30 June 2010

Ten Myths of Global Warming and the Green Economy

No, this is not a post about what who believes what about science (snore). This is a post about the economic and political assumptions that guide thinking about climate policy.

Andy Revkin helpfully points to a new report (PDF) from the Information Technology and Information Foundation, which seeks to expose 10 myths of global climate change. Here they are:
1) Higher prices on greenhouse gases are enough to drive the transition to a clean economy

Reality: Better price signals are helpful, but not sufficient in significantly reducing GHG.

2) The U.S. can make major contributions to solving climate change on its own

Reality: The energy needs of the rest of the world will result in them producing the lion’s share of GHG; any solution must be one that is able to be adopted by every nation in the absence of regulation or energy taxes.

3) Cap-and-trade is a sustainable global solution

Reality: As Copenhagen showed, a global agreement is not likely, and the only solution that can meet 50 the percent reduction of GHG is making non-carbon alternatives as cheap and functional as fossil fuels.

4) We don’t need innovation; we have all the technology we need

Reality: Current technology is woefully inadequate in reaching the needed 85 percent carbon reduction efficiency.

5) “Insulation is enough” (e.g. energy efficiency will save us)

Reality: Even the most optimistic estimates suggest energy efficiency measures will only provide one-quarter of the levels of GHG reductions that the United States needs to effectively address climate change.

6) Low growth is the answer…just live simply

Reality: Neither living simply nor a massive recession will enable us to obtain the level of reductions required.

7) Information technology (ITIT) is a significant contributor to climate change

Reality: A digital world leads to less energy use, not more.

8) Going green is green (e.g., it makes economic sense to go green)

Reality: With current technology, it often costs money to go green.

9) We are world leaders on the green economy, and it’s ours for the taking

Reality: Other countries got in on the ground floor and are already out pacing us.

10) Foreign green mercantilism is good for solving climate change (and good for the U.S.)

Reality: Foreign mercantilism reduces needed clean energy innovation and hurts U.S. industry and jobs.
This list is remarkably compatible with the arguments I set forth in The Climate Fix. In fact, Chapter 2 is titled, What We Know for Sure, But Just Ain't So. You can see from the imagery above where the inspiration came from for that chapter title ;-) My book has a few others not on this list as well.