I like many of the new initiatives folded under the umbrella title of the Green New Deal. The ones I like concern the reshaping of our economy. As I have long advertised here that I am to the left of Groucho Marx, that should surprise no-one. It seems clear to me that someone rammed in a bunch of climate stuff into a fairly standard left-of-center sheaf of economic policy proposals and are trying to pretend it’s all part of the same Big Deal. I fear that the illogic of the environmental proposals will help defeat many of the economic goals that I support. Hence this post.
Most of the parts about dealing with Climate Change are, umm, not robustly thought out, or at least not detailed for our examination. As laid out on Wikipedia,they are:
“Meeting 100 percent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”
“Repairing and upgrading the infrastructure in the United States, including . . . by eliminating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions as much as technologically feasible.”
“Building or upgrading to energy-efficient, distributed, and ‘smart’ power grids, and working to ensure affordable access to electricity.”
“Upgrading all existing buildings in the United States and building new buildings to achieve maximal energy efficiency, water efficiency, safety, affordability, comfort, and durability, including through electrification.”
“Overhauling transportation systems in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector as much as is technologically feasible, including through investment in — (i) zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing; (ii) clean, affordable, and accessible public transportation; and (iii) high-speed rail.”
“Spurring massive growth in clean manufacturing in the United States and removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing and industry as much as is technologically feasible.”
“Working collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible.”
There are some elements here that I support–clean, affordable and accessible public transportation, upgrading the power grid, improving the energy efficiency in buildings.
And much of the language is vague, as has been pointed out repeatedly. But the first point is clear. It is not only clear, it is expensive. It is not only clear and expensive, if successful it would not really make much of a dent in global warming.
As I pointed out in a previous post, it would be extremely difficult as well.
I would like to suggest a different approach. Let’s take all of the environmental messaging out of the GND and call what’s left (Left, get it?) a New New Deal. But let’s not ignore climate change. Let’s do some concrete things that will make a difference.
There is no silver bullet solution to climate change. We cannot in good conscience even ask the developing world to stop using fossil fuels as they climb out of poverty. So getting emissions down to zero won’t even start until the world is as developed as Europe and America are today.
But that doesn’t mean we can or should do nothing. People like Bjorn Lomborg and Roger Pielke Jr., and institutions like the Breakthrough Institute have come forth with a number of what I call 2% solutions to climate change. Even the George H. W. Bush administration came forth with no-regrets policies regarding climate change. As I consider current climate change impacts to be responsible for about 1% of our current environmental and economic woes, there’s a certain symmetry to it. And if we can find 50 2% solutions, well, that adds up to something.
I don’t know if I can get to fifty of them, but I know there are actions we can take to deal with specific issues that are responsible for 2% or more of our contributions to climate change. The trick is to remember that greenhouse gases are not the only things we do to cause climate change.
1. Lower the impact of cement on CO2 totals. Recently, two new products have been introduced. One actually uses existing CO2. The other uses less CO2 in its production. As cement is estimated to cause 6% of our CO2 emissions, using either or both of these would get us off to a flying start.
2. Uprating the efficiency of existing hydro-electric plants. This paper explains how uprating can increase hydropower’s output by 50%. Hydroelectric power produces 7% of global energy, cleanly and renewably. Increasing its efficiency by 50% gives us 3.5% of our goal.
3. Take the low-hanging fruit of reducing emissions from air travel. This PBS article highlights 7 easy, money saving steps to halving emissions from air travel, which produces 5% of global emissions. And it doesn’t even mention my favorite–removing old no-fly zones put in place during the Cold War (and some from WWII), which would shorten many of the most popular journeys. Reduce emissions by 2.5% and save money… what a thought.
4. In 2000, the IPCC commissioned a special report that found that afforestation, which I think is technically known as planting trees, could suck in 3.2% of global emissions. Plus there’s the shade…
So, you get the idea. These 4 initiatives, if taken up globally, could reduce emissions by about 15%. The Green New Deal would reduce emissions by 3%.
So I want your help in identifying the next 46 2% solutions. I haven’t drawn on material available from The Hartwell Paper, Fast Mitigation, Bjorn Lomborg’s book Global Problems, Smart Solutions and many other sources. I’ll bet some of you could think up your own. Maybe the LED will light up over your head. Telecommuting, painting roofs white, garden solar, better/cheaper electric cars… let your imaginations run wild!
I promise you–even you skeptics are welcome to play this game.