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Friday, March 29, 2013

The President's Science Advisors, the IMF, and climate challenges

As reported here, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) has authored an important letter outlining six key recommendations for mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.  They are:

  1. focus on national preparedness for climate change;
  2. continue efforts to decarbonize the economy, especially the electricity sector; this includes continuing to expand environmentally responsible shale gas production and accelerating effort to deploy carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
  3. level the playing field for clean-energy and energy-efficiency technologies by removing regulatory obstacles, addressing market failures, adjusting tax policies, and providing appropriate "time-limited" subsidies for clean energy;
  4. sustain research on next-generation clean-energy technologies and remove obstacles for their eventual deployment;
  5. take additional steps to establish U.S. leadership on climate change internationally; and
  6. conduct an initial Quadrennial Energy Review (QER)

This is an ambitious - but essential - agenda.  To say that each of the items will require leadership, hard political work, and investment is a gross understatement. Take, for example, the recommendation to address market failures and adjusting tax policies. 

The magnitude of the political and economic challenge of reforming our badly - fatally? - flawed energy-related policies was revealed this week in a study released by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF study found that between directly lowered prices, tax breaks, and the failure to properly price carbon, the world subsidized fossil fuel use by over $1.9 trillion in 2011 — or eight percent of global government revenues.  And the biggest offender was by far the United States, subsidizing fossil fuels to the tune of $502 billion in that year alone.

The challenges are immense.  So are the devastating consequences of failing to meet them. What will we do?





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