Thursday, April 08, 2010

I wonder if I could work out a bet with James Hansen over cap and trade

In the very small category of people who have done a lot to help on climate change but have also damaged the cause, number one on the list has to go to James Hansen.  The help far outweighs the harm in his case (in contrast to the number two person, James Lovelock), but he's really being problematic with his opposition to even the squeaky-clean, cap-and-dividend bill in Congress, the one that I think has little chance of passing.  Check the link for Joe Romm's critique, which I think is accurate.  Hansen supports alternative legislation, a revenue-neutral carbon tax where the money is redistributed back on a per-capita basis except with limits to families with too many children, which I think is just great and that maybe 5 percent of the country at most would also agree that it's great.  Thanks for that practical suggestion.

So I don't have a specific bet in mind, I'm just thinking that if Hansen believes Cantwell-Collins will have "only a small impact on emissions" then the European Union's cap-and-trade must have a near-zero effect.  I think the EU scheme should do most of what it intended.  Maybe that's sufficient daylight between positions to set up a bet.

There's the issue of offsets that would complicate the bet.  If I buy solar panels on my roof to reduce emissions, that's great.  If my roof doesn't work and instead I buy solar panels for your roof, that's an evil evil offset (yes, I'm exaggerating, but I'm not sure it's by much).  I think though that even if we disallow offsets for wrong reasons, there's still a net reduction in cap-and-trade, so maybe some more research could give room for a bet.

Much better news about Hansen is this piece of info I didn't know - that he called present-day warming as happening as early as 1981 (not just a prediction of future warming).  Impressive.


  1. Whilst I'm happy to agree with your #1 status for Hansen, and the negatives, I'm puzzled by your #2 slot for Lovelock. What are the positives? Gaia?

  2. Maybe the main thing Lovelock does is give a crazy old genius on the exaggerating side of things to balance out against the crazy old genius Dyson who denies everything.

    Mann and Kump's "Dire Predictions" book has a profile of Lovelock that's more sympathetic than most on climate (p. 120).

    Personally I don't buy too much of the Gaia hypothesis for the unscientific reason that I've spent too much time in deserts and high mountains, and I think there's much of the world where life isn't the dominating force that Lovelock describes it to be.

  3. Whatever you think about Hansen's views vis a vis their practibility, you do "the cause" a dis-service by dissing him. Better to acknowledge the extension of the overton window.

  4. Hansen's trying to close the window on a policy outcome that's preferential to the status quo - that's where he's not helpful. Especially because stopping that outcome isn't likely to get us to his preferred outcome, but rather just the continuation of the status quo.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.