Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Carbon communication cowardice

Some annoyances from the communication on policies I could be supportive of, if not for...

From Ontario's Premier:
Premier Kathleen Wynne is defending the Liberal government’s decision to introduce a cap-and-trade program next year to combat climate change, calling Ontarians “very bad actors” when it comes to creating greenhouse gases.
“Even though we’re a small percentage overall of the global greenhouse gas emissions, we’re very bad actors in terms of our per capita creation of emissions,”
Well, if that's true, perhaps we should go conquer lands with more moderate climates.

The latest reporting on emissions for Ontario shows 170,000 kt CO2 eq. in 2014 - exactly 170, 000 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.
Statistics Canada shows the population for 2014 as 13,685,171.
Therefore, the per capita emissions were about 12.4 tonnes (thousand kilgrams) per Ontarian.
That's not particularly high for a northern climate, and it's about the OECD average, according to the OECD.

Perhaps if the Premier didn't measure Ontario against 1990, ignoring the province's 32% population growth (1990-2014), and listen to comparisons - in absolute reductions - to stagnant population countries such as Germany, she'd be a little more up on per capita emission trends.

Meanwhile, at the often excellent Energy at Haas blog, Meredith Fowlie asks Is Cap and Trade Failing Low Income and Minority Communities?

the California Environmental Justice Alliance concludes:
“(this report) demonstrates that polluters using the cap and trade system are adversely impacting environmental justice (EJ) communities. The system is not delivering public health or air quality benefits, not achieving local emissions reductions, and it is exporting our climate benefits out of state.”
Fowlie points out trading CO2 emissions isn't intended to have air quality benefits.
In the case of GHGs, the link between regulated cause and local health effect is indirect. In contrast to criteria pollutants, GHG emissions have no direct, local health impacts. Climate change damages depend on global concentrations. Importantly, it’s the damages from local “co-pollutants” that EJ communities are concerned about. In other words, the current debate about the injustice of GHG emissions trading is fundamentally concerned with the adequacy of other policies that regulate other (local) pollutants.
Where did this idea come from that GHG emissions do have "direct, local health impacts"?

In Ontario maybe it came from health benefits being used to sell phasing out coal-fired generation of electricity, but once it was eliminated claiming the whole thing was a greenhouse gas emissions reduction effort.

Maybe it comes from people like a Prime Minister of Canada announcing carbon pricing with:
The Government of Canada knows that a sustainable, clean growth economy is necessary for our collective health, prosperity, and security. Canada is committed to creating a cleaner, more innovative economy that reduces emissions and protects our environment, while creating well-paying jobs for the middle class and those working hard to join it. 
That is why the Government of Canada today proposed its pan-Canadian approach to pricing carbon pollution.
I wonder if he tells his young kids to stay away from creeks during the spring melt due to the water pollution.

Not that Prime Minister Trudeau is the first carbon-based life form to refer to carbon as pollution. The President of the United States preceded our Prime Minister in doing so:
In June 2013, President Obama outlined the Climate Action Plan — the steps his Administration would take to cut carbon pollution...
Ah well - at least we, in Canada, are moving away from what we, in Ontario, are doing (using a real price on carbon instead of faking knowing how to apportion out emissions) and taking on the economists' chosen solution of pricing emissions.
or not.

The federal Minister of the Environment let everybody know she would decree the value of different provincial policies, and noting that because the most efficient solution is unlikely to satiate her lawyerly desires, some stupid things will be done too.
She didn't put it quite like that:
Pricing carbon is necessary to send a market signal, McKenna said, but a carbon price alone isn't enough to meet Canada's emission reduction targets.
"If you were to do that, the price would be so high, it wouldn't make any sense," she said.
"We're going to be thoughtful, we're going to be practical."
or maybe we're going to be batshit crazy.

If the social cost of carbon is deemed to be lower than the cost of emissions reduction policies, shouldn't the SCC act as a cap on pricing those reduction programs - and a big hint spending should be on adapting to climate change, not emissions reductions?

The poor in California are finding the same thing Germany's economic experts found years ago. From the German Council of Economic Experts 2011 Annual report:
...as climate protection is a public good, the costs of its provision must be borne at the national level alone, whereas its benefits accrue to all nations. It follows that the European Union's pioneering role in respect of climate protection can only represent a transient situation and should not be pursued further unless it is guaranteed that other major polluters will, in turn, launch comprehensive initiatives to cut emissions.
Even if the value of spending on adaptation is lower than the value of spending on emissions reductions, it seems to me the value is recognized where the spending occurs - so it's a better value for local populations if their efforts are not matched elsewhere.

Climate Change is often called a wicked problem. I doubt cute solutions, like branding CO2 "carbon pollution" are smart ways to address wicked problems.

Strange world of late, what with BRexit (after UKip), AfD rising, France's National Front, Austria's Hofer, and, of course, Trump.
I'm not convinced dumbing down communication, with nonsense terms like "carbon pollution", is a wise thing to do.
Some days it seems like there's a race to find the dumbest downiest.

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