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View Tom Turner's blog posts
06 December 2011, 12:35 PM
Semple informs; Douthat obfuscates
Ross Douthat

Last Sunday, Dec. 4, the weekly review/opinion section of The New York Times carried a sober and sobering piece by Robert Semple, a Times editorial writer who seldom gets to sign his pieces. He wrote of the climate meetings taking place this week in Durban, South Africa, where no one seems to think much progress will be made.

Semple produced a couple of depressing charts showing how carbon emissions overall have soared, and found little reason to hope that Durban will produce any breakthroughs. There are some bright spots, however, principally Western Europe, whose carbon emissions have declined by about 5 percent in the past two decades through phasing out of coal, increasing use of solar, and adopting a cap-and-trade system. Much more needs to be done, especially by the U.S., China, India, and others.

Meanwhile a few pages along in the paper, we’re treated to a column by one Ross Douthat, who compared the Occupy protestors to the admirable group that is opposing the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring filthy tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the gulf coast.

 
As Bill McKibben of 350.org and James Hansen of the NASA point out , if we don’t start deliberately leaving vast pools of carbon in the ground—the tar sands and the Marcellus shale deposts under a big swath of the northeast U.S. for two—the fight to rescue the climate will be lost. Game over.
 
So what does Douthat say?
 

Keystone protesters . . . have been harnessing the power of the Democratic Party’s wealthy environmentalist donors to actively kill off American jobs. Stopping the pipeline won’t drive down demand for fossil fuels, or prevent Canada’s oil from being extracted and shipped around the world. But for a small group of activists and donors, keeping the pipeline out of their national backyard is all that counts, even if American workers pay the price.

 
This is a deliberate falsehood, clearly an attempt to drive a wedge between environmentalists and labor. The Times should be ashamed. Giving voice to a variety of points of view is an admirable practice, but giving a soapbox to this Douthat character does a service to no one.

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