A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Climate change alarmism. . .

. . .is one of those areas where I party company with John McCain. I simply don't believe that it's the pressing matter that it's being depicted as, and I'm pretty skeptical that it's being caused by human activities even if it is occurring. Granted, I'm no scientist, so I'm poorly armed for battle on this front. At the same time, it strikes me that there's sufficient scientific disagreement on the matter to preclude the "game over" calls that are issued by its proponents whenever they're confronted by contradictory opinion.

Mark Levin has posted some links to a letter from several credible scientists to the UN Secretary General that casts doubt on the causes of, and proposed solutions to, the problem. I don't think these doubts should be discarded out of hand as the work of contrarian kooks working at the behest of industry and other special interests. As best I can tell, the signatories are well regarded scientists and should be taken seriously.

That being said, if you look at polling data, the public is very much concerned about the issue of climate change. Although, it seems worth pointing out that, as the economy has become more of an issue, global warming is starting to decline as a priority in the minds of voters. Still, it remains an important issue to an undeniable majority of Americans.

Given the public pressures to act on the issue, I don't see how conservatism can gain anything in the long term by simply refusing to act on an issue that is of considerable importance to a sizable majority of voters. At the very least, people want to know that their leaders are taking their concerns seriously enough that they feel the need to address them. It would be a huge mistake for any candidate to stand before the public and tell them that they're concerns are unfounded. Like it or not, there is a sense among the majority of Americans (and the rest of the world, for that matter) that global warming needs to be addressed. And, until they're convinced otherwise, it would be dangerous for conservatives to behave as though they don't have legitimate concerns.

My best hope is that over the course of the campaign, a legitimate debate take place that will serve to put the issue into perspective. That means there needs to be an organized push-back against the wild alarmism of Al Gore and the environmental movement as a whole. This isn't going to be an easy task, given the fact that nearly every mainstream media institution has decided that the debate is over, and that anyone who dares to question the conclusions of what they deem to be "the consensus" among all "reputable scientists" is akin to a Holocaust denier. For good or ill, this is the atmosphere under which skeptics must operate.

I hope that one of the focuses of The Next Right will be to assemble a forceful, well organized, credible rebuttal to the alarmist rhetoric that has gotten us to the point where we are today. There will also need to be a respected and persuasive person to take charge in taking the case to the public. It will need to be someone who holds too much clout within the scientific community to be dismissed as a crackpot, as well as someone who can effectively present the case to a public which has been subjected to years of a relentless stream of frightening rhetoric about the damage that is supposedly being done to the planet.

Right now, the best that conservatives can hope for, given the circumstances under which we're forced to operate, is to slow down the push for increasingly onerous regulation by offering more modest proposals than the environmental lobby is demanding. While Sen. McCain's proposals may be onerous in the eyes of industry and global warming/climate change skeptics, they're likely to be seen as reasonable, modest measures in the eyes of the majority of voters. And, the simple fact is that conservatives cannot afford, particularly in the political climate we face today, to not offer anything to counter what the Democrats are proposing. And, the GOP cannot afford to be saddled with the image as the Luddite Party that is beholden to the oil industry that has become the object of near universal scorn among the electorate.

We're going to have to face it. Global warming, climate change, the greenhouse effect -- however you want to couch it -- is on the minds of the voters. They believe it's happening, they don't like it, and they're blaming Republicans for being in the pocket of big polluters who don't care about regular people. In order to maintain viability as a party and as a conservative movement, there is little choice but to address the concerns of voters while doing the best we can to avoid harming our economy.

This is going to require a longterm strategy as well as short-term proposals in order to allay the immediate fears of the public. Hooting down those who are pushing the issue will only backfire and create the impression that conservatives are either ignorant, uncaring, or both. That is a recipe for long term disaster from which the nation's economy might not recover for generations.

McCain's proposals seem to be the wisest course for a Republican candidate to take in the current political atmosphere. But, I think it would be even wiser for him to extend an invitation to scientists from across the spectrum of thought on the matter, being sure that advocates and skeptics alike get a chance to express their views and concerns with regard to everything from the degree to which climate change is occurring to the consequences of acting and not acting, and the degree to which humans can and do influence it. He should also recognize the emergence of a recent change in global temperature trends and acknowledge that there are very legitimate reasons to take a go-slow approach to tackling the issue.

Finally, I think he should make it clear that both science and industry have a place at the table when it comes to discussions as to what should be done about it. After all, no single institution is going to suffer more from the results of an abrupt change in climate than another. And, if he maintains the position that even if it turns out we are wrong about climate change, at least we will have left a cleaner planet for future generations, he ought to be open as to how much federal intervention is appropriate to bring it about, and how much cost is tolerable in order to attain the goal.

McCain has established that he is completely open to the idea that something needs to be done to prevent damage to the planet. At the same time, he should show an openness to ways of keeping to a very minimum the amount of government intervention in our free market economy in order to avert a disaster that may not even be happening. After all, when people can't find work because the economy is slow, they really don't give a damn how normal the weather or sea levels are.

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