carbontax

A new report has come out updating and summarizing British Columbia’s experience with a modest Carbon Tax.

Sustainable Prosperity:

THE REPORT’S KEY FINDINGS ARE THAT:

• Since the carbon tax took effect (July 1, 2008), BC’s fuel consumption has fallen by 17.4% per capita (and fallen by 18.8% relative to the rest of Canada).
• These reductions have occurred across all the fuel types covered by the tax (not just vehicle fuel)
• BC’s GDP kept pace with the rest of Canada’s over that time
• The tax shift has enabled BC to have Canada’s lowest income tax rates (as of 2012).
• The tax shift has benefited taxpayers; cuts to income and other taxes have exceeded carbon tax revenues by $500 million from 2008-12.
Stewart Elgie, Professor of law and economics at University of Ottawa, and the report’s lead author, said:

“BC’s experience shows that it is possible to have both a healthier environment and a strong economy — by taxing pollution and lowering income taxes.”

Canada’s premiers meet from July 24-26 to discuss a proposed Canadian Energy Strategy which includes “a more integrated approach to climate change”. Elgie commented: “I hope that BC’s success will inspire Canada’s premiers to show leadership on a national approach to pricing carbon pollution.”

Andy Skuce in Skeptical Science:

Stewart Elgie and Jessica McClay of the University of Ottawa have a peer-reviewed articlein press in a special issue of the journal Canadian Public Policy. The article is summarized in the report BC’s Carbon Tax shift after five years: Results. An environmental (and economic) success story. The report can be downloaded here and is summarized here.
The results are similar to a previous report that I wrote about in the article BC’s revenue-neutral carbon tax experiment, four years on: It’s working, but updated, with one more year of data.  The new data show that the carbon tax is working even better than reported previously.
Fuel consumption per capita has fallen in BC by nearly 19% relative to the rest of Canada; these are just the fuels that are subject to the carbon tax. (Note that the years in these tables begin on July 1, in the previous report, they were calendar years, so the numbers do not match exactly.)
Note that all fuel use for the various types of fuel fell faster per-capita in BC than for the rest of Canada. The one exception is aviation fuel, which is mostly exempt from the carbon tax and showed no differential fall in use in BC.

headinsand

Add Climate change to the list of issues where the GOP is severely out of step with younger voters.

Guardian:

Republicans in Congress who reject the science behind climate change could soon be reduced to political fossils, with new polling on Wednesday suggesting three-quarters of young voters find such views “ignorant, out of touch or crazy”.

The bipartisan poll conducted for the League of Conservation Voters found solid 80% support among under-35 voters for Barack Obama’s climate change plan – and majority support even among those who oppose the president.

On the flip side the poll found three-quarters of voters, or 73%, would oppose members of Congress who stood in the way of Obama’s climate action plan.

The findings could prove awkward for Republicans in Congress who have adopted climate contrarianism as a defining feature.

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Rocky Mountain Institute:

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Motivated in part by more stringent fuel economy standards coming down the pipeline, lightweighting—the core of the new “platform fitness” approach, which focuses on optimizing a vehicle’s structure first before addressing propulsion technology and fuel source—has been the industry’s hottest strategic trend for several years (see “Battling America’s Automotive Obesity Epidemic,” page 28). In short, the auto industry is finally beginning the fundamental change we’ve been advocating since 1991. And as automakers and government adopt RMI’s fitness-first, ultralighting-focused strategy, they’re finding that making costly batteries or fuel cells fewer rather than cheaper can make electric cars more affordable with less time, cost, and risk. This can save severalfold more oil than the government forecasts, use 80 percent less autobody manufacturing capital, de-risk automaking, and save (in the U.S. alone) half an OPEC’s worth of oil.

Meanwhile, U.S. autos’ four percent average asset utilization—that is, they sit idle 96 percent of the time—is driving remarkable new carsharing and ridesharing programs, smartphone apps, and emergent automaker business models based on leasing mobility services rather than selling autos. These developments, adopting Natural Capitalism’s powerful “solutions economy” business model, could profoundly reduce the need for autos to yield the same or better mobility and access at lower cost.

At the same time, efficient use of electricity—which is used three-fourths in buildings, one-fourth in industry—is finally starting to pull out of its decades-long doldrums. That’s a big deal for saving capital and climate, because producing and delivering electricity is extraordinarily capital intensive, and classically uses two to four units of fuel at the power plant to deliver one unit of electricity. Much of RMI’s work focuses on this effort, as the late Ray C. Anderson put it, to “turn stumbling blocks into stepping stones.” Efforts like RMI’s RetroFit initiative—whose toolkit, portfolio challenge, and training efforts are steadily gaining adherents—are key levers for scaling adoption by asset owners, financiers, tenants, designers, installers, and communities.

Initial returns are coming in. Electric intensity (electricity consumed per dollar of real GDP) fell in all but two years since 1996, drifting down by a total of 19 percent, but in 2012 alone, before correcting for weather, it fell by an unprecedented 3.7 percent. Spending on energy efficiency programs is way up and expected to keep climbing. Between 2006 and 2010, spending on utility energy efficiency programs more than doubled from $2 billion to $4.8 billion. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy forecast spending to double again by 2025, to $9.5–$10.8 billion under a medium scenario that merely maintains current energy efficiency policies. More aggressive efforts could see spending climb to $15.6–$16.8 billion. Increasingly propelled by utility- and customer-financed efficiency efforts (with utilities incented by changed rules that in 15 states for electricity and 20 for natural gas already reward utilities for cutting customers’ bills rather than for selling them more energy), stagnant or declining electricity demand is emerging as the “new normal,” according to The Brattle Group and Deloitte.

Just the new building codes that entered force in 2011–12 in half the states could about offset previously forecast electricity sales growth. And electricity demand could consistently shrink, dropping by one-fourth by 2050 despite a 2.6-fold bigger U.S. economy, if the lucrative efficiency gains described in Reinventing Fire were adopted over 20 years to the extent already achieved in the Pacific Northwest states. In sum, 2050 could see tripled U.S. energy productivity, on top of the more-than-doubling already achieved since 1975. That prize is worth trillions of dollars, with handsome financial returns—plus even bigger non-energy benefits we didn’t count.

Renewables Continue to Boom

The business of installing solar modules is booming. Germany took it to scale, 8 GW a year, and installed more PVs in a single month in 2011 and 2012 than the U.S. added all year. That volume also cut the German installed system cost to half ours, even though we all buy the same equipment. If the U.S. did that too, it’d have really cheap solar power, since Germany gets about as much sun as Alaska and far less than the mainland U.S. But even so, U.S. solar prices are now low enough that photovoltaics on your roof, financed with no down payment, can beat your utility bill in over a dozen states. In fact, solar accounted for 49 percent of new electric capacity installed during Q1 2013 and all new utility electricity generation capacity added to the U.S. grid during this March, according to SEIA and FERC.

The bottom line: windpower added 45 GW of global capacity in 2012, PVs about 32. These and other nonhydro renewables are continuing to win a quarter-trillion dollars’ private investment per year globally (more than all fossil and nuclear generation got) and may hit $500 billion per year or more in the foreseeable future. This is no longer a fringe activity: it’s the core of the global market and increasingly central to the United States’ energy landscape. Even so, fossil fuels enjoy hundreds of billions in global investment annually and $1.9 trillion annually in subsidies, according to IMF, so the transition is far from a foregone conclusion. But the tide may be turning.

Coal lost 28 percent of its U.S. market share to gas, renewables, and efficiency just in the past seven years, 19 percent in the past two years. “Booming” natural gas, meanwhile, saw renewable energy run a close second for new installed capacity through the first half of 2012, and in the second half of the year, new installed wind capacity alone pushed natural gas into second place. In such places as California and Texas, renewables are supplying increasingly significant amounts of electricity to the grid—in California last year, the state’s three largest shareholder-owned utilities generated 19.8 percent of their electricity from renewables, according to CPUC; Texas, leading the nation in installed wind capacity with nearly 13 GW by the end of 2012, generated more than 10 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2012, according to ERCOT, and in early 2013 was nearing 30 percent.

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At hearings before the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee on July 18, 2013, Mr. Frank Nutter, President of the ReInsurance Association of America repeated the longstanding concerns that the Insurance industry has about climate change.

The salient point is, that Insurance companies live and die by their ability to estimate risks. To that end, they hire the world’s smartest number crunchers to figure out how much exposure they have to things like extreme weather exacerbated by climate change.

Many climate deniers claim to be “conservatives” who believe in “free market principles”. Clearly, this is not the case. If they did, they would take seriously the concerns of insurers, who actually have to respond to real world market forces. Unlike deniers, I actually believe in the power of markets, and what they tell us.  If climate change does not exist, then some smart competitor will discount the “imaginary” risk of climate fueled extremes, undercut the prices of the big insurance giants, steal their business, and make them go away.

I posted some time ago on this.

Big re-insurer Munich Re (Re-insurers are companies that insurance companies go to for insurance) has been publishing their concerns about climate change hazards since 1973, and climate expert Peter Hoppe figured prominently in Welcome to the Rest of Our Lives, one of my most popular recent videos.

This graph from Munich Re compares storm, wind and flood events against geophysical events like volcanoes and earthquakes. If the “bigger populations” canard that climate deniers use to explain increased damages were valid, the geophysical component would track along with storms. It does not.

Mr. Nutter included several worthwhile warnings in his written testimony, along with revealing graphs, many from Munich Re.

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2013melt

Jason Box’s Meltfactor blog:

We’ve made it to the middle of the melt season 2013. It’s been a roller coaster for Greenland climate in 2013.

The year started out with an astonishing low albedo from a snow drought that made huge melt possible. Yet this was punctuated by the return of snow late April and prolonged low temperatures as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) shifted from persistent negative that had been causing west Greenland temperatures to be abnormally warm while Copenhagen thad its coldest late winter and early spring in decades. The dipole in temperatures between NW Europe and W Greenland has been recognized for more than a century and called the “seesaw” in temperature (van Loon and Rogers, 1978).

Like in 2012, melt came on strong by early June but was shut down again by abnormally low temperatures, accompanied by additional snowfalls [1, Ruth Mottram, Danish Meteorological Institute, personal communication] in some areas, that lasted until mid July. The key difference between 2013 and the previous 6 summers (2007-2012) is the absence of a persistent negative NAO that drove south air over Greenland, heating it while promoting clear skies that maximized the impact of surface darkening through the albedo feedback (Box et al. 2012). With this much of a delayed start, the albedo feedback has not had enough time to produce strong melt. Given now that we are at the mid point of the melt season, it is too late now for 2013 to produce melting anywhere nearly as large as we saw in 2012.

The NASA MODIS data indicate that the 2013 Greenland mid melt season (mid-July) albedo is at its lowest in 4 years; behind 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.(above)

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maverick

It took me days to get a look at the Rolling Stone article from Jeff Goodell, who joined Dark Snow Project for several days in late June. The turnaround was lightning quick for a magazine piece – the issue hit newstands last week.
Unfortunately, not all newstands.
Due to negative reactions around the magazine’s cover shot of the surviving Boston bomber, a number of retailers will not stock this issue.  Makes it pretty tough to find – so I had to subscribe to be able to get behind the paywall when the online version finally came out the other day.

bomberJeff is a great writer, and as a  researcher who’s already done heavy lifting on coal and climate change, a great choice to fill the spot vacated when Bill Mckibben had to drop out of the trip at the last minute. Jeff flew to Kangerlussuaq with us, where we found out we had transport problems – then up to Ilulisat, where we finagled an Air Greenland helo that took us on our first trip  to the ice sheet, along the Ilulisat glacier calving wall.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that Goodell’s great article got lost in the rather overblown kerfuffle over the cover photo.

Redding Record-Searchlight blog:

I am a subscriber to Rolling Stone and now possess one of the most hated issues of a magazine ever published in the history of America. I love Boston. It is one of my favorite cities in the U.S. and out of respect to her citizens who have suffered so much, maybe I should burn this issue. But I’m not going to.

Because inside this particular magazine with the Boston Marathon Bomber’s picture on the cover is an article about Jason Box, a Greenland ice climatologist who has had twenty-four expeditions to Greenland in the last twenty years and “spent more than 1 year camping on the inland ice.”

Box has also “Installed and maintained a network of more than 20 automatic weather stations on Greenland’s inland ice in expeditions spanning 1994-2008.”

Calling him “The Ice Maverick,” Rolling Stone‘s Jeff Goodell wrote, “Greenland’s ice sheets are melting faster than anyone predicted. Climatologist Jason Box has a radical theory why — and even more radical ideas about upending the global warming science establishment.”

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Dr. Jennifer Francis of Rutgers has become one of our most valuable players on the communication side of climate science.

I’m happy to see she had a chance to testify last week before the  Environment and Public Works Committee chaired by Senator Boxer. A worthy way to spend 5 minutes. Good for her, for calling out those she diplomatically refers to as “climate misleaders”.

I have not had the chance to review the whole hearing yet, but as I find other gems, will post here.

PDF of testimony here.

In a walking tour of Nuuk, Greenland’s capital, Jason Box pointed to some modest cottages perched on rocks overlooking the water. “These people are wealthy.” he told us. “That is high end real estate, worth millions.”  It seemed a long way from Manhattan or Malibu – but one does have a sense that some formerly neglected and undesirable places in the world could see a change in coming decades.

Fast CoExist:

Fabulously wealthy British futurist James Martin spoke about climate change at New York’s Lincoln Center and how it will change global population patterns in one of his last public appearances before passing away on June 30 at 79 years of age. Martin, who donated more than $150 million to Oxford University and lived on his own private Bermudan island, believed one of the biggest land booms in history is on its way–and it will happen in less than 100 years.

At the June 15 Global Future 2045 conference, Martin explained that events like Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina will hit major American cities harder and more frequently because of climate change. Scientists and politicians have even come to the conclusion that whole countries such as Mauritius and Tuvalu will need to evacuate due to rising sea levels. But while coastlines in much of the world may suffer, climate change will be a positive development in some areas. Specifically, Canada; northern Europe; Russia; Alaska; Patagonia, Argentina; and southern Africa may all experience real estate booms. These booms, he claimed, will be in “Climate Change Cities” with military fortifications catering to an increasingly displaced global elite.

The idea of climate change-triggered mass migration has been around for a long time. Martin’s idea of climate-change cities centers around migration by the upper and upper middle class, but politicians, charities, and bureaucrats worldwide have quietly (and not so quietly) been gearing up for a torrent of refugees fleeing newly inhabitable lands.

This past June, Pacific Ocean island nations hosted a summit on climate change migration where best practices to evacuate thousands upon thousands of people were discussed. For the guests assembled on the island of Rarotonga, the big question was what happens when sea levels rise to a point where island populations simply can’t support themselves. Instead of being discussed as a science fiction hypothetical, the question was treated with steely reality.

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The most amazing thing about 2012 in the arctic was how un-amazing it was in terms of weather and warming – yet ice last year plunged to a stunning new low, most likely because the ice has become so thin and fragile that even the wear and tear of a normal year are enough to devastate the ice pack.

This year’s melt season has trended only a little below the 1981 – 2010 average up until about mid-june, then taken a dramatic downward turn.  If it does not level off, ice loss will soon match the 2012 pace.

nsidc720

Washington Post:

It’s not clear if 2013 levels will match 2012′s astonishing record low, but – with temperatures over the Arctic Ocean 1-3 degrees above average – the 2013 melt season has picked up in earnest during July.

“During the first two weeks of July, ice extent declined at a rate of 132,000 square kilometers (51,000 square miles) per day. This was 61% faster than the average rate of decline over the period 1981 to 2010 of 82,000 square kilometers (32,000 square miles) per day,” the National Snow and Ice Data Center writes on its website.

Despite this rapid ice loss, the current mid-July 2013 sea ice extent is greater than 2012 at the same time by about 208,000 square miles NSIDC says.

Financial Times  (registration required):

Arctic shipping is set for a record year, underlining how melting sea ice is raising the prospect of an important new route for trade between Asia and Europe that shaves thousands of kilometres off the trip.

As of Friday, the administrators of the Northern Sea Route (NSR) – which follows the north coast of Russia – had granted permission to 204 ships to sail this year. In 2012, only 46 ships sailed the entire length from Europe to Asia, up from four vessels just two years earlier.

Arctic Sea Ice Blog:

Commenter Danp opened a thread on the ASIF a couple of days ago, showing a cleaned up compilation he made of LANCE-MODIS satellite images (like commenter dabize did last year). The result looks very nice indeed, giving us a clear view of the holes on the Atlantic side of the Arctic, near the North Pole:

iceholes

Ice experts weigh in – but those swiss-cheese like holes near the pole appear to be signs that we could see a dramatic disintegration later in the summer.

Arctic Sea Ice Blogger Neven adds the animation shown at the top of this post with this note:

At the same time Dutch blogger Lars Boelen has combined images from the all-new high-resolution sea ice concentration maps that are put out by the University of Hamburg (discussed a couple of weeks ago in this blog post)
To see the most recently updated video, check out Lars’ YouTube channel. He tries to update the video on a daily basis.

Below, last year’s Sea Ice Minimum video:

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