The carbon plan of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) is considerably lamer -- and more transparently a poison pill -- than early reports suggested. So I strongly disagree with Chris Dodd, Friends of the Earth, and Gristmill's Charles Komanoff, who all applaud the bill. Here's why. First, as Dingell himself has said, he wanted to design a bill with maximum pain to prove to everyone how unpalatable greenhouse gas mitigation is (see below). Why else include a pointless $0.50 gasoline tax on top of the carbon tax? Dingell actually has a double agenda here -- to torpedo climate legislation and a toughening of CAFE at once. Taxes are unpopular enough -- but two of them? Come on! We've seen gasoline prices jump two dollars a gallon in recent years, with little impact on usage. What would another 50 cents do, except piss people off? It would never make the final bill, and Dingell knows it. Second, Dingell "phases out the mortgage interest on primary mortgages on houses over 3,000 square feet." But why? Here is the lame answer:
Those greenwashing ads are really starting to bug me. "It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We'll use the next trillion in 30." And you're proud of this fact -- proud of your role in bringing about the wholesale destruction of this planet's climate? Will you join us? No, I won't. I'm trying to figure out a way to get people to use a lot less of your polluting product. And now, "Chevron Announces New Global 'Human Energy' Advertising Campaign." I suppose it's better than the ad campaign for "inhuman energy" that they have been running for decades -- though it strikes me as a lame ripoff of Dow's "Human Element" campaign. Chevron has taken the equivalent of three full-page ads in today's Washington Post. One of the ads says, "We've increased the energy efficiency of our own operations by 27% since 1992." To quote Clarence Thomas, "Whoop-Dee-Damn-Doo."
The nation's top climate scientist is prolific: He has co-authored another important article: "Global Warming: East-West Connections" (PDF). And I'm not just saying that because he cites one of my articles. In fact, we've been having an email exchange and he strongly disagrees with me that it is too late, in a practical sense, to save the Arctic (and hence the polar bear). He believes strong and smart action now could work -- whereas I believe we need such action now to save the Greenland ice sheet, but doubt we can or will act in time to stop the total loss of Arctic summer ice. I have previously written about the crucial climate variable -- the equilibrium climate sensitivity (typically estimated at about 3Â°C for double CO2) -- and how it only includes fast feedbacks, such as water vapor. Now Hansen has a draft article that looks at both current climate forcings and the paleoclimate record to conclude that "long-term" sensitivity is a stunning 6Â°C for doubled CO2. Here is what Hansen says on the subject (though when you read it you may wonder why Hansen is more optimistic than I am, rather than less):
The Foreign Minister of China, Yang Jiechi, gave a talk at CGI that would have made President Bush -- or Frank Luntz -- proud. Brian may have liked the rhetoric, but I (and a number of others I spoke to in NY) thought the comments were divorced from reality, pure spin. You can judge for yourself from the entire transcript, which I will excerpt and comment on here because I think the speech is much more important and ominous than Bush's recent climate speech. After all, Bush will be gone soon, but if this speech reflects China's view of the climate problem, we are all in deep, deep trouble. Yang says: A review of history shows that climate change occurs in the course of development. It is both an environment issue and a development issue. But ultimately, it is a development issue. Uh, not really. He presumably meant to say "rising greenhouse gases (GHGs)" instead of "climate change." And he presumably means to imply that you can't have development without climate change/GHGs.
So the fall season has begun and, as expected, shows from Boston Legal to Moonlight are going green -- even William Shatner got into the act. I'd be very interested in hearing from readers if any of their favorite shows had a green element. In the opening voiceover of the second season opener, genetics professor Mohinder Suresh (Sendhil Ramamurthy) says that humanity's problems, including global warming, are "insurmountable" without our Heroes. Shades of The 4400. I'm glad the writers mentioned global warming. But the way they did leaves the impression that we can't solve the problem without superhuman abilities. And people can't fly or teleport or heal themselves from any injury -- can they?
Bush has given us a new drinking game: Down a shot whenever the President uses the word "technology" in a climate speech. You'd get 19 shots for yesterday's 21 minute speech! As predicted, Bush closely follows the Frank Luntz playbook on how to seem like you care about the climate when you don't. Bush stated the basic do-nothing message well: Our investments in research and technology are bringing the world closer to a remarkable breakthrough -- an age of clean energy where we can power our growing economies and improve the lives of our people and be responsible stewards of the earth the Almighty trusted to our care. Translation: "If we had those technologies today, then maybe we could take genuine action now. But, darn it, people, we don't. We can't grow the economy and be responsible stewards of the earth quite yet. We are close, though, so be patient already and stop with all those calls for mandatory regulation. Sheesh!"
Once again, the foreign media is not fooled by Bush's PR stunt, while the U.S. media buys the White House line. The U.K.'s The Independent labeled this a "Greenwashing Climate Summit" in its headline, and opened their story with: For the first time in 16 years, a major environmental conference opens in Washington, hosted by the Bush administration. But no concrete results are expected, and that -- say European participants -- is the point of this high-level meeting. Far from representing a Damascene conversion on climate change by President George Bush, the two-day gathering of the world's biggest polluting nations is aimed at undermining the UN's efforts to tackle global warming, say European sources. "The conference was called at very short notice," said one participant. "It's a cynical exercise in destabilising the UN process." So how does the AP puff piece on the summit begin?
After I heard a claim that our nation's top climate scientist "once warned of Ice Age" -- I (and no doubt many others) emailed Hansen and said he should reply to the rapidly morphing and spreading myth. He has here (PDF). I will reprint what he has to say below (you can also go to that link for an interesting commentary, "Please talk to your grandfather"):
The opening plenary was fascinating. Clinton explained how CGI commitments had already avoided 20,000,000 tons of greenhouse gases. Then he tried to get Robert Zoellick, head of the World Bank, to realize that the "Bank can show people options for sustainable development." Zoellick, however, was full of little more than platitudes, saying we need to address "questions of adaptation and mitigation," and noting that there is a sensitivity in the developing world that climate change funds will come at the expense of development -- totally missing Clinton's point that green development is the only winning path (and Gore's point that global warming, left unchecked, will negate all other efforts aimed at development). Clinton, however, persisted -- especially after H. Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, touted his various successes:
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