Why does the public largely lack a sense of urgency on climate? Maybe because most opinion leaders also lack that sense of urgency. To mark its 150th Anniversary, the Atlantic Monthly (subs. reqd) ... ... invited an eclectic group of thinkers who have had cause to consider the American idea to describe its future and the greatest challenges to it. Now this one is real easy -- you don't have to be scientifically literate or read the work of James Hansen, you just have to have seen Al Gore's movie or maybe read Time magazine (reading the Atlantic itself is, however, no help, as previously noted). By far the greatest challenge to the American idea (i.e., unlimited abundance, supreme optimism about the future, global moral leadership, and our special place in the world -- OK, that one's a bit tarnished already -- is global warming. In fact, if we don't adopt something close to Barack Obama's extraordinary climate plan within the next few years -- and I suspect conservatives will block such an ambitious, albeit necessary, approach as too "big-government" -- then global warming will destroy the American idea, perhaps for a millennium or more. Global warming means we move from great abundance to oppressive scarcity, from optimism to pessimism (especially if we cross carbon-cycle tipping points that cause an accelerating greenhouse effect in the second half of this century), and finally, as I wrote in my book: For decades, the United States has been the moral, economic, and military leader of the free world. What will happen when we end up in Planetary Purgatory, facing 20 or more feet of sea level rise, and the rest of the world blames our inaction and obstructionism, blames the wealthiest nation on Earth for refusing to embrace even cost-effective solutions that could spare the planet from millennia of misery? The indispensable nation will become a global pariah. The Atlantic assembled a who's who of the intelligentsia -- who in the main, though very thoughtful, just don't get it:
Tuesday marks the release (yes, on recycled paper) of Fight Global Warming Now, the Step It Up 2007 team's handbook for grassroots action on climate (and most other issues) in our communities. It's a blueprint for success based on their own experiences. Step It Up 2: Who's a Leader is just around the corner (Nov. 3), and there is an increasing corps of leaders committing to turn up at the events: eight members of Congress and two presidential candidates: go here to find an event in your neighborhood to support. If you find your choices lacking (hello, North Dakota?) organize one of your own: like coal, it's easy, cheap, and high-impact.
"Man always kills the thing he loves," wrote naturalist Aldo Leopold in the environmentalist bible, A Sand County Almanac. Leopold was referring to Americans' destruction of the wilderness, but he could have been describing the green establishment's hostile reaction to the "hybrid carbon tax" proposed by Michigan Rep. John Dingell last month. Dingell's tax package, combining a carbon-busting tax on fossil fuels, a surtax on gasoline and jet fuel, and a phase-out of subsidies for sprawl homes, should have been greeted by environmentalists like the Second Coming. Extrapolated to 2025, the carbon tax alone would cut annual CO2 emissions by 1.3 billion metric tons (a sixth of current emissions) and curb U.S. oil usage by 2.8 millions barrels a day (mbd). With Dingell's petrol surcharge, the savings swell to nearly 1.6 billion metric tons of CO2 and 4.5 mbd, more than the entire oil output of Iran. Further savings would come from abolishing the tax-deductibility of mortgage interest on houses larger than 4,200 square feet, a loophole that has underwritten millions of McMansions on America's SUV-crazed exurban fringe. (Smaller houses down to 3,000 square feet would also lose some deductions, on a sliding scale.) Taken as a whole, Dingell's proposal would be a giant step toward what Friends of the Earth terms "decarbonizing the tax code." It would also embody the cardinal sustainability precept that keeps Europe's carbon footprint at half of ours: energy prices must tell the truth, even if it requires taxing fuels. Alas, with the lone exception of FoE, leading Big Green groups have gone after Dingell's proposed bill like a clear-cutter on crank.
… is a national treasure.
Environmental groups are starting to endorse candidates. Friends of the Earth has chosen Edwards and Republicans for Environmental Protection has chosen McCain … again. What other choice do they have?
With everyone weighing in on this year's Nobel Peace Prize, it's been revealing to see what the media makes of it, and how oddly misdirected their questions have been: Will Al run for president? (Argh.) What has climate change got to do with peace? (Huh?) Is this merely a political jab to the current U.S. administration? (So what?) But the editors of the NYT pretty much nailed it: What the citation didn't mention but needs to be said is that it shouldn't have to be left to a private citizen -- even one so well known as Mr. Gore -- or a panel of scientists to raise that alarm or prove what is now clearly an undeniable link or champion solutions to a problem that endangers the entire planet.That should be, and must be the job of governments. And governments -- above all the Bush administration -- have failed miserably. There will be skeptics who ask what the Peace Prize has to do with global warming. The committee answered that unhesitatingly with its warning that climate change, if unchecked, could unleash massive migrations, violent competitions for resources and, ultimately, threaten the "security of mankind." There will also be those who complain that this prize -- like the committee's earlier awards to Jimmy Carter and the chief United Nations nuclear inspector, Mohamed ElBaradei -- is an intentional slap at President Bush. It should be. We only wish that it would finally wake up the president. What has your favorite Nobel coverage (good or bad) been?
One of the most frustrating aspects of the climate debate has to be the fact that just about every informed pundit, across the ideological spectrum, agrees that a carbon tax would be an outstanding way …
California condors came to the brink of extinction in the 1980s, largely from eating game felled by toxic lead bullets. A recovery effort has proved successful, but attempts to bring condors back into the wild …
The U.S. EPA is not so much enforcing the Clean Water Act, says a new report from green group U.S. PIRG. According to EPA data, 57 percent of the country’s industrial plants and municipal wastewater …
We've devised the world's shortest survey to find out what kind of actions our readers are taking. You know you want to.