An unequivocal demand from The University will tip the scales for climate action. The press will follow. Politicians will have to follow.
Climate action must start immediately and be aggressive.
Successful strategy requires:
- Policy to eliminate market distortions that protect GHG polluting activities.
- Most “bang for the buck” technology emission reduction equipment and methods.
- Access to capital.
Policy gridlock allows legacy energy interests to protect their outmoded businesses. Mobilized political will can break the lock. Policy resolution will allow investment flow, and already available technology will quickly come to bear on the GHG reduction task.
Intentional public confusion has been the modus operandi for status quo beneficiaries. Science has been outspoken on the need for action for at least a decade. The U.S. military has identified climate change as one of the most serious security threats. And voices for ethics, most recently Pope Francis, have consistently argued that an intergenerational transfer of environmental damage is wrong. Until now, sadly, the university has been absent from this chorus.
Politicians don’t act. It stretches credulity that this is simple ignorance. Energy interests are protected, and will be until political cover is ripped away. It is time for the university to join and pull the blanket.
An explicit, firm and official statement of support for a price on CO2 pollution from the world’s institutions of higher learning will force the press to end its complicity in the conspiracy of confusion.
The press has played along with the fantasy of two sides to an ongoing climate change “debate.” University silence allows this nonsense to continue. Without institutional declaration, the side wanting confusion can claim the issue is not settled.
Bringing academia firmly in will end the disinformation campaign and free the press to educate with facts. We will immediately move to serious conversation about methods.
The news will be good. Future costs for energy will be lower, even using today’s costing that leaves externalities (costs passed to future generations) uncounted. We have right now, technologies that produce the end value of our energy consumption, comfort and light, for example, that are cheaper than traditional extraction, transport and burning of fossil fuels. We will save money.
The needed policy changes are simple, elimination of fossil fuel subsidies and a price on CO2. A simple $60/ton CO2 tax returned as a rebate to consumers or, as suggested in a related proposal, as a cut in payroll taxes can be revenue neutral. A tax at this level will make the most damaging fossil fuel usage practices quickly uneconomic.
We have a cornucopia of sensors, data gathering and transmission methods and analysis tools that were unimaginable just a few years ago. This is the smart grid. It gives us the ability to have a high quality lifestyle while consuming a fraction of the energy that would have been required with mid-twentieth methods. And we have reasonable cost solar electricity generating equipment that can be put to work immediately and will soon have comparable cost battery energy storage. Climate action is not held back by lack of technology.
Access to Capital
The third essential element, finance, will rush in when the political ground finally shifts. Money is on the sidelines because it still worries that the move beyond fossil fuel will again prove a stillborn effort. The greed side that is pushing humanity to the environmental cliff could still win. We cannot expect banks to act on behalf of the human race. But they will eagerly join this transition task when there is clear opportunity without risk. A price on carbon will settle the risk question once and for all.
Which plan do you select for China?Go ahead China, show the example and reap the benefits!
Which plan do you select for India?Real-time EER/COP Monitoring System of Air-conditioing Syatem for Efficient Use
Which plan do you select for the United States?Value not set.
Which plan do you select for Europe?Destroy Carbon
Which plan do you select for other developing countries?Towards a Holistic Path to combating Climate Change Impacts in Kingdom of Jordan
Which plan do you select for other developed countries?Value not set.
What additional cross-regional proposals are included in your plan, if any?
Electricity at the lowest societal cost: holistic optimization
This proposal is a systematic model for valuing external costs from electricity generation. Correct costing is the logic driver for moving beyond fossil fuels.
Path To Zero - Transforming energy inefficient buildings to green buildings
A collective effort to fund energy consumption reductions without upfront investments by end users. Access to capital is the third essential for successful action on climate. This solves the financing challenge by directing realized savings into the next savings opportunity. It produces a cascade effect.
University Prestige To Break The Climate Policy Gridlock
This is a more fully developed proposal for a 2015 U.S. Climate Action Plan. Prestigious institutions like centers of authority on science and economics slow action on climate by their silence. If their voice is brought to bear the press will follow and politicians will be forced to act. Markets can be the active agent for fast transition from fossil fuels with zero net economic cost.
How do the regional and cross-sectoral plans above fit together?
The plans fit together because they all bring necessary parts for an integrated master plan. Three are essential, policy, effective technology and investment funds.
“Electricity at the lowest societal cost: holistic optimization” is a tool written for energy planning in Latin America. It works to remove a flaw in traditional valuations of alternatives, failure to count external costs. 18 real costs that society pays are quantified. These are real, and in the case of fossil fuels are either undervalued or not counted. Including them makes the case for the renewable transition just that much stronger and defense of the incumbents harder. It strengthens the hand of policy change proponents.
“Sweeten the Carbon Deal” proposes $60/ton CO2. This would add 6¢/kWh to the price of coal produced electricity. Inclusion of these other external costs, health effects, for example could add multiples of that number. It is a very plausible argument that coal electricity is 3 or 4 times as expensive as renewables generated electricity.
“Go ahead China, show the example and reap the benefits!” and “Towards a Holistic Path to combating Climate Change Impacts in Kingdom of Jordan” show that leadership and the will to act on climate may be greater outside the United States. Go ahead China calls for leadership in that country, suggesting that the West may not be up to the task. Towards a Holistic Path cites government action in Jordan. The politics is difficult in the U.S. The rest of the world should march even if the U.S. is not yet ready to lead on policy.
“Incentivise efficient household energy use through social & economic instruments” illustrates two aspects of a Global Plan for climate, that it can and must be global, and that there is technology in development that will provide quality of life without environmental pollution. Smart grid solutions springing up in India is encouraging. Technology is essential to a World Climate Action Plan.
The third essential component is investment funds. From Europe, “Path To Zero - Energy Supply” is an innovative roadblock remover. It makes energy upgrades self-funding after initial seeding. Money saved on energy expenditures are plowed back into additional investment in energy savings. This is an accelerating pay as you go funding mechanism with zero incremental cost to end consumers. When the energy upgrade is complete, consumers will have free energy and be able to put the entire ongoing savings into their pockets.
Path to Zero may be too slow, and other financing resources will likely pour into the renewables and energy efficiency buildout once policy uncertainty is resolved. It is a valuable and encouraging data point however, because it makes clear that economics is on the side of the energy transition, not the out of date fossil fuel paradigm.
Explanation of the emissions scenario calculated in the Impact tab
What are the plan’s key benefits?
- This is doable because it should immediately appeal to an army of individuals within these organizations who are frustrated and embarrassed by apparent institutional conflicts of interest. These academics are already aligned with the immediate first step goal, putting a price on CO2 emissions.
- The plan is substantive. The recommended price of $60/ton will make the worst fossil fuel current usage patterns clearly uneconomic.
- With price as the active agent, policy detail mistakes—bad investments—are avoided.
- The plan is comprehensive in that it will be effective across the energy usage sectors that are most responsible for carbon emissions. This is true for all areas of the world. A price on carbon will encourage developing countries skip investing in 20th century fossil fuel technologies.
- The plan can be activated simultaneously in thousands of learning and research institutions worldwide.
What are the plan’s costs?
There are no net costs. The recommended path is to eliminate current subsidies, which do have costs, and to institute a new tax that can be used to offset exactly a cut to other existing taxes or to pay for clean energy investment. Taxation and spending should be net-neutral to the economy.
What are the key challenges to enacting this plan?
- Difficulty in communicating the idea to the necessary first movers, students and faculty. These are the university’s primary “business customers.” They ultimately hold more sway than benefactors and trust fund managers.
- Sabotage by incumbent energy interests which will suffer loss as the transition to non-polluting alternatives accelerates.
- Misplaced notions of academic purity by individuals hypersensitive about the university losing respect as a politically neutral institution.
There is strong potential for cascade effect. The end of Apartheid in South Africa a generation ago was accelerated by a grassroots divestment campaign. The phenomenon can start anywhere and spread, and even universities are not immune to herd behavior. Beyond a tipping point any institution the resists engagement, for whatever reason, will be seen as an outlier and suffer for it. The facts are so strongly in favor of action on climate that the university that fails to endorse action will face an "Emperor has no clothes" moment, something even worse than complaint from its fossil fuel benefactors.
- Now—University students and faculty accept the challenge.
- December 2015—Pressure university governing boards during or shortly after the Paris Climate Conference (COP21).
- January 2017—Coordinated university announcements that coincide with presidential inauguration and installation of new congress in the U.S.
- In other countries, move with urgency but use political calendar to best advantage.