Wasted Energy

The Problem Of Climate-change Politics

In the 1950s, the ignorant anti-Communism of Joe McCarthy energized the fellow-traveling Left, and nearly destroyed an emerging liberal anti-Communist consensus. In much the same way, the noisy right-wing assault on the current climate-change consensus is giving a free intellectual pass to the climate movement’s policy mandarins. If Fox’s Bill O’Reilly is against it, what’s not to like? In fact, quite a lot.

The evidence for a consistent recent warming trend and a rapid buildup of atmospheric carbon dioxide is now virtually irrefutable. Because carbon-based gasses are likely to have a “greenhouse effect,” it is perfectly plausible that a reduction in human carbon emissions could halt or even reverse the warming trend.

 But plausibility is not the same as certainty. The great physicist Freeman Dyson, a master of modeling complex physical systems, has high praise for the climate modelers’ work on oceans and the atmosphere, but points out the huge swaths of climate machinery that the models omit. More important, climate change is a lousy framework for making policy.

America’s most pressing geopolitical imperative is to reduce the consumption of oil. Nearly all current sources of oil are in the hands of states that are either unstable, like Nigeria, or inimical to the United States. Mideast oil money finances the world’s terrorist networks and Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons. Oil money has restored Russia’s czarist strut and enables the buffooneries of...

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About the Author

Charles R. Morris, a Commonweal columnist, is the author of The Two Trillion Dollar Meltdown (Public Affairs), among other books, and is a fellow at the Century Foundation.