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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Once Again, the Right Freaks Out

An Associated Press story is causing some on the right to freak out. It's not like it's much of a challenge to get them to do that. While the political right clings to a "tough guy" image, deeply in touch with their inner John Wayne, it really doesn't take a lot to get them to run around like a bunch of panicky grandmas. The gun-toting, hard-bitten heirs to the cowboy legacy have a real bad tendency to shriek like 12 year-old girls when things have even the slightest chance of not going their way.

The story in question is titled "Bush revises strategy on curbing greenhouse gases." The broad reaction to this news is "Western civilization is doomed! Doomed!"

Revising his stance on global warming, President Bush on Wednesday proposed a new target for stopping the growth of the nation's greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

The president also called for putting the brakes on greenhouse gas emissions from electric power plants within 10 to 15 years.

"To reach our 2025 goal, we will need to more rapidly slow the growth of power sector greenhouse gas emissions so that they peak within 10 to 15 years, and decline thereafter," Bush said in excerpts of the speech released early by the White House.

"By doing so, we will reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002. There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies."

Bush was not to outline a specific proposal, but he'll lay out a strategy for "realistic" emission reduction targets and "principles" he thinks Congress should follow in crafting global warming legislation.

So this isn't so much leadership on the issue, but rather Bush setting the parameters within which he's willing to be led. With most experts giving us a decade or less to reduce carbon emissions, Bush's "10 to 15" years amounts to doing nothing. This is extremely weak tea.

But weak tea is far too strong for those right wingers for whom every president absolutely must be a cowboy. Rush Limbaugh accuses Bush of "accepting liberal premises "and poopoos "this whole notion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant."

Then, he points us to a piece written by the show's "official climatologist," Roy Spencer, for The National Review. The title says it all, "Like Lemmings to the Sea," and in it, Spencer argues that Bush's proposals would leave us irreversibly screwed.

...The fact is that there is simply nothing we can do -- short of shutting down the global economy -- that will substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Prosperity requires access to abundant, affordable energy. Thus, any mandated limits or taxes meant to slow the use of fossil fuels will limit prosperity as well, period.

The current wave of political pandering to public misperceptions about where our energy comes from would be funny if it weren’t so deadly serious. There is simply no way to substantially reduce carbon dioxide emissions as long as increasing numbers of people around the world desire to make a better life for themselves and their families.

While the developed countries take for granted conveniences like heating, air conditioning, refrigerated food, and the freedom to travel, our politicians continue to feed the myth that we have any realistic alternatives to carbon-based fuels. With the possible exception of a very slow (several decade) transition from coal-fired power plants to nuclear ones, there are simply no other options that will make any measurable difference for future global temperatures.

Of course, this is all BS. There are plenty of viable alternatives to carbon-based fuels and a large percentage of the US population has been using them for nearly a century -- geothermal and hydro-electric leap most immediately to mind. And new technology is developing at an amazing pace. But never mind the obvious facts, Spencer has some freaking out to do.

"Now is the time for the people to speak up," he writes. "We need leaders who will tell us to stop running toward the edge of the cliff. That cliff is fast approaching, and unless someone has the courage to stand up for the rights of humans to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the momentum we have generated due to our irrational fears will cause us all to topple into the sea." Bush has, apparently, set us on course toward our own doom.

But even if we accepted that addressing climate change will end civilization as we know it -- and that's not hyperbole, that's Spencer's argument -- the idea that Bush actually means any of this is absurd. Weak and ineffective and useless as Bush's parameters are, there's no way he has any intention at all of doing any of it. All he's really doing is trying to shape the debate for the future. "These are the arguments you can use to put the brakes on this thing," Bush is telling fellow anti-environmentalists. That's why his "proposal" is peppered with words like "realistic" and "responsible." Bush has declared the real measures it would take to address global warming unrealistic and irresponsible. Look for those words to pop up in the future.

And, if you're really worried that Bush has any intention of ever doing a damned thing about the environment, don't look at the future, look at the present. Bush isn't even using tools that already exist. The Bush version of responsible environmentalism means casting a blind eye to problems. After all, if you ignore the environment, it'll go away.

Associated Press:

The Environmental Protection Agency was lambasted during a Senate hearing Tuesday for allowing the American public to learn that traces of pharmaceuticals are in much of the nation's drinking water from an Associated Press investigative series, not the federal government.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, angrily chided Benjamin H. Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water, for the agency's failure to require testing for drugs and for public disclosure of test results.

"When a story like this breaks, why is it necessary for Sen. (Frank) Lautenberg to call a hearing on this? Why aren't you working on this night and day?" Boxer asked. "The Associated Press did your work — and they're telling us what's in the water."

Seriously Macho-Man, when the press has to do the EPA's job, do you really believe that a tantrum is called for? Bush's words are just words. They're arguments against reality, not a cave-in to it. There is absolutely no danger of reality seeping into the Oval Office, so put down your hanky and dry your eyes.

Remember, Dubya said in 2000, "If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom."

That was all BS, right? Bush is arrogant as all hell -- "humble" is not a word anyone would use to describe him. Like his "humble foreign policy," Bush's "responsible approaches" to climate change is just something you say to mollify the chumps. It really doesn't mean anything.

So cheer up Rush, Roy, and the rest of you weepy cowpokes, you don't have to worry that Bush is going to do a damned thing. Those of us who choose to live in reality, however, still have plenty to worry about.


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