When Greg Nickels was mayor of Seattle, he released a study of Seattle's carbon emissions, claiming the city would meet the emissions reduction targets in the Kyoto Protocol. When the report was released in 2007, Nickels announced "A new inventory of Seattle’s greenhouse-gas emissions shows we are meeting our Kyoto Treaty targets — reducing climate pollution to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012." The goal of the report was to highlight his leadership on reducing carbon emissions.
In my book Eco-Fads, I argue that many politicians and policymakers actively oppose auditing their policies because the benefit of the policies isn't environmental improvement, it is the good feeling associated with publicly supporting the policy. I wrote:
Auditing the results of a policy serves only as a tool to point out the shortcomings of favored environmental approaches. Data that are not collected cannot be used to show whether elected officials made a mistake.
On Monday, the Washington Toxics Coalition announced that the Department of Ecology would begin the process to list a flame retardant known as Tris as a "chemical of high concern." They announced the decision on Twitter, writing "WE WON! @ecologywa is starting the process to list chlorinated Tris as a chemical of concern to kids!"
Asked by reporters how he felt after a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers, former Chicago Bulls center Stacey King told reporters, “I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points.” This is the comment that came to mind when President Obama told an audience recently, “If you built a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.” The President went on to say, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.”
"Science – not emotion or expediency – is the most reliable guide to achieving success. The Partnership supports and relies on continuing scientific research to inform its decisions, and to measure what’s working." - Puget Sound Partnership Action Agenda 2012 Draft
Seattle's new ban on plastic grocery bags took effect yesterday and the question is "what will success look like?"
The immediate reaction might be that success means reducing the number of plastic bags used by consumers. The law is almost certain to do that, since the bags are banned and heavier plastic bags will cost 10 cents a bag.
Recently the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts released a graphic purporting to show "green" technologies create more jobs than traditional energy sources. The graphic below has been distributed widely by advocates of creating "green jobs." This is a common assertion from the environmental left.
As I note in my book Eco-Fads, this claim is made by many on the left.
If you have stayed at a hotel recently, you have seen a card in the bathroom exhorting you to help the planet by reusing your towels, thus reducing the amount of water, energy and detergent used by the hotel. Such appeals are typically based on guilt - you reuse the towels and the hotel receives the financial benefit.
The success of such efforts, however, is tenuous because it is entirely contingent on the convenience and good will of the guests.
Westin Hotels, however, have harnessed the free market to find a better way.
One of the most common mantras from the state's Department of Ecology about climate change is to note the strong "scientific consensus" regarding the impacts of climate change. The consensus science comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN agency that releases reports highlighting what it believes is the best science on climate change and the impacts.
Once again, environmental groups are encouraging you to turn off your lights tomorrow night at 8:30 as part of Earth Hour. Supporters understand this is a symbolic effort, so they don't make too many claims about how much energy will actually be saved. Earth Hour, however, ends up providing a nice contrast between the current green approach and the alternative provided by the free-market incentives to do more with less.
There could hardly be a more stark contrast between the ability of the free market to provide effective environmental solutions and the failure of politically dictated efforts than the difference between the Toyota Prius C and the Chevy Volt.