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July 05, 2006

The Anti-Anti-Global Warming Movement

Jonah Goldberg's got a thought experiment:

What if science could prove 100% that the earth was warming dangerously but that this was 100% natural (i.e. from sunspots or some such)? I suspect this would scatter the current environmental coalitions and antagonists in all sorts of interesting and unexpected ways. To be sure, many environmentalists would still be concerned. But, I think, a large amount of the passion would be gone in certain quarters once the fun of blaming capitalism and mankind was out of the equation. I think the reluctance on the part of some on the right to fix the problem would evaporate while the reluctance to "tamper" with nature would cause at least some environmentalists to second-guess global warming science.

I'm a bit confused by the conservative emphasis on intentions around the global warming debate. There is, to be sure, a genus that simply denies the warming earth, but that species is rapidly dying out. More interesting are the anti-environmentalists -- they seem less concerned with the issue than consumed with their dislike for those talking about it. But let's say global warming is largely natural. How does that actually change the strategy? What's the relevance? Assumedly, the right has some alternative gameplan for dealing with the consequences that differs radically from the left's prescriptions but has been hidden by the liberal media. Could someone point me to the blueprint? And if, as Jonah seems to suggest in the last sentence, the policy prescriptions are rather clear and much of the right is trapped by their dislike for tree huggers, isn't their behavior remarkably irresponsible?

July 5, 2006 | Permalink


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Jonah Goldberg's got a thought experiment:

Hopefully he doesn't hurt himself in the process.

Posted by: Dr. Squid | Jul 5, 2006 2:16:13 PM

But let's say global warming is largely natural. How does that actually change the strategy?

If it's something we're doing, presumably we could stop or curtail that activity. If it's a natural phenomenon, the solutions, if any, would be different. I don't think it is normal fluctuation, but I do think the question matters.

Posted by: quietstorm | Jul 5, 2006 2:38:40 PM

the question of "man made versus natural" only matters rhetorically, and then even not much. the problem posed by accelerated global warming, (i.e. that we face catastrophic changes to our environment) needs to be addressed no matter where (man made v natural) you assign the problems origins. only a fool would resort to rhetoric as a distraction

Posted by: daudder | Jul 5, 2006 2:47:27 PM

You really start to understand the Right when you understand projection. Alrhough, since it seems often to be a conscious political tactic rather than an unconscious defense mechanism, the associated pathologies:

Paranoid personality disorder
Narcissistic personality disorder
Antisocial personality disorder

may have limited value.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 5, 2006 2:49:27 PM

Just think, 18 thousand years ago, just a blink in earth's history, the sea level was 300 feet lower because of the last ice age. Imagine the ecosystems swamped by the retreat of the ice. This current flux is quite small in comparison to prehistory.
What the problem is now is that a one foot rise in sea level will affect so many people economically that we'll have to make a decision whether we want to try to cool things off....so the Right will be just as interested as the tree huggers eventually.

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Jul 5, 2006 2:49:29 PM

Quiet: Possibly so. But I want to see that strategy. You often hear that it's a natural phenomenon, but what does that actually mean for how to treat it? That so little attention is given to that tends to degrade my opinion of the interpretation's seriousness.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 5, 2006 2:50:53 PM

Wow. Samuelson the lesser on Global Warming;I hope this is OT

Global Warming's Real Inconvenient Truth

"Al Gore calls global warming an "inconvenient truth," as if merely recognizing it could put us on a path to a solution. That's an illusion. The real truth is that we don't know enough to relieve global warming, and -- barring major technological breakthroughs -- we can't do much about it. This was obvious nine years ago; it's still obvious. Let me explain..." ...RS


"Only an aggressive research and development program might find ways of breaking our dependence on fossil fuels or dealing with it. Perhaps some system could purge the atmosphere of surplus greenhouse gases?

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless."...RS
To save our lives, ours and the world's economies without Malthusian consequences, we don't merely need a new energy program. America, still the technological leader with access and control of a plurality of resources, needs the equivalent of war, say 5-10% of GDP for a decade. Then we will have cheap energy production technology to sell or give to China, Africa, South America. CAFE standards and scrubbers are a joke.

Samuelson says that it is politically impossible. Maybe impossible, but we have to do it anyway. Lifeboat is sinking, deadweight must be thrown overboard. Goldberg and Samuelson should be the first to go.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 5, 2006 3:10:52 PM

War for Oil

linked without comment from your friend John of Dymaxion. I don't think he likes me.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 5, 2006 3:22:16 PM

I suspect that if global warming could be shown to be a natural phenomenon, cures would not be aggressively sought. The argument would go that the earth has been through millions of cycles and that some sort of self-corrective forces would arise. Thus the attractiveness to the pro-business sector and the consequent suspicion under which the argument is held.

Posted by: quietstorm | Jul 5, 2006 3:25:03 PM

I sort of doubt that. Climate fluctuations can kill us -- Europe wouldn't survive a couple of miles of ice sitting on top of it, no maytter how natural it may seem. So clearly we'd need some sort of strategy.

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 5, 2006 3:40:03 PM

This perfectly encapsulates something I saw in the 'sphere over the weekend (Greenwald's site maybe?): The notion that the right has no guiding ideology anymore except for an intense animus against whatever it is that liberals are in favor of. Wish I could remember where I saw it, because it is so very obviously accurate.

Posted by: Toast | Jul 5, 2006 3:55:37 PM

I suspect that if global warming could be shown to be a natural phenomenon, cures would not be aggressively sought.

Agreed. The strategy would not be not to "fix" anything, but to predict and adapt.

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jul 5, 2006 3:57:09 PM

Comment by RT ...from Matt's piece on Goldberg and Samuelson over at TAPPED. RT says kinda what I said, but in a like sane, literate, articulate kinda way:

"Once the political obstacles are removed, we can find out how solvable the engineering problem is. But if we don't solve the political problem before it's too late, it won't matter whether there's an engineering solution or not." ...

I wonder if I could create infinite loops of crosslinking between TAPPED and here.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 5, 2006 4:25:03 PM


I understand projection--it's YOU who doesn't understand projection...


Posted by: Jimmm | Jul 5, 2006 4:39:34 PM

Hell froze over, but I agree with Fred. No doubt I'd disagree with him about how, exactly, to adapt, but it does matter what the cause of global warming is. If it's caused entirely by sunspots like in Jonah's hypothetical, or some other effect that's completely and totally unrelated to human activity, then there's nothing we can do about it even if we wanted to. At least not with today's technology or anything. If heating isn't caused by CO2 emissions, then reductions in CO2 emissions couldn't cause reductions in heating.

But that's hypothetical, so...

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 5, 2006 4:40:26 PM

The thought experiment is silly: a false choice, like so many pseudo-dilemmas posed to liberals by people like Goldberg. It cannot be shown that global warming is 100% due to natural phenomena, because it isn't. CO2 does cause global warming. Other factors also contribute, but there is no debate about the role of CO2. Present levels of CO2 in the atmosphere are high, compared to previous epochs, and the rate of increase is alarming. Current temperatures are also high. No reasonable person can doubt that CO2 levels are either causing the problem or making the problem worse.

The Right has this fantasy that there is no global warming trend, or - if there is one - it is not being caused by CO2 emissions. They assume that if CO2 emissions somehow can be shown not to be "the cause" of global warming, then there is no need for us to change current behavior in ways that might affect the bottom line for Exxon or General Motors. They are trying to rationalize this away in their usual pre-Enlightenment way, by killing the messenger, banging the drums, shaking their rattles, waving serpents and appealing to tribal loyalty; ie, do you believe us, or your lying eyes?

The truth is simple: even if there were found to be a "natural" cause (presumably irreversible, because it was not of our doing) driving the bulk of climate change, the results of such change would still be dire for mankind, and rising CO2 emissions (along with methane, sulfuric acid, fluorocarbons, etc) can only make the final outcome worse: global temperatures are going to peak at a higher level than they would have done otherwise. A rational person would take steps to fix that which is fixable, lowering CO2 levels to mitigate the coming disaster.

These people are not rational; nor are they persuadable. They are lost in denial. Other societies have allowed people like this to dominate their councils, and they pushed the degradation of their environment past the point of no return. Examples include the ancient Maya, the Anasazi, and the natives of Easter Island. This time, though, it is no local culture or single nation whose fate hangs in the balance: it is the entire globe, and the fate of our species.

It's way past time to stop worrying what people like Jonah Goldberg think (or even if they think at all). They contribute nothing useful to our national converstation; only noise.

Posted by: Tellurian | Jul 5, 2006 4:45:27 PM


You are clearly not an utter illiterate. So try not to write like one, okay?

For "assumedly", try "presumably", which has the advantage of being a word, and of not making you sound illiterate.

"Assumedly" is up there with "for all intensive purposes" and "irregardless".

Posted by: teach | Jul 5, 2006 4:50:38 PM

You are clearly not an utter illiterate. So try not to write like one, okay?

Who's fucking this pig, you or Ezra?

Posted by: Fred Jones. | Jul 5, 2006 4:53:49 PM

Teach: Here's a dictionary definition for "assumedly," making it a word and you a dick. If my writing bothers you, you're welcome to leave. Otherwise, keep your temper tantrums out of my comment section.

Fred: ???

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 5, 2006 5:01:29 PM

As for the more substantive discussion going on here, assume global warming is largely natural. And assume, as Jonah seems to grant, that it'll have the outcomes environmentalists warn. Clearly, those areo utcomes we have to adapt to and plan for. So what's the plan? How do we deal? The second level question here is this: Are conservatives even attempting to plan for the type of global warming they believe exists, or are they too busy fighting the environmentalists?

Posted by: Ezra | Jul 5, 2006 5:03:29 PM

"Clearly, those areo utcomes we have to adapt to and plan for."

What is the question again? Like, how are we going to effectively and humanely evacuate the world's coastlines within the next century? Do we abandon Bangladesh, devote x percent of American GDP to helping Bangladesh, or x percent of American GDP to keeping the Bangladesh boat people off our shores? I don't know the dimensions of the problem, and how much amelioration will be politically possible. My dream solution is above.

You know, Ezra, the right laid its marker down somewhere in the early eighties, and confirmed it in this administration.

The right is gonna profit, and some other guy is gonna pay. They will not redeem the SS Trust fund with their tax dollars. Don't mess with their SUV's and Exxon stock. They don't owe a damn thing to posterity.

The immediate question is how we prevent the next oil grab in Iran.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Jul 5, 2006 6:07:31 PM

Ezra, now it is you who are being disingenuous. They are in denial. They have no plan, or rather they have a plan, but it is the same plan they have for victory in Iraq, the reconstruction of New Orleans, and balancing the federal budget: they plan to pass it along to someone else.

Actually, that is Plan B.

Plan A is they continue scheming to consolidate their absolute power over our Republic, so they can stop people like you from asking embarrassing questions about Plan B.

Posted by: Tellurian | Jul 5, 2006 6:11:20 PM

The only "plan" that makes sense on a planetary scale is to decrease greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible, so that global temperatures peak sooner and lower. That minimizes the damage, although it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to save our sorry asses. On a less-than-planetary scale, we have to do what we can to cushion the impact on our highly interdependent economy of impending massive crop failures due to drought and other harsh weather, as well as water shortages that are likely to occur in certain predictable areas (southwest, midwest when the the Oglala aquifer is exhausted, maybe Florida, depending what happens to precipitation patterns). Maybe it's just me, but I think dealing with social problems like inequities in resource distribution (including income and assets) and the corruption of our government by monied special interests would be among the basic structural changes necessary for our culture to survive. I happen to think that rising sea levels are not the biggest problem, although it makes an impression on people and it's easy to understand. Sea levels will rise slowly. There will be time to adapt. Think: Venice and the Netherlands. Cities will rebuild and move inland. It will be disruptive, yes, but not fatal to industrial nations on the major continents. If you were foolish enough to choose to be born on a Pacific atoll, well then! That's another story. You deserve whatever happens to you.

Posted by: Tellurian | Jul 5, 2006 6:25:43 PM

Maybe this is the GOP's plan for coping with global warming:

It's actually a satire, but that's about as far as most of them will go unless there's potential for massive fraud and theft.

Posted by: Sonny | Jul 5, 2006 6:53:53 PM

What if Jonah Goldberg understood elementary algebra....?

Posted by: sglover | Jul 5, 2006 6:58:37 PM

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