The Benefit of Talking About Consequences
December 28, 2009

One day, when our descendants look back on this point in history, the attitude of the Senate towards climate change is going to make for some fascinating reading. Here, for example, is some choice fiddling as the temperature in Rome rises (via Benen):

“I’d just as soon see that set aside until we work through the economy,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). “What we don’t want to do is have anything get in the way of working to resolve the problems with the economy.”

“Climate change in an election year has very poor prospects,” added Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). “I’ve told that to the leadership.”



The International Global Warming Conspiracy
December 9, 2009

The Atlantic has a pretty good takedown of Sarah Palin’s climate change denialist column in the Post. But there’s one thing the Atlantic didn’t address that I find rather striking.

Let’s start with a pretty simple premise: Palin is so aggressively unprincipled and eager to blow the dog-whistle whenever possible that she serves as a pretty good surrogate for whatever it is the conservative base is thinking. She’ll pretty much say whatever she thinks those people want to hear, and that, at least, is one at which she excels. So when she suggests that all the hooplah about climate change is not due to any actual danger from global warming, but rather due to a widespread conspiracy and propaganda campaign orchestrated by “so-called ‘experts,'” we really have no reason to doubt that many of her followers believe the same thing.

Now, this statement was always pretty obtuse. But think about it in the context of where we are today: if you think that climate change is an illusion manufactured by unscrupulous scientists, then you think that they managed to propagate a lie so far that the leaders of pretty much every country on Earth are taking it seriously, and convening at a summit in Copenhagen.

In other words, a bunch of tweedy dudes waving peer-reviewed journals around managed to manipulate practically the entirety of the world’s governing bodies into buying into the greatest lie in human history about an illusory threat to the very survival of our species. And they were motivated by, um, I dunno? They thought it would be a really good premise for a Roland Emmerich movie?

Holy crap! The Illuminati has nothing on those climatologists. Just one question, though: when does the theory of anthropocentric climate change become more plausible than the “climatologists are the world’s puppet masters” theory?

If We Can’t Slow Climate Change, Who’s Responsible?
December 7, 2009

There are two important points I want to highlight in this wide-release editorial on the Copenhagen summit. One is the stakes:

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years. A bigger rise of 3-4C — the smallest increase we can prudently expect to follow inaction — would parch continents, turning farmland into desert. Half of all species could become extinct, untold millions of people would be displaced, whole nations drowned by the sea. The controversy over emails by British researchers that suggest they tried to suppress inconvenient data has muddied the waters but failed to dent the mass of evidence on which these predictions are based.

And the second point is in the very next paragraph, about the policy choke points:

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

In other words, what happens in our legislative branch is crucial. If we fail, then all of us will be at fault, although some will hold a larger share of the blame than others. And perhaps the largest share will go to a bipartisan coalition of denialists and obstructionists in Congress, from Inhofe to Webb. If we can’t pressure them into putting aside shameless pandering to coal state constituents and massive corporations, then, well, see the first blockquoted paragraph.

Do they want to go down in history as the primary obstacle to an attempt at preventing global disaster? If I were Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, that’s what I’d be asking them both in public and private right now.

(Via Ben Daniels)

Adapting to Climate Change
December 5, 2009

At this point, it’s a grim reality that, no matter what we do, we won’t be able to totally avoid the effects of global warming–in fact, we’re already seeing some of them. Which is why the government of the Netherlands, a country that’s practically all coastline, is developing a strategy to deal with rising tides.

Really, this is the kind of thing that I would hope any non-landlocked country would start working on ASAP. Given the severity of the crisis, it would be absolutely unconscionable not to prepare for the worst.

Of course, the Netherlands is an industrialized Western European state, so they have the resources to implement the kinds of safeguards the article discusses. They same can’t be said for, to pick one example, the Maldives. Given that there are a fair number of small island nations facing obliteration due to climate change, it would be nice if the wealthiest industrialized nations–i.e., the ones that contribute to the problem the most in the first place–could provide assistance. Maybe something like that could be arranged at Copenhagen, but I’m not holding my breath.

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