As nearly 200 countries meet in oil-and-gas-rich Qatar for annual talks starting Monday on slowing global warming, one of the main challenges will be raising climate aid for poor countries at a time when budgets are strained by financial turmoil.
Borrowing a buzzword from the U.S. budget debate, Tim Gore of the British charity Oxfam said developing countries, including island nations for whom rising sea levels pose a threat to their existence, stand before a “climate fiscal cliff.”
“So what we need for those countries in the next two weeks are firm commitments from rich countries to keep giving money to help them to adapt to climate change,” he told The Associated Press on Sunday.
Creating a structure for climate financing has so far been one of the few tangible outcomes of the two-decade-old U.N. climate talks, which have failed in their main purpose: reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are warming the planet, melting ice caps, glaciers and permafrost, shifting weather patterns and raising sea levels.
The only binding treaty to limit such emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, expires this year, so agreeing on an extension is seen as the most urgent task by environment ministers and climate officials meeting in the Qatari capital.
If you saw one of above two ads pop up on your Facebook page on November 2, 2010, you may have silently participated in an huge behavioral study. Researchers from UCSD worked with Facebook to decipher what kind of messages were more effective in changing people’s behavior.
One group of people were shown a voting/polling place reminder with their Facebook friends’ pictures, and some were shown the same message without social connections. A third group saw nothing. By cross-referencing those names with actual voting data, a small but significant number of people were convinced to vote by viewing the reminder along with their friends’ pictures.
The 0.39 percent increase means that 238,000 extra votes were cast … quite enough to turn an election in a swing state. They don’t know how this may translate to other behaviors and ads, but it shows that on the scale of large social networks, the subtle boost we receive by seeing a message connected to our social circle can change behaviors in meaningful ways.
Want more? You won’t believe how big the effect was when they started to dig into how people acted when close friends were featured in their message. Check out more details, and some of the skepticism, at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
(image from the Nature paper describing the research, subscription req’d)
Suddenly no-drama Obama was neck deep in the kind of religious warfare he vowed to avoid. Many pundits—led by older white Catholic men, such as Joe Scarborough and my friend Chris Matthews and even the fair-minded liberal Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne—declared his decision on contraception as not only morally wrong but a politically disastrous violation of religious freedom. Suddenly the specter of 2004—when the culture-war issue of same-sex marriage gave Ohio and the entire election to George W. Bush—reemerged, and some conservative Catholic Democrats began to panic. Within the administration, almost all the white Catholic men opposed the decision—from Bill Daley to Leon Panetta. But critically, the support for the decision came from women, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and key adviser Valerie Jarrett chief among them. So Obama didn’t ignite just a culture war but a religious and gender war as well. Welcome to the election focused almost entirely on jobs.
But the conflict-driven headlines and predictions of disaster for Obama are, in my view, deeply misleading. Right now, they are driven both by cable news’s love of a good fight and high ratings and by the Republican primary campaign, in which the candidates, especially Newt Gingrich and Santorum, are desperately battling to unify the evangelical base, which is convinced its faith is somehow under attack. In the longer run, however, I suspect this sudden confluence of kerfuffles will be seen as one of the last gasps of the culture war, not its reignition. That’s especially possible since Obama’s swift walk-back last Friday, when he proposed an utterly sensible compromise, which exempts both churches and other religious institutions that cater to the general public from directly covering or paying for birth control, shifting the coverage requirement to insurance companies. So Catholic organizations will be able to stay out of the contraception question entirely, while contraception for all women will be kept free of charge. Instead of being lose-lose for the president, it became win-win. Most Catholics will be fine with this compromise, as are the Catholic Health Association and Planned Parenthood. But the bishops? They’ve gone out on a very long limb. This could be the moment when the culture-war tide finally turns and the social wedge issues long deployed so effectively by the Republican right begin to come back and bite them.
The more Machiavellian observer might even suspect this is actually an improved bait and switch by Obama to more firmly identify the religious right with opposition to contraception, its weakest issue by far, and to shore up support among independent women and his more liberal base. I’ve found by observing this president closely for years that what often seem like short-term tactical blunders turn out in the long run to be strategically shrewd. And if this was a trap, the religious right walked right into it.
Take a look at the polling. Ask Americans if they believe that contraception should be included for free in all health-care plans and you get a 55 percent majority in favor, with 40 percent against. Ask American Catholics, and that majority actually rises above the national average, to 58 percent. A 49 percent plurality of all Americans supported the original Obama rule forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraception coverage. And once again, American Catholics actually support that more controversial position by a slightly higher margin than all Americans, with 52 percent backing it. So on religious-freedom grounds, the country is narrowly divided, but with a small majority on Obama’s side.
And on the issue of contraception itself, studies have shown that a staggering 98 percent of Catholic women not only believe in birth control but have used it. How is it possible to describe this issue as a violation of individual conscience, when no one is forced to use contraception against their will, and most Catholics have already consulted their conscience, are fine with the pill, and want it covered? This is not like abortion, a far, far graver issue. Even the church hierarchy—in a famous commission set up by Pope John XXIII to study birth control—voted to allow oral contraception under some circumstances, only to be controversially vetoed by Pope Paul VI in 1968. And the truth is, there is no real debate among most actual living, breathing American Catholics on the issue, who tend to be more liberal than most Americans. They long ago dismissed the Vatican’s position on this. And after the sex-abuse scandal, they are even less likely to take the bishops’ moral authority on sexual matters seriously.
Mathew Yglesias agrees that the budget is a political nonstarter, but he says it marks a change in the administration’s habit of starting low in negotiations with Republicans in order to seem reasonable. Yglesias says Obama’s decision to count already-agreed-upon spending cuts toward the ratio of cuts to taxes shows that he’s prepared to push for a high ratio of taxes to cuts. This is a “recognition that efforts to get the GOP to sign on to a compromise have failed,” writes Yglesias. “The 2012 elections, rather than a congressional debate, will settle the fate of the Bush tax cuts.” The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake agrees that it’s smart for Obama to start high. The Republicans weren’t rewarded in the polls for their budget-cutting zeal following their 2010 electoral victory, and there are indications that voters still care far more about job creation than they do about deficits.
If President Obama’s budget is a campaign document, it’s instructive to compare it to Mitt Romney’s, writes Ezra Klein. Obama’s budget would raise revenues to 19.2 percent of GDP over the next decade, mostly by raising taxes on people making more than $250,000 a year. According to the Tax Policy Center, taxpayers in the bottom 20 percent would pay an average federal tax rate of 1.8 percent, those in the middle 20 percent would pay 15.2 percent, and the top 1 percent would pay 36.3 percent. Under Romney’s plan, taxpayers in the bottom 20 percent would pay a rate of 3.4 percent, those in the middle would pay 15.6 percent, and the top 1 percent would pay 25.9 percent. So lower- and middle-income Americans would pay more under Romney’s plan, while the wealthiest would pay less. Romney’s plan cuts taxes to about 17 percent of GDP, and because he’s ruled out cuts to defense spending, he’d have to slash every domestic spending program by more than 35 percent in order to balance the budget as promised.
Democratic Compromise of the Day: In what was billed as an early post-recess showdown between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, an “unprecedented” rejection of the President’s request to address a joint-session of Congress on jobs next Wednesday ultimately led to a statement from the White House accepting Boehner’s revised date.
In a letter to the President, the Speaker raised concerns about security-related “logistical impediments” rather than acknowledging the elephant in the room: The President’s speech was scheduled for the same night and time as Rick Perry’s first GOP debate.
Boehner “respectfully invite[d]” the White House to reschedule the address for the following day — which just so happens to be the day of the first regular season NFL game.
Despite the Obama administration’s claim that it had cleared the date and time with House Republicans before making the official request (an allegation Boehner’s office denies), the White House ultimately decided to give in to the Speaker’s demands and move the speech to Thursday.
“We consulted with the speaker about that date before the letter was released, but he determined Thursday would work better,” the White House said in a statement. “The president is focused on the urgent need to create jobs and grow our economy, so he welcomes the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 8 and challenge our nation’s leaders to start focusing 100% of their attention on doing whatever they can to help the American people.”
this doesn’t bode well.
But remember, children, the liberals told you that you should love $5.00 per gallon gas.
So quit your crying and pay up! It’s good for you and the environment.
it’s only good for the environment if you change your habits. but i think you’re right. every time gas prices go up, i think to myself, “thank god!” if there’s one thing everyone can understand, it’s a price signal. if gas is getting too expensive, your reaction should be to use less of it! buy that electric car, push for alternative forms of energy, take public transit, buy energy star appliances. because if you change your habits, you’ll save money. the glory of the free market is this price signal! it’s telling you that gas/oil is too expensive (for our nation’s military, for our pockets, and for our environment). so fuck it. let’s move on to something cheaper. the more we do, the more we give price signals to corporations and politicians, the more investment we’ll see in alternative energy. with more investment comes more efficiency, then smaller prices in return. it’s the beauty of the market.
Face That Screamed War’s Pain Looks Back, 6 Hard Years Later
Samar Hassan, with a relative, had never seen the photo of her, below, taken after her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
It is too easy to forget the victims of war, the debt the US owes Iraq is enormous. The price the people there have paid is unfathomable.
Shame is the word that comes to mind