From carbon bubbles to Blood and Gore
Hope everyone had a good Halloween yesterday! I celebrated it with my 6-year-old Julia (as Dorothy for the 2nd year in a row) and my 2-year-old Jacob (as a very enthusiastic, if small, doctor).
Besides hanging out with my kids, my favorite thing about this Halloween was this Wall Street Journal op-ed by Blood and Gore. Seriously – (David) Blood and (Al) Gore. You can’t script this stuff! Anyway, the two have a very nice piece about the “coming carbon asset bubble,” arguing that investors need to start planning ahead for the day when high-carbon investments lose their value. They say this day may come even before we have a price on carbon: it may be due to regulation, market forces, or sociopolitical pressures like divestment campaigns. (A coalition of 70 investors brought together by Ceres makes a similar argument here.) It’s a fascinating piece, and one that dovetails perfectly with the climate risk argument that Tom Steyer, Hank Paulson, and Mike Bloomberg make in the Risky Business project.
Speaking of climate risk, it’s just over a year since we experienced one very real manifestation of that risk: Superstorm Sandy. A year later, the recovery is still very much a work in progress. Yesterday morning I joined NPR’s On Point to talk about the steps that are being taken—and those we still need to take—to prepare for a future with more frequent and more intense extreme weather events. Here’s a sobering fact: of the 257 policy recommendations that Mayor Bloomberg’s administration recommended for post-Sandy action, only 20 have been accomplished, and these mostly fall in the pure restoration arena (cleaning up beaches, tearing down ruined houses) rather than resilience or longer-term climate change mitigation. That’s in part because it’s simply so expensive for the public sector to take on broad resilience efforts, as I co-wrote in a Center for American Progress paper this week about how inaction on climate change is akin to an “unfunded mandate” (remember those, Newt Gingrich?) foisted onto states and cities already facing budget challenges.
Despite this, and fortunately for the nation, we’re already seeing significant action at the local, state, and even regional levels to push forward on climate action even in the face of Congressional torpor. Here are some examples:
- This week, the Pacific Coast Collaborative announced a formal partnership between California, Oregon, Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia to coordinate efforts to combat climate change. It’s a hugely exciting move for those of us convinced that regional action is where the real change is going to come from to address the global climate challenge.
- Closer to (my) home, the Bay Area Council just finalized an agreement with a Chinese Chamber of Commerce to partner in developing new carbon-reducing technologies and linking carbon markets.
- These kinds of local efforts aren’t just good environmental policy; they are producing healthier, wealthier cities, according to a new survey of 110 global cities from CDP and C40.
Meanwhile, those “sociopolitical campaigns” that Blood and Gore talk about (I just can’t resist repeating those names) are also starting to shift the national dialogue. Writing for the National Review last March, conservative commentator Stanley Kurtz begrudgingly conceded, “When nearly three-quarters of voting Harvard undergraduates elect to treat the companies that power our economy as pariahs, it’s time to take notice.” Unfortunately, Harvard President Drew Faust doesn’t seem to agree: she recently rejected the idea of the university divesting itself from fossil fuels and pointed students, instead, to the school’s “250 courses in the broad domain encompassing environmental studies and energy.” Hmm…somehow I doubt that’s going to satisfy the undergraduates.
Now for a quick (and incomplete) California roundup:
- Prop 39: The deadline for public comment on the California Energy Commission’s draft Prop 39 guidelines was last Friday, and it turns out the public had quite a lot to say. (Really? The California public had opinions? Shocking!) The Energy Commission is currently working through at least 750 public comment letters with the goal of submitting final guidelines in mid-November.
- One of these came from our friends at Advanced Energy Economy, who make a strong case for leveraging Proposition 39 dollars through a loan loss reserve fund or other means of encouraging private capital investment.
- Meanwhile, Professor Catherine Wolfram at the UC Berkeley Energy Institute at Haas, has another kind of leverage in mind: she wants the CEC to maximize learning opportunities by “collect[ing] detailed data on energy usage from all schools, not just the ones where the retrofits will take place.” We couldn’t agree more, which was why we were so obsessed with the idea of a statewide inventory of school facilities back during the Prop 39 legislative days.
- For our part, we signed onto a letter reminding the CEC to “track and report job creation and training outcomes,” in order to ensure the program actually results in good quality jobs for Californians. Embarrassingly enough I can’t find it online, but if you email me I’ll send you a copy.
- Fracking: Governor Jerry Brown said that the environmental review of fracking, as mandated under SB 4, may take as long as 18 months to complete.
- Big Data: And finally, for all you wonks and wonkettes out there, check out Climate Policy Initiative’s California Carbon Dashboard, because it’s cool (and because our former intern is working on it!).
Much like my day, this post has gone on far too long. Happy November everyone!