President Obama Reintroduces Climate Change into the Debate

It’s Baaack!  Just when you thought it was passé, President Obama has given new life to the climate change debate.  In his victory speech he said: “We want our children to live in an America … that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” Link to Transcript

caem! accepts that carbon emissions may be causing some global warming.  caem! recognizes, however, that: there are as yet significant uncertainties; that policy must be rigorously market-oriented; and that polices must be effective, not wishful thinking.  caem! largely adopts the positions of Bjorn Lomborg in his books Cool It (2007) and Climate Solutions (2010) that monies proposed for climate change policies must be measured against other positive things for which that money could be used.  When such a rigorous calculation is made, immediate radical carbon mitigation is a very poor investment and harmful to economic growth and third world aspirations.

That doesn’t mean we should do nothing. Clearly Lomborg’s suggestion about an aggressive research and development program that focuses on the lease cost method of addressing climate change is a solid first step. But it does mean we need to be very judicious in the actions that we take to make sure that we are not wasting money and that there is a reasonable chance that our actions will result in successfully addressing the problem. For example, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has been adopted by 10 states (now nine since New Jersey has suspended its participation) in the Northeast.

RGGI is a cap and trade program to reduce carbon emissions. If done successfully, this will raise the price of electricity to consumers in the Northeast. Question however, whether 9 states reducing carbon emissions will have any demonstrable effect on global warming in the year 2100. Possibly as an indication of leadership and symbolism RGGI may make some sense. But in light of the other challenges that exist both for the Northeast and the nation, RGGI seems misguided.

But clearly the reelection of Pres. Obama has given new life to the debate over climate change, a debate that had been moribund for the last several years. So we need to gear up and address questions not only related to energy policy but now must also address questions related to climate change.

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