The Global Warming Problem

Here is a guest post by LEVI, a regular commenter on this blog.

There’s a lot of rhetoric floating around regarding climate change and the solutions being proposed to address the problem.  I wrote this piece to give readers a starting point from which to consider the problem and the mitigation programs under consideration.

This article is meant to provide a brief discussion of Climate Change and the two major proposals being advanced in the US congress.  It is meant to provide a starting point for those trying to understand the global warming problem and the two proposals under serious consideration as possible solutions.  The intricacies and likely effectiveness of the respective proposals are beyond the scope of this writing

Global warming is a reality and the consensus of every major scientific academy and society in the world is that global warming is being accelerated by human production of Green House Gasses (GHG’s), primarily carbon dioxide.  GHGs are a by-product of fossil fuel combustion (petroleum, coal and natural gas).  These gasses are emitted into the atmosphere and act like a green house for the entire planet, preventing energy from being reflected away from the earth.  This results in rising global temperatures. 

Data models suggest that global temperature may rise as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century.  Although this doesn’t sound like much from the perspective of the thermostat in your living room, such a change will result in major economic, meteorological and environmental effects.  The scientific and economic consensus is that these effects will have a detrimental impact on global economies and many species of life on the planet.  Scientists and world leaders agree that we need to do something to curtail global warming or we may face devastating environmental and economic consequences by the end of this century.   

The two solutions that have been discussed in the US Congress are the imposition of a carbon tax or implementation of a cap & trade system.  A carbon tax would tax the source of the GHG’s at some point in the supply chain.  Presumably, the revenues generated by the tax would be used to develop cleaner energy sources or technologies to “clean up” the emissions associated with fossil fuels.  The carbon tax has the advantage of being relatively simple to administrate.  We know how much GHG’s are emitted by burning particular fuels.  As such, the tax could be imposed anywhere between the well-head or mine and the final consumer.  The problem with a flat carbon tax is that it will be passed on to the consumer and therefore tends to be regressive in that it impacts lower income earners more severely.  Further, a tax does not impose any hard cap on emissions.  As such, an tax on green house gasses may not serve to actually reduce emissions.   

A Cap & Trade system by comparison would set a GHG reduction target for major GHG emitters ( such as power plants and large industries like steel, glass and concrete) to be accomplished by a certain date.  This is the CAP portion of cap & trade.  Emitters would then be required to reduce their emissions by a certain percentage over time. The specific reduction target for each emitter would be established by reference to a baseline.  If the EU (European Union) model is followed, at the beginning of the program, large emitters would be granted a number of carbon credits (equivalent to 1 ton of Co2) equivalent to their baseline GHG production.  Emitters could also earn credits by funding approved carbon reduction projects.  Some examples include developing carbon sinks through re-forestation, sequestration projects or development of non-fossil fuel energy sources.  The idea is to establish a carbon credit trading system that allows emitters to buy or sell carbon credits on an exchange.  This is the Trade portion of cap & trade.  To the extent that emitters fail to meet their Cap, they could be faced with having to pay large fines or having to buy carbon credits on the open market sufficient to bring them into compliance.  Cap & Trade is premised on the idea that the market will reward those who develop clean energy technologies or otherwise reduce their GHG output and penalize those who don’t.                     

The proposed solutions above are discussed in their simplest terms and this article is by no means meant to be a comprehensive discussion of the intricacies or merits of either proposal.  That said, the ultimate conclusion is that both will result in higher energy costs to the consumer.     

The problem we face as a country and a planet is the conflict between doing the right thing by reducing global GHG emissions and coming to terms with fact that doing so will result in higher energy prices and tend to reduce our standard of living, at least in the short term.  As we are all painfully aware, higher energy prices impact virtually every aspect of the economy and result in higher costs of production.  These costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer.  These consequences are not likely to be politically popular with industrial concerns or consumers.  Addressing global warming creates a unique problem from a political perspective as the real impact of our current behaviors may not be realized for years.  Furthermore, the impact of reducing emissions in this country may have little or no impact if other major producers don’t follow suit.  As such, the problem really calls out for a global solution.  Unfortunately, barring an imminent catastrophe, it seems probable that the US and other major producers of GHGs lack the political will to change their behavior sufficiently to have a major impact the problem.  It is our duty as citizens of the world to support our political representatives such that they have courage to enact a meaningful GHG reduction program that can be emulated by and participated in by the rest of the world.

The Global Warming Problem

2 Random thoughts

1. Singing is hard. Some people get the false impression that singing is a wonderful, joyous and carefree form of expression. It can be, but it’s a lot of work getting there. There are a few freaks in the world for whom singing comes very easily. For most of us, it takes intense concentration and a lot of physical energy. That’s why we make the sour lemon face sometimes. ‘Cause we are working our asses off.

2. The GOP are still idiots. I don’t know about this whole “bail out” thing myself. I have no problem with people debating the merits of such actions. I think the true motivation of such an action is to instill confidence in the markets. Everyone involved in the financial industries wants the bailouts. They want government action. This is truly the most likely and best way for the bailout to work: if the markets gain confidence and in 4 years we are sitting on a big, growing economy again. But the GOP are idiots because Obama met with them, gave concessions to them and has been trying to build consensus across the aisle. The response in the House was zero support. Their first vote with a new President who is clearly trying to change the tone is partisan heads up partisan asses on the GOP side. The bill isn’t done. There is plenty of time to improve it in the process. The Republicans, though, to a man, choose to pull out their very small dicks and oppose it. Not one vote for working on it together. Thus, they are idiots, QED.

2 Random thoughts

Norm Coleman is a piece of shit

And you can quote me on that.

He apparently thinks if he claims victory somehow it is his to lose. No, Norm, an automatic recount has been triggered and YOU ARE NOT THE WINNER YET. I personally hope we send you back home to reinvent yourself into a kinder, gentler piece of shit. Maybe you could become a Democrat again? The wind is blowing that way, you know.

Norm Coleman is a piece of shit

Palin's denigration of community organizers

It is ironic as hell that a party that has a goal of shrinking the government and a party that extols the virtues of the private sector as being a more powerful force than government should denigrate the role of community organizers. If the Republicans weren’t hypocrites they would hold up Obama as the exact kind of community leader that drives their small, local government agenda. Instead Sarah Palin mocked Obama as having some country club sort of a career, free from all responsibility.

Here one such community organizer responds.

Look — I think the experience argument is perfectly legitimate for everyone on the Presidential tickets. McCain spent the last 26 years not being a chief executive. Same with Biden. That doesn’t disqualify them in the slightest. Obama has a great resume. Sarah Palin has an impressive resume. Let’s grill them on their record and how it supports their ambitions.

As a side note, the bulk of Palin’s “executive experience” was managing a city with an annual budget around $10 million. To an order of magnitude I manage a budget that big at the company I own. Obama is managing a budget now, for his campaign, that spends more than that in a month. I think being a mayor is good experience and it looks just fine on her resume. But it’s not some trump card.

Palin's denigration of community organizers

Why Iraq Matters

Let’s ask 2 questions:

1. In retrospect, was it a good idea to invade Iraq?
2. Given that we are in Iraq, what is the best course of action?

My answers: 1) Of course not. It represents a complete failure of foreign policy. This is universally agreed upon with the exception of the ultra-wacko-wing of the Right wing. 2) We should transition to an international non-US-led peace-keeping and reconstruction effort and we should completely withdraw troops from Iraq except to the extent that we participate in that effort.

What would McCain say? What would Obama say? What do you say?

‘Cause the thing is — the answers to these questions basically tell you the foreign policy philosophy of the respondent. If you don’t question our actions in Iraq given what we know today, you are a hardcore imperialist hawk. Given what we know today it did not warrant unilateral US military action in Iraq, no question about it. We could have kept playing the diplomacy game just like we do with North Korea and Iran. Only people who want to control the Middle East for strategic control of the oil think Iraq was a good idea.

For #2, given #1, can we admit a mistake? Can America be humble? Can we do the right thing after a mistake?

As for the war on terror, it is separate from the war in Iraq. The sects in Iraq will have to come to some equilibrium. Everyone wants to start putting things back together. The terrorists, to the extent they are there at all, will be demotivated by peace and prosperity. The US military is impeding, not aiding, the transition to self rule. That “the surge is working”, if it is, is proof of this. Peace is proportional to the number of troops on the ground in that way of thinking. It’s untenable. Peace has to be proportional to less troops on the ground if we are to be successful.

McCain is Bush on Iraq. I know he would try his best to solve it his way. We would all hope that President McCain would be a greater leader and inspire greater leadership from his cabinet. But his policy is still basically the same as Bush’s. How can anyone be convinced that the Bush doctrine in Iraq is credible!

No matter how much you disagree with my answers, Bush’s answers are the problem and McCain basically agrees with Bush on Iraq. QED, McCain cannot be trusted with the presidency.

Why Iraq Matters


This is Michael Koppelman’s web site. He puts stuff up here for people to look at. People like you, apparently.  By reading this you just agreed to my Terms of Service. And, believe me, you don’t want to see my Terms of Service.

Actually, let’s get serious and abandon the third person. I’m an entrepreneur, a musician and an astronomer. I live with my lovely little family in Minneapolis, MN.

I blog about whatever I think in a mostly uncensored way. I don’t shy away from my words whatsoever, but realize that they are not meant for every context. You are, in essence, listening in on my private thoughts so cut me some slack. 🙂