Posts Tagged ‘cap and trade


The Web Of The Good

picture: NASA

picture: NASA

In November, the next, that is the 21st, UN Climate Conference will take place in Paris. It is a highly complex event with thousands of participants within the UNFCCC – the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its goal is to set mandatory emission limits for all member states. Predictably, this will be a difficult task (even given, that climate change and its consequences are hardly disputed any more – except in the US of A).

The EU created with its cap-and-trade-system the biggest tool globally to decrease GHG emissions. But it went to work too faint-heartedly from the beginning. This is why the system is currently in the process of being reformed, concerning the rate of decrease as well as some modalities.

Meanwhile, under the radar of the mass media, a global emission alliance is forming from the bottom up.

It all started with single cities and regions which decided to put their own house in order first and give themselves their own emissions cap. This happened (and in some cases will happen soon) in Australia, New Zealand, California, Quebec, Tokyo, Kasakhstan, Mexico, Washington (State), Ontario, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative with 9 east coast states in the US, South Korea, some Regions in China.

California and Quebec have now joined their emissions allowances systems. This means, that a power plant in California, which did not use its bought allowances, can sell it to another in Quebec, which needs more than expected, et vice versa.

And this is just the beginning. More and more regions with local certificate systems will connect with each other and make their allowances mutually tradeable. The EU is no exception: expanding the certificate trade region is woven into its program, first with Australia.

The advantage of this approach: a big single global treaty is not necessary. The regions can follow individually their moral aspirations or not. Each region joining increases the factual and moral / normative power of the movement.

It is a bottom – up – process. The participants feel much less alienated compared to a process, where the formation of will must first rise to the very top, where some regulations are adopted, which subsequently take effect on the lower, local institutions. This whole process can easily be blocked by the unwilling. With the bottom – up – process, the unwilling become mere bystanders and will be bypassed.

Feels good.

(translation from my german blog post)


Texas, Syria und Indonesia and the cap-and-trade-system

A film about climate change on three spots:

Texas: Here, people believe intensively in God and that mankind cannot change big things like the climate, and that the drought, thats ruining texan agriculture is God-given. A female climate scientist, who manages to be a trusting christian at the same time, travels about and teaches the reality of climate change.

Syria: It is the former farmers, whose living has been destroyed by the long drought before the civil war, and who did get nothing from the regime, who joined the rebels first (see last blog post).

Indonesia: Here, the government is so corrupt, that it doesn’t even protect a national park from beeing converted into oil palm plantations.

40 % of world wide CO2 – emissions come from deforestation, not from human energy use!

(This is why the use of wood pellets for heating has to be scrutinized, wether the pellets come from over-exploitation. Hard to find out for imports. Generally, the motto should be “Don’t heat, insulate!”.)

Indonesia is in absolute numbers as well as per capita one of the larger emitters of GHGs in the world – only because of the astronomical emissions caused by slash-and-burn (look up here).


yearsoflivingdangerously_indonesiannationalpark_3 Image: Oil palm seedling in a slash-and-burned Indonesian national park.

There are several attempts to stop the palm oil frenzy. The EU has after long years of discussion implemented an obligation to label ingredients of food, but not before end of 2014 and with no hint of wether the palm oil comes from proper cultivation.

Emission certificates: A general emission certificate system including imports would help in this case. The importer would be obliged to buy certificates according to the emissions related to his goods. This would mean for him to give proof as to where his palm oil comes from exactly. Palm oil from slash-and-burned areas would be more expensive and less sought after.

Basically, the same arguments hold for an emission tax, if it is applied to imported goods, too.

It could be so simple… All this is far from our daily life. Still.


Feedbacks, Feedbacks, awful, awful

There is this well known ice albedo feedback. Albedo is another name for the percentage of sunlight, which is reflected back into space. The albedo of ice is considerably bigger than that of the sea surface. When (not if) the summer sea ice vanishes, which is in full swing, the polar sea absorbs more sunlight. Result: climate change will be sped up generally and disproportionally in the arctic .

Lately, another important feedback mechanism has come to public attention: the spring and summer snow cover on land. In the course of the polar warming, it has shrunk, naturally, as can be seen in this graph (source):

june snow cover

It is interesting to compare the areas affected:

1980 ca.

2012 ca.

Minimum Sea Ice Area (Mio km²) ca.



June Snow Cover Area (Mio. km²) ca.



As You can see, the area drop of summer snow is a little bit less than the double of summer sea ice.

As often, things are more complex than they appear at first sight:

  • The snow data are “extent” – data which means, that they contain 10 – 15 % snow free area.
  • The albedo of land is bigger than that of water (ca. 0.2 vs. ca. 0.1, source).
  • Contrary to intuition, the mean solar irradiation in mid summer in those areas, where the main snow melting difference occurs (around the 60° N) is lower than on the polar sea around the north pole!
  • The data for other months than June are not given in my source, probably in the paywalled original paper, so they might look less crassy.

On the other hand, the capacity of heat absorbtion of land is smaller than that of sea surface, which will direct the absorbed energy earlier into atmosphere instead of the water body. Also, the speed of recent summer snow loss seems to be higher than that of sea ice (source).

What is the bottom line of all this discussion?

It is safe to say, that the climate feedback effects of sea ice – and land snow cover decline are of comparable size and that the latter should definitely be reckoned with.

Is that something new?

For science –  not, besides that the rate of snow area loss is (AFAIK) as unforeseen as that of ice loss. For the public – yes, this aspect has scarcely been covered by media.

Are there effects other than general climate warming?

Yes, as with sea ice loss, the weather system is beeing changed, i.e. strength, position and movement of lows and highs. But knowledge about that aspect is still not quite settled. (How could it?) And don’t forget the perils of arctic methane release, which is still low compared to tropical release rates, but could be considerably accelerated by permafrost thaw.

Does this have any significance for our daily life?

No, besides the feeling of urgency becomes stronger to tap on the brake pedal with emissions.

What would be a nice thing concerning this?

Put a price on GHGs emission, be it by a comprehensive, working cap and trade system or tax.

July 2018
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