The Frontline documentary on global warming, Heat, is an excellent piece of work, two tough hours of very heavy stuff. It will make you really scared and really angry. I would have done it with somewhat different emphasis, especially in the balance between implicitly promising salvation through this or that subsidized technology, and through big changes in behavior and consumption patterns. Interviewees mentioned the latter approach a couple of times approvingly, but there was nothing like the visual backup, nor analysis of what it would really mean, that “clean coal”, biofuels, wind, and the rest of the usual crowd received. But this criticism is in the “would have been even better” category; go watch it. And make sure your kids do, so you will know that they know to hold you accountable, it will improve your behavior to think about them thinking in, say, 2050 about how you spent the last decade and the next.
I was especially struck by how badly the captains of industry in coal electricity, automobiles, and petroleum acquitted themselves, along with their toadies and catspaws like Dingell and Inhofe and Bush. The whole crowd has basically bought themselves a decade of more profit, at the price of making climate stabilization a desperate emergency instead of a big project, or maybe at the price of the habitability of the planet. That’s sound business judgment? It’s not just that they sold us out, but that they sold out so cheap, and they’re losing anyway.
The oil guys are managing to squeeze out a few more years of not having to learn anything, but the GM execs have run out their string. Like the eastern coal folks, they didn’t save their local economies or their workers or even their companies: after decades of surly obstruction, lying, and almost purposeful incompetence, the US automakers have left eastern Michigan exactly the economic ruin they whined that CAFE standards (and emissions controls in the 70s) would bring, while Toyota is eating their lunch. And Appalachia is a wasteland of buried rivers, trashed mountains, and out-of-work losers.
Exxon will pay the price for straight-arming reality, too, maybe soon, despite the last couple of years of good looting. Never mind that these ‘leaders’ have behaved despicably as citizens (of the US and of the world) and as trustees of their organizations; what I kept saying to myself as I watched this show, and watched the lords of Wall Street amid their own wreckage the last few weeks, is that these guys seem to absolutely suck at what they do! Without a Niagara of public welfare payments and public protection from the marketplace they profess to worship, they can’t make a dime on a long-term basis nor build enduring enterprises. What a bunch of overpaid jerks. It wasn’t just the government being trashed by smirking, self-satisfied incompetents prating ideological nonsense these last couple of decades, it was our whole industrial and financial leadership class.