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On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

I captured the range of existing uncertainty in climate forecasts in the range of social cost of carbon values references, which span anywhere from $10-1000 per ton of CO2. My point in this whole series is that political constraints likely bind us before we reach anywhere too far into this range. So I actually don't see this is hinging on resolving that uncertainty. Why do you?

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

The wide range of uncertainty in climate damages is well known and I'm not disputing it at all. It's also embodied in the wide range of social costs of carbon discussed in my article (basically $10-1000/ton CO2, so two orders of magnitude of uncertainty there), and compounded by disagreements in the social discount rate to apply to intergenerational and global impacts. That's really not the issue of contention here. RE the rate of reduction, that was quoting from memory a presentation from Roger Pielke Jr a while back. I'd check the IPCC Working Group 1 report for a detailed discussion of net syncs, but I think that 2ppm/year figure is right +/- 20%...

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

The air quality benefits I was speaking of are due to reductions of pollutants that are emitted along with CO2, like particular matter, SO2, NOx, mercury, benzine etc. CO2 itself is not an air pollutant (as your brothers' greenhouse illustrates and as is well known). The harms from CO2 are associated with the greenhouse gas's impact on global average temperatures and climate patterns, as I hope the article was also obvious about.

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 3: Why Carbon Revenues are Just as Important as "Putting a Price on Carbon"

Apropos of our discussion here: Rep. Chris Van Hollen is apparently taking another go at introducing a "cap-and-dividend" bill in the House. UMass-Amhert's James K. Boyce makes the case in the NYTimes today. 

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

In rough terms, I believe net CO2 sinks remove about 2 ppm of CO2 from the atmosphere annually, so if we cut global anthropogenic emissions to 0, CO2 PPM would fall by 2ppm per year. If we cut anthropogenic CO2 in half, it would fall by just 1 PPM per year. Obviously, this isn't going to lead to substantial changes in the short-term. 

But that's really not the case politicians will or should make. The major gains from action on climate change are in avoided damages from long-term warming that does not occur thanks to near-term actions. Again, that's a really tough sell, as I hope my article and columns here have made clear. That's a large part of the reason why public support for carbon pricing is so small compared to the full social cost of carbon. 

So I don't think the political sustainability of the policy really hinges on "how those "improvements" might be quantified over say a typical political term of 2-4 years in away that a politician could point to them and say "See what my administration did."" That's just not the kind of problem this is. Politicians will on the one hand need to convince people that this is a long-term endeavor that is worth undertaking. And then they need to link these near-term actions to near-term co-benefits of climate mitigation as best as they can to blunt the disconnect between climate mitigation costs and benefits. Finally, they'll need to do so in a way that doesn't run afoul of the various political economy constraints present (as discussed in Part 1 and 2 of this series). 

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 3: Why Carbon Revenues are Just as Important as "Putting a Price on Carbon"

Forget my back of the envelop calculations: Arthur Yip in the comments above provides a link to this analysis of the household impact of BC's carbon tax. They find that it costs the average household just $125 per year initially, which is more than offset by income tax cuts and direct payments (worth $277/year for the average household). See my discussion with him above...

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 3: Why Carbon Revenues are Just as Important as "Putting a Price on Carbon"

Thanks for the great links Arthur. So if the average initial household cost of the carbon tax in BC is just $125 per household per year, AND the policy rebates back an even greater amount ($277 annually per household) in income tax cuts and direct payments, that's actually a remarkable testament to how little the rebates seem to impact household willingness to pay and political durability of a carbon price. $125/year is right in the middle of the $80-200/household per year range evidenced in the WTP research I surveyed in my paper. If you translated that $125/year to the average U.S. household, which emits ~34 metric tons of CO2 per year, that would be equivalent to support for a carbon price of just $3.68 per ton of CO2 in the U.S. So it seems like BC's much higher carbon price is much more a function of the low carbon footprint per household in BC (due to very low CO2 from the power sector there) than it is the income tax cuts and rebates. (Although one could pessimisticly read the BC case as evidence that you need to more than fully offset the annual costs for an average household just to secure even that modest a WTP...). What do you think we can learn from the BC example Arthur? 

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

Hi all,

Again, can we keep the comments focused on the topic at hand (i.e. the design of effective climate policy)? I'd rather not start another nuclear vs renewables debate here! Thanks,

Jesse

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

Let's keep the conversation on topic. This isn't the space to litigate the science of global climate change. Thanks.

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

The "atmospheric life" figures you cite are averages. There are a variety of processes that remove carbon from the atmosphere. Some, like ocean mixing and biosphere intake, are fast. Others like rock weathering are very slow. So unforutnately it's a bit more complicated than just tsaying "30-90 years." Some CO2 would be withdrawn quickly while some of it would last for centuries in the atmosphere. 

However, when I said tie climate policy to near-term benefits, I wasn't talking about near-term climate benefits, but rather other credible co-benefits, like improved air quality and energy security (for example).

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On When Politics Constraints Carbon Pricing, Part 2: 6 Tips for Improving Climate Change Policy

Hi all,

Let's please keep the conversation threads on topic. There are lots of discussions of nuclear energy costs and benefits elsewhere on this site, but this post is focused on climate policy. Thanks,

Jesse

July 30, 2014    View Comment    

On Will Coal Exports Abroad Offset Hard-Won Carbon Reductions at Home?

For further reading, here's another interesting analysis of this thorny question (which reaches different conclusions than Wolak): Power & Power, 2013: "The Impact of Powder River Basin Coal Exports on Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions" (A Report for the Energy Foundation). 

p.s. if you're both named "Power," how can you not form an electricity-related consulting practice?! ;)

July 29, 2014    View Comment