Paul Ryan and the National Carbon Debt

Climate  denialists applauded Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan for what they call Ryan’s “awesome energy & climate record.” That’s not surprising: Ryan does have a clear record on climate change.   As ThinkProgress has documented:

Ryan has voted to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from limiting greenhouse pollution, to eliminate White House climate advisers, to block the U.S. Department of Agriculture from preparing for climate disasters like the drought devastating his home state, and to eliminate the Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E)

In addition, he has voted against energy efficiency standards for lighting and voted in favor of subsidies to the oil and gas industry.

Ryan continues to rely on the so-called “climategate” emails as a reason to discount climate scientists (here), even though independent investigations have found no wrong-doing:

These e-mails from leading climatologists make clear efforts to use statistical tricks to distort their findings and intentionally mislead the public on the issue of climate change

The CRU e-mail scandal reveals a perversion of the scientific method, where data were manipulated to support a predetermined conclusion. . . .While interests on both sides of the issue will debate the relevance of the manipulated or otherwise omitted data, these revelations undermine confidence in the scientific data driving the climate change debates.

It’s somewhat ironic that the latest Ryan-Romney ads use pictures of babies to scare Americans about the national debt. But the ignore the grave problem of the carbon debt — the CO2 that is rapidly accumulating in the atmosphere and will continue to disrupt the climate well into the middle of the next century.  If we’re going to worry about burdens on future generations, we should start with the scientifically supportable one first, not the economically debatable one. As a commentator at Forbes said on this subject:

Faced with betting our future on a choice about which 98 out of 100 experts (and growing) agree, he decides it’s too risky an endeavor. But when experts split, when there is no consensus, Ryan is perfectly comfortable rolling the dice with our future. He makes the irrational choice.

 It’s no wonder that a leading climate skeptic embraced his selection of Ryan as the “anti-Gore” and heralded his selection as proof that Romney will make the issue of climate change disappear.

Pretending the climate change does not exist may be good GOP politics, but it won’t change the facts. As physicist Richard Feynman said, “reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”   We can continue lavishly emitting carbon today, but it will be later generations who will feel the consequences of our spiraling carbon debt.

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About Dan

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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