What are the moral implications of the Palin pick?

Consider this:

  1. McCain has a significant chance of dying in office.
  2. Palin is a global warming denier.
  3. If the the next president doesn’t provide very strong climate leadership at home and abroad then we have doomed our children and countless generations after them to ever worsening misery and suffering.

What is the morality of electing a President or Vice President who doesn’t understand the urgent need for very strong domestic action and international leadership to mitigate man-made climate change?

What does McCain’s choice of Palin say about whether he really considers global warming a priority issue, given that he put a global warming denier a heartbeat away from the presidency (see “No climate for old men“)? What does it say about his judgment? At least they found common, albeit Luddite, ground on renewable energy (see “Pork queen Palin is an earmark expert, NOT energy expert” and “The truly clean technologies don’t work”).

Let’s go through the three points:

1. Politico has published the actuarial analysis at “McCain and the politics of mortality“:

According to these statistics, there is a roughly 1 in 3 chance that a 72-year-old man will not reach the age of 80, which is how old McCain would be at the end of a second presidential term. And that doesn’t factor in individual medical history, such as McCain’s battles with potentially lethal skin cancer….

… for a man who has lived 72 years and 67 days (McCain’s age on Election Day this year), there is between a 14.2 and 15.1 percent chance of dying before Inauguration Day 2013

In short, there is a substantial chance that Palin could end up President.

2. Newsmax has Palin’s views on warming:

Q: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

A: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.

This makes Palin a typical conservative. A recent poll revealed that only 27% of Republicans believe the earth is warming because of human activity, such as the burning of fossil fuels (see “The deniers are winning, especially with the GOP“). Needless to say, if humans aren’t the cause of global warming, then it’s a random cycle that will eventually reverse itself, so you’d be crazy to mandate sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions like McCain (says he) wants.

Despite all the conservative blather about family values, if you are global warming denier, then you simply don’t care about the nation’s or the world’s children.

3. “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment,” warned IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri last fall when the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its major multi-year report synthesizing our understanding of climate science. And remember that Pachauri was handpicked by the Bush administration to replace the “alarmist” Bob Watson. It’s the facts that make scientists alarmists, not their politics.

Only a president who understands that humans are the cause of global warming can provide the aggressive leadership needed to achieve deep greenhouse gas emissions cuts in this country — and convince the rest of the planet, including countries like China, India, and Russia to join us. Only genuine presidential leadership on climate can avert centuries of misery, including many tens of feet of sea level rise, loss of fresh water supplies to a billion people, desertification of one third the planet, and extinction of more than two thirds of all species on land and sea (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 0: The alternative is humanity’s self-destruction“).

Global warming is, I argue, the only true preventable existential threat to the health and well-being of Americans. From a moral perspective, the stakes in this election could not be higher.

10 Responses to What are the moral implications of the Palin pick?

  1. Peter Black says:

    It’s all so odd Joe. Renewables only get lip service from some of the candidates yet they are more than ready to deliver us energy right now if we get on it and develop them. Alaska’s got the highest capacity for geothermal power in the nation. It could easily power the entire state. Why doesn’t it get done?

    I already know the answer.

    The moral imperative is important. Equally important is the notion of energy independence which we can also have by fully developing renewables. Efficiency is huge, yet it gets made fun of by certain candidates. Why? Who took the conserve out of conservatism?

  2. paulm says:

    That’s depressing.

    Whats the probability that McCain might die before the elections?

    Here is more alarming call to action…
    UK diplomat compares climate change to Cold War

    The United States and Europe should treat the challenge of fighting climate change even more seriously than they responded to the threat from the Cold War, a British diplomat said Wednesday.

    “It’s becoming better understood that this deep and rapid restructuring of the economy is essential if we are to sustain the levels of affluence that our public now takes for granted,”

  3. Robert says:

    I don’t understand why the issue of population growth never gets discussed. With 5 children Sarah Palin should be a prime target for the Democrats.

    Although the industrial revolution started 200 years ago, 60% of the rise in CO2 has happened in the last 50 years (320ppm to 385ppm). And the rate continues to rise exponentially. One big factor in this is POPULATION, which continues to grow both globally and in the US (200 -> 304 million in the last 30 years).

    Why do all parties, even the Green party, pretend this is not an issue?

  4. David B. Benson says:

    Robert — Rather than measuring CO2 via ppm, for its warming effect use the logarithm, as in

    log(385/320) = 0.0792898

    to compare to

    log(320/280) = 0.0579702

    or better

    log(385/280) = 0.13830

    Then 0.0792898/0.13830 = 0.5733,

    about 57%. (Or is this what you approximately did? Using the ppm I get about 17%.)

    Anyway, y6es the growth is approximately exponential in ppm so the warming effect grows linearly.

  5. Ronald says:

    There is a chance that McCain, at his age might die in office. But isn’t the chance for incapacity greater than dying. I’ve heard that’s the thing most people miss when planning for their estates and protecting their families.

    Something like Dean Johnson from South Dakota having a stroke. He can finish off his term as a Senator, because really they don’t do anything an. . . because he is one of a hundred instead of a president who would have to step aside.

  6. Bob Wallace says:

    Robert – the population/birth rate is dropping, especially so in the ‘developed’ world. Lots of the most industrialized countries are producing fewer children than they need in order to keep a stable population. Some countries have rapidly “aging” populations and looking to future problems of not having adequate young workers to keep their economies going.

    Most of population growth is taking place in places where people use comparatively little fossil fuels and add little to the global climate problem.

    Take a look at this chart.

    Notice that the world birth rate is dropping toward 2.1 births per woman, the replacement level.

    Current projects are that the world population will peak under 9 billion and then begin a gradual decrease. We can handle that if we don’t lose too much of our usable landscape to climate change.

  7. Bob Wallace says:

    The moral implications of the Palin choice?

    No one can make even a weak argument that Palin is ready to assume the Commander and Chief role. Nor is there reason to think that she could get ready in less than a couple of years.

    (And that’s assuming quite a bit of intelligence, which I’ve not seen displayed to date.)

    Palin is either 1) a campaign ploy to attract attention and women’s votes, or 2) the beginning process of grooming an electable Republican for 2012 or 2016.

    Either way putting Palin in as a potential Vice President is an immoral act on the part of John McCain.

    Were he selected (recall 2000) to be President and then die he would be leaving the US without adequate leadership.

    This choice is “Putting Republicans First”.

  8. jorleh says:

    This Palin woman is a catastrophe, even bigger than McCain, if possible.

    And a very likely president after some years.

    Our species going extinct with these last Adam and Eve. A rather ironical mishap.

  9. Robert says:

    Bob W,

    This chart shows that the only part of the world where population is stable and set to decrease is Europe. Everywhere else is sharply rising, notably the US (which, despite the rumours, I count as part of the developed world).

    A good part of the rise is down to life expectency. Whatever the reason all these beings have a carbon footprint, one that is expanding on a per-capita basis due to general increases in the standard of living.

    Ultimately I think the human race is just doing what every other species does – expanding its numbers to fit the (artificially elevated) carrying capacity of its environment. A die off phase will inevitably follow as fossil fuel depletes and the environment degrades.

    Still, for the time being lets party on and have 5 kids each.

  10. Bob Wallace says:

    Robert – look at the shape of the curves in the graph you linked.

    “Everywhere else is sharply rising” is a mis-characterization of what is presented. All the curves with the exception of Africa are showing signs of reaching a peak in the not too distant future.

    What we are seeing overall is that humans are not behaving like other species when it comes to population levels. Food is highly available in Western Europe but population is dropping rather than expanding to fit the carrying capacity.

    When people are adequately educated and when they have access to old age security *other than lots of children* they are choosing to have fewer children. In the most ‘old age secure’ places such as Europe and Japan people are choosing to have fewer children than required to maintain our high population levels.

    The least developed part of the world, Africa, is showing the most rapidly increasing population rates. As more manufacturing moves into Africa (largely via China moving factories there) we’ll likely see those rates drop as well.

    (That and getting rid of our “absence only” policies.)

    Remember that in rural societies children are an asset. All you have to do is to feed them and keep them alive and you can get useful very inexpensive labor from them. Create a cultural tradition and they will feed you when you get too old to provide for yourself.

    In a industrialized, urban society children are a liability. You have to feed and educate them until they are (at least) young adults. There’s no benefit from having a seven year around – no eggs to collect, no goat heard to watch. Then it’s fairly common for young adults to move away from the parents for education and employment rather than stick around and provide income.