President Obama’s new Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants in order to “take action on climate change.” Many people who oppose President Obama’s scheme argue against it based on the idea that America can’t effectively accomplish the goal of reining in anthropogenic climate change alone.
But the New Jersey Star-Ledger asks, now that China has announced a cap-and-trade system, What's the GOP excuse for climate inaction now? In answering that question, the Star-Ledger picks on U.S. Republican Representative from New Jersey Leonard Lance, who once supported cap-and-trade but now opposes it. The editors write:
But where does [China’s commitment] leave the vacillators [like Lance] – those not quite loopy enough to be comfortable being aligned with the science deniers, yet perfectly willing to enable them by voting against reforms?
Of course, opposing climate change policies of limiting carbon emissions until the world joins us is not a fundamental opposition to Obama’s anti-fossil fuel agenda. It’s true that such a go-it-alone policy will hamper American economic progress without having any meaningful effect on anthropogenic global warming. But the more fundamental question is: Should governments restrict reliable fossil fuel energy on any scale?
In my comments, I chose to pose that question within the context of attacking the environmentalist statists’ use of the smear term “science denier.”
Terms like “science denier” (or “climate change denier” or “global warming denier”) are catch phrases intended to stifle legitimate debate. Such terms, or anti-concepts, lump two different factions into one—irrationalists who actually do oppose science and facts about climate change and people who have rational counterpoints about the state of climate science and what the facts tell us about what, if anything, government should do about it.
The purpose of the slingers of these slogans is obvious; to discredit rational dissenting arguments by conflating them in people’s minds with the irrationalists, thus intimidating dissenters into silence and shutting down debate. Why? Because the dissenters have good arguments against the statists’ agenda to shackle and destroy fossil fuel energy production. Notice that Lance is condemned as a “vacillator” and science denier “enabler” because he opposes the political agenda of the Left, such as cap & trade. No need to concern ourselves about his reasons. The smear mongers equate science with their political agenda, much like the early “progressives” linked their political agenda to the “science” of eugenics a century ago. But the science of climate change and the Left’s statist political agenda are two very different things.
Legitimate questions raised by rational dissenters include:
- How much does human activity contribute to climate change?
- Is climate change bad?
- If climate change is producing negative effects, is it really catastrophic?
- What are the benefits of global warming, and why shouldn’t those benefits be considered?
- If humans contribute significantly, why does that fact outweigh the benefits of fossil fuels?
- Since predictions of climate change catastrophe have been wrong for decades—and in fact all measures of human well-being from access to clean water to food production to incomes to life expectancies have instead improved along with increasing fossil fuel use—why should we believe the catastrophe predictions being peddled now?
- What scientific evidence is there that so-called “renewable energy” can become an economical source of primary, industrial scale energy, and what if fossil fuels are drastically reduced and renewables can’t pick up the slack, as fossils enemies quasi-religiously hope? What will be the costs to human well-being if they’re wrong?
- Why aren’t CO2-free nuclear and hydro key parts of the environmentalists energy agenda, rather than part of their energy deprivation agenda?
And underlying the whole climate and environmental debate is a fundamental question: What is the standard of value from which to weigh climate change policies and, more broadly, environmental concerns—non-impact on nature or human well-being? Human beings survive and thrive by altering nature to human benefit. Since the environmentalists’ standard is non-impact—the idea that altering “pristine” nature is by definition intrinsically bad—then human survival and flourishing is the enemy of the environment. So which standard do we choose, the anti-humanism of the environmentalists’ anti-industrial, anti-development agenda or the humanism and industrial/technological advance that man’s well-being depends on?
These kinds of questions are being asked by rational dissenters of the Left’s climate change policies, yet all they get is to be smeared and lumped in with “science deniers.” Why? People who are confident about their position not only don’t seek to silence dissenters, but welcome the chance to rebut the dissenters. The anti-fossil fringe is not confident.
The Secret History of Fossil Fuels—Chapter One, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein