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It seems that despite whatever statistics are presented to show evidence of climate change, a vocal contingency continues to question the findings. It has become an ongoing source of contention and debate.

Recently, Wellesley College hosted a conversation entitled “The Politics of Climate Change.” Present were former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (Class of 1959) and Carol Browner, who served as EPA Administrator from 1993-2001 and was the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy from 2009-2011.

Peter Thomson was the moderator. He prefaced the talk by giving a rundown of the most current headlines on climates issue—including those dismissing the science (and yes—those folks found their way into the Twitter stream!). His first question was, “How close are we to meeting the challenge of climate issues?”

Albright, who is both funny and direct, spoke bluntly. She referenced those who maintain the science remains unproven as “delusional” and “flat earth people.” Browner commented that the level of deniers was at a six-year high. In terms of countering those who challenged the science, she said, “We are not doing enough.”

Contextualizing the scenario beyond American borders, Albright said, “We need the national climate agenda to extend out to international policy.” She mentioned Thomas Friedman’s column, “WikiLeaks, Drought and Syria,” an examination of the direct connection between the Syrian uprising and that country’s drought.

Albright pointed to China as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. “The Chinese know they can’t breathe, but they are energy hungry,” she said. There was a mention of the four hundred coal-fired plants that China plans to build, and the ramifications it will have for California via air transport. Reacting to that dire news, Browner noted that China does have an emerging grassroots environmental movement.

Giving a quick primer on international relations, Albright explained that foreign policy was “getting others to do what you want.” Concerned that people are “siloed” into their own specific areas while needing to see the larger picture, she called for intersectionality and an interdisciplinary discussion.

Browner emphasized, “Climate change is a reality.” She supported Obama’s use of his executive power and saw the tax code as an incentive. She pushed “resiliency and adaptation” as a key strategy. “This is the biggest problem we have ever faced,” Browner said. “We have changed the planet. We can not delay.” However, she wasn’t pessimistic and insisted, “We can solve it.” On a pragmatic level Browner suggested that once regulations were developed, entrepreneurs would build widgets to “realize these regulations.”

Albright called attention to the role of media, government, and the electorate in the climate change debate. She wanted to see a better educated population getting STEM awareness early on, and called for more people to vote and get involved. On the role of government she insisted, “It is the price of living in a civilized society. Government is not evil. It’s on your side.” She pointed to the power of local government to make tremendous change.

In the ensuing question and answer period, the first topic was fracking. Browner was quick to note that the EPA had the right to regulate the process before Dick Cheney got involved. [This is known as the Halliburton Loophole.] Her belief is that “natural gas is better, but not much better.” She has strong concerns about large-scale capital investment in the extraction method and asked, “Is this really where we want to be thirty years from now?”

The discussion about fracking led to a parsing of the excessive use of water—a finite resource— in hydraulic fracturing. This morphed into a dialogue about water supplies and how water boundaries will line up with political boundaries (America shares its water supply with Canada and Mexico.).

Albright, who has more experience than most with what she termed “the unintended consequences of decisions,” offered the audience a chilling prediction. She said, “The 21st Century conflict will be over water—not oil.”

Hopefully, those in Congress who are not looking at the ramifications of climate change—at home or abroad—will get the message sooner rather than later.

This article originally appeared on the website Moms Clean Air Force.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Agree that the 21st will be about water (8+ / 0-)

    Glad she understands.  Global warming is the issue that will dominate the landscape throughout this century.

    One thing I disagree is when she says that foreign policy is about “getting others to do what you want.”  This is a sort of imperialistic viewpoint.  Foreign policy should be about working together to solve global and regional issues.

    What she said is almost out of Machiavellian or von Clausewitz thinking.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:53:04 AM PST

    •  I think it'll be about food more than water (4+ / 0-)

      Water will be critical, but there's a dozen additional reasons to worry about our food supply. And when the food supply isn't sufficient for 9 billion people, that's where the conflicts get ugly.

      •  If the drought in California continues... (5+ / 0-)

        ...the San Joaquin valley will not produce food.  And this may happen in 2015.

        The Bush family bought some land in Paraguay, perhaps because it sits on top of the Guarani Aquifer, the largest reserves of fresh water in the world.

        Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

        by Shockwave on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:14:20 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Which is why fracking is so wrong. Bush/Cheney (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Matt Z, Shockwave

          know that fresh water will be a valuable resource.  Because of the Haliburton Loophole, the frackers can inject any chemical combination they want, no matter how toxic, into the ground.  The fracking cos. can claim that the combination of chemicals is "proprietary"/secret, so they don't even have to disclose them to regulators.  They are doing so right now and have been for years via hundreds of thousands of wells.  There is no way to keep those toxic chemicals from affecting underground water when the goal of the process is to break things up underground.

          Secondly, the frack waste water must be disposed of somehow and it's often radioactive.  The whole process is so dirty.

          Also, there is a concern over the methane and other emission leaks that occur during the extraction process involved with fracking.  Since methane is 25-78% worse in regards to trapping heat than carbon (depending on the period you are testing for), one must question the logic in using natural gas as a bridge fuel.

        •  Goddamn Bushes (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Their fingers are in everything. Them and the Kochtopus.

          Why do I have the feeling George W. Bush joined the Stonecutters, ate a mess of ribs, and used the Constitution as a napkin?

          by Matt Z on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 11:49:16 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  "Working together to solve...issues" IS getting... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, Louisiana 1976

      other people to do what you want.

      That statement only reads as imperialist if you assume that "what you want" must only mean screwing somebody, and "getting other people to do" it means coercing them.

      If we start a program to pay people in Sudan to plant trees, that is getting other people to do what we want, too.

      Art is the handmaid of human good.

      by joe from Lowell on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:06:54 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  On the plus side, if anybody knows delusional, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher, Louisiana 1976

    it it this woman.

    So hopefully she will reach some of the more delusional types out there.

    Just curious, does a "climate denier" just believe in weather?  And not understand the idea that the aggregate of weather is "climate"?  

    I mean, to me, that doesn't seem all that controversial.

    •  No, it's shorthand for "climate change denier" (0+ / 0-)

      They claim variously that the Earth is actually cooling; that the millions of measurements we have made do not constitute evidence of warming; that no individual weather event can be evidence of warming, and therefore no combination of events can be evidence; that warming and increasing CO2 are good for agriculture; that warming is natural, and not from CO2; that even if warming is real, we can't afford to do anything about it; and that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim Socialist Darwinist who is only pushing renewable power because of how much he hates America.

      Just like Creationists, or people who claim to have scientific proof that some minority group is of inherently inferior intelligence and morals, or that marijuana will destroy our entire society, or that Marriage Equality will destroy the American Family, or vaccines cause autism, or cell phones cause brain cancer, or there was another shooter on the grassy knoll, or whatever.

      Back off, man. I'm a logician.—GOPBusters™

      by Mokurai on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 12:39:35 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Having the two of them on Meet the Press (4+ / 0-)

    instead of that ridiculous debate team that David Gregory assembled would have been much more instructive and interesting to watch.

  •  resiliency and adaptation? Are you kidding?! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    maryabein, certainot

    Albright, who lost my respect when she was constantly defending Condoleeza Rice, is dead wrong by even suggesting that we can somehow "adapt" to this catastrophe.  This is like suggesting we can "adapt" to a giant asteroid collision, or a full scale nuclear war!

    If we move from prevention to adaptation and mitigation, we are fucked big time.

    Wait until the Republicans start offering lucrative contracts to Exon to geoengineer the climate in the name of adaptation.

    Albright should STFU if she's going to push adaptation.

    •  We will adapt by having some large portion of the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      too many people, pollwatcher

      global population die from starvation or climate related disaster. Humanity's remnant will probably be able to continue in the remaining habitable areas.

      •  Yep, just like after a nuclear war (0+ / 0-)

        I fully agree that that's how it's going to play out, except humanity loves to fight wars over resources before they sit back and starve to death.  The survivors of a nuclear war could also adapt to the roaming tribes fighting it out to find enough resources for their tribe to survive.

        •  Adapt is a polite word for evolve. (0+ / 0-)

          And those that adapt poorly don't survive to pass their genes on to the next generation, hence the evolution into more fit species.  

          If the human population of the globe passes through a bottleneck that only allows 1% or 0.1% through, the survivors will probably be more fit to a warmer planet.  

          I'm also thinking that the small percentage that makes it through won't be the same small percentage that currently has most of the wealth.  Evolution is not that neat and tidy.

    •  Not so much (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      We should not make adaptation a dirty word.

      We have to fight like hell on prevention - the difference we can make for our great-grandchildren must drive policy.

      However, we are far enough down the road that some level of fucked is already baked in, we are going to have to adapt. Suggesting the US and world's governments avoid talking about how to adapt in the short and moderate terms is foolish.

      Regional famines are almost a certainty as the world's grain producing regions become incapable of producing.

      Knowing that famine is likely, planning to mitigate it is not wrong.

      •  adaptation is a dirty, filthy, rotten word! (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The Republicans will love to get on board with "adaptation".  GE, Exon, and a gazillion other companies will present a gazillion geoengineering plans, all funded by Goldman Sachs and other big banks, and Americans will say YAHOO we can keep on driving our hummers to the grocery stores and go back to burning cheap coal when NG fracking goes bust.

        Forget about the XL pipeline, if we buy into the fools gold of "adaptation" it's game over for civilization.

        •  Wrong (0+ / 0-)

          Adaptation planning now means millions get to eat rather than starve a few years or decades down the road.

          Proclaiming that there is no need to adapt to famine 20 years from now  because we're gonna prevent it in  100 is stupid.

          We throw stones at denialists all the time. You seem to be denying the science that says rapid change is happening now. If you accept ongoing change, why argue that the society you live in should not adapt to that change?

        •  We must both mitigate and adapt. But, I agree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pollwatcher, engine17

          with you that we cannot ignore the fact that we need to move on mitigation if we are to avoid disaster.  We cannot continue on our current trajectory of emissions without catastrophic consequeces that no amount of money to adapt can prevent.

          We should be focused on ways to stop using our thin atmosphere as a garbage dump for polluters.

          The other important issue regarding water and food security is that most plants are a lot more sensitive to temperatures than people think.  So, the warming will affect the food supply, whether or not fresh water is an issue.  However, I agree with Albright, that water will be a huge issue.  The drought in Russia was one of the main causes of the Arab Spring.  The drought in Syria was one of the causes of the war there as stated.  So, we are already having wars over water.  

          •  talk of adaptation will lead to abandon prevention (0+ / 0-)

            For more than 25 years, many of us have been screaming at the tops of our lungs that Global Warming will mean the end of civilization as we know it.  And still the American public won't believe what they can not see.  Once we plant the seed in the publics mind that we can simply adapt, there won't be a snowballs chance in hell they'll try to reduce carbon emissions.

            What if 10 years ago we decided to "adapt"?  Would we have started moving Californians from low lying coastlines to the interior valleys only to have them make the biblical drought they are now experiencing much worse?  Did we anticipate 10 years ago that warm winters in the Rocky Mountains would lead to a pine beetle explosion that would kill 75% of the pine trees in many of the western states?

            When you ask a climate scientist what will it be like 2 decades from now, they'll tell you we don't know.  It's far to complicated and we've never done anything like this before to the planet.

            How in the world can we possibly believe we can adapt to so many situations that we can't even anticipate?  While everyone is looking at sea levels, it'll be the massive tornado outbreaks, hurricanes, plant viruses and insect infestations, super droughts... that will be ravaging the new infrastructure we just spent hundreds of billions of dollars on in our effort to "adapt" to the wrong problem.  

        •  that's one of the main reasons for the denial- to (0+ / 0-)

          force centralized solutions from the desparate

          This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

          by certainot on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 12:51:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  Well, your point of contempt re: adaptation (0+ / 0-)

      does not take into account the fact that there are numerous people who are watching the progression of climate change who say that we've passed the tipping point - that the change is going to come faster and more intensely because we are too late to reverse the damage that's already been done.

      That means that the phrase "adapt or die" could well be incredibly meaningful to the next few generations.

      In any case, we have to change how we inhabit this earth - we have to adapt to those changes that need to be made.

      The truth is that some of the predictions are so dire and some of the claims that it is totally irreversible damage now - that come from the Climate Change crowd - really make me wonder if they aren't really undermining any argument for prevention that could possibly be made.  If we have passed the point of prevention, then what are we supposed to do?

      •  not "adapt or die" rather "adapt and die" (0+ / 0-)

        How in the world do you adapt to Hurricane Sandy or Katrina, or 1/2 of Florida under water, or massive droughts in the midwest...  You could spend all the worlds GDP for the next few decades and you still would barely scratch the surface.

        If you think it's bad at a 2C increase, wait until we hit 5C and 6C.  

        Adaptation is a form of denial, and we've already seen how Americans are quick to adopt the denial of Global Warming. We might as well build a thousand XL pipelines and dig up all the coal in the Powder River Basin, because once the public believes they can "adapt" to this slow motion asteroid impact, it's all over.

        •  I'm not convinced that the entire human (0+ / 0-)

          race is going to fail and become extinct - that doesn't mean they won't or can't.

          But the answer to your question about how one adapts to ocean levels rising and massive hurricanes is that people will move inland.  They will move to places where their shot at survival is better.  People will die in this process, too.  Maybe a lot of people will die.  Those who do not die will find ways of adapting.

          You know, a lot of the ways in which this country has grown and changed in the past 100 years has been fool hearty on so many levels.  In past eras people did not build big fancy houses right on the edge of the water or at the beach.  They expected nature to destroy their structures at some point so they did not invest heavily in those structures.  Since Katrina the coast line from the east to New Orleans has been rebuilt with super expensive homes and condo complexes and those investments were made right after a massive hurricane.  A lot of people are stupid and short sighted.  Some are smarter and some of those smarter people might figure out ways of surviving.  They will adapt.

    •  pollwatcher, it doesn't seem to me that she is (0+ / 0-)

      arguing only for adaptation (steps to build resilency to the impacts of climate change) only versus mitigation (steps taken to lower emissions of greenhouse gases OR  creating/enhancing carbon sinks/capture.).  She is clearly arguing that we don't want China and developing nations to continue to build new coal and other fossil fuel power plants.  

      You don't hear climate scientists often use the term "prevention" because we've already raised ghg's to dangerous levels and have impacts.  So, we generally use the term "mitigation" to describe actions to try to lower or prevent further ghg emissions.  So, arguing that we should fight China's plans for 400 new coal power plants would be an attempt to mitigate.  That's also why President Obama's Climate Action Plan includes new EPA rules that make it very expensive to build new power plants in the US.  They would essentially have to have some way to capture and store some of the carbon rather than emit it to the air.

      Hopefully, people are submitting comments to the EPA right now to support those new rules.

    •  we will have to adapt, but it is already a rw (0+ / 0-)

      talking point for those who have to conceed something is happening- some of the ignorant motherfuckers even suggest there will be advantages.

      This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

      by certainot on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 12:49:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Shame the Q&A got sidetracked. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976, julesrules39

    Art is the handmaid of human good.

    by joe from Lowell on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:05:00 AM PST

  •  Thank you for the diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    T&R. I do agree with the commenters here who see some pretty serious holes in both Albright's and Browner's "advice" about AGW, esp. in terms of adaptation and mitigation.

  •  We've been told time and time again... (0+ / 0-)

    How to talk to people about important things. But Democrats and Progressives just simply can't or won't get with the program.

    Linguist George Lakoff has written book after book about how liberals and conservatives think and how to talk to them. But progressives hang on the MISTAKEN belief that "the truth will set you free" and that it stands on its own.

    No, you have to fight for it. You have to speak to the values and fears of the group that you want to influence.  You have to understand what is causing people to hold to a line of thinking and belief in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

    Conservatives have known for decades how to do this. But they often separate truth from appeal.  Liberals don't have to stoop to their level but it will require talking about things and in ways that may not be comfortable to Liberals.

    From just hanging around here, most know the concept of memes but I'd venture a guess that most don't know how they are made.  Public Relations types are masters at this. And unfortunately, they work mostly for the other guys. This has to change.  We need to constantly without tiring to be instigating memes, and talking values.  Our elected officials from the dog catcher to the Senate Leader have to adhere to a script that reinforces the message you want to send out.

    There have been brief bouts where Democrats actually acted in unison with a coordinated script. But it's not built in, it isn't automatic.  Someone has to work to herd the cats.

    So, rather than try to construct the how-to which has already been covered in diaries over the years, I'll point to a few of them and quote a salient quote...

    More on framing, unframing, reframing ala Lakoff

    Unless you frame yourself, others will frame you - the media, your enemies, your competitors, your well-meaning friends. I have so far hesitated to offer suggestions. But the movement appears to maturing and entering a critical time when small framing errors could have large negative consequences. So I thought it might be helpful to accept the invitation and start a discussion of how the movement might think about framing itself.
    About framing: It's normal. Everybody engages in it all the time. Frames are just structures of thought that we use every day. All words in all languages are defined in terms of frame-circuits in the brain. But, ultimately, framing is about ideas, about how we see the world, which determines how we act.

    In politics, frames are part of competing moral systems that are used in political discourse and in charting political action. In short, framing is a moral enterprise: it says what the character of a movement is. All politics is moral. Political figures and movements always make policy recommendations claiming they are the right things to do. No political figure ever says, do what I say because it's wrong! Or because it doesn't matter! Some moral principles or other lie behind every political policy agenda.

    Framing vs. Fencing: A post-Lakoff analysis
    Despite the following criticisms, Lakoff's exhortation remains a welcome and commonsense one. To re-take control of the national discourse, Democrats of course must redefine the terms of debate in ways which predispose the audience to be more accepting of progressive arguments--all the while exhibiting the same or greater "message discipline" as our Republican nemeses.
    For lack of a better term, I've started to call that more recent Republican strategy "fencing."


    A fence is any political idea, campaign or mindset which is intended to wall voters off from the opposite side before the public even gets to hear the opposing argument.

    In fairness to Lakoff, a fence may just be a kind of superframe: far cruder, far less permeable, and virtually insurmountable once erected. But if frames are a window to view the world through, then fences block much of that world out -- rendering the frames largely irrelevant.

    --United Citizens defeated Citizens United...This time. --

    by chipoliwog on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 03:59:10 PM PST

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