Scared Silly Over Climate Change

I have been revisiting writers focused on climate change, and thought again of Bjoern Lomborg the “climate skeptic.”.
He’s a Danish statistician and the author of the books The Skeptical Environmentalist and most recently Cool It. Environmentalists tend to hate him, although I read Cool It and he has many valid positions on misspent money and hysterical priorities that  are wobbled far off-balance.

When you read his FAQ, you see some sensible opinions:

Lomborg finds that the smartest way to tackle global warming is to invest heavily in R&D in non-carbon emitting technologies, which will enable everyone to switch over to cheaper-than-fossil-fuel technologies sooner and thus dramatically reduce the 21st century emissions. Specifically, he suggests a ten-fold increase in R&D in non-CO2 -emitting energy technologies like solar, wind, carbon capture, fusion, fission, energy conservation etc…. This is entirely in line with the top recommendation from the Copenhagen Consensus 2008, which includes some of the word’s top economists and five Nobel Laureates.

That said, I looked today at his recent news on his web site, and I DO see a reason to find him dangerous:  his recent writing includes an anecdotal series of portrayals of African and Indian poor whose pressing issues are disease, poverty, hunger. These articles – which have been published in the last 6 months in the Wall Street Journal  de-emphasize the urgency of addressing climate change, and tacitly fuel financiers, policy-makers and the public who tend to agree (ironically) with the impoverished subjects of Lomborg’s reports: that climate change is an abstraction, its harms are so far down the line both in terms of time and in terms of consideration.

But some of his complicating the media perceptions is very productive. Like this essay of his from June 2009 The Guardian, entitled Scared Silly Over Climate Change:

Exaggeration also wears out the public’s willingness to tackle global warming. If the planet is doomed, people wonder, why do anything? A record 54% of American voters now believe the news media make global warming appear worse than it really is. A majority of people now believe – incorrectly – that global warming is not even caused by humans. In the United Kingdom, 40% believe that global warming is exaggerated and 60% doubt that it is man-made.

But the worst cost of exaggeration, I believe, is the unnecessary alarm that it causes – particularly among children. Recently, I discussed climate change with a group of Danish teenagers. One of them worried that global warming would cause the planet to “explode” – and all the others had similar fears.

His detractors are vocal!
Here’s one site, Lomborg’s Errors

How’d this happen?

The jumps are so crazy – ours and China’s.
Obama has agreed to go to Copenhagen – albeit on the front end of the talks. Breeze through and set the bar?
I don’t mean to sound so dubious, but the stalemate between China and us is already nearly set, with smaller countries caviling about why they should have to share a commensurate burden when they did so little to contribute to the current state of things. I get it, but also think we need to be way past whining about how unfair it all is, and make a new program. Easy for me to say…

But there IS a stall – good recap of the conflicts here at Global Change. Excerpt:

  • India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, says the negotiations are unlikely to go anywhere unless wealthy nations embrace more ambitious emissions reductions and promise more money to help developing countries cope with climate change.
  • China, the world’s largest emitter, is moving forwards with aggressive energy-efficiency targets and renewable-energy mandates — but has yet to pledge binding commitments or agree a date to level off its explosive emissions growth…
  • To achieve a solution, developed countries must show leadership in Copenhagen. They should promise cuts equal to, or deeper than, 40% for 2020. If the Annex I parties are unwilling or unable to do this, the rest of the world would be discouraged from taking serious action. A more likely outcome in Copenhagen would be a statement that the world intends to limit global warming to 2 °C by 2050. Emission reductions and mitigation actions for individual parties will have to be specified later.

Oil Industry Backs Protests of Emissions Bill

an article on protests in response to the pending Cap and Trade Bill.
Uh, what’s wrong with this picture?

This was the first of a series of about 20 rallies planned for Southern and oil-producing states to organize resistance to proposed legislation that would set a limit on emissions of heat-trapping gases, requiring many companies to buy emission permits. Participants described the system as an energy tax that would undermine the economy of Houston, the nation’s energy capital.

and a few paragraphs down:

“It’s just a sense of outrage and disappointment with the bill passed by the House,” said James T. Hackett, chief executive of Anadarko Petroleum, who attended the rally. He defended, as an environmental measure, the use of buses financed by oil companies and Energy Citizens to carry employees to the rally. “If we all drove in cars, it wouldn’t look good,” he said.

More Fake Letters to Congress on Energy Bill

…from an article in the NY Times today about a pro-oil, anti Cap n Trade Bill rally in Houston :

A public relations company hired by a pro-coal industry group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, recently sent at least 58 fake letters opposing new climate laws to members of Congress. The letters, forged by the public relations company Bonner & Associates, purported to be from groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and Hispanic organizations.

Bonner & Associates has acknowledged the forgeries, blaming them on a temporary employee who was subsequently fired. The coal coalition has apologized for the fake letters and said it was cooperating with an investigation of the matter by a Congressional committee.

“We will pay for this one way or another”

Today’s NY Times article “Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security:”

“We will pay for this one way or another,” Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired Marine and the former head of the Central Command, wrote recently in a report he prepared as a member of a military advisory board on energy and climate at CNA, a private group that does research for the Navy. “We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind.

“Or we will pay the price later in military terms,” he warned. “And that will involve human lives.”

Letter to Gov about climate catastrophe

Dear  President Obama,

I just finished reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s article in June 29 2009 issue of The New Yorker called “The Catastrophist,” a profile of climatologist James Hansen.

I have thought many times about how to compose any kind of letter that would at least have meaning to me, if not to the administration, but time has run out for pondering.

I am an artist and animator, and I work with issues of climate change (
I have had more conversations than I care to remember about how it’s almost too late, how it is too late,  how it is futile and hopeless because of big business and lobby resistance. But time has also run out for conversations, and people like me need to DEMAND a message from you and a commitment to action.

Respectfully: What is the plan? When do you declare, as I believe is appropriate, an impending state of emergency? When does government step in and help save humans and other beings from a change so drastic, we will all suffer greatly? Health care, bank bonuses, better education, none of it will matter if we don’t make some serious changes in the way we manage the planet – from fuel production to consumption.

I know this is not the most eloquent letter, but I need to hear from you. I am frightened for myself, my friends, for people I know in vulnerable places, and for all the children I know whose lives will soon be altered beyond comprehension.

Marina Zurkow
Brooklyn NY

(sent to web site)

I wrote  and sent this letter last night out of complete exasperation. I’ve been feeling a murky disappointment about the murky attention being paid to climate change, and everyone says “be patient; Obama’s Admin’s hands are full.” I really hope that if you’re reading this, you’ll consider writing too.  A mediocre “cap and trade” bill got passed by the House (and even this has faced enormous resistance by both libertarians and big business) . We are at the end of the hourglass (some experts think time’s up already), and I have gone from helpless despair, to trying to exercise conviction that my small actions will make difference, to realizing it’s only pressure on government to legislate  fuel change, energy innovation and radical shifts in global behaviors. Pundits  opine that scientists don’t understand the way politics work when they state that we have a small window of time in which to slow down or somewhat restabilize the PPM of CO2 in the climate IF we shut down ALL coal plants;  but Hansen “argues that while the laws of geophysics are immutable, those of society are ours to determine.”

If you have any suggestions on how to effectively(?) reach others in gov with individual letters, please post.

Info on the Cap and Trade Bill which will go to the Senate in the fall (if we’re lucky):
Cap and Trade Bill breakdown
Archive of NYT articles on Cap and Trade
The Economist critique of Cap and Trade Bill
Job-loss critique of Cap and Trade Bill