McCain on science

Belatedly, McCain answers the sciencedebate questions. Obama did that earlier; how does McCain fare?

Its good to see that the tide of drivel hasn’t dried up:

I am uniquely qualified to lead our nation during this technological revolution. While in the Navy, I depended upon the technologies and information provided by our nation’s scientists and engineers with during each mission…

is particularly stupid. I flew in an aeroplane recently, so I fully understand jet engines? Apart from that, McCain says nothing terribly interesting, though its all worthy enough. He will focus on this, and on that, and on the other, in a way that makes the word “focus” quite meaningless.

Climate change…

We know that greenhouse gas emissions, by retaining heat within the atmosphere, threaten disastrous changes in the climate. The same fossil-fuels that power our economic engine also produced greenhouse gases that retain heat and thus threaten to alter the global climate. No challenge of energy is to be taken lightly, and least of all, the need to avoid the consequences of global warming. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly. To dramatically reduce carbon emissions, I will institute a new cap-and-trade system that over time will change the dynamic of our energy economy. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emissions, by 2020, a return to 1990 levels, and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050

Fair enough. Text somewhat weaker than Obama’s, but the same pledge to quick action, and a reduction to 60% below ’90 by 2050 is not much different to Obamas. Cap-n-trade as the solution, which I think was O’s too. Presumably Palin will be brought onside at some point, or quietly forgotten, or replaced by Michael. Clean Coal… not very keen on that; presumably its a boondoggle to the coal producers.

The rest is all a bit boring, hard to tell apart from Obama. So what exactly was the point of all of this?

[Update: Daily Kos notices the same problem with his drivel, and adds some problems with his claims to have sponsored tech. Thanks to T -W]

OK, I wrote all of that without looking at what anyone else thought.

Maribo says:

What is striking here is the choice to open with threaten disastrous changes in the climate. Why not open with what the science states: that greenhouse gas emissions are changing the climate, and the changes could become disastrous if left unchecked? The omission of the first clause is very curious. McCain`s opening line fails to recognize that the climate is currently changing, only that it might some day. That is a big difference

In principle I agree. But I think its just nit-picking: if you’re proposing quick action, and 60%-off-1990-by-2050, then you believe in GW, and the exact form of words you use doesn’t matter.

Didn’t find any of the other usual suspects commenting yet.

[Update: auctioning CO2 permits may be a difference. See comments.]

Comments

  1. #1 Magnus W
    2008/09/16

    I asked myself the same when I saw Obamas answers… well at least they had to say in what way they would tackle the greenhouse gasses.

  2. #2 thingsbreak
    2008/09/16

    Text somewhat weaker than Obama’s, but the same pledge to quick action, and a reduction to 60% below ’90 by 2050 is not much different to Obamas. Cap-n-trade as the solution, which I think was O’s too.

    McCain’s plan would give credits away to industry for free, while Obama’s plan is 100% auctionable credits. Significant difference to me.

    [It would be, if 'twere clear that this is true. But is it? Obama says all pollution permits to be auctioned (possibly some wiggle room there). But McCain appears silent on this. Where do you get give-away from? -W]

    Also, Obama doesn’t have surrogates who reject climate science telling the press that he’s going to reverse his stance once in office. Can’t say the same for McCain[1][2].

  3. #3 Michael Tobis
    2008/09/16

    I suppose we should be gratified to see this warmed-over bit of fifties technophilia:

    “We are benefiting today from technology that was invented for military use a quarter of a century ago (e.g. the Internet, email, GPS, Teflon). And today, the American military has some of the most advanced technologies in the world to support them as they defend America’s interest. We need to ensure that America retains the edge in the most strategic areas and I will continue to encourage this with advanced R&D research funding.”

    Teflon.

    This strange reasoning can be called the “Tang defense” in honor of a vile instant beverage reputedly once served to astronauts.

    On the whole, this is what’s known in the music trade as “mailing it in”, though in this case, I suppose it was literally mailed in.

    The original idea was interesting, though. The idea was to put these guys on the spot and see if they could actually think quantitatively. You know, “consider a spherical cow” stuff. Do estimates. Do arithmetic.

    Apparently one test for senility is the ability to count backwards from 100 by 7s, i.e., 100,93,86, etc. I have limited faith in McCain’s ability to do that.

    I think Obama would have no problem with the 7s, but would be completely stymied by the “estimate the number of gasoline pumps in the country” type question. The problem, of course, is that most voters would also not be able to do that sort of a calculation, and they seem intent on treating anyone with any intellectual accomplishments as suspicious.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think Obama is brilliant; else he wouldn’t even have a chance here. But that doesn’t count directly in his favor with many voters. He certainly is not emphasizing the fact that he is faculty at an elite privatre university.

    It probably counts in Obama’s favor that unlike Gore he is not apparently adept at doing arithmetic. Gore understands the difference between emissions and concentrations, and see where that got him.

  4. #4 Brian Schmidt
    2008/09/16

    From the Maverick himself:

    “Over time, an increasing fraction of permits for emissions could be supplied by auction, yielding federal revenues that can be put to good use.”

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/12/the-annotated-mccain-climate-speech/

    I agree it’s very concerning that McCain surrogates are saying he’ll back off this plan, and aren’t getting contradicted.

  5. #5 travc
    2008/09/16

    This is a pretty good take-down of McCain’s claims to have promoted communications tech.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/9/16/63238/2462/721/600320

    He was on the Commerce committee, but voted on the wrong side of pretty much every major issue.

  6. #7 Thomas
    2008/09/17

    From JohnMcCain.com:
    “How Does A Cap-And-Trade System Work?

    A cap-and-trade system harnesses human ingenuity in the pursuit of alternatives to carbon-based fuels. Market participants are allotted total permits equal to the cap on greenhouse gas emissions. If they can invent, improve, or acquire a way to reduce their emissions, they can sell their extra permits for cash. The profit motive will coordinate the efforts of venture capitalists, corporate planners, entrepreneurs, and environmentalists on the common motive of reducing emissions.”

    McCain intends to give away the credits, and let the companies reap any profits.

    [OK, so: the govt decides on a cap, per company I suppose, and under the McCain plan they then get permits up to this limit, which is presumably adjusted per year.

    Is the assertion that under the Obama plan the companies have to buy these permits? If so, how does that differ from a carbon tax? I'm not at all sure that Obama has said what you appear to be asserting -W]

  7. #8 Magnus Westerstrand
    2008/09/17

    It is really hard to get the nr of permits for each sector and each company right. This is one thing that we had trouble with in Europe, to many to cheap permits. But the main difference is that giving them away makes it probable that the consumers have to pay double some times, the company can ad it on the price and sell some of it to other companies. If it is sold the government could e.g. use the money to lower taxes to give them back. I do prefer the auction way…

    The tax is some what similar but it is hard to get the tax right, you will probably set it to low or high so the emissions will be to high or low.

    With a cap and trade system it is harder to guess the price for the companies but the amount emitted pollutant is easier to control IF! You can see how much each actor is emitting.

  8. #9 thingsbreak
    2008/09/17

    Is the assertion that under the Obama plan the companies have to buy these permits? If so, how does that differ from a carbon tax? I’m not at all sure that Obama has said what you appear to be asserting

    Yes, the assertion is that Obama will auction off all credits to companies, rather than give them away for free[1]. Giving the credits away essentially creates a windfall for heavy emitters.

    How is that different than a straight up tax? Well, cap and trade with auctions ostensibly puts a limit on volume of emissions while a tax puts a limit on their cost, but really the differences are much fewer than the similarities. I think the most significant difference is the palatability to a populace that has been indoctrinated for well over half a century to believe that “tax” is a four letter word.

  9. The problem, of course, is that most voters would also not be able to do that sort of a calculation, and they seem intent on treating anyone with any intellectual accomplishments as suspicious

  10. #11 lahana yağı
    2008/09/19

    I think Obama is brilliant; else he wouldn’t even have a chance here. But that doesn’t count directly in his favor with many voters. He certainly is not emphasizing the fact that he is faculty at an elite privatre university.

  11. #12 cabbagepow
    2008/09/19

    Is the assertion that under the Obama plan the companies have to buy these permits? If so, how does that differ from a carbon tax? I’m not at all sure that Obama has said what you appear to be asserting -W]