Climate Change

Towards Optimal Climate Policy, Part II

The future of effective climate policy requires balancing equity, efficiency, political feasibility, and technological innovation

In the prior blog post in this two-part series, I talked about how current debates on climate policy that are focused on equity and efficiency are inadequate. Today, I’ll explain how we might advance political feasibility through climate policy, how that is connected to technological innovation, and how we must necessarily balance between all four …

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Towards Optimal Climate Policy, Part I

Moving the debate beyond equity and efficiency

As Congress debates two large pieces of legislation – both a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a partisan reconciliation package – a key question is the extent to which either piece of legislation (assuming it is enacted) addresses climate policy. And the recent flooding in Europe, the wildfires in the western US and Russia, and more …

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Why I Was Wrong About Methane

I didn’t think cutting methane was a high priority. Now I do. Here’s why.

I didn’t use to think that eliminating methane emissions should be a priority. True, methane is a potent greenhouse gas. But it’s also a short-lived one, which only stays in the atmosphere for twenty years or so. In contrast, CO2 emissions cause warming for 2-3 centuries or more. So methane emissions seemed to be something …

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Anti—Anti-#ClimateEmergency

COP25

Whether to declare a climate emergency is debatable. But some critics have gone way overboard.   

Should Biden declare a national climate emergency?  There are certainly arguments that, on balance, it would be better not to take that step.  Some opponents argue that declaring a climate emergency would be horribly anti-democratic, polarizing, and counterproductive.  Those arguments seem to me seriously overstated.  I’d like to go through the major arguments against declaring …

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The Turning Tide

Last week featured some remarkable developments relating to climate policy.

Some events last week sent a strong signal that the tide is turning against fossil fuels.  Each of the events standing alone would have been noteworthy. The clustering of these events dramatizes an important shift. To paraphrase Churchill, this may not be beginning of the end for fossil fuels, but at least it is the …

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The Supreme Court’s (Non-)Decision in Major Climate Change Case

BP P.L.C. v. Baltimore Ruling a Technical Win for Energy Defendants–But There’s Less There Than Meets the Eye

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its first major environmental decision of the Court’s current Term–and in a climate change case, no less: BP P.L.C v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore. Superficially, the multinational energy corporations sued by the City of Baltimore prevailed, in a 7-1 majority opinion authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch.  But …

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Washington State Ups Its Climate Game

After much travail, the state has finally put a price on carbon.

The Washington state legislature passed a historic climate change bill on April 24.  The bill requires a 95% cut in carbon emissions by 2050. After much travail, the state has finally managed to put a price on carbon by adopting a cap-and-trade system. With the decision of additional states to join the east coast RGGI …

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Five Myths About Climate Policy

Debate about climate policy is often distorted by misconceptions.

In this post, I want to talk about some of the ideas that make it hard to have sensible discussions about climate policy. I don’t mean outright climate denial.  Instead, I’m talking about less blatant misconceptions that keep many people from thinking seriously about cutting carbon emissions. Myth #1. EPA climate rules are a regulatory …

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American Soil

Soil is an important carbon sink. It’s literally going down the drain, eroding away.

Today is Earth Day. Let’s talk about something earthy: the dirt under our feet. When I was a kid growing up in central Illinois, the topsoil was black and went down about a foot.  When I was a little older and tried gardening, I was amazed at the fertility of the soil.  When I’ve gone …

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Straws in the Wind

Businesses have intensified public support for climate action. That could presage a major shift in climate politics.

In the past few weeks, there’s been a notable growth of business support for climate action. A letter from the CEOs of 300 hundred major companies called for a 50% cut from 2005 carbon emissions by 2030.  The companies ranged from the utilities to tobacco to investment management. Google, McDonalds,  Walmart, and Philip Morris were …

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