Monday, July 26, 2010

Global warming Denial: the Next Generation

Some on the right are moving from denial of global warming to a position that claims that, even were it to be actually happening, it'd be as much good as harm, and that resource commitment to its mitigation would blight millions of lives by restraining economic growth. Ross Douthat in today's Times, for example:

It’s possible that the best thing to do about a warming earth — for now, at least — is relatively little. This is the view advanced by famous global-warming heretics like Bjorn Lomborg and Freeman Dyson; in recent online debates, it has been championed by Jim Manzi, the American right’s most persuasive critic of climate-change legislation.

Their perspective is grounded, in part, on the assumption that a warmer world will also be a richer world — and that economic development is likely to do more for the wretched of the earth than a growth-slowing regulatory regime...

Not every danger has a regulatory solution, and sometimes it makes sense to wait, get richer, and then try to muddle through.

An interesting, though still reprehensible, turn, that: admission of the possibility of error against increasing evidence, but only the possibility, with the error's importance discounted in a sort of Pascal's Wager on the existence of an omnipotent God of the free market. And, yet again, taken against the vast bulk of informed opinion, not just about climate change itself but about its consequences, and in denial of the myriad reasons other than climate change for moving away from fossil fuel with urgency and serious commitment. But now, framed as if it's really in the little people's interest to continue business as usual, even if the global warmers have been right all along. And, therefore, their position remains justified, insulated from demands for change, even were they wrong on the most basic of questions.

I can construct an apparently rational explanation for the right's behavior on this issue. But I find it unsatisfying in the end. I think there's a clear and present danger out there, to humans and all life on the planet, that, in large measure, our actions pose it, that our actions could mitigate it, that in a slow economy that'd create jobs by the millions while building capital equipment of immense worth and utility, that the current economic, geopolitical, social and environmental costs of fossil fuels alone would be sufficient grounds to move away from them, that supply/demand/price aren't going to cooperate anyway. On and on. There's a problem. It can be addressed. There's even money to be made by the kiloshitload in doing so, fakrissake.

So why is the right so rabid in rejecting alternatives? Is it really possible for someone older than a middle school kid to base a world view on an excluded middle between freedom of action despite negative externalities and Stalinist totalitarianism? Is it even close to rationality, much less maturity, to reject even the possibility that you might be wrong on an issue like this? Is a Hummer, a 6000 sq ft house and a 2 hour commute not only a critically important human right, but even the noblest imaginable human aspiration?

They are going to have a lot to answer for, these people.


JR said...

How many kiloshitloads in a metric assload?


Tim Bousquet said...

So good to see you blogging, Prof!

I will be a regular and enthusiastic visitor.

One small suggestion for improved readability, tho: can you please put quoted material in italics or as blockquotes, so it's easier to see where the quotes stop and you begin?

ProfWombat said...

Good ta see youse
Tim: sure, though it'll require more expertise than i can currently pretend to

JR: either can be reduced to Friedmans multipled by Planck's Constant, dimensionally...
Alternatively, and less quantitatively, way the hell too many, mostly...

Tim Bousquet said...

Easy-peasy. Before your quoted material use < i > with no spaces. Afterwards, use < / i > with no spaces.
Alternatively, use < blockquote > and < / blockquote > with no spaces.