May 24, 2009

Naked Salvation

Waxman-Markey Clothier for the Emperor: A Climate Parable (response to RealClimate)

by Chip Knappenberger

Editor Note: This is a response to the commons analogy of Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate to Mr. Knappenberger's temperature analysis of Waxman-Markey]

“Hear ye, hear ye, the Emperor is parading by with his new wardrobe of ideas to save the world from global warming—a wardrobe painstakingly crafted for him by the tailor shop of Waxman-Markey—and which all of you will soon have to adopt. All hail the Emperor!”

“But he has nothing on!” cried a small, but persistent voice. “His expensive ideas do nothing to change the climate!”

“Hush, little boy.” “Quiet!” “Shhhh.” “Shut up!” “That kid doesn’t see the whole picture!”

“The whole picture?” the little voice persisted. “What more is there to see, the Emperor is standing bare in front of us and wants us all to think otherwise!”

“But that is not the point, little boy,” the crowd jeered. “It is not just our Emperor and all of us that the Waxman-Markey tailors intend to outfit, but once the other emperors of the world see the duds that our Emperor is sporting, they will all clamor to insist that their subjects do the same thing. In time, what seems as bare now, will be transformed into something glorious!”

“Not so fast,” counters a foreign voice. “If the question is whether India will take on [a wardrobe of] binding emission reduction commitments, the answer is no. It is morally wrong for us to agree to reduce when 40 percent of Indians do not have access to electricity.”

Another studied voice rises “Binding emissions targets for the developing nations are out of the question.”

As the Emperor starts to squirm in front to the now more insightful crowd, the Waxman-Markey tailory comes to the rescue. “Maybe we took a little too much off here.” “Maybe we could let that out a bit there.” “It’ll be OK, we can pretty everything up, trim a little off the bottom line, and make it more acceptable to everybody.”

“Fiddling with nothing still leaves nothing,” pointed out the boy. naked.”

And so it went. Waxman-Markey scrambling to patch things up, while their supporters urged them not to do too much, lest the new wardrobe look too much like the old one.

In the meantime, the rest of the crowd was starting to see the real picture—not just the fish tales and illusions set up by the purveyors of the Waxman-Markey climate shop.

But no matter what the Waxman-Markey tailors ultimately come up with and no matter how much the Emperor (via all his subjects) ends up paying for it, the Emperor’s new fashion line alone will have no impact future course of global warming—in essense he will stand naked even though appearing extravegantly robed.

If our Emporer ultimately chooses to accept what Waxman-Markey provides him and insists that we all embrace his new fashion line, expect that for a long while our new wardrobe is going to seem like a closet full of hairshirts. Let’s just hope that the expense of these burdonsome and uncomfortable garments will someday be worth what we’ve all had to pay and that eventually we will grow accustom to them.

In the meantime, we must hope that the rest of the world, and their traditional sense of style, isn’t more appropriately outfitted for the future.

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