Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are responsible for global warming, the long-term worldwide average warming experienced since the industrial revolution. GHGs arise from human use of fossil fuels for energy. Major emitters of GHGs include both industrialized countries and, in recent decades, developing countries as well. Higher global temperatures cause the extremes of hot and cold, and wet and dry, weather of recent years. This blog examines global warming and its effects.
See the Tabbed Pages for links to video tutorials, and a linked list of post titles grouped by topic.
This blog is expressly directed to readers who do not have strong training or backgrounds in science, with the intent of helping them grasp the underpinnings of this important issue. I'm going to present an ongoing series of posts that will develop various aspects of the science of global warming, its causes and possible methods for minimizing its advance and overcoming at least partially its detrimental effects.
Each post will begin with a capsule summary. It will then proceed with captioned sections to amplify and justify the statements and conclusions of the summary. I'll present images and tables where helpful to develop a point, since "a picture is worth a thousand words".
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Four Republicans Propose a Fee on U. S. Carbon Sources
former Administrators of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, all of whom
served under Republican presidents, are urging the members of the U. S.
Congress to overcome partisan divisions and pass meaningful legislation to combat
global warming.They state that science
clearly shows the planet is warming, and point out that further inaction is
harmful because the window of time remaining for action is shrinking.They observe that President Obama’s Climate
Action Plan is noteworthy and should be endorsed by the Congress.Additionally they propose a fee on use of
carbon fuels as an effective means for abating the rate of emissions and
consequent worsening of global warming.Here, we present an example of the effectiveness of a tax on gasoline
fuel in reducing consumption.
accumulates in the atmosphere, once emitted, and remains for very long times
without being removed by natural processes or human technology.Therefore it is necessary to reduce the rate
of emissions in order to keep the accumulated level as low as possible, and
limit the harms wrought by excessive global warming.The fee on carbon use proposed by the
Administrators goes a long way to accomplishing this goal.
Introduction.Over the past few decades the United States has never enacted a legislated national
energy policy to combat global warming.Since the late 1990’s plans operating around the world at the
international, multinational and national levels to curb the release of
greenhouse gases (GHGs) have been implemented.Prominent among these was the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement
among industrialized countries negotiated under the United Nations.These programs have been undertaken recognizing
that human activity is responsible for the accumulation of GHGs and that the
world’s nations must work together to mitigate the rate of emissions and the
total accumulated level of GHGs in the atmosphere.The U. S. Senate, in contrast, rejected American
participation in the Kyoto Protocol.Only in recent years have certain American states, individually or by
interstate regional agreements, embarked on policies to reduce GHG emission
rates.(Please find a Summary of Historical Developments in the previous post.)
In the absence of
Congressional action, President Obama presented his Climate Action Plan in June
2013.It contains a large number of specific
initiatives grouped as cutting carbon pollution, protecting the country from
the impacts of global warming, and working internationally to fight global
warming.Some of the policies can be
implemented by executive action, whereas others require budgetary action by the
This post describes
a proposal for a fee on carbon sources set forth by four prominent Republicans
(i.e., members of the more conservative of the two U. S. political parties) with strong credentials
in setting environmental policy.
all former Administrators of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
propose a fee on carbon-containing sources of energy.They
all were appointed by Republican presidents.Their proposal appeared in the New York Times on August
The former Administrators are William D.
Ruckelshaus, who served from the founding of the EPA in 1970 under Republican
President Richard Nixon to 1973, and again from 1983 to 1985; Lee M. Thomas,
who served from 1985 to 1989; William K. Reilly, who served from 1989 to 1993;
and Christine Todd Whitman, who served from 2001 to 2003.
have a message that transcends political affiliation: the United States must move now on substantive steps to curb
climate change, at home and internationally.
is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world
continues to warm….
costs of inaction are undeniable. The lines of scientific evidence grow only
stronger and more numerous. And the window of time remaining to act is growing
smaller: delay could mean that warming becomes ‘locked in.’
Obama’s June climate action plan lays out achievable actions that would deliver
than argue against his proposals, our leaders in Congress should endorse them
and start the overdue debate about what bigger steps are needed and how to
achieve them — domestically and internationally.”
declare that the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to
use market-based approaches, such as a fee on carbon, to provide the incentives
to migrate away from use of carbon-based fuels.As alluded to in the quotes above, they recognize that the present
political climate in the U. S. Congress makes this an unrealistic policy to
promote.They support the administrative
and legislative policies promoted by President Obama in his energy policy speech
as a meaningful strategy in the absence of Congressional action.
will be required…we must continue efforts to reduce the climate-altering
pollutants that threaten our planet. The only uncertainty about our warming
world is how bad the changes will get, and how soon. What is most clear is that
there is no time to waste.”
It is highly
significant in the U. S. policy setting that four Republican
Administrators of the EPA, serving under the Republican presidents Richard
Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, have come together
to urge taking strong legislative action to combat global warming.They understand the indisputable scientific
imperative that global warming constitutes a major threat to the wellbeing of
the planet.They recognize the need to
“transcend” political differences.They
urge immediate action because “the window of time remaining to act is growing
smaller”.Finally, they realize that
President Obama’s announced policy, while making worthy steps to combat global
warming, still requires the forceful action that a legislated policy, such as a
fee on carbon, would generate.
have shown incontrovertibly that a) atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse
gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2), have been rapidly increasing
since the start of the industrial revolution; b) the growth in CO2
levels is due to mankind’s burning of fossil fuels for energy; and c) the
greenhouse effect from these greenhouse gases produces increases in the
long-term global average temperature, as well as drastic decreases in the
number of extreme cold days coupled with profound increases in the number of
extreme hot days.These temperature extremes lead to
extreme weather and climate events that are harmful to those who are affected
CO2 is a
waste product whose costs are not reflected in the purchase price that we pay
when we use fossil fuels.Our purchases
compensate fuel companies for the costs involved in extracting and marketing
fuels, and include profit accruing to them for their efforts.But the costs of dealing with its waste,
namely CO2, are not included; the cost of this waste constitutes an
that fuel companies do not charge us for.On the other hand, there are examples in our daily life where we, the
consumers, are directly charged for the costs of waste that we generate.These include garbage removal and disposal,
and waste water treatment.Our use of
fossil fuels should follow the models given by examples such as these.A fee on carbon use would accomplish this.
induces extremes of weather and climate that adversely affect human wellbeing
and socioeconomic state as a result of the calamities that result.The Administrators point out that at a time
in the near future which cannot be predicted with certainty, the Earth’s
climate system could reach a point at which greenhouse warming creates
reinforcing effects that promote even more warming.This underlies their caution that warming could
become “locked in”.In addition, climate scientists point out that the longer we wait to begin meaningful abatement
measures, the more intensive, and expensive, such measures will necessarily be
to make up for lost opportunities.
In reaction to such
unpredictable events governments and other social structures are called on to
spend vast amounts of money to repair damage and restore facilities.They also react by undertaking extensive
preventive infrastructure projects that were unforeseen before devastation
struck.It thus makes economic and
sociological sense to minimize the effects of global warming by combating its
causes, i.e., by migrating away from use of fossil fuels as fast as possible.
The Administrators recommend a
market-based mechanism for accomplishing this, and suggest a fee on use of
carbon fuels for this purpose.A carbon
fee is highly efficient and effective in reducing use of fossil fuels.It is simple to administer, and leads, for
example, to striking increases in efficiency and decreases in fuel use when it
is applied as a tax on gasoline fuel for motor vehicles. The graphic below
shows that per
capita use of fuel for driving decreases as the size of the gas tax
increases.The U. S. has the lowest gas tax correlated with the
highest amount of fuel used per capita. In Great Britain, on the other hand, the gas tax is about
US$3.95 per U. S. gallon (but it is seen from the graphic
that a similar increase in efficiency can be obtained at a much lower tax level
of about US$2.20 per U. S. gallon).Ford, the American car maker, sells a model of its compact Focus there
whose efficiency is 72 miles per U. S. gallon.A Focus model sold in the U. S. gets only 33 miles per U. S. gallon.
Administrators Ruckelshaus, Thomas, Reilly and Whitman all served in the
administrations of Republican presidents.They have come together to urge the members of the U. S. Congress to
move beyond partisan posturing and unite behind meaningful legislation to
combat global warming.They point out
that the science underlying global warming is incontrovertible, that the time
for significant action is shortening, and that legislative action is required,
for example to set up a fee for use of fossil fuels.Their sentiments are reasoned and convincing,
and should be acted upon as soon as possible.
The status of the
global climate worsens with each day of inaction.That loss cannot be recovered at a later date
because CO2 emissions, on the time scale in question, remain in the
atmosphere and accumulate higher and higher.We in the U. S., independently and in concert with other
major greenhouse gas emitters, must act as soon as possible to keep the
accumulated CO2 level as low as possible going forward.