Although President Obama's record had been decidedly mixed on protecting humanity from the most important crisis it has ever faced, that record has been dramatically improving. In June of 2013, Obama's speech on climate change was described by leading climate scientist Michael Mann:
All in all, it is the most aggressive and promising climate plan to come out of the executive branch in years, and President Obama should be applauded for the bold leadership he has shown in confronting the climate change threat head on.And now, climate scientist John Abraham and environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli have this response to Obama's new greenhouse gas initiative:
President Obama just announced a major effort to reduce global-warming gases from United States power plants. These new rules, and his prior strong actions on climate change, signify a major shift for the United States. No longer is the U.S. the world laggard on dealing with climate change - we are quickly becoming the leader.There is much more, and the entire post at The Guardian website must be read. Because this is reason number one why we need Democrats in the Oval Office.
We finally have a president that understands science. We finally have a president that honestly includes scientists as decision makers – rather than effectively muzzle them. We finally have a president that recognizes the social and economic costs of climate change. We finally have a president who is charting a pathway that may lead us to bend the curve of emissions downward so that the most serious climate change consequences are avoided.
Most importantly, we finally have a president who is a world leader.
More below the fold.
The political impact of President Obama's leadership on climate mitigation seems to have been immediate. Just a day after Obama's announcement, China announced its own hard cap on CO2 emissions. But Republicans and their right wing allies don't care about global leadership any more than they care about attempting to prevent a global climate crisis from becoming a global climate catastrophe. So even though the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just two months ago concluded that averting climate catastrophe would be extremely affordable, if we act now, Republicans are desperately thrashing about in search of a means to prevent that action from happening. They don't even care about the specifics of their supposed rationale, they only care that to prevent that action from happening.
Last year, Abraham and Nuccitelli brilliantly outlined the five stages of climate denialism, which are here condensed:
Stage 1: Deny the Problem ExistsEach of these stages ultimately serves the same function: to undermine the will to act. And with Republicans, their propagandists and their followers having individually internalized some or all of these stages, the inevitable outcome is the claim that acting to solve climate issues is actually a bad thing. As made graphic in the image at the top of this post, the traditional, mindlessly reflexive right-wing response to environmental protections is to claim that they will damage the economy and cost jobs; and as detailed in the opening link of this post, right on cue, Republican reaction to the president's greenhouse gas plan has been mindlessly reflexive. Not to mention a lie.
Often when people are first faced with an inconvenient problem, the immediate reaction involves denying its existence. For a long time climate contrarians denied that the planet was warming.
Stage 2: Deny We're the Cause
Once people move beyond denying that the problem exists, they often move to the next stage, denying that we're responsible.
Stage 3: Deny It's a Problem
Once they've progressed through the first two stages and admitted global warming is happening and human-caused, contrarians generally move on to Stage 3, denying it's a problem.
Stage 4: Deny We can Solve It
In his editorial, Roy Spencer bounced between the second and fourth stages of global warming denial, also claiming that solving the problem is too expensive and will hurt the poor. In reality the opposite is true.
Stage 5: It's too Late
Stage 5 global warming denial involves arguing that it's too late to solve the problem, so we shouldn't bother trying (though few climate contrarians have reached this level). Unfortunately this stage can be self-fulfilling. If we wait too long to address the problem, we may end up committing ourselves to catastrophic climate change.
Peter Gleick explains:
There is a long history of claims that new rules to protect the environment or human health will seriously harm the United States economy. These claims are political fodder, they are provocative, and they are always wrong. In fact, the evidence shows the opposite: environmental regulations consistently produce enormous net benefits to the economy and to human health. In 2008, for example, the United States' environmental technologies and services industry supported 1.7 million jobs. The industry at that time generated approximately $300 billion in revenues and exported goods and services worth $44 billion.And Gleick points to this peer-reviewed EPA study on the benefits of the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act.
With help from the Cry Wolf Project and others, Gleick also points to previous examples of the right-wing mendacity machine's attacks on environmental responsibility, including:
- The Wall Street Journal editorial board and auto industry executives wrongly claiming the 1990 Clean Air Act amendment would threaten economic expansion
- Mobil Oil officials in 1990 wrongly testifying to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that new cleaner gasoline standards would cause major supply disruptions
- The National Association of Manufacturers in 1987 wrongly claiming that regulations to reduce acid rain would seriously damage domestic output and employment and lead to a contraction of the entire industrial base
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1975 wrongly claiming that Clean Air and Water acts would put millions of people and billions of dollars at risk
- The CEO of Pennwalt wrongly talking economic chaos, and DuPont wrongly warning of the collapse of entire industries, if the use of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons were phased out
- Henry Ford II in 1966 wrongly warning that new seat belt and safety glass rules would force his company to close down
Two things remain consistent: lies that regulations will hurt jobs and the overall economy, and jobs and the overall economy not being hurt after the regulations are implemented. And many of the same lies are being promulgated by many of the same liars when it comes to President Obama's plans for climate mitigation. As explained by Adam Siegel:
Before heading further and in line with the Debunking Handbook, let us start with some basic truths about investing in climate mitigation.But the liars continue to spew their lies, while the facts continue to remain facts. Richard Revesz is the director of the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University, and in 2012 he led a team that analyzed more than 25 studies of the effect of environmental regulations on jobs:
- Climate mitigation investments will have huge economic returns on that investment ranging from energy efficiency reducing total energy bills to new economic activity surrounding the new technologies and businesses seeking to reduce our climate impact.
- Climate mitigation investments will have huge corollary benefits — such as improved human health (from reduced allergy risks to reduced emergency room visits with asthma attacks to reduced deaths due to fossil fuel pollution), improved visibility at national parks
- Climate mitigation will reduce the huge risks associated with climate change and will provide an insurance against the potential that climate change implications could be far worse than standard projections suggest (e.g., the risk that the modeling is erring on the too optimistic side).
- Climate mitigation is an investment that will provide huge returns — across a spectrum of economic, social, and environmental fronts.
Another simple truth, even proponents of action on environmental issues typically overstate costs and understate benefits for a number of understandable reasons.
“We hear often that large swaths of the economy will be wiped out due to one regulation or another,” Revesz said. “Fortunately, and not surprisingly, we don't see those predictions coming true.”Neither those claiming unemployment catastrophes nor those claiming huge job creation benefits seem to be right. Overall, it's a push.
While studies commissioned by the coal industry warned that millions of jobs could be lost, others conducted by left-leaning think tanks and environmental groups predicted that millions of jobs would be gained, their survey found.The full report can be found here (pdf).
By contrast, the most detailed studies concluded that job losses and gains from environmental regulations essentially balanced out. "When serious studies have been done, the impacts tend to be small -- sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but small," Revesz said.
But with climate change, we're talking about a crisis unprecedented in human history. If we're talking about employment and economic impact, the most comprehensive analysis of the economic impacts of climate change concluded that its many devastating human and environmental impacts will include a loss of 5 to 20 percent of global GDP—which the lead author of the analysis last year said was an overall under-estimation. Another study concluded that the net benefit of avoiding climate catastrophe would be $615 to $830 trillion. When it comes to taking action to mitigate climate catastrophe, the latest IPCC report could not be more clear:
“It is actually affordable to do it and people are not going to have to sacrifice their aspirations about improved standards of living,” said Professor Jim Skea, an energy expert at Imperial College London and co-chair of the IPCC report team. “It is not a hair-shirt change of lifestyle at all that is being envisaged and there is space for poorer countries to develop too,” Skea told the Guardian."The same old liars are spewing the same old lies about economic harms caused by environmental regulations. But with climate change, it's not only that we easily can afford to take action, it's that we can't afford not to.