I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR this morning.  They did a brief bit on the economy and the potential effects of continuing high energy prices on it.

The guest for the segment was David Wessel from the Wall Street Journal.  The gist of the interview centered on how high energy prices mean consumers pay more for gas, heat, and electricity.  This drop in disposable income available reduces spending and sours consumer confidence, etc.

One line struck me though, after the jump.

The conversation turned to the idea that high energy prices will be good by spurring innovation:

Question: Before we had four dollar a gallon gas and people talking about five dollar a gallon gas or even higher there use to be people that speculated that this might actually be good for the economy.  It would force efficiency.  It would improve the environment.  It would cause changes like the kind you're talking about: people living closer to work.  There used to be people who said this might be a good thing.  Now that we're actually facing this prospect, is there a workable business plan where it could be a good thing?

Answer: I am certain that there are business plans being written right as we speak by people who believe that high oil prices and high gas prices are gonna be a lasting phenomenon who are trying to find ways to capitalize on that and could make the American economy more energy efficient, could make it an economy that produces less of the gasses that lead to ah global are believed to lead to global warming.

Wessel stops himself mid-sentence from from uttering the phrase "the gasses that lead to global warming," back pedals, and frames the idea as though there is still a question as to whether CO2 and other gas emmissions do contribute to climate change or are merely "believed" to contribute.  The oil industry and their cadre of climate change deniers out there have so successfully skewed the debate that it has become taboo to assert as fact, even though based on the actual evidence, that greenhouse gasses cause global climate change.

There is absolutely a certain amount of climate change attributable to the precession in the earth's rotation.  However, look at these graphs courtesy of Wikipedia:

Global temperatures

CO2 Emissions

Anyone who could look at this and not conclude that there is a direct correletion between CO2 levels and global temperatures simply lacks the capacities of logic and reason.  There's even a drop in temperature in the 1940's that corresponds to a drop in CO2 levels for that period for crying out loud!  There is a drop in fossil fuel burning followed by a drop in carbon flux or concentration, and the average temperature drops right with it before spiking upward for the rest of the century.

We've got to take back this debate by forcefully and aggressively asserting the fact that CO2 emissions cause climate change.

Another way to reframe the discussion is to stop calling it "global warming."  Unfortunately, the scientists who analyzed the data and discovered this phenomenon saw a rising average global temperature and called it "global warming."  It makes perfect sense and it is an absolutely perfect description of the science behind what's happening.  However, to the average joe on the street the results of this average warming are varied.  Some locales are getting warmer, some are getting cooler.  Some locales are seeing more rain some are drying out.

The point is, what's really happening is a massive shift in the global weathern patterns, a global climate change.  Personally, I always make it a point to call it that when there is an unusual cold-spell and some right-leaning acquaintance uses that as evidence for denying global warming.

It's going to take all of us speaking out about the issue to counter the prevailing conventional wisdom that there is still a debate about greenhouse gasses and climate change, but it's a vital responsibility we must all take to heart.  What we're seeing in the midwest this week is just a taste of the new weather patterns we can expect if we don't.

Originally posted to figurefive on Wed Jun 11, 2008 at 11:58 AM PDT.

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