Climate Policy: Caring for Our Kids and Theirs

image courtesy of Roberto Herrera Pellizzari

image courtesy of Roberto Herrera Pellizzari CC BY 2.0

 

Climate Policy

It’s crucial that we recognize just how important this is!

We have the opportunity to make things better for our kids, and for many future generations.
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Here are some undesirable things that could quite possibly happen if we do not adjust human behavior:

• In 2030, the average meal at McDonald’s will cost $15.40.<1>

• A few centuries from now, the US State of Florida will no longer exist, due to rising sea levels.<2>

• There will be more warfare, motivated by food and water shortages.

 

image courtesy of Mads Pihl / Red Bull

image courtesy of Mads Pihl / Red Bull

It can take a long time for excess gasses like CO2 to dissipate from the atmosphere: perhaps hundreds, even thousands, of years. This means that global warming is a little like riding a bicycle over a hill and down a long, icy slope. If you don’t apply the brakes at or near the top of the hill, you’re in for a long scary ride before coming to a stop.

 

No More Florida? image courtesy of Prof. Dr. Volker Quaschning, HTW Berlin -- University of Applied Sciences

No More Florida?
image courtesy of Prof. Dr. Volker Quaschning

Conflict image courtesy of JSOTF-TS Public Affairs

Conflict
image courtesy of JSOTF-TS Public Affairs

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Support Elected Officials

Try to vote for and support candidates who are committed to sensible climate policies. You can view the positions of candidates and currently elected representatives by searching on the Internet. Here are some useful online resources for voters in the US:

The Political Guide
http://www.thepoliticalguide.com

vote411.org
http://www.vote411.org/

VoteEasy, Project Vote Smart
http://votesmart.org/voteeasy/

How to Choose a Candidate, Mahalo.com
http://www.mahalo.com/how-to-choose-a-candidate/

 

Policies That Guide

Government policy can increase the speed of change by guiding rather than dictating. Efficient market-based systems can guide by assisting the best performing clean technologies, using funds raised from cost penalties that are imposed on the more polluting technologies.<3>

While combating global warming, many effective changes can pay for themselves by reducing energy costs and avoiding dependence on foreign energy suppliers.

A revenue-neutral carbon tax imposes higher taxes on companies that produce energy with carbon containing fuels (that emit CO2), while all other tax payers see a reduction in their taxes with the total of all taxes remaining the same. US government representatives have tended to opt for this kind of system – though the details are yet to be fully developed and implemented.<4>

Carbon emission trading systems generally provide an energy producer with a limited number of carbon permits for the production of energy using carbon-containing fossil fuels. The total number of issued permits corresponds to the total allowances for particular types of emission set by the government. Each permit is a paper document or electronically recorded unit that can be potentially sold from one energy producer to another.

When a producer wants to use more polluting technology, that provider can essentially buy a carbon permit from another producer that’s operating below its pollution quota. The purchased permit can then be used as a credit toward the more polluting producer’s quota. This essentially subsidizes clean production and penalizes polluting production.

An energy producer may choose to purchase and use carbon permits to meet demand prior to the time when newer technology can be brought online. Persons or organizations that wish to indirectly invest in clean energy can purchase and hold carbon permits, thus reducing power producers’ use of polluting technologies. Carbon permits can be bought and sold on local and international exchanges.

Permits may be variously named or referred to as credits, certificates, etc. Many common permits are issued for each metric tonne of climate warming emissions.

Carbon trading systems are beginning to come into use in various parts of the world. Locations leading the way include Europe, Australia, China, nine US Northeast states, and California. There’s been limited effectiveness of some early systems, where inaccurate forecasts resulted in too many permits being issued.<5>

Renewable energy certificates are issued based on the amount of renewable or clean energy produced, rather than on the amount of pollution permitted. Similar to carbon permits, renewable energy certificates can be traded either directly between power producers, or indirectly on exchange markets.

Like carbon permits, the effect of renewable energy certificates is to subsidize clean production and penalize polluting production. A power company can reach it’s renewable energy quota by purchasing renewable energy certificates in place of actually producing from renewable energy. The power company may choose to purchase and use renewable energy certificates to meet its renewable quota prior to the time when newer technology can be brought online.

In the US, each certificate is issued for one megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated from an eligible renewable energy resource.<6>

Feebates are self-financing systems that can add fees to the price of inefficient or polluting products, while using the funds raised by the charges to reduce the cost of efficient or non-polluting products.<7><8>

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<1>Just to get a rough idea of what might happen to the price of a McDonald’s meal, the price of maize (called corn in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand) could at least double between 2013 and 2030 – and also increase dramatically on top of this due to any one of many possible specific extreme weather conditions. For example, on top of the doubling, there could be a price rise of as much as a 140% resulting from another US drought in 2030. The overall increase, then, brings us to a level 2 times 2.4, or 4.8 times the current price. We can, very roughly, use maize as representative of the food portion of a McDonald’s meal, since maize is representative both of human and livestock consumed crops. We’ll assume the food portion of a meal’s cost is about 30% today, with the remaining 70% to cover labor, transportation, etc. We’ll assume the 70% portion increases by the average rate of inflation in the US, which has been 3.22% between 1913 and 2013. This is a cumulative increase of 71% over the 17 years between 2013 and 2030. Combining all this gives an average meal price that is about $15.40 in 2030, for a meal that costs $4.75 today. (If the meal’s price only were to increase by the historical rate of overall US inflation, it would only be about $8.10.) Supporting data from http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/sep/05/climate-change-food-oxfam , http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/Long_Term_Inflation.asp and http://www.burgerbusiness.com/?p=9385
<2>http://files.eesi.org/Quaschning_031212.pdf#page=5
<3>An accompanying goal is to guide development of clean technologies while at the same time encouraging a healthy economy.
<4>The average household’s taxes would probably go down, but its expenses could go up for some items in the form of passed on costs (until technology improvements more fully lower clean energy costs). For example, it’s been estimated that, in the US, a carbon tax of $10 per ton of CO2 emission could work out to about 8 cents a gallon in higher automobile fuel price passed on to consumers, perhaps over the next decade or so. Auto Makers on Fuel Efficiency Jan 30, 2013, http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/310687-2
<5>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_emission_trading
<6>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_Energy_Certificate_%28United_States%29
<7>Feebate, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feebate
<8>”Just in the first two years, the biggest of Europe’s 5 feebate programs has tripled the speed of improving automotive efficiency.”, Amory Lovins: A 40-year plan for energy, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHOyfyGwpes
Categories: Huge Changes

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