NBC is very excited that Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has become roughly the 4,000th person to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination with, as his key focus, climate change, "the most urgent challenge of our time." See he’s got great green cred as the governor of a deep blue state that… um… rejected a carbon tax in a referendum. Now evidently he plans to bring the same magic to a divided America.
Once again the issue isn’t whether you can tear up about saving the planet and the future of our children. (Which has always struck us as a stale rhetorical trope; as opposed to what, the past of our uncles?). The problem is that time and again, now including Ireland, victorious greens find that their plans would carry costs too heavy for the populace to bear and offer benefits that even their own models say are desperately inadequate.
Michael Shellenberger, founder of Environmental Progress, recently broached this subject on Fox News in an interview based on his Quillette article “Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet”, arguing that renewable energy is not merely unreliable, it’s environmentally harmful. “Basically what we’ve been finding is that the lower the energy density of the fuel … the bigger the environmental impact.” And he spoke as something of a repentant sinner, explaining that “I was one of the founders of, sort of, the first Green New Deal back in 2003, 2007. People don’t remember President Obama, we spent about $150 billion on renewables between 2009 and 2015, and we just kept encountering the same kind of problems.”
What would be really exciting was a candidate willing to discuss that issue frankly. Instead the Green New Deal seems to exert a hypnotic effect even outside the borders of the United States. For instance Svend Robinson, who spent a long career on the anti-American left in Canada before personal issues led to his taking some time off, is now back calling for us to adopt the Green New Deal because “Capitalism is destroying our planet.” (Which doubtless explains China’s pristine environment, like that of the old Soviet Union.)
Likewise the New York Times is horrified but unable to look away from the GND, assuring us it’s technologically possible but politically iffy and that it’s the affordable, reasonable answer to “more intense heat waves, wildfires and droughts” as well as “societal problems like economic inequality and racial injustice”. (The truly affordable and reasonable answer to their list of weather extremes is simply to look at the data and realize it’s not true.) And their columnist David Leonhardt wants Democrats to heed the desire of most Americans that they move to the centre, while urging them somehow to remain ideologically progressive including on climate. (Another NBC story notes that Americans believe Democrats are more mainstream than Republicans on various issues including climate and health care although it notes down in the weeds that when they discover what Democrats actually think on, say, late-term abortion it tends to “somewhat dampen the perception”. The same is of course true about the wildly radical and totally uncosted “Green New Deal”).
In its story on Jay Inslee’s candidacy NBC quotes him saying that “This crisis isn't just a chart or graph anymore. The impacts are being felt everywhere. We have an opportunity to transform our economy, run on 100 percent clean energy that will bring millions of good paying jobs to every community across America, and create a more just future for everyone.” If only someone had thought of that before. Then it says, as kind of an afterthought, “Inslee isn't alone on climate change but the real test for his candidacy will likely be explaining how to do it.”
Oh. Just that.