The Morning Measure: The Climate Conundrum

Nov 18, 2010


The facts on the table are as such: most scientists believe that the earth’s climate is changing and that humanity’s actions are the cause of this change. Even accepting that at least for this post there are still difficult hurdles to cross before effective policies can be put in place to prevent (or at least reduce) the consequences of climate change.

The main barrier especially during an economic downturn is cost. An immediate nationwide transition to clean energy sources would likely be very expensive. Although there are arguments to be made that renewable energy will be a strong growth sector (and prevent larger costs of adaptation) in the long-term people are hurting now. At the same time most reports indicate that now (or even yesterday) is exactly when we need to be taking action.

The second primary hurdle is availability. Quite simply we have access (domestically or through trade) to a lot of non-renewable sources of energy at the moment. This is somewhat related to the first in that this will change in the long-term (by the inherent fact that these sources are non-renewable) though the short-term prospects are not positive.

These two factors – cost and availability – make the climate issue very politically fraught despite the scientific consensus. RF has set ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gases – cutting emissions 80 percent by 2050 – and laid out some strategies for achieving these reductions (cutting VMT adopting green building standards concentrating development in activity centers promoting transit etc.). Keeping in mind the two hurdles mentioned above what are some additional policies that can help the region make the sharp cuts in emissions necessary to meet our goals?

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