Does Philosophy Ever Make Progress?

January 4, 2011

Fox Boss

December 15, 2010

Media Matters has the scoop on an issue that should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the environmental discourse. The head honcho at Fox ordered his people to question climate change.

From: Sammon, Bill
To: 169 -SPECIAL REPORT; 036 -FOX.WHU; 054 -FNSunday; 030 -Root (FoxNews.Com); 050 -Senior Producers; 051 -Producers; 069 -Politics; 005 -Washington
Cc: Clemente, Michael; Stack, John; Wallace, Jay; Smith, Sean
Sent: Tue Dec 08 12:49:51 2009
Subject: Given the controversy over the veracity of climate change data…

…we should refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question. It is not our place as journalists to assert such notions as facts, especially as this debate intensifies.

Best part about this memo? The ambiguity in the final sentence. So they finally agree that their view is that journalists are to play the role of asserting such notions as facts.

Almost done with the book, which means that I’ll soon be blogging a little more frequently.



Carbon Pricing

December 1, 2010

Pachauri is speaking on carbon pricing right now. I had intended to blog a little more aggressively here, but honestly, the internet connections are completely terrible, so there’s no guarantee that what I type will ever make it onto the intertubes.

At any rate, Pachauri thinks that there must be some set of incentives and disincentives that lead to mitigation get rewarded in the marketplace. What he really thinks is that academics have been remiss in not attending to these sorts of questions.

For instance, if the EPA or any other arm of the US government were to regulate construction standards associated with new buildings, we could somehow make great ground… which he mentions even though this has very little to do with climate finance or carbon pricing.

Bryce Rudyk from NYU speaking now on climate finance.


SBSTA Plenary

November 30, 2010

Got off to another late start today, about 45 minutes late. Travel to the conference center was considerably easier, though still not the efficient mapping accomplishment that gives mathematicians the giggles.

Listening now to Christiana Figueres give the opening to the plenary. and now, the Chair of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBTSA) is laying the groundrules of the discussion. He’s just stated that he won’t allow any of the discussions to go beyond 6:00 PM. Gotta get out and enjoy the beaches, of course. More on the SBSTA event as it unfolds…

Meanwhile, let me recount my experience last night, which will eventually fall below this.

Yemen is speaking now, arguing for a party solution. Australia follows; want an effective global climate agreement. Grenada up; Korea now; lots of introductory le’ts-do-something talk.


Clusterfuck… And that’s just the getting here.

November 29, 2010

My colleague Max Boykoff and I just sat on a bus for two and a half hours trying to get to the Cancunmesse, which is one of two halls where things are happening at the COP. The Moon Palace, which is where the real UN talks are happening, is 7 kilometers in the opposite direction. Basically, one has to travel past the Moon Palace from the Hotel Zone to get to the Cancunmesse. Once one is at the Cancunmesse, if one wants to go to the Moon Palace, then one must board a different bus to go there. To get back to the Hotel Zone, one must then leave the Moon Palace by bus, backtrack back to the Cancunmesse, and then take a bus from the Cancunmesse back to the Hotel Zone. That’s fourteen kilometers out of a person’s way, each way, to get to the EU discussion rooms. And that doesn’t account for traffic, which is a friggin’ nightmare, thanks in part to seemingly absurd militarization of the entire peninsula.

I’ll say more in a bit, as I’m still trying to figure out what’s doing in the Cancunmesse.



November 29, 2010

Here in sunny, militarized, and Vegazoid Cancun for the COP 16 talks. Arrived in the evening last night, checked into the hotel. It’s pretty chaotic.

I’ll try to post regularly over the next week, while I’m here, since I probably won’t be doing much work on my book. but here’s this from Climate Wire. Sounds about right:

Sandy, white beaches and a ‘toxic’ issue confront negotiators as Cancun talks begin (11/29/2010)

To hear climate change negotiators describe it, this week’s U.N. global warming summit in Cancun, Mexico, is shaping up like a confab of homebuilders.

Delegates say they are “laying foundations,” setting up “frameworks” and installing the “building blocks” for a future treaty.

They might also need a bomb shelter. Analysts say a blast is ready to detonate, and it’s called the Kyoto Protocol.

“It is one of those issues that could blow up in a toxic way,” one British climate diplomat told ClimateWire.

As negotiators from 192 countries descend on the Latin American city, best known for its sandy, white beaches and spring break nightlife, many delegates still carry the bitterness of last year’s contentious climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. At the same time, participants insist, they spent much of 2010 trying to repair the rifts and are ready to get to work.


Hacking up the University

November 17, 2010

This is so totally brilliant I have to repost. Gregory Petsko, Professor at Brandeis, responds to George M. Philip, President of SUNY Albany regarding Philip’s decision to slash the departments of French, Italian, Classics, Russian, and Theater. Do read it. It’s slow to start, but absolutely spot on.



November 12, 2010

This is so bad, I don’t even know where to begin:

I sometimes joke with my students that they should forget what they know, abandon all pretense to knowledge, and focus, instead, on the problems before them. Usually this is how I try to get them to see the inferential upshot of any given argument. Don’t debate the science. Grapple with the argument.

But this… this ridiculous relativism. Too much.


Axe Fuel Subsidies

November 9, 2010

Never gonna happen… but it’s worth looking at the numbers:

Getting rid of the subsidies would cut global energy demand by 5 per cent, and carbon emissions by 5.8 per cent, by 2020, the report says. Clearly, that’s only a fraction of the emissions cuts required to stave off dangerous climate change, but it’s a significant fraction – and an easy cut to make, says the IEA.

The report also argues that it is perfectly possible for everyone in the world to have access to “modern energy” sources like electricity and gas – and that this needn’t have a big impact on our emissions. This may come as a surprise to the developed world, where people have often argued that cutting their emissions would be futile if the rest of the world increased its energy use at the same time.



The Climate Game

November 2, 2010

This new climate change video game strikes me as a ridiculous idea. The game, Fate of the World, “is a dramatic global strategy game that puts all our futures in your hands. The game features a dramatic set of scenarios based on the latest science covering the next 200 years. You must manage a balancing act of protecting the Earth’s resources and climate versus the needs of an ever-growing world population, who are demanding ever more food, power, and living space. Will you help the whole planet or will you be an agent of destruction?”

Let’s see. Every game ever made, with the possible exception of SimCity and Leisure Suit Larry is oriented around destroying the hell out of things. What do you suspect the kids will do when they get their hands on this game?

I know what I would’ve done. Saving the world just isn’t much fun. I suppose there probably is something kinda interesting in trying to destroy the world through stupid policy interventions, but it’s gonna take a mighty sophisticated game player to make sense of this thing.

I’ll be curious to see how it sells. I’m not a gamer, so what do I know?