Thursday, March 22, 2007

Proof of My Intractable Ignorance About the Causes Everyone Holds Most Dear, Take Two

I was going to lead off this post by noting that the past 10 days have been completely void of comments, except those attracted by my recent ramblings about global warming, including one missive that inspired the new (and probably long-lasting) subtitle for the blog.

But then, a few comments that involve people dreaming about me oddly attached themselves to an AP headline post. And after I gently chided Chuck Klosterman, an anonymous reader awakened my inner debate geek something fierce (you wouldn't like me when I'm nerdy) and repeatedly prodded me to greater heights of impassioned geekery.

So, what initially was going to be a calculated attempt to toss some more chum overboard now feels like just another humdrum opportunity to throttle me. Via Andrew Sullivan (naturally), here's another take on the global warming problem -- see, I think it's a problem! -- this one from Robert Samuelson. As I think you can tell from his photo, Samuelson is serious about global warming -- and everything else:

He begins by bemoaning the fact that the conventional wisdom neatly posits the conflict as "smart and caring people against the stupid and selfish." Then he writes:
Most of the many reports on global warming have a different plot. Despite variations, these studies reach similar conclusions. Regardless of how serious the threat, the available technologies promise at best a holding action against greenhouse gas emissions. Even massive gains in renewables (solar, wind, biomass) and more efficient vehicles and appliances would merely stabilize annual emissions near present levels by 2050. The reason: Economic growth, especially in poor countries, will sharply increase energy use and emissions.
He then opines at wonky length about coal, which is worth reading, but I'll skip ahead to his conclusion:
What's most popular and acceptable (say, more solar) may be the least consequential in its effects; and what's most consequential in its effects (a hefty energy tax) may be the least popular and acceptable.

The actual politics of global warming defy Hollywood's stereotypes. It's not saints versus sinners. The lifestyles that produce greenhouse gases are deeply ingrained in modern economies and societies. Without major changes in technology, the consequences may be unalterable. Those who believe that addressing global warming is a moral imperative face an equivalent moral imperative to be candid about the costs, difficulties and uncertainties.
I suppose Samuelson is on the conservative side of things, but he's making a point that's important, not because it denies the problem of global warming, but because it recognizes what potential solutions would really look like. More people are being born every day. Certain societies are getting wealthier every day. It should be expected that they will be seeking some of the stuff that the planet's well-off enjoy. These are not small factors in the face of pieties.


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