Climate Change and the United States

As regular readers will know, I enjoy Fox News’s The Five, which is a US show in which five co-hosts (four conservative and one liberal) discuss current events. Because of the political leanings of most of the co-hosts, I rarely agree with them, but I enjoy the (mostly) intelligent discussion nevertheless.

I started watching this (Tuesday) morning (Monday 5pm EST), and the first segment was about the Paris Climate Change conference. That’s as far as I got. I had to stop while I sent off an e-mail to the show. I thought I’d share my thoughts with you:


I can’t believe the denial about climate change coming from some The Five panelists in particular and Fox News in general.

The US is the ONLY developed country that has a big chunk of its population that is denying the science.

You are insisting other countries should be taking responsibility. Other developed countries ARE taking responsibility. The problem is the US because so much of the world’s greenhouse gases come from you and you have not been taking responsibility for your contribution. When the US doesn’t do its bit, it makes a difference. The reason there is finally some optimism relating to climate change at the Paris conference is because the US and China are finally stepping up.

Countries like mine (New Zealand) and European countries are doing a lot to try and mitigate the problem, and have been for some time. Almost all NZ’s electricity comes from renewable sources for example.

It is recognized by developed countries that we cannot expect developing countries to reduce their output in the same way developed countries should. Greg’s point is moot.

There is no such thing as clean coal, just coal that doesn’t murder you after it rapes you.

The coal industry isn’t failing because of Obama’s regulations. Coal is an international commodity. The world price has plummeted, mainly because China has cleaned up its act and is finally doing something about the greenhouse gases it’s producing, so there is less demand. (It’s the only country that produces more greenhouse gases than the US, though that is a recent phenomenon.) Coal used to be cheap to produce because it came from open-cast mines and lack of regulation meant the men who mined it were constantly dying either in work accidents or from long-term disease caused by what they breathed in their work. Now, the mines are ever deeper underground, and we make more effort to protect the lives of miners. Surely that’s a good thing? (Unless you’re Libertarian of course, then it’s every man for himself.) The coal industry is failing worldwide because it’s no longer economic to produce coal.

Incidentally, India is still lately producing a lot of coal, which their economy needs badly. There, the mines are still open cast and there aren’t many regulations protecting miners. They can’t afford US (or NZ) coal.

Long-term, climate change is a bigger threat than Islamist terrorism. That’s not to say that terrorism isn’t a threat. It has to be dealt with, but surely a country that considers itself to be so exceptional can walk and chew gum at the same time? Ms Guilfoyle’s idea that the GOP Is prioritising things properly and intelligently by ignoring climate change until Islamist terrorism is stopped is not logical, as she asserts. It fails to recognize both that Islamism cannot be destroyed in a hurry, and dealing with climate change cannot wait.

Read this article from today’s New York Times, ‘Short Answers to Hard Questions About Climate Change.’ It might help you understand the issue.

Heather Hastie

There’s a lot more I could have said of course, and many of you will know the data that backs up my statements better than I do, but I didn’t want to make it too long to increase the chance it’ll be read. I still don’t know that they’ll read it, and even if they do it’s unlikely to make any difference, However, I got the rant off my chest, and now I’m posting it publicly, so at least I feel like I’ve done something.

Some interesting statistics:

Climate Change Importance

Global Warming USA 2014

Public vs Scientists 2015

Now, back to the show!

14 Responses to “Climate Change and the United States”

  1. rickflick says:

    Congratulations Heather. I find it very helpful that you took the time to write to “The Five”. Maybe someone there will take notice.

    • You never know. I live in hope. I notice they didn’t cover the Colorado shooting today, and it barely got a mention on the news show that followed it either. I wonder whether the revelation that it was the man’s religious convictions and the rhetoric of GOP presidential nominee candidates that inspired him has anything to do with that?

  2. Ken says:

    Good letter, Heather, and thanks for taking the time to write to Faux News in what surely must be a lost cause!

    I of course must quibble with your characterisation of NZ’s performance in this matter. I don’t know how you can say we’re doing a lot when the govt’s own projections are for a 50% increase in emissions by 2040. Our target is very modest at 11% below 1990 levels and the PM said before leaving for Paris that he would not even consider an increase to that if there we a will to do so at the conference. But it hardly matters what your target is when you have no discernible plan for getting there.

    And today NZ won the Fossil of the Day Award in Paris for calling for an end to subsidies for oil, despite the current govt increasing oil subsidies 600% since coming to power. Sheesh!

    • I knew you wouldn’t agree with my characterization of NZ!!! However, my definition of “a lot” is in comparison with the US. 🙂

      I’ve just watched ‘Question Time,’ and there seems to be some dispute over whether NZ even has any oil subsidies. My mother turned up in the middle of it, and I missed a lot, so I can’t be sure of my answer here. It seems the amount the OECD is referring to is something available to all businesses, and the amount is only bigger because there are more businesses getting the subsidy that happen to be oil companies. There are actually no tax breaks at all specifically for oil companies.

      So yes, NZ could do more. In particular, I think we should move to 100% renewable sources for electricity by 2020, which I think is possible. I think we could invest even more in research for reducing animal emissions. It is a problem that so much of our emissions come from sources where the technology doesn’t yet exist to reduce them.

      I think some of the demands one political party has made regarding reducing emissions are completely unreasonable. We need our primary industries to be profitable so we have the money to do the research to reduce emissions. Further, our agricultural industry is the most efficient in the world. The food still needs to be produced. It is better that we produce it because we produce it with lower emissions than anyone else. If Britain suddenly had to produce their own lamb, they would contribute a lot more greenhouse gases to the environment for the same level of production.

      We actually treat the animals better too, despite a small number assholes that give the whole industry a bad name, who are being investigated. The minister said today the one on the West Coast has just been convicted. I can’t remember exactly what he said his sentence was, but it included staying away from and not owning animals for ten years.

  3. Ken says:

    Well, the WWF did an analysis in 2013 that showed:

    The National-led government has significantly increased its support for oil and gas through indirect subsidies such as taxbreaks and support for exploration data and research – up from $6 million in 2009 to $46 million today. In total, support for consumption and production of fossil fuels has risen from $40.6 million to almost $85 million.

    I don’t think the govt challenged the figures at the time, and today the WWF said:

    In response to an OIA request last month, the government is now refusing to reveal how much it provides in tax breaks for petroleum mining on the basis that it no longer collects that information.

    This is so typical of the National govt.

    Agree about a 100% renewable target. There is no excuse not to do this in NZ.

    The govt says it is upping the funding re agricultural emissions, but the feeling one gets is that they will study the matter forever. There are things that can be done now in ag that are relatively easy, but the Nats are never going to impose change on this core constituency that is also still quite in denial about climate change. They provide no leadership with their own.

    If you’re talking about the Green Party, what exactly is completely unreasonable? Working with climate and industry experts, they’ve produced a plan that would reduce emissions 40% by 2040 even if ag was left out completely. What we lack is not options, but political will to avert even worse climate change than what is already locked in.

    Meanwhile, the Finance Minister has dismissed out of hand the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s strong recommendation for the govt to provide support to councils to plan adaptation strategies for rising sea levels. Rather than use the RMA to address the huge environmental threat to communities, the govt has been trying to gut the RMA so that it is changed from being about managing environmental impacts to encouraging development.

    There is really little reason to believe that the National Party actually takes climate change seriously at all. I think what they do is what they calculate is the bare minimum possible response so they can still claim they aren’t outright climate deniers. It is a charade.

    • I think English is a big problem – I’m pretty sure he’s a denier, and he has to be dragged kicking and screaming to provide any money. Key is a hands off manager, which is mostly good, but English takes advantage of it. My impression is climate change gets no funding unless Key specifies it.

      The Green Party things I have a problem with are all agricultural, so we probably could reach agreement on other things. I like the way they’ve been making more of an effort in recent years to meet with business and make policies that are a win-win for both sides.

      I do believe the Nats take climate change seriously, but there are relics, like English, who muddy the waters. They do need a more comprehensive plan. I think they are scared of scaring off voters, but that’s stupid. Where exactly do they think climate-change denying voters are going to go? The only possibility is ACT, who will always support them. Besides, I think the electorate is wanting a much better green agenda from all parties. Why the fu*k do they think so many are voting for the Greens anyway?

      There was more about the subsidy thing on the news. Key again denied it, I still didn’t get the detail of why, but it’s that same $46 million figure that seems to be the contentious one.

  4. Excellent piece – particularly the email at the heart of it.

  5. Ken says:

    I agree about English and he’s not the only one. Regardless, an issue like this requires strong leadership from the top and Key’s has been absent. Now he’s known for cynical political calculations, but the problem here is that the result really does matter, yet Key treats it as just another political issue to manage. I’ll believe the Nats take it seriously when they have a credible plan to reach even their terribly inadequate 11% target, let alone the 40 by 40 target the scientists say needs to be the goal to avoid more catastrophic climate outcomes. I won’t be holding my breath!

    • I think that’s fair – he doesn’t treat it more seriously than any other issue. However, with the extremely wide range of opinion on the matter, that’s understandable. While there’s a consensus that it’s a serious issue, there are plenty who aren’t making the catastrophic predictions. I’m sure from his point of view he’s just being reasoned. And NZ makes such a minuscule contribution to the world’s emissions, what we do won’t make a noticeable difference. That, of course, is not an excuse not to do our bit, we MUST. I just think there’s room for all parties to come together on this one. e.g. for the Nats to raise their goals and shorten their time frames, and for the Greens to accept that agriculture stays out in the meantime while more research is done.

      • Ken says:

        Public opinion maybe, but there isn’t that wide a range of opinion on the need to stay below 2 degrees warming, or what is required to achieve that, or that it is much cheaper to do now than later, or that it is probably too late already. Bets now are about how much over 2 degrees we will go and what that will do to our economies as well as our environment.

        Like I said, 40 by 40 doesn’t need ag to achieve and the Greens say they would support that now. How long the rest of the public should carry ag when there are things they can start to do now can be another debate.

        NZ should be more concerned exactly because we make a small contribution as this means our well being is almost entirely dependent on the international community. The only way to influence them to save our buns is to do as much as we can and then use that famous, punch-above-our-weight, kiwi influence we’re supposed to be so famous for to push others to do the same. Only Key can make that happen and he’s AWOL. It will be his legacy.

        • All good points. I don’t know enough about the 40 by 40 policy to comment on it, but if it’s a reasonable plan, then it’s good. From my pov, the Greens have a history of proposing unreasonable solutions. That doesn’t mean this one is of course, and if it’s workable, I’d think we should make the effort.

          A very important point you make is that the sooner we so something, the easier and cheaper it will be. Many of us already have a very small carbon footprint – mine certainly is. I get sick of ads telling me ways to use less electricity, and that we all need to do more. I have been very careful with how much I use for years.

  6. Mark R. says:

    Good on you Heather, that is a well written letter. American AGW denial is a huge embarrassment for our country’s Republicans (and some Dems, but Republicans are the main problem). They somehow have illogically linked belief in AGW to an unbelief in God. For some Republicans that I know in my family, they actually think believing in AGW is a sin, because, you know, only God has the power to destroy the world, and for many, the sooner the better.

    Do let us know if you get a response from Faux News.

    • Thanks Mark. 🙂 I’m sure I won’t get a response. They surely get thousands of unsolicited contacts a day, both positive and negative.

      Like you, it worries me the large number of people who think that either the world will be OK because God has promised not to destroy it again (as in Noah’s flood) or that what’s happening is evidence that the Rapture is not far away.

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