The only way to a soft landing is down. In a brief article on DeSmog by Emily Murgatroyd, a Cato Institute type, Jerry Taylor, is quoted as saying Scientists are in no position to intelligently guide public policy on climate change. Scientists can lay out scenarios, but it is up to economists to weigh the costs and benefits and many of them say the costs of cutting emissions are higher than the benefits. Can we consider this claim, or is it somehow protected by a taboo? Is one a Marxist or even a Stalinist for pointing out that economists are not, themselves, necessarily right about everything? Economists, meanwhile, claim to have the key to rationality. Their claim is based in their own definition of their field, which is about "how people collectively make decisions", but they proceed very quickly from there to the marketplace via a number of dubious assumptions. The marketplace is real enough, and the fact that it affects the decisions we make is inescapable, but that doesn't prove a claim that economics is uniquely placed to resolve our differences. A claim in more desperate need of challenging I cannot imagine -- yet on it goes, essentially unchallenged in circles of power.
In a revealing interview on Meet the Press today, GOP Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani said he does not support the mandated increase to 35-mpg that both the House and Senate -- and I believe even the president -- support. To quote Rudy: "That isn't the way I think it should be done." What is his alternative strategy? Politically, as readers know, only one other alternative strategy exists: "technology, technology, technology, blah, blah, blah." Yes, Rudy wants to subsidize hybrids and biofuels -- a voluntary strategy that has failed to stop the steady decline in average fuel economy, and the steady increase in gasoline consumption, in this country since the mid-1980s.
When a few members of U.S. Congress come to Bali next week to meet with delegations from all round the world, they'll have something in hand: a first step in the direction of climate change legislation from the U.S. 35mpg fuel economy standards and 15% renewable energy requirements from utilities may not seem like all that much, but for the rest of the world's leaders, who have been holding their collective breath, it's a twitch of life from a government long considered dead on the issue of global warming. The halls of the Bali Convention Center are abuzz with talk of a number of bills going through the U.S. Congress -- delegates and NGO folk alike know the importance of including the United States in the post-Kyoto process.
The difficulty with assessing candidates by how they address climate change is that policy statements and tailored speeches give little insight into the relative importance each candidate places on global warming as compared to other issues. It is particularly difficult to distinguish between Democratic candidates, who employ an almost identical language of urgency when addressing environmentalists. Tom Harkin, senior Senator from Iowa, hosts an annual barbecue. The September 16 event drew six major Democratic candidates -- Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson -- who spoke between 8-15 minutes each to an attentive crowd of 12,000. Each candidate's speech is displayed in the accompanying chart (below the fold) in the form of a bar, with red indicators of when and for how long climate change was addressed (CNN feed available at YouTube). It should be noted that when the issue was raised, the Harkin Steak Fry crowd responded enthusiastically, so there is little reason to think that candidates trimmed their climate sails for this particular venue.
A friend of mine is in Bali with the youth activist group SustainUS, and sent this video update: (Thanks, Lauren.) Check out the body language on the guy who I presume is the U.S. delegate to the talks, as the SustainUS group asks him to take a leading role in the talks to ensure a better future for the planet. Unfortunately, he pretty well embodies the word "obstructionist."
The Washington Post had an article yesterday on the House fuel economy deal that is quite good in doling out cheers and jeers -- good except for two sentences. Let's start with the cheers. The article quotes NRDC rightly praising Pelosi for being steadfast with the Senate's 35 mpg target and Dingell, too, for: ... telling the automakers a year ago that they were going to have to accept a mileage improvement. He bargained hard for trying to make it less, but he deserves credit for coming around and agreeing. The article also has fascinating back story on how Japanese car manufacturer Nissan "struck out on its own to lobby Capitol Hill for fuel standards that were in some ways stricter than what other automakers wanted." A Nissan Sr. VP "said the company decided early to advocate tough fuel-economy standards as part of a company-wide effort to become more eco-friendly." Ungreen GM and Ford worked hard to kill a 35-mpg deal, and so did supposedly green Toyota. Google "Toyota greenwash" to see how people feel about this. [Note to Toyota: Why not have lobbying consistent with your eco-branding?] So what are the two sentences that get the Post a thumbs down?
Noel Sheppard: Capitalist democracies around the world should be very concerned about the level of socialism being discussed at the United Nations’ climate change meeting in Bali. Not only are international hands being extended to …
Today, an extraordinary letter about the energy bill was sent to the U.S. Senate by a coalition of business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oil, gas, forestry, and mining lobbying groups. With what …
I have a new piece up on the Guardian‘s Comment Is Free opinion site, running down the latest action on the energy bill and What It All Means. Check it out.
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