Louder than Words

Lately I’ve been spending more time wondering what we — the common people of the world — can actually do about climate change. My one overriding thought is that we need collective action, things we do as a group. That says to me that we need government action, because government is the way we, as a people, combine our resources and organize our efforts.

My conclusion is that the most important thing for us, as individuals, to do is to get our government on the right track. Because right now, it isn’t.

So: how do we do that? I don’t know of any one answer, or any one action that will “turn things around.” But I do have some ideas that we, as individuals, can put into action.

First and foremost, in my opinion, is to vote the climate change issue. For the most part, that means voting for democrats rather than republicans, because if you deny that the republican party is the problem then you’re in denial. But there are a few republicans — alas, very very few — who are genuinely concerned and willing to take action. I’m not talking about those who pay lip service, and I’m especially not talking about those who deflect the issue with non-commital mumbo-jumbo. The same goes for democrats: those who talk the talk but won’t walk the walk, they too have got to go. But if there’s a republican who is the real deal, vote for him or her in spite of being a democrat. If there’s a democrat who’s the real deal, vote for her or him in spite of being a republican. To put it simply: make climate change the #1 issue when you get in the voting booth.

The most important part of that is: keep Donald Trump out of the white house. Period. The second most important part is: get the senators and congresspersons who are the problem the hell out of our congress.

One way to influence those who are there, is to be heard. I know of three ways to influence your elected representatives (besides voting of course): telephone calls, emails, and handwritten letters. Do all three. Repeatedly.

And … follow the money. Find out how much your representatives receive from fossil fuel interests, and spread the word far and wide. Make ’em pay for all that money they’re taking.

Speaking of money, something you can do to help politicians and candidates who “get it” is to donate to their campaigns. It helps them get elected. Do be sure, I suggest, to include a note (or letter) with your contribution saying outright that you’re making this donation because of their stance on climate change. When enough people put their money where their mouths are, it gets attention. (P.S. you can donate to this blog too).

You might, from time to time, see editorials and/or letters to the editor in your local paper. When the paper publishes such things that deny the reality, the human cause, or the danger of climate change, respond. Write a letter to the editor yourself. Even if it’s not in response to denial, write a letter to the editor expressing your concern and the need for our politicians to get straight about it. Do so often.

Check your local ordinances about all things environmental, especially those which discourage energy efficiency or independence. When any body makes it illegal to put solar on your rooftop or collect your own rainwater, tell ’em in no uncertain terms how immoral that it.

Here’s an important one my wife thought of: ask your local school board whether climate science is being taught in the schools. Ask them what is being taught. If it doesn’t satisfy you — either because it’s being ignored or spreading denier crap — make a fuss. A big fuss.

As much as you can do — and you can do a lot — your friends and family and neighbors can do a lot too. Motivate the people you know who might be willing to help. You don’t have to convert them into activists, but every one of them you can convince to write a letter to the editor of the paper, or to a congresscritter, will be a big part of getting our government out of the denier camp and into the useful camp. You might be amazed how much you can influence the people around you.

You might be amazed how much you can influence the people around you, just by talking about it. You don’t want to turn into one of those people who won’t talk about anything else, or who becomes tiresome. But when the issue comes up, speak the truth. When anyone — co-worker, preacher, drunk uncle — spews denier crap, tell them in the most polite and friendly but uncertain terms, that the truth is otherwise, and that denial like they’re spreading is going to cost … cost money, cost jobs, cost lives.

I’ll end by emphasizing what might be most important, which is what I talked about first: vote. Vote based on the climate change issue. Make it the #1 issue when you get in the voting booth.

Do share, in the comments, your own ideas. Let us know what has worked for you, and what hasn’t.

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109 responses to “Louder than Words

  1. I’ve briefed a few candidates – just this year – astounding to learn that they know NOTHING about the problem. Voting is crucial, and everyone has a great opportunity to educate your candidate… you might promise them your vote and maybe a small donation if they will only listen to your concerns on this one issue (which just happens to touch everything)

    I send out a daily briefing on climate news that voters and candidates may want to know more about … the archive is at: https://pairlist10.pair.net/pipermail/theclimate.vote/ – an one may subscribe to the list at https://pairlist10.pair.net/mailman/listinfo/theclimate.vote – it is a text only list – no pics nor graphics. Safer that way. It links 5 or 10 of the top stories with a simple summary. And I encourage you to get the email address of your candidate and their staff and enlist them all. Let them refuse the subscription if they dare.

    Personally, I donate to candidates who hear me and promise to pay attention to this issue. Another good site is http://www.ClimateHawksVote.com/

  2. “Make ’em pay for all that money they’re taking.”

    Given the amount of money that has corrupted so many aspects of U.S. politics, it’s almost shocking how little some of these senators and representatives have been bought for. Although I wouldn’t rule out the possible role of cash or other considerations that have been kept off the books.

  3. It’s my experience in talking to friends, neighbours and colleagues about climate change that the best approach is—in the first case—to keep your argument as simple as possible and not become too bogged down in detail. The vast majority of people don’t have strong views either way, and the most basic misunderstanding seems to be the idea that scientists are divided over whether CC is happening and what the causes might be. Journalists are the main culprits for perpetuating this myth due to their desire for ‘balance’.

    The most effective argument is therefore to encourage people to search on-line for the ‘scientific opinion on climate change’. Having suggested to people to do this I usually follow it up with a friendly email including the link.

    If they’re reasonably open-minded and haven’t been got at by ‘skeptics’ they’ll find this an eye-opener and they’ll be well on their way to discovering the facts for themselves. If they’re interested they’ll want to talk more about it. I’ve used this a couple of times now and it’s worked for me.

  4. Jim Prescott

    Typo, I don’t think “uncertain” is right in “tell them in the most polite and friendly but uncertain terms”.

  5. >That says to me that we need government action,

    This misunderstands how movements work. Anyone who thinks a few laws made by Government will change societal behavioir is mistaken, look at drug use or prohibition for examples. In order to be successful in changing behavioir you need a minority to start normalising that behavioir. Currently low emitters are pilloried by most for being loons. We also have them dismissed by people who are high emitters as ‘they’re low emissions don’t make any difference’, which is the exact same argument everyone makes about nothing we do as a nation matters, look at China’s emissions.

    The Democrats are just more of the same, Jill Stein is about the only stepping stone in the right direction. Anyone emitting more than about 3t per annum and voting for the Democrats is part of the problem. That includes everyone from Naomi Klein to James Hansen, to Michael Mann, to the Koch brothers.

    Actions matter, would you take advice about domestic violence from someone beating their spouse ? We cannot build our way out of this, there are no solutions here aside from massive energy decrease See anything by Kevin Anderson for example and Susan Krumdieck

    >Business leaders recognise that the biggest risk to their business is energy transition. **The most popular concept of this transition involves a substitution of renewables for fossil fuels and development of elusive tail-pipe technologies like carbon-capture and storage. This concept is comforting and simple. But it is also profoundly wrong. There is no way to achieve an energy transition without completely reworking every aspect of our infrastructure, industry and economy to vastly reduce energy demand. Changing the global economy to nearly eliminate the use of fossil fuels is a “wicked problem” – a problem with no known solution**

    [Dr Susan P Krumdieck is Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Advanced Energy and Material Systems Lab, University of Canterbury, New Zealand](http://low-emission-future.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/can-engineers-change-world-energy.html)

    • Taxes aren’t optional. They work. A carbon tax is the only real solution. Otherwise your virtue is just encouraging others’ vice.

      • Chris O'Neill

        Taxes work. A carbon tax is the only real solution.

        Indeed. A carbon tax was working in Australia until it was rescinded by a government that played to people’s self interest. Carbon emissions in Australia are now increasing again. Anyone who thinks that a few laws made by Government won’t change societal behaviour is simply ignoring this counter-example. The problem is getting people to vote for, and to continue to vote for, a government that will make even a few laws that will reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately most people are ruled by short-sighted self interest, as the Australian election results prove.

      • Chris O’Neill, “A carbon tax was working in Australia until it was rescinded by a government that played to people’s self interest. ”

        Or was it the Labor government’s political ineptitude? They took to increasingly idiotic remakes of “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”

      • Chris O'Neill

        Who could forget “Axe the Tax” and “A Big New Tax on Everything”?

        No appeal to self interest there.

      • Chris–Fair enough!

        Of course, it can be both…

      • Chris O'Neill

        it can be both

        Of course, their political opponents would say they’re inept, wouldn’t they? Appealing to people’s self interest, if they really believe it and a lot did with the Carbon tax, will influence the people who don’t care about the argy-bargy of politics.

    • Windchaser

      Anyone who thinks a few laws made by Government will change societal behavioir is mistaken,

      The government was *extremely* effective at getting people to switch off of leaded gasoline. Also cleaning up smokestacks and getting people to install catalytic converters on their cars, reducing smog.

      Sometimes government laws work quite well, actually.

    • Mal Adapted

      T-Rev, some government actions can have more effect on societal behavior than others. Would you agree that economic forces change societal behavior?

      Fossil carbon became the dominant energy source early in the industrial revolution because it was “cheaper” than competing sources. We now know it was only cheaper because producers and consumers were able to keep the costs of future climate change out of the market price of energy. In the classical economic framework, AGW is an “externality”, a cost of producing a good that isn’t reflected in the price producers must charge. To a classical economist, externalities represent “market failure”.

      The preferred (by economists) solution to externalities is to internalize them in the price of the goods that cause them. Since the “free” market won’t do that, societies must do it by collective action. Implementing collective actions is what governments do.

      The most “efficient” (in the classical economic sense) way to internalize external production costs is to impose a tax on the producers, who will then have to raise their prices if they want to continue making a profit. While the ultimate rationale for a carbon tax is to internalize the cost of AGW, all the tax really needs to do is reduce or eliminate the price advantage fossil carbon now enjoys over carbon-neutral alternatives. Carbon-tax proponents expect that when carbon-neutral energy prices are competitive with fossil carbon, market forces will drive the development of carbon-neutral energy sources and infrastructure throughout the global economy. If history is a guide, energy prices will be higher at first, but will decline as technological improvements are made and economies of scale are realized. Eventually, say carbon-tax proponents, fossil carbon won’t be cheaper than the alternatives even without the tax. Mission accomplished 8^)!

      Some kind of carbon tax is the most likely effective government action in the current US political climate. It’s well supported by moderate Republicans and even some Libertarians. But any collective action against AGW has to overcome the political influence of the individuals, families and corporations that stand to lose the most by the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. Good luck with that 8^(.

      • Eric Swanson

        Mal Adapted, I think the problem is even more basic than you suggest. The concept of “externalities” reflects a serious flaw in economics, which is, the assumption that mankind’s activities are separated from the rest of the natural world. Much effort has been made to modify economic thinking thru the concept of “sustainability”, but such thinking hasn’t made it into the mainstream market economy. Using a tax to “put a price” on a so-called “externality” is what the engineering world would call “a kluge” in that it doesn’t fix the basic flaw, i.e., just a “work around” to keep things working for a while longer. The costs of renewables is a function of all the resources employed to produce, install and maintain the equipment and increasing the cost of energy so used via a tax will also increase the market price for those systems and resources. Worse, all other prices in the economy will be impacted, resulting in price inflation. As a result, over time, the tax would need to increase to provide the equivalent price differential. Worse still, as some consumers would simply choose to pay more for their continued use of fossil fuels, to continue to encourage further reductions in the supply of fossil fuels, the tax level would need to continue to increase.

        For example, the past several years have seen a dramatic drop in the market price for natural gas leading to a reduction in the use of coal to generate electricity. But, as with all the fossil fuels, the supply is limited and eventually the rate of supply will decline to reflect this geological truth. Then what? As the NG price begins to climb, won’t this make the NG price advantage vs. coal disappear? Will the use of coal by the utilities increase again, especially in regions for which renewables aren’t presently economic? At some point, would the increasing tax burden become so onerous that political reality intrudes and the tax is reduced or repealed?

        Plans which include rebating the tax to the individual consumer worsen the effectiveness of the tax, since the consumer will begin to ignore the higher price of the fossil fuel they want to use. I submit that a direct rationing scheme would be preferable, if a white market for trading the allocations were included. One might protest that the system to provide the allocations would be disruptive, but, with a rebate program, every person’s name and contact information would be required, which would be similarly disruptive, IMHO. And, with a tax, what’s to prevent politicians from adding “loop holes” for their most favored groups or businesses? Anyone who thinks a tax is preferable only needs to look at the present US tax code for reasons to reject the use of a tax.

      • @Eric Swanson,

        There are three problems with Carbon pricing which I’ve never seen dealt with.

        First, the tax or Carbon price, even if revenue neutral, is never high enough to make the changes demanded of doing it. Presumably that’s to make it politically palatable, but if it isn’t going to do what it’s supposed to do, what’s the point? I understand these are generally proposed to be phased in, and what I am referring to is the ultimate price. An adequate price should be an appreciable portion of what it is estimated to cost to set up a global system of clear air Carbon capture and sequestration. That’s estimated to cost $275/tonne of Carbon in 2010 U.S.dollars.

        Second, as the Carbon price or tax wins, if it is structured to offset income taxes, say, there will be a disincentive to reduce more, because of revenue losses.

        Third, there’s likely to be an appreciable lag between the imposition of the tax and the eventual effects, all the more because it is intended to be phased in over time. That lag may be too long to really help.

        That said, it isn’t that it is a bad idea, it just needs adjusting. And you are correct: It’s very indirect.

      • ES: The concept of “externalities” reflects a serious flaw in economics, which is, the assumption that mankind’s activities are separated from the rest of the natural world.

        BPL: The concept of externalities COMES FROM economics. Nor does economics make any assumptions about man being “separated from the rest of the natural world.” Please take an econ course.

      • Eric Swanson

        BPL, I did take Econ 101 in engineering school. I’ve attempted to continue my education since, such as reading some Keynes, Hayek, Howard Odum and also Mankiw’s Macro undergrad text, among others. I joined ISEE for a few years when it started back in the 80’s.

        I still contend that mainstream economics does not include much of mankind’s direct impacts on the natural world. What’s the economic “price” of all the species lost thru extinction and who pays that “cost”? Where is the line item in a government’s budget for paying the future impacts of climate change over the next few millennia?

      • I’d concur that “mainstream” economics has not learned much from behavioral economics, simply because it is difficult to calculate with the latter. That doesn’t make it any less real.

      • Chris O'Neill

        mainstream economics does not include much of mankind’s direct impacts on the natural world

        Economics as it is normally conceived is a human-centred concept. We could of course develop economics centred closer to other living things, cockroaches say, and think about how economics would work in that circumstance.

        But normally, economics comes back to some sort of human interest.

      • Hypergeometric:
        “First, the tax or Carbon price, even if revenue neutral, is never high enough to make the changes demanded of doing it. Presumably that’s to make it politically palatable, but if it isn’t going to do what it’s supposed to do, what’s the point? I understand these are generally proposed to be phased in, and what I am referring to is the ultimate price. An adequate price should be an appreciable portion of what it is estimated to cost to set up a global system of clear air Carbon capture and sequestration. That’s estimated to cost $275/tonne of Carbon in 2010 U.S.dollars.”

        You could be right, but surely yours is a very pessimistic view of the future? Given the great improvements in the efficiency of solar pv, for example, why do you not expect renewables to become cheaper and cheaper? Is there a reason you don’t see a future with a large grid capable of maintaining a constant supply despite local fluctuations? Do you not think that increases in energy efficiency for lighting, transport etc will continue?

        In my lifetime I’ve seen the arrival of pocket calculators, personal computers, mobile phones, lithium ion batteries, the internet, mobile telephony. Show someone from 1960 a group of kids playing Pokemon Go, and they wouldn’t believe it.

        Its also worth keeping in mind that we do use a lot of energy to produce rubbish that no one actually needs. Somehow I expect that cheap plastic toys will survive an energy revolution, but I sure hope they don’t.

        There is no doubt its a difficult problem, but I’m sure we are up for it, especially in light of the alternative of doing nothing.

      • I very much believe renewables will dominate the energy landscape, especially solar, and I have written as much on my blog. I don’t think any Congress or President can stop that. It is inexorable.

        The trouble is we do not have an indefinite amount of time. As mentioned elsewhere, the +2C bound on warming is effectively blown, and it is a real question whether or not, given present U.S. and global policies, we’ll be able to keep it within +3C or even higher. Without direct intervention and pushing in the markets, letting solar and such go at their own pace, and wasting time on things like “natural gas as a bridge fuel”, we could be talking +4C.

        Believe me, the +3C-+4C worlds are not places we want to go! What will happen there is that, down the road, their byproducts will be seen as truly horrible, and all the economic cost and pain of getting to zero Carbon emissions will be borne in a precipitous disenfranchisement of fossil fuel holding and dependent companies and fossil fuel dependent citizens, and then the world will have to pay 1.56 petadollars (2010 dollars, or 4% of the combined gross products og all OECD countries in 2010) to set up clear air capture and sequestration of CO2, as well as an annual run cost of something like $2 trillion in 2010 dollars. Think reducing emissions is expensive? Try the costs of not doing it.

        And don’t even mention “solar radiation management”. That’s bollocks.

      • The discussion around carbon tax (or fee) proposal and economics is interesting. But some of the language seems to suggest some misapprehension of economics. If ‘the assumption that mankind’s activities are separated from the rest of the natural world’–to be clear, an assumption that I agree is both real and problematic–is to be ascribed to economics, then why is the same concept evident in other realms, such as political action, and aspects of social organization as disparate as tourism and literature?

        Better, I think, to view economics as reflective of a human behavior, which is conditioned by that assumption. In other words, if people act as if their actions are separate from nature, then economics should reflect the assumption, because it needs to accurately model what people actually do.

        That’s not to say that economic *policy* can’t try to change behaviour. That’s the whole idea of a “Pigovian” tax–tax what you wish to discourage. It was Pigou, in fact, who came up with the idea of ‘externalities’:


        A very common example of a Pigovian tax would be the taxation of tobacco. It’s hard to disentangle the effects of that tax from the effects of restrictions on tobacco marketing and of public education on the health dangers of tobacco, but the bottom line is that smoking rates in the US have dropped by about half since 1965. That’s a huge saving in human misery and lost productivity.

        I think most of the specific criticisms made above–well, I hope they are above; I’m not entirely sure where this comment will show in the thread–but made previously, anyway, are not well taken, because they are inconsistent around the issues of price sensitivity and technological change. I’ll try to address the points as succinctly as I can, in point form.

        –“The costs of renewables is a function of all the resources employed to produce, install and maintain the equipment and increasing the cost of energy so used via a tax will also increase the market price for those systems and resources.”

        Initially, it should. But since this energy is itself tax exempt, its price will increase less than than the price of FF energy with which it competes. If sensitivity to energy price is significantly greater than zero–which it normally is–then more renewable energy will be used relative to FF to manufacture renewable energy tech, and the price will start to come down again. There is a potential ‘virtuous circle’ here, in which declining FF inputs to the manufacture of RE tech help drive falling prices and increasing adoption.

        As a side note, there are examples of RE factories which are designed to supply their own energy–for example, the Tesla gigafactory now under construction will be zero emissions:


        “Worse, all other prices in the economy will be impacted, resulting in price inflation.”

        This seems to assume zero sensitivity to the price signal. Energy may be a component of all prices, essentially, but it’s far from the only one. And as noted, if the tax/fee/penalty/price/whatever is large enough to have an effect, it will shift patterns of consumption to compensate for the increased price. Much of that will be in the direction of increased energy efficiency.

        The British Columbia case is encouraging in that regard. It’s a fairly modest tax, but has had apparent beneficial effects on emissions without causing any adverse economic effects, including price inflation. That suggests there’s a relatively wide ‘sweet spot’ in terms of tax levels.

        “Worse still, as some consumers would simply choose to pay more for their continued use of fossil fuels…”

        Again, zero price sensitivity is implied here. Not a realistic assumption. But there’s another point to be made, which is that a carbon tax is not only, and maybe not even primarily effective at the consumer level. (IMO, and I’m not an economist, so take this bit with a grain of salt.) It’s effective on the production side. And that means that consumer shift their FF consumption patterns involuntarily and unknowingly. Even if they hate the idea of shifting away from FF use, they will end up doing so, because the carbon embodied in the goods they buy will tend to decrease over time.

        Why? Let’s imagine two widget makers. The carbon tax hits, raising their costs by $5 a unit! OMG! But maker A figures out a way to buy wind power, exempting production from the tax. Suddenly A has a $5 price advantage. There are two outcomes here, all other things being assumed equal: either maker B will do something comparable to bring down their costs and remain competitive, or maker B will do nothing, and end up going bust. Either way, widgets are now a much more sustainable product. And the consumer may not either know, or care.

        “Plans which include rebating the tax to the individual consumer worsen the effectiveness of the tax, since the consumer will begin to ignore the higher price of the fossil fuel they want to use.”

        No, since the rebate isn’t tied to individual consumption. That would negate the price signal (which is essentially what you are saying, Eric.) Rebates could be done as a royalty payment, which is what Hansen advocates (as I understand it): the collected revenue is pooled, and everybody gets an equal check in the mail. That’s definitely how the CCL proposal would work, if adopted:


        Alternatively, you can use the tax system to return the taxed value. That’s done in BC, where the ‘rebate’ is structured as a tax credit structured to ensure that more of the benefit flows to lower income folk.

        “And, with a tax, what’s to prevent politicians from adding “loop holes” for their most favored groups or businesses?”

        In terms of a flat guarantee, nothing whatever–that is a well-founded concern. Indeed, as good as the BC tax seems to be on balance, there are questionable (if, arguably at least, justifiable) exemptions written in.

        But that’s not an objection to a carbon tax; it’s an objection to politics writ large. “Quis custodiet ispsos custodes” is always a problem. But if you can figure out a way to completely avoid it, you’ll be the first. So let’s not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

        In practice, free speech and democratic process are the checks. Imperfect, to be sure, but not entirely ineffective. Moving on…

        “…the tax or Carbon price, even if revenue neutral, is never high enough to make the changes demanded of doing it.”

        Again, not intrinsically a problem with the policy tool, but a problem of political will. And again, the BC tax demonstrates that you can at least do something that’s helpful via this instrument, even with tax levels that are less than a ‘climate hawk’ would like.

        “Second, as the Carbon price or tax wins, if it is structured to offset income taxes, say, there will be a disincentive to reduce more, because of revenue losses.”

        Now, that’s in intrinsic problem. And I think it’s real. The pre-eminent example right now in the US is gasoline taxes. They’ve historically been the instrument for funding a large proportion of road construction and maintenance. Unfortunately, that provides an incentive *not* to either increase fuel efficiency–the Obama administration finally mandated that anyway, though perhaps it’s worth noting that it’s easier for the Feds since the fiscal pain falls at the state level–and *not* to shift to electric vehicles (which are sometimes cast by denialist politicians as unfair ‘free riders’ in this context.)

        It’s worth noting, though, that there are counterincentives, such as the enormous savings available in health costs.

        “…lag may be too long to really help.”

        I don’t think so, because the BC tax seems to have had an appreciable effect over a few years. That’s pretty fast compared with the speed of infrastructure change. So if CCL’s proposal were to pass next year–not inconceivable–you could be seeing some effects by the next Presidential election, maybe even by the Congressional midterm elections. (Though as you say, it depends on phase-in times, too–in BC, the tax came into effect a few months after passage of the legislation. A neat timing-related political wrinkle, BTW, is that they did the rebating *first*–a nice way to bolster political support.)

        Since I’ve spoken so much about the BC tax, I suppose I should give some support. Here’s Wiki’s summary:


        The Provincial page on the topic is here (with lots of further links):


      • Chris O’Neill:

        Economics as it is normally conceived is a human-centred concept.

        True, and an Ecologist might say that Economics is the study of intra-specific competition in Homo Sapiens. I strongly recommend Donald Worster’s Nature’s Economy for an analysis of the parallel development of both disciplines.


        What’s the economic “price” of all the species lost thru extinction and who pays that “cost”?

        Corporations maximize profit, but individuals maximize utility; for me, the utility of a stable climate is very high indeed. Environmental Economics is largely concerned with quantifying the value to individuals of such things as the continued existence of species. In some cases, lower-bound estimates can be derived from data such as total donations to NGOs, or the amount of time people spend participating in lobbying activity.

        I’ve studied both Ecology and Economics at the graduate level, but I’m not a professional in either one, and I don’t claim expertise. Nevertheless, I’m convinced a carefully-designed national carbon “fee” (i.e. tax), while not sufficient to solve AGW by itself, could make a big difference in our country’s emissions. Too, any proposal to mitigate emissions must recognize the political nature of the problem, and a carbon tax has at least a hope of getting past Congress. Incremental steps are better than none.

      • Chris O'Neill

        a carbon tax has at least a hope of getting past Congress

        What? If the Australian experience is anything to go by, then a carbon tax will only get through Congress if it is passed by a Party that promised NOT to pass a carbon tax and then after the subsequent election it will be rescinded by the ensuing Congress.

        Not exactly a winning strategy.

      • Trying to reply to Chris O’Neil–this subthread is getting rather etiolated, so it’s hard to tell, but I hope this threads correctly.

        Chris, the Australian experience is just one data point. The BC experience, which I’ve spoken about so frequently, is another, and a contrasting one. There’s a lot of history in a lot of places:


        Probably the short version is that the details matter, a lot.

      • Chris O'Neill


        Did you actually read the article you cite? It contains a long list of reversals, ineffective, and inconsistent (which means inefficient) measures. e.g.

        Taiwan: “However, Premier Wu Den-yih and legislators stated that the carbon taxes would increase public suffering from the recession and that the government should not levy the new taxes until Taiwan’s economy has recovered. He opposed the carbon tax.”

        Japan: “The tax rate will be incrementally increased up to 289 yen (US$3.7) per ton of emitted CO2”. Virtually ineffective.

        European Union: “According to the European Commission, the new plan will charge firms a minimum tax per tonne of carbon dioxide emissions[80] at a suggested rate of €4 to €30 per tonne of CO2.” The wikipedia article is not up-to-date enough to tell us what Carbon tax has actually happened.

        France: “French President Nicolas Sarkozy, despite his vow to “lead the fight to save the human race from global warming”,[89] did not support the bill, saying that France needed support from the rest of the European Union before it would try and proceed with a carbon tax.” Again, the wikipedia article is not up-to-date enough to tell us what Carbon tax has actually happened.

        Ireland: “Electricity was exempted as electricity generation from fossil fuel power stations was covered under the EU ETS. Solid fuels including coal and turf were also exempted.”

        UK: “Electricity from nuclear is taxed even though it causes no direct carbon emissions. Originally electricity generated from new renewables and approved cogeneration schemes was not taxed, but the July 2015 Budget removed this exemption from 1 August 2015, raising £450m/year.” “Electricity 0.541 p/kWh, Gas 0.188 p/kWh, LPG 1.21 p/kg” Ridiculously inconsistent and thus inefficient.

        Canada: “In the 2008 Canadian federal election a carbon tax proposed by Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion, known as the Green Shift, became a central issue in the campaign. It would have been revenue-neutral, with increased taxation on carbon being balanced by tax cuts for individual citizens. However, it proved to be unpopular and contributed to the defeat of Liberal Party with its worst share of the popular vote since Confederation.” Sound familiar?

        Yes the details matter, a lot.

        The British Columbia system is undoubtably the best implementation anywhere, especially using the refundable Low Income Climate Action Tax Credit. The refunding/recycling of the revenue needs to be made absolutely explicit and the linkage set in legislative concrete otherwise, as happened in Australia, the system is open to populist recision where the Carbon tax is rescinded but the income tax cuts are not. Unfortunately many people’s minds have now been poisoned by the term “Carbon tax” so it will be a long time before any Australian government would attempt even the British Columbian system.

      • Eric Swanson

        Mal, I contend that there’s no way that the average person can judge the effects of climate change in their lives, as most are focused on local experience. Thus, your claim that “individuals maximize utility” can’t possible result in a solution to the climate problem, especially as doing so will result in serious modification of one’s lifestyle. Consider as a counter example the failure to increase US gasoline taxes at both the state and federal level, where there would appear to be an obvious benefit for the individual from the funds collected which are usually dedicated to road maintenance and improvements. How can we expect our representatives to pass a meaningful carbon tax, given that the benefits of so doing are much less apparent to Joe Average and would likely need to increase in real terms over time? Sorry to say, wish full thinking and hope won’t get the job done in time, especially given the global nature of the problem.


      • Eric, the kicker to what you linked is found within that same linked story:

        There are already too many coal-fired power plants in China, as shown by a steady decline in the plants’ average operating hours since 2013, according to official statistics. China also used less coal in 2015 compared with 2014, and coal-producing companies across China have complained of a deepening slump in the industry.

        Yes, you read that right. They are building more coal plants while using the ones they already have less and less. So the addition of coal capacity may well be more of a threat to China’s economy (through the massive waste of resources) than to her emissions targets (not that the latter is guaranteed to be negligible, unfortunately).

        Why? The short answer is “bureaucracy.”

        The boom in approval of coal-fired power plants began in early 2015, after the central government said provincial governments could approve projects.

        But the central government has tried to rein in the approvals, and it announced a policy in April to limit capacity and retire some plants. Under that policy, about 110 gigawatts of proposed capacity would be suspended and 70 gigawatts would be retired by 2020, according to the Greenpeace report on Wednesday.

        It does remind one of the quote Asimov used in one of his novels: “Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain.” But it’s worth remembering that in the novel, he used the last three words as epigraph–but added a question mark.

        Against the stupidity, one must weigh the facts that: there *are* meaningful emissions targets, to which China has agreed–and has done so with the Chairman’s visible authority and endorsement, which puts his prestige and credibility on the line; that there *is* great pressure among the populace and the elite to mitigate air pollution, which coal greatly contributes to; and that renewable energy tech *is* undercutting coal on cost.

        Personally, I wouldn’t put my money on coal.

      • Yes, Chris, I read the entire article. At least twice, in fact.

        Yes, these policies have been contentious, and continue to be. However, they have also been adopted, with a wide range of parameters. Some work. Clearly, those are the ones to model future policy on.

        Change takes time. Slavery wasn’t abolished in a decade; women’s suffrage wasn’t, either. Of course, neither one of those was a direct, potentially existential threat to the physical survival of civilization, so it’s not *quite* the same thing. Time isn’t on our side.

        But that should also motivate us not to give up until we are absolutely forced to, by a tide at our door–be it a literal one or a metaphoric one.

      • Chris O'Neill

        I read the entire article. At least twice, in fact.

        Then what was the point of saying “the Australian experience is just one data point” when effective carbon tax implementation failures, even though they vary in detail which I’m not disputing, are quite common?

        Given how often that conservatives (Republicans) control the US Congress, there is a snowflake’s chance in hell that a Carbon tax would last very long. The USA is not BC. Not even close.

      • Mal Adapted

        At this point I’d like to draw attention to Doc Snow’s excellent exposition on carbon taxes. I wouldn’t attempt to improve on it. I do have one more comment before dropping the subject for now.

        Eric Swanson:

        I contend that there’s no way that the average person can judge the effects of climate change in their lives, as most are focused on local experience.

        People will judge the effects of changing climate by the effects of changing weather. The average person reacts emotionally to news reports and images of weather disasters. She feels sympathy for the victims, the more so when they are her neighbors. Average persons who aren’t moved by sympathy may react more strongly to the economic damages caused by severe weather events, especially if their taxes are paying for disaster relief. The challenge for AGW-mitigation advocates is to help make the connection between AGW and record-breaking weather clear to the public. The venues for that are limited, but “letters to the Editor” as well as online comment threads to news items present opportunities. And there’s always “water cooler” conversation. Every little increment of persuasion will help build political support for mitigation.

        Sorry to say, wish full thinking and hope won’t get the job done in time, especially given the global nature of the problem.

        I don’t know what will be sufficient to get the job done, in time to avoid 2 degrees of warming or beyond. I’m convinced a carbon price is necessary, however. As I’ve said, I don’t claim economic expertise, and I’m hardly a free-market fetishist, but I’m unwilling to ignore the power of market forces to drive social change, even (or especially) globally.

        Finally, Mr. Swanson: after six decades of life I’m quite wary of wishful thinking, but are you seriously recommending we abandon hope?

      • Chris O’Neil,

        Then what was the point of saying “the Australian experience is just one data point” when effective carbon tax implementation failures, even though they vary in detail which I’m not disputing, are quite common?

        The point is that there are also successes, which came be built upon. The BC example is often cited as the best so far, but it is not the sole example.

        For a few examples, check out:

        Ireland (relatively robust; since 2010)
        Chile (basically a pilot; to take effect in 2018)
        Sweden (complex, began 1991)
        Finland (since 1990, first nation to do so; again, fairly complex, probably less effective than it could be)
        India (since 2010; still too low to be highly effective, but has quadrupled since original introduction)
        Costa Rica (since 1997; a portion of funds go to support ‘sustainable development and forest conservation’.)

        This isn’t exhaustive, and it can admittedly be hard to assess whether particular examples are ‘successes’ or ‘failures’, either politically or in terms of mitigation effectiveness. It seems to be hard to keep up to policy changes, too; the Wiki article is full of info that is now purely historical. In writing this comment, I also referred to this page:


        But overall, the picture is see isn’t one in which carbon taxes aren’t adoptable and aren’t ever effective. It’s complex, it’s controversial, it’s evolving. There are a quite a few places where carbon taxes are under active consideration (including China and Japan). I’m sure some will adopt, particularly as they have just made commitments to reduce emissions under the Paris Treaty.

        Chris, if that’s what you see, that’s not what you are communicating. Your comments have given me the impression that you think that carbon tax/fee/whatever policies are almost always doomed forever. And that does seem defeatist, more or less by definition. I don’t discount the Australian experience. But I don’t believe it’s the paradigm that everyplace else will follow, either.

      • Chris O'Neill

        The point is that the outcome in the USA is far more likely to be closer to the outcome in Australia (or even worse) than the outcome in BC. That is why just the data point of Australia is much more relevant to the USA than just the data point of BC. Conservatives have completely lost control of BC politics. They are still very much in control of what federal governments pass, for at least around half the time in Australia and the USA, and with populist support can rescind laws too.

        I think the BC example demonstrates that Carbon taxation will only ever last where conservatives have been banished from political influence. That hasn’t yet happened in a lot of places, the USA being one of them.

        By the way, I quoted about Ireland above (and several other countries too):

        “Electricity was exempted as electricity generation from fossil fuel power stations was covered under the EU ETS. Solid fuels including coal and turf were also exempted.”

        Not what I would describe as “relatively robust” Carbon taxation.

      • Chris, the results of the US election may surprise you. I don’t predict a thumping for the Republicans, but the possibility of it is much more real than you might think.

        In part, current Republican electoral strength is an artifact of a tactically brilliant operation they carried out at the end of the last decade:


        The problem for them is that that has masked the underlying mismatch between the demographic trends in the country and the political appeal of their policies: their core support is old and white, in a country that is relatively younger and browner. Hence, their core is shrinking. That is, in part, what motivated the ‘Jankowski takeover’.

        Moreover, rather than realigning their policies to a new electorate, they’ve effectively doubled down on the old ones, becoming more and more extreme:

        Republicans moved on Tuesday toward adopting a staunchly conservative platform that takes a strict, traditionalist view of the family and child rearing, bars military women from combat, describes coal as a “clean” energy source and declares pornography a “public health crisis.”

        …the document positions itself far to the right of Mr. Trump’s beliefs in other places — and amounts to a rightward lurch even from the party’s hard-line platform in 2012 — especially as it addresses gay men, lesbians and transgender people.

        …The platform demands that lawmakers use religion as a guide when legislating, stipulating “that man-made law must be consistent with God-given, natural rights.”

        It also encourages the teaching of the Bible in public schools because, the amendment said, a good understanding of its contents is “indispensable for the development of an educated citizenry.”


        That is not going to play well with independent voters, or young voters. Minority voters are going to be repelled by the language Trump and his ilk use toward them. It’s not playing well with moderate Republicans, for that matter:

        …while public and legal opinion has moved steadily in one direction, the official declaration of Republican Party principles appears to be heading sharply in the opposite direction. The party’s approach to social issues now threatens to disrupt the convention next week. Moderate delegates pushing for gay rights language in the platform secured enough signatures on Tuesday to demand a vote on their proposals from all 2,472 delegates.

        You may want to order your popcorn for the convention now.

        Some folks are even talking about Republican ‘schism’ and ‘implosion.’ I don’t know about that. But it is clear that, going into the ‘stretch’ portion of this election, the GOP is fractious and, in many quarters, disheartened with itself. Maybe the combination of populism, xenophobia, and big money can maintain them one more cycle. But there seems no imminent solution to the structural problems they confront–or, more accurately, fail to confront.

      • Chris O'Neill

        I accept that a Carbon tax has virtually no chance of survival in the US, Australia and other places until the conservatives are, like in BC, politically run out of town for good.

        You can be optimistic that this will happen before long and engage in idle speculation about the Republican Party’s electoral prospects if you like but I’m not holding my breath.

    • @John Brookes: I must admit Chris Goodall’s book ‘The Switch: How Solar, Storage and New Tech Means Cheap Power for All’ is much more optimistic than I am. Reviewed at FT (probable paywall). I intend to read it.

  6. Our local climate action group has had some success with letter writing campaigns to the local paper, I don’t know how broad of an impact we’ve had in a state completely owned by the Conoco Caucus.

  7. Brexit happened because of people not voting…

  8. Talking about climate to your family, friends, colleagues, and elected leaders is key. But having a solution that is politically and socially acceptable is also key — and that is the Fee and Dividend carbon pricing policy. A price on carbon will get everyone moving in the right direction and, if done correctly, will create millions of jobs and grow the economy.

  9. Certain cities and states are beginning to take action. California (6th largest global economy) leads the country in this area, and eventually the country falls in behind them.

  10. T-rev, except that Jill Stein will get no more than 3% of the vote, and that at the expense of the least-bad realistic option–Hillary Clinton. Remember the story about Adlai Stevenson being told by a constituent that he had the vote of every decent, right-thinking American. He responded that unfortunately, he needed a majority.

    While I agree that voting is essential, only a tiny minority of the electorate is ever going to vote with climate change as their top priority. The issue is not that politicians are bought and paid for. It is that special interests can shop for politicians who agree with them already and buy elections by duping and scaring voters. Unfortunately, politicians go into politics now because they care deeply about one or a few issues. They are utterly ignorant of the big picture or of how politics works. Therefore, nothing gets done. We need to vote for folks who will get things done that improve the situation even if what they do is not perfect.

    [Response: My opinion: I stand by my statement that the most important thing is to keep Donald Trump out. A vote for anybody other than Hillary Clinton, helps Donald Trump get in. If you think you’re helping by voting for anybody else, you’re not being realistic — and you’re serving yourself rather than all of us.]

  11. Though it’s a long chance, I recommend Tom Wakely who is opposing Lamar Smith in his home district.

    Now he’s a Bernie type, but I agree with Tamino that Hillary is our best best. In case you think she needs to learn, please note this 2009 prime time special by her campaign manager, John Podesta. It tells it straight and it tells us well. How sad that we have gone downhill since then. Still, one can’t stop trying; that would be lazy.

  12. Unfortunately, people get stuck with what I have come to name the purity monster. When I was younger, I thought I could work towards being perfect, and every step of the way, every failure, made things worse. The human condition is not perfectibility. Tolerance and patience are much more important. I’m not saying we shouldn’t strive to be good, only that insistence that nothing short of some idealistic goal is likely to prevent improvement rather than help it. Having tantrums and taking one’s toys and going home solve nothing.

  13. Another defence of the lesser evil – and look where it has got us. And Tamino, really, politics is not your strong point.

    [Response: There are situations in which adopting the “lesser evil” is appropriate — especially when the greater evil is as bad as Trump. Arguing for it in one case is not a generalized “defense of the lesser evil.”

    More important: it’s just stupid to characterize Hillary Clinton as the “lesser evil” because she’s not evil at all.

    Finally, the snide remark about politics not being my strong point is nothing but ad hominem. Perhaps logic isn’t your strong point.]

    • Mal Adapted

      Politics isn’t your strong point either, tony lynch. The framers of America’s government thought government was a necessary evil. They knew that power tended to accumulate in the hands of those who want it the most. The system they set up wasn’t intended to promote progress, but to prevent tyranny.

      In a pluralistic society governed by popular sovereignty, the only practical choice is between King Log and King Stork. With HRC as the log and Trump as the stork, it’s clear whom we frogs should choose.

  14. Well said, Tamino. It’s about time somebody said something about how stupid it would be to vote for Jill Stein. I was talking to an Australian on Twitter and he couldn’t believe Sanders supporters would not vote or vote for someone else than Clinton. Such people don’t understand the bigger picture

  15. To add to Dan Miller’s comment and video up-thread: if you haven’t done so already, check out Citizens’ Climate Lobby (http://citizensclimatelobby.org/) – an organisation which lobbies for a price on carbon, ideally via carbon fee and dividend not just in the U.S. but around the globe (I help with CCL in Germany). CCL seeks to build political will for a livable climate and in order to do so engages with politicians, regardless of the party they belong to. In addition to establishing direct contacts with their representatives, writing LTEs is another item in CCL’s toolbox to get the word out about climate change and a price on carbon emissions.

  16. Eric Swanson

    Tamino, having worked on 5 presidential campaigns over the years, I think you are missing the basics of US politics. Our system of parties is the result of an evolutionary process where each party is a coalition of interest groups. These coalitions are gathered together by the respective parties with the intent of collecting votes, the goal being to gain more votes to your side than you lose to the other party. The party establishments have developed many methods to maintain control on the election process, including limits to the entry of candidates with different points of view. Laws regarding the process of placing one’s name on the ballot add to their control.

    That this system works is the result of the voters’ limited understanding of what they are voting for, coupled with the voters’ tendency to cast their votes based on a few issues which are important to them as individuals. At the level of Congressional and Presidential politics, money spent on advertising, especially TV adds, becomes the means to sway the individual voter, thus the two parties make every effort to amass large sums for this purpose. Streams of commentaries via news oriented organizations are also used, as writers who present one side or the other vie for the eyes of their readers/viewers. As a result, candidates with divergent points of view have a difficult time making their case from outside the mainstream. Ever issue oriented “movement” from the outside has the same basic problem, which is, how to get their message out to the voters and then how to convince the voters to pick their candidates instead of the rest of those running.

    Ultimately, voters tend to vote based on their perception of their own self interest. Climate Change represents an exceedingly difficult choice, that is, individuals must reduce their consumption (i.e., burning) of fossil carbon in order to solve the problem. Given that the US economic system is almost totally locked in to the use of those same fossil fuels and the fact that the connection between CO2 and climate is not something directly tangible (as in, directly visible) to the average voter, there is relatively little concern to actually do whatever will be necessary to “fix” the problem. Polling data places the voters’ concerns about Climate Change on the bottom of most lists, even after decades of efforts to convince them otherwise. Climate Change is not like the other environmental problems, such as ozone depletion from CFC’s or air pollution controls on automobiles leading to the need for unleaded gasoline, for which the problems were visible and the solutions weren’t totally disruptive to the continuing “progress’ in the economy. Given that the average worker has seen little improvement in his or her real income since about 1980, where’s the incentive for them to take another hit when they are already just scraping by? I just don’t see it happening, no matter what those of us with good intentions try to do, until something really big catches everybody’s attention.

    Yesterday, I took a trip during which I twice drove thru an area which was hit hard by a wind storm Thursday, burning some gasoline in the process. There was damage spread over more than 25 miles with lots of fallen trees and power lines still down on the ground 2 days later. I actually drove over some of those power lines. The news media reported almost nothing about the event that I could find (I don’t watch TV). Compared to the other events last week, this story is already buried. Was it evidence of Climate Change? I have no clue and could not make a case that it was. Will that, or any other such event, change anyone’s vote? Probably not.

    • Thanks for the perspective. Your discouraging experience with the windstorm resembles my observations. I would add that while a few years back your guy on the street paid some lip service to climate change, now all they want is cheap gas. Apparently getting cheap energy wipes reality right off the map. To me it is counterintuitive that at a time when energy is cheap everything else is forgotten, that the additional degree of freedom goes to limit rather than expand knowledge.

      I think it’s important to get wise to the loaded dice aspect of climate change having altered the picture across the board. Your storm might have happened anyway, but the forces driving it are more chaotic and stronger; the total energy in the system is notably greater.

      Speaking of which, the figures on this increase have not been updated in the last several years. Tamino or somebody, it used to be 4%. More water vapor? More energy? I’m sure that’s out of date.

      • Chris O'Neill

        a few years back your guy on the street paid some lip service to climate change, now all they want is cheap gas

        Lots of people might vote for a government to “do something” about global warming but when that government does something that costs people money, like a Carbon price, they say “Whoa boy. I wanted you do something about global warming. I didn’t mean I wanted to pay anything”.

        That’s the sort of world we live in.

    • Eric Swanson

      Susan, The storm was quite impressive. As I looked around at the news, I found that the storm hit the mountains of W. NC on Friday evening, starting in Tennessee, and the impacts were experienced all the way Charlotte. Our local weather guy claims it was straight line winds caused by a down burst from a thunder storm, but it seems to me that it traveled a rather long distance for a down burst.

      Here’s a radar loop which stops before the storm effects reach the Wilkes County just to the East:

      Here’s a report from the Boone paper:

      Here’s a report from the Charlotte newspaper:

      Not to worry, it was just another “normal” thunderstorm, keep moving, don’t look up.

      • Sounds like a derecho. One put a large tree on top of our house in 2011–60 mph straight line winds were measured in the vicinity.

        Our place in the eastern Atlanta suburbs experienced that (IIRC) about 1:30 AM. We didn’t–and a good thing too, since the tree landed directly above our bed. We were in St. Augustine Beach, where I observed the same storm system come through between 7 and 8 AM, doing some significant damage in the Jacksonville area.

        We were out of the house for months, and insurance ultimately ponied up for over $100K.

        “Derecho”–ah, this:


        Of interest, from a GW point of view:

        So you might ask, why was this storm not nearly as strong as the derecho in June 2012?

        There-in lies the quirk in classification of derechoes! You see the derecho of 2012 was one of the STRONGEST ever for North America, a truly once in a lifetime storm. So comparing mere mortal derechoes with the so-called SUPER DERECHO is unfair.

        The AMS (American Meteorological Society) notes that on average 10-20 derechoes occur every year in the US, most in spring-summer and almost all weaker than that of the storm in 2012.

        What made the 2012 storm so strong was that it fed on a huge area of stifling 100 degree heat. If one thinks of heat as the energy source for thunderstorms and derechoes, then it is not hard to see how a 100 degree day in 2012 dwarfed our 85 degree atmosphere on Friday.

    • Eric, I agree with you that climate change is relatively low on the totem pole of concerns when citizens have to support themselves and their families, but I don’t think people are all that oblivious to it in this country. I tend to think people are generally aware of it and they know that’s it’s not a good thing. Indeed, this poll here among 1,000 registered voters conducted about a month ago bolsters my point: https://morningconsult.com/2016/06/28/poll-republicans-evenly-split-climate-change/
      Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans support action to reduce emissions. I think the greater problem is that neither political party has made it a major election issue and the mainstream news networks aren’t mentioning it much (probably due to a combination of not wanting to piss off fossil fuel advertisers and climate change not being an immediate or provocative story in their eyes). Of course I wonder how much relevancy TV news has compared to what it used to be, especially when a lot of people (especially milennials like myself) get their news online (where you’re much more likely to find climate change stories) these days. If the Democrats make climate change a major issue this election, which they may end up doing (jury’s still out on that one), then I think the public will respond to it. Am I being optimistic? Maybe, but I think my points have some merit.

      • Chris O'Neill

        Poll after poll has shown that a majority of Americans support action to reduce emissions.

        They just don’t want to pay for it. That’s all.

      • Chris O'Neill

        neither political party has made it a major election issue

        It was a major election issue in the 2013 Australian election. Political suicide for a major Party.

        If the Democrats make climate change a major issue this election, which they may end up doing (jury’s still out on that one), then I think the public will respond to it.

        If the American public are anything like the Australian public, then they will respond to it. They’ll turf the Democrats out.

      • Chris, IMO you are being a defeatist. Yes, Labor lost, and yes, the carbon tax was an issue. That does not mean that carbon taxes always lose everywhere. In British Columbia, the carbon tax has been in place for 8 years, is solidly entrenched as part of the system, and is better-supported than ever. Moreover, there is evidence that it has improved BC’s performance on carbon mitigation, and without any appreciable negative consequences for the economy in general.

        Please remember: despair is not an adaptive emotion–not least, because it tends to induce tunnel vision.

      • Chris O'Neill

        “you are being a defeatist. Yes, Labor lost”

        Yes anyone who points out a defeat is name-called a defeatist. Thanks.

        “In British Columbia, the carbon tax has been in place for 8 years”

        That’s all very well but just because a Carbon tax managed to be kept up somewhere doesn’t mean a unilateral Carbon tax policy has any chance of success, as we have seen in Australia. Especially now that conservatives world-wide can now see the political benefit of opposing Carbon taxes.

        Please remember, straw man points are just straw man points.

      • “They just don’t want to pay for it. That’s all”.
        They don’t necessarily have to pay for it.
        “It was a major election issue in the 2013 Australian election. Political suicide for a major Party. If the American public are anything like the Australian public, then they will respond to it. They’ll turf the Democrats out”.
        You do know Congress and the President are elected separately, right? And climate change would only be one of several issues, far from being the only one. The American public has a distinct voting pattern in presidential election years reflecting greater participation among groups more likely to vote for Democrats, not to mention you’re discounting the repulsiveness of Donald Trump.

      • Chris O'Neill

        “They don’t necessarily have to pay for it.”

        If you go around telling people they don’t have to pay for action like a Carbon tax then they’ll just think you’re a liar (which you would be).

        “You do know Congress and the President are elected separately, right?”

        Of course I know Congress and the President are elected separately. How can you suggest anything else?

        “climate change would only be one of several issues, far from being the only one”

        Didn’t say it was.

        “you’re discounting the repulsiveness of Donald Trump”

        Why do you misrepresent me so much?

      • Chris, you really didn’t nullify any of my main points.

      • Chris O'Neill

        If you really say so Bryant. I’ll let you get back to your misrepresentations. You really did make those.

      • Chris O’Neill: “That’s all very well but just because a Carbon tax managed to be kept up somewhere doesn’t mean a unilateral Carbon tax policy has any chance of success, as we have seen in Australia.”

        Um, actually it does.

      • Chris O'Neill

        You don’t seem to know what unilateral means.

      • Chris, the BC carbon tax *is* unilateral, by any normal definition of the word–and it is also successful. Ergo…


      • Chris O'Neill

        the BC carbon tax *is* unilateral

        In the lucky place of British Columbia, support for a Carbon tax is multilateral:

        All of the candidates who won seats in the legislative assembly supported the carbon tax.

        You still don’t seem to understand what unilateral means. Maybe you could try reading your own citations for a change.

      • All right, Chris, if you apply it to political parties (as opposed to jurisdictions), that is indeed *one* possible meaning of ‘unilateral’. Let me suggest that ‘partisan’ might have been a clearer choice of words. And let me further suggest that you lose the pointless snark (especially when it is factually incorrect–or, as in this case, you have no way of knowing whether it is correct or not.)

        That would help you clarify your language, too. You *do* want to communicate, right?

      • Chris O'Neill

        is indeed *one* possible meaning of ‘unilateral’

        Maybe you should try to communicate (ask questions etc) before you make unqualified assertions about what other people are saying.

        “especially when you have no way of knowing whether it” (an unqualified assertions about what other people are saying) “is correct or not.”

        That would have been a good idea, wouldn’t it Doc?

      • Oh sigh, you guys, you agree with each other more than you disagree. We have a very bad tendency to find the intelligent people around and argue with them because there is some life there. Unfortunately, this circular firing squad has Berniebots aiming at Hillarybots and vice versa (and “bots” may be wrong) while Trumpsters laugh all the way home.

        Here’s a good realistic description of the problem, a bit long, but worth a looksee for those tempted to vilify one side or the other without shining a bright light on the manipulation coming from Republican central:
        View story at Medium.com

        And remember, despair and apathy are lazy. But that doesn’t mean that facing the difficulties is easy, nor than the problems are not insuperable. They are. I just watched Time to Choose and would force all government authorities worldwide to watch it if I could.

    • Yes, you’ll only get climate action when its obvious to ordinary people that inaction is not an option. In that way, it is the same as war. You only do it when you really have to.

      But we may be like the frog in the pot. We get used to how things are, and don’t end up trying to fix it until its too late. Every El Nino is a respite that removes any urgency around action.

      However we need to keep trying. Like many here I’ll be dead before major climate disasters occur (or rather things that are obviously major climate disasters). Future generations need us to keep trying. I think everyone has a role to play. Tamino’s is his fantastic presentation of the numbers. It inspires those of us with other talents to do our bit.

  17. The national level seems so hopeless that I have focussed on more local matters, with the exception of advocating strongly for both solar PV, as a member of the American Solar Energy Society, and arguing for the eventual need to restructure power distribution so it is primarily generated and consumed locally. (See https://hypergeometric.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/want-your-democracy-back-take-back-control-of-your-energy-supply/) Very local activism has its own problems. As the late Hermann Scheer noted in talks and in his books, building regulations and zoning are powerful obstacles to anything other than the status quo and, ultimately, if progress is to be made at a national level, there’ll be a need to plough through those. (That’s what was needed in Germany.) Accordingly, my primary focus of late has been at the state level, in Massachusetts.

    Now, Massachusetts has a lot of good things going for it. They are members of RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and they have a law called the Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) passed in 2008. There is growth in residential solar, and there are members of the state legislature, primarily Senators Marc Pacheco and Senate President Stan Rosenberg, who get it and have pushed for more aggressive measures. The House and Senate are wrestling with a “minibus” energy bill in conference committee which, from the Senate side, is really excellent. The House version not so much. While the coalition cannot take full credit for anything, there is one called Mass Power Forward which has repeatedly lobbied House and Senate members, having group meet with them, contact them by phone, write letters, send email, demonstrate at the State House, etc, pushing for specific elements of these bills, including asking representatives and senators to support specific amendments. It has been really well organized, complete with training for members. I have been active through something called the Massachusetts Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action (MAICCA), which argues for these elements as a moral case.

    Now, the think is, utilities and their allies in (Republican) Governor Charlie Baker’s administration (notably the Departments of Energy Resources and Public Utilities), as well as in the House leadership still carry a lot of influence. They are bolstered by ISO-NE. The Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has recently ruled that the administration must comply with the GWSA, and needs to develop a specific timetable to hit targets in 2020. Baker’s administration isn’t the only one at fault. His predecessor, Governor Deval Patrick, Democrat, did little or nothing to advance this, and, indeed, felt GWSA was a guideline but not binding. When the Conservation Law Foundation filed suit to the contrary, Patrick’s administration fought them and, now, almost 4 years later the battle ended up decided at the SJC with the specified result. It’s clear, for instance, that we cannot comply with the GWSA if we bring in any any more natural gas to the state: We already get 59% of our electricity burning it, and heat a lot of homes with it. There is nothing in the weather here which demands this. It’s just how things have gone. Facts are, however, that coal plants are retiring, as is the Pilgrim Nuclear Power station. The discussion is less about mitigating climate disruption than about making up for these power losses. This is true even if Boston and other areas of our coast are under direct threat from Sea Level Rise (SLR).

    To illustrate, there were a large number of great amendments proposed for the House version of the “minibus” energy bill, but, mysteriously, and despite Mass Power Forward mounting a campaign to urge them on, they were withdrawn by the members who proposed them. There were 3 amendments banning a so-called “pipeline tax”, meaning allowing (e.g.) Eversource, a utility, to own 40% interest of a proposed (and widely opposed) natural gas pipeline and consumed the gas it provides, passing the costs for this onto ratepayers. The Massachusetts Attorney General is opposing this arrangement in court, because the idea of a public utility (even if they are for profit) having the monopoly benefits of that role and getting those from such a capital investment is legally troubling, and may even be unconstitutional according to the Massachusetts Constitution. Yet when the authors of those 3 amendments refused to withdraw them, they were “set aside”, which means House leadership did not allow a vote on them by the full House. It’s possible they thought one would pass, since Mass Power Forward got 97 of our House members to sign a letter to House leadership arguing for more progressive elements in the energy bill. There is strong eveidence a lobbying group called “AIM” or “Associated Industries of Massachusetts” which is tight with Eversource is pushing hard to oppose these elements and include the natural gas option.

    This followed a protracted and painful similar campaign to liberalize solar PV rules in Massachusetts, beginning in summer 2015, resulting in a downright punitive to solar owners House version and a decent, but not great Senate version. It got thrown into conference committee and the result barely lifted the ceiling on solar installs, allowed residential PV benefits, but withdrew benefits for community solar and commercial solar. All that’s going to happen is that they are going to need to pass yet another version of this come early 2017, since connections of solar to the grid will have stopped by then or, I should say, there’s nothing that says the utilities have to connect them. That seems to be the only way they do.

    So I would say there’s a lot more that impedes progress than simply partisan politics. And this is why I strongly argue that to get back control of this we need to take back control of the energy supply. And I see no way of doing that without destroying the economic model of present day public utilities and the captured regulatory bodies which supposedly oversee them.

  18. In over thirty years of voting, I’ve never voted for a Democrat or Republican. That is because I realized when I was about 15 years old that both parties were full of beans. So, I’ve always voted for the Greens if they were on the ballot, and if not for the Socialists. We can see where voting for the lesser of two evils has gotten us now….(On the brink of catastrophic climate change). What a shame so many people didn’t value their vote that millions around the world have died over.

    I have always had this crazy notion that people should vote for the candidate or party that would fight hardest for their views. If that meant voting for a party that only got 1% of the vote- Great! The point of voting is to vote for who you believe in and let the chips fall where they may. That’s called Democracy.

    This pretzel logic of voting for someone based on other criteria is insane, ie. voting for who your family has always voted for, or your social group, or the lesser of two evils, or because someone has a chance to win, or because so and so in good looking, or name recognition, e.t.c. e.t.c. e.t.c.

    I used to be active in the Green Party until I realized that the public wasn’t going to support them. We would field the best candidate, and one whom so many people agreed with, yet the public wouldn’t vote for them. At that point I realized voting was hopeless. It’s easy to blame Exxon e.t.c. for climate change, but the politically unpopular thing to say, although true, is that the public is very much to blame too.

    • Here, here!

      While Exxon and company have done a lot of harm, the basic fact is that, despite being part of a minority which contribute, through their lifestyles and purchases, half of all greenhouse gas emissions to atmosphere, Americans don’t care, and just ignore it.

      I don’t think it will change until massive amounts of wealth get destroyed through climate disruption. And, yes, I know, there are both problems with that, and with that being a very late stage in the game, when it will be supremely expensive to try to change. The problems are that, when people’s wealth gets taken away, they want Big Brother Government to come in and Make It All Better.

      • It’s “Hear, hear!” From parliamentary debate.

      • HGM, as a long-time resident of Massachusetts myself, I don’t find myself agreeing with your stance on the American people not caring. This poll: https://morningconsult.com/2016/06/28/poll-republicans-evenly-split-climate-change/, among others that have been recently taken, would seem to indicate otherwise. The chief problem is neither party has bothered to make it a major campaign issue. If they do, then I think you’ll see a response in the electorate.
        And things aren’t as hopeless on the national front as you think. There’s a lot of executive action that can be taken without Congress: http://www.vox.com/2015/5/28/8673339/hillary-clinton-climate-policy
        Considering her advisor on the matter is John Podesta, I would say there’s a good chance she does at least some of these measures, if not all of them..Let’s also not forget the Dems could very easily regain the Senate and make serious in-roads in the House. With some compromise, getting some Republicans on board in the House is very doable. The Senate would be harder, but there are is some wiggle room there as well.

      • It’s one thing to express general concern, it’s quite something else to be willing to embrace the economic and taxation costs, and changes in standards of living (including ending the love affair with ICE automobiles) when doing something substantial about it. The worse thing is that the longer we wait, the harder it will be to hit necessary targets. I’m not talking about keeping within the +2C bound, which is pretty much lost, but a bound like +3C.

        There’s a Carbon fee proposed in Massachusetts by Senator Barrett, but it is completely toothless, and effectively a symbolic gesture.

      • HGM,
        From what I’ve read, the magnitude of changes of living and costs associated with the necessary changes are very debateable. Mark Jacobson is an excellent source on the subject.

      • Jacobson is correct. The actual net costs are close to zero.

        (That’s from http://www.recycled-energy.com/images/uploads/us-midrange-abatement-curve.png, in case it doesn’t show up.)

        The trouble is, moving to that configuration involves goring several groups oxen, which is why it is found, including disinformation campaigns about what it will cost Joe Average.

      • HGM, It seems you’re telling me it doesn’t cost the average Joe that much.

      • As noted in http://www.recycled-energy.com/images/uploads/us-midrange-abatement-curve.png, it does not. The Average Joe perceives the cost to be high, which is why something needs to shake him to see it’s worth changing.

      • The average Joe has been extensively lied to by the usual suspects–though, to be fair, I think that’s really only a subset of average Joes. An awful lot of the ones I meet still seem pretty unaware of even the existence of a carbon tax.

        Apparently the triumph of Voldemort has some way to run yet.

    • Doug, your logic seems a bit ‘pretzel-like’ to me. One the one hand, you’re not voting for anyone except ‘those who fight hardest for [your] views. On the other, you quit the Greens because ‘the public wasn’t going to support them.’

      So now you’re growing a third hand and calling for a revolution. Call away. See how far that gets you.

      • I recognize that my fellow voters will not vote for the changes that need to be made, so I am calling for a revolution. I don’t see how that is Pretzel Logic. Fine, call it unrealistic. Look where ‘realistic’ has gotten us.

      • No, you are *assuming* that your fellow voters won’t vote for change. It would be rather interesting to know how many of us did just that in 2008 and again in 2012.

        But in any case, what makes you think that ‘calling’ on people to take up arms (if that’s what ‘revolution’ means to you) is a lower bar than ‘calling’ on people to vote for Hillary?

  19. To follow on, at what point does one call for a revolution instead of the status quo? If you are standing in the middle of a highway with a broken leg, and an 18 wheel semi is barreling down on you, the Republican stands at the side of the road and laughs at you. The Democrat walks out ever so slowly and starts to lead you off the highway, but not in time for the semi to run you over.

    The Semi is climate change.


  20. I agree talking, and political persuasion helps, but I think the biggest thing we can do is lead by example. Convert lighting to all LED, move to a plug-in car, seal up leaks, ride a bike add, solar to your roof or back yard. We now produce more power than we use in our home and two plug-in cars. Show your friends and family we can cut personal emissions drastically, in our case 80%. If we who believe are unwilling to take the lead why should we expect the government or others to act?

    • I agree that’s important, especially when SolarCity has shown take-up of solar installations based upon what neighbors do. I doubt it suffices, because there are regulatory obstacles, mostly local, which impede many of these improvements.

  21. There are no credible Republicans, because any such have long since left the party. A vote for a Republican senatorial candidate for example is a vote for Mitch McConnell to remain as Senate majority leader. So far as politics is concerned, especially those of Tamino vs. those of Tony Lynch, let me remind everyone that the two SCOTUS decisions to eliminate McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform (Citizens United and McCucheon v FEC) were straight party line votes. The five republican justices voting that the law was unconstitutional. The opinions were extremely broad and destructive. So if anybody really cares about democracy, let alone the climate, one will vote straight democratic from dog catcher to president.

  22. Not a carbon tax, nor a carbon price. Call it what it is, what it must be: it is a carbon fine. A carbon penalty.

  23. I am voting for Hilary Clinton this November. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania primary. Why the change? Because I’m not a blithering idiot waiting for some kind of political revelation to magically take hold of American minds.

    • Some would disagree and say you are a blithering idiot for voting to get run over by that Semi.

      • Going along with the analogy, the poor fellow lying in the middle of the road with a broken leg weighs about 300 pounds, so the democrat, who’s not that strong, struggles; he may or may not be able to move the victim in time to save him. Meanwhile the 2 republicans are staying on the side of the road, sneering at the effort of the democrat. One believes the semi is a just a mirage, the other believes the semi is real but won’t cause any harm _ might even be beneficial; if it hits the right spot, might reset his leg. Then a bunch of gun-toting libertarians come running over the hill and shoot the democrat and the liberals because they don’t believe in government and want a revolution. Then the fun starts:
        _ “lets move the victim this side of the road.”
        _ “no! to the left is better”
        _ ” Why do we have to move him at all?”
        _ ” Because there’s a semi coming.”
        _ ” What semi?”
        _ “Hey, don’t tell me what to do!”
        A lone hiker arrives upon the scene, perplexed _ “What are those blithering idiots doing in the middle of the road, arguing. Christ! there’s a semi coming.”

      • Doug: Some would disagree and say you are a blithering idiot for voting to get run over by that Semi.

        BPL: This from a guy who thinks calling for a revolution is the answer.

  24. In Australia, we can’t even hold onto a carbon price for beyond one election cycle. Meanwhile, the GBR got bleached up north, and in the gulf up north over 700km of mangrove fell over, simultaneous with the big bleach out. Our solution? Dig up more coal, ship more out, and pay polluters to say that they will pollute a little bit less in future. Honestly, it brings one to the brink of despair, down here in the Antipodes.

    • And yes, when the Australian carbon tax got cut, nobody noticed that extra $500 per year in their pockets.
      Once people are convinced that doing nothing is not an option, they will accept the cost. Just as they do in war.

      • Chris O'Neill

        when the Australian carbon tax got cut, nobody noticed that extra $500 per year in their pockets

        On the other hand, they DID notice the huge (and dishonest) scare campaign leading up to the 2013 election about how the carbon tax was costing them $500+ per year.

        Those carbon tax scare campaigners then had the gall to complain about a scare campaign on another issue in the recent 2016 election.

        Shameless hypocrites.

  25. This topic needs to be a blog of its own. Not just a post in yours. And heavily moderated, or at least offering some way that people can easily view only the on-topic parts.

    The gist so far:
    From Tamino:
    * make climate change the #1 issue when you get in the voting booth
    * follow the money. Find out how much your representatives receive from fossil fuel interests, and spread the word
    * donate to climate action candidates, and explain why
    * be active in local newspaper
    * scrutinize local ordinances
    * school board – what are kids being taught
    * talk to family, friends, neighbors

    From commenters:
    * candidates know little about climate change & policy
    * stick to the big picture, when talking to people
    * personal actions: Convert lighting to all LED, move to a plug-in car, seal up leaks, ride a bike add, solar to your roof or back yard….can cut personal emissions drastically (and SolarCity has shown take-up of solar installations based upon what neighbors do. )

    There’s malevolence out there. Be thoughtful and careful.

  26. Spend half an hour at Walmart, observing. If you’re asking for changes for the future, from people for whom managing the present is already a struggle, that’s asking a lot. How do you make it easy?
    (yes, fee and dividend helps.)

  27. Better education at zoos and museums. Recognition via accreditation or a certificate, for stressing the 5 most basic and important points that a visitor who looks at the exhibit should come away understanding, including which actions are most effective.

    Most K-12 textbooks in use are still abysmal, right?

    Where is the org with credibility that can talk sense about climate action? (One that isn’t already bound to advocate for a particular policy)

    The antifuture forces will be trying to steer grassroots action into any and all available ditches, including via poorly placed climate spending to provoke a backlash. (Example available on request)

  28. Vote green. Vote them because even if they lose, each of those votes total up to a value big enough to swing the balance of power away from the incumbent, therefore the incumbent cannot leave that issue on the table for their opposition to take up and garner the votes.

    Yes, that vote may be “wasted” this year, but next year or the year after, the numbers WILL be seen and hungered for by anyone wanting to take primacy.

    • A better strategy would be to organize local Green groups and candidates, and campaign for the latter. That’s a level at which individual action can make a difference over reasonable time scales. In future, those local groups can form the basis of a really effective national party.

      Absent some such development, though, a Presidential Green vote will be wasted–and that will remain true for some Presidential cycles to come, I expect.

  29. With regard to my comment at hypergeometric | July 13, 2016 at 3:50 pm, someone challenged me on my assertion “Believe me, the +3C-+4C worlds are not places we want to go!” there.

    While a detailed substantiation is inappropriate for this space, I’ll just mention three:
    a World Bank report on the risks of a +4C degree world
    The 2013 paper by Caballero and Huber indicating Eocene warming for atmospheric CO2 concentrations comparable to those we may see in the next 100 years and based upon paleoclimate records was +13C +- 3C warmer than today, not merely +4C
    An introduction to and interpretation of Caballero and Huber by Ray Pierrehumbert (“Hot climates, high sensitivity”) in terms of non-linear, state-dependent climate sensitivity, described there as a Figure 1

    The basis for my assertion is that we definitely do not want to approach the region Ray writes “Here there (may) be dragons.”

    While I am not a climate scientist, I am enough of a dynamicist to look at the rate with which we are introducing greenhouse gases compared to natural processes we can read in the paleorecord (with the possible exception of the Permian extinction event) to wonder whether or not we are actively exploring the climate state space for dynamical bifurcations. People who have examined the question suggest we would probably never know if we were approaching one. While there’s little that can be done except to press on for rapid reductions in CO2 emissions, I can only be honest and say these realizations make me very nervous.

  30. Since we’ve been talking a lot about pricing carbon emissions, I thought this CBC item was interesting. Mark Carney was formerly head of the Bank of Canada, and got hired away by the UK. Here’s his pronunciamento on carbon pricing:


    The reality companies must face and must deal with is that governments around the world are serious about implementing various schemes aimed at lowering emissions believed to be at the root of global warming, Carney said.

    “Climate policy is real,” he said. “Emissions have to be capped.”