Tuesday, April 15, 2008

HOT AIR. "Is Global Warming the Left's Version of Rapture?" asks Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard. Unsurprisingly (but here I am revealing my liberal dogmatism), Goldfarb answers in the affirmative:
But hasn't the left embraced global warming as their own version of the Rapture? They do not harbor any doubt, but believe with the fervor of religious conviction that the end of civilization will come as a result of consumerism. And they seem completely unaware that in believing this, they have shed the very skepticism that is supposed to define the secular left.
Even if you accept that opinion journalism is not an exact science, this is a pretty outlandish charge, so Goldfarb offers evidence: James E. Hansen (M.S., Astronomy, Ph.D., Physics, Director, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies) complained that a textbook written by rightwingers gives "the mistaken impression that the scientific evidence of global warming is doubtful and uncertain." This is weak as millenarianism goes, but perhaps elsewhere Dr. Hansen has thundered on the coming End Times:
CO2 will become the dominant climate forcing, if its emissions continue to increase and aerosol effects level off. Business-as-usual scenarios understate the potential for CO2 emission reductions from improved energy efficiency and de-carbonization of fuels. Based on this potential and current CO2 growth trends, we argue that limiting the CO2 forcing increase to 1 Wm2 in the next 50 years is plausible.

Indeed, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use declined slightly in 1998 and again in 1999 (71), while the global economy grew. However, achieving the level of emissions needed to slow climate change significantly is likely to require policies that encourage technological developments to accelerate energy efficiency and decarbonization trends.
Technological developments to accelerate energy efficiency and decarbonization trends! He might as well be roaming the streets in sackcloth, holding a big cartoon sign.

Maybe we can get a better idea of the state of play from conservative deep-thinkers like Yuval Levin, who at The New Atlantis admits that conservatives "do have a complex relationship with science," which he proceeds to demonstrate. While the scientific innovations of Isaac Newton et alia led to a "rational new political philosophy" in England, it led in France to a "zeal to overthrow tradition and replace it with rational design." This latter tendency led in turn to the Terror, "the gruesome experiment in applied social science called communism," John Dewey, and other leftist horrors, including environmentalism -- for, while Luval generously concedes that "not all environmentalism indulges in such anti-humanism" as you see in preferred rightwing pull-quote sources, "this view of nature calls for human restraint and humility—and for diminished expectations of human power and potential."

The result: liberals turn their human power away from issues such as Iran and North Korea, and toward cults of the "authentic" and "organic" and other manifestations of Gaia, while, presumably, the conservative advocates of scientific enquiry (not much heard from in Luval's essay since the days of Hobbes and Locke) turn theirs toward thwarting liberals through such practitioners as Michael Goldfarb.

I'm not sure what to make of this global warming stuff, but when I see it associated with hysteria (both the psychological and comic varieties), I notice that it mostly comes from the other side.

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