Friday, October 30, 2015

Climate Realities all but Absent from the Republican CNBC Presidential Debate

Rather than focusing on 21st century economic visions, the third Republican presidential debate seemed to be rooted in the 19th century. There has been some discussion in the press about the fact that even the GOP's presidential candidates accept the veracity of global warming, however there was very little evidence of this during the CNBC Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colorado.

The debate on on Wednesday, October 28th, was supposed to be about jobs and the economy, however there was no mention of the massive economic and employment opportunities from transitioning to a low carbon economy. There was no talk of how carbon reduction makes good business sense, nor was there any mention of sustainability, the largest business megatrend in the world today.  Except for a comment from Christie, there was no mention of renewable energy, (eg wind, solar), or efficiency. Nor was there any mention of the economic benefits of cleantech or the costs associated with sea level rise, or extreme weather.

Republican candidates completely ignored a number of cost benefit analyses that favor climate action over inaction. This includes the Risky Business report, and a report form the IIED. A number of more recent reports from Citibank, LSE, WHO, Tufts University, Skeptical Science and the EPA.also make the point that there are a host of bottom line benefits from combating climate change and avoiding the astronomical costs associated with inaction.

Tired old ideologies and reiterations of failed conservative policy positions permeated the field of Republican presidential hopefuls that included real estate mogul Donald Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The moderators were CNBC hosts Becky Quick and Carl Quintanilla and Washington Bureau Chief and New York Times columnist John Harwood.

While the candidates avoided anything even remotely green they did venerate outmoded conservative exultation of free markets, the very same free markets that spawned collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

As explained by Paul: "It always seems to be the private marketplace does a better job." While this is the conservative line it is factually accurate. As Bill Gates said recently, government R&D is far more effective and efficient than anything the private sector could do. Gates explained in a U.S. Uncut article:

"Since World War II, U.S.-government R&D has defined the state of the art in almost every area...The private sector is in general inept...DARPA money is very well spent, and the basic-science money is very well spent. The government has these ‘Centers of Excellence.’ They should have twice as many of those things, and those things should get about four times as much money as they do."

The only time that oil subsidies were mentioned in the debate is when Carson recanted:

Dr. Carson, you told The Des Moines Register that you don’t like government subsidies, it interferes with the free market. But you’ve also said that you’re in favor of taking oil subsidies and putting them towards ethanol processing. Isn’t that just swapping one subsidy for another, Doctor?

CARSON: Well, first of all, I was wrong about taking the oil subsidy.

The other time that oil was mentioned is was when Trump said that the reason that Kasich had done well in his state was because of fracking.

Christie did get grilled for believing in climate change but he managed to answer the question without reference to fossil fuels, or renewable energy.

HARWOOD: Governor Christie, you’ve said something that many in your party do not believe, which is that climate change is undeniable, that human activity contributes to it, and you said, quote: “The question is, what do we do to deal with it?”. So what do we do?

CHRISTIE: Well, first off, what we don’t do is do what Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and Barack Obama want us to do, which is their solution for everything, put more taxes on it, give more money to Washington, D.C., and then they will fix it. Well, there is no evidence that they can fix anything in Washington, D.C....What we should do is to be investing in all types of energy, John, all types of energy. I’ve laid out...We’ve laid out a national energy plan that says that we should invest in all types of energy. I will tell you, you could win a bet at a bar tonight, since we’re talking about fantasy football, if you ask who the top three states in America are that produce solar energy: California and Arizona are easy, but number three is New Jersey. Why? Because we work with the private sector to make solar energy affordable and available to businesses and individuals in our state. We need to make sure that we do everything across all kinds of energy: natural gas, oil, absolutely. But also where it’s affordable, solar, wind in Iowa has become very affordable and it makes sense. That is the way we deal with global warming, climate change, or any of those problems, not through government intervention, not through government taxes, and for God’s sake, don’t send Washington another dime until they stop wasting the money they’re already sending there.

Gates flatly disagrees with Christie on this point. Gates believes that the only way we will be able to deal with climate change is through government involvement. "Gates admitted that the private sector is too selfish and inefficient to do the work on its own, and that mitigating climate change would be impossible without the help of government research and development."

Other than the exchange above, the slate of Republican presidential hopefuls stuck to the conservative economic script and promised to reduce taxes (in Trump's case by an astounding 10 trillion) and create jobs. They were all predictably short on specifics and about as authentic as Fiorini's smile and Bush's anger.

Harwood asked, "is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?" Although the question, was directed at Trump, it could easily apply to all the Republican candidates.

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