By Climate Guest Blogger on Feb 10, 2010 at 8:13 pm
A: They both keep going up despite the anti-science, pro-polluter echo chamber.
This is a guest post by Daniel J. Weiss, Senior Fellow at American Progress.
Climate progress auteur Dr. Joseph Romm recently noted the Earth is stuck in a “Groundhog Decade”¦where it’s always the hottest decade on record.” Temperature data from NOAA demonstrates that the ’00′s were warmer than the ’90′s, which were warmer than the ’80′s, and so on. The data points in one direction: the Earth continues to warm.
Analogously, public opinion data on global warming also points in one direction: Americans support investments in clean energy, and want action to reduce global warming pollution. Poll after poll finds majorities support these measures, despite the worst economy in eighty years, and $100 million and growing of big oil and coal advocacy to defeat clean energy and global warming legislation.
Two just-released polls reiterate public support for clean energy and global warming pollution reductions. One is a nationwide poll by Yale University and George Mason University. The other is a poll of Massachusetts voters taken immediately after Republican Scott Brown was elected to the U.S. Senate to replace the late Democrat Edward Kennedy. This poll found that a majority Brown voters support reductions in global warming pollution.
Memo to media: If we keep listening to the antiscience crowd and take no action to reduce emissions, we drastically reduce the uncertainty in projections of future impacts and make catastrophic warming the likely outcome.
From the NY Times to CBS News to the Economist to much of the British press, responsible media coverage of climate science has all but ended. I have some ideas why this has happened and what to do about it, which I’ll discuss later.
But one of the reasons for the collapse is the media’s refusal to draw a distinction between what scientists say based on actual observations and analysis in the peer-reviewed literature and what anti-science disinformers say based on their total lack of knowledge of the science and general willingness to misrepresent the facts or make stuff up. This also allows the anti-science crowd to confuse the media and the public on the issue of how certain we are about the risk of catastrophic climate impacts on our current emissions path, as I’ll discuss at the end.
First, though, former NYT reporter Andy Revkin has posted one of his worst DotEarth pieces ever, “Does an Old Climate Critique Still Hold up?“ Twice he cites the leading anti-science blog WattsUpWithThat, which by itself is incomprehensible for a serious science writer. You might as well quote Rush Limbaugh or the Drudge Report as scientific authorities, if anti-scientist Watts is a primary source of yours.
The argument about whether conservatives are condescending to liberals or vice versa is now officially over. Thanks to the emerging litmus test of the right wing on climate science, conservatives are now questioning their own intellectual capabilities — they are self-condescending!
GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker has a reputation as a smart guy, but he said last week he wasn’t smart enough to form an opinion on the hottest environmental topic of the day. Climate change: Does he believe in it, or doesn’t he?
“I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t,” he told the Globe on Friday, a day after dodging the question at a public forum on Thursday. “You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough know enough about.”
He added, “I absolutely am not smart enough to believe I know the answer to that question.”
That should be his bumpersticker: “I absolutely am not smart enough.”
Baker’s bio says he graduated Harvard College, later “served as Corporate Communications Director for the Massachusetts High Technology Council,” and then “decided to return to school in 1984 and earned an MBA from Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University in 1986.”
Sure climate change is complicated issue — about as complicated as, say, governing a state! Baker is a profile in non-courage:
In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama described “clean coal technology,” nuclear energy, natural gas, and offshore drilling as “clean energy.” His administration has let the fight against global warming slide, even as scientists warn that global emissions must start declining within five years to avoid catastrophic climate disruption. Bowing to powerful lobbies, the administration is further hurting job creation and economic competitiveness with a budget that emphasizes coal and nuclear subsidies at the expense of renewable energy. Challenged by 1Sky director Gillian Caldwell at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Obama fiercely defended his energy policy. “We are not going to get all our energy from wind and solar in the next twenty years,” Obama said. He argued that energy companies simply can’t repower America with truly clean energy:
They can’t do it. The technology’s not there. I’ve got a nuclear physicist in my Department of Energy who cares more about climate change than anyone and he will tell you you can’t get it done just with that — so you’ve got to have a transition period to do all this other stuff. Don’t be stubborn about it!
President Obama is confusing political reality with scientific reality. Technologists have described numerous pathways to clean energy by 2030 that don’t rely on coal and nuclear power, including:
– A Plan to Power 100 Percent of the Planet with Renewables, by Stanford civil engineer Mark Z. Jacobson and UC Davis transportation scientist Mark A. Delucchi [Scientific American, 11/09]
– Clean Energy 2030, by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Jeffery Greenblatt and Google.org [Google.org, 11/08]
– Energy Market and Economic Impacts of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, No International Offsets / Limited Alternatives Scenario, by the U.S. Energy Information Administration [EIA, 8/4/09]
To be sure, these scenarios would require a World War II-like mobilization to retool and repower the electricity and transportation infrastructure of the nation. The short-term benefits, however, would involve the creation of millions of green jobs, vast improvements in public health, and independence from petroleum dictatorships. The long-term benefit, of course, would be a good chance of keeping a habitable planet for human civilization.
President Obama erred when he claimed that he had no choice but to give coal and nuclear companies multi-billion-dollar taxpayer subsidies. The reason those technologies have not been yet developed is because there is insufficient market demand for low-carbon power — and R&D subsidies won’t change that. Only when the government puts a price on carbon pollution will clean power be profitable, and companies will make the investments to develop and deploy the needed technology. Obama should concede that his subsidies for the coal industry are a political necessity, not a scientific one.
“Don’t be stubborn about it!” Obama admonished climate activists. For the sake of his children, and the rest of the planet, he’d better hope they ignore him.
I am very firm in my conviction that the country that leads the way in clean energy — solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal — that country is going to win the race in the 21st century global economy. So we have to move in that direction.
Edited by Joe Romm, we cover climate science, solutions and politics. Columnist Tom Friedman calls us "the indispensable blog" and Time magazine named us one of the 25 "Best Blogs of 2010." Newcomers, start here.