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A defining issue of this generation
December 29, 2007 9:49 AM   Subscribe

2007 was a year of extreme weather records, and 2008 could be worse, for example an unrelenting southeast drought could be devastating. 2008 will also be Bush's last year, and as the evidence for global warming mounts, Bush's agenda appears to be greening. "If global warming turns out to be a defining issue of this generation, advisers said, Bush does not want to be remembered as a roadblock."
posted by stbalbach (41 comments total)

 
"If global warming turns out to be a defining issue of this generation, advisers said, Bush does not want to be remembered as a roadblock."

It's a little late for that...
posted by ninjew at 9:51 AM on December 29, 2007


Isn't that kind of like Hitler hoping people will remember him for the Volkswagen?

YES! Godwin in two!
posted by Naberius at 10:13 AM on December 29, 2007 [5 favorites]


I'm fairly sure that in 20 years, if Bush hasn't drank himself to death, people will spit at it him when he walks down the street.

It's a sign of his deep mental illness that Bush honestly believes that he could be remembered on this question as anything other than wretchedly bad after seven years of raping the environment, not just the murder of the Kyoto agreement but his Orwellian "Clean Skies" and "Healthy Forests" Acts.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:15 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


That said, aquifer depletion, deforestation, soil loss and the general decline in carrying capacity of large swaths of the United States were going on long before Bush came along, and were going to bring overdevelopment crashing to a halt sometime regardless of his policies.
posted by Naberius at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2007


Transportation is 40-50% of global warming gas production. Walk, bike take the train, its cheaper and its better for your heart.
posted by meddeviceengineer at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Atlanta Water Shortage is a great blog that linked to this tool for Lake Lanier water levels.
posted by Pants! at 10:16 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


If I were Bush, at his current success rate, I'd hope that everybody just kind of forgot me entirely.
posted by Artw at 10:20 AM on December 29, 2007


That said, aquifer depletion, deforestation, soil loss and the general decline in carrying capacity of large swaths of the United States were going on long before Bush came along, and were going to bring overdevelopment crashing to a halt sometime regardless of his policies.

Of course. He didn't cause the damage on his own. But he pushed relentlessly hard against the environment, at a critical time in the history of industrial civilization. He's going to be remembered very badly.

I believe that there's a small but significant chance that people will later say, "Bush destroyed the Earth" -- which will mean in practice, "We now see that if the world had started to act around 2000 then our civilization would have survived but by the time Bush was done, it was too late."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:32 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Of course. He didn't cause the damage on his own. But he pushed relentlessly hard against the environment, at a critical time in the history of industrial civilization. He's going to be remembered very badly.

Oh certainly, no disagreement there.
posted by Naberius at 10:34 AM on December 29, 2007


The problem with global warming and taking it seriously is, it's a slow creeping thing. If people started bursting into flame, that'd be one thing. But when it's 1 degree warmer this year than the last, and there were 3.9% more tornadoes or whatever -- it just doesn't feel dire enough, psychologically. Of course, rationally, if you keep extrapolating out into the future, especially decades or more from now, it's dire as all hell, and obviously we should be very concerned and begin taking steps immediately so we don't get even close to the worst possibilities.

It just seems very difficult to mobilize a planetary population when it's like a death from a million cuts, especially when large portions of the global population have to worry about much more immediate obstacles to their survival. Like eating *this week* or whatever. It also doesn't help that the two biggest polluters are in a kind of stalemate, neither one willing to make hard cuts in emissions unless the other one does first (if then). And it certainly doesn't help that China is planning truly dramatic increases in coal usage, right when we should be eliminating coal from our power-generating repertoire entirely.

I'm in my 40s, so if it gets really, really bad, I probably won't be around to endure that. And I have no children, so I've not got any future generations of my own to worry about. Still, I worry about *all* future generations if we don't start acting like responsible stewards of our own environment, and quickly.
posted by jamstigator at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2007


The first linked article draws on the U.S. National Climatic Data Center preliminary climate report for 2007, but unfortunately mixes up weather extremes, which happen all the time regardless of climate variations, with climate changes.
posted by plastic_animals at 10:36 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is this the point when conservatives jump in and use this post as an example of how this site is controlled by liberals, or have we finally reached consensus that the only way Bush could have fucked up his presidency more would have been by attacking China in response to 9/11.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:37 AM on December 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


I thought some of the political transformations were amusing.
posted by nickyskye at 10:38 AM on December 29, 2007


Is this the point when conservatives jump in and use this post as an example of how this site is controlled by liberals

Don't forget Poland libertards.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 AM on December 29, 2007


Maybe we could invade China to shut down all of their coal plants.
posted by Pants! at 10:46 AM on December 29, 2007


I wouldn't worry too much about China. The way their air quality is headed, most of the population will die off in short order, which should eliminate most of the pollution.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:50 AM on December 29, 2007


weather extremes, which happen all the time regardless of climate variations

Well. That isn't really true in some sense.

If there were no systematic variations in climate, then statistically the frequency of weather extremes should decrease as time goes on (my intuition claims as the square root of the number of years passed but I can't formally justify that).

Consider that if we had daily temperatures since the formation of the planet, we'd never see weather extremes!

Conversely, imagine we only started to keep weather records starting on January 1. Pretty well every new *day* would be a record for the first year. We'd still keep setting records for a few years all the time but then it'd settle down. If there weren't systematic movement, after some period of time (a few hundred years? a thousand years?) there would be almost no new weather extremes encountered at all.

Now, I hasten to add that that doesn't mean that locally, in a human timescale, you can reliably tell that the climate is changing because you see a cluster of extreme weather records. Even if the climate weren't systematically changing, you'd still naturally see clusters of extreme weather records over "short periods" (a year up to a few decades?)

Perhaps a better way to phrase is it, "If we don't see extreme weather records over a medium time-scale, it's a good argument against systematic climate change."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:52 AM on December 29, 2007


Bruce Sterling has often raised the spectre of "climate trials" in about ten or twenty years. Bush often figures in these speculations as a potential defendent, as does John Howard. He tends to be a bit cynical about how effective it would be.

Jamais Cascio seems to think we're 'on the brink' of the "tobaccofication of carbon ". He seems to feel the anti-smoking movement is a good model for how to use public opinion to fight for responsible energy. But maybe a few actual trials, too.
posted by lodurr at 10:52 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


> if Bush hasn't drank himself to death, people will spit at it him when he walks down the street.

That's a nice fantasy, but I think it's a mistake to assume that, once out of office, Bush will ever walk down a street without being surrounded by a) a phalanx of Secret Service tanks and/or b) a neighbourhood's worth of fellow billionaires.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:56 AM on December 29, 2007


I'm fairly sure that in 20 years, if Bush hasn't drank himself to death, people will spit at it him when he walks down the street.

Nah, Fox and the Weekly Standard and the NYTimes will lionize (reaganize?) him into the next Jesus. Just look at how they've created a "debate" about waterboarding being torture, or the legality of warrantless wiretapping or hundreds of Executive Power issues.
posted by null terminated at 10:57 AM on December 29, 2007


Nah, Fox and the Weekly Standard and the NYTimes will lionize (reaganize?) him into the next Jesus.

With global warming and rising sea levels, we can all wait with baited breath for the George Dubya Bush International Hovercraft Port.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's a little late for that...

Exactly. Just like how Reagan will be remembered for his focus and concern regarding the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
posted by ericb at 11:17 AM on December 29, 2007


It's awfully depressing, and hard to know what to do other than panic. (Then, of course, the naysayers call you Chicken Little.)

On the West Coast, we ought to be preparing for the inevitably of massive dust storms.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:23 PM on December 29, 2007


Bush's agenda appears to be greening.

Cheney's agenda, not so much.
posted by homunculus at 12:26 PM on December 29, 2007


Bush does not want to be remembered as a roadblock.

So with all the problems the world has, and all the power he has as a world leader, diminished as it may be in a last year of a presidency, and all the things he could do with that power, what he worries about is...

..how he's remembered.

Selfish prick.


but then again, that's something we already knew...
posted by DreamerFi at 12:40 PM on December 29, 2007


Transportation is 40-50% of global warming gas production.

Yeah, that's not just Bush and Cheny's asses in those jet airliners, SUVs and automobiles. Bush and Cheny aren't the only ones who benefit from worldwide shipping. It's all of us, pals. How many of you flew over the holidays? Everyone has enough respiration to bitch about Bush, but no one can spare the breath to simply say "I'm not flying (or driving). It contributes to global warming." I mean, maybe you have to drive to your job, but how much of your flying is discretionary?
posted by Faze at 12:41 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


how much of your flying is discretionary?

Are you asking me, or my in-laws? :-)
posted by Naberius at 12:46 PM on December 29, 2007


It's all of us, pals.

Thanks Faze for putting things back into perspective for me.

After a thread full of bush-hate (which, I won't lie, I enjoy a lot...) its good to remember that we all have a large amount of responsibility for this problem and its solution(s).
posted by localhuman at 12:56 PM on December 29, 2007


Average car: 1.39 lbs carbon vehicle/mile.
SUV: 2.29 lbs carbon vehicle/mile.
Airliner: between .58 and .89 lbs carbon person/mile, mostly depending on distance, since that affects the proportion of fuel used on taxiing, takeoff and landing to the overall flight.
Train: .32 lbs carbon vehicle/mile.

So taking a plane is about like driving an average car the same distance with one passenger besides yourself.

The train is comparable to driving with three passengers. Buses slightly worse. And driving alone in an SUV is, not surprisingly, the worst choice. I'll avoid commenting about doing it while talking on a cell phone, which is something I see absolutely constantly.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:11 PM on December 29, 2007


Argh. That should have been:

Train .32 lbs carbon person/mile.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:12 PM on December 29, 2007


what he worries about is....how he's remembered.

Also ...
To Burnish Legacy, Bush Goes Abroad

“George W. Bush, the globe-trotting president.

For the first seven years of the Bush presidency, such a description would not have fitted a chief executive who limited overseas travel and preferred to set the tone of his foreign policy by which world leaders he invited to his Texas ranch rather than by the foreign capitals he chose to visit.

But throughout his final year in office, all that could change. Mr. Bush's passport will get a lot of new stamps, and Air Force One will be busy crossing oceans as the homebody president shifts to a boots-on approach to making his mark on the world.

Bush will launch into this new global mode early in January, when he will make a seven-country, week-long tour of the Middle East. Aside from visiting Israel – for the first time as president – and the Palestinian territories, he'll make stops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt.

Then in February, Bush heads to sub-Saharan Africa, where he will highlight his administration's role in the global fight against AIDS and in focusing foreign assistance and development funds on the most efficient, corruption-fighting democracies. After two international summits – NATO in Bucharest, Romania, in April, and the Group of Eight economic summit in Japan in July – Bush will attend the Beijing Summer Olympics in August.

In some respects, Bush is following a typical pattern among recent presidents. Finding themselves increasingly irrelevant domestically as eyes turn to who might be the next White House occupant, presidents tend to turn to foreign policy – and foreign travel – to put the finishing touches on their legacies.

But Bush, as much the lame duck at home as any two-term president on his final lap, faces a pattern of dislike abroad, both of himself and of his foreign policy, as he undertakes a year of travel.

This president's uncustomary travel agenda ‘is partially about burnishing the legacy and trying to highlight some of the administration's accomplishments when it comes to foreign policy,’ says Charles Kupchan, a professor of international relations at the School of Foreign Service and Government at Georgetown University in Washington. ‘But it's a particularly tall order for this president, in the sense that the Bush administration will be remembered, as much abroad as at home, more for mistakes and unpopular policies than for accomplishments in the foreign-policy arena.’” [more]
Bush: ‘I go around spreading good will.’

Jim Jeffrey, the deputy White House national security adviser: “We want to be well-perceived in the world.”
posted by ericb at 1:20 PM on December 29, 2007


Roadblock is out huh?

How about mine?
posted by pompomtom at 1:40 PM on December 29, 2007


Global wha?
posted by The Deej at 1:58 PM on December 29, 2007


Oh man Naberius, ever since I read that comment I've been imagining Hitler with a wistful look on his face, saying "Oh zat vas such a nize little car, zuch gut gas mileage, zo cute mit der flowervase inside und der little horn mit goes beep beep beep..." so thanks, you have effectively disposed of the last shred of sanity I had preserved under this Presidency.
posted by melissa may at 2:04 PM on December 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


This is the year Bush claims our Prime Minister is hiding weapons of whatever. Then he'll come up here and steal our water. Mark my words.
posted by chococat at 3:07 PM on December 29, 2007


I think plane travel is going to be hard to demonize. I just got back from Thailand and Tokyo. Never been to Asia before. Travel is one of the things that makes life worthwile for me. And going home for the holidays is one of those things I owe the woman who had to carry me & then take care of my sorry baby ass for years. The Earth can bite me.

Are you guys really going to stay home? How many places have you been so far? Should the next generation stick with the travel channel?
posted by Wood at 3:30 PM on December 29, 2007


if bush still dreams of a legacy, he should consider becoming the first president to commit suicide while in office, it's his only option.
posted by kitchenrat at 4:49 PM on December 29, 2007


To Burnish Legacy, Bush Goes Abroad

So now you're exporting toxic waste too? Way to go USA!
posted by Skeptic at 4:07 AM on December 30, 2007


Wood, you bring up some interesting and difficult problems. Travel by plane and ship are extremely costly, carbon wise. "Love miles" are a very difficult problem, there are currently no solutions. The reason most westerners have such high average carbon usage is because they travel (fly) so much, and everyone else is envious and wants the same. We set the example.

As for travel being a way of life, nothing wrong with that, but personally I don't think you need to fly all over the world to "experience" travel. Or do it in a way that's easy on the environment. Hike, bike, train etc.. I could "travel" in the USA for the rest of my life there is so much to see and do. I think many people use travel as a social status marker, like driving a hummer or owning a McMansion, it's a escapism to fill a void in life, we've been indoctrinated by the travel industry that "living life" is traveling and travel makes you happy - no evidence for that. What's wrong with reading novels, growing gardens, participating in local theaters, riding horses, local clubs, etc.. imagine late 18th century leisure time activities.
posted by stbalbach at 7:30 AM on December 30, 2007




wood: I think plane travel is going to be hard to demonize.

But it could very easily become too expensive to engage in.
posted by lodurr at 5:46 AM on January 3, 2008


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