Tag Archives: climate

Evidence that Liberals and Conservatives Can Have Civilized Conversations on Climate Change

This past summer, I talked about a segment on a cable news show in the US called, “All In With Chris Hayes.” I first started watching Chris Hayes when he started his weekly weekend show, “Up With Chris Hayes,” (that has since been renamed for the new host, Up With Steve Kornacki). I really liked his show because he often had guests on the show who were of differing ideologies. For some cable news networks, that’s big, but what was even bigger was that the people that were on the show — rarely — would scream at each other to make a point. That’s not to say the arguments never got heated — sometimes, they did — but there was still an element of civilized conversation. It’s what I imagine good political discourse should look like.

When Chris’s show moved to primetime, he tried to bring some of those same elements. There was a graphic a while back (this is the closest I could find) that showed Chris Hayes’ weekend show (or was it Melissa Harris-Perry’s? I don’t quite remember) was — by far — the most welcoming show for non-white male guests. Meaning, proportionally, the show had far more women and non-white people on the show than any of the other shows on cable news.

Anyway, back to the segment from this summer.

In the segment, Chris Hayes had on Tim Carney — a noted conservative. They were talking about what was a bit of a hot button issue at the time, but the two of them were able to actually participate in a civil discussion. No one tried to yell over the other and as a viewer, I left the segment feeling more informed about the issue from both perspectives.

A couple of days ago, Chris had Tim on the show again — this time to talk about climate change. When Chris first introduced the segment, I wondered if the discussion might descend into a yelling match, but I was pleased to find that wasn’t the case. In fact, someone of a liberal ideology (Chris Hayes) and someone of a conservative ideology (Tim Carney) were actually able to have a civil discussion about climate change. It was kind of amazing to see. In fact, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cable news segment where that’s happened on the matter of climate change.

The end of the segment was my favourite part:

If we get to the point, Tim, if we get to the point where James Inhofe goes to the floor and says, ‘you know what the world is warming and carbon emissions are contributing to that warming, but the liberals are wrong with their solution’ and [Matt] Drudge goes on the front page of Drudge [Report] and says the world is warming, but the liberals are wrong about their solution,’ … nothing would make me happier.

In case you’re not very familiar with the climate change “debate,” there’s a sect who purport that climate change isn’t real. Usually, the ideology of people who makeup these kinds of groups are conservative, (but that doesn’t mean they speak for all conservatives or that they’re the only ones). As a result, this tends to make conservative politicians — as a way to cater to these voters — espouse the same kinds of opinions (Senator James Inhofe from Oklahoma being one of them).

That’s why Chris is saying that nothing would make him happier than to see noted conservative outlets (the Drudge Report) submit that climate change is real, but that the liberals are wrong about how to fix it. As far as I can tell, this is what many liberals have been wishing would be the case for some time. That is, ‘it’s okay if you don’t think we have the right solution, but can we at least agree that this thing is real and we have to do something about it?’

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics: America’s Dependence on Mideast Oil

Earlier this morning, I came across a headline that was a bit shocking (to me): “Americans Support the Keystone XL Pipeline by Wide Margin.” All of the data I’d seen regarding polls of Americans showed that there certainly wasn’t a wide margin in support or against the pipeline. So, with my curiosity piqued, I clicked the article to find out that 67% (of the survey respondents) support building the pipeline. That still seemed a bit surprising, as, like I said, most polls I’d seen had stayed in the range of 45/55 or 55/45.

Upon getting to the actual survey, I scrolled to the question that led to the headline. Here’s the question that was read to survey respondents:

The President is deciding whether to build the Keystone X-L Pipeline to carry oil from Canada to the United States. Supporters of the pipeline say it will ease America’s dependence on Mideast oil and create jobs. Opponents fear the environmental impact of building a pipeline. What about you – do you support or oppose building the KeystoneX-L pipeline?

Do you see anything wrong with this question?

Let’s start with the idea that they’re telling respondents what supporters say and opponents say. If the respondent doesn’t really have a strong opinion about the question, they may prefer to identify with one group or the other (and they might even if they have a strong opinion!) One could argue that there’s a response bias present. There has been quite a bit of press about “America’s dependence on foreign oil.” So, someone might not want to oppose that viewpoint in a survey. That is, the respondent wouldn’t want to appear, (to the person conducting the survey), that they don’t think that reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil is as important as the environment.

Juxtaposing the dependence on foreign oil with environmental impact is a bit unfair. As I said in the previous paragraph, I’d bet that most people have heard/read something about the America’s dependence on foreign oil, but they probably don’t know very much about the environmental impact of oil. Now, that could be a messaging problem for the environmental movement, but there hasn’t been a compelling enough case made. (If there were, there certainly wouldn’t have been this many people who were “A-OK” with building the pipeline.)

Lastly, let’s actually examine this so called dependence on foreign oil. From the US Energy Information Administration:

The United States relied on net imports (imports minus exports) for about 40% of the petroleum (crude oil and petroleum products) that we consumed in 2012. Just over half of these imports came from the Western Hemisphere. Our dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005. [Emphasis added]

In doing the math, 60% of the petroleum (oil) that the US consumed in 2012 was produced domestically — inside the US! In doing some more math, we’re told that just over half of the imports came from the Western Hemisphere. Meaning, less than half of the imports are coming from countries outside of the Western Hemisphere. Meaning, less than half of the imports could be coming from the Mideast and we already know that only 40% of the oil consumed in the US comes from imports. In fact, this same agency tells us just how much oil is imported from Persian Gulf countries: 29%. So, 29% of the imports (40%) is how reliant the US is on Mideast oil. Again, doing the math the total US consumption of Mideast oil: 11.6%. Does 11.6% sound like dependence?

If you recall the last line of the quote from the agency: “Our dependence on foreign petroleum has declined since peaking in 2005.

The next time you read survey data, I hope you’ll remember this post and consider just how construed the results may be.

[Note: The title of this post is a quote that was popularized by Mark Twain.]

Room for Innovation in Wind Energy Industry

I was driving down the 401 in Toronto and I noticed a wind turbine setback from the highway. As I looked at it, I remembered seeing it when I used to live in Toronto over 10 years ago. That’s a long time. On one of my first trips across the USA, I drove north through the California desert. As you’d expect, there were lots of wind turbines. When I traveled through New Zealand, there were lots of wind turbines there, too.

The extent of my knowledge (at this point) of wind energy is that the energy is captured through the use of a wind turbine. And because of the structure of the turbines, there are lots of folks who oppose wind turbines. There concerns are understandable and shouldn’t easily be dismissed. That being said, I think about the abundance of wind on the planet I think that there’s gotta be room for innovation in this industry, right?

If I had to choose, my guess is that solar energy is going to be what revolutionizes energy on our planet, but while we’re still trying to perfect energy storage (batteries just won’t cut it), I have a hunch that there’s something we can do about the wind energy industry. I don’t have a grand idea to propose in this post, but there are many inventions or discoveries that come from people who weren’t working inside that industry. My guess is that I don’t have many readers who work in the wind energy industry, so it might be people like you and I who come up with an idea that revolutionizes the wind energy industry.

The next time you get a few minutes, think about the abundance of wind on the planet and how we might capture and store that energy. It just might be a million dollar idea…

Environmental Serendipity: A Chance to Rebuild “Green”

With all due respect and condolences, the storm that hit the East Coast of the US is a tragedy, especially for those having to go through it first hand. The things I’m about to say in this post are in no way meant to detract from what is clearly a trying time for a number of citizens.

That being said, I can’t help but think of the ‘environmental serendipity.’ Let me explain: with DEstruction comes the opportunity for CONstruction. That is, after everything is all cleaned up, there will be an opportunity for these areas to rebuild their homes and communities. Given this, there is also the opportunity to rebuild from a more environmentally friendly perspective.

What I find noteworthy here is that if a storm like this hadn’t come through, would any of these areas considered knocking down their homes and rebuilding in a much “greener” way? Probably not. That’s why I see this storm as almost an environmental serendipity in that it gives these communities a chance to be much more mindful of the environment, with respect to its build.

There’s also the perspective that has been taken by some (like Newsweek), in that it brings climate change front and center to the national (USA) discourse. Given that it wasn’t mentioned at all during any of the US presidential debates, this is another “happy” consequence. Storms like these seem to be happening with much greater frequency. As this reality sets in, it will be (hopefully!) harder and harder to deny that our climate is changing… and we should be doing something about it!