Naive Or Cynical: Terminator Tactics In Fighting Climate Change
By Bill Henderson

14 August, 2007


Cap and trade instruments for greenhouse gas emission reduction will be a key tool in any climate change solution. But their use by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in his presently proposed West Coast Governors Climate Change Initiative will be at best ineffectual and at worst an illusion that will keep Californians and Americans from taking effective action of a scale necessary to protect against the worst dangers of climate change.

Arnie and co are definitely showing leadership in addressing climate change. But look carefully and the Terminator and those who have picked up on his deft political handling of the climate change issue are trying their damnedest to fit climate change mitigation to within business as usual ( BAU). This is how the politically astute stick handle climate change: mitigation policies and programs that won't in any way challenge or put at risk the ongoing growth of the economy as presently configured.

Unfortunately, to use a jock metaphor, the presently planned emission reduction programs are hopelessly naive:

In my sport rugby (or in football [soccer]), to call for the ball and think you are just going to run through everybody to score a try (dribble through and score a goal) is 'naive'. Against any good team you are going to have to control the ball as a team for at least several phases to even get the ball into a scoring position, and then against a good defense you might have to move the ball around the pitch as you probe and have everybody on the same page when a scoring opportunity arises, and even then it's hard to score as good teams make defensive gems when you attempt to take your scoring chance.

In the movies Arnie could run through the whole All-Black team (dribble through the whole ManU team and put the ball high in the corner over Van der Sar). As a politician he's good at pretending to be leading in the huddle. But we are foolish to consider his proposed emission reduction program as even capable of making 25% reductions by 2025 and 80% by 2050.

Let alone the 90% by 2030 that is increasingly becoming the shared emission reduction bottom line of those who recognize the insidious danger of non-linear climate change.

Cap and trade can and will be an effective instrument but only when deployed within a much broader program of socio -economic reconfiguration. The tactical choice of cap and trade by any regional entity without a comprehensive and well thought out special regulatory framework is either naive or cynical.

Arnie's present plan involves California, thirteen other states, and tentatively some Canadian provinces (with potentially other national partners). Industry leaders are already preparing to subvert action within this cap and trade league threatening leakage of jobs and capital to jurisdictions not in the plan. United States leadership and wide multilateral acceptance and compliance is essential for cap and trade to work effectively; ad hoc, piecemeal sign-ons will just be marginalized.

The real world problem of the present drawdown economy subsuming whatever emission reduction that will be achieved is nowhere addressed. Consumption within the presently evolved economy is the fundamental problem of which carbon emissions are just one symptom.

There is no acknowledgement of how the end of cheap oil will compromise this climate change program. A potentially roiling, desperate economy may find emission reduction too costly.

And Arnie's plan has us all still in cars driving to the mall. Better mileage and more efficient car technology within a continuing sprawl economy isn't going to do it.

Arnie's whole climate change program is completely within the presently configured economy; incremental change is carefully spun as good for business, as a growing future economy. How naive can a leader, can a politician, can a general public be?

Has anybody commissioned a poli-sci or economics study of just what level of emissions reduction is possible - is realistic, isn't naive - in implementing cap and trade or even carbon taxing instruments within the presently configured socio-economy?

And let's get real and properly asses the opposition:

There are relentless market forces leveraged to the max by guys totally transfixed in playing THE most important economic games. They are making big plays, some instantaneous, some laminating millions of people in continents around the worlds over time frames of many decades. The games always on the line with a CNN Turning Point possible any second. And who knows what the refs are going to call.

And, like my rugby mates, these guys are so into the game they'd maybe run over their mother if she somehow wandered out onto the pitch. They don't care if there's a good chance that climate change without adequate mitigation means no more humanity and no more creation as we know it. Not if emission reduction - shitfart production for all they care - threatens the deal they're doing right now.

And into this game Arnie's going to drag a join if you want cap and trade union hoping to move a small group of states and Canadian provinces to meaningful (well not quite meaningful) emission reduction? Without breaking a sweat and getting re-elected cause everybody in the economy is going to continue to prosper?

Finally, If the worst case scenario of runaway climate change emerges as the defining climate change threat then we might only have one chance to score emission reduction points sufficient to keep us from winning that ultimate Darwin Award for self-extinction. To keep us from being relegated to a lower league of Use2bees.

If climate change is a slow, linear rise in temperature then Arnie's climate change program, the development of clean, renewable energy, and even such oxymorons as green consumerism can be solution 'wedges'. But if climate change is non-linear with carbon cycle time delays and with potential thresholds to dangerous climate change of immediate concern, then the proposed California climate change program is most important as an illusion of solution that mis-informs the public about the degree of mitigating change necessary.

Naive? (Is there a 'manager' out there that has a more realistic plan?)

Or just rock bottom politically cynical?

"One small dive for man, one giant leap backward for life on Earth." Jeremy Rifkin


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