Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Global Grandstanding

Many pundits have criticized recent Congressional debates on flag burning and same-sex marriage as nothing more than moral grandstanding. Robert Samuelson argues that the same is true regarding the public debate on global warming. Samuelson harkens back to a column he wrote nearly a decade ago in which he said this:

Global warming may or may not be the great environmental crisis of the next century, but -- regardless of whether it is or isn't -- we won't do much about it. We will (I am sure) argue ferociously over it and may even, as a nation, make some fairly solemn-sounding commitments to avoid it. But the more dramatic and meaningful these commitments seem, the less likely they are to be observed. Little will be done. . . . Global warming promises to become a gushing source of national hypocrisy.

Nothing that has happened since that time has caused Samuelson to change his mind. In fact, he now concludes:

Ambitious U.S. politicians also practice this self-serving hypocrisy. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has a global warming program. Gore counts 221 cities that have "ratified" Kyoto. Some pledge to curb their greenhouse emissions. None of these programs will reduce global warming. They're public relations exercises and -- if they impose costs -- are undesirable....The practical conclusion is that if global warming is a potential calamity, the only salvation is new technology....

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless.

Samuelson's conclusions result from a consideration of data that he discusses here. It is well worth the read.

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