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Can This Planet Be Saved? Not if conservatives rule

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"Can This Planet Be Saved? Not if conservatives rule"

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Great Paul Krugman column in the NYT today. And another absurd Charles Krauthammer column in the Washington Post today — yes, I know, that’s a dog bites man story (see Krauthammer’s strange denier talk points, Part 1: Newton’s laws were “overthrown” and Part 2: The real reason conservatives don’t believe in climate science).

They both teed off Nancy Pelosi’s statement that one of the reasons she was blocking a vote on coastal drilling was, “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet.”

Krugman understood that, notwithstanding the fact that offshore drilling would never have a significant impact on oil prices (see “The cruel offshore-drilling hoax“), she was talking about global warming: “Beyond that, Ms. Pelosi’s response shows that she understands the deeper issues behind the current energy debate.”

As Krugman points out, that point is utterly lost on Senator McCain, who has now become “a standard drill-and-burn Republican.” Krugman’s worry:

… if a completely bogus claim that environmental protection is raising energy prices can get this much political traction, what are the chances of getting serious action against global warming? After all, a cap-and-trade system would in effect be a tax on carbon (though Mr. McCain apparently doesn’t know that), and really would raise energy prices.

Exactly.

Needless to say, this point is entirely lost on Charles Krauthammer. Entirely.

His column on the subject never mentions global warming. He makes a completely bogus argument that drilling here makes more sense environmentally than drilling in Nigeria since America’s environmental laws are tougher than those around the planet:

The net environmental effect of Pelosi’s no-drilling willfulness is negative. Outsourcing U.S. oil production does nothing to lessen worldwide environmental despoliation. It simply exports it to more corrupt, less efficient, more unstable parts of the world — thereby increasing net planetary damage.

Does Charles Krauthammer really think that if we drill a little more here that the world won’t drill for oil in Venezuela and Equatorial Guinea and the Arctic with petroleum above $100 a barrel? This argument is so transparently nonsensical, I’m surprised even a blinkered columnist as Krauthammer would stoop to make it.

He then tries to blame the Democrats for pushing biofuels, when it was the 2005 Energy Bill, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by a Republican president, that doubled the corn ethanol mandate.

The Washington Post should be embarrassed to run Krauthammer’s column. But in the name of balance, mainstream newspapers have stuffed their op-ed pages with conservative no-nothings who continue to spread disinformation and undermine the opportunity for an informed debate might actually solve the nation’s and planet’s problem.

So the answer to Krugman’s question “Can this planet be saved?” is “not if conservatives rule.”

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17 Responses to Can This Planet Be Saved? Not if conservatives rule

  1. john says:

    At some point, newspapers have to stop hiring conservative pundits who have been wrong on EVERYTHING (sorry, not usually into caps, I’m a little desperate). The likes of Bill Kristol, Krauthammer — even Rove — are filling our airwaves and newspapers with nonsense, and nowhere are the tragic consequences more obvious than in the misinformation about energy and global warming. We have a national paralysis in the face of the biggest crisis this country has ever faced.

    Shouldn’t there be a standard that pundits at least got one big thing right, before they’re allowed to infect our public discourse? ONE THING? (sorry, caps again).

    Global warming? They were wrong, flat out. Wrong on the science, wrong on the solutions. Wrong. Deregulation? A series of speculative bubbles, record inequality in income disparity. Tax cuts? Record deficits. Iraq? Wrong war, badly conducted.

    So, at what point is successfully understanding the big issues before us a pre-requisite for punditry?

    The way things have been going in the MSM, You have to be wrong on just about everything, before you’re given a national forum to discuss anything.

    And as they work diligently to misinform us, the sands are running out of the hourglass, and 450ppm becomes an impossible dream.

  2. Ronald says:

    ah, but conservative pundits are not wrong on evergything. They are right in mythmaking. A nice soothing, comforting story that takes the blame off of me and onto someone else who is really trying to solve real problems is working well for them.

  3. Bob Wallace says:

    Are newspapers simply playing to their audience – older more conservative, less scientifically oriented people? The same sorts who listen to right wing radio?

    The only people that I know who read newspapers are folks older than me (and I’m in my mid-60s). People younger than I, whom I know, get their news on line.

    Sort of like an old-timers cafe that’s winding down as their patrons die out….

  4. Mark Shapiro says:

    A technical point, made so well by George Carlin: the planet will be fine. It’s our home – the liveability of our one and only planet – that’s at stake.

    I know that “saving the planet” is shorthand, but it’s just wrong, and bad rhetoric to boot.

    We need a better tagline. (I can’t beat Blue Man Group’s “Earth to America” performance, but I can’t reduce it to a sound bite.)

  5. Dano says:

    Krugman’s overarching point is really a lament about human nature and the human condition. Encapsulated in this cartoon (hopefully mouseover is enabled).

    And I second Shapiro’s point. We need to point out that our children will be screwed, not the planet. Our society has for too long been shielded from “nature” and its actions on nature. Too bad most humans have a poor capacity for thinking about the future beyond a week or so.

    Best,

    D

  6. Gareth Hyndman II says:

    If this question was already addressed in your blog, please just direct me to the thread.

    Okay, in my limited non-scientific understanding of global warming:
    - I believe that it is happening
    - I believe that mankind is contributing to global warming
    - I believe that the Holocene is an Ice Age and that we are presently in an interglacial
    - I believe that during the last warming 120,000 years ago, the sea levels were at least 6 meters higher than they are today
    - I believe that failure to reduce greenhouse gasses will accelerate global warming, however;
    - Based upon historical evidence – sea levels will eventually rise regardless of our conduct – and should the current Ice Age end, we may see even higher sea levels than potentially contemplated.

    So I guess my question is – why are we trying to stop this? Because we care about somebody elses beachfront property four generations from now instead of 100 generations from now?

    Its not like the threat of Nuclear Annihilation – where there was a serious possibility of leaving the planet lifeless. This is about deferring a future catastrophe from one generation to a more remote generation.

    Is that fair? Because I can imagine my great-great grandchildren – that makes it real – but their great-great grandchildren can develop gills for all I care. That just doesn’t seem right, especially in light that future technology will most likely not generate the kind of greenhouse gasses that we generate today.

    Life our tax and spend philosophy of large budget deficits to future generations, we are generating all the greenhouse gasses and then letting a future generation clean up the mess.

    Sounds like a bunch of “flat earther” B.S. Please help me understand where I am wrong.

  7. llewelly says:

    john:

    The way things have been going in the MSM, You have to be wrong on just about everything, before you’re given a national forum to discuss anything.

    That’s deliberate. It’s a purposeful destruction of the ability of the American voter to understand policy-making. This destruction of understanding cripples the ability of average Americans to influence policy-making. That results in a compensating increase in the influence of large corporations – which include most of what you think of as the ‘MSM’.

  8. Gareth Hyndman II says:

    Okay, so I think that maybe I found the thread where I can discuss my ideas.

    Okay, setting aside my earlier post – it is clear that you guys could use a more conservative person to discuss these issues with – it looks like nobody else wants to disagree or challenge your ideas.

    But I must first agree with one thing – I have always thought that Charles Krauthammer was a tool – Rush Limbaugh is an ass – Sean Hannity is a religious nut job – and don’t even get me started on those two crazy blonde bitches who I always get confused – laura Ingram and what is her fucking name – anyway.

    Guys – don’t you think “Global Warming” is the single most important problem facing the planet – a little hyperbole maybe?

    I know one of you is old enough to remember MAD and Reagan and the arms race and the fact that the Soviet Union was ready willing and able to conquer Europe at a moments notice.

    As for getting things right and wrong – don’t you think right and wrong have a “moral” connotation to them? I like to think that it is more about getting things correct and incorrect. Somebody calls me wrong, and I start to worry about whether or not they are going to start singing praises to allah and try to cut my head off.

    Seriously guys – we can solve all the problems of the world, right here in this blog, but not until both sides stop using language that is designed entirely to insense the opposition to irrationality and motivate your fellow believers to action.

    So guys, I am here to challenge your ideas, and maybe see the other side of the global warming debate – which has never been a debate about the existence of global warming (that canard is for people who can’t think for themsleves) but is a debate about the global allocation of resources. Who has them, who uses them, and who will benefit from them.

    Whats scary about all this – is that you might just discover that you are being manipulated yourselves.

  9. Andy P says:

    Gareth -

    The argument that – well the planet was going to warm anyway, we’re just making it happen sooner – no biggie, sounds very foolish to me.

    You know the sun is going to explode in another billion years – shouldn’t we be funding NASA more heavily so we have an exit strategy?

    Precisely when global warming occurs and how it effects human life is the critical question. The whole point of this blog is that human activity is accelerating global warming which will have a severe impact on the survival of the human race IN THE COMING CENTURY.

    And this blog has argued persuasively that we need to deploy our current technologies immediately to at the very least postpone the certain tragic consequences of greater than 400 ppm atmospheric carbon in this century.

    If, as you seem to argue, all we are doing is postponing the natural warming of the planet a few generations, then I’d say we are accomplishing something monumental to the preservation of human life.

    The more time we have to adapt to climate changes, the greater chances we have to prevent the catastrophic consequences of these changes. Ultimately, we will have to adapt or learn to control our climate as you seem to agree. But timing is EVERYTHING when it comes to survival.

  10. John Hollenberg says:

    > Guys – don’t you think “Global Warming” is the single most important problem facing the planet – a little hyperbole maybe?

    No, I don’t think it is hyperbole. Your logic seems pretty confused. You admit Global Warming is real, but don’t want to do anything about it? Have you read the articles on this blog? Are you familiar with the concept of “tipping points” (e.g., release of methane from Permafrost) and the scary fact that we don’t really know what degree of warming may trigger these positive feedbacks? Have you read the IPCC report summary? Do you realize that the IPCC report is most likely too conservative, and that the positive feedbacks are not accounted for in the models yet? Please educate yourself a bit more before posting.

  11. crf says:

    dotearth had an article about drilling in the US, rather than Nigeria for example, because drilling here would be cleaner with fewer social and human rights problems.
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/07/17/whos-backing-gingrichs-drill-here-drill-now-push/index.html?hp

    I didn’t buy the argument, because any new oil drilled in the US and Canada will not replace any Nigerian oil, since the world is already using oil beyond the capacity to drill it out. Oil is going to be drilled out of Nigeria, Period. Either it can be drilled out to the benefit of its people, which is something Americans ought to be interested in, or other companies (Chinese? Russian?) would drill it, and probably make a worse mess of things than Shell.

    Foreign oil companies drilling in Nigeria (for example) did not try very hard to reduce human rights violations, and no government (like the US or Dutch or UK governments) forced to companies to sign contracts with Nigeria to forcefully address those concerns. Instead, making as much money as possible has been the only concern of the oil companies, and the US, Dutch and UK governments, to say nothing of Nigeria’s government, which is incapable of representing its people.

    They could have signed contracts that guaranteed as much money to the Nigerian government as the ones actually signed, but reduced the profit oil companies would make selling the oil in order to properly compensate the people and protect the local environment, or even to have the UK, US and Dutch governments compensate those monies forgone by the oil companies doing that extra work.

  12. Ronald says:

    Without intentionally being dramatic, every age has it’s challenge.

    Where would we be if in the 1770, there weren’t enough people to fight for independence from Britain.

    What about the 1860′s and the attempt to keep this country together and then elimanating slavery. People were willing to move to unpopulated states so they would vote to be free states instead of slave states, thus throwing the balance to the Union. And they were to fight in a war.

    What about those who fought in all our wars? Or went to Iraq and Afghanistan?

    Or any of the other advances that humans have done, sometimes heroically.

    There have been some reports saying that the costs of reducing CO2 release enough to slow global warming before 2050 would cost between 0.6 percent and 1.5 percent of GDP. Not combat and risk getting killed or maimed. Not travel to foreign countries. Not long hours of backbreaking human labor. But a small fraction of our Gross Domestic Product.

    I prefer to call the crisis, Human Machine and Activity Global Warming.

    Human because why leave out the women, we may as well blame them also.

    Machine because by saying machine, people will get the idea that it’s not humans we have to change, but it’s our Machines that we have to change. Some of the Machines we use are, obviously, unhuman, but there is a point to the destinction. Instead of coal fired machines, we use solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear for electricity production. Instead of internal combution engines, we use electrical battery power in our vehicle where possible. Instead of poor design in our buildings that are inefficient and wasteful, we design and build into them efficiencies, solar collection for heat and solar lighting.

    We don’t have to make huge sacrifices like going to war to do all these things. We just have to do things smarter and with intention. And it would be a shame if we have gotten so lazy and corrupt to not do the right thing.

  13. red says:

    “After all, a cap-and-trade system would in effect be a tax on carbon (though Mr. McCain apparently doesn’t know that), and really would raise energy prices.”

    This is certainly a problem. A capable cap-and-trade system would have the effect of a historically large tax increase on consumers and business. It would have a significant harmful effect on the U.S. economy, affecting consumers and businesses alike. Some businesses may fold; others may move to countries without such systems. Some of the prominent likely countries that would benefit have a lot of other issues that make it unwise for us to help them grow. One particular one comes to mind with a harsh dictatorship, pollution, a huge population compared to available productive land, an aggressive stance toward neighboring countries, etc. Well, they have policies towards conservative journalists that might be admired by some.

    None of this is likely to make conservatives enthusiastic about cap-and-trade, though. On top of that, some proposals for a cap-and-trade system involve an auction where the proceeds are used to dramatically increase the size and power of the Federal government. I’m sure conservatives love to tax and spend and borrow and spend as much as liberals, but such a big government boost is against the typical theoretical conservative ideology, at least.

    Maybe the way to go with cap-and-trade is something like what Robert Reich (no conservative) suggested:

    robertreich.blogspot.com/2008/06/mccain-obama-and-cap-and-trade-we-need.html

    Instead of centralizing power even more in the Federal government with cap-and-trade proceeds (keep in mind that half the time your opponents will be in power), send it back to the citizens or taxpayers in a check, payroll tax cut, income tax cut, or whatever. This will soften the harmful effect of the pseudo-tax, will make the whole thing more politically palatable and sustainable, less subject to pork, etc.

  14. ecostew says:

    As we (globally) are confronted with AGW, we are facing energy security issues, including world-wide peak oil production with increasing demand, which sets the value of a drum of oil. Opening US sensitive environmental areas to offshore drilling will not increase peak oil production today or in 5-10 years as world-wide production declines. We must look to alternate sources of energy immediately for our transportation needs while addressing AGW e.g., renewable wind and solar. Oil shale is not a solution given its energy and water extraction demands, environmental destruction (including residues), and GHG emissions.

  15. shop says:

    They both teed off Nancy Pelosi’s statement that one of the reasons she was blocking a vote on coastal drilling was, “I’m trying to save the planet; I’m trying to save the planet.”

  16. porno says:

    Foreign oil companies drilling in Nigeria (for example) did not try very hard to reduce human rights violations, and no government (like the US or Dutch or UK governments) forced to companies to sign contracts with Nigeria to forcefully address those concerns. Instead, making as much money as possible has been the only concern of the oil companies, and the US, Dutch and UK governments, to say nothing of Nigeria’s government, which is incapable of representing its people.

  17. erotik says:

    This is certainly a problem. A capable cap-and-trade system would have the effect of a historically large tax increase on consumers and business. It would have a significant harmful effect on the U.S. economy, affecting consumers and businesses alike. Some businesses may fold; others may move to countries without such systems. Some of the prominent likely countries that would benefit have a lot of other issues that make it unwise for us to help them grow. One particular one comes to mind with a harsh dictatorship, pollution, a huge population compared to available productive land, an aggressive stance toward neighboring countries, etc. Well, they have policies towards conservative journalists that might be admired by some.