March 25, 2007

Species Traitors: Lomborg and the NYT

Bjorn Lomborg at the joint House hearing in Washington D.C. on global warming on March 21, 2007 - natasha

Well, that's him. The Ann Coulter of climate science. The grinning species traitor himself, Bjorn Lomborg, who showed up in jeans and a polo shirt to speak before last Wednesday's historic joint session of two House committees convened primarily to listen to Vice President Al Gore's testimony on global warming.

Lomborg is the smiling, youthful face of the latest incarnation of climate do-nothings. First they said it wasn't happening. Then, well maybe, but we need more study. Next, okay it's happening, but is it really us? Most recently; we give, it's us, but it's just too expensive to bother with. That's where Lomborg comes in, an economist whose grave errors in environmental science commentary have been roundly lambasted in the most prominent U.S. science journals by people who actually know what they're talking about, to tell us that fixing global warming is so expensive that we need to leave it to our kids to fix. By which point, it may well be too late.

Lomborg presents fixing global warming as a false choice between saving the favorable climate balance upon which life as we know it hangs, and correcting other aspects of human suffering. And if you buy that, I've got a multi-trillion dollar, looming war with Iran to sell you. He never mentions the potential starvation due to displacement and crop failures that millions of people will likely face. He doesn't mention that the industrialized nations may be so taxed by the security and economic problems posed by global warming that there will no longer be the resources to deal with any but the most immediate concerns.

I can't think of a strong enough obscenity to describe Lomborg and the ideology he represents. And I know a lot of obscenities.

What's worse, however, is that the New York Times editorial board seems to have thrown its lot in with Lomborg in their ongoing campaign to discredit the urgency of the climate crisis out of their animosity towards Al Gore. Their playbook goes something like, 'Al Gore is an exaggerator, because we have declared it to be so, and therefore the scientific consensus that he speaks about must also be an exaggeration. We will leave no obscure professor uninterviewed in our quest to prove this case.' And think about it; when was the last time you read an article about Gore that didn't include a word like overestimate, overstate or exaggerate? Especially in the so-called liberal NYT?

Today's hit piece on Gore, climate science and American ingenuity is no exception:

... As is his habit, Mr. Gore spoke in dramatic, almost apocalyptic terms, at one point demanding an “immediate freeze” in carbon dioxide emissions. This certainly overestimates America’s capacity for rapid social and technological change in much the same way that his movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” seemed on occasion to overstate how quickly we will see the consequences of climate change.

As Mr. Gore concedes, he is more salesman than scientist. But most scientists acknowledge that he is absolutely right on the fundamentals: ...

... And nobody, including repeat viewers of “An Inconvenient Truth,” has a real grip on what it will cost. Given the consequences of doing nothing, it’s surely worth it, but Congress will have to be upfront about the numbers. ...

While their unfounded attacks on Gore's presentation of the facts have been well answered elsewhere, it also irritates me that they continue to underestimate America and overestimate the costs. Costs which, as Gore quoted Amory Lovins saying, would be more accurately represented by putting a plus sign in place of the minus sign claimed by critics like Lomborg.

Remember the Apollo Program, or at any rate, reading about it in school? Kennedy said, 'Damn the torpedoes, we're going to the Moon!' We did. The Lomborgs of the world would like everyone to believe that American scientists and businesses are less intelligent, less ingenious, less persistent and creative than they were during the Kennedy administration. [Insert obscenity here] that!

As the good folks at the Apollo Energy Initiative have been patiently trying to explain for years, fixing global warming has the potential to generate so many new industries and jobs that it could represent a new wave in American technology leadership. Just like the original Apollo Program was. But a lot of people stand with them in saying this:

Myth: Solving global warming will devastate our economy.

Nonsense, utter nonsense. The “studies” that produce that conclusion only get those results by starting with the assumption that it will be enormously expensive because there are no substitutes for fossil fuels and there is no way to become more efficient. As Amory and Hunter Lovins say, that is an assumption masquerading as a fact, and it is “flatly contradicted by experience.” Like the old saying about computers: “garbage in, garbage out.”

We can solve global warming without damaging our economy. Over 2,500 economists in the U.S., including eight Nobel Prize winners, signed a statement that concludes: “There are many potential policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for which total benefits outweigh the total costs. For the United States in particular, sound economic analysis shows that there are policy options that would slow climate change without harming American living standards, and these measures may in fact improve U.S. productivity in the longer run.” When was the last time 2,500 economists agreed about anything? In fact, we can reduce greenhouse gases in countless ways that will save money, leaving us better off than we are now.

...Some 40% of U.S. greenhouse gases come from electricity-generating plants. We are so wasteful in our use of electrical energy that there are endless opportunities to replace inefficient lights and equipment and appliances and save money by burning less fuel. Replacing a 75-watt light bulb with an 18-watt compact fluorescent bulb, for example, gives you better light and uses so much less electricity that you save over $35 in the end—and it reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 1,600 pounds. Over half of all electricity is used to run motors in businesses and industries. Retrofit of proper controls pays for itself in a year or two and could cut the total electricity used in the whole world by one-fourth. The opportunities are so great that Amory Lovins calculates that the U.S. could run our entire economy on about one-fourth of the current electricity used, saving us billions of dollars every year.

Transportation is responsible for about one-third of our greenhouse gases, and this is another area where we are enormously wasteful. All of us who drive contribute to global warming. Every gallon of gasoline we burn puts 20 lbs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so yes, gas guzzlers will have to go. (In the not-too-distant future, our vehicles will probably be powered by fuel cells, which do not emit greenhouse gases.)

Overall, Amory Lovins calculates that it is so much cheaper to save fuel than to burn it, that the U.S. could cut greenhouse gas emissions drastically and save $300 billion per year. And there are many additional ways to cut greenhouse gases at low cost. ...

The climate do-nothings among the Republicans at the House hearing were the ones that bragged repeatedly about their incessant harping on the cost of fixing a problem that threatens, literally, life as we know it. Twice, they indicated that they'd been proudly keeping count of their use of the word.

Gore had an answer for them, and the species traitors among us. "Pollution is waste. You've got to buy raw materials to turn them into pollution," he said. He pointed to investments in planning for coal-fired electricity plants by TXU, which came to nothing, because failing to account for emissions represents an investment risk that shareholders need to take into account. He pointed to the auto industry as an example that businesses should "be careful what you lobby for," because the expensive and inefficient vehicles they insisted on getting approval for have become harder to sell. "Efficiency goes hand in hand with marketability," he said.

Let's hope that, one of these days, the New York Times will buy a clue and stop marching in lockstep with people like Lomborg, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and former House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair, now ranking minority member, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX). At present, none of them can be said to have the interests of the New York Times' readers at heart.

Posted by natasha at March 25, 2007 03:44 PM | Environment | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

I can't think of a strong enough obscenity to describe Lomborg and the ideology he represents:

How about: bottom-feeding, ass-licking, cock- sucking motherless bastard with no moral sense and hopefully a nut sack full of mercury.

Posted by: JimD at March 25, 2007 06:55 PM

Lazy America feels all better now... oh, he exaggerated. See? Everything is OK now!

IT's a shame!

Posted by: Crall at March 25, 2007 06:56 PM

What do you mean by species traitors...?

Posted by: houseofpolitics at March 25, 2007 08:18 PM

What do I mean by that? Just that they're betraying the species they ostensibly belong to, unless they're cabbages dressed as human beings or something, by increasing the likelihood that life as we know it will come to a very unpleasant end.

Not life, mind, but life as we know it. The favorable temperatures, crop growing conditions, sea level, reasonably stable weather patterns, an abundant biosphere, etc. Anyone who works against the preservation of those things on a global scale, is committing veritable acts of treason against the entire species, meaning as they do the deaths of tens, maybe hundreds of millions of people. You're looking at unprecedented crises of starvation and displacement alone, and to think that gruesome wars won't be started thereby, that's just frivolous optimism.

Posted by: natasha at March 26, 2007 02:15 AM

What temperature does the Gore-acle keep his heated pool in the wintertime? Anyone?

Posted by: muckdog at March 26, 2007 08:23 AM

md - I've said it before, I'll say it again. If Gore lived in a Stone Age hut it wouldn't be enough for people like yourself who entirely miss the point. No, because then you'd be saying, 'Look, look, he wants everybody to go back to living in huts! You don't want to live in a hut, do you?'

He lives a carbon neutral life already and is trying to put the structures in place to allow everyone else, no matter their means, to do so as well. This isn't about asceticism, it isn't about making everyone miserable. It's about doing more with less; running a modern society, with all the goals and behaviors that entails, without killing the planet.

Your entire ridiculous point rests on the premise that environmentalists are, or should be, Luddites. Your assumption is that being in favor of a healthy environment means advocating a pre-modern lifestyle. That's just a lie, no two ways about it.

Posted by: natasha at March 26, 2007 04:37 PM

Gore is like the Baptist Preacher sleeping with the wives in the congregation, but getting up on Sunday morning and saying "Jesus forgives sinners. Accept Jesus, and live a sin neutral lifestyle!"

The biggest hoax in America is the "carbon neutral" line of BS.

So folks, go ahead and get that 8 mpg SUV. Just plant a tree and live carbon neutral!

LOL. Al Gore may be the biggest hypocrite on the planet. If he was serious, he wouldn't be heating the pool in the wintertime. He is supposed to set an example. But because he isn't, that affirms to most of us that his apocalyptic view of global warming is just a way to generate interest in himself.

Posted by: muckdog at March 26, 2007 06:44 PM