The Whys and Wherefores: Failures of Governance and Imagination 
How did progressive Oregon, and the country, get to stasis on climate change? Other countries have not locked up on the issue. Even the Brexit-inflected and flustered United Kingdom has a coherent and determined if stumbling-toward-solutions policy approach. Even China, as dependent as it is on coal, acknowledges its obligation to exit that fuel and is doing so, closing the oldest, least efficient plants first, still bringing new coal generation on-line but showing a net decline in coal generated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Well, the US is exceptional. Right? Perhaps not in all the admirable ways we once might have claimed, and leaving aside for the moment race relations, systematic destruction of native peoples, air and water pollution, etc. We have been that exceptional country in many ways; the country that imagined, and defined, the future of politics, technology, industrial production, mobility, and communications. When Nixon debated Khrushchev in that American kitchen replica exhibited in Moscow (I’m dating myself here), the American kitchen won hands down.
“The US is exceptional. Right?”
So why can’t we get our heads and hands around this wicked climate issue? What was it about Oregon’s long and winding and struggling road toward reasonable and science-based climate policies – and those of the nation – that should inform our efforts going forward? Here are some still-forming thoughts on the subject.
- The Center Is Not Holding Anymore: American politics and intellectual life has never been static, but in the past there has usually been an ideological center that most people subscribed to most of the time. Historically our political parties have been largely center-left and center-right. Movement of that center has been prodded and provoked by people and ideas from further left and right, radical and reactionary, often to useful effect, but their demands have been moderated by the center. We have resided confidence in our institutions: the military, the media, scientists, who have had access to more information in depth and have intermediated between those sources and the rest of us. This AMERICAN confidence was hugely reinforced by winning our meritorious war (WW II), by the country’s post-war economic and technological successes, and by the broad sharing of the benefits of those successes. It has been subsequently pummeled by the civil rights movement and Nixon’s racist Southern Strategy, the Viet Nam war, the recession and stagflation of the 1970’s, the Reagan/Gingrich assault on the legitimacy of government functions, the interventions and interminable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession and the Great Pandemic. I may have left a few body blows out of that list. All centrist institutions have lost credibility with someone in the process. Making policy progress, on issues from the social safety net to Black Lives Matter to climate change, has suffered as partisan divisions resist compromise and solution-building.
- The Erosion of Confidence in Science: When we lost confidence in our institutions, we fell back on what we could see and we wanted to. These perceptions often aligned with the learnings and teachings of science, especially when that science threw up neat gadgets like computers and iPhones. Sometimes they did not align, as when the industries that brought us useful goods like gasoline and chemicals and jobs producing them also brought us air and water pollution.
“We have consistently preferred, over that 30 years, to deny the evidence of climate change the way we denied, for so long, the evidence that cigarettes kill.”
For the last 30 years scientists have been bringing us evidence of climate change and its causes, which are mostly…us. They have warned that we needed to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that accompany most of our daily lives, from our vehicles and power plants and coal mining. We have consistently preferred, over that 30 years, to deny the evidence of climate change the way we denied, for so long, the evidence that cigarettes kill. “Inconvenient Truths” was the title of Al Gore’s take on climate change, and they were inconvenient enough that the video might have driven as many people away from the science as were persuaded. In fact, it might have driven away or drawn forward almost nobody, instead reinforcing each viewer’s prior disposition (“confirmation bias”) while undermining the credibility of science as intermediary. While this is more an issue of political malpractice than scientific missteps, its solution will make demands on the science community to understand the differences in how the two disciplines use many of the same words and express outcomes (e.g., “certainties” versus “probabilities”). Publishing a paper is not enough; its evidence, logic and findings must be communicated and understood in the translation from paper to policy.
- Erosion of Global Cooperation: One of the crucial legacies of WW II was the “western alliance” of democracies that won the war. Well, the USSR also had a modest hand in defeating Germany, but the myth of the successes of the West necessarily excluded that Eastern power, since it was the target of the post-war Alliance. The West has had its successes and its missteps over the half a century from WW II to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but on balance it had to be counted a powerful success in protecting and improving lives. And it did so by building its own set of institutions: NATO, the UN, the OECD and its successor European Community, the World Health Organization, and many multi-state treaties such as the one that phased out the hydrofluorocarbon aerosols and saved the earth’s ozone layer. Now, 75 years after formation of the UN, these institutions are under assault not just by the nations then largely excluded from these western alliance progeny (Russia; China; various Middle East states and stateless forces) but by core nations, and most emphatically but not only by MAGA-led US Republican Party. And this is occurring just as the need for global cooperation has become most crucial. Climate change is the ultimate Tragedy-of-the-Commons problem, made more vexing still by divergent views on responsibility and equity and technology sharing that invite a collapse of discourse, a kind of rearranging-of-deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic. We argue about who else should be doing what, and who should not be telling us what we can do, instead of finding a basis for global cooperation. No surprise that the same paralysis afflicts climate policymaking within the US. This issue mostly resides in the world of foreign policy choices and tradeoffs. But while some of us might be scientists, or lawyers, or business owners or environmental advocates, we are all citizens who choose our political leaders. We can ask of them a commitment that our country be a responsible member of the global community, realizing in return the added value of problem-solving when a truly global problem looms. The Paris Agreement beckons the Biden Administration. Will Joe get his program past a dysfunctional House. Will he seek and earn reciprocity internationally? Will US-China competition snag US-China climate cooperation?
- Partisanship and Tribalism in US Politics: Winning while staying within sideboards of decency and reason used to be fundamental to American politics, even when it came with a dash of political cynicism. And winning did not exclude compromise, finding common ground, and problem solving. Then the Democratic Party abandoned its southern flank to become the advocate of civil rights for Blacks, and the Republican Party seized the opportunity offered by welding its business-first policies to a barely disguised racial pitch to the White south. The Southern Strategy typified, and accredited, an emerging win-at-any-cost mentality, that in turn demanded loyalty and penalized compromise. Problem-solving gave way to putting the opposition on the defensive as much as possible. This abandoning the middle was abetted by Fox News and social media inviting partisans to self-select their “facts” and interpretations, implicitly discrediting differing views…and more, discrediting facts, however well-grounded. By the 20-teens, surveys were finding parents more appalled by their children marrying out of their political party than out of their religion. Partisanship in public office was enforced by the practice of “primarying:” running a candidate to the right of a moderate Republican, or to the left of a moderate Democrat. Finding common ground on substantive issues, whether health care or climate change, became subordinate to winning and maintaining partisan discipline. That has to be reversed. We have to demand of our leaders less posturing and more problem-solving. This may mean – I think it will – that the Republican Party needs to rediscover its moderate center-right culture and separate itself from those who preach and practice mindless partisanship. This may mean an extended absence from elective office, a high price to pay but it is a high “crime” being paid for. And perhaps not; after all, the Republican party in the 1850’s created itself out of a similar stasis of southern slave defenders and a decaying Whig party. Within ten years its candidate Abraham Lincoln occupied the White House.
- Markets Uber Allies: The market is a wonderful tool that contributes innovation and economic efficiency when applied intelligently and bounded appropriately. But “markets” as a conceptual abstraction can distort thinking when sold as an ideology and an absolute value, at the core of individual freedom and so exempt from regulation and boundaries.
“Greenhouse gas emissions and pandemic viruses may be the ultimate tests of whether individual rights and community values can be reconciled, with science acting in the critical intermediating role.”
A free and prosperous society is one in which individual liberties and community values co-exist, each qualifying and complementing the other. We do not assert our individual right to proceed through a red light when cross-traffic has a green one (even when we’re in a rush to close a deal). Equally the private market elements of energy and transportation systems act to deliver optimum commercial and individual value, but are regulated to ensure that public goods – public safety, public health, clean air and water, and so on – are at least not compromised, and at best enlarged; that the dangers of a Tragedy-of-the-Commons are identified and averted. Greenhouse gas emissions and pandemic viruses may be the ultimate tests of whether individual rights and community values can be reconciled, with science acting in the critical intermediating role. At least with a pandemic the penalties and the rewards are contemporary and broadly apparent. With climate-altering emissions, costs and limits on business-as-usual are front-loaded while rewards for acting decisively, and penalties for our failure to act, are deferred; but the penalties are also unavoidable and all but irreversible once the atmosphere is sufficiently loaded with carbon. If the community – the country; the world – cannot assert the priority of community values over individual rights to emit pollutants and ignore science, there will be no vaccine to rescue us from climate catastrophe. There are tools, such as the Social Cost of Carbon, that can be used to force into our decision-making those “externalized “costs carbon inflicts on the community when markets would otherwise defer those costs until too late. I was materially involved, forty years ago, in developing the concept of utility “least cost planning” in the Pacific Northwest. It required that all costs be internalized in the power planning process and weighed up front, including costs that might be difficult to monetize or even quantify (e.g., species extinction). One result: energy conservation, required to be treated as a resource subject to such cost analysis, scored highly in this process and is now the second largest “source” of electricity in the region (after hydroelectricity, and gaining).
- Campaign Funding Reinforces Partisanship and Business-As Usual (BAU): As positioning on substantive issues was becoming more partisan and less fact-based, money has flowed unconstrained to the partisan groups that arose to do battle for and against. Campaign finance suffers from its over-dependence on free market ideas; the cash both controls and validates policy positioning. Ostensibly the US is wedded to a one-person/one-vote principle, and willfully indifferent to the obvious capacity of money to amplify some voices and votes while suppressing others. Campaign contributions so soil politics today that functioning democracy is imperiled. A Supreme Court allied to corporate interests is unwilling to constrain the financial power of those interests, whether in hostile corporate takeovers or intervention in political contests. The advent of Political Action Committees (PACs) has allowed consolidation of corporate, but also political, religious and institutional resources into still more powerful influences in political contests. Since big money almost by definition is the product of the prevailing distribution of power, interests and market rewards, it prefers the profitable status quo and steeply discounts the uncertain future. The status quo includes conventional fossil energy sources and the companies that mine, pump, refine, distribute, sell and burn them. These are not friends of (moving) EFFORTS to address climate change. In a circular effect, economic power reinforces political power; and political power, economic power. And because most voters are not looking much beyond the next election cycle, proposals to tinker with the machinery of elections can’t promise a desired next election outcome. Only when enough people outside the circles of wealth understand the money/power/money dynamic will the country be able to push back on it. There are more votes outside those circles than within them, if enough of us prioritize breaking that dynamic apart.
- Discount Rates and the Perilous Future: The difficulties are not just with the companies making money from Business-As-Usual that shouldn’t; BAU is part of our human wiring. Psychologically we tend to overvalue the present and discount the future; If today looks a lot like yesterday, we expect tomorrow will look much the same. In that abbreviated time-frame it usually does, too.
Climate change is COVID-19 in slo-mo
So, when we plan ahead 100 years, or even a decade, we almost always deeply discount the probability of significant and possibly abrupt, even cataclysmic, change. The former Administration discounted the probability of a major viral pandemic; discounted it in the abstract, before the coronavirus took its early death grip on Americans, and continued to discount the probability that it might look worse in March or September than it looked in January. Climate change is COVID-19 in slo-mo, but with just as inexorable a progression absent strategies to hold it back. It is plain hard for us to visualize and act today on what appear to be distant and therefore seemingly diminutive risks. We highly value the here-and-now; we steeply discount future risk, or reward (although we do assume our lives will improve by increments into an indefinite future, because we also are wired to be optimists). We especially discount outcomes that will not affect us personally, which by definition mean outcomes beyond our lifetimes. But that should not allow us to discount the future for our descendants. Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) philosophy offers a better guide: think and act as though your actions will have consequences for seven generations ahead.
In 2006, at the direction of the UK Government, Lord Nicholas Stern developed and published his Review on the Economics of Climate Change.” One of Lord Stern’s most controversial observations was that the economic analysis of climate change might warrant a negative discount rate. That is, far from discounting future effects, we should weigh more heavily effects two or three generations hence of choices we make today, since we will see the near-term benefits (e.g., of low-cost energy) while future generations will bear the costs (of accumulating climate change). Our choices today, with their not-so-distant-anymore consequences, should bear the weight of this kind of rigorous economic analysis that values intergenerational fairness.
The difference between COVID-19 and climate change, apart from velocity, is that there will be no vaccine for climate change. By the time we awaken to its imminent and most damaging effects, it will be too late to retrieve all those GHG emissions we blithely released over prior decades.
- Failure of Imagination: This final observation is not much different from the preceding one, but the point is worth restating in another way. Imagine you are a British colonial subject in Singapore in 1942. You are aware that the United Kingdom is at war with the Axis powers including Japan. You are generally aware that the armed forces of Japan have subdued much of China and Indochina and are not so distant from Singapore. But life, and lawn tennis, continue in the colony – the Gibraltar of the East as it was known — much as they always have. It is not conceivable that life in the colony, hardly altered from one decade to the next, might be at risk. Then, in not much more than a week in early February 1942, Japanese forces overwhelm the British and colonial defenders. Britons are rounded up and deposited in camps where they live out the war (and are better off than some 130,000 Malay Peninsula defenders, Brits, Malays and Australians, marched off to POW camps where many die). These kinds of stories, of disbelief in radical change, were ubiquitous also among German Jews and others swept up in the European theater of war. How could the status quo be so utterly upended, and so many otherwise capable and lively human intelligences be so flummoxed? Why did no one imagine how things could change?
Climate change is going to be like this. Already is. Somehow we have to summon the better angels of our intelligences to look forward objectively and fearlessly. We have to contemplate the risks, allow our imaginations to explore them, posit alternative futures to BAU and adjust our choices and behaviors to blunt the most destructive of these futures. We have to lift our eyes and imaginations up from today’s puzzles and perplexities to that array of saving or savaging futures and the velocity with which they will be upon us. We must, without more delay, conceive of alternative defenses, weigh their relative costs and merits, recognize our shared responsibilities as scientists, advocates, leaders, voters, and members of the global community, and act.
March 22, 2023: Coda to “Whys and Wherefores”
This morning there’s a news report from the Oregon legislature of a bill to plug a loophole in the state’s carbon reduction rules. The loophole would allow energy-hungry data centers (including really energy-rapacious crypto currency computers) to evade the rules that govern most of the state’s electricity, gas, gasoline and diesel combustion activities. The exact nature of the loophole is irrelevant, but the arguments advanced to preserve it are notable and painfully common. “This will cripple economic development in our county! This will reduce our property tax revenues! What about the new jobs that won’t come our way? Get the government off our backs so we can make a living!”
And so on. Under the bill, existing data centers would be (unwisely, in my judgment) excused from this obligation to reduce emissions, so these good folks aren’t even defending existing wealth and jobs. They are concerned that a burden would be placed on new installation that local boosters hope will materialize. Nothing is said about the other feature of the near future – already the present, really – when climate-driven heat, drought, floods or fires will disrupt those new jobs and flows of wealth. Nothing is said about the rest of us, the “most” of us who won’t see economic benefits from the data centers but will suffer those disruptive effects. Why do we reason so? Why do we so inflate the importance of the immediate (benefits…to us) and deeply discount (see Discount Rates, above) the other consequences that may be further off or affect others, not us (…maybe those scientists are wrong; maybe they’re lying to us).
Now imagine (see Failure of Imagination, above) you are crewing a sailing vessel that has encountered an iceberg and come off second-best. Your vessel’s hull has been holed and water is entering; the intrusion was modest at first but is now gaining on the pumps. On deck the captain and crew reduce sail to ease stress on the hull while they get at the leak. But they are having to deal with impatient and increasingly fractious passengers wanting to get to their destinations. What to do? We can’t leave the sails and lines unattended; someone has to steer the ship away from other hazards and toward a safe harbor; someone has to chart the course, taking into consideration winds and currents. But how much crew effort should be directed to these demands and how much to the imperiled hull. The passengers, not wanting to be delayed and unfamiliar with the demands of the sea, argue that the leakage may not be so serious; the crew should be focused on the trim of the sails, the tautness of the lines and progress toward their destinations.
What’s a responsible captain and crew to do? It’s clear to them that if the leak isn’t stopped or slowed, the ship is likely to sink long before a safe haven ashore is found. But there’s this intense pressure from the paying passengers.
Regrettably, 21st Century societies are more complex than this metaphor. Facts and evidence can be imprecise; decision-making can be messy. Immediate demands from narrow interests for position, economic gain and political leverage jockey with longer-term institutional and societal values. All compete for scarce resources. It’s hard for an unseen, uncertain and un-immediate risk to compete. It’s hard to know what quantity of our wealth and resources we should divert to addressing the hole in the hull, and on what schedule. What if new technology represents a safe harbor even though it’s unclear whether it will arrive in time and at scale to rescue our ship?
Climate change is this basket of hard choices and wickedly difficult calculations. If you’ve read through the bleak landscape I painted above this coda, you are likely ready to either write me off as a hopeless pessimist or to surrender to the inevitable sinking of our ship.
I’ve tried to be candid in describing the forces arrayed against recovery from this serious – but not yet mortal – self-inflicted wound.
We can acknowledge that at least some of those forces are two-edged, and capable of being turned to advantage in seeking a climate recovery pathway. Chief among these forces is our all too instinctive competitiveness that constantly distracts us into seeking immediate gains in the marketplace, or a grab at a neighboring country’s territory. The human brain, groping for that short-term edge, has produced a stream of technologies for one-upping the competition, from fire and stone tools to gunpowder, to the internal combustion engine, to medications that have helped almost double the human lifespan while relieving much pain and misery. Today these capacities are being applied as well, in every country around the planet, to activities that are deepening the emerging climate catastrophe and may yet rescue us from it.
Think about this: the world’s population stood at about one billion people in the mid-18th Century, and average life-expectancy was between 27 and 35 years. Fossil fuels were just beginning to displace human, animal, wind and water power. The grim landscapes in coal country and in the early factories notwithstanding, the human condition was about to improve dramatically, astonishingly.
We’re now at the beginning of the 21st Century, in a period labeled the Anthropocene to reflect the human impact on the planet. Some eight billion people inhabit the earth – eight times the population only 200 years ago; double the population only 50 years ago. Life expectancy in every region is greater than 60 years. Humans are healthier and wealthier at this end of the industrializing tunnel, and poverty may be at its lowest ebb ever. As human labor was displaced by fossil fuels and machines, the economic logic underlying slavery was voided, and that aeons-old institution has become an artifact.
Along with the wealth afforded by fossil-fueled energy – channeled into an extraordinary range of technologies from the electric toothbrush to the moon landing craft – have come less welcome consequences. Chief among these are the waste products of combustion. These negatives have darkened the door of our prosperity since the sooty fogs of 19th Century London. They include the triumvirate of SOx, NOx and particulate pollution that infect the near atmosphere – the air we breathe – especially affecting the less fortunate and less equipped to cope.
And they include greenhouse gases.
These gases (GHGs), when crowded into the earth’s atmosphere and capturing heat energy as effectively as a grandmother comforter, present a far greater challenge to humanity. The gases include carbon monoxide and dioxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbons and black carbon ash. These substances are a threat of greater magnitude because: (a) they are largely invisible, so humans must react to studies and models, not visible and tangible pollutants; (b) the emissions occur today while their consequences are deferred (e.g., they are “externalities” affecting later generations more than those who cause the emissions); and (c) they are very long-lived in the atmosphere, so impacts may be deferred but will affect life on earth for decades or centuries to come.
Humans by their nature are unlikely to choose a lower standard of living today to enable emissions to be reduced, notwithstanding that we could do so without great suffering, and that in simple justice to a future of the blameless suffering, we should.
Thus the question becomes: Can our technologies offset our preference for present comforts and our discounting of future effects on future inhabitants of the planet?
And equally important: Can they do so fast enough to arrest and reverse the relentless upward trend of emissions?
The answer to the first question is almost certainly “yes.”
Consider the production of electricity, by itself accounting for 25% of the world’s total GHG emissions. In the US and western Europe, where low- or zero-carbon electricity technologies (plus more efficient usage) are most available and advanced, electricity-associated emissions are declining and have driven an overall emissions reduction from their Year 2000 peaks. Wind and solar generation are growing rapidly as their installed costs have plummeted in just these two decades. Battery technologies, crucial to integrating wind and solar into the grid as well as for enabling a shift from gasoline and diesel transport fuels to electricity, are demonstrating similar cost reductions. Critical supply issues (e.g., lithium) handicap progress in batteries, but already energy storage technologies using more accessible and lower cost elements (e.g., iron) are emerging in response.
Fossil gas (AKA methane / CH4 / natural gas), widely used for space and water heating, is being displaced by heat pump technology – basically, refrigerator technologies that can heat in the coldest winters and cool in the hottest summers – a technology that is more capital intensive but far more energy and cost-efficient over its operating lifetime.
Challenges abound. Cement, the world’s most common building material, is also highly GHG-intensive; but it is the subject of focused lab work to bring that intensity down with encouraging signs of success. Ditto for steel, aluminum and other crucial building blocks of 21st Century prosperity.
Heavy-duty freight transport (trucks; rail; shipping) and travel (jet aircraft) present their own demands for a light-weight, BTU-intensive, transportable fuel. Hydrogen atoms split from water (releasing oxygen as a waste product) using excess generation from wind and solar, or sourced from deep underground wells, may supply such a fuel by itself or in combination with electricity.
There are other examples of tech that displaces fossil; most cost more up front as is common when technology replaces stuff that’s mined or drilled (externalizing the environmental costs). But thenew technologies will also often cost less to operate and maintain.
Many, even most, of the needed technologies are here already or are in the pipeline. The challenge we face is less analytic and more inertial.
It’s a little like the challenge faced down by the Duke of Wellington one grim Sunday in June, 1814, near the Belgium village of Waterloo (stay with me here).
With his allies, the Duke could outweigh and outflank a resurgent Napoleon. But would Blucher and his Prussian allies arrive from the east in time? Wellington was looking over his left shoulder all that long afternoon in the Belgium countryside while his English troops held his line, but barely. Then the Prussians arrived in force and broke the French right flank while Wellington’s English held firm in the middle.
Okay, that’s probably more military history than you bargained for but its lessons are on point. Having the right technologies is one step; having them arrive at scale and at velocities sufficient to back out GHG emissions is, however, the greater task.
Coal combustion for electricity has peaked in the US and is now in prolonged decline, having gone in the last 20 years from supplying 50% of US electricity to under 25%last year. But coal use is still climbing in India, China, South Africa and other countries where its lower delivered costs enable faster economic growth and economic relief for the poorest populations of those countries. In fact and discouragingly, coal-burning internationally reached an all-time high level in 2021. There are short-term political and ethical drivers to burn coal and gas that countries will weigh against the facts and more distant convergences– often contested by economic interests – of climate change. The US and Europe, out of self-interest, must share with the world not only their technologies but the manufactured and installed equipment of the zero-carbon society (renewable energy and battery technologies?
At home and abroad, technology gains and market forces must be augmented by government policies, incentives and regulatory tools to accelerate change and offset the inertial weight of the status quo. We know, for example, that it takes almost 20 years to turn over 90% of the US car and light truck fleet. Electric vehicle (EV) sales will probably top the million-unit mark in 2023, a dramatic increase in new car market share (to over 6%) but still representing less than 1% of today’s cars and light trucks on the road. Can we wait for market forces to complete the fleet turnover? We cannot.
The Biden Administration and many states understand the need to light a fire under EV sales, and to more rapidly retire gasoline and diesel vehicles. To drive EV sales they (we) need to reduce the front-end cost of EVs (until cost parity is reached with conventional cars and trucks…which should be pretty soon) and to deploy fast charging stations so refueling is as simple, brief and ubiquitous as accessing the local neighborhood gas station. Electric utility distribution systems have to be beefed up to meet the added EV load, and utility rate designs must shift to encourage night-time (“low-load”) home charging. Utility generation must convert to zero-carbon sources (wind, solar…), and transmission capacity must expand rapidly to bring those sources to our homes and vehicles. And so on, and so on. This transition is in a race against the relentless progress of climate change and the rapid multiplying of its effects.
EV’s are one example in one slice of the 21st Century economy. The levers of converting away from carbon have to be pushed simultaneously, and as strenuously, for the harder-to-convert uses like home heating and cooling, commercial refrigeration, freight transportation, cement, and the myriad other ways we’ve embedded fossil energies into our lives and must root them out.
In the end it won’t be the emergence of critical technologies but the velocity of their adoption that will determine how deeply we drive ourselves into the cavern of climate change, whether we come out the other side at all, and in what condition when we so emerge.
It’s doable, barely, and only if we can overcome in time the self-interest and inertia that always resist new – and often as disruptive as they are advantageous – solutions.
 Excerpted and enlarged from “Conservation Science and Advocacy for a Planet in Peril: Speaking Truth to Power” edited by Dr. Dominick A. DellaSala, Elsevier Press, 2021
 as John Maynard Keynes wrote, epigrammatically and in a different context, “In the long run we are all dead”. Keynes was redressing economists who resisted government intervention to manage cycles of prosperity and recession, but his admonition is also a useful expression of why we fail to sufficiently value the condition of the world we will leave to our grandchildren.
 The Biden Administration’s Interagency discount rates group just proposed a Social Cost of Carbon discount rate revision in an appropriately downward direction. Original discount rates were 2.5%, 3.0% and 5.0%. The proposed new rates would be: 1.5%, 2.0% and 2.5%…resulting in a dramatic and meaningful increase in the SCC value of a ton of CO2 emitted in 2020 from $51 to $190 (at a median 2.0%). Methane (CH4) and NOx values increased commensurately
 “Vehicle fleet turnover and the future of fuel economy” Keith et al, 2019 Environ. Res. Lett 14 021001 (https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/aaf4d2)
“To Zero Emissions and Beyond? Oregon Stumbles Forward,” Conservation Science and Advocacy for a Planet in Peril, Speaking Truth to Power, 2021 by Angus Duncan, pages 301-307 reprinted by permission of ELSEVIER.
Angus Duncan is Chair Emeritus, Oregon Global Warming Commission; Former Member and Chair, Northwest Conservation and Power Planning Council; Former Director of Energy Policy, US Department of Transportation; and Consultant on Pacific Northwest Energy and Climate Issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
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