Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cooling Down the Heated Up

Just as Creationists and ID types reject evolution because of what they believe are its religious implications, global warming deniers reject the new consensus because of what they think are the political implications of doing something about climate change. They think that green ideas are stalking horses for one-world government and socialism. Which is why arguing about the science with them doesn't help very much. From their point of view, what's at stake isn't a scientific question at all. You might as well assume that Philip Johnson was motivated by a sincere desire to understand nature.

Since the real objection to global warming is not that it is unreal but that dealing with it will increase the power of government, it might be worthwhile to point out what kind of steps are being recommended to deal with greenhouse gases. Do they amount to "massive government intervention?"

The role of government in dealing with climate change appears to be threefold:

1. Paying for research about the issue.

2. Promoting behavioral changes through public education.

3. Altering existing regulations.

Some of these measures certainly cost public money, though not necessarily huge amounts of it. As far as I can see, however, they don't require governments to do anything qualitative different than they are doing now. The U.S. already requires electric utilities to limit the emission of certain substances. The various health-related agencies work to reduce smoking and promote exercise among the population. The Feds subsidize an enormous amount of research. So what are the conservatives so afraid of? Public service ads telling you to turn off the damned lights?

The irony is that unchecked climate change will certainly require a great increase in government investment. If you think CO2 sequestration is expensive, wait until you see the bill the Army Corps of Engineers runs up trying to save Florida.