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The Politics of Sandy
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Scott McConnell has pointed out how Michael Bloomberg has cited the damage inflicted by tropical storm Sandy as a good reason to endorse President Barack Obama. But it seems odd that other Democrats nationally have avoided using Sandy as a club to beat the GOP, possibly because they consider it unseemly. The Republican Party platform expresses a clear reluctance to do anything to reduce greenhouse gases:

We also call on Congress to take quick action to prohibit the EPA from moving forward with new greenhouse gas regulations that will harm the nation’s economy and threaten millions of jobs over the next quarter century. The most powerful environmental policy is liberty, the central organizing principle of the American Republic and its people.

It does not take a climatologist to appreciate that “liberty” does not represent a coherent environmental policy. I am far from the expert on the subject, but it seems to be established that weather patterns are becoming more severe, possibly linked to global warming. If one assumes that global warming is at least in part attributable to the actions of mankind, efforts to reduce its impact would appear to be warranted lest Sandy become an annual occurrence along the eastern seaboard. Republicans appear to be reluctant to make that effort.

Admitting that climate change is taking place and is being caused by human activity does not necessarily imply any government policy, which would have to be carefully considered based on actual evidence and the options available. It seems that the GOP’s stubbornness on this issue is linked to a broader antagonism toward science, which possibly derives from its pandering to Christian evangelicals. Certainly if I were a Democrat I would be pointing to Sandy as one possible consequence of Republican unwillingness to be realistic or even “modern” in its policy prescriptions relating to the environment.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Climate Change 
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  1. Jim says:

    It seems that the GOP’s stubbornness on this issue is linked to a broader antagonism toward science, which possibly derives from its pandering to Christian evangelicals.

    Or perhaps the GOP isn’t as easily gulled as others into believing that greenhouse gasses are to blame for climate change of a magnitude that has happened several times (both hotter or colder) throughout the recorded history of the earth. After all, it was just 30-40 years ago that climatologists were warning that the earth was headed for another Ice Age thanks to pollution.

    It doesn’t help that the scientific community tried to shout down all dissent while clumsily cooking some books, and that hapless politicians like Al Gore have become the face of the theory.

  2. Oh God , Phil. You too?

  3. collin says:

    Give the D’s time. It is all of the internet in side comments but the media is playing up the whole Prez H&C is on it and Governor Yells At People is focused on the damage. Why ruin a good thing.

  4. Anonymous • Disclaimer says: • Website

    Try reading The Book of Revelations. There is your Global Scam.

  5. That well-known bastion of conservatism, the New York Times, did run an editorial questioning in light of the massive recovery effort required after Sandy, whether Mitt Romney, with his facile remarks about turning disaster recovery over to the states and the private sector, was the right person to lead America.

    Naturally, they were immediately criticized for playing politics with a national tragedy, when we should all be pulling together. While President Obama and Gov. Christie were certainly doing the right thing rolling up their sleeves and working together to get help where it was needed, it is not entirely out of bounds to note that a fairly well organized response currently underway might be impossible under the policies Romney has rhetorically endorsed.

    Probably, though, fear of similar criticism is holding Democrats back from raising climate change as an issue. Bloomberg, as a man in the middle, is better positioned to speak.

    Liberty is not an environmental policy at all. Liberty, when it concerns common resources, leads to the well-known “tragedy of the commons.” If a resource is out there for anyone to grab, someone will grab it if I don’t, so there is no point in conserving. (Thus, the Republican platform is not a conservative document at all. It is precisely because my effluent flows downstream, that my upstream neighbor’s effluent fouls my water supply, that we all must be restrained by reasonable regulation and enforcement, so we can all enjoy reasonably clean water.

    And EVERYONE’s carbon dioxide emissions go into a single common atmosphere, making it even harder to deal with.

  6. Cliff says:

    Sandy has allowed Obama, after four years that must have frustrated him as much as they (for other reasons) have the rest of us, to be the President he always wanted to be: working arm-in-arm with an R leader for the good of the people and the nation, while the rest of the Ds watch in silent awe. Obama was never much interested in health care reform or in killing bin Laden; he just wants someone like Christie to say nice things about him.

  7. tbraton says:

    “I am far from the expert on the subject, but it seems to be established that weather patterns are becoming more severe, possibly linked to global warming.ile”

    PG, since you admit that you are not an expert on the subject of global warming (incidentally, the proper term du jour is “climate change,” which can’t be disproved since the climate has always changed), maybe you can put your head together with Scott McConnell and explain what caused that massive ice sheet, about a mile thick, that covered the upper midwest and most of Canada about 10,000 years ago to melt and disappear. Was it the small number of American Indians drifting in from Asia about that time driving around in their gas guzzling sleds that caused the climate to change and the ice sheet to melt? For extra credit, look up the history of the Scablands in eastern Washington. If you can’t explain that change, then you have no business even speculating about current climate change. Are you even aware that during the 3-1/2 billion history of planet Earth that the climate has changed dramatically in both directions many times? We’ve had ice ages and warming periods. In fact, it has been speculated that climate change in east Africa contributed significantly to the evolution of man about a few million years ago, forcing our ancestors to adapt to the changes. I also gather that you are not bothered by the fact that detailed history of recorded temperatures only goes back to the late 19th century. That’s why you feel free to rely on the “perceptions” of your relatively brief life span.

    BTW go back and review Al Gore’s propaganda masterpiece “An Inconvenient Truth” and see where he cited the cases of Katrina and Wilma in 2005 as evidence that hurricanes are becoming more frequent and powerful and then look at the history of hurricanes in the last six years, which have been one of the mildest on record. Since I live in Florida, I am thankful for the change. That is the same Al Gore, incidentally, who admitted this past year that his advocacy of ethanol was motivated by political considerations (first to placate Tennessee farmers and then, when he was running for President, to placate Iowa farmers) and that ethanol was a boondoggle. A pretty damning admission imho.

    P.S.–I find your condescending remark about conservatives rejecting science to be very insulting. I accept Darwin’s theory of evolution and reject the account set forth in Genesis. Darwin’s theory is the only scientific theory out there to explain the evolution of all animal life, including humans. Global warming is not a scientific theory in my opinion, but a belief system, like communism, neoconservatism and religion.

  8. Karen says: • Website

    I don’t think that not believing the science is “settled” regarding current findings that many people agree with means that you do not like science. I think it might mean you respect science, as most decent scientists will tell you that “the science” is rarely “settled” – including cause and effect.

  9. Sheldon says:

    The reason for the GOP’s refusal to acknowledge the clear data on global warming has less to do with antagonism toward science than it does with its antagonism to government itself. If global warming is indeed a real threat, then coordinated action would have to be taken not only by our government, but by governments worldwide. Nothing terrifies the GOP more than that prospect; it goes completely counter to the GOP’s DNA. An added factor is the economic effect that action on global warming would have on the GOP’s financial supporters, particularly oil companies.

    This is not to say that there wouldn’t be huge tradeoffs to consider in an effort to reverse global warming. And it would be helpful to get the GOP engaged in the effort to develop sensible policies in this whole area. But that would mean agreeing that government has a role to play in something other than building up a giant defense establishment, and that is something the current GOP is unwilling to accept.

  10. TomB says:

    While it makes me wince seeing Phil and Scott McConnell picking the global warming issue to make their points with, Phil here just hints I think at the depth of Republican stupidity as regards the environment.

    One only has to look at the crowds in summer vying to get into and camp in our national parks and forests, and see the popularity of various wildlife and environmental TV shows and organizations to realize that a concern for the environment is indeed a big thing for huge swathes of people in the country today.

    Or all it takes is to look at one instance: It’s rather incredible after all given the price of land that a private organization could be so popular and attract so much money as to be able to go around and buy up large chunks of particularly environmentally sensitive or interesting land, and yet that’s exactly what the Nature Conservancy has been doing now for decades. And if I’m not mistaken it’s still flush with money.

    And yet where’s the Republican Party here? For all intents and purposes regarding those large swathes of people who go to the parks and forests and contribute to such places as irrelevant at best if not wrong-headed at worst for interfering with land developers.

    Just as with issue after issue, despite abundant clear opportunities and examples (can they really forget Teddy Roosevelt’s enviro popularity?) the Party bumbles its way further into becoming some crazy, doddering, glowering old misanthrope, typically heard most loudly when it rouses itself to start babbling some Biblical stuff.

    Indeed from all apparent evidence the real object of the Party seems to be to make itself too embarrassing for any intelligent person to want to vote for it, much less associate with it in any way.

    One wonders in fact why they don’t just say their secret hearts and nominate Homer Simpson as their candidate, but then one remembers that they already had George Bush.

  11. tbraton says:

    Tom B, I am a skeptic when it comes to man-made global warming, not a denier—just like many other thinking conservatives and liberals. The case just hasn’t been made. I think it is undeniable that geological records establish that the Earth has experienced many periods of “climate change,” both cooling and warming, long before man became a significant factor on this planet. In fact, one of the most disturbing things about the pro-global warming crowd is the way they have tried to manipulate the data to eliminate any suggestion of earlier periods of global warming—the infamous hockey stick graph which failed to show the well-established Middle Age warming period, for example—which makes a skeptic ask who is really ignoring science. I am all in favor of national parks and preserving as much of our natural environment as we can. I think the real threat to our planet is not man-made global warming but overpopulation by humans which puts great stress on the natural environment. I also favor trying to make our automobiles and manufacturing plants as pollution free as possible, not to forestall global warming but to preserve the cleanliness of the air we breathe and the water we drink.
    BTW, if we really want to curb the use of gasoline, we don’t need complicated cap-and-trade programs adminstered by government bureaucrats; we should simply slap on a tax of $1 or more on each gallon of gas. That will make people use less gas, and it would be much simpler to administer.

  12. I thought I had written this very carefully to focus on my mystification that the Dems are not hammering on this issue rather than on my own view on global warming. I included a number of caveats in my piece and admit to not understanding the science fully enough to have a serious viewpoint. I do not know what government should be doing about the weather if indeed there is something that might be done. And tbraton, apologies for making you angry but pls note that I did not write that conservatives are anti-science though I do believe that the GOP is. There are few conservatives in the GOP.

  13. As you say, there may not be any policy prescription to follow after one acknlowedges that the climate is changing. But suppose it were proven that the climate was heading for a dreadfull pass and it was not caused by General Motors? Do you seriously believe that there wouldn’t be endless calls for intervention anyway? Freightened, gullable people always seek an easily understandable and socially fixable response to any difficulty. And there will always be those who profit by their unreasoning stampeed. Our problem rests on the hoax of human caused climate change.

    It strikes me that scientists who study the earth in geologic time seem to be the most skeptical of human driven change while those most anxious to grab hold of the public agenda are those who seem to think that the worlds climate can be understood by studying the last 150 years. Just a few days ago a report was published claiming a steep rise in greenhouse gasses during the late Roman Empire. I suppose it must have been due to all those gas powered leafblowers they used.

    Because the delusion of human caused climate change has captured the minds of the general public, and particularly the minds of the NPR watching, NYT reading, middle-brows who constitute our excuse for an elite, there will always be political capital to be made from this. There will always be such manifestations in mass culture. And those spreading them for their own purposes will always have an easier time of it than those who try explaining the delusions away.

  14. The reason for the GOP’s refusal to acknowledge the clear data on global warming has less to do with antagonism toward science than it does with its antagonism to government itself.

    This is another interesting reversal in Republican politics since the party’s founding. Abraham Lincoln, with the full support of his party, championed railroads, including the transcontinental lines, because he had seen how his own family remained in subsistence-level poverty due to his father having no way to transport surplus produce to a viable market.

    Now the Democrats champion infrastructure, while the Republicans cry “every man for himself.”

    Of course in between there were a few problems. The railroads, once established, and once farmers were dependent upon them for cash income, charged exorbitant rates, and had to be placed under an Interstate Commerce Commission and other regulation, which was only partially successful in bringing them to heel. But when a private enterprise is subsidized with free land a mile to the side of the entire length of track (alternating sides), it should expect a public string attached to the public subsidy.

    Many railroad companies ended up being real estate administrators that ran trains on the side.

  15. mary says:

    It never seems to enter the heads of most people that God could be judging the world through hurricanes and other natural disasters. The theory of evolution is a theory created by MAN but man isn’t God and the wisdom of this world is foolishness in His sight. It doesn’t seem to matter if one is a liberal or conservative the hostility toward believers is the same.

  16. tbraton says:

    Thomas O. Meehan, when I was in college back in the 60’s, I took a course on geology to satisfy my science requirement. My individual adviser on the large survey course was an Indian graduate student who believed in continental drift, a theory that was not accepted by the professorate that dominated my college at the time. In 1971, I was returning from a ski trip in Europe with my girlfriend, and we encountered a fellow American in his late 20’s on the train ride to Luxemburg. When he identified himself as a geologist, I humorously recounted my brief exposure to geology in college and referred to the “bizarre theory” of continental drift advocated by my college adviser. He stated with a straight face that continental drift was now generally accepted as firm science. And this was less than 10 years after I had been taught that it was a fanciful theory not accepted by many people. I don’t believe that anyone rejects the theory of continental drift today. It’s always important to keep one’s mind open about new thinking in scientific matters. And, as you point, the fact that the Earth may be warming (as it has done numerous times in its extensive history) does not mean that humans are the cause. If indeed the sun is the cause of global warming (as tests at CERN earlier this year seemed to confirm), what exactly can anyone do to stop it, any more than anyone can stop continental drift?

  17. TomB says:

    tbraton wrote:

    “If indeed the sun is the cause of global warming (as tests at CERN earlier this year seemed to confirm), what exactly can anyone do to stop it…?”

    If I’m not mistaken the tests at CERN you are referring to focused not on the effects of the sun on the climate but instead on the effect of cosmic rays. (Which tests appeared to show that same have a much greater effect on cloud formation than was formerly thought likely, so that a period of relatively fewer such rays would have lead to less clouds and thus a warmer earth, so perhaps contributing to the signal wrongly interpreted as seeing man’s CO2 emissions causing the warming.)

    Regardless, you miss a point that I suspect may become very germane some day. Theoretically there are *lots* of things man could do that probably could alter the earth’s climate, very possibly very drastically. Even if that climate had been changing on its own, or not changing at all. So that if it’s found that the earth is indeed warming drastically but entirely naturally, I don’t think we’ll hear the end of proposals for us humans to “correct” same.

    Maybe not though, as bad-sounding as global warming has been made to sound (and not to disparage same), I suspect most people would consider the effects of global cooling much much worse, so that few people I think would want to even chance that.

  18. tbraton says:

    “If I’m not mistaken the tests at CERN you are referring to focused not on the effects of the sun on the climate but instead on the effect of cosmic rays. (Which tests appeared to show that same have a much greater effect on cloud formation than was formerly thought likely. . .”

    Tom B, you are technically right that it is the amount of cosmic rays which affect cloud formation but the sun acts as the regulator of how many cosmic rays reach Earth:

    “The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

    The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from über-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories. CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.

    In this chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done — demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space), the sun determines the temperature on Earth.”

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Don’t let them get you down. The science is very settled, it’s puzzling that so many people want to play the skeptic, but there’s genuine skepticism and then there’s motivated reasoning combined with tribalism. Neither side is immune – the typical liberalist couldn’t give a good argument in favor of the proposition of anthropogenic global warming. But one side is right and has the backing of the scientific consensus, as strong a consensus as you’re likely to get in anything. So don’t let the fringe comments get you down and please don’t tone down the rhetoric: the science is clear. If you’d like to be more confident in your judgment the next time you write an article and mention global warming, check out – I am in no way affiliated with the web site.

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