Monday, April 16, 2007

A Question for George Will: Why Is Paralysis the Best Prescription for Global Warming?

In the print version of his syndicated column published today, George Will takes up where William F. Buckley Jr. left off two weeks ago: because there are downsides to some proposals to combat global warming, we should curb our enthusiasm for all of them. The tactic, again, is not to deny the problem, but to argue that nothing can be done about it. But some things can be done. Why is paralysis the best approach?

An example of Will’s perverse logic: The Toyota Prius hybrid is fuel-efficient. But there are environmental costs to Canada to mine and smelt the zinc needed for the batteries—and to the atmosphere to ship the zinc to Wales for refining, then to China to make the battery component, and then to Japan where the batteries are actually assembled. Will wonders if people who recommend such solutions are “thinking globally but not clearly?” Therefore, he suggests, maybe it’s more environmentally responsible to buy a Hummer H3, which at least is supposed to last longer.

If Will wants clear thinking, there are two better ways to do it.

First, if there are downsides to some proposals to combat global warming, why is dismissing them out of hand better than working to overcome the downsides? Are there ways, for instance, to mine and smelt zinc that would reduce the environmental impacts?

Second, if there are responses to global warming that have no known downsides, why do conservative commentators habitually ignore them? I suggested one April 3rd: reducing global birthing. I know of no one who has explained why aggressively pursuing it is not a great idea.

On the same day of Will’s column, Neal Peirce published one noting another response with no known downside. He catalogued cities which have discovered and are actively promoting the advantages of bicycles over cars—not only reducing congestion and pollution, but also increasing mobility and neighborliness. The cities are as wide-ranging as Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Davis, CA; Louisville, KY; Chattanooga, TN; Gainesville, FL; and New York City, Paris and Copenhagen.

Until they face these questions squarely and honestly, conservatives cannot be taken seriously on climate change.

No comments: