9/26/13, "Climate Skeptics Against Global Warming," thebreakthrough.org, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus
"What Conservatives Can Teach Liberals About Global Warming Policy"
"Over the last decade, progressives have successfully painted
conservative climate skepticism as the major stumbling block to reducing
greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon and the Koch brothers, the story goes,
fund conservative think tanks to sow doubt about climate change and
block legislative action. As evidence mounts that anthropogenic global
warming is underway, conservatives’ flight from reason is putting us all
This week's release of a new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change report opens another front in the climate wars. But
beneath the bellowing, name-calling, and cherry-picking of data that
have become the hallmark of contemporary climate politics lies a
paradox: the energy technologies favored by the climate-skeptical Right
are doing far more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the ones
favored by the climate-apocalyptic Left.
How much more? Max Luke of Breakthrough Institute ran the numbers
and found that, since 1950, natural gas and nuclear prevented 36 times
more carbon emissions than wind, solar, and geothermal. Nuclear avoided
the creation of 28 billion tons of carbon dioxide, natural gas 26
billion, and geothermal, wind, and solar just 1.5 billion.
Environmental leaders who blame "global warming deniers" for preventing
emissions reductions point to Germany's move away from nuclear and to
renewables. "Germany is the one big country that’s taken this crisis
seriously," wrote Bill McKibben. Other progressive and green leaders,
including Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Bobby Kennedy, Jr., have held up
Germany's "energy turn," the Energiewende, as a model for the world.
But for the second year in a row, Germany has seen its coal use and carbon emissions rise
— a fact that climate skeptical conservatives have been quick to point
out, and liberal environmental advocates have attempted to
obfuscate. "Last year, Germany’s solar panels produced about 18
terawatt-hours (that’s 18 trillion watt-hours) of electricity," noted
Robert Bryce from the conservative Manhattan Institute. "And yet,
[utility] RWE’s new coal plant, which has less than a 10th as much
capacity as Germany’s solar sector, will, by itself, produce about 16
terawatt-hours of electricity.
Reagan historian Steven Hayward, formerly of the American Enterprise Institute, noted in the conservative Weekly Standard earlier this week, "Coal consumption went up 3.9 percent in Germany last year. Likewise, German greenhouse gas emissions — the chief object of Energiewende — rose in Germany last year, while they fell in the United States."
Emissions fell in the United States thanks largely to a technology loathed by the Left:
fracking. From 2007 to 2012, electricity from natural gas increased
from 21.6 to 30.4 percent, while electricity from coal declined from 50
to 38 percent — that's light speed in a notoriously slow-changing
sector. And yet the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and
most other green groups are working to oppose the expansion of natural
Hayward and Bryce are two of the most respected writers on energy and
the environment on the Right. Both are highly skeptical that global
warming poses a major threat. Both regularly criticize climate
scientists and climate models. Both men are regularly attacked by
liberal organizations like Media Matters for working for organizations,
the American Enterprise Institute and Manhattan Institute, respectively,
that have taken money from both Exxon and the Koch brothers. And yet
both men are full-throated advocates for what Bryce calls "N2N" —
accelerating the transition from coal to natural gas and then to
Arguably, the climate-energy paradox is a bigger problem for the Left
than the Right. One cannot logically claim that carbon emissions pose a
catastrophic threat to human civilization and then oppose the only two
technologies capable of immediately and significantly reducing them. And
yet this is precisely the position of Al Gore, Bill McKibben, the
Sierra Club, NRDC, and the bulk of the environmental movement.
By contrast, there are plenty of good reasons for climate skeptics to
support N2N. A diverse portfolio of energy sources that are cheap,
abundant, reliable, and increasingly clean is good for the economy and
strengthens national security - all the more so in a world where energy
demand will likely quadruple by the end of the century.
Why then is there so much climate skepticism on the Right? One obvious
reason is that climate science has long been deployed by liberals and
environmentalists to argue not only for their preferred energy
technologies but also for sweeping new regulatory powers for the federal
government and the United Nations.
But here as well, the green agenda hasn’t fared well. Those nations
that most rapidly reduced the carbon intensity of their economies over
the last 40 years did so neither through regulations nor international
agreements. Nations like France and Sweden, which President Obama
rightly singled out for praise earlier this month, did so by directly
deploying nuclear and hydroelectric power. Now the United States is the
global climate leader, despite having neither a carbon price nor
emissions trading, thanks to 35 years of public-private investment
leading to the shale gas revolution. Meanwhile, there is little evidence that caps and carbon taxes have had much impact on emissions anywhere.
In the end, both Left and Right reject a more pragmatic approach to the
climate issue out of fear that doing so might conflict with their
idealized visions for the future. Conservatives embrace N2N as a
laissez-faire outcome of the free market in the face of overwhelming
evidence that neither nuclear nor gas would be viable today had it not
been for substantial taxpayer support. Progressives seized on global
warming as an existential threat to human civilization because they
believed it justified a transition to the energy technologies –
decentralized renewables – that they have wanted since the sixties.
The Left, in these ways, has been every bit as guilty as the Right of engaging in "post-truth" climate politics. Consider New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza's glowing profile of Tom Steyer,
the billionaire bankrolling the anti-Keystone campaign. After Lizza
suggested that Steyer and his brother Tom might be the Koch brothers of
environmentalism, Steyer objects. The difference, he insists, is that
while the Koch brothers are after profit, he is trying to save the
is telling that neither Lizza nor his editors felt it necessary to
point out that Steyer is a major investor in renewables and stands to
profit from his political advocacy as well. Clearly, Steyer is also motivated by green ideology. But
it is hard to argue that the Koch brothers haven’t been equally
motivated by their libertarian ideology. The two have funded libertarian
causes since the 1970s and, notably, were among the minority of major
energy interests who opposed cap and trade. Fossil energy interests
concerned about protecting their profits, including the country's two
largest coal utilities, mostly chose to game the proposed emissions
trading system rather than oppose it as the Koch brothers did.
As Kathleen Higgins argues in a new essay for Breakthrough Journal,
it's high time for progressives to get back in touch with the liberal
tradition of tolerance, and pluralism. "Progressives seeking to govern
and change society," she writes, should attempt to "see the world from
the standpoint of their fiercest opponents. Taking multiple perspectives
into account might alert us to more sites of possible intervention and
prime us for creative formulations of alternative possibilities for
concerted responses to our problems."
As Left and Right spend the next week slugging it out over what the
climate science does or does not tell us, we would do well to remember
that science cannot tell us what to do. Making decisions in a democracy
requires understanding and tolerating, not attacking and demonizing,
values and viewpoints different from our own.
Conservatives have important things to say when it comes to energy,
whether or not they think of it as climate policy. Liberals would do
well to start listening." via Tom Nelson
Among comments: Two exchanges, one in which Michael Shellenberger responds by again noting obstructionism of Sierra Club and NRDC; another from a Minnesota resident with high hopes wind turbines in the Dakotas and solar in the Southwest can power most of the US with some hydro and geothermal backup:
First commenter has hopes set on renewables and leadership from China. Michael Shellenberger's response follows:
"Sure, I get it. But the U.S. today isn’t 1970s
Europe. Heck, Europe today isn’t 1970s Europe! I’d like to think we can
move from nuclear retrenchment to renaissance in both places. Next
generation reactors are promising, but not ready for prime-time. Maybe
there’s more going on in other countries like China to give us hope. But
since we’re not there yet, I’m not sure it’s helpful to frame
nuclear/gas vs renewables as an either/or contest. Technology tribalism
can only get you so far.
News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Shellenberger and Nordhaus in Sept. 2013 say US is global climate leader thanks to 35 years of gov. spending on shale revolution and big drop in coal use, not because of CO2 tax or cap and trade which wherever used have not helped climate. Note Germany has increased coal use and CO2 emissions, NRDC and Sierra Club obstruct best ways to help climate
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