The Case for Conservative Climate Action

Christopher Johnson

Christopher Johnson

Christopher is an energy policy/public affairs professional based in Washington, D.C., focused on market-based carbon policy.

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  1. Avatar Philip H
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    says:

    Definitely an interesting looking series. sitting on the left and working almost daily with intelligent and gifted climate scientists, the biggest issue I see with the Republican approach is the fool hardy notion that scientists are of necessity recommending policy solutions when they point out the causes of the current warming period. They certainly have ideas, but good scientists are all trained in uncertainty in a way that ordinary folks (and politicians are not) and so even when you press a climate scientists to weigh in on possible solutions they start with so many caveats that their answer is almost never convincing.Report

  2. Avatar InMD
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    says:

    Maybe this will be addressed in part 2 but I’m not sure it’s particularly persuasive to a conservative audience. To me the references to electoral impact is pretty off base. Republicans have done just fine without taking the issue seriously. Making them take it seriously requires convincing their base its something that needs to be taken seriously. I also think the whole ‘demographics favoring Democrats’ thing is wishful thinking based on Hispanics not taking the same track as every other immigrant group. They’ll inter-marry, become ‘white enough’ like other culturally Catholic groups have, and political views among them will diverge as they develop different stakes and interests in our society.

    To convince conservatives you have to fight the crazy corporate sponsored agitprop in their media ecosystems and convince them its a basic meat and potatoes issue as opposed to some scheme by commies to reinvent mankind. I’m optimistic this can be done, especially in the west and am curious to see if OP has more pragmatic thoughts in future posts.Report

  3. Avatar atomickristin
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    says:

    Great piece! I really enjoyed reading it!Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    I am 100% down with Climate Action. There are a number of awesome things that I think would help, from Small Thorium Reactors to some serious global Malthusianism (why should we have anybody living below the earth’s equator?) and I’m looking forward to see where this goes.Report

    • Christopher Johnson Christopher Johnson in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Nuclear plays a pretty significant role in Part 2, and making it easier for people to live where it actually makes sense is part as well.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Christopher Johnson
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        says:

        You’ll have to explain how you deal with nuclear weapons proliferation, with the problem of waste disposal, with concerns about environmental catastrophe resulting from reactor failure.

        “Oh, but I address all that in my proposal–”

        *ahem* You’ll have to explain how you deal with nuclear weapons proliferation, with the problem of waste disposal, with concerns about environmental catastrophe resulting from reactor failure…Report

    • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird
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      Nuclear isn’t a technical problem, it’s a political and financial problem.

      A large majority of voters in the US oppose new nuclear power for several different reasons. Some of them are less obvious than others. Eg, if Yucca Mountain is the spent fuel solution, why is it so poorly thought out that to actually start using it someone has to either (a) build a 300-mile rail spur across a national monument, an Air Force test range, and tribal religious grounds, or (b) commit to hauling all of the waste through the middle of Las Vegas.

      The global evidence is that 1 GWe of nuclear generating capacity costs at least $8B and takes at least 8 years to build. Almost no one is willing to risk that combination of money and time. The Georgia PSC took the risk with their rate payers’ money, and got the Vogtle 3 and 4 project, now looking like at least $12B each and 10 years. The South Carolina PSC got a few billion and a decade into the Summer 2 and 3 project and decided it was cheaper to abandon them than press on. Things in SC are still winding through the courts to settle whether consumers will pay $2B or $5B for the failed project.

      I am looking forward to the next installment.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        This is a good point too. Part of the problem is that we don’t have institutions that work.

        If we did… ah, well.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Cain
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        says:

        As an aside, the other day Musk was tweeting that he’s thinking of building up a fleet of 1,000 Starships for his Mars trips, each flying an orbital mission a day. Combining that with his earlier and ridiculously low cost hopes for re-usable Starship flights indicates that space-based beamed solar power might become financially viable.

        The Shuttle could deliver perhaps 150 tonnes a year to orbit. Musk is talking about delivering 100,000 tonnes per day, which is about 250,000 times more payload heading upstairs. The world is consuming about 18 teraWatts of electricity, and with 30% efficient solar cells and 85% transmission efficiency, it would a square satellite 200 miles on a side to match consumption.

        At 0.25 kg/m^2, which is pretty normal for space-based deployable solar arrays, the satellites would weigh about 13.5 million tonnes. Musk’s 1000 Starship fleet could deliver that much to orbit in 135 days, with 135,000 launches. By Musk’s estimates, the launch cost would come to $270 billion, with the fuel costs being about half of that. Double that for the cost of the satellites and you get $500 billion to replace all world electric consumption, which at $0.15 per KWhr would come to $3 trillion a year.

        The system would pay for itself in the first two or three months and completely displace almost fossil fuel electric power generation, at least in places that had 10 km or so of cleared land area for the microwave receivers. Small islands might stick with fuel plants to preserve their rain forests.

        Normally astronomers would throw a fit at the idea of giant solar power satellites orbiting the Earth, but with the kinds of payload capabilities Musk envisions, all the big new telescopes would be in orbit, too.Report

  5. Avatar DensityDuck
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    says:

    Not everyone is a fan of revenue-neutral carbon taxes. Environmentalist groups don’t like it because it doesn’t give them money, hardcore environmentalists don’t like it because it doesn’t punish the EEEEEEVIL EMITTERS as much as they’d prefer, and conservatives don’t like it because they don’t actually believe it’ll be revenue-neutral.

    and, y’know. “there will be innovation as companies develop new technologies to adjust to the new regulations!” yeah, that’s what everyone said about the PPACA, that conforming to the new bureaucratic requirements would create white-collar jobs for clerks and regulators, and that’s kind of…not what people mean when they talk about “market-based solutions”. Like, you’re correct that the market will figure out its own adaptations to Dealing With The Bullshit, but that doesn’t make it not bullshit.

    my point being, maybe there are solutions that will be attractive to conservative ideals, but A) they will involve costs, and it doesn’t make me think seriously of you that you’re handwaving the costs away as “oh well I thought you people wanted to create jobs, and besides we aren’t dictating solutions so we’ll let the market sort it out, I thought you were into that kinda thing”; and B) making solutions attractive to conservative ideals will involve making them unattractive to others’ ideals, and you will need to have an idea of how to deal with that.Report

    • Christopher Johnson Christopher Johnson in reply to DensityDuck
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      says:

      Just wait until I get into retrofitting coal plants for biomass with carbon capture! Trust me, I’m a realist on these issues, I do this for a living and have run into these political realities both on the ground and in media.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
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      says:

      “making solutions attractive to conservative ideals will involve making them unattractive to others’ ideals”

      see below from Slade The Leveller about “treating the symptoms and not the cause”Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck
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      says:

      This is kind of like everyone’s proposals for a National High-Speed Rail Network. It’s easy to describe how, in engineering terms, it wouldn’t be a particularly hard thing to do, and to list all the ways it would be better than what we’ve got now, but getting it done is not actually an engineering problem, and the political and social reasons it’s hard aren’t entirely bad reasons we can handwave away as “foolish insistence on individuality” and “property fetishists defending the nothing that they imagine holds value”.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck
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        says:

        Personally, I support high-speed rail between city centers.

        I imagine that it would relieve a lot of congestion on the roads and I will benefit from that.Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to DensityDuck
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        says:

        I have one test I use for the seriousness of any proposal for a national HSR system. There’s always a map of some sort. If the map shows a straight line from Denver to Salt Lake City, the proposal isn’t serious. There’s simply no way to do that, barring the most incredible set of tunnels ever built. The central east-west line of a HSR system will run through the South Pass in Wyoming — just like the Pony Express, the transcontinental telegraph, the transcontinental railroad, current freight rail, and I-80. With a 150-mile stub from Cheyenne down along the Front Range urban corridor.Report

  6. Avatar Chip Daniels
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    says:

    I applaud this essay and the intentions behind it.
    And while I admit to a strong liberal bias, I think the reading of the current state of the GOP is a bit naive.

    The current conservative base of the GOP is not motivated by ideology, or even any sort of broad policy preferences.

    The main motivation is a seething resentment of liberals. Even on this very blog, we have heard time and again how people only voted for Trump as the Not-Hillary, and voted Republican as the Not-Liberal.

    There have been those polls done, where when you strip away the party identification, a majority of Republicans favor things like modest forms of gun control, progressive taxation, abortion rights, and environmental regulation.
    But the party they vote for is implacably hostile to these things.

    The commentary on these things always paints it as a conundrum, but it isn’t. Most Republicans probably would like to see action on climate change, but it isn’t a priority for them.

    Electing someone who insults the liberals is the highest priority.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      (Some people pointed out the Elitist/Populist divide as well. Time and time again, even.)Report

    • Christopher Johnson Christopher Johnson in reply to Chip Daniels
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      I absolutely concede that this will not win over the current GOP base. But my hope is that this offers a framework for the future, in which much of the current base….uh….is no longer with us. I know it’s morbid, but the GOP base is REALLY gray. They need ideas that may not be popular with them, but will be popular with a future coalition of support, which will be what I address in part 3.Report

    • Avatar Urusigh in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      “The current conservative base of the GOP is not motivated by ideology, or even any sort of broad policy preferences.”

      I think your analysis is rather missing some other defining characteristics like the Urban vs Rural divide and the growing trend of Trump’s Tent away from white-collar and toward blue-collar workers. One of the most consistent characteristics of counties Trump won is relatively low population density. There’s likewise been no shortage of analysis on his appeals to the rust belt and explicit support for manufacturing and fossil fuels industry. Not coincidentally, those are all groups who stand to lose significantly under pretty much every climate policy proposed.

      “The main motivation is a seething resentment of liberals. ”

      Remember Trump’s “I love the uneducated”? vs Obama’s “Bitter Clingers, Clinton’s “Deplorables” and pretty much every “Liberal” pundit’s contemptuous references to “flyover country”, “rednecks”, and “hicks”? You can say “Trump tapped into a deep vein of resentment” if you like, I won’t disagree, but you’ll have a much harder argument to make if you want to claim that “liberal elites” haven’t more than earned that ire by repeatedly “other”ing and condescending toward everyone who isn’t them or one of their pet mascots (i.e. LGBT).

      “There have been those polls done, where when you strip away the party identification, a majority of Republicans favor things like modest forms of gun control, progressive taxation, abortion rights, and environmental regulation.”

      You do realize that similar polls exist showing the exact opposite depending on how the questions are worded, who paid for the poll, and whether the people being polled actually know what the current state of affairs already is?

      “Most Republicans probably would like to see action on climate change, but it isn’t a priority for them.”

      I’d say it’s more that most republicans don’t care either way as long as it won’t affect them. Pretty much anything sounds like a good idea in theory until you start including the practicals of how much it’s going to cost and who will pay it. Far more leftist cultures than ours have violent protests in the streets when gas prices skyrocket under “green” policies they liked when campaigned and polled on but don’t like at all now that their quality of life is actually impacted.

      It’s not “Electing someone who insults the liberals is the highest priority.”

      That’s a bubble of social media feedback loops, not a good reflection of IRL. Don’t take it too seriously.

      People can tolerate a lot of meddling by supposedly selfless humble public servants who neutrally have their best interests at heart, but the people have very little tolerance for being constantly insulted and ordered around by clearly selfish smug technocrats who serve only their own partisan interests and blithely dismiss everyone else.

      At least on the republican side, it is more like “Electing someone who respects (or at least doesn’t insult me) is the highest priority.” Trump throwing insults isn’t wildly popular with the base just because of the targets, but specifically because he’s counter-punching against people who insulted him (and us) first.Report

  7. Avatar greginak
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    says:

    Looking forward to what you have coming. The hard leftie enviro types make great movie villains and people to fear. They are also the easiest to marginalize if we were engaged in some effort towards dealing with the climate problem. There is no plausible path to the policies the hard enviro types want. But if there is no path to any sort of solutions at all then that gives O2 to the harder edge policies. At this point making any sort of headway would be good.Report

  8. Avatar Slade the Leveller
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    says:

    According to NYT, conservatives are dealing with the effects of climate change, without saying they’re effects of climate change. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/20/climate/climate-change-funding-states.html

    If all we’re dealing with is a semantic problem, then I’m all for doing whatever it takes. However, the stuff mentioned in the article is treating the symptoms and not the cause.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      says:

      Actually i think it would be an improvement if we just started to focus on treating the symptoms at this point. It’s baked in by now we are going to have a butt load of symptoms so adapting is our only choice for a lot of it. Secondly once people start seeing what it takes to adapt and treat the symptoms that will lead to thinking more about the causes and taking a longer term view.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to greginak
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        says:

        The best adaptation strategy is to not wear two pairs of socks and so many darn coats.

        Europe is so cold that it took us thousands of years to figure out how to even survive in its southern regions. People couldn’t even get to the New World until we mastered making body suits out of seal or reindeer hides, and without those skills only a few parts of the US, such as the Pacific and Gulf coasts, would be habitable. Without massive innovations, we’re only able to live in tropical rain forests and African savannas because we don’t have fur. Everywhere else is too freaking cold for us.

        You know all those pleading ads about how only $1 a day will save Gabriella? It’s so cheap because she lives in the tropics and doesn’t have to survive winter snows. If you want to save Torvald in Norway, you’re going to have to shell out some big bucks to cover the heating costs, the snow suits, and a winter stockpile of non-perishable food. With enough warming maybe Torvald can live as cheaply as Gabriella, getting by with just a T-shirt and flip flops in a grass hut.

        Sadly, it would take over 20 C of warming to make Torvald’s environment naturally comfortable, but we’re struggling to even get an additional 2 C over the course of a century. That’s not nearly enough to save him, so instead we got his uncle a job on a Norwegian oil rig making big bucks pumping oil to keep Torvald from freezing to death, or having to live in an igloo eating whales, seals, and the occasional polar bear. Of course Torvald will eventually have to move to Miami because a glacier crushed his house as the next glaciation period wipes his country off the map, but that’s why we make long haul airliners. Of course some worry that Miami will drown, but even based on the worst IPCC projections, that won’t happen until after Jean-Luc Picard retires from Starfleet.

        Anyway, sometimes I wonder if Republicans inside the beltway have ever talked to us backwards conservatives who read books on modeling coupled atmosphere-ocean dynamics for fun? It might be easier to convince the orbital mechanics geeks at NASA that the Earth is actually shaped like a pancake. Letting a 16-year old autistic girl, who doesn’t even go to school, lead the movement doesn’t ease the selling job, either. I can think of only a few outreach missions that would be as frustrating, such as founding “Communists for Christ” and trying to get both Alabama Baptists to praise Stalin or get Seattle dumpster divers to go to church.Report

        • Avatar greginak in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          “Sir, this the Arby’s drive thru”Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to George Turner
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          says:

          Anyway, sometimes I wonder if Republicans inside the beltway have ever talked to us backwards conservatives who read books on modeling coupled atmosphere-ocean dynamics for fun? It might be easier to convince the orbital mechanics geeks at NASA that the Earth is actually shaped like a pancake. Letting a 16-year old autistic girl, who doesn’t even go to school, lead the movement doesn’t ease the selling job, either. I can think of only a few outreach missions that would be as frustrating, such as founding “Communists for Christ” and trying to get both Alabama Baptists to praise Stalin or get Seattle dumpster divers to go to church.

          Read my lips – Beltway Republicans do not care about you. And they haven’t at least since Reagan. They do care about fossil fuel company sponsorship of PACs. They studiously avoid, and are now trying to dismantle, scientific enterprises that help write those books you read for fun (and which I read professionally FWIW). And I have also seen a lot of Seattle dumpster divers going to church, or at least they did when I lived there.Report

    • Christopher Johnson Christopher Johnson in reply to Slade the Leveller
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      I linked this in this very piece!Report

  9. Avatar North
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    says:

    Great piece, looking forward to the future parts.Report

  10. Avatar LeeEsq
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    says:

    I think one reason why conservatives don’t take climate change seriously is money. Fossil fuels are a big money interest and many people who benefit from the fossil fuel industry are deeply involved in conservative politcs. Taking climate change seriously means that the people wealthy from fossil fuels will loose wealth while new people, who might not generally be conservative, will get wealthy from green energy. Denying climate change is helping an importatn constieuntcy for conservatives.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq
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      says:

      It’s because it is, fundamentally, a collective action problem.

      We, as a society, will have to change many things to address climate change. When the people screaming “you need to change!” have not, themselves, changed their lives, it makes it easy to not take the arguments from the screaming people seriously.

      Say what you will about Greta Thunburg, but she found a zero-emissions way to get to the UN.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
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        says:

        Of course there are people who have changed their lives but they get mocked and ignored for a variety of reasons; they are loony, lefties or coastal elites or they are trying to control us or so what if they have done those 12 things why did they fly to Miami for a vacation. Greta for example ain’t exactly being taken seriously. She is an object of mockery on the right.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
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          says:

          Among the variety of reasons are such reasons as “you claim it’s a moral imperative, but you don’t act like it’s a moral imperative whenever it inconveniences you”.

          I mean, if I told you that everyone (including you) should go vegan to help the planet but you saw me eating a steak, would you question why I was eating a steak? Would you see my explanation about how much energy I need to keep giving the message I’m giving as reasonable?

          For the record: I wouldn’t.

          Personally, I see climate action as an engineering problem. I really like carbon sequestration and thorium reactors. I occasionally read a story about a weird new process to turn CO2 into O2 and I get excited and I hope it catches on.

          And then I get into arguments with people who explain to me that I need to change my life because this is a moral imperative. Between bites of veal.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Its a lame bit of excuse-making of “Well, I was going to put smoke detectors in my house, but I notice you didn’t put one in yours, hypocrite!”

            Because the logical conclusion of the hypocrisy claim is that, were the liberals at actually walk the walk, then conservatives would do so also.

            What conservatives are doing is denying the validity of the claim, while simultaneously charging liberals with hypocrisy. These are two separate arguments.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              “Because the logical conclusion of the hypocrisy claim is that, were the liberals at actually walk the walk, then conservatives would do so also.”

              Although liberals sure do love telling us how this or that bit of nastiness is absolutely justified by those conservatives being nasty first.

              And, y’know. If Doing The Thing is going to Literally Kill The Planet and you are still Doing The Thing but it’s okay because reasons, well, how come you get reasons and we don’t?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to DensityDuck
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                Did I ever tell you the story of how I got a continent’s worth of carbon offsets when I was doing an automation job at a giant Nigerian paper factory?

                I asked them why they were building the world’s largest paper mill and they said “WE MUST SEND LETTERS TO EVERYONE IN THE WORLD ABOUT OUR EX-PRESIDENT’S WIFE’S BANK ACCOUNT.” (Nigerians talk in all caps.) I told them “We have this thing called the Internet that will let you send letter right to our inboxes, in seconds, with no postage!” And so they canceled the project and got on AOL, and I saved every tree in Africa. Now I sell my trillions in carbon offsets to Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and climate activists. Some say it’s all a scam, and I just nod back knowingly and say “Yes. Some say that.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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              says:

              I’m not talking about the problems of stuff like “you say ‘never start smoking’, but *YOU* smoke two packs a day!”

              I’m talking about collective action problems where you tell me that I need to act collectively but you don’t.

              Do you see the difference?

              For the record: I do.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                So where is this happening, where liberal groups urge climate action that they themselves refuse to undertake?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Davos?

                I mean, seriously. Did you ask that without knowing that that would be the first thing out of my mouth?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                What does Davos have to do with lets say, the legislative proposals being put forward by the Democrats, to which the Republicans are vehemently opposed?

                Like higher mileage standards or plastic bag bans…How do the bloviating rich guys at Davos cause conservatives to oppose these things?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Jesus Christ. It’s like you don’t even remember asking the question you asked. Do you realize that you asked me a question that I answered?

                Is the fact that I answered it inconvenient to the point where you want to pretend that it didn’t happen?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                I’m not following the logic that connects Davos to conservative opposition to climate and environmental action.

                Are you thinking that “rich guys at Davos” are examples of “liberal environmentalists”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Do you remember asking me a question? Let’s just start there. Do you remember asking me “So where is this happening, where liberal groups urge climate action that they themselves refuse to undertake?”

                Do you acknowledge that that happened?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Yes, and…Davos is your example of “liberal groups”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Okay, I see I will have to do this myself.

                “I acknowledge that there is a bit of a credibility problem that some parts of the Green Coalition has due to stuff like Leo DiCaprio talking about the importance of fighting against climate change and then taking a private jet to get a steak at the chophouse run by “Salt Bae” and then spending a week sunning on his yacht in the Mediterranean with a bunch of models. And would that Leo was the only celebrity who did stuff like that! Yeah, it causes a bit of a credibility problem on the part of people who, in good faith, believe the things that Leo publicly professes to but does not practice. Believe me. I wish that he weren’t quite so loud about it. But he is raising awareness of the issue and the issue is important even if he does use private jets for silly little frivolous trips. If Leo didn’t exist, we would still have this problem which we need to address and, yes, I understand why he makes such a great target for people who are pointing out that this is supposed to be an urgent collective action problem. So instead of asking where Liberals preach what they don’t practice, I *SHOULD* have asked…”

                And then ask a question that you think will corner me into seeing this as a moral issue that I need to treat as a serious moral issue instead of merely seeing it as an engineering problem that we need to see as a serious engineering problem.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                But…now you’ve just restated an example of a liberal individual not practicing what he preaches…

                I mean, its literally an example of what you said you were not talking about- i.e., “you say ‘never start smoking’, but *YOU* smoke two packs a day!”

                What I keep asking for is an example of liberal groups pressing for climate action that they themselves refuse to adopt.

                For example, all the various policy proposals advocated by the leading environmental groups will have direct and measurable costs, which the members of these very same groups will pay.

                I’m not seeing where conservatives would take issue with the message these groups are making.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Chip, do you see the difference between “I am harming myself and I don’t know how to stop so please don’t do what I’m doing” and “you should let me eat meat but you shouldn’t eat meat”?

                Because, for the record, I do.

                And if you cannot see how I see the difference between those two things, we’re in a place where either I’m lying about my ability to see a difference between those things (could be!) or you don’t have some essential information about how things look from a perspective that you don’t hold.

                What I keep asking for is an example of liberal groups pressing for climate action that they themselves refuse to adopt.

                People agitating for less carbon creation but also taking transcontinental flights in private jets.

                Does that count? If not, why not?Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                For example, all the various policy proposals advocated by the leading environmental groups will have direct and measurable costs, which the members of these very same groups will pay.

                They won’t pay anything. They’re making money hand over fist flying to climate conferences. The higher energy prices go, the more the poor will suffer and the more elite the elites become – because they have the money to blow on private jets. Their status symbols gain more status, they gain more prestige, they become lords and we become serfs.

                Imagine some religious figure who spends his sermons convincing his vast flock to take vows of poverty and adopt a monastic lifestyle, donating all their money to his church. So he keeps flying in on his corporate jet, like many a televangelist, opening the door as pot-smoke wafts out, and he sways down the stairs, whisky glass in hand, followed by his gaggle of Playboy bunnies.

                Then he reassures his monks that the church pays for the jets, the hookers, and the blow, so he’s still technically poor, and they should redouble their labors because all that jet-A he burns is expensive.

                This would convince most sane monks that his church is a crock and only a fool would remain a member. Similarly, when Al Gore’s Nashville mansion has an outdoor heated swimming pool, powered by good TVA coal, and when he then goes and buys a seacoast mansion in California, and then flies back and forth to all the climate conferences on his private jet, you have to wonder if maybe he doesn’t actually give a fig about climate change, and that’s it’s just a way for him to get rich selling carbon offsets to patsies.

                Yet he is an environmental profit, a saint, while George W Bush is a demon even though Bush powered his ranch with solar cells and cut his own firewood.

                And that’s where climate change has another intersection with Christian evangelism, where what you preach, and what you profess to believe, is far more important than what you actually do. An attitude that our sinning televangelist is shooting to heaven for spreading the Lord’s world but Gandhi is rotting in hell because he wasn’t “saved”. Or the philandering preachers who roll up in their big Cadillacs to lecture poor old ladies about greed and sin. And yet, in their church, there are plenty of people who will say what a good thing it was for the preacher to keep those old ladies in line, because nobody should forget Jesus’s teachings.

                I grew up in a town where that was the norm, and I’m not signing on with another bunch of moralizing hypocrites preaching doom and hellfire. Ignore what they say, because they all claim to be saints on a mission from God, and watch what they do and how they act.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                No, it doesn’t address my question.

                Finding individuals who don’t follow the policy of larger groups is trivially easy, and its exactly the lame excuse-making I started with.

                The action of an individual doesn’t have any logical connection to the policy preference of the group.

                And even on its own face it has no internal logic.
                DiCaprio isn’t saying, “No one should ever fly across the Atlantic!”

                Whether Leo Di Caprio takes a plane, or bicycles from New York to LA is entirely irrelevant and silly.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Chip Daniels
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                says:

                Greta is saying you shouldn’t fly across the Atlantic. You should just fly your yacht crew back and forth across it a couple of times so they can sail the multi-million dollar racing yacht made from fossil fuels (high strength S glass, carbon fiber, aluminum, and epoxy) and powered by high-tech sails made from fossil fuels.

                Doesn’t everybody have many thousands of dollars and a couple weeks to blow on an Atlantic adventure? I’m pretty sure us Appalachian kids did that all the time when I was growing up, but just didn’t tell me about it. Of course we were evil because we were poor and mined coal to keep everybody’s lights on in the winter. But woe to us, for we have destroyed Greta’s childhood.

                Just holler if you see how her message isn’t working for most people, and in fact is kind of pissing folks off and making them wonder whether the whole thing is a scam by elitist environmentalists to get rich and famous while denouncing us as greedy for leading our miserable lives, ones that don’t involve sailing the Atlantic on custom racing yachts or hanging out with Leonardo Dicaprio and Arnold Schwarzenegger.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Chip, it’s more that if we have a collective action problem, it’s a problem that requires that all of us engage in action, collectively, to resolve.

                If I am calling on you to change your life in the way that I am saying you must due to how important it is that we avoid destruction, and I do not change my life in that way and, indeed, fly in a private jet to a steakhouse in Turkey in order to have a steak prepared by a guy I saw in an internet meme, I can easily expect people to think “he doesn’t believe what he’s saying… why should *I* believe what he’s saying?”

                So… why should we believe the people who are calling for collective action (but who don’t engage in the collective action themselves)?

                How do we know that they’re not just saying these things because they know they get Indulgences for saying them?

                I mean, is this just a problem that can be solved by me saying the things that you’re saying without otherwise having to change?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So when the Sierra Club says we should tax low mileage vehicles, you first study the driving habits of the president of the club, before engaging in the idea?

                This just seems like a transparently desperate excuse to avoid grappling with the issue, a sort of hand waving “Look Over There!”

                The logic flaw is that you can always, always, find a hypocritical individual somewhere if you search hard enough. And you are searching very, very hard.

                So no, even if you said I should change my life, but you yourself behaved differently, a wise person would also consider the advice on its own merits.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                If the president of the Sierra Club drove a Hummer (V1) and said “it’s okay, I’m rich enough to pay for carbon tax credits”, I *DO* think that it’d be fair to ask “what in the hell is really going on here?”

                I mean… you do know why Elmer Gantry was a best seller, right?

                Or do you only know why it was banned in Boston?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                There are seven billion people on earth.
                Hundreds of millions are urging some sort of action on the climate.
                Of those hundreds of millions, almost all will pay the price of their suggested actions.

                In other words, hundreds of millions of people are making an argument about the cost of climate inaction, and walking the walk.
                And their arguments have the force of facts and logic.

                Yet you deliberately ignore them, and focus on one or two individuals behavior. And you ignore the facts and arguments they make.

                Why? You wouldn’t do this with any other issue such as government spending.

                If I were to make a snarky quip about how most fiscal conservatives are themselves enjoying socialized healthcare of Medicare, that wouldn’t be a logical argument; It would just be a snarky quip.

                There really isn’t any logical connection between someone making the argument for lower government spending, and themselves receiving Medicare.

                Or to use your example: If Elmer Gantry urged me to be kind to the poor, and himself was not, that would only be a poor reflection on him.
                The advice to be kind to the poor would still be worthwhile on its own merit.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                If I were to make a snarky quip about how most fiscal conservatives are themselves enjoying socialized healthcare of Medicare, that wouldn’t be a logical argument; It would just be a snarky quip.

                If I looked for it, could I find a comment where you mocked the tea party types for holding up a sign that said “get your government hands off my Medicare”?

                (Would you say that I shouldn’t bother?)

                My argument is fairly straightforward. This is a collective action problem. The collective actions are going to be mostly unpleasant. If the people calling for them are not, themselves, engaging in the collective actions, they will not convince people to also engage in the collective actions.

                Seriously, is this a problem that can be resolved with me writing an essay?

                I could write a corker!Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Chip making snarky quips? Unheard of!

                “If the people calling for them” is the logic flaw here.

                “The people calling for them” includes hundreds of millions of people most of whom ARE, themselves, engaging in collective action in direct contradiction of your assertion.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Hundreds of millions, you say? I daresay “citation needed”. Unless you’re talking about merely stuff like “living in 3rd World conditions” and, lemme tell ya, as far as I can tell, they’re agitating for 1st World ones.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                63 million Democrats here in America, plus about half of Europe’s 700 million, plus Asia, Australia, South America, Canada…yep hundreds of millions of people.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                Of course. Of course.

                I’ve no doubt that, on the strength of their numbers alone, they’ll succeed in getting people to change their lives and turn this thing around.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                And even on its own face it has no internal logic.
                DiCaprio isn’t saying, “No one should ever fly across the Atlantic!”

                If I were arguing for forward movement on climate change collective action, I would not put a whole lotta energy into defending conspicuous consumptive lifestyles.

                I find myself boggling that I have to make this point.

                (Seriously, is this a problem that could be resolved by me doing little more than parroting noises?)Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Who is here making a defense of conspicuous consumption?

                No one on this blog is talking about celebrities except you.
                The rest of us would rather talk about ways to reduce our environmental damage.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels
                Ignored
                says:

                I guess I misunderstood you pointing out that Leo wasn’t telling people to not fly transatlantic flights.Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to Jaybird
            Ignored
            says:

            I see people who complain you aren’t walking the walk to people that aren’t walking the walk. When talking to people who do walk the walk they find some other complaint. The point seems to be that some people are just against doing anything and will go for whatever criticism works, not through any actual principal. It’s bad faith arguing. You want to rail against the hypocrites and that is all you seem to be responding to.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to greginak
              Ignored
              says:

              Greg, I’m also arguing that this is an engineering problem that can be fixed with sufficient engineering. Thorium reactors and innovations in carbon sequestration.

              Calling for stuff like Greta Thunburg at Davos doesn’t strike me as likely to move the football.

              You have seen this story where she rails against governments for only pretending to do things, right? If you haven’t, I think you’ll like it. (You’ll get to complain about Greta not understanding the way the world works.)Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      Nah. It’s that conservatives already had a real religion and didn’t need a fake one masquerading as “science”. We already had the narrative about mankind’s greed, gluttony, and sin, God’s wrath, and redemption through repentance, evangelizing, buying indulgences (carbon offsets), and all the rest.

      The problem is that the narrative requires us to believe things that are flatly stupid, such as that the Earth has an ideal constant temperature, not a vast and varying range of temperatures, and that the temperature at each spot was perfect, from the Sahara desert to frozen poles. We’re told that if the Earth shifts by just 2 degrees civilization will collapse, yet somehow we happily inhabit Oslo, London, Toronto, Phoenix, and LA, whose climates vary ten-fold more than what’s supposed to kill us all. To those who look at the numbers, without the dogma and religious blinders, the whole worry looks crazy, more akin to a moral panic or mass hysteria. At least the killer bee scare had actual killer bees.

      The climate panic starts with the aforementioned religious narrative, gets compounded by noble cause corruption, and then all the facts that somewhat fit are shoehorned into that narrative. Facts that don’t fit are ignored or dismissed, and all the doubters are denounced as heretics and apostates, publicly censored to the extent possible, and sometimes threatened with jail. Heck, one of my friends is being sued in DC court by Michael “hockey stick” Mann and the case has dragged on for years and cost a fortune. Science doesn’t do things like that, religions and religious ideologies do.

      So the problem in converting conservatives is similar to the problem of converting evangelic Christians to Islam. They already have their own religion and already know all the glaring holes in the one the imams or high priests of Gaia are trying to sell them. You can’t convert a non-believer who’s already versed in a dozen refutations of your dogma. You can’t frighten people with a ridiculous threat they laugh at as stupid, just as you can’t scare an atheist into changing their behavior because they’re risking eternal damnation in the seventh circle of Hell. This will be as unsuccessful as The Seven Hundred Club convincing liberals that we need to destroy the economy, institute a rigid theocracy, and return to subsistence agriculture to protect our women folk from vanity and lustful thoughts – because Satan is lurking everywhere. Liberals would just listen to the pitch and walk away convinced that preachers that crazy should probably be put in mental institutions.

      The only common ground where conservatives would indulge the craziness is where there’s an overlap with more efficient energy production. Gas turbines, thorium or other advanced nuclear reactors, research into superconducting grid transmission, innovative storage schemes to smooth peaks and valleys in the demand curve, and increased efficiencies across the board. But those things save money because they save expensive resources, so the market should be doing most of those anyway.

      Perhaps the best political strategy is to exploit environmental concerns to overcome opposition to a more robust grid, nuclear power, fracking, and of the NIMBY problem inherent in destroying large swaths of the environment to build solar farms and more bird-killing wind turbines in the areas where those can produce a good rate of return.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        You last two paragraphs have meat we can discuss and agree on. The rest is insulting balderdash and you know it. There are plenty of liberals, including professional scientists, who happen to be practicing Christians. Me included. And we take seriously God’s call in Genesis to protect His creation. That you seem to believe only Conservatives head that call is really beneath you – though its similar log in the eye ignorance to the belief that only conservatives own and shoot firearms.

        Lots of us have proposed building solar and wind farms in places where they give good rates of return (and increase employment). We have agitated for improvements to the power grid and improved energy efficiencies. And we are met with assinine bill boards on the PA Turnpike about how wind dies and the sun sets and the ONLY solution is more coal. We are also met with Republican administrations rolling back efficiency standards in the name of economic stimulation through deregulation – which is only marginally a thing it turns out).

        As to your friend being sued by Professor Mann – if he’s one of the blokes who hacked Mann’s emails illegally and then cherry picked emails – deserves all the costs he’s incurring.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Philip H
          Ignored
          says:

          Nah, he just insulted UPenn’s investigation of the e-mail scandal with a reference to their investigation of Jerry Sandusky. Pretty much every journalistic and scientific organization filed an amicus brief in support of him, because in science and politics, you can’t sue people for questioning your theory or results. Unfortunately the first judge handling his anti-SLAPP motion decided to let the case proceed.

          Anyway, I’m not saying that plenty of liberals or environmentalists aren’t religious, but plenty of them aren’t, or aren’t especially so, and thus may have been more prone to falling for the same basic pitch as Christianity to give their lives meaning. I mean, they’re saving the world! They’re saving the polar bears! They’re saving all of God’s creation! Historically, the worst disasters, atrocities, and human suffering are caused by really motivated people who are convinced their movement is the only thing that can save the world, which invariably requires either converting everyone to their side or simply liquidating the opposition. Leaving people alone isn’t an option when the planet is at stake.

          For researchers, working on a huge problem that threatens to destroy the entire planet is way more of an ego boost than being the drudge who counts tree rings down in the basement of the geology annex, two doors past the janitorial supply room. Judith Curry, who was the dean of climate science at Georgia Tech, writes extensively on all the corrupting influences and pressures, large and small, that plague her field.

          Other serious environmentalists bemoan global warming as the cause that sucked all the oxygen (and funding) from real work on the ground, such as saving threatened species. Once you think that carbon taxes will fix everything, and that all problems are caused by BP’s latest arctic rig, nobody thinks they have to fix anything. Many complain that the new crop of environmentalists can’t even think clearly. When confronted with some normal problem, they blame it on climate change and move on instead of investigating what’s actually going on to cause a drop in population, or at least to get attention and funding they have to frame the problem as climate change.

          This strikes the non-believers as a step backwards into the 17th and 18th centuries, when science articles frequently pointed out how each new insight or observation is evidence of God’s plan. Nowadays global warming, like God in days of old, explains everything. The need to support that narrative causes all kinds of problems, and causes otherwise objective people to overlook all kinds of nonsense.

          As just one example, the Earth’s historical surface temperature record was being adjusted so often to create trends where none existed that the NCDC went ahead and automated the adjustment process so they don’t even have to intervene. As new temperature readings come in, old ones are automatically adjusted downwards. Now, to a serious physicist or chemist this would be absurd. There isn’t a known mechanism by which current temperatures can alter past temperatures because we don’t have time travel, nor a theory on how modern temperatures could ripple backwards in time. No matter, they do it anyway because, although it conflicts with the known laws of the universe, it supports the dogma. This makes skeptics look at what they’re doing and think “That isn’t even remotely like science.” In science, if the facts don’t fit the theory, you alter the theory. In climate science you just alter the facts.Report

    • Christopher Johnson Christopher Johnson in reply to LeeEsq
      Ignored
      says:

      See this is where industry perspective is important.

      While yes, there are entrenched interests towards the status quo financially, energy companies have all the know-how and infrastructure to change how energy is produced and provided to consumers. They are often coming out in support of carbon pricing so that they can transition gradually away from carbon towards a cleaner future.

      Your hypothesis is valid, but it is unlikely to work out that way just because of how the industry is structured, and how difficult it would be for nascent green energy companies to be the main drivers/beneficiaries of this clean energy future.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to Christopher Johnson
        Ignored
        says:

        I think a lot of energy companies like the easy money from fossil fuels. They have the infrastructure set up and they know what to do. Green energy is an unknown field interms of both technique and how much money can be earned from it. A lot of work is going to need to be done to set up the infrastrucutre.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to LeeEsq
          Ignored
          says:

          I used to agree with this when I would drive by BP’s solar plant in Maryland on the way to West Virginia. But about 4 years ago BP sold the land and took the plant down. Inquiring further it was apparently because BP wasn’t making enough money on it and didn’t feel they would.Thats a market failure that government will have to intervene in.Report

  11. Avatar Michael Siegel
    Ignored
    says:

    A great piece. I’ve been beating the drum a little bit on this so am eager to see where you go with it.Report

  12. Avatar James K
    Ignored
    says:

    This is a good post Christopher, we need more people from the right taking this issue seriously, most of the right is in total denial, and much of the impetus from the left seems to mysteriously peter out as soon as the discussion strays away from forcing a singular vision of the good on everyone or creating a massive government boondoggle.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to James K
      Ignored
      says:

      The right immediately noticed that the left shifted from saying we’re all about to die from global cooling and coming ice age unless we implemented big-government communist policies X, Y, and Z to saying that we’re all going to die from global warming and boiling oceans unless we implement big-government communist policies X, Y, and Z. Amazingly, no matter which way the climate is headed, the solution was the same, not the opposite. The right’s conclusion was the left just wants to implement big-government communist policies X, Y, and Z, and climate had nothing to do with it.Report

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to George Turner
        Ignored
        says:

        Except “the Left” never claimed any such thing with respect to “cooling.” Pretty much since the early 1970’s we’ve been after things to reduce a warming planet – we used to call it greenhouse gas reduction before we relented and went with climate change. But there’s never been a push on cooling by anyone who actually understands how the system works – which you claim to do.Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to Philip H
          Ignored
          says:

          Global cooling was the prior scare, which is highly inconvenient for the narrative. So the environmentalists try to gaslight normal folks who remember being terrified of the coming ice age, claiming “We never said that!”

          In Search Of: The Coming Ice Age, 1978, narrated by Leonard Nimoy. The scare tactic worked, expecially because an ice age would be a devastating event that would render much of North America and Europe uninhabitable, but the bitter winters didn’t repeat. The next big threat was the ozone hole that was about to render northern regions uninhabitable, and then the focus shifted to global warming.

          And in other news today, Bay Area Couple Jailed for Massive Ponzi Scheme Worth $1 Billion.. Hrm.. Yet another solar energy scam.Report

  13. Avatar Urusigh
    Ignored
    says:

    As much fun as it would be to argue the comments above because you quite frankly lost credibility with me at the point where you assumed that human-caused climate change is both real and an existential threat sometime within the next century (neither of which are validated sufficiently to justify mass government action)… I’ve instead decided to be helpful this time. There are a lot of republicans who agree with me that Climate Alarmism is just the latest scare tactic by socialists looking to remake society into their utopia. So whether any of you agree with me or not, it seems that if your hysterical deadlines to save the planet are even remotely accurate you don’t have the time to just sit around waiting for us Skeptics to die of natural causes (obviously there is another possibility, but out of politeness I’m going to assume that most of you will go with “persuade them”).

    So, here’s what it will take to persuade me:

    Don’t reference climate at all. If you actually have win-win policy solutions then you should be able to justify each one to me on purely the basis that “I” as a Conservative consider a win.

    I.E. I fully support expanding nuclear power where economical simply because it actually has an overall superior safety record and minimal impacts on the locale, not to mention possible military and medical applications. Solar and wind somewhat too, but AFAICT both of those when deployed at scale massively displace local wildlife and kill more animals annually than oil spills do, so I consider that not so much “progress” as a large step backward in terms of environmental conservation. Those are VERY location dependent to be both cost-efficient and minimal impact on wildlife. I actually like the idea of local micro-grids and generation, not because it’s “green”, but because it can increase resiliency against natural disasters (or acts of war). If you like that it also reduces carbon emissions, well, whatever, no skin off my nose.

    Addendum: “But it will create jobs!” is NOT a conservative argument for government spending. From my perspective (with few exceptions) every government-paid job is overhead cost, it’s the private sector that actually produces value, so any scheme that taxes money out of the private sector to pay someone else is, at best, less than a break even proposition for the economy as a whole. History generally confirms this with very poor efficiency ratings for “job-creation” spending programs during depressions and recessions. If the industry is actually worth investing in, it should be able to draw sufficient private investors on its own. (Caveat: National Security supply-chains do need to be maintained, by subsidy if necessary). Remember, I consider government to be the problem, not the solution, so if you really want to interest me offer policies that get govt out of the way of private actors.Report

    • Avatar George Turner in reply to Urusigh
      Ignored
      says:

      If the goal was to create jobs in the energy sector then we would just pay people to run in hamster wheels.

      There’s a story about a US ambassador to India touring one of Nehru’s big road building projects. Thousands of Indians were toiling away with shovels and wheelbarrows, and seeing this the American suggested that the US could supply heavy equipment like bulldozers and dump trucks. The Indian official said “No, the point is to provide as many jobs as possible.” The American then quipped that if that was the goal, then “why did you give the workers shovels instead of spoons?”Report

  1. January 29, 2020

    […] The Case for Conservative Climate Action: What could possibly be more compelling than “we want to grow all parts of the economy, protect the environment, and improve American quality of life”? […]Report

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