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07/12/2009

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Anonymous

Judge Posner,

There are a number of serious problems with the Sulfur Dioxide approach that you mentioned. Here is a snippet from an article in this month's Atlantic discussing the subject:

---
But, as with nearly every geo-engineering plan, there are substantial drawbacks to the gas-the-planet strategy. Opponents say it might produce acid rain and decimate plant and fish life. Perhaps more disturbing, it’s likely to trigger radical shifts in the climate that would hit the globe unevenly. “Plausibly, 6 billion people would benefit and 1 billion would be hurt,” says Martin Bunzl, a Rutgers climate-change policy expert. The billion negatively affected would include many in Africa, who would, perversely, live in a climate even hotter and drier than before. In India, rainfall levels might severely decline; the monsoons rely on temperature differences between the Asian landmass and the ocean, and sulfur aerosols could diminish those differences substantially.

Worst of all is what Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, calls the “Sword of Damocles” scenario. In Greek legend, Dionysius II, the ruler of Syracuse, used a single hair to suspend a sword over Damocles’ head, ostensibly to show him how precarious the life of a powerful ruler can be. According to Pierrehumbert, sulfur aerosols would cool the planet, but we’d risk calamity the moment we stopped pumping: the aerosols would rain down and years’ worth of accumulated carbon would make temperatures surge. Everything would be fine, in other words, until the hair snapped, and then the world would experience the full force of postponed warming in just a couple of catastrophic years.
---

AA

Anonymous

Once again ... the Nation and the World is confronted by a problem entrenched deep in science, technology and human action. Yet, the policy makers proceed without any understanding of the science and technolgy behind much of the causation of the problem and then we wonder why the policies enacted don't work.

This is probably due to the fact that most policy makers have very little background, education or preliminary training in the disciplines of science, mathematics, and engineering. All vital to understanding the problems we confront in the modern or postmodern technological age. I do believe Harvard University and others have recognized this problem in terms of supplying a truly rounded University education.

As for the SO2 issue, Greenhouse gas emissions lie in the upper atmosphere, SO2 in the middle to lower atmosphere. But the problem is more prozaic than that, we have no way to get the SO2 to the locations in the atmosphere where it needs to be in order to counteract the greenhous gas emissions. Furthermore, even if we could do it, SO2 emissions need to be captured, stored and transported. A system is not even in place to do this and the capital resources needed to implement such a system are badly needed elsewhere.

Anonymous

What caused global warming when the ice age melted? It certainly wasn't fossil feul emissions.
In my humble opinion the entire "green" thing is a huge hoax perpetrated on a gullible and always frightened public in order to create the next bubble to make the Al Gores of the world rich. Europe has had cap and trade since the Kyoto pact and all that has happened is no reduction in emissions and huge costs. But we in this country are too stupid to learn from others or for that matter to see through the nonsense spewed at us every day in the clueless media.

Anonymous

In 20 years if we double nuclear power plants (20% to 40%), electrify half our cars and trucks, and phase out coal power plants we would do multiple positive things: produce millions of high tech domestic-only jobs for the production and operation of nuclear power plants. We could learn how to close the fuel cycle and utilize the massive amount of U-238 we are throwing away that could be used as Pu-239 reactor fuel. We would decrease the price of coal making American steel very cheap, giving Detroit an edge over the Asian competition.

And secondarily, we would economically comply with the Kyoto Protocol. In the meantime, we utilize Dr. Steven Bussard's discovery of achievable inertial electrostatic confinement fusion energy to produce nearly limitless, clean, safe, economical energy.

Getting back to reality, we'll have Cap and Tax, American sovereignty will be sold part and parcel to the World Bank dictatorship, geopolitical megalomaniacs will only allow energy solutions that require shipping raw materials half-way around the world to control economies through trade deficits, and perhaps we'll all have the Satanic RFID chip containing our genetic code, family history, bank accounts, and all pertinent identifying information. Comrade.

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The parallels that Judge Posner draws between cap and trade and the financial crisis are appropriate, for cap and trade is a policy solution inspired by financial innovation. It requires the creation of notional products ("allowances" and "offsets"), the sale and aggregation of these products by financial intermediaries, second-order pooling and tranching by other intermediaries who seek to offer carbon emitters a more diverse menu of compliance options, price-setting by speculators, risk-rating by carbon rating agencies, regulators at constant risk of "capture," and lavish industry conferences that bring all these players together.

We are invited to believe that this clever policy architecture and the complex business ecosystem that is already growing up around it is an efficient way to allocate emissions reductions throughout the economy--even, perhaps, a beautiful one. But after the 2008 financial crisis, shouldn't we be a little suspicious? Haven't we learned that the presumed efficiency of assigning these emissions reductions to a decentralized "market" must be balanced against the dangers associated with complex systems, e.g. a multiplication of principal-agent problems, pass-through of liability in a way that invites moral hazard, higher risk of systemic as opposed to isolated failures, and so on? Why choose such a complex system when a simple one (a tax) would work better?

I think that part of the answer to this last question has to do with (1) an outdated tendency towards market-based policy solutions, (2) the fallacy that clever, complex solutions are inherently better than simple ones, (3) the desire not to snuff out the nascent carbon markets industry (an incident to the fetishization of entrepreneurship), and even, perhaps, (4) the desire to give big financial firms a new space in which to play.

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Re your Aug 11 entry, comparing modern unemployment stats at approx 9% to great depression stats of over 20% is foolish, because the old stats (methodology for today's numbers were modified by Reagan's administration) would place todays unemployment at over 20%.

The UE figures do not include underemployed, those whose unemployment benefits have run out, and those who are self-employed out of necessity.

So your analysis is, quite simply and mathematically, completely unsound.

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