Archive for March, 2009

Lost Opportunity

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

The change of administrations means that the geography of the climate change issue has shifted. As predicted by Jeff Immelt of GE at last year’s Eco.nomics conference, carbon regulation is coming. The choice is to ‘be at the table or on the menu”, he said.
Which begs the question, why would George Will choose instead to revisit the past instead of take the opportunity to stake new ground in the here and now?
I can’t speculate on his motivation in selecting his position and arguments for his now all too famous column. The idea that more immediate crisis will dominate our attention is kind of obvious. Suggesting that climate is 1) not a threat and 2) far off is neither compelling nor effective in the face of the current state of Congress, to say nothing of the position of the President.
While most of the world has focused on hammering Will on his research,his editors or the fact checking of both, etc. what I want to know is when will a conservative leader address their real problem with the issue.
Science is not the point. There is plenty of science to suggest that problems are at hand with climate change, and that the laws of man (think economics) can not trump the laws of God (think physics and chemistry). Where there is lots of room for debate, and where the conservatives among us have huge opportunities, is about what are appropriate policies to respond.
Will, like most of those who opinionate on the issue of climate change, don’t really care about the science. They are fundamentally against big government, nanny states, collective responsibility, and taxes. Rather than oppose the proposed solutions that are all of these things, by proposing alternatives that would tax less, regulate less, and most importantly focus on the opportunity embodied in possible responses, they have stayed focused on attacking science.
As strongly as the Post’s editors and Will have attempted to stonewall the storm his column generated, the tipping point on approaching this issue with these weapons has occurred. It’s time to consider another approach.
Let me suggest this to conservative leaders- focus on how government, as the largest purchaser in the global economy, could, instead of legislating companies’ behavior, encourage that behavior by offering to buy its power, transportation and buildings from the cleanest sources, delivered in the most sustainable way. Equally viable would be to articulate a post petroleum geopolitics built upon energy and transportation independence, led by in country private sector initiatives.
These territories of political discourse are currently the unchallenged ground of those who acknowledge the science, regardless of their governing philosophy.
There is little to gain by arguing against the preponderance of scientific thought. There is much to be won by focusing on how that thought could lead us toward prosperity and national security.
For nearly forty years the dominate paradigm has been that adding 15% more CO2 to a closed system will produce observable results, and today the large picture is fulfilling that theory. Two generations of scientists have striven to find an explanation other than the dominate idea, because to do so would make them the most famous scientists of this century, much as Einstein dominated the last. That none of them has succeeded should be evidence enough that aligning oneself with the opposition of the dominant paradigm is to take oneself out of the discussion of what is the appropriate policy to implement.
Whether or not Will can find a position of relevance again on the issue of climate, the opportunity is still there for a new conservative position on climate.