Will Climate Hawks Take Roost?

In a clever thought experiment earlier this week, David Roberts at Grist asked:

What should we call people who care about climate change and clean energy?

Too bad he asked the wrong question.

It should have been: What do we call people who care about climate change or clean energy?

More in a minute on why that would have been better.

The whole point to Roberts’ exercise was to “detach” the association of environmentalism to climate change and clean energy advocacy. The underlying logic is similar to an older debate involving what to call people who care about pollution/sustainability issues and wilderness/biodiversity/wildlife. Those who care strongly about the former are comfortable being called environmentalists. But a subset of people who care about the latter refer to themselves as conservationists.

For example, consider the membership of Ducks Unlimited. Hunters typically don’t think of themselves as environmentalists, yet many have a strong conservation ethic. They have proven to be committed advocates for the preservation of wildlife populations and ecosystems, which makes them an ally of  traditional environmentalists.

Roberts envisions a similar kind of overlap for climate change, but with decarbonization being the common cause. The problem is that climate change advocacy has become too closely affiliated with a larger environmentalist agenda, which not everybody who cares about clean energy wants to sign up for. As Roberts notes:

Not all people who care about climate change and clean energy are environmentalists.

Hence the campaign for a catchy label that unifies both groups under a banner they are each comfortable with.

On Wed, Roberts unveiled his choice: climate hawk. For my non-U.S. readers, what you need to know here is that in the U.S. political lexicon, hawk is a widely used term. It connotes aggressive action and a vigorous defense, so we have these sub-identities known as defense hawks and deficit hawks. This means that Roberts, in choosing the climate hawk totem, has limited the applicability to a U.S. audience, something he belatedly acknowledges in the Grist comment thread.

Roberts also consciously included another limiting factor when he decided not to pick a label that emphasized the clean energy component he wants to fold under his banner. The explanation Roberts offers in his post is revealing (my emphasis):

Why not “clean energy hawk”? For one thing, two words are snappier than three and easier to write. For another, it’s important to keep the threat of climate change at the center of the conversation; clean energy is one way of fighting back against that threat, but there are many others.

It didn’t take long for a Grist commenter to point out the lost opportunity to broaden support for a common goal:

Climate. Is there really such a large group of people who care about climate change and believe in the science on anthropogenic climate change but don’t consider themselves environmentalists? It seems unlikely to me. On the other hand, there are great numbers of people who support clean energy and moving away from fossil fuels, but who aren’t environmentalists…These people include those interested in national energy security, those who believe it’s a smarter investment for the future of our economy (the global race to develop green energy technology), those worried about traditional pollutants from fossil fuels including those who view it as a public health issue, those worried about oil spills and mountaintop removal mining, and those who want to stick it to the Middle Eastern oil producers. Maybe this wasn’t your purpose – maybe you just wanted to describe people who accept that anthropogenic climate change is real – but the clean energy crowd is a MUCH bigger potential coalition that would help you get to the end goal of avoiding climate disaster.

Whatever Roberts’ purpose was, truly broadening the coalition for decarbonization was not one of them. Otherwise he wouldn’t have insisted on keeping “the threat of climate change at the center of the conversation.”

49 Responses to “Will Climate Hawks Take Roost?”

  1. AMac says:

    The nuclear power issue is very relevant to this discussion.  If a coalition with clean energy hawks or Peak Oil hawks is desirable, this is the nettle that pro-AGW advocates ought to grasp.
    I did a quick calculation on an ongoing hydropower project at the Rainbow Dam in Montana (ENR article, behind paywall).  36 MW to 62 MW upgrade, estimated cost $230 million.  Assuming a 20-year payoff (and 20-year bond funding at 5%), this project costs out at 8c per baseload kWh.  Wholesale, ignoring costs of operation, transmission, etc.   A hefty price tag for PPL Montana’s customers to pay.  The cost/kWh of a pulverized-coal plant is much lower, if you exclude CO2-related externalities.
    The cost/kWh of currently-operating nuclear plants is also much lower–competitive with coal.  Yet new nuclear is probably even costlier than 8c/kWh, due to regulatory, safety, and cost-of-capital issues.
    Since new nuclear offers one-for-one displacement of coal–the most carbon-intensive source of electricity–is there any way to safely ease the path of new nuclear?

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    AMac, You put your finger on a host of issues related to the nuclear dilemma. I do think American enviros will have to reckon with this eventually, especially if it becomes a choice between ramping up tar sands development or building new nuclear facilities.

    Also, there’s rising opposition to all those windmills sprouting up, which is still fairly under the radar. People want clean but some hard choices are going to have to be made soon.

  3. Bob Koss says:

    Very little oil is used to produce electricity so oil sands won’t ever be a big player in that market. Realistically, coal is going to continue to be the major player for decades to come. It is simply too inexpensive to be left in the ground. Artificially pricing it out of the market would be devastating to both the economy and the poor.

  4. Eli Rabett says:

    Not to put a fine point on it, but a number of years ago, Eli was peripherally involved in a project to measure the heat value in coal volatiles (why do you think the mines have to be ventilated??).  Basically coal was ground up, the gases captured and burned in a calorimeter.  It was very high, at least a third of the total, with many fewer problems.  Fracking gets at this as well as other sources of methane in the rocks.

  5. Laura K says:

    Thank you for this article, Keith. The majority of commenters on grist seem to be delighted with the term “climate hawk” and I think it can be useful, but it does seem like a missed opportunity to broaden the tent, so to speak.

    I raised this later in the grist comments, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that the climate cause has become firmly associated with the left (liberal / Democrat) in US politics. Those folks who do insist on keeping climate the focus of the conversation are pretty much guaranteed to cut themselves off from most allies who consider themselves to be conservative, Republican, and libertarian. Clean energy, on the other hand, can cut across the lines. One can be pro-business, anti-strong-government, etc. (the US political right) and still be a clean energy supporter.

  6. Keith Kloor says:

    Laura K:

    Thanks for stopping by. (All: the Grist comment I quoted from was hers; but Grist doesn’t have a permalink with its comment software, so I couldn’t link to it.)

    Just FYI: a similar tent-building coalition was attempted earlier this decade–which I wrote about here–and seemed to go nowhere. Not sure what lessons it holds, if any.

  7. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    The “hawk” epithet carries the usual (tired) “war on X” rhetorical associations, about which I have some misgivings.
    See the exchange in Climatic Change between Naomi Oreskes and Maurie Cohen:
    Cohen MJ (2010) “Is the UK preparing for “˜war’? Military metaphors, personal carbon allowances, and consumption rationing in historical perspective.” Clim Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-009-9785-x
    Oreskes, N. (2010) “Metaphors of warfare and the lessons of history: time to revisit a carbon tax?” Clim Change. doi:10.1007/s10584-010-9887-5
    Oreskes writes, “Is warfare the right metaphor? … Cohen argues that the warfare metaphor is intended in part to overcome resistance: to convey a sense of urgency that will cause citizens to awake from their complacent slumbers and accept the need for action. … [But i]t could be that the analogy of warfare””with all its unpleasant associations””might trigger the very anxiety and resistance it is intended to overcome.”
    This is analogous to the argument about narrative frames in the other thread. Oreskes’s comments about urgency and her criticism of the rhetorical frame of treating climate change as an emergency (something urgent, but also with the implication that the emergency will pass, rather than being a way of life) is incredibly important: “At the risk of being quoted out of context, I would suggest that climate change is not, in fact, an emergency, as conventionally understood. … Because climate change will now be with us for the foreseeable future, it is hard to see it as a condition that will justify the suspension of  ‘the normal constitution,’ and hard to see how people can be mobilized to accept emergency measures to address it. Climate change will become the new normal.”

  8. Jonathan Gilligan says:

    I realize that in my previous comment, I didn’t say what Oreskes prefers to an “emergency” or “war.” She likes a carbon tax. If climate change is the new normal, nothing’s more normal than a tax. She compares cap-and-trade to wartime rationing and is thus pessimistic that we’d accept it as a long-term solution, whereas a carbon tax would quickly become like the other taxes we pay in our daily lives: an annoyance, but unobtrusive.

  9. Keith Kloor says:

    FYI: Climate hawks is already soaring on Twitter. Such enthusiasm! They’re already acting all hawkish, calling this guy an “appeaser.” (Hey, hawks: did you get a good look at his picture? He looks like he could bite your wings off, so I’d be careful about who you go calling an appeaser. Just sayin.)

    As for myself, I’m merely a wet blanket, or just dense.

  10. Shub says:

    Laura K,
    You write:
    “One can be pro-business, anti-strong-government, etc….and still be a clean energy supporter.”

    Why would anyone at all, not be a ‘supporter’ of ‘clean energy’? The concept ‘supporter of clean energy’ is meaningless.

  11. Keith Kloor says:


    Thanks for those cites and perspective. Most interesting. I have to say that Oreskes’ handle on the big picture, as you’ve presented it from her, sounds pretty reasonable.

  12. Jack Hughes says:

    Supporter of clean apple pie.

  13. Roddy Campbell says:

    Yes, there’s a big coalition out there, a big tent of people who want:

    – ‘clean’ energy, because the alternatives are ‘dirty’, so we obviously don’t want them

    – fewer oil spills

    – energy security

    – deprive Chavez, the Nigerians, and Russians of money

    – create ‘green’ jobs

    – reduce unsustainable consumerism

    – reduce the ‘plundering’ of ‘finite’ ‘resources’

    – and lots of other ‘good’stuff

    and you don’t even have to mention CO2, in fact it’s better if you don’t.

    It’s what I referred to as ‘The Big Tent of Nonsense’ in my Air Vent post here: http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/a-letter-from-london/

    I said ‘ …. Big Tent of Nonsense that manages somehow to offer something for everyone.  It’s a tough tent to stay out of, but putting a lot of indifferent or plainly wrong arguments together, none of which stands up to examination on its own, does not create a coherent platform for policy action.’

    It’s all very lovely, but can it really be used as a Trojan Horse to get CO2 reductions?

  14. Roddy Campbell says:

    whoops lost control of fonting, sorry

  15. thingsbreak says:

    I love a lot of what Dave has to say, but this seems… well, stupid.
    Every time someone goes about trying to “rebrand” the problem, the denialosphere and Republican right (that’s a Venn diagram that’s closely approximating a single circle if there ever was one) rant and jeer about how it’s just underhanded tactics to fool the gullible public.
    If I wanted to pick a name that could be seized upon as all bluster with no supporting evidence, given the political events of 2001-to-present, I would choose “Hawks”. “Hawks” on both sides of the aisle sent American and allied soldiers to die over non-existent WMD “evidence”. Deficit (and Fiscal) Hawks are routinely shown to be shrieking hypocrites who refuse to go after things like military spending, while opposing deficit reducing measures like Health Care reform, all the while funneling pork back home. They promoted fiscal austerity in the face of a liquidity trap, FFS!
    Was there no more discredited a label that Dave could come up with? I mean, really. Why not Climate LaRouchite?

  16. Laura K says:

    @Shub, you write: “Why would anyone at all, not be a ‘supporter’ of “˜clean energy’? The concept ‘supporter of clean energy’ is meaningless.”

    Not at all. There are plenty of people who are not advocates of clean energy, for various reasons. These include the fossil fuel lobby, and die-hard free market advocates who feel that if clean energy made sense, the market would naturally gravitate toward it. (Which is doesn’t in large part because of existing subsidies for coal, oil, and gas, but that’s a part of the story that people on the political right tend to conveniently ignore). I’ve also heard the argument that America should aggressively pursue obtaining our own domestic oil, coal, and gas (e.g. drill, baby, drill) out of patriotism, since this is what our economy currently runs on and every drop we get at home is a drop we don’t buy from other countries. Then there are those who use the argument of all the jobs you’ll lose in domestic fossil fuel production if you switch to clean energy. All of these arguments can be intelligently debated…my point is just that it’s incorrect to assume everyone would logically support clean energy development and use. Obviously, not everyone does or we wouldn’t be having such enormous worries about climate change.

  17. Laura K says:

    @ Roddy Campbell, you said:
    “˜ “¦. Big Tent of Nonsense that manages somehow to offer something for everyone.  It’s a tough tent to stay out of, but putting a lot of indifferent or plainly wrong arguments together, none of which stands up to examination on its own, does not create a coherent platform for policy action.’
    It’s all very lovely, but can it really be used as a Trojan Horse to get CO2 reductions?
    I would reply that building coalitions for action is not nonsense. You don’t all have to agree on WHY you support (or don’t support) an action. What matters is mobilizing for an action you believe in.  I don’t care if some Republican Senator supports clean energy because his or her concern is securing a long-term domestic energy supply. At the end of the day, that action still combats the problem I’m concerned with: climate change. Does the coalition create a single “coherent foundation” for policy change? Of course not. That’s the definition of a coalition – people with separate identities or motivations, joining forces on a particular issue. We don’t all have to be the same in every respect of our beliefs in order to make a positive change.

  18. Keith Kloor says:

    TB, you sound like a climate coward. 🙂

    Seriously, there’s something that scary looking guy from AEI said that I think might be kinda true, if you follow the logic of the hawk meaning (and I’m not endorsing or agreeing with everything in his piece): it’s the flipside moniker–chicken hawk.

    I think he’s got something there, with respect to the hypocrisy charge. I mean, think, for example, of all the otherwise environmentally minded people opposing wind turbines because it ruins their scenery, or whatever, like Robert Kennedy. By this logic, can Kennedy be accused of being a chicken Hawk? After all, he wants to fight climate change, just not make any personal sacrifices for it.

    I wonder if David Roberts has thought this through.

  19. Shub says:

    Dear Laura,

    If by ‘supporter of clean energy’, you mean wind turbine and solar PV manufacturers, then I am certainly ready to accept that the phrase has meaning, although it has a different meaning than what you probably intended.

    You write further:
    “My point is that it’s incorrect to assume everyone would logically support clean energy development”.

    Answer: It is incorrect to ask everyone to support ‘clean’ energy development.

  20. David44 says:

    Keith –
    When I clicked on your “this guy” link above, this is what popped up from my security software:
    “Webroot has blocked access to a potentially threatening site
    This Web site has exhibited suspicious behavior or is similar to Web sites that are known sources of malware, viruses and spam. Visiting this site may put you at risk or compromise your identity or privacy.”
    I have no way of knowing if this is deserved, but maybe you should scan links before posting and potentially putting others at risk – just sayin’.

  21. Keith Kloor says:


    The link works fine for me–and I do always check them before posting. I wonder if the problem is on you end.

    At any rate: I’ll provide the blog citation, if you want to get to it via the home site. The author is Kenneth Green, and the name of the blog is The American,  or at least that’s the name of the in-house journal of American Enterprise Institute, which can be linked to here. Look on the right side of the page and click on to the journal’s blog.

  22. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Isn’t the flip side of chicken hawk Fog Horn Leghorn?

  23. Ken Green says:

    Keith – Thanks for the shout out. As my wife would observe, I’m not scary looking. Saturnine, maybe. Devilish, sometimes. I also have little control over the publicity pics they choose for us. I’m not fond of the one the blog uses.

    I think the real problem that Dave and other -ists face is that there has never really been a unified “environmental” philosophy that everyone agrees to. As others observe, some are conservationists (including private conservation), some are concerned more about local environmental issues than global ones, some are just concerned about one or another aspect of environmental protection, and some have vastly different ideas of what environmental protection is worth, and how best to implement policies to obtain environmental goals.

    And, in that blog post you pointed out (http://blog.american.com/?p=21356) I was being very nice – I didn’t point out that there is a slang definition of “Chicken hawk” that is considerably more insulting than just pointing out hypocrisy! 🙂

  24. David44 says:

    OK, about nuclear.  I’ve often said that I will take the CO2 antagonists (CO2 Hawks?) seriously when they take nuclear power seriously as a replacement for coal.  Operationally, modern nuclear plants have been shown to be extremely safe, and conventional nuclear currently provides the only power source which is dense enough, reliable enough, and cheap enough to compete with coal and other fossil fuels.  However, there remain valid concerns for opposing conventional nuclear, i.e., the waste disposal/storage, proliferation, and sabotage issues.
    Recognizing that no technology can ever be absolutely, perfectly safe, I wonder why CO2 hawks can’t embrace technology which is almost that safe and eliminates or greatly ameliorates most in not all of the objections to conventional uranium reactors.  I am speaking of course about thorium and especially the potential of the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor.  There are also other reactor options for burning thorium, but LFTR may be the best overall.
    You can read more about the history and potential of thorium and LFTR at Wire Magazine as a starting place (pretty sure this is a safe link):
    There are objections, of course; there are always objections, but many nuclear engineers, not vested in uranium technology, take thorium seriously whether in a LFTR-type reactor or in other 3rd and 4th generation reactor options.
    As President Obama is fond of saying, if we want to make progress, we can’t let the perfect get in the way of the good.

  25. David44 says:

    Thanks for the link info.  Webroot recently completely updated to a new version, so maybe it’s just hypersensitive.  I’m sure Ken’s a good guy, even if he does blog for AEI (insert smiley face!).  Ken – you’re not a secret spammer/tracker, are you?.

  26. Keith Kloor says:

    Hey Ken, thanks for stopping by. And being a good sport.

  27. Keith Kloor says:

    FYI: Romm likes the “punchy” sound of climate hawks.

    As someone said at one of the Grist threads (I think that’s where I read it), all that’s missing now is the obligatory Friedman column. Then again, he might be pissed that he didn’t think of it first. He loves coining these phrases.

  28. Ken Green says:

    David – If I’m a secret spammer/tracker, it’s one of the world’s worst-kept secrets!

    Keith – I try to be a good sport! Just looked at your Romm/Friedman post by the way: good work!


  29. David44 says:

    Ken –
    ??  So you’re an admitted spammer/tracker, then and Webroot is right about your site being dangerous (not just subversive of the leftist paradigm) ?  Hmmm.

  30. kdk33 says:

    CHEAP energy hawk.
    No that’s a coalition people will get behind.

  31. Shub says:

    Is it just me or does anyone else think that ‘grist’ is not exactly a place of serious environmental and climate policy commentary?

  32. Stu says:

    David44  #24
    I’d agree with you that LFTR is sounding quite attractive- to the point where you don’t even need to argue the potential benefits from a climate change perspecctive, this seems worthy of consideration/discussion all on its own. I’m still fairly wary of getting behind conventional nuclear (I would choose coal over it), but thorium seems an altogether different kettle of fish.
    Since this is a very U.S. blog, the link below seems very relevant to discussions on moving towards clean energy/renewable technology on a basis of energy security..

  33. Tom Fuller says:

    What happens if a climate hawk meets a mama grizzly?

  34. paulina says:

    I don’t really get where you are going in this post.
    There is a name for clean energy advocates. They are known as clean energy advocates.
    There was no name for the group of people Roberts sought a name for, the people who care about climate change & clean energy.
    For instance (and this is indeed just a for instance), you (Keith) call the people who care about climate change “climate change advocates.” Do they advocate for climate change? Are there also racism advocates? Sexism advocates? What do they advocate for? Is a war advocate a peace advocate?
    You see Roberts’ #climatehawk as a wasted opportunity to broaden the coalition of…clean energy advocates. Your idea being that if there were an additional name or alternative name for the group of clean energy advocates, it would be broader? I still don’t get it.
    Further, it would be interesting to actually know the overlap between people who identify as environmentalists (I don’t, for instance) and people who care about climate. People seem to have different intuitions about this overlap.
    And, if there are people who advocate for climate policy but try to block clean energy initiatives on indefensible grounds, why wouldn’t we call them climate chicken hawks? Or call them chickens running around without heads, even. Or plain stupid? Or, more kindly, misguided, incorrect, wrongheaded? Or simply say that they made a mistake or are mistaken, in part?
    RFK Jr will be criticized no matter what names are used, for anything. This is hardly Roberts’ fault, or problem, frankly. And it doesn’t change the fact that Kennedy is right about a lot of stuff. Like, when he said — about MTR — that if a foreign nation had done that to us (or anything remotely like it), we would have gone to war.

  35. David44 says:

    Stu –  The article you link to doesn’t mention thorium, but I think the point you are making is that thorium is a byproduct of the separation of rare earth elements (or vice versa) necessary for  various hi-tech applications including catalytic converters and electronics, since monazite and other ores usually contain both.
    For those who are interested (we all should be) the former NASA engineer who “rediscovered” LFTR, Kirk Sorenson, maintains a blog called energyfromthorium.com and a discussion forum, energyfromthorium.com/forum/, which go into great detail about thorium, LFTR and other nuclear power issues including opposing views.  Robert Hargraves, Charles Barton, and Nobel Prize winning physicist Carlo Rubbio, among others, are also tireless advocates for thorium and/or LFTR development.
    A more recent article (Aug. 29) in the Telegraph in UK by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard titled “Obama could kill fossil fuels overnight with a nuclear dash of thorium” says:
    “If Barack Obama were to marshal America’s vast scientific and strategic resources behind a new Manhattan Project, he might reasonably hope to reinvent the global energy landscape and sketch an end to our dependence on fossil fuels within three to five years.”  This, of course, paints an overly optimistic picture, but real change could happen in twenty.
    Beware of panaceas, but thorium might be the real thing.

  36. Stu says:

    Hi David-
    I didn’t mean to link thorium with the article I posted. Although there may be a link, my understanding is that thorium is fairly widespread all over the world- no one nation would need to rely on any other single nation to provide fuel here.
    From wiki:
    “A thorium fuel cycle offers several potential advantages over a uranium fuel cycle including much greater abundance on Earth, superior physical and nuclear properties of the fuel, enhanced proliferation resistance, and reduced nuclear waste production. Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), has worked on developing the use of thorium as a cheap, clean and safe alternative to uranium in reactors. Rubbia states that a ton of thorium can produce as much energy as 200 tons of uranium, or 3,500,000 tonnes of coal.”
    My reason for providing the link is that if China (for example) has the power or inclination to want to refuse materials to the U.S. which renewables depend on, then it’s going to be hard to tick the ‘energy security’ box in favour of renewables. Roddy Cambell at post #13, gives other examples. That atleast some of the renewable options rely on rare earth elements, then there are probably going to be concerns over sustainability at some point (reduce the “˜plundering’ of “˜finite’ “˜resources’) as well.

  37. Shub says:

    “What do they advocate for? ”
    We know the answer to this question.
    They advocate for global, non-discriminate, atmospheric substance controls, preferably brought about via unelected quasi-governmental bodies.
    The inspiration, example and blueprint are the CFCs.
    These and other gaps in the climate debate, found at occasion at C-a-s, are due to all participants of the debate ignoring such elephants in the room.

  38. Roddy Campbell says:

    Laura – ‘I would reply that building coalitions for action is not nonsense. You don’t all have to agree on WHY you support (or don’t support) an action. What matters is mobilizing for an action you believe in.  I don’t care if some Republican Senator supports clean energy because his or her concern is securing a long-term domestic energy supply. At the end of the day, that action still combats the problem I’m concerned with: climate change. Does the coalition create a single “coherent foundation” for policy change? Of course not. That’s the definition of a coalition ““ people with separate identities or motivations, joining forces on a particular issue.

    Laura, you have described the problem, my problem, perfectly.  You want, from what you wrote, CO2 reductions.  But the Republican Senator wants security, and so is initially indifferent between oilsands, nuclear, and wind. So you stand together on a platform saying what exactly?  NO TO ARAB OIL?  NO TO GULF OIL SPILLS?

    And the same issue will arise with every one of your apparent allies. I have a friend, he was Conservative spokesman in opposition on the evironment.  His job was putting together coalitions of bird lovers, greens, WWF, FoE, industry, and so on.  I’ve seen it.  It doesn’t work. Because you all want quite different things however much that is papered over by luvvy buzzwords like “˜green’, “˜clean’, “˜positive’, “˜new economy’, “˜dirty’, “˜finite’, “˜resources’, “˜planet’ and “˜grandchildren’.  And your policies to achieve them will be very very different.

    And your policies to achieve them will be very very different.  You might want huge feed-in subsidies for solar.  Your Senator might not.  You might want more nuclear.  Your FoE friend o the platform won’t. And so on.

    Sure, there are some things we can all agree we DON’T want.  But your Republican Senator doesn’t think burning gas in power stations will cause those things.  And I don’t think the UK stopping burning coal will cause those things, as per my post I linked to above on UK energy policy.

  39. Ken Green says:

    David – I admit to being subversive at times, but no, as far as I know, AEI’s websites don’t spam or cookie-track.

  40. laursaurus says:

    Because you all want quite different things however much that is papered over by luvvy buzzwords like “˜green’, “˜clean’, “˜positive’, “˜new economy’, “˜dirty’, “˜finite’, “˜resources’, “˜planet’ and “˜grandchildren’.
    You left out “sustainable”.
    I miss the good old days when “green” was a color!

  41. Chris Winter says:

    Maybe I’m not understanding Roddy Campbell’s argument. But it seems nonsensical to argue that all those things are bad reasons for supporting clean energy. I mean, how is it bad to push for fewer oil spills? Especially when what’s needed in the near term to bring that about is mostly for the oil companies to keep their equipment in good working order.

    For the record, I believe we must develop clean energy (including nuclear), thus in the longer term reducing oil spills by using less oil and thereby needing to drill fewer wells.

    I believe there are several reasons to do this. But, all others aside, oil is going to run out someday. The longer we delay starting the transition, the tougher the transition becomes.

  42. David44 says:

    Ken (#39)
    Good and good!

  43. Roddy Campbell says:

    Chris, I fear you are misunderstanding.  My basic point, in agreement with Laura, on topic with this whole post, is that climate change ‘activists’, for want of a better word, ie those who want mitigation policies, have recognised that:

    a) these policies are just not happening at a Kyoto/Copenhagen level
    b) aren’t happening at a US level either in any meaningful quantum
    c) aren’t really happening anywhere in fact in any serious quantum

    Further, they have realised that where they are sort of happening (solar in Germany, wind in Spain, solar in China and so on) it is for reasons other than strictly CO2 – Germany wants a solar industry and has a strong Green and anti-nuclear history, China wants to rule the world in solar, Schwarzenegger wants to win votes from crazy hip Californians.

    So, quite rightly, they have realised that coalitions are necessary, and the best coalition to get CO2 reductions through is one that talks about ‘clean’ energy, it’s such a lovely expression, and also try and tie in the Republican senator who wants to stop importing oil from Chavez, the Oregon senator who wants Solarworld to build a plant there, the guilty middle-classes who fear we are despoiling the world and behaving as bad trustees, the teenage polar bear lover, and so on.

    Perfectly sensible.

    But it doesn’t work, that’s my second point.  And to show that, let’s look at your points:

    – ‘how is it bad to push for fewer oil spills?’.  Clearly it isn’t.  But if you can connect the environmental issues of Amoco Cadiz and Macondo to Global Climate Disruption you’re a better man than I am.  Oil spills are a matter of environmental regulation.  End of.  We all know that is ships sail around the world with oil in them occasionally something happens, and we try to legislate to minimise that.

    – ‘For the record, I believe we must develop clean energy (including nuclear), thus in the longer term reducing oil spills by using less oil and thereby needing to drill fewer wells.’  Oil and nuclear-generated electricity are not substitutes.  If you replaced coal and natural gas power stations by nuclear, you will not dent oil consumption.  (Until there are new technological advances in electricity storage media and vehicle batteries.)

    – ‘I believe there are several reasons to do this.’  Well, they need listing, since it is my point that a coalition of several indifferent reasons is precisely my Big Tent of Nonsense.  It’s NOT a given that there are several good reasons at all.  In fact if it was that obvious surely something would have happened by now?  So perhaps a presumption that there are better reasons for NOT doing what you suggest might be safer?

    – ‘oil is going to run out someday.’  Not exactly.  It’s going to get more expensive gradually first, and will eventually get more and more expensive (unless they find some oil equivalent of shale gas) and so get substituted in its usages.  It will never ‘run out’.

    – ‘The longer we delay starting the transition, the tougher the transition becomes.’  Why?  If you are right about oil, ie the price rising, it should become easier as alternatives become more competitive, and the price stimulates r&d?

    So I find almost all (non CO2) arguments for moving away from fossil fuels pretty useless, except in the context of each country having a sensible energy policy in terms of security, balance, exposure and so on, as they always have tried to, which might include nuclear (if you’re France), or hydro (if you’re Scandi), or domestic coal (if you’re South Africa), or gas (if you’re Britain in the North Sea era) – depends on your circs.

    Which is why CO2-ers trying to form coalitions with other people with single purpose agendas, and often pretty useless ones, won’t work in my humble.

    Persuade me!

    In the meantime here’s some good sense from Hillary Clinton’s spokesman Mark Toner on energy policy:

    “….. she also followed that with an assessment about the fact that we need cleaner energy sources and referred to the President’s agenda to seek cleaner energy sources, but until that time, we need to ““ frankly, to find energy sources in other areas as well, be they clean or dirty”.  Like, duh?
    Bother, I forgot ‘sustainable’ again!

  44. Keith Kloor says:

    Paulina (34), I meant to respond to your comment earlier. You write:

    “There was no name for the group of people Roberts sought a name for, the people who care about climate change & clean energy.”

    The point of the Roberts exercise was to come up with a catchier, nominally broader name that people who cared about climate change could embrace. Secondary to that was the hope that the tag would be just as appealing for people who care strongly about clean energy but much less so about climate change.

    That remains to be seen. As Laura K said in another comment at that Grist thread, David Roberts appears to have made a tactical error. That is the argument I make as well.

  45. Roddy Campbell says:

    Keith – is there a category of  ‘people who care strongly about clean energy but much less so about climate change’?
    I’m struggling to recognise these people.
    There are people who care/worry about biodiversity, about polar bears, about habitat, species extinction, peak oil – but surely the ONLY reason to worry about natural gas extraction and burning in power stations, and even coal once the NOX and SOX are scrubbed away, is climate change?

  46. Keith Kloor says:

    Roddy (45):

    Nope, I think you got it wrong. Take the Peak Oilers–they’re not concerned first and foremost with climate change, not by any stretch.

    Also, the military and the env security crowd that might favor public investment in clean energy tech have their pet causes too, of which climate change is not tops.

    Also, just to reiterate: I’m not suggesting that climate change be de-coupled from the conversation. For a lot of folks, that’s the way into it. But for lots of others, it;s not and thus I’m not sure they’ll march under the climate hawks banner .

    I’ll tell you who might, though, and that would be the subset of the religious community (including Evangelicals) who have lately become increasingly concerned about climate change. For example, I could see a guy like Richard Cizik trying to sell his audience on climate hawks. That would be the kind of example where you have a large group of people totally alienated from the mainstream environmental movement but who care very much about climate change.

    But strangely enough, Roberts didn’t address this in his post. I happen to think it’s a huge blind spot for secular enviros and advocates of climate change. Maybe McKibben understands this, though, but I’m not sure. He certainly recognizes that the best hope for political action (via the climate change route) is a grassroots movement big enough so that it can’t be ignored by politicians. Well, one way of doing that is building a coalition that contains greens and Evangelicals alike. Not sure those bridges between the two communities are being built, but I have no way of knowing, since I don’t keep up with that sort of thing.

  47. Roddy Campbell says:

    Keith – thanks.

    Why do the Peak Oilers care about clean energy?  They think oil is finite and running out, like, really soon, and we’re being reckless and must think ahead to when there isn’t any – so if a car can run on LPG/LNG they’re happy, right?  So long as there’s enough gas.  They are, as the name suggests, concerned with the finity of a fuel, not how clean/green it is?

    I’m a peak-oiler, as per this blog of Pielke Jr’s – http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/03/oil-demand-in-platinum-age.html.  That doesn’t make me ‘clean’.  It makes me a lay economist!

    I agree re evangelicals, whether meant literally or metaphorically – it harks, presumably unintentionally on your part, to the very real way in which climate change can be religious, and I’m not being facetious here – our role as guardian, master of the world, trustee.  But the definition of sin is pretty tricky, it becomes the definition of sustainability.  Which, as you say, is where McKibben is.

    I wrote a post on tAV on the religious stuff http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/environmentalism-as-religion-are-environmentalists-the-secular-successors-of-the-judeo-christian-tradition/

    The ‘large group of people totally alienated from the mainstream environmental movement but who care very much about climate change.’ – that’s really interesting.  The environmentalists are very often concerned about non-humanity – polar bears, whales, extinctions, species habitat and so on.  The evangelicals are more concerned about humanity, and CAGW is the first time that man has started threatening itself (nuclear weapons, GM foods and so on aside, which are also issues picked up by evangelicals).  So it all makes sense.

  48. Craig Goodrich says:

    My problem with “decarbonization” is its insane environmental destructiveness for Rube Goldberg contraptions that don’t work.  By now everybody knows “wind power” lies solely in the hot air of its rent-seeking promoters.
    Consider now the article at http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/29/desert-tortoise-gets-fast-tracked-to-the-curb/ — ” construction of BrightSource Energy’s 3,280-acre, 370-megawatt Ivanpah Solar Electric Generation System”
    This huge solar farm generates, for half a day at most, ten percent of the 24/7 power output of the Palo Verde nuke on a campus roughly the same size.
    And this is supposed to be “green” and “environmentally friendly.”  We have lost our minds.

  49. […] climate hawks (see, I can play along) weren’t so stubborn, they’d listen to people like Paul Kelly: […]

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