That Osama Bin Laden. What a carpetbagger. It’s not enough for him to be the front man for a global jihad movement? He’s got to horn in on the biggest environmental issue of the day, too?
I wonder how, ladies and gentelmen, former Vice President Algore felt today to awaken and find out that on his global warming team is none other than–Dadelut dadelut dadelut dadelut dadelut!–Osama Bin Laden.
So it puzzles me that Joe Romm, who chastises the media for taking Bin Laden’s latest message at face value, does exactly that with Limbaugh. Here’s Romm apologizing for having to post on the news:
But after Limbaugh and FoxNews got suckered into spreading this disinformation to their millions of followers, I felt I had no choice.
Limbaugh didn’t get suckered.This was Limbaugh doing what he does best. Romm surely understands this, because guilt by association is one of his favored tactics. (It bears noting, though, that Romm has significantly curtailed this behavior in recent months.)
Anyway, let there be no mistaking the glee that conservatives have over this. Here’s Jonah Goldberg at The Corner:
I love this story about Bin Laden denouncing global warming. Will he come out in favor of beheading carbon emitters? Can I get 72 virgins if I promise to weatherstrip my house? How about if I install solar panels?
Does that sound like somebody being suckered by Bin Laden?
The day Bin Laden gets caught or is found dead in a cave will be the last day he is used by conservative commentators to score crude, dishonest talking points against democrats–or environmentalists.
I have a belated wish for the New Year. I want the CNAS Natural Security bloggers to juice up their posts. I want that blog to generate dialogue and become a must-read in green circles. I’m already a fan, but that’s because I’m interested in the environment/security intersection. So I dutifully check in to see what the latest policy papers or related news Natural Security is flagging.
They need to liven things up over there, write with a stronger voice, and maybe throw a few elbows around. Enough already with the polite, wonky, approach. If Natural Security wants to be a player in environmental debates, it should emulate its sister blog. Or any of the frontline bloggers at Forign Policy.
To do that, they have to be fully engaged not just with current political events and recent journal articles, but also with other bloggers. The blogosphere is where average, interested readers go to watch the action and join in. If you want your ideas to gain greater currency, you gotta step into the ring. It’s not enough to just be in the arena.
So guys, put on the gloves and get in the damn ring. It’s just a lot of sparring. And nobody really gets hurt, unless they’re overly sensitive. It’s actually quite invigorating. And who knows, you may even land a few punches.
Realistically, the cap-and-trade bills in the House and the Senate are going nowhere. They’re not business-friendly enough, and they don’t lead to meaningful energy independence.
Graham then drives the nail in the coffin when he adds:
What is dead is some massive cap-and-trade system that regulates carbon in a fashion that drives up energy costs.
Roberts, who had previously argued that even a weak cap and trade bill was better than nothing, seems ready to throw in the towel:
To me, regardless of what Obama or Reid may want, this signals the death knell for a comprehensive cap-and-trade program, this year and probably for the duration of Obama’s term in office. If Graham won’t go for it, no Republican will, certainly not the 6-8 Republicans needed.
I was going to hold off on posting about this momentous development until Joe Romm weighed in. Nobody’s more wedded to the cap and trade bill than him. He’s put all his chips on it. I’m kinda thinking he’s going to play out that hand, no matter how rotten it gets. (Andrew Light should school him on how to win at poker.) But as of this writing, Romm is silent on Graham’s bombshell. I don’t imagine it’ll stay that way for long.
More importantly, I look forward to hearing what Roberts and other cap and trade advocates come up with as alternative policy paths. I’ve argued here that a true reset in climate policy will only come after some of the influentials start singing a new tune. That might happen real soon if Senator Graham is taken at his word.
UPDATE (1/27, 12:30 pm): How weird is it that CP’s news round-up mentions this story but not this one? This particular feature at the blog, in the way it studiously avoids any bad news to the party line, rivals Pravda. Still waiting for Romm to issue a judgment on the Graham quotes.
UPDATE 2: (2:40 pm) Romm plays down the signficance of Graham’s statements to the NYT.
UPDATE 3: (1/28): David Roberts, after being “scolded by several progressive green friends,” walks back his initial post. Nice backbone Dave, and how lame is it to blame the reporter? If anyone portrayed Graham’s quotes out of context, it would be you (and me), not Broder. And I’m not seeing that, just a lot of walk back from him too.
That wily Frank Luntz. What’s he up to? Last week, the Republican pollster advised enviros on how to sell the congressional climate bill. (Don’t mention polar bears or cap and trade, the bill’s centerpiece. Instead, talk about energy security and jobs.) That’s quite a turnaround from the guy who, in 2002, counseled the Bush Administration on how to avoid taking action on global warming (by, among other things, calling it climate change and playing up the scientific uncertainties).
The only problem with Luntz’s latest climate messaging advice is that Democrats already figured it out. They tried that script before moving on to plan b. No telling yet whether the gang of three will have better luck working from it.
Still, it’s an interesting parlor game to divine Luntz’s motives. Is he a mercenary or a saboteur? Daniel Weiss over at Climate Progress probably could care less but in a guest post he obviously welcomes Luntz’s polling results. CP readers, however, are suspicious (see here and here), as is Osha Gray Davidson, who smells something rotten. While Davidson is mighty suspicous of Luntz’s data and methodology, he doesn’t offer any theories on why Luntz would be echoing what many democrats still see as the climate bill’s strongest selling points–jobs and national security. Does Davidson think that Luntz secretly believes this is a losing strategy? Because it’s not clear to me why Davidson is so frothy over Luntz. Is it just a bad taste he can’t shake, or does he think Luntz is somehow outfoxing the democrats on the climate bill?
I thought some clues might be discerned at the roster of anti-environmental bloggers that specialize in mocking any morsel of good news that climate advocates might put to good use. But slim pickings there. Hardly any mentioned Luntz’s findings or his curious joint appearance with EDF President Fred Krupp at the National Press Club. Notably, there was no Morano link, and no sarcastic jab over at Planet Gore.
So either Morano’s circle is in on the con (unlikely) or they think Luntz is peddling some useful advice, which they’d prefer not to draw attention to.
Is it official? Can we say the IPCC is having an even worse week than the U.S. Democratic party? First the Himalayan glaciers, then the ongoing Rajendra Pachauri chronicles, and now this story, which is bound to reverberate for days, if not weeks.
Let me be the first to point out the common denominator: the UK press is responsible for all the takedowns, some of them inadvertent. So climate advocates, please don’t take your frustrations out on the spindly U.S. media. And don’t take the easy way out and blame Morano for doing what he does best.
But if you absolutely, positively, must bust an artery on someone, then go on over here, cause he’s generously put out a welcome mat. Then again, if people would have just listened to him years ago about this little disaster problem, the IPCC would be sporting just one black eye this week.
Conservation and behavior change alone will not get us to the dramatically lower levels of Co2 emissions needed to make a real difference. We need to focus on developing innovative technologies that produce energy without generating any CO2 emissions at all.
To this end, Gates charts a new path for climate advocates who can’t get traction with doomsday scenarios and who now watch helplessly as chances for an international climate treaty grow dimmer by the day. Let’s stop focusing on halfway measures, Gates argues, and just cut to the chase:
If CO2 reduction is important, we need to make it clear to people what really matters ““ getting to zero.
With that kind of clarity, people will understand the need to get to zero and begin to grasp the scope and scale of innovation that is needed.
However all the talk about renewable portfolios, efficiency, and cap and trade tends to obscure the specific things that need to be done.
To achieve the kinds of innovations that will be required I think a distributed system of R&D with economic rewards for innovators and strong government encouragement is the key. There just isn’t enough work going on today to get us to where we need to go.
Some climate advocates are likely to counter that Gates presents a false dichotomy – innovation or effeciency. But Yael Borofsky over at the Breakthrough Institute blog has a convincing rejoinder:
They are ignoring the “energy crossroads” the United States is facing. As it becomes increasingly clear that cap and trade is not the policy to help us meet our climate change mitigation goals or our energy needs, Gates is not pushing for an either/or decision, he’s pushing for an honest prioritization.
Gates will have to keep pushing if he becomes seriously engaged in this debate, because energy innovation is not at the tip of the political or policy spear. In fact, there’s so much political and institutional investment in cap and trade at this point that I think one of two things has to happen before innovation becomes an “honest prioritization”:
1) There has to be fundamental mindset change in the influentials, such as Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman. The horse they back is Joe Romm. So far, Romm’s approach (cap and trade, political horsetrading) has won over both Friedman and Krugman. (It’s the so-called “climate realist” approach.) But if the two influential columnists start to believe that Romm is leading them down a dead end, then maybe they rethink their positions and start listening more to Gates.
2) Peak oil happens soon, as in within a few years. If oil prices spike and Americans are again paying over 4 bucks a gallon for a gallon of gas, then political conditions might be right for an “honest prioritization” in energy policy.
Quirin Schiermeier has a must-read piece (free access) in Nature about the gaps in climate science. It’s a sober and frank examination, placed in a larger (and very helpful) perspective. He lists the bullet points in this blog post:
My feature describes unressolved problems in four specific areas – regional climate prediction, precipitation changes, aerosols, and tree ring-based temperature reconstructions. None of the considerable uncertainties related with these things have been kept secret by any means; but all four have led, and continue to do so, to enduring misconceptions and false claims which deserve better clarification and greater open discussion in the public and policy spheres. I have also taken a closer look at some of the favourite “˜myths’ that keep circulating among the climate sceptics community and beyond, such as that global warming stopped ten years ago.
There’s an editorial in the same issue that takes up the communication challenge. Climate advocates willing to consider a change in strategy might want to pay special attention to this piece of advice:
Empirical evidence shows that people tend to react to reports on issues such as climate change according to their personal values (see page 296). Those who favour individualism over egalitarianism are more likely to reject evidence of climate change and calls to restrict emissions. And the messenger matters perhaps just as much as the message. People have more trust in experts “” and scientists “” when they sense that the speaker shares their values. The climate-research community would thus do well to use a diverse set of voices, from different backgrounds, when communicating with policy-makers and the public. And scientists should be careful not to disparage those on the other side of a debate: a respectful tone makes it easier for people to change their minds if they share something in common with that other side.
People have more trust in experts–and scientists–when they sense that the speaker share their values.
Yup. That’s why it matters that military brass and hawks like former Republican Senator John Warner talk up climate change. That’s why it matters that influential evangelicals like Richard Cizik rally his faithful. And if people that share the values of military and evangelical leaders are to take climate change more seriously, then surely it matters that a “receptive tone” in the larger, public debate be maintained by climate advocates and scientists.
UPDATE: Hans Von Storch takes issue with how he’s quoted in the Nature article.
In 2007, I wrote a cover story for Audubon magazine about Wyoming’s imperiled sage grouse population. New research had shown that the iconic bird avoided using habitat in the vicinity of roads, gas wells and other related energy infrastructure. All the noise and traffic was a big turnoff. As the scientist who led one of the studies explained to me then,
This species needs big, undisturbed landscapes to breed, spread its nests, and hatch its chicks.
When I wrote my story in 2007, there were already palpable fears that the sage grouse was destined for the federal endangered species list, which would bring Wyoming’s lucrative gas industry to a screaming halt. But politicians and federal land managers diddled and no serious drilling restrictions were put in place.
In October, a more definitive, three-year sage grouse study was published in PLoS ONE, which reaffirmed everything I wrote about in 2007. This time around, though, the feds and Wyoming’s governor are taking action. But what’s notable is that the new measures will also affect the nascent wind industry. As reported in Scientific American,
The governor’s ruling has placed the future of a $600-million wind farm planned by Horizon Wind Energy in doubt.
Here’s the SciAm headline:
Wyoming’s environmental Hobson’s Choice: Killing wind energy or endangering birds?
Over dramatic perhaps, but it still captures the larger dilemma that I keep predicting will pit greens against greens.
In a recent post and comment elsewhere, I have suggested that better communication will not be enough to convince the masses to embrace climate change as an urgent concern. The philosopher Alain de Botton comes to the same conclusion is this elegant essay:
The role of the commentator on the environment is at one level to enable us to notice changes that are occurring. But at another level, it is also a question of getting us to care. And this is tall order, for we are being asked to worry about the possible reduction in the number of our species three generations hence, when we all have to deal with a far more imminent problem: our own death. We are being asked to worry about other people who are not yet born as much as we worry about ourselves. Never before in the history of humanity have we been asked to care so much about others of whom we know so little. Our empathetic powers have been stretched to breaking point.
The one thing that might get us over this hump, he believes, is art:
It is artists who are going to have to help us to picture ““ literally and figuratively ““ dangers which are generally invisible and are therefore constantly subsumed under the weight of our more mundane or personally intense concerns. Artists may have no solutions, but they are the ones who can come up with the words and images to make visible and important the most abstract and impersonal of challenges.
To this end, there are recent artistic efforts underway. Prodded by Alain de Botton’s essay, Piper Corp at the Ecological Society of America (ESA) blog examines some of the latest climate change art. It’s a mixed bag. Personally, I’m doubtful that the Carbon Counter or photographic images of climate change will do the trick. Sure, stuff like this can’t hurt, but I still tend to think that some ecological tipping point will have to occur before people feel the problem in their guts. Right now climate change is an abstract issue that is processed in the part of the brain that doesn’t register it as urgent danger. I realize that this fact is hard for climate advocates to wrap their own minds around.
Presuming that artists will eventually play a larger role in the climate change debate, Corp’s ESA post concludes with a dilemma for climate scientists:
As efforts to communicate climate science become more artistic””as they shift from presenting the facts to imploring emotions and making a case””where will the scientific community fit in? Sound science will always be critical to climate communication efforts, but scientists will once again have to walk a fine line between informing and advocating. Among the unprecedented challenges of climate change is its insistence that scientists engage in conversations about the subjective while maintaining scientific credibility.
Hmm, I wonder what advice Roger Pielke Jr. would offer about straddling that line? After all, Roger has made it clear that he thinks James Hansen is an admirable example of someone who has made his own climate advocacy transparent. But hasn’t Hansen’s scientific credibility been called into question (unfairly or not) precisely because of his open advocacy? Or is is because Hansen has engaged in subjective conversations about future scenarios, which are very much open to debate? Either way, what an excruciating “fine line” for scientists to walk, since projections of future impacts flow directly from the findings of climate science.
UPDATE: Roger Pielke Jr. responds:
“I don’t think that the idea of a ‘line’ is the right way to think about the distinction between ‘informing and advocating.’ In fact, I don’t think that ‘informing’ and ‘advocating’ are even mutually exclusive categories. In my book, The Honest Broker (Cambridge, 2007) I define four different ideal types for how scientists might interact with decision makers. They are:
The Pure Scientist – seeks to focus only on facts and has no interaction with the decision maker.
The Science Arbiter – answers specific factual questions posed by the decision maker.
The Issue Advocate – seeks to reduce the scope of choice available to the decision maker.
The Honest Broker of Policy Options – seeks to expand, or at least clarify, the scope of choice available to the decision maker.
The scientist has to choose what role to play in specific contexts. I define a fifth category, and that is the scientist who claims to be a Science Arbiter or Pure Scientist but who is really working to reduce the scope of choice — this is the Stealth Issue Advocate. Communication is obviously important in each context. One can be credible in any of these roles. It is when scientists present themselves as one thing and act as another that credibility is lost.”
RE: But hasn’t Hansen’s scientific credibility been called into question (unfairly or not) precisely because of his open advocacy? Roger responds:
“Of course. We like our experts to be disinterested, or at least without bias and conflicts. When experts show strong biases or have conflicts, we question their credibility. That is a trade-off associated with becoming an advocate. Of course, if you want to change the world, advocacy has its own rewards. We therefore need poeple in each of the four roles outlined above.”
And some climate activists chided me for making hay out of the Mojave desert/renewable energy controversy. Looks like Romm is taking on Feinstein over this and in doing so, he’s ignited a zesty debate among his loyalists, revealing a green schism that is sure to grow wider and nastier.
Or has it already? Craig Goodrich, a new reader to this blog, decried the scourge of wind turbines in a recent comment:
The plague of industrial wind plants is utterly destroying countryside and wildlife habitat at an incredible “” and genuinely unprecidented “” rate, while producing no useful energy and reducing CO2 emissions nowhere in the world.
This struck me as a bit vague and exaggerated (the pillaging of habitat), so I asked him to provide specifics. He obliged, but all the links sent his response straight to my spam filter. So I’ve pasted his comment below for everyone to have a look-see. A disclaimer: I’ve only given these websites a cursory glance. Thus I have no way of knowing whether any of the groups mentioned below are astroturfers or legitimate grassroots organizations.
If they’re all legit, does this add up to a story the media is missing? Or does it pale in comparison to, say the mountaintop mining madness that has gone on for so long? I’m not sure, since I haven’t yet looked into this issue with any rigor. But given the renewable energy boom underway, plus the biofuels craze, this quote from one policy expert is worth pondering:
If we are to prevent serious, damaging climate change, it will require one of the largest land-use changes in the history of the country.
So without further ado, here’s Goodrich’s descriptive compilation of wind power atrocities across the globe:
OK, you asked for it:
Germany, nearly everywhere. http://wilfriedheck.de/
Denmark, ditto. Analysis at http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/mason-2005-10.rtf
France, threatening the incredibly beautiful and historic Mont Saint-Michel. http://epaw.org/
England, all over — from vandalizing the peaceful Lakes District to offshore installations overstressing mother seals at the Yorkshire breeding grounds. http://www.countryguardian.net/
Wales — the devastation of Cefn Croes will break your heart. http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~hills/cc/gallery/index.htm
Scotland, disfiguring the Highlands — http://www.viewsofscotland.org/
… skipping for the sake of space numerous local atrocities in Eastern and Southern Europe, ignoring the mess in Spain, we cross the Atlantic to
Mars Hill, Maine — check out the video at http://www.wind-watch.org/video-marshill.php for a taste of what is going on around wild mountain ridges all across New England.
Pennsylvania and West Virginia — http://www.shol.com/agita/LookoutMountain/ — several ridges are already disfigured, and the State of Virginia is fighting plans to place a huge phalanx of turbines within a mile of the best-preserved battlefield of the Civil War, Camp Allegheny. http://www.vawind.org/ or a Pennsylvania video at http://www.wind-watch.org/video-meyersdale.php
Ontario’s beautiful Thousand Islands region on the St. Lawrence, and upstate New York across the river, is disfigured by 86 turbines on Wolfe Island — http://www.wolfeislandresidents.ca/ — which has so horrified area residents that local groups on both sides are fighting desperately (with mixed success) against any more such installations, which the lunatic Ontario government wants to see all along the eastern Lake Ontario coast.
Skipping across Michigan ( http://www.knowwind.org/ ) to my native Wisconsin, in Fond du Lac County, where I grew up, an 87-turbine plant has been installed directly adjacent to Horicon Marsh, the largest freshwater marsh in the world and a crucial stopover for migratory waterfowl. Duckburger, anyone? http://www.windcows.com/
And on and on and on. Only a recent decision by the Kansas Supreme Court saved the last remaining unspoiled tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills from being destroyed by turbine plants. In Wyoming, look for the Big Sky and you see turbine blades. In Nevada (even!), residents are fighting to save Virginia Peak ( http://aplusfirearms.com/saveourvalley.htm ).
New Zealand — http://www.tui-g.co.nz/ . Australia — http://www.spacountryguardians.org.au/truth.php — or video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_CZIfiFPwk&feature=related
And all of this for nothing. Nothing. Even granting for the sake of argument that CO2 emissions should be reduced, industrial wind turbines can’t do it, for all sorts of technical reasons which (again) I will spare you.
Each of these wretched turbine towers — picture the Statue of Liberty with a 747 pinned to her nose — costs about $2 million to erect, and will cost about $1 million to decommission. Typical landowner contracts provide that the contract becomes void if the wind developer sells the plant to another company, which they typically do instantly once the project is completed. These turbines are there forever, disintegrating and dripping industrial lubricants onto our grandchildren’s vandalized landscape.
“Criminal lunacy” is far too kind a term for this.