DeSmogBlog owes Obama three apologies

desmog.gifI am a big fan of the climate website, DeSmogBlog. So I was shocked when, the day after his unprecedented victory in Iowa, DeSmogBlog gave Barack Obama (!!) “the inaugural 2007 SmogMaker Award for blowing smoke on global warming.”

Gimme a break. How could anyone win that award any year — let alone in its inaugural year — when George W. Bush is still President? [Not to mention a year in which Lomborg and Inhofe continue their influential disinformation compaigns!]

After all, the “Prize honors those who sow confusion and delay on Climate Change.” Seriously. Bush is easily the confuser and delayer of the year … and the decade … and he surely will be on the short list for the entire century. Yet DeSmog says Obama is “looking like George Bush lite.” How can they make that claim? By misreading — or failing to read — Obama’s terrific climate plan. DeSmogBlog claims:

But he is campaigning on a greenhouse gas reduction ‘target’ that the U.S. won’t have to meet for 42 years….
While the world’s leading scientific bodies tell us we need to act immediately to avoid catastrophic climate disruption, Obama has set his own target date at 2050, long past any opportunity for voters to hold him accountable.

Uhh, no. In fact, his plan explicitly states:

Obama will start reducing emissions immediately in his administration by establishing strong annual reduction targets, and he’ll also implement a mandate of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020.

Based on the links in their post, DeSmogBlog’s research on Obama’s climate apparently consists of reading a one-paragraph story on BusinessWire with Obama’s statement on Bali — which they link to not once but twice! They claim he is an unrepetent coal supporter, based on a June 2007 Washington Post article about his support for his state’s coal industry. And yet in his climate plan he bluntly commits:

Obama will use whatever policy tools are necessary, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities, to ensure that we move quickly to commercialize and deploy low carbon coal technology. Obama’s stringent cap on carbon will also make it uneconomic to site traditional coal facilities and discourage the use of existing inefficient coal facilities.

I defy DeSmogBlog to tell me which serious U.S. politician has a climate plan substantially tougher or more comprehensive than Obama’s. It is a courageous plan for any Presidential candidate to run on. Now let’s compare that to Bush’s record. As I’ve written:

Thanks to the misleadership of our President, the world took no action at Bali to reduce emissions, we had a sham international “climate summit,” the country continues to take no national action on greenhouse gas emissions, Congress was forced to drop almost all non-oil-related provisions to cut GHGs from the energy bill, the EPA blocked California and other major states from regulating tailpipe GHGs on their own, the Administration keeps muzzling climate scientists, and it keeps misallocating scarce clean tech dollars to hydrogen fuel cell vehicle research at the expense of real and timely solutions like energy efficiency and renewables — and that’s just the stuff we know about for sure!

… Our person of the year … President George W. Bush doesn’t just fiddle while the planet burns, he actively fans the flames and thwarts the fire-fighters.

DeSmogBlog owes Obama three apologies, for

  1. Giving him this undeserved “award”
  2. Failing to read his climate plan and then mischaracterizing it (twice)
  3. Saying Obama is “looking like George Bush lite.”

For completeness’s sake, the second unacceptable misstatement about the Obama plan they make is:

… he has continued to promote the current administration’s plan to circumvent the Kyoto Protocol, the only international climate agreement currently in place….

His short-term strategy is the same as President Bush’s; Obama wants to create a new Global Energy Forum that doesn’t include the cleanest and most progressive (European) economies.

Not even close. He has promised to re-engage with the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):

The UNFCCC process is the main international forum dedicated to addressing the climate problem and an Obama administration will work constructively within it.

But what about the Global Energy Forum? Obama says

President Bush recently invited world leaders of the 15 largest emitters of greenhouse gases to a two-day conference, yet he failed to show up with any binding domestic commitments or funding for international efforts to combat climate change. Not surprisingly, these world leaders criticized the U.S. commitment to climate change and we missed an opportunity to join other countries with a serious plan to tackle this challenge.

Barack Obama will take seriously the U.S.’s leadership role in combating climate change. Obama will signal to the world the U.S. commitment to climate change leadership by implementing an aggressive domestic cap-and-trade program coupled with increased investments in clean energy development and deployment. Obama will build on our domestic commitments by creating a negotiating process that involves a smaller number of countries than the nearly 200 countries in the current Kyoto system. Obama will create a Global Energy Forum — based on the G8+5, which included all G-8 members plus Brazil, China, India, Mexico and South Africa — of the world’s largest emitters to focus exclusively on global energy and environmental issues.

But DeSmogBlog says the Obama Forum “doesn’t include the cleanest and most progressive (European) economies.” What the heck are the G8 countries? What the heck are France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom?

We need a smaller forum than the UNFCCC to jumpstart the crucial deal, which is really between the U.S. and China, but the other major emitters need to be part of that process. Obama makes clear

This Global Energy Forum will complement — and ultimately merge with — the much larger negotiation process underway at the UN to develop a post-Kyoto framework.

Obama deserves praise for his courageous plan. And he deserves three apologies from DeSmogBlog.

12 Responses to DeSmogBlog owes Obama three apologies

  1. Lloyd Alter says:

    but how do you explain his statement last January “The people I meet in town-hall meetings back home would rather fill their cars with fuel made from coal reserves in southern Illinois than with fuel made from crude reserves in Saudi Arabia” and his barely “refined” position where he will support subsidies for CTL only if the fuel can be created with 20% lower CO2 than petroleum based fuels, a goal that is not currently technically feasible. He is still pandering to his state’s coal interests and walking a dangerous line.

  2. Joe says:

    I give him a pass for being a new Senator and playing to his home-state constituency. There is no CTL with 20% lower CO2 unless you add some biomass and capture all the CO2. You and I know that ain’t gonna happen.

    His climate proposals render everything else moot. If CCS is practical and affordable, coal can be saved, if it isn’t, it won’t be. CTL is deader than a doornail under any sensible climate regime.

    He deserves praise for his courageous climate proposals, not comparisons to W!

  3. Actually, it is technically feasible. Obama has a CTL plant doing exactly that in his home-state.


    Biomass and Coal To Liquids, plus carbon capture and sequestration. Sited 30 miles from the Futuregen project.

    We are aiming at roughly a 60% liefecycle reduction in carbon footprint vs petro-diesel from day 1.

  4. D-pop says:

    We truly need a world war two style effort aimed at global warming. The time is past for pussy footing around on this issue. Barack obama has a good, workable plan but it ignores the political reality of lawsuits, and deniers and delayers.

    We need what we used in world war 2: temporary industrial control to move technology in the right direction, along with rationing on oil, gasoline, and energy use. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. A lot of the technology we already have. We just need the spirit to do it.

    also read this piece by Depak Chopra.

    In the aftermath of World War I, the horror of that conflict gave rise to a slogan that quickly turned into a bitter irony. “The war to end all wars” was only a prelude to more of the same, if not worse, with the arrival of World War II. Now there’s reason to resurrect the phrase, not as applied to the so-called war on terror but to global warming. If the war against climate change is to be won, it will require an era of unprecedented cooperation and the dropping of national boundaries. Some might say it would require a change in human nature itself. Conventional war isn’t compatible with any of these things and must come to an end.

    In the general celebration of Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize, few commentators noticed that his acceptance speech was pessimistic. He pointed out that no significant change in pollution has occurred yet, with more than seventy million tons of toxic emissions being released into the atmosphere every day. Gore compared the current inertia to the period between the two world wars when too many world leaders ignored the threat of Nazism and assiduously pursued policies of timidity that would prove to be defeatist and self-destructive in the end.

    So far, the parallel to World War II is holding true in frightening ways. The threat against us is obvious, it isn’t going away, and yet lack of leadership and wishful thinking prevail. Only on the brink of disaster did the Allies unite to fight back against Fascism. Global warming hasn’t reached that stage. The recent Bali conference on climate change ended with little more than an agreement to set a future agenda. The United States jockeyed to protect the interest of our corporate polluters, following the Bush agenda that favors total non-regulation of businesses and turning a blind eye to the destructive practice that corporations want to pursue. It’s easy enough to condemn their head-in-the-sand attitude, but the situation is now so alarming that the Democrats aren’t in a position to create the necessary change, either. The Democratic candidates for President say all the right things about climate change in front of the cameras, yet in essence they are fiddling with their makeup while Rome burns.

    The time-wasters on every front didn’t count on the pace of global warming speeding up, but it has, as recent scientific reports about melting Arctic ice prove. Activists who advise cutting greenhouse emissions by fifty percent are probably too conservative. That measure wouldn’t lower the planet’s temperature or remove greenhouse gases already present in the upper atmosphere. What is needed is an all-out pursuit of technologies to do both. Scientists inform us that such technologies could be developed or may be here already in nascent form.

    But the real issue runs deeper still. The entire system of nationalism is a fatal holdover from a time that is gone forever. We are being forced to think beyond national boundaries, and yet human nature isn’t equipped for that — not so far, at least. Two things that nations are very good at — military action against their enemies and fierce trade competition — head the list of destructive habits killing the planet. Militarism diverts money away from the trillions needed to reverse climate change. Trade competition entices corporations into polluting in the name of profits. Both traits put up barriers between countries at a time when dropping all barriers is the only way we can hope to win. There is no viable strategy except a zero pollution global economy, or the closest we can come to that ideal.

    In short, the next world war is upon us, and it’s the strangest conflict humans will ever fight, because the enemy is our own mindset and the outmoded habits it has engendered. Pessimists point out that human history has never been free of aggression and competition. But one can point out with equal truth that human history has never been devoid of adaptation, either. Aggression and competition can co-exist with cooperation (as shown by the joint effort between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to eradicate smallpox from the world, a venture that succeeded during a period of hostility between the two superpowers.) Now we need to take the next step and make cooperation dominant. Already a significant number of people wake up every morning without the urge to kill an enemy, and they are the front-line warriors in this new conflict, not the traditional militarists and nationalists. Over the next decade the world will watch and wait to see if these new warriors prevail, as surely they must.

  5. Anna Haynes says:

    I’m confused – a DeSmogBlog commenter quotes the statement as
    “Obama will consider whatever policy tools are necessary…”
    whereas this post quotes
    “Obama will use whatever policy tools are necessary [, including standards that ban new traditional coal facilities]…”

    obama “whatever policy tools are necessary”
    shows Obama’s website saying “consider”.

    That seems like a pretty significant weasel word.

  6. D-pop says:

    Anna Haynes- What is there to be confused about? One word? Whoever the next president is he or she will have to USE whatever tools that are available. The time for discussion is over. especially discussions about WORDS. the time for action is now if its not already too late.

  7. John says:

    Any way you look at it, DeSmogblog blew it. I agree that Obama’s doing a little pandering to his home state constituency with his CTL position, but on the other hand it’s pretty clear CTL will never meet the caveats he’s imposed, so it’s harmless. Meanwhile, he has an exemplary climate position.

    How this could translate into the smear that he got from DeSmogBlog, strains credulity. Especially in a world populated with Lomborgs, Crichtons, Inhoffes, Nordhauses and other assorted sophists.

    Jeez, let’s not quibble with our allies while the enemies are storming the gates.

  8. SocraticGadfly says:

    Obama has also pandered to heavy-metal mining companies in Nevada and other things. Maybe he didn’t deserve this award, but he did deserve a wake-up smack for having a pretty uncredible environmental policy.

  9. Bill R says:

    First off, I am an Obama supporter.

    But I am also an activist for climate change policies and think Peak Oil is near, if not here.

    Obama’s position and knowledge with energy is not really clear to me.

    I like the way in a speech to Detroits auto manufacturers that he underlined that they must advocate and change toward much higher fuel effeciency.

    I like his climate/energy plan. I really like the way that we will auction the carbon credits in his cap and trade program and not just allocate them…. this seems very important to me.

    He seems to be willing to talk about this issue in an adult sort-of-way. Witness the debate in NH on Saturday night (for those of you who do not know the NY Times has a wonderful debate analysis tool with video of the debates that allows you to quickly zero in on this parts you want to hear). He pointed out as I remembered that this will not be without some pain… costs will be passed onto the customer.

    He also speaks eloquently about the benefits… the green jobs, the moral importance of solving the climate crisis.

    However HE DID start to co-sponsor a CTL bill with Jim Bunning (R-KY). It was only after some (proper) outrage from the greens that be backed away and said he would only support CTL if the carbon was dealt with.

    I aslo read a Harper’s magazine piece that outlined how he has reiceived quite a bit of money and support from corn-ethanol interests (among other special interests).

    I have a sense that he is still learning about energy (it’s a pretty complex issue). But I have a sense that he is willing to talk about incovenient and uncomfortable truths — I think that is important.

  10. Albert says:

    I read both Obama’s and Hillary’s plan last week and they both sound good, though not as tough as Richardson’s. Obama also deserves credit for mentioning in Saturday’s debate that a cap and trade system would need to have a 100% auction — no give aways — to keep it from discouraging new players and in order to generate income to support green energy implementation and help ease the impact on lower income citizens.

  11. Emil Möller says:

    In response to the flames re DeSmogBlog’s critisizm of Obama, I’ve filed an article on CleanBreak. This situates the affair and calls for a joined effort.

    It’s in line with
    – Chopra’s plea on
    – the plea in Scientific American of realizing what can be done _now_ on

    Reason why I refer to the article on CleanBreak in stead of posting it here is that it contains many hyperlinks and those make the text on this site a mess.

    Pace e Bene,

    Emil Möller, Maastricht, Netherlands

  12. Jay Alt says:

    As noted, DeSmog recognizes the errata of their ways and apologizes –