My girlfriend's roommate in Washington D.C. is an intern for a certain congressman here on Capitol Hill. Part of her job involves answering the phones, which means she gets to deal with the people that call and (usually) complain about whatever the congressman is getting ready to vote on. That means that over the past few days she has gotten an ear full about the cap and trade bill that just squeaked by the House this week.
Here's the thing: only really crazy people call their congressman. By really crazy I don't mean legitimately insane (although I believe some are), I mean that they are obsessed with some little issue that they are blind and can't see the big picture or they are ignorant and watch too much Fox News.
She got numerous calls last week from people making crazy claims about what the bill would do to their utility prices ("This is going to make my gas bill go up $10,000!"), saying that Obama is a Marxist (that's a new one) and even completely denying that climate change is going to happen. Whenever the intern tries to give them the real numbers of how much the bill would cost (numbers that she is getting from official budget projections), many of these callers immediately dismiss them. Where do they get their information? Why, the Heritage Foundation, of course.
Conservative think tanks, like the Heritage Foundation, are jokes. End of story. Their sole objective in life is to do "research" that confirms or supports their crazy right-wing politics. Their findings aren't peer reviewed like studies by real scientists in journals and, because of this, are usually false or drastically skewed. The problem is that most people don't know that. People will swallow up whatever the Heritage Foundation is feeding them and then spit it back out at poor interns.
These are the same people that say that there is no such thing as global warming when every other scientist on the planet not only disagrees but says the situation is getting worse every day. This leads me -- finally -- to the point of this post: a column in today's New York Times by Paul Krugman entitled "Betraying the Planet." It's a scary look into how many of our own elected officials still don't believe that climate change is real and that this whole cap and trade thing is just a joke. Seriously people?
We can't ignore this any longer. Something needs to happen. But what can we do when almost half of our Congress thinks that global warming is fake and that we're just overreacting? There is way to much focus on the now and not enough focus on the future. I wouldn't mind paying a little more for utilities if it meant that there's a chance it could keep Kansas from turning into a desert.
ADDENDUM: So apparently my post caused a ruckus over on Facebook, so I decided that I needed to respond to it. I put my response originally there, but I will repost everything I said here.
First, I want to correct something I said that I really hate when other journalists say and that Steven called me out on: my generic "government experts." I simply couldn't remember exactly who the intern said it was and decided to generalize. According to her, the budget people in Washington have said over and over that it will not cost more than a postage stamp a day for each consumer. Take that as you will, but that's where I was coming from.
As far as the cap and trade bill, I have to agree with Marion's stance. I don't think it's a great bill. It's not going to drastically help emissions and it's actually a weak bill in terms of how it will help the environment. But it's huge that Washington is taking a step to confront this problem and could lead to more strict regulation later. But this argument is probably moot because I don't think it's going to pass the Senate.
But it is definitely not as expensive as people want to think. It's definitely not going to lead to the doomsday scenario that Steven laid out. So what if things are a little bit more expensive? That's a price I'm willing to pay if it means that we can try to do something about climate change.
That brings me to the point that Steven made in his last post. Global warming is linked to carbon emissions. You can talk to any slew of scientists (I'm not going to try to link them all, but if you haven't already, read the Krugman article. He mentions a few). But, if nothing else, take a look at the graph of global temperatures over time that he uses in the article. The majority of the increase actually happened after around 1970 and has gone up exponentially since then.
Also, the prices of energy is not going to go up so much because the bill gives out tons of free permits, which means some of the bigger energy companies (gas, electric companies, and cement, steel and glass) won't even have to pay anything. It's really a weak bill on the surface and is not as drastic as people would like to think.
Finally, I just want to point out that none of this was the point of my original post. All I was trying to say was that it's scary to me that so many people -- including our politicians -- don't believe that global warming is real or that our actions and emissions don't affect it. Any slew of scientists will say otherwise. Just look around for it (and avoid think tanks). What do they have to gain by lying?
Finally, I just wanted to point out that none of this was the actual point of the post. The point was the fact that many people -- including our politicians -- don't believe that global warming is real or don't believe that our actions have anything to do with it and that disagrees with everything nearly every scientist around the world has said. What would they gain from lying about that?