Jan 17

Stormy weather

Posted on in Energy News

Following Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address, The New Yorker editor/writer Hendrik Hertzberg noted that the words “climate” and “warming” were entirely absent from the President’s speech, and that “global” was mentioned only once and as a reference to “global trade.”

Hertzberg later went on to submit, “Obama’s State of the Union address was a masterly exercise in rear-guard tactics disguised as visionary optimism. A section was devoted to fighting climate change, but under an assumed name: ‘clean-energy technology’…” 

I had agreed with him on this point, but the recent flurry of editorials by columnists I greatly respect highlighting decisions that render Obama a sellout on clean energy and environmental policy makes me reconsider. (As The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein once posed, “Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming?”) The statistics about climate change that were cited and the potential consequences of these decisions make it all even more depressing.

It’s depressing, but I’ve concluded it’s important to know about. Because if you don’t know about it, how can you do anything about it?

Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm blasted Obama’s support for domestic offshore drilling. He shares a video of a speech in which Obama claims that “more domestic oil production was among the ‘few steps we should take that make good sense.” Romm called that “Sad.” It is.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben’s widely re-published essay “Three Strikes and You’re Hot: Time for Obama to Say No to the Fossil Fuel Wish List” calls Obama out on signing off on three environmentally disastrous projects that may “ensure forever Obama’s legacy as a full-on Carbon President.” Those are: 1) coal-mining in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, 2) a pipeline into Minnesota and Wisconsin to carry oil from the tar sands of Alberta, and 3) Keystone XL, a pipeline that will transport oil from those Canadian tar sands all the way to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. (Even before I had read this, someone had forwarded me a video about the Exxon tar sands. I watched it while checking email in bed one morning, and then I didn’t feel like getting out of bed.)

Also, a couple of weeks ago The Washington Post ran McKibben’s sarcastic editorial about the link between climate change and extreme weather events across the planet: tornadoes, wildfires, droughts, floods, etc. Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia.com created a video version of the editorial.

Elizabeth Kolbert’s New Yorker commentary on Obama’s post-tornado speech in Joplin, Missouri, was a little more lenient on POTUS, pointing out that the Republican 2012 Presidential candidates are “all worse on the issue” and repeating the National Journal’s declaration that “The GOP is stampeding toward an absolutist rejection of climate science that appears unmatched among major political parties around the globe.” But only after she chided the President’s performance: “Since the midterm elections, Obama has barely mentioned climate change, and just about every decision that his Administration has made on energy and the environment has been wrong.”

Finally, in Thomas Friedman’s “The Earth is Full” op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, he interviews author Paul Gilding, who cites "denial" as the cause of our planetary distruction pickle. Gilding mentions that current population growth is consuming the resources of 1.5 Earths. Simplifying the issue for those who would still be skeptics, he writes, “If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees. If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer. If you do all these and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation; this is high school science.”

Gilding claims that we, humankind, will change our unsustainable ways when we absolutely must: “We are heading for a crisis-driven choice,” he says. “We either allow collapse to overtake us or develop a new sustainable economic model. We will choose the latter. We may be slow, but we’re not stupid.” 

Others  disagree, including a reader from Montreal, who posted in his article comment, “To paraphrase Pogo ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’”

Let's hope, since we know the enemy so well, that we can convince the faction in denial that, as one of my favorite mantras goes, "I'd rather be happy than right." (Does anyone know who coined that?)

Clearing the Path for Clean Energy