Friday, March 23, 2007

The new skepticism -- From denial to fatalism

One of the articles below mentions that the conventional wisdom in Washington is that "the debate is over" on global warming. That is, there is no longer any serious debate on if the planet is warming and if human activity is the cause: it is and they are. This means Congress, or at least most of Congress, has finally caught up with the scientific facts.

Now comes the debate about what to do about it. And almost overnight, the skeptics have thrown off their global-warming-is-real skepticism* and replaced it with we-can-do-anything-about-it skepticism.

Paul Krugman recently remarked on this phenomenon in an article on the shrinking middle class:
...One thing I've been noticing on multiple debates in public policies -- climate change is another one -- is there seems to be an almost seamless transition from denial to fatalism. That for 15 or 20 years the people would say, "No, what you're saying is not happening." And then almost immediately they'll turn around and say, "Well, yeah, sure it's happening, but there's nothing that can be done about it."
As usual, Krugman hits it right on the head.

Although the approach may have changed, the underlying goal is the same: do absolutely nothing to apply even modest changes to our fossil-fuel based energy system. This laissez-fair philosophy is an essential part of conservatism which is partly why the climate change debate, which has also been a debate about what to do, tends to break along political lines.

*(Please note that "skepticism" is a natural part of science and calling anti-global warming science people "skeptics" gave them to much credit. This is why myself and others instead call them "deniers".)

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