It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Politicizing Climate Change

While everyone agrees there's too much politics in climatology, people overseas will be amazed at the extent to which there's insufficient climatology in US politics.

With oil at $100/barrel, even energy policy gets short shrift.

I recommend, especially to American readers, an article on Daily Kos about the near invisibility of what after all is obviously a defining issue of our time.

(Disclaimer: while I am an unabashed liberal I'm not a Democratic partisan. I don't plan to take this blog too far into campaign politics. The referenced site is explicitly political and big-D Democratic. In this case, though, it raises an interesting point that even those disagreeing with its inclinations ought to consider.)
Notable in the presidential debates, on both sides of the aisle, has been a relative silence on such minor issues as energy and Global Warming. Peak Oil matter? Evidently not, based on the hours of debates. Global Warming? Well, Tim Russert [moderator of the venerable interview program Meet the Press --mt] has asked over 200 questions, not one related to this that I can find. Nor, for example, did it come up at the Yearly Kos Presidential forum in August.
...
The League of Conservation Voters put out a press release last week pointing out that Russert has had the presidential candidates on Meet the Press at least a dozen times and never used the words "global warming". And, well, it isn't just Russert. It was noted, at Yearly Kos, by a number of the candidates in their sessions after the Presidential Forum in August. (Richardson opened his comments noting this.) As long as reporters (and we) are not asking the questions, the issue won't rise to the top of the debate.

The Overton window not only decides what positions can be discussed in polite company. It also apparently decides what features of the landscape we even look at. To reach 2008 with debate on energy hardly visible in national politics is ludicrous in the extreme.

It's not as if the problem were some sort of secret, either. Everyone except the politicians talks about it constantly. Americans are obsessed about an elephant in the room that the press and the parties are dancing around and trying to sweep under a rug.

It makes the media and political power centers look ever more shabby. The hypocrisy is approaching Soviet levels. Nobody outside the power centers is taking the political process seriously. At least part of the reason is that the topics addressed and the attitudes expressed by politicians and the press seem to refer to a different country and a different time.

It's not as if Mr Gore is entirely off the hook, either. I recall that these matters disappeared from his vocabulary at about the time he started running for President in earnest in 2000.

There must be some awfully powerful pressures that I can't quite understand to keep a lid on the energy tangle. Someone in DC should read the safety warning that comes with an everyday kitchen pressure cooker.

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