Category Archives: Michael Hoexter

Naomi Klein’s “Hard-Money” Ideas Undermine Her Laudable Climate Action Goals

By Michael Hoexter

Book Review:
Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate

This is the first of at least two book reviews that I am planning to write about Naomi Klein’s important and occasionally frustrating, quite-large book (466 page) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (which I will abbreviate as TCE). The reasons for more than one book review are several. TCE contains a number of important ideas and insights that are not tightly tied together in one argument. Naomi Klein happens to be one of the more politically-savvy and widely-read public intellectuals currently writing about social, political, and economic issues and TCE dives into a central complex of issues surrounding the gravest and most massive challenge we face as a species, the fight against human-caused climate change. Her previous work in Shock Doctrine and related articles, is “must-read” if you want to understand the predatory nature of neoliberal elites, a feature of our current age which she at least popularized, if not discovered. Naomi Klein is also a leading activist on this and other issues, including her work with 350.org and help in co-planning the People’s Climate March in September of this year. The book is varied in content and focus, therefore the plan to write more than one review of the book, rather than write one very long one.

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What are the Motive Forces for Effective Climate Action?

By Michael Hoexter

If you might want or need something to happen very badly or urgently that was debatably in your power to influence or effect, the chief rational approach you might choose would be to attempt to understand what are the causal forces or conditions that lead that thing to happen.  The alternatives are forms of magical thinking or prayer to assumed-to-be more powerful, perhaps supernatural, beings.   As the domain of effective and timely action on climate is largely within the domain of human beings’ ability to choose and influence others’ choices and such action is considered by increasing numbers of people to be highly desirable, one would think that substantial groups of social scientists would be making their best efforts to figure out how to “make climate action happen”.   Even if you were not an intense partisan of a particular outcome, as the scenario above suggests, if you were just a scientist or seeker of knowledge of some type, you would also want to understand motive forces, so as to predict future outcomes and make your scientific knowledge of some use to human beings.  This is the study of dynamics, how things change over time.

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Effective Climate Action is a Building Project

By Michael Hoexter

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To address the dependence of our societies on fossil fuels will be an enormous undertaking, despite the recent re-appearance of often well-meaning analyses and reports emphasizing how comparatively easy and inexpensive it will be.  The physical dimensions of this still mostly-future undertaking are often downplayed or misunderstood.  Taken together, effective climate action will be made up of a series of interacting, at points interwoven, simultaneous, sometimes very large, building projects to achieve the outcomes we desire and require.  As the outcome, the stabilization of the global climate, is a unitary outcome, these building projects can also be understood for some purposes as a single immense building project. As in all building or manufacturing projects, many costs will be incurred upfront for some immediate benefits in terms of employment and the sales of materials but many more of the benefits will be enjoyed years and decades down the road.  Furthermore. those additional benefits associated with climate change will be very great and enjoyed still further down the road with an indeterminate but large monetary valuation.

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We Require Less a “Climate Freeze” More a Great “Climate Activation”

By Michael Hoexter

The psychiatrist and social commentator, Robert Jay Lifton had a far reaching and oddly hopeful op-ed in the New York Times, in which he comments upon a “climate swerve” in public opinion. While the United States still leads the world in climate denial and Republicans are seemingly still united around denying the human contribution to climate destabilization, Lifton points out that recent polls have shown that:

“Americans’ certainty that the earth is warming has increased over the past three years”

And

“those who think global warming is not happening have become substantially less sure of their position”

Lifton outlines the social psychology of the moment:

“Falsification and denial, while still all too extensive, have come to require more defensive psychic energy and political chicanery”

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A New Demand for the US Climate Movement: One Million (Frequent) Electric Buses with Wifi plus Protected Bikeways, “Everywhere”

By Michael Hoexter

The US climate movement, in which I am active, has not to date been effective enough in getting serious climate action on the agenda of government leaders, especially on the federal level. This weakness is in part shared with the international climate movement more generally, though the level of climate denial both among political elites and among the general population in the US is unmatched in the world. With that denial comes resistance to climate action, though for a variety of reasons, no actions commensurate to the climate challenge have really been attempted by governments in the world, whatever the local level of resistance offered.

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Democratizing Government Spending in an Era of Climate Change: Decision Criteria and Spending Priority Lists – Pt. 2

By Michael Hoexter

General Goals and Decision Criteria for Government Fiscal Policy

In the era of climate change, a worldwide social and economic disaster, the valuation of real resources, especially atmospheric resources and energy resources must change in order for human civilization to survive.  Government fiscal policy is a critical element of that change in valuation, both on the spending and the taxation side.  In addition, in a planning role, government becoming the architect or co-architect of new energy, transportation and land use realities.  As I have written before, making atmospheric resources or the permission to use them, a tradable commodity does not adequately and properly engage our most powerful instrument in addressing climate change and adaptation to climate change, the institutions and fiscal policy of government itself.  However, government leaders are human beings with interests and varying ethical commitments to the common good of their people and humanity in general.  In order to hold them accountable in their spending and taxation decisions it will help to make a part of public political discourse those criteria by which they make spending and taxation decisions.  These public criteria can in turn be modified by political discussion as well as scientific measurement of the results of those policies, which then can either be refined or discarded depending on their outcomes.

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Democratizing Government Spending in an Era of Climate Change: Decision Criteria and Spending Priority Lists – Pt 1

By Michael Hoexter

The surprise Republican primary victory of libertarian economic fantasist and teacher of economics Prof. David Brat in Virginia’s conservative 7th District has highlighted a point of agreement between the progressive left and far right/libertarians like Brat: both say they are against “crony capitalism”.  While Brat came across to voters and most of the press as a “true believer” in a religiously-tinged libertarian-style economics that decries subsidies and state involvement in industry, the actual sordid history of libertarianism is that it has functioned as an effective cover for corporate lobbying and government’s regulatory and economic support of the interests of the wealthy and large corporations, i.e. crony capitalism. “Libertarianism,” largely a politicized strain of the social philosophy called Austrian economics, was invented after WWII as a lobbying instrument for the interests of corporations like General Motors, at the time amply boosted by federal government spending during the war yet apparently wanting to, in the public eye, disassociate itself from that help after the war.

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Required: A Complete Pivot on Climate and Energy

By Michael Hoexter

With the release of Obama’s much heralded EPA regulations on coal fired power plants we are encountering once again the ongoing tragedy of low expectations with regard to climate action.  While compared to other Presidents, and there have been only three in the era of pressure for climate action, Obama’s proposal that coal-fired power plants reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 30% from 2005 levels by 2030 is the most ambitious climate rule to be implemented, even the relative journalistic “friend” of the Obama Administration, Ezra Klein pointed out, this is a less ambitious path to cut carbon than that proposed by the Republican McCain/Palin candidacy in 2008.   Of course, there is a difference between campaign proposals and a President setting into motion energy and climate regulations but the degree to which expectations have been lowered even in the course of 6 years (despite the appearance of obvious changes in the climate itself) is frightening.  In the best case scenario, the ruling establishes a precedent that may be reinforced in the future.

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Explaining the Conflict between Obama’s Climate Policy and Obama’s Energy Policy – Pt. 2

By  Michael Hoexter

Explanation 5: Washington Consensus Climate Policy Proposals are Politically Hard to Explain, Disproportionate to the Challenge, and Underestimate Government’s Role

The frustration with Obama of many in the established green movement revolves around the assumption that if he is serious about climate, why then, they think, doesn’t Obama simply adopt or fight for their favored policy instruments or revive a version of the 2009 Waxman-Markey bill. There is an unfortunately somewhat naive and unfounded consensus among parts of the Democratic Party and in established green groups that serious climate action involves a policy centered around something like the Kyoto Protocol cap and trade system or a carbon tax. A very large body of discourse in the established climate policy milieu contains advocacy and analysis about why the US has not become a party to the Kyoto process. Additionally, there is, confusingly for outsiders, a rift between those who favor a carbon tax/fee versus those who favor an emissions trading instrument (cap and trade). While U.S. politicians, especially the reality-challenged Republican Party, are currently shying away from any meaningful climate policy for largely the wrong reasons, climate policy is not the well-defined choice and proven path that green groups and many left-of-center Democrats would like politicians and the public to believe that it is.

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Explaining the Conflict between Obama’s Climate Policy and Obama’s Energy Policy – Pt. 1

By Michael Hoexter

With the Obama Administration recently publishing a frightening report on the effects of climate change, the National Climate Assessment 2014, contradictions in Obama’s orientation on climate and energy are placed in higher relief.  As part of the publication of the NCA2014, Obama took the time to meet with regional weathermen to discuss the contents of the report.   Apparently, Obama did not think or did not want the public to think of him and his Administration as lightly skimming over the dire warnings in the report as an afterthought.

In the meantime, we have experienced a pivotal moment in the discovery of the present and future effects of climate change, with current ice melting patterns ensuring with a high degree of certainty that the West Antarctic Ice shelf will detach and deliver anywhere from 1 to 3 meters rise in sea levels over a 200 to 500 year period or perhaps sooner.  So, talk of rising seas is, to those who heed the science, given much greater weight.  No one has worked out the policy implications of this still relatively distant future event, except that adaptation to climate change in or migration from the world’s very populous low-lying areas becomes a more concrete reality.

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