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Global Warming Links

I’ve been blogging about global warming on Facebook for the last few weeks. Here’s the links I gave. Great stuff!

Think 385 ppm is manageable? Milder winters increase bark beetle populations…which devastate N. American trees.

Insect outbreaks such as this represent an important mechanism by which climate change may undermine the ability of northern forests to take up and store atmospheric carbon, and such impacts should be accounted for in large-scale modelling analyses.

New McKinsey report says that reaching 450 PPM by 2030 would cause less than a 1% decline in global GDP if done correctly.

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Note that James Hansen thinks that 450 ppm is not good enough to solve the problem. Joseph Romm disputes this, arguing that we need to create momentum to C02 reduction and only then can we aim to 350 ppm. (See his 7 part series about the political feasibility of 450 ppm).

Note that according to the most recent  Climate Change Report: C02 jumped 2.1 PPM in 2008 to 386ppm; more ominously, 2nd consecutive year of sharply rising methane levels give credence to the theory that the melting of ocean permafrost has started.

Methane vs. C02. As a greenhouse gas, methane has 21 times the impact of C02. According to wikipedia, “Methane has a large effect for a brief period (a net lifetime of 8.4 years in the atmosphere), whereas carbon dioxide has a small effect for a long period (over 100 years)”

 How to Talk to a Global Warming Skeptic:  This is like a Snopes page for stupid things people say about global warming.

Environmentalists debate merits of carbon taxes vs. cap and trade vs. increased regulation. Lot of disagreement here; Europe example doesn’t suggest a clear winner. See David Roberts’s piece  and especially the comments:

Your primary consumption decision is not your cars, it’s the location of your house in relation to the geographic center of the metropolitan workforce, (unless you happen to telecommute). Your secondary consumption decision is the displacement of your petro-vehicle, unless you have regenerative braking, a turbu supercharger, an all-electric first 50 miles, (or you happen to telecommute, or you use the car to get to the transit bus). And yes, a gasoline tax does nothing, except impoverish poor people.

A carbon purchase tax should be levied on the home purchase, and a carbon location tax should be levied supplemental to the property tax on your home. Then a secondary carbon consumption tax should be levied on your vehicle engine displacement, flat out, no hedges. Then all these taxes must be rebated, by law. A State rebate must be offered in the form of a sales tax offset or credit from that secondary carbon tax for vehicles that are regenerative or all electric or turbocharged or fuel saving.

Rebates for those who use their cars to get to the bus are a free pass to ride the bus. And rebate the carbon portion of property tax and vehicle tax for tele-commuters, as a State income or sales tax credit, once employers have the responsibility of identifying telecommuting employees on the W-2s. Permalink

The problem is that it is costly to administer the process of rebating taxes back to the poor.  Government salaries can eat up 25% of the taxes collected that need to be rebated. With respect to transportation fuels, since 2002 most European nations have started to shift their conservation/environmental tax focus away from energy production and consumption to vehicle registration and use.  CO2 taxes–largely on transport fuels–accounted for 7% of government revenues in Norway in 1991.  They account for less than 2% today (after per capita transport fuel use and emissions increased over 38% between 1991 and 2005 in spite of the high CO2 tax).  Special annual vehicle registration taxes now generate about 5 times more Norwegian revenues than the CO2 tax does.

France was the first to implement a special tax on annual vehicle registration as a conservation measure, and France never used carbon or CO2-type fuel taxes to incent behaviour change.  As of the end of 2007, every EU member state has shifted more towards the French model (Germany being the last to implement the shift in 2008.)  They set annual car registration taxes based on the vehicle’s: (1) gross weight, (2) fuel efficiency rating and (3) distance logged on the odometer or IB2 chip since the last registration. It might be a little early to say, but so far, this looks like a very administratively cost effective and much less regressive tax measure.  (Low income families tend to own older, smaller cars and use them less.  Most of the EU nations have exempted old small cars or applied a heavily discounted registration tax rate to them, to mitigate the impacts on low income earners without the complicated costs of a rebate system.)

I should also note that the EU experience disproves the popular theory that retail fuel price increases drive investment into cleaner tech options.  The car registration tax system appears to be having a much more direct impact on captial investment decisions than much higher annualized equivalent in fuel taxes ever had (but, again, it might be too early to say the fat lady has sung on this one). (Permalink).

See also the comments to Thomas Friedman’s article advocating the carbon tax. See also Adam Stein’s political analysis.

rebating revenue and giving away permits produce the same overall hit to the economy, but rebating overwhelmingly favors low-income taxpayers while giving away permits overwhelmingly favors the rich.

Winner of a climate change in technology contest: a stove in a box !  (2nd prize was a food that reduced cow farts). Laugh all you want, but the article cited ruminant emissions as responsible for 20% of global warming.

Umbra Fisk of  Gristmill some entertaining vids about steps you as an individual can do to reduce climate change . See vids about coffee, makeup, saving money on heating bill.

Jon Green’s cover story about the psychology of green decision making.  Lots to digest. INSIGHTS: give nudges (instant feedback about energy use), focus on real current effects (rather than unseen long term effects), use decision making within organizations that invite collaboration.

Important 60 Minutes story about Coal. Duke Energy CEO talks about the wonders of carbon capture systems (CCS), but admits his company hasn’t actually invested any $ in CCS technology (!!!). I guess he thinks the public should invest in these technologies.  60 Minutes presents the choices as between dirty vs. clean coal. In fact, many alternatives are more affordable .

This consumer site lists the cheapest energy providers in Houston (dated April 16). Fun fact: Gexa’s green 100% coal-free 12 month plan ("Gexa Green 12") is cheaper than 12 month plans from coal energy companies like TXU or Reliant. Tip from RJ: Never get Variable rate energy plans. Their initial price may look tempting, but they almost never are a good deal in the long run.

Here’s a link to James Hansen’s essays about solving the climate crisis. (Unfortunately, everything is a PDF). The  Dear Barack & Michelle letter (PDF)  proposes carbon tax + 100% dividend ("When gasoline hits $4-5/gallon again, most of that should be tax staying in the country and returned as dividend, providing the consumer the means to purchase more efficient products").  Hansen thinks we must stop building coal plants (no exceptions) & phase out old ones.  HE writes:

A carbon cap that makes one more stinking millionaire on the backs of the public is going to infuriate the public. Me too. There is no need to support lobbyists, traders, and special interests. The tax should be proportional to the carbon amount and the dividend calculation will only require long division, which even a civil servant can do. 100% of the tax should go into the dividends. However, if some countries do not apply an equivalent tax, a duty should be collected on fossil-fuel dependent products imported from that country. Such import duties might be used, in part,to finance reforestation, climate adaptation, or other climate or energy related needs.

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