This election will almost surely materially lessen the power of global warming hysteria to move policy in the U.S. Congress. That doesn’t mean the hyperventilating will end. In fact, in the face of the coming change in the political atmosphere, environmentalist Bill McKibben is ratcheting up the hysteria. It is “radical” in his view to be skeptical. (Gee, since when did McKibben endorse being mainstream? I thought being radical was supposed to be a compliment.)
In any event, he has a piece in the New Republic that warns darkly about the consequences of the Republican Party rejecting global warming hysteria. (A press release must have gone out. Ronald Brownstein has a similar piece in the National Journal. Tom Friedman similarly kvetched in last Sunday’s NYT.) ,
What I find fascinating is that McKibben’s article illustrates just why so many Americans—not just Republicans— have decided to ignore the Siren song of dismantling our economies in order to “save the planet.” (Politics is politics: If Americans were down for the hysteria, so too would be at least some Republicans.) From the article:
The political implications are clear. Climate legislation didn’t pass the current Congress, and it won’t have a prayer in the next one. If the Republicans take the Senate, James Inhofe has said that the Environment and Public Works Committee will “stop wasting all of our time on all that silly stuff, all the hearings on global warming.” And in the House, Representative Darrell Issa says that he would turn his Oversight and Government Reform Committee over to the eleventeenth investigation of Climategate, the British e-mail scandal. But, for the moment, it’s less the legislative fallout that interests me than what this denial of climate change says about modern conservatism. On what is quite possibly the single biggest issue the planet has faced, American conservatism has reached a near-unanimous position, and that position is: pay no attention to all those scientists.
No, carbon dioxide is not the “single biggest issue the planet has faced.” That’s hysteria. In fact, I would say the potential for nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and a president of Iran who clearly longs for the end of the world are far greater threats. Heck, a UN panel says that loss of species diversity is a greater threat than warming (and that’s hysteria, too.)
People aren’t scared of the breath they exhale, or the methane from cow flatulence, or the exhaust from jet engines. They are very afraid of an an economy that feels like it could fall into depression and of the bottomless pit of debt into which we have leaped. They want to deal with those immediate problems, meaning economic growth—which will require that we remove the chains that currently bind enterprise.
But global warming hysteria would lock on even stronger handcuffs. McKibben and his cohorts want to tax carbon dioxide! That would materially suppress the economy. As just one example, gas prices would soar, which would increase food prices, which would make it harder for people to spend on other things, which would kill even more jobs, pushing us on a downward spiral. Oh, and the great “green jobs” that are supposed to stop this? It hasn’t happened yet in California. We have about a 12.6 unemployment rate. Some say Spain has shown it’s a loser. Others disagree. Whichever it is, even if such a transformation is going to happen, it is going to take decades. People won’t wait that long for economic growth—particularly since it would take many years before we learned whether the “cures” for global warming even worked.
Many people also have reacted against the way global warming seems almost a religion to many hysterics. Even more concerning has been the stench of tyranny, the desire for more poverty, not to mention misanthropy and anti humanism, that has infected the global warming community, and not just at the farther edges. (This is what got me interested in this issue.) How many times have I reported on even leading advisers to governments calling for Draconian population control policies—including China-like one or two child public policies, even though they feature forced abortion and infanticide?
And then there is the blatant disrespect, motive smearing, and two-dimensional defining as Neanderthals of those who disagree with the true radicals, meaning the hysterics. McKibben is not going to win any friends with this nonsense:
Had the Soviet Union built secret factories to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and threatened to raise the sea level and subvert the Grain Belt, the prevailing conservative response would have been: Bomb them. Bomb them back to the Holoceneto the 10,000-year period of climatic stability now unraveling, the period that underwrote the rise of human civilization that conservatism has taken as its duty to protect.
Add into the recipe of rejection the blatant hypocrisy and snobbery among the leaders of the global warming political activists, epitomized by Al Gore’s becoming hyper rich off his activism, his many houses, and flying on private jets, etc. Worse, he doesn’t act like the world the world is really in danger of being over. I mean, if things were that bad, why would he refuse to be questioned except in purely friendly venues? Why would he refuse to debate?
Finally, contrary to McKibben’s claims, there is a strong heterodox science sector—which is being squelched by the politically correct—both about the cause of the warming we have seen in the last century, and more importantly, what should be done about it. Just the other day, a major physicist dropped out of the professional organization he helped found because of what he saw; the corruption of science by the global warming crowd. Even those who think the climate is warming but who are not hysterical, such as Bjorn Lomborg—whose remedies I could support—are wildly attacked.
Then, there are the “mistakes” that have been used to foster hysteria. To promote action at Copenhagan, the UN promoted what it knew to be false assertion—that the Himalyan glaciers would disappear in 35 years. The glaciers are not shrinking at near the rate that was once asserted. Arctic ice has not disappeared in the summer, as some warned was imminent, and may even be growing. Katrina did not have anything to do with global warming even though Gore and others tried to tie it the issue. Heck, predicting these things is incredibly uncertain. Thus, we were told this was going to be a terrible hurricane season in the USA—but not one major storm has hit the mainland so far.
Bottom line: America is recovering from the hysteria, a virus we never fully caught in any event. Most of us, rightly in my view, believe it is more politics than science. We believe it seeks to undermine our sovereignty and turn over the economy to UN technocrats and politicized scientists. We believe the proposed cures—cap and trade, carbon tax, massive international income redistribution, forcing impoverished countries to remain poor, etc.—are far worse than whatever the disease might be.
And that isn’t going to change no matter how often activists like McKibben, Gore, and Hollywood types seeking to help their careers, stomp their feet in frustration. It seems that the common sense of the American people is once again going to prevail.