A Rollback of Policies to Limit Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon Would Seriously Undermine the Gobal Effort to Mitigate Climate Change

Certified Zero Deforestation: An Effective Response to a Global Threat

“With most of the Amazon under his control, few national leaders will have more power to harm or help the world’s fight against climate change than Bolsonaro.”                                               Climate Home News (Oct 29, 2018)

In 2004, at the peak of deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon, 27,772 square kilometers of forests were cleared. Emissions from the narrow sector of land use change and forestry in Brazil accounted for 2.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions at the height of deforestation. The total area of the Amazon has declined by 19% since the beginnings of mass deforestation in the 1970s.1

Since 2004, national programs to preserve the Brazilian Amazon have led to a 76% drop in deforestation rates and cut emissions from land use change and forestry by 72%.2 Clearly, efforts to curtail deforestation in Brazil have been successful and Brazil is a world leader in advancing programs of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). This work is ongoing and REDD programs in the Amazon and around the world must continue to advance.

Forested areas in South America contain 33% of the global total of forest sequestered carbon.3 Rainforests have by far the highest density of carbon stock per unit of land area. Ultimately, climate change mitigation will require a transition from deforestation to programs of reforestation and afforestation in the Amazon and other areas on earth. Re-establishing and even extending the original area of the Amazon rainforest is vitally important to transition global forests from a source of emissions to net carbon dioxide withdrawal. Atmospheric carbon dioxide withdrawal via natural systems is viewed as an absolute requirement if future surface warming is to be limited to well below 2°C.

There are valid arguments that advanced economies have not stepped up with adequate levels of support for REDD programs in Brazil and other tropical rainforest countries. Norway has committed $1 billion to Amazon Fund based on Brazil achieving targets for emissions reduction from the forestry sector.4 REDD programs are among the most-cost effective avenues of emissions reductions and there are mechanisms under the Paris agreement that would facilitate the flow of carbon offsets in exchange for investment into REDD programs that achieve verified emissions curtailments.

Brazil is not dependent upon an expansion of pasturelands into the Amazon for continued success as a producer of agriculture commodities. Pastureland recovery, restoration of agricultural lands and integrated systems of livestock-crop-forest land use are examples of programs that can increase the density of agriculture productivity and cut greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining forested areas.5

This brings us to the recent election of Jair Bolsonaro as the President of Brazil. Mr. Bolsonaro has threatened to rollback important climate, environmental and social polices in Brazil that have served to limit deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon.6 The election of Mr. Bolsonaro may well be among the more urgent items on the global agenda for combating climate. Mr. Bolsonaro has promised to eliminate the Ministry of the Environment which is responsible for policing illegal deforestation and logging activities in the Amazon and transfer these responsibilities to the Ministry of Agriculture.6 The Ministry of Agriculture is largely controlled by the “Beef Caucus” which consists of a group of politicians that are opposed to land conservation measures and advocate for an expansion of agricultural lands.6 In essence, under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, the Amazon could be re-opened for exploitation and resource extraction without consequence. Historically pastureland expansion has accounted for 80% of deforestation in the Amazon.7 A “wild-west” of unrestricted mining and logging operations along with an expansion of pastureland could re-establish dangerous rates of deforestation.

Mismanagement of the Amazon by the Brazil government will have global consequences and will contribute to a future whereby the extreme costs and hardships of unmitigated climate damage will be imposed on all nations. With an increase in the global level of ambition to combat climate change comes a responsibility for advanced economies to contribute to the efforts of developing countries to limit deforestation and degradation of forests. The international community is also obliged to impose economic and political pressure on rogue nations intent on following practices that would exploit and diminish vital natural ecosystems.

Brazil’s economy is highly dependent upon on the export of commodities with the majority of products destined for China. A coordinated international effort supported by China could react to evidence of deforestation by imposing sanctions and tariffs designed to impact the Brazilian economy. The international community could demand that Brazil implement a framework of risk-based due diligence applied to the agriculture supply chain. Measures to trace supply chains, such as electronic tagging of cows at birth, could identify products coming from practices that are damaging and unsustainable.8 The private sector, both domestically and internationally, could suspend contracts with suppliers of beef raised on deforested lands. Consumers could demand that Brazilian products are certified as “zero deforestation”.

Within advanced economies, there is little appetite for products associated with deforestation or exploitation of the Amazon. A quick international response to the Mr. Bolsonaro’s stated intensions to deregulate land use would send a strong message that these actions would be detrimental to the Brazilian economy. Mr. Bolsonaro and members of the “Beef Caucus” may not understand climate change and the impacts of unregulated deforestation. These politicians apparently view the Amazon as a resource that can be exploited for short-term profits. The message must be sent by governments, and by private sector companies and consumers (domestically and internationally) that it will be highly unprofitable to roll back policies that protect the Amazon.

References
1. https://rainforests.mongabay.com/amazon/deforestation_calculations.html
2. http://cait.wri.org/
3. https://www.uncclearn.org/sites/default/files/inventory/a-i4793e.pdf
4. ttps://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/10438_Brazil_national_and_state_REDD_report.pdf
5. https://ccafs.cgiar.org/bigfacts/#theme=evidence-of-success&subtheme=policiesprograms&casestudy=policiesprogramsCs1
6. http://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/10/08/bolsonaro-made-grim-threats-amazon-people/
7. https://news.mongabay.com/2009/01/beef-drives-80-of-amazon-deforestation/
8. https://news.mongabay.com/2018/11/deforestation-linked-brazilian-beef-still-flowing-into-international-markets-report/

Prairie Resilience: A Token Gesture of a Climate Action Plan

After a summer of raging wildfires, air quality alerts and scorching temperatures across much of Canada, the government of Saskatchewan has added further details to what is now a long-delayed plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The announcement by Environment Minister Dustin Duncan of a flexible, hybrid carbon pricing/emissions allowance trading system provides some measure of control over emissions from heavy industry. However, these industries account for only 10% of provincial emissions and, if successful, the system would result in about a 1% cut in provincial emissions.

With this announcement, the government has confirmed that Prairie Resilience: A Made in Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy will go forward. Within the plan is a commitment to reduce methane emissions from upstream oil and gas sector activities by 40%. In addition, grid penetration by renewables (wind, solar and hydro) will increase such that these zero emissions energy sources will account for 50% of power production by 2030.

The government of Saskatchewan champions the role of innovation in combatting climate change. Without doubt, Saskatchewan has made an important contribution in advancing commercial scale carbon capture and storage technology. CCS will be applied to various industrial processes as economies progressively decarbonize over the next 40 years. However, the application of CCS to coal-fired power plants is misplaced and this option for the production of electricity is unlikely to compete with 0 emissions alternatives. The $1.2 billion investment in CCS at Boundary Dam will cut provincial emissions by only 0.7% annually. Due to cost considerations, plans to replicate CCS at other coal-fired facilities in the province have been shelved.

In assessing provincial emissions, the government points to the contribution of agricultural soils. Indeed, zero-till farming practices in Saskatchewan have transitioned agricultural soils from a source of emissions to active withdrawal of atmospheric carbon dioxide. In 2015, 11.4 million tonnes of CO2 were sequestered by the farmlands in Saskatchewan. However, this soil uptake of carbon balances emissions that took place over many decades of earlier farming practices. Further, soil carbon sinks were in place by 2005 and must be included in calculating baseline emissions if they are to be used in developing targets for controlling future emissions.

Current annual emissions in Saskatchewan, approximate 67 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per person. This level of per capita emissions is over 3-fold greater than the national average and among the highest in the world. Extensive agriculture and oil and gas sector activities along with a continued reliance on coal-fired power plants are the major contributors to the high rates of emissions from Saskatchewan. In the absence of climate policies, the government estimates that annual emissions would increase from 69 to 81 million tonnes between 2005 and 2030. With the implementation of Saskatchewan’s climate action plan, projections for year 2030 emissions are similar to emissions on record for the 2005 and Saskatchewan would fall well short of regional obligations to contribute to the national efforts to combat climate change. Under the Paris agreement, Canada has committed to cut year 2030 emissions by at least 30% relative to emissions on record for 2005.

Saskatchewan has an opportunity to implement a more ambitious climate action plan. In contrast to the government’s stated opinion, the majority of economists and a growing list of large corporations, including the conventional energy giants Shell, ExxonMobil and BP, are strong proponents of carbon pricing mechanisms. By putting a price on greenhouse gas pollution, consumers and industry are incentivised to change practices to more efficient, lower cost, lower emissions options.

BC’s revenue neutral carbon fee was initiated in 2008. Relative to the 2005 baseline, gasoline sales per person in BC have dropped by 10% and emissions have declined by 5%. Carbon fee revenues are recycled back into the economy via cuts in other taxes such that the net effect of the tax shift has been beneficial to tax payers. BC’s GDP has grown by 21% since 2005 and the carbon tax has had little to no discernible effect on the economic performance. Over the same time period, in the absence of meaningful climate policies, per person gasoline sales in Saskatchewan have increased by 16% and provincial emission went up 10%.

Saskatchewan could commit to a phase out of coal-fired power plants by 2030 and could implement an economy-wide carbon pricing system. A gradual transition to a low carbon economy could be managed by promoting growth in new industries. Saskatchewan’s long history of innovation in agriculture should invaluable given the importance of land use, efficient food production and the role of biomass in a decarbonized future.

Committing to an ambitious climate action plan that transitions consumer and industry practices to low carbon alternatives requires visionary political leadership that thinks beyond the constraints of short-term electoral cycles and the temporary inconvenience of higher fossil fuel prices. Strong leadership is required if we are to avoid imposing the severe costs and damages of unchecked climate change on future generations.

Data sources: Statistics Canada, Canada’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Climate Leadership Council, Government of Saskatchewan White Paper on Climate Change, and Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy.

Carbon Pricing in BC – It Works: The How and Why this is Important to Canada’s Efforts to Combat Climate Change

The searing temperatures across much of Canada and raging wildfires in BC that characterized the summer of 2018 could be a harbinger of the upcoming heated political debate on the role of carbon pricing within national and provincial climate action plans. The issue of implementation of the Liberal government’s Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change may well emerge as the central issue in next year’s federal election.

In Canada, the majority of politicians on the right of the political spectrum oppose carbon pricing. Carbon taxes and emissions trading systems are often criticized as costly and ineffective in reducing emissions. Opponents of carbon pricing raise concerns that an increase in the costs of emissions intensive fuels and practices will place an unfair burden on industry and consumers and that industry and jobs will be motivated to relocate to more “business friendly” jurisdictions without carbon pricing.

This brings us to the real-world experience with carbon pricing in British Columbia. In 2008, BC introduced North America’s first broad based carbon tax. The tax applies to fossil fuel purchase and use and covers approximately 70% of provincial emissions. As of April 1st, 2018, BC’s carbon tax is $35 per tonne of CO2. This price will increase at annual increments of $5 arriving at $50 per tonne by 2021. BC’s carbon tax is revenue neutral and is offset by cuts in other taxes. At the current level, the carbon tax adds ¢7.78 per litre to the cost of gasoline and ¢8.95 per litre to the cost of diesel fuel. Since inception of the carbon tax, consumption of all fuels has declined by 17.4% per capita and declining combustion of fossil fuels has been a major contributor to the 5% curtailment of provincial greenhouse gas emissions since 2007. In 2016, per capita greenhouse gas emissions in BC were 12.6 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide per person. This rate of emissions was 35% below the national average. Imposition of a carbon tax in BC has had little, if any, discernible effect on economic performance. BC’s GDP increased by 21% between 2007 and 2016 and this rate of economic growth exceeded the national rate by nearly 6%. Overall, cuts to income and other taxes were such that the aggregate effect of the revenue neutral carbon tax has been a net benefit to tax payers in BC.

The BC experiment with carbon pricing is now in its 10th year and performance data from 2017 and 2018 will continue to emerge. The real-world experience with revenue neutral carbon pricing in BC supports the models developed by economists and other experts in climate policy as to the efficacy and cost effectiveness of carbon pricing.

Over the past 10 years a much different scenario of fuel use and greenhouse gas pollution has transpired in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan has yet to enact meaningful climate change legislation and is stridently opposed to the implementation of economy wide carbon pricing. Since 2007, greenhouse gas emissions from Saskatchewan have increased by 8.5% and net sales of gasoline has gone up by nearly 30%. The per capita annual rate of greenhouse gas emissions in Saskatchewan is among highest in the world and at 67 tonnes per person is over 5-fold greater than the rate of emissions from BC. Emissions from an expanded fleet of light duty trucks in the province has increased by nearly 50% over the last 10 years.

Zero and very low emissions alternatives to carbon intensive fossil fuel use are becoming increasingly cost-competitive. Technical advances in the transportation sector are such that electric vehicles are beginning to approach cost parity with conventional internal combustion vehicles. Over the next 5 years, options for electric vehicles will expand to include pickup trucks and heavy-duty road vehicles. Electrification of road vehicles in conjunction with decarbonization of the electricity supply sector are core components of pathways leading to a greater than 80% cut in emissions within advanced economies by mid-century. Well designed climate action plans contain carbon pricing and other policies that function to accelerate these transitions.

Ultimately, Canada must target a 30-40% cut in emissions by 2030, progressing to deep decarbonization by mid-century if we are to meet our regional obligations under the Paris Agreement. During this transition, new economic opportunities will evolve as energy use shifts away from fossil fuels to low and zero emissions alternatives. Job opportunities and economic growth in emerging sectors are projected to offset and may well exceed the inevitable downturn in traditional energy sectors.

The Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is designed as a stop gap measure that will be imposed on provinces that fail to implement effective climate action plans. In the absence of economy-wide carbon pricing mechanisms, these plans are dependent on a complex web of non-market policies that are unlikely to adequately drive changes in consumer and industrial practices to lower emissions options. An opposition to carbon pricing mechanisms is an opposition to meeting Canada’s international obligation under the Paris Agreement. Canada can either commit to a pathway of progressive decarbonization or continue to follow business as usual practices and fail to contribute to the global effort to avoid the extreme costs and hardships of unmitigated climate change. Future generations may well look back on the 2019 federal election as a defining point for the nation.

Data sources:
1. Statistics Canada. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/type/data
2. Government of British Colombia. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/environment/climate-change/planning-and action/carbon-tax.

 

The Root Cause of Canada’s Upcoming “War on Carbon Pricing” is a Failure of Leadership Within the Governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario

The recent show of solidarity between Ontario premier Doug Ford and Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe in opposing the federal government’s carbon pricing backstop provision within the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change can only be ascribed to either ignorance as to the design of effective climate action plans or outright climate change denial.

Mr. Moe and Mr. Ford are of the opinion, that carbon pricing is costly and ineffective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This position flies against the conclusions and recommendations of climate economists, leading climate policy organizations, and a growing number of major corporations. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the World Bank are strong proponents of carbon pricing. On the business side, the traditional energy giants, Shell and BP, are among the corporate founders of the Climate Leadership Council. CLC advocates for immediate imposition of a carbon levy of $40 US per tonne of CO2 that would be applied to fossil fuels at the mine, wellhead or port of entry.

Real world experience with the longest serving carbon pricing systems allows for an assessment of costs and benefits. In California, between 2000 and 2016, greenhouse gas emissions declined by 9% while GDP grew by 37%. California hit the 2020 target for emissions reduction four years ahead of schedule and is well positioned to achieve at least a 40% cut by 2030. California’s cap and trade system covers 85% of emissions and has been instrumental in incentivizing a progressive transition to lower emissions options. Greenhouse gas emissions from the aggregate of countries of the European Union have declined by 19% relative to emissions on record for the year 1990 and these substantial cuts were accomplished without significant economic costs. The long-standing EU cap and trade system covers 45% of total emissions and has been an important economic driver of declining emissions. BC’s revenue-neutral carbon tax was introduced in 2008 and currently sits at $30 per tonne of CO2. A detailed study by economists at Duke University and the University of Ottawa concluded that the tax has lead to a 5-15% cut in emissions relative to projections in the absence of carbon pricing. The study concluded that reducing emissions in BC through carbon taxation had a “negligible effect on aggregate economic performance”.

Economy-wide carbon pricing mechanisms are the core components of effective climate action plans. By establishing a price on pollution, innovation is incentivized, as are changes in consumer and industrial practice to lower cost, lower emissions options. In the absence of carbon pricing, governments are faced with the challenge of attempting to pick winners and losers in policy development. The net result in a complex web of policies that come at a higher cost by ignoring the efficiencies of the market place.

The, now defunct, cap and trade system in Ontario was linked to the California system and was the core component of what would have been a cost-effective climate action plan designed to achieve a 37% cut in emissions by 2030. Mr. Ford’s reckless cancellation of the cap and trade system along with other components of the Ontario’s climate action plan has transpired without any indications of how and when these policies could be replaced.

In Saskatchewan, the government has released a document that describes a potential climate action plan. In “Prairie Resilience: A Made-in-Saskatchewan Climate Change Strategy”, a hybrid carbon pricing/trading system of emissions allowances applied to some industries is discussed; however, there is no mention of emissions reductions that could be achieved through implementation of the system. The document describes policies to increase the use of renewable energy sources and to cut methane emissions from upstream oil and gas sector activities by 40-45% as required to comply with federal regulations. Together, these measures are projected to cut emissions by 11 million tonnes per year. However, the plan does not contain provisions for economy wide carbon pricing, no time lines for the shut down of coal power plants are provided, and there is no mention of targets to cut total emissions from the province. Using the government’s own estimates, with implementation of the electricity and oil and gas sector policies, net emissions for the year 2030 would be similar to emissions on record for 2005. Based on available information, Saskatchewan’s proposed climate action plan would not begin to approach any concept of a fair share regional contribution to the national effort.

Nationally, Canada has committed to achieving a 30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Realistically, emissions reduction would not be uniform across the country. In the near term, demand for traditional fossil fuel products will continue and per capita emissions from the oil and gas rich provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta will grossly exceed that of other provinces. Under a successful Canadian climate action plan that extends to 2030, the excess in emissions from Saskatchewan and Alberta would be balanced by deeper cuts in other provinces. In no way does this absolve Saskatchewan’s responsibility to follow the lead of Alberta and implement an effective climate action plan that includes economy-wide carbon pricing.

To be clear, carbon pricing will lead to higher costs for emissions intensive use of fossil fuel products including gasoline. Emissions are costly and should be priced as such. However, these costs can be largely offset by revenue recycling through cuts in other taxes or rebates to consumers, industry and farmers.

Underneath the surface of grandstanding and rhetoric against carbon pricing, is a preference for inaction and preservation of business as usual practices. Legal opinion suggests that Saskatchewan’s court case against the federal carbon price is unlikely to succeed. The real game on the part of the Saskatchewan and Ontario governments is to prolong inaction on climate change and extend the “war on carbon pricing” into the timeframe of the next federal election. This sad state-of-affairs can only be described as a failure in political leadership to recognize the reality of climate change and the need to implement significant measures to curtail emissions such that the current generation of decision makers does not impose the extreme costs and hardships of severe climate damage on future generations.

At a time when all levels of government should be working together to develop effective climate action plans, the governments of Saskatchewan and Ontario have chosen to follow an alternate, confrontational agenda. This agenda may well undermine Canada’s ability to meet our international obligations under the Paris agreement.

Burn the Money: The Grossly Misleading Saskatchewan Government Report on the Cost of a Carbon Tax

Recently, the Government of Saskatchewan in conjunction with the Institute for Energy, Environment and Sustainable Communities at the University of Regina released a grossly misleading, seriously flawed study on the impact of implementing a carbon tax on the provincial economy. Based on this report, the government has attempted to justify it’s position that carbon pricing in Saskatchewan would be overly costly while accomplishing little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These conclusions contrast the vast body of serious academic studies and the accumulating global evidence from existing carbon pricing systems as to the cost and effectiveness of applying a price to pollution.
A recent study from Stanford University estimates that the cost of damage from extreme weather events, sea level rise, loss of agricultural productivity and other outcomes of 2.5-3°C in global warming will reduce end of century per capita global economic output by 15-25%. With a 4°C increase in temperatures, economic performance is projected to drop by more than 30%. Inadequate action on our part over the next 20-30 years to combat climate change will impose extreme costs and hardships on future generations. A Yale University study estimates a 4.25% annual rate of return on investment in climate action plans designed to effectively mitigate future climate damage. Simply put, investing in effective climate action plans in not only an obligation to future generations but an exercise in common-sense economics.

A properly designed economic analysis on the impact of carbon pricing will include a cost/benefit analysis. However, the analysis employed in the Saskatchewan government-funded report does not consider the benefits of mitigating climate change. Further, the analysis is restricted to 3 scenarios that do not begin to approach the cost efficiencies of a well-designed climate action plan. In 2 of the scenarios no consideration of redistribution of carbon fees is considered. Under these scenarios, the revenues from carbon fees simply vanish. The third scenario assumes that revenues are distributed to households without provisions for refunds to industry or any other considerations. This scenario is less costly than the “burn the money” scenarios but is far from an ideal plan tailored to the specifics of Saskatchewan’s economy.

A well-designed made in Saskatchewan climate action plan would be based on a combination of carbon pricing mechanisms and policies adapted to the specific circumstances of the provincial economy. The Saskatchewan government correctly points out that the relative contribution of emissions intensive trade exposed industries to the provincial economy is greater than is the case for Ontario or Quebec. These industries can be protected through the implementation of a hybrid carbon pricing/trading system of output-based trading allowances. This would be supplemented by additional carbon fees and policies with targeted exemptions. In a revenue neutral system, carbon fees would be distributed to households, farmers and industry using formulas designed specifically to fit the specifics of the economy of the province.

Canada’s Ecofiscal Commission concludes that carbon pricing with well-designed systems of revenue recycling will be effective in reducing emissions without significant impacts on the Canadian economy. Actual net costs extending to the year 2032 are within the margin of error in predicting future GDP growth rates.

Rather than assessing a well-designed Saskatchewan-specific program of carbon pricing and climate policies, the study focuses on absurd scenarios that ignore revenues from carbon fees or at best restrict revenue recycling to households and thus fail to support industry. Not surprisingly, based on this report, one can conclude that it is costly and inappropriate to burn the money of the people of Saskatchewan. The government should consider a responsible alternative and burn what is a grossly misleading, incomplete, and biased report on the costs of carbon pricing to the Saskatchewan economy.

Green Calgary Presents The Price of Carbon Book Launch Saturday May 26 10am Mount Royal University

WHEN: Saturday, May 26th at 10am

WHERE: Mount Royal University, 4825 MT. Royal Gate SW, Calgary, Alberta

Green Calgary will be hosting the event as part of their May 26th 10am Green Season Event at Mount Royal University.

Dr. Maenz will present an overview of his book, The Price Of Carbon, on the subject of Climate Change and Climate Change Policy.

SPECIFIC LOCATION DETAILS TO FOLLOW SOON.

 

 

Webinar Presentation For Citizens’ Climate Lobby May 29 2018

WHEN: Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 4pm PT / 5pm MT / 7pm ET SHARP

WHERE:  https://citizensclimate.zoom.us/j/3920795005
Or dial in: 1 877.369.0926,  meeting code: 3920 7950 05

Here’s a video that shows how Zoom works:  https://youtu.be/vFhAEoCF7jg

Sky Scenario for net zero global emissions by 2070 and progressive decarbonization as required to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement

Dr. David Maenz, author of The Price of Carbon will be our guest and he will give a presentation on Shell’s Sky Scenario.

Citizens-Climate-Lobby

 

 

Read more about Shell’s Sky Scenario – net zero emissions by 2070 and government carbon pricing is an component.

 

PLEASE SIGN THE DOODLER: https://doodle.com/poll/4tiep3zsvb9s4ff6

Leave questions for David in the Doodler.

Invite your members. Better yet, organize a meeting around this education.

Dramatic Difference in Damage Potential of Climate Change by Region in the U.S.

Damage function is the technical term used by economists in assessing the effects of weather-driven damages to the economic performance of a given region. With advances in the predictive capabilities of models of climate change, it is now possible to estimated economic impacts with increasing precision and refinement by region. A recent study in the U.S. modelled the future potential for weather driven damages to agriculture, crime, health, energy demand, labor and coastal communities and then predicted the overall effect on GDP by county in the U.S.

Near the end of the century, future costs of climate change damage are estimated at 1.2% of GDP for each degree C of average global surface warming above pre-industrial temperatures. A business as usual scenario of unabated emissions will result in about 5°C of surface warming at a cost to the U.S. 6% of GDP annually between 2080 and 2100.
What is perhaps more striking than the overall costs, is the extreme variation in the impacts of climate change between regions. Counties in southern states are at considerably greater risk with projected costs generally in the range of 10-30% of GDP. This contrasts with several northern states that are predicted to experience a net benefit from changing weather patterns based on longer, warmer growing seasons and thus greater production from agriculture and other savings associated with shorter winters. Ironically, political indifference to climate change tends to be concentrated in the most at risk regions of the U.S.

As the predictive models for the impacts of changing weather patterns continues to be refined, there is a tendency to focus attention on local risks and needs for adaptations. In northern, in-land regions of North America, Europe and Asia, effective adaptations could minimize risks and costs associated with changing weather patterns. In some regions, successful adaptations could lead to net economic benefits.

However, a focus on local vulnerabilities ignores the broader global reality. The situation of disproportionate damage potential between southern and norther regions in the U.S. is magnified on the global scale. Africa, small islands, coastal populations and lower latitude regions are the most climate vulnerable, at risk regions on earth. The magnitude of the damage potential in climate vulnerable countries, grossly exceeds any possible benefit that could occur within higher latitude, in-land regions of the globe.

Greenhouse gases are well mixed in the atmosphere. Under a business as usual scenario of an indefinite continuation of current practices, emissions from a coal burning power plant in Saskatchewan will contribute to costly damage and human misery including failures of food and water supply in Nigeria while having much less of a direct impact in the prairie regions of Canada.


The moral and economic justification for progressive decarbonization of economic sectors must come from an assessment of global impacts and cannot be derailed by misplaced tendencies for cost/benefit analysis to be overly focus on local issues.

The Danger of NO Nukes

Since publication of The Price of Carbon I have been challenged by some within the environmental community as to the strongly stated position in the book that nuclear power is not only safe and sustainable but required to efficiently decarbonize power grids within the timeframe required to limit future surface warming to less than 2°C.
Without doubt, the level 7 nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima resulted in massive and costly cleanup and remediation projects that will stretch over decades. There is no denying this reality and the need to continuously advance safety in the design of nuclear power stations and to establish safe long-term solutions to manage high-level nuclear waste.
However, a narrow focus on the potential damage of future nuclear disasters and issues of waste management often leads to the conclusion that a global shutdown of nuclear power plants and full moratorium on future builds is in order. This outcome would be lead to a catastrophic increase in the use of fossil fuels to produce electricity over the next 30 years.

There are vast regions of the planet that are lacking in sufficient biomass, hydro and geothermal options to produce electricity. Renewables in the form of wind and solar are variable energy sources and grid penetration beyond 40% of total power supply becomes largely impractical based on current technologies. In the absence of hydro and geothermal, the options for baseline power production consist of fossil fuels and nuclear power. If you remove the nuclear option, the critical decarbonization of the electricity supply sector as required over the next 30 years is likely to be impractical. Given the remaining budget of emissions under a less than 2 degrees surface warming scenario there is no luxury of time to delay decarbonization of the electricity supply sector as will happen in the absence of nuclear power.

In Japan, the post-Fukushima shut-down of nuclear power stations, resulted in a compensatory increase in fossil fuel use and an 7% increase in national emissions. Japan plans to re-introduce nuclear power to the energy mix such that nuclear would contribute 20% of the total power supply by 2030. Prior to Fukushima, Japan had planned an ambitious year 2030 low emissions energy mix of 52% nuclear, 19% renewables and 29% fossil fuels. Post Fukushima the 2030 targets have been revised to 20% nuclear, 23% renewables and 56% fossil fuels. As a result, Japan’s ambitions to curtail GHG emissions and to contribute to the global effort to combat climate change have diminished since the Fukushima disaster.

India’s latest energy plans calls for no new fossil fuel power plants to be built, beyond those already under construction, until at least 2027. The massive increase in electricity supply within India over next 9 years will be covered by zero emissions hydro, renewables and nuclear power. This program is vital to the global effort of decarbonize power supply by mid-century.

In 1975, a massive storm dropped a year’s worth on rain within a 24-hour period in the drainage area of the Ru river in China leading to the collapse of the Banqiao dam. Casualties from Banqiao dam catastrophe were estimated at 171,000 deaths and with 11 million displaced. In contrast there were 0 fatalities associated with the Fukushima disaster and the Chernobyl disaster lead to 134 cases of immediate radiation sickness with 28 confirmed deaths from acute exposure. Post Chernobyl there were another 19 deaths from cancer associated acute exposure and there were 9 deaths from thyroid cancer from exposure to radioactive iodide.

Based on a statistic of early death per unit of power production, nuclear, wind, solar and hydro (including Banqiao dam collapse) are safe methods of power production. The WHO estimates that globally there are 7 million early deaths per year due to air quality issues and coal combustion accounts for well over half of this mortality.

In describing the Banqiao dam disaster my intention is not to raise concerns over the safety of hydro power but to put the safety concerns of nuclear power into context and to illustrate the damage potential of unmitigated climate change. With unchecked emissions, and subsequent future global warming the frequency and damage potential of extreme weather events will markedly increase.

The global focus to combat climate change cannot deviate from curtailment of emissions and progressive decarbonization of economic sectors. Nuclear power has a key role in providing a zero-emissions alternative to fossil fuels to produce electricity in regions that are lacking in hydro and geothermal alternatives.

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (0 deaths)        Bianqiao Dam Failure (171,000 deaths)

Costs of Fueling a Vehicle Compared to Charging an Electric Vehicle

Assessing the costs and emissions of operating a conventional gas or diesel fueled vehicle with an electric vehicle often involves a complete life cycle assessment of greenhouse gas emissions. This process requires assumptions as to the energy mix to produce electricity, and the consumer cost of electricity and gasoline. Further, theses factors are far from static and must undergo dramatic changes if economies are to progressively decarbonize as required to limit future surface warming to less than 2 degrees C. Implementation of carbon pricing will drive up gasoline and diesel prices. A shut down of coal fueled power plants will decrease the intensity of emissions from the production of electricity.

Concern is often expressed as to the increase in the costs of gasoline and diesel and the financial impact to the consumer following the implementation of effective carbon pricing mechanisms. The point of carbon pricing is drive changes in practice to lower cost, lower emissions options. With the emergence of competitively priced EVs, the economic advantages and emissions abatement potential of operating an EV will become motivators for switch over to electric vehicles. These advantages should be described to consumers as clearly and accurately as possible. By simplifying the description to a comparison of similar sized vehicles and selecting a reasonable cost of fuel and electricity it becomes possible to make realistic comparisons of operating costs. By restricting emissions calculations to tailpipe emissions no assumptions as to energy mix for power production or source of fossil fuels (oilsands or conventional oilfield) are needed. The consumer see direct and accurate data on what it cost to operate the vehicle and what comes out of the tailpipe (if there is a tailpipe). The advantages in terms of operating costs and emissions abatement are clearly evident and should begin to influence consumer preferences for automobile options.

At $1.05/L gasoline cost and $0.11 kWh residential electricity cost, the charging costs of driving a Chevy Bolt for 1 year covering 18,000 km will be $984 less than the cost of fueling a Honda Civic and will avoid 2.8 metric tonnes of tailpipe carbon dioxide  emissions.