Two conservative opinions on Global Warming from WaPo

Oddly enough, I agree with (most) of one of them.

The attack on Newsweek’s article “The Truth About Deniers continues with a piece from Robert Samuelson in the WaPo. Samuelson, true to form, sees a hard problem and resorts to saying, “It’s hard, we can’t do anything about it!” His boring fatalism on any difficult problem seems to always end with assertions that if something requires regulation, or proactive government, it’s impossible. He’s also critical of Newsweek’s correct assertion that the attacks on the science aren’t for legitimate “dissent” but rather represent an organized disinformation campaign.

But the overriding reality seems almost un-American: We simply don’t have a solution for this problem. As we debate it, journalists should resist the temptation to portray global warming as a morality tale — as Newsweek did — in which anyone who questions its gravity or proposed solutions may be ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge. Dissent is, or should be, the lifeblood of a free society.

The problem is that the people who are questioning global warming are fools, cranks, and industry stooges (or those duped by them). And Samuelson, without denying the science, is being a typical scold, crying about people who point out the anti-science, and economic motives of those who question the science for no other reason than they don’t like what they hear. We don’t call them denialists because we disagree with them or merely because they dissent. We call them denialist and cranks because they act like denialists and cranks! How many examples of cherry picking, or fake experts, or conspiracy theories, or references to being Galileo do you need to hear before it becomes clear the “dissenters” don’t have a leg to stand on? Take last weeks glorious exclamations from the denialists over the correction of the US record for instance. It did not change the global average for 1998, it did not change the trends, it had no real effect on the science. This is not the behavior of honest actors who merely are interested in finding the truth about the state of global climate. This is the behavior of people who don’t like a scientific result, in will latch onto anything, no matter how insignificant, to bolster their denialist position.

Dissent and denialism should not be confused Mr Samuelson. Global warming is not a “moral” crusade, as much as the denialists would like to compare themselves to heretics like Galileo being oppressed by the evil left-wing Al Gore global warming conspiracy. The only moral issue is the dishonesty of those who lie and misrepresent science for a political aim.

The second article, from Michael Gerson of all people, is a much better example of how global warming should be addressed – with technology. Giving credit where credit is due, the Bushie has a much more reasonable approach to the problem in “Hope on Climate Change? Here’s Why”

In 1975, Los Angeles exceeded the ozone standard 192 days out of the year — meaning the choking smog was so bad that children, the elderly and the infirm were better off avoiding the risky practice of outdoor breathing. In 2005, the ozone standard was exceeded on just 27 days. Los Angeles has had 30 years of consistent improvement in reducing smog.

As conservatives would expect, these gains were largely the result of technology — the catalytic converter in automobiles and reformulated gasoline — and not by pedaling to work or undoing the Industrial Revolution. Smog was reduced mainly by innovation, not austerity.

Why only conservatives would expect this seems strange, as being fairly liberal I too think the way through is going to be technological.

But liberals are correct about something else: This technological progress would not have taken place as a result of the free market alone. Easterbrook argues that as long as producing pollution is a free good — without cost to the polluter — there is little economic incentive to produce new methods to restrict it. Federal and state regulations on auto emissions and air quality created an environment in which the invention of new technologies was economically necessary.

Ding ding ding! Give that man a cookie! Yes, the market needs to be given incentives to provide technological improvements to benefit the environment. Those who think that the market will just magically provide things that are good and necessary at any given moment are deluded (they should read the Society of the Spectacle). While it’s astonishing Gerson would actually acknowledge this, it’s more than welcome.

There are lessons here in the controversy over global warming. The debate is less and less about the existence of the problem itself. A consensus has hardened and broadened that global temperatures are increasing, that humans have contributed to the rise and that this is eventually a bad thing for the planet — views held by the environmental movement and publicly affirmed by the current president. The differences come on whether these environmental changes are likely to be gradual and manageable or swift and apocalyptic. Here, the scientific computer simulations are complex and speculative, and their conclusions are sometimes wildly overplayed.

I guess we had to give him a swipe at models. But if anything, the models have lagged behind the damage that seems to be caused by global warming, rather than over-predicting disaster. I’m not a believer in swift and apocalyptic, but one should always prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

The rest of the essay is a little bit more wishy-washy. He mentions the fatalist argument over emissions from India and China, but then acknowledges it’s not an excuse for inaction. And while I don’t agree with him at the end that the cap-and-trade is a substantive improvement, at least he’s honest enough to acknowledge the flaws of such a regime. His final paragraph, oddly enough, is perfectly reasonable.

A cap-and-trade system isn’t perfect. It is open to fraud — companies in other countries have sometimes increased their production of pollutants to get benefits for cutting them later. A cap-and-trade bill could be used by Congress to push subsidies toward pet environmental projects of questionable value.

But the overall argument for a cap-and-trade system is strong. The answer to global warming will eventually be technological — the production of energy without the production of heat-trapping gases. But only the government can create the incentives for Americans to work on this problem with urgency and seriousness. And there is hope to be found in the clearer skies of Los Angeles.

So there you have it. Two conservatives writing for the Post. One, whines about difficult problems and throws his hands up in the air at the mere suggestion that regulation could possibly accomplish something good. One reasonably points out that regulation can create the necessity that is the mother of invention.