googlead166c37c697d4d3.html Glenn Ashton Author Blog: Global Warming – Is it real? Ask Robert Redford!

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Global Warming – Is it real? Ask Robert Redford!

Redford slammed the missed opportunity caused by the foot-dragging in July 2010 of Democratic Senators on proper climate change legislation:
This was our moment to create two million clean energy jobs here in the United States. This was our moment to outpace China in the clean energy market that will dominate the 21st century. This was our time to slash our oil imports in half. This was our time to confront the perils of climate change, which despite head-in-the sand-denial, is in fact happening.
The American people wanted a home run, not a bunt. A recent CNN poll found that nearly 80 percent of voters believe that reducing oil use and shifting to cleaner energy would make life better for Americans, while a Wall Street Journal poll in June found that an overwhelming majority of people specifically support passing legislation to limit global warming pollution. Yet a handful of politicians decided they didn't want to represent the will of the people. 
Robert Redford
Redford's view is supported by the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), a research programme that studies the phenomenon of global change, and seeks to provide scientific knowledge to improve the sustainability of the living Earth. Owen Gaffney of the IGBP has called for a giant leap forward by humanity towards sustainability, through the creation of an international project similar to the Apollo space programme.
The reality of global warming is supported by a US Government report released in July 2010 by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration annual "State of the Climate" report, that flatly stated that "global warming is undeniable", and happening fast.
Not everybody agrees with Redford that the threat is real and time short. This means we are all caught up in the battle for framing the issue of global warming (or climate change, as the Republicans prefer to call the issue). 
Framing is important if you want to translate your message into action. If those in the
Redford camp ask the peoples of the world to help stop global warming, they might not get the response they wanted. But if they framed it another way, they might get a lot more positive action, and actually reduce the warming.
We could use this frame - let's try to use the best technologies we now have to find cheap and clean energy for all the world. That's a lot more positive than trying to stop global warming – it sounds like something most people could buy into.
OJ Simpson & Glove at his trial
If we get people to buy into cheap and clean energy for all, then we will meet with less resistance. And it's important to add the economic impact as well, just as the Stern Review did, so we should shoot for cheap energy, not just clean energy.
We could also add one more thing, for Americans: energy independence. If the US can find alternative energy sources which are available inside America's own borders, it would lessen the US dependence on outside suppliers, like the Persian Gulf.
One commentator has called climate change denial the O.J. Moment:
The campaign against climate science has been enormously clever, and enormously effective. It’s worth trying to understand how they’ve done it.  The best analogy, I think, is to the O.J. Simpson trial, an event that’s begun to recede into our collective memory.
The Dream Team of lawyers assembled for Simpson’s defense ... decided to attack the process, arguing that it put Simpson’s guilt in doubt, and doubt, of course, was all they needed.
If anything, they were actually helped by the mountain of evidence. If a haystack gets big enough, the odds only increase that there will be a few needles hidden inside. Whatever they managed to find, they made the most of ... That’s what happens when you spend week after week dwelling on the cracks in a case, no matter how small they may be.
Similarly, the immense pile of evidence now proving the science of global warming beyond any reasonable doubt is in some ways a great boon for those who would like, for a variety of reasons, to deny that the biggest problem we’ve ever faced is actually a problem at all... Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), had his grandchildren build an igloo on the Capitol grounds, with a sign that read: "Al Gore’s New Home." These are the things that stick in people’s heads. If the winter glove won’t fit, you must acquit.
[Climate deniers] success can be credited significantly to the way they tap into the main currents of our politics of the moment with far more savvy and power than most environmentalists can muster. They’ve understood the popular rage at elites.  They’ve grasped the widespread feelings of powerlessness in the U.S., and the widespread suspicion that we’re being ripped off by mysterious forces beyond our control.
One of those engaged in framing the fight against global warming in a different way is Gregory Boyce, the CEO of Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company in the world, headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. Peabody is a coal colossus, and it's coal fuels about 10% of the electricity generated in the US and 3% of the world's electricity.
Peabody also has a rather poor environmental history, judging from its position as number 500 out of 500 US companies in the Newsweek 2009 Green Rankings – their environmental impact score was a paltry 1 out of a possible 100.
In September 2010 Boyce tried to change the focus from combating greenhouse gases to what he termed in the Peabody Plan the fight to eliminate energy poverty and inequality:
 "The greatest crisis we confront in the 21st Century is not a future environmental crisis predicted by computer models, but a human crisis today that is fully within our power to solve. For too long, too many have been focused on the wrong end game," said Boyce.
"For everyone who has voiced a 2050 greenhouse gas goal, we need 10 people and policy bodies working toward the goal of broad energy access. Only once we have a growing, vibrant, global economy providing energy access and an improved human condition for billions of the energy impoverished can we accelerate progress on environmental issues such as a reduction in greenhouse gases."
Interesting framing – help the poorest people in the world to gain access to energy, before we throw our energy into reducing carbon dioxide.
And what does he recommend we do to achieve the Peabody Plan? By using more coal to expand electrification, create jobs and global economies, and by deploying green coal technologies to achieve environmental goals.

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