Election

Regular readers know that I love to work with data. It’s what I call fun.

But this blog is about more than playing data games. It’s about global warming/climate change, and that is a serious problem, a severe threat to our future, our security, our stability, our survival. What should we do about it? By “we” I mean ordinary citizens, of the world, but especially of the U.S. I think I know the answer.


I certainly don’t have all the answers. Nuclear power? I don’t know. I don’t like it, but my opinion is that we should exploit it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while we make the transition to a renewable-energy world. Mitigation vs. adaptation, how do we allocate resources to each? I don’t know. My opinion is that we need to focus more on mitigation, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Efficiency? Great — but it’s not enough to do the job on its own. Turning off your lights, switching to LEDs, rooftop solar, less travel, buying locally-grown food, they all will help, but my opinion is that, as helpful and even necessary as personal measures are, they’re not nearly enough.

Those are things worthwhile to discuss — necessary even — but don’t start it in this post, because that’s not what this one is about.

Effective action requires government action. Government action requires a government that is willing to act. What we, the citizens, need to do is to elect a government that’s willing to act.

Here in the U.S., the government isn’t willing to act. Parts of it are; the president and a number of members of congress even want to do so. But they are stymied, I would even say sabotaged, by the Republican majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The Republican party is the problem.

It’s a great pity, because there are aspects of the conservative approach that are valuable. The liberal approach, as laudable as it may be, needs some restraint. A working two-party system, where the two opposing ideologies compete and eventually reach a compromise, is good.

But right now, one of those parties — the Republicans — are destroying the country. They are intransigent, refusing to cooperate with anything outside their narrow, intolerant, and increasingly strident and hateful agenda. And when it comes to climate change, they are not just blind, they’re fixated on a fantasy which has put us on the road to hell.

We elected them to office. We need to get rid of them. This November, we have the opportunity. What we need to do is to go to the voting booth and vote for every Democrat in every race. I don’t particularly like the idea, I don’t especially like the Democrats. But voting for some third-party candidate isn’t going to get the job done, that’s just a recipe for letting Republicans keep their jobs.

Even that moderate Republican, the guy you like, who deserves your admiration and mine, who has a realistic attitude about climate change — he’s got to go, too. That’s a tremendous pity. But if he stays, then the Republican party will still be able to put together the coalition they need to block climate action.

Getting rid of them all will send a message, to Republicans, to conservatives, that you can push a conservative agenda but if it includes denying the reality, human causation, or danger of climate change then you’re not welcome in our government. The denier Republicans, like Lamar Smith, need to go down by such a huge margin that it sends a message loud and clear: climate denial gets you booted out of office.

That’s what we, the American people, need to do. So now I raise the question: what do we, the advocates of climate action, need to do to make this happen?


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42 responses to “Election

  1. With regard to politics, the semi-annual Yale climate poll came out today. They record continuing and substantial change within the moderate Republican party towards the scientific consensus. It would be nice if that were enough. But as you say, the moderate Republicans most definitely do not control the Republican agenda and any hint of moderation is “rewarded” by being primaried by the ultraright wing.

    The only way to purge those blocking progress is to show the Republican party that that strategy is no longer effective and will not be tolerated. Your solution is probably the only way to do this even though, as you say, there is plenty to worry about on the Democratic side if given too much power.

    I voted Republican when voting Republican wasn’t cool, but they left me–I never left them–along about the Reagan era. Poppy Bush was OK, but he was very much at the end of the line for reality-based Republicans, and he most definitely got kicked out by the ultraright in the end.

  2. To make the election process worse is the existence of an entrenched duopoly and the essential public policies (which are not necessarily good) upon which the duopoly mostly agrees not to debate. I agree with Gore Vidal here: “There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party . . . and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently . . . and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.”

    I wish that I could say that I believe America is a republic, but I cannot in good conscience say that I believe any such thing. Unfortunately I think that financial capitalism has turned the USA into kleptocratic oligarchy. You have probably come across the report by Princeton and Northwestern which concluded that the United States is more like a system of “Economic Elite Domination” and “Biased Pluralism” as opposed to a majoritarian democracy. FWIW.

    • Possibly so, but utterly irrelevant to the point at hand. It isn’t about equality, it isn’t about tolerance, or justice, or fairness–let alone cuteness.

      It’s about survival. Republicans, though they don’t know it, are anti. Vote accordingly, and worry about the duopoly later.

  3. If Hillary wins and has a Democratic congress to make a difference, we may be okay. If she wins and faces a GOP congress, or if the GOP wins, I may turn eco-terrorist. I’m fed up to here with morons running the country.

    • There seems to be some good reason to think that Trump’s negative coat tails may help turn the Senate blue again. Then it would just be a crazy House…

  4. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse


    That’s what we, the American people, need to do. So now I raise the question: what do we, the advocates of climate action, need to do to make this happen?

    Look North, my Yankee friends.

    Back in October, former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his pseudo-Republican Conservative Party were turfed from office after 10 years of ideological science-destruction and taxpayer-sponsored marketing for fossil-fuel vested interests.

    Justin Trudeau may not be perfect, but at least his world-view includes the realities of climate science and policy ideas from the 21st century.

    How did Trudeau win the federal election? He studiously avoided the divide-and-conquer right-wing politics of fear – and he acknowledged that, like it or not, we are all in this together. He promised action on climate change. He seems, so far, to be delivering:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ernest-moniz-climate-change-trudeau-1.3487697

    People can be sometimes be surprisingly rational, if only they are informed and given real choice…

    • Well, maybe, but we in Canada are not sure how things will pan out. Trudeau is facing some tough decisions, including what to do about Alberta oilsands and pipelines. In my own province of BC, our premier is fully wedded to LNG, and I suspect she’s backing the wrong horse.

  5. Afshin Shahzamani

    I’ve just discovered your site, and I am thoroughly enjoying your posts. Can you think of possible explanations for why there has been an increase in Antarctic ice? Given where we are in the Milankovich cycle, as you have noted, we should be seeing ice build up in the Arctic (in absence of our contribution to Global Warming). For the same reason (regarding the impact of precession in the southern hemisphere) wouldn’t we predict a reduction in Antarctic ice? Thanks

    • Why do you say that Antarctic ice has been building? What science informs that statement?

      • Afshin Shahzamani

        I think if you read my statement you will find that I did not claim “Antarctic ice has been building?”

    • Believelander

      @Afshin Shahzamani,

      Antarctic ice is not increasing. https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/02/11/antarctic-sea-ice-volume/

      Antarctic SEA ICE EXTENT is increasing. This is an interesting problem, but bear in mind that Antarctic land ice that is melting is primarily fresh water, which is being dumped into the surrounding sea en masse and altering the salinity of surface water around Antarctica. And less salty water freezes more easily. Also, as land ice shelf breaks and falls into the sea, you now have ice…in the sea.

      The mechanics are different in the Arctic, where there is only sea ice. There is no freshwater land ice being dumped into the saltwater, altering its freeze point.

      But the overall volume of Antarctic ice is RAPIDLY declining; that ice is getting thinner and more spread out. All statements that Antarctic ice is increasing are massively misleading.

      • Well said–though there is some land ice in the Canadian archipelago. Its extent is minor compared to Greenland, let alone Antarctica, but it’s still considered non-negligible.

      • Afshin Shahzamani

        Thank you for the clarification between Sea Ice Extent and Total Ice Mass. This is an important and relevant distinction. The recent losses in Ice Mass could very well be due to man-made Global Warming. Still, 8 years of data is hardly sufficient to answer my question. Based on where we are in cycle of planetary precession, we would expect Antarctic ice mass to be in decline for the past several thousand years. Does the data support that? If not, then why not?
        Furthermore, is there a clear separation between Total Ice Mass and the Sea Ice Extent (i.e. is the Sea Ice Extent purely a build up of fresh annual ice or is there a contribution from the movement of continental glaciers)? If there is an Antarctic anomaly – considering the Milankovich cycle, I’m really curious to know why? Thank you for your excellent and informative response.

        [Response: Considering that the precessional cycle is around 20,000 years, one wonders why you expect its effect to be detectable on short time scales.]

      • Afshin–

        …is there a clear separation between Total Ice Mass and the Sea Ice Extent (i.e. is the Sea Ice Extent purely a build up of fresh annual ice or is there a contribution from the movement of continental glaciers)?

        I’m presuming that you are referring to the Antarctic case. (The situations in the Arctic and Antarctic are Antipodean in more than just the literal physical sense.)

        http://s1108.photobucket.com/user/brassdoc/embed/slideshow/

        In case the attempted embed doesn’t work, or you want to browse the source, here’s the direct link:

        In the Antarctic, sea ice is indeed mostly new ice every year. as you can see from the graph linked above, typical minima there range between ~1.5 million km2 (1993) and ~2.5 million km2 (2003, 2013-15). (And there is a visible trend toward larger minima, as mentioned previously.) By contrast, maxima range between ~14.5 million km2 (1983) and nearly 17 million km2. (2015 is the current record holder–though note FWIW that the 2016 maximum has already happened, and came in under 15.5 million km2.)

        So the bottom line is that new ice every year amounts to something close on the order of 7/8 of the total at maximum.

        Athat leaves the question of how much ice glacial calving contributes to sea ice. In general, the ice remains distinct, I think, since new sea ice is going to be essentially tabular, and just a couple of meters thick, whereas bergs (and even ice sheet fragments, which may also be tabular in shape) may easily hae drafts in excess of a hundred meters. I also suspect that the total area of bergs of all types is a tiny fraction of total seaq ice extent. But let me go check…

        (Imaginary muzak here.)

        Back again… I found a paper that estimates the calving flux at about 1,300 gigatonnes of ice per year year:

        http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v502/n7469/abs/nature12567.html

        So that’s 1,300 x 10e9 x 10e3 kilos of ice, or 1.3 x 10e15. The density of ice is about 0.92; the reciprocal is about 1.087. So the volume of the ice is going to be given by (1.3 x 1.087 x 10e15), which works out to be 1.4131 x 10e15, which I am going to call 1.4 because honestly, we don’t care beyond the first place for current purposes.

        NB–Numbers from:

        http://chemistry.elmhurst.edu/vchembook/122Adensityice.html

        That’s in litres (or liters, if you’re American), which means that we’re talking about 1.4 x 10e12 cubic meters of ice.

        If we assume a tabular mass for this ice, 100 meters in depth, the equivalent area would then be 1.4 x 10e10 square meters. A square kilometer comprises 10e6 square meters, so now we’ve got 1.4 x 10e4 square kilometers. For convenience, we can compare that with a hypothetical new low maximum of 14 million km2, which would obviously be 1.4 x 10e9, or exactly five orders of magnitude larger than our estimate of calved ice.

        That pleases me, since despite due regard for the value of skepticism, like most folks, I like to find out that my intuition was right.

      • Afshin Shahzamani

        Thank you for looking into the Antarctic sea ice extent.

  6. The GOP assault on the climate did not begin recently. When, Gingrich et al cut off funding for the EPA in 1995, we lost years and years of of experience and understanding of the issues. At that point, I changed my party affiliation. I was looking at hazardous waste sites and seeing potential drinking water contamination issues. That EPA funding cut was the beginning of current drinking water issues.

    I hold Gingrich and company responsible for choosing a path that exposed many children to lead and heavy metals, thereby impairing the kid’s brain development and intelligence for life. You can not have a great country when you let the children drink lead contaminated water.

  7. TheClimate.Vote is a single web page that I host with a message designed specifically for politicians: http://TheClimate.vote I invite voters to send this link to your politicians. And feel free to take any of the language.

    It tried to present a simple statement of what any elected official should know, if they want to connect with the climate vote. Very basic. The next closest web resource is many pages too long. If I had more time, I would have made it shorter.

    I had some help, some informal science suggestions, and it may still need some tweaking. The language gets very precise and delicate for politicians. I am stunned that nearly every one I meet knows nothing. Feel free to send wording and design suggestions to Richard@ at that domain address. The top level domain of dot vote can only be used for democratic political purposes.

  8. You ask: “what do we, the advocates of climate action, need to do to make this happen?”
    I think the American people don’t politically prioritize climate because they think of it as an environmental issue or a science issue. The issues they vote on are mostly (a) economic, (b) security, (c) social/moral, not always in that order. Perhaps (d) health/safety, but that’s usually in the context of the other three.
    At this point climate change is no more an environmental or science/technology issue than an asteroid headed towards the planet. Yes, we need to do the science to fully understand it, and develop technology to mitigate it. But it is primarily a current and future threat to humanity’s future health, wealth, and safety. We wouldn’t stop an asteroid to save the polar bears – but people in the US think that’s the goal of averting climate change.
    When people become convinced that as long as we don’t act on climate, their jobs are threatened, their security, safety, and health are threatened, and the very existence of the nation and the social order are threatened for their children, that is when they will act as as if their lives depend on it. That is when it will rise above all the carefully marketed wedge issues that are now used to motivate voters to one party or the other every four years.
    The next part is that due to the fear associated with dire predictions and the science emphasis, very few people see our response to climate change as the generational opportunity it represents. There has not been such a justification for mass effort in this country since the Moon landings. People do understand implicitly, if not explicitly, that the prospects for growth are diminishing with consumerism/happy motoring/extractive business as usual – they know something is wrong but not why. When the profit-driven salary class and the economically/health/security-FUD-impaired working-class populations both become convinced that the best — really, the only — prospects for economic opportunity, national pride, improved health and security are in re-tooling society for a low-carbon future, then they will become enthusiastic particpants. Just like they did when millions of people got behind the Apollo program.
    So we need to sell climate action as a jobs program, as a way to reduce families’ cost of living and make them healthier, and as a patriotic and moral imperative, not as a science project or an environmental “issue.” We need to show that the alternative of business-as-usual is an economic dead-end, morally bankrupt because it is already leading to sicker, less safe people in an unsettled world and will only get worse. Get them to imagine being economically and energy self-sufficient, healthy and breathing clean air, and proud to be one of the Americans who reversed our national decline. Get them to compare that to not to a future of slightly better iPhones, slightly-slower-rising health care costs and slightly-less Middle East adventurism, but to alternate futures where their progeny are sweltering, Chinese-speaking, and huddled in a glass bubble in former Manitoba after a brutal war over the last of the oil.
    How to we get from here to there – I don’t know. Trump has already shown that people will vote for something other than the status quo, so the opening exists for a paradigm change – and getting people to let go of their beliefs and habits is the hardest part. A powerful and constructive counter-narrative of what to do differently needs to take root, and it needs to be guided by climate just as much as the atomic bomb and cheap oil dictated how the Cold War and suburban transformation were fundamentally different from the eras that preceded them.

  9. Believelander

    Re: “I certainly don’t have all the answers. Nuclear power? I don’t know. I don’t like it, but my opinion is that we should exploit it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while we make the transition to a renewable-energy world.”

    Thank you thankyouthankyouthankyou. So many people I know who want us to stop global warming are not willing to consider nuclear as a widespread scalable option to provide regional base load needs to mix with the renewables while we still live in an era where we don’t have the battery storage technology to cope with the fluctuating power generation of solar and wind. Hydro, nuclear, and geo mix needs to be put into play if we want to eliminate fossil fuel power generation so that the slack in our solar and wind capacity can be taken up when they are low. Nuclear is the only one of those three that you can build anywhere.

    • Right – the radiophobia so common in otherwise sensible people is deeply unhelpful.

      On your last point: biomass burning (or gasification/AD) can be done in most places too (as well as hydro/geothermal/nuclear). It’s very extensive nature limits its usefulness, but it is a useful baseload technology.

    • According to WNA, the average nuclear plant fuels less than 1 million homes. Say there are 100 million homes in US, at todays cost of $20 Billion per plant the cost for USA = $2 Trillion. And that is at ‘todays prices’. At 10+ years to build one nuclear plant, what will be the real cost in total? $5 Trillion just for US? $10 Trillion? And not to mention each plant is a power source knowingly built to be obsolete in 30 years.

  10. 1. Get a Democrat elected President (and Gary, I consider US governmental policies from Jan. 2001 to present to be the self-refuting answer to Gore Vidal). This keeps the Clean Power Plan, high vehicle mileage requirements, and most importantly can tip the balance in the US Supreme Court so Citizens United can be overturned, even if the Republicans retain the Senate. The stuff about a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens is crazily difficult as compared to electing a Democrat.

    2. Support renewable power through local and state regulation, not just for its own sake as mitigation but because it creates a political constituency for believing in climate change and responding to it.

    3. In places where denialism is dominant, emphasize climate adaptation, because the instinct for self-protection against others works better than the argument we’re collectively to blame and need to take collective action.

    • Although I am a strong Sanders supporter, primarily because of his position on energy and climate, I will vote Clinton in a Clinton-vs-Trump matchup. Like Adam R (below), I won’t be at all happy about it.

      As much as it is necessary, I’m increasingly coming to believe that the U.S. Constitution is incapable of solving the climate/energy problem, despite what Warren Buffett and Bill Gates think.

      That said, and to the degree I can read tea leaves, a plausible scenario is that Nature, more aggressive and non-linear than we have estimates with our climate models, will hurl a one-two punch at the USA. We actually have a lot of exposure, what with our extended supply chains for everything, especially food, and with the distaste for planning locations (a federal form of zoning) of critical infrastructure.

      The “one-two punch” needs to be big enough to wipe out a lot of wealth, something too big to be reasonably paid for by any insurance. And it would help if the grid went down in some populous section of the country, and not be back up for a month or two. (Don’t laugh: A National Grid rep at the New England Meteorological Society meeting a few years back said that a mere repeat of the famous 1938 hurricane against our present cross-sectional exposure of power lines and trees would result in power being out for significant numbers of people in the Northeast for 8 months.) The nice thing about distributed, zero Carbon energy is that, well, it is distributed. And if a grid being down interrupts people being able to access power on their roofs because of regulatory capture (as it does ours), this is going to make a strong argument for a decentralized grid, since the utilities cannot keep the centralized one reliable, and it is a direction Massachusetts’ Beacon Hill has moved a little, with it’s resiliency initiatives. And Beacon Hill will force the DPU to change the rules so that it’s okay to wire up a house so that if the grid goes down, it switches to the power it has (*).

      And if people still don’t have power, I would hope Massachusetts towns (and those of other states in New England) would ask their DPW inspectors to look the other way if people choose to install electronics so they remain “on” when the grid goes down.

      And the one-two punch could be pretty benign, and still get the message across. Rather than a monstrous storm or something, the WAIS or Greenland could suddenly start shedding uber-prodigious ice, raising sea levels and doing something like flooding Atlantic Avenue in Boston at high tide. (Not to mention all the other places that would also get flooded.)

      We can hope.

      In such a circumstance, people would immediately know that Things Aren’t Right, and expect answers and solutions. It would be more expensive than if we started on this in 1990, since it would be done in a rush, and in some cases we’ve bought into the methane-as-bridge-fuel argument (although Eli Rabett, who I respect, isn’t sure if that’s a bad idea), so there’ll be losses. Utilities and suppliers might file suit, etc. Still, it would provide a Right Proper Kick In The Pants.

      We can hope.

      (*) If one installs batteries, presently, in Massachusetts, you can arrange the electronics to work this way. Alas, if one does, it disqualifies the residence from receiving Solar Energy Credits (“SRECs”), which in Massachusetts presently amount to about $260 per MWh generated. Yes, that’s generated, not net generated to the grid. To give you an idea, our 10 kW array produces like a MWh per month, on average, of course. Summer does more, deep winter with snow does less.

      • I suspect that this election cycle is going to be a big kick in the pants for the GOP. How is it that their two leading candidates heading into the nomcom are loathed by much of their own establishment? And that one is a convert, a nearly life-long Democrat?

        It’s probably too much to hope that the result will be a turn away from fantasyland, but hey, it COULD happen.

  11. Like many progressives, I will hold my nose and grimly vote the straight Democratic ticket. But I suspect my strong dislike of the Party’s neo-plutocratic, war on terror-hawkish nominee will be shared by many other voters who will instead stay home.

    It is all very well to point to the hideous prospect of an all-Republican government, but what is needed to ensure it doesn’t happen is leadership, not simply aversion. The Democrats do not provide that with this nominee.

  12. As much as I want to say I have answers, I can’t. But I do think that we have to make climate change be seen as the single overriding threat to national security. That it is the single overriding threat to humanity needs to be the basis of foreign policy decision making, as well.

    Nuclear is still a hell of a way to boil water. I think there is as much hope in locally distributed and individual power systems. Here is Japan, we feel a natural aversion to nuclear power, as it has a tendency to render vast areas of otherwise productive land uninhabitable, not to mention the still-unknown health effects on the general populace.

    Normally, the promise of enhanced spending in local congressional districts has been a method of obtaining funding for worthwhile projects, but the bat guano crazy Republicans have destroyed the logrolling principle.

  13. Much of this is pertinent in Australia, with an election of our own imminent. The same style climate rhetoric and the extraordinary access and editorial support for climate science denying voices to the mainstream media holds sway. And consistently, a diversionary focus on issues that press people’s buttons and incite fears – refugees/unplanned immigration, religious terrorism and, of course fear for the reliability of their ongoing employment and economic opportunities, which I suspect is far more potent for most people than concern for long term climate stability.

    • Which is why Greenish’s post explaining how you convert this to a positive narrative is important. There are more jobs and less immigration and more opportunities in a world that’s not on its knees due to climate disruption. A world of clean air, comfortable homes, and where natural disasters are rare. People stay in their own country because there is still food to eat, and so on.

      This is a much easier sell than only a few years ago as it becomes more obvious that clean energy can work and that climate disruption is having bad effects already and proceeding quickly.

      You do have a special nuclear problem in Australia (in the form of an agreed moratorium) that makes things difficult, but you also have almost infinite space (and plenty of sun and wind) to test the limits of a renewable-only supply. Few other countries are in such a good situation.

      • Yes, as the ‘impossible’ task is revealed to be merely difficult – with the potential, with real commitment, to get less difficult over time – a lot of unthinking opposition and obstruction will diminish. However, given that commitment to Doubt, Deny and Delay politics (I think of them as 3D’ers – a bit like ID’ers only with even less science) remains a requirement for leadership of one of the two main US political parties there is a long, long way to go. Similarly Australia’s Conservative Prime Minister is beholden to 3D’ers even if it’s more expedient (and I suspect more effective at obstruction) in our context to maintain the outward appearance of not rejecting climate science.

        The politics is still deeply mired and obstructionism will persist way past the point where open denial is deemed unacceptable in our mainstream politicians; they will continue to put up impediments to necessary agreements and policy commitments as, instead of saying they don’t want action, they say they want better, more effective, less costly, no impacts on important (meaning currently fossil fuel dependent or exporting) industries…

        Perfect is going to continue to be used covertly as the enemy of good enough or better than nothing (by deliberatey raising unacceptable bars too high) such as by insisting on support for nuclear energy from the climate activists on the centre/left as a prerequisite for support for serious (rather than greenwash) policy from The Right. But The Right have made little long term efforts to counter anti-nuclear activism, or seriously promote nuclear or more importantly promote the idea that there is a serious climate problem that creates a serious need for that most serious of solutions. Quite the contrary.

        That the issue is divided along such lines – rather than treated as a core, central one of non-partisan long term security and sustainable economic prosperity – I do blame the conservative Right for; it was a choice and it was not forced on them by irrational green politics. I suspect it’s a kind of inevitability that commercial interests weigh the matter up in terms of short term costs and come to similar conclusions – ie perceptions about climate risks can readily be framed as something where their choices and actions have no influence whilst government policies are something they can influence through the capability to game the system – abatement costs and climate responsibility become readily avoidable. What should not have been inevitable is people in positions of trust and responsibility going along with it and lending the 3D’er agenda legitimacy and respectability.

        Without the 3D’er obstructionist agenda a whole lot of impediments to effective action get removed. Nuclear would (belatedly) gain some serious backers who would be forced to give up on denying and delaying as their preferred least cost option – but renewables would also gain through non-partisan support for projects at the scales really needed and probably respond more rapidly to such a changed political landscape.

        How much easier and more achievable the solutions – whichever ones you prefer – would look without that persistent opposition and obstruction running right though our political systems, all the way to the top!

  14. Martin Smith

    Without the concept of the referendum at the federal level, there is no way we can separate global warming/climate change from the mix of policies pushed by each candidate. There is no referendum that requires us to choose what to do about it. We need that referendum, and not just at the national level but at the world level. We can’t even do it in the US because it isn’t in the Constitution, so the only possible venue is the UN.

    If we could implement a referendum system in some office of the UN, then we could get an official vote from the entire human race that can access a cell phone. Maybe Google could create and host the technology. By now, everyone with access to a computer or cell phone uses Google.

    The Google Global Polling Project on behalf of the UN Office of Global Referenda. Somehow we have to establish the concept of the global referendum and see that there are decisions we have to make with it.

    • Don’t give the New World Order types any ammo!

    • Currently, Republican political realities give a pretty clear proxy for climate, as they have made denialism a de facto litmus test over wide swathes of the country. That’s the whole point of Tamino’s post, and I think he’s absolutely correct–for what that’s worth.

  15. You say it’s the politicians but much of the problem is Conservative voters. Sure, the politicians are _____, but they are the politicians the re-energized conservative voting bloc wants. Of course it’s against THEIR personal interests to vote for them, but many are tribal or true believers by nature and will swallow whatever BS their “tribal” leaders tell them.

    It should help when Obama steps down because let’s face it, hatred of our first black President was a big motivator for many conservatives, both in terms of their opposition and their new-found great desire to vote and “take THEIR country back”. Hate groups are at near record levels because there’s a ______ in the White House and I don’t mean “Democrat”! The “Honorable” Mitch McConnell all but took an Oath (and how do we know he didn’t) that he’d do everything in his power to make Obama fail. That isn’t just politics. It’s visceral and PERSONAL! Sure, conservatives need a Big Enemy, and when a Democrat is in the White House the Enemy is ready-made no matter what their skin color (making the rest of the world almost safe from attack), but with Obama it was extreme.

    Face it, unfortunately sometimes the old guard just has to die from old age before we can pry their cold dead fingers loose from the tiller of progress to avoid them sailing us off the edge of the Earth!

    And let’s not forget, more than 90% of House and Senate races are NOT competitive. Through gerrymandering and other dirty tricks the politicians have chosen the voters they want, not the other way around, insuring themselves job security with all the rights, privileges and honors pertaining thereto.

  16. While I buy Republican obstructionism and know the damage and interference fossil fuel companies and their supply chain companies have done to the discourse, in my personal engagement with public and politicians, I conclude that, like it or not, a big part of the problem is the typical American who does not want to change their lifestyle to adjust to anything different or new. They don’t like to look at wind turbines, or even at solar farms, or have their neighbors put up big solar arrays on their roofs, because it might somehow, in some magic way affect their property values. They prefer energy to be piped invisibly, if dangerously (explosive and cancer from minor constituents like Benzene), below ground, and burn it, and buy the greenwashing that natural gas really is granola.

    They complain about energy costs for electricity, but, at the same time, refuse to listen that land and especially coastal wind turbines are cheaper per unit energy than methane, even unsubsidized, and complain about how they look and imagined sounds. They are willing to consider offshore turbines, even if these are 5x more expensive to build, but don’t want to invest in the scale needed to make them inexpensive, and yet they complain about the price per unit of delivered power.

    They build and buy homes on the coast, and when they get flooded, expect the rest of the population to pay for reconstruction and restitution of utilities, rather than accepting it as a consequence of their choice.

    They do all this, and live this way, being part of the 10% wealthiest members of humanity who are responsible for half of the total greenhouse gas emissions.

    Yes, I’m one of them, too, but I am doing my share (https://hypergeometric.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/woo-hoo-free-of-carbon-day/). And as Professor Kevin Anderson says, oughtn’t those who know the most about this set the best example? And he identifies flying for transport as a key problem. Who will believe us if we are not willing to change how WE behave?

    Want a moral question? There, you’ve got one. I don’t think you can only blame the Republicans.

    [Response: How right you are! My father-in-law worked hard to convince people to allow wind farms, but had to battle opposition by people who objected to the “eyesore” as a scourge on the “beauty of nature,” but didn’t have a problem with cutting up a mountain for mining operations and leaving the tailings in *highly* toxic ponds to leech into groundwater.

    Truth is, I don’t only blame Republicans. But throwing them out of office en mass is where I see the best chance of a change that can have an impact, and of saving the Republican party from itself.

    In any case, thanks for leading by example.]

  17. One thing about renewables that is worth remembering is that they have a significant cost to get energy at a level to sustain current demand. My backyard example is the Columbia River hydroelectric projects, which have strikingly reduced the salmon runs. So, there will be a cost.

    That being said, the argument should be about what costs we as a society would like to pay. And, one other issue that gets buried in the weeds by fossil fuel companies–our use is still going up, but the amount in the ground is fixed. Saudi Arabia is trying to get off fossil fuels for 2 reasons–any barrel of oil that they do not burn domestically they can sell internationally, and they see an end to their own oil production in the relatively near future–perhaps 50 years–because of resource depletion.

  18. generic commenter

    Yeah this is great. Now put yourself into Fossil Fuel Fred’s shoes. What tactics and tools will he try to use, involving what other issues, to oppose this?