Geek Bravado, Republican Style


Democrats aren’t the only ones geeked out by climate change science and policy. It appears Rep. Bob Inglis (R-SC) could probably give Al Gore a run for his money when it comes to a simple, compelling explanation of the dense and oh-so-titillating subject of climate science.
I saw this video addressed to Clemson University students via an email from Eban Goldstein, who has been leading a group called “Focus the Nation” that has organized an extensive bipartisan group of Congressional members to draw attention to climate change solutions.
With his folksy charm, Inglis manages to impart the lessons of arctic carbon-dating and internalizing externalities. But he also draws on imagery and metaphors that I would venture to guess are rather new to the reconstituted environmental movement.
Inglis’s relies on a pair of University of South Carolina cups (“washed in the tears of Gamecocks”) to explain negative externalities. He goes on to suggest how we can turn the potential hard hit of climate change into the “triple play of another American century” by cleaning the air, creating jobs, and reducing oil dependency for national security. The real surprise was his likening of EPA regulations to biblical law in their mutual support for stewardship of the earth.
Despite Inglis’s disarming self-assuredness, I do have a concern or two about his pitch. Inglis relies on a “why not” argument to address climate change — that if it doesn’t cost us, why not try to help stop it. In fact it will cost us and trying to obfuscate that fact will make for a more difficult sell. Businesses and economists aren’t just whistling dixie when they complain about the initial costs of compliance for some sort of tradable permits system. The argument is more convincing when explained in terms of a risk calculus where the cost of inaction for the global economy is twenty times greater than the cost of acting now on climate change as the Stern Report made clear two years ago.
Investment is another way to make the case to businesses, which Inglis does. But renewable and R&D investment can easily fall prey to parochial interests. The hydrogen solution Inglis proposes is not only a long way off, it’s also an incredibly expensive front-end investment. I am left wondering whether Inglis would support these investments if they didn’t benefit the South Carolina R&D economy. If serious action on climate change can only win Congressional support with a pork-barrel buffet, this will be another uphill battle to yield another energy boondoggle.
But overall, I think Inglis is pioneering new ground and has caught on to a bigger idea here about how the US can revitalize its leadership potential — even if we are waving goodbye to hegemony — when he suggests we can no longer afford to look like “the fat cats who really don’t care.”
–Sameer Lalwani


8 comments on “Geek Bravado, Republican Style

  1. TokyoTom says:

    Sameer, can you tell us WHEN Inglis made or released this video?


  2. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “I was wondering if steve was going to comment on the Zelikow/9-11 Commission scandal”
    Highly doubtful. Obama’s alleged drug use takes precedent.
    Anyway, who cares if the 9/11 commission was just another sham? Hell, not that many people died in the WTC, and besides, who in their right mind rues a trifecta?


  3. p.lukasiak says:

    completely off-topic, but…
    I was wondering if steve was going to comment on the Zelikow/9-11 Commission scandal. Steve has been highly complimentary to Zelikow in the past, and now it turns out that he was just another Bushco political operative bent on ensuring that the Commission downplayed the failures of the Bush administration to take the terrorism threat seriously — and lied about not talking to people like Rove and Rice privately while the Commission was doing its work….


  4. rich says:

    Lalwani writes:
    ” . . . that if it doesn’t cost us, why not try to help stop it. But it will cost us and trying to obfuscate that fact will make for a more difficult sell.”
    Will it? Will it really cost “us”? The selected solution may cost some sectors. At first.
    Given the facts at hand, declaring your recognition of this ‘cost’ is merely rhetorical signal designed to win over opponents.
    Not doing anything is already costing “us,” to a far greater degree than solving the problem.
    Further, does that mean the best solutions will cost “us”? Not at all. Sure, it costs money upfront to plant a tree or restore a wetland. But USFS determined that every $1 invested in planting urban trees results in a $7 return to that municipality. Positive externalities from that tree raises property taxes, lowers energy bills, and enhances social cohesion & livability in the public realm. And, oh yeah–they serve as Carbon Sinks.
    Hand-holding those who must–finally–shoulder their share of the ‘burden’ by bearing some minimal responsibility will not help matters (nor will it alleviate political intransigence) in the slightest.
    This fetish with cap-&-trade and the egregious straw-man of the hydrogen solution have got to go—as they obscure real progress from real solutions, at reasonable prices.
    Cap-&-trade may be part of the solution, but so far it’s a just a distracting shiny object deployed to avoid taking action. Hand-holding the squawkers won’t help anything at all. Intransigent interests can’t be won over by swallowing their pet memes.
    FWIW, Prof. Cal DeWitt–evangelical Christian and environmental teacher/mentor extraordinaire–was convinced that global warming was real and had been proven–in 1994.
    I really wish that D.C. policy wonks had the gumption to hear the science. I mean that literally. The question is NOT about real or overall ‘costs’–but about WHO it costs–and that’s a political question about political costs. Americans have taken matters into their own hands–have had to.
    Capping emissions has its place–but it must be paired with Carbon Sequestration strategies on a significant scale. Else the exercise is pointless.
    Bottom line: indulging those who shriek at the supposed cost and pain–without factoring in ability to pay, collaborative solutions, and long-term patterns of intransigence–is a form of appeasement to a culture and sense of entitlement that America can no longer afford.


  5. Sandy says:

    Good Lord! When The Washington Note begins taking the ridiculous Bob Inglis seriously, we are in REAL trouble!
    I can’t believe this post!


  6. Bob Morris says:

    His views are similar to Break Through Institute.
    They have a book and website saying that massive government r&d into renewables and clean transportation could create entire new industries, revitalize the economy, as well as reducing carbon emissions.
    Makes sense to me.


  7. Ted Wolf says:

    Brief clarification:
    Focus the Nation was the largest teach-in in American history, organizing events at over 1700 campuses, schools, faith institutions, and community organizations to promote learning and dialogue on global warming solutions for America. Many, perhaps most, local events brought policymakers (Senators, Representatives, Governors, Mayors, and others) together with students to jumpstart a dialogue with decision-makers among members of the generation whose lives will be shaped by climate change.
    Almost two thousand venues, tens of thousands of educators, perhaps a million students — this is well beyond the wonks and geeks, as it should be.


  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    EPA regulations likened to biblical law, eh?
    Well why not? This asshole Johnson’s rationale for refusing California’s emission standards is as based in reality as the fable of Jonah and the whale is.


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