In response to our May 7 special issue, “Surviving the Climate Crisis,” readers suggested remedies like installing solar panels in the median strips of all Interstates, requiring a “green” roof on every flat-topped building, investigating “artificial photosynthesis,” dumping the combustion engine and opening up debate on nuclear power. Several complained that we did not cite overpopulation as the main threat to the planet and that the Nation cruise is not a green endeavor.
Kudos to The Nation for pointing out how timid industry and government have been in responding to the green power challenge. California, Oregon, Montana and Massachusetts are struggling to take back the power by establishing publicly owned utilities. Pacific Gas and Electric spent more than $15 million on elections to kill the effort of the Coalition for Local Power to annex 70,000 electric meters from PG&E to the publicly owned Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The latter charges 30 percent less than PG&E and has installed twice as much wind capacity per capita. Here in Davis, more than 60 percent voted to support our public power revolution, a testimony to the ten years of grassroots organizing that inoculated the electorate against PG&E’s Big Lies.
The Iowa Farmers Union has pointed out that C-BED (Community-Based Economic Development) laws can support community and local ownership of wind energy resources. C-BED has generated nearly $1 billion in proposed economic development in Minnesota, where it is now law. C-BED is a way to help keep renewable energy profits in our rural areas rather than letting outside investors extract resources and profits. And it will help provide long-term, reasonably priced electricity. Big energy firms and utilities will likely be pressuring legislators to kill C-BED in states that don’t have it. We should not let them do this. Renewable energy’s benefits should go to rural communities.
James Hansen correctly points out that we need new building energy-efficiency standards because buildings, particularly residences, are responsible for nearly 50 percent of US CO
Center for Family, Work, and Community
Doug Henwood contrasts cap-and-trade systems with carbon taxes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Actually you can get the best of both by giving “tradable carbon allowances” to individuals and taxing the “trades.” That is, everyone gets a fixed carbon allowance, decreased annually. Then individuals who use less than their allowance get to sell their excess to those who need more. A sales tax on these transactions would finance both major projects and individual investments toward a lower carbon future. The amazing thing is the social equity bonanza. Suddenly the more radical the carbon reduction goals, the more money into the pockets of the struggling classes. It says a lot about the sorry state of US politics that the current champion of this concept is not someone like Al Gore but British Secretary for the Environment David Miliband.
George Monbiot is absolutely right that jet travel is bad news for the planet. A sensible transport policy would relegate air travel to a high-cost, long-distance market niche, as was the case until the 1960s. High Speed Rail (HSR) is part of the answer. Rail generally is a third as fuel intensive as motor freight (forget air freight), less noisy, safer, takes less land and is extremely efficient. It shifts market share away from dirty air and road travel, because HSR can move lots of people in a timely way. Indeed, HSR regularly decimates air usage wherever it is introduced. Amtrak’s Acela service is the number-one carrier in the Boston-DC corridor (perhaps accounting for US air carriers’ political pressures to kill off Amtrak).
COCKBURN: CLIMATE ICONOCLAST
A tsunami of mail decrying Alexander Cockburn’s first two “Beat the Devil” columns on global warming [May 14 and 28] hit us with subscription cancellations and such epithets as: “rubbish,” “April Fool’s joke?” “an embarrassment,” “please tell me this is a satire,” “claptrap from Senator Inhofe and the oily boys,” “an example of how a little knowledge and a lot of arrogance is a dangerous combination,” “like being data-mugged by a LaRouchie on the way to the grocery,” “on a par with Rush Limbaugh’s regurgitation of ExxonMobil global warming-denier propaganda.”
Readers should know, from our recent special issue on the climate crisis as well as articles and editorials over many years, that the editors of The Nation support the greenhouse-gas theory of global warming, in keeping with the overwhelming preponderance of scientific opinion as expressed in peer-reviewed journals and data review by international panels. In contrast, many of Cockburn’s most contentious assertions in his recent columns came from unpublished papers. But readers should also know that our columnists choose their own topics and approaches. Here are some of your letters. –The Editors
Woodland Park, Colo.
Thank heavens Alexander Cockburn has the technical expertise to alert us to this dastardly plot about global warming. Those sleazy climate scientists. Why do they hate America so much?
JAMES J. AMATO
I look forward to Alexander Cockburn’s treatment of intelligent design, and I am sure there’s a chapter or two of the Flat Earth Society that could use his support.
ROBERT A. MOESER
Old Greenwich, Conn.
I cannot believe my eyes. Finally, someone is getting it right. A very big “thank you” goes out to Alexander Cockburn. He is dead on in his assessment of the greenhouse global warming theory! Bravo!
Meteorologist, WABC-TV New York
Having studied global warming for nearly thirty years, I’m constantly amazed at how otherwise thoughtful people can be bamboozled into thinking it’s a hoax. The story usually goes much like Cockburn’s. They meet someone (with a PhD!) who’s trained in some aspect of science and while on an airplane (or a cruise, in Cockburn’s case), they get the straight dope. It doesn’t matter what the world’s leading scientific organizations have found–that the twenty-fold increase in fossil fuel combustion since 1800 is the main factor in the warming now occurring. No! Cockburn has met one Martin Hertzberg (PhD!), whose stint as a Navy meteorologist “gave him a lifelong mistrust of climate modeling.” So Hertzberg, and now Cockburn, can take a pass on reading all the peer-reviewed literature.
As for Cockburn’s central thesis–that atmospheric CO
Director of Climate Change Research
Institutional Shareholder Services
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Alexander Cockburn makes this absurd statement: “There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide is making any measurable contribution to the world’s present warming trend.” There is abundant evidence readily available. We even know that the excess CO
His point that water is a more significant greenhouse gas may sound impressive, but the water cycle is so quick it makes no change in the global water content of the atmosphere. The carbon cycle, however, involves fossil fuels buried for millions of years. If we burn those carbon sources over a century or two, the results will be with us for a while. His quote “It is the warming of the Earth that is causing the increase of carbon dioxide and not the reverse” neglects the simple fact that if true, the warming of the Earth would be releasing oxygen from the oceans as well as CO
Worse yet is the statement that the ice age cycles are a part of a natural warming cycle. According the Milankovtich cycles, we should be returning to an Ice Age, not warming up. And we are now warming up almost thirty times faster than during any warming period since the Pleistocene. That rate of warming should worry us, for it is very difficult for natural (and human) systems to adapt to such rapid change.
WENDY VAN NORDEN
Can Alexander Cockburn tell us in which peer-reviewed journal Martin Hertzberg published his critique of global warming? Because Hertzberg’s ideas were incorporated into existing climate models a long time ago, and they put no more of a dent into those models than a Nerf ball thrown at my Prius. Hertzberg is right that CO
Hertzberg’s claim that CO
Hertzberg is also right that warmer oceans release CO
In the end the whole debate stands or falls on the science–whether of Martin Hertzberg or Michael Mann. I have made an effort to understand the science of global warming, going back almost ten years, relying as any lay journalist should on people one reckons to be intellectually trustworthy and who make the soundest case. Science is not a privileged enclave, and the more strident the claims, the more inquisitive any decent journalist should be. I would have thought the history of science in service of the cold war had taught us that conclusively.
Fearmongering sells papers and magazines, which is at least in part why Scientific American and The New Scientist have disgraced themselves for years on global warming, as has the New York Times. We are at the point now where very substantial investments will be made in “CO
In my first column I retailed the elegant refutation of anthropogenic CO
As regards Cogan’s “bathtub” argument, let me repeat my last column, where I wrote, “I should acknowledge one imprecision in my description of Dr. Martin Hertzberg’s graph in my first column–‘the smoothly rising curve of CO
As Hertzberg points out, the lady from Sherman Oaks has Milankovitch all wrong. We have seven or eight more days on the summer side of the solstices than on the winter side, giving more solar heating in Northern Hemispheric summer, and thus we are coming off an ice age and going into a warming period.
The assertion that CO
Since Glassman is himself a modeler, he knows the tricks of the trade. He refers to their machinations as their “history of commandeering” and refers to their global climate models (GCMs) as “greenhouse catastrophe models.” The models have no predictive value in the real world and are as phony as three-dollar bills.
The prime tactic of the greenhousers is to spray phrases like “virtually unanimous scientific consensus” to imply that any challenge to the theory of anthropogenic global warming is flat-earthery. This is entirely untrue. Climatologists and atmospheric physicists (of whom there are not many on the IPCC panel) are divided on the issue. The greenhousers’ substantive function has been to smooth the road for the nuclear power industry. I notice none of my critics venture onto that terrain–the topic of my second column.