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Last night, Mitt Romney--ever one to hem and haw his way into a promotion to President--doubled down on perhaps the most specious and hackneyed of 21st century Republican truisms: that our future is very much an ultimatum between the economy and the environment. It's a gamble, the argument goes, to protect the environment if it impedes economic growth.

Ironically, though, the very definition of economy is "how a society uses a scarcity of resources." To ignore that the computer you use contains rare minerals and precious metals that had to be extracted; or to ignore that the food you eat was likely shipped great distances by petroleum-based transportation; or to ignore the lush, carbon-sinking virgin forests being mowed down for livestock; or to ignore the neurological injuries from mercury in coal-fired power plants; or to ignore the changes to the ecological balance and their effects on the food supply; or to ignore the effect of the changes in salinity and alkalinity on the ocean currents; or to ignore the careful deliberation with which climate scientists have produced studies on carbon patterns and their affects on ice extents and global temperatures; is to flatly ignore, too, this very definition of economy. To ignore that the environment and economy are tied to each other, and that the environment is indeed the limiting reactant in the calculus that weighs the probability of human survival, is a quixotic fantasy. It's a fantasy where an endless bounty provides endless choices. There can be no sacrifices, because such sacrifices are not necessary and they inflict unnecessary damage. In this quixotic, naive logic of atavistic, albeit recent, conservative ideology, we can supposedly have it all. Such puerile thinking is like that of a child.

The scarcity we face is not in the availability of fossil fuels. We know full well now that there's enough oil, coal, and natural gas in the Athabasca tar sands, along the Orinoco River, in the Appalachian mountaintops, and elsewhere world wide for the most grueling of fracking and mining to incinerate the planet at a clip. The scarcity, then, is what is inversely proportional to fossil fuel emissions, and that is the carbon sinking forests, the albedo of the ice reflecting heat into space, and the ecological balance that has guaranteed more stable weather patterns and dependable food supplies. Entire cities, and indeed entire states and countries, have been founded on the climates and geographies their settlers perused and tried to understand several centuries ago. Predictable wildlife migrations, such as the brimming marine life that is born in the oxygen rich Gulf of Maine, fed by the Labrador Current's clash with the Gulf Stream, gave rise to thriving communities and cultures we hold dear today. Captain John Smith navigated the Chesapeake Bay with dewy-eyed journal entries about water so clear, he could see vast schools of fish.

Of fish we were best acquainted with sturgeon, grampus, porpoise, seals, stingrays ... brits, mullets, white salmon [rockfish], trouts, soles, perch of three sorts.
These patterns now become less certain. Rainfalls are more extreme: too much or too little. Plants like neither. The dice are loaded now, and our conventions about the way the world works are changing even as our collective mindsets do not. We take for granted that the grocery store will be stocked. How will we ever expect to shatter the complacency about the intricate workings of that food bounty?

And so, in stark contrast to the cross-sectional Republican stance on this, the truly damning ultimatum over whether or not the environment should impede economic growth is a matter of how much the environment will be depleted, not protected. The economy cannot and will not survive "as is" when the environment yields and reacts to increasing stress. In the month of July, world food prices surged 10% while 2/3 of the lower United States wizened, wildlife died off, and wildfires birthed even more carbon emissions. In Needles, California, 115 degree rainfall: a world record. In Kuwait, a record is set for the hottest day in Asia. It's 2012, and it looks like hell on Earth.

And though, as of July, the United States is on the trajectory to shatter the record for its warmest year, North Carolina's state legislature effectively denied the presence of the Coriolis effect, its effect on sea levels, and thus pleaded with the Earth to reject its natural laws in favor of human laws. The Earth, though, she isn't listening. In fact, she cares not for polls that tilt one way or another on climate change. In the far north, the Arctic ice extent plunged to record lows, sinking to levels far preceding the 2007 record. An event which occurred in August--a full month before the close of the melt season (mid-September)--this has only piled on to a litany of evidence going decades into the past.

Against this backdrop, it is alarming to realize that another ultimatum, one which feedbacks to the economy-environment ultimatum we've just defined, is upon us. It is the choice of presidential candidates for the United States, and who is most likely to take climate change as a grave and fast-moving threat. Romney instigated the lowly ignorance of climate change denialism in his speech last evening at the Republican Convention. Though roughly 70% of Americans accept that climate change is occurring, a sizable portion of the remainder do not see it as an issue at all. Romney reached out to that remainder:

President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.
...To which the captive audience suddenly scoffed and booed sotto voce.

Until Romney went to the callback:

My promise is to help you and your family.
...And the crowd explodes with jubilee!

He implies that helping "you and your family" is mutually exclusive with the health of the planet. I can't imagine many families willing to gamble on an unstable climate to add to the list of things that are troubling Americans. But apparently, it was not long ago when then Governor Mitt Romney didn't see career ascension as the clarion call of the day (relatively speaking), but devastating climate change. In 2004, he issued the "Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan", which strongly identified the threat of climate change and detailed a way to address it.

The first page of the Plan well described Romney's view on how relevant improvements to the environment are in the context of climate change. Simply, we should have made these changes anyway, because it's beneficial in more ways than just climate change.

(page 3, Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan)

If climate change is happening, the actions we take will help. If climate change is largely caused by human actions, this will really help. If we learn decades from now that climate change isn’t happening, these actions will still help our economy, our quality of life and the quality of our environment.

The same policies that protect the climate also promote energy efficiency, smart business practices, and improve the environment in which our citizens live and work. For Massachusetts, promoting climate protection in the Commonwealth and throughout our nation also promotes Massachusetts businesses that are at the forefront of the new markets for renewable energy technologies. Just as the brainpower of this state has been put to work by the nation and the world to develop the high-tech and biotech industries, we can also lead the nation in new energy technologies.

On monitoring greenhouse gases (page 14, Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan):
While all vehicles and buildings that burn fossil fuel generate GHGs, data is readily available from some sources and that data could and should be better tracked and monitored as an indicator of the state’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions, just as we collect and track data on other air emissions. Currently CO2 data is available for power plants and electricity suppliers, but there is no similar method of tracking annual GHG emissions from other facilities.
It certainly is a far cry from the Republican House's shrieks for cuts to NOAA and NASA funding, agencies well equipped to monitor, analyze, and report GHG data.

Make no mistake, though, that contained in the same plan, Romney identified why this was a serious issue (page 6, Massachusetts Climate Protection Plan):

Weather extremes, already a characteristic of New England, are likely
to become more frequent and cause more damage under a changing climate. While no one storm is directly attributable to climate change, an increasing number of such events could become more commonplace, severely interrupting Bay State life and economic activity.
There's that word "economy" again.
By 2100, a 5-9°F increase in global temperatures is forecast to double the rate of sea-level rise from 11 inches over the last century to 22 inches in this century.
Water shortages would, in turn, alter the natural fish populations in our rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds, and saltwater could intrude in our coastal fresh water supplies.
A warmer, saltier ocean and changing coastal currents would alter coastal and marine ecosystems, affecting the distribution, growth rate, and survival of our commercial fish, shellfish, and lobster stocks.
While CO2 itself is non-toxic, its warming effects cause hotter weather with more
frequent and severe heat waves, posing multiple health risks that include a rise in heat-related illness, more frequent periods of harmful outdoor air quality, and the spread of certain diseases.
It would also likely alter the natural range of many different plants and animals. Over the long term, warming could intensify droughts and damage forest ecosystems.
Heavy stuff, even for 2004 when our understandings were slightly less severe as now. But then, last evening, Mitt Romney established a darker, Machiavellian tone that threw all of that away.
His [Obama's] assault on coal and gas and oil will send energy and manufacturing jobs to China.
Two weeks prior, Romney railed on Obama's "war on coal", despite all evidence of coal's filthy and fatal, externalized environmental costs.

He is therein prioritizing (misleadingly, of course) the economy over the environment, therein also suggesting a false choice which he himself contradicted (retroactively, to use a popular adverb) in 2004. (i.e. environmental protection is both good and necessary for the economy.)

Veiled in this stale right-wing boilerplate is the insidious consequence of Romney's turncoat anti-environmental crusade. Ends to the wind tax credit would stymie a jobs-producing industry that has gained significant momentum. An industry whose electricity production jumped more than five-fold from 2005 to 2010 and produces 20% of Iowa's electricity (for example.) Prevention of new fuel efficiency standards to expedite the automobile industry to apply quite available technology would hamper the jobs needed to design the updated vehicles, while simultaneously suffocating the long-term economy via carbon emissions' multiplier effects. Except that, one time, he asked to remove "barriers" to renewable energy including wind, and proposed to improve the efficiency of oil-fired heating in homes. The changing winds in Romney's sails speak volumes now.

Last night provides further validation to the gut feelings people have been having about Mitt Romney: that he is unprincipled only up to the point that he's principled in being a fiercely adamant megalomaniac. An opportunist of the most severe degree. His myopic message threw a bone to the extreme fringe of the Republican party, and was not only divisive, but callous and catering to terrifyingly anti-scientific beliefs. What with the Texas GOP already making critical-thinking a no-no in its official platform, the Republican Party of 2012 certainly needs no further encouragement to scoff at science. Whereas Mitt Romney had the clear opportunity to stake the ground and acknowledge climate change, with its increased evidence and increased awareness, it is clear beyond doubt that he has neither you, me, your neighbors, your friends, your family, or anyone in future generations in mind. It's clear, then, that the only change in climate Mitt Romney cares to heed is the way the Republican party's wind is blowing.

Originally posted to rovertheoctopus on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:04 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Climate Hawks, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (32+ / 0-)

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

    by rovertheoctopus on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:04:52 AM PDT

  •  Forget "Servere conservative" (12+ / 0-)

    he is certainly a sever opportunist.  

    I was pretty amazed and disgusted to hear the laughter in the GOP hall at the notion that Obama wanted to heal the planet.  It really made me wonder who these people are.  Unquestionably we face a major, major threat, arguably worse than any war we've encountered, and here these people are laughing.

    Great diary!  I'm hoping to see more from you

    Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:16:14 AM PDT

  •  Posted this in another diary, but it might cheer (10+ / 0-)

    up some depressed by Willard's anti-science wide stance:

     As a corrective to Willard's silly anti-oceans and
    environment pandering to the nut base there are sveral articles in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. One by Patrick Kerstra details how is working, with the Nutter Administration, to expand the city system of trees in neighborhoods (not just in parks). An excerpt:
       "The site relies on the city's arbor enthusiasts - and there are many - to input the trees' vitals (species and trunk diameter, for instance), the better to assess where the urban canopy is healthy and where it needs work.
       What makes so gratifying is its instant calculation - based on federal research - of the annual dollar value of a given tree.
        Those massive London planes outside my house? [in West Philadelphia] The one I [Kerkstra] measured yields a return of about $387 a year ]total cost of planting a tree is about $400-500]. The shade it creates cuts down on neighbors' cooling bills ($300), removes about six pounds of air pollutants ($24) and 722 pounds of carbon dioxide ($2.41) per year, and intercepts 6,212 gallons of storm water ($61).
       Isn't wise stewardship of the planet a tenet of just about any religion? I'd imagine a bishop in the Mormon Church would be appalled at Romney's dismissal of concern for the future of the planet.

       There's also an article in the editorial section about the expanding use and improved productivity of electric cars---though i imagine the Corbett Administration is working hard to end that bit of sanity. Over the next three years, barring Neanderthal recidivism (apologies to those early humans for lumping them with Pa. Republicans) 15,000 plug-in vehicles will be purchased in the state.

    "A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere ". C. S. Lewis

    by TofG on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:29:07 AM PDT

    •  Nice article, tree canopies in cities (6+ / 0-)

      are very positive for the mind. Takes a lot of stress away, they look gorgeous next to row houses, and the carbon sinking is an obvious plus as well. I've heard of these tree maps. There's one for DC.

      Unfortunately, the derecho storm in June chopped hundreds of trees and the city has begun tagging certain trees to be cut down so they aren't a risk to houses. A bit sad, really. It is certainly is uplifting to see so much dedication here on urban forestry all the same.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

      by rovertheoctopus on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:35:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shocked! Shocked I am! At the Hypocrisy! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rovertheoctopus, burnt out, bnasley

    Nice work.

    It seems, however, that lies and hypocrisy don't really matter to far too many voters.

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 12:43:13 PM PDT

  •  A direct pandering (7+ / 0-)

    to the falsehood that it is economy vs the environment rather than the reality of economy + environment (or even, more appropriately, economy within the environment).

    Sadly, Ds have not been nearly aggressive enough in articulating the real case even when talking about "green jobs" and "clean energy".

    Here is a notional speech drafted back in 2007 at the request of a candidate's staff (although never used):  E2 Solution Path

    Without batting an eyelid, they will look you in the face and tell you that you have a choice between the two Es: the Environment or the Economy. And, that somehow, they are actually separable and in opposition to each other.  

    Let me tell you in no uncertain terms.  It is not an “or” situation.  It is “and”.  We must have both the environment and the economy. There is no economy to care about without an environment that can sustain us and our children.  And, there is no economy worth having if it devastates the world we live in and that might destroy the world of our children.

    Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart NOW! for a sustainable energy future.

    by A Siegel on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 01:29:23 PM PDT

    •  Agreed, they need to make the connection (5+ / 0-)

      There has to be that logical link connecting the full circle that all of these buzzwords (sustainability, green, renewable, local, etc.) are born out of these environmental issues, and climate change happens to be the most serious of all.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

      by rovertheoctopus on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 01:45:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very nice diary rover. I don't know which was (5+ / 0-)

    more upsetting to me, that rmoney puked out that line about Obama worrying about the rising oceans and the planet while his concern was for the people, or the fact that his brain dead audience cheered him for saying it. I give them all the Stupid award.

    Just give me some truth. John Lennon--- OWS------Too Big To Fail

    by burnt out on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 03:27:44 PM PDT

  •  i'm constantly amazed by folks who don't realize (5+ / 0-)

    without a livable, stable environment we won't HAVE an economy

  •  For me this issue is WW III on its way (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Calamity Jean

    It is a war of thinking. Either you include life on the planet in your plans or you don't. It amazes me that we have to argue about it, but as a life form on the planet we get killed too.

    In the end all wealth drives from agriculture in the form of food, clothing and shelter. Mess up on the agriculture we die.

    To fix it we are going to have to mobilize in the same way nations mobilized for the last two world wars.

  •  As to coal and China (0+ / 0-)

    The big demand for coal is in China, as Romney surely knows. Currently West Coast ports are not set up for offloading coal from trains onto ships, but that is likely to change soon. All the yakking about "Clean Coal" obscures the fact that millions of tons of US coal will likely be heading for China and other Asian countries where it will be burned the old-fashioned way and contribute mightily to climate change.

    Whether we burn our coal here or let somebody else burn it for us makes no difference. The planet has only one atmosphere. The only rational choice is to leave it in the ground, but that aint gonna happen as long as there's bucks to be made.

    See: Should we ship American coal to China?

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 08:33:33 PM PDT

  •  Thank you rovertheoctopus (0+ / 0-)

    for writing so well on these pages.


    "like a roofer or a dancer or a cheese cutter or a lumber jack" " rubyr Sat Aug 14, 2010 at 12:24:28 AM PDT

    by sometv on Fri Aug 31, 2012 at 11:04:34 PM PDT

  •  we've got a really good message to push (0+ / 0-)

       President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.

    ...To which the captive audience suddenly scoffed and booed sotto voce.

    Until Romney went to the callback:

        My promise is to help you and your family.

    Mitt Romney to Homeless Issac Flood Victim: "GO HOME AND CALL 211!"

  •  More like pissing in the wind (0+ / 0-)

    But yeah, Romney blows on climate change.

  •  Massachusetts Green Jobs Rapid Growth (0+ / 0-)

    Massachusetts Green Jobs Grew Ten Times Faster than Overall State Economy
    August 31, 2012 - If you’re looking for an example of how to grow a strong economy and create high-paying jobs during the economic downturn, it may be a smart idea to take a look at Massachusetts. The Bay State is now home to more than 71,500 green jobs – up 11 percent since 2011.

    This good news comes from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MCEC) second annual Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report, which details the positive economic effect stable government policy can have when paired with an innovative research sector in a former industrial setting – steady growth across the entire green economy.  read more>>>

    Vets On FLOTUS and SLOTUS, "Best - Ever": "We haven't had this kind of visibility from the White House—ever." Joyce Raezer - Dec. 30, 2011

    by jimstaro on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 04:34:20 PM PDT

    •  Climate Change (0+ / 0-)

      Is not a reason, denial of the obvious, to continue blocking a growth industry and off shoot industries from.

      We once did that, grow industries, innovative industries, right here in the good ole U.S. of A!!

      Vets On FLOTUS and SLOTUS, "Best - Ever": "We haven't had this kind of visibility from the White House—ever." Joyce Raezer - Dec. 30, 2011

      by jimstaro on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 04:36:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Green Economy: a UK Success Story (0+ / 0-)

      A report compiled by the Green Alliance has shown the success of the UK’s green economy
      The green economy is one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks. It is based on sustainable development.

      Quietly and without fanfare, green business has become a UK success story, at home and abroad. We now export more green products and services to our competitors than we import from them, and we have become the green financing capital of the world.  read more>>>

      The report: Green economy: a UK success story

      Vets On FLOTUS and SLOTUS, "Best - Ever": "We haven't had this kind of visibility from the White House—ever." Joyce Raezer - Dec. 30, 2011

      by jimstaro on Sat Sep 01, 2012 at 04:37:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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