Monday, February 14, 2011

Climate Change is still the big fight

If I have a big regret about my time at Open Left, it's that I didn't write more about climate change.  I did address it a few times, and Paul did fairly often but given that it is the defining challenge of the century we all certainly could have written about it a lot more.  More than anything else, the whole "game" such as it is really rests on whether we get anthropogenic global warming under control or don't.  I usually hate the "why isn't there more urgency about my favourite issue" style post when I see them, but if such complaints are ever right, this is the issue.  

Every human on earth will see downside from this.  Even the very richest will suffer some discomfort in the "uncertainty" that comes with the wars and conflicts (bad for investments), the natural disasters (which don't always respect gated communities) and the general increase in human misery worldwide (they can't all literally be sociopaths).   Problem is we can't wait for the effects to be severe enough for the rich to actually want something done about it. 

I realize a lot of the energy went when it became clear the Senate was not going to follow the House in actually doing something meaningful about it, so it appeared to be a fight for "later" (whenever that might be).  That alone should have been reason enough to change the Senate rules if those preening idiots could ever understand sheer necessity over self-interest, but unfortunately not, and unfortunately we on the outside weren't able to generate the critical mass needed to make senate reform in their immediate self-interest (it
took more than 80 years to get the noble Lords to accept elections and pass the 17th Amendment).

Still, something has to change and if the political class isn't going to supply the urgency on this, outsiders will have to.

"Warming Wednesdays"

 Ok, so to put some kind of idea out there, what if every progressive blogger and blog featured a couple posts on climate change every Wednesday?  Right now we only seem to write about it when it's "news" - which is usually whenever cable TV or newspapers find something newsworthy about the climate (face it, blogs tend to follow the news cycle for better or worse).

The title here is loosely based on the popular "follow Fridays" on Twitter, where everyone tweets the names of people they follow who they recommend others follow (and #ww doesn't seem to have any generally agreed upon meaning in the twitterverse, so why not abscond it for the cause?)

I'm not a climate blogger and while I would guess I know more about this issue than the average person, I wouldn't claim to be an expert.  But fuck it.  This needs doing and it needs everyone.  This isn't the biggest and most ambitious plan but it's something and if it got started, we could go from there.

What say you Open vets?


  1. This is a good idea. So much of our conversation is driven by the day's news or outrageous things conservatives say. The amount of energy that goes into fact checking nonsense is truly staggering, and, whatever benefits it has, means they set the agenda. I'm all for deciding up front one thing that's worth talking about and sticking to it. Bravo.

  2. We don't write about climate change because we can't figure out how to even tinker effectively around the edges of the catastrophe. Every other fight seems more possible.

    That's gotta be wrong. Not tomorrow, but I'll try to put Warming Wednesdays on my mental grid.

  3. Jan: Yes, I think the depressing gauntlet of surreal opposition and apathy that needs to be overcome before anything real can happen on this is rather daunting. At least yelling "don't fuck with social security" is actually somewhat likely to have some good effect.

  4. I think Jan is right about the reason. But for my money, if don't start including things that aren't tinkering, we're sunk. Even most of the things that feel like they can be solved with tinkering usually can't, IMHO. That doesn't mean they must be solved all at once - it means we have to make use of what Lakoff has calls strategic initiatives or watt Chris calls progressive feedback loops (not the same idea, but similar in some important respects.)

    It also strikes me we should be demanding expansions of Social Security rather than just fighting for no changes, regardless of whether it could pass now.

    Jamie Galbraith provides a great critique of the tinkering approach in The Predator State.

  5. Tinkering.... As good a word as any for a dearth of political will. I hate to keep bashing Brad DeLong, who's one of the good guys, and doesn't really deserve my hostility, but he's a classic case of the technocrat who believes in all the seemingly correct policy solutions, but is left as helpless as the rest of us by the madness of Realpolitik, not to mention the madness of people who wouldn't recognize realism if it bit them in the ass.

    Here's Professor DeLong, who's as smart as we make them these days, waxing ironic:

    And here we reach the limits of my mental horizons as a neoliberal, as a technocrat, as a mainstream neoclassical economist. Right now the global market economy is suffering a grand mal seizure of high unemployment and slack demand. We know the cures--fiscal stimulus via more government spending, monetary stimulus via provision by central banks of the financial assets the private sector wants to hold, institutional reform to try once gain to curb the bankers' tendency to indulge in speculative excess under control. Yet we are not doing any of them. Instead, we are calling for "austerity."

    It may make decent theater, but irony is hardly the best defense for the limitations of the intellect in situations like the one we all find ourselves in today. Neither is cognitive dissonance, as in the governor of Wisconsin -- Wisconsin, for Christ's sake -- threatening to use the National Guard to shoot public employees who object to being beggared by a nasty right-wing ideologue. Or, if you'd rather read about the problems of furriners, this: The Arab World's Triple Crisis.

    If Professors DeLong and Krugman can't handle the political implications of our manifold current crises, who can? My answer is that no one can, not and remain unscathed. Our future is no longer strictly a mattter of policies good or bad, and no matter how much we might wish it to be otherwise, the outcome has become unpredictable.

  6. This whole idea of tinkering could use its own post. (Feel free to tell me to knock this off if it gets annoying).

  7. It doesn't annoy me, David, but how's about doing it yerself? It'd be a good start for Long Road... doncha think?

    Mind, you, I'd like to see all the old OpenLefties posting in one place, but even if we all do our own things, a Web (what a concept, eh?) might work just as well as a portmanteau.

    Besides, I like your stuff, and I'm betting I'd like it even better if you stretched out a bit, and went for it. (Just sayin')

  8. I meant for Daniel, but I appreciate the prodding.

    I'm (hopefully) very close to a bit of a transition. Once that's passed, I'm inclined to make my debut there.

  9. No, suggestions for topics are welcome. I'll give the subject of incrementalism some more thought. It's one of the underlying meta-ideological debates that actually does rend liberals apart at regular intervals.

  10. It also strikes me we should be demanding expansions of Social Security rather than just fighting for no changes, regardless of whether it could pass now.

    That's a no brainer!