The Global Warming Conflict

The Earth’s climate is changing …, but that’s not news.  The Earth’s climate is constantly changing.

The most recent changes mean a warming Earth.  In what is the nearest thing to unanimity, the scientific community has concluded that the trend is up, up, up …, with the Earth now being warmer than it’s been in thousands of years.  The further scientific consensus is that human activity is the most significant contributor to that global warming.  It is the latter consensus that has led to the Global Warming Conflict (GWC).

TLR has no stake in the GWC … and today’s commentary does not address causation since that subject has been analyzed in scientific journals (and summarized in Wikipedia).  TLR also need not address causation because the causes of global warming are largely irrelevant to actions that now should be taken.  The question that has been asked – and the perplexing basis for the divisive GWC – has been whether the U.S. ought, or ought not, to be devoting resources to reduce America’s contribution to global warming.  That’s the wrong question and, although the answer is “yes, it ought to” …, the reason for that answer is not the one that the media or politicians – on either side of the partisan divide – have been jawboning.  The way the question has been framed necessarily furthers ongoing conflict-without-resolution that leads to a stultifying inaction damaging to America and American economic interests (as well as, potentially, Americans’ health).

The question to be asked ought to be, Would it be economically advantageous for America to invest in the anti-global warming technologies-of-the-future?  Put more directly, is there any reason why America shouldn’t be employing an economically robust cost-benefit analysis to determine whether and to what extent to pursue technologically-, ecologically-, health-related and critical resource-focused climate change mitigation? … rather than internally squabbling over conflicting progressive and conservative political agendas …, about what is and what is not scientific fact …, and whether being green makes a person a frog woke or right?  Shouldn’t America’s Political Parties be capable functional able to reach a consensus about America’s national interest?  Selecting the best path forward with respect to climate change isn’t all that difficult.  It requires adopting policies that encourage American industry to invest in technologies for which there are growing global – including American – markets and devoting the resources to source the rare commodities required for those technologies …, precisely what was once the specialty of American capitalists and capitalism … and precisely what China’s centrally-managed economic machine has been successfully doing.

To be clear, the rest of the world (outside America) accepts the reality of global warming.  Other countries accordingly are investing in and buying the products that flow from that acceptance.  They don’t care about the reasons.  Neither should America.  The Earth is in a warming cycle and the cause or causes are irrelevant …, irrelevant, that is, to almost everyone other than America’s partisan media, politicians and political junkies.  Among other things, America’s competitors on the global Darwinian stage have been actively pursuing energy alternatives and the strategically-critical resources necessary for their manufacture and operation.  Even if the vast majority of scientists are wrong and man has little or no impact on climate change, Mother Nature nevertheless is making things hotter for humans moving the thermometer.  With few countries other than the U.S. having the ability to stay ahead of the global warming curve … and fewer still having the technological expertise and resources to profit from it …, America should have no reason to hesitate.

But America is hesitating.

Conflict is the enemy of success.  External conflict leaves both victor and vanquished vulnerable.  Internal conflict is worse because it weakens and invites aggression … the outcome of which is all-but-predetermined.  America’s internal conflicts (discussed previously by TLR here) are sapping its strengths, distracting it from opportunities, damaging its international standing and power, undermining its democracy (discussed previously by TLR here and here), its Rule of Law (discussed previously by TLR here), the US Dollar (discussed previously by TLR here), and its capitalist system (discussed previously by TLR here).  Almost every one of America’s media outlets as well as each of its State and Federal governments is guilty of fomenting – in reality, of maximizing – the conflict …, even when resolution is not merely available but beneficial to the vast majority.  Each has become dedicated to serving its own parochial interest rather than the national interest … or even the best interests of constituents.  This “disease of the polity” is potentially fatal.  The result to-date has been the non- dysfunctionality of the American political system manifested, in part, by rampant policy inconsistency and ineptitude (discussed previously by TLR here) … with those most competent retiring and those least less competent advancing into positions of influence and power.

Climate change is not a four-letter word.  It’s an environmental reality …, as well as a market disrupter of potentially mammoth proportions … one that may turn out to be greater than the computer revolution and gene sequencing combined.  We’re only at the beginning of that disruption.  America has to deal with it … and soon … or fail fall irrevocably behind.  How should America do so?

Although the policy answers are well beyond the scope of this commentary, America’s internal conflict, the GWC, must be sidelined …, meaning that Americans no longer can allow themselves to be influenced by a potent combination of media and political rabblerousers agitators.  Americans must ignore the rhetoric of re-election-focused politicians, precious few of whom are even pretending to pursue America’s national interest.  Media pundits and self-interested politicians seek only to rouse their audiences, inciting conflict emotions rather than addressing and solving America’s problems (discussed frequently by TLR, including here).

The rank “my way or the highway” anti-solution that is de rigueur on both sides of the political aisle is exemplified by two contrasting commentaries, one a recent op-ed in the New York Post by a climate change denier and the second a blog by a leftist supporter of the Biden Administration’s climate change proposals.  Each targets a few alleged facts in attacking the positions of their perceived opponents, ignoring their intentional distortions.

The New York Post op-ed is by Dr. Steven Koonin (the director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at NYU and a professor in NYU’s Department of Civil and Urban Engineering) and is titled “Blinded by ‘Science.’”  Dr. Koonin is one of a small minority of scientists who believe that the human impact on climate change isn’t significant and that those who advocate addressing global warming have been misled, deceived by the “bad climate change science” practiced by the substantial majority of the scientific community.  In the Post article, Dr. Koonin nevertheless explicitly concedes that “the globe is warming and that humans are exerting a warming influence on it” – a surprising concession that should resolve all controversy – but he then manufactures examples of purported climate change disinformation in an effort to undercut that simple admission.  His examples are presented as revelations about the “bad science” practiced by climate change advocates and perpetuated by liberal media:  He misleadingly states that “humans have had no detectable impact on hurricanes over the past 100 years” – when they have (even were hurricanes a major focus of global warming) –, “the warmest temperatures in the US have not risen in the past fifty years” – when the average temperatures indeed have risen –, and “heat waves are no more common than they were 100 years ago” – although they are longer and warmer –, and adds that when he tells people this, “they are incredulous.”  And well they should be!  Warming weather is intensifying the severity of hurricanes, shortening winters and lengthening heat waves …, precisely the outcome that would be expected when “the globe is warming and humans are exerting a warming influence on it.”  Dr. Koonin blames the media for overhyping global warming and the Biden Administration for overreacting to the hype.  A more appropriate title for his op-ed therefore might be “The Media Reporting of Climate Change is Excessive” or “Climate Change May Not Be as Bad as It’s Being Portrayed” …, though those headlines wouldn’t attract eyeballs.  The media undoubtedly is hyping both climate change and the anti-climate change arguments articulated in Dr. Koonin’s hyped media op-ed.  The media’s purpose, after all, is to attract its audience by inciting.  As they say, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

On the other side of the GWC frenzy is Heather Cox Richardson (a professor of history at Boston College, teaching courses on the American Civil War, Reconstruction, the American West, and the Plains Indians).  Professor Richardson in her daily blog has inaccurately blamed the loss of coal mining jobs on policies pursued by the Trump Administration:  “In the past, refusal to address the issue of climate change has centered around the idea that cutting back on fossil fuels would take jobs from coal miners and those in related fossil fuel industries.  That focus was always about … the hardworking white man in a hardhat….  But a lot has changed in the last four years.  For one thing, the market for coal has slid….  Trump promised to make coal great again and seemed to think that slashing environmental regulations would do the trick, but even combined with an infusion of up to $1 billion, slashing regulations could not stop Trump’s administration from overseeing the fastest decline of coal-fuel capacity in U.S. history.  The U.S. lost 10% of coal-mining jobs—5300 of them—between 2016 and 2020.”  Well, of course it did!  Covid-19 decimated energy and employment markets in 2020 so that statistical comparisons between 2016 and 2020 have no validity whatsoever.  TLR also found it challenging to source the referenced “infusion of up to $1 billion” into the coal industry (which might be a reference to Federal subsidies that also existed under prior administrations).  Further, the failure to address climate change was not “centered” around coal miners’ jobs.  The focus has been on whether addressing global warming could be both climate- and cost-effective.

Put most simply, the scientific GWC causation debate concerning climate change is misplaced and necessarily should be subsumed to America’s economic imperative of competing successfully in nascent global industries and technologies (with potential human health benefits as a welcome addition).  Coal mining is not such an industry.  It will not host employment expansion, enhanced energy production or increased profitability.  History teaches that to focus on resuscitating failing industries is an unsuccessful economic strategy.  What is instead needed is to retrain workers, retool industries and move on quickly to the next innovation.  Although fossil fuels undoubtedly will be with us for decades, their industries are not the ones that will grow.  America should invest accordingly.  When whale oil lit the world in the early 19th Century, far-sighted entrepreneurs foresaw the need for alternatives and found one:  petroleum.  Their innovative entrepreneurship is part of the lore of America and an integral part of the American Dream (discussed previously by TLR here) … and a reason for American Exceptionalism (discussed previously by TLR here).  That’s called progress.  Progress requires competitive foresight.  There’s a lesson there for Americans on both sides of the partisan divide.

Finally (from a good friend)

Some important philosophical questions on life:

Why do supermarkets make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front?

Why do banks leave vault doors open and then chain the pens to the counters?

Why do we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in our driveways and put our useless junk in the garage?

EVER WONDER… Why the sun lightens the hair, but darkens the skin?

Why can’t women put on mascara with their mouths closed?

Why don’t you ever see the headline “Psychic Wins Lottery”?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavoring while dishwashing liquid is made with real lemons?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn’t there mouse-flavored cat food?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes?  Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that stuff?

Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

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