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June 29, 2006

Your Climate Or Your Inhaler

Jonah Goldberg's defense of America's carbon emissions relies on the most comical, jingoistic series of non-sequiturs I've ever encountered:

It's not like these greenhouse gasses don't have a context. The American economy sustains the planet, pulls millions out of poverty, keeps the sea channels open, develops most of the medical breakthroughs, provides most of the funding for international institutions (including the finger-waggers at the UN's environmental divisions), offers the best higher education to the world's leaders, and generally provides a blanket of security for much of the planet.

Jonah's right -- these gases do have a context. But none of it appears on this list. Christ -- how much carbon does he think molecular geneticists are emitting? And I'm aware conservatives believe academics produce a lot of hot air, but surely not enough to warm the planet.

Here's some data breaking down our carbon emissions by type: 82% come from fossil fuel combustion. 82%. We power our economy on fossil fuels, drive huge, laughably inefficient automobiles, eschew serious public transportation options or high CAFE standards, make no effort to convert a certain portion of our electricity to wind or solar, and genuinely do nothing to ease our reliance on oil and coal. Fossil fuels powers our economy, and we make no effort conserve or substitute in renewables. That's a choice. It is not the only choice. Medical breakthroughs are no harder when powered by solar electricity, and Harvard has no problem educating despite the fact that its students ride the subway.

This new conservative strategy of pretending efforts to slow global warming are mutually exclusive with the continued survival of our economy is truly low. Last night, John Stossel said that the global warming furor is, at base, "a hatred of capitalism." Today, Goldberg sets conservationists in opposition to advances in medical technology. They've lost the scientific argument, so now we're back to some sort of neo-McCarthyism. Looks to me like they know they're losing.

Update: From the article Jonah is mad at:

Americans represent 5 percent of the world's population but contribute 45 percent of the world's emission of carbon dioxide, the main pollutant that causes global warming, according to a report by the nonprofit group Environmental Defense.

Americans own 30 percent of the world's vehicles, drive farther each year than the international average and burn more fuel per mile, the report says. Additionally, the sport-utility boom of the past decade put vehicles on the road that could be spewing carbon dioxide for years to come.

We burn more fuel per mile! And he takes this and twists it into a defense of cancer drugs. Just breathtaking dishonesty.

Update 2: Edited for a "fucking" I hadn't noticed I put in there. Freudian slip. I try not to curse on the blog, but sometimes the subconscious decides the only proportional response to such silliness is profanity.

June 29, 2006 | Permalink


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Can we please stop paying any attention to Chooch Stossel and that ridiculous fake moustache of his?

Posted by: Matt | Jun 29, 2006 11:57:31 AM

Bush made the connection of pollution and jobs explicit early in his term. I don't have a reference, but the essence of his statement was that he wouldn't damage our economy by doing anything about global warming - which he repeated this week by stating that warming is occuring, but it was unclear if this was 'natural' or man-made. It isn't unclear at all: Ezra's stats in the post make it very clear that the increased carbon is coming from fossil fuel combustion for energy and transportation.

Bush, conservatives and Republicans generally start with the preferred policy position (not the facts) and work toward an argument that supports it, even if that argument continually has to change because each argument won't hold water. When all else fails, they justify their wrong-headed beliefs by attacking the fact-sayers and blaming everything on the war on terra (oops, terror). They are at war with the earth, but that's just a by-product of their war against reason.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 29, 2006 12:13:37 PM

it is very deeply challenging to see the truth distorted, personal freedoms jeopardized, scientific findings ignored and ridiculed, when so much is at stake right now.
the gods will come to meet us from the other direction.
fires in the west,waters in the east.

Posted by: jacqueline | Jun 29, 2006 12:26:59 PM

is a tidbit that I ran into. Hope this helps.

"The most important players on the greenhouse stage are water vapor and clouds. Carbon dioxide has been increased to about 0.038% of the atmosphere (possibly from about 0.028% pre-Industrial Revolution) while water in its various forms ranges from 0% to 4% of the atmosphere and its properties vary by what form it is in and even at what altitude it is found in the atmosphere. In simple terms, however, the bulk of Earth's greenhouse effect is due to water vapor by virtue of its abundance. Water accounts for about 90% of the Earth's greenhouse effect -- perhaps 70% is due to water vapor and about 20% due to clouds (mostly water droplets), some estimates put water as high as 95% of Earth's total greenhouse effect. The remaining portion comes from carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, ozone and miscellaneous other "minor greenhouse gases."

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 29, 2006 12:49:30 PM

Bush, conservatives and Republicans generally start with the preferred policy position (not the facts) and work toward an argument that supports it, even if that argument continually has to change because each argument won't hold water.

Bingo... and we should point out more often that this is rationalization, not rational thought.

Posted by: latts | Jun 29, 2006 12:51:49 PM

I take Jonah's meta-argument (?) very seriously. This the age of the American Empire.

The Invisible State Stirling Newberry, late last night.

"This in all sides is a denial of moral agency, which, while it can be distance by talking about it in terms of resources - the United States consumes x% of the worlds y even though we have a smaller percentage of the population - does not meet the actual test of efficacy. Today's factoid is that American cars produce half of global auto emissions. By most measures, the United States consumes four times as much per capita as the world average. Since GDP per capita in the US is roughly 35,000 dollars, to actually slide under the level of world consumption would mean having an income, before taxes of 8,750 dollars. That is to say, an average wage of 4.37 per hour.

That is the world standard which mere austerity would be required. And that is impossible, because society undertakes on the behalf of all Americans over 10,000 between federal, state and local governments. In short a person would have to have a negative income in the United States to have as little impact on the world as an average person in the rest of the world." ...

"The reality, despite the consumerized stance of avoiding responsibility, or the inelegant pseudo-sophistication of recognizing responsibility and then reducing on the margins impact but not to the point of reducing impact to parity with the rest of the world - is that both roads rest on a basic fallacy."

Emphasis added. Responsibility, fairness to the international community, abandoning the American Empire and become just a citizen of the world, requires at minimum a reduction in the American std of living of at least 75%. Sign up now, righteous dudes.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 29, 2006 1:26:29 PM

Wht do you think economists like Brad DeLong are willing to so much abuse for their support of neo-liberalism, free trade, outsourcing, etc? Because they hope, desperately, to bring the rest of the world up to our SOL while reducing our own SOL as little as possible. But, folks, a relative decline in SOL is gonna feel like an absolute decline, even if it were possible to make that exchange in any but the most marginal terms.

You live in Rome. Deal with it. The Celts and Germans may not be that inferior, but they don't like you and want your stuff. They actually may have a point. Watcha gonna do?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 29, 2006 1:37:32 PM

Last. According to Newberry, and myself, oh say, 80% of Americans deny they live in Rome.

10% deal with trivia at the margins without really making a difference in an attempt to avoid responsibility and assuage their atrophied consciences...they live in Rome, but really aren't Roman. Not really. Hi Ezra!

A few admit they are Romans, and like it, or consider it necessary...Goldberg and Cheney.

Ain't many want to tear down the walls and live in huts.

End rant.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 29, 2006 2:04:31 PM

Bob left out one part: they deny they live in Rome yet they demand that the gov't take the perceived excesses of the Romans and divy out to THEM.

Me, I'll be more inclined to jump aboard the USA-is-bad-and-if-you-disagree-you're-a-jingoist train when I see some lefties forego their own cars, contribute the tax rates that they wish others to pay, dump their petroleum based personal computers and donate their personal air conditioners to the local garbage collector.

BTW, Ezra, it would be nice if a few quasi-marxist sympathizers actually were NOT on board said train, as it would make your attempted smear at Stossel have some substance instead of it serving as boob bait for the kossack crowd.

Posted by: RW | Jun 29, 2006 2:13:32 PM

Right, its an either/or choice Jonah.

Sure, you could have massive productivity if you removed all environmental regulations. Sure, you could have a squeaky clean environment if you heavily restricted all business. To say that the left is arguing from the latter is either completely dishonest or utterly ignorant.

Posted by: Adrock | Jun 29, 2006 2:21:12 PM

Fred, while it's amusing to watch you post something from a professional junk science website (check out sourcewatch or Wikipedia for 'junkscience.com'), water vapor is a known thing - see Realclimate.org.

Posted by: Barry | Jun 29, 2006 2:31:22 PM

Jonah Goldberg is a wind-up toy. Wind Luci up and Jonah will do what he's told. Why take him seriously on this issue? The child knows more about Star Trek than basic chemistry.

Bobby Mac, why this fascination with America as an Empire? We've got a great nation. The best. Only one in which I wish to live. Grateful to be here. Think ours, warts and all, is a fine country.

But an Empire? You're not going Star Wars on me, are you? Seriously, the last people pedaling this Empire theory were your bosses and financial backers at The Project for a New American Century.

I'm all for Empires in Big Apple buildings and sports franchises. The Yankees of Joe D. and The Mick. The Celtics of Bill Russell. The Packers of Vince Lombardi. Those Montreal types of The Rocket, Guy LaFleur, and Ken Dryden. The futbol fantastics of Pele, Ronaldo, and Ronaldinho.

But a nation as an Empire, even our great nation? Odds are against us, and I'm not willing to pay the vig.

Bobby Mac, can you name one existing nation that's ever made the Empire business a permanent operation? Lot of greats, and not-so-greats, have tried. Planet doesn't seem to like the Empire concept in practice. Looks nice on paper. Just doesn't seem to work in reality.

Patton knew it, and no Upper West Side type was he.

Why, apart from the lucrative paycheck, do you pedal this idea?

My best to Frederic "Somebody Kicked The Tar Out of" U. and the rest of your Albany entourage.

Posted by: Mark | Jun 29, 2006 3:04:21 PM

> Bush, conservatives and Republicans generally start with the preferred policy position (not the facts) and work toward an argument that supports it, even if that argument continually has to change because each argument won't hold water.

Yeah... as opposed to the left, which coolly, objectively looks at the facts and decides what policy would be best, regardless of political implications. Seems like I'm constantly hearing practical ideas from the left on how we can reduce emissions without damaging the economy. In fact, this very post and thread is full of those ideas! Or not. Whatever.

Posted by: brett | Jun 29, 2006 3:12:21 PM

I thought you really believed those things until I read that last "Or not. Whatever." I am now suing you for whiplash.

Posted by: norbizness | Jun 29, 2006 3:30:26 PM

Thanks for the sourcewatch site, Barry. All they had to say is that he has been associated with CATO.
They are a well respected conservative think-tank. They did not say junkscience.com was not good information, either. In fact, no one *period* (including here) has said the facts junkscience.com gives are incorrect.

The sourcewatch did say that the guy that runs junkscience.com holds a bachelor's degree in Natural Sciences, a law degree and a master's degree in biostatistics.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jun 29, 2006 3:42:09 PM

Manbearpig's gonna get us! Oh Al Gore, please come save us! (Check my link for further important details of this crisis!!!)

Posted by: Al Barger | Jun 29, 2006 3:47:47 PM

"...make no effort to convert a certain portion of our electricity to wind or solar."

We tried that in Massachusetts, with windmills tall enough and far enough out to sea to power most of Cape Cod, but rich rightwingers like Ted Kennedy and Walter Cronkite fought like tigers so the windmills wouldn't spoil their views. Trumped up some crap about birds flying into them as well. (Birds are smart enough to avoid most other objects but not smart enough to avoid a windmill, I guess.)

Oh, wait, they're rich liberals? Oh, my. Well, what do you know...

Posted by: ALKDSFGNPO | Jun 29, 2006 3:58:21 PM

Fred quotes from Junk Science, with unsigned opinions.

I'll suggest a broader set of opinions, worthy of respect.

WASHINGTON - The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, probably even longer.

The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that the Earth is running a fever and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.

The report was requested in November by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (news, bio, voting record), R-N.Y., to address naysayers who question whether global warming is a major threat.

More info than the conservative global-warmth deniers want to know

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Jun 29, 2006 4:02:13 PM

On water vapor. Here's the long response. The short one is that water vapor increases as the earth heats. When we warm the planet, we increase the vapor, thus warming the planet. It's a feedback loop. That clear, Fred?

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 29, 2006 4:04:09 PM


I think it is reasonable to conclude that CAFE standards are good for the economy.

Suppose CAFE standards, since they were implemented, have added $1000 to the cost of a vehicle and improved mileage from 15 to 30mpg. Now, assume gas costs $1/gallon and the car is drivin 100,000 miles. Without CAFE, the fuel costs would have been $6666.66. Post-CAFE, the fuel costs are $3333.33. So, we've saved about $2000 per vehicle.

That is $2000 of increased productivity in the economy, and productivity is what grows the economy.

Posted by: Chuck | Jun 29, 2006 4:09:52 PM

You know, that whole argument about how the whole world should thank us for our polluting economy because it feeds them, etc - for some reason is sounds like "I hurt you because I love you."

Posted by: Chuck | Jun 29, 2006 4:11:43 PM

Wow, from 15mph to 30.
Why not choose 90 mph, as long as you're making stuff up on the fly, as it would give you a much better return since virtually no car has doubled its fuel efficiency - sans entire redesign - since the advent of cafe standards (but don't you dare say regulating business, as was noted above, the left most certainly does not want to do that).

Posted by: RW | Jun 29, 2006 4:21:35 PM

Cars may not double their efficiency, but fleets certainly can 9and fleets, after all, are what CAFE standards measure). The national Academy of Sciences looked into this and concluded a raise to 40 mpg is perfectly achievable. Indeed, other countries have achieved it.

Posted by: Ezra | Jun 29, 2006 4:24:59 PM

"...your bosses and financial backers at The Project for a New American Century."

You think I am a righty? Maybe I should be, but I just don't swing that way. Mostly I just try to radicalize, to be a contrarian. Kinda a universal troll. The one thing I really miss in the leftist blogosphere is the revolutionary analysis and rhetoric I see on the right. Hell, I consider Ehrenreich and Nader hopeless moderates.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jun 29, 2006 4:31:01 PM

Wow... you're getting a lot of troll crossover from Kevin Drum's site, Ezra. Guess they're being assigned more work these days.

Posted by: latts | Jun 29, 2006 4:34:06 PM

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