Friday, April 12, 2013

EPA Nominee Pledges "Common Sense" Approach to Climate Change

The Washington Post has the story of Gina McCarthy's confirmation hearings here. The story doesn't elaborate on what she meant by a "common sense" approach to climate change. Does it mean she would strive to actually reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a significant amount, e.g., in accordance with pledges President Obama made at Copenhagen - a goal which has so far eluded the federal government (except by accident of national economic recession)? Does it mean she would seek compromise, a la her boss, by staking an initial position in the middle, then giving in substantially to the objections of Republicans and regulated industries?

In addition to not being very informative, "common sense" is a dubious virtue (perhaps only a virtue of small minds) that sometimes misleads and deceives. To take just one example, common sense tells us that the sun circles the earth, rising in the East and setting in the West.

More hopefully, we should bear in mind that Ms. McCarthy's used the ambiguous phrase "common sense" during a Senate confirmation hearing, where a disarming and reassuring ambiguity based on comforting slogans is de rigueur for a nominee's success. Once approved - and Senate confirmation seems highly likely - perhaps she will reconsider whether EPA's approach to climate policy should be based on "common sense" or a scientifically-supported but still uncommon sense of what is required for the US to participate effectively in global efforts to stabilize atmospheric concentration levels of carbon dioxide equivalents at non-dangerous levels (which is an obligation to which the US still is legally committed as a ratifying party of the United Nation's 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change).

At the very least (and it is really about the very least that should be done), the new EPA Administrator should endeavor to raise fossil fuel prices throughout the economy in accordance with the federal government's 2010 (quite conservative) estimates of the social cost of carbon (see here).

No comments:

Post a Comment

I actively moderate comments for spam, advertisements, and abusive or offensive language.