David and I have apparently crossed blog streams (very dangerous; never do this), but I do want to expand a bit on this basic idea: climate change skepticism has little to do with science. Rather, it is an outgrowth of the culture war. This point seems both totally obvious and strangely unremarked. At the risk of generalizing, environmentalists tend to view climate change denialism as a top-down, money-driven phenomenon. Energy producers, auto manufacturers, oil companies, and other interested parties court politicians, buy friendly scientists, and groom armies of lawyers, lobbyists, and op-ed writers to push their agenda. Or so the theory goes. And, of course, there's a lot of merit to that theory. You don't need a compass to follow the trail of money. But the theory only goes so far. A shrinking but significant proportion of average American citizens reject the reality of climate change. The reasons for this are surely overdetermined -- scientific confusion, media spin, hopelessness in the face of a big problem, etc. -- but it's impossible to ignore the basic cultural resentment underlying everything from Planet Gore to the regular flow of blog comments and email I get from dedicated dead-enders.
Scholars have been debating that question for ages, along with "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around, does it make a sound?" and "Why don't we see any baby squirrels?" and "What the heck is happening on ABC's Lost?" (BTW, if anyone actually knows what the heck is happening on Lost, how Sayid ends up being Ben's hitman (!), let me know -- I still believe the "island is purgatory" theory -- it certainly is for viewers -- even though it has been debunked by the show's creator. As if! I guess that makes me a Lost denier ... but I digress.) I was inspired to re-examine this age-old question after the recent remarks of the Disinformer-in-Chief in his keynote address at the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, a ministerial-level conference hosted by the U.S. government. He said: Now, look, I understand stereotypes are hard to defeat. People get an image planted in their head, and sometimes it causes them not to listen to the facts. But America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence; we're in the lead when it comes to new technologies; we're in the lead when it comes to global climate change -- and we'll stay that way. [Applause.] Side note: The "Is it still disinformation if the speaker gets applause?" question was actually settled by Aristotle himself in his little-known book The Duh of Rhetoric.
The Western Climate Initiative is a path-breaking effort. Insufficient federal progress prompted seven states and two provinces to join together to reduce climate pollution by means of an economy-wide cap-and-trade program. It's a momentous opportunity, and many folks have been working hard to ensure that it's a success. Unfortunately, there's now cause for serious concern. Yesterday evening, WCI released its draft proposal (PDF). It proposes an initial cap that would cover less than half of the region's total emissions. Most surprisingly, WCI does not recommend including emissions from transportation fuels, by far the largest source of climate pollution in the West. [Update 3/7: The recommendation doesn't exclude transportation precisely, but rather defers the decision until further economic studies are completed.] The proposal is at odds with WCI's own stated principles that include a commitment to cover "as many emissions sources as practical." And for an effort born of frustration with federal lawmakers, it's bizarre that the proposal is significantly smaller in scope than recent federal bills (PDF), including Leiberman-Warner. There are no big technical challenges to including transportation fuels. In fact, the WCI admits that while there are a couple of hurdles, it's administratively feasible to include transportation emissions. So what's going on? No one knows for sure.
A bill introduced Thursday in the House of Representatives would grant California the right to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from vehicles, and pave the way for 12 other states to do the same. The U.S. EPA’s decision to keep California from regulating car GHG emissions “defied the science, defied the states, and defied common sense,” said bill cosponsor Peter Welch (D-Vt.). Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.
A short while ago, Sir Oolius received a fundraising email from the Competitive Enterprise Institute asking for donations to help them with their new raison d'etre: yelling "FU, Al Gore!" as loudly and as often as possible. The fruits of this effort are now upon us in the form of a national ad whining campaign: If carbon = life, then Al Gore ...
I have nothing pithy to add to this story, but only because the inanity of the quotes is so hard to top. From Restructuring Today ($ub req'd) (my emphasis on the good bits):
Okay, so at the recent Heartless Heartland skeptic/denier/disinformer/climate-destroyer conference (I promise to propose a better term this week!), one of the few attendees who was a non-non-believer in science emailed me the following: Marc Morano, Sen. Inhofe's press secretary, just cited your post on the dangers of consensus as an example of how deniers are forcing climate action proponents to retreat. "We're making them afraid of using the term 'consensus'!" Now, that is humor! After all, my article is titled "The cold truth about climate change: Deniers say there's no consensus about global warming. Well, there's not. There's well-tested science and real-world observations [that are much more worrisome]," and it explains that: "Consensus" is far too weak a word to describe the collective scientific understanding of the dangers of human-caused global warming. The reality of climate change is almost certainly going to be much worse than the "consensus" as that term is normally used (to describe the IPCC reports). The deniers are peddling pseudoscience.
Southern Baptist Convention to back off from outright denialism tomorrow?
So, who said: With $55 oil we don't need incentives to oil and gas companies to explore. There are plenty of incentives. Yes, that would be our president, three years ago. And yet with oil at nearly twice that price, Bush still refuses to cut subsidies and shift that money to clean technologies. And he still claims that the solution to our energy and climate problems is "technology, technology, technology, blah, blah." But, as we've seen, that is all just rhetoric or sleight of hand. Daniel J. Weiss, Director of Energy Strategy at the Center for American Progress, has an article on the urgent need for this switch in priorities: "Unbearable cost of oil: Record prices require Senate action." As Weiss points out, this will be one more chance for McCain to do the right thing: