2022-08-10 Michael Ross Learning about climate politics from the IRA

Michael Ross (@MichaelRoss7): What can we learn about climate politics from the (long overdue) passage of the Inflation Reduction Act?

Two things:

  1. Economists were wrong
  2. Political scientists were right

A 🧵

Economists have long urged governments to adopt carbon taxes or cap-and-trade systems as a 'first best' policy. The idea of carbon pricing has dominated debates about climate policy -- in the US and globally -- for 3 decades.


But a small group of (mostly) political scientists pushed back. They have made 3 arguments.

  1. Climate politics is not about "getting prices right" or "optimizing policies." It's a distributive conflict between the allies of #fossilfuels and the backers of green energy. https://twitter.com/MichaelRoss7/status/1557556580207378432/photo/1

    Key studies include Breetz, Mildenberger, and Stokes (2018) "Political logics of clean energy transitions" in B&P @leahstokes @mmildenberger @HannaBreetz https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/business-and-politics/article/political-logics-of-clean-energy-transitions/3EBB1887089929B48CD623309C6751A9

    Aklin and Mildenberger (2020), "Prisoners of the wrong dilemma" @GepJournal @MichaelAklin https://direct.mit.edu/glep/article/20/4/4/95068/Prisoners-of-the-Wrong-Dilemma-Why-Distributive

And Colgan, Green and Hale (2020), "Asset revaluation and the existential politics of climate change" @IntOrgJournal @JeffDColgan @greenprofgreen @thomasnhale https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-organization/article/asset-revaluation-and-the-existential-politics-of-climate-change/0963988860A37F6988E73738EA93E0A1

  1. Carbon pricing is politically unpopular and often fails. Prophetic studies include Jenkins (2014), "Political economy constraints on carbon pricing policies," in Energy Policy @JesseJenkins https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0301421514000901

Cullenward and Victor's 2020 book, Making climate policy work @dcullenward https://www.wiley.com/en-us/Making+Climate+Policy+Work-p-9781509541805

And Green (2021), "Does carbon pricing reduce emissions? A review of ex-post analyses" in Environmental Research Letters https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abdae9/meta

  1. Climate policies should instead be reframed as green industrial policy, not "saving the planet" or "getting prices right." Use carrots, not sticks.

Meckling, Kelsey, Biber and Zysman (2015), "Winning coalitions for climate policy" @jonasmeckling https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/science.aab1336?casa_token=nmE5qtzCBk4AAAAA:RQ42TRd0bjdy2LIXheiWOqKtlMHBhxaSamfXpqcUCn3QprmJYGevngGWoaY8oKq-UkyFuwBiF54

And Dani Rodrik (2014), "Green Industrial Policy" in Oxford Review of Economic Policy (a dissident economist!) https://academic.oup.com/oxrep/article-abstract/30/3/469/549542

After decades of clamor from economists about carbon pricing, these scholars quietly built the intellectual foundation for this landmark bill and deserve recognition!

None of these studies were published in top political science journals 🧐 and many were overlooked when first published. My list is radically incomplete! Many others have developed these arguments, too -- please add your favorites in the replies.

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