No Backward Steps

The world is taking steps to combat unwanted effects of future climate change. Some would characterize them as baby steps. Others would say they are false steps.

I think they are appropriate. For example, the U.S. is doing the right thing in phasing out coal as the fuel of choice for electricity generation. Moving to renewables, natural gas and increased use of nuclear power will have a significant impact on U.S. emissions and is broadly affordable.

Some may not have noticed, but ‘Business As Usual’ no longer exists, if indeed it ever did. With the increasing take-up of solar and wind, with the ‘dash for gas’, with China’s big push into hydroelectric power, countries the world over are changing how they do business–and sometimes why.

These steps, no matter how little they accomplish in the short term, are important over the long haul. Some economists argue that small scale efforts at mitigating climate change are in fact the appropriate way to start a campaign that will probably last a century. That’s one reason I keep advocating a carbon tax introduced at a low level and re-evaluated every 10 years. In a concession to conservatives, I am happy to do whatever they want to make sure such a tax is revenue neutral.

But what is essential is not to reverse any of the positive steps we have taken. We can’t really afford to pay for a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ approach to dealing with climate change. And dithering, backtracking and hesitating may make future efforts less effective and more expensive.

Which is why it is disturbing to read about the U.S. Senate’s vote to block President Obama’s climate change rules. I’ve got nothing against politics, and the role of the opposition is to oppose. But if plans are made on a century-long timescale, it is counter-productive to have each step challenged several times. Oppose and God bless you–but if you cannot win the day, put your shoulder to the wheel with the rest of us.

Fortunately, President Obama can veto this new Senate resolution and it is unlikely to be over-ridden. However, opponents of action on climate change should save their ammo and wait for the next initiative. As a supporter of President Obama and of action against climate change, I recognize the possibility that our efforts may go too far in the future and we may thank opponents for either stopping over-reach or at least warning us of it. But when the fight is over, let the dust clear and let’s all move on.

kiss and make up



6 responses to “No Backward Steps

  1. Coal is a wonderful but not perfect fuel. Allowing the vested interests of faux renewables like wind and solar to continue their rent seeking denigration of coal has hurt us, and significantly hurt the developing world.
    Instead of pissing away the billions we have squandered on failed wind and solar we could have developed ways to burn coal better.
    Blocking Mr. Obama’s rule by dictate and limiting the damage he has done and continues to do in his poisoning of the public square is becoming more important daily.
    The Obama EPA is an out of control corrupt agency that is in bed with NGOs and extremists, with revolving doors, pre-arranged litigation, science-rejecting rulings, and much much more.
    The backwards steps are the steps wasted on failed climate extremist ideas and programs.

  2. Tom,

    You wrote: “Moving to renewables, natural gas and increased use of nuclear power will have a significant impact on U.S. emissions and is broadly affordable.”

    There are two problems with that statement. First, that is not what is happening. Renewables and nuclear are incompatible. The reason is that renewables reduce the total operating cost of conventional sources (by reducing the number of kWh generated) but they do not much reduce the capital cost since you need nearly as many kW of conventional capacity for when the weather does not cooperate. Germany is getting rid of nuclear and there is no room in Obama’s diktat for expanded nuclear.

    The second problem is that, for the reasons given above, renewables are not affordable when the accounting is done correctly. The Germans are learning this the hard way and the U.S. will too, if Obama’s diktat is not repealed.

    You wrote: “Which is why it is disturbing to read about the U.S. Senate’s vote to block President Obama’s climate change rules.”

    I see nothing disturbing about democracy, but I do find Obama’s dictator-like actions to be disturbing. There is nothing wrong with attempting to roll back the latter; repeatedly if necessary.

    • Mike M,
      Tom lives so far away it is easy to imagine he is missing the cloud that is fast developing over the USA.

      • It’s cloudy here too. GDP fell by 1%, the president just kow-towed to Xi Jinping, the kids are leaving for places with better salaries. And it’s actually cloudy today.

      • 1%GDP drop in a country that runs stronger longer than America has in decades…
        Taiwan accommodating to the Obamafied America, where allies are left dangling….
        Chinese have been leaving for decades now and making the world better.
        We now have a nation where the President is angrier at his fellow Americans than he is the enemy. Who won’t honestly discuss nearly any issue. Who demands silence from domestic critics even as he kowtows to dictators and enemies.

  3. The American people seem to be forgetting the Congress legislates, the President executes the will of Congress. It is true the President can veto legislation, but the president should mind boundaries and understand that, flawed or not, Congress expresses the will of the People.

    I have an interesting vantage point, I live in Spain, get to see how the system works. What Obama is doing would be unthinkable here, precisely because if there’s no long term consensus then whatever is done can be undone at any time. Thus I have to conclude the US political system is decaying, in a hurry, and the process is likely irreversible. It’s Rome all over again.

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