The ho-hum of environmental politics

For better or worse, it is not the source of so much political romance or glamour:

The public influences government policy primarily through elections. Elections affect policy largely by determining which party controls the government. We show that a majority of the public supports policies to protect the environment. But the environment is rarely the most important issue for voters, and thus the environment usually does not have a large impact in elections. Moreover, there are increasingly large divisions between Democrats and Republicans, which incentivizes politicians from both parties to embrace extreme positions. Democratic and Republican elected officials are increasingly polarized on environmental issues, with Democrats staking out much more liberal positions than Republicans in Congress. At the state level, Democratic control of legislatures and governorships leads to more stringent environmental policies. Democratic control of state government seems to have smaller effects, however, on environmental outcomes, such as air pollution emissions.

That is the abstract of a new working paper by Parrish Bergquist and Christopher Warshaw.

Comments

It sounds like they're saying that Democratic policies at the state level are ineffective?

More precisely, they seem to be saying that the "more stringent" policies favored by Democrats are ineffective in terms of environmental outcomes. They could still have a large effect on the economy, liberty, quality of life, etc. and in giving people a feeling that they are doing something for the environment. For example, banning plastic bags and straws can have a large effect on convenience without having much effect on plastics in the ocean. Conversely, allowing fracking might be less stringent than banning or limiting it but result in lower carbon emissions as natural gas replaces coal.

'favored by Democrats are ineffective in terms of environmental outcomes'

Cannot argue there - the policies generally advocated by the Democrats look absurdly lax from a German center right perspective, much less a German Green Party perspective.

Is this the same Germany that's building new coal-fired plants and generating 40% of its electricity from coal?

The same Germany that closed all of its zero-carbon-emission, perfect-safety-record nuclear power plants in response to a tsunami in Japan.

Let it not be said that Germany embraces a bad idea with anything less than total commitment.

No, I think it's the Germany that is shutting down all it's coal generators by 2038.

Ahh so they opted to close the nuclear plants first because they wanted to emit an extra trillion kilograms of CO2 for funzies?

I mean they only emit double what France manages and have decreased their carbon intensity almost 2/3rds as much as the US.

But hey, at least they tax the poor heavily to fund their virtue signalling.

'Ahh so they opted to close the nuclear plants first because they wanted to emit an extra trillion kilograms of CO2 for funzies?'

No, they opted to accelerate shutting down their nuclear plants after Fukushima. Oddly, the Japanese also shut down all their reactors for an extended period, with roughly only 1/6 of their nuclear plants currently generating electricity. Almost as if the Japanese also decided to emit large amounts of extra CO2 for funsies themselves.

Counterproductive virtue signalling is not limited by national borders. I mean I get it, Germany would rather kill hundreds of small children with particulent matter than actually deal with an incident that might kill a couple of adults once every few decades.

Japan at least has the decency to opt for natural gas. Perhaps they are just more averse to killing helpless people than Germans.

' I mean I get it, Germany would rather kill hundreds of small children with particulent matter'

You realize, in reference to the actual data in the above link, Germany has been steadily reducing particulate pollution from coal since 2012, at least represented as the amount of coal burned to generate electricity (one assumes an anthracite coal plant built three years ago also is better at scrubbing its emissions than a lignite plant from the 1970s, but let's stay simple, considering this is the MR comments section).

In other words, you are welcome to say that Germany's declinging coal emissions rate could have been accelerated, but oddly enough, German voters preferred turning off the nuclear plants, as already agreed to, because they weighed the risks they considered important, and forced the political system to follow those wishes. You are welcome to disagree of course.

'Japan at least has the decency to opt for natural gas.'

You really should look at some data, since the amount of natural gas burned in Germany has steadily increased since 2015.

Or at least know what Nord Stream 2 means in terms of Germany's energy supply in the near term future. Though oddly, the U.S. would like to do this regarding that natural gas pipeline - 'On July 31st, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced a bill that would impose sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 (NS2) pipeline, which is currently under construction and could bring up to 55 billion cubic meters of Russian natural gas directly to Germany. In June, the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee approved a companion bill.' https://www.forbes.com/sites/thebakersinstitute/2019/08/15/us-sanctions-against-nord-stream-2-pipeline-strategic-hit-or-miss/

Yeah we get it. Germans would rather fund invasions and autocracy than dare keep the safest and least polluting form of power generation known to man. We should give them credit for only killing a smaller number of people than they would have with a more scientifically literate approach.

At the end of the game Germany choose to build new large scale coal plants that will kill large numbers of children at the same time it prematurely closed nuclear power plants. Me, I care a bit more about the health of the innocent, but I understand that Germany is a bit more obsessed about trivial amounts of chlorine on chicken. Have to keep these priorities in order.

Two different governments, one bad policy. Nuclear power accounted for around 12% of it energy mix in 2011, which was similar to Japan then. Now it is down to 6% of all energy.

It doesn't really matter for climate change but at least politicians can stop saying how green those countries are.

Sure, are you asking an Australian a question about German politics? Sure, I can answer that. The German government was on the hook for a huge amount of liability if there was a large nuclear accident while the carbon price in Germany was very low. "Solve for equilibrium" is the expression that gets used here.

Actually, it is the Germany that generates 35.4% of its electricity from coal, and 34.9% from renewables. It is also the same Germany that has steadily decreased the amount of coal used for electricity since around 2012.

English language info here - with sources for all data. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/germanys-energy-consumption-and-power-mix-charts

'that's building new coal-fired plants'

Absolutely - lignite plants, which are inefficient and dirty (lignite is the dirtiest coal to burn, something one hopes that would not be be questioned, but this is the MR comments section).

Basically, the new plants burn anthracite, are much higher efficiency (try from something around 35% to something like 43% (coal costs money, after all) and to a major extent are designed to be tied into an electrical grid where wind power is a major source of electrical generation.

Effective environmental outcomes require investment - building new coal plants is a way to reduce coal burning, and the opposite of a sign of increasing CO2 emissions. But apparently, American Democrats remain fixated on dogmatic positions (as do their opponents, admittedly), so the idea of actually reducing coal burning through building higher efficiency plants designed to work effectively with renewables is apparently inconceivable.

Ah, something got dropped - '... lignite plants, which are inefficient and dirty (...) are being shut down, and being replaced with modern plants.'

We understand, it is hard to wean yourself off an addiction to dirty, deadly power that comes from strip mining. Keep up the good work. Why in a few decades you might even approach US levels of emissions from 10 years ago. I mean it is not that many children who will die because Germans choose the second most deadly form of power generation to replace the least.

Democratic State environmental policies end up being mostly Federal policy, which is why Trump et al are defying the law written by Congtress giving California power to set standards for 20-50% of the US economy. Ie, California standards exceeding Federal standards can be adopted by any other State.

For simplicity, Federal standards have been written with California approval.

Other State policies have been implemented with regional compacts of Democratic majority States, like RGGI on the east coast. This put focus on eliminating coal power plants as this gave utilities quick and easy credits in the first few years. The money not spent of coal was spent locally on energy projects, mostly energy efficiency.

Plus Democratic States have sued repeatedly to force EPA action and won at the Supreme court every time. It's just the delay on each round has been 7-10 years. The problem with the air is always caused by GOP states. Eg, acid rain coming from Ohio valley killing North East trees, fresh water fish.

"Democratic State environmental policies end up being mostly Federal policy, which is why Trump et al are defying the law written by Congress giving California power to set standards for 20-50% of the US economy."

Your opening statement is a bit confusing and appears oxymoronic.

But it is correct that California environmental policy has supra-state characteristics. My understanding is that since the California EPA or California environmental protection laws pre-dated federal laws, their right to set laws independently was effectively grandfathered in.

Then rather than submit themselves to two sets of regulations, anyone who wants to do business at the national level is forced to comply with stricter environmental laws than the nation would have otherwise imposed.

After all these years I still need to adjust to the American usage that "liberal" = illiberal.

yeah that's what I came here to complain about. "much more liberal" means "much more interventionist" . Even google offers this definition: "willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas."

If you're much more liberal, you're much more open to new ideas. That ain't what the democrats are doing here.

Illiberal Liberals Want To Control And Rearrange Every Aspect Of Our Lives. The Climate Hoax Is Only One Of Their Squawking Points [they're talking about taking away gas cars and stoves, meat, affordable gas and electricity, private health care, tax cuts, jobs] .

Re: The Sky Is Falling:
Some Other Examples:

1967 — Stanford University expert Paul Erlich predicted “time of famines” in 1975.
1971 — A top NASA expert predicted an “ice age” by 2021.
1988 — It was predicted that the Maldives would be under water by last year.
2008 — Gore said the Arctic would be free of ice by 2013.
2009 — Charles said there was just 96 months left to save the world.

Of course, behind the climate hoax is gargantuan green graft and a covert cabal of green energy companies, billionaire investors, and lobbyists pushing hard to become even-more super-rich from the climate hoax.

Please cite your sources.

The paper says:
"We measure environmental outcomes with data from
the EPA on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from non-transportation sources and ambient
levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2)."

So the authors are investigating changes in absolute emissions (for CO2) or absolute concentrations (NOx and SO2). They're not looking at the pollution intensity of the economy (e.g. how much GDP you get per ton of CO2 emitted).

This matters because, over the timeframe analyzed (1995-2018), Republican-run states generally grew faster in population and GDP than Democrat-run states. So even the modest effects the authors find may reflect simply different growth rates, not effective regulation by Democrats.

My impression is that Republican-run states decarbonized the economy than Democrat-run states, in the sense that their GDP-per-ton-of-CO2 metric increased faster. Then again, Republican states started from a lower (less CO2-efficient) base, so percentage gains in decarbonization are easier.

In conclusion, I'm not sure about NOx and SO2, but for CO2 the more relevant question to see if climate policies actually accomplish anything is to check whether they cause changes in the decarbonization rate, not in emissions themselves. Nobody would be surprised to hear that India's emissions have rocketed while Venezuela's have collapsed, but surely that's not what people mean when they talk about decarbonizing the economy?

Missed a word: "decarbonized the economy *faster* than Democrat-run states"

'My impression is that Republican-run states decarbonized the economy than Democrat-run states'

My impression is that places with such things as reliable wind decarbonized faster than places without that resource. Like Iowa, Kansas, or Texas - particularly Texas, which is truly outsized in terms of windpower. It was not about the politics, it was about the economics - or even more specifically, about the profits.

Strong environmental policies are a not an island, they are one of a pair in a trade off.

100% of the people support a better environment.

Very few people would support suffocating regulations for their own sake.

Everyone believes there is an optimal amount of environmental regulations

People differ on where that point lies.

More specifically. Main issue is cost and hence conflict with other preferred policies. If it could be done without impacting on voters' "more important" issues most governments would do it.

It took a child (Swede Greta Thunberg) to bring attention to the issue. What I've noticed is that much of the news about the environment is framed as a question of who is to blame, with the usual suspects, baby boomers, getting the lion's share. We are a moral bunch. My observation is that globalization, by moving much of observable environmental pollution to the developing world, reduced Americans' interest in the subject. Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and other formerly heavy industry cities are much cleaner today as a result: out of sight, out of mind. If what's most important is casting blame, I'd point the finger at industries and companies that shifted production to the developing world, which has far less regulation of polluters. Meanwhile, all those imported intermediate goods are being assembled into finished goods here in America by so-called "clean" industries. It would be easier convincing the most loyal Trump supporters that Trump is a grifter than convincing them that pollution in China causes flooding in Houston.

Trump achieved all that climate devastation in less than three years!

Seen on the internet: "The Climate Hoax's Child Hostages Obey Their Climate Captors."

They also have 30+ million American school kids terrorized that they will be shot in school. No wonder America's children are depressed.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/09/15/parents-told-not-terrify-children-climate-change-rising-numbers/

You never heard of global warming until Greta Thunberg?? The concept, especially catastrophic warming as been slowly dying as a concern. The silly Greta movement seems to be a death rattle for the Alarmists. Maybe now some actual scientists can look into it. Seems too important to leave it to the children and politicians (if you can tell them apart).

The Republicans used to talk a lot about reducing the deficit, but they never did much about it, and now don't even bother with lip service anymore. Similarly, the Democrats now talk a lot about reducing carbon, but they won't get much done.

A Sanders or Warren administration will focus on sociopolitical and economic reforms instead, because if they try to pursue a climate austerity agenda they will suffer the same fate as the Clinton health care reforms or the Obama health care reforms. Even though the latter squeaked through, in both cases the efforts used up the entire two-year window prior to disastrous midterm elections. And even though the remaining six years ended on a high note for both presidents, no further progressive reforms were possible except by bypassing the political process and going through the courts (e.g. gay marriage).

All hope on climate issues depends on technological progress. Governments, including Europe, will accomplish nothing on climate. Expect more empty long-term mandates, as in "we commit to phasing out (big problem) X by (faraway) year Y, which is long after we'll be out of office".

Government's job is to pollute. We vote for government activities that are inefficient for the private sector.

Governments, including Europe, will accomplish nothing on climate.

But they’ll be sending me to the poorhouse faster with higher NO taxes .

No meat, no car, no AC; no breathing.

The environment and government is a very poorly covered issue. Rarely is it mentioned that government is the largest single polluter (think land fills, research/weapons labs, military bases, etc.), it enforces existing regulations poorly on other government entities, and makes exceptions for itself in existing regulations. You do hear about how bad the communists were in regard to the environment, not so much western governments. The childish view that government will save us, is naive. Every regulation is license to pollute to that level, and many contain grandfather clauses for existing players - making it harder to come with cleaner tech. Flint is great example of government adhering to regulations while minimizing costs. The river water was not the problem, the problem was the acidity - EASILY corrected - that corroded the existing lead pipes, that any private company would have been forced to replace decades ago. Flint was not/is not the only city rigging the results of water testing. Cambridge MA has very basic water that kills espresso machines in order to keep the lead pipes coated in scale. Trust the government with environment less than you trust a private corp. A private corp can be sued.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/02/lead-water-testing-cheats-chicago-boston-philadelphia

https://www.wgbh.org/news/local-news/2019/07/10/cambridge-water-isnt-working-for-coffee-connoisseurs

Because we still disagree on what to call the phenomenon, because identifying moral agency can be important, and because over two centuries of industrial processes (almost a century of industrial processes global in scope, which perhaps helps explain rising ocean temperatures more than rising air temperatures):

http://fictionaut.com/stories/strannikov/naming-the-scourge-we-made

This analysis touches a very small part of the elephant. If the environmental movement has annoyed you since day one, if you are the sort that always chalked it up to unimportant aesthetics, if like the Scandinavian ellow who lectured at my school once you consider the earth and its atmosphere to be no more than a basket of chemicals that can only be rearranged (pollution: solved!), you should vote Democrat. There can be no serious argument about that in 2019.

'There can be no serious argument about that in 2019.'

And to think that the Greens would disagree with the idea of voting Democrat, though you are welcome to question their seriousness of course.

(OK, the American Greens are a joke, but the point remains.)

Am I welcome to question why you would mention the Green party in connection with this conversation or indeed any other?

'why you would mention the Green party in connection with this conversation'

Because the various Green Parties actually explicitly represent environmental politics?

Just spitballing, of course.

Ah. Well, it wouldn't be spitballing if you didn't occasionally sail wide of the mark.

If you actually read the paper, you would see that Independents are closer to Democrats on environmental policies re C02 (80% agree for Independents and 85% for Dems), and that the Repbublicans actually divide into two groups (activists and non-activists) (44% and 55% respectively).

Republicans are losing the Independents on this issue and non-activist Republicans support C02 regulation by more than 50%.

Nah, the question has always been are what are people willing to pay. Data suggests that for Americans that figure is below $100 per annum. Only 34% of Americans were willing to help if personal costs were at that amount. Similar minorities might swap to electric cars or carpool to help the climate.

And of course the kicker is that the American population does very little to change their emissions habits. There is a reasonable inverse correlation, no doubt from confounding, between how much people care about climate change and how often they fly. Similarly, vacations are vastly more carbon intensive among the people who allege to car the most about the climate.

If you phrase the question leadingly, yeah everyone is for all manner of nice things. But as I find in my line of work, everyone is for "more exercise" and "eating better", the cost in time or pleasure is just too much for basically everyone.

Climate change prevention is great right up until people realize who is paying for it. As long as Republicans can correctly point out what each individual's itemized bill would be they have a strong majority on their side.

If that is true, please explain why we have any environmental or pollution regulations.

If you pose the question: would you like your river on fire or not; whether you would have to wear a mask outdoors or not, etc.

Sure if your last claim were true--that Republicans have a strong majority on their side--you did not read the paper, nor did you read the statistics I posted...85% Dems, 80% Independents, 55% non-activist Republicans. That's the data.

Well no, I skipped straight to the CCES. Like most such flawed instruments it asks people if they are for a position rather than at what price they are for it. Much like your useless requests for explanations.

We have pollution regulations because most of them are cheap. For instance banning CFCs was estimated to cost $45 billion back when the ban was enacted, spread out over the hundred years of the bill and over all Americans ... and we are talking about less a dollar per year.

Over 30 years, the Clean Air Act is estimated to cost around $65 billion. Again an exceeding cheap option for consumers.

Even these efforts faced some pushback, so the writers hid the costs on corporate balance sheets and the public remained clueless.

Climate change is a lot harder. It involves the single most cost conscious transaction in America - buying gasoline - and will hit consumers every single day. Obfuscating the taxation is just not going to be possible.

Further, though I dispute such analysis, we have seen environmental legislation pass by promising to tax nebulous wealthy companies and their stockholders. Individuals can basically continue their normal activities and just pay a slight amount more. With reducing carbon dioxide, the whole point is behavior modification. Once you get rid of energy emissions for power generation, there just are not a lot of things to go after that do not require behavior change.

So to whit, most environmental regulations are a fraction of the costs of a "Green New Deal", are less intrusive into public consciousness, and lack organized opposition.

Whatever you believe is the right course of action, making it cheaper is a the single most important aspect if you want to enforce it politically.

Presumably we should be able to test this theory.

Voters should be more willing, ceteris paribus, to vote for candidates who promise clean water and air, as long as the cost is both sufficiently low and “aimed” at people or groups of people they don’t like.

So environmental voters will vote for a candidate who makes promises but also promises the costs will be borne solely by the out-group: oil companies, natural gas companies, pipeline companies, SUV drivers, ‘corporations’ Etc.

Yes for punishing the out-group. No to carbon taxes or nuclear energy.

'the cost in time or pleasure is just too much for basically everyone'

Has it occurred to you that there just might be a bit of selection bias involved, in that those who exercise and eat well are less likely to be encountered in such clinical settings?

Of course, I am open to the idea that America is nothing but a hellish landscape of total dysfunction across the board - this is the MR comments section, after all.

Well could be, but I often end up talking to people who have not seen the doctor in forever and they want refills. So I end up discussing health conditions unrelated to what brought them.

So maybe there is a bias whereby people less likely to change dietary and exercise habits are more likely to car accidents. Maybe these people are also biased towards having children who break bones or get concussions. Perhaps they also are more likely to have parents having major health issues.

As always, I cannot conclusively rule out such a bias, but it has to be awfully oddly correlated one. Particularly as my frequent flyers show me that having a heart attack is insufficient for many people to drastically change their diet and exercise habits.

Republicans: If Democrats believe so much in the environment they should fix it.

Also Republicans: Don't elect Democrats!

I hereby award you the grade of F.

Name one environmental threat Republicans have taken it upon themselves to own and solve in the last 20 years.

Older Republicans, like me and Nixon, used to sign onto these things. Now, not so much. In fact this administration's theme has been to reduce regulations preventing real harms.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/climate/trump-environment-rollbacks.html

You are awarded an additional F. Doubly so for actively lying. And providing irrelevant links.

You can make up for this by successfully making an argument from your ideological opponent’s side on environmental regulation.

If you can't answer a simple question .. maybe my criticism was legit.

For what it's worth, the nearest I could think of was "nuclear power," but even it was never owned and implemented. Neither the Bush nor Trump administration authorized or paid for a big build-out.

It's a canard.

"If Democrats believe so much in the environment they should fix it .. the way we tell them .. with nuclear power."

No ownership. No legislative or executive plan for climate change or anything else.

You fail again. You are awarded another F grade in understanding your ideological opponents and attempting to engage them on an intellectual level. From SSC you would be banned already, permanently, for failing to engage in good faith.

You can make up for this by actually posting an argument from your ideological opponent's side on environmental regulation.

Please try again.

"Older Republicans, like me ..."

Dude, outside of an aneurysm, nobody goes from Republican to writing the silly shit you do.

And in the end they could not think of one environmental problem Republicans recognized, and wanted to solve.

But it means a lot to affluent mothers and their children who have nothing to do but worry about the end of the world. Environmentalism is dogma masquerading as science. Ignorance is wanted there.

"...The story of Western environmentalism since the 1960s illustrated Tocqueville's law that a problem did not cause concern among elites until it was being solved; then, the smaller the residual problems, the greater the excitement and panic..." -- David Gress, From Plato to NATO, pg 516...

The real glamour is where substantive progress occurs such as the new $2.5 billion liquified natural gas deal with India: huge win for the USA and for the air in India about which Taborrok purports to care. Want glamour? Look at this: https://www.houstonchronicle.com/business/article/Modi-visit-to-Houston-backdrop-for-one-of-the-14458413.php

Comments for this post are closed