Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Douthat Books His Cabin On Exxon's Ark

Right-wing apologist Ross Douthat brings himself to admit that global warming is real, but then makes the following argument on the OpEd page of the NYT:

But this doesn’t mean that we should mourn the death of cap-and-trade. It’s possible that the best thing to do about a warming earth — for now, at least — is relatively little. This is the view advanced by famous global-warming heretics like Bjorn Lomborg and Freeman Dyson; in recent online debates, it has been championed by Jim Manzi, the American right’s most persuasive critic of climate-change legislation.
Their perspective is grounded, in part, on the assumption that a warmer world will also be a richer world — and that economic development is likely to do more for the wretched of the earth than a growth-slowing regulatory regime.
This entire argument is grounded in nothing less than a virtually religious belief that technology can somehow solve all the problems that will result from climate change, and, in an even more frightening display of hubris, that we can somehow predict the limits of this change on the indescribably complex natural system that we all live in.

But the complete destruction of the environment in which we live does not lend itself to casual cost/benefit analysis. Would Douthat take this same stance if there was an massive asteroid hurtling towards the planet with a one in a thousand chance of extinguishing all life? There are some things you just don't take chances with, and I would guess that the odds of climate change moving into a positive feedback loop and threatening life on earth is considerably higher than one in a thousand.
But it’s also grounded in skepticism that such a regime is possible. Any attempt to legislate our way to a cooler earth, the argument goes, will inevitably resemble the package of cap-and-trade emission restrictions that passed the House last year: a Rube Goldberg contraption whose buy-offs and giveaways swamped its original purpose.
Well, yes. Cap and trade was a joke; a huge corporate giveaway that probably would have done nothing to mitigate climate change, but would have enriched Goldman and the entire energy industry at the expense of taxpayers. It's climate change's version of Obama's health care "reform".

But what Douthat conveniently leaves out is the fact that better legislation could never have passed because the people he represents (the Democrats and Republicans in Congress that are owned by the corporate sector) would never have let it happen. It is not inevitable that climate legislation would be bad; it just turned out that way because Douthat and the rest of the ruling elite wouldn't have it any other way.

I'd really like to see Douthat publish a list of his past columns arguing for effective and fair legislation. Where are his calls for a carbon tax, for example? This is a free-market, fair and effective way of getting people to use less carbon for forcing them to pay for the harm its use causes. But of course "conservatives" like Douthat oppose all forms of taxes as evil, and would be taken aback at any plan that would result in people using less oil, for example, because it would mean smaller profits for the oil companies that are part of our ruling elite.

But of course, if the planet becomes unlivable for most, there'll be room for Douthat on Exxon's ark.