Joe Nocera is having an important debate with James Hansen. Â Nocera celebrates Hansen as a pioneer climate scientist and as a good economist. Â Hansen demands a carbon tax now. Â All economists agree with adopting this efficient policy. Â As I write in Climatopolis, I’m a supporter of $10 gasoline now. Â Â Where Nocera and Hansen part company is on Hansen’s doomsday rhetoric about the consequences of the President giving the green light to the Keystone Pipeline. Â Below the fold, I discuss some nuanced issues.
For people who bothered to read my Climatopolis, they know that I moved to California in part because of my excitement of playing a policy role in the phase in of AB32. Â My optimism for how our cities will continue to thrive is that green guinea pig efforts such as AB32 will identify new cost effective solutions Â for reducing our GHG emissions. Once we discover such ideas they can diffuse around the world. Ideas are public good! Â Over the 21st century, we will simultaneously reduce our world’s carbon intensity and we will adapt to the climate changes we have already induced. Â Pessimists downplay the power of human ingenuity for generating new solutions for both carbon mitigation and adaptation.Â This will be a gradual process involving learning and experimentation.
I agree with Nocera that Hansen’s tendency to draw a line in the sand is counter-productive and makes him look like a Chicken Little. Â He should join the economists who are thinking hard about the political economy of how you build a carbon mitigation coalition and how you achieve “buy in” from those who might be on the fence on this important issue. Â Scientists have credibility in the policy arena but they can lose this elusive commodity if they are seen as overplaying their hand.
UPDATE: Â Severin Borenstein’s February 2013 post is worth reading.
Here is Â a good quote:
“And thatâ€™s where it seems there is an opportunity for a grand bargain of sorts. The Keystone XL and other new oil sources create billions of dollars in economic value. Blocking them will have at best a very small impact on emissions.Â But allowing them could be tied to much greater funding for alternative energy research and development.Â Such work may have a shot at creating low-carbon alternatives that can compete against the bargain basement fossil fuels that will very likely result if alternative fuels start to contribute substantial supply.”