Some regular readers might be surprised to learn that I think this latest National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report, called “America’s Climate Choices,” should inspire more than a collective yawn from the media. But as Charlie Petit explains, there are institutional reasons for this:
The news business is about what’s new. If a prestigious body says something new and very important, it’s big news the first time. The second or third or fourth it’s gets attention but fades from the front page. It gets what old-timers at a newspaper I once worked for called DBI status. Dull but important. So one dutifully may cover it. Or not.
Mostly not, as seen by the coverage of the US National Academy of Sciences ““ via its National Research Council ““ issuance yesterday of a report called America’s Climate Choices. Bad enough that much of its contents has been previewed as much as a year ago, with four volumes already published. All this new one says is that that if we don’t do something fast the world as we know it will probably end and the next one won’t be fun. Well, not in so many words, but blah blah blah. One might as well write a report about overpopulation, or the soul-destroying impacts of extreme poverty, or the scientific emptiness of astrology, homeopathy, or a search for Big Foot. True, but not new.
Charlie’s larger point is well taken. Look at this NYT headline from a year ago, and this AP headline from yesterday. Still, the latest NAS report contains seven recommendations related to mitigation, adaptation, and future research that I think are deserving of coverage. Here is the NAS summary, containing those recommendations, if you want to take a look. It’s true there’s not much actual news in the report, but I thought some of those recommendations would have made for good story pegs (even at the local/regional newspaper level) and fodder for more climate blog discussion than I’m seeing.
If you’re Newt Gingrich, and you’re worried about your right flank, you’re thinking there’s an upside to all the grief Marc Morano is causing you: at least no family values conservatives are loudly pestering you to apologize for being a hypocrite of Olympian proportions.
This Washington Post op-ed by Senator John McCain, rebutting his fellow Republicans on the use of torture, is notable.
Might it herald the return of the old McCain from the early 2000s? If so, he might also find his voice on the climate issue.
It’s coming. As Peter Whoriskey writes in the Washington Post:
Over the next few months, regulators are scheduled to set the next round of U.S. fuel economy standards for [automotive] manufacturers. Among the proposals under consideration is one that would lift average fuel economy under the law to as much as 62 mpg by 2025.
He lays out the crux of the battle and the opposing sides:
The preeminent issue in the debate is how much the price of cars “” gas, hybrids, plug-ins or whatever inventors come up with”” would rise if regulations dictate such standards.
On one side are automakers, which warn that the highest targets could add as much as $10,000 to the price of a new car, devastating a U.S. industry that just two years ago was bailed out by the government.
And on the other side
are environmentalists, who dismiss the automakers’ cost estimates as bloated and argue that the costs of investing in fuel efficiency are tiny compared with the effects of global warming and dependence on foreign oil. The proposal to raise the standard to 62 mpg, which would translate into “real world” average efficiency of about 45 mpg, is also backed by 17 U.S. senators, who last month issued a letter of support for a “maximum feasible” standard.
“The cost of investing in clean car technology will be vastly outweighed by the billions saved averting the dangers of global warming,” said Roland Hwang, transportation director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The debate, it seems, will turn on exactly what those passed-down costs to the consumer will be. Those figures are all over the map, depending on which source you choose (and the WaPo reporter offers a bunch). Towards the end of the article, he discusses some studies and surveys that suggest consumers aren’t willing to pay higher up-front prices for more fuel efficient cars.
UPDATE: I’ll add that I found it odd that the WaPo piece doesn’t mention the higher gas prices at the pumps, and how this might factor into the debate.