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Friday, November 28, 2008

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I feel your pain, man.

I coulda been a contender, except every time I thought about starting a blog, some high-profile bastard like Glenn Greenwald or Arthur Silber got in ahead of me.

So here I am, with a one-way ticket to Palookaville...

High profile like Arthur? More popular than him? There's still hope for you, my friend. Just do short posts with lots of links, and you can win this battle.

There's a national campaign, called 1Sky, that was trying to get the presidential candidates to sign on to a three-part pledge:
1) 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050
2) Ban on new coal plants
3) Commit to creating 5 million new "green-collar" jobs.

Obama, quite cleverly cherry-picked items 1 and 3 but not item 2, thus endorsing a goal while refusing to endorse one of the key steps that might make that goal possible.

If his climate-change "strategy" is going to be to "commit" to impressive reductions in CO2 emissions by some far-off date when he's no longer in office, I'm not sure why he didn't call for a 100% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. In fact, while we're at it, why not 110%? Say it with me: "Yes we can!"

Yep—here's James Hansen saying the same thing:

DR. JAMES HANSEN: Well, the most important thing is—if you just look at how much carbon dioxide there is in the different fossil fuels, coal is the really big issue. The important step is to have a moratorium on any new coal-fired power plants until we have the technology to capture the carbon dioxide and sequester it. And if we would do that, that’s a good fraction of the solution. But we’re also going to have to use the other fossil fuels more conservatively. We’re going to need to emphasize energy efficiency. And eventually we have to find sources of energy that don’t produce greenhouse gases.
It's interesting that coal is where Obama refuses to commit, since Kerry's sellout on global warming also revolved around his genuflection to the coal industry (more on that in a posting tomorrow).

Obama tries to skirt the contradiction in his usual deft fashion by always talking about "clean coal"—wishful thinking at best, and greenwashing PR at worst.

I know that climate change is a long-term problem, but I wonder of the goal of "80% reduction by 2050" is really doing the movement against climate change a disservice.

If I was a politician (God forbid) I'd be happy to sign on to a commitment to make something happen thirty years after I've left office, but I would NEVER want to make short-term commitments (like cutting emissions by 10% over the next four years) because people could actually see if I had reached the short-term goal, and hold me accountable if I hadn't.

Wait. Did I just suggest that the American people might hold a politician accountable if he didn't follow through on a campaign promise? Never mind.

I think part of the "problem" is that the issue is being driven by the science, and the scientists aren't attempting to frame the issue in terms that will sell politically. That's part of why I suspect we're doomed: if global warming were doing damage to short-term corporate profits you can bet it'd be addressed immediately, but since it's only a threat to the long-term survival of human civilization and addressing it may actually threaten short-term corporate profits it faces a massive uphill struggle. If scientists knew how to frame the issue in terms of what benefits corporations, that'd help, but they persist in just putting out these increasingly urgent, rigorously-supported analyses of imminent devastation that don't address corporate profits at all.

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