Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Picking up after Krauthammer's Fourth of July litter

Not sure if he merits it, but a point-bypoint reaction to his Fourth of July leftovers:
WASHINGTON -- The economy stagnates. Syria burns. Scandals lap at his feet. China and Russia mock him, even as a "29-year-old hacker" revealed his nation's spy secrets to the world. How does President Obama respond? With a grandiloquent speech on climate change.
Krauthammer is unaware that the Administration is in the process of dealing with those other issues. Perhaps he should read a newspaper to find out what's happening with them. Also, a "WASHINGTON" dateline? Is he pretending to be a journalist writing news?
Climate change? It lies at the very bottom of a list of Americans' concerns (last of 21 -- Pew poll). Which means that Obama's declaration of unilateral American war on global warming, whatever the cost -- and it will be heavy -- is either highly visionary or hopelessly solipsistic. You decide:
So Pew didn't give a long list and ask the public to rank in priority - instead people were asked which is their top priority, and 28% said climate change, which was smaller than the other priorities. Nothing in the polling suggests the public generally considers it unimportant. Is Krauthammer a liar or a poor reader? You decide.
Global temperatures have been flat for 16 years -- a curious time to unveil a grand, hugely costly, socially disruptive anti-warming program.
Sadly, no. Temperatures have gone up, not necessarily as fast as anticipated, but they've gone up.
Now, this inconvenient finding is not dispositive. It doesn't mean there is no global warming. But it is something that the very complex global warming models that Obama naively claims represent settled science have trouble explaining. It therefore highlights the president's presumption in dismissing skeptics as flat-earth know-nothings. 
On the contrary. It's flat-earthers like Obama who refuse to acknowledge the problematic nature of contradictory data. It's flat-earthers like Obama who cite a recent Alaskan heat wave -- a freak event in one place at one time -- as presumptive evidence of planetary climate change. It's flat-earthers like Obama who cite perennial phenomenon such as droughts as cosmic retribution for environmental sinfulness.
I'd agree that specific events aren't nearly as dispositive as long-term records, but the long-term record leaves no doubt. And record extremes as part of long term records are revealing in that we have far more record warm events than record cold events. The climate dice are rolling more 11s and 12s and an occasional 13. Obama's right to talk about climate weirding.
For the sake of argument, let's concede that global warming is precisely what Obama thinks it is. Then answer this: What in God's name is his massive new regulatory and spending program -- which begins with a war on coal and ends with billions in more subsidies for new Solyndras -- going to do about it?
First, we don't know what the program will cost and can adjust if we collectively decide it costs too much. Krauthammer would rather not even figure out costs versus benefits. Regardless, given how many thousands of people are killed on annual basis from coal pollution, I'm not sure the cost will be net negative, even if you ignore climate change.
The U.S. has already radically cut CO2 emissions -- more than any country since 2006, according to the International Energy Agency. Emissions today are back down to 1992 levels.
There's a scene in the original book version of True Grit where Rooster Cogburn says that if he ever meets a Texan who doesn't claim to have drunk water from a horse track in the drying mud, he'll shake the man's hand and give him a cigar. I think I'll do the same thing for a climate denialist who doesn't cherrypick the time periods he looks at. Yes, we've recently improved upon our terrible emission record, but it still remains one of the worst in the world on a per-capita basis.
And yet, global emissions have gone up. That's because -- surprise! -- we don't control the energy use of the other 96 percent of humankind.
He says more than he intended. We're four percent of humankind producing about 16% of global emissions. The criticism that we can make of China and India is that they cannot allow themselves to develop in the same manner we developed, and that's a criticism we should only make with some humility. They need to do more, and they're doing more, but we have do more still.
At the heart of Obama's program are EPA regulations that will make it impossible to open any new coal plant and will systematically shut down existing plants
No, new coal plants can open if they can really be the clean coal they talk about, sequestering their carbon they produce to the extent it's more than comes from natural gas. If coal can't compete on that basis, then that's the free market for you. As for a systematic shut down, I don't know what he means because he doesn't either - we don't have a proposal yet. I think a realistic positive hope is that the initiative will accelerate somewhat an already-existing trend of coal plants shutting down, and that's a good thing.
"Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they're having a war on coal," explained one of Obama's climate advisers. "On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what's needed."
First, assuming the quote is accurate, Schrag was speaking for himself and not Obama. More generally, part of the confusion here might spring from the more recent concept of war. Prior to neoconservatives like Krauthammer getting in charge during the Bush Administration, people thought the idea of wars was to make them as short as possible, not the open-ended thing the neocons like to have other people fight. Even I, even Al Gore, don't want to shut down all coal use in the US in less than a decade, and realistically it's going to take longer than that. A "negotiated medium-term end to non-sequestered coal in the US and other developed countries, with the rest of the world soon to follow" is a much fairer description of the actual goal.

Also worth noting that coal plants can be repurposed to use biomass, so some of the jobs could still be there and many likely will be in the negotiated solution.
Net effect: tens of thousands of jobs killed, entire states impoverished. This at a time of chronically and crushingly high unemployment, slow growth, jittery markets and economic uncertainty.
More made up facts with nothing to back it.
But that's not the worst of it. This massive self-sacrifice might be worthwhile if it did actually stop global warming and save the planet. What makes the whole idea nuts is that it won't.

The have-nots are rapidly industrializing. As we speak, China and India together are opening one new coal plant every week. We can kill U.S. coal and devastate coal country all we want, but the industrializing Third World will more than make up for it. The net effect of the Obama plan will simply be dismantling the U.S. coal industry for shipping abroad.
To think we will get these countries to cooperate is sheer fantasy. We've been negotiating climate treaties for 20 years and gotten exactly nowhere. China, India and the other rising and modernizing countries point out that the West had a 150-year industrial head start that made it rich. They are still poor. And now, just as they are beginning to get rich, we're telling them to stop dead in their tracks? 
Fat chance.
Covered this, we need to do a lot more and use that as leverage with developing countries. A carbon import tariff is a standard feature in the carbon control legislation that conservatives like Krauthammer keep trying to destroy. Similarly the complaint that international treaties haven't worked well is rich, coming from people who did their best to weaken and destroy the Kyoto Accord. China, by the way, is working on a cap-and-trade system, so they're way ahead of him.
I'm not against a global pact to reduce CO2 emissions. Indeed, I favor it. But in the absence of one -- and there is no chance of getting one in the foreseeable future -- there is no point in America committing economic suicide to no effect on climate change, the reversing of which, after all, is the alleged point of the exercise.
Again, they're working on it, and worth noting that most of the other developed countries are also working on their own emissions while do-nothing types within their countries each whine about their own country not emitting enough to make a difference.

And America will not commit economic suicide on this issue, because Americans won't allow it to happen. Climate action will have to have a reasonable economic cost or it won't move forward.
For a president to propose this with such aggressive certainty is incomprehensible. It is the starkest of examples of belief that is impervious to evidence. And the word for that is faith, not science.
The certainty about climate change is the essence of science. As for what exactly will be done, it's Krauthammer who has faith that we shouldn't even work on a solution.