The facts of cap and trade

Environmental Defense Fund has put together a video rejoinder to Annie Leonard’s Story of Cap and Trade. It’s called The Facts of Cap and Trade, and it’s very nicely done:

Like Annie Leonard’s video, it offers a compressed, simplified take on a complex topic. Unlike Leonard’s video, it manages to build a case out of more than just disconnected innuendo. Naturally, there’s an associated web site.

So is this video an effective response to the earlier hit piece? Probably not. Annie Leonard’s video is a populist fairy tale, and populism is big these days. I’m reminded of a post I wrote a long time ago that examined the different types of rhetoric we employ when we try to influence or persuade:

> [According to experts], people offer up four different kinds of explanations. The first are appeals to convention, whether social conventions or just conventional wisdom. These are the explanations that simply say, “This is the way things are done.” The second type are stories, which offer a very specific account of cause and effect and tend to emphasize the personal. The third type are appeals to code, which are similar to conventions, but more formalized. Legal or corporate procedures are types of codes. The fourth type of explanation is a technical account, which relies on specialized knowledge to argue for a more precise or deeper causality.

The titles of the two videos pretty much tell you all you need to know: the *story* of cap and trade vs. the *facts* of cap and trade. Stories beat facts. And if populist anger manages to kill the climate change bill, we’ll all live unhappily ever after.

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  1. Jeff B - January 27, 2010

    Adrian Vance
    Water vapor is a feedback from CO2. Namely, if it gets hotter, i.e. more C02 in the atmosphere, we get more water vapor in the atmosphere due to increased evaporation, i.e. increased humidity. Here is a link from scientists on the reasons:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/04/water-vapour-feedback-or-forcing/
    As to your second comment, I was just reading Friedrich August von Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” yesterday. Hayek is one of the founders of Chicago School Economics. He is very clear in his definition of socialism as policy that is determined to address inequalities in wealth distribution. The two proposals for addressing CO2 are a carbon-tax and Cap-and-Trade. In both cases, each policy approach does not fit that definition.

  2. Scott - January 27, 2010

    Water vapor is a more complex gas than CO2, because water vapor also sometimes forms clouds. Clouds do absorb IR energy coming up from the earth; as a paperboy in Maine years ago, on winter days I would hope for morning clouds since it would be much warmer. But clouds also reflect enormous amounts of visible energy (light) that would otherwise hit the ground and warm it up. The cloud’s altitude also makes a difference. The net effect of water vapor: still under discussion, the last time I checked. The net effect of CO2, in contrast, is straightforward: it closes off the 15 micron ‘window’ that lets earth radiate heat to space, thus trapping the gas.
    Separately, control of hydrocarbons, which have chokepoints in extraction and refining, is much easier for a politician than control of distributed generation, such as PV.

  3. Scott - January 27, 2010

    oops — should be ‘thus trapping heat’.

  4. Anonymous - January 27, 2010

    Sir: You appear to be confused. I am talking about the empirical physics of the matter which I have outlined in several papers at http://globalwarmingnotes.i8.com where you can read “Absorption Curves” based on charts showing the IR absorption between 1 and 16 microns, the infrared, “heat energy” range. You can also confirm what I am saying on the NASA website “On The Shoulders of Giants,” see the John Tyndall bio writeup as he did the basic work in 1857 and made it perfectly clear then. Deamonizing CO2 is an utter hoax.

  5. Adam Eran - January 27, 2010

    There’s no convincing the deniers. On the other hand, there’s literally no controversy that U.S. domestic oil production peaked in 1971 (price $1.75/bbl, imports accounted for 30% of domestic consumption). The American Petroleum Institute confirms this (the API is the oil lobby).
    The API confirms that no amount of drilling offshore or in Alaska will return us to that peak, either.
    Currently, oil costs $40 – $140/bbl, and 70% of domestic consumption is imports.
    Getting more energy-efficient, and getting off petroleum, makes us more secure, and coincidentally would diminish the amount of CO2 emitted by our economy.
    If we don’t take care of this, we can count on continuing to spend more than the rest of the world combined on defense, as we do now, sending our troops overseas (in 144 countries now, lots of them on pipeline duty), and generally beating up the people from whom we want oil.
    Believe me, they don’t hate the U.S. for its freedom. They hate it because it meddles in their affairs, overthrowing their governments and installing awful tyrants, exactly as the U.S. did in Iran.
    The overthrow of Mossadegh’s elected Iranian government and the installation of the Shah occurred because Iran talked about nationalizing British Petroleum’s oil assets there. Mossadegh offered BP the equivalent of what the Brits were then paying coal mine owners to nationalize them, but the British were not happy. They attempted a government overthrow, then were expelled. Harry Truman turned down their request to have the CIA overthrow Mossadegh, but Dwight Eisenhower didn’t. This occurred a year after Eisenhower reneged on his promise to hold a plebiscite in Vietnam (that Ho Chi Minh would have won handily, said polls at the time). A neo-colonial two-fer!
    One other observation for our free-market friends: The World Resource Institute (wri.org) estimated in 1989 that the U.S. subsidized petroleum to the tune of $300 billion annually. This includes things like the special tax write-off for petroleum producers (the depletion allowance), roads built without gas taxes enough to pay for them, providing military protection for overseas oilfields and pipelines, etc.
    What would gas cost without this subsidy? More than $5 a gallon (in 1989)!
    Could that possibly have an influence on how much we drive, and how little public support there is for transit?