Global Warming and Climate Change:
A Conservative Approach
Conservatives appear to fall into two groups on the matter of global warming and climate change [hereafter, abbreviated GW/CC]. Mostly, they are in states of rabid anger or outright denial. There’s too much name calling and reliance upon other careless labels. It’s time to start a civil, informed debate on these issues, pro and con. “Informed” means going to primary data and original sources rather than relying on talk-show host presentations. It also means looking across the whole range of data, not just selecting subsets that support one side or the other.
Those trying to discredit those who say that GW and CC exist use labels like “idiot”, “RINO,” “junk science” “hoax,” “farce”, “bogus” and “Gore lover.” Labels are simple-minded substitutes for thought. My friend Paul Jacob, the nation’s leading advocate of initiative and referendum and term limits, provides some welcome counterpoint to name-calling in the Nov.11th edition of his online newsletter Common Sense:
“Though the critics of anthropogenic global warming catastrophism often get dubbed as kooks and crazies by current scientist prophets of doom (e.g., Al Gore), they are…doing the work of science. Even if they are eventually proved wrong (because) As Karl Popper explained, science is the process of conjecture and refutation.”
For the sake of argument, I claim that several points are undeniable, but in only one sense -- that they are consistent with the weight of the evidence. They are not cited as certified-undeniable, or to foreclose debate. These points are:
1. Global warming exists. The evidence is convincing. The science generating the evidence is sound.
2. Natural cycles of global warming and cooling have been recurring over hundreds of millions of years. The evidence is convincing. The science generating the evidence is sound.
3. Climates are changing. The evidence is convincing. The science generating the evidence is sound.
4. Glaciers, icebergs and ice shelves are melting in both the Arctic and Antarctica. The evidence is convincing. The science generating the evidence is sound.
5. Sea levels are rising. The evidence is convincing. The science generating the evidence is sound.
6. Carbon is not the only “greenhouse gas.” There are at least six others, including black carbon, ozone and methane.
Notice that nothing has yet been said to weigh the causes of GW. On the evidence, the great increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is one major man-made cause, but there are others, including natural causes. Those who deny GW like to talk about the wide variations in temperature over geological history. They acknowledge the scientific evidence behind point #2, above. They claim that the natural global warming cycle that began at the end of the Little Ice Age about 160 years ago has now shifted to a cooling trend. This is debatable. It seems unlikely that a global warming cycle would be so short as a few hundred years. Typically, natural cycles over geological history have had durations in the many thousands of years. Even with both ground-based and satellite data collection, the data are not so accurate as to allow Sen. James Inhofe, a leading Congressional opponent of GW, to say that “the most recent (natural) global warming period ended nine years ago” or, as a dear old friend recently claimed in an e-mail: “The earth has been cooling for ten years.” Neither cited evidence for their claims, or the source of evidence.
Scientific evidence of the impact of mankind on climate goes back hundreds of years, to the impact of the Black Plague at the end of the medieval period. Such a large number of people died that a significant proportion of the earth’s landscape became depopulated and reforested. The cooling effects of this were aggravated by the Little Ice Age, a natural happening.
The human-historical observations above acknowledge that there can be [and, indeed, there are now] cooling counter-tendencies to global warming, something that proponents of GW are reluctant to accept or admit. They also show that the influence of us people on changes in global temperature and climate is quicker than natural influences over geological history. A recent study shows that the influence of the man-made component of GW has thus far overridden natural cooling factors during the historical period in which we are now living. Deniers of manmade GW are sure to deny this, but the evidence is clear: What the deniers see as evidence of a new “cooling trend” represents the result of a selective misuse of the statistical record. It is a selection of only a subset of data over the past 20 years that is used to “prove” the existence of a preconceived “trend.”
There’s something even more important that the deniers also discount -- the importance of people taking responsibility when disasters strike. “Responsibility” is a keyword in conservative dictionaries. On this point, the evidence from geological or medieval history is irrelevant. For mankind has not been able to counter the impacts of either global warming or global freezing throughout our species pre-modern past. People have had to bear whatever nature threw at them, whatever the costs, as during the Black Plague. Now, it makes not a fig’s worth of difference to people living in Bangladesh, the Maldive Islands or the Gulf Coast of the USA, for example, what is the cause of the rising sea levels that threaten them. What matters is how they can save their homes, communities and nations. Thus, the causes of natural disasters are also irrelevant -- unless acknowledging one cause (“man-made“) over another (“natural”) gives one a better chance to deal with disasters in the future. Indeed. To ignore the science in support of GW/CC is also irresponsible. For by so doing, we disarm ourselves in being unable to predict, lessen, reduce the risks or bear the costs of natural disasters that GW/CC aggravates if not “causes”.
The latter brings up front and center a big bugaboo for those who deny global warming or climate change -- the fear that GW/CC would lead to governments that have too much power and control over our lives. This fear is one I share. How we deal with the GW/CC issue is far more important than arguing whether it is real or a red herring. “How” we conservatives deal with issues is what fundamentally distinguishes us from liberals, not what issues we choose to “deal with”. By the time that an issue earns headlines in the media, whether or not to deal with it is seldom a matter of choice. Moreover, GW/CC is not the only issue that can provide pretexts for the destruction of our democratic republic via the rise of new forms of socialism and/or fascism. Recall that the fascist “Nazi” is short for “national socialism” in German. Other pretexts have been revealed by the Stimulus, Bailout and Health Care Reform legislation. GW/CC and big, overbearing government appear so often together that one wonders: Which is the chicken and which the egg? Does GW/CC lead to the fear of big government or does the latter lead to a fear of GW/CC-as-pretext? No matter. HOW are we to honor traditional values -- that is the key question for conservatives, here as elsewhere.
Even the brief statement on this issue that a couple of the Glenn Beck co-religionists against GW/CC, “Brett and Nate“, found in my website [thank you for looking] should be sufficient to show that I am NOT among the fans of a big government “agenda” in our country, nor of any global government “solution.” I swear by “all politics is local,” “Small is Beautiful” decentralization of government in a federal Republic, “Downsize DC”, and the part of the Reagan legacy that says ’We must move power and money out of Washington right down to the local level’ where We the People can effect real control over the forces affecting our lives and feel that we make a difference. With respect to GW/CC, this means people, families and local communities taking responsibility for changes in lifestyles, purchasing patterns and ‘do it yourself’ solutions to problems arising from GW/CC symptoms, whether natural or manmade. The role of higher levels of government in this picture is that of government as a resource to us, not We the People as a resource for government.
The “Small is Beautiful” approach also includes new ideas developed by entrepreneurs and other innovators. One such, recently featured in SuperFreakonomics, is causing conniptions among the big-government environmental types for its low cost approach to GW/CC. We can expect to see more such innovations arising in a dynamic market economy. On the campaign trail, I have been the only candidate to emphasize the central importance of entrepreneurship and innovation [E&I] and speak of these repeatedly. This is in keeping with my whole professional life -- a business and practice devoted to E & I as the prime drivers of economic development. The latest example of this was my work in Armenia during the month of September, where I worked with the Minister of Economy to begin planning a “National Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship” that would be a catalyst for a market-economy “culture of enterprise” to help take the Armenian Republic out from under the shadow of Russia.
Let’s not only avoid name-calling and careless labeling, let’s also have a sense of humor. There’s a lot to laugh about in this area of concern. Political cartoonists are having a field day illustrating Al Gore’s pretensions and conflicts of interest. Then there’s the semi-serious proposition put forth by Andrew Revkin, who reports on environmental issues for the New York Times. It’s called “Carbon Credits for Condoms.”
The latter hairbrained idea reveals but one of many instances of why “Cap’n’Trade is such a bad bill. It creates “markets” via international financial trades for “carbon offset” projects. The integrity of many of these is very difficult to verify, so there’s significant danger of costs being inflated by the sale of such projects to American investors by international con-jobbers. Other significantly bad features include:
v Creating financial windfalls for the same big banks that we as taxpayers have been bailing out, and otherwise increasing both the financial and political power of large financial interests.
v Enabling the creation and marketing of financial “derivatives” similar to those that have helped to cause the economic crisis we are now in.
v Giving too much leeway for Congress to become even more corrupt than it already is, by giving away permits to favored big-money interests, trading favors, and creating new markets to enable big contributors to earn financial windfalls. The latter now include Al Gore and others figuring to make big bucks on “green“ business.
v Lack of accountability.
v Trying to curry favor with the European Union and other international interests by adopting a flawed European model and creating a much larger international market for carbon trades, so that the flawed model might seem to work.
These and other points in opposition to “Cap’n’Trade” were made in an earlier essay posted online several weeks ago. So, YES!; let’s oppose the bad bill now before the Senate, together. What’s the alternative? -- a market perfecting approach. Let’s get market forces going on energy-producing mechanisms that minimize discharge of greenhouse gas pollutants into the atmosphere. There are many alternatives to foreign oil, energy taxes and Cap’n’Trade. These include increasing reliance upon nuclear energy. See my “Advice to Obama,” posted online at www.NHInsider.com and in The Ethical Spectacle (www.Spectacle.org).
Let’s also avoid the fetishistic single-issue focus that prevents too many conservatives from banding together to provide a stronger, continuously effective opposition to Democrats and other liberals. Michelle Paradiso, who organized the recent Halloween Day rally at the Commons in Rochester, seems to recognize this danger even though she and I disagree on her labeling GW a “farce.”
For the first 20 years of my political life, I was an activist conservative Democrat whom the Democrats in New Jersey’s 12th District nominated to run for Congress after a primary fight not unlike the one I now face. For the past 23 years, I have been an activist Republican. Why? Because of the influence of Ronald Reagan, who swore by the 80:20 rule. I am a Reagan Republican. If you’re with me 80% of the time, you’re fine even if you oppose me on 20%. If one keeps wearing the blinders of a single issue fetish, one cannot be a Member of Congress that serves We the People, truly representing a District that is representative of a diverse cross section of the great American majority.
The latter highlights another fundamental point that, in effect, renders “chattering class” and scientific disagreements over GW/CC moot. This is that a U.S. representative is elected to represent his or her district, not to vote on the basis of his or her personal opinions. Thus, I can be counted on to vote against GW/CC claims IF the majority of voters in NH CD 1 are so inclined, or vice-versa if a majority believes the claims. A recent example was seen in the case of Rep. Cao of Louisiana, the lone Republican to vote for the House “healthcare reform” bill. My online friend, Brett, might label him, as he tried to label me, a “McCain RINO.” Rep. Cao’s reason for his lone vote, however, was straightforward: “to represent my district.” I would agree but for a few key, fundamental exceptions: Issues that raise issues of life and death, war and peace, or of adherence to our Constitution. Except for the public health component, the healthcare reform legislation is un-Constitutional. Thus, I would have voted against the House bill even if I had reason to believe (though I do not) that a majority of voters in my Congressional District favor the bill recently passed.
This has an important, politics-changing implication: Those pro or con on an issue need to be talking more with each other rather than beating up on their Representatives. Those who get a majority of voters to go along with their opinion will carry the day in the District on most issues. Then, together, they can “beat up” on stubborn Rep’s in other Districts. As a U.S. Representative, I would spend much more time in the District than in D.C. and convene many more “town hall” meetings to foster open debate and enable both “pros” and “cons” to have it out on issues and see where we stand (or sit). Let’s do this for GW/CC.
Finally, as illustrated by the remarkable Nov.3rd results of the NY 23rd CD race, it’s time for Republicans and other members of “the great American majority” to grow up and get over the “let’s settle, not select” attitude that has had conservatives playing 2nd fiddle in political orchestras for too long. The attitude that “Nate” expressed in a recent e-mail to the Rochester 912 list is illustrative: “Almost anyone is better than her” (the incumbent, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter). In an intensely competitive global economy characterized by entrepreneurship, innovation and a “search for excellence,” “almost anyone” doesn’t work. That standard falls far short of what’s needed. Any candidate that:
v Does not recognize that CONGRESS IS BROKE!, and only WE THE PEOPLE can fix it!, and who
v Does not come to you with a strategy and a program to “fix it” does not deserve your support.
You shortchange yourself and citizens throughout the District if you provide support to a candidate so undeserving.
See www.peterbearseforcongress.com. Scrutinize it as carefully as did “Brett and Nate.” Then decide who’s most deserving of your support. If that person is me [as it should be if you want someone to empower you], then click on “Take Action -- Volunteer or Contribute.” You’ll thereby also join the fight for a “people’s House” rather than support the best
PETER BEARSE, Ph.D., International Consulting Economist and Candidate for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.
 “Mostly” oversimplifies. There is one exception among evangelicals of the “created earth” persuasion. There may be others. We cannot assume that all conservatives are unwilling to recognize the existence of GW/CC, while reserving debate on the extent and nature of the problem(s). On “denial”, see the new book by Michael Specter (2009), DENIALISM: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives. New York: Penguin.
 As reported in the late October number of SCIENCE. The exact citation will be provided upon request.
 Small is Beautiful is the title of my essay that set forth an alternative to the big government Stimulus. It is also the title of a book by E.F. Schumacher that both conservatives should read as well as liberals.
 See Bearse, Peter (2009), “Carbon Discharge Policy: Cap’n’Trade vs. Carbon Discharge Fees,” posted online in www.NHInsider.com and www.Spectacle.org, May 23rd.
 I do not believe, however, that Cap’n’Trade can be similarly shot down. Even though the Congress has used the Commerce Clause to wrongfully (un-Constitutionally) rationalize expansion of national government power in a number of areas, the Commerce Clause rationale applies to environmental pollution because it spreads from state-to-state and across international boundaries.