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  • NOW segment on global warming gets us all fired up again

    So I watched Friday's NOW segment about climate change, and I'm fired up again after being somewhat discouraged for the last few years about the political atmosphere surrounding this issue. I'm also convinced that pressure to take action to reduce carbon emissions is ultimately going to have to come from the business community itself, as the reinsurance industry and other risk-averse sectors make their voices (and financial clout) heard. The utility company executive featured on NOW, James Rogers of Cinergy, had been looking at the facts and coming to the conclusion that the sooner action is taken, the better off his business will be. He cited Tony Blair's pledge to cut Britain's emissions of carbon dioxide by sixty percent over 50 years as a good example of setting a big policy goal and allowing businesses, which crave certainty, to adjust accordingly. One wonders, however, whether the British will move beyond offering a periodic "frank exchange of views" with the United States over climate change, and really push for action.

  • Weather prevents Bush from celebrating Earth Day

    Am I the only one wondering whether the weather has a sense of humor?

    President Bush canceled an Earth Day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday because of bad weather.

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the threat of hail and thunder storms was keeping the president from visiting the park, but Air Force One still was making a brief stop at an airport outside Knoxville, Tenn., so Bush could make remarks near the park on Earth Day.

    Bush then planned to fly on to Texas, where he was spending the weekend at his ranch and then hosting Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday.

    I have a vague hunch that Bush won't be telling the Saudi dictator about his approach to energy conservation.

  • Climate change clown show

    One of the favorite techniques of the (rapidly dwindling ranks of the) climate change deniers is to say, well, gee, there's so much uncertainty out there and we better get all the facts before we do anything whatsoever to address the danger. Obfuscate, delay, and hope for the best.

    Well, it turns out that the Bush administration doesn't even want to find out what might happen because, presumably, it fears the consequences:

    The Bush administration's program to study climate change lacks a major component required by law, according to Congressional investigators. The program fails to include periodic assessments of how rising temperatures may affect people and the environment.

    The investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, conclude in a report to be released today that none of the 21 studies of climate change that the administration plans to publish by September 2007 explicitly address the potential effects in eight areas specified by a 1990 law, the Global Change Research Act. The areas include agriculture, energy, water resources and biological diversity.

    Without such an assessment, the accountability office said, "it may be difficult for the Congress and others to use this information effectively as the basis for making decisions on climate policy."

    The investigators also said the program was behind schedule, with just one report on track out of nine that are to be published by next September. The 1990 law requires a report to Congress every four years on the consequences of climate change.

    Shameful.

    The report is here.

  • The magazine’s editors note that environmentalism is already changing.

    Okay, so they're a little late to the party, but the Economist's editors have read their Reapers. They also recognize that environmentalism is, in fact, changing already despite its recent setbacks in the United States.

    They write:

    If this new green revolution is to succeed, however, three things must happen. The most important is that prices must be set correctly. The best way to do this is through liquid markets, as in the case of emissions trading. Here, politics merely sets the goal. How that goal is achieved is up to the traders.

    A proper price, however, requires proper information. So the second goal must be to provide it. The tendency to regard the environment as a "free good" must be tempered with an understanding of what it does for humanity and how. Thanks to the recent Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the World Bank's annual "Little Green Data Book" (released this week), that is happening. More work is needed, but thanks to technologies such as satellite observation, computing and the internet, green accounting is getting cheaper and easier.

    Which leads naturally to the third goal, the embrace of cost-benefit analysis. At this, greens roll their eyes, complaining that it reduces nature to dollars and cents. In one sense, they are right. Some things in nature are irreplaceable--literally priceless. Even so, it is essential to consider trade-offs when analysing almost all green problems. The marginal cost of removing the last 5% of a given pollutant is often far higher than removing the first 5% or even 50%: for public policy to ignore such facts would be inexcusable.

    If governments invest seriously in green data acquisition and co-ordination, they will no longer be flying blind. And by advocating data-based, analytically rigorous policies rather than pious appeals to "save the planet", the green movement could overcome the scepticism of the ordinary voter. It might even move from the fringes of politics to the middle ground where most voters reside.

    I'm going to ignore that last slur and the general historical inaccuracy of the piece and just say: welcome. There's room for everyone.