Thursday, January 31, 2008

I think the headline on this (Bill) Clinton piece is a little misleading: "Bill: "We Just Have to Slow Down Our Economy" to Fight Global Warming." Jack Tapper is saying that Clinton says we have to "slow down our economy"--and that " something of a contradiction there" in his talking about slowing down the economy and also talking about how "green" technology can create jobs. (As a side note, Tapper himself thinks " a full commitment to reduce greenhouse gases would slow down the economy.") However, if you look at a bigger portion of the speech, it seems as though Bill Clinton wasn't arguing in favor of slowing down the economy at all (or at least not explicitly arguing that way). Time for the (dreaded) "context" (emphasis mine):

"Everybody knows that global warming is real," Mr. Clinton said, giving a shout-out to Al Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, "but we cannot solve it alone."

"And maybe America, and Europe, and Japan, and Canada -- the rich counties -- would say, 'OK, we just have to slow down our economy and cut back our greenhouse gas emissions 'cause we have to save the planet for our grandchildren.' We could do that.

"But if we did that, you know as well as I do, China and India and Indonesia and Vietnam and Mexico and Brazil and the Ukraine, and all the other countries will never agree to stay poor to save the planet for our grandchildren. The only way we can do this is if we get back in the world's fight against global warming and prove it is good economics that we will create more jobs to build a sustainable economy that saves the planet for our children and grandchildren. It is the only way it will work.

"And guess what? The only places in the world today in rich countries where you have rising wages and declining inequality are places that have generated more jobs than rich countries because they made a commitment we didn't. They got serious about a clean, efficient, green, independent energy future… If you want that in America, if you want the millions of jobs that will come from it, if you would like to see a new energy trust fund to finance solar energy and wind energy and biomass and responsible bio-fuels and electric hybrid plug-in vehicles that will soon get 100 miles a gallon, if you want every facility in this country to be made maximally energy efficient that will create millions and millions and millions of jobs, vote for her. She'll give it to you. She's got the right energy plan."

It seems to me like Clinton was laying out various strategies for dealing with greenhouse gas emissions. One, which we could adopt, would be for the wealthy nations to choose to slow down their economies--except, as Clinton points out, that wouldn't work because other, poorer countries like the PRC and India would not stop their economic growth (and the growth of their greenhouse gas emissions). Another plan (the one Clinton supports) would be to find "clean, efficient, green" technologies that allow for both economic growth and environmental protection. Now, Clinton might be wrong about these choices and his proposed solutions might ultimately slow down the economy, but it seems to me that he's not arguing that we should slow down our economy. Indeed, he's explicitly arguing against that proposition.