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Americans asked to pay for climate change

Justin Rowlatt | 15:52 UK time, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

President Obama addresses congress

Detroit, Michigan - Can markets save the earth from climate change? That is the question I posed yesterday. Today the answer came back loud and clear from none other than the President of the United States himself.

"To truly transform our economy, to protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change" President Obama told the US Congress yesterday, "we need to ultimately make clean renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America".

Now I'm not for a moment suggesting that the President has been reading my blog (though I don't rule it out) but the cap and trade system that he referred to last night is exactly the kind of market-based carbon pricing mechanism that I was discussing yesterday.

He could not have been more forceful about his commitment. It was top of his list of priorities: "The only way this century will be another American century is if we confront at last the price of our dependence on oil", he said.

It is a truly radical policy. Europe has had a limited cap and trade system for years but what Obama is proposing is an economy-wide system.

The idea is this: the government sets a cap, a limit, on the total amount of carbon dioxide that can be emitted. It then issues permits to emit that carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The permits can be bought and sold on a market - that's the trade bit - and companies can only emit carbon dioxide if they buy a permit.

The reason President Obama supports cap and trade is because it harnesses carbon reduction to the most powerful motivating force ever developed - the power of capitalism, the power of human ambition.

Businesses won't seek to cut carbon emissions to save the earth they will do it because it will save them money and therefore increase their profits. Cap and trade creates the "carbon price" we were discussing yesterday because it makes emitting carbon just another cost in a business' production process.

Just think how powerful a change that could be. What it does is enforce the principle that the polluter should pay for the damage they create.

Tackling pollution is a subject close to the hearts of many of the residents of Muskegon, the little city in Michigan I have been staying in.

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Before I left I was invited to spend a morning enjoying the local sport of ice fishing. It was a little frightening at first. My guide, Nathan Jandt, warned me that if I fell through the ice I'd only have a minute or so to get out, after that I'd slowly freeze to death.

"You'd still be alive after five minutes", Nathan told me, "it's just that you wouldn't be able to move anymore."

Until quite recently freezing to death wasn't the only peril ice fishermen faced. The fish could make you seriously ill too. That is because they were contaminated by the poisons and dangerous metals pumped and dumped in the lake by the chemical factories that used to fringe the shore.

It took two decades and a quarter of a billion dollars to clean the lake up. Now the advice is that you can eat the fish, just not too often.

So who picked up the tab for this epic clean-up operation? The principle of polluter pays should have applied but most of the chemical firms were either bankrupt or the owners couldn't be found so it was the people who paid the bill.

The cap and trade system President Obama proposed yesterday is designed to stem the new problem that is affecting Muskegon Lake, the thinning of the ice.

This year has been good, a couple of months of solid ice cover, but in the last decade or so fisherman have been lucky if they can get out on the ice for a full month.

Nathan says that when he drilled his first ice hole with his dad a quarter of a century ago fishermen would put their shanties out on the ice in December and wouldn't have to take them off until early March. He's pretty sure the change is down in part to global warming.

Justin ice fishingIn Muskegon many of the companies that polluted the lake escaped without having to pay the costs. The idea of cap and trade is that the polluters who pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will pay for the effects of what they do.

But when it comes to global warming we are all polluters and ultimately it will be us who pick up the tab.

I described President Obama's announcement as radical because it means ordinary Americans are likely to pay more for absolutely everything they buy and many of them are not going to like that.

Our economies are so dependent on fossil fuels that if you charge businesses for emitting carbon dioxide it will raise prices throughout the economy. Everything we do or buy becomes more expensive because virtually everything we do or buy involves the use of fossil fuels and therefore the production of carbon dioxide.

What President Obama proposed yesterday is radical because politicians in democracies are rarely brave enough to do things that are likely to be that unpopular.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nice HAT EthicalMan (although I'm not sure how Ethical it is - is it made from a real animal?)

    Since you were listening to the president's speech last night, I hope you are planning to visit Greensville, Kansas to see first hand what the folks there are doing for the environment.

  • Comment number 2.

    Wow...Imagine that. The left has figured out a way to turn the global warming myth into money! Who would have ever thought that could happen?

    Why don't they dream up another Y2K type scare to boost the economy?

  • Comment number 3.

    Copied from above: "He's pretty sure the change is down in part to global warming".

    Pretty sure???

    SOME scientists are "pretty sure" that global warming exists...

  • Comment number 4.

    Americans can make a difference as they produce 25% of the worlds pollution despite only being 4% of the worlds fact they deserve to pay for dealing with the problem.

  • Comment number 5.

    @ sadevito

    The name of the town that you're referring to is Greensberg, KS, a place I've visited several times over the past twelve months. What I find interesting here is the commentary about who is paying for the "greening" of that small town. While I agree that what the town is doing is an amazing thing, only those rich enough to rebuild green are. The town is an cool example of the little steps of going green, but has little translation to cleaning up the energy problems in America as a whole. Hopefully the president will create more financial incentives to help the small towns as well as the large corporations become more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

  • Comment number 6.

    I see two problems with this.

    Ask what happens when domestically made goods cost too much (due to carbon permits)? They are imported. Foreign industries, which likely would emit more CO2, will produce those goods, and more CO2 would be used in transport. The end result is the pollution will just be "outsourced", making the US look green but it will have as much, or more, of a carbon footprint as before. Anyone want a line of coal plants on the borders of the US? No matter how many laws we'd make to prevent such things, even requiring carbon permits on everything imported, based on "estimated" CO2 emitted to make them, the loopholes will be taken advantage of.

    Second, is the issue of hoarding permits by those who do not need them. Even if laws are made to prevent this, you'll see the coal plant owner shut it down or operate it at minimum capacity and then manipulate the market (likely with massive amounts of other investor's money), saying "I need them" to operate the plant. Then another law is created to end that, and they find another loophole. Massive amounts of CO2 will be needed to support all the lawyers and related professionals required to both police and evade such laws, and the attention of an already distracted Congress will be even more diverted. The only way I can see this reducing CO2 levels is if it makes the US economy tank even more.

    There must be better ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

  • Comment number 7.

    Who we vote for makes all the differance in the world. Its not all just meaningless politics.

  • Comment number 8.

    Oh my, Escanaba in Da Moonlight, British style. Justin even looks like Ranger Tom. Maybe Justin should be hunting for the Windigo too. ;-)

    I am encouraged by President Obama's speech of last night. It is a step closer to understanding what energy is and does for us, and the true cost of it.

    As they say, the truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.

  • Comment number 9.

    "ETHICAL" Man?
    While it would be great to have the perpetrators pay the cost, as you point out, what Cap and Trade means in the real world is that we would ALL pay the cost every day.
    Your fanatical religious devotion to "saving the planet" prevents you from questioning your assumptions or seeing the costs involved for actual people. In your twisted ethics, humanity (as a part of the biosphere) has a legitimate place, but real people aren't worth caring about.
    I certainly hope--for the sake of the planet and those of us who live here--that your dreams don't come true. What a nightmare it is for the rest of us to live in the world you are creating.
    (And yes, I do believe that what you are doing is magnitudes of order worse than what the evil polluters have done.)

  • Comment number 10.

    The caps could be set at the current levels, and credits could be given to the people who are NOW producing CO2. Of course, for the latter part to work, the plan would have to remain a secret until the moment of implementation, or companies would just increase their CO2 production. Once the system is set up, the price of production would not go up unless the CO2 emissions also go up. Also, any new CO2 emitters, new in the market, would have to buy their rights to emit from current producers. How to deal with foreign products not produced under these rules? Apply a CO2 tax to anything coming in, and level the playing field.

  • Comment number 11.

    Anything that will encourage industry to reduce carbon emmissions makes me very happy. However, countries like India and China need to do their part.

    I'm feeling good about Obama's decisions so far, though I didn't vote for him.

    Love the hat!

  • Comment number 12.

    It's not often that you see someone ice-fishing in a suit and tie; so, thanks for that.

    That being said, I have to admit that when Obama mentioned cap and trade last night, my thoughts went immediately to Ethical Man and wondered if he was watching as well. Cap and trade is something which comes up in Congress every year and is voted down repeatedly by Republicans. If it even makes it to a vote. Maybe this really is our year, after all.

    Perhaps, as a Democrat, I am just flying a little too high on a good buzz from winning an election so recently, but I would like to believe that Obama has the cajones to actually DO as well as SPEAK. Course, Ethical Man has the larger cajones for wearing that hat.

  • Comment number 13.

    To be fair to America, much of the reason why the US produces a large proportion of the world's emissions is because they export so much of the technology whose manufacture involves a lot of emission. Since the word "exports" means that the rest of the world are using these exports (instead of manufacturing them in their own countries), to put the blame on the United States is disingenuous and highly unfair.

    Also, a simple Googling of "problems with cap and trade" is enough to discover a whole plethora of reasons why such a scheme is NOT a good idea. No mention of the down side in the blog entry above, however.

  • Comment number 14.

    Glad to see you're enjoying the ice fishing in Michigan!

    When you make your way over to Washington, DC, I suggest that you not only talk to some people at the EPA about national environmental priorities, but you should also check out the DC suburbs of Arlington, VA and Silver Spring, MD.

    Arlington, where you'll find the Pentagon, received the EPA's National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002. Silver Spring, MD is the 2008 winner of the EPA's National Award for Smart Growth Achievement. They are both less than 10 miles from the White House.


  • Comment number 15.

    Carbon Dioxide is Not a poison. Let's have Scientific Facts and not speculation based on computer models.

    The Green hysteria needs some restraint because they are repeating historical situations like Witchcraft purges/Fools Gold/The South Sea Bubble and Tulip Trading.

    What we don't want is windmill power and other highly subsidised energy sources. Nuclear Power will do for the next few hundred years. Plenty of coal left to use anyway.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Americans asked to pay for climate change" We can't pay for it now... Our gov't is spending trillions of our money it doesn't have... Any payment will have to come from China now, the new major polluters of the world.

  • Comment number 17.

    This capping system sounds like a good idea, although the government should use some of the revenue generated therefrom to fund research into green technology, so that more and better green alternatives are developed.

  • Comment number 18.

    First off, how is taxing to make change a form of capitalism? Thats extortion. Not to sound petty but thats what it is. Capitalism remains a working system only when the goverment stays out of it, half the reason we are in the economic strife we are now is because those in power were swayed/payed (Whichever the case may be) by lobbyists to get their legislation through.

    Secondly, climate change is natural. Climate change isn't something Al Gore invented. Global warming isn't even something a majority of real scientists will concede to, the same was true during the 70s era of "GLOBAL COOLING." Pollution is bad I agree but when you look at ALL of the known data we have on our global climate there is an indication that we will be going into another ice age. That is to say a heat age. If species dieing out is a sign of global warming then God help us because over 99% of the species on the face of the earth are extinct and a good portion of those before we ever walked on land.

    Stopping pollution is a good thing but doing so using faulty science? Not so much. The ends never justify the means.

  • Comment number 19.

    Queue the ad nauseum "liberal" or "left wing" name callings of attempted insults, with pejorative wording in the comments...

    Everything is an experiment, there is no wrong way. There may be downsides in certain peoples eyes, but every change will have a downside to someone since the country.. nay, world... has profited from the almost jokingly large amount of carbon and other toxins into the environment.

    Whether someone believes in the greenhouse effect or not is meaningless. It's fairly common sense not to spout waste into the environment lackadaisically. Arguing against the halting of it is akin to saying it was started so it can't be stopped now.
    Everyone breathes into the same paperbag :)

  • Comment number 20.

    Please consider, would you do the research if you weren't being paid to do it in this economy driven society? It is very time consuming work that requires all kinds of expenses. To do accurate research of this scale it can't be done for free.

    I would like to see the global warming skeptics factor out the funding that goes into the research on global warming and simply look at the facts that are being found over and over and over again. Then tell us man has nothing to do with it.

    Which by the way is obviously not all man made as carbon emissions come from natural sources as well. We all know that and no one is saying it is all man made. However, it does not change the other factors that man has added to these emissions and taken them way off the scale of what our earth can sustain for life.

    The irony is that the death toll on the grand scale, as some scientists predict will occur as a result of this damage to our environment will only add to these emissions. Making the recovery of our planet take even longer.

    Really look at what the scientific community believes and not what corrupt gullible people want you to believe about this. The majority (and growing) of the scientific community do believe global warming is severely enhanced by man. Do your own research.

  • Comment number 21.

    Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice. From what I have tasted of desire I hold with those who favor fire. But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate to say that for destruction ice is also great and would suffice.

  • Comment number 22.

    Good on Obama, my voting life has been spent seeing Bush and Blair come in to power and waste opportunities (Blair's huge majority especially) to do something good rather than for votes or business. It's refreshing to see Obama take a stand.

    Yes there are issues, but in the long term it's right. The Greenhouse effect DOES exist, and though I don't believe it's the ONLY cause of global warming, it IS a serious problem.

    As to the argument that it's the people who will pay in the end because of higher prices, well maybe that's how it should be - people (myself included if the UK introduced this) will look at saving costs by recycling more, and by that I mean reUSING what they can, and also looking to buy products actually created using clean/cleaner energy (driving prices for those goods DOWN!)

    'Outsourcing' pollution would need to be addressed, and yes there will be loopholes in whatever law is passed (there are in almost EVERY law!) to try and prevent it, but this is leadership. If other countries follow suit, perhaps as an obligation to trade with the US or because it makes sense, so much the better.

    Many problems, yes, but someone's got to start the ball rolling. Americans should be proud of their president for at least TRYING to make a difference on ethical grounds rather than economical, religious (War on Terror? Or Islam?), power or popularity, which is more than can be said for many other world leaders.

  • Comment number 23.

    This 'cap and trade' effort has possible corruption written all over it. It is also the most un-capitalist thing I've ever encountered. It's quite possibly the greatest waste of private productivity since the Catholic church sold indulgences.

    Stay out of America you gangly brit. You must lack some basic liberal education to be willing to butcher the word ethical in this manner.

  • Comment number 24.

    Regarding the previous post...Greensville, Kansas? Greensburg.

  • Comment number 25.

    Carbon cap-and-trade is another nasty trick among the already heavy trillions Obama has laid on us in only 1 month!

    Global warming is real enough, but is NOT CAUSED BY ATMOSPHERIC CARBON DIOXIDE, a fact well known to scientists for half a century. The data in the IPCC report of 2007 confirms much of what was known, including the contribution of CO2 to the total greenhouse effect, which alone is not the principal source of global warming. The increase in CO2 is a result, not a cause of global warming, a real threat that needs attention, but will not be solved by reducing CO2.

    Independence of fossil fuels is also a laudable goal, but that will end with depletion of ready oil, which occurs on its own by 2050.

    As a scientist myself, I conclude that the so-called capitalist solution is a fraud.

  • Comment number 26.

    YES it is a great idea, I find it a bit interesting though that these measures were the exact ones suggested in the Kyoto Protocol which was never ratified because it was "unconstitutional". Either way, I am glad that one of the provisions is showing potential for development in the United States.

  • Comment number 27.

    The problems with cap and trade will become evident in about 20 or 30 years after which I fully expect to see headlines of scandal and disaster.

    Here's what will happen. Carbon credit 'suppliers' will create or overstate their available credits based on fictional reserves. Whatever oversight or valuation governments expect to implement will be worthless and corruptable. Supplies will effectively have a license to print money from nothing, which will also ensure that the unit price of credit will remain at commodity levels.

    Corporations will conduct business as usual, churning out pollution without concern and happily pay their minimal carbon 'tax'. Atmospheric carbon levels will keep rising despite everyone claiming they're doing the right thing.

    What the free market shows, is that any system capable of being corrupted will be.

  • Comment number 28.

    Just one more silly liberal idea, you need to find a meaningful occupation.

  • Comment number 29.


  • Comment number 30.

    Wish I was an old bear,
    or a racoon in a tree.
    Living a life thats simple,
    a life thats ment to be.
    Man ole man why cant you see,
    were just another creature living out of harmony.

  • Comment number 31.

    Hello all from America (polluters of the Multiverse)

    I will preface by saying I didn't vote for President Obama, nor did I vote for Senator McCain. I just figured my vote is way too precious to waste on either of these "politicians". I am waiting for a Statesman, or at least a leader that lies to me less than half the time, and doesn't make the assumption we are all stupid. That being said let's get to work.

    OK, first, Man Made Global Warming ... YAWN. Since CO2 makes up about 3.5% of total "greenhouse" (minus water vapor for all you perfectionists out there) gases, this Cap and Trade ponzi scheme will be one of the greatest moneymakers in the history of the planet, and believe you me, I am finding ways to profit from this scam (what can I say, American ingenuity rides again). The way I figure it, if it's good enough for Al Gore (to the tune of tens possibly hundreds of millions of dollars) it's good enough for me. Contrary to what some posters here post for all to see, the "consensus" ( I hate that word in scientific circles) is fast swaying towards the, "We don't have enough data yet to come to an educated guess, let alone enough evidence to destroy Western Economies by creating policy around MMGW". Yep I said it, and I have reams of data to follow up, but since no one else wanted to post anything but opinion, I will stick to the format.

    The Irony of this is that I truly believe in recycling, regulations for chemicals and pollutants being dumped into waterways and oceans (and air to some extent), I have made the transition to organic (mostly) and fully patronize local sustainable farming techniques, and I have no problem with "green" technologies. I don't even place any ill will towards posters who proselytize for MMGW, although my sarcasm may show through because I believe this to be no different than any other religion that has been created by Man throughout history. You might say I think MMGW is a MMGR (man made global religion).

    I also believe in the market and if enough people wanted to go "green" businesses would find ways to profit from what people want. Thank You Adam Smith. I do not in anyway feel that government is able to, let alone be capable of, "pushing" policy agendas towards this new green future without harming all the World's economies. We have the "best" FORM of government in the history of mankind, and it is filled (and has been filled for 20 years) with incompetent, loudmouthed, fools and clowns.

    If we allow our conclusions to be clouded because (for example) Big Oil produces data that refutes MMGW, then we must not take drugs, eat eggs, drink water or travel anywhere outside our local realm of influence, because MOST of the data you see that is positive about one thing or another is peddled by the entities with a vested interest in a favorable outcome (including the UNFCCC). Remember, Voixx, every study that showed it safe for human consumption was paid for by (drum roll please) MERCK. Hate to single them out, I am positive good people work at Merck and want to truly help people, but the drug followed the Law of Unintended Consequences, and ANY/ALL government policy decisions will follow the same law, with potentially (I believe certain) devastating consequences far outweighing waiting for a controlled independent study done after we are able to collect more data about weather patterns here on Earth (and how the Sun affects us).

    Thanks for your time and never stop searching for the truth, there is no such thing as scientific consensus on issues this big.

  • Comment number 32.

    So how many ostriches would it take to eliminate global warming?

  • Comment number 33.

    Don't worry (anthonygh), Americans will fix the problem.

  • Comment number 34.

    Capitalism is bad. I remember how sad everyone was the night the wall came down.

  • Comment number 35.

    Obama may want to consider outlawing citizen ownership of guns before he implements a cap a trade system for carbon. When this topic came up over a few beers at the hotel bar tonight, more than a few guys sitting around agreed that such a policy would be good reason to take up arms against their own country.

  • Comment number 36.


    I think that many Americans would pay for the redemption towards the redemption of climate change.....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 37.

    Mealer American Motors Corproation AKA Mealer Companies LLC has previously developed both a non fossil fueld automobile and a home power source.

    These are one and the same as the automobile will power a retrofitted home (500 to 2000 USD in non Mealer supplies and conversion, much like solar power set ups).
    These vehciles are going into production in 2009-2011 as a Bridge Vehicle will fill the void and transition from fossilfuels to this exciting new power source. (It's a secret).
    Carbon taxes will be outdated by the time this hits the market and the new White House administration will institute the highway taxes in lieu of fuel taxes.

    Odd part of this is, JL Mealer had devised a simple and very cost effective fuel tax replacement plan that has been all but ignored by the US government.

    It works in all free nations, so it might be worht a look.

  • Comment number 38.

    Actually the Obama plan compensates for the increase in prices passed on to consumers with a tax cut specifically for those price increases. This is besides the other tax cuts Obama has already mentioned for families earning below 250k a year.

  • Comment number 39.

    Cap and trade:

    Cap US GDP
    Send trade to India and China

    There is a serious flaw in cap and trade.

    A genuine environmental tax is supposed to discourage pollution, but if it does not, it should raise sufficient revenue to allow the environmental harm to be put right. This is a genuine polluter-pays outcome, with a cost-reflective price on pollution

    Cap and trade does not do this. The price of GHG permits will bear no relation to environmental harm caused and no relation to the costs of putting right any harm. Instead the price will relate to the level of the caps and the number of permits available for trade.

  • Comment number 40.

    Sure, why not? Right after volcanoes and oceans do.

    What am I talking about? Well, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted it was spewing greenhouse gas at a rate of 10,000 times what man had produced since 1750. And it erupted for almost a month.

    Everyday oceans and lakes yield massive amounts of greenhouse gas in the form of water vapor. Because of most of the climate scientists can’t figure out how this affects the Earth, it isn’t built into their models (nor are clouds and precipitation.).

    Tell me again how man (and in particular America) is responsible for Global Warming?

    Sounds more like a scam by politicians to separate Americans from their prosperity.

  • Comment number 41.

    Well I know that Al Gore invented the internet and last night, Barrack Obama proudly announced that we invented the automobile, but am I now to believe that we invented fire too?!

    "Americans asked to pay for climate change"


    Maybe we just invented the smoke part because that is all I see here when it comes to what is real and what is merely an obscurant shrouding a most common and unseemly political agenda.

  • Comment number 42.

    "keep the atmosphere friendly and be patient" I am being advised... well, Justin , it takes a of of patience to listen to your enthusiastic support for carbon-taxation - I can only GROAN. Take your blinders off, Justin, this isn't about "saving the world" ; Follow the money, and then come and tell us where it leads.

  • Comment number 43.

    The trade and cap system could work to reduce CO2 emissions but I agree with those who said that it will outsource CO2 emissions as well. The problem with Global Warming, or more generally Global Pollution, is the first word of each term. It is a Global problem. Any kind of legislation not articulated with other countries is completely useless, and will benefit those countries that simply do not follow the law strictly. However, International Institutions are still not ready to enforce other countries to follow environmental laws so until they do not become more powerful, it will be better to wait for that. In the meantime, huge spending on carbon reduction and alternative energy research would be a better path if you really want to be "green".

  • Comment number 44.


  • Comment number 45.

    WRONG!!!! So many of you are soooo-wrong!

    Many American corporations are already operating on a limited cap and trade system in their overseas transactions. In-fact, many companies LOOK FORWARD to further restrictions because they will increase profits. No, not in turning the increased cost to the consumer, but the INCREASED EFICIENCY and the help that they will recieve to remain competetive in a global market.

    PEOPLE!!! The only left-wing conspiracy is in your head. If you doubt what I said about companies looking forward to future regulation, look up comments made by the CEO of General Electric.

    This is a critical moment in history - if we take the initiative, we can rule the next big industrial revolution. If we don't, the Chinese will! Even the Chinese are increasing spending to promote a "Green Economy" boom.

  • Comment number 46.

    "Americans asked to pay for climate change".

    This nonsense should be accompanied by the following headline :

    "British asked to pay reparations for slave trade of millions"

    Climate Change is highly debatable, the European slave trade is unquestioned.

    Still want to "save the world" ? Clean up the mess you made during 350 years of world oppression and colonialism.

    In the meantime, spare us all the sanctimonious self-righteous hypocrisy. Get off the "I'm the savior of the world" ego trip.

  • Comment number 47.

    No flaws in cap and trade.

    Anyone can see the story below (see the excerpt from the Kansas City Star), being put about by an unthinking newspaper columnist contradicts itself. Because cap and trade is not bad for the economy.
    It seems to me that the market is working just as it should. When economic activity is low, pollution permits become much cheaper, so companies that produce pollution have lower expenses. This is not weakening the economy in any way at all?
    The goal of the carbon market is not to "price fossil fuels out of the market". The goal is to make it expensive to keep increasing carbon output -- and it is and will continue to succeed at that.
    Some companies may indeed be increasing their carbon output, but that is compensated by companies whose output is decreasing (that is, the companies who are selling their permits). That may be discouraging some companies from investing in cleaner technologies right now, but its also freeing them from the burden of making that investment in a time of economic hardship. Later on, when the economy is stronger, they will find that the cost of pollution is rising, but they will be in a better position to do something about it. Some companies may even be able to fund at least part of their cleanup costs by selling at a higher price the permits they acquired so cheaply during the recession.
    Finally, this recession provides an excellent opportunity for environmental groups to put their money where their mouths are. If the costs of pollution permits is really so low, they can buy them up cheaply and permanently retire them, much in the same way the Nature Conservancy and other groups buy land and permanently protect it from development.

    Excerpt from a Kansas City Star, columnists article.
    What happens if the price of carbon credits drops? Then the incentive to cut back on pollution falls as well. Under cap and trade, credits to burn carbon are issued and traded on an exchange. Companies that emit carbon would have to buy them, while companies that saved carbon would pay less and have credits to sell.No
    Europe has already gone to this system, and one problem is the large fluctuations in the price of carbon credits. Recently, they've fallen so they're not doing much to boost green energy. End.

    Another method of curbing pollution, a direct tax on carbon emissions, could only be helpful if that could be monitored as reliably and fairly.

  • Comment number 48.

    The world is losing patience with USA and China polluting our Planet.
    Comment going around:- Is now the time for United Nations to eject the USA from its body and start imposing a 'Carbon Credits International'.
    No Carbon Credits, no international trade allowed by the USA.
    This political pressure however unpopular could bring home to the North American people how strongly the rest of the world feels about their selfish disregard for our Planet Earth, and means an International trade embargo, on the USA if it continues to stall on this essential 'Carbon Credit' legislation.

  • Comment number 49.

    Cap and trade is beloved by politicians because it lets them look pro-environment while tapping a potentially huge new revenue source. Unfortunately, cap and trade has not been proven to be effective in having any effect on climate change!

    The EU, pioneers of cap and trade, recently released a report stating that cap and trade in Europe had not reduced carbon emmisions by anywhere near as much as expected. It has however lent impetus to the construction of several new nuclear power plants there with all the attendant safety, security and waste disposal problems that come with nuclear power facilities.

    I can't help wondering if government couldn't have encouraged alternative energy via less coercive (but less lucrative for government) means such as tax credits.

  • Comment number 50.

    CHINA = #1polluter in world
    USA = #1 in green research funding
    ethical man = idiot

  • Comment number 51.

    1. Carbon Dioxide is NOT a toxic pollutant.
    2.The Only ones who will bear the burden of this tax are the CONSUMERS.

    I would love to see greater limits placed on mercury and other heavy metals, but Taxing C02 is not going to improve the health of the world one bit. This is nothing but a money-making scheme and should be recognized as such. The Science behind it is faulty and unproven. The claims of environmental benefit foggy and uncertain. The only thing that is for sure is the MONEY. Someone please tell the reporter that weather tends to be different year to year. while his ice seemed thinner than usual, I'm marveling that I saw Snow this year. In Las Vegas.
    And for the record...
    Are we going to tax the forests when they catch fire?
    Are we going to tax the volcanos? Or the countries which have volcanos?
    Are we going to put a cap on how many carbon producing Animals and Insects exist at a time?
    What about taxing the Cemeteries? Decaying bodies release large amounts of C02.

  • Comment number 52.

    All of this talk about going green,
    "saving the planet" and eco friendly this and that should be changed to what we really need to address.

    Save the Human race.

    Buzz words and PC repackaging of terms that make us feel fuzzy needs to stop.

    This is not about going green, global warming, etc. It is about having water that you can drink with fish and animals in it that are still alive, clean air that is not poison, soil that will grow crops you can actually consume , etc.

    All of this comes down to basic survival. If we do not have the three things we as a species to survive air, water, and food. We will die. The Earth does not care. It will go on for thousands of years and eventually it will not have the pollution that we have caused. Nature will take care of the problem. In a hundred thousand years from now there will be new species dominating the Earth just as there was hundreds of thousands of years before.

    I am not a leftist eco nut, I just do not want to have my environment kill me by the pollution produced by man contaminating it. Unless you like benzine in your tea, fish with PCBs that give you cancer, or air that gives you respiratory issues keep it up. If not let those who care try to do something about it and we will send all the toxic waste to your house and you can store it in your back yard.

  • Comment number 53.

    'Which would you rather or go fishing', as the saying goes - to try to distill concensus views from entrenched committed opponents, or to gather and share information from a journey which may possibly benefit everyone?

    Going fishing sounds like the simpler bet, so much less difficult if neither option is offered, although fishing is impossible if you discover that you can't break through the ice.

    A wise move to request guidances on location of the fish and conditions of the ice: too thick and you will starve, too thin you will freeze. No fish, nothing to catch, but who is to say?

    Perhaps one guidance is that many people believe that there can never be agreement: a bit of information of benefit to everyone might be that nobody believes this describes them.

    Marking this as a moment of 'non-opposition' can it be suggested reasonably if there might be fish worth going after we do, and that better we state the obvious than not?

    Obvious suggested inclusions; ample clean air, water, food, shelter, health, light, warmth, company when we want it - and education.

    Alternative preference for a degraded scarcity?

    No harm in stating the essential as obvious, and even overstating it, especially since the majority of people on this planet lack most or all of what is on this list.

    Stating this is concern for us and our society sorely tested by anti social attitudes and anti social behaviour, fraud and other financial racketeering, common as habits. Are we being the best we can be, doing the best we can do?

    Ethical Man does not want his presenter's personality to distract from the stated premise for doing research in the US which is [quote] "The idea is simple. If we can solve global warming here, we can solve it anywhere."

    Wouldn't any visitor to this country in his position want to and need to acclimatize to the conditions and extremely differing views?

    Perhaps he will conclude that it's all bosh and there's nothing at all to be concerned about.

    Perhaps he will find abundant good news and urgent needs demanding recognition to report

    We could exhaustively disagree about every aspect of what each of us thinks the choices even are - and be assured we have obscured the points whilst self and mutually defeating each other from making every headway

    We could also completely miss the point that Ethical Man is here to fish not just for his own benefit or the BBCs but for our benefits too

    We are not paying Ethical Man - so what have we even got to lose? Nothing more than their investments into their reasoned concerns to be interested and rights to have the chance to look in detail with the intention of helping.

    Saying "We don't need help, we're Americans" would be an ill thought out alternative to the appreciation, genuine welcome, and our good manners. Such a premature objection could only come about through being deeply divided and uninformed about how people from other countries have reasoned concern for the US.

    Those people just do not share our disinterest in them and our effect on their lives.

    We also have to agree that we can't believe that there are no fish worth going after.

    The BBC Natural History people always seem to find fish when they set out to look for them - heavily predated upon in rapidly diminishing numbers though they are. We appreciate that.

    Perhaps the BBC's Ethical Man rates the same interest, encouragement and good fortune; maybe gradually, eventually we will realize that Ethical Man is finding out what it is he is looking for

    If it turns out that what he finds concerns and affects us all [as do BBC Productions such as 'Planet Earth'] the in this event we have to decide which we rather, to know or not to know? To look or not to look? Or to go fishing?

    So in this moment of non-opposition can we extend a welcome and every assistance so that this angler can find the fish, or should we continue to say that as we can't agree on any of this there is no need or reason to look?

    It would seem this may be obstructing us from willing ourselves to build stronger safer cleaner bridges into the future, so in this sense we can agree that together we have come to a fork in the road.

    And as the saying goes, 'when you come to a fork in the road take it'. Set a course for the future and engage. We need more than the obvious stated inclusions, clean air, water . . .

    For some, the 'head in a bucket of sand' way is still acceptable, while for all of us there is the opportunity-out-of-crisis of coming up for air, manifesting as the american industrial revolution, and for going rapidily from recently the worst polluter and largest and least efficient consumer of energy, to first place in contrasting opposition to this, way ahead and rising in all aspects of feasible technology and efficiency.

    Why not wish ourselves (and others) good fortune and leave none of this up to luck?

  • Comment number 54.

    I am informed, by assertion and little reasoned argument that cap and trade is not flawed. (See teknicol 05:47am)

    “The goal of the carbon market is not to ‘price fossil fuels out of the market’. The goal is to make it expensive to keep increasing carbon output -- and it is and will continue to succeed at that.”

    We should not focus on the goal of the carbon market. We should focus on the goal of the environmental policy. If we accept the political consensus that CO2 will lead to climate change, then we need to understand what cost and benefits the change will entail. If these are too difficult to assess, perhaps CO2 is not properly understood and the policy not worth pursuing.

    If the costs do outweigh the benefits, then an environmental policy is needed. As I stated previously, the policy has two components. The first is to discourage environmentally harmful behaviour. The second is to make sure that if the behaviour continues, sufficient revenue is raised to offset the harm caused. The revenue can be used to repair the environmental damage or pay compensation to those affected.

    The revenue from the policy should never be used to offset other taxes, otherwise there will be no money for either compensation or repairs.

    The important economic point is that if consumption continues after the tax is introduced, this strongly suggests that the goods in question are more beneficial than the harm they cause.

    Cap and trade is unlikely to achieve a balanced outcome. Its price will be volatile. At times it will be too high and discourage beneficial economic activity. At others it will be too low, discouraging beneficial environmental actions. And, the more volatile the price, the more clueless the signal to the markets about the balance of costs and benefits.

    I suspect that having mentioned costs and benefits, people will reach for the Stern Report. Before anyone readily accepts its conclusions, bear in mind the following.

    Stern found that the costs of keeping a carbon economy where higher than moving to a post-carbon future. However, his analysis has some serious flaws. Firstly, it used bold assumptions about the rate of technological progress in CO2 alternatives, without evidence. If the progress fails to happen, or is delayed, the conclusion is overturned. Secondly, and more crucially, it assumed that if climate changed no-one would change their behaviour – farmers would plant the same crops as now. If this was the case, farmers in northern England would be trying to cultivate vineyards, just as their ancestors had done in warmer (non man-made) times. In fact, farmers can adapt very quickly. In Latin America, farmers change their crops, as soon as an El Nino is identified, to varieties better suited to the impending weather patterns. Basically, Stern inflated the costs of the do-nothing scenario and under-estimated the costs of moving to the post-carbon world.

  • Comment number 55.

    "pvtsmily," I would like to say thank you for the TRUTH about global warming. There are many of us in the scientific community that do not believe in the 'consensus' of global warming-nor do we believe that the IPCC is a legitimate organization, as the scientists are all organized together with the GOAL of proving the existence of global warming, not to do scientific research to determine if global warming does indeed exist. The IPCC has but one agenda, to prove the existence of global warming, and thus to keep themselves employed by the major power players in the world (governments). I would like to say to anybody that doesn't believe me to go visit Dr. Fred Singer's page, and you'll see what I'm talking about. Dr. Singer has also held a variety of government positions. He was Special Advisor to President Eisenhower on space developments (1960). In the late 1960s and early 70s he was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water Quality and Research, U.S. Department of the Interior (1967-70), and Deputy Assistant Administrator for Policy, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1970-71). Later he was Chief Scientist, United States Department of Transportation (1987-89). Singer has also been a consultant to the House Select Committee on Space, NASA, GAO, NSF, AEC, NRC, DOD (Strategic Defense Initiative), US DOE Nuclear Waste Panel, the US Treasury, and the state governments of Virginia, Alaska, and Pennsylvania.

    In short, Dr. Singer has proven that global warming is a myth, and that those global warming doomsayers are profiting immensely from their research on global warming. CO2 is a natural occurring chemical in the atmosphere, and we humans are indeed creating more CO2, yet we are also STOPPING earth's natural production of CO2 (forest fires, etc...), thus realizing a DECLINE in the amount of CO2 that would otherwise be in the atmosphere. I personally chaired a group that has studied the temperature on earth over the last 8 years, and have found that (except for ONE location on earth) the entire earth has seen a slight overall cooling, and that these last 8 years has seen only one location that has seen a warming trend. That doesn't mean the earth isn't in a warming trend, but it DOES mean that I question the ethics of ANY supposed PROFESSIONAL scientist that would place his stamp of certainty on a global warming law when he/she can't for certain PROVE that the earth is indeed in a warming trend.

    Too, I would like to tell all those that posted on here about recycling that although recycling is a GREAT idea, it is not energy efficient--meaning that it cost more energy to recycle than it does to use raw materials, and thus recycling heavily pollutes the atmosphere--more so than just continuing to use new raw materials. Until more efficient means have been founded to recycle efficiently, it really is a carbon rich effort to do so, meaning we pollute much, much more by recycling than otherwise.

    Lastly, it is amazing that these same scientific players that have 'pimped' their services out to the highest bidding government's are also the same doomsayers on the issue of global warming to said government's and communities in those countries. That, really, is a shame of honor on the entire scientific community.
    I wonder how our scientific community can EVER recover from such an abuse of power and honor.

  • Comment number 56.

    To the people who say that controlling carbon emissions will cause the USA economy to tank are just short sighted. If the previous, mostly republican, political bumblers, had taken the lead in controlling this pollution, we could have made money. If george the 43 had not just listened to the cronies that dick had rounded up from oil industry, and had signed the Kyoto Accords, we would have found a way to meet the requirements. Thats what businesses are supposed to do; look at the requirements and design a solution. Now, we could be exporting the carbon controlling technology and making money. When we move factories to the third world the technology should be required to go with them. Then the next step is to require all imports to meet the same standards or apply import duties that make the product unattractive to import. Hey I'm just an American who thinks we should take responsibility for our trash.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am a confirmed, practicing political cynic and I'm writing this as a challenge to the American people...

    President Obama has had the courage, political and personal, to put forth our responsibilities to our selves and our country in harsh, accurate terms and explain those responsibilities in terms we cannot fail to will cost us all money.

    All Americans have both a political and a moral responsibility to step up and re-invest themselves in their own future by paying the cost of our collective lifestyle.

    How about it, people? Can/will we do this?
    I say not 'Yes' but 'Oh, Hell yes!'

  • Comment number 58.

    I agree, nice hat. It's more fitting for the Yoopers of the Upper Peninsula. But I have one of the same style, though not as huge...

    I live in Kalamazoo, Mich., a bit south of where Ethical Man is. This winter has been very cold, which is a shock since the years before have been unusually warm.

    I remember when, up until the 1990s, Michigan winters would have snow on the ground from December to the end of February. I think the past ten years we've had more non-white Christmases than snowy ones. There've been many odd weather events like thunderstorms in January. I've sat in my yard in the middle of January, relaxing outside in the sun in spring-like weather.

    We just have to remember that one year, or even one decade, of unusual weather doesn't prove anything. But there is no doubt that climate change is happening.

  • Comment number 59.

    Obamatastic! What a fantastic leader, that's what the world needs - leadership. Sure China is a problem - but you guys are the superpower we takes our cues from (no poodle gags please).

    A world with less noisy polluting cars and power plants has got to be a good thing either way? We have idiots driving 4x4 in the city centre. Muppet behaviour.

    Is there really such a thing as clean coal? I don't think so. America would be better off leaving that where it is. Lets all harness the wind, waves and suns rays where we can.

    If an English geek in a tie ice fishing helps get word out, so much the better.

    Where's the English producer from the meeting, she sure is pretty!

  • Comment number 60.


    Yep, kick us out of the UN. That will solve everything. BTW--who will replace the US funding? You?

  • Comment number 61.

    Great idea, ' dratomic,' but where does the money go? Why charge a carbon tax when you know politicians will consider the monies from the carbon tax their own states personal purse? There will be sooo much abuse with the money, and furthermore, there will be NO fixing the atmosphere from too much CO2 with that money, because scientist's don't know how to effectively take CO2 out of the atmosphere yet, nor do they know how much should be taken out. It's all a scam. 1000 years ago, the earth had 10,000 times the amount of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere, and yet, the oceans weren't covering the shores of our beaches, and mankind flourished. The advent of machines, and more importantly democracy, has allowed the machinations of a few scientists and politicians to invent the global warming drama, with the all-inclusive tax included. Who do you think will be the recipients of the carbon tax money? Our broke social security system? Our trillion dollar national debt? What? Where will the money go, because it sure as heck WON'T go towards cleaning up the polluted atmosphere. No, there will be kickbacks everywhere in the government, from the welfare department to social security to the military. Just another way for the government to make more money off it's hardworking, taxpaying citizens.

  • Comment number 62.

    In the past 50 years I have personally seen the vegetation of the Chihuahua desert move nearly 50 miles north along the Rio Grande. The Northwest corner of New Mexico, mostly desert, is almost out of compliance on ozone content due to two large coal fired electric plants and the petroleum extraction industry. I would welcome any way to reduce emissions! I personally would find an extra dollar or two fuel tax on automotive and truck fuel to be a quick start. At least Obama has had the courage to open the discussion.

  • Comment number 63.

    I agree with the principle of using capitalism to induce change; but the cap-and-trade system proposed seems fraught with difficulties. Estimating carbon emissions is a new burden on businesses, and enforcement seems nigh-impossible. Wouldn't a cap-and-trade system on fossil-fuel _production_ work better? The burden would fall on far fewer companies, much closer to the source of the problem; and these companies already must measure their production accurately simply to run their business. Companies that mine coal certainly know how much they sell!

  • Comment number 64.

    Here I am again, kind of touting Mealer American Motors Corp as the next major US Automaker, but I am also trying to let everyone know that all is not lost.

    Sure, sure the US and British Government plans to rape our wallets and bank accounts through new taxes and cap and trade with proof from the liberal agenda which is supported by the Al Gore swindle.

    MealerAMC builds green automobiles NOT for the purpose of Al Gore zombie-like matras, but to put a dent in the funding of global terrorism.

    Still... We must all stand up and fight the worker's unions in both countries as they amount to nothing more than localized terrorists!
    Just ask someone who refuses to go along with their local union...

    Saudi's ARAMCO funds the global jihadists, while the US Democratic party 'ala evil groups like ACORN' funds the US Teamsters, AFL CIO, UAW, UAC and other moblike worker unions, all the while the GMB controls Britain's politics and workforce (for the most part).

    yeah.. okay.. enough of the news that you probably already know...

    We will do what we can to give you a viable vehicle that also acts as a power source for your home. But we need to stand together and fight the corruption that is killing our economies.

    JL Mealer


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