Cap And Trade Bill - Effect on Global Temperature

If the the cap and trade bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) is passed, what effect will it have on global temperature over the next 3 years? 8 years? 20 years? 50 years?

Pretty much none under most analyses I’ve seen. Which further proves that governments are inadequate to the task of reversing global warming. Even doing almost nothing creates too much resistance among the public.

Zero (measurable) effect.

If it has no effect, why do it?

A) Because it gives government more power over industry.
B) Because tithing to the gods of the environment makes some people feel better.
C) Because we have to ‘do something’.
D) Because it will raise tax money for the government without ‘raising taxes’.
E) Because ‘you have to start somewhere’, even if that somewhere damages your economy for no benefit, and therefore makes it politically harder to do anything else in the future.
F) Because ‘global warming can’t wait’ for policies that are actually effective.
G) Because some people think punishing business and giving the money to government is an end unto itself. It helps ‘spread the wealth around’, even if the money winds up being paid by consumers anyway.
H) Because the reality is that there are very few options for actually stopping global warming that aren’t wildly unrealistic, and people won’t want to face the reality that the only real solutions are adaptation and working towards technologies to make carbon fuels obsolete, and/or building lots of nuclear power plants.

As far as I can tell, none. Or…what Sam said.


None. Too little to be effective. We would need deep, drastic, cuts to have any effect, and let’s face it, we won’t do that. Not only that, but it would probably be worse for us if we did. Our food system is too dependent on petroleum and there are too many mouths to feed to do the kind of cuts we need, at least in the short term.

I disagree strongly. It doesn’t give government more power, it gives industry another way to get taxpayer dollars. Or consumer dollars, which is much the same thing in the US.

Kind’ve offensive Sam. Not many environmentalists subscribe to the type of superstition you are implying. They may not truly understand the cost/benefit analysis or the science, but I don’t think they are counting on Karma to save them.

Honesty. This is true, and it’s too bad it will probably be ineffective and a corporate giveaway to boot. A carbon tax would have been better at managing this tragedy of the commons.

D) Yep, true that.
E) I agree that we have to start somewhere, but I don’t like cap and trade and would do away with it if I could. Again, a carbon tax would be better and more equitable.
F) Pretty cynical. And I probably agree with your sentiment here. I truly believe that the market will sort this out in the long run because of peak oil. Until then I don’t think much we do will have any effect because we can’t do much.

This is complete bullshit. While I agree there are people who think this way, none of them are in a position with enough power to aid the adoption of cap and trade or any other legislation. Or if you think I am wrong, give me a cite. The truth is that many industries are for cap and trade because they see they can get short term profit out of it by artificial expanding their carbon output and then trading the credits they get while lowering their emissions without any investment. They see that something is coming down the pike, and rather than having to pay an energy tax, carbon tax, fuel tax, what have you, they are throwing their weight behind cap and trade so they can screw small business with the collusion of both parties in power.


B) was a bit offensive, and for that I apologize. I was feeling a little snarky, and I was thinking of an episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit!, where they had a women walking around in a parking lot telling people she was an environmentalist and had calculated their carbon footprint, and she was hoping that they would buy some carbon credits to offset it. People forked over money willingly. One woman asked if she could give even more, because she felt guilty. They were essentially selling environmental indulgences, and people were buying like mad.

But I agree that this kind of thinking doesn’t drive cap and trade policy. It might add a bit to the political support of it, though.

I also agree with you that carbon taxes are superior, although there was a pretty good defense of cap and trade made in another thread.

I do fear that the amount of hot air ballooning over this bill could have a catastrophic impact on the ski season.

Whatever happened to “the free market can do no wrong”, or “socialism is always evil”? Cap-and-trade is an attempt to do away with our current socialist energy system, and replace it with one that would let the free market work. Aren’t conservatives supposed to think that’s a good thing?

Cap and Trade as currently proposed is no such thing. Sure, you can set up a perfect-world academic cap and trade system with auctions and carbon markets and all the rest. But you’ll never get anything remotely like that out of this government.

Just like the other bills that come out of this Congress, the proposals so far have been hugely complex, politically-driven messes filled with special exemptions and payofs to favored industries. There’s nothing free market about it. Even the supposed competitive carbon exchange won’t be, because government will be determining the size of the carbon pool from year to year. What this WILL do is destabilize energy prices, drive speculation, lead to corruption and more lobbying and influence peddling, and if other similar systems’ results are any indication, at the end of it all it will do absolutely nothing but drive up the cost of manufacturing and funnel money to government and special interests.

100% cuts would not even show up as a significant reduction for several generations.

OK, so just so we’re clear, the objection is to this specific cap-and-trade bill, with all the political baggage that comes along with it, and not to the idea of cap-and-trade in principle? If that’s the case, then the obvious solution would be for a Republican in Congress to write a different cap-and-trade bill without the undesirable baggage, and try to get that one passed instead. I imagine that there’d even be bipartisan support for such a bill. So where is it?

Bjorn Lomborg has an interesting article, “Beyond Copenhagen,” in the Dec 14 issue of Time Magazine:,28804,1929071_1929070_1945639,00.html

In it he quotes Richard Tol as saying a carbon tax would need to be on the order of $35/gallon of gas by the end of the century to meet a 2 degree goal. He recommends shifting a focus from making fossil fuels more expensive to making alternative energies cheaper…I’m not quite sure that the first doesn’t automatically drive the second, but the article is interesting reading. I think his position is to directly fund green energy versus trying to get the free market there by either cap and trade or tax on carbon.

If the price of heating fuels and/or coal fed electricity are raised then people will switch to burning wood for heat. So the net effect will be negative.

How does burning wood end up being worse? At least that carbon comes from the atmosphere in the first place so you are just replacing what was already there.

Well, some people don’t burn the trees out of their backyard. The level of tree farming necessary to provide the entire US alone with enough energy to heat homes would be pretty destructive. Many (a majority, maybe?) of homes in the US no longer have fireplaces. And the smog would be disgusting.

You’re not wrong, but it’s not as simple as wood=carbon neutral=good.

Where did the carbon in the oil and coal come from? Is the notion that it’s worse to burn coal and oil since their CO2 would otherwise be permanently sequestered? It seems that we are either adding to the CO2 load or we are not…a tree left alone to grow indefinitely would seem to add less of a CO2 load than burning it up and adding to the load immediately.

And any carbon tax bill would also have to pass the same legislature, where it would also be larded down with exemptions, exceptions, favors, and so forth. Sausage is gross, but sometimes it’s all there is to eat.


Trees don’t grow indefinitely. Cut down the tree, then regrow another tree to cut down. Burning the tree releases CO2. Growing new tree, sequesters it. It’s not perfect, but beats burning fossil fuels.