Asking Can This Planet Be Saved?, Paul Krugman in the NYT, contemplates the effect of oil exploration in the USA, and the ‘5%’ possibility of 10°C rise in global temperatures, and comes to the conclusions that the continued moralisation of such questions is the only answer.
The only way we’re going to get action, I’d suggest, is if those who stand in the way of action come to be perceived as not just wrong but immoral. Incidentally, that’s why I was disappointed with Barack Obama’s response to Mr. McCain’s energy posturing — that it was “the same old politics.” Mr. Obama was dismissive when he should have been outraged.
Our question would be ‘can the likes of Krugman really get any more shrill?’ He certainly seems to intend to.
Taking issue with Krugman, Roger Pielke Jr compares the language of the Left, to the Right’s treatment of the abortion issue. It is ‘abortion politics’, he argues:
Climate change is the new locus of the U.S. culture wars. Unlike the abortion issue which was turned into a referendum on morality by the political right, the climate issue is fast becoming a referendum on morality by the political left. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
Pielke is right that the Left expresses itself in the same language as the Right. But he shouldn’t be surprised. ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in the culture wars are fairly meaningless assignments. Both sides fail to identify themselves in political terms, and struggle to put any real distance between themselves and the other. They turn instead to bogus moral territory that becomes further and further removed from their respective traditions or philosophies. The adoption of the climate issue by the ‘Left’ represents a total departure from politics, and a total disconnect with human values. It is not so much ‘abortion politics’, then, as much as simply, ‘politics aborted’. Its claim to the moral highground is equally tenuous.
It is in this atmosphere of political (and moral) exhaustion that environmentalism has thrived. Politicians struggle to connect with people, and so escalate the sense of crisis in order to elicit their participation, and legitimise their own positions. The real crisis is not in the atmosphere, it is in politics.