There are a lot of different views on climate change on the right. (I myself am mostly in the Matt Ridley “lukewarmer” camp.) But he ignores all of the competing views in favor of an argument that amounts to little more than fan service for liberal readers. One can believe that climate change is a real concern, with some legitimate science on its side, while also believing there is a range of available policy options that do not conform to the liberal party line and declining to act in a spirit of righteous panic. (Noah Rothman notes how the enlightened position on climate change must always be even more “hysteria.”)
I have dogmatic family members who typically take the talk-radio party line on the political issue du jour. You know the type — they greet every snow flurry with triumphant cackling and a hearty chorus of SCREW YOU AL GORE. It’s probably fair to call them “deniers,” since their positions are usually reflexively determined by whatever they perceive to be the official stance of liberal elites. But the Lady of the House has a cousin, a geologist, who visited us at the beginning of the month. While we were hiking, she succinctly summarized her view on climate change: “Is it happening? Yes. Is human activity contributing to it? Most likely. Is there anything we can realistically do about it? Probably not.” She’s not actually a conservative, but among the conservatives I read and talk to, I find that to be a fairly typical view. One of them had a useful rule of thumb for weeding out the cranks — if they’re opposed to fossil fuels but refuse to even countenance the idea of nuclear power, they’re not serious enough to bother with. It may well be that I’m just inclined to hear what I want to hear, but I find the stoic pragmatism and lack of hysteria refreshing. As Auden said, we are changed by what we change. We’ll adapt, or we won’t, but when has that ever not been the case?
The received left-wing wisdom, by contrast — well, it’s usually facile to compare various beliefs and behaviors to religion, but in the case of climate change, I’m not sure what else to call it. As I mentioned before, I check in with The Week as part of my daily bookmark routine, to keep tabs on what the somewhat-sane left is talking about, and I’ve been amused to see the resident fire-and-brimstone fundamentalist Ryan Cooper pounding the pulpit recently. “Climate change is going to fry your state,” he thundered toward a heretical Utah senator. “Wealth cannot save you from climate change,” he warned us in the prior week’s sermon. Sinners in the hands of an angry Gaia, indeed. But for the clearest, most painstaking demonstration of how so much green activism is nothing but a surrogate outlet for moral evangelism, you can’t do better than read Peter Dorman’s steamrolling of Naomi Klein’s recent spasm of righteousness posing as a book, This Changes Everything. If this were a boxing match, it would have been stopped after the first few paragraphs.
I don’t have any strong views on climate change, but what I find most interesting and amusing is the idea that I should, like it’s a dereliction of my duty as a citizen to avoid pronouncing on events that I can’t influence. I couldn’t be more ordinary and anonymous. What practical use could I possibly make of a doctrinaire opinion? Too many people seem convinced that a diploma and an advantageous upbringing qualify them to serve as volunteer policymakers and amateur heads of state. I think I’d like it better if they devoted that time and energy to church activities.