Friday, December 4, 2009

Another E-Mail to Yglesias

I can't resist taking up your challenge: Why would so many politicians be saying "climate change crisis," if it isn't true? What is the upside for a politician who is worried about committing the spending that is called for by the IPCC?

Well, I guess the environment is a motherhood issue of our time. There have been a series of issues that have rallied quite a bit of public concern: landfills, plastics, phospates in lakes, acid rain, etc. I would venture to say that all of this is more salient among those with post-secondary education than among others. Politicians don't necessarily get a majority of votes from those with post-secondary education, but they know that issues that begin with a relatively small group can take on political momentum, until the question is raised: why aren't you doing something?

Beyond the environment specifically, I would say there is a lot of distrust of capitalism. In fact there is what I would call (I can't resist snark completely) kindergarten Marxism--the belief that capitalism is going to kill us somehow unless government or the UN intervenes, it's only a question of how. Maybe supermarket food is poison, despite being the most heavily regulated industry we have. Maybe the water we drink, maybe the air we breathe, maybe vaccines are hyped by Big Pharma not for our health, but for their profits. Maybe Big Agriculture is using biotechnology to make Frankenfood, whatever that is.

Obviously only a very small percentage of all the people I've been referring to really know anything about the science at all. They trust certain sources.

Was the CRU (founded by Margaret Thatcher, when she was fighting for nuclear power) trustworthy? Apparently not. Is the science settled, case closed, etc.? Apparently not, if it is true that the CRU has been one of three legs of the stool supporting the warming-linked-to-anthropegenic-CO2-theory.

My son is asking me: how could all the scientists at CRU be either clueless or lying, as I seem to be suggesting (drawing an analogy to the Bushies going in to Iraq). Part of my answer is that "clueless" can include "full of moral fervour, ideological rigidity, etc." Every large or lasting political movement has lots of extremely bright, well-educated people who are like this.

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