The Washington Post has given tenured spots on its page to a serial climate change denier (George Will), a conspiracy theorist (Charles Krauthammer), and they have offered up guest spots to the likes of Sarah Palin and other alleged global warming skeptics. Today, finally, a little bit of balance. Eugene Robinson goes after Palin's latest op-ed, and Anne Applebaum reaffirms the obvious and well-known facts about global warming. However, as if a part of some weird conspiracy to exacerbate the problem of the doubters, their arguments blow.
Robinson's entire piece is directed at the alleged change in Palin's position. As governor of Alaska, Robinson points out, Palin seemed to affirm the reality of climate change, but now she denies it. But that's not what Robinson says:
In her administrative order, Palin instructed the sub-Cabinet group to develop recommendations on "the opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Alaska sources, including the expanded use of alternative fuels, energy conservation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, land use management, and transportation planning." She also instructed the group to look into "carbon-trading markets."
But in her op-ed last week, Palin — while acknowledging "natural, cyclical environmental trends" and the possibility that human activity might be contributing to warming — states flatly that "any potential benefits of proposed emissions reduction policies are far outweighed by their economic costs." What she once called "carbon-trading markets" she now denounces as "the Democrats' cap-and-tax proposal."
Is there nobody at the Post who can point out that this is not a contradiction. She instructed a group to "look into" not to "endorse" carbon trade proposals. She's clearly unhappy with the ones offered. Robinson is so gleeful in the discovery of his alleged contradiction that he doesn't realize he hasn't found it. Besides, what does it matter? She can change her mind if she wants. Further, who cares what she thinks? She is neither a scientist nor an elected official of any consequence.
By contrast, Anne Applebaum has found the real culprit in the whole climate change debate: scattered crazy enivronmentalists. And she goes in the for the full weak man. She begins, ominously enough:
There is no nihilism like the nihilism of a 9-year-old. "Why should I bother," one of them recently demanded of me, when he was presented with the usual arguments in favor of doing homework: "By the time I'm grown up, the polar ice caps will have melted and everyone will have drowned."
When I was a kid it was nuclear war. Anyway, what lesson does she draw from this. No, not that for many kids this will be a reality. Rather, people who point this out are a big bringdown:
Watching the news from Copenhagen last weekend, it wasn't hard to understand where he got that idea. Among the tens of thousands demonstrating outside the climate change summit, some were carrying giant clocks set at 10 minutes to midnight, indicating the imminent end of the world. Elsewhere, others staged a "resuscitation" of planet Earth, symbolically represented by a large collapsing balloon. Near the conference center, an installation of skeletons standing knee-deep in water made a similar point, as did numerous melting ice sculptures and a melodramatic "die-in" staged by protesters wearing white, ghost-like jumpsuits.
Danish police arrested about a thousand people on Saturday for smashing windows and burning cars, and on Sunday arrested 200 more (they were carrying gas masks and seem to have been planning to shut down the city harbor). Nevertheless, in the long run it is those peaceful demonstrators, the ones who say the end is nigh, who have the capacity to do the most psychological damage.
The second group of people have nothing to do with negative messaging. She goes on and on with examples of nutty environmentalists who just make you feel bad with all of their blaming and hyperbole (the veracity of which she doesn't question). All of this, however, is a silly distraction. The law of probability has it that global warming will attract no small number of people who say crazy things (if in fact they're guilty of that). Can you really blame them, however, when you have well-paid people on the staff of the Post–not sign-carrying nutters in the streets–who deny well-established facts.
Who is the real nihilist? The one who says we're doomed if we do nothing? Or the one who alleges it's all a big communist lie?