Some pundits challenge my statement, “Future generations are likely to view Obamas choice of health care over energy and climate legislation as a blunder of historic proportions.”

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"Some pundits challenge my statement, “Future generations are likely to view Obamas choice of health care over energy and climate legislation as a blunder of historic proportions.”"

Here’s why they are wrong

Last week, I blogged on David Brooks’ counterfactual in which Obama tackled energy before health care.

I broke a cardinal rule of blogging — well, it would be a cardinal rule if blogging had any — in that I made a sweeping statement, but sent folks to my earlier post, “The failed presidency of Barack Obama, Part 1,” for the defense of that statement.  Few people click on links.  That is life on the blogosphere.

That said, I’ve been making the same essential point for a long time now — see my May Salon piece, “Will eco-disasters destroy Obama’s legacy?” and my January 2007 CAP piece, History Won’t Warm to “W”.

I think it’s obvious that failure to tackle climate legislation is a blunder of historic proportions — at least obvious to anyone who has read the recent climate science literature or talked to any significant number of leading climate scientists (see “An illustrated guide to the latest climate science” and “Real adaptation is as politically tough as real mitigation, but much more expensive and not as effective in reducing future misery“).  Sadly, that is not a large fraction of the pundit class or intelligentsia.

Anyone who writes on politics and policy for a general audience, especially someone who opines on global warming, must take the time to educate themselves seriously on this most important of issues beyond “I read an article in the New York Times….” or “This guy I trust on scientific matters tells me….”

Even so, I didn’t expect that my post and its final throw-away line would get read by the likes of Andrew Sullivan and Ezra Klein and Matthew Yglesias and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones and E. D. Kain (well, okay, I had no clue who Kain is).

In particular Kain and Sullivan demonstrate that they just don’t get it in their replies.  Sullivan simply excerpts Kain:

While certainly there is work to be done on the climate change front, the potential side effects of global warming are still a ways down the road, while the side effects of being uninsured are immediate. Similarly, the costs of future global warming are hard to predict, while the costs of not reforming our healthcare system are relatively easy to predict. In other words, climate change is something we are still on some levels unsure about – we know it’s happening, we know we’re contributing to it, but we don’t know exactly what will happen in the end and for most Americans, it’s still a fairly vague, abstract fear in any case. If you get really sick and don’t have insurance – that’s immediate. If you can’t get health insurance because you have health problems or you’re too old (but not old enough for Medicare), that’s a problem for the here and now. That’s a problem you can sink your teeth into. If you have a large carbon footprint, well, you’re probably not doing too bad.

Yeow! Hard to believe Sullivan would repost such silliness without any commentary at all.  Where to begin?

First and most narrowly, of course, I never said Obama shouldn’t do health care.  Health care reform is important, and getting more people insured is vital. The blunder isn’t so much that he chose to do health care before energy, it’s that, the way he pursued things, he ended up choosing health care over energy, which is what I said. Klein notes that in the second Presidential debate, Tom Brokaw said that some choices must be made between health and energy and other policies and asked “Which of those will be your highest priority your first year in office and which will follow in sequence?”  Obama said “Energy we have to deal with today….  we’ve got to deal with that right away….  Health care is priority number two.”

Anyone who talked to the White House last year when they flipped the order were reassured that “success breeds success” — passing health care would help an energy bill.  But given Obama’s catastrophically bad messaging along with his flawed strategy for getting a health care bill passed, which dragged on and on and on, it is obvious now in retrospect that only one of the two could be done.  Obama ultimately never seriously thought for climate legislation in 2010, and he never seriously tried to take the (second) greatest fossil fuel disaster in US history and use it to launch a major push for the bill.  And there is certainly little likelihood of comprehensive climate legislation for the next several years and possibly much longer — see “What are the prospects for comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation in the coming years “¦” — which just so happens to be the crucial time period for achieving a global deal or having any reasonable chance of averting catastrophic warming.

c_07252010.gif

Second, we’re seeing the “side effects” of global warming now, but more importantly, pretty much the entire discussion in the scientific literature (and the informed policy debate) is about the fact that there are so many lags in the climate system that if you don’t take action now or very soon, the likelihood you can avoid catastrophic impacts diminishes rapidly and costs shoot through the roof.  Here are two recent examples from the science literature:

As for the informed policy debate, last year, in releasing its World Energy Outlook, International Energy Agency Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka explained:

The message is simple and stark: if the world continues on the basis of today’s energy and climate policies, the consequences of climate change will be severe….

The IEA 450 scenario is the energy pathway to Green Growth. Yet we need to act urgently and now. Every year of delay adds an extra USD 500 billion to the investment needed between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector.

One might add, since neither Kain nor Sullivan actually specifies what they would do or when, substantial delay risks simply waiting so long that credible action to avoid multiple catastrophes simply becomes impractical.

Third, relatedly, the assertion that “the costs of future global warming are hard to predict….  climate change is something we are still on some levels unsure about – we know it’s happening, we know we’re contributing to it, but we don’t know exactly what will happen in the end” is misleading to the point of obfuscation.  As I’ve discussed countless times on ClimateProgress, continuing to do nothing for the foreseeable future eliminates most of the major uncertainty.  The costs of doing nothing are staggering — see Scientists find “net present value of climate change impacts” of $1240 TRILLION on current emissions path, making mitigation to under 450 ppm a must, and even that is a lowball estimate.

True, we don’t know exactly what will happen — we don’t know if continuing to do nothing will bring about multiple catastrophes (plausible best case on our current emissions path) or utterly destroy a livable climate with unimaginable consequences for human civilization and life on this planet (plausible worst case) — but we know what the science says.  At the risk of repeating myself for the umpteenth time in the small hope that one of the bloggers above might actually read this post, here is what we now understand we may very well face on our current emissions path:

And that isn’t the worst case:

Fourth, Kain asserts, and Sullivan reposts without comment, “and for most Americans, it’s still a fairly vague, abstract fear in any case.”  Even if that were true, that’s exactly why the so-called intelligentsia is supposed to take the time to educate themselves on matters of such grave importance so they can help inform the public.  If you never spell out precisely what will happen if we stay anywhere near our current path of unrestricted emissions, then obviously for many people, what will happen will remain vague and abstract — at least until you get smacked in the head like the citizens of Russia or Australia.

Fifth, and most absurd, Sullivan reposts Kain’s lines, “If you have a large carbon footprint, well, you’re probably not doing too bad.”  I do hope that you were wearing your head vise for that.  That is pretty much pre-French revolution, “Apr¨s moi, le d©luge” stuff.  It is precisely because we are the richest country in the world with the greatest cumulative contribution to global warming that we have an ethical duty to act now. As Tom Friedman wrote last year in “The Inflection Is Near?

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog climateprogress.org. We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks “” water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land “” and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate “¦’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

I elaborated on that here:  “Is the global economy a Ponzi scheme?

The Ponzi scheme is going to crash unless we act now, which, apparently we’re not going to unless the anti-science, pro-pollution conservatives, and team Obama, and the status quo media wake up soon.  The painful reality of what unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions mean is slowly dawning on countries like Australia and Russia, and in a few decades, every major country will be slammed with what used to be once-in-a-1,000-year droughts and floods and heat waves on a regular basis — and everybody will understand that we should have acted long ago when it was infinitely cheaper to do so and might have averted multiple catastrophes.

Again, Obama’s legacy “” and indeed the legacy of all 21st century presidents, starting with George W. Bush “” will be determined primarily by whether we avert catastrophic climate change. If not, then Obama “” and all of us “” will be seen as a failure, and rightfully so.

There would be no other way to judge all of us if we (and the rest of the world) stay on our current greenhouse gas emissions path, which risks warming most of the inland United States by nine degrees or more by century’s end and which could lead to sea levels 3 to 6 feet higher (rising perhaps a foot or more a decade after that), cause the Southwest “” from Kansas to California “” to become a permanent dust bowl, and transform much of the ocean into a hot, acidic dead zone (see “An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water “).

By the end of the third decade of this century, all of American life “” politics, international relations, our homes, our jobs, our industries, the kind of cars we drive “” will be forever transformed by the climate and energy challenge.

It’s the job of pundits to explain that to policymakers and the public.  Otherwise they are part of the problem and in the wrong line of work — see How the status quo media failed on climate change.

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62 Responses to Some pundits challenge my statement, “Future generations are likely to view Obamas choice of health care over energy and climate legislation as a blunder of historic proportions.”

  1. Ben Lieberman says:

    So what is the next step?

    [JR: Right now. Stop Prop 23. Turn out to vote if you care about global warming and clean energy so we don't take two steps backwards.]

  2. Colorado Bob says:

    NASA Satellites Reveal Surprising Connection Between Beetle Attacks, Wildfire

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/beetles-fire.html

  3. Wit'sEnd says:

    The depth of ignorance displayed by Andrew Sullivan is staggering – although he is likely correct in stating that “for most Americans, it’s still a fairly vague, abstract fear in any case.” – which is precisely WHY he should educate himself and then his readers as to WHY climate change is a much greater threat to our species than anything else imaginable.

    Andrew if you are reading these comments please go to my blog and find out why trees are dying and crops are stunted and shriveled, and more susceptible to insects, fungus, disease and adverse weather.

    People need to understand that toxic emissions from burning fuels are already causing the death of the entire forest ecosystem including all the species of plants and animals that depend on trees for food and habitat – and will inevitably lead to mass starvation. Plants are at the bottom of the food chain.

    And then Andrew please read up on ocean acidification or google the video “Acid Test”. That ecosystem is also collapsing and sadly, most of the oxygen we breathe comes from life in the sea.

    Maybe when people realize we depend on clean air and water for our very lives, switching to clean energy won’t seem quite so onerous and politically unfeasible.

    You owe it to your readers to delve into this subject and report on it accurately. Climate Progress is a great resource. BTW, Did you know ozone causes cancer, emphysema, asthma and diabetes?

  4. Colorado Bob says:

    Conventional wisdom holds that global warming is a losing issue for political candidates. But that’s certainly not the case in California, where Republicans are actually getting into trouble for opposing the state’s climate law:

    A November ballot measure that would rescind California’s landmark global warming bill until unemployment drops significantly has become an albatross for the Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129770242

  5. Leif says:

    You are the Man, Dr Joe.

    The GOBP has this Albatross firmly around its neck and the only way that they can see out of the dilemma is to try and convince the voters that it is in fact a bunch of flowers and hope no one notices the stench.

    Two Palms Up,

    Leif

  6. george ennis says:

    It’s time that we tell family , friends , colleagues that elections have consequences. The political leadership that is in place over the next decade will in my humble opinion be our last chance to begin the hard and difficult task of turning things around and still have a society and political system after 2050 we still recognize. Another 10 years and I suspect our collective ability as a civilization to turn things around will start slipping out of our hands. We will be faced with trying to allocate ever scarce resources to dealing with the side effects of climate change or making massive investments in green technology. I suspect healthcare budgets will be squeezed in this process.

    In Canada, I would say the time has come to place climate change as THE most important issue and vote for the party that most strongly supports efforts at reducing C02 emisions. (Hint: at the federal level it is not the Conservative Party led by Mr. Harper.)

  7. 1. This year, next year, and so on for a long time, insuring most health-uninsured Americans saves more American lives than passing climate legislation.

    2. A population with health care security is more likely to pass climate legislation than one without.

    Putting health care before climate was one of the few things Obama did right.

    [JR: Again, I wasn't arguing against health care reform. I am arguing against screwing it up as badly as he did and fundamentally making energy impossible (at least the way he was prepared to go about it). Obama made it either one or the other. I doubt that was the only choice.

    It will be interested to see if the bill save lives. I hope so.

    Your point #2 is beyond wishful thinking. It has no basis whatsoever in fact. Indeed, from a political perspective, in this world, the reverse appears to be true. Obama so screwed up the messaging and strategy that in this country, passing his version of healthcare security has made passing climate legislation in a timely fashion far, far less likely.]

  8. Colorado Bob says:

    “In the year 2000 this solar water heater behind me will still be here supplying cheap, efficient energy,” he said. “A generation from now this solar heater can either be a curiosity, a museum piece, an example of a road not taken, or it can be just a small part of one of the greatest and most exciting adventures ever undertaken by the American people.”

    What happened?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/09/AR2010090905173.html

  9. NeilT says:

    Peter Brawley articulates the whole problem perfectly.

    People who are comfortable and secure rarely take difficult decisions.

    Also, to be healthy you need food and water. Neither of which are guaranteed within the lifetime of anyone over the age of 21.

    When people scratched a living form the ground they fully understood that their health and wellbeing depended heavily on the climate around them. Now that people buy their food from supermarkets and get their water from pipes; they seem to think that it will keep on going forever so long as they have money to pay for it.

    Very few people actually understand the interconnected nature of society today. If it falls, it falls all the way, way below the 1800′s all the Anti AGW crowd say we are pushing them back into.

    Clean energy is not a comfort or security blanket decision.

    It’s survival.

  10. Colorado Bob says:

    JR -
    RE : Health v. Energy
    Rahm Emanuel’s finger prints are all over this choice.

  11. Wit'sEnd says:

    Colorado Bob, #2,

    “When ozone injury is severe, the disruption in biological processes in the needles eventually leads to accelerated needle loss, which leads in turn to a reduction in crown vigor, leaving the damaged pines more susceptible to secondary stress organisms. Researchers examined the relationships between ozone pollution and bark beetle attacks on ponderosa pines and found that trees with severe ozone injury suffered changes to the structure and chemistry of the phloem tissues, reducing the natural resistance of the trees to bark beetle attack (Cobb et al. 1968, Cobb and Stark 1970).”

    Despite the well-researched connection between pollution and insect attacks, some researchers persist in the fantasies expressed by those in the NASA release you linked to:

    “‘Both fire and beetle damage are natural parts of system and have been since forests developed,’ Townsend said. ‘What we have right now is a widespread attack that we haven’t seen before, but it is a natural part of the system.’

    Renkin agrees with the assessment. ‘Disturbances like insect outbreaks and fire are recognized to be integral to the health of the forests,’ he said, ‘and it has taken ecologists most of this century to realize as much. Yet when these disturbances occur, our emotional psyche leads us to say the forests are ‘unhealthy.’ Bugs and fires are neither good nor bad, they just are.’”

    hahaha – natural! – LMAO

    I wonder why these researchers don’t want to make the connection between forest decline and fuel emissions??? hmmmm….

  12. LucAstro says:

    Even in the case of health care, we do not know exactly what will happen in specific situations. Which Gran Ma will be treated or will be lost? Which Insurance Companies will do well? Which hospitals may get crowded? We know more about the weather in a sense since we can make decent calculations on the probability of which areas will mostly be affected or not (and by which calamity). Simply because scientists use a jargon that is probabilistic while politicians speak as they know it all, does not mean that global warming is somewhat uncertain and won’t happen.

  13. Dan B says:

    Peter Brawley @7;

    To your point about Health Care saving more lives that will be increasingly difficult to calculate. Most of the reforms will be in place by 2014, unless Rep. Boehner becomes Speaker in 2011.

    By then what happened in Russia and Pakistan may be underway in the dear old USA. Russia’s mortality rate doubled during the heat wave and the rate has continued as people finally succumb to illnesses precipitated by the heat and fires. Pakistan’s population is at risk of famine and water borne plagues. Food riots have begun because of dramatic increases in the price of wheat.

    Comparing Health Care to Global Warming is not effective if the health care system is unprepared for the coming decade’s catastrophes.

  14. Colorado Bob says:

    Wit @ 11
    The fires in BC the past month are burning in the heart of where the beetle kill first appeared in great numbers.

  15. Preston Wright says:

    I am resigned to the fact that the U.S. does not act until there is an emergency and in this case we will not either. Russia/Pakistan and a host of other similar catastrophes will be hitting our shores soon enough. Let us hope we still have real leadership in place to take decisive and massive action or it will be every man for himself on the USS Titanic…that didnt turn out so well.
    Demographically this country begins to become much more progressive in 2012 and beyond with the Millennial generation. We better be prepared to be extremely aggressive after that in rooting out the old guard as quickly as possible.

  16. Colorado Bob says:

    Wit @ 11
    The fires burning in Boulder have a lot of beetle kill standing in those woods.
    40.000 acres at last estimates ……

    http://www.frontrangepinebeetle.org/

  17. Sasparilla says:

    Well said Joe, thank you. Just to put my $0.02 in.

    To all the people that “it’s still a fairly vague, abstract fear in any case.”. Just because you aren’t seeing / understanding something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Short version of the problem – you can’t wait till it warms up even more, later, to start dealing with things – it’ll be too late, here’s a short why:

    1. There are a bunch of things called feedbacks / tipping points (permafrost, clathrates, Amazon drying up and burning etc.), that mother nature, when its warm enough, will kick in and release so much CO2 and methane gases that this whole CO2 geo-engineering experiment humans are currently in control of, will be taken out of our hands and we will no longer be able to stop the process.

    2. It takes a long time after the CO2 is released from your tail pipe, or power plant etc. before the atmosphere temperature warms up to a stabile point as a result of that extra green house gas. The time is somewhere between 30-40 years because the oceans act as a drag on the temp increase. So even after we stop every CO2 emission out there we can look forward to almost another half century of continued warming afterwords. This means that once we decide to reduce emissions you’ll be looking at more than 50 years of continued warming.

    3. Once these feedbacks and tipping points are crossed and mother nature takes over (and we no longer can stop the process) we will be on our way to a 1000ppm CO2 atmosphere before the end of the century, the results will be so horrendous they are almost hard to comprehend. Shoot over 1000ppm and estimates for human population on planet earth by around 2100 or so range from 3 billion to less than a billion depending on the scientist your talking to (we’re at 6 billion now climbing to 8 billion in the next decade or two) – modern society will be destroyed.

    This is literally the future of our kids and grandkids at stake – blow that (which we’re doing and Pres Obama chose) and health care won’t matter as our country and most of human society will disintegrate long before the end of the century.

  18. William P says:

    What future generations? James Lovelock has said he expects within as few as ten years global warming to tip to heat extreme enough to destroy our food crops. No food means no humans. Get it?

    We dance around this conclusion, stated by Lovelock, but suspected by many more. We dare not look directly at it.

    Its too grim. In cartoons little men in white gowns have been mocked for saying “THE END IS NEAR” as long as I can remember.

    This time its true. This time the “little men” are hard core scientists packing lots of convincing evidence.

    Our gut wants us to believe instead the Deniers. Our head says otherwise.

  19. Edward says:

    There is a time limit. It is a very short fuse. Would you rather be sick or extinct?

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/08/monckton-makes-it-up/comment-page-6/#comments
    comment # 253
    Barton Paul Levenson says:
    11 August 2010 at 6:05 AM
    Speaking of catastrophic…
    Dr. Aiguo Dai was kind enough to point me to his team’s collected drought database on line and explain to me how to use it. I have put together annual time series for what I’m calling F, the fraction of Earth’s land surface in “severe drought” by the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI <= 3), and P, the mean global PDSI.
    I've tentatively fit the first with a cubic [!] equation. Still have to correct for autocorrelation and so on, but given that human agriculture collapses when F hits 70%, my very preliminary estimate is that this happens in 2037 AD, give or take five years. The 70% number is of course debatable, as is my curve-fit (N = 136, R^2 = 0.55). I'm working on refining my statistical analysis in hopes of publishing a paper about this.
    For those who care, F was 5% in 1870, 12% in 1970, hit a temporary peak of 31% in 2003, and is currently at 21%. It's a very variable series, which is NOT good news. The reason why is left as an exercise for the student.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/08/doing-it-yourselves/comment-page-2/#comments
    Comment 74
    . Second estimate: 2051 is the year the fraction of Earth’s land surface in severe drought hits 70%, and global human agriculture collapses. My previous estimate was 2037, so we’re a little better off.
I’ve written up the statistical analysis as an article. I’ve asked Tamino to check the statistical work; waiting for his reply. Would any pro climatologists be willing to look at the article before I submit it? I desperately want this to pass peer review.
 And if I’m right, the word has to get out. Soon. Please help.

    Reference: "The Long Summer" by Brian Fagan and "Collapse" by Jared Diamond. When agriculture collapses, civilization collapses. Fagan and Diamond told the stories of something like 2 dozen previous very small civilizations. Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes. In some cases, all of that group died. On the average, 1 out of 10,000 survived. Extinction is a real possibility.

  20. William P says:

    The comment above says 2051, not 2037 for collapse of agriculture due to drought. Do we really believe we can predict a chaos system like atmosphere so precisely. Its pretty hard to accept, especially when IPCC models have proved so flawed.

    Regarding the “extinction” issue: Lovelock feels man will survive in polar regions in small numbers. Hansen suggests warming will consume the whole earth until we are like Venus. That is, no life whatsoever left. He talks about “run away” heating. (The Vanishing Face of Gaia – Lovelock; Storms of my Grandchildren – Hansen)

    Where do other respected scientists come down – salvation for a small part of mankind, or a fireball Earth?

  21. NeilT says:

    Edward, whilst I respect the work you are doing, the historical references to civilisations killed off by drought and climate simply won’t wash with the bulk of the skeptics.

    It’s not possible to compare people who lived off the land with crude tools with a society spanning the globe having global transport and the, quite literal, ability to make water where it’s needed for agriculture.

    So whilst your message is critically important, the presentation needs to fit the audience.

    Yes we can make water to make crops grow.

    But only for about 1 Billion people

    Yes we can transport food all over the world for those who can afford it.

    But only for about 1 Billion people.

    Now

    If you are wondering if you are one of the 6 Billion who’s not going to get food or water; the answer is categorically YES. Because the 1 Billion who can always afford to survive already know the problem and have the solution.

    That is the message the doubters and deniers need to get!

  22. Mark says:

    Leif says:
    September 10, 2010 at 11:25 am

    “You are the Man, Dr Joe.”

    I agree.

    Thanks Joe.

  23. Wit'sEnd says:

    I can’t believe it. Now I really am fed up. Obama turned down the solar panels!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/10/solar-panels-white-house

  24. William P says:

    Neil,

    Somebody “has the solution”? Who are they? What form is their “solution”?

    If there is a solution why didn’t Russia save 25% of their wheat crop from global warming this summer? A “solution” for the wealthy implies a ready infrastructure to provide that solution to them. I don’t see that.

    As events like the Russian wheat crop destruction become more common, and perhaps many such events hit at once all over the world, the public will suddenly “get it” and super markets will be instantly emptied.

    Probably certain areas of the world at that point will still have agriculture, but they may hoard what they grow. Where will those with means go for food then? I suppose they could arrange to acquire food from existing stores of grain, beans and other food. But government may quickly lock those up for feeding the masses, as much as that would be possible.

    I remember when the Middle East cut gas supplies to the US. People got pretty nasty very fast, desperately trying to get the gas they needed to get to work and to the market. Some entity should be thinking of all this. Government is the obvious entity. Instead Parties focus on Koran burning and death panels and stem cells.

  25. homunq says:

    I like the talking point: “If you’re wondering if your family would survive the business-as-usual scenario, the answer is no. The people who would survive aren’t wondering, they’re preparing.”

    Three choices: save the planet, get rich and lucky and save yourself, or die.

  26. John McCormick says:

    Joe, again you have topped your best post.

    Though, I, as one citizen having voted for President Obama, have from the beginning of his adminsitratino worried that he is a great thinker and a poor manager. He surrounded himself with Wall Street types how have no economic struggles to temper their thinking and strategies. So, they led with huge benefits for the culprits and left us wage-earners and unemployed to struggle for ourselves.

    It was not the 18 month health care bat;e that has hurt him and our chances to retain the House and Senate in the next Congress. HE FAILED TO FOCUS ON JOBS AND SOME BE

  27. Peter Sergienko says:

    Doing health care first also showed us a lot about the political process, especially the likely failure of incrementalism, in dealing with large-scale problems that require rapid and fundamental change.

    There clearly isn’t political agreement on the basic issue of whether the health of our citizenry is a valid national objective and priority (i.e., is access to health care a right or a privilege?). Assuming that health care is a valid governmental objective, our health care system should be designed to deliver the best possible care to the people at the least possible cost. This would have required radical change (e.g., medicare for all) not the tweaks to the private insurance system that we got. Almost no one stood up for the proposition that health care is a right or that it is perverse to operate a for profit health care system. Radical change consistent with a position based on human rights was never seriously on the table. Thus, from the beginning of the process, the best advocates for change could hope for was some measure of compromise that would largely preserve the existing (and ill-functioning) system.

    Sadly, with global warming, there isn’t political agreement on the scientific truth that human greenhouse gas emissions cause global warming. The political disagreement on the role of government in providing access to health care seems quaint and polite compared to the political disagreement on the need to reduce human greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, the political obstacles to transformation of our energy delivery and transportation systems, from their reliance on fossil fuels to systems that employ all the necessary wedges to radically reduce this reliance, are so strong that the Senate cannot get the votes to pass even a highly compromised bill that would begin, incrementally, to address the problem. By taking a very cautious and incremental approach to health care reform, the administration surely emboldened (as if they needed it) opponents of the reforms necessary to address greenhouse gas emissions.

    Although a less than perfect health care delivery system may still literally be fatal to those who are not served by it, the complete lack of reform to the fossil fuel economy that we continue to face (at least in terms of federal legislation) seems to presently impose (or will soon impose) unacceptable risks to the entirety of humanity. At best and at present, we’re left to argue about the magnitude of the risks, the costs to reduce or avert them, and, from an ethical and moral standpoint, what level of risk we’re willing to accept (or perhaps better, said, what level of risk are we willing to impose on our future selves and our descendants).

    Like just about everyone else who writes comments here, I’m confounded and incredibly frustrated by the lack of leadership in the fight against global warming, in all sectors of our common life, to frame the debate in terms of what is at stake. Certainly we have important voices and leaders in the environmental and scientific communities such as Joe, Gail (Wit’s End), Bill McKibben and Jim Hansen who do understand and communicate what is at stake consistently and effectively. However, President Obama, Congressional leaders, Fortune 100 CEO’s, editors of major newspapers, religious leaders and so on must understand what is at stake and must communicate it effectively to the public in order to create the necessary political space to address global warming. Our primary job as citizens is to put as much pressure on these folks as possible to do just that.

  28. John McCormick says:

    Joe, I am continuing my #26 comment.

    BENEFITS FOR HOMEOWNERS BARELY ABLE TO KEEP UP PAYMENT OR REFINANCE FROM ARMS AND INTEREST ONLY MORTGAGES.

    Had he taken George Soros’ advice and forced mortgage interest rates down in March 2009, he would have kicked the very banks and institutions that drove our economy to its knees but would have freed up many billions of dollars consumers would have to purchase goods and services. Too late. Now, the President and we will pay the price. Not because of health care but because he abandoned the working class.

    It is not about health care or lack of a cap and trade bill that Americans are angry about. It is the bills they are paying and having no job security or even a job.

    The learned few will rewrite the past 21 months of his administration however their political inclinations dictate. But, the truth that voters vote with their pocketbooks and wallets is and has always been the deciding factor.

    We have lost more than three or four years of trying to achieve a US mitigation program. We will lose until the US economy is strong enough for voters to think beyond their checkbooks. I have no hope that this or the next administration will return any level of prosperity to America.

    John McCormick

  29. fj2 says:

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08/30/100830fa_fact_mayer
    “Covert Operations,” Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, Aug 30, 2010

    It seems clear that the president was indeed doing battle with energy special interests with health care reform:

    Excerpts from “Covert Operations”

    Americans for Prosperity also created an offshoot, Patients United Now, which organized what Phillips has estimated to be more than three hundred rallies against health-care reform. At one rally, an effigy of a Democratic Congressman was hung; at another, protesters unfurled a banner depicting corpses from Dachau. The group also helped organize “Kill the Bill” protests outside the Capitol, in March, where Democratic supporters of health-care reform alleged that they were spat on and cursed at. Phillips was a featured speaker.

    . . .

    As the first anniversary of Obama’s election approached, David Koch came to the Washington area to attend a triumphant Americans for Prosperity gathering. Obama’s poll numbers were falling fast. Not a single Republican senator was working with the Administration on health care, or much else. Pundits were writing about Obama’s political ineptitude, and Tea Party groups were accusing the President of initiating “a government takeover.” In a speech, Koch said, “Days like today bring to reality the vision of our board of directors when we started this organization, five years ago.” He went on, “we envisioned a mass movement, a state-based one, but national in scope, of hundreds of thousands of American citizens from all walks of life standing up and fighting for the economic freedoms that made our nation the most prosperous society in history. . . . Thankfully, the stirrings from California to Virginia, and from Texas to Michigan, show that more and more of our fellow-citizens are beginning to see the same truths as we do.

  30. Wit'sEnd says:

    Edward, agriculture is going to collapse before drought (and floods) from climate change finish it off, because of the air pollution. Look at organic produce. Without the petroleum based insecticides, fertilizers and fungicides, crops are already stunted and by soils depleted of nutrients by acid rain and monoculture – and insects, fungus and disease encouraged by ozone.

    I highly recommend people actually take a look at some leaves. They ain’t what they used to be.

  31. fj2 says:

    27. fj2 continued,

    Personal opinion

    It is absolutely mindboggling the level of incompetence of many in positions of power.

    And, it is too easy to assume that people in power have access to special information on which decisions are made.

    Despite both of these ideas and the many of the critiques of the president it does seem that he has considerable command of the difficult position in which he took charge.

    He has DoE secretary Steven Chu and he has to know what is going on.

    Ultimately, it’s the likes of Koch Industries that is literally holding this country hostage.

  32. hapa says:

    the conservatives and the banksters like to tell their story that, instead of reeling in the wary wake of a financial crash & wealth loss, the economy is stagnant now because the president is making business people nervous. previous to that they blamed poor black borrowers for bankers’ loose lending practices; previous to *that* they said there was no housing bubble, while selling bets that things would soon crash; so obviously they say what they say, and it’s nothing, or it’s the opposite of real.

    what we know is that the american ways of pirate finance, extortionary medical, and childish resource management have no future. either they fail and take us down, or we change them and get a good solid footing in the wild weird century to come.

    but at present these three industries are richer than they’ve ever been, and more politically influential, because our national elections are too expensive, and because our civil society has rarely been weaker. the corrupt sickness of the status quo shows how our civil immune system has degraded. our workers have taken cuts in pay, to see their employers pocket the cash or send it overseas. where is the patriotism of the upper tax brackets? where’s the vision, the basic knowledge of economics?

    like joe said what we know is that 20 years from now the ecological stuff will have changed our lives, we can’t overpower it, we can’t wish it away, we can’t argue with the sky and the sea that change should come only as fast as fits our business contracts and our mortgage payments.

    it isn’t a question of whether we’ll adjust, or how fast: it’s how well.

  33. Michael Tucker says:

    This comment is most telling: “the potential side effects of global warming are still a ways down the road” Side effects? What does this deep thinker imagine the MAIN effects would be? It is obvious he thinks that the floods, heat waves, and droughts experienced so far have nothing to do with global warming and we have plenty of time before the ‘side effects’ occur.

    Is it possible that the president and his science advisers also think we have plenty of time to take action? So catastrophic climate change is still “a ways down the road.” Is it so far down the road that some who HAD advocated for immediate action have since changed their mind?

    John Holdren wrote an article titled ‘One Last Chance to Lead’ in 2008 before the election and his selection to be Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. In that article he said, “Even with uncertainties, there is reason to believe that tipping points into unmanageable changes will become much more probable for increases larger than two degrees C.” and “There is no way to keep the temperature increase under two degrees C unless these big emitters [the US and the other nations that top the list] start taking serious action almost immediately.”

    Are we to assume that since the Whitehouse did nothing to pass climate legislation, and from their dismal messaging on the problem, that 2 degrees C is no longer a concern? I guess I just don’t understand what Holdren means by “almost immediately.” Apparently it means that action is also a ways down the road.

    You can see that article here:
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-future-of-climate-change-policy

  34. Claudia F. says:

    Absolutely, climate and energy legislation should have come before health care. I have worked in social justice for over a decade before shifting my focus to climate. In fact, I was involved on a state level in campaigning on health care in the early 90s. Close to four years ago, I co-founded a volunteer group to help educate our neighbors about the implications of climate change and to help pass climate protection legislation. I am not even getting paid, but I have small children who will be dealing with the impacts of global warming on a huge scale in their lifetime.

    I think that utter confusion about the threat posed climate change is legion in this country, which is an issue that movement leaders do not seem to fully understand. As someone who talks with so-called average citizens about climate change almost every day, I am often appalled at the level of ignorance even among people with impressive levels of education. That people of the intelligentsia lack a basic understanding of the facts is a depressing and sad state for the country in general and for me and my friends in particular as we spend time and money we don’t have to bring people like Drew Shindell and Gavin Schmidt of GISS, and Allan Frei of CUNY into our neighborhood to educate citizens about the urgency of taking political action on comprehensive energy and climate legislation.

  35. fj2 says:

    #32 Michael Tucker, “almost immediately”

    Can mean anything. This is such a maddening state of affairs that it is easy to hyper-sensitive to nuance.

    A war-like state of governance to battle climate change, no matter how benevolent, is not something taken on lightly; yet, it seems to be inevitable.

  36. NeilT says:

    William #24

    When I say they have the solution I mean that this planet, even with 75% of it’s agruculture production damaged, can still support about 1 Billion with the technology we have today. Look up drought proof wheat in Australia as an example.

    However the solution is that those who can afford it will always be fed and watered. Those who can’t will not.

    It is a reality which people need to wake up to. The question is not whether the human race will survive, that is a given. The human race could survive on the moon today.

    The challenge is making people listen to those who care about them rather than those who couldn’t care less. The question “are you feeling lucky” should be one that everyone should ask themselves in relation to climate change and their ability to survive it in a BAU scenario…..

  37. Matt Dernoga says:

    I’m of the opinion the choosing health care first was a massive botch that is a blunder of historic proportions. Obama had a lot of political capital in the first 9 months of his presidency, and he blew it on health care. It doesn’t matter what the politics were or which one puts more points on the board. If you understand the consequences of climate change the slightest bit, you morally have to go all-out on climate legislation first.

  38. Bob Lang says:

    Neil #36 “solution”

    I can see the headline now:

    “Drought-proof Australian wheat turns Sahara Desert into bread basket of the world”

  39. NeilT says:

    Bob #38

    I did say “Drought Proof” Not “Desert Proof”….. LOL

  40. paulm says:

    Even people who are suppose to, don’t get risk management!

    We really need to start a high shrill, beginning with scientist and leaders.
    Examples are Gore, prime minister of Mauritius and Hansen. They get it.
    To say they are alarmist with out proper analysis and in-depth investigation is just Brainless Frog syndrome.

  41. paulm says:

    Wit’s, I am absolutely gutted also. Obama has become a foot note.

    He has really messed up. I only hope things don’t really start going downhill in terms of integrity.
    The pressure on the US to try to maintain is standing and standard of living is going to test its integrity and constitution.

  42. paulm says:

    Hansen as indicated that the collapse could start – precipitously – (really it is underway now) within the century.

    http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fbigthink.com%2Fjameshansen&h=68c2e

  43. jyyh says:

    Obama just made an ad to fossil fuel industry. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/sep/10/solar-panels-white-house
    Predicting a recession to begin in 10, 9, 8, …

  44. Tom Gibbons says:

    Doing health care instead of climate was a blunder OK, but it was more of a senate blunder than an Obama one. I think the administration counted senate votes and decided climate had no chance but that health care did. The senate, due to the filibuster rules, needs nearly every Democrat and one or two Republicans to pass something like the climate bill, and they just didn’t have them. Every Republican and at least six or eight Democrats were opposed. So they moved to something they thought they could pass. Also, I don’t think they knew that doing health first was going to take so long and sacrifice so much. I don’t claim the administration is blameless, but to zero in on Obama as the arch villain is to risk shattering the kind of coalition that is needed for “Climate Progress”.

  45. Edward says:

    20 William P: Take a probability & statistics course that requires laboratory work. If your doctor said: 40% of the people with your condition get better and 60% die” I suppose you would ask whether you are in the 40% or the 60%. And it is 41 years + or – 5 years.
    If anybody survives, it will be a tribe of stone agers who live in some place so remote that they haven’t been discovered yet.

    Our high technology doesn’t protect us from the collapse. It only insures that the collapse will be global rather than local. That means that, since there will be no place out of range on this planet, survival is LESS likely. Previous survivors were those who wandered in the right direction to find food. Extinction is MORE likely.

  46. John McCormick says:

    NeilT at #36

    You said,

    “The question is not whether the human race will survive, that is a given.”

    When the positive feedback of methane and CO2 from melting permafrost, tundra and shallow ocean clathrates kick in, civilization ceases to be.

    It is a reality which YOU need to wake up to.

    John McCormick

  47. Deborah Stark says:

    NeilT Post #9

    Excellent post.

    Even those of us who have deep appreciation for and frequent direct engagement with nature don’t, I think, fully realize how thoroughly we all have been acculturated to consider ourselves as being separate and distinct from the natural realities upon which we depend for our survival. We are, instead, acculturated to think of ourselves as being in CONTROL of the natural world.

    We need to cultivate and sustain a respectful working relationship with nature.

  48. William P says:

    Neil #36

    John #46 has it right. Your assumption that man will always survive seems, excuse me, naive. Animals go extinct all the time. Why not man?

    I would like to see a big climate conference with experts like Hansen and Lovelock and many more top people. Plus people like those writing into this blog in attendance. It would be great. It would generate a lot of publicity about the dark seriousness of global warming. We need to counter act the Denier industry, funded by big oil (much like big tobacco convinced us cigarettes were harmless for 50-60 years).

    Climate Progress would be the perfect host. Have it in a central location (but it would probably be in Washington or New York – they get everything!)

    Climate Progress could organize volunteers to plan this conference. I sense a lot of talent around this blog to do that.

    John points out the threat of extinction of man. But James Lovelock seems to believe man could survive in the far north (or south). James Hansen believes we face run away heating, ending in a fireball earth – if we let CO2 continue to build. I’d like to know where other scientists (the best ones) come down – survival being possible, or impossible. Anyone have comments on this? Thanks.

  49. Richard Brenne says:

    William P (#48) – Great idea! I totally agree! I’ve produced and moderated about 50 hours of such events with Bill McKibben, Kevin Trenberth, Brian Toon, Al Bartlett, James Howard Kunstler, Diane McKnight and many others who have thought about this stuff most deeply with the most expertise.

    Including Joe Romm, Jim Hansen and James Lovelock with these others is my dream. How about it Joe? rabrenne@hotmail.com

  50. David Ferrell says:

    William P #48 asks:

    “James Lovelock seems to believe man could survive in the far north (or south). James Hansen believes we face run away heating, ending in a fireball earth – if we let CO2 continue to build. I’d like to know where other scientists (the best ones) come down – survival being possible, or impossible. Anyone have comments on this?”

    This is basically the same question you raised a few days earlier (in Comment #9, on September 7, 2010 at 12:34 am) at

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/09/06/newark-star-ledger-climate-change-is-unfolding-as-predicted/

    I posted a substantial reply (Comment #38, September 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm) at the bottom of the same page, which you can find by accessing the link.

    The matter of where leading scientists stand on the question is complicated but fascinating and I went into some considerable detail in discussing it, as a number of side issues came up in the process. There is, however, a broad consensus within the scientific community that in the “worst case” scenario of unrestrained fossil-fuel emissions over the next century human survival would be severely threatened, as drastic climate changes would almost certainly result.

  51. William P says:

    David (#49) Thanks for this post. No, sorry, I missed your response, but will go look at it now. I appreciate the response.

    James Lovelock and James Hansen are two very good scientists – perhaps the two very best – yet they seem to disagree on the final chapter of global warming.

    In your post above, you say, “in the “worst case” scenario of unrestrained fossil-fuel emissions over the next century human survival would be severely threatened, as drastic climate changes would almost certainly result.” This statement seems to come down on the side of James Hansen – no survival for man.

    This is a very important question. I see no hope for curbing CO2 emissions. Any rational person looking at the total and irresponsible reaction of nations and many people in those nations (espec the US) cannot possibly conclude we will stop emissions. Greed, desire of underdeveloped nations to catch up and reap the benefits of modern technology – these forces are the ones with the momentum. Not forces working to curb CO2. Its the only honest conclusion.

    So the question becomes – can we survive when the worst happens by migrating or other means? Or is it not possible. If we have a shot at survival all the emphasis now by serious people thinking about this and working on it should be to plan that survival strategy – its means, the part to be played by governments, by private concerns and related work.

    “Human survival would be severely threatened, as drastic climate changes would almost certainly result.” I still want to know – a best guess by top minds – will survival be possible, and if so, how?

    That said, I realize there is a lot of uncertainty, but what is the best, most informed guess – survival or no survival?

  52. Leif says:

    William P @ 51:
    Any sort of survival will require mitigation efforts soon. Even then humanity is looking at significant stress that will be amplified by the actions of desperate people. Agriculture failures around the world will drive up food prices, boxing out the already poor. Many will die, as is happening in Africa even today, and surely will be happening in Pakistan as winter sets in. Most of those lives lost however, already have minimal carbon footprints. CO2 will continue to climb until the carbon stompers experience an Epiphany. Present indicators imply that if that Epiphany happens at all it will more than likely be too late for mitigating actions. There for, Humanity is toast. It may well be that there will be pockets of survivors scattered here and there for some time. However all the things that make civilization function will be torn asunder and all the money in the world will not be able to rectify it. The rich think that their riches will be able to buy themselves security. When the realization of the deception that the rich have sold to the masses sinks into the collective consciousness “rich” is one of the last things I would want to be. Would you sell your food to the folks responsible for the “end of the world”? I damn sure would not.

    Between now and then the rich will be hiring mercenaries to collect resources, think food, from those that might have it forcing you, if you have some, to defend your meager supplies. It will all get quite ugly and tribal. Just what is survival if you and yours are not among the counted?

    The End… Tick-tock, Tick-tock…

  53. Ed Hummel says:

    Leif @52, good summary of what realistic scenarios would look like. I think the major disparity between Lovelock and Hansen is the endgame. Hansen pointed out in his recent book that if we burn all the remaining fossil fuels still in the ground, especially coal and tar sands, it seems inevitable to him that a runaway greenhouse effect would cook Earth the same way that happened with Venus 4 billion years ago when the sun was about 30% weaker. I think Lovelock is taking human nature more into account and assuming that the collapse of civilization will happen before we can get those last bits of fossil fuel out of the ground. So even though catastrophic climate change will still occur as the century unfolds, the chaos of wars and mass death without any social support that will result as huge masses of people face starvation and death and take matters into their own feeble hands and effectively put an end to the fossil fuel age before enough carbon can get into the atmosphere to push us past a climate “enjoyed” by the dinosaurs. Since there would still be pockets of humans probably surviving here and there in still habitable locations, most likely near the poles, Lovelock foresees such vestigial clusters of humans eaking out a living in whatever habitable environments are left. After all, any surviving humans would finally be thrust back into the types of situations in which we evolved and in which we’ve proved successful in surviving in the past. Our mental equipment seems to be most suited for dealing with day to day matters of life and death quite well. It’s the long term “big stuff” that we seem to have difficulty with. Too bad I won’t be around to see which scenario comes to pass, and I suspect that neither will 99.9% of us!

  54. jyyh says:

    Willam P #51: I’ve planned to do a fictional list to my blog of the things one needs to survive the conditions projected for 2100s, but it’s a bit hard since even a starved out citizen of the world is capable of walking astounding distances, and the ammo supplies will be limited if there’s not enough wood for smelting. So, as of yet there is no such thing. And surely I wouldn’t tell if I’ve found a safe spot.

  55. fj2 says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/opinion/12rich.html

    “Time For this Big Dog to Fight Back,” Frank Rich, NY Times, Sep 11, 2010

  56. Chris Winter says:

    William P wrote: “Somebody “has the solution”? Who are they? What form is their “solution”?”

    Triage is a solution. It’s not a good solution, not even close. But sometimes, in the depths of a crisis, it’s the only solution left.

  57. Chris Winter says:

    I should have added to my #56 that, with a foreseen problem, “Those who make early/good solutions impossible make late/bad/desperate solutions inevitable.”

  58. William P says:

    Some very good posts here at the end of comments. I like it when people get realistic. Too much pussy footing around by “scientific” commentators: On one hand this data could lead here; On the other hand something else”. All very impressive when posters show us their science background, but some definitive answers are needed now. At least the best answers possible with what we can know now.

    Doesn’t it come down to one question: Can mankind survive, or will he go up in flames with everything else? We have scientists saying there will be places on earth and man can survive there. Others say it cut CO2 or it will be fire ball time for the planet. To say cutting CO2 is highly unlikely is a huge understatement. Sadly, it is plain foolish to believe nations will do that.

    I really want to know where the majority of the best scientists put their “money”. That is, if they are pushed, what is their opinion – survival or no survival? Their opinion may be a guess. That’s OK. I want to hear the best guesses by the best guessers.

    If the conclusion of global warming is just unfathomable, Ok, I can live with that, too. But let’s find out if there is a sizable consensus and where they come down.

    kukj #54. I’ll tell you my survival spot if you tell me yours :)

    leif #52 – good post. Actually if a rich group got together and started building a survival enclave with an infrastructure for power, agriculture, communications, etc. it would be great. Not that I am concerned about the rich. But such a development might wake up governments. It certainly would get some big news coverage. (hey, maybe its already happening, but in deep secret!).

    Again, I say Bravo! to the posters here. You are people thinking along the right lines at this time. We may soon be joined by hoards of people doing this kind of thinking. I’m all for wind generators and solar panels, but am afraid their time is long past on the scale needed. Its time for some serious end game thinking and posters here are doing that. I heard a brief radio report DoD was thinking and planning along these survival lines, but my follow up came up with nothing. Maybe its top secret. Keep thinking about it, and please keep these great posts coming. Thank you.

  59. Whatshisname says:

    Everyone, call your doctor. One of the keys to passing healthcare reform was an unreported uprising by pro-reform physicians against the big insurers and their pet politicians. Hard feelings had been festering for many years, and the situation nearly went nuclear before the insurance companies started to back down.

    Physicians are busier than one can imagine, but the healthcare issue organized them. And despite what the heads of the national medical organizations may say or think, this army of pro-reform physicians also appears to be looking for a fight with those responsible for the escalation of skin cancer, cataracts, childhood asthma, etc., etc. Simply put: they don’t like people who make their patients sick.

  60. John McCormick says:

    RE # 49

    Richard Breene,

    I am replying to your comment encouraging WilliamP’s idea posted yesterday on Climate Progress: “I would like to see a big climate conference with experts like Hansen and Lovelock and many more top people. Plus people like those writing into this blog in attendance.”

    Before I go any further, I have followed global warming since 324 ppm and have recently succumbed to the realization there is no time remaining to mitigate our way out of this pending chaos. And, as a husband and father of two children am beyond anger at my and our powerlessness to effect a change in US and international awareness of the reality of steadily increasing global temperature. That a half degree of increase is in the pipeline regardless of any political change is the last nail regardless of what may come about in Cancun or Johannesburg.

    Having said that, I offer the following rationale for a ‘come to Jesus’ international conference on
    “Preparing for the Worst”.

    Sandbags are a cheap, simple and marvelous tool to buy time to move the family and possessions to higher ground. As US and world economies struggle through contraction with higher energy costs of increasingly scarce fuels, learned truth tellers must step up and demand we prepare for serious impacts that will beset us in our lifetime and certainly that of our children. There will be no year 2100 for civilizations when the Arctic rim billows up methane and CO2 from its melting landscape. No massive mitigation will come in time and will not overcome the pipeline heat. Geoengineering is greenwashing and has no place in this discussion.

    You produced and moderated events that surely touched upon the terminal nature of global warming but I wonder if you included serious disaster planners, security experts and absolute realists capable of convincing the masses global warming will remain unabated and we have only sandbags to buy us some time to adjust to the darkness ahead.

    For starters, the Himalayan glaciers and coast lines of Bangladesh and Burma are soon going to be the most threatening areas in the world of geo-politics. Getting the South Asian nations to put down their swords and pick up shovels to fortify their shores and co-manage the waters of their eight major rivers may appear impossible today but the tragedy of Pakistan this year will become a recurring tragedy because scientists are close to linking erratic monsoons with Arctic ice meltback. These are two of the many hundreds of impacts which global cooperation can diminish – possibly eliminate – but at least should recognize. More resilient seed development should be a global priority as well. Wind, solar, biochar, etc are the religious icons that cannot be ignored but should not be invested as solutions.

    I read the names of a few of your participants. I have additional names to offer.
    The first five were authors of the CNA’s National Security and the Threat of Climate Change:

    Sherri Goodman, Executive Director, CNA

    Vice Admiral Paul G. Gaffney II, USN (Ret.)
    Former President, National Defense University; Former Chief of Naval Research and Commander, Navy Meteorology and Oceanography Command

    Admiral Donald L. “Don” Pilling, USN (Ret.)
    Former Vice Chief of Naval Operations

    Vice Admiral Richard H. Truly, USN (Ret.)
    Former NASA Administrator, Shuttle Astronaut and the first Commander of the Naval Space Command

    Maj. Gen. Richard Engel, USAF (Ret.),
    deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology, National
    Intelligence Council;

    Geoffrey D. Dabelko of the Woodrow
    Wilson International Center for Scholars,

    Peter Schwartz, Global Business Network
    He also co-authored the Pentagon’s An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.

    Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America

    Doctors without borders:

    Matthew Spitzer, MD
    President
    Deane Marchbein, MD
    Vice-President

    Dr. Mike MacCracken, Climate Institute

    Steve Coffey, President of Microensure

    Susan Joy Hassol susan@climatecommunication.org

    Richard, the hard reality of a global changing climate is akin to a diagnosed terminal illness for which there is no cure. NRDC and EDF will never speak publicly about that and I don’t know if they now believe the 111th Congress was a futile challenge from the start. But, they have their foundations to answer to and are rigid against including adaptation in their message.

    Then, who will stand and read the verdict if only to give us time to fill sandbags and begin to move populations to safer ground (and doing that to avert wars that waiting to occur).

    Ugly thoughts this morning, Richard. It is difficult to be a realist living in the land of promise.

    John McCormick

  61. William P says:

    John McCormick,
    We can’t eat sand bags. Rising waters will (and are) threaten many and lives will be lost. But the big killer will be destruction of food crops. 33,000 died directly from heat in Europe when a global warming event hit. But that is a relatively small number. Large scale destruction of food supplies can take many more lives and quickly.

    But instead of discussing various climate models, you are thinking about the end game. IPCC models have quickly been proved wrong, so you are thinking in the right arena.

  62. John McCormick says:

    William, I take your comment with a good heart. Yes, we cannot eat sandbags and yes, end-game thinking is what my comment is all about. Thank you.

    John McCormick