Why I Hate the Climate Change Debate

If the climate is really getting warmer, why was it cold last week? Checkmate libtards!

No, that is not actually an intelligent position on climate change. But there’s plenty of bad takes to go around. Here’s one from the Guardian, suggesting the way to fight climate change is by having fewer children. Here’s another one, asking if the solution to climate change is veganism. Or this one from the New York Times, which asks if human extinction would be a tragedy because our negative impact on the environment.

In fact, I find the entire debate unproductive. I am not claiming that climate change doesn’t exist, it doesn’t pose a threat to our future, or that we can’t or shouldn’t do anything about it. But many of the arguments in favor of drastic action to curb climate change can be boiled down to “if we don’t take action on climate change the world WILL end, and to fight this menace we must dramatically restructure the economy, shift vast amounts of power to government, and implement policies those on the far left would support regardless to the climate.”

Don’t believe me? Then why does the touted Green New Deal include proposals about universal healthcare and a federal jobs guarantee, neither of which seem to have much to do with climate change? Why is Bernie Sanders saying we need to fight climate change “like we fought the Nazis?” What about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the world will end in 12 years without action on climate change?

Now moderate liberals might reply that using Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the Green New Deal to discredit everyone concerned about climate change is unfair. I agree, and that is not my intention. But my problem is not with the moderates suggesting we tax carbon or use more alternative energy. In fact, I support both positions. But the environmentalists shouting the loudest about climate change are disproportionately on the far left, and they support positions I find both productive and untenable, and their effect on the larger debate can only be described as toxic.

Now, I’m going to save a discussion about these policies for another time. My complaint here is more my frustrations with the environmentalist left, and the climate debate as a whole.

My first problem is a constant conflation of the facts of climate change and the policies you build from those facts. This fact-policy distinction is critical with any issue, but I find it’s ignored more in the climate debate than anywhere else. For example, I don’t believe solar and wind are the energy of America’s future. I don’t think renovating every building in the country for “state of the art” energy efficiency is a worthwhile policy. I also think fossil fuels still have an important role in the production of energy, especially in the developing world.

Nowhere in those statements did I doubt the reality of climate change, my understanding of those facts has just lead me to different conclusions than the environmentalists on the far left. But apparently that makes me a science denier!

I’m also skeptical about climate modeling. The climate is an incredibly complex system. Whenever anyone says if we reduce carbon emissions to a certain level by 2030 and become carbon neutral by 2050, we can halt the increase in global temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will be better than an increase of 2 degrees in certain ways (which is what the recent IPCC report said), the skeptic in me naturally has a hard time buying it. Even without taking into account the questionable record of past climate predictions, there are just limits to our ability to predict the future.

Again, I’m not doubting the trend of global warming or the need for action to reduce carbon emissions. I am just wary of alarmism, especially when it arises from data that ought to be met with skepticism.

Which leads to the sin of the environmentalist left that most frustrates me – their narrow-mindedness. Their only answer to the problem of climate change is government, and their insistence this is the only answer can only be described as dogmatic.

I do not really blame the left for having a monopoly on the issue of climate change. Conservatives have admittedly done a horrible job on this issue. But there are conservatives, especially younger ones, who see the need to be good stewards of the environment and want to balance that obligation with the principles of small government. This article should be an example of that. But if the future of environmentalism is the Green New Deal, there’s no place for us there.

When you are operating from the premise that inaction means the end of the world, this dogmatism might be understandable. Only climate change will not result in the end of the world. The seas will rise, the earth will get warmer, but mankind will adapt, and we will overcome, the way we have done for thousands of years. That doesn’t mean a warming planet will not impose difficulties we should seek to avoid. But the power of human innovation to solve problems can never be discarded. Life finds a way.

All climate proposals seek to balance two things – protecting the environment with as little impediment to individual liberty and economic prosperity as possible. We don’t want the seas to boil, but I’d endure a hotter summer in order to keep driving my car. Maybe it’s wouldn’t be a catastrophe if temperatures rose by 1.8 degrees instead of 1.5, if the economic cost of lowering emissions is greater than the cost of the actual global warming. Only for the hardcore environmentalist left, there can be no trade-off. We either take dramatic action now or the world ends.

And when you make that claim, I’m not the one who’s refusing to acknowledge reality.

 

BLOG NOTE: Right now, I’m planning to see the LEGO movie 2 on Friday night, and I will post my review on it on Saturday. No post on Friday, review of the LEGO movie 2 on Saturday.

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