Politics

A unique insight into the IPCC process

The innerworkings of it all

Those opposed to action on climate change are compelled to attack the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its reports. Not doing so would cede the scientific high-ground of the argument and essentially doom their preferred do-nothing policy approach. One way to attack the IPCC is to describe it as a nameless bureaucracy pursuing its own political agenda, and entirely disconnected from the scientific community. For example, a report from the Fraser Institute makes this argument explicitly: [A] compelling problem is that the Summary for Policymakers, attached to the IPCC Report, is produced, not by the scientific writers and reviewers, but by a process of negotiation among unnamed bureaucratic delegates from sponsoring governments. Their selection of material need not and may not reflect the priorities and intentions of the scientific community itself. This argument is transparently false on several counts. First, the authors are not nameless, but are listed prominently on the first page of the Summary. In addition, they are not bureaucrats, but all have scientific credentials in the arena of climate change.

The pro-enviro solution that dare not speak its name

Trains are the forgotten mode of transport, at least in the U.S.

"Because if your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down their throats." Take electrified rail, for instance. Here's a sad report from Dean Baker of The American Prospect, one of the best reporters going today: I was shocked to discover in a conversation with a congressional staffer that rebuilding the country's train system is a topic that is strictly verboten on Capitol Hill. I was reminded of this when I read that a French train had set a new speed record of 357 miles per hour. Trains are far more fuel efficient than planes. Even at much slower speeds than this new French train, service across the Northeast and between the Midwest and Northeast can be very time competitive with air travel, after factoring in travel times to and from airports and security searches. It is remarkable that politicians don't even have trains on their radar screens. And, if you haven't seen the video of what an electrified train can do, check this out.

Climate in the UN Security Council

Highlighting security risks of climate change

On April 17, the UK will use the prerogative of the chair of the UN Security Council to devote a day to the security implications of climate change. UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett is scheduled to deliver a major address meant to put climate-security links squarely on the high table of security policy. John Ashton, the UK special envoy for climate change and an adviser to Beckett, has been making the case for treating climate as a security issue since he took up the post last fall.

The global problematique

A big picture statement the world’s big problems

I’m on a listserv, where somebody made the fateful mistake of casually asking me, "from a Gristy environmental point of view, wouldn’t it be a good thing if fossil fuels ran out?" In return, they received … a whole bunch of words. Then I thought, "hey, wait, I just wrote a bunch of words without putting them on the blog! What the eff am I thinking!?" So, without further ado, here’s a whole bunch of words: —– I don’t particularly consider myself an environmentalist as such, and I wouldn’t presume to speak for Grist. I just consider myself a progressive …

She Puts the Dud in Dudley

Bush appoints anti-regulation advocate as top regulatory official Mere days ago, we mentioned that President Bush might give Congress the runaround by making recess appointments of industry-tied folk to top environmentally related positions in his administration. Well, that didn’t take long. Meet Susan Dudley, the newly appointed head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, who will have occasion to change or block rules proposed by government agencies. As the administration’s top regulatory official, it’s only logical that she’s a conservative academic considered to have an anti-regulation agenda. In the past, Dudley has argued that ground-level ozone is beneficial, …

Will the environment be a factor in '08?

Not if experience is any guide

A professor of mine once remarked that while the environmental movement is wide, it is also thin. Nowhere is this more evident than in national elections, where candidates focus almost exclusively on national security issues and bread-and-butter economic agendas. (In contrast, local and state elections often produce clear environmental mandates.) Despite the perception that Democratic candidates place more of an emphasis on environmental issues, in 2000 Gore talked more about putting the social security surplus in a lockbox than he did about global warming, while in 2004 Kerry barely mentioned the environment or energy policy despite numerous opportunities and the obvious link between our addiction to Middle Eastern oil and terrorism.