Talking With the Left About Climate Change

December 21st, 2011 at 9:22 pm | 126 Comments |

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Two FrumForum posts I wrote recently about climate politics — “How the GOP Should Explain Climate Change” and “Newt, Your Ad With Pelosi Wasn’t Dumb” — netted me an appearance on “The Green Front,” a program of the Progressive Radio Network. This was thanks to fellow FF contributor D.R. Tucker, erstwhile guest on the show, who sent my posts to the host, Betsy Rosenberg.

As my segment started, following one with two members of Canada’s Green Party, Rosenberg noted that the program was about to feature a Republican and so was not limited to members of some left-wing echo chamber. Ironically, I got cut off moments later, though the producer got me back on the air soon enough.

Some of Rosenberg’s questions, always presented quite civilly, were variations on the theme of what’s wrong with the Republican Party when it comes to climate science and policy. I offered no excuses for a GOP that I do think has gone badly astray in this area in recent years. Discussing how things came to this pass, I discussed the Tea Party, “Climategate” and links to fossil fuel industries and also how the Democrats, even with science on their side, have done a poor job of presenting and addressing the climate issue.

We talked about my preferred policy approach, of coupling a carbon tax with tax cuts elsewhere. The speech I wrote for a notional GOP politician in my how-to-explain-it post, I explained, was aimed at setting not only a policy framework but also a tone that could resonate with conservative voters. We discussed why Newt Gingrich now says his ad with Pelosi was a mistake (hint: it’s not because he has reassessed the substance of the issue and determined he was wrong about the science).

Some five years ago, I noted, global warming seemed to be gaining acceptance in conservative circles as a real problem that government should address. The terms of debate changed rapidly thereafter, which suggests things could change quickly again. Speculating about politics in coming decades, I sketched out a scenario of a bitter divide between a right wing eager to do something about climate change — through high-tech “planetary engineering” — and a left wing hostile to such tampering with nature.

The show is available here.

Recent Posts by Kenneth Silber



126 Comments so far ↓

  • valkayec

    Mr. Silber, thank you for your blog post and your concern about climate change. I’ve been involved in this discussion peripherally through my work with a local Nature Center. But what really convinced me that the climate is changing – warming – is viewing NASA satellite photos of the polar regions and the high mountain ranges prior to the last 10 years and now. A person would have to be blind or stupid not to see that the ice caps are melting at remarkably high speed…and given that rapid change what is occurring elsewhere on the planet?

    A person might argue that humans are having no effect on that rapid change, but my question is always “what if”? Do we have absolute proof human activity is having no effect? And what if it is and we do nothing? To me, it’s like noting your child has a deep chest cough and a high fever but saying it’s only a cold so I’m not going to do anything. That’s a dumb response as every parent knows. Yet, we treat our planetary home with far less respect and concern than our own children, but it’s our children’s home and lives we may be jeopardizing.

    Having said that, I have two questions for you.

    One is why do you advocate for a carbon tax over cap and trade? Mind you, I’m not aligned with either prescription; I’m just wondering. A decade or so ago, cap and trade was the preferred policy prescription because it was deemed more market oriented than a carbon tax. So, why has it gone out of vogue in favor of a carbon tax?

    Second, what do you mean by “high-tech ‘planetary engineering’? That’s a term with which I am unfamiliar and, therefore, can make no educated judgement as to its viability or cost-benefit.

    Again, thank you for this post and your concern about our home.

    • Kenneth Silber

      I think a lot would depend on exactly how the carbon tax or the cap-and-trade system are structured. In general, I find persuasive the arguments that a carbon tax is simpler, less likely to be manipulated by special interests (eg companies getting tradable credits for free from the government) and offers a clear-cut way of raising revenue (which is not a bad thing and can be used in whole or part to finance tax cuts).

      Planetary engineering could take various forms, dumping iron in oceans, spraying aerosols in atmosphere, etc.; see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geoengineering

      • armstp

        “Planetary Engineering” is such a fantasy. You must be reading too much Freakonomics.

        I will not go through all the problems, uncertainties, etc. of “Planetary Engineering” (you can look it up), but what makes you think tampering with nature is a good idea and more importantly it does not address the problem. It would be like putting perfum on an ever increasingly stinky planet.

      • Traveler

        Thanks for a thoughtful post, and even more for engaging. Like armstp, I have major doubts about geoengineering. You can do a lot on the local level with water recycling to improve water resources. But at least you are open to reality. Shame there are so few of you.

      • balconesfault

        For what it’s worth, the best explanation I’ve heard from proponents of Cap and Trade is that the formula will be adjustable, and give room to tweak down the road if it turns out that the cost of credits are too high (significantly harming the economy) or too low (failing to incentivize change in fossil fuel use or incentivize carbon capture).

        A carbon tax, most likely, will be a one time shot – since we know how politically difficult it is to adjust tax structures once they’re in place (at least any direction but downward).

        As a Chemical Engineer, planetary engineering scares the holy crap out of me.

    • JohnMcC

      Two important differences between the carbon tax and ‘cap-and-trade’ approaches are that (1) the cap-and-trade has succeeded already in bringing down the acid-rain/sulfur dioxide pollution problem and (2) that it would be more quickly modified as time passes by a regulatory agency whereas a carbon tax would require congressional action to increase or decrease year-to-year.

      Carbon taxes could of course be a revenue enhancer. And if this approach were offered I bet that a large majority of ‘green’ voters would approve of it over the present approach which of course is to do nothing hopefully.

  • TerryF98

    If we act now there will be no need for high tech planetary engineering. All it needs is some common sense and a will to act sensibly to bring down emissions.

    • paul_gs

      The cost of acting is so draconian that high tech planetary solutions must at least be considered, especially since environmentalists have kept sensible options like increased nuclear power off the table.

  • Hal

    If 350 ppm CO2 is the “tipping point”, then we are currently beyond that point and we (all countries) will be putting even more CO2 into the atmosphere for many more decades before any reductions from going solar/geothermal/wind/vegan start to kick in. Given that CO2 has an average life in the atmosphere if 100 years, the current level or higher will exist for quite some time, and that’s not even factoring in what will happen when the permafrost melts and releases CH4 – a much more powerful greenhouse gas.

    Carbon tax makes a lot more sense since it is more transparent and provides the appropriate economic “incentives” to begin to discourage hydrocarbon consumption and shifting to alternative energy sources with minimum disruptions to the economy.

    Try the last chapter of Superfreakonomics for a very broad overview of the engineering options.

  • greg_barton

    The real conversation that must happen with the left is about nuclear power. It is simply the ONLY way to generate energy that will be carbon neutral. Wind and solar are not viable technologies. Coal/oil/gas are not carbon neutral. That leaves only nuclear. The main problem is that, while existing nuclear technologies are barely adequate, new 4th generation designs like the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor are the real way forward. The left’s dogmatic and ideological opposition to nuclear is made worse by the right’s passive neglect.

    • Raskolnik

      +1

    • CowboyDan

      I’m all for Gen 4 reactor research and believe its the way forward (I hope to see VHTRs and molten salt cooled reactors in my lifetime), but it would be prudent to heed this quote from Admiral Rickover, father of the nuclear navy:

      “An academic reactor or reactor plant almost always has the following basic characteristics: (1) It is simple. (2) It is small. (3) It is cheap. (4) It is light. (5) It can be built very quickly. (6) It is very flexible in purpose. (7) Very little development will be required. It will use off-the-shelf components. (8) The reactor is in the study phase. It is not being built now.

      On the other hand a practical reactor can be distinguished by the following characteristics: (1) It is being built now. (2) It is behind schedule. (3) It requires an immense amount of development on apparently trivial items. (4) It is very expensive. (5) It takes a long time to build because of its engineering development problems. (6) It is large. (7) It is heavy. (8) It is complicated.”

    • armstp

      Beyond increasing our reliance on an expensive, dangerous and terribly environmentally unfriendly technology, going more nuclear will just be a waste of money, resources and a distraction from getting to the only energy sources that make a difference and sense, which is renewables. So we spend several trillion dollars and 20 years building more nuclear plants (old technology)… great. Think about how much further we could get with renewable or alternative energy with that money, effort and time.

      • greg_barton

        Renewables, as they stand now, are unsustainable. The future research in energy storage alone makes them untenable in the near term, and probably for the long term. You need extensive energy storage because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine. Transmission is also a problem, because human civilization doesn’t cluster in places where the wind always blows or the sun is excessive. (And when it does it’s basically unsustainable there for other reasons.)

        Look, it took me a long time to lose my love for solar and wind power, but the hard realities finally got to me. The hard realities are getting to every single large scale deployment of wind and solar generation as well. Germany is pulling back from solar, focusing on gas. Spain is rolling back. The wind farms in Texas are losing support. And it’s not because the politics are against renewables. It’s because reality is.

        • balconesfault

          Renewables, as they stand now, are unsustainable. The future research in energy storage alone makes them untenable in the near term, and probably for the long term. You need extensive energy storage because the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine.

          To go 100% renewables, yes. Then again, we are on a pathway to having a significant electric vehicle fleet, and that will provide wonderful distributed storage capacity throughout the country to suck up the additional wind power put onto the grid at night. During the day, particularly in the South and during the summer, energy use tracks very well with solar power generation, and distributed generation via rooftop systems significantly reduces loads on transmission systems.

          By the way – nuclear power plants still need transmission. Just saying…

        • greg_barton

          While a nifty idea, the “electric cars will provide storage” idea also will not fly. The grid would need a massive overhaul to accomplish this. In addition, the time when cars would need the most charging in the evening would be the very time solar and wind production would be decreasing.

          And solar in general is not feasible for grid wide and/or industrial electricity generation. The infrastructure use is simply too great, and that’s just for panels, not storage. The most conservative estimates are that 10% of the land area of the US would need to be covered with panels to provide for CURRENT energy use, which will only rise. (And it will no doubt rise faster than panels can be made more efficient.) Think of the labor and cost just to maintain infrastructure that covers 10% of our land, let alone the cost to build.

          This is what I mean when I say that the numbers do not add up, and that reality has caught up to the renewables fantasy.

        • balconesfault

          In addition, the time when cars would need the most charging in the evening would be the very time solar and wind production would be decreasing.

          Wind peaks at night, thank you.

          And solar in general is not feasible for grid wide and/or industrial electricity generation. The infrastructure use is simply too great, and that’s just for panels, not storage. The most conservative estimates are that 10% of the land area of the US would need to be covered with panels to provide for CURRENT energy use, which will only rise.

          You shouldn’t speak so definitively on things which you’re ignorant about.

          http://www.landartgenerator.org/blagi/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/AreaRequired1000.jpg

          Estimates are that with current PV technology, it would take about 10,000 sq miles of panels to power America.

          For the record – we have 3,794,100 sq mi in our country.

        • greg_barton

          Their assumptions are wildly optimistic, but even if you grant them completely, that’s 10,000 square miles of PANELS. The panels aren’t going to be continuously connected. (and in fact couldn’t be as they must be tilted and move to track the sun) So again, that’s 10,000 square miles of just panels. There would need to be space in between them for support systems, motors to move the panels, maintenance space, etc. And then there’s transmission lines and some form of energy storage. So the are actually needed would at least double, and probably triple. New York city is 6k square miles. So you’re saying we could maintain a solar infrastructure that’s 3x to 5x the size of New York City and it would be “clean”? Really?

          Oh, and the area they have for generating electricity for the whole country is the Mojave. Consider the transmission loss from the Mojave to the east coast, because obviously they didn’t.

          Also, having the entire generation capacity for the nation in one convenient target would be extremely unwise, to say the least. And if you distribute it across the country it breaks their watt per square meter assumption. This goes quadruple for their “use the Sahara to fuel Europe” idea.

          So, honestly, do you really think this scheme is more feasible than a few nuclear plants?

          This is the kind of naiveté I’m talking about with renewables advocates.

        • greg_barton

          And I think environmentalists might have a problem with running windmills at night:

          http://www.treehugger.com/renewable-energy/surprise-surprise-shutting-down-wind-turbines-at-night-reduces-bat-deaths.html

          But anyway, your assertion about wind being greater at night is not entirely accurate. It matters what height above the ground you’re talking about. There’s a nice write up about that here: http://bit.ly/uxInA7

        • armstp

          Barton,

          I know you have an uncle or someone in the nuclear industry, so you are a big supporter, but I think you need to spent more time following the great strides we are currently making in renewables.

          You are one of those classic doubters. Someone who thought we could never fly…

          A renewable world is coming a lot faster than you think. I am afraid the U.S. is going to be left behind. I predict in 25 years there will be no more gasoline cars and more than 50% of the U.S. electricity will come from renewables. Building more nuclear plants will just make the U.S. become further behind the rest of the planet. Germany and Japan killing their nuclear programs will clearly push them to alternatives much much faster.

        • greg_barton

          Actually it was my grandfather who was a chemist at ORNL and worked on the original molten salt reactor experiment. My uncle blogs about nuclear issues. (nucleargreen.blogspot.com)

          I’ve heard the “you’re just like the people who never thought we could fly” line before. I prefer to think I’m more like the folks (around the same time) who thought we could never communicate with the dead or that phrenology was rubbish.

          And we are going to be left behind. The Chinese are, at this very moment, working on a molten salt reactor. The leader of the project, Jiang Mianheng, happens to be the son of Jiang Zemin, former General Secretary of the Communist Party of China and President of the People’s Republic of China. So this is not some kind of lark they’re embarking on. As it stands they’re going to leave us in the dust, and it’s mainly because of the opposition to anything nuclear by folks like yourself.

    • Baron Siegfried

      I disagree – I strongly suspect that we will be replacing the national grid with regional fuel cell sites, and eventually fuel cell units for single and multifamily homes will become the norm. That technology is now maturing and will be ready for market quite soon. I also suspect you’re going to start seeing car parks with recharging stations so that people can charge up their cars while they shop / work / watch movie . . .

      I think the power grid is inherently wasteful – the loss due to line resistance is tremendous, but it has to be as it is because generators benefit from the economy of scale, so they tend to be big and centralized. With fuel cells, you generate power pretty much on-site, which means you get close to 15% improvement right there. If you want solar, you need an efficient and cost effective storage medium, as people tend to need power when the sun isn’t out (duh)

      If the nuclear industry adopted the US Navy reactor design and rigorously followed Adm. Zumwalt’s scriptures, you could have reactor plants the size of a doublewide that would provide power to 50 – 100K homes and generate about a cup’s worth of waste a year. But it would only produce power, not nice, expensive isotopes that sell for $100K a gram . . .

      • greg_barton

        The LFTR would also be deployable in a small form factor, and has the huge advantage of passive safety. If you leave it alone it just shuts down.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      The left’s dogmatic and ideological opposition to nuclear is

      … not a real thing, I don’t think.

      That’s the old stereotype, and I’m sure you can find places where it’s true (this is a big country, after all), but I don’t think it’s an accurate description for today’s left, much less the Democratic Party.

      As the WSJ put it: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703363904576200973216100488.html

      The Obama administration has said it wants to speed construction of nuclear-power facilities as part of a strategy to support sources of energy that emit little or no carbon dioxide or other gases linked to climate change. … But some in Mr. Obama’s party want to evaluate the U.S. nuclear industry’s safety practices and record in light of the crisis in Japan. Some lawmakers have proposed a halt to new nuclear construction. … “We hope the nuclear industry’s self-confidence is warranted, but we should not accept the industry’s assurances without conducting our own independent evaluation of the risks posed by nuclear reactors in the United States and the preparedness of industry and regulators to respond to those risks,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.).

      Even the “opposition” in Congress was about safety concerns in light of Fukushima, not “dogmatic and ideological opposition”.

      Now, maybe I’m understating the strength and effectiveness of Democratic & leftward opposition. But, as a Democrat under 40, it’s really not something I’ve seen a whole lot.

      • greg_barton

        The Obama administration is not liberal. :) And yes, they do support nuclear, and I’m glad for that, but they’re also unduly influenced by Harry Reid and his ilk. Witness the current troubles at the NRC, which are all due to Harry Reid’s man, Jaczko, being put at the helm.

      • balconesfault

        Heard the other day that Japan is projecting the cleanup to cost around 3-4 billion, and take 30+ years …

        • greg_barton

          Sounds about right. How does that compare to the rest of the damage done by the earthquake and tsunami? If you didn’t bother to compare then you’ve lost perspective.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    The only reason the left settled on cap and trade was because it was offered by Republicans as the only acceptable compromise, who then decried it as socialism when it was accepted. A green house gas tax would be more acceptable to progressives if they thought it had any chance. I would really like to hear conservative proposals of how to deal with the invisible and delayed socialized risk of pollution and climate change that isn’t just a tax, a market based solutions would be easier. The GOP freaks out when we try to limit Mercury in the air from burning coal, a far easier to prove danger to the citizens of America. What you never hear is the first thing scientists point to as a remedy-conservation. Conservation is the low hanging fruit of this problem and we could cut up to 30% of emissions with small efforts and without changing our quality of life. Conservatives have succeeded in their arguments so well that the president and the Democrats don’t even bother to bring up this strategy, conservation is a non starter with conservatives. I don’t think the world will address greenhouse gas emissions in time to reverse it and we’re going to end up scrambling for radical and risky geoengineering solutions in a few decades.

    • CowboyDan

      The prospect of geo-engineering in the future is far scarier than paying carbon taxes, using energy efficient appliances, and building new nuclear power plants now.

  • SteveThompson

    A group of former U.S. generals and admirals have released a study that outlines what the response will have to be to maintain international security in the light of changing global climate conditions as shown here:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2011/06/military-examination-of-climate-change.html

    The never-ending search for both food and potable water will strongly impact international diplomacy in decades to come as starving people groups cross international boundaries in desperation.

  • sinz54

    Silber: “The speech I wrote for a notional GOP politician in my how-to-explain-it post, I explained, was aimed at setting not only a policy framework but also a tone that could resonate with conservative voters.”

    No it won’t. Not a chance.

    Here’s Silber’s proposal from December 7, in case folks have forgotten it:

    Silber: “We will raise taxes on carbon emissions across the board, while cutting taxes on payrolls and incomes. That means more money in people’s pockets”

    I walked out of Frum Forum after Frum stopped supporting the GOP, but I still lurk occasionally and I couldn’t let this proposal pass.

    Silber’s proposal means more money in the pockets of residents of large cities who can use mass transit. (No wonder the Blue States love this idea.) And it means less money in the pockets of rural Americans who have to drive miles and miles and miles to get anywhere.

    Consider: Even today, 60% of residents in New York City don’t own cars. They depend on mass transit–subways mostly–to get around. Under Silber’s proposal, they would come out way ahead–since they would get all these tax benefits while not ever having paid a dollar for gasoline.

    Whereas residents in rural areas without mass transit, who live in sprawling prairies and plains, would come out way behind because they would never get enough tax benefits to compensate for the higher gasoline prices. (Unless Silber’s proposal were not revenue-neutral, but instead created huge deficits so that everyone would get a break.)

    But residents of cities tend to vote Democrat (NYC is a Dem stronghold), and rural voters tend to be Republican. Hence Silber’s proposal is a reward to Dems mostly.

    I don’t think that’s going to go over well with conservatives.

    The hard fact of the matter is that liberals tend to live in cities that have mass transit alternatives to gasoline consumption, and conservatives do not. Hence ANY proposal that tries to reduce gasoline consumption will hurt conservatives more than liberals.

    And THAT is the real reason why conservatives are opposed to doing anything about global warming. They know instinctively that forcing a reduction in gasoline consumption hurts them and their communities more than others.

    • sweatyb

      Thank you for sharing such a reasonable and understandable response.

      First, In my opinion, wanting cheap gas has nothing to do with being conservative.

      Second, if we accept your description of the effect of the carbon tax, then an accurate description of the current situation is that people living in large cities with access to mass transit, as you describe are heavily subsidizing the wasteful lifestyles of people in rural areas.

      Cutting wasteful subsidies never goes over well with those who benefit from the waste.

      Third, I would think that the places where people are individually most exposed to the dangers of climate change would be the most eager to address the issue. Unlike large cities, rural communities do not have the resources to build dams and levies or water pipelines in reaction to a climate event. You would think that people in these communities would be willing to make a small sacrifice (give up their carbon subsidies) to reduce the likelihood of such a climate event.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Roughly 80 percent of the US population lives in urban areas: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/planning/census_issues/metropolitan_planning/cps2k.cfm

      sinz can’t be bothered to care about America, though. Would a given policy be cost-effective? Would it lessen our dependence on oil imports? Would it make most Americans’ lives better? All completely irrelevant.

      He just has his (mostly fantasized) version of “Us” and “Them”. “Rural = Us = Jesus = White = Real America,” and “Urban = Government = Blacks = Bad”. All policies are evaluated through the prism of that worldview.

      That explains why the Republican Party– of whom sinz is the base– supported Pres. Bush to the hilt as he engaged in warrantless wiretapping of US citizens, indefinite detention & torture of US citizens without trial, misuse of evidence in the debate over the decision to invade another country, provisions expanding executive power in the USA PATRIOT Act, fought Raich v. Gonzales all the way to the Supreme Court, etc.

      But then a deficit-lowering health insurance reform bill, based on ideas conservatives had proposed for decades, had conservatives marching in the streets, incandescent with rage. Rush Limbaugh provided the rallying cry: lowering the deficit, expanding access to health insurance, and trying to lower US health care costs to be in line with the rest of civilization is “reparations”. Because the bill could be perceived as helping nonwhites.

      Republicans don’t care about federal & executive power, and they don’t care about the deficit. They want the government to target Them. And maybe even help Us, but mostly just target Them.

  • nhthinker

    I have no problem with the US spending significantly on research of Planet climate mechanisms AFTER the US balance of trade produces a surplus consistently for a decade. Until then, having the US pay more in energy/carbon tax than China would be equivalent to giving up our sovereignty in chunks.

    • sweatyb

      This is great. Do you think you’re being reasonable in making this statement? Even if we magically started having a trade surplus today, it would still take a decade before NhThinker would support “research” into climate change?

      Why not just say you’ll support a carbon tax when hell freezes over.

      • nhthinker

        When and if things start freezing over, then we will know the Climate dogmatists control freaks were full of crap.

        BTW, how much trade imbalance/loss of American wealth/jobs do you think the American economy should be willing to give up to address the idea of global warming?

        • sweatyb

          When and if things start freezing over, then we will know the Climate dogmatists control freaks were full of crap.

          Um what? I’m pretty sure part of the concern over climate change is that while the average temperature of the earth is going up, some areas will become colder and some will become warmer. This means that some places that are currently inhabited will become inhospitable.

          If we wait until this starts happening, we’re screwed.

          BTW, how much trade imbalance/loss of American wealth/jobs do you think the American economy should be willing to give up to address the idea of global warming?

          Non-sequitor, much? Fuel cost is not a significant reason for America’s trade imbalance. The real source of our trade imbalance is that we live in an incredibly wealthy country. We can afford to buy a lot more from foreign countries than they can afford to buy stuff from us.

        • nhthinker

          “Fuel cost is not a significant reason for America’s trade imbalance. The real source of our trade imbalance is that we live in an incredibly wealthy country. We can afford to buy a lot more from foreign countries than they can afford to buy stuff from us.”

          That is incredibly ignorant and just plain wrong.

          http://opencrs.com/document/RS22204/
          “… the rise in the cost of energy imports in 2010 added about $80 billion to the nation’s trade deficit in 2010 over that experienced in 2009. Turmoil in the Middle East caused petroleum prices to rise sharply in the first three months of 2011 and could add $100 billion to the U.S. trade deficit in 2011. ”

          $180 billion INCREASE over only 2 years is a VERY SIGNIFICANT portion of the trade deficit.

          But thank you very much for being willing to expose your misunderstanding of the economy.

          http://useconomy.about.com/od/tradepolicy/p/Trade_Deficit.htm

          “Petroleum Imports Drive the Trade Defict:
          America’s dependence on foreign oil drives the trade deficit. In 2010, the U.S. imported $252 billion in petroleum-related products, compared to $188 billion in 2009. The number of barrels was about the same, but oil prices jumped from an average of $57/barrel to $75/barrel. Petroleum-related products include crude oil, natural gas, fuel oil and other petroleum-based distillates such as kerosene. (Source: U.S. Census, U.S. Oil Imports)”

        • sweatyb

          Thanks for watching non-sequitor theater! Remember, we’re talking about a carbon tax. Not our dependence on foreign oil. I know it’s hard to keep up with all the threads you participate on.

          Interestingly, your numbers suggest that a carbon tax might actually have a positive effect on the trade balance. By increasing the cost of energy to more reflect its societal cost, it would encourage conservation and more efficient uses of fuel. This would reduce our dependence on foreign fuel and improve our trade deficit.

          So, by this stunning feat of logical jujitsu I have convinced NhThinker that his stance on a carbon tax is self-defeating and he will now champion reasonable measures to both reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our carbon output!

    • greg_barton

      I have no problem with the Titanic spending significantly on research of iceberg avoidance mechanisms AFTER the Titanic balances it’s accounts and produces a surplus consistently for a decade.

      • nhthinker

        The trade imbalance is the rudder steering us toward the iceberg of sovereign financial ruin. Global warming is the “The Day After Tomorrow” playing on the radar screen on the bridge diverging us from paying attention to the heading toward the iceberg of ruin.

  • zaybu

    This brought to my mind a conversation I had with someone over the word “elitist”. I told him, if you had a heart problem who would you consult, a tarot reader or a cardiologist? He said, of course, the cardiologist. I said, fine, because you recognize that the cardiologist has knowledge both from studies and years of practice. But then you turn around and call anyone with knowledge as “elitist”. What you have done is perverted that word. Elitist usually refers to a class of people of a certain socio-economic class that has political clout and money, and the privileges that these empowers them. Often, these elitists are the cause of our ills and cannot be trusted. But now, you regard anyone with the “privilege” of knowledge as elitist. And in doing that, it allows you to dismiss any of them with a slight of hand.

    • nhthinker

      Having knowledge does not make one an elitist.
      Having disdain or disinterest for others (typically the majority) that don’t have what one holds dear makes one an elitist.
      Many cardiologists are not elitists.

      • sweatyb

        Cardiologist: you should cut back on high cholesterol foods like cheese, as your cholesterol level is very high and it could lead to a heart attack.
        NhThinker: What are you talking about cheese for? Cheese is good for you! Any cholesterol in my body is caused by lazy blood cells. What I need is a good bleeding to rid myself of this lazy blood.
        Cardiologist: That doesn’t make any sense. Why would you think that? I have been studying these issues for years and…
        NhThinker: Elitist!

        • nhthinker

          Cardiologist: I see you are taken care to watch your cholesterol, eat right, and could easily pass the Marine fitness test even though you are over 50.
          NHThinker: As a libertarian, I think it is important that we all do our very best to take care of ourselves first and to voluntarily listen to good advice, as you have given me.
          Cardiologist: Is that why you drive a hybrid and reduced your overall consumption of oil and gas by over a thousand gallons per year because you believe the dogmatists about global warming?
          NHThinker: Of course not. I changed my behavior because: 1) it was more economical 2) it tends to help reduce the trade deficit to the US. I am annoyed by liberals that seem not to care about the relation of trade deficits to US future sovereignty. I expect that the longer time passes, the more likely someone will create pollutionless domestic power that is cheaper than American coal- Google just recently admitted the timing was not right for such an endeavor.

          Cardiologist: Why is sweatyB called “sweatyB”?
          NHThinker: Either she exercises a lot and does not need to change her behavior or its something that you need to talk to her about. We all know that as a good liberal she would exactly listen to experts like you and do exactly what you tell her because laziness does not exist for liberals.

        • sweatyb

          I still think you should cut back on the cheese.

        • nhthinker

          I will if you will.

        • sweatyb

          Never! Cheese is too delicious!

        • nhthinker

          Actually about 15 years ago, I dramatically cut back on bland cheeses and started only eating small amounts of very flavorful cheeses- Went to skim milk as well.
          Almost never have cheese on a hamburger anymore.
          I can’t resist red wine and dark chocolate- AND my cardiologist does mind.

      • lilmanny

        Unfortunately many, yourself included, find it politically useful to deploy the word “elitist” even when it does not fit your definition, which I find pretty accurate. They use it to taint the word of experts whose research contradicts their own interests, meaning that zaybu’s definition is actually the de facto definition. In doing this, the absence of knowledge has somehow come to symbolize wisdom.

        Stupid Sarah is a perfect example of this perverse effect.

        Outside of that Silber’s ideas are pretty good, which is why he is giving interviews with Canadians.

        • nhthinker

          Lilmanny,

          If you have a single bit of evidence with regard to your accusation that I have used the word incorrectly, the honorable thing to do would be to at least provide a link to a single shred of evidence. You are honorable, aren’t you?

      • zaybu

        @ nhthinker

        I believe you are making another mistake. “Having disdain or disinterest for others (typically the majority) that don’t have what one holds dear” would more appropriately be described as arrogance. It’s true that many elitists are arrogant, but certainly not all of them.

        • LFC

          I’ve always loved the following quote, and it seems to sum up the climate change deniers, the creationists, and other people who have strongly held opinions but literally have no idea about the lack of validity of the position they’re advocating so stridently.

          I can handle ignorance, and I can handled arrogance. I can’t handle the two of them together.

        • nhthinker

          zaybu // Dec 22, 2011 at 10:25 am

          Please identify or describe an elitist or group of elitists that does not exhibit:
          “Having disdain or disinterest for others (typically the majority) that don’t have what one holds dear”

        • zaybu

          Richard Dawkins is considered to be an arrogant atheist by many evangelicals, but no one would consider him to be an elitist.

        • LFC

          Climate scientists. They do not have disdain for those who simply do not understand their work. They DO have disdain for those who do not understand their work but say it’s completely wrong, make all manner of accusations about their honesty, and flat out tell lies about it.

          If calling out people for being liars and a**holes is elitist, well sign me the hell up!

        • nhthinker

          Interesting you bring up Richard Dawkins. He didn’t create these words, but he was willing to repeat them…

          “Science is interesting, and if you don’t agree you can f*ck off.”

          Note: Dawkins was quoting a former editor of New Scientist Magazine, who is as yet unidentified (possibly Jeremy Webb?)”
          ― Richard Dawkins

          Certainly matches my definition of elitist.

        • zaybu

          @ nhthinker

          An elitist is someone born into a family of wealth and power, and thinks he is superior. That’s what my original post was about and the converstation I had about this subject. Judging from your posts, you fall exactly into that category of people who have perverted the meaning of elitist.

          BTW, Richard Dawkins comes from a humble family. He might be arrogant, but not an elitist.

        • nhthinker

          “An elitist is someone born into a family of wealth and power, and thinks he is superior.”

          No, what you described is a blue-blooded elitist. Your garden variety elitists can start from any station in life.
          You got the superior part right, but the person not only has to think themselves superior, they have to do the equivalent looking down their nose at others that they do not think rise to their capability, or worse such as think that the elitist is a pompous boor.

        • zaybu

          Like I said, you are part of those who have perverted the meaning of the word, and now can’t even realize it. You’re a waste.

        • nhthinker

          e·lit·ism or é·lit·ism (-ltzm, -l-)
          n.
          1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
          2.
          a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
          b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.
          —-

          Zaybu,

          Your reaction to the dictionary meaning of a word reveals that you have a closed mind.
          Do you call everyone a waste that points out your clear errors?

          This is a North American based site. Does Zaybu have his own dictionary where he gets to trump the meaning of the words everyone else uses? Talk about waste!

  • Emma

    Mr. Silber: You write: “I offered no excuses for a GOP that I do think has gone badly astray in this area in recent years.”

    But, in fact, that is all you do. You even go so far as to blame the Democrats, scientists, and environmentalists for the dishonest, destructive behavior of Republicans:

    – “Democrats, even with science on their side, have done a poor job of presenting and addressing the climate issue” — so its the Democrats fault that Republicans don’t read, understand, or believe the research reported in scientific journals;

    – “Climategate” — another time-wasting, debunked Republican conspiracy theory;

    – “left-wing hostility to tampering with nature” — yep, sure, that’s what the environmental scientists are advocating.

    And I note your qualifier “in recent years” as if Republicans were once advocates of envirionmental protection instead of organizing the troops to deny global warming and every other environmental problem. (Just this morning I heard one oil company PR idiot claim that air and water pollution — and their associated health risks — are myths in response to the new EPA rule.) Indeed, every environmental disaster produces flocks of Republicans legislators out front insisting that the country not be too hasty in demanding corporations pay for their mafeasance?

    I believe that you write this crap in bad faith. Apparently, your game is to temporize by shifting the blame to Democrats for not gently leading Republicans and their plundering associates to a clearer understanding of the issues or a willingness to accept solutions that have no immediate or practical chance whatsoever.

    Such writings, Mr. Silber, are immoral.

    • Traveler

      Emma,

      I have to disagree. Maybe the democrats could have made a better case if they hadnt used Al Gore as a spokesman. Climategate was a cluster****, and sure didnt help, even though we both know its a straw man. And there is unbelievable left wing hostility to tampering with nature, especially in Europe. The greens there have stopped all GM food, not because of herbicide cultivation issues (which are real), but because they think its poisonous. Seriously. This is probably the most viable method we have to address adequate food supplies for the planet, but they preclude it for no scientific reason. Dogma has no specific party.

      But I agree that the POGers are out to lunch in their regulatory perspectives. And most everything else.

      • Emma

        Right. And if Darwin’s work, and the 150 years of biological research that followed, had been better presented, then most Republicans would now believe in evolution.

        • nhthinker

          According to a Gallup study, only 17% of Democrats believe God played no part in evolution.
          Where is the scientific evidence of God’s role for the other 83% of the Democrats?

        • greg_barton

          There’s none either way, and can never be, because the whole concept of god is unscientific.

        • nhthinker

          “there can never be”

          Actually, the idea of beings with differing biology than human and millions or billions of years more technically advanced that at some point decided to influence life in this galaxy is indeed a realistic scientific conjecture.
          It would only be human hubris that would get in the way of acknowledging such a possibility.

          Based on existing evidence, the only scientifically valid theological position is agnostic.

          So your statement: “there can never be”, posits assumptions that aren’t necessarily true and is a clear example of human hubris.

        • LFC

          Actually, the idea of beings with differing biology than human and millions or billions of years more technically advanced that at some point decided to influence life in this galaxy is indeed a realistic scientific conjecture. It would only be human hubris that would get in the way of acknowledging such a possibility.

          Uh, wouldn’t THOSE beings have to come from somewhere as well? And if they were so much more advanced that we couldn’t observe them or even comprehend what they are, then wouldn’t they be “gods” to us?

          The religious belief that something well beyond our comprehension put all that we see into motion is faith. The denial of observed evidence because it conflicts with faith is dogma. The former is not in any way at odds with science, the latter is.

        • nhthinker

          Yes, they would have to come from somewhere…but what is your point?

          “…wouldn’t they be gods to us?”

          My assertion was that greg_barton’s assertion: “there can never be [evidence of god]” is making assertions about the future that he has no support for.
          If a god-like ET decides to allow us to detect her tomorrow, then greg’s “there can never be” assertion would be disproven.

          I don’t agree with your definition- dogma does not require a denial of counter-evidence. On the other hand, science requires acceptance of uncertainty.
          Science typically uses Ocham’s razor to identify that the simplest physical model that is consistent with the data is the explanation that should be tentatively treated as closest to the truth. It is not scientific to claim God is responsible for particular things that are not currently scientifically explained. Having curiosity and belief in uncertainty is scientific.

        • greg_barton

          So god only causes things that we haven’t explained yet? Is this a quantum god that evaporates as soon as a non-god cause is observed? :)

        • nhthinker

          “So god only causes things that we haven’t explained yet? Is this a quantum god that evaporates as soon as a non-god cause is observed? ”

          That seems to be what 83% of Democrats believe.

        • sweatyb

          Seriously? Mocking people for their beliefs is so liberal of you.

        • nhthinker

          There is no mocking.
          Fundamentalist Christians tend to believe the Bible literally independent of scientific explanation.

          Moderate Christians tend to believe the Bible, miracles and stories of Jesus unless or until they are convinced by counter scientific evidence.

        • Holmes

          Mr. Silber – seems you’ve been roughed-up a bit. Next time, bring something more to the forum than cheap polemics.

  • B.Spin

    Anyone who is Interested in climate should download this.
    http://www.breadandbutterscience.com/Weather.pdf
    It is a very large file(12MB) but well worth the wait.
    It is a collection of old weather Extremes over the past 2000 years and makes the current climate look bliss.I think it should be made compulsory reading for Climatologists.

    • LFC

      I don’t understand the point. There’s a bunch of severe weather events that have taken place over the course of 2,000 years. I don’t think this would come as a shock to anybody. It certainly does nothing to address our current skyrocketing average global temperature. And it doesn’t remotely address the movement of global temperature with CO2 concentrations:

      • zaybu

        LFC,

        Which HTML tags do you use to get a graph posted on this forum.

        Thanks,

        • LFC

          When you post, use the fourth little button above your text. (First is bold, second italic, third underline, and fourth is image.) It will give a tiny pop-up and ask for the URL of the image. Replacing the square braces used by FF with curly braces, the tags it produces look like this:

          {img=http://www.politifake.org/image/political/1012/conservative-david-frum-the-power-of-fox-news-political-poster-1293730189.jpg}{/img}

          And the image shows up like this:

        • zaybu

          Somehow, I’m not getting the hang of it

      • B.Spin

        The point is this,if readers here download and actually read the pages(800+)they will see that catastrophic climate change has allways happened.Much Much worse than anything they have seen or heard of so far. 12 inch hailstones,Tornadoes,massive flooding,3year droughts,cannibalism(Mothers eating their own babies). For people to panic about a few people working in Climatology screaming doom and gloom about a miniscule rise in temperature is truly pathetic, just like your graph.If you could stretch your graph backwards 2000 years and explain the correlation between the awful events then and the mild events now I would be most Interested.

  • Stewardship

    The major issue in how the left has discussed the issue of climate policy is that it has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into preaching to its own choir. If the liberal and left-leaning institutional funders had invested a fraction of that money in conservative groups that believe(d) a climate crisis is upon us, the ROI would have been much higher, and could have created genuine bipartisan dialogue. Instead, they created fake storefronts with nifty conservative names and shot their wad into the ether, continued to trot out Al Gore, and widened the chasm between the two groups.

    (There is plenty of blame on our side of the aisle–I’m just addressing one point.)

    • Holmes

      Nonsense. Republicans and their corporate overloads would happily destroy all Creation if there was some electoral advantage or profit to be had. That is why Republican discussions of global warming and polution always dissolve into phony complaints about Democrats’ indelicate treatment of the issue — they are stategems to deflect attention from the real problem.

      • paul_gs

        Destroying Creation would be bad for future profits so conservatives wouldn’t be against it. And if progressives actually lived their lives by their professed beliefs in AGW, CO2 emissions would already be declining.

        Instead we get the “rock stars” of the climate movement such as Bill McKibben, Laurie David and Robert Redford endlessly flying around the world telling the rest of us to start making huge sacrifices.

        • Secessionist

          …if progressives actually lived their lives by their professed beliefs in AGW, CO2 emissions would already be declining.

          lol, true enough.

          Paul_Gs, the king of zing!

      • Stewardship

        Well here’s the perfect example. Liberals cannot stomach for one moment that anyone on the other side actually cares about our environment. Rather than reach out to grab the hand extended, and to try to figure out a bipartisan way to solve problems, they try to lop it off.

        • sweatyb

          Rather than reach out to grab the hand extended, and to try to figure out a bipartisan way to solve problems, they try to lop it off.

          I don’t think he really lopped it off so much as he couldn’t find it. I read the original post, and I cannot find an extended hand. You dismissed the entirety of the environmental movement as a liberal circle-jerk. And even if that was inadvertent, suggesting that liberals could have done more to fund conservative causes is bizarre.

          There’s no room in the current Republican party for global climate change advocates. They don’t think it’s happening.
          And even if it were happening, humans didn’t do it.
          And even if humans did it, it’s benign.
          And even if it’s not benign, there’s nothing we can do to change it now.
          And even if we can do something to change it, it’s too expensive.
          And anyway, it’s not happening.

          I am not sure there’s a credible conservative climate change group left. But if there was, and they received funding from the left or endorsements from Al Gore, wouldn’t that immediately ostracize them from the Republican party?

  • Secessionist

    Bridging the is / ought gap is classic philosophical problem for a reason.

    The relationship there is very tricky.

    We have an *IS* (AGW is happening) and an *OUGHT* (what’s the ethical solution).

    Even if the *IS* half is of the AGW debate is 100% settled (it’s not 100% settled but leaving that issue aside), there is still plenty of room for disagreement over the *OUGHT* — the subject of Mr. Silber’s essay. What policy responses are best, feasible, will work, who’s impacted, etc.

    In my experience, these climate discussions often start with two premises that lead to a confused debate because science and policy end being conflated:

    Premise # 1): AGW is happening.

    Premise # 2): the effects of AWG will be as horrific as the enviro-political left and their allies claim it will be.

    Even if there is substantial credible evidence for #1, the climate is still an extraordinarily complex natural phenomenon. Even if AWG is happening with the certainly of 2 + 2 = 4, that fact does not make the climate a less complex phenomenon of nature.

    If there is anything more obvious than this, I’ve never run across it.

    Therefore, based on that fact alone, the debate over #1 needs to continue, and research into #1 needs to continue, and the people pursuing research into #1 from the perspective of climate skepticism ought to be allowed to do their work without being smeared as “deniers.”

    Likewise, outside the sphere of environmental and climate science, the people who disagree with the enviro-political left’s policy solutions shouldn’t be labeled “deniers” either, as there is clearly much more room for reasonable and good faith disagreement over policy if not science.

    Disagreeing with a particular policy is not the same as denying science. This should be obvious too.

    The enviro-political left favors policies that will be 1) expensive and 2) that will require heavy and even draconian regulations in some cases.

    However, they push these policies with benign messages about conservation and often deranged denunications of deniers, while putting almost no emphasis on the fact that the policies they want will give *them* both *money* and *power*. With help from a sympathetic left-wing media, they deliver a public message that stresses the benign while avoiding the messy subject of who gets the money. How convenient.

    Because money and power are involved, the enviro-political left clearly has a motive for making the impact of AWG seem as horrific as possible as well as an obvious motive for exaggeration. Money and power are also a motive for overstating the certainty with which their proposed policy solutions will work.

    Considering the “denier” smear, who uses it, and why they use use it is a good way to make some important distinctions on the *POLICY* side of the climate debate.

    Based on my participation in the debate around the interwebs, I would argue for three broad classes of people who use the word “denier” with exceptions of course and some cross-over.

    They are:

    Group #1): Well-meaning people who view the environment from a perspective that is more religious than rational; hence, they treat climate skepticism the same way religious fundamentalists treat heresy.

    To them, climate skepticism is a form of heresy. Although they rarely have malicious intent in my experience, they often have trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that not everyone looks at the world the same way they do.

    Group #2): Well-meaning people who find the evidence for AGW compelling and who are genuinely concerned for the welfare of world but who are frustrated by the slow progress on what they—not *everyone* but just the people in *their political loop*—regard as the proper policy responses to AGW.

    These people are reasonable, intelligent and well informed. Nevertheless and somewhat counter-intuitively, they often use the language of fundamentalist intolerance. Since these people are otherwise reasonable, frustration over not attaining political goals they consider obvious but everyone else does not seems a reasonable explanation for this.

    Group #3) People who are not well meaning, don’t have good intentions, and who don’t care about science or conservation but say they do as a mask for an ugly political agenda aimed at social control.

    This group seeks to silence all opposition with labels for political reasons. They have a totalitarian mindset and contempt for free speech, because they are totalitarians at heart.

    This group has the benefit, however, of being able to hide in, around and among groups #1 and # 2, the many good and well intentioned people, to make it seem like everyone on the AGW side actually has good intentions when that is definitely not true in all cases.

    Group # 3 doesn’t care about conservation. What they care about is increasing their political grip over society, especially in the wealthy industrial societies whose people they often hold in contempt and whose wealth they seek to control.

    Group # 3 wants ever higher taxes, usually on wealthy countries only, more regulations, greater and greater power for the government and trans-national entities like the EU and UN (which often translates to greater power for themselves of course), more of the wrong kind of wealth redistribution and ultimately the micromanagement of all aspects of human life in the name of “sustainability.” They want these things not to help the environment but to increase their own wealth and power.

    Al Gore is the prototype for this group.

    Many political leaders in the world’s non-industrialized Third World nations also belong in Group # 3.

    These shrill and belligerent agitators are constantly on the world stage demanding policies that will drain wealth from industrialized countries and enrich their own countries (which is to say themselves, of course, the Third World elites, not the impoverished rank-and-file people in those countries who are the ones who really need help).

    Yet they speak as if their main concern is conservation and environmental impact. Give me a break. They want cash and power, and that’s the bottom line.

    Extreme stratification is the social norm in most third world countries. In most of these nations, a small number of wealthy elites rule over a largely impoverished majority population. Historically, these elites horde their nations’ wealth while leaving the majority to languish in poverty.

    The well-meaning people in Groups #1 and # 2 don’t appreciate this, however. Being humans who are as open to confirmation bias and believing what they want to believe as anyone else, they are as easy to manipulate with simplistic narratives as anyone at RedState.com.

    They hear carbon taxes will raise costs on Western Industrial polluters and send money to the developing nations so that these nations can help their people, and that’s all they need to hear.

    But in light of the historical and present-day reality of resource hording by Third World elites who are often indifferent to their general populations, the credible evidence that most of this money will consistently reach the impoverished majority is what exactly????

    The policy side is a hard topic. There are many factors to consider.

    Another complicating factor that really distorts the debate is that there are some deceptive, politically motivated people on the opposite side who push an agenda too (mostly obscured).

    You have the Al Gore types on one side and the Big Energy multinationals on the other.

    There are people on this side who would dump toxic sludge in their mother’s backyard to make a buck if they could. You also have corporations like Trans Canada who seek to run a Deep Water Horizon pipeline across the American heartland aligned with the big refineries on the Texas coast. Both parties seek to make money from the Keystone Deep Water pipeline by exporting their product outside of America. Whatever they say to the contrary, their big shareholders do not and will never give a rat’s ass about the potential impact on a bunch of flyover country White Trash (from their perspective) in Nebraska.

    However, by using their shills and proxies in Fox News, talk radio, the WSJ, NRO, and similar outlets, they are able to mislead good people and disguise their agenda using the language of limited government, liberty and property rights properly understood.

    These misled people, in turn, become cannon fodder for plutocrats who despise them and who have very different financial interests than their own. In principle however, their concerns about unacceptable regulatory infringements on liberty and excessive cost burdens on ordinary people are very reasonable and legitimate.

    Of course the notion that Big Energy and America’s investor class care about limited government is laughable.

    While I don’t want to broad-brush entire industries and every person in them since there are exceptions to every rule, the agenda at the highest levels of Big Energy and especially among the WSJ investor class amounts to one of unrestrained profiteering based on unfettered pollution, contempt for the wider public good, and the passing of externality costs onto society.

    However, that is the true agenda of only the tiny elite few at the top. Among the bottom 99% across Red State America, everyone else’s agenda is avoiding outrageous taxation, greater costs and liberty-violating regulations in return for dubious benefits.

    At any rate, because the social ramifications are so profound, the agendas so diverse, and the policy debate so muddled, the political side of the climate debate will likely never abate, nor should it.

    • sweatyb

      My what a long and rambling screed you’ve got here. I am sure you think this is cogent and insightful analysis. But you could have saved a lot of time, by just editing all that other crap about Al Gore, multinationals, and Groups 1 through 3 out.

      Your whole post comes down to this:

      everyone else’s agenda is avoiding outrageous taxation, greater costs and liberty-violating regulations in return for dubious benefits.

      “Outrageous taxation” What’s outrageous about taxation based on social costs? If the repercussions of bad behavior by individuals are born by general society, then shouldn’t our society seek redress from those bad actors?

      “liberty-violating regulations” Liberty violating? Still listening to Glen Beck, are you?

      And I’m pretty sure the agenda of the 99% is to go about our lives in peace without worry that the air we breath, the water we drink, and the food we eat is poisoned/polluted/radioactive.

      At any rate, because the social ramifications are so profound, the agendas so diverse, and the policy debate so muddled, the political side of the climate debate will likely never abate, nor should it.

      Tacitly approving the status-quo is explicitly advocating that we take no action on carbon pollution, take no action on global climate change. Which, big coincidence, is just what the energy companies want too.

      The policy debate is being deliberately muddled by those who know that as long as its muddled nothing will get done. It’s also being muddled by you.

      • Secessionist

        My what a long and rambling screed you’ve got here. I am sure you think this is cogent and insightful analysis. But you could have saved a lot of time, by just editing all that other crap about Al Gore, multinationals, and Groups 1 through 3 out.

        Sweatyb, That’s your opinion. Fair enough. But I am not going to edit my comments just so they conform to your mental stereotype of what a person who takes different view on climate issues looks like.

      • paul_gs

        . . . the agenda at the highest levels of Big Energy and especially among the WSJ investor class amounts to one of unrestrained profiteering based on unfettered pollution, contempt for the wider public good, and the passing of externality costs onto society.

        Quite a good post sweatyb, except for the highlighted quote.

        I see Big Energy as an ethical entity providing a reliable and affordable source of vast quantities of energy that has allowed billions of the earth’s citizens to escape poverty and deprivation. The issue of CO2 is definitely a complex one but one where I believe we citizens bear as much culpability for, if not more so, then Big Energy companies.

        • sweatyb

          I see Big Energy as an ethical entity

          I am sure you feel the same way about Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, and Phillip-Morris. (And I think you meant to compliment DSP, as I didn’t write what you quoted)

        • paul_gs

          I like Goldman Sachs and Prizer. P-M not so much. GS could have done a better job leading up to the financial crisis but were not a major contributor or cause of it, in spite of the hatchet job Rolling Stone and other media outlets have done on them.

        • sweatyb

          Awesome

        • valkayec

          Paul, you wouldn’t by any chance work for an oil company, would you? I’ve noticed whenever oil companies or the oil industry is discussed, you reply with the same words: “ethical entities providing a vast source of affordable energy….”

        • paul_gs

          Nope, and I don’t own shares in them either. I just like fossil fuel companies.

          Not only do they provide vast amounts of affordable energy that has lifted billions out of poverty, they also pay workers very well and remit huge sums of money to governments in the form of royalties and taxes.

          And when they do screw up (which is rare) such as Exxon Valdez or Deepwater Horizon, they don’t shirk their responsibilities but do their best to make things right.

        • valkayec

          Are you so sure they make it right, Paul? Have you spent any time looking into Nigeria or…hmm, which country is it in Central America?…Guatemala? A pretty shabby record all around, both politically and environmentally.

        • nhthinker

          All the more reason that the drilling should occur in the US and Canada where we will closely monitor the impact on the environment as opposed to Obama giving South American countries discounts/loans to buy drill equipment so they can send the oil to China.

        • sweatyb

          Sure. Drill here. You do know that’s pretty much current US policy and has been for 30 years or so, right?

          You’ve been holding out on us! I imagine you’ve discovered a secret oil deposits capable of producing something on the level of 5-10 million barrels a day.

          By the way, do you have any other ideas say for the intervening decade while those new oil fields are gearing up to peak production?

          Wait… I thought we were talking about a carbon tax. What the hell does drilling for oil in the USA have to do with regulating carbon emissions?

  • nhthinker

    Most people who talk about science have very closed minds…

    Like the reaction I got here for the potential for the NHThinker version of Intelligent Design.

    http://www.frumforum.com/creationism-makes-a-comeback/comment-page-1#comment-268320

    • sweatyb

      How does replacing “God” with “an Alien” make the argument for Creationism more scientific?

      • nhthinker

        Some people: many scientists actually, believe humans don’t owe their existence to any higher entities and they have egos and hubris to match.

        Aliens with technology could be a scientific explanation of creation which scientists would have to accept and also need to accept that humans are not the top of the intelligence chain….if it were scientifically proven to be true, then that would drive a lot of scientists nuts- Believers in gods would be much better prepared.

        • sweatyb

          I know plenty of people with outsize egos who think that God created us in his image. It seems to me that piety and humility are not as closely connected as you believe them to be.

        • nhthinker

          You seem to be implying that religion makes no difference to humility or just make an observation that some people that claim to be Christians and fully lack humility.
          (If your POV is the former, do you have any survey’s or expert opinions/historical perspectives to reinforce your POV?)

          http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2011/10/27/3349673.htm

          How Christian humility upended the world
          John Dickson ABC Religion and Ethics 27 Oct 2011

          When Sir Edmund Hillary conquered Mount Everest with Tenzin Norgay in 1953 he reportedly took with him a symbol of his achievement. It remains buried somewhere up there at the top of the world. A small crucifix.

          I don’t know why. As far as I know, Hillary wasn’t an overtly religious man. Perhaps it was a token of his own humility, trying to honour a “higher power” at the moment of his greatest triumph. Then again, maybe it was just the one token of Western civilization small enough to squeeze into his pack.

          Whatever Sir Ed was thinking, I have often thought that his choice of symbol provides an insight into the curious influence of Jesus of Nazareth on our culture.

          In antiquity, the cross was an instrument of Rome’s brutalizing power to humiliate. Now it stands as a symbol of true greatness. Whereas the ancients draw a straight line between greatness and honour, the West draws a line between greatness and humility.

          It is well known that “humility” (humilitas in Latin; tapeinos in Greek) was not a virtue in Graeco Roman ethics. In fact, the word meant something like “crushed” or “debased.” It was associated with failure and shame.

          In the 147 pithy maxims of the Delphic Canon from the 6th century BC, considered by ancient Greeks to be the sum and substance of the ethical life, there is no mention of the theme of, let alone the word, “humility” (whereas today it would be difficult to list ten virtues without including humility).

          In its place was philotimia, “the love of honour.” Aristotle had insisted that “honour” and “reputation” are among the pleasantest things one could contemplate and attain for oneself.

          The logic was compelling. If one had achieved great things, it was only right and proper that full recognition be given: achievement deserves public praise.

          Humility before the gods, of course, was appropriate, primarily because they could kill you. Humility was advisable before the emperors for the same reason.

          But humility before an equal or a lesser was morally suspect. It upset the assumed equation: merit demanded honour, thus honour was the proof of merit. Avoiding honour implied a diminishment of merit. It was shameful.

    • Secessionist

      I read your comment. It was well reasoned and true, and the responses were typical.

      Speaking as an agnostic, my take on the Intelligent Design school of thought is that it is not science. I see Intelligent Design as mathematically informed philosophy. They do raise many interesting issues, however, especially William Dembski. However, because the proponents of ID have never come up with testable predictions (as far as know), I don’t think it can rightly be called science.

      A great many critics of ID are imbeciles.

      While ID may not be science or definitely prove anything, it does raise issues worth considering and is not repackaged creationism either.

      • nhthinker

        Thanks for taking the time to read and providing thoughtful comment. Many people have serious trouble with understanding what it takes to be scientifically curious yet claim they represent science.

        I first exchanged emails with Michael Behe of the Discovery Institute in 2005 regarding the human gene splicing new species as the testable existence proof of intelligent designers. It was instigated by an article that Paul Krugman wrote in the NYT “sneering” at ID.

  • Secessionist

    sinz54 wrote an insightful post at Dec 22, 2011 at 8:13 am up top.

    + 1, FANTASTIC observation.

    What you said appears to be true. Yet another effect of these proposed climate policies will be wealth transfers from America’s Red State populations and rural Blue State areas to the Blue State urban strongholds. And along with that money and wealth, power will be inevitably transferred as well. They ought to quit trying to gloss over the reality of the winners and losers in these wealth transfers and acting as if the only effect of the policies will be reductions in carbon emissions that benefit everyone equally.

    I would add the following thought of my own independent of Sinz’s.

    The racial and ethnic dimension of the policy debate is being ignored in the public discussion.

    America’s Blue State elites, their lackeys in DC, and their equivalents across the Western industrialized world favor climate policies that will produce a very specific effect, rarely stated explicitly. That effect will be to redistribute wealth from the world’s northern industrialized countries to the world’s southern much less industrialized countries.

    Therefore, the general effect will be a *disproportionately* (which is not to say *solely*) massive wealth transfer from mostly White countries to mostly non-White countries.

    Yet the problem goes even deeper.

    To the extent the cost burden in America will fall mainly on rural conservatives and people who like the suburbs, the general effect will be wealth transfers specifically from mostly White conservatives to the Blue State urban coalition — secular, technocratic, and liberal Whites, non-Whites, feminists, abortionists, homosexuals and others. And they will be insulated from the costs because they reside in urban areas to begin with.

    And, assuming the present trajectories and trends hold up, all of this will occur in a context going forward of declining economic opportunity and likely financial austerity.

    So under the liberal Blue State environmental paradigm and within this wider social context, the financial outcome will be everyone wins but mostly conservative Whites in rural areas and the suburbs. They will get disproportionately stuck with the costs while their money money flows into the coffers of their political opponents.

    • sweatyb

      NEWS BREAK: Al Gore wants to steal money from all the good God-fearing white people and give it to all the secular, liberal non-white abortionists in South America!

      You are too much by half!

    • valkayec

      I’ve been thinking about that wealth transfer you and Sinz discuss. I’m not entirely sure you’re correct. Without going into a long dissertation on weather patterns at high elevations, etc., it might be that warming will cause higher temps in most rural areas – that is, south and lower midwest states, most of whom are farming states. Many of them could, potentially, experience weather much like that of Texas this year which would wipe out crops, increase food crop prices until warming northern states pick up the slack, and potentially cause numerous bankruptcies. If those circumstances occur, then the transfer of wealth would likely increase to these red states.

      • sweatyb

        But that just proves his point!

        Republicans from the Red States don’t want to do anything about climate change because when persistent drought wipes out their crops and their land becomes worthless they stand to receive all sorts of benefits from the federal government.

        I mean, their net worth will be demolished and their way of life ruined, but that’s a small price to pay to net yourself a few hundred a month in government bennies, right?

      • Secessionist

        True enough and fair points. But you listed a lot of conditionals there (if this happens, etc.).

        • valkayec

          DSP, sure there are lots of conditionals because none of us are experts. However, we can use our reasoning powers to follow a line of thought logically to a conclusion.

          So, global warming is occurring. It’s causing strange weather patterns – also known as “global wierding” where weather patterns are more extreme and the natural environment is changing in ways that may as yet be unknown but predictably far different. But overall, the temperatures are climbing decade over decade. Since that is the pattern which exists, then is it not logical to predict that as those temps continue to rise, causing warmer regions of the country to begin to experience even more drought, blistering hot temps, crop failures, dust bowls, etc?

          In other words, to follow logical line of reasoning: the globe is warming and extreme weather changes are occurring (truisms), then what will most likely be the logical result? The possible result across the south and lower midwest might be what TX experienced this last year. I’m not sure that’s a result any of us want nor would it be good for the country. So, the next line of reasoning should be, I would think, what can we do to prevent it happening?

  • Emma

    Good grief.

    Mr. Silber — are you reading these posts? Such lunacy is the direct by-product of two decades of Republican propaganda, funded by the oil companies and disseminated by every brain-dead conspiracy addict in Dixie. Behold the handiwork of your masters.

  • Secessionist

    Emma wrote: Mr. Silber — are you reading these posts? Such lunacy is the direct by-product of two decades of Republican propaganda, funded by the oil companies and disseminated by every brain-dead conspiracy addict in Dixie. Behold the handiwork of your masters.

    Speaking of people easily influenced by simplistic narratives, Emma appears to be an example of one. Kenneth Silber uses his time, influence and talent to influence people toward supporting the climate policies progressives say they want. Yet Emma and many others on FF constantly attack him? Naturally, it raises the question of why do they attack a man fighting the very elements of the GOP they disagree with and fighting for the policies they say you want? Based on Emma’s comments, it would appear that because Kenneth Silber has a history as a Republican, that somehow automatically makes him insincere or dishonest on climate issues, or, even more bizarrely, implicates him as complicit in comments made by people he doesn’t even agree with. It doesn’t make much sense, unless you are operating under the influence of a very simplistic narrative. In this case, it’s “Republican propaganda and oil companies” are behind it, with the added conspiratorial element that the Republicans and oil companies are Silber’s “masters.”

    • Hunter1

      You might want to take a look at Emma’s previous posts on this thread. She takes Silber to task not because he agrees with her, which he does not, but because of his endless excuses on behalf of Republicans who indulge in dilatory tactics instead of addressing the existential crisis in front of them.

      • Secessionist

        I did look at them. Her attack on Kenneth Silber struck me as unfairly hostile and not well reasoned.

        Mr. Silber, as far as can tell, believes that:

        - Global warming is happening.

        - Humans are contributing to global warming.

        - Something needs to be done about it.

        - Carbon taxes should be levied to reduce emissions.

        - The elements in the GOP who disagree with these positions are wrong.

        So far, those views look a lot like Democrat and progressive views to me. They don’t look anything like mainstream Republican positions that’s for sure. In fact, they’re damn near the exact opposite.

        Moreover, even ignoring all of Mr. Silber’s other work, just in this one article, Mr. Silber:

        - Discusses his appearance on a progressive radio show to talk about the need for action.

        - Offers no excuses for the GOP.

        - Specifically mentions the Tea Party, the fossil fuel industry and the climategate incident as negative influences distorting the Republicans’ positions on the climate.

        - He put “climategate” in quotation marks which suggests to me he doesn’t think climategate is particularly relevant or important other than as a negative influence on the Republicans and a bogus justification for inaction.

        - He adds that the Democrats “have science on their side.”

        - He says the Democrats’ messaging has been ineffective at educating people not that it is substantively wrong.

        - He mentions a speech that he wrote intended to influence Republicans in a more progressive direction.

        - He takes a swipe a Newt Gingrich who is a frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president; although he doesn’t say it, the implication is that Gingrich is a hypocrite (which is true).

        - He does attack the left-wing nutjobs who have a reflexive hostility to excellent ideas like planet engineering. However, such people do in fact exist, and he didn’t even say it was all or even most left-oriented people.

        Yet, even with all that as context, Emma’s conclusion on Mr. Silber’s post was this:

        [blockquote]I believe that you write this crap in bad faith. Apparently, your game is to temporize by shifting the blame to Democrats for not gently leading Republicans and their plundering associates to a clearer understanding of the issues or a willingness to accept solutions that have no immediate or practical chance whatsoever.

        Such writings, Mr. Silber, are immoral.[/blockquote]

        Such writings are immoral? Come on.

        • sweatyb

          See if you can spot the logical fallacy:

          A. There’s a significant difference in opinion between Ken Silber and mainstream Republicans.
          B. There’s a significant difference in opinion between Emma and and mainstream Republicans.

          therefore

          C. Emma and Ken Silber are in total agreement.

          Did you get it? Look hard!

          You may not realize that Silber is an apologist for Republican self-serving intransigence on global warming. He makes excuses and postulates what-ifs and coyly suggests the Democrats could have been more convincing.

          But the one thing he wont do is honestly examine why Republicans are the only ones left who do not believe in global climate change.

          And thus he comes in to Emma’s ire.

        • Secessionist

          Don’t straw man me. You’re better than that.

          Silber, Emma and people who agree with Emma are on the same page in terms of broad fundamentals. The GOP is wrong, AGW is true, and action needs to taken in the form of carbon taxes or other measures to combat AWG.

          And no, I really don’t see how anyone can fairly read Silber as an apologist. It just isn’t true. Look at my list of points above. Virtually all of them are anti-GOP. Where in the world is the evidence?

        • sweatyb

          You missed my point. I’ll say it again:

          The one thing Silber wont do is honestly examine why Republicans are the only ones left who do not believe in global climate change.

          He’s an apologist because he pretends like the Republicans don’t have a choice in the matter.

          There’s one thing standing in the way of concrete efforts to address global climate change and it’s the Republican party. That position is not accidental. And Silber does himself no honor in failing to address it.

          I wouldn’t call Silber “immoral.” But then again, I am used to Frum Forum contributors talking out both sides of their mouths. And I can see why someone who is deeply concerned might believe that it’s morally wrong to equivocate on an issue as important as this.

        • Secessionist

          The one thing Silber wont do is honestly examine why Republicans are the only ones left who do not believe in global climate change.

          No, I don’t get this. Silber criticizes Republicans left and right, and points to the reasons they won’t act. Again, in this very post, he mentions Tea Party influence, the fossil fuel industry and the climategate emails. If that isn’t an honest examination of why they won’t act, and why pro-climate Republicans are constrained, then what is?

        • Raskolnik

          Secessionist is right. Silber is a Republican and he leans right, but that doesn’t make him personally responsible for the pig-headedness of the GOP on the issue of global climate change, which he is doing everything in his power to fight against. To call him an “apologist” for the GOP, at least on this issue, is entirely unfair. And if it’s not about this issue, then it seems your problem is less with Silber than with the existence of the right side of the spectrum.

  • Ogemaniac

    “We talked about my preferred policy approach, of coupling a carbon tax with tax cuts elsewhere”

    That would be a perfectly rational approach…in a world where we had a balanced budget. Here in reality, we have nothing of the sort, and tax increases are an obvious part of the solution. So while a carbon tax is a great place to start looking for revenues, it should not be offset with any tax cuts, which we cannot afford and have not worked to help the economy these last three decades.

  • gover

    On the subject of geo-engineering, let’s be honest. Science and economics are irrelevant. If Halliburton, the Koch bros, and GE decide they can make money on geo-engineering and start lobbying, the GOPs will be all for it. And if not, not.