The Speech I'd Like to Hear from a Presidential Candidate on Energy and Climate Change

This is a guest post by Eugene Linden. Eugene's most recent book is Winds of Change: Climate, Weather, and the Destruction of Civilizations. Prior books include The Future in Plain Sight: Nine Clues to the Coming Instability. Over the years, Eugene has written for publications ranging from Parade to Foreign Affairs (for more complete list, please visit Eugene's site). In recent years Eugene has been publishing more and more on the web. Apart from his writing, he does a good deal of speaking, and also serves as chief investment strategist for Bennett Management, a family of hedge funds.

"The Speech I'd Like to Hear from a Presidential Candidate on Energy and Climate Change" by Eugene Linden

“As I stand here today on the shore of Lake Lanier in Georgia, I’m sure that many of you are wondering why I’ve chosen to talk about climate change when we face so many immediate problems. Climate change seems far away while the housing and credit crisis, unprecedented oil prices, expensive healthcare, a global food crisis, and the never-ending war in Iraq are right upon us.

These are all urgent issues, and the American people have every right to demand that a Presidential candidate address these problems with leadership and credible programs. Indeed, I’ve spent the great majority of my time in this campaign trying to lay out the way I would confront such issues should the voters entrust me with the Presidency.

But many of these problems, particularly energy prices, our national security and soaring food prices cannot be addressed in isolation. Moreover, changing climate feeds into a number of these immediate issues, and the threat of climate chaos may not be as far off as we might hope.

Let me explain.

Let’s look at Lake Lanier. The lake level is about 9 feet below normal; indeed it is about 5 feet below the previous record low level for this time of year. The lake is the principal water supply for Atlanta, and if the lake continues to drop, the drought will first disrupt power generation and then increasingly impact the economy of this great city. Part of the reason for these low levels is that the region has experienced explosive growth and is putting more demands on the water supply. But part of the reason is also that the Southeast has suffered severe droughts on and off over the past decade.

Ordinarily, this would not be much cause for worry. Drought is a regular feature of life, and droughts always end. But some droughts linger a while, so scientists tell us.

There are other disquieting signs. At the same time drought is afflicting parts of the Southeast, it is also been affecting the Southwest, northern Mexico, parts of Spain, and Greece. In the southern hemisphere, Australia is still suffering the worst drought in its history, New Zealand has suffered cuts in hydroelectric power because of lack of water, and Chile is in its worst drought in 50 years. In fact an entire swath around the world in subtropical and Mediterranean latitudes has been in various stages of drought since the late 1990s.

The impacts of this drought extend far beyond the question of watering lawns and keeping golf fairways green. For instance, one significant contributing factor to soaring wheat prices has been the ongoing drought in Australia, which is one of the world’s breadbaskets. A factor putting upwards pressure on copper prices has been the drought in Chile, which has reduced hydroelectric power generation and imposed limits on mine operations in one of the world’s largest copper producing regions.

So questions arise: Is there a connection between these dots of drought around the world? Is this some regularly occurring phenomenon that will break of its own accord and soon be forgotten? Or does this have something to do with global warming?

It turns out that a number of scientists have been asking the same questions. One of these is Richard Seager, an oceanographer at Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.

Dr. Seager and his colleagues wondered how a warming world might affect precipitation patterns. Last year they published the results of their research in Science Magazine, the nation’s most distinguished scientific journal. In their study they took 19 climate models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the international group that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace prize with Al Gore, -- and ran those models from the late 19th century to the present to see whether they would reproduce the precipitation patterns we’ve seen over the past 125 years. They focused on the subtropics and Mediterranean regions of the world – a band of latitude that includes the drought-stricken regions I ticked off.

The models accurately reproduced precipitation patterns as evident from the historical record. So far so good.

They then ran the climate models forward to see what might lie ahead. What they discovered is that a drying began around 1998 in those latitudes that, if the models are accurate, will likely deepen over the next several decades to drier than Dust Bowl levels before stabilizing as deep drought sometime in the next century. They used the phrase “perpetual drought” to describe conditions in the Southwest and elsewhere if their analysis bears up.

Seager proposes two factors as likely factors that could produce this perpetual drought. One is that a warming globe tends to make dry areas drier and wet areas wetter, and secondly, that warming will tend to shift the atmospheric circulation that distributes moisture further away from the equator and towards the poles. Evaporation from the topics will still fall as rain in the mid-latitudes, it will just fall further north in the case of the United States.

We will only know in retrospect whether Seager is right, but can we afford to wait and see?
I’m not going to burden you with statistics today, nor am I going to lay out the science of climate change. Twenty years after the world first mobilized to address this threat, the case should be familiar. Rather, I’m going to explain why I am going to make the threat of human-caused climate change a central issue in my presidential campaign.

Drought is just one of the impacts of climate change, and while we will only definitively know in retrospect whether the droughts I mentioned are connected by coincidence or linked to global warming, we do know is that the global food system rests on a knife edge. Global food stocks are near all-time lows, and protracted drought threatens to topple this delicate balance between demand and supply. (And, as we've seen in the midwest in recent days, too much rain can threaten that balance as well.)

We also know that an extraordinary scientific consensus holds that human emissions of greenhouse gasses from the use of fossil fuels are already affecting climate. While understanding whether these droughts represent one of these impacts on climate is an important question for science, it is an absolutely crucial question for governments around the world.

These droughts may represent a warning that we don’t have the luxury of time to ponder whether climate change is a threat. Even now there are food riots around the world because of scarcity and high prices. If Seager and his colleagues are correct these scarcities are likely to worsen, and if these droughts are harbingers of a rapidly changing climate then a host of other miseries will soon be unfolding as well.

Notice I said, “may represent a warning…” That’s the fix we are in. From melting sea ice and permafrost, to daffodils growing in New York’s Central Park in January, climate is changing more rapidly than our ability to understand the changes. No one will ring a bell when greenhouse gasses push the climate system past some tipping point. At the moment we don’t even know what the tipping points are. In this respect we are all like the fugitive holed up In a hotel room wondering whether every knock at the door Is the FBI, or, In our case, whether every megastorm or protracted drought Is a sign that major climate change is upon us. And, with climate already changing, we are going to have to take precautions with less than perfect information.

As we debate whether we have enough information to act, it’s important to keep in mind that nature doesn’t give points for good intentions, and that we can’t expect climate to meet us half way. The geophysics and chemistry that govern climate are indifferent to our conveniences and needs. And yet even today, we act as though nature is going to wait while we figure things out.

As societies and individuals we have a long history of taking precautions amid uncertainty, notably during the Cold War when we had less than perfect knowledge about the intent of the Soviets and the nature of the threat. At the individual level, we do this every time we buy fire insurance for our house. As the Stanford University climate scientist Steve Schneider points out, we don’t demand certainty that our house is going to burn down before buying insurance.

This brings us to all the ballyhoo about the costs of dealing with climate change. You hear figures thrown around that if we impose limits on emissions of carbon dioxide that it will ruin the American economy, that it’s going to cost the U.S. hundreds of billions, even trillions of dollars in economic damage.


Let’s think about this.

About fifteen years ago, Al Gore tried to muster support for a gas tax to discourage wasteful use of fossil fuels and thereby help limit greenhouse gasses. When Gore was pushing for this, a barrel of crude oil traded between the high teens and low twenties in dollars. Gas was selling for a bit more than a buck a gallon back then. Under withering criticism he scaled back his proposal to 25 cents a gallon, and even that didn’t get through. No one has seriously proposed a gas tax since.

Now let’s put this in perspective. Then as now the U.S. had some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world. More to the point, almost all the countries that had lower gas prices than us were net exporters of oil. Back then we imported about 44% of the oil we used. So even though we were massively dependent on foreign oil, we kept prices low and effectively encouraged wasteful use of oil. Oh, and we did this even though U.S. oil production had been declining for well over a decade.

The result of our bargain basement pricing of oil was that both American automobile manufacturers and consumers assumed that cheap gasoline was an American right, and the roads were flooded with gas guzzling SUVs.

And so in 2008 we still rank among the lowest gas prices in the world -- even at $3.80 for a gallon of regular. Only now, our consumption of oil has risen by 20%, our domestic production has fallen by 11.5%, and we import over 60% of our oil. Worse, the amount of oil exported by oil producing nations has actually been declining the last couple of years, meaning that we (and booming China and India) are now competing for a pool of exports that has begun to shrink.

There are those who argue that the world is fast approaching a plateau in the amount of oil we can get from wells each year, that global production is approaching a “peak,” and that it will level off and decline as depletion of existing wells matches and then exceeds oil from new finds. This is a vigorous debate, with others arguing that there is plenty of oil underground and that the only impediments to increasing production are so-called “above ground” risks like government regulations that limit drilling, terrorist disruption of Nigerian production, or attacks on pipelines in Iraq.

Regardless of which side is right in this debate – and I’d feel better if global production hadn’t essentially stalled over the last two years – there is no question that even before the world realizes accepts that peak oil is at hand, the U.S. faces the more near term threat of peak exports.

In other words, at some point a cap on the use of at least one fossil fuel – oil – is coming whether or not we limit carbon emissions to combat global warming. And while Congress might have helped manage that transition fifteen years ago, today politicians have far less room to maneuver.

So let’s rewind the tape and consider whether we would be in our present fix if we had imposed an increase in the gas tax and taken other measures to address global warming in 1993 (or 30 years ago when scientists first warned that greenhouse gas emissions would likely alter climate).

If we’d gradually increased the price of oil starting 15 years ago, presumably people would try to use if more efficiently as they do in Europe and other nations where gas prices are high, and as we are doing today in the U.S. at the point of a gun.

While today a good portion of the profits generated by high oil prices go overseas (often to nations unfriendly to the U.S. and its values), a U.S. gas tax would at least have kept some of that money at home, where it could help advance the development of alternatives, or, through tax credits, helped the poor deal with their disproportionate burden of high prices. Higher oil prices fifteen years ago would have lowered the bar for profitability in alternative energy, creating incentives for entrepreneurs and advancing the date for deployment of solar, wind, and other technologies.

It’s arguable that if we’d taken action to address the threat of climate change when the scientific consensus gelled in the 1990s, that the threat of supply disruptions, whether through peak oil or peak exports, would be further off in the future. It’s arguable that if we’d followed through on developing a more diversified energy portfolio in the 1970s, or even the 1980s or 1990s, that oil prices would be lower than they are now. (Even adjusted for inflation, gas prices have risen ten times the amount of Gore’s proposed gas tax.)

Instead, we find ourselves today with very high gas prices and alternatives still in their infancy. Other than hydroelectric and nuclear (which take many years to deploy), alternatives account for only 3% of the energy delivered by oil each year. To meet increasing energy demand, wind, solar, tidal and other alternative energies would have to grow twice as fast as they ever have in the past.

Some argue that we should open up fragile wilderness areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) or presently off-limits parts of the continental shelf for oil drilling. But even if we did do that, they would not produce oil for several years, and once we had despoiled those areas, what then? Where would we turn for new supplies? Are we willing to subordinate every American value to maintain our allegiance to one fossil fuel?

One source of energy waiting in the wings is coal, which is still cheap and relatively plentiful. But coal carries heavy environmental costs, both during mining and in its emissions, and swap coal for oil would contribute to a dramatic upsurge in greenhouse gasses even as we are trying to reduce the threat of climate change.

There is a way out of this pickle. A first step is to dramatically increase our commitment to energy efficiency, by far the most cost efficient way to extend oil supplies. Big corporations like DuPont and General Electric have been doing this for years –not to combat climate change but to improve profits. There is plenty more to do – improving gas mileage comes to mind.

For all the very real pain that $4 a gallon gas inflicts, Americans are finally adjusting their lives to conserve oil. Improving energy efficiency with off-the-shelf products and technologies and help buy us time to ramp up sound alternatives to fossil fuels.

The government can nudge this along with tax incentives, but to the degree that egregious waste of oil jeopardizes our economic health, our national security, and the stability of the climate, tax penalties should be part of this mix as well.

Since consumer spending accounts for roughly 70% of the nation’s GDP, ordinary Americans, through their purchases can do much to address the threat of climate change, and also help spur wiser use of scarce, expensive oil. Let me ask you this question: if when shopping you could see a clearly marked label identifying a product as climate friendly, how many of you would make that choice?

Precedents show that most people would do that as well. For years now green groups have been certifying wood products that are harvested in environmentally friendly ways, and as a result of consumer interest in these products, major companies such as Home Depot and Lowe’s have been shifting to sourcing wood products from certified sources.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to establish a standards center to vet and certify climate friendly products, and you can bet that if consumers begin making such choices, manufacturers and retailers will respond.

Voluntary actions such as these can help reduce the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but the cold math is that such actions alone will not be enough to head off a further build up in the atmosphere, particularly since giant nations such as India and China are only just now ramping up their use of fossil fuels.

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rose 3.1% in 2007, and for the first time ever, China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest emitter of this greenhouse gas. China’s dubious honor as the world’s biggest contributor of climate changing emissions shows you what happens when a large developing economy turns to coal to fuel its growth.

We already have more greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere than there have been since we evolved as a species. As greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, we are entering unknown territory as far as the consequences for climate.

Given population growth and the quest for material betterment around the world, it will take extraordinary action simply to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions somewhere above their present levels, much less reduce them to the degree that would relieve some of the pressure on the climate system.

That means that we need more than just tax incentives and penalties to encourage efficiency. We need to reach agreement to cap emissions. With agreement on a cap, we can then use markets to trade carbon allocations, which, if properly structured would have the effect of channeling resources to where they would do the most good.

My proposal would be to create the cap at the global level and then set subtargets for three vertical slices of the globe: the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, and Asia, and the Pacific nations. How each region reached its target would be up to them, and both the target and subtargets would be the product of negotiation, but such a design would at the least bring both developed and emerging economies together and working towards a common goal.

I offer this design as one way forward. If someone has a better idea I’m open to that as well, but I’m committed to providing leadership on this issue. One thing that has become clear in the 20 years since the threat of global warming emerged as an issue of international concern, is that there will be no progress unless the U.S., the world’s largest economy, takes the issue seriously and offers leadership in coming to grips with the threat. It is also clear that the U.S. will not lead unless its President makes this threat a key issue of his or her administration.

And this brings me back to why I’m standing here today on the shores of Lake Lanier talking about climate change rather than jobs, the credit crunch, health care, terrorism of any of the many other issues that press upon Americans today.

Just as it has become clear that the world will not take action on climate change without leadership provided by a U.S. president, it is also clear that a U.S. President cannot call upon the American people to address this issue unless it is an issue in a Presidential campaign.

We cannot give mere lip service to climate change during the long march of a campaign, and then once in office tell Americans that it is one of the most consequential issues of our time. To do so would beg the question, “if it’s so important, why didn’t you bother to mention it while you were running for office?”

At least this is the conclusion we can draw from the past four Presidential elections. Regardless of expressions of concern voiced when we suffer heat waves, floods, hurricanes, or some other climate related catastrophe, every national election cycle, the issue has gone onto the back burner. I suspect that this is one reason that we have failed to take action on this threat. No Presidential candidate has made dealing with the threat of climate change a central issue of his or her campaign.

I’m here to tell you that this ends today. The job of a President is to offer vision and leadership on all the matters of concern to Americans, but it is also the job of a President to rouse Americans to deal with grave threats to our security that may not have the hot-button immediacy of rising unemployment, falling home prices, food and gas prices.

In the final analysis, how we respond to the challenge of climate change will offer a glimpse of the real meaning of the fantastic material progress of the past 100 years. If we push to the side concerns about global warming and environment, and simply open every acre for oil drilling and dig up every available car load of coal, we are in effect saying that the great wealth and progress of the so-called American century was really nothing more than the lucky discovery of fossil fuels, and that it will continue only so long as we have fossil fuels to burn.

On the other hand, if we recognize the steeply mounting costs that accompany fossil fuels, and begin to move towards their successor, we are making a very different statement about American progress. Recognizing that we need to develop alternatives is an affirmation of American ingenuity.
Fossil fuels have played a huge role in our history. President Bush has said that we are "addicted to oil." I would substitute the word "entranced" for addicted because once we fell under oil's spell, we put aside all plans to develop alternatives, some of which date back over 100 years. We need to snap out of this trance and recognize that they are just one form of energy, and when one form of energy becomes too scarce or costly, an ingenious society finds a new source of energy to replace. That is the America I believe in, and it is the America the world needs today.”

The views expressed in my publications are purely my own.

Yeah, it would be nice if a candidate would campaign on this. He wouldn't get elected, of course, but he would make it easier for the next guy to try it.

I disagree. I think people understand that we are facing a grave problem. They can sense a truth being spoken and will reward that with votes.

I do think phasing is important. Start simple. Make it about self-reliance:

  • Call on everyone to plant a Victory Garden.
  • Outline a program for community gardens.
  • Ask local communities to create a local council on self-reliance
  • Create a civil defense program where local block captains are elected in monthly block meetings for all kinds of disasters
  • Outline the risks to the oil supply.
  • Declare that government will change from HOW to WHAT. Instead of controlling HOW infrastructure is built, governments will set standards, such as 100 miles per gallon, and allow anyone beating that standard to commercialize their ideas. Change the lifeblood of our economy from oil to ingenuity.
  • We are looking for leadership, not a handout. I think people will react well to having someone declare we can win through self-reliance.

I like this speech which was in part about peak oil. It was 31 years ago.

The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are running out. In spite of increased effort, domestic production has been dropping steadily [...]

This means that just to stay even we need the production of a new Texas every year, an Alaskan North Slope every nine months, or a new Saudi Arabia every three years. Obviously, this cannot continue.[...]

I know that many of you have suspected that some supplies of oil and gas are being withheld. You may be right, but suspicions about oil companies cannot change the fact that we are running out of petroleum.

All of us have heard about the large oil fields [in] Alaska [...] In a few years when [Alaska] is producing fully, its total output will be just about equal to two years' increase in our nation's energy demand.[...]

But we do have a choice about how we will spend the next few years. Each American uses the energy equivalent of 60 barrels of oil per person each year. Ours is the most wasteful nation on earth. We waste more energy than we import. With about the same standard of living, we use twice as much energy per person as do other countries like Germany, Japan and Sweden.

One choice is to continue doing what we have been doing before. We can drift along for a few more years.

Our consumption of oil would keep going up every year. Our cars would continue to be too large and inefficient. Three-quarters of them would continue to carry only one person -- the driver -- while our public transportation system continues to decline. We can delay insulating our houses, and they will continue to lose about 50 percent of their heat in waste. [...]

[This proposal] will demand that we make sacrifices and changes in our lives. [...]

But the sacrifices will be gradual, realistic and necessary. Above all, they will be fair. No one will gain an unfair advantage through this plan. No one will be asked to bear an unfair burden. We will monitor the accuracy of data from the oil and natural gas companies, so that we will know their true production, supplies, reserves, and profits.

The citizens who insist on driving large, unnecessarily powerful cars must expect to pay more for that luxury.

We can be sure that all the special interest groups in the country will attack the part of this plan that affects them directly. They will say that sacrifice is fine, as long as other people do it, but that their sacrifice is unreasonable, or unfair, or harmful to the country. If they succeed, then the burden on the ordinary citizen, who is not organized into an interest group, would be crushing.

There should be only one test for this program: whether it will help our country.

Of course, Jimmy lost the next election...

So no, I don't think the people will reward the truth with votes. That's not what history shows.

Let's see ... a policy for self-reliance on a personal level. This is *not* going to be pushed by democrats, EVER. So you'll have Barack Obama as an opponent in this.

Local authority at least partially superseeding federal authority. Again only in the republican party this policy has a (small) chance of becoming reality. Though given Bush's track record I doubt it.

Can you understand that people in cities (which are the dem strongholds) do not want this at all ? They are not capable of self-reliance and come from families where for 3-4 generations there hasn't been a farmer. They *hate* farmers. And a lot of them *are* looking for a handout.

Government "leadership" has always lead to not leadership, but to nepotism and communist (oh excuse me "socialist") policies, and from there to massive inefficiency and collapse. Leadership is not the answer, letting go is the answer.

If you ask me there is exactly one way of making research happen. Give darpa $1 bil in extra budget. Have 5 "100-mpg challenges" with a top prize of $250 mil or so. And for the love of God, have the government stay away from minimum efficiency standards. Create a second darpa, in, say the DoE, and give them a billion too. Make it clear that the "winner takes all". Oh if you need a source for those amounts of money, get out of ITER, since it can't help us in our current predicament.

And the lifeblood of the American economy has been ingenuity (and business spirit) for a long time. In case you didn't notice ... America isn't producing all that oil itself.

I think the only way this policy of yours will happen is in the case of a collapse of the U.S. Nothing else can make it happen. The republicans might push it, and move us a *tiny* nudge in the right direction, but they'll run into a democratic mob demanding handouts before they really get anywhere. People have it easy in the cities and suburbs, in at least partially government funded jobs, and multinational cartels' jobs. They're not about to give that up, which would be a total requirement for your policy.

Nobody could work at a citybank, at a microsoft, google or any really large company in general if your policy is to become reality ... Cities like New York and Los Angeles should be disbanded and the people spread over the empty countryside ... who's going to explain this to these people ? Are *YOU* prepared to become at least a part-time farmer in what dems generally refer to as "some middle-american gun-loving church-going deadbeat hellhole"* ? Because that's what you're asking a few tens of millions of people to do ...

* I don't agree with this assessment, in fact I would love to move into one someday. And go to church every sunday. It's a lot less fake than life in the large cities. Even if it means becoming a farmer (though obviously, I'll need a few pointers to put it mildly)

Good post. I would like to hear from presidential candidates that their staffs have reviewed all of the scientific and independent government agency studies and concluded that Peak Oil is a catastrophe, and that it is time for risk management planning.

We are not just running out of cheap oil, but terminal depletion is about 2075 or 2100. And the U.S. is in an especially vulnerable position regarding Peak Oil. So, long before then (say in 10 or 20 years) we won't have enough oil here to maintain the highways and power grid. Oil will be available in marketplace, but we won't be able to buy it. Hyperinflation and the collapse of the dollar are soon. And then no food comes in on the highways, nor anything else, and home heating systems won't work without electric power.

The research also shows that there are no alternatives that can take up the slack of continually declining oil supplies, which are declining for rapidly for the U.S. This research, much of it from TOD contributers, is available by Google or Yahoo searching: peak oil impacts . There you will find a 50 page report on Peak Oil.

Climate Change as a political determiner is not an option. Polls have repeatedly shown that addressing climate change is not high on the list of matters that a voter wishes to have addressed, even if they fully accept that humans have a direct, partial cause to the climate changes we see now and expect in the future.

One may wonder how something so seemingly important can be discounted so greatly in the voting the booth. As Nate Hagens has repeatedly pointed out, humans highly discount the future. I propose that this is sufficient to explain the indifference the American voters have to this issue. Annual changes are too small to be obvious, and by the time one adds up 7 or 8 decades of changes, when the net change really starts becoming very obvious, most of the present voters will be dead.

If humans lived to be 750 years old instead of just 75 we would approach this differently. Alas, our lifespans are long enough to cause the problem, but not long enough to do something about it.

InJapan is right that so far climate change has not been a voting issue. Polling shows broad awareness of the issue, but as of yet it does not have enough uumph behind it to give it serious play during elections.
But I take issue that this is going to continue indefinitely. One reason for apathy is the sense that destructive changes are uncertain and far off in the future. The penny hasn't dropped yet that changing climate is already disrupting our lives and costing us money right now. As droughts, floods, storms, and other weather extremes proliferate and worsen, more and more people will begin to wonder about the disease behind the symptoms, and then global warming's issue public will grow. It would help enormously if a presidential candidate took up the issue. Only if that happens will the political press take notice and they control the bulk of the media real estate during elections. Yes, a candidate would be taking a risk, but that's called leadership.

But Eugene, if energy continues to get more expensive, what happens to environmental activism, and more importantly, its efficacy?

Part of the meme over the last couple of days in the media is that expensive oil/commodities is cutting into environmental movement's "oxygen..." Doesn't that continue to be the case...even after demand destruction kicks in?

Or does the 75% (I make the number up of course) of the shared agenda of energy and climate push forward, but with energy taking the lead because of its ability to affect short-term salience--whereas climate is tough to "see"?

Edited to add--my "75%" idea might have been inspired by Heinberg's piece on Bridging Peak Oil and Climate Change Activism.

Yes, we are at a fork in the road, and panic over oil prices could stampede politicians to toss environment under the bus (as evidenced by renewed efforts to open protected offshore sites and ANWR). It doesn't take much thought, however, to realize the folly of that path. After we've sacrificed every protected area, maybe (eight years from now) it slows the decline of domestic production, but it doesn't reverse it, and what then? The most likely scenario would be ever-increasing dependence on coal and the prospect of economic calamity in an overheated world. Let's hope that voters realize there is a shared agenda.
We've heard for decades that protecting the environment has become an American value, but so far it's been easy. Values only come to the surface when tested, and this one is about to face its biggest test ever.

MIchael Tomasky and Rich Lowry briefly touch on the political reality of climate change on blogginheads today:

They summarized the issue as one of abstraction (climate change many years in the future) vs. concreteness ($4 gasoline today.)

As for any synergy between peak oil movement and climate change movement - I believe that CTL alone blows any of that out of the water. With the EIA projecting CTL at several million barrels per day in future scenarios it looks likely that peak oil mitigation (if it goes down the CTL path, on top of radical expansion of tar sand development) will make CO2 reduction impossible.

From a poll conducted 6/6 thru 6/9 by NBC-WSJ. Issues registered voters think should be the top priority of the federal government ranked in order of highest percentage:

Job creation and economic growth ...............27%
The war in Iraq ................................24%
Energy and the cost of gas .....................18%
Health care .................................... 8%
Terrorism ...................................... 6%
Illegal immigration ............................ 5%
The environment and global warming ............. 4%

Pretty much confirmation of your view. It is their pocketbook that is primarily driving the concerns of American voter.

Actually, that's not as bad as it looks since the question is the top priority of the gov. Env. and global warming are only 2% behind terrorism. As I understand it, once an issue gets more than about 11% behind it as a primary factor in determining a vote it has arrived. To repeat, some leadership by a candidate could help close that gap.

Yep, and when you do a "stacked" issue set by perceived importance, environment often falls way down (I have seen it as low as 15th on some Pew polls).

Also not surprisingly, energy/gasoline has really moved up in its primacy over the past few weeks--when energy was cheap, it was much lower of course. ( is a good source for this stuff, as is

USA Today/Gallup Poll. Feb. 8-10, 2008. N=1,016 adults nationwide. MoE ± 3.

"Now I am going to read a list of some of the issues that will probably be discussed in this year’s presidential election campaign. As I read each one, please tell me how important the candidates' positions on that issue will be in influencing your vote for president: extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not important. How about [see below]?"

Extremely/Very Important %

The economy 89
The situation in Iraq 87
Education 81
Corruption in government 79
Health care 79
Energy, including gas prices 79
Terrorism 77
Social Security 73
The federal budget deficit 73
Moral values 69
Medicare 69
Taxes 69
The environment, including global warming 62
Illegal immigration 60

Leadership is key to keeping an issue salient, but so's the news... :(

It seems all very good to question whether the issue has any interest for the public.

What to me seems more important is how to get this message to Obama (and/or McCain) so that it gets on his agenda and begins to be discussed.

Anyone have any leads to his political advisors?

Maybe the general public doesn't put the environment very high. But Obama has been targeting a much younger group and I'm sure if the opinion polls looked at that segment the environment would figure much higher on their priorities. They understand the direct impact that climate change and environmental degradation has on their future chance of survival.

Here's what is interesting:
demonstrations against high fuel prices are breaking out all over Europe, Latin America and Asia (Nepal is the latest, just yesterday). Yet has any politician or political candidate of international stature honestly and concretly addressed the the public on topics of energy policy, climate change or proposed realistic, forward thinking policies?

What a lack of vision. No wonder everyone is angrily shouting 'where is my diesel? why can't I pay for my SUV ?"

Despite it's frustrating status as a just-over-the-horizon issue, I continue to believe that there is a real political opportunity here. I attended a conference about a year ago where George Lakoff (of "Don't Think of an Elephant" fame) spoke about the failure of environment to gain the traction of other hot button issues. He argues that people don't vote on issues, but on values, and when properly presented, environment and climate change connect to some deeply held values more identified with conservatives than liberals. Hence environment offers an opportunity to speak past party identification to the so-called "purple" voters. TI was thinking of this when I wrote that speech -- it's an effort to put climate change in a non-ideological context.

I somewhat agree with this idea, but I am going to be contrarian, just because I am in the mood. :) (Plus, I am really intrigued by the relationship between energy, oil, and climate change science and activism, knowing that policy is often driven down the path of least resistance...)

One of the problems with Lakoff's values voting is that it is the way people vote when they are not under threat from a salient "something" whether job, income, or safety. In those times of "threat," folks are more likely to either vote that single "something" or revert to heuristics and shortcuts, which means party identification and/or candidate centered voting. In other words, if folks are relatively unfettered by cares or threats, they have the time to vote values, if not, they go with the traditional political behavioral cues.

Why would this time be any different?

[George Lakoff] argues that people don't vote on issues, but on values, and when properly presented, environment and climate change connect to some deeply held values more identified with conservatives than liberals.

I wouldn't bank on it. As a 'tragic realist' I am on the conservative side myself but when push comes to shove survival and creature comfort put those 'deeply held values' in the shade. And that's a cross-party phenomenon. Just consider the amount of C02 generated by Al Gore's luxury lifestyle!

Besides, since environmental awareness is largely a function of intelligence, and since intelligence closely correlates with income, and since income closely correlates with energy consumption and thus greenhouse gas generation, we can conclude that environmental awareness closely correlates with environmentally undesirable behaviour. When it comes to deeds (as distinct from 'attitudes' and 'values') we are all cosmeticists. We'll vote on 'values' rather than 'issues' only in the sense that we prefer politicians who talk the environmental talk - provided they don't walk the environmental walk. 'Values', deeply held or otherwise, are a dime a dozen. It's nice to 'share' them too, since it costs nothing, as opposed (say) to sharing one's house and home.

No wonder we're known as the chattering classes. Apologies for my pessimism, but I reckon that the very people who read such books as your brilliant 'The Winds of Change' generate per capita an order of magnitude more greenhouse gases than the know-nothing trailer-trash end of the social spectrum. And will continue to do so until TEOTWAWKI and after. 'Values', at any rate, are something of a side-show.

With regard to Prof. Goose's dissent and Carolus Obscurus' comment:
Didn't Thomas Frank in "What's the Matter With Kansas" show that at least in Kansas voters went with their hearts rather than direct economic interest because a connection to Republican values trumped other factors?
Putting aside this argument, however, I'm arguing that as signals of climate change become more pressing and costly, the issue will become more urgent precisely because people will see it in their self interest, indeed their economic interest to identify with candidates who understand the threat and offer credible leadership to mobilize action on it. All the better if a candidate can convincingly articulate that many of the things we need to do to deal with scarce, expensive oil, will also help reduce the pressure on climate.

(I wouldn't call mine a true dissent...more a poke. :) )

I think that's right, Eugene, at least from my reading of Lakoff and Frank. Of course, we could bring up "What's the Matter with What's the Matter with Kansas," but I don't really agree with it either. :)

To invoke Lakoff further, 'tis a matter of framing, which is piece of this I've been thinking about a lot of late. How is the whole debate going to be framed? Are the two issue sets going to play together or apart--and what do the policies undertaken mean to Joe Politic?

That's why I think Eugene's done a wonderful service here. This speech is the climate side of the coin, and it is wonderfully crafted. What does a similarly framed speech look like from the energy side? Is there such a frame?

Policies will be made. The questions are who makes them and what they will look like...

"went with their hearts rather than direct economic interest because a connection to Republican values" -- I'm a bit new to concepts used here. Could you explain "Republican values" to me, reference eg. past eight years administration's actions, Fox Network, etc.?

People will see it in their self interest,
indeed their economic interest
to identify with candidates
who understand the [non-anthromorphic] threat [of GW, PO, etc.]
and offer credible leadership to mobilize action on it

[as opposed to mobilizing against the "them" that hates "us" and our way of life].

Peak Oil is an "it" rather than a person.
Global Warming is an "it" rather than a person.

Osama Bin Laden is a person rather than an "it".
The "terrorists" are persons rather than an "it's".
Public enemy number one is a person, not an "it".

Love it or hate it,
the point I'm trying to raise is ....
that our brains are evolved toward focusing on people
and not toward "things".

When was the last time you met a person who was emotionally involved with a rock?

(Yes, I know. Some people actually loved their pet rocks back in the 80's.)

The above explains why politicians are persistently successful in mobilizing their supporters against people (against the others, the hateful them who are not us) and not against "things". Things will never be emotional voting issues. It's those darn "liberals", those know-nothing "neo-cons", the godless atheists, ... add your own despised group into this mix.

You get the picture.

Peak oil, she is one mean man tease and a take down. Let us dump her before she drops us, over the cliff.

Test the thesis out on your own head:

1. Don't you hate it when those low porosity rocks fail to deliver to us the oil that we need?

2. Don't you hate it when those low down Ayrabs (or other ethnic group) fail to deliver to us the oil that we need?

Which is more effective? Which gets your attention? Which gets your goad? Why?

Just consider the amount of C02 generated by Al Gore's luxury lifestyle!

Not representing the whole story is essentially lying; dress it up any way you wish. If you're going to talk about the carbon, should you not talk about the offsets? Honesty is important. Bullshit doesn't help.

Tell us all: where would the Global Warming issue be without Al Gore?

This is not to say I disagree with your observations above, just the delivery. And, yes, do thing Gore should use less regardless of offsets. As long as bullshit is used to make the arguments, the arguments will remain arguments and tend not to move toward solutions.


I guess Mr Linden doesn't want the candidate giving the speech to ever get elected ;)

If you can work God and the threat on people's income in there he might have a chance.

I refuse to give "man" credit or condemnation for climate changes. We humans have too high an opinion of ourselves and our abilities to effect change on a ordinary day to day, year to year, decade to decade basis. Our short time at the top of the food chain and masters (ha} of the planet, pales to geologic time which is counted in millions of years. Can we cause or effect or stop continental drift, mass extinctions(comets. asteroids), volcanoes, earthquakes, solar events which cause/effect global climate? The answer is no. Man's brief 5000 year recorded history does not grant him all the knowledge of the universe. This recent shell game with climate change is really nothing more than mans attempt to control their fellow human beings for their own perverse gratification and twisted self importance.
Enough already, yes we have issues, yes we can create a better life for some of us on this planet but we will never have the utopia dreamed of by the delusional leftist among us for ultimately for all their soaring rhetoric its really about power. They have the gullible and naive brainwashed and unfortunately there are more of them than the truly wise who see this for what it really is.....

Try this experiment. Get a bucket and put a small hole in the bottom. Hang it from a faucet and fill the bucket. Adjust the faucet such that the amount going in to the bucket is the same as the amount going out the hole in the bottom.

Now for the analogy. This bucket/water system represents the earth in a balanced state. The water represents carbon.

Now. Take a teaspoon and start collecting water from the hole in the bottom of the bucket and adding it to the top. That is mankind's infinitesimal contribution to atmospheric gasses.

How long does it take before the bucket starts overflowing? Once the bucket starts overflowing, how long does it take to stop? a) if you keep adding your teaspoons? b) if you stop adding your teaspoons?

Finally, add a dishpan underneath the bucket with a small gap to catch the overflow. This somehow needs to be set up so that the dishpan catches the overflow, but not the drainage. Also the water in the dishpan needs to be able to block the drain hole in the bucket in some manner. Once the bucket starts overflowing, the dishpan starts filling up and eventually covers the hole in the bottom of the bucket. That represents a "tipping point" in the system.

What happens once the hole in the bucket gets blocked?

Note: The point of the experiment is twofold. First, that even a small change in a balanced system can unbalance it. Second, that small changes can build up to the point where the system cannot contain the effects.


I disagree with your theory that anthropological global warming is impossible but I can understand your senitment. I have actually often wondered if AGW is really the politicl cloak being used to baffle us with bulls%$# in order to justify the necessary rationing of fossil fuels in the face of declining production?

The long drought here in Australia, Arctic and Antarctic ice melts, shifting weather patterns in the north and south are all really happening so I am not so sure that my theory, or yours, will hold any water (pun intended). Can we actually do anything about it? I don't think anyone really knows for sure.

It looks increasingly likely that climate can suddenly 'flip', within a period of 3 years or so - and that is before it has been messed around with man-made emissions:
Greenland Ice Shows Rapid Climate Flips, Study Says

In as little as three years, patterns in the atmosphere have suddenly shifted and flipped into a new state, apparently contributing to rapid warming of the Northern Hemisphere, according to the new analysis of an ice core from northern Greenland.
The study focused on two quick warming periods—14,700 and 11,700 years ago—that together pushed our planet out of the last ice age.

Spencer Weart covered this a long time ago.

I really wish people would read before posting publicly on this topic. (Not you, DM.)


But reading things cuts into the time I spend expressing my opinion!

Next you'll be saying no-one has a right to an opinion, only to an informed opinion. Damn you, Harlan Ellison!

Almost exactly the same argument, different name... Hmmm... Been around all of one week... how many different IDs do you have, friend?

To think AGW is bunk you have to be blind or dumb. It's as simple as that.

Here's your test: List ten peer-reviewed studies that clearly support a non-AGW stance that have not already been debunked by even better research.(Hint: they don't exist.) If you can't produce them, agree to never post this crap ever again, anywhere.



I refuse to give "man" credit or condemnation for climate changes.

You're about five years behind, mate. It's like this,

1985, "Of course there is global warming, but it will take centuries to make any difference."
1990, "There is no global warming."
1995, "No, honestly, there's none."
2000, "Okay maybe there is some global warming but humanity has got nothing to do with it."
2005, "There is global warming, humanity is responsible, but it won't be so bad."

Probably in 2010 it'll be, "Stupid liberals, why didn't they do something when they could?! We always said there was a problem."

Eugene - thankyou for your post, which was quite an insight into current US thinking on the climate issue.

The core of the notional candidate's proposal, that there be regional blocks where cap and trade should operate after the allocation of national emission entitlements,
neatly ignores the key issue of "allocation" that Americans are going to have to face,
namely that those (tradable) national emission entitlements will have to Converge to per capita parity, over an agreed period of years,
for developing nations to accept any constraints on their use of fossil fuels.

Which means, in brief, that wealthy nations will increasingly have to buy entitlements from poorer more populous states, while striving to minimize their net GHG outputs.

Until a candidate is sufficiently honest and confident of his communication skills to acknowledge that this global deal (known as "Contraction & Convergence," [C&C])
has been on the UN table since '92,
and that the US & China have until recently preferred to play the brinkmanship of
"who can ignore Climate Destabilization the longest",
I would question the strength of his intention to provide the requisite leadership on the issue.

Personally I'd love to hear either of the present candidates sounding off about how Americans "really need to stop pissing on their grandchildren" -
for I guess that nothing less than a strong inter-generational guilt-trip is going to cut through the ubiquitous propagandas of consumption.

With regard to integrating the campaigns on GW & PO, the London-based Global Commons Institute (that originated and promotes C&C) has some new material on the meshing of the ASPO/Campbell Protocol with C&C, which I hope may be of interest to you.



PS- For full disclosure's sake, I should add that I serve as Rural Development Officer for GCI.

We can beat ourselves up about not seizing opportunities to deal with climate earlier, or we can see what needs to be done going forward. I actually proposed the global deal described in the speech (and singled out by backstop) in an oped that ran in the New York Times in Sept of 1997 (and it's sketched out in more detail in that piece). Back then it looked like Kyoto was cratering, and I offered it as an easily deployed way to get developed and developing nations working towards the same goal with a minimum of bureaucracy. Now, eleven years later, Kyoto is nearing the end of its term (with disappointing impact on ghg emissions), and the international community has to decide what to do next. Given the negligible results of 20 years of haggling, the idea has more salience today than it did then.

Eugene -
given that the Cap & Trade regional-blocks proposal apparently does not address the equity issue that is central to developing nations' diplomacy in the UNFCCC,
it isn't clear to me how it has greater salience now than it had in the '90s.

After all, why should wealthy nations,
with their responsibility for present GHG concentrations disproportionate to their population size,
end up with larger statutory emission entitlements than their populations justify ?

Along with the Africa Group of Nations, India, Pakistan, and the EU Parliament,
demands for Contraction & Convergence to form the framework of the necessary Climate Treaty have now also been made by the official Franco-German Council,
while the UK's forthcoming Climate Bill is actually based on C&C's mathematics.

As I understand it, official discussions are now shifting the focus of the requisite Contraction from 550ppmv downwards toward Hansen's rationale for 350ppmv,
and are haggling over how soon it should be achieved,
while the balancing debate on Convergence struggles mainly with the date of per capita parity.

Given that we have a very limited global GHG-output budget for this century,
it is worth noting that the later per capita parity of emissions entitlements is achieved,
the greater the majority of that budget that is used up by wealthy nations at poorer nations' expense.

Conversely, the earlier the agreed date of convergence to per capita parity,
the more rapidly wealthy nations will need to start buying emission entitlement,
with the substantial funds transferred being ring-fenced to verified mitigation and adaption projects within the vendor nations.

In terms of rapidly shifting the course of developing countries' climate impacts and climate casualties,
while also setting early incentives for GHG-output avoidance in wealthy nations,
an early Convergence is evidently highly preferable for meeting the UNFCCC's mandate of "avoiding dangerous climate change."

As yet there seems scarcely any public discussion of these issues in the US,
but globally these surely are the issues of salience within the climate debate ?



When Carter was President he warned about eventual oil shortages, enacted tax credits for alternative energy and had solar panels installed on the roof of the White House. When Reagen got into office he eliminated the tax breaks and removed the solar panels from the roof of the White House. That was 1982.

Here we are some 26 years later, having lost all that time to move towards renewable energy. Yes, some progress has taken place. Wind is viable, yet a 30 billion dollar investment by the Govt. is needed to create a cohesive grid that will flow this energy to the main electrical grid. But 30 billion pales in comparison to the cost of war in Iraq. Congress just gave Bush another 178 billion to fight those wars. And exactly what are we achieving with those wars? Nothing.

We also need to greatly expand solar arrays in Nevada and Arizona and connect them to the electrical grid.

Build a hydrogen infrastructure and car makers will build vehicles to use it.

This stuff is not that hard to get. What is difficult to do is fight the Fear Mongering that takes place during elections that gets people quivering in their shorts. Snap out of it America. No one is buring down this country. All we need to do is have a little tiny bit of vision. A miniscual amount of courage to move forward to a system that pollutes less, is less dependent on foreign oil and will help develop new forms of enterprise to fuel the economy with jobs.

Step forward America, rather than retreat into your closets to make yet another unnecessary cell call to try to feel a little more secure. Be brave like the National Anthem lyrics.

Wind is viable, yet a 30 billion dollar investment by the Govt. is needed to create a cohesive grid that will flow this energy to the main electrical grid. [...] We also need to greatly expand solar arrays in Nevada and Arizona and connect them to the electrical grid.


I think that's bad economics. AFAIK, you get at least 5 times more watts for your buck out of wind farms than you do out of solar arrays or photovoltaic systems, even those sited in the best locations with maximum insolation. So the economically most sensible policy would be to max out on wind energy, which has the greatest return on investment. Compared with wind energy, solar is still more like an expensive toy than a serious competitor.

It's this kind of sloppy thinking that gives many alternative energy advocates a bad name (at least in certain quarters). Now go and do your homework! :-)

Sloppy thinking? I stated positively about wind energy, and yet you have a 5 year old fit because you disagree on solar?! Why don't you change your diapers and grow up.

Carolus, next time, why don't you try opening your mouth just a little wider. You debunked my suggestion of Solar arrays being erected across Nevada and Arizona. Well, oh yee of little faith and due dilligence, here is a link you might find fascinating:

Wind is a solution everywhere? Your response is not very logical. It is now and always will be different solutions depending on the variables at the given location. I repeat, wind is not a solution for everyone.

Sloppy thinking, indeed...


Agreed that solar PV is (at present) the worst possible choice. Needs more development, especially toward Optical Rectena systems where a few ounces of carbon nanotubes, some plastic and wires should achieve > 25% efficiency for very low cost. "ITN’s optical rectenna consists of two key elements: 1) an optical antenna to efficiently absorb the incident solar radiation, and 2) a highfrequency metal-insulator-metal (MIM) tunneling diode that rectifies the AC field across the antenna, providing DC power to an external load." NREL report, 2002.

However, what IS available right now is solar thermal, which is a lot more effective per unit resources employed than wind (generates more electricity more predictably at more useful time periods, with thermal storage can be made dispatchable, well proven) and should be deployed in large amounts immediately.

This is from Gingrich, a politician. Could TOD solicit a guest post on so called oil shale from Walter Youngquist.

"The United States has the resources to create its own fuel. For example, the largest domestic resource is oil shale, found in parts of Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming in the Green River Formation. According to estimates, this reserve has over a trillion barrels of oil, with 800 billion barrels fully recoverable, or three times the current oil reserves as Saudi Arabia.

Existing technology and current oil prices prove that extracting domestic oil from shale is both feasible and cost effective, but the Left is blocking attempts to take advantage of this resource."

already in process. :)

Nuking the oil shale again?

I applaud theoildrum for the great work on the peak oil issues. But, I really have a hard time with the global warming fear mongers. I tell everyone to read the oildrum but just ignore the global warming posters.

Lord, I hope Bob Barr does not mention global warming other than to criticize McCain and Obama as morons. If he drinks the Koolaid it will sure cost him my vote.

But, I really have a hard time with the global warming fear mongers.

And how do you feel about climate scientists with multiple doctorates and decades of published research in various scientific disciplines? I guess you probably out rank them. Either that or you are just another denialist who thinks he knows more than they do.

Not a Rockefeller? Also not an Einstein.

See posts above.

Going forward in the US I think we're going to see major political action on energy issues OR global warming, but not both. It's not hard to predict which one will win out. Grasping the complex details of complicated subject matter is not a strong suit for the average citizen. We really do get the government we deserve, and that's why I'm a doomer.

So let the Driiling Everywhere begin, let the construction of new nucular power plants go forward on an expedited basis, let the construction of new coal-fired power plants begin unfettered by pesky environmental regulations. Increase the military budget so we can deal with rogue nations who dare to restrict their wellhead flowrates and pose a threat to global peace. Oh, and let's ramp up solar and wind power, too, if we can.

That's how I see it going down, literally.

Both issues are tests of character, and we don't get a do-over if we fail.

Your post makes no sense. The vast majority of solutions to either is a solution for the other. What we need is to make this clear. Once people see that both can be affected by the same united effort, and understand the great threat of the paired emergencies (fear is THE greatest motivator... just look at the US post-911), it is the best chance we have to get them mobilized. AGW is, in the end, far more dangerous than PO. PO doesn't not challenge our existence as a species, just how we live.

More POers need to understand that.

Hello Eugene,

Thxs for the well-crafted keypost--Kudos!

Sadly, human discount rates, as explained by Nate Hagens and others, will probably prevent most humans from the early engagement in radical lifestyle changes for mitigation of Climate Change.

IMO, we will stupidly wait until Nature sends us an unmistakeable, totally clear sign: most probably a giant, undersea methane clathrate release precipitating a subsurface, Continental Shelf mega-landslide causing an unbelievable surface tsunami, rushing ashore mere minutes from the origination topography.

Let's hope the resulting mega-cloud fuel-air explosive does not find an ignition source, until sufficiently air-dispersed, as the resulting near-supersonic blastwave may be much worse than the towering walls of water. No place to run, no place to hide.

I have posted earlier in some detail: weblinks where some scientists think the 1948 Scotch Cap Lighthouse & Hilo Pacific tsunami was just such an slumping event, only smaller. Unfortunately, seismographs were crude instruments back in '48, and very few were in place to accurately detail the precise event timeline and monumental forces unleashed around the Pacific.

I have no idea as to the timing of when this next sad event might occur, nor the location, but the video of bubbling subsea gases, from the dissolving clathrates off the West Coast, are disturbing portents of what might possibly happen soon.

Another point: as bad as the flooding in the Central US is [also Southern China floods], my belief is that most would blame this on fluke weather, not as evidence of a changing climate [it's that human tendency to discount again].

But a long and relentlessly drought-stricken area may do much more to awaken the forced-migration multi-millions to the idea that Climate Change is totally debilitating to their future plans. The Murray-Darling Basin's decline may thus be MSM-key to alerting the huddled masses: that worrying about declining-FFs to continue BAU is truly pointless if your overwhelming concern is only where your next sip of water will come from.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, scares people more than the thought of insufficient water, and they will clamor for change long before their tap runs dry if adequately informed beforehand. The old, well-worn phrase, "Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting".

It would not surprise me, in the least, to find out that those Portugese cities now importing water by ship, might have the highest percentage of citizens now deeply, deeply concerned about Climate Change. Far above any postPeak energy consideration, job issues, health care, etc, etc.

If the Southwestern Drought and the Southeastern Drought continue to get intensified, and a new Dustbowl starts to form in the Central Plains---then the outcry for change will be clear to all. Let's hope, at that tipping point, that we 'Murkans can still mitigatively muddle through the worst.

Bob Shaw in Phx,Az Are Humans Smarter than Yeast?

El Nino means drought in Australia and rain in Pacific coast South America. La Nina (which we've been in for a while) does the reverse (though the Murray didn't get much). So at least someone is going to worry about global warming. However one day somebody will tell the public that over the last few millions years, and probably before, warm goes with wet and cold goes with dry. Then they'll remember all the attempts to associate global warming with drought and suspect a certain disingenuousness, not to mention mendacity.

Yes, warm goes with wet and cold goes with dry in the climate cycles. As Seager and many others have pointed out, the warm/drought connection has to do with where the rainfall comes down, not how much is coming down.

This post isn't even intelligent. Up is down, down is up?

Great post.


Tampa, Florida is desalinizing Gulf water for about $650 per acre ft which is about three times the cost of traditional sources but still affordable to the masses. When I'm not watering the lawn my bill might hit $20. A three fold increase won't break the bank. Of course, desal requires energy and increased energy costs will no doubt increase the spread. SoCal and Tampa have plenty of solar if push comes to shove and one can only assume drought means more solar hitting the earth. People won't die of dehydration but they will pay even more for water and central valley crops.

Iowa flooding was no doubt triggered by freak rains but some caution that poor land management (wetland destruction, river and stream straightening, river sediment loading from soil erosion, etc.) made a bad situation even worse. Federal CRP land was created to artificially increase commodity prices. Now that prices are naturally high this land is getting put back into circulation. Grassland will absorb far more water than nearly bare fields (induced from a late spring). The river levees themselves are partly to blame. Ironic when I see townspeople on cable news thankful an ag levee burst downstream to take pressure of their own levee. New Orleans intentionally blew a levee downstream during the epic 1920's flood in order to save the city from disaster. You can clearly see the results on the Mississippi River gauges for the current flooding. It is fun to see the Bernoulli Principle in action, not so fun to see the destruction. The farmer who hugged his bag on NPK then applied it to his field now gets to see it flushed down to the Gulf... along with his herbicide and pesticide. Some "clean" alternative energy.