14 November 2012

President Obama and the Iron Law of Climate Change

You could not ask for a more clear expression of the iron law of climate change and its implications that that which was given by President Obama today in a press conference (emphasis added):
There’s no doubt that for us to take on climate change in a serious way would involve making some tough political choices, and you know, understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we’re going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don’t think anybody’s going to go for that.

I won’t go for that.

If, on the other hand, we can shape an agenda that says we can create jobs, advance growth and make a serious dent in climate change and be an international leader, I think that’s something that the American people would support.
Well said.


  1. What about those trial balloons about carbon taxes? Will he ignore their failure and try to get that, too?

    Since he doesn't have enough water carriers in the House, he'll presumably have to rely on smaller measures that the EPA can attempt to justify based on existing law, like claiming the Clean Air Act includes carbon dioxide.

    Or just keep piling on regulations on coal to make it more expensive. Or Federal rules on fracking.

    Roger, I agree that the Iron Law prevents any obvious action (Democrats couldn't even pass cap and trade when they controlled all of Congress and the White House!), but the Federal Leviathan is too big, too Byzantine, and too crafty to be kept down by something so banal as popular support or rational policy making.

  2. "Serious dent in Climate change" the arrogance of this is very evident. The natural cycle is not something man can change, all man can do is make good use of the resources, keep the place clean and grow food for population of the earth. The rest is hot political air from one of the poorest presidents of all time.

  3. I don't think David Cameron would dare say anything that explicit here in the UK - he'd be roasted by the metro meejah, it would simply be seen and cast as denialism. I'll be interested to track the reaction to this coming from Obama.

  4. Obama said this:

    "What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago."

    Not exactly confidence inspiring is it.

  5. "Obama said this:

    "What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago."

    Not exactly confidence inspiring is it."

    How does the President of the United States say something so demonstratively false? Did someone tell him this? Who? Or is he "winging" it?

    Is someone going to set him straight? NYT? WSJ? Revkin?

  6. Someone is really going to have to explain to me sometime why the USA should do something about their CO2 emissions when nobody else is, or shows any sign of it, even the EU can't cut emissions except via a recession. China and India are clear, emissions will keep rising, they have an Iron Law too.

  7. The only way the US will ever do anything about global warming is if it signs a global deal which I predict will never happen. It could probably save the planet by shutting down the biggest protection racket in history, the overseas presence of the US military.

    The Chicago Climate Exchange which was to be the hub of American carbon trading has effectively closed. No profit. Game over.


    IntercontinentalExchange (NYSE: ICE), a leading operator of regulated global futures exchanges, clearing houses and over-the-counter (OTC) markets, announced in April 2010 that it had agreed on terms to acquire Climate Exchange plc.[5] That acquisition was completed in July 2010[6] and was followed by an announcement that half of the company's Chicago-based workforce would be laid off due to inactivity in the U.S. carbon markets.[7] In November 2010, the Climate Exchange stated that it would cease trading carbon credits at the end of 2010, although carbon exchanges will still be facilitated

  8. The U.S. has done many things regarding emissions in recent years. On top of those actions, U.S. emissions decreased to the lowest level in 20 years due to the relatively low price of natural gas compared to coal. Can the U.S. continue to push its emissions curve down? Only if the government and industry continue to search for more cost-effective ways of doing business. That's the key: new opportunities arise with technological advancement.

    Declaring the futility of carbon markets this soon after their birth seems premature to me. CA's carbon market opened yesterday. We'll be able to begin to see when they report numbers on Monday whether they learned lessons from the European and Northeast markets. But at a minimum, it means two top-10 economies have carbon markets operating.

    Trying to generate a global climate agreement from scratch has proven not to be viable. I would be interested to see how bilateral and small multilateral agreements could shift circumstances.

  9. Is Obama as misinformed on economic matters as he appears to be on climate science?

    Why did/does he believe that substituting a high cost energy source (wind/solar) for a low cost energy source (coal) would be good for net job growth?

    Why does he believe that raising taxes on the rich from ~35% to ~39% ($50-$100B/yr) is somehow key to balancing the budget (>$1T/yr deficit)?

    Didn't he graduate from Harvard? Basic math and economics are not required courses at Harvard?

  10. Richard

    I assumed that the CCE was gone for ever. See bottom. I understand that the California situation is that, unlike the European system, the State of California is going to charge every business to produce carbon. This is essentially a business tax probably motivated by their gigantic deficit.

    In Europe, they were given away free initially, although that could change in the future. I also understood (from Mr Monbiot) that European carbon credits were virtually worthless due to the global recession (thank you Wall Street) and the knock on problems in the Eurozone.

    While cheap gas may be reducing Co2, it is hardly in the spirit of sacrifice of Kyoto. The recent news that the USA is close to being the world's biggest oil producer doesn't inspire confidence that Mr Obama wants to save the planet.


    Fox News (right wing sources for this, unsurprising)

    The closing this week of the Chicago Climate Exchange, which was envisioned to be the key player in the trillion-dollar "cap and trade" market, was the final nail in the coffin of the Obama administration's effort to pass the controversial program meant to combat global warming.

    "It is dead for the foreseeable future," said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and the Environment with the Competitive Energy Institute, which had fought the measure.

    Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/09/collapse-chicago-climate-exchange-means-strategy-shift-global-warming-curbs/#ixzz2CLF5QURQ

  11. -10- eric144,

    "Save the planet?"

    Personally, I'm all for emitting as much CO2 as possible. But it really cracks me up that actual reductions don't seem to count among those to whom they matter if the intentions aren't pure.

  12. So, how long will the Chinese and others bear the environmental and human consequences of "green" policy? How many birds and bats, including endangered and protected species, will we permit windmills to destroy? What local and regional climate aberrations will we tolerate in order to pursue technologies which are neither effective nor "green" in the common marketing sense? How will unreliable, low-density energy production meet the needs of over 300 million people in America alone?

    Neither current photovoltaic technology nor windmills can be reasonably isolated from the environment. They are unreliable, low density energy production schemes, which will always be poor candidates as primary energy producers. Their component technologies rely on the recovery and processing of materials which are finitely accessible and damaging to both the environment and people.

    There is no instant gratification without consequences in this world. Not with energy; not with natural resources; not with wealth (i.e. product of labor); or anything else. We should endeavor to avoid deceiving people to the incontrovertible limitations our world imposes upon us. It has been promises of instant gratification, and the dissociation of risk which they engender, which have been the cause of corruption and cyclical crises in our society and around the world.

  13. These corporations that get carbon credits for reducing emissions... A coal refinery in america being shut down for example... you don't think they will just use the money to open multiple, cheaper, less efficient refineries in India? or China? They are making more profit in the long term, we lose more jobs in america, and in the end carbon emissions actually going up.....? Not in america, of course, but globally. Maybe I'm just uneducated, but I don't see how it makes sense to let this happen.

  14. MattL

    My point is that the US government, the senate in particular will never agree to deliberately reduce CO2 emissions. They voted 95-0 to Kyoto to the dismay of Enron who despite sending Gore to sign the Kyoto agreement, backed Bush in the 2000 election because they thought he could pull it off. It was irrelevant because the senate were totally determined to protect their voters' interests.

    The amazing coincidence of Climategate just before Copenhagen ended all possibility of American involvement.

    The difference between America and Europe is that all pretence of democracy has gone . EU countries must adhere to emissions targets.

    Interesting history is that General De Gaul refused British entry to the EU because he said it would it would be a Trojan Horse for the Americans. How right he was.


    The first major American Trojan Horse in Europe was of course that half American, alcoholic, irresponsible, reckless, heavily indebted and controlled rascal, Winston Randolph Churchill. I'm sure De Gaul knew that.