Category Archives: Michael Hoexter

Sorry, Kyoto Signatories, Emissions Traders, Carbon Taxers, Homo Oeconomicus Won’t Save the Climate – Part 1

By Michael Hoexter

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV]

1. Introduction: Context of Existing Climate Policy

Together, as a world economic system, we are currently on an emissions trajectory to achieve anywhere from 4 to 6 degrees Celsius (7 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) warming by 2100.  Global average temperature increases within this range mean catastrophe for humankind, with sea level rises of at least 3 meters (10 feet) and a vastly more hostile environment for human life and co-evolved species.  Humanity may be, with these emissions levels either bringing about its own extinction as the effects of the resultant warming set in or, at least, so degrading the conditions of life that very few humans will be able to survive.  We will have to reduce the currently escalating rate of increase of emissions to zero and then over a period of two to three decades reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero in order to have a chance of stabilizing the climate and not significantly endanger the welfare of future generations.

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Degrees of Responsibility for Climate Catastrophe

By Michael Hoexter

The climate crisis is an event with such profound personal and broadly social moral implications that many shy away from discussing the crisis itself let alone its ethical aspects.  Via our society’s use of fossil fuels we are, if our combustion of these fuels remains unchecked and in addition we further destroy the carbon fixing capacity of natural systems, destroying almost all wealth, the likelihood of their being future civilizations, and even the possibility for existence for future generations.  To continue ignoring climate change and effective climate action is definitely an après moi le deluge stance, an expression of callousness and self-absorption unsupportable by moral justification.  Morality and ethics is here not an exotic preoccupation of a select group but a basic reality-check:  does what we are doing make sense and promote the general ends to which these activities are devoted?  How do we assess our own agency and role and those of others, in events that are occurring around us and will with very high likelihood exacerbate in the future?

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President Obama, Are You Going to Detonate the World’s Largest “Carbon Bomb”?

By Michael Hoexter

January 31, 2014

Dear President Obama,

I campaigned for you in the primaries and general election of 2008, write about the economics of climate change, work in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy, and am a climate activist in Northern California.  I am writing you to appeal to your highest ethical values and best understanding of scientific reality to deny approval to the Keystone XL pipeline project as well as deny approval to retrofits and new construction of other cross-border pipelines, such as the Alberta Clipper line which will enable more economical exploitation of the Albertan tar sands oil deposits.  The Albertan tar sands were described by the climate scientist James Hansen as the largest “carbon bomb” still untapped by the fossil fuel industry, which if exploited mean “game over” for a climate hospitable to human beings and our civilization.

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Malign Confusion about Growth, Economic Growth or “Degrowth”: Which Way Forward? – Pt 3

By Michael Hoexter

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III]

Variation in Fossil Fuel Dependency Among Developed Countries and Degrowth

As action is required today and in the near future, though, it is reasonable to assume that production will be organized via some form of a capitalist organization of firms and the motivation of economic actors to achieve monetary profits/savings.  In the period of transition to a new energy economy, the government sector and budget will play an enlarged and leading role in financing and regulating the transition.

Targeting net degrowth over a period of years, perhaps a decade, might or might not inhibit the development of the “greener” sectors of the energy and transport economy exactly because these sectors have to play “catch-up” in the area of infrastructure.  The most secure way to build out these sectors in terms of minimizing technology risk, is to deploy renewable energy generators, some on a vast scale, heavy and light electric rail infrastructure, electric road and other grid-tied systems not dependent on advances in battery technology or availability of moderately scarce elements like lithium.  These systems require as construction materials emissions-intensive steel and concrete on a very large scale.  Innovations may cut these emissions substantially though in the foreseeable future not completely.   Various commercial interests are claiming they have a breakthrough on the energy storage or generation side which would diminish the need for these investments but currently there is no certain alternative to the creation of some massive earthworks.

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Malign Confusion about Growth, Economic Growth or “Degrowth”: Which Way Forward? – Pt 2

By Michael Hoexter

[Part I] [Part II] [Part III]

“De-Growth”:  A Serious Proposal

Lately, climate scientists have stepped into the gap where economists have generally feared to tread and have suggested that intentional “de-growth” is the only hope to stop the rising emissions associated with economic development and growth.  No news to anyone who follows developments in climate science, the earth’s climate is facing tipping points beyond which a recognizable human civilization will be almost impossible to maintain due to the expansion of inhospitable or entirely uninhabitable climate zones, destruction of existing human settlements by water and weather, and the destruction of co-evolved species (including food) upon which we depend.  The target of a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius rise in global temperature has been chosen as a difficult-to-achieve but also permissive target, which some think should be 1.5 degrees or less.  One way or the other global warming gas emissions, still on an upward trajectory, need to be reduced and the current upward trend reversed almost immediately.   Climate scientists understandably have been impatient with the response of the social sciences and policymakers to the threats they see present and emerging.

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Malign Confusion about Growth, Economic Growth or “Degrowth”: Which Way Forward? – Pt 1

By Michael Hoexter

[Part I] [ Part II] [Part III]

Speaking on December 4th, President Obama, tacked once again, at least in his rhetoric, this time towards claiming that he is targeting a pro-economic growth, anti-economic inequality policy in his remaining time in office.  Skepticism is warranted for a number of reasons including:  Mr. Obama, along with Congressional Republicans and Democrats, had helped strap the US economy and government to a contractionary fiscal policy and therefore to anti-growth government spending policy for the period 2010-present.  The cleverest piece of the rhetoric in the speech:  “A relentlessly growing deficit of opportunity is a bigger threat to our future than our rapidly shrinking deficit” artfully distracts listeners from Obama’s own role in spurring on deficit hysteria in much of his time in office.  The deficit hysteria he helped foment in turn has endangered exactly the economic opportunities that Mr. Obama now claims to want to encourage.  Mr. Obama is one of the chief engineers of the current framework of acceptable discourse in Washington where almost all political actors and media figures measure the government’s success or failure by how much the deficit has been cut, a metric that in 99 out of 100 economic scenarios will lead to slowing economic growth or economic contraction.

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Loathsome Wall Street Deficit Hysterics: ‘Blame the Old and Sick, Not Us’ – Part 2

By Michael Hoexter

[Part I]

Stated as above, the deficit hysteria-driven austerity campaign would have never gotten off the ground; no one outside the financial industry or its paid minions would choose to design society to facilitate the financial sector’s enrichment at the expense of the rest of the economy.  However, the engineers of this campaign, including Peterson and Rubin, have couched the deficit hysteria campaign as if Social Security and other social spending are simply financial transactions between members of the private sector, generalizing as it were from their experience on Wall Street.  In transactions between members of the private sector, credits and liabilities are assumed to balance.  Debts must be paid in full or the debtor is assigned a social or financial penalty and/or stigma.  This simple morality is supposed to apply to private sector to private sector business transactions (though often for Wall Street and the well-connected this morality is rarely compulsory) and is in most day-to-day interactions a workable rule of thumb for anonymous or largely anonymous business dealings between people.

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Loathsome Wall Street Deficit Hysterics: ‘Blame the Old and Sick, Not Us’ – Part 1

By Michael Hoexter

The austerity push by politicians, political operatives, and pundits of the last 5 years is the height of economic, political, and social perversity and stupidity. Yet, as it still resonates in the halls of power, in the White House and Congress, and in many parts of the media, it still requires explanation and clarification.  Besides inspiring the reduced level of government funding we are now seeing in the US and elsewhere, the deficit hysteria campaign is threatening to undermine what remains of the American social safety net that helped form and support the American middle class over the past 70 years.  In addition, now and in the future, we will need a government able to use the full range of fiscal (i.e. financial) tools to combat climate change, tools which the austerity campaign seeks to lame or sequester for the benefit of a small financial elite.   In the latest turn, deficit hysterics are trying to incite intergenerational warfare between the young and the old, accusing the latter of taking more than their share of public financial resources which the young will need later in life.

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Obama Finally Fights GOP, Affirms a Role for Government, but Renews Threat to Shrink the US Economy

By Michael Hoexter

As the US government shutdown was still in effect and the prospect of a debt default loomed, President Obama held an extraordinary and revealing White House press briefing on October 8th in which he clarified his then position vis-à-vis the shutdown and debt ceiling.  After the shutdown was (temporarily) ended on October 17th, Obama made a fairly extensive public statement airing his views of how he sees economic policy and government’s role. While I have not followed every one of Obama’s press conferences or speeches, in both of these public appearances, Obama went into unusual detail and lengths to expand on his views of politics, government and the economy.  In addition, he marked out his most combative stance vis-à-vis the Republicans to date.  Also in his October 17th statement we had the clearest statement for a number of decades, of some of the benefits of having a government at all from a top American political leader.

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Behind the Crisis in American Governance: Delusions about the Economy Treated As a Matter of Differing Economic “Taste” – Pt. 2/2

By Michael Hoexter

[Part 1] [Part 2]

Why It’s Delusional:  The Critical Dependencies of Capitalism

The mythical market and view of an autonomous, self-managing capitalism is contradicted by the multiple real critical dependencies of our economy.  These critical dependencies, i.e. necessary relationships with other non-capitalist systems/entities, are integral to capitalism rather than optional features.   Dependencies between these social and natural systems are the object of any meaningful economic policy or, for that matter, any government policy with economic effects.  They are “critical” because they are non-optional and therefore not a matter of individuals deciding that for ideological reasons they “don’t like” one or the other of them and we can therefore jettison them, while maintaining something that is recognizably capitalism.  If people in society were to seek to change the economic system to some other system, either by conscious effort or by historical accident, it then may be the case that one or the other of the dependencies listed below may no longer be “critical”.  However no mainstream political actors in this drama are claiming that they are making a break with capitalism; in fact, to the contrary, right-wing Republicans claim to be its sole political defenders.

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