Monday, October 29, 2007

Losing Arguments -- Winning Wars

There are times that I think that those of us who do believe in the theory of human caused global warming should give up trying to win the argument and focus on trying to win the war. What do I mean? Well, there are many environmentally good things to do that can and would get done if the temptation to gloat and to pound the anti-human contribution crowd into the dirt is resisted.

I will give you two examples, one big and one little.

Obviously for those of us in the humans-contribute camp achieving a decline in the use of fossil fuels would be a good thing. Our reason for thinking so is that this would reduce the impact of human activity on the tendency toward higher temperatures and thus be more environmentally sustainable. There are two big ways to achieve this: (1) energy supply substitution and (2) reduction in dependence in overseas goods (particularly if managed in China). What my observation relies upon is the fact that there are other constituencies out there that would share goals (1) and (2) while at the same time being climate change doubters. For example, goal (1) would be supported by all sorts of people who are uncomfortable being held hostage to the hostile, Islamic communities of the Middle East. It would also be supported by the nuclear industry. Both of these communities are filled with climate change skeptics but would happily support moves towards alternate sources of energy (the trick is making sure the move is not to coal). Thus you can act together in a way that could help win the war (move away from fossil fuels) but if you tried to get agreement on why you were doing this you would likely be stymied.

A second, smaller example flows from the future response to the fires in California. From a climate change perspective this gives an opportunity to lobby against urban spread by highlighting the dangers of permitting the building of suburbs in the urban-forest interface. This goal can be furthered by aligning with fiscal conservatives who naturally should want to resist public aid to bail out uninsured or under insured homeowners who will undoubtedly be seeking (US) Federal and state aid to defray the costs of their bad choices of living in a firetrap. The introduction of new building codes designed to reduce the possibility of such fires (which will inevitably drive up the cost of building in the interface or make it impossible) would also help in this regard. The point is the same, a natural alliance exists between fiscal conservatives who should be persuaded that the public should not be required to subsidize private misjudgments and the anti-global warming segment that is built on a shared vision of outcome but not reasons.

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