On Climate Change, DNC Decide There Is Nothing to Debate

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home.

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35 Responses

  1. There’s also the problem that the Dem Party doesn’t have a solution to climate change, or at least not one that’s palatable to their voters. They’re going to end up on “we need nuclear and we need a LOT of technological innovation and China’s a problem” which is not terrifically sexy.Report

    • I would argue the problem is the more progressive elements championing climate change do not end up there, though they would be better off if they did. The green new deal didn’t turn into a problem because of the environmental parts, but because they loaded it with every possible ideological wishlist item their hearts desired.Report

    • …we need nuclear and we need a LOT of technological innovation…

      It is my belief that the Dems would have to stuff this down the collective throat of their supporters in the western states. Speaking broadly, “nuclear” is a four-letter word there. And there’s a whole stack of engineering and systems analysis work from the national labs that says all the necessary tech for a robust, reliable, low-carbon, nuclear-free Western Interconnect already exists.Report

      • Philip H in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Except solar and wind also seem to be four letter words, and hydropower does things like submerge cities and kill fish. But hey, sure, lets trash nuclear.Report

        • J_A in reply to Philip H says:

          I’m really involved in building some new wind power plants. Based on the amount of economic activity involved in the industry nowadays, I think a good way for the GOP to lose Montana’s three electoral votes would be to come out against wind generation.Report

          • Philip H in reply to J_A says:

            And yet the GOP has spent, what, a decade decrying “alternative power generation” as a lefty pinko plot? The president isn’t support policies – much less funding programs – to take out of work coal miners and steel mill workers in Pennsylvania and Kentucky have them build and install windmills locally, which would both generate cheap clean electricity and reiinvigorate the middle class. The senior senator form Kentucky sure as heck isn’t doing that for his own state. So color me skeptical that the “Party of Business” is going to support changes in the actual business climate that would not only alleviate the climate crisis but expand jobs and the middle class.Report

            • J_A in reply to Philip H says:

              Isn’t it funny that the five states with the largest installed wind generation capacity are Texas (on a league of its own), California, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Kansas.

              I know the GOP wants to own the libs, but it says a lot about what the party thinks about the heartland if they don’t care much about Kansas, Iowa, or Oklahoma. I know that PA has many more electoral votes, but there’s six senators right there.

              BTW, states with zero wind generation as of the end of 2018: KY (go, Mitch!!), VA, AR, MS, AL, GA, SC, LA, and FL. I wonder if there’s any kind of commonality between those places (*) https://www.awea.org/resources/fact-sheets/state-facts-sheets

              (*) I particularly find amusing that there are quite strong winds along the AR-TN border. There’s wind generation in TN, but none in ARReport

              • George Turner in reply to J_A says:

                Kentucky has no wind turbines because it has virtually no wind. So while you’re at it, slam Kansas for not building more hydroelectric, since only 0.003% of the nations hydroelectric capacity is installed there. Is it because they’re a bunch of backwards Republicans who don’t believe in water power, or is it because their state is flat as a pancake and can’t get any head pressure no matter what they dam up?Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to J_A says:

                I suspect some portion of the problem is the presence of the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Southeastern Power Administration. As quasi-federal agencies, they don’t have to play nice by the same rules that private companies do. Certainly the Bonneville Power Administration and Western Area Power Administration are thorns in the side of western states when it comes to regional planning. For example, Colorado would like to join the Western Energy Imbalance Market. It can’t because the power transfers would have to go over WAPA’s facilities, and WAPA won’t play.Report

              • This needs its own piece and workupReport

        • Michael Cain in reply to Philip H says:

          I’m willing to listen — convince me that solar and wind are treated with the same broad animosity that things nuclear are in the West. The legislatures keep increasing the requirement for the wind and solar share of electricity (and the utilities keep meeting the targets). In some cases those increases, or the creation of the initial requirement, are done by ballot initiatives*.

          Granted, most of the anti-nuke stance is not based on the commercial power industry. But the commercial power people have to overcome the antagonism of the political class due to Hanford, INL, Rocky Flats, uranium mine tailings, WIPP leaks, and the whole ham-handed approach to Yucca Mountain. That’s a partial list.

          * Not all such initiatives pass. Last year Arizona voted down a silly ballot proposal funded by a guy from California. The proposal required 50% low-carbon in a very short time frame and didn’t allow the Palo Verde nukes to count as low-carbon. As a side note, by 2025 Palo Verde will be three of the four nukes still operating in the Western Interconnect.Report

  2. George Turner says:

    If the Democrats did have a debate solely on climate change, I think the Republicans should counter by having the John Birch Society sponsor a town hall on fluoridated drinking water, examining whether the communist fluoride poisoning is the reason so many Democrats think humanity is going extinct in ten years.Report

    • Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

      We don’t think humanity is going extinct in 10 years. Get over yourself. We do know – because pesky data tells us so – that sea level is rising, the ocean is turning more acidic, tropical and semi-tropical storms are getting more intense, and the Arctic is completely ice free in the summer. That same pesky data tells us that the overall trend is the earth is warming, and it is warming at a rate faster then both the natural cycle would go, and faster then scientists predicited it would go int the 1960’s and 1970’s.

      We also know the Pentagon has now published two quaddrenial defense analyses stating they are planning for both significant climate impacts to military bases (think the Offit AFB flooding all the time in multiple places) and for wars driven at the regional level by people moving because they don’t have fresh water and their cities and countries are submerging.

      Now, the opportunity cost of doing nothing – which is this administration’s approach – is probably tens of trillions of dollars. Which allegedly our country doesn’t have because we keep giving rich people and corporations (whom we now call people) tax breaks they don’t deserve to reward them for tanking our middle class by busting unions and running over seas.

      But sure, go ahead, lob hand grenades. And when we as nation have to move Miami, and Norfolk, and Washington DC and New Orleans, and Savanah, and Boston and New York because they are for all intents and purposes underwater, then please feel free to remind me why we waited.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    I’m using paper straws at the climbing gym. Now what?Report

    • We are talking popcorn and butter here…Report

    • Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

      go outside and get in your plug in electric hybrid that you charge off the solar panels on the roof of your house.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Philip H says:

        This is an important example. Transportation is the harder half of the US going low-carbon. It’s also where there appears to be more space between the Dem candidates. Inslee appears to be an electric car guy. Biden’s plan calls for an enormous shift to biofuels.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Deciding these issues based on what are essentially the personal preferences of the candidate who wins the nomination is exactly the wrong way to go about it. The best solution is to levy a carbon tax and let the market find the most efficient way to route around it. As long as externalities are correctly priced, this is exactly the kind of thing markets are good at and government is bad at.Report

          • Philip H in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            And yet the GOP refuses to create this market because doing so involves a TAX. Which we allegedly have too many of in this country. SO the market isn’t pricing “externalities” correctly, and is essentially dismissing enormous, GDP shattering cost avoidance because there’s no driver.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

              How much of a carbon tax would you like?Report

              • Philip H in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I don’t know – 15%?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Philip H says:

                I think you mean “15 dollars per ton”. Which is fine. Bjørn Lomborg suggested roughly $2 a ton.

                There are 20 pounds of carbon in every gallon of gas (yes, really, even if it only weighs 6 pounds itself). So his gas tax would be 2 cents per gallon and yours would be 15.

                The United States federal excise tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and 24.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. On average, as of January 2019, state and local taxes and fees add 33.78 cents to gasoline and 36.23 cents to diesel, for a total US volume-weighted average fuel tax of 52.18 cents per gallon for gas and 60.63 cents per gallon for diesel.[3] (wiki)

                So this is loosely the equiv of a $50 per ton carbon tax.

                We don’t tax sun and wind that way.

                The good news is we already have a stiff carbon tax even if we don’t call it that.

                This is also the bad news.Report

              • J_A in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I thought that the objective of the taxes on (transportation) fuel was to support transportation infrastructure (i.e. roads) construction and maintenance.

                I also thought that those taxes were insufficient to cover this specific, limited, purpose, and had to be supplemented with general revenue.

                If what I thought is correct, there’s no revenue in these taxes to offset the other externalities associated with burning fossil fuels.

                Hence, we would need a carbon tax (and we would need to increase the fuel excise tax, too, because bridges, you know, are collapsing)Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to J_A says:

                If what I thought is correct, there’s no revenue in these taxes to offset the other externalities associated with burning fossil fuels.

                You’re forgetting that Electric cars need roads and bridges. Shift road/bridge spending fully to the general fund and shift carbon fuel taxes to address externalities and we’re done. We already have the desired carbon tax(es) at levels which are probably greater than the externalities, we just don’t label them correctly or apply them uniformly.

                That we have other transportational needs and budget issues is irrelevant. We tax carbon more than we do green energy exactly like we would to put green energy at a competitive advantage as per the design of a carbon tax. We also collect enough money to deal with the “externalities” that burning carbon creates.

                Numbers time: In 2018 the US used about 142.86 billion gallons (www.eia.gov). So the gov raises roughly $75 Billion a year from fuel taxes alone.

                This pays for all sorts of green efforts, various boondoggles, fighting fires, dealing with hurricanes, etc. If $75B isn’t enough, the carbon companies also pay numerous other taxes (income, sales, property, extraction).

                If the idea that we already have a carbon tax seems like a head twist it’s because you’re probably assuming various problems will go away after we have a carbon tax, they won’t.

                We will still have hurricanes, the cities we’ve put in harm’s way on the coasts are far more the source of the problem than a few extra miles per hour of wind. We will still have forest fires burn down towns because we let these towns locate in obvious fire traps. The ocean rose a foot last century, it will rise two feet next century without geo-engineering and full nuclearization of energy.

                GW is a tiny fraction of most of these problems and shouldn’t be expected to pay for them by taxes on carbon. Consider that increasing the carbon tax STILL won’t make these issues go away, even if you price it high enough to shut down the economy.

                Similarly, the obvious things to do on the spending side are also already being done. We’re developing various green energies, maybe some of them will eventually work at a low enough price to be useful… although the current big problems are a lack of energy density and consistency. It’s hard to see how this can work without serious energy storage, and btw that’s also something we’re working on.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

        Man, I remember when being a one-car family (and it’s a Yaris!) was sufficient.

        So if I get the electric car and solar panels, I’m good?

        (I was worried that we’d have to kill 3 billion people or something. I’m pleased that I can get to where I need to be for only $50k or so.)Report

  4. Mark says:

    There has been a lot of moisture in the Midwest this spring. As a result a lot of corn-growing land has not been planted and the flooding is stopping barge traffic on the Mississippi. Is this due to long term climate change? Are there measures that can be taken to ameliorate this flooding? We should study this problem and debate needed changes. Our politics is failing us by focusing on personalities and wedge issues.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Mark says:

      I doubt it’s due to climate change because climate scientists spent the previous 20 years blaming dry conditions in the region on man made climate change, and constantly warned about the dropping water levels in the Great Lakes as a harbinger of planetary destruction.Report

  5. LTL FTC says:

    Climate activism has not impressed me of late. This most recent round of putting children in front of the cameras strikes me as similar to the Mary Stoneman Douglas shooting kids, in that the media bubble class seems to think the moral urgency of uncorrupt, bright-eyed youth will bring the other guys to their senses.

    Climate activism as an “awareness” campaign to get government to do something seems… spent. Even if Jay Inslee, or those kids, or pants-s****ing tales of certain doom in some establishment left magazine, manage to somehow cause the GOP to abandon its long-held positions, it will do nothing for China and India.

    If you’re going to be a climate change supplicant, why not ask the super-rich to put up billion-dollar prizes for advancements in technology? Why not highlight carbon sequestration instead of the 247th iteration of sad polar bears?

    (Hint: for many, making the wasteful suffer is inseparable from actually stabilizing global climate.)Report

  6. J_A says:

    ETA: Messed the placement – This is a response to @LTL FTC

    “…. manage to somehow cause the GOP to abandon its long-held positions, it will do nothing for China and India.

    I think most people ignore the massive efforts China -and, less so, India- is making to de-coalize their energy matrix. even if, in their case, it is driven more by concerns over pollution than climate change (*)

    1/3 of the 2018 installed wind generation in the world is in China (200 GW out of 597 GW). India, with 35 GW, is fourth, after China, the USA, and Germany.

    In the case of China, in addition to wind energy, growing at 9& p.a, China has prioritized gas imports, both via pipeline and via LNG, not just for power generation, but also to replace coal with gas as domestic heating fuel, and has established minimum sizes (500 MW last I checked) for new coal facilities, to improve the plant’s’efficiency.

    (*) Though, as a country prone to massive, devastating floods, as well as severe droughts, I’m sure the very pragmatic, very long-term oriented, Chinese government is following up climate change with close attentionReport

    • George Turner in reply to J_A says:

      India and China don’t really care, and will probably never will.

      Nor will Africa, which has a massively expanding coal industry, as Africa is reliant on coal for power generation. Outside of South Africa, which already has a massive installed coal capacity, over a hundred new coal plants are being planned or built, with a combined capacity of 42 GW. That’s an 800% increase in their coal-fired capacity. The Chinese are providing most of the funding and handling construction. When the current round is completed, they’ll double Africa’s overall coal production (because it will equal South Africa’s existing coal plants), and bring the continent up to 34% of the United State’s installed coal capacity.

      Wind isn’t going to work there, because like most of Asia, they have almost no reliable wind. They do have truly massive coal reserves, though, as does India.Report

      • Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

        China cares immensely – and in no small measure because burning coal at the level it needed to to power its growing industrial complex was killing tens of thousands of citizens and making hundreds of thousands more sick. One of the main reasons coal is a dying industry in the US is China decided to stop burning it and seek cleaner energy sources. Last I looked they are ahead of their Paris accord targets for emissions reductions.Report

      • J_A in reply to George Turner says:

        “India and China don’t really care, and will probably never wil

        For someone who doesn’t care, China really fakes it

        2018 installed solar+wind capacity in China is 375 GW, close to 20% of total installed capacity. Their 2020 energy goal is 1,900 TWh, 27% of the demand.

        That’s before accounting for the increase in natural gas as a primary energy source. Coal power, though approximately 60% of the energy produced, is steadily decreasing as a fraction of primary energy.Report

        • George Turner in reply to J_A says:

          From Wiki:

          China’s coal powered generating capacity is expected to increase to 1300 GW by 2020, from 960 GW in 2016, despite official plans to limit that growth to 1100 GW

          That’s a growth rate of 9% a year. In just four years they’re going to install more new coal-fired capacity than has ever existed in the United States. We could just throw a big switch and stop all US electricity production and it wouldn’t matter against relative and absolute Chinese growth rates like that.Report

          • Philip H in reply to George Turner says:

            Not a reason to sit on our collective hands. And considering they will be meeting 27% of their demand next year with alternatives, its naive at best to believe China isn’t shifting away from burning stuff.Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            We’re not sitting on our hands, we’re trying to outsource our relatively efficient power usage to inefficient but cheap Chinese manufacturers because they operate under virtually no environmental regulations.

            For example, California’s high speed rail system was going to be built with Portland cement shipped in from China, which emits more CO2 to do the job, and then ships the cement all the way across the Pacific ocean. That way “we” get to feel like we’re making a difference, while making the problem worse and further enabling China’s expansion.

            Europe has likewise cut emissions by outsources their energy intensive production to China, and then importing the materials like steel and glass that they used to make themselves in really energy efficient European factories.

            This all makes their eco-warrior bonafides look great, while upping CO2 emissions from both production and from shipping heavy products halfway around the world, while harming their manufacturing sector and making them beholden to Chinese intransigence on political and environmental issues. I guess that’s win-win in some playbooks.

            One of the reasons China dominates solar cell manufacturing, driving crony capitalist companies like Solyndra out of business, is that they make over 25 times as much ferro-silicon as the US, a process that uses coal and emits carbon monoxide. They also don’t care what happens to their toxic silicon tetrachloride used in subsequent refining steps, and are happy just emitting chlorine into the atmosphere.

            The recently got caught emitting truly immense amounts of ozone destroying CFC’s from manufacturing plants that were flying under the radar, using it as a blowing agent for making foam more cheaply. The world had thought it virtually eliminated CFC production, but as it turns out we only cut back a bit because China.Report