Sunday, July 7, 2013

Action Plan

Analysis of a Diagram

At the top half of the above diagram, the threat of extinction is pictured, i.e. global warming escalating into runaway global warming, to finally lead to wide-scale extinction.

The diagram also pictures a proposed three-part climate action plan with the necessary lines of action in green and the recommended policies to combat this threat in the yellow field at the bottom.

These components are further discussed below.

Diagram of Doom

The above version of the Diagram of Doom pictures three kinds of warming. While Earth as a whole is experiencing global warming, the Arctic is accelerating at a much higher rate. Accelerated warming in the Arctic threatens to destabilize methane stored in the form of hydrates and free gas in sediments underneath the Arctic Ocean, in a vicious spiral triggering further methane releases and escalating into a third kind of warming: runaway global warming. More feedbacks, in addition to the three feedbacks pictured in above image in yellow, are described in the post Diagram of Doom.

The threat that this constitutes for food supply is further described in this post, which also points at the need for a comprehensive action plan. Without such action, the above three kinds of warming are threatening to lead to a fourth development, i.e. mass extinction, as above image shows.

Climate Action Plan

Several lines of action are needed to combat this threat, for parallel implementation, as pictured in the diagram below.

Any nation can start moving toward a more sustainable economy without need for prior international agreements. In nations with both federal and state governments, such as the United States of America, the President (or Head of State or Cabinet, basically where executive powers are held) can direct:
  • federal departments and agencies to reduce their emissions for each type of pollutant annually by a set percentage, say, CO2 and CH4 by 10%, and HFCs, N2O and soot by higher percentages.
  • the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to make states each achieve those same reductions.
  • the EPA to monitor progress by states and to step in with more effective action in case a state looks set to miss one or more targets; more effective action in such a case would impose (federal) fees on applicable polluting products sold in the respective state, with revenues used for federal benefits.
Such federal benefits could include building interstate High-Speed Rail tracks, adaptation and conservation measures, management of national parks, R&D into batteries, ways to vegetate deserts and other land use measurements, all at the discretion of the EPA. The fees can be roughly calculated as the average of fees that other states impose in successful efforts to meet their targets.

Similar targets could be adopted elsewhere in the world, and each nation could similarly delegate responsibilities to states, provinces and further down to local communities.

Apart from action to move to a more sustainable economy, additional lines of action are necessary to reduce the danger of runaway global warming. Extra fees on international commercial aviation could provide funding for ways to cool the Arctic. Because of their impact across borders, these additional lines of action will need ongoing research, international agreement and cooperation.

A comprehensive and effective climate action plan will outline the necessary lines of action and will also describe how these lines of action can best be implemented.

A Climate Action Plan is needed that has three parts that are executed in parallel.  
  • Sustainable Economy, i.e. moving toward a more sustainable economy, with dramatic reductions of pollutants on land, in oceans and in the atmosphere
  • Heat management
  • Methane management and further measures

Each of these three parts comes with multiple lines of action to be executed in parallel. As above diagram shows, some of these lines of action jointly lead to additional care for ecosystems, such as land, wetlands, lakes and rivers.

This Climate Action Plan contains many lines of action. As said, the decision how to implement the necessary action (e.g. efforts to reduce pollution levels) is largely delegated to state level, while states can similarly delegate decisions to local communities.

States can thus implement the policies they feel fit their circumstances best, provided they do each achieve their targets. Such targets are set by federal government in line with international agreements, and assisted by ongoing monitoring and research as to ways to make safe progress and ways to achieve targets most effectively.

Local implementation encourages that revenues from fees on polluting products is used to fund the necessary shift to clean products locally. This will help achieve the shift where it’s needed most.

Recommended policy

Feebates, preferably implemented locally, are thus recommended as the most effective way to reach targets, each state and even each local community can largely decide how to implement things, provided that each of the targets are reached.

Feebates may not always seem the best policy instrument. It makes sense to reroute commercial flights over the Arctic. At first glance, outright prohibition of commercial flights over the Arctic may seem the way to go. Similarly, some highly polluting gases have been phased out thanks to the Montreal Protocol. And similarly, standards have managed to lead to higher efficiencies in lighting, appliances and vehicles.

Nonetheless, high fees could make such flights prohibitively expensive, so feebates could still be applicable. Feebates are especially effective due to the fact that they raise revenues that can be used to help the better alternatives locally. Furthermore, standards often benefit the products that just meet the requirements under the respective standard, but not the cleanest products. In such cases, the shift achieved by standards can actually come at the expense of development of the cleanest products, which would benefit more from feebates. This is further discussed at Feebates.

Two types of feebates can best achieve the necessary shifts toward a sustainable economy, in addition to their benefits on further lines of action:
  • energy feebates
  • agriculture, land use and construction feebates

Energy feebates

Many carbon dioxide removal methods are energy-intensive. As long as the energy used is expensive and polluting, not much can be achieved. A rapid shift to clean energy is necessary, which is best facilitated through energy feebates.

As the number of solar and wind facilities grows, large amounts of clean electricity will become available at off-peak hours, when there's little demand for electricity. This will make such electricity cheap, bringing down the cost of methods such as enhanced weathering, which can take place at off-peak hours. Such energy will also make carbon dioxide removal more effective, since the energy is clean to start with.
Agriculture, land use and construction feebates

Energy feebates can best clean up energy, while other feebates (such as pictured in the above diagram) can best raise revenue for carbon dioxide removal. Energy feebates can phase themselves out, completing the necessary shift to clean energy within a decade. Carbon dioxide removal will need to continue for much longer, so funding will need to be raised from other sources, such as sales of livestock products, nitrogen fertilizers and Portland cement.

A range of methods to remove carbon dioxide would be eligible for funding under such feebates. To be eligible for rebates, methods merely need to be safe and remove carbon dioxide.

There are methods to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and/or from the oceans. Rebates favor methods that also have commercial viability. In case of enhanced weathering, this will favor production of building materials, road pavement, etc. Such methods could include water desalination and pumping of water into deserts, in efforts to achieve more vegetation growth. Selling a forest where once was a desert could similarly attract rebates.

Some methods will be immediately viable, such as afforestation and biochar. It may take some time for methods such as enhanced weathering to become economically viable, but when they do, they can take over where afforestation has exhausted its potential to get carbon dioxide back to 280ppm.

Toward a Sustainable Economy

In the diagram below, from the post Towards a Sustainable Economy, the most recommended feebates show up as yellow arrows.