Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alarmist and Ignorist

Sunday the Herald republished an editorial from the past Thursday's Bismarck Tribune. The thesis of the editorial was that it was good efforts at cap-and-trade have failed but that there are still efforts to maintain the environment that need to be fought. There is a throwaway line at the end acknowledging unspecified "serious and significant environmental issues that need to be considered."

A letter in the Tribune a few days later from Wayde Schafer effectively calls out the short-sightedness, so I quote it at length:

The Tribune's stated concern is avoiding "economic havoc" for coal-fired power plants, the largest contributor of global warming pollutants.

Disappointingly, the Tribune's editorial failed to consider the "economic havoc" that will befall North Dakota and the rest of the world if we do nothing to curb the man-made pollution that is causing the Earth to heat up.

Climate change is real, and we have a very small window of opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions so that the impacts are relatively small and manageable.

Time is not on our side, and the more of it we waste trying to avoid making the tough choices between yesterday's fossil fuels and the 21st century's clean energy, the less we're going to like the consequences, economic or otherwise.

To combat usage of the term "denialist", that side with those who earned the name commonly uses the term "alarmist" to paint as Chicken Littles the people who describe the threats of climate change. The irony is that the more extreme overblowing of consequences is typically from those who say things like what that Tribune editorial did - that effective actions to control greenhouse gas emissions would mean "destroying the recovering economy."

It is disappointing seeing the media around here parroting such political statements. As Schafer's letter noted, if one is worried about economic impacts, how can he or she simply ignore environmental destruction and degradation on a massive scale?

But it all fits into the larger picture as illustrated by today's editorial in the Herald entitled "A brighter future beckons as the oil boom strengthens". Fossil fuels are the sacred cash cow for North Dakota. But even if (for example) the Herald will not even think about the idea of using less of those finite and polluting resourcing, there could at least be consideration of using some of the windfall to deal with the approaching problems.

Of course acknowledging that costs will have to be paid by someone sometime for all the greenhouse gases poured into the atmosphere would mean accepting that it would be worthwhile to make an effort sooner to make smaller the bill later. That would be contrary to the two-sided strategy, "part alarmist" and part "ignorist" we see shown by these recent editorials - scream bloody murder about a price on pollution and strictly celebrating fossil fuels for the money they put in our pockets while ignoring the broader cost their use puts on us.

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