Blair unveils global warming plan
February 25, 2003 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Blair unveils global warming plan, says U.S. must do more "We will continue to make the case to the U.S. and to others that climate change is a serious threat that we must address together as an international community," he said. "We in Britain have shown that it is possible to break the relationship between economic growth and ever-rising pollution." With the Bush administration relying so heavily on British support of its war plans, does Blair have some real leverage here to push for more progressive Bush policies on other issues?
posted by damn yankee (30 comments total)
I'll admit that I was wrong. I was beginning to believe that Blair's lips were superglued to George's ass. Maybe that tiny little London blizzard convinced him that things aren't what they used to be, weather-wise. To answer the question of leverage, however, I read nothing in Blair's statements that would tie support for Iraq-Ataq to American compliance with world environmental necessity. No, Blair has no leverage, nor will he. The Bushian ideal: you're either with us or against us, remember?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:29 PM on February 25, 2003

does Blair have some real leverage here to push for more progressive Bush policies on other issues?

hahaha. no. Remember, it's the pimp and not the whore who holds the power.
posted by riviera at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2003

techgnollogic, I'm a bit confused here. Are you trying to argue that global warming isn't happening, or that specific projections are incorrect? If the IPCC's evaluation is overstated, and I think it might be, that doesn't change the core argument, that emission of greenhouse gasses is a serious threat to enviromental stability over the long term. Hence, we have Blair's admission that we should do whatever in our power to mitigate those effects. Whatever. If global warming is a lie, then let's pollute away and see what happens. That isn't the stance that most of the developed world has taken. The question at hand is, will the US act unilaterally even when its goodest bestest buddy and love-doll asks for its support in this matter?
posted by Wulfgar! at 2:49 PM on February 25, 2003

I'm no economist techgnollogic but lets assume for the sake of argument the economic growth of the poorest countries is over stated in the IPCC report.

Even so I do believe the IPCC report estimated that the vast majority of CO2 emissions would still come from the richest countries (and China if you want to label them poor).

So maybe they need to adjust their figures down by about 5% but you are still looking at radical climate change as a result of CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. Hell if we stopped all CO2 production now we'd still see climate change.

I don't see how this picking of nits should dissuade us from reducing greenhouse gas emissions now and eliminating them altogether as soon as possible.
posted by aaronscool at 2:51 PM on February 25, 2003

Just to give some idea how sensitive the economy is to energy if oil goes to $40 a barell for more than a few months in a row historically this has always created an economic recession soley because of gas prices at the pump. Currently around $37. Electricity costs are even more sensitive. We complain about global warming but if you don't have a job, food or place to live there are priorities. This is the quandry we are in.
posted by stbalbach at 2:53 PM on February 25, 2003

I guess Blair was just bound to spin out somewhere. He was just too good for too long, and he was bound to goof it all up at some point. This is that point.
posted by hama7 at 2:59 PM on February 25, 2003

Geez, you'd almost think for a second or two that Blair was the Labour candidate instead of . . .

Oh, right. Well, no need to panic, a little diversion to allow him to pretend to be his own man and he'll be right back to sucking up to Georgie, I'll bet.
posted by Zonker at 3:46 PM on February 25, 2003

Admittedly economics weigh heavily on any change to our energy supply. Mistakes could certainly send the world economy into recession or worse.

I do have concerns that we subsidize our oil industry heavily while leaving alternative energy out to dry. The current system give the oil industry at least $20 billion dollars in direct subsidies and tens of billions more indirect subsidies.

Why do we continue to subsidize an established high profit margin industry when this same investment in alternative energy sources could have an even greater impact? Not just for climate change but also economically due to our own control over our own energy sources, cheaper and cleaner technology and a potential new industry for the US to take a lead in.

This is added to the fact that both currently and in the future we will likely be paying hundreds of billions to adjust to, compensate for or repair damage done by Climate change. Sure we must take into account the future cost of the EFFECTS of fossil fuels into its CURRENT price?

Personally I'm consistently baffled as to why we cling to fossil fuels and refuse to invest and investigate into newer, cheaper, cleaner and better technology.
posted by aaronscool at 4:26 PM on February 25, 2003

techgnollogic: Interesting article.
posted by Plunge at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2003

I'm saying that if the drastic measures recommended by the Kyoto agreement are based on bogus estimates that greatly exaggerate the potential of the problem, then the case for those drastic measures is seriously undermined.

If the worst case scenario that projects an increase of 1-6 degrees C over the next 100 years hinges on a massive and unprecedented increase in the global average standard of living fueled by hydrocarbon combustion, then we might not have much reason to panic. It becomes increasingly likely that trends can be adjusted more gently, without threatening practially overnight government-enforced changes in people's everyday lives.
posted by techgnollogic at 4:39 PM on February 25, 2003

I'm saying that if the drastic measures recommended by the Kyoto agreement are based on bogus estimates that greatly exaggerate the potential of the problem, then the case for those drastic measures is seriously undermined.

I'd agree. The IPCC report does not fit this bill.

Like I said even if the 3rd world's economic might were grossly overstated it is the developed world's use of resources (both current and projected) that make for 70-90% of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Studies today conclude that even if all CO2 emissions were to end immediately the effects of Climate Change would still increase for the next 50-100 years.

Hell lets take Climate Change out of the picture. Someone want to tell me why we subsidize the Oil industry so heavily when we know quite factually that there is nothing we can do to eliminate our need for foreign oil? Seems to me we'd want to get of foreign oil sources as badly as we'd want to stop climate change...
posted by aaronscool at 4:47 PM on February 25, 2003

I agree with aaron purely from the geek-engineer perspective-- why cling to clearly outmoded technology when new technology in virtually every other arena has resulted in a higher quality of life for people around the world?
posted by cell divide at 4:55 PM on February 25, 2003

Atmospheric and Oceanic Carbon Dioxide data and models indicate North America absorbs more carbon than it emits.

Eurasia & North Africa absorb 1/36th of their CO2 emissions.
posted by techgnollogic at 6:10 PM on February 25, 2003

I'll admit that I was wrong. I was beginning to believe that Blair's lips were superglued to George's ass.

Wow. You sooo beat me to that one : )
posted by Shane at 6:34 PM on February 25, 2003

Eurasia & North Africa absorb 1/36th of their CO2 emissions.

I'm sorry is this supposed to be impressive?

Yes some CO2 gets sequestered either in the ocean or via photosynthesis. When we put too much CO2 into the atmosphere what happens to the excess that cannot be absorbed?

By your accounts more that 35/36ths of it lingers and will cause additional climate change problems in the future.
posted by aaronscool at 6:46 PM on February 25, 2003

Techgnollogic: the Permian extinction, the largest mass extinction in the history of the world, is believed to have been caused by carbon dioxide coming out of solution from the ocean. Something to think about.
posted by Ptrin at 9:05 PM on February 25, 2003

Wulfgar!, aaronscool - techgnollogic is merely trundling out the latest generation argument against the IPCC reports (cooked up by the paid flacks of the petrochemical industry). The problem is that these critics are not actually interested in the peer-review process which resulted, ultimately, in the IPCC report but are concerned with, rather, the sheer public PR value of continually-generated new objections to Global Warming theory and prediction, objections which are almost always later proved specious (but not before they have swayed many who aren't familiar with the Global Warming research).

techgnollogic - "technically" your statement may be true, but the argument is nonethless politically bogus and unproductive: the North American colonists accomplished a massive deforestation of the great Old-Growth forests of the US East Coast and now Americans are letting those forests grow back - and so US forests - regardless of Old Growth cutting on the US west coast - are (perhaps) taking up more CO2 than the US produces.

So guess what? People in developing countries the world over are saying: the US built it's current prosperity on the agressive exploitation of it's natural resources, so why can't we do the same? Why can't Brazil and Indonesia simply raze their tropical forests to the ground?

Why not indeed? Many of these country's leaders, regardless of Global Warming, do not feel that they have the latitude to address CO2 emission issues by cutting back on the process of industrialization. The political pressures are just too great.

Arguments of the sort you make are "non-starters". They were designed by petrochemical industry flacks to obstruct world progress on addressing Global Warming by sowing division: it seems the tactic is working magnificently.

Gradual Climate Change seems mild. Be forewarned: gradual change can abruptly turn into Sudden Climate Change at any point.

stbalbach - In the very short term, you are right. BUT.......You seem like a rational fellow. So appreciate this: Economic growth Is not wedded to energy consumption for the simple reason that energy consumption is not a fixed input. Energy can be used far, far more efficiently than is currently the case for much of the US economy. For the better part of decade, following the '72 oil price shocks, the US economy grew at a healthy pace while energy consumption remained flat. People learned to do more with less - no magic to that.

I know you are very intelligent. And I know that my previous statement is roughly accurate (I could be off be 3 years or so, in my dates, but the jist of my statement is not contested by economists: economic growth without increased energy consumption is a fact.) so I expect that you - being an intellectually curious type - will investigate the phenomenon: and if I again catch you making the same sorts of "any reduction in energy consumption will be an economic disaster" assertions - which are patently false according to both basic principles of physics and also borne out in real historical experience - I will be forced to bust you on it.
posted by troutfishing at 9:09 PM on February 25, 2003

troutfishing, I wasn't really confused by techgnollogic's link or argument. I do believe that the IPCC's report(s) are overstated in timeline, but effect is accurately equated to cause. We're fucking with the planet's climate, especially as regards developing nations who have a far greater ability to produce greenhouse gasses than to moderate their production. Blair has (UNBELIEVABLY) recognized that fact. Can he get it across to Dumbya...that's the question. As your own argument points out, many parts of the world will follow where we lead. So where will we lead? (Obviously, many in our own country don't buy this en-viro-ment-a-list crappola...tryin' to take away my god givin right to do whatnot...Global warmin' my ass...why we just had a bigass snowstorm in New York, bigger'n ever..dud'n't that prove it's fulla shit *spit*.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:42 PM on February 25, 2003

Wulfgar! - I didn't really think so, but.... Take a deep breath! Let it out...another breath.....let it out....feel better?

Global Warming "debate" is like some massive, overblown troll from Hell - full of it's own little rabid demons. I haven't looked into this latest objection, but I don't doubt the IPCC's projection, due to the "surprise" factor: Such as the projection, based on the computer simulations of one British scientist, that the Amazon could start unravelling (unstoppably) within 10 years. "Surprises" WILL happen, and they will usually be bad.

But....we are physical (at least) creatures: breath in....hold it.....let it out. (repeat)
posted by troutfishing at 10:19 PM on February 25, 2003

Experts Fault Bush Plan to Study Climate

A particular concern among some on the panel was the plan's proposed focus on scientific questions that many experts say have been resolved.

"In some areas, it's as if these people were not cognizant of the existing science," said one member, Dr. William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences at Duke University. "Stuff that would have been cutting edge in 1980 is listed as a priority for the future."

posted by homunculus at 10:38 PM on February 25, 2003

Homunculus - I heard that one of the panelists who contributed to GW's NAS commissioned report on Global Warming quipped "Where the hell have these guys been for the last 10 years?!"
posted by troutfishing at 11:02 PM on February 25, 2003

I'll admit that I was wrong. I was beginning to believe that Blair's lips were superglued to George's ass.

He's taken this line before, so there's not really anything new here. I'm beginning to think that Blair isn't a poodle, he actually believes in the war on Iraq.
posted by Summer at 2:13 AM on February 26, 2003

Summer: I've believed that Blair actually "believes" in the war on Iraq for months. There's something evangelical about him that I can't put my finger on. He doesn't care how many people protest about the war, or even whether the war will bring him down. He sees it as his destiny, a chance to write himself into the history books. He takes comfort in the fact that Churchill was a lone voice in warning about the dangers of German rearmification, without pausing to think that Churchill was wrong about so many other matters.

Regarding the actual topic of this thread, it would be wonderful if serious money was spent on developing renewable energy sources. The trouble is, rhetoric costs nothing. I'll believe it when I see it. Blair has so far failed to sort out public transport, education or the NHS. I don't see why an enlightened energy policy should be any different.
posted by salmacis at 2:46 AM on February 26, 2003

Salmacis - serious money will be spent on developing renewble energy sources, just like serious money is being spent on transport, education and the NHS. Unfortunately money's not always the answer.

I think the Government's heart is in the right place, just as it is on these other issues. But it tends to promise the impossible and then, when it finds it can't achieve it, quietly scale down its plans and pretend nothing's happened.
posted by Summer at 3:20 AM on February 26, 2003

Salmacis - serious money will be spent on developing renewble energy sources, just like serious money is being spent on transport, education and the NHS. Unfortunately money's not always the answer.

Serious money was already being spent on reaching the 10% by 2010 target. The long awaited energy policy that Blair has been mouthing off with this week adds very little to what was already in place, and does v.little to push things towards what will need to happen after 2010. The failure to adopt the 20% by 2020 target as policy undermines much of what Blair said about supporting future RE development.
posted by biffa at 4:05 AM on February 26, 2003

Summer - US subsidies of the Oil, Coal, and Nuclear industries are somewhere are in the $26+ billion dollar range (per year). And this figure does not take into account the cost of defending US access to oil in the Persian Gulf.

Serious money, you said?
posted by troutfishing at 6:14 AM on February 26, 2003

I was talking about the UK though, troutfishing. Anyway, if you're talking nuclear, to some that is a renewable energy source.
posted by Summer at 6:42 AM on February 26, 2003

if you're talking nuclear, to some that is a renewable energy source.

I read a lot of documents concerning RE policy and general energy policy and I can't remember ever seeing that claim, though the nuclear industry has increasingly played up its lack of greenhouse gas emissions.
posted by biffa at 7:59 AM on February 26, 2003

summer - OK, I was talking about US subsidies. I agree with you then - the UK is making a real effort to fund renewables now (ACTUAL big money). But I don't think that nuclear power is really all that renewable : uranium supplies, on earth, are finite. "Breeder" reactors can stretch the supply a bit, if you don't mind the byproduct of lots of easily weaponized plutoniun - but this still wouldn't make nuclear power renewable.

Biffa -

Interestingly, Jim Lovelock - eminent scientist, consultant to NASA, inventor of the electron-capture detector and co-originator of the 'Gaia' concept (with the noted biologist Lynn Margulis) thinks that increased atmospheric CO2 levels pose a far greater long term threat to planetary health, to the Biosphere, than are posed by possible radiation releases from nuclear power plants.

I think very highly of Lovelock and have to take his views seriously. He's not a craven booster of Nuclear Power. Far from it. He simply thinks that we are in an unrecognized crisis situation so dire that he advocated - in a "Nature" editorial two or three years ago that humanity condense current scientific knowledge into a "Bible" of sorts, printed on durable paper and distributed everywhere as well as hidden, buried, time-capsuled, and so on.

His point? - Civilizations come and go. It has been a long haul from fire-lit caves to modern industrial civilization, and so we must anticipate possible civilization-killing disasters by, first, preserving crucial knowledge.
posted by troutfishing at 8:38 AM on February 26, 2003

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