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
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

Paul Krugman | Why We Don’t Have a Carbon Tax – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Three and a half years ago, an open letter that more than 3,600 economists eventually signed declared that “climate change is a serious problem calling for immediate national action.” The signatories included 15 former chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers, more than half of whom served under Republican presidents — a display of bipartisanship that contrasts sharply with the lock-step opposition of Republicans in Congress to the national action we’re finally taking in the form of the Inflation Reduction Act (which, despite its name, is mainly a climate bill) that President Biden is expected to sign today.

While we’re getting action, however, that action isn’t taking the form called for in the letter. That huge array of economists agreed that climate change mitigation should take the form of a carbon tax — a fee levied on businesses and individuals who emit greenhouse gases. This, the letter argued, was the remedy recommended by “sound economic principles.” But the I.R.A. doesn’t include a carbon tax, nor does it introduce a system of tradable emissions permits, which would provide similar incentives.

Instead, the act relies almost entirely on subsidies intended to promote clean energy, offering tax credits for renewable energy, aid to keep nuclear plants operating, incentives to buy electric vehicles and make homes more energy efficient and more.

So what happened to the carbon tax idea? Biden administration officials are well aware of the Econ 101 case for emission taxes. Indeed, Janet Yellen, the Treasury secretary, and Cecilia Rouse, the current C.E.A. chair, were among the letter’s signatories. I also understand that logic — in fact, the introductory economics textbook I wrote with Robin Wells makes that argument in some detail. But a few months after the letter was released I made the case in a Twitter thread against being a “carbon tax purist,” arguing that an exclusive focus on carbon taxes was “dubious economics and bad political economy.” “

David Lindsay:  Yes, and, the problem is still an existential crisis. We don’t have much time to change our polluting ways.  Here are two comments I approved:

Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NC 4h ago

We’ve been seeing numerous impacts catching many scientists by surprise with how soon they are occurring. In 2014 two independent teams of scientists reported that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is likely irreversibly retreating. 3.3 meters of sea level rise equivalent of ice there is being destabilized by a warming ocean. The paleoclimate record indicates that increasing global temperature by just 1.5-2 °C above preindustrial temperature commits the system to an eventual 6-9 meters of sea level rise, a large fraction of which could arrive within the next 100 years. Corals may not survive this century of warming and acidifying oceans, and droughts and floods linked to global warming—and conflict linked to those droughts—have already caused four countries to face famine. Because of the decades to millennial long lag between a climate forcing and our feeling the full effect, due to the thermal inertia of the ocean and response time of the ice sheets, the effects we are feeling now are largely just the beginning of the result of emissions from the 20th century. And emissions have been increasing steadily for decades. We are also seeing numerous amplifying feedbacks: loss of albedo (heat reflectivity) from ice melt, permafrost melt, methane release and massive wildfires; the Earth is starting to wrest any possible further human control of the climate away. We’re about out of time on this, if not already, and leaders are still acting as if this is not a planetary emergency.

4 Replies106 Recommended
Erik Frederiksen
Asheville, NCAug. 16

@Herbert Here is James Hansen to explain a carbon fee. From a 2012 TED Talk. “Now the tragedy about climate change is that we can solve it with a simple, honest approach of a gradually rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies and distributed 100 percent electronically every month to all legal residents on a per capita basis, with the government not keeping one dime. Most people would get more in the monthly dividend than they’d pay in increased prices. This fee and dividend would stimulate the economy and innovations, creating millions of jobs. It is the principal requirement for moving us rapidly to a clean energy future. Several top economists are coauthors on this proposition. Jim DiPeso of Republicans for Environmental Protection describes it thusly: “Transparent. Market-based. Does not enlarge government. Leaves energy decisions to individual choices. Sounds like a conservative climate plan.” But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true cost to society, our governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels by 400 to 500 billion dollars per year worldwide, thus encouraging extraction of every fossil fuel — mountaintop removal, longwall mining, fracking, tar sands, tar shale, deep ocean Arctic drilling.” https://www.ted.com/talks/james_hansen_why_i_must_speak_out_about_climate_change/transcript?language=en

In Reply to Erik Frederiksen81 Recommended

The Barbados Rebellion: An Island Nation’s Fight for Climate Justice – The New York Times

“Late on May 31, 2018, five days after she was sworn in as prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley and her top advisers gathered in the windowless anteroom of her administrative office in Bridgetown, the capital, for a call that could determine the fate of her island nation. The group settled into uncomfortable straight-backed chairs around a small mahogany table, staring at framed posters of Barbados’s windmills and sugar cane fields. Mottley, who was then 52, can appear mischievous in the moments before her bluntest declarations, but on this evening her steely side showed. She placed her personal cellphone on speaker and dialed a number in Washington for the International Monetary Fund. As arranged, Christine Lagarde, the managing director, answered.”

Herman Daly: This Pioneering Economist Says Our Obsession With Growth Must End – The New York Times

“Growth is the be-all and end-all of mainstream economic and political thinking. Without a continually rising G.D.P., we’re told, we risk social instability, declining standards of living and pretty much any hope of progress. But what about the counterintuitive possibility that our current pursuit of growth, rabid as it is and causing such great ecological harm, might be incurring more costs than gains? That possibility — that prioritizing growth is ultimately a losing game — is one that the lauded economist Herman Daly has been exploring for more than 50 years. In so doing, he has developed arguments in favor of a steady-state economy, one that forgoes the insatiable and environmentally destructive hunger for growth, recognizes the physical limitations of our planet and instead seeks a sustainable economic and ecological equilibrium. “Growth is an idol of our present system,” says Daly, emeritus professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, a former senior economist for the World Bank and, along with the likes of Greta Thunberg and Edward Snowden, a recipient of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award (often called the “alternative Nobel”). “Every politician is in favor of growth,” Daly, who is 84, continues, “and no one speaks against growth or in favor of steady state or leveling off. But I think it’s an elementary question to ask: Does growth ever become uneconomic?”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYTimes Comment:
Great interview of Herman Daly by David Marchese. I would like to nominate Herman Daly for the two Nobel prizes, the Nobel prize in economics, and the peace prize. When I attended the University of Washington Foster School of Business for an MBA in 1990, I was disturbed that all the economists I studied under assumed that growth was the only way to improve life on the planet. The world has to wake up, and admit that unrestricted population growth and consumerism and all the pollution created by these trends, is completely unsustainable for life as we have known it. We desperately need more ecological and steady-state economists. Which brings me back to my two Nobel prize nominations.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net

Brad Lander | Climate Risks of Investments Should Be Disclosed – The New York Times

Mr. Lander is the New York City comptroller, the city’s chief financial officer.

“In 2018, Pacific Gas and Electric estimated that the rise in wildfires, partly driven by climate change, could cost the company $2.5 billion in payouts for recent fires started by its electricity transmission lines and other operations north of San Francisco, and as much as $15 billion in the future.

The company was wrong. The next year, PG&E filed for bankruptcy protection as it faced an estimated $30 billion in liability after company power lines ignited some of the most destructive fires in California history.

At least PG&E disclosed its perceived risks, however off target. Not every company tells its investors about the climate-related risks it faces. This is a shortcoming in government efforts to protect Main Street investors as the planet continues to heat up.”

How Logging Is Affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo – The New York Times

“The mighty Congo River has become a highway for sprawling flotillas of logs — African teak, wenge and bomanga in colors of licorice, candy bars and carrot sticks. For months at a time, crews in the Democratic Republic of Congo live aboard these perilous rafts, piloting the timber in pursuit of a sliver of profit from the dismantling of a crucial forest.

The biggest rafts are industrial-scale, serving mostly international companies that see riches in the rainforest. But puny versions also make their way downriver, tended by men and their families who work and sleep atop the floating logs.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you. Breathtaking, heartbreaking, a real cause for grief for the future of life as we know it on the planet. Edward O Wilson, and many others, say we are on track to lose about 80% of the world’s species in the next 80 years, and if we lose 50%, humans probably won’t survive. There are solutions, and ideas to develop, but we need to change our ways in this decade to avoid ugly outcomes, like the losing of half of earths human population through starvation and war. If you love rocks, take comfort, the planet and it’s rocks will do fine. Its just the wonderful life forms that will perish from the overheating of the planet. Climate Change is a marketing euphemism for global warming, and it is here now, the wolf is at your door.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion, Historical Fiction of Eighteenth Century Vietnam” and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net

David Wallace-Wells | What Vaccine Apartheid Portends for the Climate Future – The New York Times

“. . . .  Last week Michael Bloomberg committed $242 million to accelerate the adoption of clean energy in 10 countries across the developing world. (The pledge was on top of his commitment of $500 million to buy and close American coal plants.) Mark Carney — a former head of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England who has taken to describing a 25 percent cut to global G.D.P. as his “base case” expectation for warming — has mobilized companies managing $130 trillion in a corporate alliance for net-zero emissions. The Glasgow agreement urged countries to double their commitments to financing adaptation in the developing world by 2025.

This isn’t nothing. But while philanthropy and finance’s move toward climate action is not an illusion, forensic accounting tells a more nuanced story: Even the headline pledges (which include a fair amount of greenwashed money alongside directed real climate investment) amount to less than a third of the spending necessary to meet the Paris goals, according to the International Energy Agency (and, being largely profit-minded investment, almost entirely neglect the financial needs of those devastated by climate impacts today). This new ambition is real, in other words, and worth celebrating, to greater or lesser degrees.

But as with so much of the climate crisis, finally moving in the right direction, in fits and starts toward only a certain set of opportunities, is not the same as solving the problem whole or giving the world a path to anything we might want to call success. A doubling of adaptation finance, even if fulfilled, could mean as much as $60 billion annually, for instance; the U.N. Environmental Program estimates needs of as much as $300 billion.” . . . .

David Lindsay: Good essay, thank you. Sorry the comments section closed after just 79 comments. I have a fantasy of working as a stand up comic, and saying to the audience, The only problem with the  pandemic is that it didn’t kill nearly enough human beings. The ugly truth behind such gallows humor, is that scientists think the correct carrying capacity of humans on earth is probably about 4 billion, if we are going to not cause the sixth great extinction of species. Somehow,  Wallace-Wells missed the opportunity to connect these dots. Failures to save human lives is never a completely bad thing, when worring about the horrid effects on other species, or human overpopulation and all their garbage and pollution.