Bush v. Gore and climate change

In 2000, the majority of Americans voted for Al Gore, a staunch environmentalist who had written in Earth in the Balance that the car was the most destructive invention of all time. A significant number of Americans also believed that Gore did not go far enough and voted for Ralph Nader, the Green Party nominee. At this point, there were many Republicans who admitted the existence of anthrophogenic climate change. Had Gore won the Electoral College vote — and I’m one of those bitter dead-enders who will maintain till my dying day that Bush ultimately received Florida’s electoral votes due to deliberate fraud — it seems to me that it’s a near-certainty that major action on climate change would have taken place, most likely a “cap and trade” plan.

It would’ve been bad enough if the inauguration of Bush put that on hold. In reality, though, the Bush administration, representing the interest of the fossil fuel industry, aggressively pushed back against the consensus on global warming. Suddenly it became Republican orthodoxy to adopt a kind of “kettle logic” on climate change: global warming isn’t happening, and we aren’t causing it, and anyway it would be ruinously expensive for us to reverse it. Idiotic policies like tax breaks for SUVs were pushed through. Self-styled centrist Democrats found that climate change was suddenly a strictly “partisan” issue and refused to lend their support when Obama pushed for climate change legislation. And now Democrats appear to view climate change as a toxic issue, such that Obama has scarcely mentioned it.

And of course now we’re starting to see irreversable “vicious cycle” type of phenomena like the melting of frozen methane in Siberia, etc., and precisely the kind of bizarre weather disruptions (i.e., “snow hurricanes”) that have been predicted.

So in conclusion, I’m pretty sure that future historians — assuming there even are any! — will look back at Bush v. Gore as the moment we irretrievably fucked up. What do you think, readers?

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16 Responses to “Bush v. Gore and climate change”

  1. Hill Says:

    While I think it is important to point out that snow hurricanes are not inconsistent with the phenomenon of global warming, some circumspection is required when pointing to isolated incidents like this as evidence. Some pretty weird weather stuff has gone down periodically for a long time.

  2. gerrycanavan Says:

    Yeah, this is the first freakishly extreme weather event in a couple weeks. It could have been caused by *anything.*

  3. gerrycanavan Says:

    Less aggressively snarkily, this is not the proper null hypothesis.

    “Given that global warming is unequivocal,” climate scientist Kevin Trenberth cautioned the American Meteorological Society in January of this year, “the null hypothesis should be that all weather events are affected by global warming rather than the inane statements along the lines of ‘of course we cannot attribute any particular weather event to global warming.’”

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    The weather in Chicago has been too fucked up this year for me to be circumspect anymore.

  5. Eric Nicholson Says:

    One might say that the political tide had already turned with the failure to ratify Kyoto, but just as Global Warming alone is insufficient to account for the occurrence of any particular weather event, the questioned election of George W. Bush to the Presidency of the United States in 2000 will not be recognized by any consensus of future scholars as the point of no return to any semblance of virgin atmospherics by and for our planetary civilization.

  6. Hill Says:

    My point is that by saying that finally, this snowicane (or super hot weather in Chicago) convinced me that there is global warming, you validate the sentiment that being convinced of global warming is a matter of having some personal experience of it that convinces you to believe. One should acknowledge that global warming is real because most qualified people on earth to make that judgment indicate that it is real. Turns out both snow hurricanes and really hot weather have happened before, even when atmospheric CO2 levels were dramatically lower.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I promised I believed fervently in global warming from the very instant I learned of the scientific consensus in its favor. It literally never occurred to me — even one single time in the decades since — to question it.

    Eric does make a good point. Earlier today I was musing and wondered if “the moment” was when McCain lost the nomination in 2000, or when Thurgood Marshall decided to retire during Bush Sr.’s term because he figured there wouldn’t be another Democratic president in his lifetime (giving us Clarence Thomas), or…. I mean, we could go back and back. The thing is, none of those actions put so retrograde a piece of human shit directly in charge of things to the same extent as Bush v. Gore.

  8. Hill Says:

    There is a real chance that we’ll all die without seeing a major decrease in our quality of life due to global warming. The best case scenario for curbing CO2 emissions would still take 100 years to see the levels begin to go down. So the hope of avoiding a megablizzacane in your life time is not a good reason to do anything about global warming. In fact, anything related to your own well being isn’t a good reason to do anything about global warming, because it is likely irrelevant at this point. Wanting to do something about global warming requires a concern for future humanity, and sadly that’s probably a lot to ask from present humanity.

  9. Adam Kotsko Says:

    You know whose fault it really is? Fucking New Hampshire. If they would’ve voted like the New Englanders they are, the whole Florida mess would’ve been irrelevant.

    And don’t get me start on Boris Yeltsin’s role in all this! (In all seriousness, though, Gorbachev was big on the environment, right? Until Yeltsin, in an act of world-historical recklessness, dissolved the Soviet Union, a country with a staggering number of nuclear weapons, as part of his personal power struggle with Gorbachev….)

  10. Guido Nius Says:

    Whilst I think climate change is fucking up a lot of things and that we are reacting too little too late, I don’t think that Al Gore would have changed anything in the course of history (Tipper might have). I am even sure that normally he should have won that election but winning one election would not have changed materially the slow realization of a majority of voters in other elections that one has to save the climate and be able to eat it too.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    That makes no sense, Guido. Al Gore was an environmentalist who could have been inaugurated at a moment that was ripe for action — instead, we got someone who was actively destructive. That sounds pretty different to me! And I don’t know what your last sentence is even supposed to mean.

  12. Guido Nius Says:

    That one presidential election does not lead to all the legislation the elected president would like to have. The last four years should be demonstrating as much. As Hill said, the present voters are not quick to give up convenience for the inconvenience of future voters. And in the end they vote for Congress too.

    Al Gore may have been an environmentalist, that does not mean his condescending tone did much for the cause.

    Wishful thinking is not less wishful thinking if it comes after the facts.

  13. Adam Kotsko Says:

    My wishful thinking is based on more evidence than your apparent total nihilism (“Nothing would make a difference!”). I have argued for my point, but for you it seems to be an a priori certainty that Al Gore would have done nothing for the environment. And even so, keeping the 2000 status quo would be preferable to Bush’s wanton destruction!

  14. Guido Nius Says:

    You quote me saying something I didn’t say. Then you expand the argument beyond environmentalism. I know what your sentences are supposed to mean: get out!

    I will.

  15. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I didn’t expand the argument beyond environmentalism, nor did I intend to be “quoting” you — the quoted statement was a summary. How could I have fooled anyone with that misattribution, given that obviously what you had said is printed right above?!

  16. GQ Says:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/climate-of-doubt/

    Guido, maybe the Frontline segment will help you understand what “Al Gore was an environmentalist who could have been inaugurated at a moment that was ripe for action” means.


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