Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gore before Congress

I have just finished listening to part of the web cast of Al Gore's testimony before the House Committee on Science. As in most Congressional hearings, especially those which are web cast or are expected to have substantive press coverage, there was a lot of Congressional posturing going on, not the least of which came from Rep. Joe Barton, (R. - TX). I will let Chris Mooney deal with that as I missed this part of the webcast. In any case, Mooney's description matches what you would expect from Barton.

Many Greens feel that Gore's proposals do not go far enough. Just this morning, Jo Chamberlain forward an Op Ed article "Are Big Enviro Groups "Holding Back" Anti-Warming Movement?" (By Megan Tady, The NewStandard) to the Cal Forum Green Party email list. The basic message is critical not only of the government but also of major environmental groups, calling out Greenpeace for special attention.

Bill McKibben, an environmentalist organizing national demonstrations against climate change with the new "Step It Up" campaign, likened the United States's stance on global warming to an "ocean liner heading in the other direction entirely." He said, "[Eighty percent reductions by 2050] seems to be at the moment the outer limit of what's politically possible."

For author and radical environmentalist Derrick Jensen, the obstacles to faster changes presented by the US political system, illustrate the need for more-holistic measures.

"None of [the solutions presented by mainstream groups] address the power structures," Jensen said. "None of them address corporations. None of them address a lack of democracy.... The environmental groups are not questioning this larger mentality that's killing the planet."

I would note that Representative Waxman (D. CA) has introduced a "Safe Climate Act of 2007". It sets targets of 80% reductions by 2050 and supports a "cap and trade" policy to "allow market forces to work."

But, here is the biggest problem to deal with, the American sense of entitlement. I received a note today from Lorna Salzman which makes the point that "Social justice in a global context is a tough nut to crack and wont happen until Americans agree that their life style is inequitable and unsustainable."

Again, this is something that most Greens acknowledge. But is it something that most American's acknowledge? It appears not. To begin with, attitudes about Global Warming split very much along partisan lines. A recent Gallup poll is the basis for discussion by Matthew Nisbet at Framing-Science. If you look at the chart, even Republican attitudes regarding Global Warming were closely tracking Democratic attitudes until the Bush Administration took office in 2000. Since then, the fact that they made a political issue out of every single thing, even science, in support of a 19th Century View of America, increased the divide between the parties. Maybe it all comes from Karl Rove, the master of framing issues for political advantage. However, the combination of the Rovian rhetoric, industry funded un-think tanks and right wing talk radio ego-maniacs has changed the political debate in dangerous ways.

If there is a Green Message about Global Warming, it is not getting out. We seem to have decided that we are the Peace Party. While there is nothing wrong with that, we can not drop our concern for this earth. It is the only one we have.


Alex Walker said...

You wrote:

If there is a Green Message about Global Warming, it is not getting out. We seem to have decided that we are the Peace Party. While there is nothing wrong with that, we can not drop our concern for this earth. It is the only one we have.

Peace and Green issues go hand-in-hand. The whole world knows what's happening in the Middle East is mostly about oil. Up next is Nigeria and Venezuela (anybosy here naive enough to believe that US Establishment bloviating over Hugo Chavez has anything to do with "freedom" and "democracy"?).

This is nothing compared to what we see when the expanding deserts in Africa, Asia, and America and rising oceans make fresh drinking water as precious as oil.

Wes said...

You don't have to wait very long on the water issue, Alex. It is going to hit California as soon as the public starts to focus on what is happening. A recent decision in Federal Court in an ESA lawsuit brought by the California Sports Fishing Assn. threatens to turn off the pumps that feed the California Aqueduct.

This has been widely covered by the major papers, but not on the 11:00 news. You can read about in the LA Times, Contra Costa Times (story - editorial) San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee (editorial) and Stockton Record.

Still, with all of that coverage, I would guess that if you took a video camera out on the street and asked 100 people about it, you would get a minimum of 99 blank stares. If you asked them what should be done about it, you would get a lot of "THEY should do..." with no recognition that THEY is US.

To see how some are trying to manipulate perceptions, you should read the few comments left at the end of the Sacramento Bee Editorial, from which I quote: "Seems the state has always had water problems, now made worse by phony environmental concerns." (emphasis mine).