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Is Obama even trying to avoid a climate FAIL?

Bill McKibben:

Word in the halls of the UN this week was that President Obama's speech on Tuesday—the first to the world body by this most admired of world leaders—was a dud, a towering disappointment. Coming at the beginning of what the UN has dubbed "climate week," the speech marked the beginning of a three-month push towards the global climate conference at Copenhagen. Obama used it mostly to downplay expectations. And it's those downplayed expectations that may prove to be tragically self-fulfilling.

Oh sure, there were a few flights of soaring rhetoric: "Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history," blah blah blah. But of all issues, this is the one where rhetoric does the least good. The enemy here is chemistry and physics, and they are heartily unimpressed by anything except specific targets for the reduction of carbon dioxide. And on this front Obama was completely unforthcoming, promising only that "we will continue to do so by investing in renewable energy, promoting greater efficiency, and slashing our emissions to reach the targets we set for 2020 and our long-term goal for 2050."

The reason he didn’t speak those targets out loud is because anyone who knows anything about climate—and that now includes, on at least a rudimentary level, most of the heads of the state who assembled to hear his speech—knows that those targets are unbearably weak.

And that’s not at all what Obama seems to be planning for. His most immediate priority—"every nation’s most immediate priority"—is producing more economic growth [for banksters]. Copenhagen can be a "significant step." We must not "allow the perfect to become the enemy of progress."

Never mind that no one is talking about perfect—we’re well past that. I mean, the Arctic is already falling into the sea. But the idea that we should settle for making some "progress" is either a declaration of defeat or a profound misreading of the latest science. Obama gave a speech that would have been great had it come two years ago—but now, with scientists ever more frightened, it left the thousands gathered here for the climate conference feeling deflated.

Dunno. I posted this mainly for the great snark. And I don't know how to integrate climate FAIL into all the other issues. It does seem to me, however, that SUCCESS can be thought of roughly in two ways:

1. SUCCESS #1. Let's call this the neo-feudal model. The top 0.01% make it to the high ground, pull up the ladder after themselves, and watch the die-back unfold. I'd say that in the back of their minds, if they think that far ahead, this is the model our rulerz have in mind. They hate us anyhow, and the way they're running the economy feels to me like they're extracting the last drops of profit before shuttering the plant. From the planetary perspective, this is a success because world population* is more closely aligned with carrying capacity.

2. SUCCESS #2. Let's call this the ... renaissance** model. A great wave of innovation -- culinary, financial, technical/technological, artistic, political -- on the scale of the agricultural revolution lifts us to a place where dieback doesn't happen. From the planetary perspective, this is a success because world culture is more closely aligned with carrying capacity.

Health care is important, and especially single payer is important, because if people are to innovate, they can't be tied to their jobs by the neo-feudal model of employer-based insurance. They need to be able to take risks! Right now, the ability to take risk seems to be concentrated in the financial sector alone, and they're not doing a very good job of it.

NOTE * Since the human and artificial persons who rule the world see the rest of us as "human resources," as inputs, it's naturally that they would seek to reduce the inputs to an overloaded system.

NOTE ** Wrong, but as you will see immediately, we don't have the word for this. Yet.

UPDATE See today's Howler.

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Submitted by lambert on

... I did try to broaden the perspective just a little toward the end...

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

He's doing the best he can, given that the other party has the environmental expertise:

WALLACE: As a president, can you name a hot button issue where you would be willing to cross (ph) Democratic party line and say you know what, Republicans have a better idea here.

OBAMA: Well, I think there are a whole host of areas where Republicans in some cases may have a better idea.

VASTLEFT: Yes we can throw our own party under the bus!

WALLACE: Such as.

OBAMA: Well, on issues of regulation, I think that back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, a lot of the way we regulated industry was top down command and control. We’re going to tell businesses exactly how to do things.

And I think that the Republican party and people who thought about the margins (ph) came with the notion that you know what, if you simply set some guidelines, some rules and incentives for businesses, let them figure out how they’re going to for example reduce pollution. And a cap and trade system, for example, is a smarter way of doing it, controlling pollution, than dictating every single rule that a company has to abide by, which creates a lot of bureaucracy and red tape and oftentimes is less efficient.

VASTLEFT: If there's one place the GOP's got it right, it's environmental issues!

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

... without working at it. I can't say I'm disappointed. I've understood for a while now that Obama is the Cool Dude in the ad telling you to smoke Marlboros.

But I also understand the issues, so I'm horrified.

We are so headed for the die-or-watch-the-dying scenario. /*goes off to scream quietly in a corner for a while*/