Early in December, four GOP senators lead by Inhofe went to Secretary Clinton, and warned her against helping poor countries that are struggling under the effects of climate change. In response, some corporations that do not sell fossil fuels as a primary mode of business had something to say about that was encouraging. A corporate coalition including Starbucks, Timberland, eBay, and PepsiCo said that the U.S. should take the lead in creating the Green Fund project established in Cancun earlier this month.
They invoked a concept that even the GOP can understand: The Bottom Line.
Countries struggling under the weight of climate change can't become global consumers.
Furthermore, effective climate finance abroad will contribute significantly to equitable economic growth at home. It will create employment opportunities, generate demand globally for U.S. technologies and services, and facilitate innovation in multiple sectors.
As important as it is to make this argument, it still doesn't cut at the root that gives climate deniers like Inhofe such staying power. The problem is subtle, and it's one of validity. Climate denial is based on a system of belief that holds science to to its own standard of scrutiny. But it's the wrong standard -- that's the flaw in all of their arguments.
In a system of belief, anything that is falsifiable is invalid. In science, however, every idea must be testable in order to be valid: that is to say that all things must be falsifiable in order to be valid.
The issue is partly that they can't tell the difference between climate and weather -- but the mistake they're really making is using local phenomena to declare the construction "anthropogenic climate change" invalid in its entirety, as if it is a belief system rather than a scientific one. This is the same flaw that appears in "intellegent design" arguments.
We have to fight this on the scientific front, and it isn't enough that the overwhelming majority of scientists in the world are convinced that we're facing a global crisis. Recently The Royal Society, UK's equivalent to the National Academy of Sciences, issued a clarified summary of climate change science. The British Royal Society highlighted uncertainties in warming predictions, stating that it is impossible to know how the Earth's climate will change or what effects that change will have. At least two members that advise the denier think-tank Global Warming Policy Foundation are pleased. (Download a summary of this thoroughly cooked British cuisine here.)
The argument was based on "uncertainty". Not uncertainty that we're warming, but uncertainty about how much and how fast. Forget that we're all certain that we're getting hotter. But it is a way to hook people -- particularly policymakers -- who have no choice but to rely on belief. Asking an advisor, even one that is "a scientist" is subscribing to belief.
One of the sources of uncertainly is that it's difficult to model and understand climate is cloud effects. A study published in Science last week provided a compelling arugment that cloud effects do not provide enough negative feedback to cancel out any warming, and could well contribute -- thus removing some of that magic uncertainty that climate deniers rely on.
The New York Times covered the conflict in New Theory of Climate Effects of Clouds Triggers a Thunderstorm Among Skeptics in Cancun. You can also read about the study at Climate Progress. The skeptics responded with a conspiracy theory to start the invalidation narrative.
More from Climate Change News Roundup:
Those Fossil Fools
- Rutgers scientists invite Gov. Christie to climate conference. New Jersey Governor Christie recently told a town hall group that Toms River that he is a climate skeptic. Rutgers Meteorologist Alan Robock responds, "I’ve heard over 100 different arguments about why we shouldn’t accept global warming. They’re all fallacious and I’d be happy to point out the errors in any of them."
- James Inhofe thinks that voters control the climate. "I am vindicated," says Republican Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is still sore about getting ridiculed about his stand on climate change, and insists that voters get to decide whether humans are warming the globe. He has certain plans to apply that resentment to the environment when the new congress assembles.
- Conservative MEP spends £9,000 on climate sceptic poster campaign. They do it in the UK, too, only they spell it with a "c". "The citizens of Derby, Leicester, Northampton, Lincoln and Nottingham are currently being treated to the sight of giant posters in prominent locations, featuring the face of Roger Helmer, the Conservative MEP for the East Midlands constituency."
Energy, Technology, Business, and Economic Impacts
- Report: California's climate cap-and-trade won't negatively impact economy. "California's effort to cap carbon emissions by gasoline refiners, utilities and other large polluters will have little impact on consumers and businesses in the state while creating up to 623,000 new jobs over the next decade, according to a new report."
- North American photovoltaic market could double in 2011. The worry is that a Treasury program that allows developers take a cash grant to cover 30 percent of the cost of big solar, wind and geothermal projects in lieu of taking an existing investment tax credit will expire at the end of the year. Most green energy companies have no profits to offset with a tax credit, so the case grant is crucial to growth.
This important green business issue went largely under-reported, so the next item appears here, rather than in the US Policy section:
- Feinstein and Merkley introduce a measure to expand the cash grant program through 2012. They seek to Extend the Treasury Grants Program until 2012, permit public power utilities to receive Treasury grants for renewable energy, expand the solar investment tax credit to include manufacturing equipment and solar water heaters for commercial and community pools, and establishe a new solar tax credit for consolidation of disturbed private land with high solar value.
- Carbon War Room launches a new shipping efficiency website. "Shippingefficiency.org enables anyone with access to the internet to tell an efficient, low-emission ship from an less efficient one, for the first time. Using a simple search function, users can pull up an A to G rating for around 60,000 existing ships, including the majority of the world’s container ships, tankers, bulk carriers, cargo ships, cruise ships and ferries."
- World Bank sets up fund to support carbon trading in developing countries. The World Bank announced at the United Nations climate change talks Cancún in a new $100 million fund to support carbon trading initiatives in the developing world.
Climate Change in US Politics
- Renewables are in for a fight with Upton as Energy and Commerce chair. Pending approval of the full House Republican Conference tomorrow, Fred Upton of Michigan would head the influential panel that has oversight of energy policy, as well as healthcare and telecommunications.
- Senator blocks Obama nominee over drilling halt. David Vitter, R- La., said in a letter to President Barack Obama that he was putting Dr. Scott Doney nomination for chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration "on hold", because he wants to yammer about the new, tougher policy on offshore drilling.
- USDA Unveils New Climate Initiatives. Tom Vilsack announced new climate initiatives through Agriculture, including $15 million in Conservation Innovation Grants for rural projects that demonstrate carbon sequestration.
- Lisa Jackson prepares for a Republican controlled congress. Amidst threats to withhold funding to EPA climate initiatives, she clings to optimism, even at the prosepcts of arguming climate with James Inhofe. She says, "There is not an insincere bone in him...I have a lot of respect for people who are honestly reflecting their own belief system, as opposed to those who might be more cynically motivated."
- Ted Poe introduces "Insuring Affordable Energy Act". This act seeks to prohibit the EPA from spending to implement a cap-and-trade program under the Clean Air Act.
- Oyster Creek nuclear power plant is scheduled to close early. The issue is water. They say that "the plant faces a unique set of economic conditions and changing environmental regulations." The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection passed regulations that require them to build cooling tower to limit the thermal pollution to two surrounding rivers. These regulations will affect coal burning plants, too.
- Oregon to close its only coal-fired power plant by Dec 31, 2020. Oregon's Environmental Quality Commission's vote on haze regulations governing pollution controls at the Boardman power plant followed recommendations from the Department of Environmental Quality. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must approve the plan.
Climate Policy Abroad
- Proactive, climate-wise governments' policies expected to increase global $1.7 trillion investment by 2020. "Current policies among the world's richest 20 nations will result in $546bn (£348bn) less being invested in clean energy by 2020 than is needed to prevent dangerous climate change, according to a new report."
- Has Japan Killed the Kyoto Protocol? Does it Matter? "Japan announced last week that it would not sign on for a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol after the first period expires in 2012 unless China and the U.S. join the agreement. Environmentalists and developing countries condemn the Japanese but can we really blame them?"
- South Australia plans to ban growth of coal power. The legislation will go to Parliament next year after talks with the electricity industry. Australia's per capita carbon emissions are currently higher than those in the US.
Water, Natural Resources, Health, and EcoJustice
- Environmental changes challenge Vietnam's food supply. "About a year ago some farmers from Binh Thanh commune in Vietnam's southern rice growing heartland suspected the worst -- that their irrigation water had become too salty."
- Blue tongue, blight, beetles threaten a warmer world. "Beetles killing trees in North America, blue tongue disease ravaging livestock in Europe, and borers destroying African coffee crops are examples of migrating invasive species not getting enough attention at global climate talks, scientists said on Wednesday."
- Tiny organisms give big warning about planet health. "San Francisco State University scientists are studying whether a hardworking microscopic organism that helps rid the planet of too much carbon dioxide will continue to work so well in the year 2100, when the Earth’s oceans are expected to be more acidic."