Thursday, December 03, 2015

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Paul Edwards discusses the availability of a gradual transition to clean energy while avoiding more than 2 degrees of climate change - but only if we start swapping out fossil fuels for renewable energy now. And Christopher Grainger argues that a space race-style approach to research and development represents a necessary part of the transition we should be pursuing:
Carbon lock-in is one of the key insights of recent work in “directed technical change” by MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and colleagues. They find the most cost-effective way to address climate change is early action on both fronts: pricing carbon and supporting low-carbon innovation. Acemoglu and co differ from traditional economic models of climate change by properly considering how new technology emerges, instead of treating it as an “exogenous” process that suddenly arrives like manna from heaven.

Early policy intervention is crucial. It can change the path of innovation from “dirty” (carbon-intensive) to “clean” (low-carbon) and then once clean innovation gains a sufficient advantage it can be left alone, as profit-maximising firms will pursue clean innovation in their own interests.
If markets left to themselves will continue to merely pump out “innovations” along certain pathways, then it is up to the state to play a more direct role in starting a “greentech” revolution. Mariana Mazzucato, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, argues that major advances in tech from the internet to nanotechnology to pharmaceuticals were born either directly from government research or because governments made the risky investments necessary for the private sector to act.

The good news is that not all money is the same, and those behind Mission Innovation and the Breakthrough Energy Coalition seem to have read Mazzucato. They explicitly reference “patient capital” which can reduce the risk of uncertain technological investments. There is no question this is a major step in the right direction.

Governments certainly need to price carbon, but they should also act as entrepreneurs and market-creators to kickstart innovation for the green growth of the future. If we are underspending on this by orders of magnitude, then doubling is not nearly enough.
- Justin Fisher laments Brad Wall's continued determination to be an obstacle in the way of any progress. David Turnbull points out how much more is being spent on fossil fuel subsidies than on the latest round of climate change funding promises. And George Monbiot compares the UK Cons' cavalier attitude toward climate change to their eagerness to engage in war.

- Yves Smith weighs in on the futility of expecting economic growth out of corporate tax slashing. And Adrian Morrow reports on the Ontario Libs' corporate welfare programs which are burning through billions of public dollars in the absence of any apparent effort to set funding criteria or track any results.

- Richard Elliott highlights how the Trans-Pacific Partnership will limit the availability of desperately-needed prescription drugs.

- Finally, the Broadbent Institute highlights the Canadian public's eagerness for a change in our electoral system - though there's an obvious choice to be made between preferential systems supported by the public, and a ranked-ballot system which would have further inflated the Libs' seat count.

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