A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

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Hristo Botev
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A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

BACKGROUND: I'll be participating in a local community-building workshop meant to find common ground between "reds" and "blues" on a specific topic. The topic will be climate change, and I am classified as a "red" because I "lean conservative philosophically on most issues (or on some issues critical to [me]), or who tend to vote for Republicans."

Now, I don't for a single second doubt that our climate is in fact changing, in dramatic fashion, that humans are entirely or almost entirely responsible for that change, and that this change is going to drastically alter the world we live in and the manner in which we live in it. But, I'm entirely ignorant as to what if any government policies should/could be implemented to stop (is that possible?) or at least slow down (is that even possible?) climate change. And it's probably not going to be very productive (or community-building) for me to walk into this common ground workshop and offer up nothing more than: "we're all screwed, and there's nothing I or you or anyone else can do about it, except to save ourselves!"

So, MY QUESTION: Are there any policies the federal government could put into place that: (a) could actually ameliorate the impact of climate change; AND ALSO (b) wouldn't require that we hand over yet more of our personal autonomy to bureaucrats in Washington, DC (or, worse, to the UN)?

I did a quick Google search, and the only conservative policy I found out there that seemed to me like it might satisfy both of my two parameters would be a carbon tax, coupled with a "carbon dividend" and tariffs imposed on foreign imports based on the carbon required for production (e.g., https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions ... story.html). I think I'd be on board with that, and I'd love to see gas cost 3x or more what it costs now, along with an increase in the price of fossil fuel-based consumer goods and services. I know that would have a pretty depressing impact on the economy, but it seems like that is coming no matter what, and I'd prefer it happen without the federal government using climate change as an excuse to grab even more control over how we all live our lives.

But apart from the carbon tax idea, it seems like all the other conservative policy ideas that are out there seem to be of the pie-in-the-sky "technology will save us, if only we allow the free market to work its magic" variety (e.g., carbon captures?); and I don't really take those ideas seriously. I tend to call BS on any policy idea that suggests: (a) we can solve climate change, and (b) our economy will continue growing at 20th Century rates.

So, that's my question--I guess this is kind of a pre-workshop workshop: where can the reds and blues on this forum find common ground on climate change?

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Jean
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Jean »

My in Law have been climate activist for 30years and they focus solely on carbon tax AND carbon dividendes since at least ten years.

The dividend part is very important, because otherwise, it's just more money for the gouvernement to pay interests on his debt with, which will liquely lead to an even more unfair wealth distribution.
I think it would bé important to focus on this only policy, because climate change is an issue that could make people feel on the same boat again. But unfortunately, it is often packaged with very socialist policies, wich push back conservatives.

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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by jacob »

Suffice to say nobody has come up with a proposal that will actually preserve the Holocene climate yet. After having failed to act decisively 30 years ago, the transition can only be slowed down now. The problem being that CO2 emissions are defined as a reservoir problem. Everything we add to the atmosphere stays there so even slowing down the rate doesn't solve the problem---it only makes it worse at a slower rate. At some point the Earth will reach a tipping point in which natural sources come to dominate human contributions and it will effectively be out of our control. The current strategy is to postpone that day for as long as possible.

The issue is really that climate change is both too large and too complex for even national governments to solve. There's currently no functional global entity capable of handling problems this size. It's my opinion that individuals acting on their own are certainly no match for this predicament. Individual freedom works well for optimizing say, which consumer items should be produced, but people coming together to construct giant projects like blocking off part of the North Sea or affecting cultural change is not going to happen with any foresight. IOW, this predicament is not something classic conservatism, which is founded on the assumption of an infinite/unbounded resource space, is capable of solving. There are simply too many people in the world living at a level of affluence that is too high for this assumption to hold anymore. Anyway ... for the purpose of this exercise, lets pretend anyway ... so ...

There are two "economic" solutions on the table that preserves some level of individual freedom. Both have pros and cons. They are "cap and trade" and "carbon tax" respectively.

"Cap and trade" is the idea that a cap on emissions is set scientifically according to what's required to set the physical world at particular climate trajectory. This can be calculated fairly precisely, e.g. in 2020 the cap is 35GtCO2e, in 2012 it's 34GtCO2e, etc. etc. The idea here is that the market sets the price. The downside is that some polluting industries might find it cheaper to buy credits than fix their emissions problem. An ironic analogy is how some oil companies find it more effective to buy back their own shares than explore for more resources.

"Carbon tax" is the idea that taxing something makes people use less of it. The problem here is "where do we set the tax rate". If you set it too low, emitters are just going to ignore it and emissions will persist and perhaps even rise at a faster rate. If you set it too high, it's going to crush economic activity to a degree that even proper solutions become unaffordable. There are ways to try to estimate this (Nordhaus got a Nobel prize for that) but uncertainty on these estimates span TWO+ magnitudes e.g. "between $25/ton to more than $5,000/ton" depending on which assumptions go into it.

Both of these solutions can either(/or) take the revenue generated and either use it for "big projects" or send it back to consumers. "Big projects" can either be related to climate change adaption (e.g. building sea walls) or it could be diverted to unrelated pork/pet projects which could be anything including e.g. lowering income taxes. It could also be sent directly back to consumers---this is the revenue neutral solution. This is more "digestible" especially to those who hate taxes, but the risk is that the money is not well spent in terms of adapting to the climate change that is coming. E.g. instead of using your individual carbon dividend on flood control, you spend it on booze or a bigger TV.

Then there are the "technological" solutions. The problem here is not so much in inventing something revolutionary as it is in figuring out how to build existing technology out at scale. This requires HUGE government subsidies ala what China (and Germany) did with solar PV. At each point existing industries will resist because they're historically incentivized to do so, e.g. fossil fuel depletion allowances comprise an enormous tax break as does free roads. Much of this is stuck in "shirt color" thinking. The right won't give up subsidizing the fossil fuel industry---the left won't start subsidizing the nuclear industry or expand the use of GMOs.

Overall, I doubt either will work. Humans are essentially looking for an economic or a technological solution to what is really a deep cultural problem. We're essentially trying to solve our problem at the level of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. As individuals we are on average way in over our heads. As institutions we're barely there. We simply don't have the brain space necessary to deal with the impact of our multitudes.

PS: If forum history is any indication, this thread won't last long until it gets locked down.

daylen
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by daylen »

jacob wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:49 am
PS: If forum history is any indication, this thread won't last long until it gets locked down.
I could hear you mentally banging your head on your keyboard the moment I read the title. :)

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Jean
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Jean »

@jacob
Why is it problematic if a company prefers to buy massive CO2 rights instead of finding a solution? If it forces everyone else to do do it because they have been outbuyed of thé alternative, isn't it still working as intended? The company would buy rights only if what they do is very lucrative and very difficult to make without CO2.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Dream of Freedom »

Anything you propose will be dismissed out of hand. This is a complex issue that requires a wide array of tools to address. Since most people can't think past 1 solution to solve a problem they choose nothing. Instead they get stuck in an endless loup of defining and redefining the problem.

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Thanks Jacob (and Jean). I just learned more in 5 minutes of reading your post (with a couple of extra minutes to look up things like "Holocene" and "35GtCO2e") than I have in a couple decades of periodically listening to folks lecture me on TV, etc. Thanks for taking the time to put that all down in one place (no doubt you already have elsewhere in this forum, but I appreciate you considering it with my "conservative" prerequisite).
jacob wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:49 am
IOW, this predicament is not something classic conservatism, which is founded on the assumption of an infinite/unbounded resource space, is capable of solving. There are simply too many people in the world living at a level of affluence that is too high for this assumption to hold anymore. Anyway ... for the purpose of this exercise, lets pretend anyway ... so ...
How does the answer change if we take out the "conservative" prereq? Is there a "fix" (even if not a complete fix) out there that would be sufficiently effective that it would justify the loss of autonomy necessary to make it happen? I.e., if someone without my philosophically conservative leanings were Worldwide Emperor for the day (or for a generation), and that person was laser-focused on addressing climate change, what would that policy (or set of policies) look like?
jacob wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:49 am
Overall, I doubt either will work. Humans are essentially looking for an economic or a technological solution to what is really a deep cultural problem. We're essentially trying to solve our problem at the level of thinking that caused the problem in the first place. As individuals we are on average way in over our heads. As institutions we're barely there. We simply don't have the brain space necessary to deal with the impact of our multitudes.
So, was my initial JMG--run for the hills and prepare for a post-industrial world--instinct correct? In college 20+ years ago I had an environmental psychology professor (who I suspect is lurking around on this forum somewhere) whose advice was, basically: don't drive; take camper showers; don't eat meat; and don't have kids. He had been an engineer who'd concluded that technological solutions weren't going to save us; all that would save us is a change in human behavior (and, of course, less humans that needed to behave). I'd love to catch up with him now and see how/if his outlook has changed; I'm guessing he doesn't see a whole lot to be optimistic about now.
jacob wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:49 am
PS: If forum history is any indication, this thread won't last long until it gets locked down.
I really, really hope that's not the case. I'm struggling with this, A LOT. And this forum is about the only place I've found that I can consistently turn and hear from really smart people who've put a lot of very deliberate thought into the way they live and how that affects others, and who are very, very capable of changing my mind on all sorts of things. That's just not the case with almost everyone I interact with IRL (or at least it's not the case that I can engage with those folks without everyone eventually retreating to their respective tribal corners).

I've got kids, and my struggles on this ("this" being climate change, peak oil, and just living in modern, industrial society generally) stem from the fact that I've got kids. So if there's something for which I should be tirelessly and relentlessly advocating, for the sake of my kids, I'm all ears (and I'm not putting ANY qualifications on being all ears).
Last edited by Hristo Botev on Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Quadalupe
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Quadalupe »

It might be helpful to list the solution space where a climate change policy could reside. A policy should do one or more of the following things:
  1. Decrease creation of CO2
    Fly less, produce less, etc.
  2. Decrease inflow into reservoir of CO2
    Carbon capture?
  3. Increase outflow from reservoir of CO2
    Plant more trees?
  4. Decrease impact of reservoir
    ???Shoot aerosols into air???
Carbon Tax is type 1. I think we also need policies that do something with 3 or 4, because I heard* there already is too much CO2 in the atmoshpere to prevent Bad Scenarios. I don't know if this is possible.

I wonder if using influencers might be more effective, i.e. your peers are shaming you for polluting.

* I am very poorly informed of the actual science and numbers, currently googling for a good Climate Change Primer 101.

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

Quadalupe wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:49 pm
I wonder if using influencers might be more effective, i.e. your peers are shaming you for polluting.
I should add that this workshop I'm doing is through my local Catholic parish. We've got a South American Pope who believes so strongly about our care for our common home that he made it the subject of his second encyclical (http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco ... to-si.html). If we (as a church) can actually get some agreement on a single, universal policy proposal, well, you've got a billion people who've been trained since birth to believe that sometimes when the Pope talks, it's God talking. There's an influencer for you.

daylen
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by daylen »

Hristo Botev wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 12:43 pm
How does the answer change if we take out the "conservative" prereq? Is there a "fix" (even if not a complete fix) out there that would be sufficiently effective that it would justify the loss of autonomy necessary to make it happen? I.e., if someone without my philosophically conservative leanings were Worldwide Emperor for the day (or for a generation), and that person was laser-focused on addressing climate change, what would that policy (or set of policies) look like?
For whom?

Any "fix" will be biased towards some set of agents at the expense of agents not in that set. Whether you are speaking about agents of a particular status, agents in a particular area, or agents of a particular generation. Things fall apart and there is only so much that can be done to slow this.

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

daylen wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:04 pm
For whom?
For the most amount of people, assuming all humans are deserving of an equal amount of dignity but recognizing that there will be some winners and some losers.

classical_Liberal
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by classical_Liberal »

I don't think this is an economics failure. The problem is, and has been, releasing CO2 is causing future harm to individuals and institutions. The true classical economic solution is that those releasing the CO2 must pay for the damage they will cause. For each "X" of carbon released the economic actor must pay $1 towards mitigation or to recapture that carbon. They owe all other economic actors this debt. If/when the cost of recapture is too high, the economic actor changes behavior. If we can recapture or mitigate more efficiently through technological progress, the price comes down. This is a productivity increase.

The real problem, since the industrial revolution, economic actors have gotten a free ride in the damage they cause via CO2 or other natural world damage. This is why so many humans are able to live such highly unsustainable lives and why damaging the environment is like a free source of capital for companies and those of us living at too high standards. An argument can be made we just didn't know all this damage was happening for a long time. I think that's a bit half-hearted though, the reality is we were just exploiting resources like all life does (see below). Now we are so reliant on this "free" source of capital that including it into the economic models would be catastrophic to our way of life. So we mostly ignore it.

tl;dr It's not a failure of economics, it's a failure of not including all factors into the economic model.

Regarding culture. I don't see this as a cultural problem. It's a life problem. Humans are alive, we want to do everything possible to stay alive and procreate. This means we will exploit any resource within our grasp to do so. It's literally in our DNA, it's why we and all other life exists. To label the fundamental properties of life as "culture" gives the sense we can "just change" if we choose to. I don't think that's the case, and I don't think hating ourselves for being alive, and doing what alive things do, is a good start to solving these problems.
Last edited by classical_Liberal on Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.

daylen
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by daylen »

@Hristo

Ted Kaczynski had a solution that optimized for those constraints.

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

daylen wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:15 pm
Ted Kaczynski had a solution that optimized for those constraints.
The Tyler Durden solution?

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

classical_Liberal wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:12 pm
An argument can be made we just didn't know all this damage was happening for a long time. I think that's a bit half-hearted though, the reality is we were just exploiting resources like all life does (see below).
Half-hearted indeed. From the CRS report (https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45086.pdf) that went out to participants of the workshop I'll be attending:

Image

RealPerson
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by RealPerson »

jacob wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 11:49 am
Suffice to say nobody has come up with a proposal that will actually preserve the Holocene climate yet. After having failed to act decisively 30 years ago, the transition can only be slowed down now. The problem being that CO2 emissions are defined as a reservoir problem. Everything we add to the atmosphere stays there so even slowing down the rate doesn't solve the problem---it only makes it worse at a slower rate.
Before this thread gets shut down :shock: , I wanted to ask a question that reveals my ignorance. I recently saw the documentary "Kiss The Ground" on Netflix. This is as close as I currently get to reading peer reviewed journals. There the claim is made that regenerative agriculture can recapture CO2 and reverse climate change. The claim is bold and no actual proof is offered that this is true. Your post suggests to me that you don't think there is validity in such a concept. Do you have any knowledge of actual data in this regards? Like you said, CO2 recapture will be required, not just a reduction in emissions. I am looking for a ray of hope here! If our planet is destined to become uninhabitable by 2150 or 2200, does it matter what we do?

daylen
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by daylen »

@Hristo Right, if the average human has a much higher impact on the planet when integrated into a global machine, then the optimal solution is to destroy the global machine in order to allow more humans to live as they once did for much longer (i.e. sum of human lifespan is maximized). This is the problem with setting forth simplistic conditions for what a "fix" entails.

@c_L The classic red-shirt blue-shirt dilemma: should we change the economy or culture? My attempt at synthesis to this is econvolution.. what is the interaction between external resources and internal replicators? Rather than keeping either fixed, perhaps both can be thought to coevolve under certain conditions at certain systemic levels. Hence the question becomes: what levels can be coupled together for stability on what time frame? ..or what should we be focusing on when/where? We are in over our heads on this question. :P

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

daylen wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:32 pm
This is the problem with setting forth simplistic conditions for what a "fix" entails.
What conditions should I set forth?

daylen
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by daylen »

@Hristo No idea. I don't know you very well. :)

Hristo Botev
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Re: A Conservative Policy Solution to Slow Down Climate Change?

Post by Hristo Botev »

daylen wrote:
Fri Oct 16, 2020 1:42 pm
@Hristo No idea. I don't know you very well. :)
OK, what conditions do you set forth?

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