Global Warming: Thoughts of a ‘Denier’

By August 28, 2007Global Warming

At the risk of being branded an evil “denier,” Bret Stephens of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board confesses his doubts about global warming. Excerpts:

I confess: It’s easy to be indifferent to far-off and diffuse threats. It’s hard to work toward solutions the benefits of which will not be felt in our lifetime.

Then again, if Americans are not fully persuaded of the dangers of global warming, as Newsweek laments, don’t chalk it up to the pernicious influence of the so-called deniers and their enablers at ExxonMobil and Fox News. Today, global warming is variously suggested as the root cause of terrorism, the conflict in Darfur and the rising incidence of suicides in Italy. Yet the 20th century offers excellent reasons to be suspicious of monocausal explanations for the world’s ills, monomaniacs intent on saving us from ourselves, and the long train of experts predicting death by overpopulation, resource depletion, global cooling, nuclear winter and prions. Also, hypocrites. When we are called on to bike to work, permanently abjure air travel, “eat locally” and so on, we expect to be led by example, not by a new nomenklatura.

I confess: Though it may surprise those who use the term “denier” so as to put me on a moral plane with Holocaust deniers, I have children for whom I would not wish an environmental apocalypse.

Yet neither do I wish the civilizational bounties built up over two centuries by an industrial, inventive, adaptive, globalized and energy-hungry society to be squandered chasing comparatively small environmental benefits at gigantic economic costs. One needn’t deny global warming as a problem to deny it as the only or greatest problem. The great virtue of Mr. Lomborg’s book is its insistence on trying to measure the good done per dollar spent. Do we save a few lives, at huge cost, as a byproduct of curbing global warming? Or do we save many, for less, by acting on problems directly?

Some might argue it is immoral to think this way. Maybe they are the ones living in denial.

So he wants to address global warming through reason, not faith. Interesting concept.

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