Tuesday, March 31, 2009

China and America's new climate legislation

The New York Times reported today that two members of the US House of Representatives have released a draft version of a bill intended to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 83% from 1990 levels by 2050. The bill is only a first step; Climate Progress has a good piece on why any such climate legislation will face greater hurdles in the Senate.

Nonetheless, the bill represents another milestone in the long trek towards solving the climate problem. Charles McElwee at China Environmental Law Blog has a good post on the implications of the bill for US-China climate cooperation, technology transfer, and joint emissions reductions. The most significant impact of the legislation, though, is likely to be simply that the United States takes climate change seriously (finally!). It will soon become developing nations' turn to do so.


  1. Hey Scott. First, great blog! Second, as I'm pretty sure you already know, i'm obsessed with TED Talks. I watched a newly released video on their website by this guy named Bjorn Lomborg. He's a political scientist who, in his talk, discusses the findings of 2004's Copenhagen Consensus, which attempted to prioritize the world's greatest problems. That is, given a finite amount of money (which is what we have), what problems should we address first? AIDS? Education? Disaster Readiness? Climate Change? You might not like the results much, but it's very interesting. I'd love to hear your reaction. The link is here. Copenhagen meets again in 2009, so perhaps things might change.

  2. Hey Alex, thanks for your comment! I've seen Lomborg's paper on this before. I think he's right to point out that given a finite amount of resources, you can do a very wide range of "good" depending on the area you invest in. However, there are two things that must also be kept in mind. First of all, these things should be done together- malaria should be tackled along with climate change, since incidence of disease will be heavily impacted by a changing climate. Which leads to my second point: economists and political scientists have never figured out how to value things like climate change, where if we don't do something about it, nothing else matters. Sure, you can invest $50 billion to eradicate malaria in most parts of the world, but that's going to be next to irrelevant if, due to climate change, the range of malaria-carrying mosquitoes increases, along with that of other tropical diseases whose effects are just as bad.