Monday, September 10, 2012

Climate hope and climate change

Updated 9/24/2012
(Not really updated; I just wanted to pretty it up before inviting some friends over.)

I twitter-follow the Heritage Foundation, just by way of being able to say I don't shut my ears to thinking outside my comfort zone, and of course in the hope of some cheap laughs, but they really surprised me today:
It turns out that they've been hearing rumors that healing the planet is still on the agenda. Carol Browner, the former EPA head, told a panel during the DNC  that
court victories have created momentum that might make industry-specific cap-and-trade plans more palatable than the prospect of facing new regulations. Though comprehensive cap-and-trade legislation might be off the table for now, Browner said that dynamic opens opportunities for piecemeal progress on cap-and-trade. (The Hill)
Naturally, Heritage is somewhat cool (globally cool?) to this prospect:
Such talk is certainly bad news for the energy and manufacturing sectors, which have borne the brunt of Obama’s regulatory hyperactivity. But revived prospects for cap-and-trade might well hearten the environmental lobby, which has criticized President Obama for (supposedly) ignoring global warming despite his declaration that the 2008 election “was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”
Landing puffins on Matinicus Rock, Maine. Photo by Steven Kress.
That quote is getting to be quite a Republican favorite, by the way;  Romney specifically called it out for mockery in his convention speech:
President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.
In fact, President Obama neither declared that it had been done nor promised to do it. Rather, he expressed the pious hope that we might someday see that it had been done:
...generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on earth. (Barack Obama, St. Paul, June 3 2008)
To Republicans, the notion of slowing the rise of the sea level is ridiculously grandiose, like King Canute, because they can't grasp the simple science of it. But you can see from the context that Obama doesn't think of it as any harder in principle than providing health care or pulling the troops out of Iraq, and of course he's right.

When the Heritage writer starts listing what the administration does on behalf of the environment so people will recognize what a horror it is, the "environmental lobby" may indeed find it "heartening" (allowing for the distortion in the way the costs are calculated—of course most of these measures will have a net positive effect over the long run):
  • his regulatory record bespeaks allegiance to drastic and unwarranted cutbacks in emissions of carbon dioxide—the supposed source of looming environmental cataclysm ["drastic"? "unwarranted"? "supposed"? just the facts, please, I can do my own adjectives];
  • the consulting group ICF International estimates that 20 percent of America’s coal power plants could be retired as soon as 2020 because of the Administration’s regulatory actions [is that all? never mind, it's a start];
  • the EPA’s newest mercury and air toxics rule alone could cost as much as $100 billion per year, according to the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council [or $9.6 billion per year according to the EPA, but what's a 900% exaggeration among "industry insiders"?];
  • Whether the President overtly pursues a costly cap-and-trade scheme remains to be seen. But there’s no question that his Administration is aggressively imposing regulations that have much the same effect—i.e., inflating the cost of fossil fuel energy in order to reduce some of the disadvantages of solar and wind power [one can only hope].
Yippee! I want to shout. Sign me up for some of that!
Arctic tern. Photo by Carsten Evergang/PA Wire, The Irish Times.

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