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Talking Back

The enviros are in the midst of a huge campaign to push the global warming issue onto the front burner of American politics, complete with an Al Gore feature film, and Ad Council ad campaign, a new church group, etc. There are a few signs of puchback to note, starting with this George Will column from yesterday, and this Robert Novak column today. And in case you missed it, see my Weekly Standard feature from a few weeks ago.

Discussions - 11 Comments


I had a thought during my environmental law class this morning (something of a rarity for me) while we were discussing how agencies do risk assessment for toxic chemicals. This was after a rousing discussion of the Beneze Case.

I was wondering why conservatives seem to favor a precuationary approach to social change (like Burke) while disregarding such an approach to environmental matters? The common conservative argument is that we should not change social practices (such as marriage) because they have evolved over time to a very benefical form, serving benefical purposes, etc. and we should exercise caution before allowing changes because we are uncertain how the changes might effect society. It would seem this argument could be applied to nature (environment and other animals), whether or not one believes in evolution.

The argument would be that nature (or a creator) has evolved (created) into a very complex system that is benefical, etc. and we are uncertain how any changes might affect it (or more importantly, us). This argument seems an indistinguishable application of the precuationary priniciple that conservatives love to apply for social change.

The only way I can solve the inconsistency is by remembering that conservatives are comfortable regulating social issues while disfavoring economic regulation (something environmental regulation will entail). Do you think this is correct? Furthermore, what is the right answer: I think if conservatives are going to argue the precuationary principle in a bona fide way, they need to apply it to environmental issues as well.

I had a long meditation on exactly this paradox (complete with environmental themes from Edmund Burke himself) that you can find here.

In regards to nature ...

Every damn that a beaver builds destroys the habitat that was there before the damn.

We are a part of nature, period. What we do affects nature and, in turn, nature affects us.

We have polluted the environment, but so does nature when she belches out horroundous stuff during a volcano eruption.

Don’t mistake what I am stating. I am not saying we should strive to pollute or even justifying pulluting

What we have to do is strive for some sort of balance. We can’t have the modern conveniences we have today and expect not to destroy nature or not pollute nature in some way. Even with the most environmental friendly structures, some part of nature was destroyed or changed to create that same structure.

Balance is not in effect when you have policies in place that stop any land development due to an insect or small animal. Balance is also not in effect when all you do is clear cut land for development.

"Every damn that a beaver builds destroys the habitat that was there before the damn."

Oh, wow, that’s really brilliant. So dam profound, Dale!

Hmmm, then maybe the EPA should issue volcanoes some kind of citation for belching out "horroundous stuff."

Phil, I suspect Dale picked up that volcano line straight from Limbaugh, or maybe one of Hayward’s "scientific" reports, paid for by the oil industry. Pretty rock solid resources.

Phil and Craig:

I think you have purposefully missed the entire point of Dale’s post. I assume you believe in evolution and all of that stuff. Probably one of the first corallaries that accompany such a way of viewing the world is the amoralness of nature. Beavers and elephants and the like are not immoral when they destroy their environment. They are animals. People are animals. Therefore people are not immoral when they destroy their environment.

If your basis for environmental concern is preserving the human species that is fine, but you have to admit that species have no moral weight in an evolutionary sense. All kinds of species are extinct, and it hardly matters. If every human were to die tomorrow, nature would still keep on going.

It is fine to care about the environment because you enjoy it, or becuase you dislike externalities connected with industrial action, etc. but it is pretty hard to argue it has any moral relevance whatsoever.

Some may think of me as a simpleton. That’s fine.

But how is that I, a simpleton, can understand that what is going on in nature is far more complex than what Gore and other such intellectuals recognize?

From the more sunspot activity to the earth’s position in space to the very fact that the earth has been much hotter before in history (long before man) all describes a system that is not very understood and belies all the rhetoric about how we, man, a creature on earth is causing global warming.

But hey, it wasn’t that long ago that crackpots were warning us about global cooling due to man’s pollution.

Is the earth warming up? It appears that way, but even that assertion is debatable.

The only that you can truly say scientifically is that man has put a lot of C02 in the atmospher. You can not honestly say that is the cause of any warming that may be going on. The earth warmed long ago without C02 in the atmosphere.

Why? We are not sure.

That is my point. We are not sure. Our understanding of these systems is not complete and not even close enough to make sound judgements which may adversely affect America’s economy.

Actually, Dale, YOU’RE not sure. Well, not just you- there’s also Steven Hayward, George Will, and your fellow wingnuts.

What a lousy argument, Steve Sparks. Humans are just animals, so we don’t have any moral responsibility to do anything about the environment? Consider these facts: 1) We pollute the environment far more than any other species. 2) Most of us are smart enough to know that. 3) We have the power to make some kind of difference (if we stop pretending "the jury’s still out.") So aren’t we maybe, kinda, sorta obligated to do something?

What exactly are the scientific credentials of George Will, Robert Novak and Steven Hayward?

Regarding Novak’s article, he seems to be setting up this issue as though it is simply a one-on-one Hansen the politically-motivated scientist versus serious, objective scientist Roy Spencer, who couldn’t care less what the public policy might be, he just loves The Scientific Truth. What might be more interesting to see are side-by-side lists of the scientists, complete with their credentials and publications, who consider global warming to be a phenomenon that is both occurring and quite likely presents a danger to human life on Earth vs. a list of scientists who think that "the jury is still out" on the issue. Sorry, but most of the scientists who agree that global warming is real and poses a threat that needs to be aggressively addressed are neither seeking nor gaining the limelight or celebrity. At this point they become just another name on a list which holds significance. The attention-seekers here are, more often than not, the dissenting scientists looking for a prominent mention by Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, George Will or Robert Novak, and then a lucrative gig with a right-wing think tank.

Secondly, what is the story with this from Novak: "At that same event, Hansen said he was voting for Kerry. In short, if you want the truth about environmental peril, you better get rid of Bush." Regarding Hansen’s quasi-endorsement of Kerry, I certainly would have some doubts as to just how much Kerry would aggressively push for being a world leader in solving environmental problems of any kind. But, regarding Novak’s if-then statement, I’d say yes, sure, why not? How often have the Republicans threatened voters with images of 9/11 as the likely outcome of voting Democratic? The impacts from global warming will likely be just as indiscriminate as any terrorist act, and will probably effect far more people than all of the terrorist acts you can recall.


Your argument would be fine except it completely avoids my argument. Other than that its great.

Life is a mistake. It certainly has no cosmic significance. The sun will continue to shine, the planets continue to rotate, etc even if there is no life. Your argument presupposes life has some sort of moral value, when modern science has pretty much stripped it of its value. Life is just a bunch of chemicals that got mixed up, and the universe will continue to exist even if no life is present. If you wish to turn to religion to find value you can, but since you seem to mock the religious that would be inconsistent of you.

You are using Cartesian nonsense (very unscientific) and making the universe radiate from yourself. The universe and life is supposed to have value because you have value. You might wish to view things a bit more objectively if you wish to be consistent with science and the like.

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