[Another post by Ken Levenson.]
UPDATE: Links should be fixed — very weird glitch!
If you’ve recovered from your hangover you may recall that the President made a “major” speech on global warming last week. While it was frighteningly predictable in content or lack thereof, some of the reactions were eye opening. Let’s start with
The Bush Administration itself: Because if anyone can understand what the President is saying, they can:
Bush’s chief adviser on climate change, Jim Connaughton, defended the U.S. position. “It was a speech directed at domestic audiences,” he said of the president’s address. Bush’s aides said it was aimed at heading off a “train wreck” of varying emissions legislation in the U.S. Congress.
For a domestic audience? While the Paris conference he set up is underway? The Administration cares even less about international opinion than they do that of Americans. Perhaps obvious but you’d think with American’s approval at below 30% he’d try to find refuge somewhere other than the Saudi Royal Family.
And what’s this about heading off a legislative train wreck? Of course there is the Lieberman-Warner Bill – named for the well known lefties John Warner Republican of Virginia and Joseph Lieberman Independent of Connecticut – seeking more than a 50% cut in US GHG emissions by 2050. Is there another climate/energy bill seriously contending for passage? Where’s the potential train wreck? Oh, right Bush doesn’t want ANY meaningful legislation. Another Bush alternate reality foisted upon us. A potential “first step” transfigured into train wreck (read temper tantrum)- these guys have no shame. Because if you don’t take a first step there can be no second step … brilliant.
New York Times Hydra starting with the Editorial Page: Nada. Really, for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 days. Then on the 6th day, Earth Day, the editorial page weighed in, concluding:
It is hard to find anything redeeming in this speech, though it contains two obvious truths: This president has no intention of addressing climate change. The next president will have no choice but to do better.
We waited six days for this? “DO BETTER.”!? “Do better” is a suicide pact. I wonder if anyone’s told them the planet’s on fire? Andrew, when you’re done blogging on the plankton please yell upstairs to the editorial desk – would ya? If they don’t know what the heck is going on maybe it’s not surprising the public isn’t so informed either.
Dot Earth: The [Annotated] Climate Speech was a nice approach with the blog form using reader posted comments for the annotations. But is it me or is Dot Earth feeling a bit like a climate change ghetto within The Times? Andrew Revkin produces a good number of posts on the subject, allowing, it seems to me, for the paper to rightly claim it is covering the subject in abundance while putting very little in the actual paper or in the A section where the public will read it in the context of its importance. I’d wager that the paper’s coverage of global warming
sucks is inadequate* because of the success of Dot Earth. Ironic, No?**
Then there is Gail Collins: Bless her. While the editors can’t seem to find their own footprints and Andrew Revkin seems unable to articulate a strong opinion on key climate issues to his loyal blog devotees, Gail, as she does so often, speaks out in nearly*** perfect pitch.
Let us forget, for a second, that this is a man who’s only going to be in office for nine months of the 17 years in question. Furthermore, let us skip lightly over the fact that Bush did not give any hints whatsoever as to how this goal is supposed to be reached except to say that “the wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts.”
Since the president never suggests actual behavior changes on the part of American citizens, that leaves us with what? More efficient refrigerators?
Mr. Sulzberger, I understand there is much hand wringing going on now about how to keep the paper relevant My suggestion: Let Gail Collins run it.
Germany: Called it a Neanderthal speech. Another fine example of German technical precision.
China: Su Wei, China’s point main on climate change speaks for China.
Chinese participant Su Wei said it was good news that Bush was talking about emissions at all. But he added, “to take measures to slow down the increase in emissions is not enough.”
Mr. Su’s statement is the equivalent of a great power diplomatic scolding. If the Chinese aren’t seriously interested in tackling climate change they would have kept quiet, wouldn’t they? Of course the motives are complex and the path never a straight line, but to me, for Mr. Su to speak out like that, is a small yet clear indication that China is getting ready to step up to the plate, and are frustrated that Bush (the requisite lead hitter) keeps stepping out of the batter’s box. China’s leaders are rational (if despotic) and they understand our window of opportunity is fast closing.
Union of Concerned Scientists: Another moment of clarity.
“President Bush has stayed on the sidelines for the last seven years, and now he’s making one last desperate attempt to change the rules of the game. The Senate is poised to vote on legislation requiring a significant economy-wide reduction of U.S. global warming emissions by 2020. Meanwhile, other industrialized countries are moving forward with negotiations over deeper mandatory emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol. Instead of working with Congress and the international community, the president is trying to derail their efforts.
“The best science indicates that to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, we need to cut our emissions by at least 80 percent by mid-century. Unless the president is prepared to support binding emissions reductions of 15 to 20 percent by 2020 to get us on that path, he should do us all a favor and step aside.”
But America must lead. (Or perhaps Ireland.) It’s going to be a very long nine months.
* If we look at the paper itself, sans Dot Earth (sometimes even with Dot Earth unfortunately), compared to the Washington Post‘s coverage, The Times coverage
sucks is underwhelming. And I’ll be the first to claim that the Post‘s coverage isn’t what this existential global threat deserves. But, to name a few examples: from commentary in December on Hansen’s 350 to the escalating Antarctic melting to Juliet Eilperin’s coverage of Bush’s speech and their editorial on it – it seems like The Post has global warming prioritized several slots above The Times. So as global warming becomes “the issue” for even the comatose, may I suggest an up-tick in your coverage NY Times? Otherwise you might just be forfeiting the Pulitzers next year.
** To add insult to injury the “Earth day issue” of the NYT Magazine is a goddamn “catalog” about global warming — fetishizing and commodifying every conceivable aspect of the crisis.
*** David Roberts points out that Collins misconstrued the specifics of Bush’s original goal – while not distracting from the basic accuracy of he rargument.