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Since when did the Bush administration care about global warming?

by Plutonium Page Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 12:39:29 PM EST

(Cross-posted at The Next Hurrah).

To put it simply, what the hell?  From the Guardian:

A historic deal on climate change which would see the US sign up to cut greenhouse gas emissions was last night emerging after a day of frantic negotiations ahead of the G8 summit.

The draft text hammered out by officials meeting in London is expected to pledge the world's richest countries to wean themselves off fossil fuels - not just to save the planet, but to prevent a worldwide energy crisis.

An action plan to be unveiled at the Gleneagles summit this week will centre on a package to clean up land and air transport, and provide green technology to developing countries through a deal brokered by the World Bank.

The first hope of a breakthrough came yesterday as the White House finally conceded that human activity was at least the partial cause of global warming.

Recall that Bush administration G8 negotiators had modified a crucial G8 climate change document;  specifially:

Under U.S. pressure, negotiators in the past month have agreed to delete language that would detail how rising temperatures are affecting the globe, set ambitious targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and set stricter environmental standards for World Bank-funded power projects...

So, I think the Guardian is eating up the rhetoric, an example of which appears later in the article:

James Connaughton, senior environmental adviser to Bush in the White House, told The Observer yesterday that differences between the US and the rest of the world over climate change were negligible.

In a crucial admission over the link between human activity and global warming. he said: 'The President has made clear we know that the earth's surface is warming. We know there has been a significant rise of greenhouse gases, especially associated by increased use of energy. So it's caused by humans.

'We know that those greenhouse gases are associated to some degree with the phenomenon of the earth's surface temperature rising.'

Please excuse my cynicism, but that's just typical Bush administration propaganda.  Why the hell would anyone believe that?   I've written several pieces on the GOP war on climate change science, specifically through the oil/energy lobby:

In other words, there is ample evidence that the Bush administration can't possibly be telling the truth when they say they believe that greenhouse emissions "are associated to some degree with the phenomenon of the earth's surface temperature rising." and are related to human activity.

Dear Guardian:  don't believe the spin.  And do not listen to the President, who said in a Times of London interview:

I believe that greenhouse gases are creating a problem, a long-term problem that we've got to deal with. And we are -- step one of dealing with it is to fully understand the nature of the problem so that the solutions that follow make sense.

He's simply saying what his administration has said all along, that the jury is still out on global warming.

Why should we care about their intentions or hidden message. We should simply pound on the fact that they have acknowledged global warming as (i) a real issue and (ii) a serious issue.

The President has made clear we know that the earth's surface is warming. We know there has been a significant rise of greenhouse gases, especially associated by increased use of energy. So it's caused by humans

"Even Prez. Bush has acknowledged that global warming is real and caused by humans". Forget about the rest, this, in itself, is huge.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 01:21:36 PM EST
Page, can I be a really ungrateful guy and tell you that I would have spent way more time on the front page of dKos (as a recommended diary) if you hadn't promoted me...

All snark aside, you're doing a great job in keeping supposedly nerdy issues on the front page over there. Do you have an explicit mandate to do so, or is that your own editorial choice?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 01:26:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's my own choice.  There are quite a few nerd issues that are politically relevant, and global warming is only one of them, as you know (there's stem cell research, etc.).

If I ever get my ass in gear today, I'm going to write about censorship of research publications in - you guessed it - the name of national security.  Security through secrecy is almost always a fallacy in many cases.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 04:45:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
well, keep it up. As you rightly say, these are highly political - and relevant issues and we need to fight the ground.

Now if you can ask Frank to join the Tour de France thread... (he's a big fan, isn't he?)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 05:02:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He just fell asleep (wtf?  it's EARLY, dude!)

He'll probably wake up shortly, actually.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 05:04:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Page, keep up the good work.  I often copy and forward your diaries, wherever they may appear.  Ditto Jérome's.

Since people tend to be science-phobic and to think of science as an abstract, perhaps evil activity occurring off somewhere in the distance, it's great to keep demonstrating how these issues really do affect us personally.

Everyone I know in the scientific community is upset about what Bush is doing --in regard to environmental, health, energy, and research issues, and especially in regard to his nuclear posturing.

Even if he does pay lip service to issues we progressives may consider urgent, like energy, he does not deliver the funding.

by Plan9 on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 02:12:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, I should be grateful that Bush is now admitting that perhaps a teeny tiny itty-bitty smidge of greenhouse gases from humans could well be having an effect on global temperature.

But he's doing the same equivocation as usual, in effect: Well, we need to look into this and figure out the right thing to do.  Wouldn't want to take steps that were the wrong thing.

Like try to impose regulations in the US on carbon emissions, etc.  I predict that this administration will, as usual, do absolutely nothing.  Well, maybe make more speeches about that hydrogen car.  Bush wanted more money for the Healthy Marriage Initiative than even for that torte-dans-le-ciel scheme.

by Plan9 on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 01:56:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Bush modus operandi has always been more than lies--it's doublethink. So, they sometimes seem to be coming very close to reasonable positions.  We're for spreading democracy!  We're against global warming!  But, of course, spreading democracy doesn't apply to respecting the elections of Hugo Chavez or Jean Bertrand Aristede. It only applies to justifying a prolonged occupation of Iraq, and perhaps more of the same for Iran.

Any movement on global warming is likely to be quite similar, whatever the specific details are.  This should be so obvious by now as to not require commentary.

by Paul Rosenberg on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 02:27:39 PM EST
so I guess I should stop writing about it, eh? ;-)

No way.  People need to see the M.O.  Not everyone does, even on the liberal side;  there are quite a few dense ones out there, and they need to see that it extends to everything.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Sun Jul 3rd, 2005 at 04:47:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, like they acknowledged that air pollution is a problem with their Clear Skies initiative.  or that public education is important with their No Child Left Behind initiative.  or like Abu Ghraib illustrates "compassionate conservatism".

we can bet that if BushCo launches a "let's address global warming" initiative it will be, oh, to axe all particulate pollution restrictions nationwide so that we can "fix the problem" by emitting more aerosols from -- I dunno -- a new generation of coal-fired power plants perhaps.  but it will be called the "America Cool the World" initiative and it will have a great photo-op kickoff and suck-up coverage in all the corporate media.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 12:16:54 AM EST
more aerosols from -- I dunno --

a new additive to aircraft fuel so planes will spray the clouds from above with happy shiny particulates thus creating a shield around the world?

Don't worry, US technical ingenuity will find a way!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 05:52:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stratospheric Welsbach seeding for reduction of global warming


A method is described for reducing atmospheric or global warming resulting from the presence of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, i.e., from the greenhouse effect. Such gases are relatively transparent to sunshine, but absorb strongly the long-wavelength infrared radiation released by the earth. The method incudes the step of seeding the layer of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere with particles of materials characterized by wavelength-dependent emissivity. Such materials include Welsbach materials and the oxides of metals which have high emissivity (and thus low reflectivities) in the visible and 8-12 micron infrared wavelength regions.

by Fran on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 08:26:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I really meant that as a joke, as you no doubt realized.

Fran, you've made my day. I think I'll go back to bed for the rest of the week.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 10:07:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
frustrating, isn't it. Sleep well, maybe the world looks better next week.
by Fran on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 10:13:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've tried to make sense of it and posted it over at dKos:

Yesterday, I started a thread over at European Tribune (Bush playing Chirac against Blair?) where I speculated on the timing of the Washington Post article of this week-end describing the excellent quality of the cooperation between the French and American secret services since 2002.

I was wondering whether this was an attempt by Bush to play buddy with Chirac to pull a fast one on Blair and sabotage the results of "his" G8 summit.

Then several conflicting pieces of news were brought to my attention:

  • The Financial Times (often the voice of the British establishment) reported that an agreement was close as France and the USA had narrowed their differences (presumably thanks to dealmaker Blair);

  • The Guardian put a slightly different spin on it: the USA had backed down thanks to joint action by the French and the British;

  • but at the same time, both the Independent and the BBC were writing that George Bush was rejecting any deal of substance on global warming.

All of these may actually be compatible, if I understand them correctly:

  • Bush will agree to say that global warming is a reality, and that it is man-made;

  • however, neither the USA nor anyone else will commit to any specifc plan of action and especailly not to any binding mechanisms;

So, Blair gets his big "global warming" summit announcement, which he can spin to his heart's content. Bush gets the warm glow of a "successful" summit while not committing to anything. Chirac gets to spin that he was instrumental in getting the "deal" through.

But will that still hold when only one of the 3 comes back with the 2012 Olympic games in his pocket after Wednesday's choice in Singapore (where Paris, London and New-York are the main contenders, in that order)?

And will anyone actually do anything about global warming at any point?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 11:13:54 AM EST
and I recommended your diary.
by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Mon Jul 4th, 2005 at 11:36:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Will anyone actually do anything about global warming at any point?

Maybe the pols understand the boiling-frog problem.  

A) the onset curve for climate change effects is initially slow, so the great addled public doesn't care -- if it doesn't make their house burn down tomorrow, or if it just means a few tens of thousands of unimportant Asian people getting killed by heavy weather events or an extra hundred thousand African kids starving over the next 5 years, then it doesn't matter and they don't want their tax dollars "wasted" on attempting to address the problem.  

B) the hysteresis is enormous in such a huge system as the planetary atmosphere and oceans, which means that even radical measures implemented today will not result in a perceptible improvement in a time frame suitable for the TV-viewer's impaired attention span, i.e. temperature extrema will go on spreading, extreme weather events will go on occurring, and the same addled public will say, Why O Why have our Useless Pols saddled us with these onerous carbon restrictions and rationing when we can see it is doing not a Blind Bit of Good?  Throw the Rascals Out!

So the politician says cannily, There is no political capital to be made from this situation, whereas there is filthy lucre to be obtained from taking big bribes from the dirty energy industries to spread soothing disinformation, and the public also likes the soothing disinformation because it reassures them that their all-important luxurious way of life need never change.  So the political capital is all to be had on the obscurantist or foot-dragging side of this issue (I am tempted to say "knuckle-dragging").  Whereas it is political suicide to tell people they must change their energy-squandering ways and then not show instant, visible beneficial results the minute demand reduction measures are implemented.

Unfortunately I do think that modern media/entertainment patters may have exacerbated our primate short-horizon problems (a kind of species-wide ADD).  There is perhaps some kind of mapping between forward outlook capability and the type of entertainment we consume -- the readers of 500 page novels issued serially in 20 volumes (zenith of the C19 novel) perhaps can manage a generation of forward outlook, but the consumers of 1-hour (actually more like 45 minute when you subtract commercial intrusions) TV shows or 90 minute theatrical-run movies might have a forward outlook of only a year or two.

I also will bet that the transition from agrarian to manufacturing activity as the occupation of the majority of the polity has shortened historical attention spans.  No farmer can survive without planning several years ahead and most farmers plan a generation ahead, intending to bequeath the family farm and fortures to a favoured son (very rarely a daughter alas).  The factory worker, particularly post-Taylorism, need only look forward as far as the next atomised, repetitive, disconnected task during daily activities, and to the next biweekly paycheque financially.  This shortening of the forward outlook is, I think, deeply undermining of any democratic potential in the polity.

We could argue whether the rank and file of agrarian labour (not yeoman farmers but serfs, peasants, coloni and the like) shared the forward outlook of their bosses and petty-bosses, but I suspect that some sense of the rationale behind their tasks must have seeped through.  The factory worker on the other hand is familiar with the bizarre and brutal vagaries of corporate decision making based on the next-quarter bottom line or the attractive inflation of stock prices.  Management does not set a better example.

But this is a blue-sky theory, I don't have anyone else's informed opinion to back it up.  It is always tempting to think that people may have been less stupid at some earlier epoch.  I mean, even the Soviets at least had 5-year plans, which compared to current corporate planning and strategy looks like wisdom of the ages.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 02:37:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is sufficiently informed on questions like these -- but I think your speculations are fascinating and, let's say, correspond to my own impressions.

The last point first -- I entirely agree that it's tempting to believe people in the past were wiser. It's the Golden Age fallacy. People ate simple, robust, whole foods, and were stronger and healthier than people today, for example -- misleading because people in the past often lacked food, were subject to diseases we no longer fear, lived shorter lives, etc.

Yet recognizing and avoiding the trap of the glorification of the past doesn't disqualify observation of present trends. In the nutrition example above, what immediately springs to mind is that there are massive contemporary public health problems due to imbalanced diet, over-consumption of processed foods, junk food, and above all sugar.

In other words, you don't need to idealize the past to correctly observe transformations that fashion the present.

You mention the effect of the mutation from agriculture to industry. I've lived alongside, and worked with, some of those one could call the last representatives of the old peasantry, at least in this part of Europe near the Pyrenees. First and foremost, I wouldn't say there's any form of ancestral wisdom shared among them -- though some individuals may be wiser than others. But you're certainly right about the long view. These are people who think in terms of seasons, years, generations. As for agricultural labourers (rather than serfs, no need to go back that far!), they necessarily share that mindset, though their "dynastic" projects may be limited to the hope they can climb to the yeoman, or independent peasant, level. (I should put all this in the past tense, it's a dead world today.)

I'd enlarge your point to include, not just farmers v industrial workers, but the rural world v the urban. Anyone who lives in the countryside is more aware, for example, of the passage of the seasons and the years with their differing climatic conditions, than are city-dwellers.

These are central transformations -- agriculture => industry, rural => urban -- of European and American life over the last couple of centuries. It would be surprising if, in the space of a few generations, there wasn't an effect on the way people perceive what they believe to be the overall scheme of life.

Then comes a sort of chicken/egg question. To what extent is popular culture the simple mirror of these changes in perception, or to what extent does it create or magnify them? Your example of the C19 novel compared with, say, the 2x45 minute TV mini-series, is telling. It seems to me there's an interactive process by which commercial logic chooses what goes over best with the greatest number (ie what demands least effort), while the mass audience, encouraged and fed by this close attention to the lowest common denominator, lowers its effort threshold, and the entertainment industry then battens on to this new low. Attention spans get shorter, the will and the ability to focus on complex issues decreases. The mass information media being nothing more than a branch of the entertainment industry, people's understanding of the world diminishes at the same time as they are bombarded with "news".

As you say, this has discouraging implications for democracy in general. As for long-term issues like global warming... Well, I'm afraid you're right. Prospects are gloomy.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 05:46:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
small data point  on tv and child development...

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 09:27:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that the "inertial" thing is exactly the problem: If we took radical, overwhelmingly difficult action RIGHT NOW (much stronger than Kyoto, more like "stop burning fossil fuel, period, today"), it would take decades to have an impact. We are so deep into this that our current arguments are virtually pointless.

The solution to the global warming problem is going to have to be found in technology. Schemes that seem completely crazy are actually in line with the sort of thinking we're going to have to use. "Rings of Earth" anyone? http://www.livescience.com/technology/050627_warming_solution.html

by asdf on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 10:13:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Call me cynical, asdf (I am) but these Nivenesque schemes look no more promising to me than Star Wars (the MDS boondoggle not the movies, though both are based on a similar naif optimism).  Come to think of it, wasn't Niven one of the architects and salesmen of the original MDS idea?  I seem to recall his boasting about it in a video interview.

MHO is that the megaproject is a dead end.  Such projects -- and I include massive hydro and nuke efforts in this basket -- are so huge that they are usually mismanaged, enormously wasteful, contemptuous of local issues (huge budgets and the associated careerism have a steamroller effect on democratic process), and so complex as to defy accountability or honest accounting and post-deployment evaluation... which makes them glorious playgrounds for featherbedding, embezzlement, and all the rest.  They are gilt-edged invitations to a crispy roast-pork feast of corruption, fraud, falsified science and a myriad of similar treats.

Furthermore, microprojects kick their ass in the marketplace.  I see this is a belated mirror of the evolution of compute power and telecomms:  from megalithic, super-energy-inefficient centralised facilities (easy, nay natural, to place under tight control by elites, easy to take out if your goal is social disruption) to light, mobile, numerous, ubiquitous distributed microcomputers ("every toaster and light switch in the world...").  Somehow our ideas about power generation and distribution are stuck forever in the days of Bletchley Park, ENIAC, the mainframe and the locked operator's room and the Cray -- when we should be thinking Transmeta, Palm Pilot, gumstix, cell phones, Beowulf clusters running open source OS.  

We know by cartoon analogy that small fast-moving mammals in large numbers beat huge slow-moving dinosaurs :-) and if we want some beneficial results fast, imho we are going to get better, cheaper, faster and more verifiable and democracy-compatible results with distributed micropower and Bioneer-type regional/local repair efforts than with massive "Parasols in Orbit" eggs-in-one-basket megaprojects.

The megaproject is imho the legacy, in our modern translation, of the Great Pyramid, the Taj Mahal, or the moai.  It's not so much effective or efficient as it is a huge ego-stroke for the ruling class of the nation that builds it.  Hey looky, what a big weewee our country has!  whether it actually benefits more persons than it harms (Three Gorges anyone?) or is the best use of scarce resources, is seldom at issue.  Sorry to rain on yer parade but I think the era of the whizbang Man on Moon scale of megaproject is over already.  I doubt we'll have the resources to build such pyramids in future, unless we have the Stalinist resolve to let millions starve in order to do so...  imho all our resources (and then some) will be needed to soften the landing at the end of the Hubbert's Peak toboggan run.

But that's why one of my nicknames is Kassandra.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 06:10:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Small projects are a lot easier to implement than big ones, that's for sure. And we've gotten into the global warming mess by a whole bunch of small projects (our cars and power plants).

What sort of small projects can be put on line in, say, five years, that will, first, replace fossil fuel (so we don't make the CO2 problem worse than it already is), and second, remove the current CO2 to get things back to where they were in, say, 1900?

by asdf on Tue Jul 5th, 2005 at 06:33:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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