Guest post by Thomas Fuller
(Okay. Based on the assumption that overly cryptic titles of blog posts need to be explained early: Old Testament prophets predicting doom gave rise to the term ‘Jeremiahs’ after one prominent example, and their doom-laden screeds even got the term ‘jeremiads.’ Michael Tobis is lamenting the failure of climate activism of late and predicting horrible things will happen–very much like the Jeremiahs of old.
Tobis is a Research Scientist Associate (in practice, mostly a software engineer) who very rarely writes about climate science, preferring to pronounce on the sins and errors of journalists, bloggers and politicians. Instead of writing about what he knows, he writes about what angers him. He may well be an expert on climate science. He is not at all an expert on media criticism.
However, Tobis mostly sits crouched on the lilypad of his own weblog, and his posts are frequently written as if they were being croaked into the night, waiting vainly for a response.
So Three Dog Night was very wise when they wrote that Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog.)
Cap and Trade is dead. So says Joe Romm, so says the NY Times, so says the Atlantic.
Okay, what is next?
The wrong answer is C) Nothing. But thanks for playing our game. What will happen is that we will reframe the problem in a way that may be more acceptable to more people. That’s because restating the problem is much easier than readjusting the solutions so many have been working on. So we will start talking more about adaptation than mitigation, about regional resilience than global mean temperatures, about heat in the oceans rather than CO2 in the atmosphere. (All of which are fine with me.)
The world is not going to walk away from global warming quickly–even if many would like to run. Defeat doesn’t work like that in diplomacy. Cancun will still take place, options will still be floated, proposals bruited, etc.
But the surest sign that the air has gone out of the balloon is the decision to retain Rajendra Pachauri, as some gloomy Banquo’s ghost. If the IPCC had anything that was both new and real to offer, they’d have got a new guy in there.
So the diplomats will not acknowledge the failure of diplomacy. The mainstream media, having spilled more ink than an army of squids promoting the need to change our climate, will have to wait a respectable length of time before dropping the hot potato in favor of Lady Gaga or watching paint dry, whichever is more entertaining.
Domestic politicians won’t let go of their clubs until after the November elections in the USA, although the UK may be moving a bit more quickly. But being on the right side of the climate change issue now means no more than being on the wrong side. Next up–immigration reform?
We diehards on the blogs will still talk about it–we have a lot invested in the subject. I’ve noticed the range of subjects on climate blogs is widening a bit, with Keith Kloor reintroducing anthropology and archaeology, and Michael Tobis getting more local than global.
But despite this all giving discussions the air of a post-game show, it isn’t over. Not the actual changes to the climate, not the politics, not the blame game, and eventually not the policies to deal with it.
We still have climate and it will still change. We may be a bit less arrogant about our ability to predict those changes and assign the causes, but change there still will be.
Those who don’t like the changes will still blame human activities, although if they’re smart they might start reading Roger Pielke Sr. and attributing changes to more than just CO2.
People are still re-fighting the Vietnam War. Heck, there are people still re-fighting the Civil War. We’re not going to let this go any time soon.
Especially because of the twin peaks of Energy As An Issue and The Developing Countries As An Issue. Because we are the way we are, we will think we have to solve both. And because we are the way we are, we will think we have to solve both at the same time with the same tools, even though actions to make progress on one of them will make things more difficult for the other. Conserve energy, make the developing countries suffer. Help the developing countries, make the energy crisis worse.
And when we get frustrated, maybe we’ll pine for the easy days of fighting over climate change.
There are things we can do to protect against further climate change, improve energy security and smooth the path for developing countries. The conservative American Enterprise Institute and The Brookings Institute have teamed up with the Breakthrough Institute to propose a post-partisan solution (PDF), mostly based on research. It’d probably work, too. But the problem with post-partisan proposals is that they would put partisans out of a job, so of course left and right are ganging up on these people.
Their proposals are important, but it probably looks as though their timing stinks. This would have seemed really useful six months ago. But now it seems like they’re showing up with their party gifts just as everybody’s cleaning up and getting ready to go home.
But that’s an illusion. The climate / energy wars will last another generation. This is just a pause of exhaustion. We will change names, politicians, bloggers and the nuances of our positions and get ready for Round Three. This is, after all, the title fight to end all title fights.
But more on that another time. Meanwhile, Joy to the World!
BTW, I’ll bet most readers didn’t know this: