Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rethinking W-M...

Thanks for all the criticism and comments.  In fact, one comment has prompted much deep cogitation.

The reader writes:
John, the one question I have for you is this: How rotten does legislation for the reduction of carbon emissions or income inequality has to be for you to be against it? I am not saying that these problems do not exist or not need to be addressed. (Fwiw, I would have a piglovian carbon tax paid back towards payroll taxes.) I am saying that some cures can be very counterproductive and worse than the problems themselves. Let us not rush in pell-mell into "having to do something" that we lay waste to many of the things we do right.
The idea of a deal-breaking point is a good one, but now let's insert the political developments to date. For example, the push for even more ag concessions continues in the Senate.

Attempts to broaden opportunities for farmers and corn-based ethanol could lose some support for the bill from environmental groups, which have been critical of the fuel for the land, pesticides and water pollution involved in its use.
But at least some concessions for agriculture may be necessary to secure the bill's passage. The Senate Agriculture Committee includes some key members that Boxer will need to win over if she is to get the crucial 60 votes needed to pass the bill, including fence-sitters on the bill like Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). [More]

As unfortunate as I view the ag concessions to be, I have come round to thinking that ag votes may be the easiest to "buy". Seriously, farmers soon reconcile themselves to equating something that gets them a check as good for them, and since so few believe in AGW to begin with, it may appear as a painless gain.

So if I want a climate bill to emerge, getting the votes from ag interests appears far more likely than coal Senators.  Do the ag concession weaken the emissions control values? Certainly.  But fatally?  I'm thinking no.

Just like the Clean Air Act, from which I dimly remember similar acrimony, our first attempt at regulating emissions will be modified almost continually as time goes on.  Meanwhile, we no longer hear much about acid rain or LA smog.

The goal in my mind, since I believe us to be environmentally headed in the exact wrong direction, is to turn the ship not 180°, but at least 91°.  So my threshold of acceptability is pretty low regulation wise.

To reverse my belief in AGW as a basis for my support of legislation would require a reduction in the consensus among climatologists to around 50-50.  This does not appear to be happening, as even the USDA is now daring to speak up for the science underlying emissions controls.

The world’s climate is getting warmer, and that could have a profound impact on U.S. agriculture, says Jerry Hatfield, supervisory plant physiologist with USDA’s National Soil Tilth Research Laboratory at Iowa State University.
While right-wing pundits and even some Democrats, such as Collin Peterson, may scoff, Hatfield says the world can expect warmer temperatures for the next 30 to 50 years, rising carbon dioxide concentrations and increased variability in temperature and precipitation.
Hatfield isn’t some off-the-wall environmentalist with an agenda. He’s a respected scientist who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 and chaired last year’s USDA Greenhouse Gas Symposium. He also says the phenomenon is not new.
“Climate has changed, climate is changing and climate will change. There is no such thing as having consistent climate around the globe. The real question is what sort of magnitude of change we’re going to see in the next few years.” [More]

I can appreciate the idea of taking our time and writing a thoughtful, clean bill, but I'm not sure that is even possible these days. Bills to fund soldiers become vehicles for special interests, and the need for legislators to be able to point out some impact to constituents ensures even the finest initial bill will look like Christmas tree on the President's desk.

While it is true that without participation from China and India the global impact will be minimal, I am surprised by critics who thus cede global leadership to them.  Making China "go first" is an abdication of our widely-proclaimed status at the head of nations.  Leadership has privileges, but also responsibilities. An emission bill is essential to have any leverage to bring other countries along.

Finally, a failure now would put emissions control on the level of Social Security reform - something no sane legislator would risk for a long time.  And the problem grows worse and more difficult to solve.

[One final note:  I think we will still get a payroll tax reduction anyway, as a further stimulus.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

John - from anon 1 week ago. I've been supporting you, but have to agree with the thought prompting this post. I also prefer a straight carbon tax with decreases in other taxes. Plus with decreasing sunspot activity lessening AGW effect and no coop. from Indo-China, what's the point?