Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trump’s Perspective on Climate Change Is Ridiculous, But Democrats Aren’t Much Better - MIT Technology Review

Unfortunately, Democrats are ignoring the one thing that could really help curb carbon emissions.

Donald Trump Click to Enlarge.
We are familiar with Donald Trump’s stance on climate change:  it’s a “con job” perpetrated by the Chinese.  His views on energy policy are strongly pro-coal, but also contradict themselves.  The Republican Party’s 2016 platform also describes coal as a “clean” source of energy.

What’s surprising, though, is that Democrats’ position is functionally not much better.  President Barack Obama has signed the Paris accord and made big claims about cutting emissions in the U.S.  But his Clean Power Plan is held up in the Supreme Court, and the one thing that would make the biggest difference in reducing carbon emissions appears nowhere in sight.

Hillary Clinton, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, has a climate change plan.  It is supportive of Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  And there are broad promises to cut subsidies for the oil and gas industry, as well as an oft-repeated tagline that Clinton wants to “make the United States the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.”

It’s certainly a far cry from Trump’s flamboyant opposition to promoting renewable energy or cutting carbon emissions.  But Clinton’s climate platform leaves out one big thing:  a carbon tax.

Under Obama, America has now made promises to have half of its electricity come from carbon-free sources by 2025—an almost unthinkable goal, even though emissions have ebbed in the last few years.  The Clean Power Plan would help, if it is ever implemented:  the EPA estimates the plan could cut carbon emissions from the energy sector to 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.  But it makes almost no attempt to tell states how to cut their emissions, only that they must.

Among the many possible methods states might employ is putting a price on carbon.  This can take various forms, such as a cap-and-trade scheme or a straight-up fee for each ton of carbon a power plant emits.  Using market forces to change pollution from the energy industry works:  it has happened before.  In fact, it’s the only thing that’s likely to spur the kind of change Obama has promised, and that is needed to curtail global warming.  But suffice it to say this approach has not been popular in a country where anything that could be labeled a “tax” is a political third rail.

Until earlier this week, Bernie Sanders was the only presidential candidate who espoused a carbon tax.  Now that he has ceded the field to Clinton, the idea is unlikely to come anywhere near conversation for the rest of the 2016 election cycle.  And, unfortunately, neither is meaningful action on climate change.

Read more at Trump’s Perspective on Climate Change Is Ridiculous, But Democrats Aren’t Much Better

No comments:

Post a Comment