The politics edition

16395_10152458693736179_870729479636026355_n Time for some politics - it always provides cheap hits. I'll start with this cartoon, which I found on facebook, promoted by various of the Good. But, its rubbish; its Wrong Thinking. Its a response to the US mid-term elections - or at least, I think that's why its being reposted - and the message seems to be... well, actually, its hard for me to parse it. It seems to be a response from the Left / Democrat side of things, effectively whinging about the (marginally greater numbers of) voters who opted for what they regard as the Dark Side, who they apparently believe as asking for dirty air and water so that CEOs can make more money. A moment's reflection shows that isn't true; so what this cartoon really shows is that a lot of people on the Left just don't understand, can't even begin to understand, the thinking of the people who don't want to vote for their side. It must because they're silly, or corporate peons, of course. CIP has a better analysis, though not flawless, and I'm no student of US politics. CIP doesn't like Eli's economics, either.

Moving on to the vexed question of fossil fuel subsidies, I'm mostly with Timmy. It seems fairly... ironic..? That Saudi Arabia, a great place for renewables like solar, subsidises oil so much that they aren't competitive there. [Update: see-also India’s Modi Does Exactly The Right Thing By Raising Gas Taxes As Oil Falls In Price.]

In the not-really-politics department we have KK versus Bill Nye on GMOs. I'm on KK, and Kevin Folta's, side. [Update: A Victory for Anti-GMO Forces and a Blow to Science - Greenpeace and the denialists in lockstep.]

Breaking-US and China Reach Agreement on Limiting Greenhouse Gas Emissions sayeth the Wabbit. Apparently China will cap emissions by 2030 or earlier and generate 20% of its energy without fossil fuels. The US has agreed to cut emissions by 26 to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. I'm not sure how to read it. Has "the US" agreed? Or just the Prez? His word isn't binding on the US, I think, and I also think this wouldn't get through Congress or whatever. Its variously described as a "target" or a "goal", or on China's side as a "commitment", so is this just mood music? Though even if it was just mood music, it would be heading towards the right mood (though in the wrong way; remember Carbon Tax Now). These are not rhetorical questions; anyone who thinks they know what "the US" agreement means is welcome to try to enlighten me. Ah, Mr. Obama could face opposition to his plans from a Republican-controlled Congress. While the agreement with China needs no congressional ratification, lawmakers could try to roll back Mr. Obama’s initiatives, undermining the United States’ ability to meet the new reduction targets from the NYT is useful.

[Update: from the comments, RA provides a cartoon we can all love.]

More like this

Yes, I think GMOs have definite value--therefor we need to have them labelled so people can gradually get used to them. Also, as an Aristotelian, I think it is incorrect to call a transgenic "papaya" a papaya. Make up a new name for it like car dealers do.

By Whomever1 (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

"It must because they’re silly, or corporate peons, of course."

The arm bands with the dollar signs is the key insight (aside from hexapodia). I take the sub title as ironic- the signs and the crowd represent not the American Public's actual desires, but the policies that will be pursued, and the spin that we'll hear.

"Or just the Prez?"

Just the Prez. But with the new EPA regs and prior actions, the US is credibly on the way to the 2025 goal.

A major excuse for the stasists has been that China won't do anything. That can now be leveraged against them.

By blueshift (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

For the voters the left see as "asking for dirty air and water", there is an interesting dynamic.

The right back in Bush jr's administration was just dishonest first about his record as governor. I worked in the legal department of a regulatory agency in Texas and saw how the governor's office pushed policies that even oil companies' attorney's thought violated the law. The right's spin machine span Bush jr as a moderate. People in the center took this hook line and sinker.

As president, Bush jr lied about things like his Clear Skies amendments to the Clean Air Act that would allow more pollution, and people in the political center started to catch on.

The right deftly took a new tack and sold the "regulatory overreach" that said clean air and water were good things, but big government was going too far. The right leaning and the far right united on this attack on environmental laws and regulations.

I don't like this, but I can't argue that it hasn't been effective.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

CIP has a point but the Dems were also killed by midterm demographics. Voters in U.S. midterm elections are older and whiter than in elections during presidential years. Well illustrated here.

By Raymond Arritt (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

If you eat enough leaf litter, that should keep the glyphosate from wiping out your intestinal microbes: and
"Two species are common commensal organisms in the intestines of humans: E. faecalis (90-95%) and E. faecium (5-10%)."

You know that line about letting one rivet at a time fall out of the aircraft, and eventually it's no longer airworthy?

New chemicals that will target ancient biochemical pathways conserved over time, to wipe out one organism we don't want around, on the theory that H. sapiens doesn't happen to use that particular bit of biochemistry. Oh, but our gut ecosystems do. Well. Hm. What could go wrong with that?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 12 Nov 2014 #permalink

China is probably the most important player in the GHG game, both because they are number one in GHG production and apparently serious about about doing something about that. Their political system probably leaves less room for obstruction by fossil fuel interests, too - that'a a pure guess, but one hopes so.

If the US will just go along, progress is possible, but I find it hard be optimistic. The guys whose fundamental political principle is "I am not a scientist - but I sure as hell know who is funding my campaign" are in charge, big time, for now.

My compliments to the cartoonist- a sobering portrait of those to whom Mr.Gore owed his majority in the 2000 Presidential election.

Once again I'm failing to understand the point you're making :-)

You mention it being ironic that Saudi Arabia subsidizes fossil fuels so much that renewables, like solar, aren't competitive. Why do you regard that as ironic? They certainly have a vested interest in maintaining a FF market. I guess they could have solar panels in their own country while exporting all their oil, but I can certainly see why that might be something they'd rather not do.

[I think you're right to pull me up on use of the word "ironic". I struggled to find the right word. "Stupid" might be better, though it may well make sense for the Saudi dictatorship: they're buying off the population, as you expect from such. One aspect of the situation that could be regarded as irnoic is the way our press focusses on the wrong things. Perhaps… which says "Britain is now the world's fifth largest subsidiser of fossil fuels after the US, Russia, Australia and Germany". That seems pretty unlikely, given the subsidies Saudi applies. Unless they're using a made-up defn of subsidies -W]

My own take (which may be wrong) is that it's a classic example of where if you were to simply let the market decide you might produce your own power through solar while exporting FFs, but vested interests and politics prevents that from actually happening. Actually, maybe that is your point?

[No, it wasn't my point, but I agree with it -W]

By ...and Then Th… (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

The Saudis say they are taking low-carbon energy seriously and that they aim to get half of their electricity from nuclear and renewables by 2032. (A more ambitious 'commitment' than China's?) So far, though, they seem to be mostly* at the wandering-around-shaking-hands-at-conferences stage:

The govt is also said to be keen to phase out fuel subsidies but, as WMC says, they are one of the ways it keeps the population docile, so it's not going to be easy.

*Saudi does have a few renewables projects already operating or in the pipeline but they are high-profile PR jobs - a solar car park at Aramco (the main oil company), thermal solar heating at a women's university and, coming soon, 100 MW of solar street lighting in Mecca. The Mecca project will apparently use individual PV panels (and batteries?) mounted on 40,000 new lighting poles, which seems an expensive way to go, but hey, it's Mecca.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

[China's] political system probably leaves less room for obstruction by fossil fuel interests, too – that’a a pure guess, but one hopes so.

I'm not a China expert either, but I would assume that the Chinese government, like all Chinese governments over the last 2200 years, prefer to retain the Mandate of Heaven. Corollary: if they forsee a scenario under which they would lose the Mandate of Heaven, they will do whatever they can to prevent that scenario from occurring. At least one imperial dynasty lost the Mandate of Heaven due (at least in part) to a climate fluctuation, and these fluctuations were less severe than what China faces even under optimistic estimates of climate sensitivity. At the same time, they don't want to kneecap their middle class by curbing GHG emissions unilaterally. Getting the US to reduce their GHG emissions simultaneously is an important step in threading that needle.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

Russell should be pleased that if only Harvard professors could vote then... President Warren. Maybe anyway, who knows.

Unless the fossil fuel subsidy calculation is per capita, I would think that given its tiny population SA would have a hard time floating to the top of that statistical cess pit.

TBC, the only real way for Republicans to interfere with Obama exercising the climate regulatory authority granted him by various past acts of Congress would be to use the budget authorization process to force yet another government shutdown. I expect that to happen at least once since they got clean away with it the first time, but this time around the behavior may not work out so well.

Speaking of demographics, let us not fail to observe that the Republicans are making a concerted effort to discourage voting. This involves steps such as reducing access to voter registration, requiring identification to be shown at the polls and requiring voters to confirm their continuing status via return mail confirmation. The excuse is the need to tamp down on fraud, which Republican propaganda says is widespread but for which there is no evidence. For this most recent election Republican election officials in some (mostly anyway) southern states banded together to start removing possible duplicate registration across state line. Imagine the surprise of all when it was discovered that the standard applied was a bit too aggressive. All this isn't really new; the Gore loss that Russell seems to regret can be pinned to many factors as so few votes were involved, but prominent among them was a Florida campaign to remove possible felons from the voting rolls. Some thousands of non-felons were removed. After all, one can't be too sure about these things. But long-term, as nicely illustrated by the cartoon Raymond linked, Republicans are fighting a losing demographic battle. Their base is dying and not being replaced at a sufficient rate.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

Climate change impact scenarios for China are much worse than for the U.S., which explains much. The Chinese leadership and upper bureaucracy also has lots of engineers, who in turn seem to have been trained to respect what the climate scientists (lots of Chinese ones now, note) are saying,. This behavior seems to fit well with both Confucianism and the official Marxist (aka "scientific socialism") ideology. Being seen to be taking a major leadership role on climate also gets the Chinese lots of cred in places they'd like to have it, in particular sub-Saharan Africa.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

Steve Bloom's last comments were masterpieces:

"TBC, the only real way for Republicans to interfere with Obama exercising the climate regulatory authority granted him by various past acts of Congress..."

Yeah right, the president can waltz over to another country and pledge to reduce carbon emissions all by his lonesome. Maybe in a fascist dream of SBs but not anywhere close to reality.

"The Chinese leadership and upper bureaucracy also has lots of engineers, who in turn seem to have been trained to respect .."

Chinese engineers "respect" climate scientists but US engineers apparently don't. And we all know that Chinese engineers are superior to US engineers. Particularly those who are in the "leadership and upper bureaucracy".

"This behavior seems to fit well with both Confucianism and the official Marxist (aka “scientific socialism”) ideology"

Yes, or course, the best science is that which fits well with Marxism.

" Being seen to be taking a major leadership role on climate also gets the Chinese lots of cred in places they’d like to have it, in particular sub-Saharan Africa."

Oh that Bloom is a cunning tactician! Yes, yes, the Chinese leadership wants to reduce greenhouse gasses to have "cred" in sub-Saharan Africa. Why didn't the US think of that?

[Stepping back for a moment, if one has ever actually visited China, the whole notion that it is a model of enlightened environmental practice is utterly lunatic.]

Connolley - much as I hate to admit it, your post was wise in many regards. Too bad your commenters have lost their minds.

"... a lot of people on the Left just don’t understand, can’t even begin to understand, the thinking of the people who don’t want to vote for their side."

Well said. The American left is convinced of its moral superiority and sees all opposition as evil and hate based.

Sun Tzu: "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

"The American left is convinced of its moral superiority and sees all opposition as evil and hate based."

Heh. That also applies to the American right (and ideologues of all types). See, for example, the number of Republicans who think Obama is a Muslim communist doing the bidding of Wall St.

SB, I'm not a Harvard professor-- just a regular Fellow, who's been voting against Al since he ran for the student council .

Besides, I'd never vote for Harding if there were a Bull Moose on the ballot.

"These are not rhetorical questions; anyone who thinks they know what “the US” agreement means is welcome to try to enlighten me."

The US, in this case meaning the Obama administration, can only do what the Clean Air Act allows. I don't know if the targets permissible under the CAA mesh with it. The Republicans can try to amend the CAA to weaken it, but they couldn't do that even when Bush jr was president. I don't think the Republican congress has the political capital to do all the kneecapping of environmental laws that they are talking about now.

The right's hold on congress is not complete or guaranteed, and I think Obama's immediate announcement of this climate agreement is calling the Republican's bluff. I see a lot of obstructionism by the Republican congress, mostly in budgeting for the various federal agencies and slipping unpopular legislative riders on otherwise popular bills. I don't see any major roll backs of environmental protection.

[OK, so, how have the Republicans reacted to the deal? I might have expected them to say "well we're not going to be steamrollwed by this" or somesuch, and say they were going to rip it up. Or would that be unpopular? -W]

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink…

... Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency (UARG v. EPA), in which the Supreme Court struck down the EPA’s so-called “tailoring rule,” but otherwise reaffirmed the agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases (GHGs) under the Clean Air Act.
... had the EPA rule been upheld, the agency would have been able to regulate 86 percent of industrial GHG emissions under the relevant statutory provisions. After UARG, it appears the agency will still be able to reach an estimated 83 percent of industrial GHG emissions. Moreover, this decision does not in any way curtail the EPA’s underlying authority to treat GHGs as pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
... Massachusetts v. EPA is here to stay. In 2007 the Supreme Court held that GHGs are air pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. In UARG, the court had an opportunity to revisit this decision, but decided not to."

[I thought the EPA decision to regulate CO2 was surprising, and even more that the court upheld it. I happen to approve of lower CO2, but I also think this pretty clearly wasn't part of the original meaning of the act -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 13 Nov 2014 #permalink

You let 15 stand and boreholed my minor snark about it, William? Apparently cheap hits are what you want these days.

[No, I don't think so. Do you think you have an unpublished comment on this thread? WP doesn't think you do -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 14 Nov 2014 #permalink

Climate is thirty-third fiddle to immigration and other domestic issues. None the less, the China deal got the predicable response from the GOP leadership.…

“The president continues to send a signal that he has no intention of moving toward the middle,” said McConnell, who is in line to become the new Senate majority leader in January. “I was particularly distressed by the deal he’s reached with the Chinese on his current trip, which, as I read the agreement, it requires the Chinese to do nothing at all for 16 years, while these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country.”

In his initial reaction, McConnell said, “This unrealistic plan that the president would dump on his successor would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs.”

Boehner denounced the agreement as “the latest example of the president’s crusade against affordable, reliable energy that is already hurting jobs and squeezing middle-class families.”

OK, fair enough, a software glitch. But 15 remains dull and borehole-worthy. Other than the compliment at the end (and if I were you I'd consider the source), it's a collection of dull snark based on intentional distortions of what I said.

[I'm not burrowing things just because I don't like them. I let a thousand flowers bloom here -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 14 Nov 2014 #permalink

Hard to know where to begin with Mr. Bloom's misconceptions.

China's standing committee used to be all engineers, all the time--hence maglev trains, 3 Georgeous Dams (really, you have to see 'em to believe 'em), etc.

It's a bit different nowadays:
XI JING PINGTsinghua Law PHD/ organic chemistry/ bachelor61
LI KE QIANGPeikingLaw and economy/ master59
ZHANG DE JIANGKim Il-sung UniversityEconomic/bechelor46
LIU YUN SHANParty school of central committee of C.P.C67
WANG QI SHANNorthwest UniversityHistory66
ZHANG GAOLIAMOY UNIVERSITYPlanning and statistics68

Hence free trade zones, focus on services, etc.

Second, China does not know how much carbon it produces now. It does not know how much energy it will require in the future. It has evaluated the potential of serious effects from global warming and discounted the worst scenarios.

This is a huge pity. For the world. China gets 70% of its energy from coal today. Their current building program will have that percentage drop... to 65% by 2035.

Sadly, during the interim their energy production will double... twice...

Hence the proper concern about future climate, sadly dissipated by hysteria over non-existent Xtreme Weather, non-disappearing ice, non-disappearing polar bears and other manifestations of the Orwellian will to power evidenced by green lobbyists (and blog commenters) across this marvelous globe.

[Oh dear. You are being silly -W]

But back to China. They do want to move away from coal--they're not stupid. They can see out their windows at the Mancunian hell they've created in their cities. But they can't afford to switch energy sources without Western help.Hence their renewed (and somewhat hypocritical) interest in mitigating climate change.

Right thing, wrong reasons--first time that's ever happened.

Let's sign more deals and piss off more Republicans! That's what America needs! But perhaps let's learn a bit more about China. Big place. Lots of things happening...

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 14 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom C is a little thin on thought, to say nothing of schools of them, but I suppose his idiocy is evident enough to not distract passers-by.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 14 Nov 2014 #permalink

Silly how?

[Oh, the whole tone. "the Orwellian will to power evidenced by green lobbyists" is pure self-indulgence. You're writing in a way that gives anyone who doesn't feel like agreeing with you the perfect excuse to dismiss what you write as ranting -W]

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

> [Or would that be unpopular? -W]

If the right goes too far in their campaign against environmental regulations and other popular things, they risk losing the seats they won in the last elections, especially in blue states and swing states.

[That's kinda what I meant. But its interesting, no? The right is happy to fulminate about job-killing green taxes and so on, but they aren't stupid - they know that some of this stuff is popular.

> [I thought the EPA decision to regulate CO2 was surprising, and even more that the court upheld it. I happen to approve of lower CO2, but I also think this pretty clearly wasn't part of the original meaning of the act -W]

The law in question is the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the standard is emissions that endanger human health and welfare. The CAA has a section that specifically allows new pollutants to be added if the EPA decides or if an interested party petitions for the EPA to do so. Once the endangerment finding shows a substance to be harmful, regulating the substance is automatically triggered.

This is what happened in EPA v Mass. The conservative judges' main contention was the issue of standing (the right to sue), particularly because the harm was not imminent and too speculative, and the relief asked for was not enough to solve the problem. Without the ability to appear in court, the plaintiffs had to accept the EPA's decision not to regulate.

Stevens, the swing vote in that case and a state's rights advocate, bucked the trend to reduce access to the courts, mostly because the main parties suing were states.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

> Joseph O'Sullivan
> what happened in EPA v Mass.
> Without the ability to appear in court, the plaintiffs [would
> have] had to accept the EPA’s decision not to regulate.
Got that right.

> [I thought the EPA decision to regulate CO2 was
> surprising, and even more that the court upheld it....
Got that backwards.

Read the first few lines of that sum it up for you:
"... EPA seriously suggested that CO2 doesn't make people sick, and makes plants grow, so it was a good thing, not a pollutant.
EPA further argued that even if they did have the authority to regulate greenhouse gasses, it was within EPA's discretion to choose which pollutants to regulate, and they chose not to.
EPA felt that other laws designed to improve fuel economy were good enough.
The States (led by Massachusetts) sued the EPA to force them to begin regulating greenhouse gases...."

Remember who was President in 2007? The EPA at the time took the denial stance -- to paraphrase: "it ain't happening, and if it is happening it won't matter, and if we did anything the rest of the world would relax and do nothing." The states sued and, by a 5 to 4 decision in the Supreme Court, the EPA was told yes, you do have to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act.

Then the banks sucked the economy dry, the politics changed and changed and changed, the states went ahead and tried leading in several different directions, and here we are at the vector sum of all that progress, which seems to be approximately zero, zero, zero. Or maybe progress.

This is akin to when several states and the big electric utility companies and environmental groups all got together and sued the Dep't of Energy because the DOE (again, look who was president) set energy inefficiency standards for big electric grid ("liquid-immersed distribution") transformers). That is they set the efficiency standard very low, to build in decades of inefficiency and waste (or to guarantee the base longterm market for coal) for electric generation -- as the whole industry is just now replacing all the last generation of old inefficient transformers

(Aside: remember solar flares? That's what blows those old utility transformers, the cheap ones fail easily, and the liquid coolant used in the old ones is PCBs so swapping them out a disposal toxics issue too)).

It's back and forth. Get a law saying do something smart; get a President saying gee duh wossat?; get a regulator saying right you are Mr. President; get a lawsuit saying do something smart; get a judge to rule.

Sometimes the system works, sorta.

Might be better with a Queen, but we ruled that out.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

I heard that the "one-man truth squad" Senator Inhofe, who believes climate change to be "the second-largest hoax ever played on the American people, after the separation of church and state" has now replaced Boxer as head of the environmental committee. Of course, 2nd largest doesn't sell books so he titled his "The Greatest Hoax".

Well Steve Bloom, if I intentionally distorted what you wrote you could spend some energy pointing out how. Instead you whined to William that he did not censor me.

Long ago I learned to tune out after pseudo-intellectual locutions like "..let us not fail to observe" and pompous claptrap like "This behavior seems to fit well with both Confucianism and the official Marxist (aka “scientific socialism”) ideology".

Please, Steve Bloom, dip into the vast reservoir of your learning and explain how Confucianism and Marxism are so crucial for producing engineers who "respect" climate scientists.

If you don't want snark then don't write such [redacted -W].

[Meh. Lets not turn this into a slanging match, please, just because this is a politics post -W]

"That’s kinda what I meant. But its interesting, no? The right is happy to fulminate about job-killing green taxes and so on, but they aren’t stupid – they know that some of this stuff is popular."

The right isn't stupid, but they have to satisfy their base and appeal to moderates at the same time. Romney didn't run on his record as a moderate Republican governor. He had to get nominated by the far right by saying how conservative he was. In the process he lost the center and the election to Obama.

The right, since Regan, has made an issue of getting rid of environmental laws and regulations, with little success. The US public as a whole favors environmental protection.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Gee, Tommy F., that was a lot of seeming disagreement just to come around to agreement with my basic point.

So the Standing Committee has one engineer and one person with a physical science degree, still a lot compared to e.g. the people at the very top of U.S. politics, but note that I made a broader statement than that (i.e. that the leadership and upper bureaucracy have lots of engineers). That said, I'm sure you're right that there aren't as many engineers in the top layers as there used to be.

Maybe you can explain to Tom C how Chinese policy is a consequence of a reasonable degree of respect for science combined with a perception of self-interest that extends beyond the next few years, and that these qualities are remarkable not for their presence in the Chinese leadership but for their relative absence in that of the U.S. Good luck with that.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom C, constructive engagement isn't possible with someone who's incapable of stepping back from ranting for long enough to compare what I actually wrote with how it got restated in 15.

But what the heck, try one to start: Explain how Obama deciding to exercise his authority under the Clean Air Act is fascist. In doing so, please make sure to refer to the Constitution. the Supreme Court CO2 ruling mentioned upthread, and the actual definition of fascism.

Consider this challenge [redacted. Behave -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Fair enough, William, but let's say we let you be the judge of the adequacy of his response.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Steve Bloom - It was wonderful that Obama got to go play "dress-up" with Mr. Jinping. But this "historic agreement" is a non-binding piece of paper. China, which (despite having had enlightened engineers in power) has refused to go along with any emissions agreement until now. Now why do you think they suddenly changed their tune? Maybe because they realize that they have a real air pollution problem and that it is in their self-interest to start reducing reliance on coal and move to nuclear (with token other renewables thrown in).

So, from the China side, at least, this "historic agreement" is just cynical - smart domestic policy being paraded as cooperative foreign policy.

From the US side, you are technically right about the EPA being granted some sort of regulatory power over CO2 emissions. Remember that the burden of the regs having to be based on an analysis of threat to human health or well-being. I think that is an extremely difficult burden and would be ripe for legal challenge. But, even so, nothing has been implemented, just proposed, and the numbers Obama threw around are much bigger than is possible with proposed EPA regs. So, new laws would be needed.

When the EPA regs get implemented and everyone's utility bills skyrocket, followed by the new regs that would be required, the Republican congress will start passing laws to cripple and block implementation whenever possible. And finally, there is the purse string angle.

[With slightly different language, I largely agree, except for the bits about harm - we clearly disagree about how much GW there is and will be. So I think under both your and my interpretations, what happens is, stuff is done under the EPA regs, and what matters is then how people react. If the people hate it, the Repubs pass laws; if they don't, they don't -W]

In the end, none of that will happen. The Repubs probably have enough tools to block even the current EPA proposals.

"Fascist" was probably an intemperate word in my first comment. But "un-democratic" for sure applies.

Cripes Weasel, all we have to do is change CFC to CO2 and it's the same 1990s crap all over again. Laissez les bons temps rouler! China rules.

[The comparison of CO2 now to CFCs then is an old one; we've both seen it all -W]

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

#37 (Tom C)

The EPA is not just granted regulatory power, it is mandated under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2. There are no valid challenges to the endangerment finding. In law there are not unlimited challenges. The Supreme Court has already ruled on it.

Republicans have been talking about rolling back environmental protection since the laws were passed nearly fifty years ago. It is not going to happen. The costs of environmental regulations have been overstated by the right from the beginning. The true alarmists are the Republicans when they talk about the costs. The National Academy of Science was tasked by Congress with looking at the costs and benefits of the CAA, and found that there are substantial financial benefits.

The CAA is simply a codification of nuisance common law cases. Nuisance was part of the US's laws since the nation's birth. It is a democratically passed law and allows ample opportunities for public participation. The fact that it hasn't been weakened is validation of democracy. When a popular law stands for as long as the CAA has, it's democracy at work.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

> [Oh, the whole tone. "the Orwellian will to power evidenced by green lobbyists" is pure self-indulgence. You're writing in a way that gives anyone who doesn't feel like agreeing with you the perfect excuse to dismiss what you write as ranting -W]

Those who don't feel like agreeing with me don't bother at looking what I write, unless they need a tag. The name's enough.

However, I don't think what I wrote approached hyperbole. Bill McKibben, Lewandowsky, Peter Gleick--throw those puppies overboard and half the skeptic blogs go out of existence, having nothing further to discuss. Persuade Mann, Eli Rabett and a few other to just shut the **** up and another lot go silent.

[You name no names as to who would go silent; as usual, you're happy to attack the Light Side but easy on the Dark Side. I don't think you're right; but unless you're prepared to name the nutters who'll shut up, its all a bit cheap, no? -W]

There are rational skeptics out there, as well as a bunch of loons. They are not carrying signs protesting James Hansen or even Kevin Trenberth. As I've written many times, there was a rush to the stage to grab the microphone by a host of unqualified and unpleasant people desperate for fame. This pushed the science and scientists into the background.

[Err, well, I agree with your last two sentences. But we're thinking about different people -W]

Because they were unqualified they made a hash of things. Because they made a hash of things it increased the number of skeptics and the vehemence of the arguments.

And brought a lot of fools on the skeptic side and partisan politics into the game as well.

So the fools on your side hate the fools on the skeptic side and 99% of the conversation is between or about them.

[Pushing "false balance" is characteristic of the Dark Side -W]

I take comfort in the knowledge that there are sane commenters for the consensus position such as Andrew Adams and sane commenters for the skeptic side such as TonyB. Sadly, even sane bloggers get quickly pushed into a corner and are characterized as being part of Team A or Team B within days.

[Ah! A name. Almost. "TonyB" is a sane voice on the "skeptic" side. An anon one, I presume. But you've not given me enough to find him - there must be many folk on the net with that handle. Come on, be specific, point me to some of his stuff -W]

Green lobbyists are a part of the consensus communication problem. 'We know where you live.' 'No Pressure.' Polar bears falling from the sky. ad absurdium.

What's worse than their nonsense about climate change is their policy positions on energy provision to the third world. And you know this. Literally fighting to prevent construction of coal power plants in the developing world...

I don't pretend to know China well after a year and a half. Hell, my business partner says he doesn't know China well and he was born and has lived here his whole life.

But I do know that China is desperate to stop conventional pollution and they don't care how the solution is dressed up. If you want to call it fighting climate change they will nod solemnly and take any help that comes along with the nod.

They shut Beijing down for the APEC summit, just as they did for the Olympics. It knocks points off their GDP. And they learn both the obvious lessons from that.

[It certainly seems likely to me that the Chinese will be forced to act on commonplace smog-type pollution first -W]

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom C

Basically you are saying that China will reduce pollutants without any agreement with BHO by replacing coal with nuke because their burgeoning middle class is getting tired of living in a modern version of 1950's LA: basically, the Ramanathan "no regrets" policy.

The crime is that politicians are using this natural evolution as an excuse for making a big splash historic agreement to get the proles excited.

WTF is your issue besides an apparent naive schoolboy George Washington Cherry Tree view of international relations?

Tom C The second half of your hissy fit assumes that the US can't meet the targets without diminishing Goldman Sachs's vig. Fracking has already got the US to Kyoto. Why do you disparage the ingenuity of the American people and our brilliant immigrants clamoring to cash in?

This is an education. I particularly benefited from Steve Bloom's civilized discussion in comments over at CapitalistImperialistPig (repeat link:)…

That first cartoon does summarize what we will get even if we thought we voted for something else. In the rarefied atmosphere of Cambridge (or any bastion of old-world learning) the realities of how teenage hatred of school and cultivation of popularity are now being invoked to good effect might seem improbable, but it is so. We've always had a strong anti-egghead bias, but now knowing stuff means we are "arrogant". Off with our heads (literally, as arms are being stockpiled at an astonishing rate, and nobody dares to suggest that this is not a good idea).

On the whole, for whatever reason, it makes sense that China and the US team up to think about reducing emissions. SkepticalScience covers it here:…

WMC, you make a lot of sense a lot of the time, but you have an imperfect idea of the midden of American politics. Consider Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, among others. We have done ourselves a lot of harm by shooting at each other, preferring rational opponents to the shiny slimy wall of fear and hatred and xenophobia, and not accepting Obama's best, which is often pretty good. The Republicans would not have failed to mention all the good things that have been accomplished in the last six years.

By Susan Anderson (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

It's pretty clear that history will be much kinder to Barack Obama than his present audience. He has done a lot of good. If he manages to close Gitmo and strengthen the stand against torture he will have accomplished everything I hoped he would do when I voted for him. Not a bad 8 years, Republican propaganda notwithstanding.

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Thanks, Susan.

And thanks, Joseph and Howard. Tom C, that you don't like it doesn't make it undemocratic. You need an analysis demonstrating that the the term applies to Obama's enforcement of the Congressionally-approved Clean Air Act and the associated Supreme Court order that such be undertaken. So do try again.

Tommy F., you need to look at the climate projections for China. Not pretty. They need CO2 to come down. Not as desperately as wanting to fix their air pollution problem, but desperately enough, plus an international agreement to seriously reduce CO2 makes it possible for them to move forward without economically disadvantaging themselves relative to the rest of the world. Re nukes, aren't these the same people that cornered the solar panel market and much of the wind turbine one too? They seem rather well-positioned to be their own best customer.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

It is nice to see Obama shirtfront Abbott over climate while Putin looks on. Occasionally there is some poetic justice in the world.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

TBC, that was Tom C's comment about nukes, which I should have made a separate paragraph. I suspect Tommy F. knows better, not that China won't be building plenty of nukes until large-scale storage becomes competitive. My guess is about five years for that.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Eli must remember to include Tom Fullermanations in his next set of orders to Lew, Peter and whatshisname. Good times Weasel you bring out the best in the worst.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Bloom, I've been looking at energy and climate in China for years.

They intend to bring two nuke power plants online every year for the next 20 years. And it won't change the percentage of energy produced by coal. They are building (or have recently brought online) about 180 dams for hydro---and it still won't change the percentage of energy produced in China by coal.

Because some silly governments slapped tariffs on their solar power modules, China is buying them for internal use at an astonishing rate. And it still won't change their percentage of energy produced by coal.

They really want to go green. The environment is a pressing concern among Chinese citizens, to the extent that it is one of several threats to the stability of the government. But they can't cut off access to energy to the 252 million people who have migrated to the city from the farm, let alone the 450 million who will do so in the next two decades.

The math doesn't work.

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

Yep, China is throwing everything at the wall for now. It will be interesting to see the details of their plan for peaking emissions at 2030. But the "or earlier" attached to that is I suspect entirely because of expectations about reduced cost. Cost-competitive large-scale storage will change the math, in particular for coal and nukes (baseload). Speed the day.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 15 Nov 2014 #permalink

TonyB comments frequently at Curry's. That's one of the few skeptic blogs I can see through the Great Firewall.

[Well, I asked you for a speific example, and you didn't provide one, so I looked at Climate Etc and found this: Whole branches of science have developed to support unlikely measurements. Tree rings, sediments, boreholes are all ones that should have been laughed out of court.... So, no, sorry: he's just yet another nutter -W]

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Read more carefully.

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Yes, the good humor shines through.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

"all ones that should have been laughed out of court"

I see a lot of comments, mostly from the contrarians, about how science is used by the US courts. It's usually about how the science proving AGW would never stand up in a legal proceeding. The anti-regulations crowd has many misconceptions about how the courts work and the fact that climate science has already been tested in legal proceedings.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

I went and found the TonyB comment, Tommy. It's even worse in context, essentially an argument from personal incredulity. But by all means bring on your more careful reading.

Shifting gears, a question: Do you have any info on China's plans (if any) for an HVDC grid?

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

"If the people hate it, the Repubs pass laws; if they don't, they don't"

And if they do, Obama vetos them. Obviously he has to be willing to stick to his guns, but the range of issues he'a acted on or said he will act on (not just climate change, but immigration, net neutrality and probably some others I'm forgetting) make it seem like there's a careful strategy that won't be casually abandoned.

On a purely political level, that strategy is aimed at 2016. I don't really see a downside to taking steps that will tend to please large parts of the Democratic base.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Joseph and Steve -

Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant in any normal sense of the word. It is definitely not a pollutant in the sense that those who passed the Clean Air Act intended.

Likewise, those who passed the bill expected that the EPA would set limits based on well-understood science that could unambiguously link the emission of a chemical to a concrete health effect. They did not intend the EPA to be calculating limits based on where a shoreline might be or not be 100 years from now.

There is no way that those who passed the CAA intended a president to set emission limits as part of secret negotiations with another country.

Our present situation resulted from dishonest verbal and political slight of hand. The CAA is a law, but so was the Volstead Act. Hopefully it can be amended in a sensible way that would keep the parts that are justified and agreed on by a clear majority of the public.

Steve Bloom - You and the Rabett are trying to advance a narrative, as are very many on the left these days, that the Chinese are embracing alarmist climate science because they are so enlightened about science and have such an effective political system. Sorry, this is base propaganda.

Funny how when those on my side of this issue claim that CAGW advocacy is an excuse for far left political advocacy we get dismissed (see WIlliam above re Fuller) as being paranoid John Birchers. But then we get the constant glorification of the authoritarian Chinese regime and you claiming that Marxism imparts a superior understanding of science.

If you don't want to get accused of being communists quit talking like communists.

Howard -

You are right about fracking being the driving force behind current reduction of emissions. Ironic that this was accomplished by the villains (fossil fuels industry) while the heroes (progressive government types) did everything they could to discourage it.


Isn't the last 2-years of an 8-year presidency about legacy at this stage for Obama? Pleasing the base is a double edged sword and his use of it is more about his place in history rather than the 2016 election. That said, all the republican presidential hopefuls have either the obvious stink of huckster or the stereotypical looks and mannerisms of pederasts.

#58 (Tom C)

From EPA v Massachusetts 549 U.S. 497 (2007):
"The Act defines “air pollutant” to include “any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical, biological, radioactive . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air.” §7602(g). “Welfare” is also defined broadly: among other things, it includes “effects on. . . weather . . . and climate.” §7602(h)."

No need to go into Congressional mind reading because it's there in writing in the Clean Air Act.

If a clear majority of public doesn't like the Clean Air Act, let Congress amend it. The Republicans have tried it under Bush Jr, and the attempt was so ham handed and transparently a sop to polluters it became a joke on Jay Leno and other late night talk shows.

What does prohibition (Volstead Act) have to do with clean air anyway?

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Over 500K people die each year in China from coal fired air pollution. Life expectancy in northern china is down by 5.5 years because of coal fired air pollution.

Tell Eli again how this is all a communist plot.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

The leaders of China don't care about the dead--they're just statistics. It's the living that worry them.

Tom C, I am to the left of anyone commenting here, including the blog owner. I have no problem with the EPA undertaking regulation of agents contributing to climate change.

I just want them to do it correctly.

By Thomas Fuller (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom C:

We live in the ironic universe, so get used to it and learn to go with it. If the US can't solve the problem by the BHO deadline, we will default on the agreement. Just ask the Native Americans if you doubt our willingness to be "indian-givers". How's that for irony?

Tom C, can a relative give you a basic dictionary for Xmas?

I said: "This behavior seems to fit well with both Confucianism and the official Marxist (aka “scientific socialism”) ideology", behavior being "respect(ing) what the climate scientists are saying."

Which you interpreted as: "you claiming that Marxism imparts a superior understanding of science."

Note that one can respect a view and follow advice without oneself having much of a grasp of the details. Get it now?

And hey, why elide the reference to Confucianism?

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Quite right re the living, Tommy, but they have a tendency to get upset about their path to being dead smoothed. People also get oddly sentimental about their immediately former relatives.

TomC has apparently missed the considerable extent to which Obama has been cheerleading for fracking.

Howard, just so about the legacy, but I think Obama believes these executive actions will help with the 2016 outcome, which will in turn become part of his legacy.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tommy C, I forgot my promise to ignore you until you justified the "undemocratic" claim. Nothing so far. How's that coming?

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 16 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom Fuller appears to forget that the dead have relatives but then again concept was never his thing.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

You know what what's really alarmist... Panicking about raising power bills for greening the economy. To pay for their energy transition Germans pay about 6 euro cents per kWh. Not taking into account any benefits, such as efficiency subsidies, merit order effect, improved health etc, that costs the average four person household less than € 220/year. Less than one euro person per week.

So when we hear you lot across the Pond whining about the cost, you might understand why respect for you is not our first reaction.

By turboblocke (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

Good grief "Eli" can't you read? The Chinese don't want to move away from coal in order to save lives. Bloom already told us it was to reduce their carbon emissions and thereby impress the citizens of sub-Saharan Africa.


What the whinging is about is the irrational fear that US energy decarbonization will be modeled after the EU bureaucratic regulation by fiat. I admit this is alarmist because it would be political suicide over here.

In addition, the energy alarmism is a natural human response to the irrational climate alarmism.

The trick now is to unwind all of this political wreckage and develop a program that is doable. Think compromise and incrementalism.

/Tommy C

[Um, OK, but you have to live up to it -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

Steve Bloom -

OK, now I am really confused. Apparently Marxism imparts the ability to "respect a view and follow advice without oneself having much of a grasp of the details." Whatever. I think you are trying to wiggle out.

I did purposely avoid mention of the Confucianism angle for the excellent reason that I have very little knowledge of how it influences the practice of science. Not pontificating about things one doesn't know is a practice you might want to adopt. No doubt you are currently holding forth somewhere in the blogosphere about how Confucious once said "A gentleman does not doubt climate scientists, even if their models are worthless".

I said that progressives have done everything they could to discourage fracking, not Obama.

My comment #58, 3rd paragraph dealt with why Obama's actions were undemocratic.

Disagree, Howard. We see the same responses operating across too many unrelated issues for it to be anything specific to climate/energy. And most Americans have little awareness of anything at all going on in Yurp (somewhat mutual, as the OP evidences).

But it's important for people who are trying to pay attention to understand the main lessons from Yurpeen climate/energy policy. These are 1) that the EU carbon market was screwed up by allowing fossil fuel interests to game its initial design, and 2) the Germans and some other countries are independently moving ahead. On the latter, note the recent Danish announcement of a 100% goal and the German shift to reducing a lot more coal than had been planned (the proof will be in the December 3rd pudding, but the tea leaves could be read in an obvious way when the new government put Greens -- not part of the governing coalition -- in key positions of influence over the process). Mmm, tea leaf pudding. Germans have a lot of respect for scientists too, and their leader actually is one.

"irrational climate alarmism"

Good luck with that, in both senses.

Compromise and incrementalism are precisely the approach Obama took in his first six years. His reward was a deepening loss of Congressional seats. Early days, but he seems to have learned his lesson, the desire for a credible legacy doubtless being a chief reason therefor. Also, and this is what has driven people like me nuts for the last six years, Obama's informal public statements on climate make it perfectly clear that he understands the nature of the problem. Better late than never for his actions to come into line with that understanding.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

I will do my best to persevere, William. I should have known better than to even start.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

and another hat tip, this one to:
________quote follows________

Even a large majority among scientists is such an exceedingly tiny minority of the general population that it is not worth paying attention for most people (including politicians and decision makers).

In the end, telling stories is usually more successful than arguing using data and models. Indeed, after the conference, I was told that the economist in the double breasted suit is a very influential person and that people high up in the government often ask him for advice in energy matters. Evidently, he can tell a good story.

Not all good stories have a good ending, but good stories can always teach us something. So, what can we learn from this one? One is that we have been doing everything wrong with the idea of using data in order to convince people of the reality of such things as peak oil and human caused climate change. Yes, it is possible to gently nudge people's beliefs in the right direction if we find ways to expose them for some time to the data and to their interpretation. But the kind of commitment we can obtain in this way is weak and ineffective. It is easily destroyed by even the most brutal and primitive propaganda methods: casting scientists as the bad guys of the story works wonders: as spin doctors themselves confess, "playing ugly pays".

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

Hmm, busy guy. Actually this is pretty impressive for a guy with almost no science credentials. A (former) lab tech with a liking for ferns and guns, from the look of it.

It would be interesting to see the submerged portion of this particular iceberg.

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

I notice that the consulting firm has an 800 number, which would imply bottom feeding, that Luongo runs something called a Resolute Wealth Letter and is an expert in gold and international currency, both traditional feeding grounds for scammers, all of which starts to focus the picture. He's a-gatherin' names of marks via a trust-gaining exercise.

But that's a very ungenerous interpretation, and as William has proven, proven I tell you, that lefties (like me, albeit not as left as TF) just can't understand such people, nothwithstanding having in my case grown up among them, maybe he has a better explanation.

[In this case I think you're entirely likely to be correct. His arguments are just the same recycled stuff, prefixed by some unbelievable spy nonsense, so I think bozo harvesting is the most likely explanation -W]

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

On the question if Obama can meet the treaty obligations under the Clean Air Act:

"The Obama Administration already has the legal authority to achieve the reductions agreed to. Most of the reductions will be achieved through the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pending set of national performance standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions from future and existing fossil-fueled power plants."…

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

by the way, since you bring it up:

----quote follows ----
... socialism, it has a long history of being used by the reactionary right as a smear. In fact, that history pre-dates the Civil War. History blogger Matt Karp searched the Congressional record and found the very first instance that the word “socialism” was uttered in Congress. He found that the first time anyone used the phrase was when a North Carolinian congressman used it to attack opponents of slavery:

As far as I can make out, the first reference to “socialism” on the floor of Congress came from North Carolina representative Abraham Venable in July 1848. During a debate over the Wilmot Proviso, Venable indulged himself in a familiar litany of destructive Northern manias, which ranged from “the wicked schemes of Garrison” to “the wild excesses of Millerism, and of Latter-Day Saints, the abominations of Socialism, and of Fourieriesm … and all the numerous fanaticisms which spring up and flourish in their free soil…” […] This kind of pro-slavery, anti-Northern rant was the context for most mentions of “socialism” in Congress during the next several years.

As Karp notes, the “socialism” smear continued to rear its head during the next year leading up to the Emancipation Proclamation, as pro-slavery advocates warned that if abolitionists succeeded in ending the South's ownership of human beings, they may soon also end private ownership of massive industries like banking.

After the end of slavery, conservatives continued to invoke socialism to oppose all kinds of progressive reforms. In the early 20th century, the Congress, prodded by what was indeed an independent socialist movement and various other labor forces, banned child labor. But after the Supreme Court struck down the ban, arguing it violated state's rights, Congress debated a constitutional amendment to ban the practice instead (which required a larger threshold of votes to pass). One senator who opposed to the ban claimed that the child labor amendment was really about placing socialism “into the flesh and blood of Americans.”

When Franklin Roosevelt (under whom the previously mentioned ban on child labor finally went through and was not struck down by a conservative Supreme Court) advocated for the Social Security system, the American Medical Association (AMA) opposed his push, saying that he was trying to enact a “compulsory socialistic tax.”

One of the most prominent uses of the socialism smear was when Lyndon Johnson was pushing for the enactment of Medicare, the single-payer health insurance system for the elderly. Ronald Reagan, then a prominent actor and not a politician, appeared in audio recordings for the AMA Operation Coffee Cup – which organized Americans to oppose the health care push. “One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people is by way of medicine,” warned Reagan in the advertisement.

All of this begs the question: if all of these major reforms that are today virtually uncontroversial – few ever call for the total abolition of Medicare and Social Security, or for re-instating child labor or slavery – were decried as socialism, maybe socialism isn't so bad after all?
-----end quote -----…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 17 Nov 2014 #permalink

Mal Adapted -

OK, I'll play along. I'm a member of the GOP base. Can I assume you are a member of the shallow, clueless Democratic base pictured in the cartoon?

#74 Anyone who thinks that regulations in the EU are imposed by fiat has no idea of the way the EU functions. Proposed legislation starts with the Council of Ministers which consists of elected representatives from the member states and finishes with the European Parliament consisting of elected members from the member states.

As SB said in #77 of is possible to go it alone like Germany and Denmark. But for that you need a well educated and well informed population and less of the "Me, me, FU" attitude.

Less than a dollar per person per week and the supposed most advanced country in the world is doing bugger all. You really should be ashamed of yourselves.

By turboblocke (not verified) on 18 Nov 2014 #permalink

turboblocke, quite a lot of EU legislation is by fiat. Almost all of it starts with the unelected European Commission*, not the (double or triple arms-length representatively democratic) Council of Ministers, as you said, and various procedures allow the Commission to impose legislation across the EU without approval by the Council, the European Parliament or national parliaments. E.g. last year's ban on neonicotinoids went through despite two inconclusive votes by SCoFCAH, a committee of national experts that sort of represents the Council of Ministers. Neither the EP nor national parliaments had a chance to veto it. (The EP would've imposed a ban if it could've - indeed it probably would have banned frowning at bees or saying nasty things about them even when out of earshot - but it doesn't yet have those powers.) Some of the EU's decarbonization legislation will have been fiated in similar ways - not the big headline stuff like the overall 2020 or 2030 targets, which came from the Commission but were approved by the Council and the EP, but ways of getting there like allowable emissions for new cars, boiler regs, and so on.

As for Germany, it's bizarre to suggest that it is somehow leading the way towards a low-carbon future. It remains what it has always been - the biggest gross emitter of GHGs in the EU and the biggest per capita emitter among the large member states - and it shows no sign of relinquishing those titles any time soon. Here are per cap all-GHG emissions for the six largest from 2000 to 2012:…

Adding 2013 emissions (available at Global Carbon Atlas; only for fossil fuel CO2; URLs for pre-configured graphs not available) shows that it's on an upward path again.

If Germany is leading the way, it's doing so from the rear. And making a hash of it.

Finally, your less than a dollar per person per week. I assume you're referring back to your comment about German households paying 6 eurocents per kWh for the renewables surcharge. You presented that as peanuts, but it comes out as 20% of the average household bill. That's only peanuts in the way that paying 20% more for an essential service can ever be peanuts: not peanuts for most people.

*It'll be interesting to see what transport proposals come out of the Commission now that it has a transport commissioner who believes in perpetual motion.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 18 Nov 2014 #permalink

turboblocke - I pay about 8 eurocents per kWh right now. Not clear why you think 6 is such a small number. Do you have difficulties with calculations?

Turbobloke, you are right the EU is a perfect example of common sense approach to rule making.

However, your repeated scolding is a sign of irrational emotionalism. I hear they have wonderful pills for that now-a-days.



Toxicology is a fuzzy science. The states and the feds can't agree on common exposure factors. The USEPA acute exposure factors are typically significanlly lower than OSHA/NIOSH numbers. Having been exposed myself to VOCs below the OSHA levels and getting nasty headaches and nausea, the worker safety numbers probably way too high. I've lost two friends over the last few years to renal cell carcinoma who worked with chlorinated solvents. Don't know if it's related, but it does give one pause.

Tom C: 'I pay about 8 eurocents per kWh right now.'

Yikes. That's gotta change.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 18 Nov 2014 #permalink

Tom C:

Can I assume you are a member of the shallow, clueless Democratic base pictured in the cartoon?

Nope. I'm the wrong gender, the wrong age, I don't have a facebook account, and I voted.

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 18 Nov 2014 #permalink

"... California’s Supreme Court struck down an ordinance banning fortune-telling nearly three decades ago, deeming it an unconstitutional violation of free speech. According to the court’s ruling, an astrologist who is hired to predict the future has just as much right to charge for his or her services as does a stock picker or political pollster. While the ruling applies only in California, a handful of other courts have since followed suit in response to claims brought by fortune-tellers and the American Civil Liberties Union. They, along with advocacy groups like the Association for Astrological Networking, hold that the U.S. Supreme Court’s consistent opposition to prior restraint means that blanket bans on fortune-telling should hold no weight under the Constitution...."…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 18 Nov 2014 #permalink

"[Facebook] announced yesterday that it was shutting down a feature that the Obama campaign used in 2012 to register over a million voters." -- slashdot…
"the company believes that its efforts led to an additional 600,000 voters casting their ballot. (Professor Jonathan Zittrain reminds us that the contested 2000 presidential election came down to only 537 votes in Florida)."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 19 Nov 2014 #permalink

Vinny, those stats, as you know, are entirely a consequence of Germany deciding to get rid of their nukes first. Go back and un-melt Fukushima and I'm sure they'd be happy to reconsider. Also, why pick three especially recession-hit countries to compare? I think we know the answer to that. Anyway, the Germans are well aware that their emissions reductions have suffered in relative terms. (A graph giving them credit for the nuke reductions would look rather different, wouldn't it?) Their decision on how to deal with that is due December 3rd. We shall see soon enough.

BTW, are you a fan of Cameron's effort to stick that expensive new nuke down the throat of subsequent governments?

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 19 Nov 2014 #permalink

Oh, hey, democracy in action:

"Despite the debate in Congress over proposed EPA regulations, a solid majority of Americans (67%) support setting strict carbon dioxide emission limits on existing coal-fired power plants to reduce global warming and improve public health. Respondents were told that power plants would have to reduce their emissions and/or invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and that the cost of electricity to consumers and companies would likely increase."

By Steve Bloom (not verified) on 19 Nov 2014 #permalink


Not to piss on your boots, but those numbers are squishy. Of the 67%, 44% "somewhat support the question. These are the Reagan democrats and the Clinton republicans required to get shit done. The some they support is not likely (IMO) the increased cost. Que the morals police with another banal guilt-trip.

The congressional repubs can easily and convincingly (using the recent Keystone vote as a strawman whipping boy) gin up the coal conversion costs to swing enough of the 44% back to their fold.

I voted for Obama twice thinking he was as smart at Bubba without the sleaze. My mistake. Our only hope is for Hillary to broker deals with the darker side. We will all have to eat our own sacred cows to get something done.

Steve Bloom, I picked those six countries solely because they are the EU's six most populous. What do 'we' want in there? Plucky little Malta?

Nuclear: Cameron's govt cocked up the Hinkley deal. They weren't helped by the previous govt's shilly-shallying but the main blame must be with the people who signed the deal. They panicked.

By Vinny Burgoo (not verified) on 19 Nov 2014 #permalink

Planet Gore cartoonist in residence Henry Payne has once again distinguished himself by observing :

Today’s full-size pickups are modern marvels: Comfortable, quiet, as capable as a Swiss Army knife, as durable as Bill Cosby.

[That's not irony, is it? -W]

#106 Tom C

The article you linked to is a Bloomberg news article. The power industry advocacy group is the one claiming that the regs "will boost power prices by as much as 25 percent". The EPA regulation in question is EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards which are trying to reduce the known health problems to people.

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 20 Nov 2014 #permalink

Another opinion on the cost and benefits of the reducing GHGs under the Clean Air Act from the mainstream environmental group NRDC:

"The Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to limit carbon pollution from existing power plants just got even better: the proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP) can save the power industry and its customers—us—as much as $2 to $4 billion in 2020 and $6 to 9 billion in 2030, while cleaning our air and modernizing the electricity sector."…

By Joseph O'Sullivan (not verified) on 20 Nov 2014 #permalink

Read the amended Clean Air Act (1990). Greenhouse gases are specifically mentioned as being regulated. Al Gore, that person people love to hate, is a smart cookie. He, under the advice of James Hansen, specifically worked to get that into the law. Republicans rejected science then as they do now and thought it would come to nothing and so didn't object. Read Title VI of the 1990 Clean Air Act. Greenhouse gases are specifically regulated. Congress did this, not the courts. The supreme court simply enforced the letter of the law.

I'm amazed at the number of journalists and bloggers who misunderstand this.

That the courts added greenhouse gases to the list of regulated air pollutants is a republican lie that is sopped up like so many other lies.

By Andrew Sipocz (not verified) on 21 Nov 2014 #permalink

that would be #ShirtStorm
That shirt's owner is Matt Taylor, a scientist working on the the Rosetta mission for the ESA

So much for "wear your dreams on your sleeve" I guess.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 21 Nov 2014 #permalink

From the article Tom C linked:

U.S. electricity markets face years of higher prices as clean-air regulations shut more coal-fired power plants than earlier forecast, cutting supply and forcing producers to rely more on natural gas.

Well, it's about goddamn time! One way or another, the climate cost of fossil-carbon energy has to be internalized. A well-designed carbon tax would make so much more sense than piecemeal regulation, but that would require Congress to pull its head out.

The article treats centralized natural gas generation as the alternative to coal, but again blames regulation for impeding new power supplies:

Of the 35,374 megawatts in gas plant projects planned from 2014 through 2020, 75 percent have not started construction, with many still awaiting regulatory approval, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration..

Nothing is said about the obvious 3rd alternative: distributed solar and wind. Let the market speak!

By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 22 Nov 2014 #permalink

Oh, here's one guy's answer to that question:…

"... Robert Jensen, a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center, argues the exact opposite. His recent book, We Are All Apocalyptic Now, opens with the provocative statement that “responsible intellectuals need to think apocalyptically.” He argues that unless we clearly understand and explain the threats confronting humanity in the 21st century, we will not be able to build a movement based on real hope, as opposed to fairy-tale dreams.

“Thinking apocalyptically can help us confront honestly the crises of our time and strategize constructively about possible responses. It’s simply about struggling to understand – to the best of our ability, without succumbing to magical thinking – the conditions within the human family and the state of the ecosphere, and not turning away from the difficult realities we face.”

Jensen’s radicalism is rooted in Christianity, but his argument deserves careful attention from all green-lefts and left-greens. He has kindly granted me permission to post the article below, which summarizes some of the key points made in his book. It originally appeared in the Summer 2013 issue of YES! Magazine.

[That blog seems to be hankering after the good old days of the Soviet Union. Can you really take that stuff seriously? I can't. The specific article you refer to is not useful, I think. Its groping towards something that might be useful, but is too histrionic -W]

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 23 Nov 2014 #permalink

Oh, I don't take a _lot_ of stuff seriously. I point it out nevertheless because, well, it's happening. Never assume because I mention something I am in favor of it happening.

Remember your topic about evil, where I quoted this?

"“A Supreme Court divided along ideological lines said Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge government programs that use tax breaks to direct money to religious activities.

The court ruled 5-4 in favor of an Arizona scholarship program for private schools that has mainly benefited religious schools in offering a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income tax bill of people who participate….”…

We're being stuffed into a handbasket and carried down a steep hill on a road paved with good intentions across a gradient of increasing heat. Just pointing, not recommending.

I like "groping towards something that might be useful, but is too histrionic" -- I'd guess a majority of people will say that about any proposed solution, because from some point of view it will be true.

Let's assume any proposal will meet that criterion and consider whether trying to work with the histrionic is a viable approach.

First we get Joe Romm and, oh, Morano in the same room ....

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 24 Nov 2014 #permalink

House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research
__________quote follows__________
H.R. 1422, which passed 229-191, would shake up the EPA's Scientific Advisory Board, placing restrictions on those pesky scientists and creating room for experts with overt financial ties to the industries affected by EPA regulations. ...
Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., summed up what was going on: “I get it, you don't like science,'' he told bill sponsor Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah. “And you don't like science that interferes with the interests of your corporate clients. But we need science
to protect public health and the environment.'' [...]
[But corporations are people. So, why not put corporations on committees? We would no longer need people who are not corporations. PGN]
------end quote--------

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 25 Nov 2014 #permalink

Thanks for the link, Hank. Heh -- I told Tom C on another thread "it’s not companies as much as individual investors, " but of course companies have their hand in, too.

For me, the pull quote is:

Well, as they say, it’s not paranoia if they really are out to delay, rewrite, or kill off a meaningful effort to reduce the build-up of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere. A Powerpoint (MSFT) deck now being circulated by climate activists—a copy of which was sent to Bloomberg Businessweek—suggests that there is a conspiracy. Or, if you prefer, a highly coordinated, multistate coalition that does not want California to succeed at moving off fossil fuels because that might set a nasty precedent for everyone else.
By Mal Adapted (not verified) on 29 Nov 2014 #permalink

US politics, is it any worse than anywhere else in the world?

"... When Constellation ended, the Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi was in the middle of building a 300-foot tower to test a special engine for the Ares V rocket. Without the rocket, the stand wasn’t needed. Sen. Roger Wicker demanded the tower being built in his state be completed anyway, at a cost of $57 million. NASA’s still paying $1 million in annual maintenance fees...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 30 Nov 2014 #permalink

More from the US Supreme Court:

"The justices let stand an Iowa supreme court ruling .... claims of nuisance, negligence and trespass were not barred by the federal Clean Air Act or related state rules governing air emissions.

. ... business groups [failed in arguing that] regulation of air pollution should be left to state and federal agencies ...."…

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 01 Dec 2014 #permalink…

I'm watching, because I know and respect some of the people working on that, and poking at the variables in the cited
because, well, I don't know of any calculator/simulator tool comparable anywhere else for thinking about this stuff. Kick in the head though these kinds of things are.

"Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”

I'm also bemused by one of their supporters, the felicitously named Minor Foundation for Major Challenges.

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 08 Dec 2014 #permalink

Other politics (one for John Mashey):

Asbestos: An ongoing challenge to global health
What we need to learn from history, according to a new study in the Annals of Global Health

IMAGE: This is a pie chart of global asbestos fiber consumption in 2012.
Click here for more information.

New York, NY, December 8, 2014 - Challenges to global health can evolve from policies and decisions that take years or decades to unfold. An article in the current issue of the Annals of Global Health describes the current state of asbestos use worldwide, a story that began over 100 years ago, and the real and contrived controversies regarding asbestos.
"The now disproven belief that chrysotile asbestos is safe and the actions of the governments of Canada and India to support asbestos production in the face of strong epidemiological data show that this is not a strictly science-driven issue. Canada has recently had a turnabout and will likely exit the asbestos business, but India remains recalcitrant.

Dr. Frank and Dr. Joshi report on how the global spread of asbestos is changing but that there are still examples of flawed science being used to justify continued use. They suggest that, because of economic issues for asbestos producers, there "are far more insidious actions that follow a pattern first established by the tobacco industry in hiring public relations firms to obfuscate the scientific issues so that tobacco could still be sold...Similarly, the asbestos industry adopted the view that a public relations campaign was needed to quash the rising concerns about its health hazards."

The authors caution that eventually the truths regarding asbestos exposure and its true hazards will be recognized and acted upon, but only after economic forces are overcome...."

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 08 Dec 2014 #permalink