Tuesday, February 1, 2011

After This Winter, We're Even More Confused

My former colleague Paul Saunders, executive director of the Nixon Center, and Vaughan Turekian on the international and U.S. domestic political complexities of the climate change issue:
[T]hough they have tried many different arguments, climate advocates have thus far largely failed in making a sufficiently strong case for emissions limits on any basis. While the scientific case for climate change is solid, the “approaching calamity” argument about its expected consequences hasn’t gained traction. This appears partially due to good public relations by climate skeptics (helped recently by foolish and highly-publicized emails among a handful of scientists) and to record-high snowfall throughout the United States in the winter of 2009-10 that was consistent with climate change modeling but confused many Americans.

The moral argument for action to save indigenous peoples, animals, and glaciers is closely related to the calamity argument and often has a greater emotional appeal. However, despite support from some evangelical Christian groups focused on humanity’s stewardship of God’s creation, this has also fallen short.

1 comment:

J.C. Marrero said...

I am confused too. Not because we had a very cold winter here in North Carolina (a fitting bookend to our very hot summer), but because the "apocalypse now" tone of the debate disheartens more than inspires. Is there really anything that can be done at this point or is the genie, not only out of the bottle, but irrevocably dispersed throughout the biosphere?

I remember listening on TV to Pat Moynahan speak of a 1969 conversation with RN in which he relayed the desperate calls from big city mayors telling him that the cities were all expected to burn that summer and that immediate infusion of federal funds was imperative. Nixon asked whether these expenditures would be expected to make a difference to specific cities and was told by PM that the officials he spoke to had indicated that riots could be expected either way. RN told PM to tell these local officials that in that case funds would be expended where they would make a difference. There were no riots that summer, and no extra money spent.

The global warming argument can be so alarming as to induce paralysis. My point is that sometimes the strongest case is not the most desperate.