Thursday, November 30, 2006

"I told you before I'm not a scientist," Scalia said ...

... to laughter. "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."

Court Hears Global Warming Case: Justices to Decide Challenge on Greenhouse Gas Emissions is an interesting article in this morning's WaPo. Basically, 12 states and the District of Columbia are asking the Supreme Court to ask the EPA to reevaluate its decision not to pursue stricter carbon dioxide emission limits on cars and trucks.

The EPA argued that it does not have the statutory authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions (um? hello? Clean Air Act?) and -even if it did (which it does) - it is not required to use it (which it should be).

He [Justice Anthony M. Kennedy] noted Milkey's "perhaps reassuring statement" that the court does not have to make a judgment about global warming. "But," Kennedy asked, "don't we have to do that in order to decide the standing argument, because there's no injury if there's not global warming?"

It's not "global warming" folks. It's climate change. Say it with me, "climate change."

Parts of our planet are warming. More significantly is that this warming will lead to catastrophic changes in climate. Areas which were once fertile will become deserts. Coastal areas will flood. Small islands will disappear. Even more species will become extinct (which is, like, forever, yo. They won't be back). Drought. Famine. Floods. The northern migration of disease. It's not a pretty picture. Not at all.

And, yet, people -including Supreme Court Justices- with minimal scientific background are debating scientists who have studied these changes for most of their professional lives. The political arrogance, the overwhelming ignorance is astounding.

In my environmental policy program, we often referred to a very useful equation: I = PAT, in which I = environmental impact, P = population, A = affluence, and T = technology. Briefly, the environment tends to be negatively impacted by increasing population and affluence. Technology can have either a positive or negative impact (but is usually negative).

Some people believe that human intelligence will overcome all environmental problems. These technological optimists believe that a business as usual policy will have no negative long term effects, because our technological advancements will mitigate any environmental impact. We can pollute and grow and rape and pillage as much as we want. Everything will be fine. Technology will save us.

The frightening question which must be asked is: What if you're wrong?

Ask that question to a technological optimist and he (or she) will look at you like there are alien antennae protruding from your head. He can't even contemplate that possibility. So, I will contemplate it for him.

If the technological optimists are wrong, the world is FUCKED.

If environmentalists are wrong, and climate change isn't happening or technology does mitigate its negative effects, the world is a little cleaner.

I know which option I prefer.

Justice Scalia, you may not want to deal with "global warming," but you have to. We all have to. What you need to do is shut up and educate yourself. Then, maybe you'll be able to make non-politically motivated judicial decisions, at least as far as the environment is concerned.

And, if any of you are interested in educating yourselves, here are a few books on the subject which I found helpful:

The Weather Makers: How Man Is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth by Tim Flannery

Boiling Point: How Politicians, Big Oil and Coal, Journalists and Activists Are Fueling the Climate Crisis--and What We Can Do to Avert Disaster by Ross Gelbspan

and, of course,

An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It by Al Gore

In other, non-climate change related news, last night, I did laundry, ate leftovers, knitted, and drank a martini. My life is so exciting.


  1. Bravo, enviroboi. Bravo, indeed.

    I saw "An Inconvenient Truth" and it really opened my eyes to what I thought was basically a non-issue. I've been meaning to read the book, haven't had time, unfortunately.

  2. Yes scary isn't it? I hadn't heard of PAT, but it makes sense. The problem is no one wants to make sacrifices.

    Now I am even gladder that 1) I won't be driving much anymore, and 2) I'll most likely be dead in 20-30 years.

  3. Last night I ate leftovers, but didn't knit, drink a martini, or do laundry. This makes my life even less exciting. Sigh.

  4. I am not looking forward to the northern migration of tropical diseases. Not one bit.

  5. Our experience of the world is so fractured that it is hard sometimes to perceive and understand the kinds of changes that are happening. Living in cities, most people don’t have much of a clue about changes in the weather, let alone changes in the climate. To know that the climate is changing takes an awareness of the environment built over years of daily experience.

    It is a sad irony that some of the people most affected by climate change, in the Arctic regions, are also the people most in touch with what is happening in their world. When your livelihood, and your way of life depend upon ice flows and migrations, with an understanding passed down through generations, then you notice in a very real way. It becomes personal. We all need to make it so.

    (I like your thinky posts.)