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Saturday, 23 February 2008

Climate Change nowhere in US Elections and the world should worry

Just been reading about how the last Democrats debate was sponsored by coal interests and full of 'clean coal' promotional ads — and no questions about Climate Change.

The environment is nowhere as an issue in the election, rating around 1%, although 'energy policy' (a specifically American prism through which climate change is usually glimpsed) rates much higher. Here's a typical Hillary contexualisation:
When I speak, as I have now for the last eleven months, to tens of thousands of people and I say that we will do everything necessary to end our dependence on foreign oil, people!
Interestingly, Climate Change is, in this election, being loudly raised from the Right - some prominent evangelicals have made it a front-and-centre issue and this has caused schisms with those who prefer going after the gays. It was a big issue in the Republican primary.

McCain was the only Republican candidate signed up to the need for carbon reduction targets and joining carbon trading schemes (what Bush has consistently undermined alongside attacking the science).
Mitt Romney has really been going after Senator McCain on this. Of course, McCain was the first to propose a cap on carbon emissions, and Romney's really been on the attack, saying this means McCain's not a real conservative. He's putting the economy at risk through increasing energy prices. McCain shoots back that he will trust American entrepreneurs to rise to this challenge and create green energy jobs.
But the Democrat base hasn't prioritised it, as Al Gore has lamented (note the faint praise).
"Some of the candidates have made speeches which are quite good and proposals that are quite responsible, but overall the issue has not achieved the kind of priority that I think it should have."

"I don't blame the candidates for that, some of them have tried to push it higher on the agenda."

"That is just the very reason why I have put so much of my time into trying to change the way people think about this crisis in my country and around the world -- so that candidates will hear from citizens that they want this to be the top priority."
Indeed, if you look at Hillary and Obama's positions, they call for massive energy use reductions and massive carbon output reductions. All of their plans have enormous implications which - patently - the Democrat base don't get.

Although Gore isn't about to blame them, it's clear that the leadership also isn't there to explain the seriousness of the mess they're in. Indeed both Obama and Hillary are linked to coal or nuclear interests and the primary process itself doesn't help: no-one will oppose disastrous biofuels because first-up Iowa voters love them and the subsidies they attract.

Here's Obama (Hillary's almost identical):
Barack Obama will invest $150 billion over 10 years to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial scale renewable energy, invest in low emissions coal plants, and begin transition to a new digital electricity grid. A principal focus of this fund will be devoted to ensuring that technologies that are developed in the U.S. are rapidly commercialized in the U.S. and deployed around the globe.
The policies are pretty xenophobic, messy and contradictory and way too inadequate ($150 billion isn't anywhere near enough) or just plain wrong. And in the November finale, expect the Right to use even these wishy-washy policies to go after so-called Reagan-Democrats. They'll capitalise on either Obama or Hillary's failure to explain/sugar coat reality for short-term political gain.

Just to take one example of not facing up to reality, think about 'Peak Oil'. This is the fact that oil reserves are spent, that demand will (some say it already has) exceeded supply and this means the entire world economy (based on oil) needs massive retooling if it isn't going to collapse in wars and famine. I couldn't find a single candidate quote about 'peak oil'.

Opening of the excellent documentary 'A Crude Awakening -- The Oil Crash':

".. and yet it's only a few years away."

I've been background reading on this and the permaculture movement seems to be the only way of looking realistically at this looming reality, rather than 'sustainability' which is kindof pretending that we can carry on as before whilst making a few mildly difficult changes. Permaculture says that we have to learn to live with less energy.

Here's a fascinating interview with David Holmgren, one of the founders of the permaculture movement. He details what he regards as the opportunity for humanity which Peak Oil represents.

He's Australian and it's interesting to note that Climate Change was a real big issue in that country's recent elections, primarily because Australia is very much on the edge ecologically.

For ordinary Australians the persistent drought has forced even big-c Conservative Australia to think radically on these issues. They've seen the future and they're very very worried. Americans evidentially haven't woken up and for the rest of the world that's pretty depressing.

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