So much for “consensus climate solutions”

You can be a believer in making climate policy based on science, or you can be a Republican. You cannot be both.

Jon Adler takes progressives to task for not pursuing “consensus solutions” to climate change.  What might these consensus climate solutions be?  Well, Jon insists that it would look something like a revenue-neutral carbon tax (such as is proposed by the superb Carbon Tax Center) instead of a “big government solution” like Waxman-Markey.

I’m quite sympathetic to a revenue-neutral carbon tax.  Unfortunately, Jon’s allies on the right are not.  As much as he would like to believe that there is a consensus here, there isn’t.

Jon’s favorite example of how the revenue-neutral carbon tax represents a consensus are proposals by such as Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC).  Well, listen to what Rep. Inglis has to say about Republicans:

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) . . .  expressed his frustrations with the GOP’s trajectory toward climate change denial Wednesday in a harsh rebuke that blasted his party’s hard-headed refusal to listen to scientific experts.

“[Your child is sick and] 98 of the doctors say, ‘Do this thing,’ two say, ‘Do the other.’ So, it’s on the record. And we’re here with important decision to be made.” Inglis said of his party’s readiness to listen to minority dissenting voices on the issue. “There are people who make a lot of money on talk radio and talk TV saying a lot of things. They slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and they’re experts on climate change. They substitute their judgment for people who have Ph.D.s and work tirelessly [on climate change].”

Better yet, you can watch the whole thing:

Oh, and there’s an important reason why Inglis himself can’t be the leader to achieve a “consensus solution”: he lost his primary to an extra right-winger by more than 40 points, in no small part because of his desire to reach “consensus solutions” on issues like climate.

You can be a believer in making climate policy based on science, or you can be a Republican.  You cannot be both.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

12 thoughts on “So much for “consensus climate solutions””

  1. Inglis is, of course, still a Republican, and as far as I can tell so is Adler. There's little evidence that Inglis's position on climate change–one he shares with Art Laffer, another Republican–played any part in Inglis's loss. Rather, it seems that Inglis's votes in favor of TARP and against the Iraq war surge were more important.

    I think Inglis's proposal wasn't great, but was better than the administration's. Personally I favor a revenue neutral carbon tax with a per capita rebate, and I'm a Republican. Favoring that a revenue neutral carbon tax with a per capita rebate and opposing the Waxman bill has very little to do with science, as does the opposite choice.

  2. My own opinion is that there is a special spot in hell reserved for Republicans like Adler. He's smart enough to know the GOP isn't interested in doing anything about climate change, and instead celebrates and rewards ignorance, on that issue as on so many others. Yet for some reason he lends his credibility and support to the know-nothings.

  3. Adler has consistently opposed approaches to climate regulation that have a chance of actually happening, like EPA regulation and cap-and-trade. His championing of theoretical alternatives as a reason to do nothing is extremely unimpressive. His proof that liberals won't support alternatives links back to the Climate McCarthyism nonsense of Roger Pielke Jr and cohorts. There's nothing there.

  4. A clean carbon tax is definitely preferable to the Cap And Trade plan closest to passage – but then, an idealized Cap And Trade deal (more auctions, tighter caps, subsidies for the low-income folks hardest hit paid for by those auctions, etcetera) would almost certainly be preferable to the carbon tax plan that would emerge from a year of horsetrading and dickering in Congress. The point upthread – that by championing a phantom Adler can disguise his refusal to help build a reality – is the important one.

  5. I don't see any plausible reason to do Cap and Trade. The best anybody can do is: "if well run, its effects are almost the same as a carbon tax". Pfui. Warren Terra is dead right: after our rent seekers in Congress got through with Cap and Trade, huge amounts of money would go to Goldman Sachs for running the thing, and power plants in states with strong delegations would have some sort of exemptions. Why should the carbon tax be revenue neutral? We are running huge deficits, we need money for the government. A carbon tax encourages people to find lower-energy ways to do things. We should enact a carbon tax, it should be a whopping big one, and use it to make up the shortfall in medicare and the social security.

  6. Cap and trade became the mantra after Clinton's BTU tax became DOA. We tried a carbon tax, it died fast and so we are where we are.

  7. With the tremendous amount of carbon lobbying money flooding the Beltway right now, there is a minuscule chance of any carbon tax passing. And they've gotten to the EPA/Obama as well, so no real regulation coming either. The best we can do, IMHO, at this point is ensure the food seed banks are not plowed over for subdivisions, and hope the surviving seeds can feed us after some of our ecosystems collapse.

  8. Dave Schutz,

    You completely missed Warren's point: there's no real difference between cap-and-trade and a carbon tax. Send it through Congress, and the tax would end up with exactly the same issues as cap-and-trade. You aren't going to get a clean one either way. So, we're best off taking whichever approach is more likely to (or closer to) passing from where we are right now.

  9. People complaining about the "rent-seekers" in congress miss the fact that "we the voters" are responsible for choosing candidates who align themselves with deep-pocketed influence buyers. Most of the mess of the current political system – excepting the Senate's dysfunctional rules and the occasional fun with the Electoral College (as in 2000) – is the direct responsibility of the voting public. Inglis did the right thing on a few occasions and was voted out of office for it, to be replaced by a Koch-addled wingnut.

    Only on that rainbow-tinged day when voters stop being idiots will that change. (i.e., never.)

  10. " “we the voters” are responsible for choosing candidates who align themselves with deep-pocketed influence buyers. Most of the mess of the current political system – excepting the Senate’s dysfunctional rules and the occasional fun with the Electoral College (as in 2000) – is the direct responsibility of the voting public. "

    Yes, exactly. And man-made climate change is one of those issues that is tough for the average Jane to apprehend through sensory perception, so the effects on a person must be immediate and comprehensible and perceived, and also a threat. Lots of more immediate threats on our collective plate.

    Until that happens in the here and now for a majority (remember: we are protected from many effects by wealth), we won't be voting in folk who will take strong action. As it is now, we have voted in a passel of pols that are in thrall to the carbon lobby.

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