August 27, 2007
The New Denialism
Ross may well be right that in Jim Manzi's manifesto on a sensible rightwing strategy on global warming, "conservatives will find a sensible blueprint for moving from the denialist fringe to the political mainstream, and liberals will get a taste of how a wised-up, heads-out-of-the-sand Right could kick their ass on the issue." But he should be more specific: Manzi's approach may help the right kick political ass on the issue -- it's global warming as little more than a political football. And that's a damn irresponsible way of approaching climate change.
Manzi's strategy is, basically, let's do very, very little. Under Manzi's set of assumptions, that's perfectly fine, as under Manzi's set of assumptions, global warming isn't very bad, and we don't need to do much. Under most other sets of assumptions, global warming is very bad, and the costs of a carbon tax, or cap-and-trade program, are very slight in comparison to the damage they'll forestall. But the change from "it doesn't exist" to "it's not very bad, and can be fixed with no pain," is not a change from "the denialist fringe' to "the political mainstream" in anything but rhetoric. It's a kinder, gentler denialism, based on exactly the same dispute over severity, with exactly the same effects. Namely, if Manzi's wrong, hundreds of millions of people are fucked. Nice gamble, that. On the bright side, it's possible that Manzi's strategy will, in the short-term, help the Republican Party do marginally better in American politics.