As we slide into Nordic overdrive in Copenhagen, my mind bounces like a ping pong ball between cautious optimism and deep despair.
On the one hand, the solutions for reducing CO2 are going to be reasonably easy to do. In the U.S., the waste alone will pay for most of the CO2 reduction. Conservative estimates are that 30% of energy used in the U.S. is wasted. It's probably closer to 50%. From homes and buildings built in the era of cheap energy that bleed heat and cooling, to cars, trucks and SUVs designed to be big and powerful without any regard to aerodynamics, mass or the gross inefficiencies of internal combustion.
It's very easy to downsize vehicles while keeping them safe. And as the bloated ICE age vehicles are gradually replaced by the smaller, nimble electrics, our personal contribution to climate change will diminish to a small fraction of today.
Add to that the enormous gains to be had retrofitting buildings. The millions of retrofitting jobs will be funded, for the most part, by the savings in energy.
The best approach seems to be the one described by James Hansen in an op-ed in today's NY Times.
"Under this approach, a gradually rising carbon fee would be collected at the mine or port of entry for each fossil fuel (coal, oil and gas). The fee would be uniform, a certain number of dollars per ton of carbon dioxide in the fuel. The public would not directly pay any fee, but the price of goods would rise in proportion to how much carbon-emitting fuel is used in their production."
And the coolest part of the idea:
"All of the collected fees would then be distributed to the public. Prudent people would use their dividend wisely, adjusting their lifestyle, choice of vehicle and so on. Those who do better than average in choosing less-polluting goods would receive more in the dividend than they pay in added costs."
This is perfect! You add costs to the dirty fuels that have brought us wars and global pollution, sick and dying people, and despotic regimes run by the most evil people on Earth. You then distribute that money to everyone equally. That way, if you are efficient and use cleaner energy, you will make money. If you are wasteful and use dirty energy, you'll pay money to those treehuggers you hate so much.
I LOVE THIS IDEA!
It'll work great, too, "if" we get it passed.
I praise James Hansen for writing "Cap and Fade", especially in light of Paul Krugman's column, "An Affordable Truth". Friedman makes the inevitable "practical" case for cap and trade. If all we can get is a watered down C&T, I'll take it, but we'd be once again accepting less from our leaders than we as a society need to progress.
Which bounces me back to deep despair.
Our population is growing fast. When I was a kid in elementary school, we had about 3 billion people on the planet. By the time I graduated high school, it was 4 billion. Well, time stands still for no one and we now find ourselves pushing 7 billion people! And it's growing faster than ever, mostly in countries that cannot begin to care for the millions who will soon die from war, lack of food, or just global indifference.
There's so little time and all our Congress can do is dither.