Article

State action urged on emissions

SACRAMENTO - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted nothing to do with it. His top climate advisers endorsed it, then awkwardly retreated. Even environmentalists didn't press for a "gas tax," for fear of political backlash.

The governor's advisory Climate Action Team issued ambitious recommendations last week for reducing global warming emissions without specifying how the 45-year effort would be financed.

The 18-member team initially had recommended a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, only to have Schwarzenegger reject the idea outright. The group, made up almost entirely of governor-appointed agency heads, then backed off, suggesting only that the tax "be considered."

Sooner, rather than later, however, Californians must begin paying more for gasoline, new cars and electricity to achieve the governor's target for reducing carbon dioxide, linked to the temperature rise in the Earth's atmosphere, according to a wide range of economists interviewed.

It was last June when Schwarzenegger first unveiled the most aggressive goals in the world by directing the state to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2050.

"He was like Moses pointing to the promised land," recalled Michael Hanemann, a UC Berkeley economics professor who sat next to the governor on stage when Schwarzenegger declared, "The time for action is now."

"But now," Hanemann said, "the governor is stepping back and... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
The governor's advisory Climate Action Team issued ambitious recommendations last week for reducing global warming emissions without specifying how the 45-year effort would be financed.

The 18-member team initially had recommended a tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, only to have Schwarzenegger reject the idea outright. The group, made up almost entirely of governor-appointed agency heads, then backed off, suggesting only that the tax "be considered."

Sooner, rather than later, however, Californians must begin paying more for gasoline, new cars and electricity to achieve the governor's target for reducing carbon dioxide, linked to the temperature rise in the Earth's atmosphere, according to a wide range of economists interviewed.

It was last June when Schwarzenegger first unveiled the most aggressive goals in the world by directing the state to cut carbon dioxide emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels, by the year 2050.

"He was like Moses pointing to the promised land," recalled Michael Hanemann, a UC Berkeley economics professor who sat next to the governor on stage when Schwarzenegger declared, "The time for action is now."

"But now," Hanemann said, "the governor is stepping back and letting the Legislature and agencies figure out how to start going in that direction."

The 2050 target represents the level of emissions reduction many scientists believe the world as a whole must attain to soften the big blows of global warming: rising sea levels, outbreaks of disease and greater frequency of catastrophic wildfires and storms.

Nothing short of a profound shift from a fossil fuel-based economy is required to reach that target, and the time to start moving is now, most climate change experts say.

"It's like a supertanker. You can't turn it around quickly. If we delay, things will be even worse then. And there is no morning-after pill," said Hanemann, who leads a group of scientists studying the effects of climate change in California.

Robert Mendelsohn, an economist at Yale University, cautioned, however, that the public also has much to lose if experts overestimate the risks of global warming.

"As climate does change and people change their behavior and adapt to it, the damages won't be as bad," said Mendelsohn.

"You can spend a lot of money on mitigation and find it was a total waste of money," he said. "That's a double-edged sword. It's not like you can only make a mistake in one direction. Both directions will cost us."

Coaxing industries to cut emissions voluntarily -- the Bush administration's approach -- won't buy much protection, said Margaret Taylor, a public policy scholar at UC Berkeley.

Mandatory reductions are needed because people by nature are averse to change, Taylor said, "and initial changes will always cost something."

Government also should not rely heavily on market forces -- consumer demand for environmentally friendlier products -- because they are too unpredictable, said Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Government intervention is needed to wean society off petroleum and coal steadily, Yohe said, giving utilities and industries the certainty they need to invest in solar energy, wind power and hydrogen fuel.



Source: http://www.contracostatimes...

APR 10 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/2096-state-action-urged-on-emissions
back to top