Friday, August 8, 2008

Who gave this guy a column?

I mean, he's a blogger after all. It's generally good policy to just keep us relegated to our own personal web space. Especially if we birth such abortions of grammar, common sense, and logic such as can be found in James Widgerson's latest column at

Widgerson is bemoaning the recent report, Wisconsin's Strategy for Reducing Global Warming, and its apparently audacious assumption that global climate change is a real threat and that we ought to take steps to combat it.

Among the litany of already disproved allegations and assertions that Widgerson makes, we have the old "global cooling" bit, the "you can't tell me what to do!" line, the "they'll force us all to live in teepees and ride the bloody trains" hysteria, plus much, much more!
They’re not even acknowledging that global temperatures have leveled off, and that we may actually be entering a period of global cooling.
Eh, not so much. Global surface temperatures are increasing, and the global cooling idea has long since been debunked, even by one of the scientists who originally proposed it. Clearly someone forgot to read much of any of the current research on the subject, including the exhaustive IPCC study from 2007.
They want us out of our cars and riding trains. If we don’t abandon our cars, we are going to have to buy more expensive cars with higher emission standards. We are going to have to buy ethanol to fuel our cars. We are going to have to drive slower because they are going to lower the speed limits. Meanwhile, drivers will have the privilege of paying for new trains (like the ones keeping Waukesha residents up at night with their horns).
When did trains suddenly become the great bogeyman of Wisconsin? While certainly not the end-all-be-all of our transportation woes, trains and mass transit in general do serve the public quite well, both here and abroad. They help cut congestion on our costly highways, and reduce the amount of pollutants being spewed by taking cars off the roads. And ridership is up across the country, showing a growing demand for the service now that gas prices are so high (and don't look to be comin' down any time soon). The real question here should be, why not trains?

While I'm not an ardent supporter of ethanol (at least not the corn-based kind), I do believe higher emissions standards are important. They don't have to mean more expensive cars, either. That's the beauty of demand and innovation. The more people--with more cash--that put their minds to the problem, the more efficient and less expensive for the end-user things tend to become. And who doesn't want to get more mileage for their buck?
They even want to reduce the amount of miles we drive through "improved land use." You want to build that house in the country? Your dream will soon clash with the priority of reducing greenhouse gas omissions.
Heaven forbid we work to create more walkable communities, so you don't have to drive miles just to buy groceries or see a movie or go to the park. And take away those sprawling luxury homes on hundreds of acres of otherwise perfectly good land from the few people remaining wealthy enough to build them? Apparently that, too, leaves an awful taste in his mouth.

What's especially strange about this column is Widgerson's assertion that the people who want to implement these allegedly Draconian changes are just a bunch of "elitist" snobs. I guess those dream-house-in-the-country building, SUV driving, public transit abhoring people are just salt of the earth folk with barely two private yachts to rub together. And those elitist snobs? They want to build a more sustainable, healthier, more affordable and pleasant place to live for everyone. If that's elitism, then by gum, hand me a snifter of brandy and take me out to the Skull and Bones meetings because I want in!


John Foust said...

Politics is so much easier if you can just pick and choose which scientific studies you'd like to turn into public policy. Science doesn't work that way.

In politics, unlike science, you can just select the evidence that fits your theory du jour, and presto! Editorials and subsidies flow.

This observation seems foundational to me because it can certainly be applied to both parties, e.g., Doyle's poorly-conceived subsidies for ethanol. What we should applaud are politicians who havean appreciation for science, period.

Wiggie may be a known Republican operative, but at least he has
great taste in blogs.

Wait. Operatives are usually paid, right? What do you call it when you give it away for free?

Other Side said...

James is actually quite a nice guy, as is his wife Doreen and family. We've become friends over the past two years.

Unfortunately, he still doesn't get it regarding the environment and takes to repeating thoroughly debunked info, mixing it with snide commenting a bit too often. I'm not sure if he writes this just to get guffaws from the more ignorant righties, or he really means it.

Anyway, well done Emily.

Dad29 said...

The IPCC study is, as you know, quite controversial. It does not represent the views of all scientists on the matter, and (in fact) has been attacked as 'irrelevant' by the world's pioneer climatologist--a UW-Madison professor.

Adding even more 'costly' trains to already-'costly' highways does not portend well for the State's continuous deficit position, does it?

Nor, might I add, to the position of those who pay taxes.

As to re-writing laws to force "walkable environments," that's completely un-necessary. If your thesis is true, that the cost of energy will continue to rise, that relocation will happen all by itself.

Then, of course, I can purchase that 6BR/5Bath/8-car garage hovel on 6,000 acres for only 20% of its original price. With that sort of spread, who needs movies or parks?

Finally, the people who produced the report--which was outlined by a notoriously "green" "consulting" firm--may or may not be elitist.

But their tendency to legislate solutions makes them at least suspect for Fascist--a far greater worry.

Emily said...

JF - Hah, indeed. As to a name for unpaid operatives, I won't hazard my guess out loud. I'm trying to maintain some civility here.

OS - I always like to hear that. I try to keep my criticisms away from personal attacks precisely because I realize that a lot of people with whom I disagree concerning politics, etc., especially online, can be perfectly lovely in person. I don't always succeed, but I try.

D29 - Y'know, there are thousands of other research projects and papers out there that back up the fundamental findings of the IPCC's report. In the future, I'll be sure to diversify my references, just so you no longer have an excuse to shoot down everything I posit in one fell swoop without bothering to address the core arguments and findings.

I agree that many positive steps must be taken willingly, without legislation, and that some of that will happen with increased energy costs, etc. That's good. The problem is that a lot of folks have a hard time making the really crucial changes in their lives that are necessary to really and truly combat the larger problems--unless they're given the means to do so by an outside force (ie: big bad government). Sometimes legislation is necessary, but we should absolutely combine it with good community activism and personal responsibility, too.

The Lost Albatross