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.@SenSanders releases climate plan … lots of great material but …

December 7th, 2015 · No Comments

Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign has released his climate change plan, advertised as People before Polluters.

Several upfront comments

  • To be clear, there is much of real and substantive value in the Sanders’ plan — despite some critical comments to follow.  With whatever faults it may (or may not) have, adopting (and executing) this plan would put the United States on a much stronger footing economically and help lead the world toward meaningful engagement / progress toward climate mitigation.
  • Important in (and central to) this plan are several elements that set this plan apart:
    • As discussed by Brad Plumer, “the call for all-out war against fossil fuel interests, that sets Sanders’s platform apart from traditional Democratic climate proposals.” And,
    • a serious focus on environmental and ‘economic justice — the tackling of climate challenges and seizing of opportunities in ways that foster greater equity domestically and internationally.
  • Full and robust analysis will wait until later. (And will probably involve a ‘side-by-side’ discussion of the full Sanders’ material with that of Senator Clinton and Governor O’Malley.)
  • The substantive discussion of climate change and paths to address it that is seen on the Democratic side of #Election2016 is, of course, in stark contrast with the devoted science denialism across the GOP candidate rabble.

So, understanding that this is not based on a detailed read and analysis of the plan, follow after the fold for some thoughts / comments.

What is necessary? What should the target be?

The following is the target for U.S. pollution levels:

Cut U.S. carbon pollution by 40 percent by 2030 and by over 80 percent by 2050
As an explanation, later in the document:
Bernie knows that to maintain a safe and healthy planet for our kids and grandchildren we must listen to the scientists who say we must decrease carbon pollution emissions by at least 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.
It seems to me that this target is
  1. (unbelievably) great if we can get it into policy come 2017 but
  2. seriously outdated and inadequate.
As to the second, the ‘80% below 1990 levels’ is a target set for the global industrialized world decades ago. Since then, ‘we’ (both the United States and the global economy) have pumped far more into the atmosphere than originally thought would be the case when that target was created (e.g., we have eaten into the carbon budget).  Established well before the Kyoto Accords, this came well before the Chinese economic boom(s) and massive growth in its (and global emissions).
In addition, our scientific understanding has advanced quite a lot since then. We know far more about risks and potentially significant negative impacts of ‘positive feedback loops’ (melting permafrost leading to methane leakage leading to higher GHG levels driving higher temperatures with more permafrost lost leading to …)  and have learned quite a lot about risks/etc since the target was created.
A far more sensible target if we wish to reduce climate catastrophe impacts and risks would be a carbon negative economy by 2050 (or by 2040 …) (See a brief discussion of this in the definition of a A Prosperous, Climate-Friendly Society.)
Bernie Sanders is the ‘far left’ of the ‘viable’ political discussion in US electoral discussions. (It is about as far ‘left’ as the Village’s VSP’s (Very Serious People) are willing to go.)  It would have been valuable, in my opinion, for the Sanders’ campaign to be pushing the Overton Window toward a stronger policy discussion space.  Instead, 80% by 2050 is still defined as the ‘extreme’ rather than a baseline minimum.
Understating the case?
I am tripping up over details that ring wrong to me.
For example, from the plan:

For every dollar invested in energy efficiency, families and businesses can enjoy up to $4 in energy savings, and for every billion dollars invested in energy efficiency upgrades we can create up to 7,000-8,000 new jobs, roughly ten times as many jobs as we would create from the same investments in coal.

The standard figure about job creation. is, writ large, roughly 2.5x what the campaign used. According to an ACEEE ‘101’ fact sheet, there are about 19 direct/indirect jobs per $1M in energy efficiency (or 19,000, rather than ‘7,000-8,000’, jobs per $1B invested.
It is frustrating when ‘an aggressive’ climate plan is directly understating well-understood benefit streams (and, by the way, doesn’t embrace the richness of fully-analyzed value streams.
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Tags: climate change · Election 2016