Guidelines for Op-Eds/Guest Bloggers

As part of the development of this blog, I will be adding commentary by guest bloggers who will offer a variety of opinions and perspectives on environmental issues. Note there is no one formula for a good Op-Ed; however, there are some guidelines that are useful to writing an excellent piece. I recommend the following:

  • Make sure your piece is to the point (your main point should be at the beginning of the piece and is supported by your claims and arguments throughout), organized (e.g. a clear argument, facts to support your case, an acknowledgment of competing claims, etc.), and concise (e.g. no more than 750 words and very tightly constructed sentences and paragraphs, etc.).
  • You want to make specific recommendations on your topic and make arguments to support them.
  • Avoid jargon and tedious rebuttals while at the same time acknowledge your opponents’ arguments. Remember civility is a virtue.
  • Make sure you give concrete examples that bring your argument to life for readers.
  • Finish strong: Summarize your argument in a strong final paragraph so that casual readers who end up skimming the article can take away your overall premise.

Overall note: An Op-Ed is not something that can answer all points or questions in a particular argument. Yet, the benefit of writing a strong piece can help shape and define the discourse on a particular environmental problem.

A look at the policy process and budgeting: EPA Budget Hearings

Over the next couple of days, the Senate Environmental Public Works (EPW) committee will conduct hearings on the EPA’s budget for fiscal year (FY) 2011. What’s interesting from the hearings is that it provides an inside look at how policymakers are not only debating the issue, but also how they are constructing arguments on facts that best suite their existing positions on climate change. This is nothing new in terms of the political process, but does highlight some of the challenges where science and politics converge in developing public policy.

Highlights of the request include:

  • The overall request for FY2011 is approximately a $10B budget for the EPA.
  • The request includes a reduction to overall agency funding by about $300M from FY2010 while reallocating about $56M (includes new funding of $43M) for programs to regulate and control greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There have been concerted efforts led by Senator Linda Murkowski (R-AK) and Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) to introduce legislation to strip from the EPA the authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.  The budget process for the EPA serves as a forum for these legislators to block, or water-down, regulatory efforts by the EPA.

Nevertheless, from watching the hearings there are many questions left unanswered:

  • Should the EPA regulate carbon dioxide or is it the role of Congress?
  • Why do EPW senators provide such differing causal arguments about climate change ?
  • How does the public perceive the arguments for or against climate change? Do public perceptions matter?
  • How can we redefine this issue beyond the current rhetoric (e.g. partisanship, personal attacks, binary divisions in the global context of “us versus them,” etc.)? Has the debate become too cavalier?
  • Do you feel the EPW and EPA are representing our interests or the interests of special groups who would benefit from this type of legislation?
  • Should government regulate industries over environmental issues or develop markets and provide subsidies for industries to compete in environmental markets?
  • What are some of the limits of environmentalism in shaping environmental policy?
  • Why does Senator Inofe have an issue with political scientists?
  • How important is using political arguments around scientific certainty in order to develop competing policies to regulate carbon dioxide?

Outliers from Snowmageddon

In between shoveling snow and staying warm on this snowy day, I found a few posts worth checking out.

  • “Cap and Trade” has already become a campaign issue for vulnerable Democrats in the upcoming 2010 midterm elections. A student of mine who came across this video produced by the VA GOP targeting Democratic members of Congress Rick Boucher (VA, 9th ) and Tom Perrillo’s (VA, 5th) who both supported the Waxman-Markey bill this past summer and who represent districts that John McCain won in 2008.
  • Ben Profferror writes about the benefits of civility in debating global warming.
  • The NY Times finds the recent winter storms hitting the mid-atlantic region are a result of global warming patterns.
  • Kathy Nieland discusses the push by the SEC for companies to disclose the risks of climate change associated with current business practices.
  • Christina Larson finds the apparent “green-tech war” between the U.S. and China is a bit overblown.
  • Lastly, Audi provides a tongue-in-cheek approach to the greening of America

“Cap and Trade” or “Green Jobs”: Perhaps We Can Have Both?

To resuscitate climate change legislation in Congress, Climate bill backers have begun to add a job creation theme to how they frame the issue. What results from this push remains to be seen but from my perspective, it is not a bad strategy. Typically, the public is favorable to the idea of climate change legislation if the phrase “Cap and Trade” is not used in describing it and if the concept of job creation is coupled with this policy. We will have to wait and see how the public perceives this re-framing of the policy.

The Politics Over The Process of Scientific Consensus on Climate Change

Over the past few months, the politics surrounding climate change continues to heat up . Recent efforts by global warming opponents have sought to disclaim the work, and credibility, of groups like the IPCC and CRU.  Opponents have been successful in their efforts to disclaim the work by these institutions by shifting the debate towards claims of cover ups and the mishandling of data by prominent climate scientists as proof of malfeasance. The goal of these efforts by global warming opponents is to redefine the debate over climate change.

By attempting to reshape the public’s perceptions of this issue, climate change opponents are attempting to provide an alternative explanation about some of the problems with the scientific consensus on global warming. This is a shift from previous attempts by global warming opponents to claim that climate change is either not happening or not a result of human activity. This strategy focuses on creating doubt among the public over the entire process in which scientific consensus was reached on this issue. Thus far opponents have done this in two ways. First, opponents have been successful in disclaiming the CRU. This led to the resignation of its Director, Phil Jones, over  leaked email messages that global warming opponents claimed was evidence of a corrupt peer-reviewed system by which scientific evidence on climate change was based.  Second, opponents have begun to discredit the IPCC over glacier-gate. Opponents claim the process that resulted in glacier-gate (faulty predictions over the melting of Himalayian glaciers) typifies a flawed process by which the IPCC makes their assessment on climate change; namely the IPCC’s process is driven by a political agenda and bureaucratic incompetence.  So, where does this leave us? Well, we should expect to see  global warming opponents up the ante in their efforts to challenge the process by which scientific consensus is reached over climate change.