23 October 2009

President Obama's MIT Speech

I watched President Obama's speech at MIT and here are a few reactions (viewable here for those who did not catch it live). First, the President is clearly not interested in addressing the interests of liberal Democrats on energy and climate change. Obviously the Administration reads polls. I heard the phrase "climate change" only 2 or 3 times and "cap and trade" was nowhere to be found. His endorsement of the Senate climate bill was pretty weak, spending about 20 (50?) times the effort discussing the stimulus package. I will be interested to see how advocates for cap and trade react to the speech. Some environmental groups preemptively protested the speech, such as 350.org which included the box on the right in an ad in today's MIT Student newspaper (pdf).

The most important aspect of the speech is that it shows how things are changing in this debate. Climate policy is rapidly becoming a much larger debate about energy policy, which stands on other legs, like security and economics. Issues about the political significance of who believes what about what on various aspects of climate science will not disappear of course, but will increasingly be relegated to angry corners of the blogosphere, where such debates belong. The evolution of climate policy to decarbonization policy is well underway, and that is a good thing.


  1. Roger,
    That Pew Research poll you referenced also made it clear that most people are not familiar with cap and trade; and that the more people know about the issue the more they are against it.
    If indeed President Obama wants cap and trade to pass, he will try to obfuscate the matter and cover it with emotional appeals.

    Conversely; people who are opposed to the cap and tax bill should try to make it clear to the public what is actually in the bill. With emotion of course.

  2. How fast would Pew’s alleged mere 50% support for CO2 regulation plummet if Obama’s lap dogs in the media bothered to inform American families that -- according to the Obama administration -- Cap and Trade could cost them $2,641 per year?

    History suggests that estimate is probably extremely low.

  3. Via Gateway Pundit:

    The Teleprompter of the United States (TOTUS) punked the President of the United States (POTUS) today at MIT.

    Ruh Roh! Technical glitch at MIT!

  4. The Arctic has melted? Why wasn't I informed of this?

    Seriously, I think Obama knows cap'n'trade doesn't have a prayer. Here in Nebraska, we've had the coldest early October on record. Half the state has already had heavy snow, and most of the corn is still in the fields; it's been too wet and/or snowy to get it in. If/when they do, it'll be damp and spoil quickly. The farmers are about to take a big hit after what looked like a promising year. Think Senator Nelson, the Democrats' 60th and most doubtful vote, will vote to hike fuel and fertilizer prices to combat a warming planet, in a year when the ag. economy will likely be crippled by the cold and wet?

  5. If you want to make everyone really mad consider these three aspects of the bill
    1. This was supposed to raise hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue for the government but since 85% of the allocations were given away, that won't happen.
    2. The environmentallist are not happy because it does not apprecialbly reduce carbon emmisions.
    3. Wall Street however is anticipating great fortune at trading in a $3 Trillion dollar market for carbon offsets.
    I guess congress doe not think $140 billion in bonuses is enough for the investment bankers on Wall Street.

  6. All in the name of some unproven hypothesis at best. I can only dream what a world it would be if politicians actually tackled real problems. Let's hurry up and 'decarbonize' the carbon based biosphere.....yes we can!...we are in control of the planet's thermometer & no one else!....yes we can!....Mother Nature is old news!...she has no say nor influence anymore, Obama sez so.....hurry it's a crisis!.....the climate!...it's changing!....we can't allow it to change anymore....stop the change.....yes we can!

  7. Obama certainly didn't deliver the speech with any real passion. Lots of nice warm, fuzzy platitudes but not much that will set the Copenhagen hearts aflutter.

    Economic and political reality seem to be raining on his Unicorns for Everyone parade.

  8. If there are no stupid questions than please indulge me on the following:

    1. Is there any evidence that a decarbonization policy will have any effect on global climate?

    2. Have we been able to determine with any specificity the effect that centuries of human activity has had on global climate?

    3. Without an alternative energy solution will it ever be possible to decouple the inverse relationship that seems to exist between decabonization and economic growth?

    In light of myriad social/political issues that are coming to a head at this time (healthcare, unemployment, taxation, terrorism, etc) and given that these problems have largely been a result of our social/political inability or unwillingness to face until our backs are effectively against the wall, what hope is there to even begin to address climate change?

  9. The 350ists make several claims:

    1. A degree of warming will/has melt/ed the Arctic.

    But when for five thousand years July temperatures at the Northern Artic coastline of Russia were from two and a half to seven degrees warmer than the present between 9000 and 7000 years ago, the Greenland icesheet remained intact and still is today in spite of "unprecedented" (HA!) warming.

    MacDonald, G.M., et al., 2000. Holocene treeline history and climate change across northern Eurasia. Quaternary Research, 53, 302-311.

    2. A degree of warming has/will destroy the "great pine forests of the west"

    This requires elaboration, but last time I checked, trees like it warm, wet, and plenty of CO2

    3. A degree of warming has/will "spread mosquito born disease"

    I'm sure that the vast numbers of people killed by malaria in the middle of the little ice age in such tropical locales as the British Isles and Siberia would love to be told that they were just suffering from a nasty cold, and didn't die, because you can't get malaria when it's cold and you are poor.

    Oh wait! That's exactly what you can do!

  10. The big problem that AGW proponents have is that there is no clear evidence that human-derived CO2 is causing any climate change. People with a certain misguided environmental bias, and those who have already invested time, professional reputation and/or big-time money in AGW are loathe to accept that there is no proof and the the IPCC report is fraught with poorly chosen science, politics and special interests. The bandwagon effect here was huge, but the wheels are finally falling off.

  11. With regard to claim 2. The great pine forests of the west are hardly "destroyed"- I think the correct story is that we think that warming has caused some bug problems to get worse. So we are dealing with a major mountain pine beetle outbreak in the Rockies. But the forest is not "destroyed"; lodgepole forests are regenerating as they always do- perhaps sooner than they might have without warming.

  12. Economist Adam Smith Rants About Obama's Energy Speech at MIT


  13. -11-Sharon F.,

    I find no fault in your measured comment.

    NPR, our local so-called “newspaper” and others always describe the latest mountain pine beetle cycle as “unprecedented” when, in fact, the evidence indicates the infestation of the 1930s (a warmer period than today) was far worse.

    Click here for my debunking of the -- mild, by their usual standards -- hysteria mongering from our local “newspaper”.

  14. SVBOR
    Looking at the past may well be useful to try to tease apart the contributions of a) effects on readiness of trees to be eaten by beetles (relative weakness of trees) caused by 1) drought (not caused by warming), 2) warming effects, 3) age of stands, 4) fire suppression and b) effects on beetles caused by warming. But it would be exceedingly difficult to do so (and perhaps not a good investment of time?).

    In my view, most of us in the adaptation business will be spending time dealing with the problems directly and not trying to parse out what contribution climate change may have made to the problem (which may be a good source of dueling academic papers, but not so much germane to solving the problem).

  15. Why is it that no reputable scientist that claims there is global warming or that it is caused by man refuses to a serious public debate over the facts? Weird huh, since so many offers have been made to do so.