Irwin Seltzer, despite his prominent post among as house economist and contributing editor for the far-right Weekly Standard, is a good writer and not an ideologue. (Like Eric Blair, I find these two traits often go together.)
Seltzer endorsed a carbon tax earlier this year, and told me in an email that "he felt there was enough evidence to warrant prudential activity."
For a conservative economist, that’s akin to shouting "Emergency!" and "Help! Help!" from a rooftop.
Now Seltzer, who often casually mentions inside political moves from Republican circles in his column, reports that newly-designated Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson may at long last move the Bush administration to do something to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
Then there is the environment, a policy
area in which the Bush administration is in something of a time warp. No honest person can with certainty assert that global warming is a threat. But any responsible person can see that the evidence is sufficient to suggest that it might be, and that some action to contain emissions of greenhouse gases is an insurance policy worth having. Paulson is Wall Street’s greenest titan, chairman of the Nature Conservancy, a bird-watcher, an advocate of a greenhouse gas emissions trading system for the United States and of mandatory curbs on emissions if voluntary action proves inadequate. At Goldman, he allocated $1 billion for investment in renewable energy and energy-saving projects. He is likely to make his voice heard in an administration that is said to be ready to move from its justifiable opposition to the Kyoto treaty to more positive proposals for emissions reduction.
To the far right, of course, the slight possibility of a Bush administration acting sensibly to preserve our lovely climate is worrisome.
But although this news this gives me some hope, I still have doubts that Paulson, despite his good intentions, will get anywhere in this mulish administration.
For one, our famously faith-based president has met privately with Michael Crichton, who calls global warming a hoax, to talk about climate change. According to Bush’s worshipful biographer, Bush came out of the meeting calling himself a "dissenter" on the "theory" of global warming.
That would put him at the first stage of global warming denialism; the "it’s not happening" stage. (That position was undercut again, for what seems to be about the 500,000th time, with the long-overdue confirmation of Michael Mann’s famous "hockey stick" graph, showing that the global average temperatures, after a thousand years of relative stability, have been rocketing upward in the last thirty years, in concert with rising levels of CO2.)
And Bush trusts energy policy to Dick Cheney, who judging from this adoring interview with Sean Hannity, is stuck on the second stage of global warming denialism (it’s happening, but it’s not our fault).
Bringing these two to reason won’t be easy. As Dorothy Parker once said: "You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks."
But we wish you luck, Henry. We’re all going to need it.