Nick Kristof drinks the tech-breakthrough Kool-Aid — guess who he’s been talking to

When I see a Nicholas Kristof piece in the NYT on global warming, I expect to learn something. Alas, not today. The online version of his article, “Our Favorite Planet,” has the blurb

None of the presidential candidates focus adequately on climate change, for this will be one of humanity’s great tests in the coming decades — and so far we’re failing.

Well, actually two of them do, as I explained in “Could a President Obama or Clinton stop global warming?” As we’ll see, this time Kristof couldn’t be bothered to check out the facts about “one of humanity’s great tests.” Near the end he says:

So the next president should start a $20 billion-a-year program (financed by a pullout from Iraq) to develop new energy technologies, backed by a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system.

No, no, a hundred times no. First off, why on God’s green earth would you have both a carbon tax and cap-and-trade system? One of the main reasons to do something as complicated as an economy-wide cap-and-trade system is that the simple approach, a tax, is a political nonstarter in this country. If you could get a tax, why would you add all the complexity of a cap-and-trade system? Pick one and stick with it. Please.


Second, as someone who helped run the billion-dollar federal program for developing new climate-saving energy technologies for three years (and who ran that program’s Office of Planning and Assessment for two years), and who has blogged about this more than I had ever imagined — let me say one more time, the country doesn’t need a $20 billion annual program to develop new energy technologies. I’d take $2 billion, but frankly would be happy to live with the existing R&D budget if you gave me the cap-and-trade system plus some strong government efficiency and renewable standards, redesigned electricity regulations, and $10 billion a year in demonstration and deployment programs.

This serious confusion by Kristof has serious consequences. He is regurgitating repeating the new MSM campaign meme being peddled by, who else, the McCain campaign, that McCain is no different from Obama and Clinton on global warming. This is doubly ironic because McCain is the only one who doesn’t support an aggressive government-led clean tech deployment program — see, for instance, Campaign stunner: McCain “might take [new CAFE standards] off the books” and “No climate for old men.”

Does Kristof even know that Obama has a $15 billion a year clean tech program in his climate plan? It would seem not. The details are here, page 1. He should apologize to both Democrats.

Now what one person on earth could leave someone as smart as Kristof so confused? [Hint: This person co-authored a Nature article that Kristof cites.] You are all way ahead of me. And you will love this quote from the piece:

“We’ve gotten this hopelessly wrong,” said Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado at Boulder, one of the authors of the Nature article. “If we approach this from reducing emissions we get nowhere. Driving Priuses may be good, but it’s not going to accomplish what we need.”

Let’s see. We’re at 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year — rising 3.3% per year — and we have to average below 18 billion tons a year for the entire century if we’re going to avoid catastrophe. And this is according to the world’s top climate scientists, who are desperately begging us to start cutting emissions immediately (see “Desperate times, desperate scientists”).


Note to Kristof, Pielke, and everyone else who cares about maintaining the health and well-being of the next 50 generations — We must approach this from reducing emissions. Anything else is self-destructive. We have simply dawdled too long. That’s why a sober guy like IPCC head Rajendra Pachauri, said in November: “If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.” Increasing R&D into new energy technologies has been a good idea for longer than the two decades I’ve been pushing the idea — but right now it is about a distant fourth on the list of priorities.

I can hardly wait to hear from Pielke how he was misquoted yet again, as he claims (here) with the L.A. Times last month, who wrote: “His research has led him to believe that it is cheaper and more effective to adapt to global warming than to fight it.”

I get misquoted, too, from time to time, but most MSM journalists who talk to me for a few minutes don’t get my position completely backwards over and over again. Maybe serious journalists are actually correctly understanding the message Pielke is delivering, the message the LAT described as follows:

Pielke’s analysis, published last month in the journal Natural Hazards Review, is part of a controversial movement that argues global warming over the rest of this century will play a much smaller role in unleashing planetary havoc than most scientists think.

Is that what Pielke really believes? Actually, I have found some of Pielke’s words from a few years ago that I could not disagree with more, words that remind me why I need to keep taking him on — but I’m going to leave that to a follow-up post.

For now, I would merely note, again, something Kristof himself writes:

Mr. Pielke and his colleagues argue that the best hope for salvation will be investment in new technologies — and that’s why I asked the climate deniers not to read this column, for it can sound a bit like President Bush’s “solution.”

Actually, Kristof probably should have told those of us desperately trying to avoid catastrophic impacts to skip the piece, too.

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