Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?

Let’s be clear: Strong action to reduce carbon pollution is crucial to preserving clean air, clean water, and a livable climate for our children.

In his analysis of Obama’s primetime speech, WashPost blogger Ezra Klein underscores a point that I’ve made many times here:

To expand a bit on a point I made on Rachel Maddow’s show, I’m just not sure how you do a response to climate change if you can’t really say the words “climate change.” And that’s where we are right now: The actual problem we’re trying to solve is politically, if not scientifically, controversial. And so politicians, rather than continuing to try to convince the American people that we need to do something about it, have started talking about more popular policies that are related to solving climate change. You see this in Lindsey Graham’s effort to argue for carbon-pricing from a place of purported climate-change skepticism. You see it in pollster Joel Benenson’s memo that tries to persuade legislators to vote for a climate bill without ever using those words. And you saw it in Barack Obama’s speech last night, which was all about clean energy and grand challenges.

You can see full Maddow segment here.

Certainly, some progressives pollsters have managed to convince some progressives and environmentalists to downplay talk of global warming with seriously flawed analysis (see “Messaging 101b: EcoAmerica’s phrase ‘our deteriorating atmosphere’ isn’t going to replace ‘global warming’ “” and that’s a good thing“).  And certainly the president’s key advisers have been suckered into this view [see “The unbearable lameness of being (Rahm and Axelrod)“].

Klein continues:

In response to this, Rachel said that no one wants to hear about climate change. The operative emotion here has to be inspiration, not fear. And she’s right about that. The polling certainly backs her up. But that strikes me as depressing evidence of how unlikely we are to succeed. I simply don’t believe you could’ve passed health care if you couldn’t have talked about covering the uninsured, and I don’t think stimulus would’ve worked without the spur of the unemployed. It’s not that people wanted to hear about either subject all day, but they got both problems on a visceral enough level that the action being taken at least made a sort of sense.

My fear is that if we ever get to the place where the action being taken makes a sort of sense as a way to address the problem, public opinion will collapse because it’s built on such a flimsy foundation. Talking about clean energy isn’t a lie, of course. But a bill to mitigate climate change isn’t a jobs bill, as Nancy Pelosi has argued, and it’s more than just a bill to make sure China doesn’t capture to much of the renewable-energy business. It’s going to be a big bill with some unpopular stuff in it because it’s trying to do a hard and important thing. And if Americans have been told that this bill will be all goodies — all jobs and energy and so forth — it’s hard to imagine them sticking around once they hear that the price of electricity is going to jump up, even if only by a little bit.

Well, actually, they will stick around according to the polling (see “Memo to policymakers: Public STILL favors the transition to clean energy” and links below):

From what you've read and heard, in general, do you favor or  oppose setting limits on carbon dioxide emissions and making companies  pay for their emissions, even if it may mean higher energy prices?

Klein continues:

All that said, I think the politics of this are rapidly moving toward an efficiency and innovation-investment solution, and that bill does look more like goodies and can be sold on these grounds. That still leaves the question of how to pay for it, but at least it matches where the polling is on this subject. The downside is that it doesn’t match the actual problem we’re trying to solve.

In fact, some of the best pollsters know that you can and should talk about climate change  (see Mark Mellman must read on climate messaging: “A strong public consensus has emerged on the reality and severity of global warming, as well as on the need for federal action” “” ecoAmerica “could hardly be more wrong”).  Mellman calls the ecoAmerica polling that suggests one shouldn’t talk about global warming, a “politically na¯ve, methodologically flawed and factually inaccurate study.”

Sure, if you talk about any subject in a clumsy fashion you will turn people off — just look at how Obama and major progressive politicians managed to turn a winning political issue, health care reform, into an unpopular one!

Yes, much of the climate language that gets tested is truly lame.  But the fact that poor messaging fails is not an argument for not doing messaging on the subject at all!

What is especially lame I think is that many (but not all) progressives and environmentalists have stopped even talking about any of the basic environmental benefits of clean energy.  Here’s a simple message (to go with the energy independence and clean energy jobs pitch):   Strong action to reduce carbon pollution is crucial to preserving and improving clean air, clean water, and a livable climate for our children.  If you can’t even utter that basic sentence or something like it, you simply aren’t serious about explaining to the public why they need to put a price on carbon pollution.  “Global warming pollution” can also be interchanged with “carbon pollution.”  I tend to use both.  “Carbon” happens to be shorter and punchier, but then I devote a significant fraction of my talks to global warming.

Even the pre-incoherent Lindsey Graham (R-SC) argued:

The idea of not pricing carbon, in my view, means you’re not serious about energy independence. The odd thing is you’ll never have energy independence until you clean up the air, and you’ll never clean up the air until you price carbon.

Not that hard, is it?

I’ll end with something I wrote a year ago about the counterproductive and ultimately self-destructive notion progressives and environmentalists shouldn’t talk about global warming:

We are engaged in a multi-year messaging struggle here.  The planet is going to get hotter and hotter, the weather is going to get more extreme.  One of the reasons to be clear and blunt in your messaging about this is that even if you don’t persuade people today, the overall message will grow in credibility as reality unfolds as we have warned.  To shy away from telling people the truth because they don’t want to hear it or they think it’s liberal claptrap is just incredibly un-strategic.  EcoAmerica doesn’t want people to talk about “global warming.”  And “” even worse “” they don’t want people to talk about extreme weather, which, as I have previously argued, is in fact the same thing that the climate disinformers want “” see “Why do the disinformers try to shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?”  You must tell people what is coming, not just because it is strategic messaging, but also I believe because we have a moral responsibility.

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46 Responses to Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?

  1. MarkL says:

    That last paragraph is excellent, especially this line: “the overall message will grow in credibility as reality unfolds as we have warned.” You could call it the Winston Churchill effect.

    If the press won’t draw the general public’s attention to the fact that storms and floods will continue to become more frequent and severe as the planet warms, we must do it. If you see an online article about a flood or a storm, add a quick comment that points out the fact that warm air holds more water vapor, which makes these events more likely, and more likely to be deadly, with every passing year. We need to speak to the open-minded people, instead of just debating the deniers.

  2. catman306 says:

    “Climate’ is a statistical construct formed from the tendencies of various weather parameters to change during the course of a year (or even multiple years, as in the case of the various oscillations). People of all economic and educational levels understand what a ‘tendency’ is without any problem or explanation. The little old lady who tells her mechanic that her car ‘tends not to start on cold mornings’ or the purchaser of a lotto ticket who knows that a single ticket ‘tends to lose’ both understand tendencies quite well.

    If you must message ‘climate change’ to the ignorant, uneducated, or brain washed, it might be most effective to put everything in terms of ‘tendencies’. Because, after all, tendencies, and the actual weather parameter data, is all climate scientists work with. Climate models predict those ‘tendencies’. Better models predict tendencies better.

  3. paulm says:

    Rachel Maddow’s Oval Office Oil Spill Speech: What She Wishes Obama Had Said

    Gas power stations ‘should have carbon capture’

    The climate change committee said gas-fired plants and as well as coal should use carbon capture to cut emissions.

    Britain will miss its legal target to cut emissions by 80% by the middle of the century unless action is taken to cut greenhouse pollution from gas-powered stations, influential government advisers warned today.

  4. paulm says:

    Rachel Maddow’s Oval Office Oil Spill Speech! above….

    Its a shame she does not mention Climate Change or Global Warming in her speech.

    I myself had some reserve about talking about it generally because of the push back and ‘are you serious’ reaction of most.

    However, I now regularly post links and comments on FB and bring the topic up at every opportunity in a light-hearted manner. Especially pointing out the connection to weather and tidal flood events happening around us.

  5. mike roddy says:

    Political consultants and members of the media believe that it’s a bunch of small people out there, too. As the poll Joe showed here indicates, this is both disrespectful and mistaken.

    Including “goodies” is Washington groupthink, and derives from corruption, not political marketability. I can speak from personal experience: in the late 1990’s, I was testifying before committees buttonholing Congressmen, Senators, and administrators to remove timber industry subsidies, since this was skewing the construction market and encouraging deforestation.

    The response? “We won’t take away their goodies. But we may give some more away to other industries, like your friends in the steel business, if that will make you happy.”

  6. Eric Normand says:

    I would also like to expand on the last paragraph of this post. The media has been downplaying most of the extreme weather events in recent years and any potential link to climate change. As a resident of middle Tennessee, the statewide flooding caused by our extreme deluge on May 1 and 2 was a wake-up call. It’s barely been six weeks since that catastrophic event, but during that relatively short time period, I’ve noticed several other significant weather events in the US, and globally.

    Just two weeks after the Tennessee disaster massive flooding occurred in Poland. Parts of Texas were flooded when they received 11 inches of rain on June 9. At least 20 people were killed in Arkansas on June 11 when rivers rose at a rate of 8 ft per hour from torrential rain. On June 14, storms dropped about 10 inches of rain in Oklahoma, causing significant flooding in several counties. At least 11 people died in southern France on June 16 when heavy rains triggered flash floods. At least 35 people have died as result of flash flooding in China from torrential downpours, also On June 16. To my knowledge, none of this flooding was the result of rain storms associated with tropical storms.

    During this same six week period, Colorado received a massive hailstorm on May 26 that delivered up to 12 inches of baseball sized hail in some places. Deadly tornadoes ravaged parts of the Midwest. There have also been tornado warnings in the Northeast on at least two different occasions (an area that almost never experiences this kind of severe weather), and we are experiencing a heat wave in parts of the Midsouth currently.

    These are just the anomalies that I happened to notice. This spring/early summer seems to have an exceptionally high concentration of extreme weather events. It seems obvious for there to be a connection between all these weather extremities and the fact that this is one of the hottest springs on record. If 100 to 1000 year floods are happening daily, or weekly, citizens need to understand the likelihood of this continuing trend, and prepare for these kinds of events.

    This is not just about energy policy and it’s link to climate change (which also must be addressed), it’s also about creating a greater awareness of the current weather trends, and helping to prepare our fellow citizens and infrastructure for this unsettling new reality.

  7. Rockfish says:

    I agree in general, but I think that the administration sees the political climate as too toxic to take this on.
    For a while now, the argument has been branching out from the the old “global warming” to a three-pronged approach advocated by Tom Freidman, et al: 1) we must reduce carbon to address climate change 2) we need to foster innovation to stay economically competitive and promote employment, and 3) we need to stop supporting hostile governments by send them billions of dollars for oil.
    Unfortunately, the Right has succeeded in poisoning the climate change discussion, and the innovation/jobs connection is too fuzzy for people to get behind. So, naturally, the conversation has coalesced around the “energy independence” argument. As luck would have it, “energy independence” requires maxing out ALL our domestic sources of energy, oil, gas, coal, nukes, and, oh yeah, all that green stuff. This is a potentially massive government goody bag with something for everyone! Throw in a little anti-Islamic sentiment and saving the lives of our troops knee jerk patriotism and you have a winner.
    I suspect this is about all we’ll get this year.

  8. Dan B says:

    Eric Normand;

    Adding to your list is are reports on the Weather Channel. Today the SE US from Texas to North Carolina and south to the tip of Florida are covered with tropical air. Tropical air = extremely high humidity and heat indexes far above the thermometer reading. This seems to be unprecedented especially before the beginning of summer. The Pacific Northwest is cold and wet because the jet stream is taking a highly contorted path from near Anchorage parallel to the coast to southern Oregon / Northern California – thousands of miles away. It bends sharply back through western Montana and all the way north to Hudson Bay. This weather pattern is unprecedented for late spring or summer. Humidity is high over every area of the US except the Southwest. (As far as I know – any SoCal / AZ folks dripping in sweat?)

    Perturbations in the Jet Stream are predicted prior to a “reset”. This might result in a rapid migration, or expansion, of the dry subtropical band to the north. Do we have a decade or more, or a decade or less, before the west and central states switch to nearly the nearly permanent drought typical of the subtropics?

    Any politician who blanches at the use of the words “Global Warming”, “Climate Change”, or “looming catastrophe” will be seen as Neville Chamberlain, possibly within a few short years.

  9. Lou Grinzo says:

    While I agree completely with Joe’s last graf re: messaging, let me add something about timing.

    A very dangerous metaphor I hear thrown around a lot is that humanity won’t listen to the experts who are warning that a stove is hot, and we just have to touch it anyway. The problem is one of timing. In real life, if someone does insist on touching a hot stove, he can usually rely on his reflex action to prevent a really serious burn, especially if he’s been warned and just brushing the stove for an instant with one fingertip.

    What we’re doing with climate change is much more akin to leaning on a red hot stove with both hands and leaving them there for hours or days, with only after-the-fact medical care to help us. I say this not just because of the scale and scope of climate change, but because of the sequential latencies we’re dealing with. From business as usual (i.e. now) until the time when we have new public policies, they’ve been put into effect, and have had a chance to make a measurable difference in the rising temps, is likely years to decades. (And if the drumbeat of “growth before emissions cuts” statements from China and India, plus the utter lack of meaningful action, so far, from the US is any indication, we won’t see anything positive happen for at least a decade, barring a Climate Pearl Harbor event.)

    I know that image of someone with their palms on a red hot stove for so long is sickening to some people, and I sincerely apologize for that, but I think it much more accurately describes how much trouble we’re in because of the timing of changes to human and natural systems, and, therefore, the true urgency of our situation.

  10. Michael Tucker says:

    The political climate trumps the real climate every time! And now many progressives cannot even mention global warming. Astonishing! I noticed that too in Maddow’s speech; no mention of climate change. It has become such a monstrously challenging political football. It is easy to understand why some progressives will now say that no one wants to hear about climate change.

    President Obama has said he will not allow inaction…we will see. He has said he will look for votes to get climate change legislation passed over the coming months…we will see.

    He seems to be taking his time and maybe we do have plenty of time to get a tax on carbon. Maybe we can wait until next year or the year after. If he is not that worried about his own children’s future maybe we are overreacting.

  11. Mark Shapiro says:

    Obama made three astonishing claims in his oval office speech:

    1) that BP would pay for the damage,

    2) that we would restore the gulf, and

    3) that on clean energy, he would listen to all options except inaction. He would not accept a filibuster.

    Two days later, he has the $20 B pledge from BP. (Just getting them to suspend the dividend was a huge victory). Restoring the gulf will take a lifetime if it’s possible at all. We can — and should — discuss global warming. And we should help Congress pass the bill.

    Hold Obama to that third pledge. Isn’t that our very highest priority here?

  12. Wit's End says:

    Well if climate change isn’t persuasive enough, do you suppose the prospect of starvation would motivate people?

    I have been in Costa Rica for a week. I expected to find a tropical paradise but it was clear even as the plane was landing that about one third of the tree crowns are bare. I have come to expect to see tree decline in New Jersey and other states on the East Coast exposed to heavy industrialization but, the Pacific coast of Coast Rica?

    I haven’t had time to post all the photographs and write up a description but I will after I get home tomorrow. Suffice it to say for now, I took a trip on a boat through a national park and asked the tour guide if he had noticed any changes.

    Oh yes, he said. The water, it is so high. It is washing away the banks of the river when it rains so hard.

    What about the trees, the plants? I asked.

    Terrible, terrible, he said. Every night I see my friends, all tour guides, and we talk about it. The trees they are all dying, it is terrible.

    Why do you think that is happening? I asked him.

    He hesitates, not sure. “I think maybe it is the global warming,” he finally replied.

    I can say that leaves here of every sort of tree have the same sort of stippling and dropping, trees are falling over, branches are breaking, as can be seen in the US, from exposure to ozone. It’s NOT warming temperatures causing dryness (although that is going to be a huge problem), because annual, irrigated crops, ornamentals in pots, and aquatic plants in ponds have the exact same symptoms.

    Animals are disappearing because there is less for them to eat.

    We are animals. There is going to be less for us to eat.

    Do you suppose that might be a more likely motivation for Joe the Plumber to switch to clean energy than the prospect of climate change?

  13. The Wonderer says:

    Can you solve global warming when businesses with vested interests in the status quo have the right of anonymous free speech, and more means than any individual?

  14. homunq says:

    I love the “Winston Churchill” metaphor. Like Nazism, global warming is a threat that only grows worse the longer you ignore it. Like Nazism, it’s something that requires courage to face. Like Nazism, there is a chorus of folks who, out of cowardice or shortsightedness or evil collusion, would rather deny the threat. As with WWII, the green realignment will actually be good for our economy.

    The only difference from the Nazis is that to fight and vanquish global warming will not cost tens of millions of lives. Which makes the cowardice of those unwilling to face it even worse.

  15. homunq says:

    Continuing with the Nazi idea… the difference between the US today and Britain in the 1930s is the vapidness of our press corps. Today, those who were against the Iraq war, or those who warned of the subprime meltdown, are still treated as pariahs, even after being proven correct. This is what makes people afraid to be “right too early” (even though really it’s closer to too late by now).

    However, this vapidness is part of the problem. If you hope that humanity can save itself, that hope implies overcoming this problem. In other words, in the happy futures, the Cassandras of today will be the heroes. Don’t worry about being treated unfairly by history; in any futures which would be inclined to do so, people will be too busy plowing Antarctica to bother.

  16. Philip says:

    Reading this blog, the posts and comments, has made me even more aware of the frequency and gravity of our current extreme weather incidents, especially those in the United States. If the American media fail to inform the American public of this, and if Obama is serious about dealing with the accelerating catastrophe of global warming, then it is his duty to use the bully pulpit to educate the people and establish the connection between what has been happening, what is likely to happen, and the imbalances caused by the human contribution of greenhouse gases. It is here, against the backdrop of events specifically related to our climate, that he should proclaim the need for a climate bill.

  17. Richard Brenne says:


  18. David says:

    I was very disappointed Obama didn’t have the courage to confront climate change in his speech. By neglecting to do so, the climate-change denialist lobby wins, because it minimizes the importance of the issue to the American people and makes it an afterthought. If climate change wasn’t a problem, I can hardly see why all of this green energy would even be worth the effort. So I don’t even know how you can make a cogent plea for ending the fossil fuel era without acknowledging the elephant in the living room.

    The fact is that the American people have been misinformed with lies and disinformation trumpeted by certain powerful special interests. This would have been the perfect time to address climate change. The earth has just set record monthly temperatures for several months in a row, and even the major metropolitan areas of the Continental U.S. have been quite warm. Many locations in the Midwest and Northeast had their warmest spring on record. June is off to a very warm start for much of the country, especially in the South.

    It is in this context of extreme warmth, that all of these recent flash flooding and severe weather events have been occurring. Contrary to the lies of the denialists, this manmade phenomenon is not called climate change because the globe is no longer warming. It’s because that warming globe is going to affect the climate in manifold ways – from melting sea ice to torrential rains to bark beetles and forest fires.

  19. fj2 says:

    Dare we imagine that the president understands the true scale of this thing, his complete and understandable trepidation to leap straight to the Everest-like summit of tsunamis racing with extraordinary purpose and vision into an unknown future propelled by equally extraordinary positive change?

  20. Joanna says:

    You know what, all this blah blah talking about it is still talking about it and nothing is getting accomplished by talking about it. Living green is a LIFESTYLE and it’s something we all have to do every day, all the time, and make the commitment today. Talking about it just wastes times. DOING something about it is what needs to happen, so that’s why I have Closest Closet, because people need to get up off their butts and shut their mouths. Your mouth isn’t helping climate change. Your ACTIONS are. So LIVE green, don’t just TALK green.

  21. Oliver James says:

    To change more minds and create pressure, we need an extra-compressed batch of extreme weather events over the next 2 to 4 years. Maybe we’ll get them.

  22. catman306 says:

    Maybe someone has an extreme weather blog documenting (or at least listing) these extreme events on a day by day basis. Extreme events move averages. Averages are ‘climate’. Extreme events can, and do, indicate climate change. How else will ‘climate’, which is just average weather, change without extreme events?

    Please pass along a link if anyone knows of such a site. Or start one!

    Thanks, Eric Normand and Dan B.

  23. Mike #22 says:

    Global Warming is the ultimate wedge issue. Give the man some time.

  24. homunq says:

    Confronting German expansionism is the ultimate wedge issue. Give Chamberlain some time.

  25. homunq says:

    Wow, I really like the Churchill/Chamberlain frame. Sure, it almost triggers Godwin’s law, but whatever. The point is that it is 100% fair and accurate, and it speaks a language that a conservative (of almost any stripe) can’t ignore.

    Global Warming is the greatest threat our country faces. It’s actually come much further than Germany had in 1936; instead of just invading the far-away Rhineland, it’s already killed thousands of our own citizens within our borders. Will our leader be Chamberlain, minimizing and avoiding it to preserve business as usual, or will he be Churchill, facing and defeating it?

    (Goes for almost any country, not just the US.)

  26. homunq says:

    Churchill, on the Munich pact (OK, that was for the Sudetenland, the Rhineland came earlier):

    “We have suffered a total and unmitigated defeat…you will find that in a period of time which may be measured by years, but may be measured by months, Czechoslovakia will be engulfed in the Nazi régime. We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude…we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road…we have passed an awful milestone in our history, when the whole equilibrium of Europe has been deranged, and that the terrible words have for the time being been pronounced against the Western democracies: “Thou art weighed in the balance and found wanting”. And do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in the olden time.”

    Hmmm… the only difference is that instead of martial vigour, we just need terrestrial vigor. In a sane world, that would be easier.

  27. Lou Grinzo says:

    Joanna(20): Unless you include a huge dollop of political activism in your prescription for living green, then such a lifestyle change won’t come close to generating the level of CO2 reductions needed. If you dramatically reduce your electricity consumption, for example, that does nothing to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted per kWh of generated electricity. Even if you can somehow get every household, business, government office, NGO, university, etc. to follow your lead (and that’s one heck of a big “if”), we’re still stuck with way too much coal being burned to generate electricity.

    There are some changes that can only happen in the needed time frame via changes in public policy. And that requires not just a big push in a single election, but a sustained shift in voter sentiment so that all politicians correctly perceive that they have to change or get sent home. And that, in turn, requires us to override the sheer mass of influence the fossil fuel interests (and those in the same economic boat, like the railroads that make a huge amount of money from hauling coal all over the US) can buy.

    Honestly, I don’t know what’s more depressing, the urgency of the physical situation or the daunting task facing us on the political front.

  28. Chris Dudley says:

    Since the goal is an international treaty that addresses warming, there is really no way to just talk about ‘clean energy’ and ‘energy independence.’ We need specific targets that can fit together into an international scheme that includes China, India, Canada, Australia, Brazil and the US.

    That is not to say that there are not other issues that can be addressed, especially if we get off the ‘price on carbon’ kick. Being smart about cutting oil consumption to control the price of oil, shutting coal mines on safety grounds matched with renewable energy replacement employment and being strategic about natural gas infrastructure with a view to future use of renewable energy and the Sabatier reaction could all be part of this. But, we can’t forget the ultimate goal which is an international treaty.

    Let me just say that a price on carbon mainly attacks coal in a stupid way. It does nothing about oil since oil is already pricey. It is stupid about coal because it will spread unemployment among miners broadly making it very difficult to switch the workforce in chunks, mine-by-mine. And does it really make any sense to add to the price of natural gas when we could eliminate coal burning right away with existing gas generating capacity just by running it more?

  29. homunq says:

    Chris Dudley- A price on carbon in the US is the first step to a strong international treaty. It’s inevitable practically, and irreplaceable politically as a show of resolve. It’s not stupid – the market has a distributed intelligence that’s hard to match. It does more to spur investment – and thus, given the economic situation, stimulate the economy – than everything else you mention put together.

    That said, it is not the only thing, and nobody says it is. On oil/transportation, any proposal worthy of the name already includes a healthy dollop of CAFE and tax-rebate strategies to boost efficiency.

    There are other issues. Your ideas are worth consideration, as are other similar strategies (for instance, by drastically raising labor and environmental standards for coal mining, we can employ just as many people mining much less coal with less local environmental damage. To start with, end mountaintop removal, which was invented as a labor-saving device). But the focus on the “price on carbon” is not at all stupid, because it is and should be the centerpiece.

    (To answer the question about natural gas – there just isn’t enough gas to replace coal, not to mention oil in vans, trucks and busses, so generator capacity is irrelevant, so “yes”.)

  30. Philip says:

    David #18

    There are two arguments in favor of green energy. One is the finiteness of and increasing risk associated with fossil fuels. The other is climate change. These issues are related, but they are not exactly the same. In his speech Obama touched on the first issue. If he had used the Gulf disaster to talk about climate change, I’m afraid we would have heard much talk about trying to exploit the disaster in order to advance an unrelated agenda. I am not arguing in favor of delay. I am arguing in favor of presenting our case in the strongest way possible, and I believe that the documentable increase in global temperature and the concatenation of extreme weather events offer us the best opportunity of
    doing this. The people of Tennessee may not see a connection between an oil rig catastrophe and global warming, but they might see one between global warming and the floods that recently plagued their state.

  31. Chris Dudley says:


    No, on several counts. If you want to stimulate the economy, lower the price of oil. That is the drug on the market right now. A price on carbon does nothing about oil consumption for the reason I gave. Rationing would do the trick where CAFE standards are too slow. We need a price on excess oil consumption that would otherwise force the price of oil up. Our standby gasoline rationing plan has a white market in rations which does just this. The President only need to say go since the Congress has already approved the plan. A price on carbon is too blunt an instrument.

    Please, please, please let us reduce employment in the mining sector. I love a good mine disaster song but I’ll love them more when they are an historic anachronism, just like slave songs. Focus on replacing mining jobs, not retaining them. That is easiest done on a mine-by-mine basis. Site a silicon refinery at the rail head of each mine closed.

    You are incorrect about natural gas availability. There are very large domestic reserves and there is lots that is being flared now around the world so there is also a huge excess supply.

  32. JoshK says:

    Joe, another way to put it is that by not talking about global warming, Dems are essentially ceding the playing field to the right wing deniers, who are much less afraid to talk about the issue. As soon as it looks like the Dems are hiding the ball (which, in a sense, they are), it becomes easy for the uninformed voter to jump to the conclusion that, gosh, there really must be a controversy about the science. It just makes no sense to me why you would tie one hand behind your back in a fight, but that’s what the Dems are doing.

  33. MarkL says:

    I see that “Congress has allowed the National Flood Insurance Program to expire, making new flood protection policies unavailable even from private insurers.”

    Read more:

    Apparently the program is $18 billion in debt, mostly due to hurricane Katrina.

    The question is, with hurricanes and floods becoming stronger and stronger, and more and more frequent, how can any insurance program calculate risk? Will we be seeing the end of disaster insurance?

    Perhaps this is worth a post…

  34. catman306 says:

    Chris Dudley, I was thinking that each closed coal mine could become an underground depository for bio-charcoal. Charcoal, buried underground, is a perfect way of sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere into permanent storage out of the biosphere. Waste wood and storm downed trees can be inexpensively turned into charcoal. Coal miners could be employed to make charcoal and in putting the charcoal into the earth. No living trees need to be cut down (at first) to enact this plan. Out of work people everywhere could be employed to plant mixed species trees. (Mixed species, because who can say what the climatic conditions in any location will be 20-40 years from now?)

    Paulm, The NOAA site leaves much to be desired. The up posting commenters’ information is really more complete and up to date. NOAA could do a better job, but it probably will be a dedicated blogger who builds this database.

  35. mike roddy says:

    Richard, 17, and Josh, 33: correct.

    Backing away from an argument because it is silly, and you get worn down by the idiocy of it, is a weak alternative. There is an implied impression that maybe the science isn’t settled after all.

    That would mean that the Kochs and Peabodys won, in spite of being humiliated on rational grounds (which they don’t care about at all).

    Joe, you must also get sick of slapping down the Moncktons and Moranos, and even the more presentable ones, like Lindzen and Pielke. But I’m glad you see the bigger picture, and keep giving them the spankings that they deserve.

  36. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    MarkL at #34 –

    You’re right to raise weather insurance as a focus – it may well be one of the earliest signals to the market that there can be no ‘adaption’ to ongoing climate destabilization.

    With public funds underwriting insurance corporations’ losses, taxpayers are on a treadmill of exponentially rising costs that will, not may but will over time break any feasible budget allotted to them – Yet without that backing, the corporations will withdraw cover – if Nashville can be hit by a super-cell deluge causing massive damage, where is it safe to provide cover at affordable rates ?

    The absence of weather cover would not only cripple the housing market long term, since banks cannot prudently provide a mortgage on an uninsured asset that can be wiped out overnight – it would also remove massive collateral from the majority of US businesses using their premises and contents to access working capital.

    I suspect that there will be graphs of intensifying US weather damage trends shown to congressional committees that will be somewhat problematic for their republican members’ denialism.



  37. Chris Dudley says:


    That is not a bad idea though I suspect biochar will be in demand in agriculture for a while before we need to think about storing charcoal elsewhere. A friend of mine works on this at the University of Georgia trying to figure out the best way to extract liquid and gaseous fuels from the biochar making process. He has favored bamboo has a raw material.

  38. kiwichick says:

    if you really want denial try talking about zero population growth

    if you want crazy shift to australia; the government here pays aussies
    $5000 for each kid they add to the planet

    most aussies are just as much in denial as yanks

  39. Jeff Howard says:

    Joe, you’ll want fix this crucial sentence: “If you can’t even utter that basic sentence or something like it, you simply ***aren’t serious about explain*** to the public why they need to put a price on carbon pollution.”

  40. Frankie Petitclerc says:

    Most all of you have made good and viable points. What we all need to do is to take political action to get our legislators to propose and pass legislation that will bring our CO2 levels in the atmosphere to or below 350 ppm C02, which is necessary to slow or stop the rise of global temperatures.

    The best way to do that would be a “Fee & Dividend” bill. That would charge fossil fuel companies; oil, coal etc., a fee at the source, such as the mine or port of entry. That fee would rise each year and the dividends from those fees would be distributed regularly to households in the U.S. Those fees would give the citizens money to pay for the increasing costs that they would be charged for the increasing price of fossil fuel.

    As the fees get higher each year at a designated rate, it now gives companies and venture capitalists that want to develop clean/alternative energy, incentives to invest because now they will be able to compete with fossil fuels as fossil costs go up, clean energy costs will come down, which will now make them a strong competitor and that will only snowball as everyone will want to get on the alternative energy bandwagon because that is where the money will be, not to mention the growth in our economy.

    Citizens will be purchasing alternative energy products to save money and the more they do the more money they will have in their pockets from the dividends they receive from the fossil fuel company fees.

    It’s a win win win situation, for the citizens, the economy and the climate because it gives the citizens the incentive to support it, the economy a financial boost with the development of alternative energy and the climate the only chance of reducing C02 down below 350 ppm in time to avoid the tipping point of unnatural disaster.

    So please tell your local legislators about this proposal and hold their feet to the fire to get a bill on the floor because the time is now and as President Obama said in his Oval Office speech on Tuesday,
    “If Not Now, When?”

  41. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Frankie at #41 –

    Fee and dividend is an option that reportedly has far less support in the senate than the Cap, Allocate and Trade format of the APA bill, and the latter lacks the support to go to a vote.

    Moreover, the senators will not move on a climate bill without strong encouragement from the Whitehouse, which is evidently lacking despite strong political advantages in its provision.

    The core questions are thus: what other imperative constrains the Whitehouse from commensurate action on climate, and what ought to be done about it ?

    Without resolving those questions, no bill, whether extant or proposed, appears to have much of a chance of becoming law.



  42. Frankie Petitclerc says:

    Lewis at 42-

    Checkout Rachel Maddow’s Friday the 18th’s show online to get the latest on what’s going on in the legislature in regards to an energy bill.


  43. talkpc says:

    Moreover, the senators will not move on a climate bill without strong encouragement from the Whitehouse, which is evidently lacking despite strong political advantages in its provision.

  44. Acronym List says:

    The core questions are thus: what other imperative constrains the Whitehouse from commensurate action on climate, and what ought to be done about it ?

  45. website says:

    It’s a win win win situation, for the citizens, the economy and the climate because it gives the citizens the incentive to support it, the economy a financial boost with the development of alternative energy and the climate the only chance of reducing C02 down below 350 ppm in time to avoid the tipping point of unnatural disaster.