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A Critical Climate Play…
Enacted Behind the Scenes

Our current Federal government stands accused of resisting all action on climate change. That’s not the case. The U.S. Congress and the Trump administration are acting. What they are doing, however, is happening behind the scenes. Out of the public eye, oil companies and others seeking government subsidies are orchestrating legislation to subsidize their technologically risky and money-losing business ventures.

As it becomes increasingly clear that climate change isn’t just a theoretical possibility – that it’s a rapidly unfolding existential threat to humanity and the entire biosphere – U.S. legislators have been busy. One law has already been passed, and several other pieces of legislation are making their way through Congress. Most of these subsidize private businesses to develop and roll out tecno-industrial fixes for global warming: carbon dioxide removal, or CDR.

Yes, this is government’s new assignment: Figure out how to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. And then pay for it.

Over the next several months the Public Goods Post will be advising readers of what’s happening on this front.

Recently, the House Special Committee on Climate invited comments on its proposals for climate change mitigation. A member of Congress who is active in climate matters invited June Sekera, Founder and Director of the Public Goods Institute, and Neva Goodwin, Co-Director of the Global Development And Environment Institute at Tufts University, to submit comments to the Committee. The invitation was in response to research that June, Neva and collaborators have been conducting on the virtues and deficits of different CDR methods.

Click here to see our letter to the House Committee.

Here Neva Goodwin summarizes our letter to the House Committee:

The House Special Committee on Climate has requested our input on its proposals for decarbonizationI have sent in comments from a perspective that needs to be better known, especially as the Congress considers bills such as the "USE IT Act” and the "EFFECT ACT".  These both support risky technological carbon capture ideas that are to date not proven to work as hoped – indeed, the evidence is mounting that their impact on climate will be to inject more carbon into the air than is removed, while the resource costs – in land use and money as well as energy – are enormous.

In the attached paper I and my colleagues at Tufts University have contrasted these technological proposals with the alternative: to increase the absorption of carbon into soils.  The latter has as many positive side-effects as the technological proposals have negative ones – including improved rural livelihoods, and significant health benefits for the people who produce our food and those who eat it.  

The first third of our submission discusses the land-based, especially agricultural, approaches to capturing and storing carbon.  The middle discusses the technology-based alternatives, while the last third is an appendix for anyone who seeks a better understanding of the specific agricultural methods that, with some government encouragement, can withdraw large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.

There are land-based methods that are better known – e.g., preserving forests (much more effective in this regard than planting new ones) and sustaining or restoring wetlands.  These have great merit; we have focused on agriculture since the side-benefits for people are so readily achieved and felt.

We hope that you will give these issues your consideration at this critical time for halting the worst of the coming effects of climate change.

Neva Goodwin, 

Co-Director, Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University
Distinguished Fellow, Economics in Context Initiative, Boston University

Click here to see the full letter to the House Committee.
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The Public Goods Post has been created by June Sekera, 
Founder and Director of the Public Goods Institute; and Research Fellow at the 
Global Development And Environment Institute, Tufts University.

The Public Goods Post is produced by John MacKenzie

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