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The Green Paradox

The Green Paradox: A Supply-Side Approach to Global Warming

Hans-Werner Sinn
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Green Paradox
    Book Description:

    The Earth is getting warmer. Yet, as Hans-Werner Sinn points out in this provocative book, the dominant policy approach--which aims to curb consumption of fossil energy--has been ineffective. Despite policy makers' efforts to promote alternative energy, impose emission controls on cars, and enforce tough energy-efficiency standards for buildings, the relentlessly rising curve of CO2 output does not show the slightest downward turn. Some proposed solutions are downright harmful: cultivating crops to make biofuels not only contributes to global warming but also uses resources that should be devoted to feeding the world's hungry. In The Green Paradox, Sinn proposes a new, more pragmatic approach based not on regulating the demand for fossil fuels but on controlling the supply. The owners of carbon resources, Sinn explains, are pre-empting future regulation by accelerating the production of fossil energy while they can. This is the "Green Paradox": expected future reduction in carbon consumption has the effect of accelerating climate change. Sinn suggests a supply-side solution: inducing the owners of carbon resources to leave more of their wealth underground. He proposes the swift introduction of a "Super-Kyoto" system--gathering all consumer countries into a cartel by means of a worldwide, coordinated cap-and-trade system supported by the levying of source taxes on capital income--to spoil the resource owners' appetite for financial assets.Only if we can shift our focus from local demand to worldwide supply policies for reducing carbon emissions, Sinn argues, will we have a chance of staving off climate disaster.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-30136-7
    Subjects: Economics, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. 1 Why the Earth Is Getting Warmer
    (pp. 1-32)

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a non-toxic gas. It is contained in every carbonated drink, and its sparkle feels refreshing. But it also strikes fear in us, because ever-larger amounts of it are being released into the atmosphere, accelerating the greenhouse effect. Akin to the glass panels in a greenhouse, CO2traps sunlight and thereby warms the planet.

    Burning the carbon contained in oil, coal, natural gas, wood, and other organic matter produces carbon dioxide. The fats, carbohydrates, and proteins burned chemically by living organisms also contain carbon.

    It is striking how little carbon dioxide the atmosphere contains. It accounts for...

  5. 2 Reshaping the World’s Energy Matrix
    (pp. 33-84)

    The scientific findings regarding climate change have alarmed people around the world, unleashing a wide-ranging debate that has had the effect of gaining an increasing number of supporters for policy measures aimed at curbing CO2emissions through a reshaping of the world’s energy matrix. This chapter gives an overview of the amount and kind of energy countries produce and discusses the options for carbon-free energy alternatives as well as the actual policy measures chosen for the purpose of moving toward more carbon-friendly energy sources. It does not yet focus on bioenergy and resource-conservation issues; those are treated in later chapters...

  6. 3 Table or Tank?
    (pp. 85-124)

    Civilization developed with the help of bioenergy. When our ancestors enjoyed the heat of a fire, or when they used animal muscle power for transportation, the source of energy was plants. In many regions of the world, plants still are the dominant source of energy today.

    Bioenergy is nothing more than stored sunlight. In photosynthesis, plants use sunlight to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, stripping the oxygen from the carbon and latching hydrogen to it instead. These carbohydrates contain what chemists callreduced carbon. Out of them a plant makes the complex biological compounds, such as sugars, starch,...

  7. 4 The Neglected Supply Side
    (pp. 125-182)

    The climate problem is real and not an illusion. Because the damage caused by global warming could be immense, we have to act now. Some measures are indeed being undertaken. Consuming countries have capped their CO2emissions through the Kyoto Protocol. The European Union introduced an emissions allowance trading system. In addition, many countries have issued a large number of laws and regulations providing the necessary carrots and sticks. Every citizen tries to do his bit by reducing consumption. This concerted effort should bring some results.

    Unfortunately, however, results are hard to detect. Indeed, results may not have been delivered...

  8. 5 Fighting the Green Paradox
    (pp. 183-234)

    There is no doubt that mankind has to do something against climate change. At present, as was shown in chapter 1, there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than at any time in the past 800,000 years, and the record for the highest average temperature is about to be broken. Before industrialization, the average temperature was 13.5°C (56.3°F); now it is 14.5°C (58.1°F), and by 2030, according to the relevant forecasts, it will break the 15.3°C (59.5°F) record of the past 800,000 years, which was reached 125,000 years ago during the Eem Interglacial warm period. Polar ice is already...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 235-260)
  10. Index
    (pp. 261-270)