If Congress and the president were more rational than political — admittedly, a very big if — they could kill a covey of birds with one stone. They could replace the payroll tax with a carbon tax. Suddenly Social Security and Medicare funding would be secure, which means the rest of the fiscal crisis would be fixed. Plus, you might save the planet in the process. [...]The chart included in the link above is a must-share. Out of 13,950 peer-reviewed studies of climate change and/or global warming since 1991, just 24 have rejected climate change. As the editorial notes, "that piece represents 17 hundredths of 1 percent of the pie. End of debate."
Liberal economists like the carbon tax. Conservative economists like the carbon tax. Environmentalists like the carbon tax. Even ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell have had a few nice words about the carbon tax, though some people doubt their sincerity. [...] So why not do a carbon tax instead of fooling around with spending cuts, tax expenditures, payroll taxes, plan Bs, sequestration and all the rest of the fiscal cliff discussion?
Because the politics of it will be really, really hard. Because many politicians are still in hock to the fossil fuel industry. And because many people, Superstorm Sandy and Superdrought 2012 notwithstanding, would still rather pretend that global warming is not real.
Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.Todd Sanford of the Union of Concerned Scientists writing in Newsday:
Enlisting market forces in the fight against global warming by putting a price on carbon — through cap-and-trade or a direct tax — seems out of the question for this Congress. But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership.
One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation to replace the often porous state regulations. Another imperative is to invest not only in familiar alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.
[M]isinformation from special interests has sown doubt and confusion about climate science among the public and policymakers.Newly-appointed Senator Brian Schatz - who is filling the seat of late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye -- has made clear that "climate change is at the top of his legislative agenda":
That has to change. There's nothing ideological or partisan about first responders planning for the toll increased summer heat can take on seniors. Or farmers taking a hard look at the future for their crops. Or coastal planners anticipating how fast sea levels are rising near valuable beaches.
Post-Sandy, conversations about climate change have a new urgency.
“For me, personally, I believe global climate change is real and it is the most urgent challenge of our generation,” Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz (D), whom Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) tapped for the seat, said in brief comments Wednesday.EPA head Lisa Jackson has announced that she'll be stepping down after the President's State of the Union address. Here's the reaction from two New Jersey papers. The folks in New Jersey know Jackson well - she was former chief of that state's Department of Environmental Protection and was a chief of staff to Gov. Jon Corzone. From the The Star-Ledger Editorial Board:
If all Lisa Jackson had done was to hold her ground against the radical Republicans who want to dismantle basic environmental protections, her tenure running the federal Environmental Protection Agency could be counted as a modest success.Bruce Lowry at the North Jersey Record:
But that’s not what she did. She made profound progress, especially on air pollution and climate change. The nation owes this woman a huge debt of gratitude as she prepares to step down next month after four remarkable years.
Jackson’s biggest win was to establish a scientific finding that climate change does indeed endanger human health, and to fight off the troglodytes who attempted to reverse that by placing their political ideology before scientific realities.
Jackson's record at the EPA will be remembered for the right reasons: helping to finalize a historic new rule doubling fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks by 2025 — based on Jackson's so-called "endangerment finding" regarding carbon dioxide and climate change — and fighting hard to establish new standards that force power plants to control mercury, arsenic and other airborne toxic pollutants. And, perhaps more than any predecessor, Jackson tried to make the impact of industrial pollution on low-income neighborhoods a priority. [...]Meanwhile, Paul Krugman at The New York Times peeks into the future and looks at the question of growth in a new, tech-based economy:
As far as I can tell, Jackson didn't get nearly accomplished all that she might have hoped at the EPA, but she at least got us headed in a sensible direction, a few steps away from a reliance on fossil fuels and toward a frank and open discussion about how we will go about protecting our water and air and trees in the years to come.
[M]achines may soon be ready to perform many tasks that currently require large amounts of human labor. This will mean rapid productivity growth and, therefore, high overall economic growth.The Chicago Tribune:
But — and this is the crucial question — who will benefit from that growth? Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to make the case that most Americans will be left behind, because smart machines will end up devaluing the contribution of workers, including highly skilled workers whose skills suddenly become redundant. The point is that there’s good reason to believe that the conventional wisdom embodied in long-run budget projections — projections that shape almost every aspect of current policy discussion — is all wrong.
Across the U.S., the number of homeless and hungry people is growing, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.[...] Food pantries in almost every city surveyed have had to cut the amount of food they distribute to each person. That's a practical effect of rising demand and reduced supplies, partly as a result of higher food prices. Food pantries put less in each bag of groceries they give away, and cap the number of monthly visits they allow each family. Soup kitchens cut the size of the meals they serve.
Each of us can step up to offer at least some help, even in — especially in — a season when charity appeals have to compete with hefty credit card bills and daunting holiday expenses. The need is real. Yes, Americans have been hearing about the growing need all around them for years now. It is tempting to give in to recession fatigue, more difficult to acknowledge that homelessness and hunger don't take winter vacations.
As a nation of individuals, we Americans can do better — and we shouldn't be relying on our local, state and federal governments to meet every human need. Opening presents was enjoyable, but it didn't signal that the need for giving has passed. At this time of year, in this economy, the persistence of homelessness and hunger testify that needs abound.