If climate catastrophism really rests on a fear of civilizational stagnation, that rather limits its applicability. I’d happily concede that the human condition after decades without progress will be quite poor and that we should avoid such a fate at all costs. (Climate policy, of course, is not the way to tackle that particular problem.)
John Cook and Peter Jacobs, co-authors of the '97% consensus' climate study, invite me to join their podcast and discuss how different meanings of 'scientific consensus' affect the climate debate.
Lukewarmism is an effort to provide much needed perspective and context on the climate debate. Importantly, it is a corrective to the outlandish claims of catastrophe, made by environmental activists, that bear no relationship to mainstream research — they can hardly complain that others are taking the time to point this out. If we want the public to interpret correctly the implications of climate change, the correct interpretation should be given a vigorous defense. Insisting that policy deliberations begin from an appropriate policy definition does not worsen the quality of those deliberations and is not 'running interference.'
Why would the United States remain party to such an agreement? We shouldn’t have accepted its terms in the first place, and in an important sense, we didn’t. The U.S. Constitution requires the Senate to approve any treaty by a two-thirds supermajority, in part to prevent a president from making rash, politically motivated promises on the international stage that lack consensus support back home. Obama, knowing he did not have the Senate’s consent, chose to push ahead anyway. If reversing that mistake enrages some foreign diplomats, they have only themselves and their former negotiating partners in the Obama administration to blame.
The giveaway for the Paris charade is the refusal to set baselines. If nations are to hold one another accountable for progress on greenhouse-gas emissions, surely they must agree on a starting point from which to progress. Yet the framework for Paris pointedly omitted this requirement. Countries could calculate their own baselines however they chose, or provide none at all. Now, the pledges have themselves become baselines, and each country receives applause or condemnation in inverse proportion to its seriousness.
Instead, the debate devolved into the kind one otherwise hears about the UN Human Rights Council, a forum no one mistakes for a serious effort to advance human rights. If other countries are going to sit around discussing the climate, shouldn’t we at least attend? This is what Millennials might call the 'FOMO' (Fear of Missing Out) defense.
S&H’s claim of consensus requires them to combine disparate answers. For instance, they describe an 89 percent 'consensus' from adding together the responses that the negative economic effect of climate change has already begun (41 percent), will begin by 2025 (22 percent), or will begin by 2050 (26 percent). This is like asking people whether they prefer apples, bananas, oranges, or pears and then reporting a 90 percent 'consensus' for 'apples, bananas, or oranges.'
How, then, are critics defining an acceptable level of anti-poverty spending versus one that is 'cruel and short-sighted,' to quote House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi? The only guiding principle appears to be 'More.' If today’s spending were 10 percent higher and the GOP proposed a cut to the current levels that Democrats now defend, that would be 'cruel and short-sighted.' Conversely, had spending in the past two decades grown at 3 percent instead of 3.6 percent, leaving it 10 percent lower, staying the course would be a responsible choice.
Science indicates that climate change is happening but says little about how well civilization will deal with it. In my recent article, I argue that those I term climate catastrophists -- observers who regard climate change as an unprecedented, existential threat—badly underestimate humanity’s capacity to cope with change and thus overreact to the problem. Michael Mann’s response does not so much refute this argument as disregard it.
Crying 'consensus' to defend absolutist assertions, climate activists are charging well beyond the threshold of what mainstream science can support. When they turn back toward the ledge to shout “denial” at anyone who has not leapt with them, the word no longer means what they think it does.
Activists, so eager to bar the gates to the public square and keep their opponents out, have instead locked themselves in. If everyone agrees with the 97 percent consensus, and that consensus does not dictate any particular policy outcome, they have nothing else to say. Perhaps this is for the best.
The U.S. has some of the cleanest air in the world, thanks to decades of steady progress that has persisted across Democratic and Republican administrations, as well as across EPA budget expansions and cuts. The EPA standard for fine particulate matter is more than twice as strict as Europe’s. The agency’s standard for ozone is so strict that some national parks exceed it and President Obama initially rejected it. While environmental activists will always demand larger budgets and tighter standards, Americans can rest assured that they will continue to benefit from outstanding air quality in the years to come.
If anything, now might seem an appropriate time to pause the tightening of the Clean Air Act's new-source ratchet and encourage industry to expand under the requirements applied to existing facilities. The World Health Organization reports that the average fine particulate matter concentration of 8.3 micrograms per cubic meter puts it just above the levels in Iceland (7.6) and New Zealand (8.0) and far below levels in comparable industrialized countries like France (12.1), the United Kingdom (12.2), Germany (13.5), and Japan (14.6). Levels in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Berlin all violate the U.S. standard; Brussels would be the dirtiest city in America.
Perhaps the greatest mistake made by those who overinflate the risk of climate change is to forget that our society has a tremendous capacity to adapt and innovate. But it would also be a major mistake to forget that public policy can either foster or hinder that process. If President Trump dislikes his predecessor's approach to adaptation he should put forward an alternative. Ignoring the problem entirely is one of the few things he can do that really would make it worse.
The logic of catastrophism seems to run backward: from the conclusion that significant human influence on the climate must portend unprecedented danger to the search for facts to support that narrative. But forecasts on these scales of time and magnitude exceed common experience and thus defy intuition, which facilitates misinterpretation and frustrates self-correction. Placing the problem in proper perspective requires appreciating the long-term costs in the context of the distant future when they will arise, distinguishing costs spread over long time periods from those borne all at once and, finally, applying separate analyses to expected outcomes and worst case scenarios. Catastrophists get these things wrong.
Some parents do provide their children with a system of automatic support. We call the result a 'trust-fund baby.' The term is not usually synonymous with 'kind, well-adjusted, productive member of society.' The day when parents embrace trust-fundism as a child-rearing ideal is the day when the UBI will gain mainstream traction as a public policy.
But thanks to the roughly half of states that refused the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, a good control group exists. Surely the states that expanded Medicaid should at least perform better in this environment of rising mortality? Nope. Mortality in 2015 rose more than 50 percent faster in the 26 states (and Washington, D.C.) that expanded Medicaid during 2014 than in the 24 states that did not. Further, while two years is not enough time to evaluate a policy’s full effects, that is exactly the period over which the Massachusetts study found substantial mortality gains. Two years of gains from a different policy implemented by a single state a decade earlier can hardly be proof that the ACA saves lives when the ACA’s own two-year track record tells the opposite story.
The best statistical estimate for the number of lives saved each year by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is zero. Certainly, there are individuals who have benefited from various of its provisions. But attempts to claim broader effects on public health or thousands of lives saved rely upon extrapolation from past studies that focus on the value of private health insurance. The ACA, however, has expanded coverage through Medicaid, a public program that, according to several studies, has failed to improve health outcomes for recipients. In fact, public health trends since the implementation of the ACA have worsened, with 80,000 more deaths in 2015 than had mortality continued declining during 2014–15 at the rate achieved during 2000–2013.
Over time, higher minimum wages cannot help but drive capital away from business models that rely on low-productivity workers, whether that means moving the work overseas, automating it, or implementing operations that utilize higher-productivity workers instead. ... If society knew how to instill higher productivity in a worker, that could be good news. Unfortunately, our experience has been the opposite. Our education system struggles to prepare many young people for the job market. A proportion of those who enroll in higher education either fail to graduate or end up in a job that does not require their degree anyway. Government training programs perform poorly.
Some critics view Pruitt's lawsuits as 'anti-EPA,' but that is not how the American constitutional system works. The EPA said it had authority under the law, Pruitt (acting on behalf of Oklahoma) said it didn't, and the Supreme Court sided with Pruitt. He plainly understands the EPA's role at least as well as its own prior leaders did, if not better. Now, as EPA administrator, he won't have to pursue years of litigation to keep the EPA's behavior within its legal limits; he will have that control himself.
In the marketplace of ideas, the carbon tax behaves increasingly like a government-run utility. It doesn’t care about competition. It ignores complaint with impunity. Its business model depends on the strength of its political connections, not the quality of its product. Elder statesmen often sit on the boards of such entities. Rarely do they achieve positive change.
If there is to be an administrative state, it should be managed by a White House that establishes processes and standards, controls budgets and timelines, directs activities, and must provide final authorization for formal action. But the net effect should not be an aggrandizement of the presidency; rather, as discussed elsewhere in this report, reforms in the other branches are necessary to account for this more energized office and to cabin its reach. The end goal should be an executive branch with narrowed scope of authority but greater capacity to use effectively the authority granted.
If the least productive workers can just disappear, policymakers achieve 'success' by dismissing the challenge that deserves greatest attention. Instead, our conception of 'productivity growth' must impose accountability for labor-market exits, recognize the value of keeping low-productivity workers connected to the job market, and have an explicit goal of ensuring that those workers are included in progress. This is doubly true because productivity measures do not fully capture the value of a job, which offers substantial non-economic benefits to many workers and may also be the best avenue for them to gain new skills and thereby increase their productivity over time. A high-productivity job requires a highly productive worker. A future filled with such jobs will materialize only if today’s less productive workers become able to do them.
The unmooring of climate change from any conventional policy framework has been rhetorical rather than reasoned. It requires justification — otherwise, the obsessive and apocalyptic politics built atop it cannot be supported. Yes, climate change is a problem. But what kind of problem?
While Trump embarrasses himself and the country by calling climate change a 'hoax,' his climate policies mirror those outlined by his more conventional GOP primary opponents in 2016 and by GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Hyperbolic warnings about Trump that emphasize climate are not really about Trump at all -- they are about Democrats losing to Republicans. Paul Krugman reflected the morning after the election on 'the immense damage Trump will surely do, to climate above all.' The Atlantic's Peter Beinart listed climate change as the first 'enormous danger' posed by Trump that might justify the Electoral College in overriding the election's outcome and choosing Clinton. They should save their extreme rhetoric about Trump for the facets of Trump that are in fact extreme.
It’s time for a fresh look at U.S. energy and environmental policy. An agenda that maximizes the potential of America’s natural resources while striking a better balance between industry and environmental protection could unleash substantial economic growth and job creation at no cost to taxpayers. Here are four steps that Congress and the new Trump administration can take.
Florida Republican senator Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan congressional task force on Puerto Rico, has proposed a unique approach to these challenges. He is introducing the Economic Mobility for Productive Livelihoods and Expanding Opportunity ('EMPLEO') Act, which would effectively reduce the island’s minimum hourly wage to $5 and use a federal wage subsidy to close half the gap between the wage paid by an employer and a target wage of $10 per hour.
Roberts, amusingly, suggests the solution of incorporating surveys of “expert opinion” to inform “better, more representative modeling.” In other words, if substantive research in the field is not confirming people’s feelings about climate change, it is the research rather than the feelings that should change. And what better way to accomplish that goal than by simply using the feelings instead of analysis as the input? Inevitably, a “robust” new literature will emerge, teeming with models reverse-engineered to confirm pre-existing premonitions of doom. When it does, spare a thought for the earlier models created in pursuit of useful knowledge, whose verdicts were not nearly so dismal.
There is a consensus among climate scientists that human activity is contributing to climate change. However, claims that rising temperatures pose an existential threat to the human race or modern civilization are not well supported by climate science or economics; to the contrary, they are every bit as far from the mainstream as claims that climate change is not occurring or that it will be beneficial. Analyses consistently show that the costs of climate change are real but manageable. For instance, the prosperity that the world might achieve in 2100 without climate change may instead be delayed until 2102.
A Trump presidency offers many reasonable reasons to worry. But the fear that he will kill the planet, or even poor Zach, is at least one anxiety we can dispel.
I'm pretty sure everyone believes 'social mobility happens within rich communities' and wants to ensure all Americans have 'a secure social and emotional base.' The relevant question is how to do that. Are such communities best created through individual initiative and enterprise or large government interventions?
My Facebook feed is filled with posts from kind, intelligent people who are genuinely devastated that Trump could become president -- because of character, not policy. The Left would like nothing more than to channel that revulsion toward legitimate policy debates. Casting conservative policy as beyond the pale is nothing new, and the same pundits might be trying even if the president-elect were John Kasich, but Trump makes the task so much easier.
I was wrong to assume that it would be only the suburban white males who Clinton redirected. Many others seem to have clicked away in disgust. When the dust clears, the hot takes on the End of America cool, and the bags packed for Canada go back in the closet, Americans will realize that we aren't headed irrevocably toward a racially balkanized abyss.
India, for instance, can now take enormous credit for HFC emissions supposedly forgone at almost no cost, instead of taking difficult (and real) action on carbon-dioxide emissions. Even better for India, the agreement includes 'climate finance' from developed nations to mitigate whatever costs it does incur. Who is paying, and how much? That decision will have to wait until next year. But the diet is going to start right after that. And when it does, what a 'landmark? moment it will be.
A wage subsidy has the potential to both increase the earnings of low-skilled workers and expand the job opportunities available to them, helping to reduce poverty, increase labor-force participation, and boost economic growth. The ongoing economic crisis in Puerto Rico offers an ideal testing ground for the policy, and the policy offers an ideal tool for addressing the island's woes.
You need economic growth to create jobs but I think it's important to realize that economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition. That you can also get an awful lot of economic growth that doesn't create an awful lot of jobs. If you see it as part of the government's mandate to not just maximize GDP but actually make sure that people from their diverse backgrounds with their diverse talents and capabilities can find a place in our economy, then policy needs to do a lot more than just say what maximizes economic growth.
If an insurance salesman promises his policy is not-too-expensive but tells you nothing concrete about the benefits, walk away quickly. If Ip wants us to believe 'you'll be glad action was taken,' he would need to show (a) how much climate change would cost if not mitigated, and (b) how much mitigation his policy achieves. He doesn't, because he can't.
For Clinton and Obama, when the constitutional amendment at issue is the Fourth, it takes priority; when it is the Second, it must be carefully balanced. If a police officer thinks you look suspicious, your Fourth Amendment rights remain inviolate; if the FBI places you on a terror watch-list, your Second Amendment rights evaporate. Stop-and-frisk must end because it fails to deliver 'the kind of impact that we would want' in Clinton's words; but for gun-control measures, according to Obama, the standard should be that 'maybe we could try to stop one act of evil, one act of violence.'
The 'long-term, holistic' studies that Carroll prefers show coverage for expectant mothers produced better health outcomes in their children and that children themselves receiving coverage had better health, educational, and financial outcomes. That's all great news, but there's one problem: Obamacare's Medicaid expansion does not target pregnant women or children.
Donald, you did well in your primary fight / But the general electorate ain't the alt-right / Race-baiting for your base is rating poorly in the polls / You gotta be swing-stating, not elating Russian trolls
Why not extend an olive branch toward the conservative voters she needs to attract, offering to include ideas from across the ideological spectrum in pursuit of major bipartisan reform? Instead, we get only cautious platitudes all the way down. Perhaps with a bit more focus on the stated passion for helping women and children, she might also get further with the exhibited passion for becoming president.
Are employers who choose to offer even more flexibility than the law requires therefore undercutting women even further? And how should gender discrimination be policed if federal employment policies are a cause of disparities in pay and promotion and the employers offering women the most generous options are the worst offenders? The especially committed social engineer might decide to tackle this challenge by attempting to force women's life choices to conform to men's, or vice versa. Good luck. Sweden has even tried paying couples to use equal amounts of leave, to little effect.
Nuclear power consumption actually declined between 2008 and 2015. (It grew during the Bush administration.) Wind and solar power consumption increased by only 1.6 quadrillion BTUs, or less than 2 percent of the total American energy mix. (Its growth rate was higher during the Bush administration, albeit from a much lower base.) Natural gas consumption, meanwhile, increased by 4.5 quadrillion BTUs--three times the increase for nuclear, wind, and solar combined. All told, natural gas has reduced carbon-dioxide emissions ten times faster than solar power has.
Is Medicaid worthless?' is the quintessentially liberal battleground and a ridiculous lens through which to evaluate policy. Furman's defense, for instance, amounts to a claim that providing Medicaid is probably better than not providing Medicaid. The Oregon experiment tested the same question--Medicaid only had to defeat 'no Medicaid,' and even then it largely failed. But the right question to ask is whether this is a good allocation of scarce resources--not 'is Medicaid worthless?', but 'is Medicaid best?' The critical study is not the Oregon experiment, but one that gives Medicaid to Group A while offering Group B a wage subsidy, housing voucher, or used car of equal value. Good luck to Medicaid achieving superior outcomes in terms of health, upward mobility, or any other measure of well-being in that match-up.
Because of Medicaid, the safety net feels weaker as it grows heavier, exposing bigger gaps even as it spreads. Bad design and political pressure have allowed this one program to dominate our ever-expanding anti-poverty system. Medicaid now accounts for most of what we spend to aid the poor, even though the program aligns badly with the needs of low-income households and offers stunningly little value for its cost. The opportunity to improve support for the poor without increasing spending by reallocating funds from Medicaid to better uses is great.
The most absurd plank to appear in either party's platform this year is the Democrats' call to 'raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it.' It is policy written for the nation's very wealthiest enclaves, but incoherent for economically distressed regions. Looked at from El Paso, Texas, where the median hourly wage is only $12.70, a national $15-per-hour minimum sounds no saner than a $29-per-hour minimum would in Washington, D.C.
Complaints about the U.S. minimum typically focus on just the federal level, and by that standard we do indeed lag other developed, free-market economies--compare our minimum-to-median ratio of 0.41 ($7.25/hr vs. $17.40/hr) to the 0.46 average for Japan, Korea, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and Australia. But to account for the size and diversity of our national labor market, we allow state local governments to set higher minimums and they have taken up that offer--for instance, the 13 states with the highest median wages have all set minimums at least $1 above the federal minimum. Taking into account the prevailing minimum wage in each local market, the U.S. minimum-to-median ratio is actually 0.47, slightly above peers.
The size and diversity of the U.S. labor market make a national lens inappropriate for evaluating minimum-wage policy. A dramatic increase in the federal minimum wage--to $15 or even $12 per hour--would replace a system that tailors policy to local conditions with a system that imposes a single standard from America's most prosperous cities on less affluent areas that can ill afford it.
In a world of fixed resources, Clinton's model inevitably undermines the idea of equal protection under the law, pits groups against one another, and leaves some explicitly favored by government as winners. It also normalizes subjective standards for government action.
But if we shift from rhetorical one-upmanship to a more fair-minded analysis of the divide, it seems to emerge primarily over how to help those segments of society currently facing social collapse and economic struggle. High levels of trade and immigration are presumably not the ends unto themselves. Rather they are, in the view of the Openers, critical pre-requisites of a flourishing society that will work for everyone. Many opponents see value in trade and immigration as well, but they emphasize that the current approach is not working for those who need help most and we have not proven any ability to make it work.
America's safety net is thicker and wider than ever: antipoverty spending in real terms more than doubled between 1995 and 2015. True, Congress froze federal spending for the specific welfare cash-assistance program targeted by the 1996 welfare reform, causing its budget to decline in real terms; but that decline represented less than 1 percent of the safety net with total spending of more than $1 trillion in 2015.
Clearly defined responsibilities, from educating children to caring for the elderly to fighting in wars, are fundamental to a society's character. They establish the terms of relationships, the scope and role of civil society, and the expectations against which people judge one another. And few are as important or pervasive as the responsibility of providing--for oneself, for one's family, and for future generations.
The 35 pages contain plenty of good ideas, but they place enormous faith in the federal technocracy to get things right where it has failed so many times before. Rather than a comprehensive strategy for improving America's safety net and promoting economic opportunity, the document reads like a description of how the current safety net might work better if only we had better bureaucrats. The title of proposal #8 (out of 41) sums up the approach: 'Pay More for the Good Stuff, Less for Everything Else.'
The social safety net provides more than $1 trillion a year for low-income households. Yet no coherent antipoverty strategy allocates the spending. As the various programs have been created, their individual funding streams have pooled resources haphazardly and inefficiently. Medicaid, in particular, dominates the safety net. From 1975 to 2015, total safety-net spending per American in poverty doubled, in 2015 dollars, from $11,600 to $23,400. Of that increase, 91 percent was the result of higher health-care spending -- nearly all for Medicaid, whose costs rose tenfold to $568 billion.
Levin is at his best when making the secular case for social conservatism--describing how 'expressive individualism,? in coming to dominate American culture, has eviscerated many of society's critical institutions, and what an alternative built on relational obligations and 'morally meaningful communities? might look like. While declaring it 'rather obvious . . . that cultural and economic factors are inseparable,? Levin views 'family breakdown, cultural dysfunction, and the polarization of norms? to be the primary culprits impairing opportunity. His formula of subsidiarity, however, makes an awkward fit for this challenge.
The American social safety net's overwhelming emphasis on health care is the unintentional result of skewed incentives, leading to an ineffective antipoverty strategy poorly aligned with the needs and preferences of low-income Americans. Reforms that allow states to reroute substantial sums from Medicaid to other programs would better meet the needs of the poor at no additional cost to taxpayers, marking the first step toward a more flexible and effective safety net.
The choices aren't complicated: support Trump, support Clinton, support someone else with the understanding that you're likely leaving the choice of winner to those supporting either Trump or Clinton, or declare yourself undecided while the race ripens. The complicated part is the first-order question, unique to a party so deeply divided over its own nominee: how many of these choices should be acceptable on the right, both morally and politically? Or, when isn't it despicable to support someone you find despicable?
If the question is what resources will America and the world need ten, twenty, or thirty years from now, the answer is that no one knows. But if the question is what course to pursue, we do know: innovation and exploration have always benefited the nation and in hindsight we are always glad they occurred. The moment when new supply seems least critical is no less a moment when future investment should be invited.
Unfortunately, not everyone was in on the joke. Determined to display 'leadership,? President Obama made the classic mistake of the kid who hears everyone is going skinny-dipping, strips naked, plunges into the water, and then turns to find his dry and still-modest peers laughing from the shore as they run off with his clothes. While everyone else both literally and figuratively mailed in their commitments, the president pledged a dramatic reduction in U.S. emissions.
President Obama's policies for tackling climate change would impose heavy costs borne disproportionately by lower-income U.S. households. His Clean Power Plan (CPP) and proposal for a $10.25-per-barrel oil tax are the equivalent of a $25?$30-per-ton carbon tax, which would cost America's poorest families tens of billions of dollars per year.
Our current model of regulation resembles a game of darts, in which we hope to equip (or constrain, depending on one's point of view) the regulator with tools to ensure he strikes a hypothetical bulls-eye that maximizes welfare. But this produces a central-planning regime in which the policymakers deny the existence of tradeoffs, claiming they can achieve their regulatory goals while simultaneously improving on the market's economic outcomes. There is no such bulls-eye in the real world, and even if there were, the regulators would not hit it anyway.
The only problem is that British Columbia's carbon tax did not reduce emissions. True, emissions declined upon implementation of the tax in 2008. But something else happened in 2008 ? a global recession that sent GDP (and, with it, energy use) declining in British Columbia and around the world. Emissions then grew in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Regardless of where he lands, Donald Trump has already ruptured the GOP and posed a major challenge to American conservatism. But with postmortems for both party and movement already underway, we shouldn't make the mistake of developing 'solutions' that fight the last war. Conservatives should be developing good policy and a compelling message, not something-that-would-have-stopped-Trump.
Hold still, low-wage America, the editors of the New York Times would like to perform an experiment on you. They want to turn the minimum-wage dial all the way up to $15 per hour and see what happens. It is, in their view, a matter of 'human rights.? Will such a massive shock to the system hurt? Of course not. Or yes. The truth is, the New York Times has no idea.
The real difference is that Romney held himself each day to the highest standards of decency and felt keenly the burdens of leadership, while Trump is an entertainer committed to delivering whatever irrational blather of insults, threats, and lies will earn the most retweets. Sometimes the blather may take the form of a 'policy? proposal like mass deportation or a ban on Muslims, but that is still part of the show ? not a suggestion for how to run the country.
The dangerous and novel phenomenon of 2016 is not irresponsible politicians or an inflamed electorate, but rather the unprecedented concentration of power awaiting the election's ultimate winner. Ironically, many of the now-panicking elites are the very ones who made the presidency so powerful. If they can learn the right lesson from the recent chaos, the specter--even fleeting--of a President Trump or a President Sanders could provide the needed spur to restore balance to our constitutional system.
The federal government should package up the money it spends so ineffectively and send it back to states in proportion to their populations, to allocate as they see fit. Doing so will satisfy neither the Left's enthusiasm for expansive new programs nor the Right's appetite for shrinking government. But the American people would benefit enormously.
Goalposts move all the time, but rarely are they disassembled and carted away, leaving the teams to circle aimlessly while the crowd roars and the commentators prattle on as if nothing had changed. That's what happened at the just-concluded Paris climate talks, which managed to produce an agreement but also marked the collapse of a 25-year effort to catalyze collective global action on climate change.
Kerry argued the deal had to be weak because anything stronger would require congressional approval and Congress would not approve. In other words, President Obama lacked popular support to pursue a climate deal, so he had to do a deal even worse than the one for which there was no support. How absurd.
If successfully spurring robust international action is the sine qua non of this nation's climate policy, and that is failing, then we have non. Yet proponents continue to argue that new regulations, subsidies, and mandates are ends unto themselves--that even if the mitigation of carbon-dioxide emissions will not itself produce meaningful benefits, we should regulate anyway because the impositions on the nation's energy sector will be good for the economy. This argument defies both common sense and empirical evidence. Climate policy that does not help the climate is not good policy.
If the West believed combatting climate change merits hobbling poorer countries against their will, it could coerce emissions cuts with threats of embargo or military force. Obviously, that should not and will not happen. But without it, dramatic cuts depend on as-yet-unidentified technological breakthroughs that a developing economy might prefer to fossil fuels.
To understand how the world's pledges can amount to essentially nothing, look at what developing countries--who will account for four-fifths of emissions this century--have offered. China committed its emissions will peak 'around 2030.? OK, but the federal government's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggested four years ago that China was already on pace to do just that.
The climate negotiators have no clothes. If making that observation and refusing to go along causes some embarrassment, those parading around naked have only themselves to blame.
My primary message to the committee is this: international climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) no longer bear a substantial relationship to the goal of sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Rather, the only likely achievement of the upcoming Paris conference (COP21) is a commitment by developed nations including the United States to transfer large sums of wealth to poorer nations.
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen significantly since their peak in 2007--more than in any other country. The biggest cause is America's fracking-led natural gas boom: solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions; natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent.
America spends nearly $1 trillion on anti-poverty programs, yet no one seems happy with the results. Mindlessly writing another, bigger check is not evidence of 'caring.' Pursuing substantive reform within the existing budget is not an attempt to 'ignore' anything.
If civilization hangs in the balance, then the developing world must somehow be coerced into emissions reductions. For instance, if coal plants are truly 'factories of death,' shouldn't a Coalition of the Willing bomb any plant that a country dares try to build? Archbishop Desmond Tutu has equated the 'immoral system[s]' of Apartheid and fossil-fuel consumption. If he's right, shouldn't an embargo, at least, be in the offing?
Fundamental economic and political challenges suggest that there is no plausible path to an agreement premised on collective action or compensation: developing nations that must bear the brunt of emissions reductions in any successful scenario cannot achieve those reductions while pursuing rapid economic growth; developed nations cannot sufficiently compensate developing ones for forgoing such growth. Evidence from recent negotiations, as well as preparations for the next round of talks, reinforces this conclusion.
Ensuring that even those with very low human capital enter and remain in the workforce offers one of the highest leverage points for breaking the cycle of social decay. A job provides not just a wage, but also structure, skills and social engagement. It gets someone onto the first rung of the economic ladder, which is the first step to climbing any higher. New policies should aim for this outcome -- making work pay, not paying regardless of work.
The China problem is that 'cap-and-trade? matters for the cap, not the trade. Pundits are celebrating the proposed trading system, even though China made no new commitments to capping emissions, and its pre-existing commitments are essentially worthless.
America's 'lower class,? for lack of a better term, is undergoing an unprecedented social collapse that threatens to destabilize core American principles. The data on marriage, parenting, employment, civic engagement, and basic values show a widening and sometimes accelerating gap between classes. This form of inequality is far more consequential than income inequality because strong families and communities, unlike high incomes, are the cornerstones of a free and fair society.
Politically, there is much for both the left and the right to like about a wage subsidy. It does not discourage hiring or raise prices, some of the right's main complaints about the minimum-wage increase. But it also lifts paychecks directly, which is what the left likes so much about raising the minimum wage. Best of all, it would use current government spending in a way that helps the poor find work and better helps the working poor -- which should make everyone happy.
Two wage-support tools typically receive consideration: the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Both have the potential to significantly increase disposable income for at least some low-income workers. But their mechanisms--and impact--differ dramatically. The minimum wage, a price floor under wages, performs well vis-?-vis an individual worker but poorly in its labor-market and distributional effects. The EITC, a subsidy for income earned, has strengths and weaknesses roughly the opposite. The drawbacks of both tools prevent them from delivering fully on their antipoverty goals. Any discussion of wage-support options should include a third policy tool with the potential to deliver the best of both worlds: a wage subsidy delivered directly to low-wage workers, via their paychecks, as additional dollars per hour for every hour worked.
An ideal policy would look to workers like an increased minimum wage (more pay for every hour worked) but to the labor market and broader society like an expanded EITC (a government subsidy to support the low-income worker). A wage subsidy would do just that.
The real plan, simply put, is to pay for other countries to reduce their emissions through an unprecedented transfer of wealth from the developed world to the developing world. This plan emerged from the international climate negotiations in Copenhagen in 2009, at which then-Secretary Clinton pledged the United States would help create a Green Climate Fund of at least $100 billion in annual aid ? a commitment comparable in scale to all existing development aid from OECD countries.
In his August 2008 energy speech, then-candidate Barack Obama mocked offshore drilling as the solution to America's challenges. 'George Bush's own Energy Department has said that if we opened up new areas to drilling today, we wouldn't see a single drop of oil for seven years,' he said, repeating 'seven years' for emphasis. Amazing how quickly 'seven years' becomes 'next month.'
Of course, under the popular rules of the climate debate, anyone downplaying climate risks is a 'denier,' while anyone overstating them is a 'passionate leader.' But even among those charging down that uneven playing field, de Blasio stands out for allowing his rhetorical momentum to carry him past the goal line, through the fence, under the bleachers--and off into the woods.
Improving America's energy regulatory environment will amplify today's boom by encouraging resources to be used more efficiently. Opening federal land and waters to development over the next decade will extend the boom. Together, such reforms will further the country's energy advantage and make it an enduring fixture of U.S. prosperity.
If a U.S. carbon tax depends on global impacts, and the only global impact comes not from the tax but from a different policy (wealth transfers) that has not been defended, the benefits are hard to see.
If Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics were the central narrative device in a tragedy about urban development in twenty-first-century America, it would be too perfect.
A good policy does not repeatedly hide in the alternative. When the carbon-tax shells finally stop moving, one turns them over to find a sharply regressive tax likely to harm the economy while failing to meaningfully reduce emissions or insure against catastrophe, poorly suited to the important goals of spurring innovation and protecting public health, and deeply unpopular and inconsistent with basic principles of policymaking.
To opponents of action, the encyclical restates arguments heard before. To supporters, it poses uncomfortable questions about tradeoffs they prefer to hide from view.
There are political points to score with a carbon tax, and profits to capture, too. But these won't benefit society; they will come at its expense.
The official unemployment rate instead makes each dropout from the labor force as great a success as a new hire and depicts a 'recovery? that never occurred. Only if held directly to the job growth rate, or to an unemployment rate that back-dates labor force participation to the end of the recession, will policymakers focus on the economic growth and job creation that the economy still needs. The unemployment rate today is nearly 10 percent; what are we doing about it?
There is no reason to limit this mode of thinking to energy policy. The bureaucrats could build an economic model claiming to identify externalities in any market and insist that theirs is the one, true price. From this perspective, market prices are artificial and inefficient, while administrative reports know what prices should be. Any elected official who dares to deviate from a report's conclusions simply by choosing not to take new government action on behalf of the bureaucratic agenda shall be branded a distorter of markets.
Time magazine reported that focusing on the health effects of climate change, particularly on children, 'produces the most emotionally compelling response.' But that makes it no less illogical -- only more manipulative. Air quality and children's asthma are not reasons to #ActOnClimate, and the claim only adds to the bad information and confusion characterizing the climate issue.
Claims of 'revenue neutrality' make a carbon tax sound like a free lunch, even though it imposes costs on the economy very similar to those that accompany cap-and-trade plans or command-and-control regulation.
If we revisit the economic-environmental balance that our policies strike in light of the economic and environmental conditions we now face, we will find great opportunities for a rebalancing that preserves progress made while pursuing the economic growth we need.
Instead of vilifying low-wage employers and low-wage subsidies, we should recognize the valuable role they play in our economy. The more we can reorient anti-poverty spending to function as a subsidy for low-wage work, the more effective it will be.
The clean Air Act, by virtue of decisions made and priorities chosen decades ago, is forcing Americans to accept substantial economic sacrifices that they cannot afford, in pursuit of environmental gains that they do not need and that are not worth the cost. Through sheer inertia it is continuing to tighten the screws on industry and energy in pursuit of ever greater environmental quality, even though the broad consensus supporting such a tradeoff has disintegrated and most Americans today see the former as a greater concern than the latter.
Any of the proposals working from these principles is a major improvement both on what conservatives have offered in the recent past and on the never-changing more-programs-more-spending approach from the other side. As more policymakers work from these principles toward innovative reforms the proposals will only get stronger.
My goal was to explain the flaws in that view, so it is disappointing that the response is simply to have it shouted back louder. At times I thought I was reading a defense of NAFTA. To understand just how narrow and incomplete their response is, it might be helpful to break the debate down into three discrete questions: First, what policies is China pursuing? Second, what is the impact of these policies on the United States? Third, to the extent that the impact is negative, what should the United States do?
The United States need not allow itself to be taken advantage of forever, or assume that China and its followers are irrevocably committed to their course. To the contrary, America and her allies have the opportunity to make clear that they will no longer play on these terms, that they would rather take their ball and go home than continue to compete on a tilted playing field, and that it is the cheaters who must decide whether they will finally comply with the rules or be ejected from the game. Forcing such a decision is not 'starting a trade war' any more than committing to the defense of one's borders constitutes an invasion. Indeed, far from being protectionist, threatening nations like China with severe trade sanctions is critical to ensuring a prosperous future for the global economy.
Too often, particularly among conservatives, the anti-poverty issue is actually used as a budget issue, that when we think we're talking about anti-poverty programs, we're actually talking about ways to cut the budget deficit. And that's a fine conversation to have if you're looking across places to cut from the budget ? anti-poverty programs may be one of them, given how big they are ? but it's not a solution to the poverty crisis to cut dollars.
An effective anti-poverty program requires reform in two ways: first, restructuring the funding system to give state-level policymakers the incentives and authorities they will need if substantive reforms are to succeed; second, sharply dividing programs designed to provide a safety net for those not working from programs designed to increase the incomes of those who are working, coupled with reestablishing an income gap by increasing the relative generosity of the latter.
Flimsy arguments for emissions reductions have become mainstream because they stand unopposed. Conservatives have allowed the debate to be framed as a binary choice between 'climate activism' and 'climate skepticism,' and they have associated themselves with the latter -- a position that becomes less and less tenable as more and more scientific evidence accumulates. This has been a serious mistake.
He makes the same argument about drug companies, noting that they gladly sell their products in price-controlled markets overseas: 'those regulated profit margins outside the U.S. remain high enough that Grifols, Baxter and other drug companies still aggressively sell their products there.? Apparently he missed the day in Economics 101 that reviewed the difference between average and marginal cost. Seriously, there is typically a day dedicated to the topic because it is a hard one; a lot of students intuitively make the same mistake Brill does.
Good policy emphasizes basic and applied research at the pre-commercial stages, perhaps up to the point of demonstration projects. Such government funding is worthwhile across a range of industries because returns from early-stage research are often too speculative and long-term to attract private investment, and because the knowledge created by breakthroughs is spread widely instead of being captured by the inventor. It is doubly worthwhile in the context of climate change, where the societal benefits of success would far exceed the private gains.
If carbon emissions actually had a quantifiable, linear, ton-by-ton cost then the Sophisticated Objection would make no sense because the value of action at home could be measured independent of what action was or was not taken abroad. If we gain the same benefit every time we reduce emissions by another ton, why would we care what China does? But of course, as Sunstein acknowledges by taking the Objection seriously in the first place, this is not how climate change works.