Pre-Adaptation, Fast Mitigation and a Carbon Tax: The Winning Strategy That Nobody Will Adopt

Yesterday I talked about using some of the ‘climate reparations’ being clamored for in Paris to improve the present condition of those in the developing world. Making the poorer countries more resilient will advance their capabilities and productivity and make them resilient enough to help us all deal with whatever climate change throws our way. In addition, we could build a safety margin into whatever infrastructure we finance to prepare for the impacts of global warming.

Although I think this strategy is sound, I recognize that climate activists will not agree–they think that adaptation is local, while their preferred approach, mitigation, is global.

At the risk of writing off the activist community completely (as if I didn’t alienate them years ago), let me take the opportunity to also advocate the other two elements of a real plan to deal with climate change.

The first is Fast Mitigation, which I’ve written about before. It is a strategy of going after the low-hanging fruit of deforestation, black carbon, methane, ozone and hydrofluorocarbons. This approach will not solve the problem of CO2 emissions. However, it is projected to, if adopted in full, reduce temperature forcings by 0.6 degrees this century, something that would allow us to develop better technologies and techniques to address the larger problem posed by CO2.

Activists hate the idea, but that’s not why I like it. I like it because it can form part of a strategy that aims at ‘Fifty 2% Solutions‘ instead of trying to use a Grand Solution aimed solely at reducing emissions of CO2. Getting contributions to the struggle from disparate tactics such as quickly spreading improved fuel efficiency through the world’s air fleet, ratcheting up the fight for energy efficiency in all appliances, creating a workable plan for modular and prefabricated small scale nuclear power plants–all of these and more would have a measurable effect on climate change, but they need time to get into the field and scale up. Going after Fast Mitigation will buy us that time.

The third leg of the stool is a modest carbon tax, which I have advocated for most of a decade. It will have to be a pure, revenue neutral, purer than Caesar’s wife carbon tax to have any chance of passage in the developed world and it will have to be small enough not to cripple the developing world economies. My strike price is $12/ton, but I also advocate re-evaluating the price every 10 years, based on climate change itself and our emissions. This would nudge heavy emitters closer to adopting cleaner technologies and hasten the climb up the energy ladder that is so desperately needed in the developing world.

For all those who characterize climate change as a ‘wicked’ problem, this three-part strategy poses a conundrum. There is little doubt that it would be effective. There is little doubt that it would be orders of magnitude less expensive than the ideas being tossed around today. But it doesn’t bring political or financial advantage to those who have been playing this new version of The Great Game for more than two decades now.

Which is why this idea will languish here on a little-read weblog instead of being trumpeted at Paris.



7 responses to “Pre-Adaptation, Fast Mitigation and a Carbon Tax: The Winning Strategy That Nobody Will Adopt

  1. Activists don’t like your excellent proposal because theirs is a political movement focusing on income redistribution and creation of a world wide control authority. They come from an ancient Marxist stock, mutated after the USSR and Mao’s China disappeared.

  2. Tom, the chances of a revenue neutral carbon tax that’s pure in ethical and implementation is vanishingly small. The small steps you refer to are called ” normal progress” which the climate consensus has disrupted or refuses, like nuclear, to even discuss. Your infrastructure improvements were also called normal and have been likewise disrupted by the climate consensus. Your tactics and solutions have lately given the climate extremists almost everything they want. This is not consistent with the numerous flaws and deceptions you have identified over the years
    Can you clarify this apparent conflict?

  3. And nuclear is scary for the eco-activists.

  4. A carbon tax is not wise public policy. Perhaps in a world run by philosopher kings, it would be but not in a world run by a political system that gives us Barbara Boxer and Michelle Bachman and 1,000 page pork-fests called healthcare reform.

    But I am willing to listen. How about a column or a series of columns devoted to a carbon tax. It would be interesting to see how you propose to address the politics, the corruption and the regressive nature of a carbon consumption tax.

  5. Tom, read up on the reality of ” carbon neutral” over in British Columbia at Chemist in Langley. It doesn’t work, it is not neutral and it is unfair. It is just an expensive accounting game. And if you think about it, to have a decades long worldwide tax means a worldwide racing authority. Which by its definition would not be democratically accountable. We would ‘ve back in the days of ” taxation without representation” on a worldwide basis. Enforced by the same climate fanatics you have so thoroughly documented as being untrustworthy deceitful, not to mention self serving. The carbon tax cure would be no cure and would hurt more than the disease. It would require an enforcement regime more totalitarian than anything the world has experienced outside of, possibly, the dark days of some repressive dictatorship. No thanks.

  6. What I think will actually determine how AGW is delt with, is what new energy technology turns out to be best. I think the best prospects are with nuclear. I just ran across this interesting video:

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