Declaration of War

“After the end of [the] Persian Gulf War in 1991, Colin Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlined his vision for efficient and decisive military action.” This vision is now known as the Powell Doctrine. The last condition for the Powell Doctrine is that “there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.”

In the next few blogs I will try to expand this notion to include non-military action, with a specific focus on climate change. My objective is to look into how we can define a victory, as well as be able to outline an exit strategy.

A presidential election campaign is a referendum on how best the nation should proceed. The next two months should provide a strong indication as to our collective willingness to make peace with our physical environment. My last blog (September 10) tried to draw some inspiration from the two presidential candidates’ concluding speeches of their respective conventions. We did find some abbreviated information on their intended action but the information took the form of slogans.

Two other sources that came to light during the conventions were the party’s platforms and a set of science related questions from the organization ScienceDebate, to which the candidates provided written responses. This blog will summarize the climate-change related information in these documents.

From the 2012 Republican Platform

Coal is a low-cost and abundant energy source with hundreds of years of supply. We look toward the private sector’s development of new, state-of-the-art coal-fired plants that will be low-cost, environmentally responsible, and efficient. We also encourage research and development of advanced technologies in this sector, including coal-to-liquid, coal gasification, and related technologies for enhanced oil recovery.

The current Administration – with a President who publicly threatened to bankrupt anyone who builds a coal-powered plant – seems determined to shut down coal production in the United States, even though there is no cost-effective substitute for it or for the hundreds of thousands of jobs that go with it as the nation’s largest source of electricity generation. We will end the EPA’s war on coal and encourage the increased safe development in all regions of the nation’s coal resources, the jobs it produces, and the affordable, reliable energy that it provides for America. Further, we oppose any and all cap and trade legislation.

We encourage the cost-effective development of renewable energy, but the taxpayers should not serve as venture capitalists for risky endeavors. It is important to create a pathway toward a market-based approach for renewable energy sources and to aggressively develop alternative sources for electricity generation such as wind, hydro, solar, biomass, geothermal, and tidal energy. Partnerships between traditional energy industries and emerging renewable industries can be a central component in meeting the nation’s long-term needs. Alternative forms of energy are part of our action agenda to power the homes and workplaces of the nation.

From the 2012 Democratic Platform

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation—an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

President Obama has been a leader on this issue. We have developed historic fuel efficiency standards that will limit greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history, made unprecedented investments in clean energy, and proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As we move towards lower carbon emissions, we will continue to support smart, energy efficient manufacturing. Democrats pledge to continue showing international leadership on climate change, working toward an agreement to set emission limits in unison with other emerging powers. Democrats will continue pursuing efforts to combat climate change at home as well, because reducing our emissions domestically—through regulation and market solutions—is necessary to continue being an international leader on this issue. We understand that global climate change may disproportionately affect the poor, and we are committed to environmental justice.

Answering a Written Question from ScienceDebate:

2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
Barack Obama:Climate change is the one of the biggest issues of this generation, and we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits. Since taking office I have established historic standards limiting greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles for the first time in history. My administration has made unprecedented investments in clean energy, proposed the first-ever carbon pollution limits for new fossil-fuel-fired power plants and reduced carbon emissions within the Federal Government. Since I took office, the U.S. is importing an average of 3 million fewer barrels of oil every day, and our dependence on foreign oil is at a 20-year low. We are also showing international leadership on climate change, reaching historic agreements to set emission limits in unison with all major developed and developing nations. There is still more to be done to address this global problem. I will continue efforts to reduce our dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions while creating an economy built to last.   Mitt Romney:I am not a scientist myself, but my best assessment of the data is that the world is getting warmer, that human activity contributes to that warming, and that policymakers should therefore consider the risk of negative consequences. However, there remains a lack of scientific consensus on the issue — on the extent of the warming, the extent of the human contribution, and the severity of the risk — and I believe we must support continued debate and investigation within the scientific community.Ultimately, the science is an input to the public policy decision; it does not dictate a particular policy response. President Obama has taken the view that if global warming is occurring, the American response must be to slash carbon dioxide emissions by imposing enormous costs on the U.S. economy. First he tried a massive cap-and-trade bill that would have devastated U.S. industry. When that approach was rejected by Congress, he declared his intention to pursue the same course on his own and proceeded through his EPA to impose rules that will bankrupt the coal industry.Nowhere along the way has the President indicated what actual results his approach would achieve — and with good reason. The reality is that the problem is called Global Warming, not America Warming. China long ago passed America as the leading emitter of greenhouse gases. Developed world emissions have leveled off while developing world emissions continue to grow rapidly, and developing nations have no interest in accepting economic constraints to change that dynamic. In this context, the primary effect of unilateral action by the U.S. to impose costs on its own emissions will be to shift industrial activity overseas to nations whose industrial processes are more emissions-intensive and less environmentally friendly. That result may make environmentalists feel better, but it will not better the environment.

So I oppose steps like a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system that would handicap the American economy and drive manufacturing jobs away, all without actually addressing the underlying problem. Economic growth and technological innovation, not economy-suppressing regulation, is the key to environmental protection in the long run. So I believe we should pursue what I call a “No Regrets” policy — steps that will lead to lower emissions, but that will benefit America regardless of whether the risks of global warming materialize and regardless of whether other nations take effective action.

For instance, I support robust government funding for research on efficient, low-emissions technologies that will maintain American leadership in emerging industries. And I believe the federal government must significantly streamline the regulatory framework for the deployment of new energy technologies, including a new wave of investment in nuclear power. These steps will strengthen American industry, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the economically-attractive technologies that developing nations must have access to if they are to achieve the reductions in their own emissions that will be necessary to address what is a global issue.

I couldn’t find any direct mention of climate change in the Republican platform. Instead, I quote the related detailed description of their energy policy, which is targeted at continuing the use of coal as a fuel to power our electricity supply, with a shift to alternative energy sources only once they become cost effective. Governor Romney’s response to the question on the topic from the ScienceDebate team, however, does reference climate change directly. Based on this response, Governor Romney fits my definition of a DNNer (Three Shades of Deniers).

Both the Democratic platform and President Obama’s response to the ScienceDebate questions recognize climate change as “one of the biggest threats of this generation” and list the steps that were taken during the last three years of the Democratic administration to minimize the threats and promise to lead an international effort to minimize the threat. There is no mention, however, of what it will take to win this war.

I will try to expand on this in future blogs.

For another look at this topic, you can visit this Skeptical Science blog post.


About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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8 Responses to Declaration of War

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  7. sailrick says:

    Speaking of energy efficiency, Grist had a surprisingly interesting article recently.

    What runners can teach us about sustainability

    “A few years ago, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy conducted a
    breakthrough study showing that three-fourths of America’s increase in energy
    demand over the previous 38 years …. had been met not by increased energy supply but by increased efficiency.”

  8. sailrick says:

    Is this what Romney is afraid of?

    Cap and Trade Gives Massachusetts Economy Critical Boost, Defying Naysayers

    “New report on a ten-state initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions shows the
    program is a success after three years……According to a recent study, cap
    and trade has created 3,800 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic activity for
    Massachusetts since 2008. ….of the 10 participating Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
    states, Massachusetts benefited most economically, because it used the bulk of
    its money to help fund its aggressive energy efficiency agenda.

    ……..Regionally, $912 million in total auction proceeds spurred $1.6 billion in
    economic value and created 16,000 jobs, the report found.

    All the RGGI states saw a net economic benefit from the program”

    {read at Inside Climate News}

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