Sunday, 16 February 2014

Americans telling people, who emit way less carbon... to emit less carbon.

So that's an interesting title to read when you're sitting around waiting for Kerry to make his Keystone XL recommendation.

While he didn't appear to make any direct statement on the pipeline, if one were inclined to assume that these statements either reveal how he'll read the SEIS or is setting some sort of political groundwork for the announcement, there is a bit of speculation to be had.

Kerry establishes his 'climate change' credentials. Which is fine, I haven't waded through the scientific literature on the subject but am confident enough in the processes to take the consensus view on where we're at (specific predictions on the future . But this bit seems a bit ridiculous:
"The bottom line is this: it is the same thing with climate change. In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction."
I suppose it depends how you define 'in a sense' but come on now. Now, if American politicians were afraid of being blatant hypocrites I'd be more concerned with the following statement:
Kerry argued that it made no sense for some nations to act to stem climate change while others did nothing. 
"Think about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It doesn't keep us safe if the United States secures its nuclear arsenal while other countries fail to prevent theirs from falling into the hands of terrorists," he said.
An absolutely absurd statement on a number of levels. Particularly in light of these numbers:

Making the argument that we need to reduce emissions is fine. I completely agree. But to not take any pro active approach until way poorer people also sacrifice their already extremely low emissions and energy consumption levels (relative to the US) is embarrassing. Should we ignore that reality because a certain country has ALOT of people consuming and emitting at extremely low levels? That doesn't make sense to me.

There are two sides to the emissions story. Emissions are the by product of energy generation (simplified I know). Will we develop methods to replace this energy with cleaner renewable sources? Sure. But the bottom line is that those methods simply don't exist. If we could. We would. Big oil is interfering? Well if these methods existed then China would be implementing them. If the CNPC had the ability to produce scalable green and clean energy. They would.

So that argument boils down to a tacit discussion about consuming less energy. Economies need energy. We are thus telling low energy consuming, low carbon emitting, and relatively poor people to sacrifice what they do have because... nope, I don't get it.

So what might motivate Obama's decision?

SEIS: My optimism on the SEIS is predicated on the assumption that Obama ultimately wants to approve the thing. How strongly do I hold that assumption? Not very. Would a negative recommendation from Kerry and State sway that assumption? Maybe. Would Kerry deliver a negative recommendation if Obama wanted to approve it? I'd assume no.

Taking these statements, and the expectation of more to follow, as the White House separating the global warming discussion from the keystone xl discussion better fits the narrative that I've constructed for myself. Narrative fallacy being what it is, I wouldn't bank on that.

Politics: The Dems are in tough to maintain control of the senate during the mid-terms in the fall. The ramifications of the decision seem likely to push things in the direction of approval (as outlined here). Keystone has polled well nationally, although I haven't seen how the contentious states lean, I am cynical enough to assume that if democratic politicians are pushing for approval their constituents likely agree.

Legacy: I think Obama's already cemented his legacy as an effective center left President. Healthcare reform will look great in hindsight. Significant progress on LGBT rights. Unwinding of the wars. Osama. If he can make progress on immigration reform and even Guantanamo, he's fine. He doesn't need XL, but putting his foot down and opposing big oil might just be an enticing feather to put in his hat.

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