Oops! Another Unforeseen Catastrophe

Barbie Series. 1984.

Quick Change the Channel. ©Kenneth J. Botto Photography Trust.

The recent testimony by Lamar McKay, Chairman and President of BP America, brought to mind Ken Botto.

In his testimony, Mr. McKay says, “Tragic and unforeseen as this accident was, we must not lose sight of why BP and other energy companies are operating in the offshore, including the Gulf of Mexico.”  We all benefit from motorized transportation, so we know why he’s there.  But “unforeseen”?  Of course not.  BP made an economic calculations not to cover the eventuality that is turning out to be the worst oil spill in history.  Dr. Joseph Romm writes about it on Climate Progress.

This brought to mind the line coming out of the Bush Administration after 9/11 that no one could have foreseen airplanes being flown into buildings.  Of course, US intelligence had been grappling with the prospect of terrorists and airplanes for at least five years.  Here’s just one example.  The CIA has entertained the idea since the 1970’s.

Oh, and then there was Ken Botto, a photographer in Bolinas who came up with the idea in 1984 as part of his series on Barbie and Robots.  The picture is aptly titled “Quick Change the Channel.”

Cap & Trade and the Economics of Climate Change

Decayed stump. Sugar Pine Point State Park, California

Drowned out by the launch of the iPad (enough already!) was an interesting article by Paul Krugman in the New York Times Magazine.  Neither the article, nor this post,  attempt to make the case for global warming.  It’s pretty obvious that if you’re going to increase the earth’s natural carbon dioxide output by increased burning of fossil fuels (dead plant life from eon’s past) AND increase deforestation worldwide, thus reducing the earth’s ability to reabsorb the carbon, that you’re going to upset the earth’s carbon cycle and increase atmospheric carbon (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_cycle).

In Building a Green Economy, Krugman examines the economic issues surrounding climate change, including “Cap & Trade” versus other mechanisms, bringing China and India on board, and our polarized politics.  Cost estimates for addressing global warming come in around 2-3% in reduced growth. Check it out.

Regardless, as a conservative friend of mine likes to point out, sooner or later we have to move away from an petroleum-based economy.  Going green is change for the better.  It will create new jobs, innovation, and growth.  Then, of course, there are the ancillary benefits of a healthier society.

Mr. Krugman concludes with “We know how to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. We have a good sense of the costs — and they’re manageable. All we need now is the political will.”

Maybe there’s an app for that.