On Convincing Conservatives to Deal with Climate Change

Former Senator Gary Hart on “The West Is Burning,”  07/06/2012 . Text of article follows:

A genuinely conservative point of view would be that the West, indeed much of America, is warming, that the fires in the Rocky Mountains could well become an annual event, and that those who choose, as I do, to live in the mountains now must calculate the risk they assume by living in timbered areas. Somehow, this cautious view, a characteristic of conservatism, is the new “liberal” for those who distrust overwhelming scientific evidence.

The neo-conservative or ideologically anti-scientific mindset is the topic for much consideration. It has to do with denying the facts when the facts don’t support your preconceived opinions. There is a history of this, including the Roman Catholic Church’s threatened excommunication of Galileo.

But for us true Western conservatives, the fires are here and they require soul-searching. Quite a number of people in my area are now storing family memorabilia in units in the city, anticipating an evacuation order that may provide only minutes to round up children and pets. It’s a new lifestyle. This is the hottest summer in my memory in Colorado. There is now a persistent drought. Crops are drying up. Streams are dry. The air is smoky. And the winters bring less snow and cold. Something is going on.

Even the cautious Economist newspaper now has a special section documenting the warming of the entire Arctic. The good news is that ships will now be able to use the Northwest passage. The bad news is that it opens up the entire region for multi-national oil and gas development which, of course, will produce more carbon fuel to accelerate the global warming. For money conservatives this is a welcome thing. For nature conservatives, like me, it is pure disaster, disaster of epic proportions.

How do you prevent catastrophe when no single individual or nation is responsible? When behavior, in this case carbon consumption, is universal, how do you alter behavior on a mass scale? The single, simple answer, of course, is tax the carbon. Place an escalating price on its use until masses of people quit using it. But the money conservatives have made taxes and the governments who enact them demons.

The great historian Barbara Tuchman wrote a book called The March of Folly. Folly she defined as blind pursuit of a destructive policy with knowledge that a better alternative exists. That’s us, folks. There is a special place in hell, wrote the immortal Dante, for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality. How much worse place in hell must there be for those who perversely destroy Nature herself in the interest of money?

No one is responsible. We are all responsible. The black bears of the Rockies, actually a rich dark reddish-brown, are roaming the foothills with their cubs overturning trash barrels to stay alive. Meanwhile, their polar cousins are adrift on melting blocks of ice. I don’t want to live to see the last one die.

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One Response to On Convincing Conservatives to Deal with Climate Change

  1. Since the weather patterns we’re seeing now are very similar to those seen in the 1930’s, perhaps we should have a rejoinder “On Convincing Liberals to Look at History.” As a GDI, I abhor the mindless arguments on both sides. It would be nice to have an adult conversation re “Climate Change.” One that recognized both the trend and the uncertainties associated with it, and the possible policy alternatives and the uncertainties associated with them. While I believe we are seeing a warming trend, nearly all of the policy palliatives that are bruited about will disproportionately harm the poor. We have to weigh certain present harm vs potential future harm – I’d like to see reasonable adults strike that balance instead of ideologues on either side.

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