Energy, Climate and the 2020 Election

What is the Social Cost of Carbon?

Reprinted from MIT Technology Review By David Rotman In contrast to the existential angst currently in fashion around climate change, there’s a cold-eyed calculation that its advocates, mostly economists, like to call the most important number you’ve never heard of.

What’s New?

Getting to 1.5C

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has issued a comprehensive analysis of different fiscal policies for achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement. It assess the possible impacts of carbon pricing in the U.S. and other nations, as well as carbon-cutting options that would not raise consumer energy prices. It is a report that presidential candidates and members of Congress would do well to read.

Natural Sinks

If the United States is to achieve a net-zero carbon economy by mid-century, the restoration and care of soils, grasslands, forests and wetlands will be critical. The consulting firm Breakthrough Strategies and Solutions has issued a comprehensive guide on what must happen to maximize the use of these natural carbon sinks. Conservation and changes in land management can provide more than a third of the cost-effective mitigation the world needs to keep global warming below 2oC, the company says. The guide is written for philanthropies, but it contains idea for government policies, too.

Seamless Mobility

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the urban population is growing. McKinsey & Company offers a vision of what mobility could look like in cities of the future.

Legal Paths to Decarbonization

The Environmental Law Institute (ELI) at Columbia University is about to publish more than 1,000 specific recommendations for the municipal, state and federal laws necessary for the United States to decarbonize its economy and achieve the goals of the Paris Climate accord. More than 60 experts contributed to the book, titled “Legal Pathways to Decarbonization in the United States”. The editors are Michael Gerrard, Director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at the Columbia Law School, and John C. Dernbach, Distinguished Professor of Law at the Widener University Law School. The complete book is 1,100 pages. A shorter version can be downloaded here at no cost.

The Green New Deal

The Green New Deal is a proposal to make a rapid and comprehensive transition to a decarbonized economy, principally by shifting to 100% renewable power generation.  Green groups have promoted the idea for some time, but one version is contained in a proposal by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democrat Socialist from New York who was elected to Congress last November.

Options for a Carbon Tax

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued a new analysis of different options for creating a carbon tax. Key issues for Congress, should it take up the issue this session (which it should), include how much the tax should be and how to use its revenues.  The most disturbing fact in the CRS report: “…carbon tax analyses do not generally consider the benefits that would be gained by reducing GHG emissions and avoiding climate change and its adverse impacts.” That is information — the cost of doing nothing — that Congress must consider.

12 Years and Counting

Two reports issued last fall shook up the assumption that holding global warming to no more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels would be sufficient to avert catastrophic climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that the much safer goal is 1.5oC.

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President Dwight D. Eisenhower
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