Environment Forum

from Tales from the Trail:

What is the cost of staving off climate change?

April 1, 2009

Republicans in the U.S. Congress say they know how much it is going to cost to save the world from the predicted ravages of climate change. But others say their math is way off.
 
"It would cost every family as much as $3,100 a year in additional energy costs and will drive millions of good-paying American jobs overseas," warned House of Representatives Republican leader John Boehner in response to House Democrats unveiling their climate-change bill on Tuesday.
 
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell offered the same figure. "According to some estimates, this tax could cost every American household up to $3,100 a year just for doing the same things people have always done, like turning on the lights and doing laundry."
 
There's a problem, though. 
 USA/
The Republicans cite a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study as the basis for their cost estimate. But a lead author of that study complained in a letter to Boehner on Wednesday that the calculation is way off.
 
John Reilly, an economist at MIT's Sloan School of Management, said the average annual cost to U.S. families for controlling emissions of carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases is actually $340.
 
In a telephone interview with Reuters, Reilly said updates to his 2007 study that take into account some higher costs could nudge the figure up to around $440 per household per year.
 
Republicans say they simply took a $366 billion revenue estimate from a climate change bill that sputtered in Congress last year and divided by the number of U.S. households to come up with $3,100. The thinking is that the revenues would be collected in pollution permits to industries, a cost that likely could be passed on to consumers.
 
"Taking that number and saying that is the cost is just wrong," Reilly said, adding that many other calculations, including government rebates to consumers, have to be factored in.
 
Don Stewart, a spokesman for McConnell, said there are no assurances yet that consumers would get rebates, which the MIT study assumed, and thus the $3,100 figure is accurate and possibly even higher.
 
"If they (Democrats) change their bill to give money back to consumers, the numbers on cost would change (downward)," Stewart said.
 
Eben Burnham-Snyder, a spokesman for Representative Edward Markey, one of Congress' leading advocates of climate control legislation, saw other possibilities.
    
If a range of energy initiatives in coming legislation is factored in -- electric vehicles, improved transmission and other alternative energy steps -- he said that would "significantly cut down the costs and some say would save people money on energy bills."

Can the Internet save the environment?

March 19, 2009

Could a constant search of the Internet help protect the environment by picking up early hints about pollution or signs of climate change such as desertification, droughts or heatwaves?

High and dry on the California farm

March 13, 2009

At lunchtime in California’s San Joaquin Valley, farmers meet up at Jack’s Prime Time Restaurant, where they can get a good, honest meal … just what one expects from an establishment smack dab in the middle of the most productive farming region in the world.

Is the U.S. West going the way of parched Australia?

March 10, 2009

The drought-induced infernos which ravaged parts of Australia earlier this year may be a harbinger of the water challenges coming to the American West.

Wall Street Journal of Atmospheric Sciences: Reply to Jenkins

March 6, 2009

Stuart Gaffin is a climate researcher at Columbia University and a regular contributor with his blog “Exhausted Earth”; this is a reply to a blog by Holman Jenkins, a Wall Street Journal columnist and member of the WSJ editorial board. Thomson Reuters is not responsible for the content – the views are the author’s alone.

In Peru, the hills come tumbling down

February 17, 2009

 It’s summer in Peru and the mudslides are back, eroding barren hillsides on the western slopes of the Andes. The huaicos, as they are known in Peru, create rivers of mud and carry giant boulders with them that knock down everything in their path, from houses to bridges.

Climate change making U.S. forests quieter?

February 11, 2009

Add quieter U.S. forests, woods, and backyards to the list of changes our lives could face from climate change. A piece by my colleague Deborah Zabarenko explores the movement of American birds northward, sometimes hundreds of miles into Canada.

California climate chief has global warming plan

January 26, 2009

California looks ready to get the go-ahead to regulate greenhouse gases from cars, after President Obama on Monday told the EPA to reconsider a Bush administration refusal. California’s top climate official, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, last week predicted the okay would be ready to go by May. In the attached video, from the interview last week, she talks about California’s grand plans, which are the most aggressive in the United States.

Will Obama see the forest for the trees?

January 20, 2009

A Chinese campaigner has urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to prove his green credentials, asking him to offset the emissions generated by his inauguration by funding a forest in China.