The Sierra Club’s Concerns About California’s Nascent Carbon Cap & Trade Regulation

Here is a cross-post presenting my discussion of the Sierra Club’s letter to Gov. Brown outlining its concerns about the implementation of California’s carbon cap & trade regulation.    California is the “guinea pig” and we must start this journey.   The Sierra Club raises some valid points but appears to demand “perfection” rather than acknowledging that policy is made through a messy political process. I offer some suggestions for how the California Air Resources Board could address some of the Sierra Club’s concerns.

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

8 thoughts on “The Sierra Club’s Concerns About California’s Nascent Carbon Cap & Trade Regulation”

  1. A lot of work has gone into the additionality problem under the EU and Kyoto processes. Contrary to a widespread Californian belief, the wheel has already been invented. I’d be very surprised if the hypothetical bribe to the Brazilian landowner not to cut down his forest, when he might not have done anyway, cam eanywhere close to satisfying CDM criteria. Note that the problem also applies to actual investments, not just inactions.

    The Brazilian hypothetical can be solved (hypothetically) by requiring the landowner to sell his forest to an NGO that can make a credible commitment not to cut it, like one of Michael O’Hare’s hoarding museums.

    Since we’re cross-advertising, here’s my take on offsets, and on the Mata Atlantica. I concluded the problem isn’t uncertainty over additionality so much as sky-high rents to intermediaries empowered by onerous verification red tape. I recommend individuals to take chances and donate to NGOs directly planting trees, giving out solar stoves and pumps, and the like.

  2. Really getting tired of the folks who expect preschoolers to perform Shakespeare and explain special relativity when what is required is that we applaud and give them Toy Story stickers for going poop in the big potty.

    I’m not saying don’t challenge, don’t hold them accountable, but can we take some baby steps, People? Please consider how we have spent most of the last decade.

  3. maryQ: in the immortal words of General Theodore Roosevelt Jnr, who landed with his division on the wrong part of Utah Beach on the morning of June 6 1944, and responded to the option of re-embarking and trying again: “We’ll start the war from here”.

  4. In other words, the better that we can do at some later date is always preferable to the good we can do right now?

  5. Paul: the exact opposite. Was I really so unclear? The anecdote was made famous by the D-Day movie The Longest Day,in which he was played by Henry Fonda. The dauntless but infirm Roosevelt died of a heart attack one month later.

  6. It seems like the more polarized we are, the more incrementalism makes sense. For instance the ACA, one of the boldest victories for progressivism in decades, was pretty tame in the grand scheme of health care reform. Yet we barely passed it, and considering the political backlash it received, and the four years of Republican controlled house it likely spawned, I feel pretty fortunate to have gotten something done. Waiting for the “perfect” may have realistically taken at least decades.

    With Global warming, time certainly isn’t on our side. The reality is that our current society likely won’t be able to handle doing what it takes to serious curb emissions. But we must do all we can.

  7. “It seems like the more polarized we are, the more incrementalism makes sense.” It would make sense if we were just beginning the project.That’s been the one step-forward-two-step-back dance of the last 30 years. The entrenched energy interests will not willingly participate, adapt, or support needed changes until they think their bottom line has absolutely no alternative- not their families and the world as we’ve known it; their bottom line. They actively continue to spend more in lobbying against transitions to clean energy than they invest in producing it. It’s evidence of astoundingly anti-social behavior when you think about it. The lawmakers who enable the continued damages should be fired, in my opinion.

    Global climate change and its effects are not enough to sway them. I think 2/3 of the world’s human and wildlife populations could die off, and they’d just be relieved that there was no more interference.

    …With Global warming, time certainly isn’t on our side.” The rational act was to mandate change in the 1970s. The only option is to continue fiddling while Rome burns, or mandate transition now. The latter sounds like jobs and clean energy to me. I think it was Dylan Ratigan who calculated that we currently spend about $13.42 per gallon of gas if we factor in the costs of war, waste, and price-gouging. He didn’t factor public health and safety or environmental destruction (think BP) into the equation.

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