Without Government, the Marketplace Will Not Solve Climate Change

Dec 7, 2015

Whether or not the world reaches an international emissions agreement, the U.S. government holds the real solution.

American rejection of climate action is based on suspicion of big government, often expressed as a threat to freedom.
Free markets will not solve climate change by themselves; they have failed to account for the damage done by carbon emissions to people and the environment.
A carbon tax, or emissions-trading system, could slow climate change, but government is needed to create those systems.
History shows that government is also needed to create and fund major technological innovations of the scale required to solve climate change. For that to happen, Americans will have to stop demonizing government.

Will Nations ever come together to keep climate out of the severe danger zone? The question looms like a cloud over United Nations negotiations in Paris this month—the 21st such attempt to forge an international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. A big reason for failing to find common ground is American intransigence on the role of government. If nations are to succeed, the U.S. will have to give up on the idea that free markets alone can adequately address climate change and embrace a government-led plan of action.
A U.N. treaty is effective only if signatory nations are prepared to follow suit with firm domestic policies, but American politicians have resisted action, afraid of paying a political price. The rejection of climate action is largely based on suspicion of big government, and an international treaty is government at its biggest. Yet making a substantial impact on something so fundamental as the sources of energy that drive our civilization is going to require billions (if not trillions) of dollars of investments and incentives that span diverse industries—the kinds of actions that the private sector has historically not made. If nations are ever going to put the brakes on climate change, the U.S. will have to overcome its aversion to government playing a major role.

Unreasonable reliance on free markets

It has long been a maxim in American life that the government that governs best governs least. It was expressed in the weakness of the original Articles of Confederation, in the structure of the U.S. Constitution (designed to prevent the concentration of power) and at various times throughout U.S. history. In the 20th century it was an important element in reactions against federal labor standards, rural electrification and, especially, the New Deal, the spectacular government intervention that followed the equally spectacular market failure of the Great Depression. The deal empowered the federal government with substantive oversight of business, industry, and financial and labor markets. But the opponents of the New Deal never denied the fact of the Depression.

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18 comments on “Without Government, the Marketplace Will Not Solve Climate Change

  • Do you see what is happening in China, an emergency alert, air unbreathable, people dying. frankly I believe that much of humanity is too stupid to survive, wake up world!



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  • Do you see what is happening in China, an emergency alert, air unbreathable, people dying. frankly I believe that much of humanity is too stupid to survive, wake up world!

    Alas, I think you’ve nailed it. Without China, Russia, Brazil, India and other major contributors to climate change agreeing to severe and immediate cutbacks in GHG emissions, I think we’re sunk.

    Literally.

    So if you own property in low-lying areas, it might be a good time to sell and put that money into companies that genetically modify drought-resistant crops.



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  • @OP – American rejection of climate action is based on suspicion of big government, often expressed as a threat to freedom.

    Not really! The American rejection of climate change is based on massively funded disinformation campaigns by the coal gas and oil industries aided and abetted by the dishonest and scientifically illiterate media.

    Free markets will not solve climate change by themselves; they have failed to account for the damage done by carbon emissions to people and the environment.

    That is probably true, although with some small amounts of government help, many private companies have made some very useful developments in the areas of wind, tidal, solar-thermal, photovoltaic and hydroelectric generation of electricity.

    A carbon tax, or emissions-trading system, could slow climate change, but government is needed to create those systems.

    Emissions trading is a corrupt smoke screen behind which carbon polluting industries hide. A carbon tax based on the principle that the polluter must pay for the damage and the clean-up, is the better option.

    History shows that government is also needed to create and fund major technological innovations of the scale required to solve climate change.

    Because of earlier prevarication, we have now reached a point where change must be rapid, so government incentives, funded research and clear directives are now urgent.

    For that to happen, Americans will have to stop demonizing government.

    I think the US “demonising of government, and indeed any regulatory body, is the result propaganda from the corporations ripping off the environment and the people, aided and abetted by the feeble thinking of the spoon-fed Christian loony right politicians and their supporters!



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  • Morgan
    Dec 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Alas, I think you’ve nailed it. Without China, Russia, Brazil, India and other major contributors to climate change agreeing to severe and immediate cutbacks in GHG emissions, I think we’re sunk.

    While China has been one of the worst polluters, it is now a world leader in the manufacture of solar panels, and with domestic pollution dire it is also convinced of the urgent need for change!

    http://energydesk.greenpeace.org/2015/05/14/china-coal-consumption-drops-further-carbon-emissions-set-to-fall-by-equivalent-of-uk-total-in-one-year/
    Official data from China shows coal use continuing to fall precipitously – bringing carbon dioxide emissions down with it.

    The data – which comes months before crucial climate talks in Paris – means China has cut emissions during the first four months of the year by roughly the same amount as the total carbon emissions of the United Kingdom over the same period.

    The figures suggest the decline in China’s coal use is accelerating after data for last year showed China’s coal use fell for the first time this century

    An analysis of the data by Greenpeace/Energydesk China suggests coal consumption in the world’s largest economy fell by almost 8% and CO2 emissions by around 5% in the first four months of the year, compared with the same period in 2014.

    It comes after the latest data – for April – showed coal output down 7.4% year on year amidst reports of fundamental reform for the sector. China also recently ordered more than 1,000 coal mines to close.



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  • If nations are to succeed, the U.S. will have to give up on the idea that free markets alone can adequately address climate change and embrace a government-led plan of action.

    Given the American Govts track record on tobacco, acid rain, DDT, ozone hole et al, you’d reckon they’d learned a bit in the past fifty years. Same old. Same old. “The market can solve all problems. Just let it run long enough, and it will solve it.” Yep. The market will solve global warming. Let the burning of carbon continue for long enough and there won’t be any market or governments. There won’t be any of us.

    There is a moral conflict between the market and Tragedy of the Commons. The market cannot act in the greater good. That is an oxymoron. There are some issues that are just too important and dangerous to let market forces have their way. Global warming is one of them. Only the regulation of the burning of carbon will stop global warming. The market will act, but you have to put a price on the value of the future of civilization and your grand children’s lives. How much is that worth. When you put that price into the market equations, then the price of a gallon of gasoline should be around $30, and the price of a KWh of fossil fuel electricity should be so high, that the market forces you to source your energy elsewhere. But that won’t happen, because someone will lose some money. Just for today. But that loss of money through Govt regulation is more important than the lives of your grandchildren.

    Immoral.



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  • Morgan
    Dec 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Alas, I think you’ve nailed it. Without China, Russia, Brazil, India and other major contributors to climate change agreeing to severe and immediate cutbacks in GHG emissions, I think we’re sunk.

    https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=16731

    Hydropower supplies more than three-quarters of Brazil’s electric power

    .Brazil is the second-largest producer of hydroelectric power in the world, trailing only China, and the country depends on hydroelectricity for more than 75% of its electric power supply. Much of Brazil’s hydroelectric potential lies in the country’s Amazon River basin in the north, while Brazil’s population centers (and demand for electricity) are largely along the eastern coast, particularly in the southern portion. This reliance on one resource for most of the country’s electricity generation, combined with the distant and disparate locations of its population centers, has presented electricity reliability challenges.

    Brazil hosting the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament during the drought which reduced hydroelectric generation, was apparently a carbon polluting disaster !

    Brazil has spent more than $5 billion to subsidize electric utilities replacing lost hydroelectric generation with fossil fuel-fired generation, including large amounts of liquefied natural gas, and has taken steps to provide backup generation for stadiums.

    Brazil also powers a large proportion of its vehicles with bioethanol.



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  • @OP- In the 20th century it was an important element in reactions against federal labor standards, rural electrification and, especially, the New Deal, the spectacular government intervention that followed the equally spectacular market failure of the Great Depression. The deal empowered the federal government with substantive oversight of business, industry, and financial and labor markets. But the opponents of the New Deal never denied the fact of the Depression.

    Those who deny the need for competent market regulation, undid the work of the 1030s, and created the recent sub-prime scandal and the banking crisis.

    Similarly, those who deny or have denied man-made climate change, are pushing for massive expensive damage in the interests of personal greed.

    There is a need for governments throughout the world to regulate and restrict polluting activities, but it should also be remembered that electing science illiterates and those representing vested interests, will produce obstructive governments who are less than useless! THEY will get in the way of private initiatives, to deal with the problems on behalf of those clinging to obsolete industries.
    The UK has Carbonaceous Cameron, spouting his “world leadership in green energy”, while globally out-sourcing polluting industries, cutting government grants for wind and other green energies, promoting gas-fracking, and and subsidising oil drilling!



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  • In the past the most succesful business leaders were essentially psychopaths/sociopaths, low empaths without the aspie’s intellectual interest in empathy and the harms of others. These folk are the least likely to give a damn about anything after their own existences.

    Now, in places, we have a better class of psychopath running industries. At least they are learning the power of engaging in the quality of the working experience and greater mutuality in the workplace. A very few are noticing the power to engage their customers in similar fashion (though quite a few are attempting the cheap option of talking the talk.)

    As consumers, we have the power to break companies, to train them and have more of what we want. Customer is still king. A mere 5% shift from unethical to ethical suppliers (where they exist) will snowball quickly. Social media are the tools and it is the job of those who can easily afford it first and foremost to step up first.

    Real knowledge of the choice though is essential. Eco on the label is meaningless. If governments won’t put decent labelling in place, websites could offer the data) you want (like foodmiles with a scan of your phone. Bits are happening but we can do so much more.

    Kids will care enough it seems. We just need to start sooner.



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  • I see the RCC is seeking public attention and involvement in international climate negotiations!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35040477
    One of the Catholic Church’s most senior prelates has said that birth control could “offer a solution” to the impacts of climate change.

    Cardinal Peter Turkson, the Pope’s leading adviser on climate issues, told the BBC that the Church had never been against natural family planning.

    Speaking in Paris, the cardinal called for a strong agreement that would protect the most vulnerable nations.

    He said climate change was a looming ecological disaster.

    However, having copied the scientists’ message about the urgency of tackling climate change, the woo-faith-thinking kicks in, so any scientifically effective methods of family planning, are rejected by the RCC, while it postures with double-talk as offering solutions to the population explosion!

    “This has been talked about, and the Holy Father on his trip back from the Philippines also invited people to some form of birth control, because the church has never been against birth control and people spacing out births and all of that. So yes, it can offer a solution,” he said.

    Cardinal Turkson was at pains to stress that artificial birth control methods such as the contraceptive pill were still beyond the pale as far as the Church was concerned.

    “You don’t deal with one good with another evil: the Church wants people to be fed, so let’s do what the Church feels is not right? That is a kind of sophistry that the church would not go for,” he said.

    Illustrating the depths of his delusional self-deception!

    The RCC indulging in that is a kind of sophistry on matters it FEELS are not right???? Shudder the thought! That would be “faith-thinking double-talk” which would ring alarm bells in a rational critical thinker! (‘fisticated theologians again!!!)


    As well as reiterating the Church’s belief in natural methods of birth control, as a way of dealing with some impacts of climate change, Cardinal Turkson said a strong agreement at the Paris climate talks would be critically important in tackling the causes of the problem.

    Clearly the faith-addled have nothing useful to offer on population management as a means of reduction in the problems of climate change induced poverty.

    Hopefully the many Catholics who ignore the rantings of the Vatican on birth control, will continue to do so – and also add to their numbers.



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  • The poorest are the hardest hit.

    Three years ago the UN predicted the population of Africa to reach 4 billion by 2100 up from just over a billion. A friend argued this was a wild estimate and offered the view of an economist (not a demographer!) of 2.75 billion. The UN chastened by similar disagreements announced they would review their methods and numbers.

    The 2015 UN median estimate for 2100 given the intervening current rate of growth now stands at 4.5 billion. This in a continent with eroding capacity from climate change to support itself, its agriculture even now with only 50% of the efficiency of the first world.

    Until the RCC have been removed from the picture entirely, interfering in the lives of innocent others, they will have the blood of millions upon their hands. Why aren’t people howling at folk preaching the sinfulness of latex?



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  • phil rimmer
    Dec 9, 2015 at 8:28 am

    Until the RCC have been removed from the picture entirely, interfering in the lives of innocent others, they will have the blood of millions upon their hands. Why aren’t people howling at folk preaching the sinfulness of latex?

    It looks like the standard theist-think of organised religion!

    Pretend to be helping, while misdirecting their followers into putting their efforts into some useless activity such as prayer, by following the advice of “faith-guided” know-nothings , as their leaders continue obstructing the evidence-based real solutions to the world’s problems!



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  • Governments seem to be taking climate problems seriously at last, although “voluntary” aspects may be suspect.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-35084374
    A deal to attempt to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than 2C has been agreed at the climate change summit in Paris after two weeks of negotiations.

    The pact is the first to commit all countries to cut carbon emissions.

    The agreement is partly legally binding and partly voluntary.

    Earlier, key blocs, including the G77 group of developing countries, and nations such as China and India said they supported the proposals.

    President of the UN climate conference and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “I now invite the COP to adopt the decision entitled Paris Agreement outlined in the document.

    “Looking out to the room I see that the reaction is positive, I see no objections. The Paris agreement is adopted.”

    As he struck the gavel to signal the adoption of the deal, delegates rose to their feet cheering and applauding.

    Nearly 200 countries have been attempting to strike the first climate deal to commit all countries to cut emissions, which would come into being in 2020.

    US President Obama was among the first world leaders to tweet his congratulations, describing the deal as “huge”.

    The measures in the final draft included:

    • To peak greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and achieve a balance between sources and sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century

    • To keep global temperature increase “well below” 2C (3.6F) and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5C

    • To review progress every five years

    • $100 billion a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

    Earlier, French President Francois Hollande called the proposals unprecedented, while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on negotiators to “finish the job”.

    However, the celebratory mood has not been shared among all observers.

    Nick Dearden, director of campaign group Global Justice Now, said: “It’s outrageous that the deal that’s on the table is being spun as a success when it undermines the rights of the world’s most vulnerable communities and has almost nothing binding to ensure a safe and liveable climate for future generations.”



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  • What is a delight is that so many people now want this to succeed that politicians may stop fearing the changes that need to be made. Indeed, it might even come to secure their futures and their once cowardly existences.

    We need to keep the pressure up. There is so much more to do.

    You never know, it may even be part of the flush clean of that sewer of sewers, American politics, clogged as it is with old money and vested interests.



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  • Olgun
    Dec 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    Not if they play their Trump card………sorry!

    I think the “Trump Card” just put its foot in its mouth with a major sector of big-oil!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-35083150

    Donald Trump in Twitter spat with Saudi Prince Alwaleed

    “You are a disgrace not only to the GOP [Republican Party] but to all America,” Prince Alwaleed tweeted.

    Trump tweeted back, calling the prince “dopey”.

    Who is Prince Alwaleed?

    Born in 1955
    Nephew of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
    Completed a business degree in California in 1979
    Named world’s richest Arab in Forbes’ 2015 list
    Worth an estimated $32bn (£20bn)
    Has vowed to donate fortune to charity
    Has stakes in Disney, 21st Century Fox, News Corp, Apple, GM, Twitter, and a string of hotel chains and luxury hotels, including the Plaza in New York and the George V in Paris
    Owner of 95% of Kingdom Holdings, a publicly-traded company on the Saudi stock exchange
    Considered Westernised and progressive on most issues.
    Champions women’s rights – most of his staff are women



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