October 14, 2008
Pielke on Adaptation, Coal, and the Politicization of Science
Roger Pielke, Jr., Breakthrough senior fellow, was recently interviewed by Robert Bryce over at Energy Tribune. The interview is currently featured on their frontpage, and you can read the whole thing here. At the end of the interview Pielke outlines the policies he would implement if he were appointed 'Energy Czar'. Here they are:
1. A carbon tax at the highest level politically possible. I'd guess that this is about $5 per ton of carbon dioxide but perhaps it could be higher. The only way to know would be to have the political debate. With Exxon Mobil calling for such a tax, I think that the claims that it would be unsellable are unfounded.
2. A national (and indeed global) industrial policy focused on decarbonization of the global economy with three elements:
a. A commitment to rapid increases in energy efficiency, perhaps following the Japanese model of benchmarking industry leaders and then implementing policies to bring other industry performers to the benchmarked standard.
b. A commitment to decarbonizing energy supply, by removing incentives for fossil fuels and creating incentives for carbon neutral sources, including both nuclear and renewable.
c. A massive commitment to research, development, deployment and the entire "ecosystem" of activities associated with transformation of the global energy system. Such a system has technical, social, and political elements. Good models for what it might take are the efforts spent fighting the Cold War or improving public health over many decades. The point of such investments would be to creating an ever-advancing frontier of energy efficiency, leading to a virtuous circle with (a) above, and also to accelerate advances in carbon neutral energy supply, supporting (b) above.
3. A focus on adaptation to the combined effects of climate and society, particularly in the developing world, with a goal of making societies more resilient and less vulnerable.
4. A major investment in the air capture and sequestration of carbon dioxide as a backstop technology, in case other forms of mitigation don't succeed. All forms of capture should be explored including chemical, geological, and biological.
5. A commitment to the sustainability of science and expertise in support of climate policy making. This would mean the institutionalization of more honest brokers (as described in my book by this title) and less stealth advocacy by experts. We are going to need climate science for many decades, so we should take care that it maintains its credibility.