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Climate Soul Talk

By Keith Kloor
Oct 16, 2010 4:42 PMNov 20, 2019 1:10 AM


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Deep in the "The Post Partisan Power Play" thread, there's a fascinating exchange between two readers. I'm going to reproduce it here. First, the set-up: Lewis asks:

So, the idea is to find a way forward that is politically acceptable. Whether the ideas of Pielke etc are old or spanking brand new is beside the point. Let us say, we dismiss their ideas and, at the same time, those of "˜cap and trade', which has clearly failed, what useful and pragmatic alternative do you have?

Michael Tobis takes up the challenge and offers his seven step revenue-neutral tax and rebate plan. Lewis responds:

Michael, nice plan. My question was how are you going to get it enacted? Not by fiat. So how?

Michael answers:

Lewis, I have no hope of it getting enacted, because the republican party has just jumped on the stupid bandwagon. But it's not as if this were my idea. This sort of a plan has made sense from the beginning. The Republicans could have gotten it done easily if they had valued the world more than they valued embarrassing Mr. Obama, they could have shared the credit, and Obama could have been the centrist, healing figure he wants to be. Similarly on health care. Short answer, I don't think it will happen for a long time, and I think the consequences will be severe. That doesn't move the Breakthrough idea out of the lottery ticket long shot territory.

Lewis, after prodding Michael to "ask yourself why you have failed" instead of "continuing with 'tired' plans that go nowhere," implores:

So, Michael, your council is one of despair? Please, one can't be defeated so easily. Let us except the reality we are in and try to think of ways out? I think, because of a kind of either/or mentality, you lose rationality when the going gets rough? Be a bit more positive!

Michael counters:

Lewis, I am not giving up, and wouldn't recommend giving up until extinction is assured, which in spite of all the bad news we have just bought ourselves and the rest of the world, remains many decades of mistakes into the future. But I am sure we will achieve nothing even close to the tepid aims of Copenhagen for ten years, or possibly twenty. I have just given up on the next decade. I'll be happy to be surprised, but there's little point to it. We academics have been outmaneuvered and outgunned by talented sales professionals. This is what one might have expected, given that what we are selling is, after all, not that much fun and that we are the amateurs. Indeed, it always seemed likely that we would make little progress until serious consequences actually kicked in. Now it is as good as certain. So the sensible thing is to retreat and regroup. As I said on my blog, my sense of urgency is gone. We have missed the window of modest risk. Something very bad, much worse and more permanent than Pakistan or Russia this summer, is going to happen because of climate change. Time will tell exactly what and when. The best thing for those of us who anticipate it to do is to have a new set of proposals ready for when people wake up, and to keep trying to explain the nature of the risks. If the US doesn't collapse for other reasons, I am thinking the election of 2024 is the world's earliest chance of recovery from the climate politics disasters of 2009-2010. I don't think ten years is enough time to reverse the damage.


Michael, your implied prognosis is what really disturbs me and others and it's implicit lack of faith in the future and humanity, as such. There are no dire events awaiting on the horizon, no "˜extinctions' around the corner and you haven't been "˜out gunned' by anyone but good old humanities expectations of a prosperous future. Cry black tears if you wished to and decry those who take "˜filth' out of the world but admire and stand back when humanity goes forward through, and despite, your veil of tears.


Lewis, you're asking me to have faith in humanity that the smartest and most decent people I've ever known, who are smarter and more decent and more diligent than many ever get to meet, have been stupidly wrong on the main subject of their and my expertise, and that a bunch of casually informed people collectively indulging in wishful thinking on the same subjects are right, because, well, because they'd better be? I have no such faith, and no access to such faith. I have to find a way to carry on regardless, and to me that includes finding a way to feel constructive. Please feel free to find that disturbing if you must.


Michael, I just don't understand "“ no one, who one would wish to take cognisance of , would impugn those "˜decent, honourable people' of whom you speak? No one. And I don't say your not being constructive: if your plan is right, get a united front, persuade Pielke, Romm etc to adopt it, and put it forward? Just don't despair "“ mankind has been through rocky patches in the past and come through them. Who knows, maybe your the Churchill of his "˜wilderness years'? True, the war came but he showed our way through it. Don't despair!

It continues on for a bit more, but that's the heart of it, right there.

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