Now What’s Their Excuse?

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So many big things to write about, and such a wee brain with which to write!

In the U.S., last week was a particularly busy news week.

For one thing, on Thursday morning, Pope Francis delivered his historic address to Congress.

Then, the next morning, House Speaker John Boehner triggered a journalistic frenzy with his announcement that he would be resigning his congressional seat and the speakership in late October.

Another important story, which may have gotten lost in the shuffle, occurred later on Friday, when President Xi Jinping, of China, revealed his nation’s plan for a cap-and-trade program to cut national carbon emissions beginning in 2017. Now, this is a big deal, for one thing, because China currently emits more carbon than any other nation. If China reduces its emissions, it will consequently lessen the rate at which atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will grow.

Another reason China’s announcement is a big deal is that it undercuts a tried-and-true argument that some other nations, or interest groups within nations, make to prevent their governments from acting on climate change. They say something similar to what Senator Marco Rubio said at the September 16th Republican debate, when he insisted that there’s no point in the U.S. acting, because “America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is.” Well, now that China has a plan to limit its emissions, opponents of regulating carbon in the U.S. will have to come up with a new reason for inaction. So far they’ve pushed the following arguments:

  • Global warming isn’t occurring.
  • Global warming might be occurring, but carbon emissions aren’t to blame.
  • Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are increasing, but that’s a good thing because plants need carbon dioxide to grow, and additional carbon dioxide will simply make plants healthier.
  • Global warming (or climate change) is a hoax that liberals are perpetrating in order to take greater control of Americans’ lives.
  • Most scientists say that climate change isn’t happening.
  • The liberal media is lying about climate change.
  • Scientists are pedaling lies about climate change in order to win government grants.
  • I don’t know about the science of climate change, because I’m not a scientist, but I do know that we would destroy the economy if we regulated carbon emissions.
  • Climate change might be happening, and humans might be causing it, but there’s no point in doing anything about it because China is emitting carbon like mad.

That list is off the top of my head. I’ve probably forgotten a few of the climate-deniers’ arguments. In any case, the China gambit is one of their oldest and strongest. Now they need to try to find a new one. With evidence of climate change appearing all over the world, their task is growing harder by the day.

So while Republicans aren’t asking my advice, I have some for them: Admit climate change and other environmental crises are occurring, and then propose voluntary simplicity (that is, reducing consumption to a sustainable level) as a solution. Why should this idea appeal to Republicans? Because it is voluntary, and it could work.

If we cut back on our own now, we can obviate the need for draconian regulations down the road.

ANOTHER REASON FOR HOPE?

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This morning, I watched Pope Francis address the U.S. Congress. Did you see it? If so, you probably noticed that throughout the speech, tears streamed down House Speaker John Boehner’s cheeks. One of the commentators mentioned that Boehner had been an altar boy and that, at his childhood home, a picture of an earlier pope decorated the living room wall. Perhaps meeting the pope revived family memories that inspired Boehner’s tears. I can only speculate what was going on in his mind, but maybe, just maybe, he was touched by the content of the pope’s speech. And now, after listening to Pope Francis, will the Speaker be able to go back to saying, “Listen, I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change,” and continue to skirt Congress’s responsibility to address the crisis, or will the pope’s words about the environment resonate in Boehner’s conscience and motivate him to act?

I have a feeling I know what the pope is hoping and praying Boehner will do.

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If you missed it and would like to see it, here’s a link to a video of the pope’s address:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBM7DIeMsP0

ICYMI, LAST WEEK, 11 REPUBLICANS BROKE RANKS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

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Last Thursday, a week in advance of Pope Francis’ address to the U.S. Congress on September 24th, eleven Republican congressmen introduced a resolution calling for action on climate change.

Their resolution reads:

Resolved, that the House of Representatives commits to working constructively, using our tradition of American ingenuity, innovation, and exceptionalism, to create and support economically viable, and broadly supported private and public solutions to study and address the causes and effects of measured changes to our global and regional climates, including mitigation efforts and efforts to balance human activities that have been found to have an impact.

More than half of the resolution’s cosponsors are Catholics. Maybe the prospect of being in the presence of the pope, who has called upon members of the church to address climate change, stirred their consciences. Whatever the case, the fact that eleven Republican members of Congress have acknowledged both the existence of climate change—and the role of human activities in creating it—is worth noting. Whether the resolution signals the start of the crumbling of the Republican wall of denial, only time will tell.

If you’d like to read more, here are some links to some relevant articles:

https://www.nationaljournal.com/s/72340/house-republicans-plan-call-action-climate-change

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/254021-11-republicans-seek-to-fight-climate-change

http://gibson.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=398414

http://grist.org/climate-energy/4-reasons-why-it-matters-that-a-few-house-republicans-are-calling-for-climate-action/

http://www.ibtimes.com/climate-change-11-house-republicans-call-environmental-stewardship-new-resolution-2103277

http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060024836

BUT WHAT ABOUT CHINA?

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At last week’s Republican debate, when Jake Tapper, of CNN, asked about climate change, Senator Marc Rubio and Governor Chris Christie asserted that policies designed to reduce carbon emissions would harm the U.S. economy and do nothing to counter climate change. “America is not a planet,” Rubio maintained. “And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore; China is.” A little later when his turn came, Christie said, “I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us [sic] by ourselves is [sic] going to fix the climate.”

The Rubio-Christie view is one shared by certain Republicans who are willing to acknowledge that climate change is—or, at least, might be—occurring and that there’s a chance greenhouse-gas emissions are a factor. Nevertheless, they ask: What sense does it make for the U.S. to regulate our carbon-dioxide emissions when China, India, and a number of other countries don’t regulate theirs? As these Republicans see it, regulating CO2 emissions will destroy the U.S. economy and enable other nations’ economies to boom.

For a long time, I thought the right-wing argument was specious. It reminded me of the claim that one kid makes when she’s caught doing something wrong that another kid is also doing. “Well, he’s doing it!” she whines. “Why can’t I?” Upon further reflection, however, I realize that, up to a point, right-wingers make a valid point. They assume that consumers will always want more and more goods at the lowest possible prices. As long as that assumption holds true—as long as the demand for goods grows—the stuff will be made somewhere. Given that pollution controls tend to increase costs and reduce profits, producers of goods are likely to concentrate in countries where power plants and factories can spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with abandon. So, if regulations are strong in the U.S. and lax, or nonexistent, in China, China will benefit economically at the expense of the U.S.

Anyway, that’s the argument, and it’s fine as things currently stand. It would fall flat, however, if we were to shift our preferences from possessing a lot of inanimate goods to nurturing living things. And that is precisely the shift we must make. Why? Because there are too many of us, and we’re putting too much strain on the ecosphere. If we don’t begin to take care of what we have, in years to come, we will deeply regret our profligacy.

If, on the other hand, we reduce our consumption, we will consequently reduce the CO2 emissions of countries like China and India because a large percentage of those emissions are directly tied to the goods they export to us.

And what’s more important, by reducing our consumption, we’ll set an example of how to achieve a brighter, more vibrant future. As we blaze the way forward, we can tell the world: We tried consumerism and found it was a dead end. Yes, it did bring short-term gratification, but we paid for that gratification in big psychological, societal, and environmental ways. Let’s all slow down, be satisfied with having enough, nurture the life around us, and give nature time to heal.

Make Way Climate Change for Code Names

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After waiting, to no avail, through the entire 2012 campaign for debate moderators to bring up climate change, I was thrilled last night when Jake Tapper, of CNN, posed a question on the subject to Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Chris Christie.

In case you missed the debate, I’ve pasted the discussion, as it appeared in The Washington Post, below.

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TAPPER: We received a lot of questions from social media about climate change.

Senator Rubio, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, George Shultz, reminds us that when Reagan was president he faced a similar situation to the one that we’re facing now. There were dire warnings from the mass consensus of the scientific community about the ozone layer shrinking.

Shultz says Ronald Reagan urged skeptics in industry to come up with a plan. He said, do it as an insurance policy in case the scientists are right. The scientists were right. Reagan and his approach worked. 

Secretary Shultz asks, why not take out an insurance policy and approach climate change the Reagan way?

RUBIO: Because we’re not going to destroy our economy the way the left-wing government that we are under now wants to do. We’re not going to…

TAPPER: I’m citing George Shultz. 

RUBIO: Well, and I don’t — he may have lined up with their positions on this issue. But here is the bottom line. Every proposal they put forward are going to be proposals that will make it harder to do business in America, that will make it harder to create jobs in America.

Single parents are already struggling across this country to provide for their families. Maybe a billionaire here in California can afford an increase in their utility rates, but a working family in Tampa, Florida, or anywhere across this country cannot afford it. 

So we are not going to destroy our economy. We are not going to make America a harder place to create jobs in order to pursue policies that will do absolutely nothing, nothing to change our climate, to change our weather, because America is a lot of things, the greatest country in the world, absolutely. 

But America is not a planet. And we are not even the largest carbon producer anymore, China is. And they’re drilling a hole and digging anywhere in the world that they can get a hold of. 

So the bottom line is, I am not in favor of any policies that make America a harder place for people to live, or to work, or to raise their families.

(APPLAUSE) 

TAPPER: Governor Christie, you have said that climate change is real, and that humans help contribute to it. Without getting into the issue of China versus the United States, which I understand you’ve talked about before, what do you make of skeptics of climate change such as Senator Rubio?

CHRISTIE: I don’t think Senator Rubio is a skeptic of climate change. I think what Senator Rubio said I agree with. That in fact we don’t need this massive government intervention to deal with the problem. 

Look at what we have done in New Jersey. We have already reached our clean air goals for 2020. And when I was governor, I pulled out of the regional cap and trade deal, the only state in the Northeast that did that. And we still reached our goals.

Why? Because 53 percent of our electricity comes from nuclear. We use natural gas. We use solar power. We’re the third-highest- using solar power state. You know why? Because we made all of those things economically feasible. 

I agree with Marco. We shouldn’t be destroying our economy in order to chase some wild left-wing idea that somehow us by ourselves is going to fix the climate. We can contribute to that and be economically sound.

We have proven we can do that in New Jersey. Nuclear needs to be back on the table in a significant way in this country if we want to go after this problem.

(APPLAUSE) 

TAPPER: Just for the record, I was citing Secretary of State George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state who I don’t think anybody would call him left-wing.

CHRISTIE: I understand. No, no, listen, everybody makes a mistake every once in a while, Jake, even George Shultz. And if that’s truly a representation of what he believes we should be doing, then with all due respect to the former secretary of state, I disagree with him.

RUBIO: Jake, you mentioned me and called me a denier. Let me say, climate change…

TAPPER: I called you a skeptic.

RUBIO: OK. A skeptic. You can measure the climate. You can measure it. That’s not the issue we’re discussing. Here is what I’m skeptical of. I’m skeptical of the decisions that the left wants us to make, because I know the impact those are going to have and they’re all going to be on our economy.

They will not do a thing to lower the rise of the sea. They will not do a thing to cure the drought here in California. But what they will do is they will make America a more expensive place to create jobs. 

And today with millions of people watching this broadcast that are struggling paycheck to paycheck that do not know how they’re going to pay their bills at the end of this month, I’m not in favor of anything that is going to make it harder for them to raise their family. 

(CROSSTALK)

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At this point, a number of the candidates tried to jump in with their responses. Although Tapper was ready to move on, Governor Scott Walker broke in and spoke over him.

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TAPPER: I want to go another question right now. 

(CROSSTALK) WALKER: … a lot of those people, though, and I’m going to echo what Senator Rubio just said. This is an issue where, we’re talking about my state, it’s thousands of manufacturing jobs. Thousands of manufacturing jobs for a rule the Obama administration, own EPA has said will have a marginal impact on climate change. 

So we’re going to put thousands and thousands of jobs in my state, I think it’s something like 30,000 in Ohio, other states across this country, we’re going to put people — manufacturing jobs, the kind of jobs that are far greater than minimum wage, this administration is willing to put at risk for something its own EPA says is marginal (ph)…

TAPPER: Thank you, Governor.

(CROSSTALK) 

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Once again, most of the candidates tried to respond. Senator Rand Paul was able to speak above the others, but Tapper cut him off.

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 (CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: I’m turning to…

PAUL: If you want a skeptic — if you want a skeptic, Jake, I will happily jump into that briar patch. If you want a real… 

TAPPER: …I’m turning to another — I’m turning to another issue right now.

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Tapper cut off the discussion because he wanted to save time for questions about who each candidate would put on a $10 bill in place of Alexander Hamilton and what they would want their Secret Service codenames to be.

For now, I want to set aside the substance of what Rubio, Christie, and Walker said, and simply ask the following question: When the news media give climate change such short shrift, is it surprising that the public underestimates the gravity of the environmental challenges we face?

Environmental Policy: Not Just for Wonks

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GREETINGS, Dear Reader! For several months, I stopped blogging while I prepared my book, It’s Up to Us, for publication on Kindle. And now, I’m happy to announce, the book is on the Amazon website. If you’d care to take a look, you can find it by clicking this link:

http://www.amazon.com/ITS-Unconventional-Examination-Environmental-Predicament-ebook/dp/B0128CEBMA

It’s Up to Us is a book about environmental policy. As a rule, books on that subject don’t attract a broad range of readers. Most people know little—if anything—about environmental policy, and they’d just as soon keep it that way.

At this point in history, however, it’s vital that we all understand some unfortunate facts: (1) the ecosphere is unraveling rapidly; (2) the methods we’ve been employing to correct environmental problems aren’t getting the job done; and (3) in order to prevent a slew of dire consequences from occurring, we must get involved, as individuals, in cleaning up the environmental mess we’ve created. It’s Up to Us discusses those facts. At the same time, it demonstrates that our environmental predicament, while serious, offers us the opportunity to reset our values, break free from the chains of consumerism, and enjoy a life full of simple joys.

Here’s what Herman Daly, the “Father of Ecological Economics,” had to say about It’s Up to Us:

Sally Wengrover, PhD, knows her business, and is careful and thorough in her research. This book is a scholarly tour de force of environmental policy analysis and economics, and I highly recommend it. Sally has an irrepressible sense of humor that enlivens the reading of some of the dry technical material. Some of the widely accepted ideas and policies that good scholarship forces her to cover, however, are so ludicrously and perniciously wrong that their focused consideration cannot be endured for extended periods without damage to one’s brain. So after diving deeply into the high-pressure nonsense of growthism (environmental Kuznetz Curve, geo-engineering, entropy reversal, denial of climate change, etc.), Sally has to be careful in re-surfacing to the normal atmosphere, lest she and her readers get the bends. Her means of controlling decompression is to pause now and then for some moments of purposeful silliness—some nutty rest interludes, but less nutty than the deeply serious junk science (or sometimes good ideas) she has just explained. Some readers will find her playful penchant for antiquated verb forms and pirate talk distracting, while others will enjoy it. But both kinds of readers will be grateful for a very insightful, positive, and honest book.

—HERMAN DALY, Emeritus Professor, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland; author of dozens of journal articles and numerous books, including Beyond Growth and For the Common Good; former World Bank Senior Economist; recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council for Science and the Environment (United States), the Honorary Right Livelihood Award (Sweden), and the Heineken Prize for Environmental Science (Netherlands).

P. S. If you’d like to watch a one-minute animated trailer for the book, please click below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HX3d3KpeRhw

As always, thank you, Dear Reader, for giving some of your valuable time and attention to my words.