Thursday, October 28, 2010

Republicans are no longer conservative

"The odd and troubling thing about this stance is not just that it prevents action. It’s also profoundly unconservative. If there was ever a radical project, monkeying with the climate would surely qualify. Had the Soviet Union built secret factories to pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and threatened to raise the sea level and subvert the Grain Belt, the prevailing conservative response would have been: Bomb them. Bomb them back to the Holocene—to the 10,000-year period of climatic stability now unraveling, the period that underwrote the rise of human civilization that conservatism has taken as its duty to protect. Conservatism has always stressed stability and continuity; since Burke, the watchwords have been tradition, authority, heritage. The globally averaged temperature of the planet has been 57 degrees [= 14ºC], give or take, for most of human history; we know that works, that it allows the world we have enjoyed. Now, the finest minds, using the finest equipment, tell us that it’s headed toward 61 or 62 or 63 degrees [=16-17ºC] unless we rapidly leave fossil fuel behind, and that, in the words of NASA scientists, this new world won’t be 'similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted.' Conservatives should be leading the desperate fight to preserve the earth we were born on."

- Bill McKibben, "Why are conservatives so radical about the climate?".

The warming that McKibbon refers to is at the lower end of what is likely during the lifetime of my daughter if we aggressively reduce emissions faster than any proposal currently on the table. Even that amount of warming would be enough to seriously disrupt society, undermine global food production, push hundreds or thousands of species into extinction, leave the Arctic seasonally ice-free and commit us to multi-metre long term sea level rise. He's actually being quite conservative himself with these figures.

Contemporary industrial civilisation is conducting a vast, uncontrolled experiment with the atmosphere. Can our present society survive a radically altered climate? How keen are we to find out?


byron smith said...

Washington Post: "I admire many cherished conservative values, from personal responsibility to thrift to accountability, and I worry that conservatives’ lock-step posture on climate change is seriously out of step with their professed priorities. A strong defense of our national interests, rigorous cost-benefit analysis, fiscal discipline and the ability to avoid unnecessary intrusions into personal liberty will all be seriously compromised in a world marked by climate change.

"In fact, far from being conservative, the Republican stance on global warming shows a stunning appetite for risk. When faced with uncertainty and the possibility of costly outcomes, smart businessmen buy insurance, reduce their downside exposure and protect their assets. When confronted with a disease outbreak of unknown proportions, front-line public health workers get busy producing vaccines, pre-positioning supplies and tracking pathogens. And when military planners assess an enemy, they get ready for a worst-case encounter.

"When it comes to climate change, conservatives are doing none of this. Instead, they are recklessly betting the farm on a single, best-case scenario: That the scientific consensus about global warming will turn out to be wrong. This is bad risk management and an irresponsible way to run anything, whether a business, an economy or a planet."

byron smith said...

Jeremy Kidwell: Where have all the real conservatives gone?.

byron smith said...

Guardian: The most anti-environment congress ever.