Nov 18, 2009

The Republican Ostrich Effect

As a concession to all of my good friends on the right, I have to say that conservative values are not all about lies and deception and that most conservatives hold their beliefs out of a desire to do what they feel is best for their country. However, time after time, on important issue after important issue, conservatives avoid solid data calling for organized and united action via the government in order to protect their philosophy. Many on both sides are so driven by their ideals that they not only refuse to act in their families' own interests, but they also dispute repeatedly proven empirical facts. They change the nature of truth.

Issues on which Republicans routinely exhibit this behavior vary greatly, whether it be the effect of Affirmative Action programs, Amtrak, the benefits of having single-payer health care, or the critique of the United States defense budget, there is an awful lot of denial in effect in the American right. Nowhere, however, is their fear of compromise more damaging than on the issue of climate change.

The world is warming. With no regard to the stories that Matt Drudge links to about anomalous cold spells late or early in the season or snowfall in unusual places the global average temperature is rising and our species will be significantly impacted from the effects of global warming. These effects include the recession of glaciers in equatorial regions and of polar ice caps, a rise in sea levels, a potential ice age in some regions of the northern hemisphere, shifts in precipitation causing deluge in some areas and drought in others, and the disappearance of species dependent on alpine and sub-alpine environments.

Not only is the world getting warmer, but there is clear evidence that the greenhouse effect is causing warming. The lower atmosphere is warming faster than the upper atmosphere. The other major element that forces warming, solar output, has been disproved as a cause of the current warming trend. The increase in greenhouse warming directly correlates with an increase in industrial and transportation emissions over the past 150 years. Among greenhouse effect contributors, carbon dioxide as seen the most significant increase over this time period. Humans are indeed contributing to global warming.

Moreover, not only do we know that human beings are contributing to the greenhouse effect, but we have reason to believe that there is a limited amount of time to control the impact we have on our environment. That is the whole idea behind cap-and-trade legislation. Clearly the ultimate solution to halting man-made global warming is one that both science and enterprise must forge together - we both need cleaner energy sources and more efficient ways of using energy. For the time being, though, it does not look like science and human behavior unrestrained will solve this problem. The closest thing to a market-based solution is cap-and-trade, where the right to pollute the atmosphere with greenhouse gases is limited and traded on a market.

Why then is the party of the free-market so unwilling to accept scientific fact and a pro-capitalist solution to the problem? How does refusing to accept carefully measured data uphold their ideas, and how does ignoring the carbon problem help our society as a whole?

It is heartbreaking to see global warming called a 'myth' by people who should be smart enough to know better. It was enraging to see good science effectively censored by the Bush Administration. Cap-and-trade is not about taxing industry for bad behavior, it is about providing incentive for good behavior. An enterprising small business could do very well by reducing or eliminating its carbon output and then buying carbon credits to hoard or sell to industry at a price it could name. American business could thrive by 'going green' before the competition in other regions followed suit, benefiting from avoiding the inevitable sting of rising energy prices.

We can't afford for anyone in power to bury their heads in the sand over this issue.

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Keep it civil and pg-13, please.