James Hansen on Cap-and-Trade & Copenhagen
“The fraudulence of the Copenhagen approach – ‘goals’ for emission reductions, ‘offsets’ that render even iron-clad goals almost meaningless, an ineffectual ‘cap-and-trade’ mechanism – must be exposed. We must rebel against such politics-as-usual.”
- James Hansen, “Never-Give-Up Fighting Spirit,” November 30, 2009
There is a civil war on the Left against cap-and-trade as the centerpiece of a U.S. climate bill. Among the leading critics is NASA scientist and Al Gore mentor James Hansen, who reiterated his opposition in Sunday’s The Observer with Copenhagen’s climate summit in mind:
“Cap and trade with offsets … is astoundingly ineffective. Global emissions rose rapidly in response to Kyoto, as expected, because fossil fuels remained the cheapest energy.
Cap and trade is an inefficient compromise, paying off numerous special interests. It must be replaced with an honest approach, raising the price of carbon emissions and leaving the dirtiest fossil fuels in the ground.”
Hansen also stated earlier this month:
“Cap-and-trade is a hidden regressive tax, benefiting the select few who have managed to get themselves written into the 2000-page bill…. Think revolving door between the government and Wall Street. Think revolving door between Congress and lobbyists.”
Hansen’s earlier criticisms of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (Waxman-Markey climate bill), apply to the current Senate companion, Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act of 2009 (Kerry-Boxer climate bill).
Hansen’s bottom line on Waxman-Markey was as follows:
“The truth is, the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. It is an exceedingly inefficient way to get a small reduction of emissions. It is less than worthless….”
-James Hansen, “Strategies to Address Global Warming,” July 13, 2009.
During debate on the original version of HR 2454, Hansen complained:
“Governments are retreating to feckless ‘cap-and-trade,’ a minor tweak to business-as-usual….
“Why is this cap-and-trade temple of doom worshipped? The 648-page cap-and-trade monstrosity that is being foisted on the U.S. Congress provides the answer. Not a single Congressperson has read it. They don’t need to – they just need to add more paragraphs to support their own special interests. By the way, the Congress people do not write most of those paragraphs—they are ‘suggested’ by people in alligator shoes.”
And Hansen spanked harder on the final version:
“The alternative approach is Cap & Trade, or perhaps more honestly Tax & Trade, because a ‘cap’ increases the price of energy, as a tax or fee does.
Other characteristics of the ‘cap’ approach: (1) unpredictable price volatility, (2) it makes millionaires on Wall Street and other trading floors at public expense, (3) it is an invitation to blackmail by utilities that threaten ‘blackout coming’ to gain increased emission permits, (4) it has overhead costs and complexities, inviting lobbyists and delaying implementation.
The biggest problem with [cap and trade] is that it will not solve the problem. It may slow emissions, but because of the long lifetime of atmospheric CO2, slowing the emissions does little good. As long as fossil fuels are the cheapest form of energy they will be used eventually. There is no hope that cap and trade can get us back to 350 ppm CO2.
Hansen also addressed his critics on the Left who are politically stuck with Waxman-Markey:
Some environmental leaders have said that I am naïve to think that there is an alternative to cap-and-trade, and they suggest that I should stick to climate modeling. Their contention is that it is better to pass any bill now and improve it later. Their belief that they, as opposed to the fossil interests, have more effect on the bill’s eventual shape seems to be the pinnacle of naïveté.
The truth is, the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. It is an exceedingly inefficient way to get a small reduction of emissions. It is less than worthless, because it would delay by at least a decade or two the possibility of getting on a path that is fundamentally sound from economic and climate preservation standpoints.
And Hansen did not kow-tow to the Obama Administration:
Officials in the Obama administration privately admit that the science demands much more rapid emission cuts than Waxman-Markey would yield, but they say that their hands are tied by a recalcitrant Congress. Is that so? Has President Obama provided direction or guidelines for what he expects from Congress?
The Death of Federal Cap-and-Trade?
Failure to enact cap-and-trade legislation in 2009 may portend even greater problems in election year 2010. Then it will be time for the Obama Administration and U.S. Congress to start over with climate policy.
With Climategate leading to a scientific rethink, and the failure of the Copenhagen climate negotiations to produce a successor to the (failed) Kyoto Protocol, the new competitor to cap-and-trade will not be a stiff carbon tax. It will be a shift in the climate policy paradigm from mitigation (mandated emissions reductions) to adaptation (wealth is health), or what Ken Green and Steve Hayward have called the resilience option. Continued primary reliance on the master resources of oil, gas, and coal will be central to making society best prepared for whatever the future of climate and day-in day-out weather might be.