Obama and Romney on GW

From The Top American Science Questions: 2012. Which starts with:

"Whenever the people are well-informed," Thomas Jefferson wrote, "they can be trusted with their own government."

Well, that's you yanks totally f*ck*d then, ha ha. Not that we're any better off. still, at least we manage to believe in evolution and we're not a pile of religious fanatics :-).

So anyway, enough random insults, what do Da Man and Dah Challenger haz to say?

First off, lets look at the question

Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?

Hmm, its a so-so question. You can read it as accepting the std.science - it doesn't explicitly ask them to comment on the actual science, and the last bit pretty well only makes sense once you accept it as real. It gives the candidates a chance to accept the science and focus on policy, which is good.


Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.

Obama's statement is shor, so I quoted it in full.

Doesn't discuss the science at all, which in the context of what he says counts as acceptance, good. Has done something and intends to do more, good. Is fiddling around with various things instead of going for a carbon tax, bad. I'm dubious about the oil claim - that's probably more about recession and substitution, neutral. Pushes international leadership, hmm, nice intent, hasn't really played out, and is the wrong way to go (should be a carbon tax), neutral.


I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.

Sentence one is almost "fair enough" but notice the equivocation: hasn't said how much warmer, hasn't said what human's contribution is, hasn't said that he accepts the std.science. Indeed, he has implicitly rejected taking, say, the IPCC view on board by saying that "my best assessment of the data is..." (my bold). Romney isn't competent to assess the data - this is fairly close to the dumb America fallacy. I think this has been carefully crafted to avoid offending the wackos too much, neutral.

Then he continues there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue - this is just std.denialist tripe, bad. Support continued investigation - could be taken as a sop to the scientists ("shut up a bit and we'll give you more grants") but I doubt that will actually show up in the real budget numbers, neutral.

[P]olicymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences - good, in itself, though vague. Lets read on. "Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response" - fair enough, and worth saying.

President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy.

No, again, he's slipped back into std.bollocks. Furthermore he's doing the tedious political trick of attacking his opponents views, not putting forward his own, bad.

We'll skip a bit now, as his statement is long and repetitive.

I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away.

I disagree with this. Its good he's prepared to put his viewws on the line, but they are unreasoned and unreasonable, bad. I think I ought to note "a new wave of investment in nuclear power" - I'm ambivalent about that, but potentially good.

The verdict

No surprises I'm sure: Obama is the clear winner. But his policy is weak, so its not a ringing endorsement.


* mt on Pierrehumbert on Paul Ryan on global warming
* Didn’t Cameron just appoint a sceptic to DEFRA?
* Obama, Romney “Playing Games” with Environmental Disaster - via John at Eli's
* mt thinks I'm being too literal


More like this

Episode 1 and episode 3 refer. It turns out that Exxon cares enough to answer. Not to answer in any great detail, so I'm not sure they care enough to read the criticism, but never mind. They say stuff like Our scientists have been involved in climate research and related policy analysis for more…
... but the questions that they were answering! Regular readers will know (from these posts, among others) that I think the extent to which presidential candidates have gotten right with science (or with reliable advisers on same) is important information for voters to have. Indeed, I was hoping to…
We still aren't going to get a presidential debate devoted to science. So far, though,we have the Democratic nominee's elaborated responses to 14 questions put to him and his Republican counterpart by the Science Debate 2008 group. Here's two of Barack Obama's responses, with italicized annotation…
Barack Obama was the first to answer the questions put to the candidates by the Science Debate 2008 team, and now McCain has responded. As I did with Obama's, I will here deconstruct McCain's answers on climate and energy policy. My comments are italicized. 2. Climate Change. The Earth's climate is…

Didn't Cameron just appoint a sceptic to DEFRA? OK so its not DECC, but still.

"at least we manage to believe in evolution..."

I wonder if this would be as true if Darwin had been French? :) :)

Romney shows his true colours in two other questions:
#6 Energy - more CO2
#13 Critical Natural Resources - more CO2.

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 07 Sep 2012 #permalink

Note that Obama does not have the power to implement a tax (or cap-and-trade) policy: he is highlighting what he's managed to do without new Congressional authority under existing Clean Air Act language.

As Romney points out: "First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry."

(yes, cap-and-trade is not as good as a tax, but it can accomplish some of the same goals)

[I agree he doesn't have the power, given the current state of congress etc. As, indeed, Romney agrees. However, this is also about his intent -W]

"However, this is also about his intent "

I think his intent has been clearly outlined by both his past actions and this statement. Even under the best scenarios he isn't going to have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate (even if there's a Dem majority, there are Dem senators from coal states) and is unlikely to have a majority in the House.

He's taken some postiive steps - CAFE standards of 50 mpg in the future, which importantly Detroit's agreed to and now supports (which makes it a bit harder for Repubs to push their standard "destroying business" argument).

Likewise pushes for wind power and solar ...

Not as much as I'd like, but many seem to have expected the impossible out of Obama ... and no one expected anything like the Tea Party reactionaries to gain such power.

You should recognize that you are as conservatively minded and hate-filled as the "pile of religious fanatics" from which you seek to distinguish yourself. This detracts from your ability persuade others (and, I suspect, your basic ability to think).

[Oh dear, have I offended you? I'm not really trying to persuade, I'm afraid -W]

By Tim Pohle (not verified) on 07 Sep 2012 #permalink

Well, we were all over Paul Ryan about his marathon time. What to make of this:?

"We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations"

Can someone tell me what "historic agreements" were reached?

[Vague wurble I think. I'm a numbers and specific person. I tend to blip over vague ambiguities, but deliberate specific lies are different -W]

Obama is the clear winner? For what?

[I'm afraid you'll have to read the post if you want to know. If you do that, you'll see its more for Romney's flaws -W]

A vague and misleading paragraph? At least Romney put out some specifics. And please, the White House had nothing whatsoever to do with the drop in oil imports. In fact, all the oil producers say it dropped despite Obama.

"At least Romney put out some specifics."

Yep - "However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community."

C'mon, Tom C, you can decode this ... it's "teach the controversy!" (from the evolution wars) all over again, a tactic adopted years ago by the climate science denialsphere. FUD in the name of inaction.

"Can someone tell me what “historic agreements” were reached?"

Copenhagen agreement ...

"Under the Accord, both developed and developing nations agreed for the first time to reduce their emissions and to register their national commitments by the end of January 2010. Countries also committed to delivering "prompt start" funding to assist developing countries in deploying clean energy technologies, reducing forest-related emissions, and adapting to the impacts of global warming. These promises represent important first steps on a new pathway to real progress in reducing emissions and moving to a low-carbon global economy."

Non-binding, hand-waving, weak, but still much stronger than Republicans here wanted. No treaty ... but we know that the US Senate wouldn't ratify any treaty anyway (i.e. Kyoto) and there's really no point in trying to couch agreement in treaty form if the world wants the US to play along.

Copenhagen? yes dhogaza, truly historic. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it. Re Kyoto, the vote was 97 - 0, so don't blame the Republicans.

[This is a large topic, and we know we disagree. So "some of your side did bad things in the past, therefore I can't see any bad things about my side" isn't a very good argument, indeed it looks like a distraction -W]

RE: Blame the Republicans. I don't need to. The future will handle that quite well.
Or have you figured that out yet?

By Phil Hays (not verified) on 07 Sep 2012 #permalink

A "new wave of investment in nuclear power" is required to fullfill the baseload requirement for the electricity gird in a low carbon manner.

This should be a no-brainer. I fear there is a great deal of prejudice regarding nuclear power.

By David B. Benson (not verified) on 07 Sep 2012 #permalink

"Copenhagen? yes dhogaza, truly historic. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it."

As I said, "Non-binding, hand-waving, weak".

That, however, doesn't mean it wasn't historic. As weak as it was, it was historic for the reasons listed above, passed in the face of extreme opposition from a variety of countries, including the opposition party within the US.

" Re Kyoto, the vote was 97 – 0, so don’t blame the Republicans."

Odd how it got defeated 97-0 when it wasn't even submitted for ratification and therefore never voted on. Care to detail how that trick was pulled off?

In reality Clinton didn't submit it because he realized he'd never get the 2/3 vote necessary to do so. A 2/3 vote is even harder than the almost-impossible-to-conquer 60% vote needed to stop a filibuster ...

Don't blame Republicans?

"Hours before the final agreement was reached, however, key Senate Republicans declared the accord "dead on arrival,""

Republican Larry Craig: "Craig called on President Clinton to "promptly submit the treaty and allow the Senate to kill it."

"U.S. opponents of a global warming pact, including the Republicans and major American industries...."

"On Tuesday, Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) wrote Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), head of the Senate observer group, saying the treaty was falling short of these conditions and declaring the Senate "will not ratify a flawed climate change treaty."

""If they [the administration] won't take our advice, we won't give our consent," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.)."

"Anticipating the fierce criticism from Republicans, Clinton last night told a Democratic fund-raising dinner in New York that technological advances can mean a cleaner environment without economic damage."

Tom C's attempt at revisionist history seems to have fallen short ...

(Tom C's confused over a non-binding 95-0 vote that the US wouldn't sign a treaty that would hurt the US economy or not require developing countries to remain poor forever also reduce emissions. Despite this previous window-dressing vote, there was strong Dem support for ratifying the treaty itself.)

[Well, technically. But actually it was an anti-whatever treaty. The only reason the boneheads didn't vote against Kyoto, or whatever, was that it wasn't submitted to them -W]

Tom C's emblematic of the Republican Party at large ... Republicans perpetually monkeywrench stuff in the Senate, then as time goes by, refuse to man up and take credit for destroying what they've destroyed.

You LAZY COPY AND PASTE news editors of Climate change fear mongering have done to journalism what naughty priests did for religion.

"If memory serves it was British religious fanaticism (and it’s attendant religious oppression of other faiths) that actually led us Yanks to leave and subsequently kick your lot off the bloody continent all the way back to your tiny island home."

Actually, by the time of the Revolution it had much more to do with the right of Boston shippers to smuggle rum, to avoid paying duty, etc. All the while arguing that England should pay the sole costs of protecting the western frontiers again Indian attacks and the possibility of a renewed French offensive against the Colonies if the perpetual French-British wars heated up again. None of which the Colonists were prepared to pay for.

And bitching against the Britiish declaring hard borders against western expansion by the Colonists, and backing native tribes against incursion. We know what happened to native tribes west of the old colonies once England was kicked off the colonies (you might want to compare with the fate of the First Nations in eastern canada, for inatance).

And one can easily argue that it was colonial religious fanaticism (as opposed to those who simply didn't care and ignored the Church of England and all the rest) was much more important than any "British religious fanaticism".

That's a start ...

(The British responded idiotically, but the purity of colonial motives are simply bullshit, which was one reason why the government of England refused to agree to colonial demands. If England had accepted the "no taxation without representation" argument, the addition of a few colonials to parliament wouldn't've changed a thing, and the represented colonials would've just moved the goalposts ...)

"But all good natured jabs aside. :) I am curious about one thing. Are you yourself a) religious, b) agnostic, or c) atheist? Please explain your choice and why you have chosen that option."

This is absolutely meaningless other than those who think the earth is 6,000 years old ...

[Sorry, GR got burrowed for trolling; any more will have to follow him over there -W]

I'm surprised, actually, that you would take offense at my prior post. Sure, it was pointy but in a good natured "smack talkin'" kinda way that we Yanks favor. Nothing in the pointy part was even directed at you personally.

You should be happy that you inspired me to go learn a bit 'bout jolly ol' England. I mean I had heard of the Church of England before and I vaguely remember who Queen Elizabeth II is, but the whole reference to Queen-in-Parliament was new for me.

I am seriously interested (in a passing sort of way) about how you would actually answer my query though. Given your background and general attitude I would assume that you are not a religious person, but there are plenty of religious scientists out there so I put that one in for completeness.

Please, I am seriously asking, assuming you are not religious do you tend towards agnosticism or atheism? And why are you making that particular choice?

I think that there is a proper answer to the question for the scientifically minded out there but I don't want to let the cat out of the bag until I hear your response so as to not bias the result.

[Are you suggesting you don't trust Conservapedia? -W]

The good brothers said British religious fanaticism was defined differently depending on whether one was a fan of Mary or a fan of Bess. You'd think 200+ years were enough enough to assuage Yankee resentment of the British takeover of New Amsterdam. Grandpa allowed no disparagement or England or Englishmen. "Tweren't for them" he'd say, "we'd still sitting on stumps eating seaweed in the rain."

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 09 Sep 2012 #permalink

WMC: Are you suggesting you don't trust Conservapedia?

I'm not suggesting anything regarding Conservapedia. I don't read it nor do I edit there. I don't understand why you would be evasive on a simple question for which there is no correct answer (i.e. you can't be wrong).

They seem to think you are an atheist. Are they correct? If so, on what do you base your assertion that there is no god?

[You're trolling. Please send any follow-ups to the "Burrow" thread -W]

No, seriously, I have no comment box on the bottom of that thread. I would have commented there after the first "burrowing" but there is no means, for me at least, to comment there.

[That is a valid point, thank you. This was due to WP auto-closing comments on old entries. Which I don't seem to be able to configure per-post, how annoying. But you'll find the comments open there, now -W]

Since the trolling could be fun, I will put myself in the stoat's burrow and see if I can get GoRight to spin around a few times.

I know it was off-topic, so apologise, but I quite liked Ben Goldacre's statement that he was an "apatheist". That is (and this is not a verbatim quote, but a rough gist) he can't be bothered to care whether there is, or isn't, a god and has found all discussions on the subject mind numbingly tedious.

It's on the BBC news site, "5 minutes with" section, should you want the whole quote.

"Romney isn’t competent to assess the data"

Perhaps, but he is certainly a competent businessman which lends itself to seeing through bullshit in either word or number form. It is incredible how often people try to scam business owners into buying various products and services they don't need.

In any case, the argument that various people aren't qualified to evaluate certain arguments has been going on for thousands of years and it has been ripe for abuse every time (e.g. only priests being able to interpret scripture).

"No, again, he’s slipped back into std.bollocks."

Obama said under his cap and trade plan electricity rates would skyrocket and it would bankrupt anyone trying to open a coal plant.

Arguing against an opponents position is, in fact, highly scientific.

"I’m ambivalent about that, but potentially good."

I thought you were gung-ho about nuclear power? Did you change your mind or is my memory faulty in this regard?

By TheGoodLocust (not verified) on 11 Sep 2012 #permalink

But, if course, Mitt doesn't think other people's businesses, such as GM, should be bailed out ... it should be reserved for the deserving elite such as himself, apparently ...

@dhogaza Looking at that "journalist" blog history he seems to have quite a bone to pick with Mitt Romney. Perhaps I'll wait until someone who isn't so clearly partisan has full access to the documents.

In any case, here is my interpretation of the events, and perhaps you can see how that author is rather misleading.

1) It wasn't a "bailout" it was a reduction in the amount Bain and company owed to the government. The failure of the Bank of England was pretty bad for a lot of companies - except for course leftwing icon George Soros who made a billion dollars off it.

2) It wasn't even Mitt Romney's company - there is a difference between Bain and Company and Bain Capital (which I was referring to).

3) The company was in deep trouble before he got there and he turned it around in a year or two - that certainly sounds like good leadership to me.

4) Bain Capital (the company he founded) was quite a success story.

Perhaps you should be a little more skeptical when reading left-wing rags?

By TheGoodLocust (not verified) on 11 Sep 2012 #permalink

Romney appears to be in the lukewarmer category, accepting that the planet has warmed and that CO2 has a role in at least some of the warming, but minimizing sensitivity and impacts. For him there is enough certainty to take some action but not enough for cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other often global policies proposed to address climate change. He supports a package of policies commonly called "No Regrets".

Obama has been, according to one of his most ardent 2008 supporters, a failure on climate issues. His incompetence and fecklessness (quickly reversing on 100% auction) doomed cap and trade. His "green jobs" programs are rife with corruption and failure. He crows about barely existing international agreements as if Copenhagen were a great success.

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 11 Sep 2012 #permalink


"It wasn’t a “bailout” it was a reduction in the amount Bain and company owed to the government."

Now there's a fine distinction...

"The failure of the Bank of England was pretty bad for a lot of companies – except for course leftwing icon George Soros who made a billion dollars off it."

We've gone from "good businessman" to "getting a non-bailout bailout is OK, making money is not" defense of Romney? Interesting ...

"It wasn’t even Mitt Romney’s company" ...

"Bain Capital was founded in 1984 by several former Bain & Co. partners that included Mitt Romney" wikipedia, and the NYTimes piece (upon which the blog entry was based) names Romney as the person who negotiated with FDIC.

" The company was in deep trouble before he got there and he turned it around in a year or two – that certainly sounds like good leadership to me."

Thanks to the non-bailout bailout, yes, he turned it around.

"Perhaps you should be a little more skeptical when reading left-wing rags?"

Actually nothing you've said contradicts what was in the NYTimes piece. You just think his squeezing FDIC for a large hunka change was admirable.


"Now there’s a fine distinction…"

Actually it is a good distinction. Bain and Company owed them $38 million and renegotiated so they owed them $10 million less. Individuals can and do renegotiate their debt with credit card companies when circumstances prevent them from paying the full amount. You act like it was Romney that even caused the problem - he simply came in and fixed it.

Similarly, the Obama administration talks about "subsidies for Big Oil companies" which are in fact tax breaks that every company can (and often do) take advantage of - it is incredibly misleading on his part to say that a company keeping more of their money is a "subsidy."

"We’ve gone from “good businessman” to “getting a non-bailout bailout is OK, making money is not” defense of Romney? Interesting …"

No, my position is consistent. He is a good businessman based on the record of the company he founded and ran - Bain Capital.

You keep on confusing Bain Capital with Bain and Company, ascribed the problems of Bain and Company to Romney while not acknowledging that his actions saved that company from bankruptcy, which would've meant that the government would've lost out of a lot more than $10 million.

"“Bain Capital was founded in 1984 by several former Bain & Co. partners that included Mitt Romney” wikipedia, and the NYTimes piece (upon which the blog entry was based) names Romney as the person who negotiated with FDIC.""

Bain Capital wasn't the company that got the "bailout" - it was Bain and Company. Didn't you even read your own article?

"Actually nothing you’ve said contradicts what was in the NYTimes piece. You just think his squeezing FDIC for a large hunka change was admirable."

Other than the fact that it wasn't a bailout:


And he was giving the impression that it was Romney's company when it was not.

And perhaps most importantly, the money they owed was to the Bank of New England (I misread BoE earlier) and when the FDIC took over the BoNE the debts Bain and Company owed them were THEN owed to the government.

So yes, Romney negotiated with the government who now owned that bank, but he had nothing to do with them taking over. Additionally, the reduction in the amount they paid would've been to the trust of the BoNE which still had hundreds of millions of dollars in assets despite going through bankruptcy.

So why didn't your article mention the Bank of New England even once (hint: left-wing rag with left-wing agenda)?

Additionally, the money Bain and Company had was given back to it by the partners - that was where the "threat" of paying bonuses back came from. Romney would've given the money back to the people that put it in rather than the estate of the BoNE.

Giving people their own money back rather than being taken by the government....oh the horror Mitt...

Again, I'll wait until someone without a clear agenda analyzes the documents.

By TheGoodLocust (not verified) on 12 Sep 2012 #permalink

"Again, I’ll wait until someone without a clear agenda analyzes the documents."

That would be the Romney campaign, I'm sure ...