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Climate Policy for Conservatives

by Stephen DeCanio • May 23, 2011 @ 10:13 am

Suppose you believe, as I do, in basic conservative principles (free enterprise and a market economy, limited government, and minimal change in established institutions that work well), but also acknowledge that anthropogenic climate change presents a sufficient danger that something needs to be done about it.  The risk is that even as little as 2° Celsius (about 3.6° Fahrenheit) of warming might push one of a number of different earth systems past a tipping point that is both catastrophic and irreversible.  In other words, the problem is one of risk management, in which prudence calls for taking action before it is too late to make a mid-course correction.  What would be a conservative response to this threat? 

It is unfortunate that the climate issue has been co-opted by liberals, because conservative policy prescriptions would not be the same as those that have been put forward by the Democrats and their allies among the environmental groups.  The Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2010 (then died in the Senate) was a 1400-page monstrosity; it catered to special interests, placed undue burdens on people with low incomes, and had no connection to a coherent US international negotiating strategy on climate.  Just as misguided is the EPA’s intention to regulate CO2 as a pollutant by executive fiat – a scheme that also is inefficient, non-transparent, and regressive.  Virtually all economists would agree that either approach is inferior to a well-designed carbon tax or auctioned emissions permits, with revenues returned to citizens on a per capita basis or used to cut other taxes.   (more…)

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Lessons of the Montreal Protocol for Climate Policy

by Stephen DeCanio • March 21, 2011 @ 7:15 am

It is both remarkable and disheartening that the example of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer has not played a more prominent role in the climate policy debate. The Montreal Protocol has been extremely successful in eliminating almost all production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances (ODSs); it has achieved universal participation by the nations of the world; and it has demonstrated the possibility of cooperation in funding and technology transfer between the rich and poor nations to achieve a global environmental objective. The Montreal Protocol was negotiated and implemented as a precautionary measure, before depletion of the ozone layer had reached crisis proportions. What lessons does Montreal offer for climate policy?  (more…)

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When Bad Economics and Climate Science Collide

by Stephen DeCanio • October 1, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

When bad economics is applied to climate change, the result is often at odds with climate science. This tendency was on display at a recent series of panel discussions, “The Bloody Crossroads of Science and Policy” held by the American Enterprise Institute. During the Q&A following the panel on climate, a question from the room about discounting and the time scales of climate change elicited the following responses from two of the economists on the panel, Robert Mendelsohn and David Montgomery (direct quotes): (more…)

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