Year 3, Month 11, Day 19: Roll Your Own?

The Durango Herald (CO) runs an AP piece discussing the benefits of a tax on carbon:

Experts on all sides of the issue have watched climate proposals fail in the past. Congress is still split, and many in the Republican party deny the existence of human-made climate change, despite what scientists say. Congress also on Tuesday blocked the European Union from imposing a tax on American airliners flying to the continent as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gases.

Energy industry lobbyist Scott Segal said many utilities will fight a carbon tax.

“The conditions are far from ripe for a carbon tax, if for no other reason than a carbon tax is a tax on economic growth,” he said.

But environmental advocates are seizing the moment, determined not to let the interest in climate change subside with the floodwaters.

On Wednesday, former Vice President Al Gore launched a 24-hour online talkfest about global warming and disasters. Another group,, headed by environmental advocate and author Bill McKibben, is amid a 21-city bus tour.

Gore compared the link between extreme weather and “dirty energy” from coal, oil and natural gas to the links between cigarette smoking and lung cancer or the use of steroids and home runs in baseball.

They have a 350-word limit, which is way on the high side. Interesting how that affects the processes of composition. Sent November 15:

America’s fossil-fuel consumption is one of the most significant drivers of global climate change, and it’s revealing to follow up on former Vice-President Gore’s analogy with tobacco. Our entire economy is built around the ready availability and artificial cheapness of oil and coal, and the result has been a national addiction to these substances and the convenience they facilitate. Like heavy smokers, we recognize our dependency while pretending to be immune from the cold equations; like heavy smokers, we promise to quit but never seem to get around to it.

Of course, once the biopsy comes back positive, it’s too late for quitting to do much good, which is the position our civilization is in right now with fossil fuels. The diagnosis is very clear: Earth’s health is in dire jeopardy, with a planetary greenhouse effect on the brink of a catastrophic “tipping point” beyond which recovery will be impossible.

And the voices most loudly raised in denial? Unsurprisingly, their paychecks come from the very fossil fuel industry reaping huge profits from our addiction. Equally unsurprisingly, many of the same “experts” currently asserting that climate change is unrelated to fossil fuel consumption were testifying a few decades ago that tobacco didn’t have anything to do with lung cancer. They were lying then, and they’re lying now.

It’s time for America, and the world, to kick the fossil fuel habit once and for all. Oil, gas and coal need to come with warning labels, and we must stop subsidizing an industry that is destroying our home.

Warren Senders

It’s time

Year 3, Month 5, Day 5: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The Chicago Tribune carries the “people are waking up” story a few steps further:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Three out of four U.S. voters favor regulating carbon dioxide as a greenhouse-gas pollutant, and a majority think global warming should be a priority for the president and Congress, a survey of American attitudes on climate and energy reported on Thursday.

The survey was released one day after Rolling Stone magazine published an interview with President Barack Obama in which he suggested that climate change would become a campaign issue this year.

In results often at odds with the political debate in Washington, the survey conducted for Yale and George Mason University also found most Americans would vote for a candidate who raised taxes on coal, oil and natural gas – fossil fuels that emit climate-warming carbon dioxide when burned – while cutting income tax, in a revenue-neutral “tax swap.”

This maneuver, which would not add to federal revenues but would change where they came from, has long been discussed by such disparate political actors as former Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat, and Bob Inglis, a Republican former congressman.

Sixty-one percent of Americans surveyed said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supported the tax swap, while 20 percent said they would be less likely.

When we get to 100 percent of the population, our politicians will finally do what is right. Sent April 26:

While the First Amendment precludes an outright prohibition on the rhetoric of climate-change deniers, it’s increasingly obvious that America’s national conversation would be better off if these voices weren’t so unnaturally amplified. The anti-science statements of conservative politicians and their enablers in the media have helped to make reality-based environmental policies impossible to enact, even when a majority of Americans think they’re desirable. In the current atmosphere of petroleum-funded corruption, any legislative actions toward planetary responsibility are doomed from the start by corporate resistance to shrinking profit margins.

A tax on carbon emissions is an idea whose time has come. If the money raised were returned to the middle class in the form of tax breaks or dividends, its economic effects would be overwhelmingly beneficial. But until we reduce our emissions of denialist hot air, such a policy is unlikely to advance through congress. Too bad we can’t tax lies.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 19: Not With A Whim, But A Banker

The Concord Monitor (NH) discusses both Richard Muller’s apostasy and the sensible approach espoused by a few brave Democratic Reps:

A few weeks ago, after conducting a multi-year study funded in fair measure by the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers, University of California professor Richard Muller, one of the more credible skeptics of global warming, announced his findings. The great majority of scientists who claimed that the world’s climate was warming at a fair clip, Muller said, are right.

Muller’s findings produced a gamut of responses. In climate skeptic circles, he had committed apostasy. In the broader scientific community the reaction was essentially, “What took you so long? Didn’t you notice that the glaciers are disappearing, permafrost melting, sea level rising and polar bears drowning?”

Last month, nine Democrats in the U.S. House decided to swim upstream through the sewage that is Washington politics to introduce the Save Our Climate Act, a bill that would impose, at its onset, a $10 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Their goal is to reduce emissions by 80 percent below 1990 levels.

Pete Stark (the only “out” atheist in Congress, just so you know) is a good guy; he’s the originator of this doomed legislative initiative. I’m so tired I can’t even think straight…but my letter appears to make a species of sense, combining a wee dram of S.O.C.A. advocacy with a big glass of Republicans Are Idiots. Sent November 15:

Now that Dr. Richard Muller’s career as a “climate skeptic” has foundered on the facts, one wonders how the GOP can continue to ignore those stubbornly inconvenient truths that have the rest of us losing sleep at night. But they will, they surely will.

Climate change is one of the least ambiguous problems America faces, for the laws of physics and chemistry are utterly oblivious to the exigencies of electoral politics. If we wish to pass a habitable world to our descendants, we need to stop burning carbon and putting it into the atmosphere. Period. And as a spate of recent reports have indicated, our window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Congressional Republicans should support Rep. Stark’s Save Our Climate Act, which is environmentally sound and fiscally sensible. But they won’t, because their entire ideology is based on the idea that a profitable lie beats a costly truth every time.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 9, Day 25: Blind Pigs And All That

Usually I have almost nothing but contempt for the World Bank, the IMF and the other tentacles of the global vampire squid. But as the September 21st issue of the Washington Post tells us, they’ve got something right:

AMSTERDAM — Global financial institutions are recommending raising money to fight climate change by trimming subsidies for fossil fuels, putting a price tag of $25 per ton on carbon emissions and collecting a surcharge on aviation and shipping fuels.

The recommendations are part of a draft paper by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international groups prepared for a meeting Friday in Washington of G20 finance and development ministers. It was leaked prematurely and distributed Wednesday by aid agencies.

The ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies are responding to a commitment to channel $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to global warming and develop low-carbon economies.

But Republicans won’t eat acorns, no matter what. Sent Sept. 21:

If the recommendations from the World Bank and the IMF actually gain traction in the policy-making sectors of government, it would mark a sea-change in political approaches to the climate crisis. Their suggestions err only on in being too conservative; fossil fuel prices should reflect the true cost of these commodities, including not only the long-term mitigation of their health and environmental effects but all those expensive wars we fight to protect our sources. When these factors are taken into account it is evident that burning carbon is an exceptionally costly to fuel a civilization.

A price on carbon likewise cries out for implementation. A “fee-and-dividend” scheme would return monies directly to consumers, partially offsetting increased energy costs.

Alas, Washington is unlikely to respond meaningfully to these recommendations. As Mr. Clinton remarked, GOP-induced policy paralysis and reflexive climate denialism makes America a joke in the eyes of the world.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 8, Day 21: In The Country Of The Crazy And Stupid…

In August 4th’s Quincy Patriot-Ledger (MA), D.R. Tucker discusses the eminently sensible fee-and-dividend approach to taxing carbon emissions:

In mid-June, more than 80 members of the Citizens Climate Lobby met with House and Senate members to seek support for a market-based, revenue-neutral solution. Under their proposal, known as “fee and dividend,” a gradually increasing fee would be charged on coal, oil and natural gas at the point of origin or import.

The fee would be set initially at $15 per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel.

Proceeds would be distributed as dividend checks to the public directly.

This fee will increase the cost of fossil fuels, but the dividend checks will reduce the impact on working families.

The state economy will reap benefits from increased investment in energy conservation and establishment of new companies developing renewable alternatives to fossil fuels. This proposal will create local jobs in energy conservation and renewable energy.

This revenue-neutral approach to addressing climate change is politically neutral, easing progressives’ concerns about the manipulation of emissions trading in cap-and-trade and assuaging conservatives’ fears about increasing the federal government’s role.

It’s the right action to take, a move that will pay dividends simultaneously to the consumer, the state economy and the environment.

“Eminently sensible” = doomed. Sent August 4:

Mr. Tucker’s prescription for an economically and environmentally sane climate policy is exactly correct. Unfortunately, as events over the past decade have demonstrated time and time again, sanity appears undervalued by our representatives in politics. If a fee-and-dividend approach to carbon emissions is to have a chance of succeeding, our print and broadcast media must do their job. The “balanced” model, with every scientifically informed expert countered by a paid shill from the petroleum industry, is both an intellectual and an environmental disaster. By convincing a plurality of Americans that the science “isn’t settled,” this approach has drastically degraded the quality of the discussion, bringing progress on environmental issues to an absolute standstill. The Jeffersonian ideal of a “well-informed citizenry” is crucial for a functioning democracy; when reporting on a threat as significant as climate change, our media must abandon irresponsible “false equivalency,” and rededicate itself to reporting scientific truth.

Warren Senders