Daily Archives: January 20, 2007

Global warming and the vast right-wing conspiracy

And yet another response to my column on global warming, this one from David Roberts at HuffingtonPost.com. Roberts offers up my column as a cautionary tale on why liberals should not engage in criticizing radical environmentalists (or, as he sarcastically puts it, “bashing the dirty hippies”) lest they should provide intellectual ammunition to people like yours truly. See, he says, Chris Mooney, Mark Kleiman, and Roger Pielke have all bashed the “hippies” in order to push various agendas of their own, and Andrew Revkin in the New York Times wrote up a story of a “new middle” in the climate debate … and then, guess what happens:

In the Boston Globe, Cathy Young — a contributing editor at Reason magazine, funded by the libertarian Reason Foundation — makes good use of Pielke Jr., Mooney, and Kleiman in a state-of-the-art piece of agit-prop. She says global warming skeptics are always getting yelled at, so why is no one yelling at the dirty hippies, for whom “environmentalism has become a matter of not just ideology but quasi-religious zealotry”?

She quotes Mooney saying that sometimes “environmental groups and their ilk oversell the science.” She quotes Kleiman saying that the dirty hippies’ “eagerness to believe the worst is just as evident as the right wing’s denialism.” And to cap it off, she cites Pielke Jr.’s “‘nonskeptical heretics’ — those who believe that human-caused global warming is a real problem, but one that can be met in part with technological management and adaptation.” And to boot: “Mooney has come to embrace such a viewpoint as well.”

This is a classic of the genre, lifted straight from template. Note carefully what’s happening: The denialists have been discredited. Now, the right wing is eager to cast the debate as having two equivalent sides, “alarmists and deniers.” That way they use the marginalization of denialists to marginalize advocates. It’s really a clever piece of judo, one the right’s become incredibly adept at using.

It relies, of course, on everyone accepting that there are “two sides.” That way, having given up the ghost of denialism, the right can now turn to advocating weak, industry-friendly policies and calling them the “sensible middle.”

Roberts notes that Kleiman and Mooney have distanced themselves from the views I supposedly attributed to them but scoffs at their naivete for treating my “misrepresentation” as an innocent mistake rather than a deliberate ploy. Meanwhile, he says,

As for Pielke Jr.? He thinks Young’s column is “pretty much on target.” But then, he’s been playing footsie with denialists and right-wing ideologues for years; they’re his biggest fans. Unlike Mooney and Kleiman, who got duped, Pielke Jr. knows exactly how the game is played.

His conclusion: liberals, please don’t feed the right and bash the hippies! You’ll just make yourself an unwitting dupe of the evil capitalists!

I love how Roberts automatically assumes that because I am a contributing editor for Reason, I am not an independent commentator expressing my own opinion but a food soldier taking my marching orders from the generals of the “far right” and “following a right-wing script.” For the record, I have not “given up the ghost of denialism” because I have never engaged in it (this is the first time ever that I have written about global warming). Roberts might be shocked to know that I did not get a call from my lords and masters at the Reason foundation telling me that, now that Ron Bailey has called it quits on global warming skepticism, I need to get to work on damage control. Ironically, Roberts’ paranoia in this regard is an exact mirror image of the mindset of right-wingers who send me nasty emails when I, say, slam Bill O’Reilly, saying that they expect nothing else from someone who writes for The Boston Globe.

Roberts, incidentally, is identified as a staff writer for the environmental magazine Grist.org. But I’m sure that doesn’t compromise his objectivity on this matter one bit.

Incidentally, I’m no doctrinaire libertarian (I am, for instance, far more inclined to be pro-mass transit than most of my fellow Reasonites). I am certainly not an anti-environmentalist if being an environmentalist means being in favor of keeping the planet healthy and attractive for the benefit of human beings. But I loathe the eco-fundamentalists for the same reason I loathe militant religious fundamentalists: because they are enemies of human freedom and happiness, and because they regard the pleasures of this world as sins deserving of punishment by God or Gaia.

Since I’m commenting on this topic again, I want to add another thought to my response to Mark Kleiman yesterday. Kleiman says that conservatives have discredited themselves by espousing a denialist position on global warming, and hence lack credibility when they criticize the alarmist or propose non-regulatory, adaptive measures to deal with climate change. Fair enough. But I think that environmental extremists bear at least some of the responsibility for the skepticism about global warming, given their propensity for fire-and-brimstone predictions that turned out to be egregiously wrong. (Limits to Growth, anyone? Paul Ehrlich’s predictions of mass famines and scarcity?) Yes, here I go again, assigning responsibility to both sides and not particularly caring to bicker over whose distortions are worse. I’m still waiting for my big payouts from my capitalist overlords, but I’m sure they’ll know where to send the check.

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