by Judith Curry
Beto O’Rourke’s Climate Change Plan deserves a close look.
For those of you not in the U.S., Beto O’Rourke is one of the 20+ candidates vying for the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidential election in 2020.
A number of the candidates have endorsed Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. In recent months, we have also seen the Green Real Deal, the Green No Deal, and the Green Nuclear Deal (each of which is better than the Green New Deal).
Jim Hansen has this to say about the Green New Deal, in an article entitled Climate movement Grandpa says the Green New Deal is ‘nonsense’: in a word, ‘nonsense.’
Unlike the ‘me too-ism’ of the other candidates that have endorsed the Green New Deal, Beto O’Rourke has put forward a comprehensive plan for climate change [link].
Predictably, the right wing is outraged by the 5 trillion dollar price tag over 10 years and zero emissions by 2050. The more interesting response is from the environmental activists, typified by the article in the Rolling Stone:
“Beto claims to support the Green New Deal, but his plan is out of line with the timeline it lays out and the scale of action that scientists say is necessary to take here in the United States to give our generation a livable future”
For the sake of argument, lets say you are moderately concerned about climate change and forward looking in terms of desiring a prosperous 21st century that includes abundant food, energy and water for all and a clean environment.
What might you find in Beto’s proposal that makes sense?
Beto O’Rourke’s proposal for climate change
Read the entire document, it isn’t all that long. It has a lot of recommendations; I’ve selected the ones that make sense in terms of ‘no regrets’ , even if climate change turns out not to be a big problem.
- Reduce methane leakage from existing sources in the oil and natural gas industry for the first time and rapidly phase-out hydrofluorocarbons, the super- polluting greenhouse gas that is up to 9,000 times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide;
JC note: this is basically the climate fast response plan.
- Strengthen the clean air and hazardous waste limits for power plants and fuel economy standards that save consumers money and improve public health, while setting a trajectory to rapidly accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles;
JC note: clean air, water and soil are a priority independent of climate change
- Increase consumer savings through new, modernized, and ambitious appliance- and building-efficiency standards;
JC note: cost-effective efficiency always makes sense.
- Create unprecedented access to the technologies and markets that allow farmers and ranchers to profit from the reductions in greenhouse gas emissions they secure;
JC note: soil carbon sequestration and grazing is very good for the land, increasing productivity for farmers and ranchers
- Leverage $500 billion in annual government procurement to decarbonize across all sectors for the first time, including a new “buy clean” program for steel, glass, and cement;
JC note: I’m not sure about the $500B part, but the issue of steel and cement production (with substantial CO2 emissions) is rarely addressed in a meaningful way in terms of CO2 production. New cost-effective technologies for producing steel and cement would be a good thing.
- Set a first-ever, net-zero emissions by 2030 carbon budget for federal lands, stopping new fossil fuel leases, changing royalties to reflect climate costs, and accelerating renewables development and forestation;
JC note: apart from the zero emissions by 2030, rational policies for federal lands is very much needed.
- Protect our most wild, beautiful, and biodiverse places for generations to come — including more of the Arctic and of our sensitive landscapes and seascapes than ever before — and establish National Parks and Monuments that more fully tell our American story.
JC note: this sort of thing used to define ‘environmentalism.’ Now environmentalism is all about climate change, and it is ok to kill bald eagles with wind turbines.
- Innovation that will lead to pioneering solutions in energy, water, agriculture, industry, and mobility and to scientific discovery that makes us more safe and secure. $250 billion in direct resources that will catalyze follow-on private investment, creation of new businesses, and discovery of new science:
JC note: hard to argue against this one.
- 20 percent of the total investment will go to the climate science needed to understand the changes to our oceans and our atmosphere; avoid preventable losses and catastrophic outcomes; and protect public safety and national security.
JC note: I don’t think an increase in climate science funding is needed (some redirection of funding would be appropriate IMO, away from climate modeling). The other points are important.
- Rigorously measuring our progress, scaling what works and scrapping what does not;
- Enforcing our laws to hold polluters accountable, including for their historical actions or crimes;
- Advancing consumer choice and market competition in electricity and transportation;
- Supporting ecosystems, conservation, and biodiversity;
JC note: hard to argue against any of these.
- Increasing by ten-fold the spending on pre-disaster mitigation grants that save $6 for every $1 invested;
- Changing the law to make sure that we build back stronger after every disaster, rather than spend recovery dollars in ways that leave communities vulnerable to the next fire, flood, drought or hurricane;
- Supporting efforts to incentivize private-sector investment in evidence-based, risk reduction measures;
- Recognizing the value of well-managed ecosystems to reduce and defend against climate-related risks;
- Expanding our federal crop insurance program to cover additional risks and offer more comprehensive solutions to support farmers and ranchers;
- Investing in the climate readiness and resilience of our first responders; and
- Bolstering the security of our military bases, both at home and around the world, and supporting our soldiers with technologies that reduce the need to rely on high-risk energy and water supply.
JC notes: each of these is much needed, independent of manmade climate change.
Cutting off their nose to spite their face
Basically, what Beto has done is widen the scope of technology and policy options that are being discussed, rather than focus on a timeline for reducing energy and transportation emissions to zero. This is a move in the right direction in terms
As pointed out in my recent Congressional Testimony, there are many low-regrets actions that make a lot of sense independent of whether manmade climate change turns out to be a big or a non problem. In principle people across the political spectrum should be able to agree on at least some of these.
However, it looks like Beto’s proposal, which is an order of magnitude better than the Green New Deal, will not catch fire with the Democrats. Ignoring a more meaningful and politically viable proposal in preference for the ‘nonsensical’ Green New Deal.
The best way to insure no action on climate change is to insist on the Green New Deal, and a 12-year time table. Miles Allen has written a good essay: Why protesters should be wary of 12 years to climate breakdown rhetoric.