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This item was posted on October 8, 2010, and it was categorized as China, Climate Change, Climate policy.
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United Nations climate change negotiations in China make little progress

Who was it who said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”?

Oh yes, that was Albert Einstein, a pretty smart guy I reckon.

I wonder what The Great One would say about the spectacle of yet another series of United Nations talks on climate change failing to make much progress on an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

“Failure” was the word out of Tianjin, China today, where the week-long talks, involving  3,000 participants from more than 170 nations, are nearing an end with “no consensus in sight,” according to a dispatch from the Environment News Service.

It was hoped that these talks would make some progress in advance of the next climate change talks, in Cancun, Mexico on November 29. My bet is that I’ll be writing something very similar toward the end of those talks.

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This thing has 41 Comments

  1. googler
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    My guess is he’d say it was time to reevaluate things.

  2. Posted October 8, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Googler: Ya’ think?

  3. googler
    Posted October 8, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink


  4. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Not in the way that googler means, of course.

    But actually this is progress: We’re getting to the end of pretending it’;s going to be easy.

  5. John Zulauf
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    This seems very consistant with the “iron law” in “The Climate Fix.” No one is going to slow their economy for any price anyone else is willing to pay. The Copenhagen idea of trillions in compensatory payments to kleptocrats like Mugabe seems morally and intellectually bankrupt as well.

  6. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 9, 2010 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s even more expensive supporting our own kleptocrats in the style to which they’re accustomed.

  7. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Climate change has become greedy. It demands the entirety of the environmental spotlight often preventing the public attention and resources necessary to resolve other important issues. What about the loss of our wet lands, the crash in our oyster populations (a functional element of the coastal ecosystem), habitat loss due to excessive sediment loading, mixed stock salmon fisheries, the loss of tall grass prairie due to EPAs burn ban, the impact of the shallow water gulf shrimp fishery, the acidification of lakes and rivers due to fire bans. And if you care at all about the oceans –LYDAR coupled with an overcapitalized fleet may be the greatest threat they have ever faced.

    Irradiation of the food supply will reduce pesticide, fertilizer and water use. It will reduce the amount of land needed for agriculture- allowing for more natural areas and less pressure on threatened species. It will even help the CO2 budget. WHY don’t we talk about this?!!!

    What about the threat of UG99 and its consequences?

    Why did environmental groups applaud the re-authorization of the Magnuson- Stevens Act given it failed to include any of the critical recommendations demanded by several National Academies reports?

    What about soil salinization due to growing high water demanding crops in the desert?

    What about a discussion on the recent court ruling that says that all pesticide applications over water must go through the permitting process. We have dengue fever growing in Key West and large populations surrounded by hundreds of thousands of rice fields in Sacramento where there is endemic levels of malaria, dengue and Japanese encephalitis. Whats the risk?

    Will bed bugs cause the public to strike back on EPAs pesticide bans (seems two of EPAs recent bans on sprays for ants and termites is at the heart of the resurgence of these blood sucking vermin.)

    There is so much to do- but climate demands the entirety of our attention. If we don’t attend to some of the above issues but “solve” the climate crisis in an hundred years— one may ask– who cares? We will have sadly lost what we were trying to save.

  8. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 12, 2010 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    Oddly, Pat, most environmental groups were resistant to prioritizing climate change precisely because they had been prioritizing a whole range of other issues. Climate change is getting the attention it does because it’s such an overwhelming threat. Scientists agree, as you may have noticed. Note also that prioritizing climate change doesn’t mean that other issues have been abandoned, as a look at e.g. the website of your state Sierra Club chapter will demonstrate.

  9. googler
    Posted October 13, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Hi Tom – I’d like to second Pat and John’s comments above re: the here and now and the need for environmental journalists to make the effort to dig on other fronts.

    You know my thoughts on the AGW stuff and I really do think it is time for environmentally/ethically concerned people to reevaluate things. IMO stuff like the current Wegman plagiarism shenanigans is going nowhere constructive and in the meantime, as John and Pat point out, there are things in the here and now which could do with some good journalistic coverage. For example one thing that has crossed my radar, from somebody I believe to be a credible source, is that there are significant moves underway by Chinese interests on mineral extraction in Africa; the particular example given was that of alluvial chrome extraction in Zimbabwe. I asked about the pollution impacts of chrome extraction and as I understand it, it is not one of the real nasties. However the landscape impact can be significant with alluvial extraction removing surface material over large areas. I’ve not been to Africa but the pics I have seen make it look like an absolutely spectacular landscape. So, my point is, whilst all these electrons are spilt over who said what four years ago in a report that essentially confirms incorrect statistical techniques were used in climate recon. papers, there are things going on in the world which environmentalists should be getting out in the open. My understanding is that the Chinese do not use local labour but bring in their own workers and I can’t help but wonder what terms and conditions they are on. Is there a story here? I don’t know, but my feeling is that with China emerging as an ever stronger global industrial power they should be having to play to the same standard on the environment as we’d expect of European or US enterprises. In blogs on wind technology one of the things I see reference to is that the Chinese are systematically working to control rare earth commodities for their own producer’s benefit. Is this true? I don’t know. What are its implications? Again I don’t know. But I’d sure as hell like to know that serious environmentalists are putting their time and energy into keeping an eye on these things and getting them into the open.

    So coming back to your theme – yes, I do think it is time to reevaluate and I’d personally like it if CEJournal became a bit more like (some of) the sceptic climate blogs with a wide range of skilled and experienced commentators putting their knowledge in the ring to move things on.

    All the best :-)

  10. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad you brought up the Sierra Club in NJ– its a great example. Consider neither the Sierra Club nor any other NGO acted when the various pilot programs to restore NJs devastated oyster populations were recently ordered by the State to not only cease restoration activities but also remove all the newly planted oyster beds. (The reason given by the State was that some people may eat oysters that may become contaminated– far more in reality behind this.) Oysters are a STRUCTURAL COMPONENT of estuary ecosystems— you cannot have a functioning estuary without replacing the filtration and habitat components once served by oysters.

    As context– oysters once filtered a volume of water equal to the entire Chesapeake estuary every 3-4 days. Think of a a billion plus gallon per day filtration plant that no longer exists (one oyster filters as much as 2-300 gpd). It is impossible to restore a functioning estuary without oysters OR something else that replaces their STRUCTURAL ROLE.

    IMO restoring our environment requires much more than blind adherence to ANY group narrative. Sierra Club and the other NGOs have every right to their priorities– I at times disagree. And if we do not do challenge– Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  11. googler
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    Hi Pat – please can I ask you about the oyster filtration issue?

    I’m looking at the number you give for filtration of 2-300gpd which I make about 1000ltr = 1m3, or about a tonne of water. So I’m thinking in terms of filtration, as I understand it for swimming pool systems, and wondering what mass of material each oyster is removing from the estuary and how big (or not) this contribution is to water quality? I’ve done a quick google to get a handle on the numbers and got some info. on shell and meat weights but I haven’t got time to bottom this out – I’d appreciate it if you have info. off the top of your head. Thanks.

    Hi Tom – hope this isn’t straying too far off topic, my excuse is it’s inline with my comment above! Also in the quick search I did these two came up and, living near the chalk cliffs of South East England, I thought it was interesting to see oysters discussed in terms of carbon sequestration:



  12. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Googler–I hope this very disorganized reply is of some help:

    I’m not exactly certain what you are trying to calculate but this may help:
    Oyster avg adult length is 150mm resulting in a growth curve of (1-e to the .28t power.) Biomass in grams at some age (t) can be shown as W=aL(t)to the b power where a=3.94 X 10 to the -4 and b- 2.80 from Rothschild, B.J. et al. 1990. UMCEES[CBL] 90-131. :258p.33.

    Please keep in mind that oysters are reef building organisms and their role goes way beyond alteration of water quality. They provide critical habitat for a litany of other organisms AND effect the hydrodynamics. (If you are looking at CO2 sequestration as noted then you must also look at both the assimilation into the organic meat and importantly the CaCO3 shell) I haven’t looked at your posted sites but will this evening.

    Remember that high turbidity warms the near surface waters compared to clear water and filter feeders impact turbidity.(I’m amazed at the amount of researchers that ascribe climate as the sole reason for a surface water body’s temperature increase without also plotting eutrophication over the same time period)

    You may also find of use :
    -Evaluating Ecosystem Effects of Oyster Restoration in
    Chesapeake Bay A Report to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources
    September 2005 Carl F. Cerco and Mark R. Noel
    -Coupling Oyster and Future SAV Restoration; A 
    demonstration project  -Report to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
    Restoration Program Award Number; NA17FZ2768 Prepared by Lee Karrh
    - The Chesapeake Bay eutrophication model
    -Cerco, C., and Noel, M. (2005b). “Evaluating ecosystem effects of oyster
    restoration in Chesapeake Bay,” Report to the Maryland Department of
    Natural Resources, Annapolis, MD. (available at

    For nitrogen see-Impacts of oyster cultures on
    nitrogen budgets in Hiroshima Bay, the SetoInland Sea of Japan
    The 33rd UJNR Aquaculture Panel Symposium Ecosystem and carrying capacity of aquaculture ground -for the sustainable aquaculture in harmony with nature-
    Kenji TARUTANI

    If you are looking for a before and after comparison of filter feeders impact on fresh water quality -the invasive zebra mussel in the US Great Lakes may be a good place to start. see- Long-term Dreissenid Impacts on Water Clarity in Lake Erie Richard P. Barbiero1,*and Marc L. Tuchman2 J. Great Lakes Res. 30(4):557–565 Internat. Assoc. Great Lakes Res., 2004 (Caution with too much interpretation on the Great Lakes as there are other dynamics at work including the phosphorus ban, cycles in the alewive population and changes in the sediment load)

  13. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Pat, you changed the subject. Your original assertion was that:

    Climate change has become greedy. It demands the entirety of the environmental spotlight often preventing the public attention and resources necessary to resolve other important issues.

    I noted that this is patently not the case. You then changed the subject to a particular policy matter on which you disagree with the Sierra Club. Well, I have many things on which I disagree with the Sierra Club, but the fact that I, you and many others do provides no support to your original point. This sort of changing of the subject disinclines me to engage with you.

  14. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Googler- The filtration capacity of 2-300 for oysters should have been 20 to 30gallons average not 2 to 300. (Sorry) As a further note a large adult oyster may be as much as 4 gallons per hour depending on T. The overall filter impact is not changed.

  15. John Zulauf
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    @Steve — comments like “supporting our own kleptocrats” comparing anyone (except perhaps a serial killer) to someone like Robert Mugabe undercuts your ability to present your case. You’re really dancing in the penumbra of Godwin’s Law.

    About climate payments to 3rd world kleptocrats, my son said it best, “why not just send them yachts, AK-47′s, tanks, and hookers and cut out the middle man”. It’s completely a non-starter. One *could* use accountability and visiblity requirements (i.e. a priori reform) as a precondition to “green aid”, but shipping tera-$ makes no sense.

  16. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    You’re right, John, we need to keep every penny going to our own kleptocrats rather than foreign ones who may be more than just kleptocrats. The plan is working great, as witnessed by income distribution data for the U.S. It’s a great time to be rich, rich, rich! Oh, and don’t forget to screw the planet, BTW. And the poor.

    (Just for the record, John, it took some awfully creative reading to imagine that my comment implied any support for the likes of Mugabe.)

  17. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Curious as to why you feel the right to have issues with NGOs and what our priorities should be but not me.

    I used Sierra Club as an example (you brought Sierra Club into this) in reply to your comment. In one of the few issues where they weren’t fully emerged in climate related issues they claim to be fighting for the water quality of NJ’s estuaries- How are they going to do this? By attacking cooling water used at an existing power plant (which has site specific merit) and opposition to a proposed coal power plant. Seems to me they picked their water quality concern to link to climate and energy policy. Oysters are not a a site specific issue– it may be the single most important issue for every one of NJ estuaries not just for the areas surrounding an existing and proposed point sources. I’m a bit suspicious of a groups claiming to care about estuary water quality yet ignores a key stone species that plays the most fundamental structural role in the ecosystem’s water quality dynamics. But if you are pushing climate/energy- makes some albeit immoral sense.

    Perhaps the best of this continuing example -Sierra Club’s Louise Miller http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/gulf-mexico-oil-spill-turtles-dying-oil/story?id=10565355 when told that the sea turtles deaths in the Gulf were being investigated as a failure by shrimpers to use turtle excluder devices -Louie Miller said “I discount that theory heavily. I think shrimpers are in enough trouble as it is. I point the finger at BP at this point until they are proven innocent.” Decades of research were thrown away as to the impacts of bycatch on turtle population. Protecting sea turtles was seemingly not as important as linking everything to carbon extraction. Sea turtles cannot be protected if we falsely tell the public the primary reasons for their threaten status. Putting sea turtles at risk to promote a climate agenda is why I said they were greedy. Show me why I’m wrong (And just because BP is British—in an American legal system Sierra Club should understand you must be proven guilty and are assumed innocent) If the Sierra Club were truly concerned with the health of the Gulf the shallow water shrimp fishery and the sediment budget (wetlands) would be ground zero issues.

    Is my claim not true that the vast majority of environmental funding is going to climate, or climate related impacts? Are not most of the journalism articles we see climate related? Why have the problems of MSX and Dermo suffered from attention and funding for so long but the minute shellfish decline may be linked to CO2 tens of millions of dollars started to flow to save them from a problem that probably doesn’t exist. Ask a researcher if adding a climate link to a grant request improves the odds. The US Forest Service now has a climate change emphasis. Might as well because we needn’t worry about forest transpiration rates near small tributary streams -they are drying up from climate change. We needn’t worry about the disruption in the fire cycle and what it does to underbrush, tree thinning and insect predators– evaluating forest in decline is now simple– its climate (It used to be acid rain.) In fact even acid rain has been thrown under the bus ( it was just so 80s anyway)for climate change—the acidity is now caused by the increasing load of dissolved organic acids resulting from– you guessed it- climate change! Atlantic salmon are no imperiled by acid disruption of their osmoregulatory system – its climate change!You have shown me nothing to make me believe that climate has not hijacked other pressing if not equally pressing issues and in many cases have fundamentally skewed the Public’s understanding of the issues with respect to the various kidnapped environmental topics.

    We get nowhere when everything must conform to the narrative.

  18. John Zulauf
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    @Steve — Just so we’re on the page. kleptocracy — a form of gov’t where the leaders are corrupt, venal thieves. So you’d be characterizing our President and Congressional leaders of having the same fiscal ethics of a (say) Charles Taylor?

    as for “screw the planet… And the poor” w.r.t. the the USA. (1) Broad indicators show that the US is both far cleaner than the developing nations or relative to it’s own past and (2) and very large portion of the world would *gladly* change places with the US poor of which

    43% own their own homes (average size 3 bd rm)
    80% have air conditioning.
    > 66% have more than two rooms per person.
    > 66% (of households) own a car — 33% own 2 or more
    97% have color TV —
    89% have microwave ovens

    Economies aren’t zero sum and while in the US the most weatlhy are very wealthy, the system that created their wealth has created more wealth for the average and the poor than any other system. Notice our poor aren’t trying to sneak *south* across the AZ border to avoid the US “screw”ing of the poor?

    Enough tangential issues —

    Here is a thesis: Funding related to the catastrophic theory of AGW is diverting funds needed to help the poor and environment deal with real and present threats.

    You have the “con” side to this argument?

  19. googler
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    Pat – many thanks for the additional information and for double checking the filtration figure.

  20. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    You ignore the resource utilization issue, John. The U.S. should try getting along on just the resources within its borders, and those outside its borders without any U.S. products, for a year or two. How would that work out?

    Of course what is (was) objectionable about Taylor wasn’t his fiscal policy as such. I would suggest to you that it’s unhealthy to allow for mass murder to be folded into an innocuous-sounding term like fiscal policy, even as a blindingly obvious rhetorical trick. The worst sort of propaganda uses that technique. Call things what they are.

    Re the world’s poor, they’re already getting very little help relative to available resources, in which context your challenge lacks meaning. But in a much broader context, it’s always possible to justify spending resources today to obtain immediate benefits when it would make far more sense to spend those resources on avoiding future harm. Humans do that all the time, unfortunately.

  21. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a matter of having a right to that, Pat. I simply stated that you were wrong and explained why. By all means feel free to keep being wrong. Also, google “Gish Gallop.”

  22. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    It’s not a matter of having a right to that, Pat. I simply stated that you were wrong and explained why. By all means feel free to keep being wrong. Also, google “Gish Gallop.”

  23. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah, Pat, from their web site here are the NJ Sierra Club’s priorities for 2010:

    Stopping the Susquehanna Roseland Transmission Line, a proposal that will put 200-foot towers on Appalachian Trail and undermine our efforts for clean energy by importing dirty power from Pennsylvania

    Continuing our fight to stop the construction of dirty power sources, like the PurGen coal plant proposal, and working to boost renewable energy and green jobs in New Jersey

    Protecting our communities by working to strengthen the state’s Site Remediation Program, a particularly important goal now that the program has been privatized

    Ensuring the protection of the Highlands and the Pinelands, which is critical in our fight to ensure New Jersey residents have clean, safe drinking water

    Working to preserve natural habitats and open space, as well as protect threatened and endangered species

    Yep, the first two are definitely related to climate change, but the other three aren’t. That’s roughly what I was expecting. So let’s see, your original point was:

    Climate change has become greedy. It demands the entirety of the environmental spotlight often preventing the public attention and resources necessary to resolve other important issues.


  24. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Oddly, Pat, this article from a couple of months after the one you quote paints a rather different picture regarding the turtles. There may be yet more to this story, but at a minimum you seem to have engaged in cherry-picking.

  25. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Steve– you send me a reference as to sea turtles that starts with the opening salvos in a law suit.Show me a single science paper– just one- that says oil is a priority threat to sea turtles.. While your searching- here are a few contrarian views from the National Academy and NOAA:

    NOAASs 2010- Oil and Sea Turtles agreed with the National Research Council. 1990. Decline of the Sea Turtles: Causes and Prevention that “In a comprehensive review of sources of sea turtle mortality conducted by the National Research Council (1990), incidental capture of turtles in shrimp trawls was determined to account for more deaths than all other human activities combined.”

    Nothing could be more unequivocal than that— Shrimp trawls were more important than every other human impact COMBINED. In fact the BP oil spill didn’t come close to the thousands of sea turtles that died of hypothermic shock and secondary infections during the Jan 2010 cold snap. Show me any evidence that the Jan through April period was not higher for turtle kill than the post spill period. I’m not defending BP but skewing the research on sea turtles because you hate a carbon intensive world doesn’t help sea turtles. I would surmise in your world the fibropapilloma turtle epidemic is a nonstarter because humans can’t be blamed.

    Your comments on the distribution of wealth in the US is pure propaganda. The consumption of GDP by the lowest 10% of a nation’s population ranges globally from about one to four%. The US is 2%. The consumption of the top ten percent in the US is 30% and in only two western countries Belize (29) and Canada 25% do the top 10% consume less than the US. (You really need to look at the Pareto Principle). Look at GINI as a standard of wealth distribution and the US is a middle of the pack country. Extraordinary given the US has accepted 10s of millions of the the worlds poor to enter its borders in this age of zero sum politics. No other country has done this and yet the poorest ten percent are well represented by our consumption figures– given our GDP -its easy to understand why millions risk everything to come here.

    I am getting the uncomfortable feeling that for an environmental paradigm to be correct — abusive consumptive patterns of evil Americans must be the cause. It may be why CO2 is so important to this ideology because unless CO2 can be blamed– the reality is that the US produces most of its raw resources and could produce more if the groups that blamed us for using imported resources actually allowed us to extract our resources. Our environmental quality is a world standard and would be infinitely better if we were allowed to actually fix the problems. We export food, agriculture technology that has largely eradicated famine in free countries, medical miracles yet some for some reason the environmental movement sells the relentless message of guilt. I think many people are growing tired of this – and its certainly not helping the environment. But this was never really about the environment was it?

  26. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    A climate hijacking in progress http://www.sierraclub.org/habitat/ecosystems/pelican.aspx.

    The brown pelican is used to promote resilient habitats on Sierra Club’s web site. According to the web site the Gulf’s Brown pelican has suffered greatly because “the loss of coastal barrier islands and wetlands habitat where pelicans nest and raise their young has been accelerated by global warming and a series of devastating storms.” One can assume the storms were the result of climate change. And if that were not bad enough the root cause of climate change attacked the pelicans-“ Then an oil spill from a production platform washed directly into pelican nesting areas, coating the birds with oil.” The problem for pelicans and the wildlife used to be cyprus logging according to the Sierra Club but they claim to have fixed that in 2008.

    Misrepresentation can’t even begin to describe their claims:
    •There are more pelicans now than at any time in perhaps 80 years.
    •How did climate change cause the loss of wetlands when neither the air nor the sea surface temperature trends have appreciably changed in the last 100 years for LA. One can argue what may happen in the future but that doesn’t allow you to apply it to the past.
    •Wetlands have been lost at an unacceptable rate but AGW had no discernible role. USGS findings were “Barrier island chains in the northern Gulf of Mexico extending from Mobile Bay, Alabama to Atchafalya Bay, Louisiana are disintegrating rapidly as a result of combined physical processes involving limited sediment availability, alteration of alongshore sediment transport, and rising absolute sea-level.” What is causing the RELATIVE sea level rise—most would be surprised to find out the area is sinking –(isostacy and according to some tectonics). AGW is not a primary component at present.
    •Wetland loss actually started to decline at the time the IPCC claimed AGW commenced- 1970. Louisiana lost between 1930 and 1990 some 1526 sq miles of wetlands. 95% of that loss was to open water conversion .. The USGS predicts that over the next 50 years the wetland loss rate will drop from the 39 sq miles seen in the pre AGW period to the stabilized (but still unacceptable) rate seen in the 1990s of 23 sq mi.
    •There is no evidence hurricanes or severe storms have become more prevalent in the Gulf. In fact there is much evidence according to USGS and paleotempestological work that the last millennium may be unusual in its quiescence.
    •The history of the eastern brown pelican shows that climate has little to do with its historic troubles. ( the massive decline in their numbers -some 80%- occurred between 1919 and 1934 according to USFWS)

    We have no chance to either protect or restore the Gulfs wet lands if the public is sold problems that do not exist. The wetlands are chiefly threatened (anthropogenic components) by changes we have made in the sediment budget (alterations in the Mississippi River’s historic sediment delivery that formed the barrier islands and wet lands) and to a lesser extent hydrodynamic alterations (ex channels). Len Bahr coastal advisor to 5 Louisiana governors lamented “The single issue that would top any wish list is to change the way the lower Mississippi River is managed. Unless we really come to grips with that, we don’t have a chance [of] saving the coast in the long run.”

    I sympathize with the man and the unsolved problem.

  27. John Zulauf
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    @Steve — kleptocracy is not a matter of fiscal policy, it is a matter of corruption, which with sufficient power always leads to the death and suffering of the innocent. Sending money to these corrupt gov’ts is a failed, immoral idea.

    As for your ideas on resource policy, isolationism is a really bad idea in a global economy. Think Smoot-Hawley all over again.

    I rarely say this, but frankly we have so little common ground that further discussion through the low bandwidth medium of the internet will likely be counter productive. These are the kinds of gaps that can only be bridged when there is enough personal trust to wade throught the inevitable misunderstandings and vehement disagreements.

  28. Posted October 14, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    My goodness, I go away to Missoula to drink Moose Drool and enjoy the company of my fellow environmental journalists from around the world, and what happens? — an actual conversation? Perish the thought!

    In all seriousness, I have much to digest in all these comments. Suffice it to say that I am a hopelessly, horribly naive and optimistic sort of liberal who believes, improbably, that we could enact an innovative energy policy that would set us on the road toward decarbonizing the environment AND deal with the other issues that have been discussed here. I don’t see it as a zero sum game, which is the argument that Pat made at the outset of this string.

    On the other hand, I must admit that I see no evidence of movement toward an innovative energy policy or significant progress on the other issues. The real problem we Americans face these days is that shouting at and vilifying each other is much more appealing to us than finding common ground and doing something constructive. Unless we can solve that problem, our best days are certainly behind us.

  29. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    Welcome back. Love the idea of “doing something constructive”– prevention as the route to environmental improvement is too limited (and as a scientist- I will admit -terribly boring). It is absolutely not my position we live in a zero sum world but you are correct– tactics in the environmental/political arena are unfortunately a zero sum game. It is the reason I advocate breaking linkage- let issues stand on their own merits and allow selection from a larger pool of both resources and possibilities. (I just don’t like linkage whether promoted by Henry Kissinger or Philip Shabecoff.)

    Perhaps we may find we can solve things one issue at a time rather than lumping them all together.

  30. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Tom-one of my heroes was Scripps John Isaacs – a giant of both physical and mental stature who had the time to advise a very fortunate young kid fresh out of school and still wet behind the ears. There is a quote of his that I find both true and comforting:
    “I believe that there are many remarkably simple but undiscovered ways
    of achieving understanding of and dealing with the resources and forces
    of this great realm.
    The scientific hierarchy demands deeper penetration of nature, not
    broader and broader comprehension! Yet it is the development of increas-
    ing breadth and comprehension as well as penetration, that we must es-
    pouse with open-eyed, broad, undogmatic intellectual fervor, confidence
    and devotion if we are to understand the complexity of nature. It is in-
    creasingly clear that our crucial task is now to learn how the pieces fit
    together, for it is interaction on this planet, rather than its components,
    that form the limiting problem of mankind.
    Our educational system in science and technology tends to train only
    those faculties of the human intellect that are readily testable: memory
    and formal reasoning. Untaught, unevaluated and, indeed, often sup-
    pressed, since they are so challenging to teachers, are those other vast
    components of intellectuality: conceptualization, that allows one to con-
    ceive of complex interactions as a system; intuition, the mysterious quality that leaps to truths through a jungle of confusing detail; the trilogy: mental
    adventurousness and fervor, attention to the unexpected, and curiosity,
    those intellectual attributes that can challenge established dogma by dis-
    cerning its underlying flaws, and judgment, the equally mysterious faculty
    of recognizing the “likelihood” of something, a mental quality that went
    out of fashion a hundred years ago.
    My point is, of course, that the intellectual qualities that we neither
    teach nor know how to teach, and hence tend to suppress, are precisely
    the ones essential to dealing with the complex systems of this planet, and
    since these qualities are suppressed in our educational system, untutored
    people often possess them in more highly developed form than do the
    I have much greater faith in simple observations and untrammeled
    thinking than I have in sophisticated observations and simplistic thinking!
    And I have much greater confidence that man’s relationship to the sea and
    its resources will be enhanced by thoughtful and observant people closely
    involved and broadly acquainted with the sea—scientist and non-scientist
    alike—than by frantic bureaucratic responses to public hysteria or by the
    pontification of the scientific hierarchy.”

    A great man– a great philosophy.

  31. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Pat, you need to learn how to advance an argument coherently. You’re not doing that so well in this post.

  32. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    My position is and has been there is a set of pressing and solvable environmental challenges that are having funding and attention diverted by a nearly singular focus on climate change. I further stated climate advocacy often hijacks “other” issues- skewing the science in the process to fit a climate narrative. I believe we must break this linkage tactic and address the myriad environmental issues on their own merit.

    I wrote a previous CEJ post about malaria and the hurdles the disease’s eradication faces from my perception of climate linkage– you were upset that I offered this opinion claiming CE Journal was an environmental site. (a quote-”Pat, take a look at the name of this blog. Notice the “environmental” bit? That probably means that a majority of the people reading it have environmental leanings.”) It appears anyone having a different take on an issue is labeled by you as an anti-environmental. Is this hubris, something darker or a misperception?

    I wrote of my frustration seeing major environmental problems left unsolved or worse misrepresented. I listed them. I gave you with the brown pelican and LA wetlands post a very specific example of the type of outrageous misrepresentation that concerns me. (I challenge you or anyone else to show me with respect to the pelicans and LA wetlands where my reasoning is flawed- I would actually feel much better if I was wrong on this issue.) I gave you other examples- NGOs failing to voice concern over the single most important NJ estuary project’s closure and NGOs misrepresenting the threats to sea turtles with supporting citations for my position. I presented additional support citing our failure to adequately fund research into MSX and Dermo shell fish diseases and the moment a claim is made that CO2 acidification threatens shellfish a 100 years from now- tens of millions of dollars in Federal funding commences. How am I to believe in such a system?

    I professed we must continuously challenge the narrative. A narrative I believe that is all too often written by direct mail marketing consultants rather than scientists. I asked if we do not challenge or question the narrative -who shall watch the watchers?

    (See Mark Dowie’s “Losing Ground” on the role of direct mail consultants, NGO fund-raising, the selling of an environmental agenda and the narrative creative process)

    I list examples of vital issues getting little attention– Lydar and an overcapitalized subsidized fishing fleet, UG99, our failure to discuss irradiation or soil salinization issues as well as others. You defend this void by claiming “scientists say” climate issues are just so overwhelmingly important. You may be surprised that some scientists are very concerned about a litany of non-climate issues that need more than lip service.

    You posit no solutions that I’ve read-other than an anger at kleptocrats, the US and rich people trying to screw poor people and the environment. You make unsubstantiated claims about a terrible international resource imbalance and that people are trying to screw the planet. You decry the income imbalance in the US but present nothing to back it up. I presented to you my contrary position with GINI numbers as well as percentile ratios of the top and bottom 10% consumption ratios of the US population in context with the western hemisphere. I asked with no answer how the US designs an economic system that breaks Pareto’s Principle. It is difficult for me to understand how one formulates an action plan from your position.

    You accuse me of not being coherent. Perhaps.

  33. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Pat, notice that with the turtle business you presented a link to a news article, but that when I did the same in response (noting that the issue was clearly not as simple as you had presented it) you ignored the key content of the article (yes, there was a lawsuit, but what issued did it raise?) and criticized me for not citing to a scientific paper even though your intial comment hadn’t done so either. You then cited to a 1990 study but provided no link to it. Did it cover the case of a large oil spill with use of massive amounts of corexit, and in particular did it cover the issue of turtle deaths due to burning off oil (the focus of the article I linked)? Highly doubtful.

    Then, having not made your case except perhaps in your own mind, you hop forward to something about brown pelicans.

    See the problem?

    Re the kleptocrats etc., it’s kind of amazing how you distilled a whole world view from a couple of off-hand remarks.

    Re my prior comment about environmentalists, it was simply to point out that on a site with a lot of environmentalist readers it’s a bit impolitic to so clearly communicate your dislike for them.

  34. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    I dislike environmentalists? You have got to be kidding me. I spent my entire professional life in the field and have spent much of my retirement working on various environmental projects including sea turtle bycatch.

    What I hear from you was described by Wm Royce in his 1985 speech at the Centennial Fisheries Celebration at Woods Hole. He cautioned “One of the consequences of the environmental movement was to regard solution of environmental problems as entirely a political action…. It gave no recognition to the long history of the development of professional environmental sciences, or even to the use of science in solving society’s environmental problems….. there is no recognition of the conservation movement as we know it; rather, it is portrayed as a fight to save endangered species, to prevent oil drilling, to save whales, to save energy, and to reach other broad political goals. They convey no sense of the use of science in order to attain specific environmental objectives, as steps toward long-term goals….They merely advocate a general environmental political movement.”

    So perhaps your right -if you control who can be an environmentalist -I’m going back to being a conservationist.

  35. googler
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    So Tom – how are you getting on with digesting all the above?! :-)

    To continue to argue my case, I think the preceeding comments show clearly it is time for a reevaluation. You have a thread here with informed and knowledgeable commentators sharing their knowledge and then a degeneration of debate and exploration of issues into sterile semantics as one reader tries to assert a narrative which doesn’t fit the facts.

    What exactly do you see as the purpose of CEJournal? At the top of the page you call it a “journalistic experiment – an open notebook” Is it your note book only, or is it meant to engage and facilitate debate so that environmental issues are reported in a more rounded way with perspective and information? Or is it to promote a particular and predetermined view and agenda?

    This thread has been up for some time now and I’m struck by the fact that there are only four outside contributors – what does that say about your readership? What does that say about the site’s value as a debating and discussion venue? Your head post theme is about the futility of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – so, are you happy with the site or are you going to change tack?

    I look forwards to your comments!


  36. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Pat, you are obviously very upset at environmentalists for not proceeding on various problems in the way you would like. The hostile, aggressive tone comes across clearly in your writing. It won’t make you any friends, except the likes of googler, which if you’re serious about environmental work is the sort of friend you’d rather not have. Try to bear in mind that environmentalists didn’t create any of the problems you list above.

    Good luck with that, googler.

  37. Pat Moffitt
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    I think I’ll join with John’s comment:
    ” I rarely say this, but frankly we have so little common ground that further discussion through the low bandwidth medium of the internet will likely be counter productive.”

  38. googler
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Steve Bloom – Usual hostile ad hom in the absence of substance:

    “It won’t make you any friends, except the likes of googler, which if you’re serious about environmental work is the sort of friend you’d rather not have.”

  39. Steve Bloom
    Posted October 16, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Hey, googler, try surprising me by looking up the definition of ad hominem and then using it correctly from now on.

  40. Posted October 19, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    The problem isn’t with the readership, it’s the threadjacking. Like many climate blogs, Tom has his share of lurkers and his share of readers from farm and wide, who are turned off by the tenor of exchanges here.

    My suggestion would be for Tom to actively moderate threads if he wants more people to participate. I noticed that once I started doing that over at my site, it opened up a much more civil space for back and forth.

  41. hr
    Posted October 22, 2010 at 2:24 am | Permalink

    I have heard an Irish Republican variant of the quotation about doing the same thing over and over. It goes ‘If you always do what you always did you’ll always get what you always got’.

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    [...] After all, as Tom Yulsman, noting the groundhog day element to the most recent global talks, asks: Who was it who said that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting [...]

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