Politics

That spade is a spade

Unusually straightforward journalistic fact-checking at the Post

Huge kudos to Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson at the Post. You don’t often see traditional journalists willing to call out the Bush administration’s lies and distractions so plainly: Seeking to counter international pressure to adopt binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, the Bush administration has been touting the success of three mandatory programs to curb U.S. energy consumption: gas mileage standards for vehicles, efficiency standards for home appliances and state laws requiring utilities to increase their use of renewable energy sources. But for most of the Bush presidency, the White House has either done little to promote these measures …

Quote of the day

Dingell gets off a zinger in a testy interview

"I run a legislative committee. Mr. Markey runs around the world watching glaciers melt." — Rep. John Dingell Ouch. That comes from a characteristically testy interview Dingell did with Newsweek. It’s worth reading the whole thing. I don’t know what his intent is with this carbon tax bill, but I will say that the tenor of his message on global warming is politically disastrous. It is, paraphrasing, this: "Global warming is a serious problem. Solving it is going to involve considerable pain for everyone. Gas and electricity prices are going to rise. You’re not going to be able to drive …

Clinton Global Initiative: The view from China

China’s foreign minister talks climate and development

China's foreign minister Yang Jiechi focused on climate change during his moment in the CGI spotlight yesterday:

Michigan Rep. John Dingell drafts a carbon-tax bill

Michigan Rep. John Dingell (D) has drafted a carbon-tax bill and posted a summary to his website to solicit public feedback. In its current form, Dingell’s legislation would phase in over five years a $50-per-ton tax on carbon and a tax of 50 cents per gallon on gasoline and jet fuel (after five years the tax would be indexed to inflation). The bill would also phase out tax deductions for homes over 3,000 square feet. A carbon tax is beloved by economists and other wonks as the most transparent, efficient means of cutting greenhouse-gas emissions. Voters, however, tend to hate …

Environmentalism's existential moment

Shellenberger & Nordhaus respond to critics

The following is a guest essay by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, authors of Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility and “The Death of Environmentalism.” Nordhaus and Shellenberger are managing directors at American Environics and the founders of the Breakthrough Institute. —– This month the world celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the international treaty that phased out ozone-destroying chemicals. For environmentalists, the Montreal Protocol has long been a model for action on global warming. In the words of David Doniger, the climate director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, "The lesson from Montreal is …

Clinton Global Initiative: Clinton chats with the press

Bill Clinton wanted a carbon market back in the day, and he still does

Bill Clinton just gave a short speech and took a few questions from reporters. Some highlights: When they were in office, Bill Clinton and Al Gore wanted to create a global carbon market. At the time, Europe thought the idea undesirable and unfeasible and didn't offer any support. The effort failed. Now, years down the line, the world is a different place and the idea has much more purchase. Clinton, when asked for his thoughts on this, managed to turn all of his administration's supposed failures -- from health care to peace in the Middle East -- into examples of his foresight: "It's a great thing to fail at a good cause because it keeps free people stumbling in the right direction." Clever. But also true. So what does he support now? In response to a question about just that (it was the question I wanted to ask, but I guess I didn't raise my hand high enough), Clinton said he still supports a carbon market. A carbon tax creates incentives to individuals, he said -- but in theory, because it's largely untested. He sounded open-minded, but believes that as a catalyst for innovation and with greater enforcement and consumer information, a carbon auction is still the preferable regulatory scheme. Addendum the first: In answering a question about the empowerment of women in the world, he managed to offer a frighteningly complete history of the world in two minutes. Addendum the second: Apparently last year's CGI meeting was followed via webcast by about 50,000 people. This year, Clinton announced, that number is 500,000 -- a ten-fold increase. It's not surprising that the CGI audience would grow as the event's profile increased and technology spread and improved, but a 1000 percent increase over the course of one year is really remarkable.

Clinton Global Initiative: A round-up of quotes

Highlights from Brundtland, Zenawi, and Blair; lowlights from Paulson

Notable quotes from the plenary on "Economic Growth in the Face of Resource Scarcity and Climate Change": Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and United Nations Special Envoy on Climate Change: "Industry needs political signals and long-term ones. And it's not sufficient that individual countries set their own [goals] without connecting it to a global system." Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Ethiopia: "This is about property right ... it's about a scarce resource, which is how much pollution the atmosphere can take," and about allowing countries that don't need the resource to sell shares to countries that do. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the U.K.: "You're not going to get a global deal that is the same strategy operating in every country ... you will end up with a series of different strategies, probably based on cap and trade, and then a linking system." Hank Paulson, U.S. Treasury Secretary: I'm not going to quote anything Hank Paulson said here, because it's all been obfuscatory Bush administration claptrap and, next to the three people on stage with him, everything coming out of his mouth sounds ignorant and mendacious.

Clinton Global Initiative: Climate change and the Third World

Ethiopian leader lays out the real inconvenient truth on climate

Meles Zenawi, prime minister of Ethiopia, laid out the, ahem, inconvenient truth: That countries like his suffer because of what countries like ours have done, and that a world-wide cap-and-trade treaty would have to allow countries like Ethiopia to sell carbon allocations to countries like the United States. He says the funds would be used to invest in green energy. Of course, they could also end up spent on Ethiopia's continuing quest to take over Somalia, so, it seems, there would have to be some oversight here. Broadly speaking, though, this is a justice problem, and one that will be politically difficult to solve. Blair made the point earlier that if you say that solving global warming requires less consumption, you'll lose the argument. But if you suggest more accurately that saving the Earth from climate change will create new consumption choices, and that making the right ones will help the environment, then people will be convinced. Creating the will to subsidize a real green revolution in the developing world will certainly require a similar analysis and framing.

Clinton Global Initiative: Hilarious quotes

Tony Blair on climate guilt and Hank Paulson on knowledge

Tony Blair: "The problem with global warming is that you feel guilty about enjoying it." Yes indeed. Less charming is this from Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson: Asked by Tom Brokaw whether Bush's determination on climate change is shared by Republicans on Capitol Hill, he replied, "I think there's a wide variety of knowledge on Capitol Hill." Writes Ezra, "Yep, many different knowledges, some of them true, some of them false, spread broadly. And they call the Left post-modern."