Archive for the ‘Thomas Friedman’ Category

Friedman on global warming: he’s right, but for the wrong reasons

November 18, 2009 Leave a comment

I don’t know what to believe, but I’ve determined it doesn’t really matter.

Does carbon affect the world’s temperature? And if so, how much? If a lot, is it a problem? And if it’s a problem, is it a big one? If it’s a big one, can we fix or reverse it? If the former, at what cost — at a cost greater than that we’d bear by living with the problem? And if the latter, again, at what cost? And — perhaps most important of all — is technology already moving us quickly along Green Street anyway, at such a clip that overbearing government action would be redundant at best and unnecessarily self-destructive at worst?

There are too many questions here and no one is smart enough to know all the answers.

Many who answer the first question affirmatively say that, though the science is there, its implications aren’t: a warmer globe isn’t that big a deal. Still others say it’s a problem, it’s a big problem — but there’s little to nothing we can do about it. And still other believers who say it’s a big problem and there’s something we can do to fix or reverse it say there’s no way we could possibly afford to do so.

Wow. What a mess. So is there a way around the science? Some sort of common ground outside the problem that might make it easier for those of us who lack climatology degrees? I believe the answer is yes.

Whether Thomas Friedman is right that global warming is a problem worth making a huge fuss over — and therefore whether the science is there — is totally irrelevant: there are too many other good reasons to get off the slick stuff that powers our cars and the sooty stuff that warms our homes. Both are dirty, unhealthy, and too many of our enemies comprise the group with the largest stores of oil for it to remain safe economically and in terms of our own national security for too much longer.

In short, man’s impact on global warming is irrelevant. There are too many other settled, noncontroversial reasons to find a better, cleaner way to power our lives.

Conservatives like to say the world is cooling. They think they’re clever. All this cooling trend could mean is that the models didn’t predict some other factor that’s now masking the warming effects of carbon, and when this other variable’s effects wear off and the world is that much more carbony and the world warms all over again, but this time much more because we will not have slowed carbon output down—then what? Then what will conservatives say? It’s time to forget about the science; I repeat, no one knows what the hell is going on in the air up there. We should consider ourselves lucky that there are good reasons to kick the carbon habit, forget about the debate and whether it’s over, and then do what we can to assure that Democrats don’t blow this with yet another terrible solution or set of solutions.

Instead, what we conservatives should do is admit that the science might be there and then ask the public whether the way liberals plan to deal with the science is prudent – or at least more so than other sensible solutions. Conservatives should focus exclusively on the fact that what the liberals propose to get us off oil and coal amounts to a cure that’s worse than the disease. Taxing carbon is just plain dumb economics, not to mention that there are more constructive ways to expedite oil and coal’s extinction.

The first solution is nuclear power. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a climate-change believer and longtime nuclear-power advocate, says we could reach what the Kyoto Protocol (way back in 1990) set as its goal for 2030’s carbon limits by building 100 new nuclear plants and electrifying half our cars and trucks.

Think about that.

By doing these two simple things, we can accomplish in the next 20 years what Kyoto hoped it could accomplish in 40.

And that’s the difference between the liberal and conservative approach (not just here; this is a systemic, holistic difference between the two schools of thought). Taxing and punishing an economy into compliance is much harder and takes far longer than simply creating positive incentives to encourage our economy to move in a smarter direction.

But what I believe doesn’t really matter. Democrats are hellbent on steamrolling the economy into submission to Mother Earth, whether that’s the best solution or not to a problem no one is 100% sure even exists.