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Climate Trolling


Andrew Revkin of the New York Times continues his climate trolling, this time complaining about people just being so unreasonable about climate change:

But on the Keystone XL pipeline – which, if not blocked by President Obama, would carry the crudest form of oil from Canadian tar sand deposits to Gulf Coast fuel refineries — it seems there’s little room for varied stances, at least according to some protesters.

As I wrote in 2011 (here, then here), a tight focus on Obama’s decision over the pipeline could be counterproductive if the hope is to build policies that might someday reduce the need for oil, whether the source is Alberta oil sands, the floor of the Gulf of Mexico or the Niger River delta. (A solid review of the climate impact was provided by Raymond Pierrehumbert on Realclimate.org in 2011.)

But Wen Stephenson, a former Atlantic and Boston Globe editor who has become a climate campaigner on behalf of his, and others’, children, sees little room for dialogue.

Imagine that–people actually believing that a project is just unacceptable and eschewing compromise over an issue that will only drive half the world’s species to extinction and make life significantly worse for most human beings. Revkin is the classic villager on climate, wanting nice conservative compromise on the issues, even before we actually get to the table with the powers that be that actually control the apparatus, like the oil and gas industry. What’s important for Revkin is the compromise.

David Roberts provides a more definitive response:

Revkin seems preoccupied with the fact that Keystone is part of larger systems and not particularly significant in light of that context. And it’s true: Everything is insignificant in light of some larger context. Climate change is a “wicked problem,” which means that everything passing as a solution will be flawed, partial, and impermanent. What to do? We are rapidly losing ground, on the verge of locking in a trajectory scientists tell us will lead to disastrous and irreversible consequences. We can sit around and fill our blogs with reasons why this or that solution is the wrong one, inferior to some better one that we’d already have, goldarnit, if those meddling pushers-of-other-solutions weren’t “distracting” from ours. We can fall in love with the ineffable intellectual tangle, as Revkin has, and accept that anything specific enough to build an activist campaign around will be meaningless in the context of global energy demand and emissions. We can read the Serenity Prayer and get used to the fact that it’s all out of our hands anyway.

But some people want to fight! Some people actually haul themselves out from behind their keyboards, call a bunch of friends, put on warm clothes, and go stomp around in public yelling about it. These are the folks throwing sand in the social gears, the ones trying to wrest the levers of power out of hostile hands. As a professional word-typer, like Revkin, I have come to believe that those people deserve a certain level of respect and forbearance. Maybe shouting advice down to them from the bloggy heights isn’t as helpful as we word-typers are inclined to think. At least we could refrain from pissing on them while they’re rallying.

I’m going to have a number of climate-related posts coming up, so I’ll save some of my thoughts for later. But I will say one thing. The last thing the climate movement needs is to listen to someone positioning himself as a David Broder of environmental issues. And that’s what Andrew Revkin is.

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  • c u n d gulag

    There’s a reason Canada didn’t build that pipeline well north of the St. Lawrence Seaway, or across the Canadian Rockies, to their own coasts, but instead wants to ship their oil-sludge across the USA down to the Gulf Coast.

    I wonder what the reason for that might be?


    Oh, if we only some intelligent and intrepid reporter, who would investigate and report the results to us!

    • or across the Canadian Rockies, to their own coasts

      We have one of those already with a second in the works. That one looks blockable, but you never know…

      • c u n d gulag

        They’re Canada’s oils, let them deal with transporting that filty sh*t!

      • zolltan

        Right, but the fact the Enbridge pipeline is also in consideration makes this a choice between several evils. Will Harper really tolerate a total lack of pipeline? My guess is no. No Keystone XL will just mean the pushing through of the Enbridge pipeline to Kitimat and the destruction of the Great Bear Rainforest. Of course, no pipeline to Kitimat would mean less oil exported to China, thus China relying more on domestic coal for their power needs thus fucking up the globabl environment more quickly. It’s hard to say what result is least worst.

        • Where are the Squamish Five when you need them?

        • There are two things you have to know about Keystone.

          The first is technical, the refineries in Houston have specialized in heavy oils from the Oronoco basin (Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago). There is no other place to refine the tar sands oil as efficiently. (BTW that is also why Texas is in bed with Venezuela no matter what Chavez does)

          The second is that this has become a marker with the environmental community for Obama. He screws this one and no one is going to get his back on anything else no matter what and that is across the spectrum from the Sierra Club to Joe Romm.

          Andy Revkin? A charter member of the Pielkesphere.

    • cpinva

      this could have something to do with it:


      “I wonder what the reason for that might be?”

  • Julian

    “Little room for dialogue”

    Classic! Never mind who’s right or wrong – what am I, a magician? All I care about is whether Party A is making nice and chatting with Party B!

    • Things far more important than catastrophic climate change: comity.

    • Rarely Posts

      Speaking of which: is there any evidence that the pro-pipeline people are open to dialogue?

      Personally, I’m not focused on the pipeline because I don’t think it will have much net impact (as compared to climate change legislation or EPA’s use of its authority under the Clean Air Act). Heck, Industry could put a good deal on the table, such as good legislation for Cap-and-trade (or a Carbon tax) in exchange for less direct restrictions on development on gas (such as allowing the pipeline), etc. Many environmentalists might go for that deal. But, somehow, no one on the other side is being chastised for failing to offer it up . . . .

  • jon

    His reporting is incredibly frustrating. He’ll report some very significant and worrisome new research, and then close off his piece with a throwaway that some other researcher wonders about the methodology, and maybe we won’t see such large effects. It’s good to be balanced, and to give opposing points of view some room. But what’s he’s doing is trivializing a lot of solid research and removing any sense of urgency for action. Plus he’s way too soft on the energy majors, and only seems content when he’s made a show of his concerned, ineffective handwringing and prevarication.

    • sparks

      This Is What Revkin Does. I was terribly frustrated that others on our side of the climate community with some influence were notably circumspect with him. I don’t remember who called him out first (Mr. Rabbett or Mr. Romm, I’d guess), but it needed to be done long before it was.

    • Marek

      This is why journalism school is as big a scam as law school. Not in gross dollars, of course.

    • Marc

      Revkin is a denialist, pure and simple. He thinks that climate change won’t be that big of a deal, we can adapt, and cheap energy is more important than anything else. He has a consistent pattern of dismissing and minimizing evidence that’s inconvenient. It’s deliberate, in much the same way that David Brooks puts on a mask of reasonableness.

      • tt

        I find lots of posts by him where he writes about the risks of climate change with no dismissal or minimization (e.g. here, or here)

  • As I wrote in 2011 (here, then here), a tight focus on Obama’s decision over the pipeline could be counterproductive if the hope is to build policies that might someday reduce the need for oil,

    It could, or it could not. Thanks guy.

  • Sly

    A core assumption of Villagers is that politics begins and ends with a group of people (usually men in nice suits) sitting around a conference table and hashing out a deal in which no one gets exactly what they want but nobody walks away threatening retribution. That’s why the process is always heralded at the expense of the underlying policy.

    Reality confirms that if such a scenario is involved in the political process at all, it is (a) always at the end and (b) usually only occurs after several of the attendees have been beaten about the head with an electoral or economic cudgel in order to convince them to even come to the table. And they always – always – swear retribution.

  • Njorl

    He’s just looking for a compromise, some middle ground, that’s all. It seems to me, though, that cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline wouldn’t even begin to approach a middle ground. You could take 1000 similar measures and still not even be able to see the outside border of this “middle ground”.

    He seems to want a middle ground between doing absolutely nothing meaningful whatsoever about climate change and doing at least one thing. That compromise would be to almost do something.

    Almost doing something about climate change is a very popular stance. It gives the problem respect, but doesn’t involve any economic difficulties. If we’d all agree to almost do something about climate change, we’d get along much better.

  • Todd

    Why can’t we just apportion climate by counties?

    • Sev

      But some states- I’m talking about you Virginia- just aren’t willing to do their share.

    • john (not mccain)

      i recommend venting all air pollution into jefferson county, alabama. but, and this is very important, GET COOLEY OUT FIRST!

  • Rarely Posts

    Here’s some reverse climate trolling: Cuomo seems to be doing his best to actually run as a passionate social liberal: pushing through gay marriage and now greater protection for abortion rights. See http://feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=14154.

    I can’t see supporting a generally conservative hack from a political dynasty who is both pro-fracking and anti-teacher union. At the same time, it’s refreshing to have a Democratic Governor really pushing through socially progressive legislation (as compared to just talking about it). Here’s hoping Carcetti O’Malley runs, in which case we’ll have at least one clearly superior, socially liberal Democratic Governor.

  • bh

    Revkin’s active in the comment thread on Robert’s piece in case you haven’t read enough wall-punchingly-infuriating sanctimony today. It’s really incredible to watch him lay out one passive-aggressive dig after another and then, towards the bottom, claim that he’s not criticizing the protesters! There’s also a bonus where he describes participants in some insipid class he runs as “makers”, in contrast to the protesters. Makers/Takers, brought to you by Serious Positive People.

    • sparks

      Oh jeez. BTDT. He really never changes.

  • I don’t know what that guy’s problem is. Didn’t he used to be much better?

  • Mart

    I met a man at a Quincy, IL hotel who was building an oil shale pipeline across the Mississippi River. Supposed to be one 36 inch, now looking at two 36 inch. Did some googling of the company name on his truck – from: http://www.enbridgeus.com/Delivering-Energy/Growth-Projects/ “Flanagan South Pipeline: Enbridge Inc., through its indirect subsidiary, Enbridge Pipelines (FSP) L.L.C., is proposing to build the Flanagan South Pipeline Project – a nearly 600-mile, 36-inch diameter interstate crude oil pipeline that will originate in Flanagan, Ill. and terminate in Cushing, Okla., crossing Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. The majority of the pipeline will parallel Enbridge’s existing Spearhead crude oil pipeline right-of-way. Enbridge has also proposed to install seven pump stations including one at the Flanagan terminal and six along the pipeline route. Initial capacity will be 585,000 barrels per day.”

    The company website explains the extensive North-South-East-West tar sand/shale pipe network that is well underway. The network will pump over thousands of waterways, delivering their toxic sludge, whether Obama and environmental acitivists like it or not.

  • Mart

    Also too, they have been pumping this crap to refineries on the Illinois side of metropolitan St. Louis for years.

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