04 January 2008| An Inconveniently Uncertain Truth
What if the intelligence on climate change is as bad as Iraq?
Why is the earth warming? Are humans causing it, and if so, what can we do? There certainly is no scientific consensus on these questions, as even MIT scientists are doubting the human impact. And if there is one argument that opponents to climate change legislation wield most often, it is that the unsettled nature of the scientific debate over climate change counsels patience and delay. They ask, why would we spend money defending against an uncertain threat?
The Earth has given no good answer as to why it's hot, just like MIMS
The ironic part of this debate, of course, is the degree to which these opinions are reversed when the ideological tables are turned, and the question turns to national defense. The same talking heads who urge caution and scientific certainty before climate change legislation is enacted are many of the same ones who claimed that intelligence "evidence" of Saddam Hussein's WMDs justified immediate military action.
Indeed, America's entire national defense budget is an expensive exercise in uncertainty. We spend $440 billion a year on threats that may or may not materialize - and mostly haven't, for the past six years since 9/11. How is this case of an unversed policy-maker's best interpretation of the seriousness of divergent expert opinion less justified when he is gauging threats from climate change, instead of military attack?
The answer is that the two are equivalent. This nation cannot afford to await disaster before prophylactic methods are taken, whether from rogue states, terrorist cells, or climate change. But neither do we want a recklessly aggressive policy that causes more harm than good (see Bush Doctrine). Americans should instead ask, how should we balance necessary assertiveness with intelligence and reasonability? In other words, how do we avoid the Iraq of climate change?
This organization, as usual, has the solution. This organization supports the gradual imposition of a carbon tax, with proceeds to subsidize the development of nuclear power as well as to protect against potential property damage caused by climate change. The carbon tax will slowly discourage investment in carbon-heavy technology, and create an incentive for more environmentally-friendly innovation. At the same time, the proceeds from the tax will help to improve America's general environmental impact, by helping develop the only technology capable of solving every environmental challenge this country faces. Whether or not melted Arctic ice sheets will end up submerging the East Coast in the process is beyond the question. We'll be prepared either way.
American policy should never wait for a disaster to strike; it should instead seek to prevent the disaster from ever occurring. Such is the purpose, both of a humble yet assertive defense policy, and a market-friendly yet proactive climate change policy. This country has no room for hysterics in either issue, whether from Sheryl Crow's nescient policy proposals or Max Boot's misguided embrace of American imperialism. But more importantly, this nation has no room for ignorance of impending threats, whether from the willful ignorance of climate indices or the myopic belief that America is not at risk of attack. QED.