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Filler: Democratic convention not all that green

Karen Yarbrough, a delegate from Illinois, gestures in

Karen Yarbrough, a delegate from Illinois, gestures in front of the giant electronic stage backdrop before the start of day one at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. (Sept. 4, 2012) Credit: Bloomberg

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Looking out at the mass of delegates, media and assorted politicians and hangers-on huddled in Charlotte’s Time Warner Cable Arena, one thought keeps bombarding my mind: “If these people were serious about combating global warming and stemming the rising seas, they wouldn’t be here. They would be home, knitting sweaters out of environmentally responsible, scratchy fibers — wool, taken from sheep by farmers who care, as incense burns and soothing Scottish sheering tunes are played — and doing this whole shindig via online conferencing.”

Charlotte is abuzz with electricity and emissions. Tens of thousands have converged on the city, most of them by plane, then cab or rental car. The city, and the suburbs, are lit up like a 45-mile-wide Christmas tree (oops, I mean “holiday tree”). And the streets were so clogged Tuesday night, people were forced to jump out of scarce cabs and walk through driving rain to the arena. By 8 p.m., the whole place smelled like wet schnauzers.

When the Republicans met in Tampa, Fla., last week, they didn’t have to make excuses about stressing the electric grid and pushing the oil wells to the “frappé” setting. Since the party view on global warming is, loosely stated, “It’s a hoax, and a myth, and the science is bad, and global warming alarmists are pencil-necked stupidheads, and even if it’s true, we love warm weather, besides which, JOBSJOBSJOBS.”

There’s no hypocrisy there. They could be lighting their cigars with little lumps of anthracite coal and still get off scot-free, philosophically speaking.

The Democratic Party does believe in global warming, and wants to stem this plague. It proudly says so right on the Democratic Party label, also known as a platform.

But they aren’t burning any less fuel or emitting any less carbon dioxide than the deniers they love to poke fun at. In fact, with 6,000 delegates to the Republicans’ 4,000, far bigger crowds (at least Tuesday night) and a planned Thursday-night finale so immense it was first scheduled for a professional football stadium (but was moved inside because of the threat of severe weather), the carbon footprint for their convention could end up making the Republicans’ look like a baby shoe.

This is a constant disconnect, and I notice it all the time. The Escalades with bumper stickers reading, “Mommy, What Were Trees Like?” The limousine liberals who heat, cool and maintain multiple homes, and travel back and forth between them, all the while fretting over rising seas (and their potential to swallow sprawling oceanfront homes).

And the global warming advocates flying and driving all over the nation and the world to meet and talk about how people need to stop flying and driving all over the world.
In my experience, the carbon footprint of the average carbon cap-supporting liberal is every bit as large as that of the average denier.

There are people who care, I know, and live it. There are people who burn sawdust for heat, have solar panels on the roof, drive hybrids and ride bikes. But the people who do this aren’t exclusively liberal, and to my eye, their overall use of fossil fuels is often (but not always) still comparable to that of folks who don’t have Al Gore shrines in their living rooms.

At both conventions, seemingly everyone had a smartphone, laptop, iPad, or in the case of the superhip, all three. The proceedings are televised, streamed online, live-blogged and tweeted.

But there’s no reason for everyone to be in Charlotte, except that they want to be, and many don’t think they need to trim even the toenails off the carbon footprint of their convention. They mostly think other people need to cut back, starting with those darn Republicans.

It would have been an extraordinary statement by the Democrats if they’d held a virtual national convention to signal their seriousness about combating global warming. What this power-intensive shindig signals, instead, is that the party is not serious about cutting emissions. It’s just serious about wringing its hands, and nattering on about it, and berating people who don’t wring and natter enough.

You have to give the Republicans the edge on consistency here. They have no responsibility to address a problem they don’t believe exists. The Democrats, though, believing earnestly (so, so earnestly) in the coming warmth, do have a mandate to act.

Too often they don’t, in their day-to-day life and in their quadrennial power (sucking) party get-togethers.


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