A More Livable Future

As urbanization and industrialization accelerate in China and across the globe, low carbon development and the concept of sustainability seem to attract more attention than they used to. Human induced global climate change has made it impossible for anyone to deny or even question its existence and seriousness. This summer alone has reset many climatic records. To name only a few: New York City suffered from record high temperature in late July and bashed by unprecedented Hurricane in late August. Chongqing Municipality in China has experienced one of the hottest summers in its history.

Even though Chongqing is known as one of the Chinese furnaces, local residents fans with disbelieve of the sustained high temperature. Local primary schools in Chongqing postponed their fall semester by a full week in order to avoid the heat dome.  Those climatic abnormity and subsequent results hit residents without AC and students who are returning to schools in those cities the most.

During and post Hurricane Irene, most of the public transits in New York City were temporarily stopped. The cancellation of flight and train services left many students returning from summer holiday stuck on the road. Those students do not have enough time to return to their home places given the approaching school year. Equally, it is too expensive to assume, even for a short period of time, the role of an airport resident in any part of the world. In clarification, let me reiterate their situation, many students waved their reluctant goodbyes to the caring ones and boarded various flights to continue their academic journey. At the first stop upon departing their home countries, they were told that all flights to NYC were cancelled. To some, like my poor girlfriend, the odyssey didn’t stop there. Her first stop was in Tokyo and she was being told that her flight to JFK was cancelled. So, there was no way that she could continue her journey. She was also told that she couldn’t stay in Japan, because she did not have a proper visa. As a result, she was put on a flight headed to Chicago. To the Japanese, it’s out of country out of their concerns. However, my poor girlfriend had to detour to Chicago. After spending a night there, she was once again put on another flight to DC.

After two more nights in DC, she was compelled to cancel her flight and she switched her travel plan to Amtrak. Tickets purchased, hotel checked out, and she was once again confronted with transit cancellation. Amtrak was not running due to track damages done by Irene. After spending close to a full week on the road, she finally made it to Bard. However, none of the flight companies offered any compensation as they were obligated to.  

Therefore, the inconvenience and damage done by climate change does not limit to or confine within a physical sphere. Climate change also opens up loopholes for moral and political corruption. It adds on to the list of excuses dummies breathe with.  

(To welcome and direct public criticism towards such poor service, it was Continental who refused to cover the additional costs it imposed on those poor students.)

Climate Change associated misfortunes does not limit on the road. Back in Chongqing, the unprecedented heat dome forces many impoverished local residents to crowd in the hall way and aisles of big malls to avoid the heat at the risk of being beaten by the so-called security-guard (http://www.zgkg.com.cn/minsheng/w10153799.asp).

There were news reports about lives being claimed by the historical high temperature. It goes without saying that local hospitals are packed with heat patients. 

It is the helpless residents in Brooklyn, NY; the crowded aisles in Chongqing; China; the victims of increasing climatic calamities and the lives lost at the climatic abnormity that demands better stewardship of our shared and only home planet—earth. It is no longer a mere political rhetoric, nor is it in the future tense. It’s happening as we speak.  

So why low carbon? Why sustainability?

Unprecedented climatic abnormities do not occur without any reason. The thin air hardly gives birth to a warmer planet without additional heat trapping green house gases. In order to minimize climate change related casualties and economic loss, low carbon development/sustainable development seem to be the only path that shall lead us, and many generations of us yet to come, to a more livable future.       

–by Chad Tupgon

2011-09-14

Frozen & Burnt

Friday, July 21, 2011
By Tupgon, Tudenggongbu

Today the temperature in New York City set new record. By mid day, the temperature elevated well above 39-Degree Celsius or well over 100-Degree Fahrenheit. News bulletins are steamed with stories about reporters frying eggs on the sidewalk, and heat dome griddling every street along with its pedestrians.

Coming out from the freezer-like New York Public Library, for a millisecond the heat felt good. It warmed up my body and I had a good long stretch, I even thanked whichever deity is in charge of the heat. However, what followed was absolutely unbearable, sweat broke like water balls, head span, and vision blanked out in glary.

We ran. Every few steps we rushed into a store to embrace the blessing of a cold air current. This time I complain to the same deity for not showing any mercy upon us. The cold air in building felt great. It almost felt like having a good long drink of iced water in a hot summer afternoon. However, nothing last long, after few minutes, it felt chilly and we braved out again, after few steps of progress we retreated into another store and the motion repeated itself. We were in and out, frozen and burnt.

In the subway station, the consuming heat literally pushes a person to his limit. I was counting down seconds from checking out. There came the F train. The door popped open, icy air rushed out and we were saved again.

After dozen stops, it’s freezing cold on the train. Some people started to unpack their sweaters, while others palmed their bear arms to keep themselves warm.

For the last month or so, we have sublet my Italian friend’s apartment, for which we are grateful. However, the apartment does not have an AC. When the ambient temperature reads 90 degree Fahrenheit at 2am, (Yes, it’s not a typo, I mean 2 in the morning), the room is nothing short of an oven. Upon opening the door, a roomful of steaming hot air fell upon us. We were consumed and burnt like that of the ghost rider. I have become the new ghost rider, flaming not only head but the entire body.

We stayed up late. We drank so much iced water that if everyone in the world consumed water at our rate last night, the global community would face not water shortage, but water exhaustion. We took score of cold shower, but it was still too hot to go to bed. When midnight flipped a new page on the calendar, we forced ourselves to lie down. I could feel the pulse of my temple. Beads of sweat routinely slid down on my back. It’s too hot to sleep.

A faint memory of something about aerial bed being cooler to sleep on than ordinary bed came to me and I sprang. I pumped up my aerial mattress and put a sheet over it and there I went to bed again. A few minutes later, the heat became unbearable and I put pots full of cold water around the bed and hoped the water could cool down the air by whatever little amount possible.

Five in the morning, the heat burnt me awake. I went to the kitchen and opened the fridge to lean against. The icy air was worth gold. For a second, my body cooled down and even shivered. I reluctantly return to the room and it’s simply inhabitable. So, I got up at five, first time in close to three years. I went out to stroll the deserted New York City Street, but only to find the air was unbearably hot. Global climate change is definitely at work, and it’s time for us all to wake up.

Luck or Shit

A few months back, I was walking to class with one of my colleagues. As we zigzagged through the early spring trees, an early pigeon decided to move its bowels before we break our fast. I stared at my friend (henceforth referred to as Pr) with a decent size pigeon shit sliding down her glasses. I couldn’t help but laughed at the pigeon’s precision and Pr’s good luck. However, with a convincing smile, she explained to me the cultural interpretations of encountering animal dung. In summary, shit is luck and she accepted my congratulations.

A few weeks back, as I was enjoying a sunny evening in the Union Square Park, I dozed off while reading a novel. I woke up with a pigeon shit sitting on my favorite shirt. My girlfriend laughed at my misfortune and comforted me with a similar pigeon-shit-interpretation. “It’s good luck.” She explained. Her interpretation echoed those of my colleague’s few months back and I acquiesced with their explanations. Yea, luck just hit me.

Today, with the scorching heat-island temperature, my head was spinning and as I leaned back on the walls of a tall building near Time Square, a warm drop landed on my bare neck followed by another gentle press on the top of my head. Whatever it was, it wasn’t heavy enough to press my hairs down to reach the scalp. I inspected the ambient environment and the result reads: it’s not raining; no air-condition anywhere to be seen. What else may those drops possibly be? Luck or shit?

Signs of A Rainy Day (For Meng)

Countless rain drops slide down on an otherwise lightly dust-coated window screen.
As each drop proceeds, one pushes into another, and thus creating bigger drops, whose reaction to the law of gravity enhances, as more drops merge, a pearl shaped drop dashingly concludes the journey with a sudden progression. Yes, it has been raining. Countless drops of water pearls actively skating on the window screen, and they are signs of a rainy day.

Ponds of pulsing water bodies excited upon receiving every additional rain drop and thus claiming a larger ground with the hope to unite with its adjacent ponds, and thus giving birth to an even bigger water-body and demoing the basic law of water body formation. As the saying has it “little drops of water make the mighty ocean”. Oh, yes, it has been raining, every body of water that veins the vast land, carries every sailing boat is a de facto sign of a rainy day.

By Tupgon (March 6th, on a rainy day)

As a member of the BCEP community

This is my last semester at Bard Center for Environmental Policy (BCEP) at Bard College. Instead of letting my near-graduation-anxieties dominate my remaining time here at BCEP. I decided to look back and to share with you some of my experiences as a member of the BCEP community.

Upon completing my undergraduate studies at Duke University in 2009, I–like so many others-was excited to finally take the long-waited step to go off-campus and begin making a positive change in the world-at-large. However, when reality sets in, when it’s time to shoulder the promises and to try to materialize the ambitions we so often extol in our personal statement and job cover letters, your graduation excitement subsides, and you find yourself asking “But how?” It’s one thing to decide, “I want to save the world, to cool down global warming, to patch up the black hole, to steer a whole city away from a catastrophic hurricane and to reinstall all the retreating glaciers”. Even after this dedication to an ideal of service, the question remains, “how does one go about doing all these great things”? In the absence of a concrete answer of my own, not knowing exactly how I was going to bring about my dream of preserving and promoting the environment and its biodiversity in Tibet, I decided to pursue further education.

My academic enrichment at Duke led me to understand that I need to further my education to better equip myself with skills for a lifetime of service: To people around the world in need of comprehensive advocacy, to the fast vanishing Tibetan culture and environment desperately in need of preservation, and to our planet in a time of unprecedented threats of human-induced climate change.

At BCEP, my academic works have included but were not limited to investigation of various human-induced environmental problems, exploration of cost efficient solutions, digitization of geographic information, statistical analysis of legal means to regulate environmentally destructive practices and promotion of comprehensive legislations to reduce planet-warming pollution emissions.

I also undertook a literature review on Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) that aims to reconcile biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development interest of multiple stakeholders in areas of significant biodiversity value at local regional, national and international level. I was involved in a Carbon Alleviation Project, which aims to replace fossil fuel powered heating and cooling systems at Bard College with Solar thermal system. Currently, I am working on my master’s thesis, which evaluates Chinese Governmental effects on grassland degradation in Tibet. More specifically, I look at the role that plateau-burrowing mammals, such as plateau pikas and zokors, play in the plateau ecosystem. I analyze the efficiency of grassland enclosure and nomads sedentarization under the umbrella Chinese ecological construction program, tuimu huancao (retire pastureland, return grassland) policy. The learning experience doesn’t stop there. In the program, we get to know each other well and have the opportunity to interact with faculty members on a regular basis.

Of course, there’s more to life at BCEP than academics. Bonfire right by Hudson River, Intramural Basketball and Soccer, and Hiking trips to some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the Hudson Valley are only a few of the many fun things we engage in here at BCEP. More importantly, with every group project you work on, every basketball game you play, every dinner party you attend, you weave another thread in a social network that stretches to many corners of the world.

Within a few months, I will be taking yet another step to go off-campus and to join the real world work force, and I hope that it will somehow be able to compare, in excitement and enrichment, to my experience at BCEP.

By Chad Tupgon
02/10/11

Representation in Ethnography: The Familiarization of the Strange Without Eradicating Its Strangeness

After reading Jeff Todd Titon’s Representation and Authority in Ethnographic Film/Video Production, I found myself pondering over the question of “how can an ethnographer [or anyone in that matter to] make the strange familiar, yet keep it strange” (Titon p.89)? The honest answer seems to be ‘not possible’; yet such frank response often doesn’t have much of a foothold in the minds of professionals. Many may argue that minimization of “directorial control”, application of “lengthy, continuous sequence shooting” and limitations on “zooming and editing” (Titon p.90) will potentially allow ethnographers to familiarize the strange without eradicating its strangeness. On the other hand, it is also arguable that the ‘compressing of time’, editing of the scenes, and telling the viewers “what to see and what to think” (Titon p.92) via narration eliminate the possibility of representing a cultural practice in its own natural light.

As a result, we often find many filmmakers singling out one of the most accentuated characteristics of a group as the theme of their film to portray the group as such. This type of practice is socially criticized as stereotyping; nevertheless, it fulfills the filmmaker’s purpose of specifically identifying a cultural group and at the same time allows the viewers get “a kick out of it” (Titon p.94) as well. As in Michele Ray’s documentary film Latcho Drom, as referenced by Carol Silverman, the title means “the good road”. However, it is translated as “the safe journey” so as to place emphasis on the questionable “migration and nomadism as the unifying factor among Roma” (Silverman p.362). While the “beautiful photography, excellent musical excerpts, and few but powerful words” (Silverman p.362) may assist in recruiting a large population of viewers into the film, but it is also important to note such a technique not only reinforces but also perpetuates the stereotype of Roma being nomadic, which is possibly the cause of other non-Romani’s discrimination against Roma, or so is believed. On the other hand, we have very eloquent women representing coalminers’ wives in Barbara Kopple’s Oscar winning documentary film Harlan County U.S.A. that deflates the traditional stereotype of coalminers’ wives as people who are inarticulate. Kopple’s film not only applies an innovative methodology in that the filmmaker is among her subjects as an interviewer, “reminding viewers that they are watching something that was made, not something that was merely witnessed” (Titon p.92), but also highlights women’s active role in evolving political consciousness.

In both case, the compression of time and scene editing make it plain that despite of our “suspended disbelief” (Titon p.90), the moving images are crafted in such a way to fulfill certain purposes rather than having them as mere facts.

This led me to put Titon’s question of “how can an ethnographer make the strange familiar, yet keep it strange” (Titon p.89) not only in ethnographic film/video, writing, but also ethnographic sound recordings and ethnomusicology. In other words, is it possible to accurately represent a culture via its sound recordings and music in its own terms? Once again, the honest answer seems to be negative. However, similar to film and video, how is it possible to remind the listeners what they are listening to is made, not something simply heard. This compels me to believe Peter Cusack’s recording In tent – Getting Up, may intend to fulfill a similar function. By having the musician’s voice in the recording, it reminds the listeners what they are listening to may as well be a product rather than a pure natural sound.

Besides, sound allows us, as listeners, to use more of our imagination than rigid images. Thus, when Peter Cusack, “a founding member and director of the London Musicians’ Collective ”, played his recordings from what he called the dangerous places, without the visual images, our surmising ranged from the sound of a dock to the sound of Chinese factories. Upon hearing various birds singing, we, or at least I, imagined the setting to resemble the rainforest in Colin Trunbull’s The Forest people. However, to our surprise the recording took place in a highly polluted old oil field. Consequently, it is arguably harder to represent an ethnographic work via its audio material.
This is also the very reason why my heart can’t be at ease, even when there are myriads of documentary films, ethnographic writings, and music recordings made about Tibetan culture. During the process of familiarizing the strange, one more often than not eliminates its strangeness either consciously or unconsciously. Tibet was once an independent country with its own language, flag, anthem, army, population, and anything that a country would need to stand on its own feet rather than being an appendage to a foreign country. However, as history had it, our country has been colonized by China since 1959, and our spiritual father was forced to leave the country as many of his fellow Tibetan people painfully experienced. Being an educated college student I don’t wish to break away from a country whose socioeconomic power determines the wellbeing of many nations in the world. Yet as a member of the cultural Tibetan community, I care about the status of my culture. For many of the already extinct cultures, the most frequent reason for them to be reduced to mere tourist and television entertainments on their last whimpers of existence and museum displays, and eventually buried under the dust of history and mentioned no more is the fact they lose their true selves and they lose their ‘voice’. By then, no ethnographic work shall remedy then back to life.

As for the Tibetan language, among many other constituents of its ‘voice’, even though we still have some million speakers but with Chinese as the only official language, the only medium for schooling, and one of the few major determinants for finding a job, Tibetan language confront marginalization, political oppression from the Chinese Government. This marginalization works along economic and cultural pressures for greater centralization and assimilation with the “mainstream culture” the Han Chinese culture. Consequently, an increasing number of Tibetan language speakers often perceive Tibetan language as being “useless” and associate the language with low social status and poverty, and refuse to pass it on to the next generation. So I fear the civilization of 1,300 years of Tibetan literature may come to an end, Tibet as an independent nation and a unique cultural group may lose its ‘voice’, and the global village may be forced to take one step closer to the monopolization of the super powers unless we demand actions on the rescue of those endangered cultures. Not only through the lens of ethnographic works, but making it possible for the members of those endangered cultures to revitalize their cultures by actually living the cultures and creating stages for them to reclaim the voices that belong to them.

In conclusion, it is hard, if at all, to represent any cultural practices within its own terms. Regardless of all the innovative methodologies available, ethnographers have to mold their raw materials into certain product with all the necessary directorial/authorial control, and editing. It is even harder to carry out such a mission via sound recordings. As Titon argues, “reality in film [or sound-recording] is elusive as well as conventional” that may explain why many anthropologists decide to go native, because it seems only through living the strange you familiarize yourself with the strange, without erasing it beyond any reclamation.

Bibliography
1. Titon, J. T. (1992). Representation and Authority in Ethnographic Film/Video: Production. Ethnomusicology, 36(1), 89-94.
2. Silverman, C. (2000). Review works: Latcho Drom by Michele Ray; Tony Gatlif; Alain Weber. Ethnomusicology, 44(2), 362-364.
3. Tony Gatlif, Michele Ray, and Alain Weber’s film Latcho Drom
4. Barbara Kopple’s Documentary film Harlan County U.S.A

Thupgon
November 19, 2008

拥挤的纽约地铁

夜幕降临,天色渐渐变暗的时候一鼓秋风是否使得人们加快了步伐。形式各异的纽约人习惯性的流入地下隧道。这也是纽约人口多,但不显拥挤的主要原因。随着人流,我与同事们先后进了地铁站。刚逐步于站口,五脏六腑便开始抗议,无家可归的路宿者时常在地铁站借住数宿。搞地本来就让人反胃头疼的热气里添加了一鼓可以导致死亡的臭气。入站刷卡的地方更是拥挤无比。夸张点儿,来来往往的过客真可以让人白天见到星星。

小步插入本来就载的无法再挤的人堆里,瘦小的亚洲人早已融入发展国家的先进体姿。男女间的界限也不过布衣之隔。我心想这真有些滑稽。这方的人最讲究私人空 间,男女有别,再加上同性恋文化,按道理地铁这样的场合真不是他们出没的环境,但这一社会所塑造的薄膜在现实生活中也早已烟消云散。大家只顾着以最短的时间到达各自的目的地。

车厢里虽然挤地水泄不通,但私人空间这一概念还是非常显著。大家尽量躲避着彼此的视线。从而,乘客都尽量让自己的视线与他人有几度差别。有人望天,有人看书,有人目不转睛的发呆于某个琐碎的物体,有人借此游入梦乡,还有人被逼地只能玩弄自己的手指。无论如何大家都尽量局限在自己的私人泡沫里。车厢不时地颠簸使得大家不由自主地相互碰撞。当碰撞发生时有的无动于衷,有的立即赔礼道歉,还有的怒目而视似乎责备对方依从于地心引力。

正当我审视纽约地铁文化时,车速渐渐缓了下来,车厢滑驶了一段过后,一位咬文嚼字清如晚间新闻节目主持人的播报地铁即将到达的是罗斯福大街。同事轻轻地在我肩上拍了一下,手势我们到站了。再次随着人流我们返回了地面,纽约人还是以往如旧的忙碌于建造人生。时间的流动对每位纽约人都显得那么的敏感。在这里白天与黑夜也不过是亮度(cd/m2)上的差异而已。纽约城市还是那么的繁忙,自由女神始终如一地凝视着这座世界大都市的悲欢离合。

土登贡布 (09/16/2010)

རིག་གནས་སྲུང་སྐྱོང།

པོདརིག་གནས་སྲུང་སྐྱོང་ཞེས་པ་དེ་ངེས་པར་དུ་གནའ་སྐྱོང་ད་འགོག་ལ་གོ་བ་ལེན་མི་རུང་པ་སྙམ། མི་རིགས་གང་དང་གང་ཡིན་ཡང་དུས་ཀྱི་གོམས་གྲོས་དང་བསྟུན་ནས་འགྱུར་ལྡོག་བྱུང་བ་ནི་འཇིག་རྟེན་འདིའི་བཞུས་ཀྱང་འགྱུར་བ་མེད་པའི་རང་བཞིན་གཙང་མ་དེ་ཡིན། མར་དང་རྩམ་པའི་དྲི་འཐུལ་ཞིང་ནང་བ་སངས་རྒྱས་པའི་ཆོས་འོད་རབ་ཏུ་འཕྲོ་བའི་ཁ་བ་ཅན་གྱི་རིག་གནས་འདིའི་རང་གཤིས་ཉམས་གུད་དུ་མ་ཤོར་བར་བདག་སྐྱོང་བྱེད་དགོས་ཚེ། བློ་ཁ་ཡངས་པོའི་སྒོ་ནས་རང་གི་རིག་གནས་ཀྱི་ལེགས་ཆ་དག་གཞིར་བཟུང་ནས་འཛམ་གླིང་སྔོན་ཐོན་གྱི་རིག་གནས་གང་མང་ཞིག་དང་འབྲེལ་གཏུག་བྱས་ནས་དགེ་མཚན་སྡུད་ལེན་བྱས་ན། ད་གཟོད་རང་རིགས་ཀྱི་ཐུན་མོང་མ་ཡིན་པའི་ལྔ་ཟུང་རིག་པ་དང་དེའི་ཆགས་གནས་ཀྱི་ཕྱི་སྣོད་ཀྱི་འཇིག་རྟེན་དང་ནང་བཅུད་ཀྱི་སེམས་ཅན་ཀུན་འཛམ་གླིང་གཅིག་གྱུར་གྱི་ཆུ་བོའི་ནང་དུ་ནུབ་མི་ཤོར་བ་དང་། གདོང་དམར་སྤྲེའུ་རྒྱུད་རང་རིགས་ལས་ཁྱབ་ཆེ་བའམ་རང་དབང་གི་མེ་ལྕེ་འབར་ཤུགས་དྲག་པའི་རིག་གནས་ཀྱིས་ཁྱུར་མིད་བྱེད་ཉེན་འགོག་ཐབས་ཉག་གཅིག་ཡིན་ངེས། དེས་ན་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་ཕྱི་ནང་ལ་ཡོད་པའི་བོད་རིགས་སྤུན་ཟླ་རྣམས་ཀྱི་ངག་སྒོ་ལས་གཏོང་པ་ཙམ་མ་ཡིན་པར། བཞག་གདན་གོ་ལའི་ཡང་རྩེ་ནས་བཞུར་བའི་བོད་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྐད་དང་རིག་གནས་ཀྱི་སྲུང་སྐྱོང་མཛད་སྒོ་ལ་ཤུགས་སྣོན་གང་མང་བྱེད་རོགས་ཞུ་ཞུ།

རྫ་ཕྲུག་ཐུབ་མགོན་ནས།༢༠༡༠ལོའི་ཟླ་༩བའི་ཚེས་བཟང་ཞིག

Waxman-Markey Bill

Introduction:
The existence of a scientific consensus that the planet is facing an unprecedented threat from human-induced climate change is not in dispute, at least not for the validity of the Waxman-Markey Bill. All interest groups relevant to the Waxman-Markey bill agree that greenhouse gas concentrations have increased. They all agree that the global climate change can be attributed to the concentration of those heat-trapping gases, and they all seem to support comprehensive legislations that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, what sets the interest groups apart is how to achieve the emissions reduction goal.
The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), also known as Waxman-Markey bill creates a renewable electricity standard (RES) that would require large utilities in each state to produce an increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, which includes but not limited to solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, marine, hydrokinetic energy, biogas and biofuels . The bill set an upper level limit, known as a cap, on emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. Under Waxman-Markey bill, regulated industries need to acquire permits/carbon-credits/pollution allowance for their emissions.
As for the trade part of cap-and-trade, regulated companies can cut their emissions in order to have more permits that they can either bank for future use or sell excess permits to other companies. With regard to the allocation of the pollution allowances, the federal government would auction 15% of carbon credits in the initial years of the program and this percentage increases over time to about “70% by 2030 and beyond” (Pew Center, 2009). By 2025, the bill would direct an estimated total of $190 billion to energy technologies and efficiency measures(endnote 2).
To ease the regulated companies’ transition to cleaner energy, the bill also allows relevant companies to purchase carbon offsets to meet a portion of their required emission reductions. In other words, regulated companies can fund clean-energy project elsewhere instead of cutting their own emissions.
So what are the debates: first, the ways to reduce the planet-warming gases: is it more efficient to do this by managing the price of the emissions and renewable via carbon tax, or by capping the amount by which they are to be reduced (emissions) and produced (renewable energy). Second, costs of the bill: Is the bill really worth all this money, thus action or inaction. Third, the allocation of carbon credits or pollution allowance: is it better to auctions the carbon credits or hand them out based on the regulated companies’ emission rate, or a combination of both.
Proponent of the bill
Price or quantity? With the cap-and-trade approach, the basic operating rules are introduced in the form of quotas, targets, or certain standards are set. On the other hand, with prices as instruments, the rules are designed to enable the maximization of profit at the given parametric prices. According to the recent Nobel economics nominee, Martin Weitzman (1974)endnote8, a Harvard economic professor, the issues of prices vs. quantities can be best address based on the severity of the issue at hand. If the marginal damage is tolerable or economically and socially justified than carbon tax will be more beneficial. On a graphic representation, the quantity produced with carbon tax will be closer to the market equilibrium than the quantity produced with cap and trade. However, when the marginal damage is severe, emission standards will set an upper level limit and preclude possibly irreversible damages to human health, safety and the environment.
It is clear that all parties support comprehensive legislations to reduce emission of green house gases and science tells us the irreversible consequence of climate change. Therefore, the marginal costs with GHG emission is severe and cap-and-trade system is the best approach, as Fred Krupp, the president of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has pointed out .
Is it too expensive to pass the bill? One of the major debate over the Waxman/Markey bill perhaps has been its costs. While both proponents and opponents of the bill present different versions of the costs, the latter has failed to include the costs of inaction. They scream about the possibility that the huge costs of the bill may cripple U.S economy, especially at a time of economic recession. However, they failed to mention the enormous high price science tells us we’ll be paying with doing nothing about the climate change. Disrupted agricultural patterns, more and stronger storms, rising sea levels, habitat destruction, dwindling resources , energy security, to just mention few of the impending consequence of climate change if we choose inaction.
Besides, according to bipartisan Congressional Budget Office, on average American families will incur an annual cost of $175 and many poor families will actually yield net income from energy savings. EPA’s analysis of the bill also estimated that it would cost household between $80-$111 per year (Pew Center, 2009). Plus all the benefits climate change mitigation brings to the table.
To top things off, the bill will enable current populace to address intergenerational equity and leave a cleaner and richer environment to the generations yet to come. It will also create jobs when the nation struggles with near double-digit unemploymentendnote3.
Opponents of the Waxman/Markey bill argue that such an action would cost huge sums and devastate the economy, but history proves otherwise. Removing the lead from gasoline, controlling chemicals destroying the ozone layer, cutting acid rain pollution, the Clean Air Act of 1970, California’s fuel efficiency standards, each and every case actually stimulated economic growth and put cost worries to rest (Lubber, 2009).
Auction or Giveaway? Supporters of this bill agree with what the bill purposes and that is to have a combination of auction and giveaways. It is vital to pass the Waxman-Markey bill now, because climate protection demands action and every bit of delay sends an “anti-science signal … of willing to do nothing” (Kammen, 2009). It would be only feasible for energy-intensive companies to transit into a cleaner energy with pollution allowance and ways to offset their emissions (Lubber, 2009). This combination of auction and giveaway of pollution allowance will make the bill more compliable and get started with emission reduction without much delay.
Opponent’s View and Rebuttal
Price or Quantity? Similar to the supporters of this bill, people who challenge the bill seem to agree with the idea that “a well-designed cap-and-trade system is the best approach to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases” (Kovacs, 2009)endnote7. Otherwise a strong opponent of the bill Mr. Kovacs argues that “a feasible cap-and-trade system might work” (p.3). Waxman-Markey bill does purpose a cap-and-trade approach, however, it “[i]s a deeply flawed bill based on a falling European model which they themselves are looking to abandon” says Mr. William L. Kovacs, senior VP of U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
So what are the flaws? According to Mr. Kovacs and his cohort who challenge the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), “carbon-based fuels are and will remain for decades the backbone of the U.S. energy system until cost effective and reliable alternative energy sources are developed” (Kovacs, 2009). However, I argue that U.S.’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels does in no way excuse it from trying to move towards a cleaner energy policy, which the Waxman-Markey bill purposes to do.
Kovacs also points out that “international cooperation remains a major stumbling block to addressing global climate change” (p.5) and by adopting costly bills may compromise America’s competitive position in the global economic arena (Calomiris, 2009). However, once again what Mr. Kovacs and his cohort fail to see is that the international cleaner energy race has already started. U.S. has a great chance to lead if chooses to participate, but there is virtually zero chance of winning if chooses inaction.
Another concern of the opponents of this bill is that they worry the renewable electricity standard (RES), along with many of the other mandates in the bill will distort and impede the carbon market to find the lowest cost solutions. Such concern is somewhat naïve when it comes to the world-wide danger imposed by climate change.
Many opponents of the bill also argues that “ACES’s dangerous provisions could lead to widespread lawsuit abuse” (Kovacs, 2009)endnote7, but excuse me, lawsuits are already in full bloom as a result of inaction. For instance, in 1999, a group of 19 private organizations filed a rulemaking petition asking Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles under section 202 of the Clean Air Act. Later on April 2, 2007 the Supreme Court released its ruling in the case of the state of Massachusetts vs. EPA. Massachusetts and eleven other states sued the EPA for not regulating the emissions of four greenhouse gases from the transportation sector. The petitioners argued that human-induced global climate change was causing adverse effects such as sea level rise, to the state of Massachusetts. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled in favor of Massachusetts et al (Craig, 2008).
Mr. Kovacs proudly argues: “Policies divorced from economic and technological realities are not the path to prosperity” (p.2), but to his own perish, he ignores the very reason of having policies in the first place.
Is it too expense to pass the bill? When the cost of delay should be the sensible concern, opponents of this bill debate over a few orders of magnitude on a dollar range (Kammen, 2009). Opponents criticize the bill being too expensive. Mr. Kovacs argues that “the recourse cost [of the bill] does not indicate the potential decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) that could result from the cap” (p.10). While the opponents keep bargaining and speculating over the costs, the U.S. Natural Recourses Defense Council (NRDC) estimates “the total cost of global warming will be as high as 3.6 percent of GDP. Four global warming impacts alone — hurricane damage, real estate losses, energy costs, and water costs — will come with a price tag of 1.8 percent of U.S. GDP, or almost $1.9 trillion annually (in today’s dollars) by 2100” (NRDC, 2008)endnote4. So, the ACES may come with a big price tag, but the cost of failing to act will be much greater.
Action or Inaction? Many opponents argue that Waxman-Markey bill gives away too much. They believe that the bill “should auction 100 percent” of the carbon permits (Hayes, 2009)endnote5. However, what they haven’t come to realize is a certain percentage of pollution allowance has to be issued to the energy intensive companies in order to make the bill compliable. The late Senator Moynihan famously said that “while people are entitled to their own opinions they’re not entitled to their own set of facts” (Froomkin, 2007)endnote6. It’s easy to say go green, but how? Auctioning all the carbon permits will literally leave many, if not all, energy intensive companies out of the bargain, because such is simply not compatible.
Conclusion:
The Waxman-Markey bill have played a crucial role in bringing global warming to the forefront of the congressional agenda. It offers the best approach available to address planet-warming gas emissions and move towards a cleaner future with a healthier populace. The bill may seem costly, but fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions now will be much more costly. Issuing carbon permits to the energy intensive companies may seem as a giveaway, but that’s the only way the bill compliable. If the nation’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move towards a cleaner energy policy, then it is vital to set an upper-level limit to the emissions as the bill purposes. The bill gets passed or not, all interest groups must remember this: you can bargain all you want with the bill, but if we fail to act now, in the end no party can bargain with the nature.

Thupgon (Feb. 2010)

References:
1. Craig, R K. (2005). Environmental Law IN Context. U.S.A: West.
2. Retrieved Feb. 22, 2010. Website:
http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2009/06/27/summary-of-the-waxman-markey-climate-bill-american-clean-energy-and-security-act/
3. Retrieved Feb. 22, 2010. Web site:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/business/global/27yuan.html?scp=1&sq=China%20factory%20worker&st=cse
4. Retrieved Feb. 22, 2010. Web site:
http://www.nrdc.org/globalwarming/cost/contents.asp
5. Retrieved Feb. 23, 2010. Web site:
http://e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2163
6. Retrieved Feb. 23, 2010. Web site:
http://busharchive.froomkin.com/BL2007090601372_pf.html
7. Retrieved Feb. 22, 2010. Web site:
http://www.politico.com/arena/archive/debatewaxmanmarkey.html
8. MARTIN, W. L. (1974). Prices vs. Quantities. Review of Economic Studies, 3, 477-491.

Clean Energy, Low-Carbon Development, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, Resiliency Planning, Water Conservation, Ecoliteracy, International Climate Negotiation