The hollowness at the core of 21st century liberal politics stands out against the backdrop of the big climate change… would “debate” be the word? Not likely. The air fills with assumptions, generated by the media sources that channel most political assumptions. Among these: The people will believe every word from on high, duly knuckling our foreheads.
As President Obama himself put it, referring to a recent National Climate Assessment report: “Earlier this week I issued …” With characteristic modesty the president corrected himself: “Or we issued a report [showing] that climate change is not some far-off problem in the future. It’s happening now… more severe floods, more violent wildfires.” “More and more Americans” know it, including “Republicans outside of Washington.” Alas, “inside of Washington we’ve still got some climate deniers who shout loud, but they’re wasting everybody’s time on a settled debate. Climate change is a fact.”
Speechmaker though he is, Obama has his work cut out for him, what with polls reflecting no more than marginal concern with climate change as an issue. For which state of affairs I would suggest three likely causes, all having to do with the style of politics practiced currently by liberals.
Phrases such as “a settled debate” — meaning the “experts,” as opposed to ordinary folk, own the terrain. Get outta here, you “deniers”! The experts, if you please, will dish out the facts. No dissent; no contrasting views wanted. Modern-day “Progressives” aren’t known for their patience with questions.
The lack of a coherent, understandable goal. What would Climate Reform look like, once accomplished? Would all regions receive just the right amount of gentle rain at just the right times and intervals? How thick should the polar ice cap be? Thicker than now? As thick as in, say, 1890? Warnings about rising sea levels suggest that experts know, or should know, what levels are ideal. They have yet (so far as I know) to inform us as to these ideals, preparatory to proving, in the face of challenge, why the levels they have in mind are best for us.
Then there’s the really big challenge. Whatever Climate Reform looks like, how do we do it, given the lack of an overarching authority for planning and enforcement? Wonderful slogans abound: for instance, cut out dependence on fossil fuels. Well, OK. But does that mean get rid, totally, of coal and crude oil? Can we retain some? How much, in that event? What about all the investments and jobs for which coal and gas account? We’d replace those… how, exactly? And having done all that (whatever it turned out to be), what would we then use for energy? Wind and solar power? From where? On what timetable? At what cost? And who goes first? The Chinese, on whose doorstep lies responsibility for half the globe’s projected increases in emissions? What if they told us, and all our learned experts, to go jump in the lake? We would respond … how?
To find the president of the United States on the myth-making side of the Climate Reform argument isn’t encouraging. But it’s not surprising either. The liberal way, these days, is to devise a problem so as to scratch the instincts — anti-free market, anti-old time America, pro-big government, pro-regulation — of constituencies likely to respond well at election time to those doing the scratching. Possibly the best thing to say about conservatives is that they tend to lack grand ambitions of this sort, neither trusting reformers very much nor neglecting attention to the consequences of abrupt and far-reaching change.
Continued enthusiasm for grand, politically mandated changes entrenches the already acute sense that the federal government, as conservatives commonly allege, is seriously out of control. Fortunately, for the particular grand change under consideration — a War on Warming — enthusiasm isn’t running high, save for modest and likely useful efforts to improve energy technologies. The experts and their ally in the White House should round up — fast — the best apologists and wordsmiths they can afford. At that it may not be enough.
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