Today is Earth Day. A day that should be a celebration of all that we have, from the natural beauty of mountains, oceans, and deserts to the numerous bounty provided by the planet, is often consumed about debate regarding climate change. To that end, there was an interesting piece in Forbes the other day:
“I think environmental advocates have done a disservice by trying to amplify heat by saying we’re going to be alarmists, we’re going to scare you into agreeing. People don’t scare into agreeing,” said Elisabeth Moyer, a University of Chicago climate scientist who co-directs the Center for Robust Decision Making on Climate and Energy Policy.
“The only way we can do this is back off, get some perspective, start talking about solutions and get away from that sort of sense of fear that’s driving people into whatever their comfortable preset positions.”
Moyer makes an excellent point, namely that people don’t scare into agreeing. When people get scared, they naturally retreat to comfort positions. And that fear works both ways: for those whose natural tendency is to appeal to authority for solutions, they’ll quickly return to that, demanding government action or control. Those whose natural tendency is toward less government could act irrationally.
Which leads me to a thought: why do so many people, primarily on the Right deny the world is getting warmer? Is it because Republicans are anti-science? No, scientific ignorance is pretty widespread. Perhaps Republicans are just more partisan? No, Partisan divide appears to be bi-partisan.
Here’s my thought: They are afraid of the consequences. They fear admitting global warming would open the door to government to enact a wide array of laws which could interfere with human freedom to an epic level. This fear is legitimate (governments will use just about any excuse, real or imagined, to increase its power), but it shouldn’t be crippling.
Those who love liberty need to be aware of two things:
1) The world is warming. It’s not warming as much as the climate models suggest, but the average temp is likely moving upward, according to NOAA.
2) None of the doomsday predictions made by climate scientists have come true.
Liberty-lovers should take heart in these things. It shows what Julian Simon called “the greatest resource” is still alive and well: human ingenuity. Doomsday predictions are nothing new. Back in the 1970’s, they were all the rage. In the 1800’s, Malthus lit the intellectual world on fire with his End of Days predictions. But none of them have come true (in fact, the exact opposite has). All these people make the same mistakes that the environmental doomsdayers Dr. Moyer discusses at the beginning: they use linear projections, which fail to take into account humanity.
Fear-mongering (and, at times, draconian levels of censorship) on the Left and denial on the Right are both obscuring what is needed to solve the problem: the free exchange of ideas. Human ingenuity has conquered the biggest problems ever faced: medicine, astronomy, literature, entertainment, weather. We’re conquering global poverty and hunger. If ideas are allowed to flourish, if people are free to find the best ways to help one another, than global warming, just like extreme poverty, disease, and hunger, will be just one more issue regulated to the garbage bin of history.
Free the people. Save the planet.