25 July 2010


The aftermath of the US Senate's decision to put off climate legislation has been ugly. The Obama Administration is blaming the inside-the-beltway environmental lobbyists:

One exasperated administration official on Thursday lambasted the environmentalists – led by the Environmental Defense Fund – for failing to effectively lobby GOP senators.

“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

One of those inside-the beltway lobbying groups, the Center for American Progress, fires right back at the Obama Administration:
On the political front, the White House deserves most of the blame for not getting Republicans. Why? Because the White House never tried to keep moderate Democrats in line, never made it clear that there was definitely gonna be a vote on this bill and the moderates should figure out what they needed to support the bill (as in the case of healthcare reform).
The failure of the climate bill in the Senate has also led to something that I never thought I'd read, this from Thomas Friedman:
I don’t have anything else to say
By contrast, Clive Crook however has a lot to say, and as usual, it is smart and on point:

Governments have failed. It is important to understand why, and to see what needs to change. In the US, almost everybody is implicated. The Republican party is at fault for refusing to take climate change seriously and for brainlessly opposing tax increases – which meaningful climate change policies demand, one way or another. Under current rules, the Senate needs 60 votes to pass a law; there are 59 Democrats, so they cannot act alone.

The Democrats themselves are divided. They would struggle to muster a bare Senate majority for cap-and-trade. The party has also bungled the case for action. It pretended cap-and-trade could work without making energy dearer – it is not really a tax, they insist. Of course it is and voters can usually tell when they are being conned.

In an election year, with a depressed economy and sentiment turning against the Democrats, passing cap-and-trade was sure to be difficult. After healthcare reform, a fiscal stimulus of $800bn, the Troubled Asset Relief Program and a wholesale rearrangement of financial regulation, US voters have no appetite for another big initiative. This may be why Mr Obama invested so little in the issue. He let cap-and-trade die in Congress. He too is partly to blame.

In all these political calculations, one fact looms large: voters are worried about climate change, but not enough to demand, or perhaps even tolerate, meaningful action. This is why the politicians acted as they did. Stronger leadership would have helped, no doubt. Still, you have to wonder why public opinion is failing of its own accord to demand action. The answer is not, I think, that voters on the whole are stupid – something many politicians believe rather too openly. In part, it is that climate science has trashed its own credibility.

Leading scientists have worked as activists rather than scholars, on the principle that the public needs to be scared and must not be troubled with complications. Uncertainties are suppressed, disagreements kept quiet, inconvenient truths set aside. The science is settled: that is all the public can handle.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change institutionalised the idea and the Climategate e-mails opened a window on the process. What was supposed to be a disinterested clearing-house for science to guide policy became, in part, a taxpayer-funded lobbying shop – and a notably incompetent one. The science was fitted to the case for action rather than the other way round. The public does not trust scientist-activists, and is right not to.

Restoring confidence in climate science should be a priority – a task that the recent flurry of inquiries supposedly vindicating the Climategate e-mailers has set back. The IPCC needs new leadership, a fresh mandate and strong oversight. Governments should stop outsourcing their advocacy role to a supposedly non-political scientific body. Scientists demanding deference to their expertise are entitled to it only if they leave politics to the politicians. The case for action on greenhouse gases is strong, but not certain. Action ought to be taken despite the doubts. That is different from demanding action because there are no doubts. Trust the public with a less varnished view of the science and support for climate policy would strengthen. How else should governments move forward?
Meantime, some activist climate scientists are trying to reignite the bitter debate over the Hockey Stick (I kid you not).

In short, climate policy is in utter meltdown: on the political left environmental advocates are at each others' throats while there is every indication that the climate science community has drawn no useful lessons from the past nine months. The state of both the politics and the visible elements of the scientific community are completely contrary to advancing action on energy and climate policies. Those opposed to such action will most likely sit back and enjoy the spectacle.


  1. Roger,
    I know "the debate on the science is over," but with respect to the Hockey Stick, if modern times are nothing special, temperature-wise, then the case for urgent action seems severely weakened.

  2. 'I kid you not' is spot on.

    And take a look at the treatment of Judith Curry in the comments, link http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/07/the-montford-delusion/comment-page-4/#comment-181895

    It beggars belief.

  3. I've now found another, subsequent, Gavin comment to Judith Curry. He is truly unbelievable:

    Judith Curry says:
    24 July 2010 at 2:36 PM

    Gavin, the post I made in #167 was a summary of Montford’s book as closely as I can remember it, sort of a review. I did not particularly bring in my personal opinions into this, other than the framing of montford’s points. So asking me to retract a point made in a book in a review of that book is, well, pointless. your attempt to rebut my points are full of logical fallacies and arguing at points i didn’t make. As a result, Montford’s theses look even more convincing. Once you’e in a hole, you can try to climb out or keep digging. Well keep digging, Gavin. My final words: read the book.

    [Response: Thanks for passing by. In future I will simply assume you are a conduit for untrue statements rather than their originator. And if we are offering advice, might I suggest that you actually engage your critical faculties before demanding that others waste their time rebutting nonsense. I, for one, have much better things to do. - gavin]

  4. "One exasperated administration official on Thursday lambasted the environmentalists – led by the Environmental Defense Fund – for failing to effectively lobby GOP senators. “They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”

    "the political left environmental advocates are at each others' throats"

    I have uncovered this communist cell by reading the names of the Board of Trustees.

    I can reveal that Berkshire Partners, JP Morgan, Sutter Hill Ventures, U.S. Venture Partners, Duquesne Capital Management, Morgan Stanley, Shorenstein Properties and Wal Mart are socialist front organisations.

    EDF has an income of $100 million a year. Probably school kids and old folks having garage sales, plus North Korean and Cuban government sponsorship.

    Wal Mart are represented by Sam Rawlings Walton.

    "Leading scientists have worked as activists rather than scholars, on the principle that the public needs to be scared and must not be troubled with complications. Uncertainties are suppressed, disagreements kept quiet, inconvenient truths set aside. The science is settled: that is all the public can handle."

    The problem there is that, unlike 50 years ago, scientists are really not much smarter than the average voter in every day communication. Yet, we constantly heard the refrain that all non believers were morons, probably working class Republicans. The antics of RealClimate and its leader James Hansen would have them expelled from any decent school.

    Here is a recently compiled list of scientist sceptics. Every one more credible than all the wailing science alarmists together.

    Eminent Physicists Skeptical of AGW Alarm

    Seven Eminent Physicists; Freeman Dyson, Ivar Giaever (Nobel Prize), Robert Laughlin (Nobel Prize), Edward Teller, Frederick Seitz, Robert Jastrow and William Nierenberg are all skeptical of "man-made" global warming (AGW) alarm.

    “Those opposed to such action will most likely sit back and enjoy the spectacle. “

    Yes, thank you. It is hilarious to watch all those right wing (regressive) environmentalists and their banking sponsors founder in the surf following the sinking of the good ship 'Carbon Trading'. I'll hang around and see if any sharks appear.

  5. Roger..you didn't mention the snippets that followed Friedman's nothing else to say comment. My favorite was the need for insulation for military facilities- not sure how cap'n'trade would have helped that. Nothing prevents fed funds from being used for insulation now..in fact other government agencies have targets for reducing greenhouse gas consumption. Anyhow requiring military energy efficiency does not need Congress to act, only the Administration.
    Which is exactly the point- no legislation does not mean the end of "efforts to reduce carbon emissions."

  6. In the medical world, the first rule is do no harm.
    Climate change treaties, charters, agreements and legislation have done nothing for the climate, done nothing for CO2 emissions, and have not helped the environment.
    But these failed government extremist inspired efforts have harmed economies, disturbed the markets for basic foodstuff, and wasted a large and growing amount of money.
    Perhaps it is better to think of this failed effort as the people successfully dodging an un-called for major experimental surgery of dubious need or benefit.

  7. Great post, and interesting comment from Clive Crook.

    But have the Governments really failed? Maybe they have succeeded in showing democracy at work and getting to the right answer, at least for now.

    Climate Policy might be in meltdown (nice metaphor) but my guess is that something more realistic and more worthwhile will come out of it.

  8. Perhaps this gives a clue as to what happened to the post-normal believers at Stonehenge.

  9. All serious warmers should just simply support bringing LFTR (Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor) technology back off shelf and rapidly deployed. Dr. James Hansen (the father of all warmers) has endorsed it. LFTR is politically doable while cap and trade is not.

    LFTR is:

    Emits no co2. Thus meets addresses the concerns of Democrats/"warmers".

    Far "greener" than current nuclear. Thus supportable by a larger portion of the environmental left.

    Cheaper than coal. Thus supportable by Republicans/"skeptics" concerned about the US competitive position in world markets.


  10. "It pretended cap-and-trade could work without making energy dearer"

    2005 EIA Annual Energy Outlook

    The chart on page 106 projects the price of central Appalachian coal to remain near constant at $30/ton thru 2030.

    Current US coal prices
    Central Appalachian coal is currently trading at $66/ton

    DOE report on coal fired generating capacity construction
    "the year 2002 report of announcements reflected a schedule of over 36,000 MW to be installed by 2007, whereas ≈ 4,500 MW (12%) were achieved"

    NRC Nuclear plant applications
    22 Applications for a total of 31 New Nuclear Reactors received since 2007

    AWEA Wind Energy Factsheet
    "The U.S. wind industry broke all previous records by installing nearly 10,000 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity in 2009"

    What was Cap and Trade supposed to accomplish that isn't already happening?

  11. Those opposed to such action will most likely sit back and enjoy the spectacle.
    Ozzy said it best: "Satan, laughing, spreads his wings"
    His over-the-top, so-serious-they're-ridiculous lyrics seem a fitting sound track for the Climate Wars.

  12. Whether there is a meltdown or just a growing flaccidity of the spirit, the starch had gone out of the fervor.

    Carbon capture also reveals the widening divide: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/25/AR2010072501140.html

  13. Bottom line.

    Most folks don't think that substantially higher energy prices and a lower standard of living now for perhaps a degree reduction in projected average temperature a century from now is a good trade off. People are not stupid. That's why the trade off is not usually explicitly stated.

    A century from now the world will be a much wealthier place and therefore much better able to adapt to any climate change short of an ice age. It makes no sense to tax the relatively poor now to benefit the relatively rich later/

  14. Policy melt-down? If it's a bad policy, that's a good thing.

    The problem here is not the Republicans or the White House - the problem that any real change will require a significant lowering of American standard of living. No change will come it you take money away from people with one hand, and give it back with the other.

    Abdul Abulbul Amir says it well above - people are not stupid, and there's no way to pass an effective bill that people won't understand harms their interests significantly. No president could pull this one off, and any opposition would do the same as the Repubs are.

  15. "The case for action on greenhouse gases is strong" -- do they think that repeating this over and over as a mantra somehow relieves them of the obligation of actually making the case?

    As a lawyer, I've seen a lot of trials where my opponents have made a strong case. Being in opposition doesn't mean that one lacks the ability to evaluate the evidence presented by the other side. It's crucial to being an effective attorney.

    As for regulating greenhouse gases, I have never seen a presentation by the alarmist crowd which even bothers to follow the rules of logic, much less one where the case was strong. One would think that all these folks giving us assurances that the case is strong might deign to try to make it someday.

  16. To say that the climate cabal is politically tone deaf would vie for a Nobel in understatement. How can a bunch who think they are so smart be so effing dumb? It's almost like they're proud of their own stubborn stupidity - a characteristic they would no doubt attribute to the "average American" who may be much smarter and wiser than given credit for. Educated liberals may be finding these guys to be an embarrassment. Astute politicians will begin (have begun already?) to tune them out. The really sad thing is the distrust for science in general and environmental science in particular that they are fostering.