Let's stop talking about gloabl warming
Talk about global warming sounds a lot like moralizing, and, of course, GM and Exxon-Mobil want to keep it that way. "You go ahead and exhort people to give up their comfort and convenience for the good of the whole wide world, and we'll continue to advertise our gas-guzzlers, and let the people make their own choice" But everything that we want people to do to help stem global warming has local and personal benefits as well, benefits that are far more compelling to the people we need to convince.
Maybe the reason why the mainstream liberal press is permitted to give so much space to global warming is that the corporate culprits know this is ineffective, and maybe counter-productive.
Every measure which we should be taking to allay global warming has other good reasons behind it, and the other benefits are more tangible, closer to home, and more immediate. We should be arguing for these measure on the basis of their local effects, their economy and their health benefits, not on the basis of a far-away goal that presumes global cooperation.
Suppose it were the case that it was in everyone's individual interest to drive SUVs, to buy electricity from coal-fired power plants, and to eat beef from farting cows raised on factory farms. It would take a moral sermonizer of the order of Billy Graham to convince each of us to Do The Right Thing so that it might benefit All Of Us. People tire of this kind of rhetoric, and close their ears. This may have something to do with the fact that Al Gore is the brunt of snide jokes, and the the adjective algorian has entered our lexicon as a term of derision.
Luckily, we don't have to take this stand. We don't have to argue on the basis of a distant goal to people who ask, "How can the emissions from my little family affect this huge global catastrophe?" We can explain to people the personal benefits of energy conservation and local sourcing.
We could all be living in super-insulated houses, kept warm in winter and cool in summer with a minimum of energy use. Using technology from 40 years ago, Amory Lovins designed the headquarters of his Rocky Mountain Institute in Snowmass, Colorado in a way that assures the buildings need no heat in the winter or AC in the summer. He calculates that the extra cost of insulation, sealing, and heat-exchange ventilation is fully recovered because the building needs no furnace or heating ducts. That's right, the building costs no more to build that a conventional office building, and fuel savings begin to accumulate on Day 1.
For existing buildings, most investments in insulation and modernized HVAC systems pay for themselves within a few years. Which is easier, organizing a global campaign to convince 7 billion people to change their behaviors in ways that are not in their individual interests, but are necessary to change the planet? or getting your city to modernize the building codes?
The cost of wind energy and solar cells has been falling steadily for decades. Sometime around 20 years ago, renewable energy became more economic than fossil fuels, if all subsidies and externalized costs are included. Then, in the last 5 years, the price of new solar cells has fallen below the price of a new coal-fired plant. The Repuglicans, who have opposed subsidies on ideological grounds for decades, are now enacting coal subsidies (!) to keep coal competitive with photovoltaics. Which is easier, lobbying for our industries to Do The Right Thing and prevent global warming, or telling your Congressman: No subsidies for coal!
The cost of fossil fuels by rights should include the cost of an endless series of wars in the Middle East. But that's not how it is calculated. The cost of natural gas should include the homesteads and the groundwater lost to fracking--poisoning water in our rural communities, destroying farmland, causing earthquakes, and leaking vast amounts of methane. But that's not how it's calculated. We need to end the wars against Islamic states, and we need to stop fracking, and if there was no such thing as global warming, these would both be important goals nevertheless.
39% of methane emissions globally come from cattle ranches, and another 37% from factory farms. Methane is a greenhouse gas twenty times more potent than CO2, and persisting in the atmosphere much longer so the global warming impact is closer to thirty times that of CO2. Still the best reason to stop factory farming is that the meat is making us sick and the animal waste cannot be safely disposed. Consumption of beef is growing worldwide. 26% of the world's ice-free land area is already being used for animal grazing, mostly cattle. The best reasons to cut back on livestock is that we are eating more meat than is healthy for us, and that pastureland is desperately needed as habitat for displaced species.
America's system of auto transportation is utterly dysfunctional, and everyone who fumes in daily traffic jams knows this. Public transit in major cities of Europe and Japan and China are convenient enough that people prefer commuter rail to cars. Updating our American transit systems will save us time and expense, while making the city air more breathable. The benefit for global warming seems incidental in comparison. Cars and trucks are the second largest source of greenhouse gases, after electric power plants.
There are lots of ways we could prevent global warming, and still the global ecosystem would continue to collapse from under us. For example, we could end up with geoengineering, and its unforeseeable side-effects. On the other hand, there is no way to prevent ecosystem collapse that doesn't allay global warming. So, from a tactical perspective, it is safer to organize around the larger issue of environmental preservation and restoration of habitats.
The bottom line
Fracking is a travesty of pollution and land degradation. We should be moving to renewable electric power, moving to public transportation, sustainable agriculture and semi-vegetarian diets. All these moves have personal and local benefits that are tangible in the near-term, and far more compelling than their distant relationship to global warming. Let's stop talking about global warming and advocate instead for these policies on the solid grounds of health, environmental and economic benefits.