Joyce L. Arnold, Liberally Independent, Queer Talk, equality activist, writer.
President Obama in an interview with ABC News? Robin Roberts, this afternoon [Via Think Progress]:
“I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don?t Ask Don?t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I?ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married.”
This follows Biden?s remarks on Sunday, yesterday?s vote in North Carolina that passed a ?marriage definition? amendment, intense and widespread conversations and editorials over the last several days … and literally decades of work by LGBT and supportive advocates, including the last three years of the Obama administration.
As Joe Sudbay writes:
Obama became the first President of the United States to support marriage equality. It?s a very welcome development. As you know, the President first announced that he was evolving during our interview on October 27, 2010.
Sudbay includes this from John Aravosis:
A few points. First, this is major news and these aren’t “just words.” When the President of the United States makes a statement about an issue this big, the words have impact. They can impact court cases around the country, and just as importantly, people’s attitudes. Those attitudes matter at the ballot box and in the schoolyard. The President’s opinion matter. …
What happened, I think, was that it finally became more obviously harmful than helpful for Obama to continue the ?evolving? process. I?d guessed that, if something didn?t basically force it, he would wait until after November to make such an announcement, and wondered if it would happen even then. Whatever the various reasons that brought him to his announcement today, he finally got there, and for that, I?m grateful.
As I am to all those grassroots people, and organizations and bloggers and more, who have done the work that made this happen, as they made the repeal of DADT happen, and will, eventually, bring about marriage equality, employment protection, and more.
This post was updated with video.
Although the narrator is a 'tard who can barely read the Stratfor script she was given, the main points are well taken: "The traditional political elites are losing control of the system they once dominated... 12 governments of the Eurozone's 17 member states have collapsed or been voted out of office in the last two years. This phenomenon is testament to the near political impossibility of implementing Austerity and reform measures without losing popular support."
In Greece, the right-leaning Conservative Consensus Party and the left-leaning Conservative Consensus Party was each abandoned by much of it's base. Even together they failed on Monday to form a coalition government. Greek voters, furious at their collaboration with the German bankster regime that has imposed Austerity-- failed Austerity-- have turned to alternatives. On the left, voters made a rational decision and voted in Alexis Tsipras' Syriza grouping-- as well as the Communists (8.48% of the vote) and other leftist parties. On the right, of course, the lizard brain went straight for he Nazis. 21 deputies (6.97% of the vote) were elected to the Golden Dawn, a far right populist party comparable to the Arizona GOP or the teabaggers here-- only with more elaborate and menacing iconography.
In other European countries, voters, particularly younger voters, are registering their disgust with the traditional political parties of the Conservative Consensus by voting for... the Pirate Party. It appears to have been founded in 2006 as a Swedish party led by IT developer Rickard Falkvinge and it had more to do with Internet issues than politics per se. But as it spread across Europe it has become more and more associated with other issues of the Enlightenment, from civil rights and universal healthcare to separation of church and state and direct democracy. Last year the German Pirate Party won 8.9% of the vote in the Berlin state election and this past weekend the Pirate Party astounded everyone by winning over 8% of the vote in Schleswig-Holstein and 6 seats in the state parliament, perhaps enough to determine whether the conservative CDU or the less conservative Social Democrats will lead the coalition government.
Worldwide there are now over 40 countries with Pirate parties. The United States Pirate Party, which is based primarily on standing up for Net Neutrality and freedom of information, is registered in Massachusetts, Florida, Oklahoma and Oregon and there are state Pirate parties in New York and Maryland as well. The Pirate Party in Massachusetts says they expect to start running candidates in 2014.
Monday night, sitting in for Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes connected the dots for viewers between what voters across Europe have done and what voters in America must do to save themselves from the economic and social ravages that come with the kind of Austerity the European One Percent has imposed-- and which the American right is trying to impose. Mitt Romney's and Paul Ryan's economic precepts are what Sarkozy and Merkel have given Europe... but on steroids.
Read The Full Article:
Here's a snippet of something I just posted over at AMERICAblog Gay:Brad Dayspring, the former spokesman for the number two Republican in the US House, Eric Cantor, had the following to say about President Obama's support for same-sex marriage:Brad Dayspring ? @BDayspringWith the economy in stagnation and crippling amounts of debt, the President seeks to further divide America by launching...
As ThinkProgress has noted, Mitt Romney’s energy plan embraces a coal and oil future, while he disparages green jobs. Today, in a campaign speech at a Colorado oil field, Romney said, “His ideas about energy are simply out of date. We’re applying policies from the past that just don’t work.” But Romney wasn’t pointing out subsidies for Big Oil that are 100 years old — he has said he’s fine with those. He was knocking green jobs in wind and solar yet again, even though 64,000 green jobs exist in his home state alone.
Thousands of protesters gathered outside Bank of America’s Charlotte, North Carolina headquarters throughout the day today, protesting the bank’s involvement in the financial crisis, its shady foreclosure practices, and its financing of destructive environmental projects. At least four protesters were arrested for crossing police lines during the protests, which otherwise remained largely peaceful, according to reports.
The protesters also “foreclosed” on Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers and the site of the 2012 Democratic National Convention. Protesters who owned Bank of America shares were refused entry into the bank’s annual shareholder’s meeting, much as Wells Fargo protesters were at its annual meeting last week.
Inside the meeting, disgruntled shareholders forced votes on various proposals, most of which were rejected by executives. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan’s compensation package, which sextupled to more than $7.5 million despite the fact that the bank’s stock price was cut in half in 2011, was overwhelmingly approved.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has ordered an internal review of leaks regarding a plot to blow up a U.S. bound airliner by an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen. The review will determine whether the leak, which revealed that a Saudi intelligence agent infiltrated Al Qaeda and volunteered for the suicide mission, came out of any of the 16 sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies overseen by Clapper. “We are looking internally to determine whether or not there were unauthorized disclosures of unclassified information,” an unnamed U.S. intelligence told CNN.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has the back of the National Organization for Marriage. In a letter to IRS Commissioner Doglas H. Shulman this week, he called for an investigation into the leak of NOM’s 2008 Schedule B, which revealed some of the anti-equality group’s top donors, including Mitt Romney. Hatch’s letter parrots the same conspiracy-mongering rhetoric that NOM has been pushing:
The public 2009 and 2010 forms do not include confidential donor information. Moreover, unlike the 2009 and 2010 public 990s, the 2008 Schedule B published by HRC and Huffington Post is a PDF document that appears to have been deliberately altered in a manner to obscure information that would identify its origins with the IRS. First, the 2008 Schedule B appears to have been cropped in order to hide a stamp appearing across the top of each page that states, ?THIS IS A COPY OF A LIVE RETURN FROM SMIP. OFFICIAL USE ONLY.? Second, a white rectangle appears diagonally across the middle of each page of the document at issue ? a redaction that hides a number that appears to have been generated by the IRS.
Blogger David Cary Hart has already debunked NOM’s “proof” that the documents had to have originated from the IRS. When the Human Rights Campaign and Huffington Post originally reported on the leak, they attributed the document to a whistleblower within NOM. Because it seems that Romney’s contribution was not properly disclosed, it’s likely that NOM’s cries for an investigation are an attempt to distract attention from their potential lawbreaking.
Hatch faces a primary challenge from former Utah state Sen. Dan Liljenquist and has been swinging to the right to appeal to his base. Though polling overwhelmingly favors Hatch, this may explain why he’s endorsed NOM’s attempt to avoid taking responsibility for its misdeeds and its possible whistleblower.
Another day, another mainstream conservative Senator knocked off by the pollutocrat-backed Tea Party.
This time it was 6-term Sen. Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, crushed in a GOP primary 60% to 40% by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock.
Mourdoch, needless to say, is a hard-core science denier who last month actually demanded that Lugar resign as an ?honorary vice chair? of the Alliance to Save Energy, a bipartisan alliance of businesses and nonprofits that promotes … gasp … saving energy. The Alliance’s crime? They backed the 2009 Waxman-Markey climate bill because it aggressively promoted energy efficiency (see, for instance, “Waxman-Markey could save $3,900 per household and create 650,000 jobs by 2030“).
Mourdock said in a statement at the time:
?Clearly, Lugar is out of touch with Hoosier conservatives if he thinks that serving on the board of groups that advocate ?cap and trade? carbon tax schemes and the junk science associated with global climate change alarmism is prudent when he represents a state that meets the majority of its electrical needs with coal-fired generators.?
Yes, apparently Hoosier conservatives don’t like conserving things. Nor do they like climate science. At least the ones that vote in GOP primaries don’t.
Think Progress reported today of Mourdoch’s victory:
His candidacy is fueled by dirty energy money and outside spending groups: It is unlikely Mourdock would have won the primary without an infusion of $1.6 million in spending from the pro-Wall Street Club for Growth, as well as over half a million from FreedomWorks, an astroturf Tea Party group. In addition, Mourdock enjoyed a maxed out contribution from Murray Energy?s PAC, which represents the nation?s largest privately-owned coal company. Mourdock, a former coal company executive, received an additional $18,000 in contributions elsewhere from the coal, oil, and gas industries.
Lugar issued a stinging statement after his defeat, which said of Mourdoch and the Tea Party led GOP:
In effect, what he has promised in this campaign is reflexive votes for a rejectionist orthodoxy and rigid opposition to the actions and proposals of the other party….
I don?t remember a time when so many topics have become politically unmentionable in one party or the other. Republicans cannot admit to any nuance in policy on climate change. Republican members are now expected to take pledges against any tax increases.
That said, while Lugar’s spirit of bipartisanship will be missed, we should remember it was a relative spirit.
As The Hill noted last month:
Lugar was among the minority of Republicans that voted for failed cap-and-trade proposals in 2003 and 2005 sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
But in 2008 he voted against cap-and-trade legislation sponsored by Lieberman and then-senator John Warner (R-Va.), and in 2010 floated a broad energy security bill that did not include an emissions cap, although he touted other provisions that would help curb emissions.
He missed his chance to support bipartisan climate legislation when there was the only serious chance in a generation to get it passed, in 2009 and 2010. So he will be missed, relatively speaking.
by Dana Nuccitelli, via Skeptical Science
When it comes to global climate change, there are two critical and intertwined, but distinct issues: science, and policy. We generally focus on the science, because that is what dictates the appropriate policy response, or at least what our climate policy needs to accomplish.
Justin Gillis had an excellent article published in The New York Times this past week, which addresses both science and policy. The science aspect of the article bears some resemblance to one of our posts from a year ago, Climate Sensitivity: The Skeptic Endgame. The fundamental premise of both articles involves the fact that, because of the sound basic science supporting the human-caused global warming theory, there only remains one fallback position for the remaining relatively credible climate contrarians. That fallback position involves climate sensitivity being lower than the body of scientific evidence indicates.
Gillis’ article focuses mainly on Richard Lindzen, who is one of the relatively more credible climate contrarians (although he has a long history of taking contrarian positions on nearly every climate-related issue, and being almost universally wrong on those issues). Lindzen embodies the low climate sensitivity fallback position perfectly, but as we will see here, the basis of Lindzen’s argument, which itself is the basis of all remaining relatively credible climate contrarianism, is entirely false and undermined by three inescapable flaws.
We know that humans are rapidly increasing the level of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, we know that this GHG increase is causing some amount of warming, and will continue to cause additional warming as long as GHG levels continue to rise. The remaining relatively credible climate contrarians like Lindzen acknowledge these realities; where they differ from mainstream climate science is in exactly how much warming the GHG increase will cause. This is known as the climate sensitivity – how much the planet will warm in response to increasing GHGs, including feedbacks.
For contrarians like Lindzen, climate sensitivity must be low, or they have no case to make. They have acknowledged that GHGs will cause warming, and their only argument against taking serious action to reduce GHG emissions is this premise that the GHG increase won’t cause very much warming. That is why we described this argument as the ‘skeptic’ endgame, and Gillis accurately described it as the dissenters’ “last bastion.”
So what is Lindzen’s case for low climate sensitivity?
He summed it up in the recent ABC documentary discussed by John Cook, I Can Change Your Mind About Climate (see minute 21 in this video). In response to a comment that the average global surface temperature has warmed about three-quarters of a degree Celsius, Linzen responds:
“Yeah, and we should have seen 3[°C]“
This is a very brief encapsulation of Lindzen’s pet argument, Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected. I call it his ‘pet argument’ because he makes it in virtually every talk and presentation he gives, and has been making it since at least 1989, despite the fact that it’s been debunked time and time again (i.e. Skeptical Science alone has debunked it here and here and here and here and here and here).
In short, if climate sensitivity is lower than resulting in climate models, then the climate should have warmed less than climate models have predicted. In order to argue that this is the case, Lindzen claims that CO2-equivalent (the total radiative forcing for all greenhouse gases in units equivalent to CO2-caused warming) has already doubled from pre-industrial levels; therefore, if climate sensitivity is around 3°C for doubled CO2 (as in climate models), the planet should have warmed 3°C. It has not warmed nearly so much; therefore, Lindzen asserts, climate sensitivity is low.
The problem with Lindzen’s argument for low sensitivity is that it contains three separate fundamental flaws:
By themselves, each of these fundamental errors completely invalidates Lindzen’s argument. Taken together, they form a trio of Achilles’ Heels which leave us puzzled as to how Lindzen has continued to make this obviously and grossly fundamentally flawed argument for over two decades.
In addition to these three glaring errors, we know the Earth has warmed as much as expected because climate scientists compare their model runs to observational data. We’ve done a whole series of posts looking at the accuracy of past climate model predictions, our most recent entry being Hansen et al. 1981 (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Hansen et al. (1981) global warming projections under a scenario of high energy growth (4% per year from 1980 to 2020) (red) and slow energy growth (2% per year from 1980 to 2020) (blue) vs. observations from GISTEMP with a 2nd-order polynomial fit (black). Actual energy growth has been between the two Hansen scenarios at approximately 3% per year. Baseline is 1971-1991.
Thus not only do we know Lindzen’s argument is wrong due to its three Achilles’ Heels, we know it’s wrong just by comparing actual model results to observational data, which show the Earth has warmed consistent with model predictions.
There simply is no question – Lindzen’s claim that the Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected, which is the basis of his low climate sensitivity argument, which is the basis of all remaining relatively credible climate contrarianism, is entirely false based on three fundamental physical flaws in his argument, as demonstrated by simply comparing the models and observations.
In Gillis’ Times article, Lindzen brings up his Iris hypothesis. Back in 2001, Lindzen proposed that in response to global warming, increased sea surface temperature in the tropics would result in reduced cirrus cloud formation and thus more infrared radiation leakage from Earth’s atmosphere. This radiation leakage in turn would have a cooling effect, dampening global warming as a negative feedback (like the iris in a human eye contracting to allow less light to pass through the pupil in a brightly lit environment – hence the term ‘iris effect’).
However, within a year of the publication of Lindzen’s iris paper, there was one study published concluding that Lindzen had significantly overestimated the iris effect, a second concluding that if the iris effect existed, it would lead to increased warming, and a third and fourth papers finding no evidence for the iris effect. The vast majority of subsequent research has simply not substantiated Lindzen’s iris hypothesis – it has not withstood the test of time.
In another challenge for the low sensitivity crowd, research has shown that the water vapor feedback (which appears to be the largest single feedback) is positive, amplifying global warming. Therefore, contrarians like Lindzen need a large negative feedback to offset the water vapor effect, and the only credible candidate is cloudcover. Thus, as Andrew Dessler notes in Gillis’ article,
“If you listen to the credible climate skeptics, they?ve really pushed all their chips onto clouds.”
Not only is climate sensitivity the ‘skeptic’ endgame, but clouds are the low climate sensitivity endgame. Climate contrarians need a strongly negative cloud feedback to argue that climate sensitivity is low, which they need to be the case in order to argue that global warming is nothing to worry about. It all boils down to clouds.
Lindzen hasn’t actually published any subsequent research to support his iris hypothesis, but he has attempted to show that climate sensitivity is low, and then proposed his iris hypothesis as the physical explanation for that low sensitivity, even though as noted above, the hypothesis has not withstood the test of time.
Unfortunately, most recent climate research has indicated that clouds probably act as yet another positive feedback, amplifying rather than dampening global warming. The most prominent and recent such paper was Dessler (2010), which found that the short-term cloud feedback is probably positive, although slightly negative values could not be ruled out.
Contrarians like Lindzen still hold out hope because clouds do remain one of the biggest climate uncertainties. However, it’s not just climate models and studies of climate feedbacks that undermine the low sensitivity argument. Paleoclimate studies (examining climate data from hundreds to millions of years ago) are also consistent with the climate model sensitivity, and inconsistent with low climate sensitivity arguments (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Distributions and ranges for climate sensitivity from different lines of evidence. The circle indicates the most likely value. The thin colored bars indicate very likely value (more than 90% probability). The thicker colored bars indicate likely values (more than 66% probability). Dashed lines indicate no robust constraint on an upper bound. The IPCC likely range (2 to 4.5°C) and most likely value (3°C) are indicated by the vertical grey bar and black line, respectively. Adapted from Knutti and Hegerl (2008).
In short, the evidence is heavily stacked against the low climate sensitivity argument. The premise of the argument – that the Earth should have warmed more if climate models were right about climate sensitivity – is unquestionably wrong on many different levels. The argument’s last hope lies in a strongly negative cloud feedback, but so far the evidence is pointing in the other direction. Data from the Earth’s history is also inconsistent with an insensitive climate.
That’s not to say that a low climate sensitivity is an impossibility. Science is about probabilities, not certainties. However, as we will explore in Part 2 tomorrow, while there is a very low probability that they are right, the problem is that contrarians like Lindzen refuse to even consider the possibility that they are wrong, and expect us to risk the welfare of future generations on that slim chance that they are right.
In Part 1 of this post, we examined the fundamental flaws in the last hope for climate contrarians – that the planet won’t warm very much in response to rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, because climate sensitivity is low, because clouds will act as a negative feedback and dampen future warming. While it would be convenient if this picture (best embodied by Richard Lindzen) were accurate, the evidence is stacked heavily against it.
Nevertheless, as Part 1 concluded, there is a slim chance that Lindzen and company are correct, that climate sensitivity is low and global warming is not a major concern. There is also a high probability that they are wrong, that future global warming will be substantial, and that the consequences will be bad if we don’t do something about it. How we choose to address these scenarios is a question of risk management, which happens to be a big part of my day job. Unfortunately, as with his scientific positions, Lindzen’s risk management arguments are ill-conceived.
In the Gillis New York Times article, Lindzen summarizes his approach to this climate risk management question:
“If I?m right, we?ll have saved money…. If I?m wrong, we?ll know it in 50 years and can do something.”
There is a rather obvious flaw in Lindzen’s logic here – it assumes that in 50 years we will be able to simply flip a switch and solve the climate problem. Unfortunately, that is probably not the reality of the situation. Figure 1 shows the projected atmospheric CO2 levels under various emissions scenarios. If we listen to Lindzen, we will follow one of the higher emissions paths (currently we are on track with A2 [yellow]). Figure 2 shows the resulting global warming based on climate model runs which, as Part 1 showed, have thus far been quite accurate.
Figure 1: Atmospheric CO2 concentrations as observed at Mauna Loa from 1958 to 2008 (black dashed line) and projected under the 6 IPCC emission scenarios (solid colored lines). (IPCC Data Distribution Centre)
Figure 2: Global surface temperature projections for IPCC Scenarios. Shading denotes the ±1 standard deviation range of individual model annual averages. The orange line is constant CO2 concentrations at year 2000 values. The grey bars at right indicate the best estimate (solid line within each bar) and the likely range. (Source: IPCC).
The big difference between the higher and lower emissions scenarios is that at mid-century, emissions in the higher scenarios are accelerating upwards, while in the lower scenarios they are flattening out. It takes time to deploy the necessary infrastructure to reduce GHG emissions – there is no magical switch we can suddenly flip in 2050 when we realize that Lindzen and company were wrong. As Figure 2 shows, the average global surface temperature difference between Scenario A2 (essentially business-as-usual advocated by Lindzen) and Scenario B1 (which involves serious action to reduce GHG emissions) in 2100 is close to 2°C.
Internationally, 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels is generally accepted as the “danger limit” we should try to avoid exceeding. This is not a hard and fast limit – there won’t suddenly be a catastrophe if we reach 2.01°C; in fact, many experts believe even 2°C warming is too risky. However, some of the impacts listed in the IPCC report for global warming of a Lindzen-level 3-4°C above pre-industrial levels include:
In Scenario A2, we reach this level of warming in about 60 to 80 years – within a couple of decades of Lindzen’s 50 year ‘wait and see’ target. If he is wrong, by the time we’re forced into taking action, it will be too late to avoid some really nasty consequences.
And of course let’s not forget global warming’s evil twin, ocean acidification. Even if the contrarians are right about low climate sensitivity, the impacts of rising atmospheric CO2 on marine ecosystems will be severe, and a 50-year delay in reducing CO2 emissions could have dire consequences for those ecosystems.
In short, if Lindzen is wrong, future generations are in big, big trouble. In fact, according to The Critical Decade report by the Australian Climate Commission, we’ve already burned through 30% of our allotted GHG emissions between 2000 to 2050 if we want to give ourselves a good chance to limit global warming to that 2°C limit. Not only don’t we have 50 years, we’re already behind where we should be in terms of emissions reductions.
Humans are generally very averse to risk. Everyone who drives a car purchases auto insurance. Everyone who owns a house purchases homeowners insurance. Most first world countries have implemented universal health care systems, and in the USA, virtually everyone who can afford it purchases health care insurance. Personally I’m relatively young and in good health, I’m a safe driver, and I’m not worried that anything will happen to my home; yet I’ve purchased all three types of insurance. Why?
Because if anything were to do substantial damage to my home, car, or health, it could impose a huge cost which I couldn’t afford without insurance. The probability of any of these things happening is relatively low, but the potential consequence is so bad that we all mitigate it by purchasing insurance to cover our most valuable assets in case the worst case scenario comes to fruition.
Yet when it comes to the climate, we are behaving in exactly the opposite manner. It’s hard to imagine a larger potentially diastrous scenario than a major climate change. It could potentially impact every single living thing on Earth, and impose a huge cost on every person. This is not just some slim possibility, as shown in Part 1, it’s the most probable outcome! And yet thus far we have utterly failed to mitigate this massive, highly probable risk.
This is the risk management approach I described in my entry in Why Are We Sure We’re Right, and as Greg Craven has eloquently summarized in this video. However, to adequately manage the risks posed by climate change, we should perform a cost-benefit analysis.
The costs associated with mitigating climate change are relatively straightforward to evaluate. Generally, estimates put the cost of reducing GHG emissions 80% by 2050 (which will approximately limit global warming to the 2°C ‘danger limit’) at around 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some estimates put the cost as low as a fraction of a percent of GDP, while others put it as high as 2 to 3%. While this is a substantial cost, it is not an unmanageable one, and we already have all the technology necessary to accomplish this task.
It’s also worth noting that the longer we wait, the larger the costs become. Delays force emissions cuts to be steeper, and they also delay the development of cheaper emissions reductions technologies. A Google.org study found that delaying significant investment in green tech by 5 years could cost the USA $2.3 to $3.2 trillion in GDP (Figure 3).
Figure 3: US GDP gains between 2010 and 2050 in three scenarios. The green scenario includes a $30 per ton price on utility sector CO2 emissions and strong investment in green tech to develop “breakthroughs” (BTs). the blue line depicts a scenario in which there is heavy investment in green tech without a carbon price. The purple line is a 5 year delay before significant investment in green tech. The red and orange area depicts the difference in GDP growth: $2.3 to 3.2 trillion lost in the 5 year delay scenario. Source: Google.org study
The benefits of climate mitigation are more difficult to estimate, because it depends who’s right. If Lindzen and company are right about low climate sensitivity, then reducing GHG emissions has some relatively small benefits. For example, countries will produce more domestic energy and become more energy-independent. National security will improve as oil-based wars become less likely. The transition away from fossil fuels, which are after all non-renewable and limited substances, will be smoother and easier. Air and water pollution and their associated adverse health impacts will be reduced.
Installing the necessary infrastructure would also create a lot of jobs and help alleviate the current unemployment problems around the world. Right now, when there is a major surplus in the available work force, is arguably the best time for governments to invest in infrastructure projects like those which will be necessary to reduce GHG emissions.
So there are some definite benefits to reducing emissions even if the Lindzen low sensitivity crowd is right. If they are wrong, which is the far more likely scenario, the benefits will outweight the costs several times over, by trillions of dollars (Figure 4).
Lindzen’s suggested approach of waiting 50 years and hoping the consequences are not disastrous is one of exceptionally poor risk management. The prudent approach would involve addressing the worst case scenario, particularly when that scenario has a significant probability of coming to fruition if we fail to prevent it. This is particularly true when the mitigation costs, while not cheap, will certainly not cripple the economy, and when the benefits are also significant in any scenario, and may very well outweigh the costs several times over and by trillions of dollars.
From a risk management standpoint, there is no question that we should be ignoring Lindzen’s ill-conceived approach and instead taking serious action to reduce our GHG emissions. Unfortunately, for various reasons, we have thus far failed to take the prudent climate risk management approach, and if we continue to fail, future generations will suffer the consequences of Lindzen and his fellow contrarians’ foolhardy approach.
This two-part series was originally published at Skeptical Science and was reprinted with permission.
Last June, President Obama was pressed at a news conference on how his famous ?evolution? on marriage equality was coming along. "I'll keep on giving you the same answer until I give you a different one," he said. It was another in a long line of wink-wink statements indicating that the president?s stated opposition to same-sex marriage was shifting. Everybody knew the ?different answer? was coming?just not when. Now we know.
?At a certain point I?ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married,? Obama told ABC?s Robin Roberts today. The interview, which will air in full on tomorrow?s Good Morning America, was hastily arranged when Obama?s ?I?m getting there? position on same-sex marriage went from being merely annoying to utterly ludicrous. After Vice President Biden and two cabinet members declared their support for gay marriage, the president?s spokespeople were finding it impossible to make sense of the president?s endless evolutionary process.
Like every queer person in America, I couldn?t help feeling a shot of giddiness as I watched the president of the United States declare his support for marriage equality. This was a historic moment for the LGBT movement. But for me, and I suspect for many others, the celebration is muted by residual frustration over the agonizingly long wait for Obama to make his inevitable announcement?and by his failure to speak out more forcefully against North Carolina?s Amendment One, which passed yesterday and banned not only same-sex marriages but unions and partnerships in my home state. (Even today, Obama said he still supports the ?concept? of states deciding the issue on their own.)
Obama?s first reversal on gay marriage, between his 1996 state Senate campaign when he endorsed it and his U.S. Senate campaign in 2004 where he said it was contrary to ?my religious faith,? had clear political motivations. And so, of course, does his second turnabout. Obama didn?t want a bitter platform fight about same-sex marriage to mar the requisite show of unity at this summer?s Democratic Convention. He didn?t want to continue to be distracted by the endless questions and silly evasions. Running against the nation?s most infamous political waffler in November, Obama didn?t want to look like a waffler himself.
The political convenience?even necessity?of Obama?s words today doesn?t mean they?re not worth applauding. But I can also understand the reaction of Pam Spaulding, the North Carolina blogger who fought fiercely against Amendment One: ?Our lives have been treated like a political football by purported allies as well as professional anti-gays.?
When the president campaigned in North Carolina last week, he was conspicuously silent on the issue the entire state was feuding over. While the Obama campaign had issued a statement opposing the amendment, that was all the help that opponents?not only gay activists, but a vigorous band of African-American pastors and civil-rights leaders?got. Obama likely couldn?t have stopped Amendment One by speaking out forcefully; it passed with more than 60 percent of the vote. But he could have made a difference by helping to reframe the issue, especially for African American supporters who were deeply divided over the amendment.
At The New Yorker, Amy Davidson wrote that the North Carolina defeat should have taught the president a lesson?that even if public opinion is turning in favor of same-sex marriage, you can?t ?just step aside and let the waves roll, watching appreciatively from some safe distance, checking, every now and then, to see if anyone would notice if you inched forward. If there is a lesson in the North Carolina vote, it is that complacency on this issue is not a victimless stance. Not all of the movement on gay marriage has been forward progress. There are families whose lives will now get worse. They, and we, have arrived at a moment when politicians?including the President?need to say what they believe, what risks they are willing to take, and what, in the end, is worth fighting for.?
Obama has been less of a leader than a follower on the great civil-rights issue of our time. Now he has a chance to lead?to use his bully pulpit and his eloquence to reshape the discussion over marriage equality. In today?s interview, he made a start on that as he gave his and the first lady?s (current) moral view: ?In the end the values that I care most deeply about and she cares most deeply about is how we treat other people and, you know, I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it?s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that?s what we try to impart to our kids and that?s what motivates me as president and I figure the most consistent I can be in being true to those precepts, the better I?ll be as a dad and a husband and hopefully the better I?ll be as president.?
Let?s hope this is the start of something, and not just the belated end of an evolution.