When it comes to innovation, Americans don’t take a back seat to anyone – and we certainly won’t start now. From wind power to nuclear reactors to high speed rail, China and other countries are moving aggressively to capture the lead.
Given that challenge, and given the enormous economic opportunities in clean energy, it’s time for America to do what we do best: innovate. As President Obama has said, we should not, cannot, and will not play for second place.
That’s Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in speech Monday on how China’s bid for world leadership in clean energy should be our “Sputnik moment.”
The larger idea is to build a more sustainable economy, or what Chinese leaders have called a balanced and harmonious society. In that economy, families would not have to save 20 percent of their income in order to pay for schooling and medical care, as many do now. They would instead be able to afford more of the comforts of modern life “” better housing, clothing, transportation and communication. In time, China would become the world’s next great consumer society.
Maybe you thought that the word ‘sustainable’ was already dead, but really it was only ill — ill-defined by overuse. But thanks to the NYT magazine and economics columnist David Leonhardt, it has now been officially defined out of existence.
Maybe you thought ‘sustainable’ meant something like “capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.” How wrong you were. Apparently, to the Times, ‘sustainable’ means being the biggest consumers in the world. George Orwell would be proud.
Leaked diplomatic cables provide new insight into the intersection of climate policy and international security. Many of these issues have been raised by the Center for American Progress, in its work to reduce the multitudinous risks associated with oil dependence.
Cables note that leaders like Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy consider global warming to be an issue of top importance. As of November 2009, State Department officials were still confident about the passage of climate legislation by Congress, a cable from Ambassador to France Charles H. Rivkin to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveals:
Even sophisticated observers are skeptical that long-term reduction goals legislated in the United States can be counted on as more than aspirations, especially if radical cuts are not imposed up front. We have reiterated that U.S. laws are reliably enforced by the Federal government and by U.S. courts, using the Clean Air Act as our example. Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials agree that legislation moving through Congress and the Administration’s proposals would establish a system comparable to the EU’s measures. These officials regard Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo’s public criticisms of Waxman-Markey as “insufficient on the medium term goal” as distracting attention from the need for China and India to reduce their rates of growth in GHG emissions.
In the ensuing months, the U.S. Senate killed any prospect for the passage of climate legislation, making concerns about the reliability of long-term targets a moot point. Industrial polluters have launched a broad campaign to dismantle the Clean Air Act, and a wave of global warming deniers swept into office, firmly opposed to any action to fight climate pollution whatsoever.
THE COSTS OF OIL
As the Wonk Room has previously discussed, the international price of oil has a major impact on the power of the Iranian regime. One cable describes a December 2008 meeting between Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart A. Levey and top Israeli officials, including Tzipi Livni, then the Foreign Minister and now the opposition leader:
Livni asked if the declining price of oil was becoming leverage in the efforts to thwart Iranian financial efforts. Levey said that it was and that the Iranian private sector was becoming more vocal in its criticisms of the government.
A Wonk Room analysis has found that a strong cap on carbon would significantly cut the flow of petrodollars to Iran’s hostile regime.
Center for American Progress experts have also raised concerns about the “risks from technology, natural disasters, and geopolitical turmoil” associated with the oil market. The United States directly imports oil from ten different dangerous or unstable countries. An October 2009 cable from Ambassador to Russia John Beyrle notes that the Russian government “benefits significantly” — on the order of $10 billion a year — from the “instability premium” in the world oil market due to Iran:
As the world’s largest exporter of oil and gas, Russia also benefits significantly from the “instability premium” embedded in world oil prices due to tensions with Iran. Even a USD 5 per barrel instability premium would net Russia almost USD 9 billion per year for oil and approximately USD 2-4 billion from its gas exports. Finally, given Iran’s position as the second largest owner of gas reserves, Russia’s gas sector clearly benefits from the lack of international investment in the development of Iran’s natural gas sector.
Guided by a vision that dovetails with some key elements of the President’s Cairo speech, King Abdullah has begun to implement an ambitious plan to transform Saudi Arabia’s economy away from excessive reliance on hydrocarbons and towards a knowledge-based economy that can provide sustainable development for the long-term. Achieving these goals will require nothing short of a revolution in the education system and significant changes in most aspects of Saudi society, especially the status of women.
. . .
Saudi Arabia is thinking through how best to take a leaf from the Chinese playbook and use these expanded trade ties to achieve important political goals. In this regard, Saudi Arabia has told the Chinese that it is willing to effectively trade a guaranteed oil supply in return for Chinese pressure on Iran not to develop nuclear weapons.
. . .
Your visit offers an important opportunity to head off a serious clash over climate change. Saudi officials are very concerned that a climate change treaty would significantly reduce their income just as they face significant costs to diversify their economy. We want to get beyond the obstructionism that Saudi negotiators have often shown during the negotiations and persuade senior leaders to work with us in a partnership to meet their strategic concerns, including by cooperating on developing solar and biomass energy. The King is particularly sensitive to avoid Saudi Arabia being singled out as the bad actor, particularly on environmental issues. Your conveying the importance the President places on working as partners with Saudi Arabia on the Copenhagen process will be very important in making this dialogue more constructive. Secretary Chu intends to explore specific areas of collaboration during his February 21-23 visit.
The media has the story of UC Berkeley study on climate messaging exactly backwards, as I explained last week. The study found the best message is also the most science-based: Doing nothing risks “many devastating consequences” but “much of the technology we need already exists.” We just need to deploy it already!
Brad Johnson made a similar point in his post, “Winning climate messages combine dire scientific threat with solutions for a just world.” Now he reports on the predictably wrong take Fox News has on the study:
In a blogger call following the speech, the Wonk Room asked Secretary Chu about the right wing’s opposition to clean technology innovation. Chu derided this desire to turn back the clock, saying that the “United States is still the greatest innovation machine in the world”:
You know, what can I say? I disagree.
The people who are saying we don’t want to change are holding a view that when a new technology comes along it’s going to displace an old technology. The people whose business depends on old technology might get nervous. They can adapt and innovate or fight the change. That used to work when we weren’t so interconnected. In this new very flat world of multinational corporations, virtually all of western Europe, Japan, Korea, China are saying, “This is our future.” If we don’t go in this direction, we will be importing many of the technologies we could be exporting. I just installed an on-demand water heater and there were no American manufacturers. There were Korean, Japanese, European manufacturers. Kind of scary.
The American people need to be convinced. Or I should say: Does everyone else know something we don’t know or do we know something everyone else doesn’t know?
I believe the right direction is to develop these technologies. The United States is still the greatest innovation machine in the world. There will always be people who don’t want to go in a new direction, but you can’t go back to 1950 when we were exporting oil. We have to press forward. It’s very important to get that message out. This is how we have always achieved. Not by clutching to the past but by seizing the future.
“We are no longer the leaders in manufacturing, but more startlingly, we are no longer the leaders in high-tech manufacturing,” Chu said in his Press Club speech. However, he saw room for hope. “The good news is that if I look across the country, young people are seeing the energy and climate challenge and going into science and technology.”
As the 19th year of international negotiations on climate change begin today in Cancun, Mexico, Fox News continues to deny the civilizational imperative to end global warming pollution. On Saturday, Fox News Watch’s Jon Scott and Greg Gutfield cited last year’s Climategate smear campaign to attack climate scientists and activists. “Maybe it’s time for the granola-crunching press to change its doom-and-gloom message,” Scott argued. Gutfield then read a bowdlerized version of his “racist homophobic globalphobe” blog post distorting the results of a study by UC Berkeley psychological researchers on global warming messaging:
So climate change experts having finally got the message. And the message is: their message sucks. In fact, their “Scare the hell out of us” screed was so awful, researchers claim, that it actually undermined their mission. Which, I always thought, was to scare the hell out of us. Yep, according to Cal-Berkeley shrinks, dire predictions about global warming can “backfire if presented too negatively.” Of course that raises one question: how do you offer dire predictions, positively? “Hey, were all gunna die. LOL.” Which leads me to a theory: these Berkeley researchers are idiots. Look the fact is, people like me questioned global warming evidence because we’d seen this media hysteria before – with the ice age, the dangers of nuclear power, artificial sweeteners and DDT.
As previously noted in the Wonk Room, the study by Robb Willer and Matthew Feinberg actually found that effective climate messaging combines hard facts about the dire nature of global warming with optimism about human ingenuity to address it — which is the honest story that Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Desmond Tutu, and other climate activists have been telling for decades. Their study also found that the parody presented by the right wing — that those concerned about global warming pollution are hysterical doomsayers — will effectively drive some people into skepticism about the existence of the threat.
Gutfield’s mention of DDT is telling — that right-wing historical revisionism designed to discredit Rachel Carson is soundly debunked in Merchants of Doubt, the book that describes how propagandists have used the same tactics for decades to block policy from everything to cigarettes to global warming.
“In such a 4°C world, the limits for human adaptation are likely to be exceeded in many parts of the world, while the limits for adaptation for natural systems would largely be exceeded throughout the world.”
“Projections of global warming relative to pre-industrial for the A1FI emissions scenario” — the one we’re currently on. “Dark shading shows the mean ±1 s.d. [standard deviation] for the tunings to 19 AR4 GCMs [IPCC Fourth Assessment General Circulation Models] and the light shading shows the change in the uncertainty range when … climate-carbon-cycle feedbacks … are included.”
Note: The Royal Society is making its “entire digital archive free to access” (!) through Tuesday, so download the articles in their special issue on 4C warming ASAP.
One of the greatest failings of the climate science community (and the media) is not spelling out as clearly as possible the risks we face on our current emissions path, as well as the plausible worst-case scenario, which includes massive ecosystem collapse. So much of what the public and policymakers think is coming is a combination of
So I was voting for Campus Progress, CAP’s youth arm, which has a chance to win $50,000 to train and support young journalists — by clicking here, which, by the way you can do every day through Tuesday.
And I came across another worthy group in the progressive slate vying for funds in the Pepsi giveaway:
Canadian diplomats in Washington have quietly asked oil-industry players such as Exxon Mobil and BP to help ensure that oil from Alberta continues to flow into the U.S. marketplace, Postmedia News has learned.
In a series of newly released correspondence from Canada’s Washington embassy, the Canadian diplomats describe recommendations from Environment Canada to clean up the oilsands as “simply nutty,” proposing instead to “kill any interpretation” of U.S. energy legislation that would apply to the industry.
Oh, Canada, surely you can’t be seri0us.
In honor of the late Canadian-American actor and comedian Leslie Nielsen, our neighbor up north replies, “I am serious … and don’t call me Shirley.”
To which I reply, well stop calling them oilsands. The phrase makes it seem like, oh, I don’t know, maybe up through the sand came a bubblin crude, oil that is, black gold, Texas tea, Athabasca euphemism (see CP commenter, Jim Eager, here).
Japan will contribute in terms of credit and technology in an ambitious and ground-breaking infrastructure project which will build 24 green cities in India’s western region. The project is part of the proposed $90 billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor mega-infrastructure project which aims at boosting the economic growth along the about 1500-km-long stretch that joins the most important cities of India, New Delhi and Mumbai.
By Climate Guest Blogger on Nov 29, 2010 at 9:12 am
Americans For Prosperity president: We have to make the EPA “a political albatross for members of Congress.”
At an October blogger briefing at the Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips explained his organization’s plans for defending global warming pollution. Brad Johnson lays out the strategy for the anti-science, anti-EPA, polluter-funded group that is a driving force behind the Tea Party. This is what climate hawks will be up against the next two years.
Dr Matt Palmer, an ocean observations specialist at the Met Office, said: “It is clear from the observational evidence across a wide range of indicators that the world is warming. As well as a clear increase in air temperature observed above both the land and sea, we see observations which are all consistent with increasing greenhouse gases.”
The blockbuster news from the UK’s Met Office is that they’ve reviewed the global temperature data and concluded that the apparent slow down in the rate of global warming (as measured by surface temperatures) may not be real. It may largely be an artifact of “changes to sea-surface temperature measurement practices” along with “strong warming in the Arctic “” where there are fewer observations.”
I’ll do a post on that Monday, but here’s the overview of the full analysis by the Met[eorological] Office (part of the Defence Ministry) of long and short-term climate trends:
“The country must get serious about climate-change legislation and making real changes in our daily lives to reduce carbon emissions. The future of our nation’s food supply hangs in the balance. “
THE news from this Midwestern farm is not good. The past four years of heavy rains and flash flooding here in southern Minnesota have left me worried about the future of agriculture in America’s grain belt. For some time computer models of climate change have been predicting just these kinds of weather patterns, but seeing them unfold on our farm has been harrowing nonetheless.
In this piece, a farmer out-reports most of the U.S. media, with a seldom-told story that will ultimately be the much-retold story of the century, but needs to be heard now while there is still time to act:
At an October blogger briefing at the Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity president Tim Phillips explained his organization’s plans for defending global warming pollution. A day after his policy director, Phil Kerpen, claimed the organization did not question the science of climate change at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event, Phillips relished in the success of the “UK email scandals” for convincing people of a scientific “conspiracy,” saying “over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming.” “If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match” for “the left,” he expounded. Phillips also discussed his plans as head of the astroturf group to make the Environmental Protection Agency an “albatross” and to kill “the myth of green jobs.”
Phillips has harnessed right-wing populist anger in the service of pollution giant Koch Industries on several fronts, especially to prevent any limits on greenhouse gas pollution. His organization’s propaganda efforts include attacks on climate legislation, with the “No Climate Tax” pledge signed by a large majority of freshmen Republicans, and the “Hot Air Tour” that has traveled around the country the last few summers. AFP’s “Regulation Reality” campaign attempts to demonize the Environmental Protection Agency. Their campaigns use a mix of false economic arguments, appeals to patriotic freedom, and support of global warming denial.
In 2011, Phillips announced, his organization plans to drive a wedge between Congress and the EPA, to increase attacks on climate science, and to attempt to discredit clean energy jobs, creating the impression that the American people support a pollution agenda (even though polls show the opposite).
“We have to make the Environmental Protection Agency an albatross”
They made it a political liability, guys like Ernie and others, and they pushed back on OSHA. And then there was proof that you could indeed take on a regulatory agency and push it back. We have to make the Environmental Protection Agency an albatross, a political albatross for members of Congress.
We launched a “regulation reality” effort earlier this year, we’re going to continue that — that goes around the country and lays out how the EPA is costing jobs, how it is driving up the cost of our goods which makes them less competitive, and it works. Members of Congress suddenly began paying attention when they’ve got small business owners and local folks, consumers, in their districts and states who were pounding them, saying “What the heck are you doing to me here?”
The number one thing I hear on the road at our events is the EPA. That’s the number one agency. Now the health care thing is looming on the horizon, but the EPA is what’s killing more jobs and inhibiting more job-creators than anything else out there.
“We started looking now at the scientific impact and the fact that over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming”
We made a decision early on, we launched our effort on cap and trade and global warming about three years ago. We’ve been at it for a while. We made a decision that as a free-market group we would focus on the economic impact. So we’ve focused on job losses, there are some great studies out there. Heritage. We’ve used Heritage for the job-loss studies especially, and the National Association of Manufacturers, groups like that. We started looking now at the scientific impact and the fact that over the last ten years it appears it was cooling and not warming. Hence the name change, you notice how it went from “global warming” to “climate change.” Whenever the left gets in trouble, they change the name! It was liberals, now the public has repudiated liberalism, and now it’s “progressivism.” They did the same thing with “global warming” and switched over to “climate change.”
“If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match for them”
The one thing I know from the polling data that the American public knows there’s an economic liability. They clearly agree with us on that. And for the first time, in the last twelve months especially, I’ve seen a dramatic tilt among independents especially with regard to believing the science involved behind global warming. That was in the high seventies, a little as two years ago. High seventies said yeah, there’s scientific evidence for man-made global warming. That’s now dropping, depends on what poll you’re looking at, Gallup and others. That’s down in the low fifties now. That’s precarious for the left. Because they’ve already lost the economic argument. We’ve beaten them there. We’ve just got to keep pounding that argument. If we win the science argument, I think it’s game, set, and match for them.
“There is a conspiracy going on, there are people fixing the data”
I think the UK email scandals was probably the tipping point. I think that’s for the first time — you’d always had some outliers, I say that in a good way, not in a bad way, who were saying, hey wait a minute, there is a conspiracy going on, there are people fixing the data. I think that when those emails became public, the public looked at it and said wait a minute, here’s this supposedly UN, these UN scientists, and we’ve always — I think we hold scientists in high regard, and that’s a good thing, science is, uh, a good thing — but when it was clear from those email exchanges that they were manipulating data, and even hiding data that was not of advantage to them, that was a crucial tipping point on the science side.
I think the economic tipping point was $3 and $4 a gallon gas. When $4 a gallon gas happened two summers ago, remember when that kicked in? We noticed a dramatic uptick in turnout for our rallies, events, the pressure on the legislators, being willing to call and email. And the polling data confirmed that, saying that it was $4 a gallon gas. And then I think that the UK email scandal was the science side.
“How sad for the polar bears, right?”
And the other thing that we’re really pushing with allies is the myth of green jobs. I know many of you have been on this issue as well. What a great balloon to puncture. Because that’s the last leg they have to stand on. You noticed what the president, what the left talks about on this? It used to be the science. Then they began tilting away from the science and saving the polar bears to it’s the right thing to do, you know. And now it’s job creation. They’re literally reduced to a job creation argument. They don’t even talk about the polar bears any more. How sad for the polar bears, right? It’s wrong. But, now it’s job creation argument. That’s the last thing they’ve had. And it’s not a legitimate argument. I think the public is getting that.
Obama has been saying (erroneously) for two years now that Republicans have good policy ideas for creating jobs, whereas Republicans have been saying (erroneously) for two years that Obama has job-killing policies. Is it any wonder he had a shellacking in the 2010 election?
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.