The more I read his work, the more I respect James Hansen’s intellect and passion. I am reading his recently published book titled Storms of My Grandchildren and learning more than I ever knew before about his work as an atmospheric scientist studying the earth for the past 30 years.
Dr. Hansen and I share a distaste of the proposed “cap and trade” method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions for similar reasons. The primary reason is a near certainty that it not it would even work to reduce emissions, then we move on to questions about the complexity of structuring a market, the enormous financial rewards for people who are not actually doing anything to reduce emissions, and the vast potential for influence peddling and fraud in the market.
Here is a link to an extensive story about Dr. Hansen’s effort to get his thoughts out to a wider audience via an op-ed piece in the New York Times and how that effort got sabotaged by editorial decisions. The People vs. Cap and Tax. It is highly recommended reading. I personally like the fee and dividend approach because I believe that the overall effects on the world economy would be beneficial. It would put money into the hands of consumers who are careful about their energy use and give them a greater amount to spend on products and services as diverse as restaurant meals and tuition payments. It would increase the cost of wasting precious fossil fuels that should be used judiciously so we pass some of earth’s capital onto distant generations. It would also increase the value of energy production methods that do not use hydrocarbon combustion and do not release any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
Disclosure – of course, I expect to benefit from that last item. I honestly believe that the rest of the world will also benefit, but a guy who writes and talks about the growth of the nuclear industry stands to benefit more than most. Oh well, I guess we all have a bit of self-interest.
Update: There is a postscript to Hansen’s The People vs. Cap and Tax that provides some economic arguments against Krugman’s defense of the “cap and trade” concept. It is a good read.