by Judith Curry
Carly Fiorina shows how to address the left on climate change.
The National Review has an interesting article on Republican Presidential candidate Carly Fiorina’s views on climate change. Excerpts:
In the political battles over climate change, there are three distinct and relevant questions:
- First, does mankind have a material effect on the Earth’s climate?
- Second, if mankind does impact the climate, is that impact harmful?
- And third, if we assume that mankind is harming the environment, will any given American policy or collection of policies have a meaningful beneficial impact?
So far, the conservative movement has mainly pushed back on the “scientific consensus” related to the first question — the extent of human influence over the Earth’s climate. To see a textbook example, watch Ted Cruz’s recent interview with Katie Couric earlier this year, when he confronted her with the miserable recent history of environmentalist predictions. (JC note: Ted Cruz’s climate change statement was discussed on this previous post).
But is there a path to consensus in the third key political question, whether climate-change regulations will have any meaningful impact on the climate? Climate-change activists constantly say that “we have to start somewhere.” But what if in fact we’re starting nowhere? What if we’re asking Americans to sacrifice to no purpose? What if America can’t stop climate change?
That’s Carly Fiorina’s argument, and it may represent the best, and most easily defensible, path forward to consensus. Here she is, like Ted Cruz, making her case to Katie Couric.
JC note: Link to the original article to listen to Fiorina’s interview with Couric. She makes the following points: We need innovation rather than regulation – we need to make coal cleaner. We need to tell people the truth about tradeoffs and the fine print, about how wind power is slaughtering birds. Finds there to be many more serious threats than climate change – we need to keep climate change in perspective with other more serious issues facing us.
The short version of Fiorina’s argument is this: If the scientific consensus is that man-made climate change is real, there is also consensus that America, acting alone, cannot stop it. Indeed, the Chinese are only too happy to watch us constrict our economy as they capture the market in clean coal. California enacts regulations that will make no difference in global climate. The Obama administration enacts regulations that will make no difference in global climate. Yet Americans are asked to pay the price for — to take one example — climate regulations that, by 2030, would only save the world the equivalent of slightly over 13 days of Chinese emissions.
The Left doesn’t seriously dispute the notion that American regulations aren’t going to save the planet, but they justify the demand for American sacrifice by essentially ascribing a mystical power to our national policies — as if our decision to fall on our own sword will so move India and China and the rest of the developing world that they’ll essentially have their own “come to Jesus” movement in defiance of national interest and centuries of national political culture.
“America leads,” they proclaim. “The world laughs,” is the proper response. Nations, as the saying goes, do not have friends, only interests. Our geopolitical competitors will not sacrifice their strategic interests for the sake of combating global warming. Nor will developing nations sacrifice their economies, or their people’s lives, by restraining their own economic growth.
Americans have proven time and again that they’re willing to sacrifice — if convinced that their sacrifice has a purpose, that it accomplishes an objective. There’s certainly room for Cruz’s climate-change skepticism in the national debate, but there just may be more room for Fiorina’s economic, scientific, and geopolitical realism. The Left is asking America to sacrifice for nothing — for no true economic benefit, no true climate benefit, and no true or meaningful “global leadership.” That’s a bad deal even for those who believe in man-made climate change, yet that’s the “deal” the Left demands.
The debate on climate change needs to move to question #3, regarding whether the proposed policies will have any impact on the climate. Not just America’s contributions to reducing emissions, but the cumulative global INDCs. The answer is that it will not have any meaningful impact on the climate. Once this is accepted, then the climate change problem is open to reframing and pushing the ‘restart’ button.
As a political tactic, Carly Fiorina hits the sweet spot. She doesn’t challenge the scientific consensus, but rather focuses on the fact that if human caused climate change is real, we can’t stop it on the timescale of a few decades. Her emphasis on innovation rather than regulation is exactly on target; wind and solar just aren’t going to cut it.
Carly Fiorina hit a ‘home run’ in the first Republican debate and is starting to rise in the polls.