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Can Clean Energy Campaigns Stop Climate Change?

by Frank Ackerman • August 26, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

Originally posted on Triple Crisis

Can we protect the earth’s climate without talking about it – by pursuing more popular policy goals such as cheap, clean energy, which also happen to reduce carbon emissions? It doesn’t make sense for the long run, and won’t carry us through the necessary decades of technological change and redirected investment. But in the current context of climate policy fatigue, it may be the least-bad short-run strategy available.

You may have lost interest in climate change, but the climate hasn’t lost interest in you. Once-extraordinary heat waves are becoming the new normal. Recent research demonstrates that by now someone “old enough to remember the climate of 1951–1980 should recognize the existence of climate change, especially in summer.” (more…)

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Breakthrough Institute Fails to Flatten Climate Economics

by Frank Ackerman • May 17, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

Why does the Breakthrough Institute insist that everyone else besides them who cares about the environment is wrong, wrong, wrong? Their latest, called “The Creative Destruction of Climate Economics,” is a swipe at those misguided souls who think putting a price on carbon emissions would help combat climate change.

Breakthrough, according to its website, aims “to modernize liberal-progressive-green politics” and to accelerate the transition to an “ecologically vibrant” future. They “broke through” into well-funded fame in 2003 with their attack on environmentalists for failing to emphasize the economic concerns of ordinary Americans, such as jobs – thereby alienating  the major environmental groups, who had been talking about jobs and the environment for years.

What’s wrong with pricing carbon emissions? This particular breakthrough rests on a mistaken reading of an academic paper in the American Economic Review, the most prestigious outlet for mainstream economics. That paper develops a simplified, abstract model of an economy that generates carbon emissions. Unlike some climate economics models, it assumes that public policy can affect the pace of innovation. Its conclusion, in the authors’ own words, seems quite balanced: (more…)

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Elections vs. Environment: Stigma of Successful Regulation

by Frank Ackerman • February 2, 2012 @ 9:39 am

Originally posted on Triple Crisis.

What will the presidential election in November mean for U.S. environmental policy? Although we don’t yet know who the Republican candidate will be, we know all too well what will be on his environmental agenda. The endless televised debates have exposed what the New York Times called “the broken windows of the Republican idea factory.” It’s not a pretty sight.

The candidates all share the same approach to the environment. Ron Paul plans to govern primarily by abolishing things. His hit list includes America’s foreign wars, but also the Federal Reserve, most federal taxes, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and all limits on offshore drilling and the use of coal and nuclear power. Rick Santorum agrees that energy companies must be entirely deregulated. Newt Gingrich will build a moon colony by 2020, and will replace the EPA with a new agency that “will operate on the premise that most environmental problems can and should be solved by states and local communities.” Mitt Romney promises to “eliminate the regulations promulgated in pursuit of the Obama administration’s costly and ineffective anti-carbon agenda,” and to slow down or block regulations in general whenever industry complains about their costs (i.e., always). (more…)


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