23 January 2007

Forget climate stability; let's pay people to do nothing instead

From the Economist (subscription)
In recent weeks, a rush of climate-change bills has started circulating in America’s new Congress. … A national cap on emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, looks closer than ever. … Part of the approach is likely to be a carbon-trading system, which companies prefer because it is more flexible than a carbon tax. The basic idea is that power plants and manufacturers will be allowed to emit a certain number of tons of carbon dioxide. If they exceed that amount, they must buy “credits” from companies that pollute less than their allowance.
I find this quite disturbing. A whole new bureaucracy will be set up to allocate CO2 credits to thousands of emitters. What will this achieve? A cap on the levels of CO2 that they emit. That’s all.
This ludicrous administrative exercise is not designed to, and will not, achieve: a net reduction in CO2 levels emitted by the US, still less a net reduction in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions emitted by the US, still less a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by humans on this planet, still less a reduction in the proportion of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. And if anybody does care at all about the health of the planet, as against setting up an elegant but futile trading system, it will not bring about climate stability, because it is not designed to do so.


Anonymous said...

Any comments on Branson's gesture?


Ronnie Horesh said...

Hi, and thanks for your query. I am pleased that the Virgin Earth Challenge is not about reducing anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions a la Kyoto, but aims to encourage the: "removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate". The prize is handsome, the objective is clearly stated and meaningful, so I think this is a worthwhile gesture.