September 27, 2011 · 4:54 pm
Enviro friends will all know about Robert Socolow and his paper back in 2004 (with Steve Pacala) about the seven categories of action that could be taken with existing technologies to stabilize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in 50 years. These categories, or wedges, of mitigation of global carbon emissions became famous and have largely defined the climate change discussion ever since–at least among the fact-based folks who have rational discussion about climate change as science, rather than a liberal political plot.
Today, Socolow reaffirms and updates that original wedges paper–and provides suggestions for improving the terms of climate change debate–in an essay simulaneously published by my employer, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Climate Central. (Socolow, a Princeton University professor, is also a Bulletin Science and Security Board member.) Comments by something of a Who’s Who of major climate scientists are appended to the essay.
This is not just important thinking. Professor Socolow can write, too. This one is worth your time.
Update on the wedges update: Over at the NY Times Dot Earth blog, Andrew Revkin has a lengthy take that includes a lot of wedges background that will be interesting for less-than-fanatic followers of the climate change debate. And even enviro insiders will likely find something of value here; that Revkin is one walking and writing environmental encyclopedia.
Update #2 on the wedges update: The Atlantic‘s inimitable Jim Fallows wrote about Socolow’s essay as well today, along the way providing the usual trove of Fallowsian added value, including a link to a past story of his, “Dirty Coal, Clean Future,” that is sure to enrage environmentalist coal-haters–or, perhaps, to make them think. After linking to the Bulletin and Climate Central postings, Fallows mentioned this blog, which was unexpected. Thanks, Jim.
August 21, 2011 · 7:52 pm
For more evidence that Texas governance is a banana republic in minimal disguise, take a look at this piece from Sunday’s NY Times about Rick Perry’s nonchalant/extravagant habit of doling out government money to major campaign contributors. Add it to the excellent piece I’ve already mentioned in the LA Times. Shake, stir, imbibe — and vomit.
It’s heartening that the national media are picking up this early on the absolute whorehouse that is Texas politics and on the Chief Pimp role Rick Perry has played over the last decade. I would say, “Now, it’s up to the people to decide.” But it’s not, really. It’s up to the press to continue to look at the Texas pay for play two-step.
Extending Lone Star crony capitalism into national governance via the George W. Bush administration has literally brought the country to its financial knees. It’d be nice if the national press eschewed its habitual avoidance of nasty facts about Republican candidates (driven by fear of being called the “liberal news media”) and reported the truth about corruption in Texas government repeatedly. It could help the country avert outright economic decapitation.
August 7, 2011 · 5:53 pm
I tend not to link to the NY Times because I know smart people read it as a matter of routine, and you, gentle readers, are among the smartest in existence. But in the Sunday Times, Drew Westen offers a truly distinguished explanation of President Obama’s signal failure — the failure to tell the American people the story of the man-made disaster that has befallen them, and how they will transcend it. I have great admiration for the Times’ Week in Review (even if I find no benefit in it’s new name, Sunday Review), but Westin’s piece, “What Happened to Obama,” operates several levels above the average Review piece, melding history, psychology and practical politics (trained in the psychological sciences, Westen has of late been paying the rent as a “messaging consultant to nonprofit groups and Democratic leaders”) in a piercing and absolutely convincing argument that Obama has failed the first duty of leadership: storytellng. After explaining, in a historical/evolutionary context, why it is that subjects expect their leaders to explain the world in a narrative format, Westen offers this story that I (and I suspect a vast majority of Americans) have longed to hear from the presidential podium:
“I know you’re scared and angry. Many of you have lost your jobs, your homes, your hope. This was a disaster, but it was not a natural disaster. It was made by Wall Street gamblers who speculated with your lives and futures. It was made by conservative extremists who told us that if we just eliminated regulations and rewarded greed and recklessness, it would all work out. But it didn’t work out. And it didn’t work out 80 years ago, when the same people sold our grandparents the same bill of goods, with the same results. But we learned something from our grandparents about how to fix it, and we will draw on their wisdom. We will restore business confidence the old-fashioned way: by putting money back in the pockets of working Americans by putting them back to work, and by restoring integrity to our financial markets and demanding it of those who want to run them. I can’t promise that we won’t make mistakes along the way. But I can promise you that they will be honest mistakes, and that your government has your back again.”
Westen points out, rightly, one of Obama’s largest narrative failures — the failure to explain who the bad guys are, and how they are going to be brought to justice — and ends the piece with a brilliant series of hypotheses, each less flattering than the last, about why Obama “seems so compelled to take both sides of every issue.” I won’t explain them here; you really must read this whole piece to understand their full brilliance. But in an attempt to get you to go read this article, I will leave you with its kicker, which plays off the Rev. Martin Luther King’s assertion that the long arc of history bends toward justice, and which is thrilling in its denunciation of the deformed compromise that threatens to become the hallmark of the Obama era:
“But the arc of history does not bend toward justice through capitulation cast as compromise. It does not bend when 400 people control more of the wealth than 150 million of their fellow Americans. It does not bend when the average middle-class family has seen its income stagnate over the last 30 years while the richest 1 percent has seen its income rise astronomically. It does not bend when we cut the fixed incomes of our parents and grandparents so hedge fund managers can keep their 15 percent tax rates. It does not bend when only one side in negotiations between workers and their bosses is allowed representation. And it does not bend when, as political scientists have shown, it is not public opinion but the opinions of the wealthy that predict the votes of the Senate. The arc of history can bend only so far before it breaks. “