its heretics, and global warming is no exception.

That staggeringly anti-scientific statement (page 170) is just one of many, many pieces of outright nonsense from SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance.  In fact, human-caused global warming is well-established science, far better established than any aspect of economics.

In other words:  it’s illogical to believe in a carbon-induced warming apocalypse and believe that such an apocalypse can be averted simply by curtailing new carbon emissions.

Hard to believe such a staggeringly illogical statement (page 203) comes from Levitt and Dubner, the same folks who wrote the runaway bestseller FreakonomicsA Rogue Economist explores the Hidden Side of Everything.

For the record, it’s perfectly logical to believe that — indeed, I daresay most of the world’s leading climate scientists believe that if you could curtail all new carbon emissions (including from deforestation) starting now (or even starting soon), you would indeed avoid apocaplyse.  None, however, would use the loaded word “simply” I’m sure and most, like Hansen, would like to go from curtailing emissions to being carbon negative as soon as possible.  The Superfreaks, however, are simultaneously skeptical of global warming science, critical of all mitigation measures, but certain that geo-engineering using sulfate aerosols is the answer.

“Rogue” is a good word for Levitt, but I think “contrarian” is more apt.  Sadly, for Levitt’s readers and reputation, he decided to adopt the contrarian view of global warming, which takes him far outside of his expertise.  As is common among smart people who know virtually nothing about climate science or solutions and get it so very wrong, he relies on other smart contrarians who know virtually nothing about climate science or solutions.  In particular, he leans heavily on Nathan Myhrvold, the former CTO of Microsoft, who has a reputation for brilliance, which he and the Superfreaks utterly shred in this book:

“A lot of the things that people say would be good things probably aren’t,” Myrhvold says.  As an example he points to solar power.  “The problem with solar cells is that they’re black, because they are designed to absorb light from the sun. But only about 12% gets turned into electricity, and the rest is reradiated as heat — which contributed to global warming.”

Impressive — three and a half major howlers in one tiny paragraph (p 187).  California Energy Commissioner Art Rosenfeld called this “patent nonsense,” when I read it to him.  And Myhrvold is the guy, according to the Superfreaks, of which Bill Gates once said, “I don’t know anyone I would say is smarter than Nathan.”  This should be the definitive proof that smarts in one area do not necessarily translate at all

In olden days, we called such folks Artistes of Bullshit, but now I’m gonna call them F.A.K.E.R.s — Famous “Authorities” whose Knowledge (of climate) is Extremely Rudimentary [Error-riddled?  I’m still working on this acronym].

The most famous FAKER was Michael Crichton.  I thought Freeman Dyson was the leading FAKER today, but Myhrvold makes Dyson sound like James Hansen.  I will devote an entire blog post to the BS peddled here by Myhrvold (who now runs Intellectual Ventures) because I’m sure he’s got the ear of a lot of well-meaning, influential, but easily duped, people like Levitt and Dubner — see Error-riddled ‘Superfreakonomics’, Part 2: Who else have Nathan Myhrvold and the Groupthinkers at Intellectual Ventures duped and confused? Would you believe Bill Gates and Warren Buffett?

Ezra Klein:

But before people begin believing that the problem with Super Freakonomics is that it annoys environmentalists, let’s be clear: The problem with Super Freakonomics is it prefers an interesting story to an accurate one. This is evident from the very first story on the very first page of the book.

Under the heading “putting the freak in economics,” the book lays out its premise: Decisions that appear easy are actually hard. Take, for example, a night of drinking at a friend’s house. At the end of the night, you decide against driving home. This decision, the book says, seems “really, really easy.” As you might have guessed, we’re about to learn that it’s not so easy. At least if you mangle your statistics.

The next few pages purport to prove that drunk walking is eight times more dangerous than drunk driving. Here’s how they do it: Surveys show that one out of every 140 miles driven is driven drunk. “There are some 237 million Americans sixteen and older; all told, that’s 43 billion miles walked each year by people of driving age. If we assume that 1 out of every 140 of those miles are walked drunk — the same proportion of miles that are driven drunk — then 307 million miles are walked drunk each year.”

“If we assume.”

But why should we assume that? As the initial example demonstrates, a lot of people walk drunk when they would otherwise drive drunk. That substitution alone suggests that a higher proportion of walking miles are drunk miles. Other people walk, or take transit, when they know they’ll be drinking later. That’s why they’re walking and not driving. That skews the numbers and makes it impossible to simply “assume” parity.

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Matthew Yglesias:

Superfreakonomics appears to contain a lot of nonsense climate contrarianism. Major media organizations are normally extraordinarily bad at policing the people who write for them in terms of accurate presentation of scientific information, so I’m pretty sure Leavitt and Dubner can get away with totally misrepresenting the climate impact of solar power. Still, it is worth dwelling a moment on the fact that their critique of photovoltaic literally rests on the idea that PV cells are black whereas in reality they’re usually blue.

Correctly ascertaining the color of widely available macroscopic objects is not much to ask from authors.

Bradford Plumer in TNR:

In just a few dozen pages, Dubner and Levitt manage to repeat the myth that the scientific consensus in the 1970s predicted global cooling (quite untrue), imply that climatologists are unaware of the existence of water vapor (no, they’re quite aware), and traffic in the elementary misconception that CO2 hasn’t historically driven temperature increases (RealClimate has a good article to help with their confusion). The sad thing is that Dubner and Levitt aren’t even engaging in sophisticated climate-skepticism here—there’s just a basic unwillingness to gain even a passing acquaintance with the topic. You hardly need to be an award-winning economist to do that.

What’s more, as Joe Romm reports, the main scientist that Levitt and Dubner actually interviewed, Ken Caldeira, says they’ve completely twisted and mischaracterized his views—a glaring bit of journalistic malfeasance. And, as Matt Yglesias points out, one of Dubner and Levitt’s arguments rests on the (demonstrably wrong) premise that solar panels are always black. Now, as a journalist, I’m all in favor of having people write about things they’re not an expert in—and mistakes do happen—but this is a little absurd.

Meanwhile, over at The New York Times website, Dubner is complaining that critics are all engaged in “shrillness” (without linking to any of the criticisms of his book) and appears to be quietly removing comments when readers attempt to point to Connolley or Romm’s critiques. Guess they don’t make hard-charging contrarians like they used to.

Paul Krugman:

At first glance, though, what it looks like is that Levitt and Dubner have fallen into the trap of counterintuitiveness. For a long time, there’s been an accepted way for commentators on politics and to some extent economics to distinguish themselves: by shocking the bourgeoisie, in ways that of course aren’t really dangerous. Ann Coulter is making sense! Bush is good for the environment! You get the idea.

Clever snark like this can get you a long way in career terms — but the trick is knowing when to stop. It’s one thing to do this on relatively inconsequential media or cultural issues. But if you’re going to get into issues that are both important and the subject of serious study, like the fate of the planet, you’d better be very careful not to stray over the line between being counterintuitive and being just plain, unforgivably wrong.

It looks as if Superfreakonomics has gone way over that line.

Brad DeLong

Andrew Sullivan

Tim Lambert at Science Blogs

Melanie Fitzpatrick at Grist

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a bullet point critiques of the book here.

super_freakonomics

Stephen J. Dubner in NYT:

We have a chapter in SuperFreakonomics about global warming and it too will likely produce a lot of shouting, name-calling, and accusations ranging from idiocy to venality. It is curious that the global-warming arena is so rife with shrillness and ridicule. Where does this shrillness come from? Some say that left-leaning activists have merely borrowed their right-leaning competitors from years past. A reasonable conjecture?

Steven Levitt in NYT:

We are working on a thorough response to these critics, which we hope to post on the blog in the next day or two. The bottom line is that the foundation of these attacks is essentially fraudulent, as we’ll spell out in detail. In the meantime, let us just say the following.

Like those who are criticizing us, we believe that rising global temperatures are a man-made phenomenon and that global warming is an important issue to solve. Where we differ from the critics is in our view of the most effective solutions to this problem. Meaningfully reducing global carbon emissions has proven to be difficult, if not impossible. This isn’t likely to change, for the reasons we discuss in the book. Consequently, other approaches represent a more promising path to lowering the Earth’s temperature. The critics are implying that we dismiss any threats from global warming; but the entire point of our chapter is to discuss global-warming solutions, so obviously that’s not the case.

The statements being circulated create the false impression that our analysis of the global-warming crisis is ideological and unscientific. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kevin Glass at Townhall:

Climateprogress.org is taking a very extreme interpretation of the word “curtail.” A standard conservative critique, which I believe is being made here by Levitt and Dubner’s book, goes something like this:

If you believe that global warming is a catastrophic problem that requires extreme action right now, you cannot also claim that we can combat it relatively painlessly. There must be sacrifices.

The global warming alarmists like Al Gore try to have their cake and eat it too by hyping up the near-term catastrophic implications of global warming but saying that all we need to do is start gradually curtailing (not immediately cutting to zero) carbon emissions.

Certainly if you believe that new carbon emissions are the problem, then you believe that cutting them to zero you would avoid the global warming apocalypse. This is impossible. Like it or not, the world still runs on carbon and will run on carbon by necessity for the foreseen future. If you believe that we’re at the carbon tipping point, gradual and (relatively) painless measures like Waxman-Markey are unacceptable. Catastrophic global warming alarmists cannot have their cake and eat it too.

Joseph Lawler at American Spectator:

The whole point of the original Freakonomics was also to be counterintuitive in a provocative way. Famously, the most controversial claim in Freakonomics, repackaged from Levitt’s doctoral dissertation, was that the legalization of abortion in the ’70s led to decreased crime in the ’90s. That findings of that study have been found over time to be less than robust. I would characterize abortion as an issue that is “both important and the subject of serious study.”

If Levitt was “just plain, unforgivably wrong” on the abortion/crime findings, I haven’t heard Krugman or anyone else on the left complain about it. But now that Levitt is applying that same questionable level of scholarship to the left’s pet issue, suddenly he has fallen into the trap of counterintuitiveness, and is prioritizing shock value over academic rigor.

UPDATE: Stephen Dubner

Brad DeLong

Paul Krugman

Matthew Yglesias

Andrew Sullivan

UPDATE #2: Kevin Drum

Joe Romm

James Wimberley

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Tax, Cap and Roll

Carbon_Dioxide

The picture is the Carbon Dioxide Molecule. Obviously, not made to scale. (Picture: Michigan State University)

This post will be a bit jumbled and out of chronological order, I’m sure. There are about a billion posts out there about taxing carbon, cap and trade, and Waxman-Markey. Just trying to recap some highlights the past couple weeks as the blogosphere (particularly Jim Manzi and Kevin Drum) have had a lot to say.)

I. The Five Part Kevin Drum series on taxing carbon, with responses.

Part One: Taxing Carbon, with a link to Joe Romm at Climate Progress. Michael O’Hare responds to Joe Romm, Andrew Sullivan responds to both Drum and Ryan Avent, whose post is quoted here  in entirety:

Some important points:

1) Reasonable people can disagree over whether cap-and-trade or a carbon tax are the “better” policy.
2) It is not true that either has significant advantages over the other.
3) There is only one plan with a serious chance to get through the Congress in the near term.
4) So if you are out there arguing that we should really be adopting a carbon tax rather than cap-and-trade you’re undermining that best chance at a carbon price law for at most a slight improvement in policy.
5) Given the stakes, you, arguer, should be shouted down.

Part Two: Titled, appropriately, Taxing Carbon-Part 2. Jeffrey Sachs weighs in along with others at a Yale Environment blog. Michael Tobis agrees with Sachs. Andrew Sullivan points out the parts of Drum’s argument he likes Ryan Avent responds to Sullivan. Ryan Avent responds to Sachs. As does Kevin Drum, which gets us to…

Part Three: In Which Drum responds to Sachs. Taxing Carbon-Part 3. Which leads us to…

Part Four: In Which Drum posts Sachs’s response to Drum’s post on Sachs. Taxing Carbon-Part 4

Part Five: Taxing Carbon-Part 5:

But there’s one general point about the debate between carbon taxes and cap-and-trade that I want to make directly.  Namely this: it’s an unfair fight.

Here’s the thing.  Cap-and-trade is a real-world program for reducing pollutants.  We used it successfully with sulfur emissions in the 90s.  Europe is already doing it with carbon.  The northeastern states are doing it with RGGI.  The Waxman-Markey bill is a real piece of legislation that’s hundreds of pages long and festooned with a hundred different compromises that will (we hope) allow it to survive the legislative sausage grinder.

Sully links to Dave Roberts at Grist. Matt Y. jumps in:

I’d put it this way: It’s true that the carbon tax I would design would be better policy than the cap-and-trade program congress is designing, but by the same token the cap-and-trade program I would design is better than the carbon tax law congress would right. Congress is an inherently problematic institution, populated by flawed human beings who are primarily accountable to the short-term desires of narrow interest groups. Consequently, it’s a rare day indeed when a congressional process results in an optimal policy outcome. But that’s just life. There’s no sense pretending that if advocates took a different approach that the inherent limits of politics would be transcended.

Sullivan links to that and to Felix Salmon, asking what is feasible. Matt Steinglass posts on the whole debate. Megan McArdle comments on Steinglass, Jim Manzi agrees with McArdle. David Frum dismisses cap and trade.

II. Bills, Bills, Bills

We’ll start on the Inglis-Flake carbon tax bill.

Jim Manzi:

A revenue-neutral carbon tax is superficially appealing. It sounds like something as close to a free lunch as we offered in this fallen world. But like most free lunches, it turns out to be expensive.

The most important point is that revenue neutrality is most likely a mirage. We would have to maintain the carbon tax for decades in order to generate the consumption reductions that advocates argue will occur, but FICA rates aren’t static over decades. In 1950 the FICA rate was 1.5%; by 1970 it was 4.8%; by 1990 it had risen to its current rate of 7.65%. It has been stable for about two decades, but meanwhile the programs that it (in theory) funds are in crisis.

Jonathan Adler and Ilya Somin weigh on at Volokh. They point to the John Broder piece in NYT on how cap and trade became consensus. Alex Tabarrok quotes the piece and his book with Tyler Cowen.

The CBO releases a paper on climate change. Cowen has thoughts. Patrick Appel at Sully’s place comments on the whole debate about the GOP bill and the CBO paper:

That said, it’s clear that legislators on both sides like to pretend that their chosen global warming plan will be cheap or free. They might be a bargain in the long run compared to the havoc global warming will wreak, but both plans constitute a massive new tax. There is no hiding that. And unlike a new entitlement – which voters grow accustomed to and will fight strongly against cutting – either global warming plan is simply an attempt to slow the rate of carbon emissions and maintain the status quo or improve it slightly. Even if the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill passes, I wonder whether it will be vulnerable to political attacks for this reason – especially in its current form.

On to Waxman-Markey, Paul Krugman‘s column is approved by Matt Y and Hilzoy. Both Appel and Tyler Cowen

want a cost benefit. Jim Manzi provides.

Appel responds to Manzi. And this begins a debate on a guy named Chip Knappenberger, who Manzi cites and readers point out to Appel, leading  Appel into having doubts about Kappenberger.

Manzi responds. Appel puts up more reader responses to Manzi. Manzi responds.

More later, after my head stops spinning.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson on Manzi

UPDATE #2: Ryan Avent responds to Manzi

UPDATE #3: Manzi responds to Avent.

UPDATE #4: Via Sullivan, Tyler Cowen and The Economist

UPDATE: #4: Avent responds to Manzi and Wilkinson. Wilkinson responds to Avent.

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