Category Archives: Michael Hoexter

Sorry, Kyoto Signatories, Emissions Traders, Carbon Taxers, Homo Oeconomicus Won’t Save the Climate – Part 3

By Michael Hoexter

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

7.  Outline of An Actually-Effective Climate Policy

Actually-effective climate policy, which might be called a comprehensive climate and energy policy, then has the following components:

1)    National Carbon Mitigation Plan:  National carbon mitigation plans (reduce emissions of greenhouse gas emissions to zero or below) commissioned by individual governments that outline the high-level designs of a zero-net-carbon infrastructure for projected 2050 energy and transportation demand in a particular nation.  Such plans should assume no technological breakthroughs but deployment of existing technologies or foreseeable successor generations of these technologies.  For each nation these plans will look quite different depending on existing infrastructure, natural resources, cultural preferences, and geography.  The plan will include targets for carbon mitigation via land use changes and energy conservation.  Such climate plans should include alternative technological and land-use scenarios which would also estimate the carbon emissions required to build those various scenarios.  A scenario with the highest likelihood of success (defined below) would be chosen first with regular check-points built-in for progress as well as preparation for fall-back scenarios in case of bottlenecks closing down paths and new developments opening up new paths.  Such a plan will need to be built around durable social values, ensuring its resilience to both natural and man-made challenges and changes.  In-built into planning would be a “no-regrets” policy, if in the face of well-tested innovations, substantial changes will yield a better social and environmental outcome.  However, implementation of the plan cannot be shelved or delayed on the basis of speculative claims of improved outcomes by pursuing new and untried innovative technologies.

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Sorry, Kyoto Signatories, Emissions Traders, Carbon Taxers, Homo Oeconomicus Won’t Save the Climate – Part 2

By Michael Hoexter

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

4.  Existing Climate Policy Is Lacking a “Drive Axle” Between Ethical Impulse and Policy Implementation

The decision in the 1990’s to turn over climate policy to market mechanisms, in particular emissions trading, was framed by supposedly “objective” economic assumptions based as outlined above on the idea that people are essentially, Homo oeconomicus, i.e. act in practice as if they do not consider, among other things, the moral dimension of life, are “utility” maximizers and are essentially divorced from their community of context or the community of all human beings more generally.  The Kyoto Protocol and its various progeny including the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS), the Northeastern US Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and California’s AB 32 cap-and-trade system, all “hand off” implementation of the intention to reduce climate change to a constructed carbon permit market, layered above the real markets for goods and services.

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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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