Liberals Losing The Climate Change Argument

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President Obama on Tuesday released a wide-ranging report on the effects of climate change on the nation.  In it, the administration claims that Americans are already feeling the impact of global warming, through changes in ranging rom hurricane damage worsened by rising seas, to allergies prolonged by extended pollen seasons, to corn and soybean yields depressed by hotter-than-average summers.

I find many of their claims dubious.  In fact, their claims actually directly contradict many of the findings in the newest United Nations IPCC report.

Nigel Lawson, in an excellent piece in the National Review, spells out the IPCC findings:

The latest (2013–14) IPCC Assessment Report does its best to ramp up the alarmism in a desperate, and almost certainly vain, attempt to scare the governments of the world into concluding a binding global decarbonization agreement at the crunch U.N. climate conference due to be held in Paris next year. Yet a careful reading of the report shows that the evidence to justify the alarm simply isn’t there.

On health, for example, it lamely concludes that “the world-wide burden of human ill-health from climate change is relatively small compared with effects of other stressors and is not well quantified” — adding that so far as tropical diseases (which preoccupied earlier IPCC reports) are concerned, “Concerns over large increases in vector-borne diseases such as dengue as a result of rising temperatures are unfounded and unsupported by the scientific literature.”…

The IPCC does its best to contest this by claiming that warming is bad for food production: In its own words, “negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.” But not only does it fail to acknowledge that the main negative impact on crop yields has been not climate change but climate-change policy, as farmland has been turned over to the production of biofuels rather than food crops. It also understates the net benefit for food production from the warming it expects to occur, in two distinct ways…

Moreover, as the latest IPCC report makes clear, careful studies have shown that, while extreme-weather events such as floods, droughts, and tropical storms have always occurred, overall there has been no increase in either their frequency or their severity. [Bolded added] That may, of course, be because there has so far been very little global warming indeed: The fear is the possible consequences of what is projected to lie ahead of us. And even in climate science, cause has to precede effect: It is impossible for future warming to affect events in the present.

Now, this gets to the heart of the matter as I see it.  The White House’s shrill report does not appear to be based on solid science.  Even the IPCC, which clearly believes in the global warming thesis, doesn’t support the wide-ranging claims of the administration.  Numerous well-regarded reports have not demonstrated the type of causation that President Obama claimed yesterday.  But the goal of the administration was not to promote further understanding of the science behind their argument; no, their goal was to scare people into agreeing with them, regardless of the science.

Let us even put aside the science for a moment.  The politics of global warming are a perfect example how to politicize a movement that could potentially gain traction, and force it into submission. The Left has for the better part of three decades (at least) made this a war of ‘us vs. them’.  There is no compromise or middle ground for the extremist progressives on climate change.  They require full capitulation, or claim the end of the world is upon us.  And as such, what you develop is a religious type of fanaticism that cannot be reasoned with.

In turn, such extremism begets extremism.  The political Right now opposes virtually any solution that begins with the words ‘climate change’.  For good reason or not, when your opponents compare you to Holocaust deniers, it is highly unlikely you are going to agree with them on anything.

Even worse, the entire concept of ‘settled science’ bandied about by Obama and other Democrats is demeaning to…well, to ‘Science’ itself.  Science by definition is NEVER SETTLED. It is a continuing search for truth; real truth.  Even if anthropogenic global warming is a scientific truth, its effects on our world still is not a settled science. To claim so shows a lack of understanding of what science truly is.

Any science whose modeling is so incorrect on a regular basis should not be so arrogant as to claim they have ‘settled’ the debate.  Whether it is global cooling from the 1970s, Ted Danson saying we have 10 years to live…20 years ago, or Al Gore in 2008 claiming the polar ice cap would melt by 2013, claims from the left repeatedly fall short, and make their position look ludicrous.

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Sean Davis of The Federalist points out the reason for this shrill debate:

As the old legal adage goes: When you have the facts, argue the facts; when you have the law, argue the law; when you have neither, just accuse your adversary of hating science and hope that nobody will listen to what they have to say about your consistently wrong forecasting models. And if that doesn’t work, blatantly manipulate and torture the English language and hope that nobody will notice.

The real problem with all of this? There is certainly a chance that the Left is right.  I am a skeptic, but I by no means reject the possibility that man-made global climate change could prove to be catastrophic.  There is plenty of data that, if causation proves to be accurate, show that we are unalterably changing the planet. I personally think that the chance of the catastrophic changes most progressives believe is quite small, but I fully accept that the probability is greater than zero.

Frankly, I honestly believe even LIBERALS think that chance is small.  In a world where liberals claim that we are facing Armageddon, but the most powerful liberal voices continue to live in enormous mansions and burn carbon at an astronomical rate while driving fancy cars or flying all over the planet, it is somewhat difficult to take their claims seriously.  They would have far more credibility if they gave up their luxuries, lived in a small home with renewable energy, and made wholesale sacrifices.  You don’t see many liberals doing that; which makes me believe that their own true beliefs on the facts of ‘warming’ are far less  determined than they first appear.

I do think that conservatives opposition to many of the environmental policies is wrong as well.  Absolute opposition to any policy debate is almost always incorrect. Instead, conservatives should propose their own solutions to maintain the environment, based on conservative values.  That would further the debate far more than vehement opposition.

Conservatives have potential solutions that can make a difference. I have, for more than two decades now, been an advocate for promoting a 0% tax on green technologies, similar to the 0% sales tax on internet sales that promoted the web boom.  Guarantee 0% federal taxes (instead of inefficient subsidies) on solar, wind, etc., including on capital gains investments into such ventures.  Nothing would promote capital flow and innovation into those fields, and then let the market do its job.  I think most conservatives could support a ‘Green’ policy such as this.

There are other conservative answers that could make things better. Expansion of nuclear power, with ‘smarter’ regulations that could reduce the cost of production; a push for cleaner coal, because coal will continue to be a major producer of electricity in this country and around the world for decades to come; tax incentives to power companies to produce less CO2, instead of regulatory penalties for producing too much; and a slow, steady march of improving efficiency through out the country.  This doesn’t even discuss the more controversial topics, such as how frakking and our natural gas boom has decreased America’s carbon footprint over the past decade.

Compromise positions on any of these could make progress; maybe slow progress, as far as the Left is concerned, but progress nonetheless.

If liberals really want to make progress on climate change, they will have to agree with a few ground rules. One, no wholesale rapid change to the economy will occur, because…that is not how this country works.  Sorry, the ‘Tom Friedmans’ of the world, you are not going to get your huge carbon tax.  Two, your conservative opponents may not agree with you, but they are not the enemy; either we work together, or don’t work at all. Three, there are significant, practical small changes we can make that will make a difference, that conservatives would agree too, if they were not so vilified. And four, don’t make the science out to be more than it truly is, because it does more to demean your position than strengthens it.

I am sure liberals have far more complaints about the conservative position; fair enough. I stipulate to the fact that I am attacking liberals here more than my own conservative brethren. I leave it to my liberal colleagues to do that yeoman’s work.

But liberals continuing these scare tactics and extremist positions that require full adherence to their belief system is clearly a loser in the eyes of the American public.  They will accept progress, but they will not accept extremism.  I believe it is fair to say that liberal unscientific positions and extremist rhetoric is hurting, not furthering, the cause of advancing greater environmental action and awareness.  We all should do better.  We really can do better.

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