Spencer Bokat-Lindell | Do We Need to Shrink the Economy to Stop Climate Change? – The New York Times

Mr. Bokat-Lindell is a staff editor.

This article is part of the Debatable newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“If there is a dominant paradigm for how politicians and economists today think about solving climate change, it is called green growth. According to green growth orthodoxy — whose adherents populate European governments, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Developmentthe World Bank and the White House — the global economy can both continue growing and defuse the threat of a warming planet through rapid, market-led environmental action and technological innovation.

But in recent years, a rival paradigm has been gaining ground: degrowth. In the view of degrowthers, humanity simply does not have the capacity to phase out fossil fuels and meet the ever-growing demand of rich economies. At this late hour, consumption itself has to be curtailed.

Degrowth is still a relatively marginal tendency in climate politics, but it’s been attracting converts. In 2019, more than 11,000 scientists signed an open letter calling for a “shift from G.D.P. growth” toward “sustaining ecosystems and improving human well-being.” And in May, a paper published in the journal Nature argued that degrowth “should be as widely and thoroughly considered and debated as are comparably risky technology-driven pathways.” “

Spencer Bokat-Lindell | A Farewell to Readers – The New York Times

“In the many instances when I mentioned to friends or other journalists that I was writing an edition of this newsletter on climate change, I often got a quizzical response: In view of the overwhelming scientific consensus on the issue, what more was there really left to debate?

Quite a lot, as it turned out. For starters: Is it even politically and technologically possible for the United States to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050? And given that the United States has done more than any other country to contribute to climate change, what does it owe the rest of the world?

The challenge of decarbonization also raises profound questions about how our economic system may need to change in the coming years, in ways both large and small. Is Americans’ love of cars — even if they are replaced with electric ones — and gas stoves sustainable? To expedite the renewable energy transition, would a carbon tax suffice, or do we need a more sweeping industrial policy like the Green New Deal? On a planet with finite resources, might rich countries even need to shrink their economies?

As the costs of climate change mount — and they will, for the next few decades at least, no matter what we do now — attention is turning toward the urgency and limits of adapting to a hotter planet. Should humanity start to approach those limits, it will go looking with increasing desperation for technological solutions to the crisis, each of which courts factions of boosters and detractors: lab-grown meatold-fashioned nuclear fissionnascent nuclear fusion — even turning the sky white.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT  NYT comment:

Bravo. Spencer Bokat-Lindell. Keep it up. You wrote: “The challenge of decarbonization also raises profound questions about how our economic system may need to change in the coming years, in ways both large and small. Is Americans’ love of cars — even if they are replaced with electric ones — and gas stoves sustainable? To expedite the renewable energy transition, would a carbon tax suffice, or do we need a more sweeping industrial policy like the Green New Deal? On a planet with finite resources, might rich countries even need to shrink their economies?” That last sentence might be key the the survival of homo sapiens and millions of other innocent species we are destroying with our now 8 billion humans. So there is plenty to work on. It is amazing how few economists grasp that GNP is no longer the right metric. Quality of life is closer to the right issue to measure. I recommend to you, “The Hidden Connections, A Sciencer for Sustainable Living” by Fritjof Capra, and the work of the sustainable economist, Herman Daly, the author of “No Growth Economics” David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

As Heat Pumps Go Mainstream, a Big Question: Can They Handle Real Cold? – The New York Times

“Over the past decade, heat pumps have been steadily making their way into more American homes. There was a major milestone last year when they surpassed gas furnaces in annual sales by a wide margin.

But the blistering cold weather descending on the Midwest this week has many homeowners wondering: Do heat pumps still work in freezing temperatures?

Experts and electrification advocates say that they do — and that even in cold weather, they can still be more efficient, and better for the climate, than furnaces and boilers that run on fossil fuels.

An electric heat pump is an all-in-one heating and cooling unit, essentially an air-conditioner that runs in two directions. In the summer, it functions like a traditional A.C. unit, pumping heat out of the home and pulling cooler air back in. In the winter, it draws heat into the home. That might seem surprising, but it’s true. Even when it’s bitterly cold outside, there is still heat available. As it gets colder, heat pumps have to work harder, using more energy, to extract that heat.”

David Lindsay Jr.
NYT Comment:

I love my 8 ductless split heat pumps by LG. I have a 450 sq ft house in Connecticut, and these splits completely heat and cool the house all year round. We also have a heat pump hot water heater, an electric car, and hybrid prius prime that has a 25 mile electric battery, that covers most of my local driving. All of this is powered by 54 solar panels on the east, west and south roofs, so we don’t have to worry about buying dirty energy which is a plus. I am pleased to report, that after three solar installations, the home is now a private power generation station with an annual output capacity of 14.83 kW. Yes, we still have our gas furnace as a backup, and we run it monthly to make sure it is working, but we haven’t actually needed it since the third group of solar panels were installed. When the temperature approached zero, the splits worked fine. We made one mistake with the installation of the the two condensers which we put on the outside wall of the family room, on brackets, attached to the house. We have dance band and singing parties and rehearsals in the family room, which are hampered by the loud low rumblings of the condensers against the wall. I should have spent a little more, to have these two condensers mounted on cement footings on the ground a few feet from the house, to maintain the sanctity or functionality of our music making room.

David is a dance caller and musician, song leader and folk singer, who blogs about the enviroment at InconvenientNews.net.

Robinson Mayer | A Huge, Uncharted Experiment on the U.S. Economy Is About to Begin – The New York Times

”  . . . . .  But I worry that the federal government has started its experiments too haphazardly. The Inflation Reduction Act did not emerge from careful study and bipartisan consensus building, but from intraparty haggling and a harried legislative process. Even the bipartisan CHIPS Act was more of a crisis measure than a strategic intervention. These shortcomings are forgivable; in the Inflation Reduction Act’s case, it’s not like Republicans were ever going to help pass a climate bill. But these constraints have deprived the government of the strong institutions, internal expertise and administrative capacity that have made similar experiments successful in other countries.

For practical purposes, that means, first, that the government won’t be able to spend all this money in the right place. The U.S. financial system persistently struggles to fund projects that take a long time to turn a profit and that can expect to have only modest returns. Unfortunately, the biggest and most important physical infrastructure — factories, transmission lines — often fall under that category. In other countries, industrial policy has entailed creating an agile, entrepreneurial agency that can get money to the right companies in the right ways — as a loan, as equity, as a purchase guarantee.

Congress took some steps in that direction last year. The Inflation Reduction Act beefed up the Loan Programs Office, the Department of Energy’s in-house bank, and it established a new green lending office within the Environmental Protection Agency. But Congress has put these institutions on a short leash with a limited mandate. This means that the government can’t support as many risky investments as it should.

Second, the government may lack the ability to coordinate its own actions. Late last year, the Biden administration declined to help reopen a “green” aluminum factory in Ferndale, Wash., that was exactly the kind of low-carbon industry it wants to champion. The local union, electric vehicle makers and the state’s Democratic leadership all wanted to revive the factory. The project even has national-security relevance, since the United States currently imports aluminum from Russia. But Mr. Biden chose not to intercede with the local electricity provider, the Bonneville Power Administration, to supply the plant with enough cheap power to operate even though it is a federal agency ostensibly under the president’s control. Never mind the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing: The right hand couldn’t get the left hand to plug the cord in.

Finally, the government may not understand enough about the companies it’s trying to help. In Taiwan and South Korea, industrial-policy agencies don’t only hand out money; they constantly gather information from the private sector and use it to adjust goals and policies over time. The Inflation Reduction Act contains very few mechanisms for this kind of in-flight course adjustment. Its main incentives are tax credits, which are hard to repeal once they’re in place and hard to fix if they’re not working. They are an unusually mindless way to incentivize companies to change their behavior.” . . . .

How Climate Change Is Making Tampons (and Lots of Other Stuff) More Expensive – Coral Davenport – The New York Times

7 MIN READ

“When the Agriculture Department finished its calculations last month, the findings were startling: 2022 was a disaster for upland cotton in Texas, the state where the coarse fiber is primarily grown and then sold around the globe in the form of tampons, cloth diapers, gauze pads and other products.

In the biggest loss on record, Texas farmers abandoned 74 percent of their planted crops — nearly six million acres — because of heat and parched soil, hallmarks of a megadrought made worse by climate change.

That crash has helped to push up the price of tampons in the United States 13 percent over the past year. The price of cloth diapers spiked 21 percent. Cotton balls climbed 9 percent and gauze bandages increased by 8 percent. All of that was well above the country’s overall inflation rate of 6.5 percent in 2022, according to data provided by the market research firms NielsonIQ and The NPD Group.

It’s an example of how climate change is reshaping the cost of daily life in ways that consumers might not realize.”

David Wallace-Wells | Europe Turned an Energy Crisis Into a Green Energy Sprint – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

“This was supposed to be a winter of energy crisis in Europe. Beginning last spring, not long after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the fear of gas shortages spread across the continent, along with fears of what might follow. The coming winter crunch was compared to wartime, with energy experts less focused on whether it would bring rationing than how much. Others suggested that spectacular price spikes would mean suspensions of energy markets and that the continent as a whole would experience not a “cost of living crisis” but a crisis of “molecules” — in which there wasn’t enough energy to be had, no matter the price. A recession was simply taken for granted among the commentariat — almost like a badge of honor demonstrating the moral valor of standing up to Vladimir Putin.

Europe as a whole has indeed endured a lot through the cold months: dramatic spikes in energy prices, with wholesale prices for electricity and gas growing as much as 15-fold, often accompanied by similar spikes in government relief. Countries from Germany to Denmark and Italy spent more than 5 percent of G.D.P. to shield citizens from the crunch, enacting public conservation measures that darkened city streets and limited power use in other ways. In Britain, average bills were expected to grow by 80 percent before the government artificially lowered the average annual household energy bill to about $3,000. Across the continent, people turned their thermostats down and snuggled with hot water bottles at night. Industry was dialed back in places but also often found alternative power supplies.

All told, though, the worst has not come to pass. There were no blackouts, as experts were warning as recently as December. There was no significant mortality from the cold. Industrial production took some hits but didn’t disappear, and indeed, economic forecasters who were six months ago almost unanimously predicting a continentwide recession are now almost unanimously predicting ongoing, if limited, economic growth. There are still worries about whether next winter will prove as manageable as this one, but natural gas storage levels have remained high for months, and gas prices have now fallen back to where they were in September of 2021, several months before the invasion.

What is perhaps most remarkable is that the European Union has not just managed to avert a crisis but has actually “turbocharged the green transition,” as The Economist recently put it, potentially enough to knock a full decade off the continent’s decarbonization timeline.”

David Wallace-Wells | Progressives Should Rally Around a Clean Energy Construction Boom – The New York Times

Opinion Writer

You’re reading the David Wallace-Wells newsletter, for Times subscribers only.  The best-selling science writer and essayist explores climate change, technology, the future of the planet and how we live on it.

“The alliance that pushed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August was always a somewhat fragile and ramshackle one: Green New Dealers and the coal-state senator Joe Manchin, carbon-capture geeks and environmental justice warriors, all herded together in the sort of big-tent play you get with a 50-50 Senate and one party functionally indifferent on climate.

One conspicuous cost of the compromise reached was a promise made by Senator Chuck Schumer to Manchin on what was vaguely called permitting reform: a catchall phrase referring to a whole host of efforts to cut red tape and ease the rollout of energy infrastructure. After weeks of speculation and intracoalitional debate, the text of the compromise was released on Sept. 21. By Sept. 27, the coalition had fallen apart, with Manchin somewhat abruptly pulling what had become known as the side deal from a must-pass budget resolution.

This was seemingly a victory for the progressive caucus, activists and environmental justice groups, which opposed the agreement as a fossil fuel handout, and another mark of a growing climate rift on the left in the aftermath of what was widely hailed as the most significant decarbonization bill passed into American law. (Nothing breaks a partnership like success, I guess.) But it also suggests an obvious next step for the left side of the now fractured climate coalition: its own alternative permitting reform bill, focused on building more electric transmission lines and streamlining regulatory approval for clean energy projects (without allowing for more fossil fuel infrastructure or the stampeding of frontline communities).

Europe Is Sacrificing Its Ancient Forests for dirty Energy – for wood chips – The New York Times

“. . . . . . burning wood was never supposed to be the cornerstone of the European Union’s green energy strategy.

When the bloc began subsidizing wood burning over a decade ago, it was seen as a quick boost for renewable fuel and an incentive to move homes and power plants away from coal and gas. Chips and pellets were marketed as a way to turn sawdust waste into green power.

Those subsidies gave rise to a booming market, to the point that wood is now Europe’s largest renewable energy source, far ahead of wind and solar.

European governments count wood power toward their clean-energy targets. But research shows it can be dirtier than coal.

But today, as demand surges amid a Russian energy crunch, whole trees are being harvested for power. And evidence is mounting that Europe’s bet on wood to address climate change has not paid off.

Forests in Finland and Estonia, for example, once seen as key assets for reducing carbon from the air, are now the source of so much logging that government scientists consider them carbon emitters. In Hungary, the government waived conservation rules last month to allow increased logging in old-growth forests.

And while European nations can count wood power toward their clean-energy targets, the E.U. scientific research agency said last year that burning wood released more carbon dioxide than would have been emitted had that energy come from fossil fuels.:

Secret Data, Tiny Islands and a Quest for Treasure on the Ocean Floor – The New York Times

By Eric Lipton   Aug. 29, 2022

“ETKINGSTON, Jamaica — As demand grows globally for metals needed to make batteries for electric vehicles, one of the richest untapped sources of the raw materials lies two and a half miles beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

This remote section of the seabed, about 1,500 miles southwest of San Diego, could soon become the world’s first industrial-scale mining site in international waters.

The Metals Company, based in Vancouver, has secured exclusive access to tons of seabed rocks packed with cobalt, copper and nickel — enough, it says, to power 280 million electric vehicles, equivalent to the entire fleet of cars in the United States.”

Pace of Climate Change Sends Economists Back to Drawing Board – The New York Times

“Economists have been examining the impact of climate change for almost as long as it’s been known to science.

In the 1970s, the Yale economist William Nordhaus began constructing a model meant to gauge the effect of warming on economic growth. The work, first published in 1992, gave rise to a field of scholarship assessing the cost to society of each ton of emitted carbon offset by the benefits of cheap power — and thus how much it was worth paying to avert it.

Dr. Nordhaus became a leading voice for a nationwide carbon tax that would discourage the use of fossil fuels and propel a transition toward more sustainable forms of energy. It remained the preferred choice of economists and business interests for decades. And in 2018, Dr. Nordhaus was honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

But as President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act with its $392 billion in climate-related subsidies, one thing became very clear: The nation’s biggest initiative to address climate change is built on a different foundation from the one Dr. Nordhaus proposed.

Rather than imposing a tax, the legislation offers tax credits, loans and grants — technology-specific carrots that have historically been seen as less efficient than the stick of penalizing carbon emissions more broadly.

The outcome reflects a larger trend in public policy, one that is prompting economists to ponder why the profession was so focused on a solution that ultimately went nowhere in Congress — and how economists could be more useful as the damage from extreme weather mounts.

A central shift in thinking, many say, is that climate change has moved faster than foreseen, and in less predictable ways, raising the urgency of government intervention. In addition, technologies like solar panels and batteries are cheap and abundant enough to enable a fuller shift away from fossil fuels, rather than slightly decreasing their use.

Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University, worked on developing carbon pricing methods at the Department of Energy. He thinks the relentless focus on prices, with little attention paid to direct investments, lasted too long.”

I didn’t like this piece because it was too limited. There are new sustainable economists saying growth no longer works. Here are two of many good comments:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC3h ago

It is frightening to see how much faster severe climate impacts are occurring at just 1.2°C above preindustrial times. Not many people seem to be aware of how bad things are going to get over the next few decades. We are deep into a planetary emergency and leaders are not responding commensurately.

2 Replies149 Recommended
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David Anderson
North Carolina2h ago

The end of Homo sapiens ? ? The Biosphere is defined as the relatively thin layer of the earth’s surface that can support life. It extends down to the deepest layers of soils and ocean trenches and up to the highest levels of the earth’s atmosphere. Change in the Biosphere generally operates on “slow;” that is in multiples of many hundreds or thousands or even millions of years. But change can also operate on “fast.”The Permian Triassic extinction 252 million years ago and the Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago are two examples of relatively rapid change. The Cretaceous came from a meteorite and resulted in low temperatures. The Permian Triassic came from a Methane (CH4) Hydrate Feedback Loop and resulted in high temperatures. Both were accompanied by Biosphere change so extreme as to extinguish a very large percentage of planetary life. When such change occurs those species that inhabit precisely bounded biological niches are the first to be affected. They die out. Then others follow. We are now in our Modern Age seeing the first signs of Biosphere change due to our industrial civilization adding excessive amounts of (CO2) into the planet’s Biosphere.  As with all other life on the planet, while in the membrane we Homo sapiens are biologically dependent on an evolutionarily constructed and precisely bounded niche.

3 Replies50 Recommended