Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Easterbrook Gets Crazier

No time for a clever preamble this time around. Suffice it to say that Gregg Easterbrook seems to be going completely around the bend:

The world's first international anti-global-warming agreement to take force is not the Kyoto treaty. It is a Bush Administration initiative, and you have not heard a peep regarding the initiative because the American press corps is pretending it does not exist.
Oh, the humanity!

It turns out that the object of Easterbrook's paranoid affection is Bush's "Methane to Markets" scheme. I'm sure he was looking nervously over his shoulder while typing this startling exposé of Operation Ignore Methane to Markets, lest some "enviro" should assassinate him with a curare-tipped dart shot from a fair-trade blowpipe made of organic bamboo.

Having offered a blunt summation of his conspiracy theory, he attempts a typically clumsy sleight-of-hand:
Needless to say you've probably never seen a front-page article with a headline like, BUSH TAKES STEP TO CUT GREENHOUSE GASES.
Isn't Easterbrook just the cleverest thing on two legs? First, we learn that the press is pretending the Bush scheme doesn't exist. Now, his complaint is merely that they didn't put the story on the front page, and give it a sufficiently flattering headline.

Of course, it might be wise, just for the sake of comparison, to consider how often news about climate-change negotiations makes it onto the front page of newspapers. But that's a question for another day. I do note that USA Today ran the story on July 28 of 2004, with the headline Bush plans trade in methane to curb climate change. That's not good enough for our Gregg, apparently. Nor does he approve, I'm sure, of the St. Petersburg Times article headed U.S. agrees to pitch in against greenhouse gas, which ran on November 17 of 2004.

The story was also covered by the New York Times on July 28 of 2004 (the article notes that Bush opposes regulating carbon dioxide emissions), and again on November 16. The Washington Post likewise discussed the plan on November 16.

None of this window-dressing matters, though, because Easterbrook's got a deadly conspiracy to unravel. Among other things, we learn that the scientific and popular focus on carbon dioxide - the most common greenhouse gas, of which the United States happens to be the world's largest source - is nothing more than an example of the "Blame-America-First Strategy," a very demanding bit of business which also calls for coordinated censorship of Bush's methane-reduction plans, and blind worship of unregenerate European socialists:
The press corps is pretending the anti-methane initiative does not exist in order to avoid inconvenient complications of the Black Hat versus White Hat narrative it has settled into regarding global warming. In this narrative, the White House is completely ignoring building scientific evidence of artificially triggered climate change; everything Bush does is wicked; everything the enlightened Euros do is noble....
He goes on and on and on like this, building to a crescendo shrill enough to shatter wineglasses at a hundred paces. And finally, after you've crossed this wasteland of paranoid raving and pseudoscientific posturing, he deigns to explain just what it is that makes Bush's plan so gosh-darned special:
The president has approved $53 million over the next five years to research ways to cut global methane emissions by 50 million metric tons of "carbon equivalent," the cumbersome term used for global warming calculations.
Isn't it amazing how vague Easterbrook can be when he feels like it? You'd think that if he really wanted to redress a solid year of willful journalistic neglect, he wouldn't be quite so stingy with the details.

Well, here's the deal as I understand it. Under the "Methane to Markets" plan, BushCo will hand $53 million of taxpayer money over to U.S. corporations, who will use it as seed money to elicit private investment in methane-recovery systems in poor countries (which, incidentally, must agree to remove any laws or regulations that would impede said investment).

There's really not a hell of a lot more to the plan than that, Easterbrook's sententious wrath notwithstanding. If we're lucky, everything will go as described and we'll prevent a significant amount of methane emissions. If not...well, I suppose the most likely result is that certain folks will walk away with a tidy sum of public money. One can lawfully debate how well the plan will work (most of Bush's plans fail miserably, after all), and whether it could possibly make up for Bush's utter neglect of almost every other scientific recommendation on climate change. But Easterbrook, curiously, prefers to worry his pretty little head over whether a description of the plan has appeared on the front page of American newspapers, under a suitably fawning headline.

Another thing that makes Easterbrook so utterly goddamn ridiculous is that Methane to Markets has been widely discussed in the environmental community, and has not uncommonly been welcomed as a step - albeit a depressingly small one - in the right direction. Here's one example. Here's another. And another. And yet another.

Isn't it amazing that all these "enviros" - whose feeble brains are supposedly in utter thrall to Easterbrook's "white hat/black hat" narrative - have managed to disseminate information on Bush's plan, and discuss it publicly (and sometimes even positively), despite their intense emotional need to keep it under wraps?

Clearly, these people will stop at nothing.


Q said...

Wow. Have you heard any follow up on this? That is, in these days of blogs and the Fray and so many other forums, has Easterbrook responded to any criticisms such as yours?

Unlikely, I know -- he hasn't slowed down (and indeed, seems crazier like you say) since Ehrlich & Ehrlich's (1997?) book, "The Betrayal of Science and Reason," which took him to very pointed task on a bunch of his insanist rants. (Not that Paul Ehrlich, noted ecologist, et al. aren't given, in my mind, to sometimes too far-readching claims, but in this book his claims seemed modest, fact checked, and solid.)

When I first read Easterbrook, it was on Slate on his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. It was a GREAT column. If only, like I had thought at the time, he was only a sports journalist...

Phila said...

No follow-up, thank heavens. I think Easterbrook talks only to God and himself. I'm sure my critique wouldn't trouble him even if he deigned to read it. As a general rule of thumb, writing like Easterbrook's is symptomatic of...well, let's just say "disordered thinking." His pieces betray so much monomania and pathological dishonesty...I really doubt he's emotionally capable of understanding criticisms like mine, let alone intellectually capable of responding to them in any meaningful way.

I've never seen his sports writing, but it sounds like he should've stuck with that.