13 December, 2007

Bulletins from the front lines

For those of you who have still not watched Al Gore's Nobel acceptance speech, the former next President of the United States gave perhaps the most rousing call to action I have heard in my lifetime. He called on our generation to be the one that accepts the mantle of leadership and sacrifice, that accepts the challenge - and the opportunity - to mobilize the resources and resolve previously reserved for total war. He made the case more forcefully than ever before that our responsibility is the moral equivalent of war, and our choice to accept or reject that responsibility will determine the future shape and very survival of our civilization.

It seems impossible that one could listen to that speech and not leave it eager to enlist in this new campaign. General Gore, in that speech and elsewhere, has outlined specific steps that must be taken, courses of action that must be followed, and battles that must be joined, and I hope that the near future will see his vision for collective action fully engaged by our society.

In the meantime, I will contribute to the blogosphere -- with the spirit that in this war, what is to be mobilized and unleashed is individual creativity and constant, open discussion -- what will hopefully become a regular feature: Bulletins from the front lines of the War on Climate Change.

Today, several setbacks and a victory:

The Vatican defects After hosting a climate change conference last spring, Pope Benedict XVI has released a statement "condemning the climate change prophets of doom" and warning that the threat is over-hyped. The Pope said that "the world need[s] to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind." This statement signals either distressing ignorance or a greater ideological agenda. Or am I missing something?

The US derailing Bali The United States is effectively blocking any agreement that would mandate worldwide emission targets, threatening to completely derail the UN-sponsored Bali climate change talks. According to the article, not only did the US disagree with the particular target -- a mandated cut of 25-40% by 2020 -- but it was one of our "key objectives" to defeat any "specific emissions targets" whatsoever.

California law upheld A Federal judge upheld California's legal right to impose vehicle mileage standards after a 2002 law requiring automakers to increase their fleet efficiency by 30% by 2016 was challenged on the grounds that only the Federal government can set mileage standards. As Dave McCurdy, head of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, says, "We can all agree that higher fuel economy is important" but in this case he was really concerned about the dangers of rampant federalism. Awesomely, the automakers also argued that "the state law usurps the federal government’s right to conduct foreign policy because climate change is a global problem." Give them some points for creativity.

2 comments:

Cassady said...

I don't know that I agree with your immediate condemnation of the Pope's position. I don't honestly think he believes the problem is insignificant, but moreso that we need to keep level headed and approach it as the stewards of the earth really should.

Realize that his big concern is obviously the fate of all humanity, and I believe that he would perceive environmental reform as being in the best interest of all of earth's inhabitants.

Elliot said...

More than condemning the Pope's statement, I am truly puzzled by it. Benedict, as I mentioned, has been active in addressing global warming before. But, given the timing of the message, coming right in the middle of the Bali conference, it has been widely taken as a sharp criticism of those who are pushing immediate action.

Maybe that's unfair (though I happen to think that its not), but either the Pope doesn't realize that his words would have that affect, or he wants them to have that effect. The first possibility seems unlikely, so that leaves me with the second.

But why? From what I can glean from his comments, he is worried about the increasing readiness for serious action becoming a new and dangerous kind of ideology: "The German-born Pontiff said that while some concerns may be valid it was vital that the international community based its policies on science rather than the dogma of the environmentalist movement."

Really? I only see dogma on the other side of the debate. Gore, who I think can fairly be said to speak for the emerging movement, went out of his way in his Nobel speech to stress that we should be on guard against rigid dogmas. Furthermore, Gore's position is based on a truly impressive scientific consensus. In short, the Pope is attacking straw men.

But again, I am more puzzled than anything - does Benedict really think that "the environmentalist movement" has been hijacked by Stalinist-pantheists? It is the Pope who should be paying closer attention to the scientists, most of whom are supporting the very urgency which he warns against.

I'm sure he has good intentions - it is far from me to impugn his character - but we have to hold powerful people accountable when they advance things that are demonstrably untrue.