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‘Government’ Archives

Shameful, Part 2

At the risk of being tiresome I will continue my rant from Tuesday (July 27, 2010).  On Thursday the US Senate decided that it will not debate the climate bill sitting in its docket this year.  So our society again takes no action on the greatest threat to life on the planet.  I, like Thomas Friedman, am left speechless as to how to understand our indefensible intellectual, ethical, and moral failure.

Proud to be an American?

Thomas Friedman’s take on it all:
——————————————————————————–

July 24, 2010


We’re Gonna Be Sorry


By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN


When I first heard on Thursday that Senate Democrats were abandoning the effort to pass an energy/climate bill that would begin to cap greenhouse gases that cause global warming and promote renewable energy that could diminish our addiction to oil, I remembered something that Joe Romm, the climateprogress.org blogger, once said: The best thing about improvements in health care is that all the climate-change deniers are now going to live long enough to see how wrong they were.

Alas, so are the rest of us. I could blame Republicans for the fact that not one G.O.P. senator indicated a willingness to vote for a bill that would put the slightest price on carbon. I could blame the Democratic senators who were also waffling. I could blame President Obama for his disappearing act on energy and spending more time reading the polls than changing the polls. I could blame the Chamber of Commerce and the fossil-fuel lobby for spending bags of money to subvert this bill. But the truth is, the public, confused and stressed by the last two years, never got mobilized to press for this legislation. We will regret it.

We’ve basically decided to keep pumping greenhouse gases into Mother Nature’s operating system and take our chances that the results will be benign — even though a vast majority of scientists warn that this will not be so. Fasten your seat belts. As the environmentalist Rob Watson likes to say: “Mother Nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is.” You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate, and “Mother Nature always bats last, and she always bats 1.000,” says Watson. Do not mess with Mother Nature. But that is just what we’re doing.

Since I don’t have anything else to say, I will just fill out this column with a few news stories and e-mails that came across my desk in the past few days:

  • Just as the U.S. Senate was abandoning plans for a U.S. cap-and-trade system, this article ran in The China Daily: “BEIJING — The country is set to begin domestic carbon trading programs during its 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015) to help it meet its 2020 carbon intensity target. The decision was made at a closed-door meeting chaired by Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission … Putting a price on carbon is a crucial step for the country to employ the market to reduce its carbon emissions and genuinely shift to a low-carbon economy, industry analysts said.”
  • As we East Coasters know, it’s been extremely hot here this summer, with records broken. But, hey, you could be living in Russia, where ABC News recently reported that a “heat wave, which has lasted for weeks, has Russia suffering its worst drought in 130 years. In some parts of the country, temperatures have reached 105 degrees.” Moscow’s high the other day was 93 degrees. The average temperature in July for the city is 76 degrees. The BBC reported that to keep cool “at lakes and rivers around Moscow, groups of revelers can be seen knocking back vodka and then plunging into the water. The result is predictable — 233 people have drowned in the last week alone.”
  • A day before the climate bill went down, Lew Hay, the C.E.O. of NextEra Energy, which owns Florida Power & Light, one of the nation’s biggest utilities, e-mailed to say that if the Senate would set a price on carbon and requirements for renewal energy, utilities like his would have the price certainty they need to make the big next-generation investments, including nuclear. “If we invest an additional $3 billion a year or so on clean energy, that’s roughly 50,000 jobs over the next five years,” said Hay. (Say goodbye to that.)
  • Making our country more energy efficient is not some green feel-good thing. Retired Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson, who was Gen. David Petraeus’s senior logistician in Iraq, e-mailed to say that “over 1,000 Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan hauling fuel to air-condition tents and buildings. If our military would simply insulate their structures, it would save billions of dollars and, more importantly, save lives of truck drivers and escorts. … And will take lots of big fuel trucks (a k a Taliban Targets) off the road, expediting the end of the conflict.”



The last word goes to the contrarian hedge fund manager Jeremy Grantham, who in his July letter to investors, noted: “Conspiracy theorists claim to believe that global warming is a carefully constructed hoax driven by scientists desperate for … what? Being needled by nonscientific newspaper reports, by blogs and by right-wing politicians and think tanks? I have a much simpler but plausible ‘conspiracy theory’: the fossil energy companies, driven by the need to protect hundreds of billions of dollars of profits, encourage obfuscation of the inconvenient scientific results. I, for one, admire them for their P.R. skills, while wondering, as always: “Have they no grandchildren?”




Shameful

On Thursday, July 22, 2010 the Senate decided to not move forward on climate change legislation this year.


Shame on our leaders for failing to lead.  Shame on us for not making them lead.


this blogger captures it best for me:

…if the current generation fails to take action to prevent dangerous or catastrophic climate change, that failure is what history will remember us by. We will be remembered as the people who had all the necessary information, but who were so selfish and dysfunctional that they couldn’t step up and take even the first small step.



Wise words from Paul Krugman on our failure:


July 25, 2010




Who Cooked the Planet?

By PAUL KRUGMAN


Never say that the gods lack a sense of humor. I bet they’re still chuckling on Olympus over the decision to make the first half of 2010 — the year in which all hope of action to limit climate change died — the hottest such stretch on record.


Of course, you can’t infer trends in global temperatures from one year’s experience. But ignoring that fact has long been one of the favorite tricks of climate-change deniers: they point to an unusually warm year in the past, and say “See, the planet has been cooling, not warming, since 1998!” Actually, 2005, not 1998, was the warmest year to date — but the point is that the record-breaking temperatures we’re currently experiencing have made a nonsense argument even more nonsensical; at this point it doesn’t work even on its own terms.


But will any of the deniers say “O.K., I guess I was wrong,” and support climate action? No. And the planet will continue to cook.


So why didn’t climate-change legislation get through the Senate? Let’s talk first about what didn’t cause the failure, because there have been many attempts to blame the wrong people.


First of all, we didn’t fail to act because of legitimate doubts about the science. Every piece of valid evidence — long-term temperature averages that smooth out year-to-year fluctuations, Arctic sea ice volume, melting of glaciers, the ratio of record highs to record lows — points to a continuing, and quite possibly accelerating, rise in global temperatures.


Nor is this evidence tainted by scientific misbehavior. You’ve probably heard about the accusations leveled against climate researchers — allegations of fabricated data, the supposedly damning e-mail messages of “Climategate,” and so on. What you may not have heard, because it has received much less publicity, is that every one of these supposed scandals was eventually unmasked as a fraud concocted by opponents of climate action, then bought into by many in the news media. You don’t believe such things can happen? Think Shirley Sherrod.


Did reasonable concerns about the economic impact of climate legislation block action? No. It has always been funny, in a gallows humor sort of way, to watch conservatives who laud the limitless power and flexibility of markets turn around and insist that the economy would collapse if we were to put a price on carbon. All serious estimates suggest that we could phase in limits on greenhouse gas emissions with at most a small impact on the economy’s growth rate.


So it wasn’t the science, the scientists, or the economics that killed action on climate change. What was it?


The answer is, the usual suspects: greed and cowardice.


If you want to understand opposition to climate action, follow the money. The economy as a whole wouldn’t be significantly hurt if we put a price on carbon, but certain industries — above all, the coal and oil industries — would. And those industries have mounted a huge disinformation campaign to protect their bottom lines.


Look at the scientists who question the consensus on climate change; look at the organizations pushing fake scandals; look at the think tanks claiming that any effort to limit emissions would cripple the economy. Again and again, you’ll find that they’re on the receiving end of a pipeline of funding that starts with big energy companies, like Exxon Mobil, which has spent tens of millions of dollars promoting climate-change denial, or Koch Industries, which has been sponsoring anti-environmental organizations for two decades.


Or look at the politicians who have been most vociferously opposed to climate action. Where do they get much of their campaign money? You already know the answer.


By itself, however, greed wouldn’t have triumphed. It needed the aid of cowardice — above all, the cowardice of politicians who know how big a threat global warming poses, who supported action in the past, but who deserted their posts at the crucial moment.


There are a number of such climate cowards, but let me single out one in particular: Senator John McCain.


There was a time when Mr. McCain was considered a friend of the environment. Back in 2003 he burnished his maverick image by co-sponsoring legislation that would have created a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions. He reaffirmed support for such a system during his presidential campaign, and things might look very different now if he had continued to back climate action once his opponent was in the White House. But he didn’t — and it’s hard to see his switch as anything other than the act of a man willing to sacrifice his principles, and humanity’s future, for the sake of a few years added to his political career.


Alas, Mr. McCain wasn’t alone; and there will be no climate bill. Greed, aided by cowardice, has triumphed. And the whole world will pay the price.






Looking for Leaders

Sage words from Thomas Friedman.  Where is the leadership?  Have we forgotten how to be bold?  How big of a disaster do we need before we dare to take action?

Obama and the Oil Spill

President Obama’s handling of the gulf oil spill has been disappointing.

I say that not because I endorse the dishonest conservative critique that the gulf oil spill is somehow Obama’s Katrina and that he is displaying the same kind of incompetence that George W. Bush did after that hurricane. To the contrary, Obama’s team has done a good job coordinating the cleanup so far. The president has been on top of it from the start.


No, the gulf oil spill is not Obama’s Katrina. It’s his 9/11 — and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.


President Bush’s greatest failure was not Iraq, Afghanistan or Katrina. It was his failure of imagination after 9/11 to mobilize the country to get behind a really big initiative for nation-building in America. I suggested a $1-a-gallon “Patriot Tax” on gasoline that could have simultaneously reduced our deficit, funded basic science research, diminished our dependence on oil imported from the very countries whose citizens carried out 9/11, strengthened the dollar, stimulated energy efficiency and renewable power and slowed climate change. It was the Texas oilman’s Nixon-to-China moment — and Bush blew it.


Had we done that on the morning of 9/12 — when gasoline averaged $1.66 a gallon — the majority of Americans would have signed on. They wanted to do something to strengthen the country they love. Instead, Bush told a few of us to go to war and the rest of us to go shopping. So today, gasoline costs twice as much at the pump, with most of that increase going to countries hostile to our values, while China is rapidly becoming the world’s leader in wind, solar, electric cars and high-speed rail. Heck of a job.


Sadly, President Obama seems intent on squandering his environmental 9/11 with a Bush-level failure of imagination. So far, the Obama policy is: “Think small and carry a big stick.” He is rightly hammering the oil company executives. But he is offering no big strategy to end our oil addiction. Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have unveiled their new energy bill, which the president has endorsed but only in a very tepid way. Why tepid? Because Kerry-Lieberman embraces vitally important fees on carbon emissions that the White House is afraid will be exploited by Republicans in the midterm elections. The G.O.P., they fear, will scream carbon “tax” at every Democrat who would support this bill, and Obama, having already asked Democrats to make a hard vote on health care, feels he can’t ask them for another.


I don’t buy it. In the wake of this historic oil spill, the right policy — a bill to help end our addiction to oil — is also the right politics. The people are ahead of their politicians. So is the U.S. military. There are many conservatives who would embrace a carbon tax or gasoline tax if it was offset by a cut in payroll taxes or corporate taxes, so we could foster new jobs and clean air at the same time. If Republicans label Democrats “gas taxers” then Democrats should label them “Conservatives for OPEC” or “Friends of BP.” Shill, baby, shill.


Why is Obama playing defense? Just how much oil has to spill into the gulf, how much wildlife has to die, how many radical mosques need to be built with our gasoline purchases to produce more Times Square bombers, before it becomes politically “safe” for the president to say he is going to end our oil addiction? Indeed, where is “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act”? Why does everything have to emerge from the House and Senate? What does he want? What is his vision? What are his redlines? I don’t know. But I do know that without a fixed, long-term price on carbon, none of the president’s important investments in clean power research and development will ever scale.


Obama has assembled a great team that could help him make his case — John Holdren, science adviser; Carol Browner, energy adviser; Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize winner; and Lisa Jackson, chief of the Environmental Protection Agency. But they have been badly underutilized by the White House. I know endangered species that are seen by the public more often than them.


Obama is not just our super-disaster-coordinator. “He is our leader,” noted Tim Shriver, the chairman of Special Olympics. “And being a leader means telling the rest of us what’s our job, what do we need to do to make this a transformative moment.”


Please don’t tell us that our role is just to hate BP or shop in Mississippi or wait for a commission to investigate. We know the problem, and Americans are ready to be enlisted for a solution. Of course we can’t eliminate oil exploration or dependence overnight, but can we finally start? Mr. President, your advisers are wrong: Americans are craving your leadership on this issue. Are you going to channel their good will into something that strengthens our country — “The Obama End to Oil Addiction Act” — or are you going squander your 9/11, too?

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