The â€œIf global warming is real, then why is it cold out?â€ line of argument has been around since the early days of the climate change debate, but the positively Hoth-esque temperatures have increased the volume of those hoping to undercut the â€œinconvenient truthâ€ of anthropogenic global warming. So, does the recent spate of cold snaps prove Al Gore a filthy, PowerPoint-loving, Oscar-winning liar? No. Sorry, Donald.
Most obviously, climate is different than weatherâ€”thatâ€™s why the Midwest and Northeast have faced three snowstorms in the past two weeks while the drought in California has been so severe that water deliveries from reservoirs to the Central Valley have been cut to zero. Climate trends are exactly that: trends. One swallow doesnâ€™t make a summer, and one blisteringly cold month doesnâ€™t prove 97 percent of climate scientists wrong.
Another key component of â€œglobal warmingâ€ is right there in the name: â€œglobal.â€ In December 2013, North America was colder than average, but Russia and most of Europe were far hotter. Despite what Ted Cruz thinks (or wants), the world extends beyond the continental United States, and most of it has been crazy hot. For every cold snap in the U.S., thereâ€™s a wildfire in Australia so intense that it creates its own weather.
Itâ€™s also important to note that although, baby, itâ€™s cold outside, itâ€™s not nearly as cold as it was generations ago. The East River froze at least a dozen times between 1780 and 1888. In fact, after a particularly hard winter in 1866-1867, frustration with halted ferry service eventually led to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. As webcomic xkcd noted, St. Louis, once the frozen home to a handful of sub-zero temperatures every year, hasnâ€™t had a day that cold since the 1990s. Thatâ€™s the thing about extreme weather: Itâ€™s extreme. The colds get colder, the hots get hotter, and the hurricanes get more destructive.
2. CASH FOR STARTUPS
If you start a business tomorrow, I can give you all the tax credits in the world, but since you havenâ€™t made a nickel yet, theyâ€™re of no use to you. President Obama came in with a really good energy policy, including an idea to provide both a tax credit for new green jobs and for startup companies, to allow the conversion of the tax credit into its cash equivalent for every employee hired. Then last December, in the tax-cut compromise, the Republicans in Congress wouldnâ€™t agree to extend this benefit because they said, â€œThis is a spending program, not a tax cut. Weâ€™re only for tax cuts.â€ It was a mistake. The cash incentive worked. On the day President Obama took office, the U.S. had less than 2 percent of the world market in manufacturing the high-powered batteries for hybrid or all-electric cars. On the day of the congressional elections in 2010, thanks in large part to the cashâ€”incentive policy, we had 20 percent of global capacity, with 30 new battery plants built or under construction, 16 of them in Michigan, which had Americaâ€™s secondâ€”highest unemployment rate. We have to convince the Republican Congress that this is a good thing. If this incentive structure can be maintained, itâ€™s estimated that by 2015 weâ€™ll have 40 percent of the worldâ€™s capacity for these batteries. We could get lots of manufacturing jobs in the same way. I could write about this until the cows come home.
3. JOBS GALORE IN ENERGY
When I was president, the economy benefited because information technology penetrated every aspect of American life. More than one quarter of our job growth and one third of our income growth came from that. Now the obvious candidate for that role today is changing the way we produce and use energy. The U.S. didnâ€™t ratify the Kyoto accords, of course, because Al Gore and I left office, and the next government wasnâ€™t for it. They were all wrong. Before the financial meltdown, the four countries that will meet their Kyoto greenhouse-gas emission targets were outperforming America with lower unemployment, more new business formation, and less income inequality.
4. COPY THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING
Just look at the Empire State Buildingâ€”I can see it from my office window. Our climate-change people worked on their retrofit project. They cleared off a whole floor for a small factory to change the heating and air conditioning, put in new lighting and insulation, and cut energy-efficient glass for the windows. Johnson Controls, the energy-service company overseeing the project, guaranteed the building owners their electricity usage would go down 38 percentâ€”a massive saving, which will enable the costs of the retrofits to be recovered through lower utility bills in less than five years. Meanwhile, the project created hundreds of jobs and cut greenhouse-gas emissions substantially. We could put a million people to work retrofitting buildings all over America.
So many of these ideas could be implemented in Canada (and Saskatchewan) that it would make your head spin. Of course Canada would actually need an energy and environmental policy framework that was based on reality.
The Guardian looks back at the legacy of President Al Gore
Of course, the biggest disappointment was Gore’s failure to handle Hurricane Katrina properly. Not only did the massive evacuation of New Orleans prove a costly and time-consuming overreaction, since the levees – fortified in 2003 – held up fine. The emergency management agency also took over 24 hours to set up trailers for evacuees along the Gulf Coast, leaving them without government housing assistance for a full day.
Once you are reading that, you need to read Niall Fergusonâ€™s excellent piece in the Financial Times that is a retrospective look back at 2009
That was the true significance of the Great Repression which began in August 2007 and reached its nadir in 2009. It was clearly not a Great Depression on the scale of the 1930s, when output in the US declined by as much as a third and unemployment reached 25 per cent. Nor was it merely a Big Recession. As output in the developed world continued to decline throughout 2009 â€“ despite the best efforts of central banks and finance ministries â€“ the tag â€œGreat Repressionâ€ seemed more and more apt: although this was the worst economic crisis in 70 years, many people remained in deep denial about it.