Friday, June 01, 2007

an arrogant jerk and an insufficient plan

Talk about mixed signals. The de facto President of the United States gives a big speech on climate change and pushes some sort of international meeting to do something about it. And the head of NASA gives an interview questioning whether we need to do anything about climate change.

Let's start with the arrogant jerk -- no, no I mean the NASA guy, Administrator Michael Griffin. A quote from him: "I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings."

Griffin calls such people "rather arrogant." I call Griffin extremely arrogant and stupid beyond my comprehension. As Dana Milbank points out, his biography at NASA's web site lists SEVEN degrees, in hard stuff like physics and aerospace engineering. For such a technically educated person to suggest that melting ice caps might be GOOD for us is literally breathtaking.

First, I'm guessing that Griffin owns no land in Florida or Bangladesh or London or other places that will end up under water should the ice caps disappear. Second, Griffin seems to discount the fact that the current climate is one that has ALLOWED HUMAN CIVILIZATION TO FLOURISH. Sorry for the shouting there, but that seemed like a moderately important point to make. You see, Dr. Administrator Griffin, people eat food. Food is grown in fields on farms. Crops like to get the right amount of rain, sunshine, etc, at the right time. Change the basic equation for the production of food in sufficient quantities to create a surplus sufficient to support non-farmers, and you risk knocking a key prop out from under civilization.

It isn't "arrogant" to think that the climate of the past 10,000 years is good for humanity. It's common sense. It isn't out of arrogance that I want our government to try to mitigate climate changes. It is out of simple fear and concern for humanity.

And how arrogant it is to decide we SHOULD change the current climate, the flip-side of Griffin's snide slur. I think if we took a planet-wide vote on "should we keep the current climate" that, with the exception of some cold people in Siberia, the result would be an overwhelming "YES".

I just can't believe a NASA Administrator could say such crap.

Anyway, turning now from him to his boss. Yeah, Bush gave a speech calling for an international something to do something about climate change, maybe. Some seemed impressed by it. That's only because expectations were so low. It's like being impressed by your kid getting a B-minus on a spelling test because his usual score is an F. Or when the worst shooter on your basketball team actually hits two free throws in a row. Hardly impressive.

So, let's look at the White House's Fact Sheet on a "New International Climate Change Framework." First of all, it misspelled "gases" as "gasses." Even for this anti-intellectual administration, you'd hope somebody in the White House would be frigging smart enough to run a spell check on a document that will be read by quite a few people.

It says the US will get together a big meeting by the end of 2008. The timing is critical - not because of anything scientific, but to show voters right before the election that Republicans are doing something on climate change. If it weren't for growing voter concern, no way this Administration would touch climate change even with a ten-foot pole. It upsets the oil barons. This is just a gift to Rudy or Fred or Mitt or John or whoever the heck ends up getting the GOP nomination.

The proposal says climate change "must be addressed by fostering both energy security and economic security", relying on new technologies. But nowhere in the fact sheet does it say that the US will put any sort of cap on greenhouse gas emissions. Nowhere. Nowhere does the fact sheet say the US will put any sort of tax on the carbon emissions. Nowhere.

Yes, new technologies are critical. Incentives for their development are appropriate; so is direct government spending. Fine. But to do so without also forcing emitters to pay part of the price for their emissions - the price being the potential destruction of ecosystems that have supported humanity (not to mention animals, plants, fish etc) - is not going to work. Market signals should be part of the fight against climate change. Just throwing money and rhetorical support at technologies without also making it clear that there will be immediate economic COSTS for belching out carbon unabated undermines the whole thing.

At the end of the fact sheet is this nifty little paragraph:

"We Are Well On Track To Meet – And Currently Projected To Exceed – The President's 2002 Goal Of Reducing U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emission Intensity 18 Percent By 2012. U.S. greenhouse gas intensity declined by 2.5 percent in 2005, much faster than the average decline of 1.9 percent over the 1990-2005 period."

Wow, sounds pretty good, huh? We're actually cutting greenhouse gases.

No. Don't be dazzled by this bullshit. Greenhouse gas "emission intensity" measures how many tons of greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere per unit of GDP. A decline in "intensity" just says that our greenhouse gas emissions are growing more slowly than the economy. But they have still RISEN since 2002. We need to reduce ABSOLUTE levels of emissions. This is a devious "measure" designed to make Bush look good. It is a prime example of truthiness, Republican-style.



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