27 votes

The next president of the US makes climate change their top priority. What should be their first actions?

Let's assume that they have full control over congress, so politics isn't an issue. I think looking at what a good global climate policy would be useful, because it allows us to see where we stand. It could also serve as a platform for future candidates.

It seems to me that the new president should take a wide-ranging series of measures to curb emissions in all the major domains: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, etc. [1]. You might argue that measures taken in isolation from other countries are not sufficient. While that's true, someone has to start. The US taking the lead on climate change would have a profound impact on all other countries. The US could use its very strong diplomatic weight to pressure other countries to adopt similar measures.

So what should these measures be? The major one would seem to be a carbon tax, applied to all major sources of emissions: energy production (coal plants, ...), agriculture (cattle and meat imports), jet fuel (current taxes are very low), etc. Another one could be a tax on imports depending on how much the exporting country does against global warming. Maybe a new kind of free trade alliance among "climate-virtuous" countries could be created.

Any thoughts? Have any serious global policy proposals been made and studied in the past?

[1] : https://www.gatesnotes.com/Energy/My-plan-for-fighting-climate-change

29 comments

  1. [4]
    Algernon_Asimov
    Link
    But you wouldn't be starting or taking the lead. You'd be catching up (just like Australia). For example, lots of countries already have taxes or prices on carbon emissions - but not the USA or...

    While that's true, someone has to start. The US taking the lead on climate change would have a profound impact on all other countries.

    But you wouldn't be starting or taking the lead. You'd be catching up (just like Australia). For example, lots of countries already have taxes or prices on carbon emissions - but not the USA or Australia (Australia has the unenviable distinction of being the only country to implement a tax on carbon and to then repeal that tax).

    20 votes
    1. [2]
      joelthelion
      Link Parent
      Lots of countries are ahead of the US right now. But none (or no western countries, at least) are doing enough. It wouldn't be too hard to take the lead.

      Lots of countries are ahead of the US right now. But none (or no western countries, at least) are doing enough. It wouldn't be too hard to take the lead.

      1 vote
      1. SleepyGary
        Link Parent
        I don't think your country has the stomach to implement a $30+/t carbon tax right off the bat but I'd like to see it. It's a hard sell on Canadians, even with gradual roll out, many provinces are...

        I don't think your country has the stomach to implement a $30+/t carbon tax right off the bat but I'd like to see it. It's a hard sell on Canadians, even with gradual roll out, many provinces are fighting it, and our conservatives are often more left leaning that your democrats.

        4 votes
    2. Parliament
      Link Parent
      Other countries lead the US in so many areas. I don't understand why we can't just rip off good ideas that others have already implemented. Well, the answer is politics. Many Americans seem to...

      Other countries lead the US in so many areas. I don't understand why we can't just rip off good ideas that others have already implemented. Well, the answer is politics. Many Americans seem to think these problems are American-centric or that the US has some kind of unique slant on problems that everyone else faces. In reality, we could rip off the healthcare system of about a dozen peers and be a lot better off for it.

      1 vote
  2. Nmg
    Link
    stop corn and soybean subsidies that feed cattle. stop allowing ranchers to graze cattle on public land Market-based carbon emissions trading. Make sure oil/gas companies are included so consumers...
    • stop corn and soybean subsidies that feed cattle.
    • stop allowing ranchers to graze cattle on public land
    • Market-based carbon emissions trading. Make sure oil/gas companies are included so consumers pay at the pump.
    • subsidize more public transit such as the unfunded red line in Baltimore and a real high speed rail line in NE USA
    13 votes
  3. spctrvl
    Link
    To expand on one of your ideas: implement the carbon tax, and make it payable to sequestration efforts. For instance, tax carbon at $200/ton, and then from that revenue, pay a carbon bounty of...
    • Exemplary

    To expand on one of your ideas: implement the carbon tax, and make it payable to sequestration efforts. For instance, tax carbon at $200/ton, and then from that revenue, pay a carbon bounty of $150/ton for long term sequestration. Put whatever remains of the $50 after administrative costs, which totals to around $300Bn, into big science kind of stuff that's not going to have investment from private enterprise, like large scale construction of fusion and 4th generation fission plants, orbiting solar shades, and so on.

    7 votes
  4. Staross
    (edited )
    Link
    In no particular order: Massive tax on oil, free/cheap public buses everywhere (we don't have time to build train tracks or other things). People that really need a car (live in a very remote...

    In no particular order:

    • Massive tax on oil, free/cheap public buses everywhere (we don't have time to build train tracks or other things). People that really need a car (live in a very remote area, etc) get exempted. Also easily available shared cars, for when you really need one.

    • Massive tax on meat.

    • Invest in insulation and make heaters/AC more expensive.

    • Invest in nuclear and renewable. Phase out coal.

    • Many other things.

    7 votes
  5. [7]
    pleure
    Link
    Yup. A steep one though, from the IPPC You said politics isn't an issue, but just how far does that extend? Could I ban the farming of meat (or tax it to the extent that it's effectively banned....

    The major one would seem to be a carbon tax

    Yup. A steep one though, from the IPPC

    such a price would have to range from $135 to $5,500 per ton of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030, and from $690 to $27,000 per ton by 2100. By comparison, under the Obama administration, government economists estimated that an appropriate price on carbon would be in the range of $50 per ton.

    You said politics isn't an issue, but just how far does that extend? Could I ban the farming of meat (or tax it to the extent that it's effectively banned. Different Brackets of course, the rich aren't gonna get off), introduce energy rationing, and abolish profit?

    2 votes
    1. papasquat
      Link Parent
      Seems like ripping that bandaid off all at once would cause a lot more problems than it solves. For one it would absolutely wreck the economy. It would also most likely lead to some sort of armed...

      Could I ban the farming of meat (or tax it to the extent that it's effectively banned. Different Brackets of course, the rich aren't gonna get off), introduce energy rationing, and abolish profit?

      Seems like ripping that bandaid off all at once would cause a lot more problems than it solves. For one it would absolutely wreck the economy. It would also most likely lead to some sort of armed revolt.

      4 votes
    2. [5]
      joelthelion
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      What I'm thinking is that if we can settle on a number of measures that need to be taken, we can petition politicians to take them. Of course the list should minimize impact to the economy as much...

      You said politics isn't an issue, but just how far does that extend

      What I'm thinking is that if we can settle on a number of measures that need to be taken, we can petition politicians to take them. Of course the list should minimize impact to the economy as much as possible, and be limited to climate change. Otherwise it will have even less chance of making consensus.

      1 vote
      1. [4]
        Catt
        Link Parent
        I think one of the biggest hurdles with dealing with climate change is specifically this attitude. We want changes to somehow be easy or convenient or unnoticeable, but we passed that point...

        Of course the list should minimize impact on the economy as much as possible, and be limited to climate change.

        I think one of the biggest hurdles with dealing with climate change is specifically this attitude. We want changes to somehow be easy or convenient or unnoticeable, but we passed that point decades ago. Any meaningful change now will need to look at overhauling our global growth cenentric economy.

        6 votes
        1. [3]
          joelthelion
          Link Parent
          Oh, that's not at all what I meant! I mean we should minimize impact, while reducing emissions to acceptable levels. Any set of measures that are strong enough to reduce emissions to acceptable...

          We want changes to somehow be easy or convenient or unnoticeable

          Oh, that's not at all what I meant! I mean we should minimize impact, while reducing emissions to acceptable levels. Any set of measures that are strong enough to reduce emissions to acceptable levels will have to be radical. But I think we should still try to minimize their impact, precisely because they will have a strong impact already.

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            Catt
            Link Parent
            I get what you're saying, but I am still going to nitpick the word minimize because I honestly think it's problematic. I think when we use language like this we are trying to sell a narrative that...

            I get what you're saying, but I am still going to nitpick the word minimize because I honestly think it's problematic.

            I think when we use language like this we are trying to sell a narrative that we can "make this work" within our current systems, which I believe is untrue. Radical and minimize simply don't work together.

            5 votes
            1. joelthelion
              Link Parent
              I'm a scientist so to me it's not a real contradiction, but I see your point. And you're right, language is important.

              Radical and minimize simply don't work together.

              I'm a scientist so to me it's not a real contradiction, but I see your point. And you're right, language is important.

              2 votes
  6. [6]
    swiftestcat
    Link
    Here are some ideas: Create target laws that are aimed to reduce Co2 emissions. A tax on meat and dairy. Not too big, but it should be there. Properly campaign for the environment in public....

    Here are some ideas:

    • Create target laws that are aimed to reduce Co2 emissions.
    • A tax on meat and dairy. Not too big, but it should be there.
    • Properly campaign for the environment in public.
    • Improve the current vehicle tax greatly, making it statewide and more expensive.
    • Increase jet fuel tax/fuel duty and increase the air passenger tax.
    • Fund renewable energy such as solar energy and wave/tidal power more seriously and properly.
    • Have fuel and gas companies blend a specific amount of biofuels into their products.

    I’m open to discussion on these ideas and more suggestions!

    2 votes
    1. [4]
      spctrvl
      Link Parent
      A general carbon tax would cover taxing meat and dairy, vehicles and jet fuel. Just as an example, 1kg of beef causes the emission of 13kg of CO2, so that's at least $2.60/kg for a $200/ton carbon...

      A general carbon tax would cover taxing meat and dairy, vehicles and jet fuel. Just as an example, 1kg of beef causes the emission of 13kg of CO2, so that's at least $2.60/kg for a $200/ton carbon tax.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        joelthelion
        Link Parent
        How high should the tax be? I don't think 2$/kg would have a meaningful effect on beef consumption...

        How high should the tax be? I don't think 2$/kg would have a meaningful effect on beef consumption...

        1 vote
        1. spctrvl
          Link Parent
          That's more a minimum, but I think $2.60/kg would significantly cut beef consumption. Prices where I'm at are only around $7/kg (for ground beef), so we're talking nearly a 40% price increase from...

          That's more a minimum, but I think $2.60/kg would significantly cut beef consumption. Prices where I'm at are only around $7/kg (for ground beef), so we're talking nearly a 40% price increase from a $200/ton carbon tax.

          1 vote
      2. swiftestcat
        Link Parent
        Yeah, that makes much more sense. Plus it’s probably a lot easier to control than taxing separately.

        Yeah, that makes much more sense. Plus it’s probably a lot easier to control than taxing separately.

    2. Soptik
      Link Parent
      This is the only point where I think it would be mostly waste of money. We aren't going to be saved with renewable energy - it's unreliable (wind), efficiency:cost ratio is poor (sun) and it's...

      Fund renewable energy such as solar energy and wave/tidal power more seriously and properly.

      This is the only point where I think it would be mostly waste of money. We aren't going to be saved with renewable energy - it's unreliable (wind), efficiency:cost ratio is poor (sun) and it's damn expensive to build enough wave/water power plants.

      I think the path we should follow the path of nuclear energy if we want to cut out coal power plants. They are expensive to build, but they provide massive efficiency:cost ratio, need very low amounts of U (or Th or whatever), and they emit just water to the atmosphere, making them one of the most green & viable options we have. The only downsides is the burn out fuel - which has to be buried underground at the moment, but there are experimental power plants that can burn and reuse burn out fuel - and, of course, the small problems when the power plant decides to explode.

      But I think we shouldn't fear it that much - especially with modern technology, and the focus on security is, like, really big. Chernobyl was experiment that should prove if it even worked - and blown up because of irresponsible officer that knew nothing about what is he doing, but he did it because he wanted to test it. Fukushima - well, try to not build it at the coast.

      While I think renewable energy definitely has it's value, I think that the best move would be to invest in nuclear energy, which can replace coal power plants much faster.

      2 votes
  7. [2]
    Eva
    Link
    Punish trade partners that have unreasonably high carbon emissions. Punish domestic companies that have unreasonably high carbon emissions. Ban cars in areas with high population density. Expand...

    Punish trade partners that have unreasonably high carbon emissions.

    Punish domestic companies that have unreasonably high carbon emissions.

    Ban cars in areas with high population density.

    Expand Amtrack.

    2 votes
    1. SleepyGary
      Link Parent
      Are you asking for extra punishment on top of a flat $/t carbon tax or no carbon tax but sanctions on heavy emitters only? A consumption tax will already negatively affect a heavy emitter more...

      Are you asking for extra punishment on top of a flat $/t carbon tax or no carbon tax but sanctions on heavy emitters only?

      A consumption tax will already negatively affect a heavy emitter more than a light emitter even if it's a flat rate. This should increase pressure for them to reduce their emissions to reduce their tax load which should* also make them more competitive that their peers with consumers forcing their competitors to follow suit.

      * Should unless cost of operating technology to reduce emissions cost more than the tax itself.

  8. moriarty
    Link
    Fourth Generation nuclear power plants to phase out coal, oil and gas plants throughout the country

    Fourth Generation nuclear power plants to phase out coal, oil and gas plants throughout the country

    2 votes
  9. [5]
    BlackLedger
    Link
    Incarcerating and seizing all the wealth of donors who have previously lobbied against addressing climate change, as otherwise any action taken will be undone in a subsequent election cycle.

    Incarcerating and seizing all the wealth of donors who have previously lobbied against addressing climate change, as otherwise any action taken will be undone in a subsequent election cycle.

    1 vote
    1. joelthelion
      Link Parent
      Incarcerating people for legal activities sounds a bit harsh, don't you think?

      Incarcerating people for legal activities sounds a bit harsh, don't you think?

      6 votes
    2. [2]
      Nmg
      Link Parent
      Ignorance isn't illegal

      Ignorance isn't illegal

      3 votes
      1. psi
        Link Parent
        There's a difference between ignorance and willful ignorance, though. You generally shouldn't fault someone for not knowing something. However, that sort of ignorance is categorically different...

        There's a difference between ignorance and willful ignorance, though. You generally shouldn't fault someone for not knowing something. However, that sort of ignorance is categorically different from campaigning against facts because they're inconvenient to your personal (monetary) interests.

        2 votes
    3. Eylrid
      Link Parent
      Incarcerating people for having the wrong politics is the definition of tyranny. And even if the person in power when those powers are granted agrees with you 100% it's only a matter of time...

      Incarcerating people for having the wrong politics is the definition of tyranny. And even if the person in power when those powers are granted agrees with you 100% it's only a matter of time before someone else takes power and uses it to do abhorrent things.

      otherwise any action taken will be undone in a subsequent election cycle.

      It's a good thing that things can be undone in later election cycles. You wouldn't want to be stuck with the current administration's policies forever, after all, would you?

      2 votes
  10. CrazyOtter
    Link
    Few things that haven't been said yet. Give the EPA way more power & funding. Ban all new coal power plants and start rapid enforced closure of existing ones. Throw money at nuclear fusion...

    Few things that haven't been said yet.

    • Give the EPA way more power & funding.
    • Ban all new coal power plants and start rapid enforced closure of existing ones.
    • Throw money at nuclear fusion research & renewable energy.