Friday, July 07, 2006

A New Way of Evading Global Warming Realities

Now that conservatives who pride themselves on their self-image as thoughtful and open-minded, like economist Robert J. Samuelson, have been forced by the overwhelming weight of evidence to admit the reality of human-caused global warming, they are groping for a fallback political position that will allow them to continue to resist any actual response to the problem.

Here is Samuelson's effort. After detailing some of the technological and economic difficulties in the way of solving the intertwined climate/energy challenges facing a growing and modernizing world, he concludes:

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.
Samuelson's dichotomy between "moral crusade" and "engineering problem" is a neat way of caricaturing and marginalizing Al Gore and other Democrats who are confronting the problem, but it's totally bogus.

Apparently Samuelson hasn't noticed that solving a massive engineering problem with enormous, complex social, business, and political implications calls for political will . . . a commitment by the nation to finding workable technological solutions and then investing the time, energy, and money into making the necessary adjustments in lifestyles, business mores, and regulations that adopting those solutions calls for.

And creating that political will in a world where massive financial interests, conservative ideology, and the sheer inertia of ingrained habits all militate against such a shift will require a dramatic, forceful, effective PR effort aimed at mobilizing national understanding, interest, and concern. One might even call it a kind of "moral crusade."

By disavowing any interest in the "moral" (i.e. ethical, social, and political) aspects of the problem and insisting that it be addressed purely as a bloodless technocratic challenge for engineers, people like Samuelson are guaranteeing that the resources needed to solve the engineering challenge will never be made available.

I wrote above that "Samuelson hasn't noticed" these obvious realities. I take it back. A much more accurate phrasing would be "Samuelson chooses not to notice." His Wa Po column continues to represent one of our country's more irresponsible wastes of valuable journalistic real estate.

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