Bad and Good at the LA Times

The Los Angeles Times recently lost one of its best science reporters, Robert Lee Hotz, to The Wall Street Journal. For those of us in SoCal, it’s a shame: Hotz had been doing a first-rate job reporting on climate change issues, from places like Greenland, on the front page. Now he’s doing a first-rate job for the WSJ, reporting (as in this story) on how global warming is encouraging the spread of fire ants in Brazil. Here’s hoping the LATimes doesn’t lose more good people, such as environmental reporter Julie Cart, whose by-line I haven’t seen for a while.

But the good news is that the paper has launched an editorial series, called A Warming World, and has written some of the best editorials seen in this country on the subject. Here’s an excerpt from the latest, on how best fo follow Kyoto:

What’s needed is a new, improved version of Kyoto that brings India and China onboard and commits them to "grow green," but still leaves the tougher cuts up to those nations better able to make them, such as the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe. A better treaty would scrap the unworkable carbon-trading scheme and instead impose new taxes on carbon-based fuels. As recently explained in the first installment of this series, carbon taxes avoid many of the pitfalls of carbon trading. They would produce an equal incentive for every nation to clean up without relying on arbitrary dates or caps, or transferring money from one nation to another. They’re also much less subject to corruption because they give governments an incentive to monitor and crack down on polluters (the tax money goes to the government, so the government wins by keeping polluters honest).

Of course, China and India would be no more eager to accept carbon taxes than carbon caps. But the free market has a way of accomplishing what no amount of international pressure can.

As clean-power technologies and alternative fuels become more widely available, which a carbon tax would encourage, they will get cheaper. China and India both care more about raising standards of living than about pollution or global warming, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care at all. Waterways are becoming badly polluted in both countries, and the air in many big Chinese cities is nearly unbreathable. Coal is abundant and cheap in China, but if the price of renewable power were competitive, the Chinese would buy it. Yet green power will never reach this price unless the U.S. and other industrialized nations crack down much harder on carbon.

And, as an example of "A Warming World," here’s a great map, originating in Bill Patzert’s shop at JPL/Cal Tech, showing how California is warming already…ahead of most of the U.S.

[Update: this comes from the aforementioned WSJ story, and shows the temp rise since  l950.]


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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