Friday, September 24, 2010

KVMR climate commentary response to George Rebane

Last Friday KVMR ran a commentary from Dr. Rebane that described&named "camps" who hold various climate views, extolled Bjorn Lomborg, and argued for a Yes vote on Prop 23; and since I'd been told I could reply if Rebane started using his commentary for climate contrarianism, I was invited to respond to that one. My response airs tonight on KVMR's 6pm news.
(As I've said elsewhere, I'm uncomfortable being put in the position of advocating a particular vote - I'm a flashlight-wielder, not an arm-twister or persuader - so after countering Rebane's climate-delay talking points, for the "Prop 23" part I just cribbed from the recent NYTimes editorial.)

Here's the text , with references.

Last Friday, KVMR ran a commentary by retired engineer George Rebane, who cited author Bjorn Lomborg in arguing for Prop 23, the out-of-state-oil-funded initiative to roll back California's global warming law.

I thought about what to tell you in response. Should I point out it's a red flag when someone doesn't accept climate science and uses the term "true believers" to describe those who do? - including the 29 out of 30 active climate scientists who agree there's a consensus of evidence that global warming is happening and largely human-caused. (The small group of doubters has demonstrably lower expertise. )

Or perhaps I should note that Bjorn Lomborg, the fellow Rebane touted, has no expertise in climate science or environmental economics, his background's in poli sci and game theory. And while he's written several books that are loaded with footnotes and references, a review of the references found they're a sham, they don't support his claims.

Or I could share some pointers on judging who to trust - like, when there are two sides on an issue, if one side has the recycled tobacco PR flacks & the other has pretty much every major scientific organization on the planet, to treat the two sides equally is...unwise.

Or I could point out that Rebane's "there's no proof" argument' is a red herring - science deals in probabilities, not proof - by the time there's proof it'll be too late. If a mom sits back and lets her son play in traffic since there's no *proof* he'll get run over, we call it reckless endangerment.

Or I could share my prediction that the climate delay effort will turn out to be the most pervasive, effective and destructive commercial PR disinformation effort that the world has ever known. The fossil fuels industry is just as threatened as tobacco was; and we *know* what the tobacco folks were doing behind the scenes to confuse the public. This industry's 10 times bigger; you do the math.
(In his Prop 23 [KVMR] debate with Steve Frisch, in the context of climate science Rebane mentioned a scientist who'd lost his position at UCLA - but neglected to say that the guy's a tobacco researcher.)

No, what I should do for you is share some points from the Prop. 23 editorial in Monday's[?] New York Times; it's called The Brothers Koch and AB 32:
Note: I cut out a lot, & did a lot of paraphrasing for brevity/clarity; the link above goes to the original.
"Four years ago, bipartisan majorities in the California Legislature approved a landmark clean energy bill. Now a coalition of right-wing ideologues, out-of-state oil & gas companies & climate-change skeptics is seeking to effectively kill it.

The money men include Charles and David Koch, the Kansas oil and gas billionaires who have played a prominent role in financing the Tea Party movement.

The law they want to kill, AB32, aims to reduce] California’s emissions of co2 and other greenhouse gases. The prospect that it could reduce gas sales strikes terror into some energy companies. Much of the $8.2 million raised to stop the law came from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro. The Koch brothers gave another million, partly because they worry about damage to the Koch Industries bottom line, and also because they think climate change is a left-wing hoax.

Since the law was passed, there's been an enormous increase in investments in clean energy technologies — and the jobs that go with them. Overturning it would threaten that and the effort to fight climate change, since State and regional efforts are crucially important drivers — if California pulls back, other states that are trying to reduce emissions may do so as well.

The Kochs and their allies are disastrously wrong about the science... and wrong about the economics. So AB 32’s many friends — led by Schwarzenegger and another respected Republican, Nixon and Reagan cabinet member George Shultz — have mounted a spirited counterattack to defend the law, which Shultz credits for an unprecedented outburst of technological creativity and investment.

Who wins if Prop 23 passes and our global warming law is repudiated? The Koch brothers, maybe, but the biggest winners will be the Chinese, who are already moving briskly ahead in the clean tech race. And the losers? The people of California, surely. But the biggest loser will be the planet. "
Nobel economist Paul Krugman's New York Times piece Building a Green Economy is a great intro to environmental economics and climate policy.
He sums it up saying,
"We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We have a good sense of the costs — and they’re manageable. All we need now is the political will. "
Thank you.


Don Pelton said...

Excellent response, Anna. I hope it is widely heard.

Anonymous said...

Hit the nail on the head.

-- frank

Anna Haynes said...

Thank you, Don & Frank.

Re my prediction that the climate denial effort will turn out to be "the most pervasive, effective and destructive commercial PR disinformation effort that the world has ever known", a respondent offers this as a contestant:

Steve Bloom said...

Nicely done, Anna.

The only suggestions I would make for next time would be to use sources with a bit more "native" appeal, and to include a summary of the likely 21st century climate impacts on California.