Sunday, June 09, 2019

Imagining And Accomplishing - A Chinese Video Offers A Great Metaphor Of What Citizens Climate Lobby Is Doing

It's amazing what some human beings can imagine, and then accomplish.  This video is short but it will lift your spirit.  And everyone needs a lot of spirit lifting these days.

But it's also depressing how so many get stuck with the routine, and refuse to use the imagination they were born with to do the things that need to be done - like fighting climate change.  And we're in a particularly difficult time where people focus on stopping things rather than making the world a better place.

Yesterday was the monthly Citizens Climate Lobby meeting and the speaker was Dr. Shi-Ling Hsu.  His book, The Case for a Carbon Tax:  Getting Past our Hang-ups to Effective Climate Policy pulls together all the issues to show why a carbon tax with dividend is the most effective and most likely single act people can take to slow down climate change.

It's a little pricey, but maybe you can find it in your library.  The author has his own eight page precis of the book online here.  I'm sure most of you will never read it, so here's my outline of Chapter 1 which pulls together all the key points:

Chapter 1:  IntroductionGlobal Climate Change the dominant environmental issue of our time.
    Basic Dynamic and ImpactGreenhouse effect - GH gases like carbon dioxide trap the heat.  Balance disturbed by CO2 emissions since Industrial Revolution.
Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius reported build up of ‘carbonic acid’ in the earth’s atmosphere 1908 creating the possibility of earth growing warmer.  As Swede, he thought this was good.
But since at least 1970s people knew of possible dire consequences. Not just warmer weather, but heat waves and droughts, water shortages, more violent storms, rise in sea levels ‘jeopardizing trillions of dollars of real estate worldwide.”  Heating causes more heating as warm temperatures unlock methane from the frozen tundra “unleashing a GH twenty-five times more powerful than carbon dioxide.”
    Societal Impacts Political DilemmasIncreasing inequity as equatorial countries impacted harder, mostly less developed, less wealthy.  Northern, mostly more developed and wealthy have less impact.  Leakage problem:  If developed Northern nations cut back, price of oil drops, developing countries will snap it up and little gained.  Also, most of the problem caused by Northern developed countries which have used the most oil.  Developing countries believe the rich countries used their allotment already and now it’s poorer countries’ turn.  Thus the need for world wide cooperation.  But there’s resistance to a global response:
  1. China v. US  - Both, together, largest emitters - 40% of world’s CO2 emissions. in 2006 when China became the world’s biggest emitter.  China sees itself as developing country and wants to catch up with what the US has used already.  But they have engaged the climate change problem.  The US has contributed 240 gigatons into the atmosphere from 1950-present. US still uses 4X the carbon per person than China.  
  1. Rest of the world. (Even if China and US agree, saving is only 40%)
  1. Generously assuming that European Union would support bilateral US-China agreement, brings us to 55%, with 45% left over. India? 5%   Russia?  5%  Brazil?
  • The Big Question:  How will diverse nations come together to curtail emissions of GHes?  Burning carbon products and emitting CO2 is such a part of our economies, hard to imagine changing.  “ . . .most developed countries [are] taking some steps to address climate change..  Most developed countries seem to accept that their participation in an agreement to reduce emissions is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition to bring about global cooperation in addressing climate change.
  • Alternative to do nothing without knowing if others will reciprocate = do nothing.  So developing countries could undo reduction efforts.  US doesn’t know its efforts will succeed, but does know if it does nothing the world “will hurtle toward an historic and frightening climatic experiment.”
  • Climate change poses security threat   - “poor countries left with nothing to lose by violence, and the sheer numbers of dispossessed could overwhelm the ability of rich countries to insulate themselves from climate-induced unrest.”  US Department of Defense is “developing policies and plans to manage the effects of climate change on its operating environment [and] missions.”
  • Imperative to act - what could work? - “Because of the leakage problem, global engagement with the reduction of GH is absolutely necessary, and almost every country, developed or not, has to be a party.  What can possibly be proposed, that could satisfy almost every country in the world” 
  • Purpose of the book: - explore the options and argue that a carbon tax is currently the most effective means of reducing emissions.  Tax is levied on emission of quantity of carbon dioxide.  
  • Basic level:  levied on fossil fuel, at some transaction point before combustion, basically a sales tax on the carbon content of fuel.  CO2 most abundant GH, regulating it the most important aspect of controlling GH.  CO2 is most long lived GH gas -  remaining in atmosphere 100 years after emission -  need to start now.
  • Book proposes a “carbon tax on fossil fuels, expanded to include a few other sources of GH emissions that can be monitored and measured with relative ease.”
  • Why right now?  - Politically difficult.  No perfect policy.  Some others more popular, but can’t stop climate change.  Tax would start out modest and gradually increase allowing less drastic adjustments. 
  • The longer we wait, the more difficult and disrupting it will be to fix things.  “Doing something modest now is vastly preferable to finding just the “right” GH policy.  
  • Not the only needed policy.   Other options also needed.  Carbon tax doesn’t preclude other options.  No jurisdictional conflicts between feds and states/provinces. No problem having carbon tax AND cap and trade.  No legal obstacles to carbon tax.  “More work  will certainly need to be done in addition to a carbon tax, but there is no first step more important, more effective, and more flexible than a carbon tax.”  
  • Carbon tax idea not novel,  - but all the arguments for it never collected together before.   Easy to cherry pick flaws of carbon tax, but real task to comprehensively compare carbon tax to other alternatives.  This book does that reducing the most important considerations down to ten arguments for a carbon tax and four against.
  • Explores psychological barriers to carbon tax - Reviews human cognitive bases when processing information and weighing different options, biases that are mutually reinforced by public opinion polls that ask questions that contain subtle but powerful bias against certain policies.    Economists’ assumptions that humans act rationally is false.  People’s bias against taxes causes misjudgments and misperceptions about policies.  Book applies research findings that come closest to answering ‘why people dislike the carbon tax as a way of addressing climate change.”
Chapter 2  describes “a typical carbon tax and three alternative policy instruments: a cap-and-trade program, “command-and-control” - type policies or standards and government subsidies.
Chapter 3 sets up ten considerations for choosing a policy to reduce GHes.
Chapter 4 explores challenges to carbon taxes including political barriers, including its perceived regressiveness and how to pay off industries that will be disadvantaged, such as the coal industry.
Chapter 5 addresses the psychology of carbon taxes.  Approaches thus far have hidden the real cost of mitigation.
Chapter  6:  Changing Political Fortunes?
Chapter  7:  Conclusions

Why do I write about  Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL) so often?

Here's why.  CCL:
  1. Has the right objective
  2. Goes after that objective as efficiently and effectively as any organization I've ever seen
  3. Uses constituents from its local chapters (in 87% of all congressional districts) to lobby their members of congress to pass the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act
  4. Focuses on building relationships with members of congress through respect and providing the best available information
  5. Embraces an inclusive approach that treats everyone as a human being and a potential ally
  6. Works with many other climate change groups
Studies show that people who believe that climate change is real, often have no idea of how they can meaningfully work to slow it down.  Well joining CCL is an easy and empowering way.

There are chapters throughout the US.  You can find your closest chapter here.  

And there are many chapters outside the United States.  You might find one near you here.

Like the guys dancing on the bar in the video, the founders and members of CCL have used their imaginations to come up with a viable idea and they are doing an heroic job to make it happen.

They need your help.  You don't have to join CCL to lobby your member of congress, but it doesn't cost anything to join.  And finding all the other people working for this goal is very gratifying.  And it's empowering.  Over 1500 volunteers are in Washington DC for the CCL annual conference and to lobby Congress.  

One of the resources I found most interesting and encouraging is a document with the statements of the many different religious and spiritual groups in the US on climate change.  Many people don't even know their group has taken a stand on this issue. 

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