Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Remember When We Worried About Global Warming?

Anybody notice how much attention has been paid to environmental problems since the housing bubble burst triggered the subprime mortgage crisis that triggered the derivative securities crisis that triggered the debt crisis that triggered the credit crisis?

The environment? Global warming? Go away kid, I'm busy saving banks here!

And so it goes. The Environmental News Network has a story today that shows how intractable the carbon emissions problem can be. Norway had plans to be the leader in curbing carbon output. Way back in 1991 Norway enacted a carbon tax. It also imposed powerful emissions regulation on its offshore oil industry. So where is Norway today? Carbon emissions are up 15%.

"Although the tax forced Norway's oil and gas sector to become among the greenest in the world, soaring energy prices led to a boom in offshore production, which in turn boosted overall emissions. So did drivers. Norwegians, who already pay nearly $10 a gallon, took the tax in stride, buying more cars and driving them more. And numerous industries won exemptions from the tax, carrying on unchanged.

Norway's sobering experience shows how difficult it is to cut emissions in the real world, where elegant theoretical solutions are complicated by economic changes, entrenched behaviors and political realities.

A few countries have cut emissions without injuring their economies. Sweden and Denmark, both of which introduced a carbon tax, have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 14% and 8% respectively since 1990 while maintaining growth. Their emission reductions can't be attributed to the tax alone, economists say. Additional moves to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy, which are government-subsidized, played a part."

Wait a second, did I read that correctly? These countries have had carbon taxes since 1990 - almost two decades - and they didn't explode? What's that? Their economies remain strong? Didn't they get Stephen Harper's "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid" memo?

By the way, New Zealand has just enacted a "green shift" policy much like that proposed by Stephane Dion. Maybe our Furious Leader can let us know when the folks down under fall into the sea.

1 comment:

Oldschool said...
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