Quantcast

Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

On this tenth anniversary of N30, it has become the twilight zone where antiglobalists shutting down the meeting is morphed into giving into the globalists because you are too mentally lazy any longer to resist their lies? What's the left going to do, now that they can't think at all? Disappear. Climategate is fatal to the left.

Stan Lippmann

Seattle, WA

Nov 30 2009 - 9:16pm

Web Letter

Progressives need to stop parroting what realclimate.org says about the recent CRU hack and start getting up to speed on what's really in these documents. Realclimate is not a disinterested party. They are exposed in this scandal as being a propaganda organ for the IPCC. It's seriously like going to Fox News and asking for an honest assessment of the Bush years.

The reality of the situation is that there is so much damning material that we really need to re-evaluate our position. It is clear that IPCC has been gatekeeping and stifling alternate (and likely valid) viewpoints on climate change.

Also, the entrenched viewpoint that energy money is pouring in to science to muddy the waters might be a bit anachronistic in the shadow of the approaching carbon markets. Carbon prices will likely be driven up sharply by speculation in the offset markets, and that will be money in Exxon et al.'s pockets. The usual suspects are already gaming the system in the offset markets. That's right, Goldman Sachs will not only be speculating in carbon offsets, they'll also be certifying carbon offsets. Personally, I wonder how long it will be before they start selling "bundles" of their activities in trading carbon offsets as carbon offsets. Since they own a certification company, they could do it. And, seriously, who'd be the wiser?

It's like we're begging Bernie Madoff to save the world. Pure insanity. It appears to me to be (and I'll admit my own guilt as far as global warming goes), just another case of outsourcing our decision-making to a professional class and trusting them without checking their work and insisting on transparency. (Like the role of the punditocracy).

When you dig around in this mess, it gets really bad really fast. Probably worst is that they have been resisting any and all releases of data and code used to produce their climate models, making them nonreproducible, and therefore totally unscientific. This is in spite of and in the face of Freedom of Information Act requirements. Don't trust me, Science magazine says that the FOIA resistance may in fact be criminal.

The most dispassionate overview I've seen so far from this material is: "Climate cuttings 33," from Bishop Hill's blog.

Devil's Kitchen has some interesting takes, like a conversation about the climate change alarmists between two scientists who believe in climate change, but still think that some IPCC scientists are using fraudulent science to retain funding.

Willis Eschenbach does a time lapse of the FOIA request he sent the CRU a few years ago, now with CRU's internal dialogue filled in. CRU withheld information like a Pentagon pro. See "The people -vs- the CRU: Freedom of information, my okole…." It's long, but worth it.

This needs real analysis and discussion on the left. We can't keep pretending it's not real, or we'll wake up with another, larger Enron-circa-2001 style hangover, but from a global, undemocratic, quasi-governmental body with broad authority and an insatiable appetite.

We can't fix the world by commodifying it, but that's what's on the table for the Copenhagen climate summit.

Arthur Mans

Portland, OR

Nov 26 2009 - 12:55pm

Web Letter

I am an assistant professor of economics and environmental studies at Amherst College. Ten years ago, I marched in the streets of Seattle, peacefully protesting the WTO. I was 23. I was amazed and inspired by the outpouring of solidarity in support of social justice and a fair system of global trade. Now many of the same groups and people are gearing up for a lively fight at the UN Climate Meetings in Copenhagen. According to Naomi Klein, Copenhagen will be a "coming of age" party for the global justice movement born in Seattle. If the Seattle activists truly wish to come of age, then we should shape rather than shut down market-based solutions to climate change.

Klein rejects "market-based solutions" because she sees them as extensions of the same free-market principles that got us into the climate mess. Many others take the same view. The recent letter by social and environmental groups meeting in Belém (October 15) summarizes a prevailing view: "We reject the use of market-based mechanisms as tools to reduce carbon emissions based on the firm conviction that the market cannot be expected to take responsibility for life on the planet."

Is the free market to blame for the current climate crisis? Absolutely. You may hear spokespeople with a vested interest in the current system (or students who drop out after week five of introductory economics) claim that markets always result in the efficient allocation of resources. Obviously, this isn’t true. When a trade between a buyer and seller also harms others, markets fail because the price of the trade does not include the external damage it causes. This failure is at the heart of the climate crisis. The price of gas doesn’t account for the climate damage your driving will cause. The price of hamburgers doesn't account for clearing rainforests to plant soybeans needed to factory-farm livestock. Switching on the lights is cheap because coal producers don’t have to pay for their emissions. Why don't the prices of these everyday choices reflect their true costs? One simple reason: carbon emissions are free.

The activists inspired by Seattle and converging on Copenhagen can surely agree that pollution should not be free. If so, they should embrace market-based solutions, such as cap and trade. Even though they contain the word "market," these programs are not business as usual. They are an environmental regulation. A "cap" limits the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. The stricter the cap, the fewer emissions and the less damage we'll do to the planet.

What about the "trading" part? Trading sounds suspiciously like something that will benefit Goldman Sachs. Of course, we are not against trading at the local farmer's market--so maybe not all trades are bad. Let's think about trading carbon. From an environmental perspective, it doesn't matter where emissions happen because greenhouse gases mix throughout our atmosphere. So a power plant in Ohio requiring an expensive retrofit could buy permits from a power plant in Indiana that can make additional cuts more cheaply. With trading, we get the same reductions at lower cost. We also create incentives for firms to do the right thing and develop new technologies.

Cleaning up the planet requires that we find better ways to produce agriculture, energy and nearly every necessity of life. Right now climate-friendly alternatives are more expensive. Expensive energy and food may seem virtuous to activists, but the families hurt most by these higher prices are those who spend the highest share of their incomes on basic necessities. Aren't those the families we're supposed to be helping?

Although a cap-and-trade system can reduce the overall cost of cleaning up the planet, not all proposed solutions are equally fair. The initial allocation of permits matters--not for the overall bill--but for who pays more of it. Activists would advance social justice by demanding that governments auction off permits instead of giving them away. This would produce tax revenue for social goods like healthcare, green technology development or assistance to low-income families coping with higher energy prices. Rather than mobilize against market-based solutions, we should take advantage of them and also demand that the costs of cleaning up the planet do not fall on poor households or poor countries.

Seattle made global trade negotiations more transparent by focusing the world's attention on trade negotiations that favored developed countries. Activists in Copenhagen can further social justice by fighting for just and transparent allocation of emission permits. That would truly be a mature coming-out party for a movement that changed the world once in Seattle and could do so again. If I were in Copenhagen this December, I'd carry two banners: "Stop Free Pollution" and "Permits to the People."

Kate Emans Sims

Amherst, MA

Nov 15 2009 - 12:04am

Web Letter

Unless the movement starts to deal with the true problem, they're doomed. The concurrent melting of Mars's icecaps isn't caused by humans, either.

John D. Froelich

Upper Darby, PA

Nov 13 2009 - 6:28pm

Before commenting, please read our Community Guidelines.