For some time now, I’ve been trying to figure out how to wrap up this series of blog posts. I can think of no better way than with Ross Douthat’s column in today’s New York Times. Douthat, a conservative, is too grounded in reality to argue anything so stupid as the idea that human-caused climate change doesn’t exist. Instead, he unintentionally traces the devolution of respectable global-warming skepticism.
1. Global warming isn’t real. This position was popular at one time, and you occasionally hear it espoused today, though not by anyone who has spent any time learning about the subject. As has been well-documented, the current decade is the warmest on record, followed by the 1990s and then by the ’80s.
2. Global warming is real, but it’s not our fault. Yes, the earth has been warming and cooling for millennia for reasons that are poorly understood, but that are probably related to solar activity. But the current warming trend is occurring with unusual rapidity. Carbon-dioxide levels are the highest they’ve been since the age of the dinosaurs thanks to emissions from factories, power plants and automobiles, and the science of how CO2 contributes to global warming is well established.
3. Global warming is good for you. Now we have arrived in Douthat Land. After asserting the obvious — “Conservatives who dismiss climate change as a hoax are making a spectacle of their ignorance” — Douthat then goes on to make a spectacle of his own, embracing the views of fringe scientists like Freeman Dyson and others, who claim that even though human-caused global warming is real, we shouldn’t be all that worried about it. Douthat writes:
Their perspective is grounded, in part, on the assumption that a warmer world will also be a richer world — and that economic development is likely to do more for the wretched of the earth than a growth-slowing regulatory regime.
I’m not even going to bother to engage in a debate over whether a hotter planet will be good for us. I think it’s enough that the so-called respectable right, having given up the idea that global warming isn’t taking place, or that humans aren’t contributing to it, have retreated to such an absurd position. If that’s where Douthat and company want to make their stand, they are welcome to it.
And though I am surely not done with writing about climate change, I am done with this series.