Tyler Cowen’s latest NYT column takes on the hidden scourge of free parking.
In a telling exchange with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, long-time polluter apologist Pat Michaels conceded that the real challenge of solving manmade global warming is simply the “political acceptability” of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels as climate catastrophes grow. Michaels, aptly introduced as “a scientist who now works for the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank that strongly opposes caps to carbon dioxide,” has promoted global warming denial for decades, funded by a network of oil and coal companies and their ideological allies. With calm questioning, Zakaria exposed Michaels’ position as political “stand-pattism” as the world burns:
ZAKARIA: You hear all this. Doesn’t it worry you? I mean, I understand your position, which is you know, we don’t have a substitute for fossil fuels right now. But surely that isn’t an argument for stand-pattism. Don’t you want to do something about this?
MICHAELS: What I worry about more is the concept of opportunity cost. We had legislation, again, that went through the House last summer, which would have cost a lot and been futile. And when you take that away or when the government favors certain technologies and politicizes technologies, you’re doing worse than nothing. You’re actually impairing your ability to respond in the long run. And that’s my major concern along this issue —
ZAKARIA: But if you were to have a carbon tax, if you were to have a gas tax —
MICHAELS: You can put in the carbon tax.
ZAKARIA: No, but you would reduce the consumption — that which you tax you get less of. That which you subsidize you get more of. This is a pretty simple law of economics, right?
ZAKARIA: So if you were were to put it in, you would get reduced CO2 emissions and the government would get some money which you may not think it would spend wisely but it has the potential of spending wisely. Why would you be opposed to that?
MICHAELS: The problem is one of magnitude and political acceptability thereof. When we had gasoline of $4 a gallon, we reduced our consumption a grand total of four percent. If you’re really serious about atmospheric carbon dioxide, you’ve got to reduce it about 80 percent. How high does that tax have to be to be 80%? How do you do that in a political republic? It’s very, very difficult. And I guarantee you that —
ZAKARIA: But is the answer therefore to do nothing?
Zakaria also got Michaels to admit that about “40 percent” of his funding comes from the oil companies whose profits are based on free pollution.
Of course, there’s no secret about what kind of economic policy would be needed to end our dependence on fossil fuels over the coming decades. The rest of the industrialized world has policies that put a gradually increasing price on carbon pollution, redirecting investment in the free market to cleaner alternatives. Michaels’ claim that the American Clean Energy and Security Act passed by the House of Representatives last year “would have cost a lot and been futile” is, of course, false. The legislation would have improved the economic security of working families, reduced the deficit, and spurred billions of dollars of investment in clean American jobs instead of deadly oil and coal — while making an international agreement to limit global warming pollution a reality.
Michaels was interviewed this morning with climate scientist Gavin Schmidt and economist Jeffrey Sachs, who plainly described the “catastrophic planet” we are creating by burning billions of tons of fossil fuels every year. Schmidt remained “a little optimistic that the forces of delay will eventually be put aside” and that we can “demonstrate that societies are smarter than just allowing business as usual to carry on.” “If we do this sensibly,” Sachs said, “we can do this at low cost, save the planet, and save the economy.”
Sachs agreed with Michaels that the challenge requires political will. He concluded that is “what we hired the President of the United States for,” but that “we’re still waiting to hear from the administration”:
If we end up with a different planet where people cannot grow food, where people cannot eat given where they’re living right now, we have a catastrophe. And the ironic point is the combination of the technologies we have already in hand and those that are close on the horizon, if we do this sensibly, we can do this at low cost, save the planet, and save the economy. But we need a strategy and a plan. That’s what we hired the President of the United States for also. That’s what we’re still waiting to hear from the administration. If we get it, I bet the American people will rally to it.
It remains to be seen whether President Barack Obama will live up to this civilizational challenge, or if he will continue to let the Pat Michaels of the world rule the political discourse.
Transcript: Read more
Trenberth: “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”
The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.
Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of whether global warming is causing more weather extremes.
The collective answer of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.
That’s the opening of “In Weather Chaos, a Case for Global Warming!“ It is one of the better recent major media articles on global warming and extreme weather — and the best front page New York Times climate article in years.
The NYT is clearly making a major statement since not only is this “above the fold,” but it takes up most of the front page with large photos of what’s happening in Pakistan and Russia and the U.S. (see Russian Meteorological Center: “There was nothing similar to this on the territory of Russia during the last one thousand years in regard to the heat.” and Hottest* July in RSS satellite record, record floods swamp Pakistan, U.S. set 1480 temperature records in past two months, and 2010 breaks 2007 record for most nations setting all-time temperature records):
I noted Friday that if an Israeli military attack on Iran led to a spiral of violence in the region, the biggest losers would arguably be in China. A reader sent me Andrew Jacobs’ June NYT article about an Israeli delegation to China that apparently made this point in February:
In February, a high-level Israeli delegation traveled to Beijing to present alleged evidence of Iran’s atomic ambitions. Then they unveiled the ostensible purpose of their visit: to explain in sobering detail the economic impact to China from an Israeli strike on Iran — an attack Israel has suggested is all but inevitable should the international community fail to stop Iran from assembling a nuclear weapon.
“The Chinese didn’t seem too surprised by the evidence we showed them, but they really sat up in their chairs when we described what a pre-emptive attack would do to the region and on oil supplies they have come to depend on,” said an Israeli official with knowledge of the meeting and who asked for anonymity so as not to upset his Chinese counterparts
This argument seems like a double-edged sword to me. If Chinese officials understand the devastating consequences Israeli air strikes could have for the global economy, they become more likely to support sanctions on Iran that might avoid strikes. But if American officials understand the devastating consequences Israeli air strikes could have for the global economy, they become more likely to restrain Israel.
Michael Steele’s term as Republican National Committee Chairman has been riddled with controversial verbal missteps that have roused the scorn of his Republican colleagues. His most recent gaffe in mischaracterizing the Afghanistan war prompted an outcry among prominent Republicans who called for his ouster. Remarking on the appearance of “Shadow RNC” Chairman Ed Gillespie over Steele as the RNC mouthpiece, Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer asked GOP strategist Ed Rollins today whether the GOP should “do something” about Steele. Rollins doubled-down on his dismissal of Steele’s efficacy, calling him a “disaster” who has “failed miserably” in his mission:
SCHIEFFER: But Ed Rollins, I want to ask you about this. I mean quite frankly, no offense to Ed Gillespie who I have been dealing with and know to be a good guy for years and years and years but he wouldn’t be here unless if the chairman of the Republican Party currently Michael Steele was willing to go on television. But he’s so immersed in controversy that he’s kind of in a bunker these days. Are Republicans going to have to do something about Michael Steele?
ROLLINS: Well, there’s no time. Obviously he’s been a disaster. You have three men on this show — not me, but the other three — who have all been party chairmen and very distinguished party chairmen. Michael Steele has failed miserably in the things you’re supposed to do — raise money and basically go out and articulate the message. It’s not going to matter though. In 11 weeks from now, what he says and does in the next 11 weeks is not going to matter.
Schieffer noted that Steele is in a “bunker these days.” While avoiding TV appearances, Steele is still making the rounds at RNC events to tout his success in “making Democrats sweat.” Despite the GOP rancor, Steele has vowed to stay put, exclaiming “I ain’t going nowhere.”
It’s the 20th anniversary of The American Prospect, and as part of the celebration you can see me try to squeeze a whole bunch of historical perspective into 1,000 words.
By contrast, progressives have been much more divided. Much of the controversy over the past two decades has centered on the concept of “humanitarian intervention.” This was exemplified by 1990s arguments over military intervention in Haiti, Rwanda, and Bosnia and ultimately by the 1999 U.S.-led NATO bombing campaign that forced Serbia to concede Kosovo’s de facto independence. In world-historical terms, this war will go down as extremely trivial, but it was a key moment politically. It led, in particular, to the development of a (purportedly) new “liberal hawk” approach to world affairs in which American power would be unleashed to do good all around the world.
In retrospect, there was nothing new about this vision. In its fundamentals, it is identical to the conservative view (albeit at times with different points of rhetorical emphasis) in terms of positing American military primacy and freedom from institutional restraint as key planks of foreign policy. Sensible liberals were able to see the humanitarian ventures of the 1990s as perhaps-praiseworthy things done at a particular time and place without redefining their entire worldview around the idea of serial humanitarian wars. But many intellectuals and political leaders of the Democratic Party ended up following the liberal-hawk line right into the disaster in Iraq.
Read it all!
The right-wing group Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) has announced that it will be hosting a rally against the proposed Cordoba House Islamic community center on September 11.
The confirmed list of speakers includes former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Andrew Breitbart, and, notably, the far-right Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. “Islam is not a religion, it’s an ideology,” Wilders told the Guardian in 2009, “the ideology of a retarded culture.”
In the past, Wilders’ extremism has been condemned by conservatives such as Bill Kristol, Charles Krauthammer, and even Glenn Beck, who called Wilders “fascist.” It’s a clear sign of how far the Republicans have shifted to the right and embraced Islamophobia as a political tool that movement figures like Gingrich, Bolton, and Breitbart now have no problem sharing a stage with Wilders.
One weakness that’s bothered me in Dave Berri’s analysis of the NBA is the tendency to measure players relative to “average” rather than looking more closely. His own research on the low supply of tall people suggests that an average center is actually a pretty valuable commodity, which if true should be taken into account when evaluating moves.
Arturo Galletti has a smart post trying to extend the Wins Produces analysis to include a concept of a “replacement level” player. If you do this “based on the bottom tier of players based on minutes played at each position up to the point where 20% of all player minutes at the position for the season are accounted for” it becomes clear that an average center is normally a good deal more valuable than an average wing player:
The really interesting thing about this, to me, is that point guards also stand out. This is something that I think an intuitive basketball fan would predict but that unlike the center thing isn’t specifically predicted by anything else in the Wages of Wins land of analytics. But a good model should let you confirm unexpected hypotheses, and that’s what we’re seeing here.
Nadler Dismantles Right-Wing Arguments Against Mosque: ‘We Do Not Put The Bill Of Rights…Up To A Vote’
This morning on CNN’s State of the Union, New York congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D) effectively dismantled the arguments of his fellow Empire State colleague Peter King (R), who has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the new Islamic center project in lower Manhattan.
King argued that, while he respects Muslims’ “right” to build a new center, “they should listen to public opinion” and “should voluntarily move the mosque away from Ground Zero.” Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, explained, “We do not put the Bill of Rights…to a vote. The reason we have a Bill of Rights is that you have your religious rights…whether majorities like you or not, frankly.”
Nadler then addressed the biggest fallacy of the right-wing argument: namely, that in their opposition to the Islamic center, they are ascribing collective guilt on all Muslims for the terrorist acts of 9/11:
NADLER: [W]hat they are saying essentially is how can you put a mosque there when, after all, Muslims attacked us on 9/11, and this is ripping open a wound? Well, the fallacy is that Al Qaida attacked us. Islam did not attack us. Islam, like Christianity, like Judaism, like other religions, has many different people, some of whom regard other adherents of the religion as heretics of one sort or another. It is only insensitive if you regard Islam as the culprit, as opposed to Al Qaida as the culprit. We were not attacked by all Muslims. And there were Muslims who were killed there, there were Muslims who were killed there. There were Muslims who ran in as first responders to help. And we cannot take any position like that.
Watch a compilation:
King — who has said he thinks there are “too many mosques in this country” and is an advocate of racially profiling all Muslims — claimed that he has been a defender of Islam. But, he added, the 9/11 attack “was carried out in the name of Islam,” and therefore, the new Islamic center would simply be rubbing “salt in the wounds.”
“[O]bjecting to this mosque would be as objectionable if you wouldn’t object to a church or a synagogue in the same place because that’s blaming all Islam and you can’t blame an entire religion,” Nadler explained. He then ticked through three prominent examples of GOP hypocrisy on the “Ground Zero mosque”:
1) Nadler: “One, there is a mosque in the Pentagon, which is also hallowed ground. No one objects to that.” [Link]
2) Nadler: “Second, the people who want to build this facility, which is partially a mosque and partially a community center, have a mosque a few blocks away from there, which no one has objected to.” [Link]
3) Nadler: “I would take the sincerity of many of the Republican critics of this…if they were supporting, as Peter is, but very few other Republicans are, the bill to give health care coverage to the 9/11 heroes and responders which all but 12 Republicans voted against in the House last week.” [Link]
We’ve known for a while that we are poisoning the oceans and that human emissions of carbon dioxide, left unchecked, would likely have devastating consequences. A 2010 study found that oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred.
And we’ve known those impacts might last a long, long time “”a 2009 study concluded ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years.” Worse, a Nature study just found that global warming is already the likely cause of a 40% decline in the ocean’s phytoplankton: “Microscopic life crucial to the marine food chain is dying out. The consequences could be catastrophic.”
Carl Zimmer, a noted science writer and winner of the 2007 NAS Communication Award, reveals some more chilling facts about the path our oceans may be on in this repost from Yale’s Environment 360 online magazine.
As warming intensifies, scientists warn, the oxygen content of oceans across the planet could be more and more diminished, with serious consequences for the future of fish and other sea life.