Everybody’s Fightin’ about that Spoonful

[ The Note for October 2014 ]

For most of the history of our species, we were hunter-gatherers. We could not store large stocks of resources. Social groups were small, defined by the range individuals within that small group were able to cover, in search of sustenance. We formed microcultures that left little in the way of permanent record. Knowledge expanded slowly. Scarcity remained the rule for human societies, even as agriculture took over, and cities grew, and urban civilization spread across the world. The few that were able to control the structures that establish and reinforce what we call society have been able to enjoy abundance, without allowing everyone else into that enjoyment. Perpetual scarcity, then, appeared to be an organizing principle, though it was more an illusion than a fact of life on Earth.

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Build on EPA Rules with Revenue-neutral Carbon Price

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced new rules to curb carbon emissions, under the Clean Air Act. The program is called the Clean Power Program and aims to reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants by more than 30% within 20 years. It is the single most significant step toward reducing power plant greenhouse gas emissions ever taken by the US government.

Many environmental activists are celebrating; predictably, opponents of climate action are warning of grave economic costs. The real impact is less, and less immediate, than many suspect. If the targeted emissions are reduced by the target percentage, then overall US greenhouse gas emissions from industrial, household and transportation sources, will decline by roughly 10% over 20 years.

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Why the Carbon Budget Matters

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found, in its 5th Assessment Report (AR5), which was released in September, that the worldwide human community has a global lifetime budget of “burnable” carbon-based fuels. Beyond that, any further burning of carbon-emitting fuels would push global average temperatures more than 2°C higher than the historic norm, unleashing unmanageable climate destabilization. So, though existing reserves might allow us to use far more than the scientifically measured carbon fuel budget, those resources are in effect “unburnable”.

This is not a matter for ideologically driven debate. This is a question of hard numbers. A 2°C rise is the tipping point, beyond which it is projected climate destabilization will be irreversible, with complex feedback loops exacerbating the situation more and more. Beyond a certain point, probably well before we reach the full 2°C rise, the actual cost of adapting to significant destabilization of historically consistent climate patterns will exceed our ability to spend to respond.

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Building a Green Economy: a Talk at Columbia University

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Building a Green Economy

How to Avert Extreme Carbon Asset Risk, Price Carbon Affordably & Achieve Climate Resiliency

7:45 pm – 9:45 pm
Monday, November 11, 2013
Columbia University

Faculty House
Presidential Room
64 Morningside Drive
New York, NY 10027

>>> Click here to register – It’s free

Due to the urgent need for the United States to respond to the escalating crisis in global climate destabilization, Organizing for Action is hosting action and education events around the country this month, and has invited Joseph Robertson—author of Building a Green Economy: On the Economics of Carbon Pricing & the Transition to Clean, Renewable Fuels, founder and president of Geoversiv Envisioning and a coordinating volunteer for the non-partisan Citizens Climate Lobby—to speak about carbon pricing policy and the emerging green economy.

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We know how to solve the climate crisis

While vested interests push risky schemes like the Keystone XL pipeline, which will gravely exacerbate the climate destabilization we already face, global human industry has now pushed atmospheric CO2 concentrations to 400 ppm, 50% above the norm for almost all of the history of our species.

We need to change course and organize our relationship to Earth’s life support systems more intelligently. We not only know how to do set in motion this global transition; we know how to do it affordably, with no cost to taxpayers, no expansion of government, and a vast expansion of private capital investment in middle-class job creation and new technologies.

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