Strange Days

These days on science sites, such as the ever-worthy Prometheus, brainy commentators of all stripes split the hairs of the politics of climate change with astounding, microscopic precision.

The admirable host Roger Pielke, Jr., for example, supports reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases, but points to building and development in the wrong places–such as on Gulf Coast beaches–as a more immediate problem, and argues that:

As logical as it may seem to you and me that it makes sense to reduce emissions, it seems clear now after almost two decades of experience that (a) this is not readily accepted by many people, and (b) policies focused on a direct approach are wanting. There is also the problem that trying to overcome (a) in particular seems to require pushing the science well beyond what it can support.

So what to do?

If you can’t get in the front door, try the back door and the windows. An indirect approach — which is well labeled "no regrets" — seems like the most promising place to start. Policy should today be focused on those policies which have the side effect of reducing CO2 emissions, but which can be justified for other reasons, and in particular, short-term tangible benefits. Among such back-door strategies, reducing reliance of foreign sources of oil, increasing efficiency, and reducing particulate air pollution seem to be among the most promising areas for effective political action that results in reduced GHG emissions.

And in another response to a comment, he suggests that environmentalists should sell their ideas on their own merits, and not as a way to avoid disaster.

All that sounds reasonable. But he goes on to add:

So long as he back door is open and the windows unlocked, those who despite a mountain of experience and research (like this provided in this post) insist on breaking down the fortified front door are in my view no longer part of the solution, but a part of the problem.

Part of the problem? Moi?

Yet even as these thoughtful commentators tie themselves in elegant knots over exactly how much disaster prediction the science will support, they virtually all agree that reductions in emissions of heat-trapping gases are a good idea.

So why must thinking people support either restrictions in development in places likely to be devastated by "charismatic megaweather" (as one commentator put it)…or reductions in emissions?

Why must those of us who care about this planet speak out for environmental ideas on their own merits…or warn of the risk of the acceleration of global warming?

Why not both?

I just don’t understand this single-mindedness.

What am I missing?

We don’t ask people of faith to advocate against abortion or for prayer in schools. We don’t ask libertarians to support tax cuts or limiting government. We don’t ask those who support a strong military to support the Army or the Navy.

Chris  Mooney took Time magazine and yours truly and several others to task for saying that yes, we should be worried about global warming, because it may cause stronger storms, among countless others changes…even as insurance companies make exactly that connection, according to the Washington Post:

Since Aug. 29 — when the hurricane made landfall along the Gulf Coast — Allstate Corp., the industry’s second-largest company, has ceased writing homeowners policies in Louisiana, Florida and coastal parts of Texas and New York state. The firm has stopped underwriting earthquake coverage in California and elsewhere. Other firms have pulled back from the Gulf Coast to Cape Cod, notifying Florida of plans to cancel 500,000 policies.

And even as the scientists and their followers train their logic lasers on the exact angle of proper advocacy, the Bush administration ignores the problem entirely, according to the NYTimes:

A scientific study commissioned by the Bush administration concluded yesterday that the lower atmosphere was indeed growing warmer and that there was "clear evidence of human influences on the climate system."

Predictably, the Bush administration called for more study–twenty more assessments, to be precise–and no governmental action whatsoever.

Thankfully, one sharp commentator–Matt Yglesias–ignored the hair-splitting and made the obvious point:

    Perhaps we’ll get to see some focus on [reducing carbon emissions] come hurricane season.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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