Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Great Global Warming Omni-Justification

Mark Steyn often frustrates me. His imaginary revenge over the immoral atheists of Europe through rather ambitious predictions of their dying out is distinctly unimpressive. Despite this when he gets a real left-wing absurdity in his sights his assault on it is always great fun and that more than makes up for the weaknesses in his 'magnum opus'. This article on global warming science is a classic example:

"Alas, the science isn't so solid. In the '70s, it was predicting a new ice age. Then it switched to global warming. Now it prefers "climate change." If it's hot, that's a sign of "climate change." If it's cold, that's a sign of "climate change." If it's 53 with sunny periods and light showers, you need to grab an overnight bag and get outta there right now because "climate change" is accelerating out of control.

The silliest argument is the anecdotal one: "You only have to look outside your window to see that climate change is happening." Outside my window in northern New England last week, it was minus 20 Fahrenheit. Very cold. Must be the old climate change kicking in, right? After all, December was very mild. Which was itself a sign of climate change. A few years ago, the little old lady who served as my town's historian for many decades combed over the farmers' diaries from two centuries ago that various neighbors had donated to her: From the daily records of 15 Januarys, she concluded that three were what we'd now regard as classic New Hampshire winters, ideal for lumbering or winter sports; eight had January thaws, and four had no snow at all. This was in the pre-industrial 18th century.

Today, faced with eight thaws and four entirely snowless Januarys, we'd all be running around shrieking that the great Gaia is displeased. Wake up and smell the CO2, people! We need to toss another virgin into the volcano. A virgin SUV, that is. Brand-new model, straight off the assembly line, cupholders never been used. And as the upholstery howls in agony, we natives will stand around chanting along with High Priestess Natalie Cole's classic recording: ''Unsustainable, that's what you are.'


The question is whether what's happening now is just the natural give and take of the planet, as Erik the Red and my town's early settlers understood it. Or whether it's something so unprecedented that we need to divert vast resources to a transnational elite bureaucracy so that they can do their best to cripple the global economy and deny much of the developing world access to the healthier and longer lives that capitalism brings. To the eco-chondriacs that's a no-brainer. As Mark Fenn of the Worldwide Fund for Nature says in the new documentary ''Mine Your Own Business'':

''In Madagascar, the indicators of quality of life are not housing. They're not nutrition, specifically. They're not health in a lot of cases. It's not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the parents don't consider that to be important. . . . People have no jobs, but if I could put you with a family and you could count how many times in a day that that family smiles. Then I put you with a family well off, in New York or London, and you count how many times people smile. . . . You tell me who is rich and who is poor."

Well, if smiles are the measure of quality of life, I'm Bill Gates; I'm laughing my head off. Male life expectancy in Madagascar is 52.5 years. But Mark Fenn is right: Those l'il malnourished villagers sure look awful cute dancing up and down when the big environmentalist activist flies in to shoot the fund-raising video."


What I'm beginning to notice is that global warming, and the "but we have to do something" attitude which comes with it, is used as an argument for just about every shoddy, down on its luck, political idea going.

It's used as an argument for agricultural subsidies which take the form of ethanol subsidy (an absurd response to climate change) in the United States and an, albeit modified, continuation of the CAP subsidies in Europe.

It's used as an argument for vegetarianism. We already knew that vegetarianism usually means consuming less agricultural production but so does eating or otherwise consuming less in a range of ways; the efficiency challenge of global warming should surely be to maintain the highest level of consumption for a given level of warming? Eating less probably has more fringe benefits given obesity levels but no one proposes that as a solution to global warming, do they?

It is used as an argument for global governance instead of democratically accountable nations; the transnational elites that Steyn refers to.

It is used as an argument for 'soak the rich' socialism; most notably through the "contraction and convergence" doctrine.

It's used as an argument for greater taxation. While everyone argues the hypothetical of a neutral switch for non-green taxation it never quite seems to work out that way.

It's used as an argument against an expansion of airports and foreign travel for those on medium-low incomes; turning our back on one of the great achievements of the twentieth century in deference to narrow 'not in my backyard' opposition.

All of these, otherwise weak, positions are justified by climate change implications because, with the present state of the climate change debate, they know that normal standards of evidence and logic will go out of the window and any opposition will be compared to David Irving or, in a new twist, 9/11 conspiracy theorists by Monbiot and the rest of the global warming clergy. It is a potent excuse for discredited ideologies and narrow interests.

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