Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

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18 December 2009

The Upside Down Logic of the Climate Change Debate

The premise is that the Western nations, the U.S. in particular, have released prodigious quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere over the last 100 years in building their immense wealth, but now all that CO2 threatens the well-being of humanity. And it is those in the poorer countries that will be threatened most, whether from rising seas inundating their low-lying regions or severe droughts from the warmed up atmosphere. On the other hand, those poorer countries would like to be rich someday, too, and so don't want to be shut out of producing their own CO2 for that purpose.

So if there were a King Solomon of the world, he no doubt would order the rich countries to stop producing all that CO2 and instead use some of their wealth to subsidize economic growth in the poorer countries as well as efforts to mitigate the effects of global warming. If there was a King Solomon of the World.

But there isn't a King Solomon of the world. There is, at most, an organized diplomacy center which we call the U.N. But since the U.N. has no power to do anything, certainly not without the approval of some of those wealthy, CO2-abusing Western nations, in particular the U.S. So how do we explain Copenhagen?

Why is Obama, representing the U.S. (how those words pain me), acting so desperate to come to an agreement on climate change? Why is the U.S. throwing money around (like we have extra money to throw around) trying to get poor countries to sign on? Aren't we holding all the cards?

The U.S. isn't terribly vulnerable to climate change. Florida could be hit hard by a couple meters sea rise, and perhaps parts of the south would see dryer weather and see worse growing conditions. Coastal areas generally would be hurt. But in the grand scheme of things, with our vast interior and northerly agricultural centers, combined with our wealth, we'd have to be fairly safe from the likely effects of climate change. And while our oil reserves aren't immense, we've got lots of coal and seem to have decent supplies of natural gas. Our advanced economy should also be able to take advantage of newer energy technologies, however inefficient they may be.

The developing world, on the other hand, has little to fall back on. Africa, in particular, has enough difficulty growing food today, never mind should a warming climate lead to ever more severe droughts and flooding. South Asia would have much to fear from disappearing Himalayan galciers which feed the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. We are constantly warned how rising seas will wipe out any number of populated islands throughout Micronesia.

Yet it is the U.S. (along with the ever groveling Europe) that is on its hands and knees begging the rest of the world to allow us to throw around 100's of billions of dollars and reduce our fossil fuel use by 80%. Third World countries walk out of the talks as if they wielded some extraordinary bargaining power, and we dutifully fall in line with pledges of $100 billion in annual aid. Obama somberly admonishes the gathering that "the world is watching us," as if these leaders need to be lectured by the President of the United States about what their own subjects expect of them.

It's Obama whose worried about what the world thinks of him. His messianic identity depends on his transcending national interest, proving to the world that their interest is America's interest. By embracing the global warming mythos so publicly and emphatically, he has thrown the game before he even takes his seat. He cannot possibly walk into the talks on record as identifying global warming as an indisputably grave threat to the existence of humanity, and then fail to offer all he can to avert it. How much American wealth can be withheld in such a high-stakes battle? What can we deny the rest of the world given such a dire fate? The Obama administration entered these talks already having squandered all of its bargaining power.

A dispassionate assessment of the Copenhagen talks must surely question the seriousness of the global warming threat. Why would the U.S. and Europe, both relatively safe from the worst effects of warming, be the most fiercely determined to forge an agreement? Why wouldn't the developing world be desperate for such an agreement? Why would they be looking for handouts, when saving their nations from disaster should be first and foremost on their minds? And what about China? Consider this analysis from Forbes:
Yet in doing so China angered allies, abandoned principles it stuck to over two weeks of talks, and put at risk a country which may be the world's third-largest economy but has pockets of severe poverty and is very vulnerable to a changing climate...China has been widely blamed for watering down the deal, and it may put Chinese territory at risk -- even if its statistics are now protected from foreign probing -- because scientists say swaths of the country are very vulnerable to changing weather.
So we're supposed to believe that China, which has since the ascendancy of Teng Hsiao-Peng 30 years ago ruthlessly pursued policies promoting its long-term national interest, now insouciantly dismisses a grave threat to its future viability to merely prevail in some fleeting diplomatic street fight? Perhaps the Chinese aren't so easily cowed by the journalistic phrase "scientists say..."

16 December 2009

Arnie: We Can Have It All

Arnie, from Copenhagen:
We in California have proven it over and over that you can protect the economy, and you can protect the environment. I don't think you have to choose. I think it is nonsense talk to say let's talk first about the economy.
He made that comment on Good Morning America, in response to a question from crack-interviewer George Stephanopoulos, who failed to ask the obvious follow-up question: "Uhh, but isn't California, like, going broke?"

11 December 2009


Let me get this straight: the U.S. is not only supposed to redirect some massive portion of its economy to dramatically reducing the amount CO2 we release, but while we're at we should be funding developing countries' efforts as well? Right in the midst of a severe economic downturn. Who could pass up such a deal?

07 December 2009

Tale of Two Recessions - continued

In my last post, I contrasted the robust business recovery we saw out of the last deep recession we had (beginning in July '81) compared to the rather tepid one we're seeing now (and which may not even be a true recovery, for all we know). Another contrast is in how these recessions have been perceived.

I searched the New York Times for articles with the words 'Unemployment' and 'Hardship' to find articles that might be addressing the impact of the economy on people's lives. Here's what I found:

July 1981 - June 1983: 120 articles
Dec 2007 - November 2009: 56 articles

Why would this be? Why would the Times have been more interested in covering hard times back in the early 80's than they are today. I'm not sure that the answer is as simple as Reagan being president then. This bears closer scrutiny.

On a related note, Andrew Gelman discusses the relative severity of the two recessions, taking into account age of the population.