Friday, October 16, 2009

Would you compromise your purity to stop climate change?

This is my belated contribution to Blog Action Day, to suggest that in addition to one more effort of will that I and everyone else could take to reduce our footprint, we consider supporting things that we might not have otherwise in order protect climate.

My inspiration is a semi-denialist/semi-skeptic website that I comment on called TigerHawk, whose author keeps saying "I'll consider global warming an emergency when the people who tell me it is, act like it's an emergency." Mostly he gets it wrong through attacks on the irrelevant hypocrisies and failings of climate leaders wasting energy in their personal lives (if the charges are even true). A little closer to the mark is when he focuses on policy issues like opposition to nuclear power or to offshore wind farms at Cape Cod.

A persistent claim of denialists is that enviros only believe in climate change to the extent it supports the political beliefs enviros already have, which is about as clear a case of projection regarding their own rejection of science that I can imagine. Still, within a mountain of nonsense there can be a tiny kernel of truth, that a cursory rejection of climate solutions that are politically inconvenient for our side might need some real reconsideration. Maybe carbon sequestration, corporate-owned solar and wind installations on open space, natural gas use, and maybe even nuclear power should be considered more carefully. But that's not what I want to write about....

Beyond the issue of whether solutions we reject actually make sense is whether we can achieve a worthwhile compromise solution that includes components that don't make sense. I doubt nuclear power makes sense in the long run, especially economic sense. I don't see much value in new offshore oil drilling, either. But agreeing to this might be the only way to make actual progress on much more effective solutions to climate change.

So my challenge for Blog Action Day is to suggest it might be okay to be a little bit impure on these issues for something this important. We can then throw the denialist's challenge back in their face: "if we give you some god-awful, massive subsidies for nuclear power, would you finally condescend to stop overheating the planet?"

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