Care to Join the Debate–is it too Late or is There Still Time?

I just read a post on ThinkProgress by Joe Romm titled, “7 Reasons America Should Succeed On Climate Change“. It was in response to Exra Klein’s post on titled, “7 Reasons America Will Fail On Climate Change“. Klein’s secondary title seems to be, “STAND BACK AND WATCH THE WORLD BURN”.

To join in on this debate you will have to be in a group of people who already believe in climate change. No deniers allowed. I encourage everyone to read the two posts and also to explore both sites for information on many subjects.

I have been reading various reports that it’s too late to keep global warming below a supposed safe 2°C (3.6°F) increase. We are on our way to a 4°C increase by 2100. Scientists are increasingly saying we are at only a 0.8°C increase now and look at what’s happening to the planet and that the 2°C figure is too high. You can read about how this number came to be at this post by Brad Plumer of

I have referred to Joe Romm’s posts probably more times in this blog than any other writer. I’ve seen him on TV explaining climate change. He is one of the chief science advisors for Showtime’s, “Years of Living Dangerously”. I have lot’s of respect for his knowledge on the subject. Let’s take a look at Joe.


Joe’s Wikipedia page is here.

“Joseph J. Romm (born June 27, 1960) is an American author, blogger, physicist and climate expert who concentrates on methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and global warming and increasing energy security through energy efficiency, green energy technologies and green transportation technologies. In December 2008, Romm was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In March 2009, Rolling Stone magazine named Romm to its list of “100 People Who Are Changing America”. In September 2009, Time magazine named him one of its “Heroes of the Environment (2009)”, calling him “The Web’s most influential climate-change blogger”.

Romm is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where he founded their climate blog, Climate Progress, part of their Think Progress website. In 2008, Time magazine named Romm’s blog one of the “Top 15 Green Websites”. In 2009, Thomas L. Friedman, in his column in The New York Times, called Climate Progress “the indispensable blog”, and in 2010, Time included it in a list of the 25 “Best Blogs of 2010”. Romm also writes regularly for several energy and news websites. In the 1990s, Romm served as Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.” That pretty impressive.

I have listen to Ezra Klein many times on MSNBC. He appears regularly on almost all of the news shows discussing many issues. He’s even hosted several of them. Ezra is a “WONK”. I have lot’s of respect for his well reasoned opinions. Let’s take a look at Ezra.


 Ezra’s Wikipedia page is here.

Ezra Klein (born May 9, 1984) is an American journalist, blogger, and columnist. He is most known for his former work as a blogger and columnist for the Washington Post, as well his ongoing work as a contributor to Bloomberg News and MSNBC. He was formerly an associate editor of The American Prospect political magazine and a political blogger at the same publication.

At The Washington Post, he managed a branded blog called “Wonkblog,” which featured his writing and the writing of other policy reporters. Issues discussed in the blog included health care and budget policy. He wrote a primer on policy called “Wonkbook,” which was delivered by e-mail and on his blog each morning. In 2011, Klein’s blog was the most-read blog at The Washington Post

In 2011, he was named one of the 50 most powerful people in Washington by GQ In 2010, he was named Blogger of the Year by The Week magazine and the Sidney Hillman Foundation. His blog was also named one of the 25 best financial blogs by Time Magazine in 2011. In 2013, Klein won the Online News Association‘s award for best online commentary. He also won the American Political Science Association‘s Carey McWilliams Award, for “a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.” He appeared as one of 80 men featured in Esquire’s 80th anniversary issue and in a feature in the New York Times style magazine.” That’s pretty impressive too but obviously Joe has him beat on the subject of climate change.

So what are Ezra’s 7 reasons that we will fail on climate change.

1) We’ve waited so long that what America needs to do is really, really hard — and maybe impossible.

“The world isn’t going to sharply cut emissions this year. It isn’t going to sharply cut them next year. And every year we wait the adjustment gets more violent — and more impossible.

“Ten years ago, it was possible to model a path to 2°C without all these heroic assumptions,” says Peter Frumhoff of the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Plumer. “But because we’ve dallied for so long, that’s no longer true.”

This is the awful math of climate change now: the question isn’t whether we’ll fail. It’s how badly we’ll fail. It increasingly looks like success is holding warming to 3°C rather than 4°C or worse. That is to say, we are redefining success as a milder strain of failure.”

2) The people most affected by climate change don’t get a vote.

“Carbon emissions disproportionately benefit the US and disproportionately harm countries that are not the US. Yglesias put it well: “Our political system is reasonably well-designed to handle local threats to local interests.… But the reality of the climate change problem is much scarier than that — it’s a global threat to worldwide interests, and the people with the most at stake don’t get a vote.”

3) We’re bad at sacrificing now to benefit. 

“The pain of doing something serious about the problem is upfront. But the worst effects of global warming won’t be visible, even in America, for a long time to come. The true crisis is abstract while the sacrifice required to prevent it is tangible. The American political system is not good at trading sacrifice now to prevent crises later.” 

4) The effects of global warming are not easily reversible.

“Climate change isn’t like that. Once the West Antarctica glaciers slip into the ocean they’re gone. Once the carbon and the methane is released into the atmosphere we have no way to recapture it. Once the oceans rise and the permafrost melts we have no way to turn back the clock. As tremendous as our mastery of nature often appears, we are outmatched on the geologic scale.”

5) The Republican Party has gone off the rails on climate change.

“But the GOP hasn’t simply opposed Obama’s bills. They’ve abandoned their own legislation and even begun questioning the very fact of climate change.”

6) The international cooperation required is unprecedented, and maybe impossible.

“This is climate change’s ugliest tradeoff: it pits our most fundamental economic goal against our core environmental imperative. In the modern world, better lives are more carbon-intensive lives. As people get richer they want to eat meat and drive cars and live in bigger homes and travel to wonderful places. They know that America powered its growth with cheap fossil fuels and they don’t find it very credible when we warn them against doing the same — particularly when we’re not radically upending our lives and our economy to transition to renewable fuels.”

7) Geoengineering is nuts.

“And forget the technical leaps. Imagine the geopolitics. Who gets to decide how much sulfate to blast into the atmosphere? Who stops Kiribati from just going it alone because their island is in danger of being wiped out? What if Russia decides they like the new climate, and the agricultural possibilities it unlocks, better?”
What are Joe Romm’s responses to Ezra’s reasons.
1. What America and the world needs to do is really, really cheap economically, as key clean technologies plummet in cost.
“In April, after an extensive review of the literature, the world’s scientists and governments concluded that stabilizing at 2°C would have a net effect on growth of 0.06% per year — essentially no effect at all compared to the staggering amount of climate damages avoided.
In May, the International Energy Agency (IEA) issued yet another major report, “Energy Technology Perspectives 2014,” that said keeping global warming below the dangerous threshold of 2°C (their 2DS scenario) would require investment in clean energy of only about 1% of global GDP per year — but be astoundingly cost-effective: “The $44 trillion additional investment needed to decarbonise the energy system in line with the 2DS by 2050 is more than offset by over $115 trillion in fuel savings – resulting in net savings of $71 trillion.””
2. All of the people who get a vote are severely affected by climate change.
 “It is I think one of the most widespread and dangerous myths that poor, “irrelevant” countries will suffer far more than everyone else. Yes, poor countries will suffer terribly — and all the more so because they lack the resources to “adapt.” But one only need look at Superstorm Sandy to realize that America, by virtue of being the richest country, has the most to lose in an absolute sense.
We have trillions of dollars of wealth near sea level — some of it in areas like Southeast Florida where there are no obvious ways to protect cities like Miami.”
3. We’re sometimes very good at sacrificing now to benefit later (and to benefit others).

“As I’m writing this, it’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day. If you watched the moving coverage on TV, then you know that in 1944, a lot of people knew they were risking the ultimate sacrifice for the chance of a better future — that is, a better future primarily for other people they didn’t even know! And that is separate from the economic sacrifices and hardships Americans as a whole had been making for years during the war effort.
The “sacrifice” needed to avoid catastrophic warming is considerably smaller that what was needed to win WWII. Indeed, America could achieve 80% to 90% reduction in emissions by 2050 in a manner that resulted in a much higher income and quality of life.”
4. There NEVER will be a time when aggressive climate action is not the best strategy for everyone.
“The choice is not between inaction now and inaction forever. Aggressive action will always be the best action. If we did it starting now, we could avoid the worst consequences. If we start 10 years from now, we’d be stuck with many serious consequences — but we could prevent even worse ones happening. And so on.”
5. The Republican Party has gone so far off the rails on climate change that it is triggering a backlash.
“No one can dispute that “The Republican Party has gone off the rails on climate change.” Certainly American politics writ large are no source of optimism.
  But the GOP has derailed so much that there’s now a backlash over climate denial, as Marco Rubio found out. And many progressives have finally realized what the polling and social science has been saying for years — campaigning on climate action is a political winner.”
6. The international cooperation required is unprecedented, but the key country for a treaty, China, is on a path toward capping its carbon emissions.

 “There is no international climate treaty possible without the genuine participation of China, the biggest polluter and the biggest obstacle to a global treaty besides us.
  We reported earlier this week that a key academic advisor on climate to the Chinese government said that he and other experts were recommending a cap on carbon emissions. Even more important, a key leader on climate issues in the government has acknowledged the country is committed toward developing one:”

7. Geoengineering is nuts.
“I agree with Klein here: “Not to be a killjoy, but it’s hard to believe that the consequences of the huge, unpredictable changes to the global climate can be safely reversed by further efforts to make huge, unpredictable changes to the climate.”
So who won?
1. Both are right. We’ve waited too long and things are getting incredibly cheaper. I would like to hear a debate about where we would be if Al Gore had won the 2000 Presidental Election. 
2. Slight edge to Ezra Klein. Losing a car in a flood in America is not the same as a farmer in a poor country losing their donkey. I should expand my answer a little but you get the idea.
3. Ezra wins this one. Sacrificing for the unknown and unseen (climate change) is much harder than sacrificing to fight the Nazis and Japan.
4. I don’t think Ezra is advocating for an end to fighting climate change. So both are right.
5. Both are right. No brainer!
6. Let us hope that Joe is right. 
7. We all agree.
I think Joe’s main arguement is that we can’t give in to defeatism. That if everyone gives in to the thought that there’s no hope we and the planet all lose. This is made plain by including Michael Mann’s tweet in his post.
“Defeatist framing is not helpful and threatens serving as self-fulfilling prophecy. We all grew up reading the “The Little Engine that Could,” not “The Little Engine that Couldn’t.” The only real obstacle to averting dangerous climate change is lack of willpower and imagination. We must avoid messaging that seems to condone that, as the title of the Vox piece unfortunately does.”
I think that that message is important! What do you think?









One thought on “Care to Join the Debate–is it too Late or is There Still Time?

  1. When Did Humans Become A (FITB)? – greenbirdingmendo

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