Thursday, November 08, 2007

False choices: economy or environment?

The Washington Post had a front page article on the presidential candidates' plans on global warming with the awful title: Climate Is a Risky Issue for Democrats and and even worse sub-title: Candidates Back Costly Proposals You almost don't have to read the article. The title asks the question "why is it risky?" and the subtitle has the answer: because its costly!

I've complained about Post headline writers before. If you read the article, you'll find what's becoming a....oh no I'm going to use that word..."frame" for solutions-focused articles: you get to choose between business-as-usual early 21st century prosperity or fix the environment and guess which one those no-fun liberals want you to choose?

Lets just pick apart the opening paragraph:
All of the leading Democratic contenders for the presidency are committed to a set of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that would change the way Americans light their homes, fuel their automobiles and do their jobs, costing billions of dollars in the short term but potentially, the candidates say, saving even more in the decades to follow.

"would change" is followed with "costly" implying its not a change for the better. Also its stated as fact that it will definitely cost billions while it only "potentially" will save more. And the savings is "candidates say" implying its one of those lies they like to tell while the cost is just a God-given fact.

Quotes from Clinton's energy speech are for some reason countered with an MIT study about how much energy will cost in 2050 under an 80% reduction plan. Where's the quote about how unreliable economic forecast models are? Oh wait, they only do that for climate models.

A Siegel has more on how you can both protect the environment and be prosperous. A frequent subject on Michael Tobis's blog is how silly it is to discuss "cost-benefit" when we're talking about the one-and-only planet we live on.

I actually liked the second half of the article which goes into how global warming is figuring in to political strategy for the upcoming presidential election. This actually cheered me up:
"It's a huge issue. I've been stunned by this," said Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, who found in a May poll that energy independence and global warming were cited as America's most important domestic challenge by 29 percent of respondents, second only to health care. "I think this is a top-tier voting issue that has crossover appeal," Greenberg said.
Republicans will try to attack them on the cost. I hope some candidate points out that it's a false choice.

Update: another take on this article above.

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