Friday, February 23, 2007

Partisanship and Global Warming

Last weekend two different people posted to the Huffington Blog asking why Global Warming has become a partisan issue? Each of them answered the question in the next sentence when they continued, "Why don't conservatives just accept what we tell them and do what we say?"

The question is worth a closer look. Why is the political debate between liberals and conservatives?

One reason is that a group that I will refer to as the eco-alarmists tend to be on the far left. There are several traits that make up this group, many of them shared with liberals in general.

The really distinguishing trait is alarmism. They are always alarmed over something, it is always humanity's fault, and something drastic must be done immediately to prevent future catastrophe. Their track record on this is poor. I remember hearing Paul Harvey tell us in the mid-1960s that the world would run out of food by 2000. This was later adjusted to the mid-1970s. The air was going to be so polluted that people would live in domed cities with filtered air. The ozone would also be gone by 2000 causing everyone who ventures out to get skin cancer. Those who stayed in would probably all get AIDS. Our cities will run out of water. And, of course, we were supposed to run out of natural resources, especially oil, in the 1980s.

Global Warming is just the latest in a long string of predictions.

Conservatives tend to be, well, conservative about this sort of thing.

Where the ecco-alarmists share traits with the rest of the left is in their love for authoritarian governments. It doesn't matter if the government is promoting social good or ecological good. In both cases, a government that knows better than the masses dictates how people will live.

Then there is the convenient overlap between agendas. The left hates cars and most forms of personal transportation. They want us in crowded cities, walking most of the time and taking public transportation the rest. Once you control how people can move around you control their lives. The left hates suburbs, cars, and soccer moms. Strange how all of that will have to go to stop global warming.

The right, especially the Libertarian right, thinks that people should have choices.

Then there is the left's view of business. Much of it is shaped by Marxism and folk-Marxism. They tend to view big business as an endless supply of money that is going to undeserving capitalists. The same mindset that argues that raising the minimum wage will not affect any other part of society thinks that you can limit industry without ruining the economy.

Where liberals see black and white, conservatives see trade-offs.

There is one other trait about the eco-alarmists - many of them are satisfied with symbolic action. Mandating low-flush toilets nationwide did very little to affect water-use in the Southwest. Switching car air conditioners from freon didn't affect the hole in the ozone. The Kyoto Protocols rank among these. Even its supporters admit that it will not significantly affect global warming but it will hurt industry.

Then there are the solutions to problems that never were. The Bald Eagle was saved by stopping farmers from hunting them rather than by banning DDT Legislation to stop acid rain had to be rushed through Congress in 1990 before a report commissioned by Congress could be published because the report said that acid rain was not a threat. Is global warming another non-problem? Eco-alarmists say that the threat is too great to wait and find out. I've heard that one before.

Conservatives have long memories about these things. We will not disregard the eco-alarmists' track record and assume that this time they got it right.

That's why it is partisan.

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