Climate & Energy

The problem with 'We Can Solve It'

An ad campaign on climate needs spokespeople who believe what they’re saying

Idly watching TV the other day, my attention was caught by the arresting image of Al Sharpton and Pat Robertson sitting on a sofa. The artfully shot, 15-second spot is one of the first blitz of television ads from We Can Solve It, Al Gore's $300 million project to build up a public base of support for climate action. The two resemble each other, looking as sleek and plump as sea otters after a good feed. Sharpton and Robertson fence good naturedly, following the strange-bedfellows format of the ad series. Robertson puns, "So get involved; it's the 'right' thing to do," and Sharpton ripostes with the Reagan line, "Now there you go again!" The thing is well done and I enjoyed it, but I was also aggravated by the choice of spokespersons -- and the more I thought about it, troubled by the deeper meaning of the ad.

James and the giant lie

Oklahoma senator makes stuff up, wastes time in climate change debate

James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate’s leading climate change denier, had plenty of kooky and alarmist things to say in yesterday’s debate over climate change legislation. Think Progress has video of one of his wing-nuttiest contributions …

Ah, the 'Can't do' spirit

Standing up to Samuelson

This post is by Bracken Hendricks, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. ----- In Monday's Washington Post, and a parallel piece in Newsweek, Robert Samuelson gets it wildly wrong on cap-and-trade, parroting a litany of falsehoods and misrepresentations concerning the most probable federal policy for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Like most detractors of action on global warming, Samuelson continues to push the unsubstantiated notion that reducing emissions will tank the economy, and thus is not worth the effort. The problem with this argument is that it ignores the last three decades of science, misunderstands basic economic theory, and overlooks the enormous opportunity presented by the clean energy economy. Inaction is by far the most expensive policy option, as many recent studies make clear.

Hi, my name is Sean and I'm fallible

The challenges of reconciling science and policy

This is a post that I'm virtually certain will be misinterpreted. But it's an important enough issue that I'm going to bet that my writing skills are sufficient to provide clarity to a rather muddy issue. First off, though, a disclaimer: Science is good. Policy informed by science is good. Leadership informed by science is good. The alternative to all of the above is bad. Nothing I am about to say is to be taken as support for creationism, global warming denial, diminution of White House science advisers or the re-excommunication of Galileo. However, there is a conflict that lies between the fuzziness that is innate to scientific inquiry and the precision that is required for policy -- and more broadly, leadership. We see this conflict whenever global warming deniers trot out scientists who disagree with mainstream theories and we are forced to explain to the deniers that while the nature of scientific inquiry invites debate, the presence of a debate per se does not imply anything about the preponderance of evidence. As Joe Romm has pointed out, Einstein's revisions to the laws of motion did not prove that Issac Newton was an insufferable quack. It just meant that science is innately fallible and subject to revision. Or as Keynes famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?" So far, I don't think I've said anything novel or controversial. But here's the catch: The same logic that compels us to acknowledge that science is fallible and evolves must also compel us to acknowledge that policy based on science might be wrong. This is not to suggest that a 1-percent doubt ought to stand in the way of policy based on 99 percent certainty, but rather to recognize that good policy must retain sufficient flexibility to "change its mind."

Best foot forward

Climate bills will only get better from here

Mark Thoma, whose Economist’s View is an excellent resource for all things economic, posts a roundup of writing on cap-and-trade versus a carbon tax, including a good primer on how the economics work and why …

Elder care for the long emergency

Cool housing for oldsters

People who think about how we're going to adapt to lower-energy living arrangements often miss that the U.S. continues to gray rapidly. Given that we've had almost sixty years of radical suburbanization and cross-country relocation, sundering the extended family networks that once provided child and elder care, we're in a pickle when it comes to figuring out how to care for elders. Here's an encouraging story about a new facility that really seems to get it. My question is why we aren't thinking about these for just-getting-starteds and young adults ... we could call it co-housing ...

Global warming draws heat from Dems

Here's an article out today from Roll Call ($ub. req'd), which has been covering Congress since 1955:

Creeping toward productive conversation

Senate begins debate on Lieberman-Warner climate bill — sort of

After last night’s cloture vote, Senate Republicans asked for 30 hours before legislatively productive debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act could begin. That means they spent all of today kibitzing about climate legislation without …

Who's protecting us from the gays?

Conservative Christian group outraged that Congress is distracted by climate change

In today’s daily action alert from the Family Research Council, President Tony Perkins bemoans the fact that the Senate is wasting time talking about climate change when the gays are still running around getting married …

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