Sprinkles From the Left

An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults who are Democrats/lean Democrat think the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (90%; Pew Research).

  • Liberal commentators think the current U.S. actions on climate change are a good start to addressing the crisis – but that much more is still needed. Many see climate change as the greatest imminent threat to humanity, and believe the federal government should follow through on its goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.

“In recent years, government officials around the world — from the UK, to China, to Bangladesh, to Indonesia — have announced their own ‘war footings’ against climate change, perhaps to attract the ear of powerful U.S. counterparts. Even high-profile American climate activists have advocated for literally declaring war on climate change.

Critics of such language — including former UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon — say that it makes floods, storms, and pollution into enemies and shifts focus away from human capacity to build solutions.
Now the Biden-Harris administration straddles a rhetorical divide. Early on, using war language on climate mobilized public attention. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry even classified climate change as a “maximum threat” from his seat on the National Security Council.

But wartime rhetoric is not enough.

Using wartime language on climate change gives the problem the urgency it needs. Declaring wars and states of emergency pushes critical policies along in the executive branch rather than leaving them to languish in a divided Congress. Equally important, the nexus of climate change and national security is a rare zone of bipartisan agreement. Climate securitization and war rhetoric were therefore useful frameworks for initial steps bridging party lines for a “unity”-focused administration.

However, war, emergency, and securitization rhetoric have historically undermined public support necessary for action. If the Biden-Harris administration further catastrophize climate change, the problem may seem too big to face, inspiring fear and making Americans less inclined to act.

This Earth Day, the Biden-Harris Administration can shift towards positive, collective language on climate change. Partnerships can then emerge across sectors, political ties, and communities.

Diverse coalitions are the only way that America has ever built unity during hard times. And collective rhetoric is the missing ingredient for taking on the world’s most critical challenge.”

Rebecca Peters & Sophie Zinser, The Hill

“The Post reported that Mr. Biden would commit to reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent by the end of the decade.

Such promises are easy. Making good on them, and on this one is hard.

Mr. Biden’s pledge to the global community nearly doubles President Barack Obama’s 2015 Paris commitment of 26 to 28 percent by 2025. This would get the United States much closer to the kind of commitment it must make to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the line scientists warn humanity must not breach. It is also achievable.

Mr. Biden’s promise aligns not only with the wishes of major environmental groups, but also with the leaders of a wide range of major U.S. corporations, including Apple, General Electric and Walmart, 300 of whom called last week for a commitment of this size. The quickly changing economics of power generation will aid this shift, as the costs of wind and solar power have plummeted…

What’s missing is an economy-wide policy that would cut demand for fossil fuels in every industry in every state. A substantial, steadily rising carbon tax would ensure emissions reductions happened even if some of Mr. Biden’s government-funded green projects failed because it would dampen underlying demand for fossil fuels.

Cutting the first 50 percent of the nation’s emissions total is going to be far easier than cutting the second 50 percent. Mr. Biden must show that big goals like his new Paris commitment can be met, and in an orderly and efficient manner. The planet depends on the administration and Congress getting this right.”

Editorial Board, Washington Post

“On Earth Day 2021, April 22nd, at the Leaders’ Climate Summit led by United States president Joe Biden, countries will present their new climate commitments, including net-zero by 2050. They will call these hypothetical targets ambitious. However, when you compare the overall current best-available science to these insufficient, so-called “climate targets,” you can clearly see that there’s a gap—there are decades missing where drastic action must be taken.

Of course, we welcome all efforts to safeguard future and present living conditions. And these targets could be a great start if it wasn’t for the tiny fact that they are full of gaps and loopholes. Such as leaving out emissions from imported goods, international aviation and shipping, as well as the burning of biomass, manipulating baseline data, excluding most feedback loops and tipping points, ignoring the crucial global aspect of equity and historic emissions, and making these targets completely reliant on fantasy or barely existing carbon-capturing technologies. But I don’t have time to go into all that now.

The point is that we can keep using creative carbon accounting and cheat in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But we must not forget that while we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there, whether we choose to count them or not.

Still, as it is now, the people in power get away with it since the gap of awareness is so immense. And this is the heart of the problem. If you call these pledges and commitments “bold” or “ambitious,” then you clearly haven’t fully understood the emergency we are in.”

Greta Thunberg, Vogue

Sprinkles from the Right

A little under four-tenths of U.S. adults who are Republicans/lean Republican think the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change (39%; Pew Research).

  • Conservative commentators think humanity has a longer runway to prevent climate catastrophe. They say America should avoid drastic climate actions – especially when they aren’t reciprocated by peer nations – in favor of a more measured and innovation-focused approach.

“If the right steps are taken, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord could be a unifying moment and a chance for us to lead with a smart, America First energy agenda.

But we must rethink our approach to the Accord. President Obama’s pledge when we first joined Paris was unattainable and punitive, penalizing the industries and jobs we rely on. Rather than threatening to harm American workers, President Biden should rework America’s pledge to Paris with achievable goals and commit to investing domestically in what America does best: innovate!

American entrepreneurship has continually refined energy development and consumption, reducing our environmental impact and increasing efficiency.

We are a model for the world, but if we discard their ingenuity or overregulate them, we risk losing the innovators who can solve the challenges the accord faces.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Fox News

“To this day, the print edition of the New York Times has never mentioned RCP 8.5, the unsupported emissions scenario on which so many of its climate jeremiads rest.

The Washington Post has used it twice, once to say it portended a climate disaster and more recently to suggest its falling out of favor didn’t mean the climate wasn’t headed for disaster.

How did we get from reality to Greta Thunberg, Joe Biden and a Bloomberg columnist who says Exxon “threatens the continuation of human life on earth”? Decades ago, casual theorizing suggested global warming might cause the oceans to stop circulating and North America to freeze over, giving rise to the 2004 cinematic and scientific disaster of a movie known as “The Day After Tomorrow.”…

…There are terms that apply—reification fallacy, equivocation fallacy—for a journalism that loses sight of the world and plain meanings in its quest to situate itself among prefab talking points. Let this process run away with itself, and that’s how you get a climate journalism more founded in fantasy than in science, with Joe Biden feeling the need to blather about the end of the world.”

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., Wall Street Journal

“What is the appropriate time horizon for responding to climate change?…

…To assess this urgency, let’s assume as true the science presented by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its latest report, the so-called 5th Assessment, published in 2014. Adopting the IPCC viewpoint as the authoritative source on climate change helps in examining a contentious subject…

…the most recent IPCC global-warming forecast is a set of long-term temperature outcomes estimated to the year 2100, tied to four “representative” scenarios of unknown relative likelihood. As a judge once said in a different context, the range is wide enough to drive a herd of cattle through…

…In July 2020 a group of leading scientists published a review of all the available data — including IPCC, independent computer models, recent historical data, and paleoclimate research dating as far back as 3.3 million years ago — asserting with 66 percent confidence that the true range is 2.6-3.9°C, with a median of 3.1°C. Importantly, they reached this narrowed range by measuring the impact over 150 years.

So the time horizon for analyzing the long-term impact of climate change is at least 80 years (per the IPCC) and as high as 150 years (per the most recent comprehensive review of the literature)…

…While the scientific time horizon for combating climate change is 80-150 years, the political time horizon is 1.5-10 years. Ten years is an ideal framing window for demanding immediate action. It is close enough to justify urgency, but sufficiently distant (and outside the election cycle) so as never to be provably wrong. That is the strategy employed repeatedly, if illogically, since the 1980s…

…So here is the science, based on the IPCC. Climate change is real and the worst-case scenarios pose significant harm to the earth. But the time frame for action to slow the growth of atmospheric carbon is long. Per the IPCC, the computed mean range of warming in its four scenarios approximates 0.1°C to 0.4°C per decade, to 2100. Per the most recent climate science, as of July 2020, the likely range is narrowed to 0.16°C to 0.26°C per decade, with a mean of 0.21°C, stretching out 150 years…

…To meet the demands of climate science, the world needs roughly 1,500 new nuclear plants over 50 years, which represents a highly manageable 30 plants per year worldwide, compared to 450 plants currently in operation. At this scale, nuclear plants using current technologies can provide the world with zero-emission baseload electricity at low delivered cost, with the promise of even better to come with small modular reactors and ultimately fusion power…

…Three notable incidents aside, the world’s current nuclear plants have compiled an unparalleled record of safety in the process of generating 10 percent of global electricity. And since 1980, new technologies have made plants significantly safer, an advance akin to that between today’s supercomputers and a 1980s Tandy computer running DOS…

…Lastly, it is important to bear in mind that solar carries environmental harms, too. The battery mining and manufacturing involved in solar energy produce greenhouse gases, solar farms require intensive land rights (current technology requires 10 acres of land per megawatt of solar capacity), and transmission lines are subject to complex permitting and environmental impacts.
Between nuclear, solar, and gas, with incremental growth in wind and hydro, the preponderance of coal power plants globally can be retired in the next 30 to 40 years — well before climate change imposes irrevocable damage.”

William Levin, National Review