Can someone translate Joseph Romm for me?

July 3, 2009


Blogger-activist-PhD Joseph Romm clearly knows a ton about climate science, renewable energy and the policies of both. I understand none of these things. I would like to understand them more, but for the time being all I can do is read stuff I don’t understand until parts of it begin to stick.

For example, I understand the technical point he and Real Climate are making about Roger Pielke, Sr., who is viewed as an obstructionist climate scientist, and it sounds totally valid. Actually, it sounds like Pielke used to have a point but doesn’t anymore, and in order to maintain his “hard-nosed skeptic” identity he has to torture the empirics, because more facts have come in and they undercut his meta-position.

I’m less sure what to do with Romm’s post, Tom Friedman: Obama “is going to have to mobilize the whole country to pressure the Senate — by educating Americans, with speech after speech, about the opportunities and necessities of a serious climate/energy bill….”

Things I don’t get:

1. He’s seconding something Tom Friedman said. Is this a case of a stopped clock (Friedman) being right twice a day?

2. This bit:

I believe Obama does understand that he will be tarnished forever if this bill goes down.

He’s of course referring to ACES, the cap and trade bill.

Future historians will inevitably judge all 21st-century presidents on just two issues:  global warming and the clean energy transition. If the world doesn’t stop catastrophic climate change — Hell and High Water — then all Presidents, indeed, all of us, will be seen as failures and rightfully so.

Er, okay. What?

Is this translation accurate?

There’s a strong chance under current global climate models that we could see intense changes in local climates and sea level such that many millions / billions of people would have to uproot their lives to attempt to cope, which (a) they can’t afford and (b) given that some predictions of climate models are coming true faster than we expected, we have to assume the worst and act based on that or else we run too high a risk of being totally effed w/r/t modern life.

3. Immediately after (2) comes this: 

How else could future generations judge us if the U.S. and the world stay anywhere near our current emissions path, warm most of the inland United States 10 to 15°F by century’s end, with sea levels 3 to 7 feet higher, rising perhaps an inch or two a year, with the Southwest from Kansas to California a permanent Dust Bowl, and much of the ocean a hot, acidic dead zone — impacts that could be irreversible for 1,000 years if we don’t reverse emissions soon and sharply.  This will require an unbroken — and indeed escalating — response by our political leadership throughout this century.

Is this what he means?: “Here is a worst case scenario. There is too high a probability based on climate models of this scenario coming to pass.”

4. Oh wait, maybe he answered (2) and (3) for me:

Also this is a dynamic messaging environment, so if our side downplays climate impacts, it essentially gives the deniers free reign to shape half of the debate, which they do with a vengeance, indeed with a disdain for both science and scientists — see “Why do deniers like Pielke shout down any talk of a link between climate change and extreme weather?

5. Which I guess (4) is why he’s making bold claims for what the public understands and desires. (Emphasis his.)

In short, a strong public consensus has emerged on the reality and severity of global warming, as well as on the need for federal action,” as Mellman writes.

This leads to the key strategic point.  Most of the public gets this — and in particular they understand things are going to get much worse on our current emissions path.  That’s why it is so crucial we keep messaging on climate science and impacts, and keep warning people about what is to come.

Personally — and I admit I’m probably in the minority of science writers, if not the larger public — all I really know is that the words “climate change” make some otherwise calm hairless apes I know want to fling their shit at a wall, and because I respect these particular apes, I want to know the score.

Hence this post.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: