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Reblogged:The Long-Overdue Climate Debate

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After Donald Trump blew a fantastic opportunity to make a big dent in the momentum of the anti-fossil fuel climate change movement, conservatives are finally doing what they failed to do for nearly the entire time he was in office: Offer serious arguments against the Democrats' Luddite "climate change" agenda.

These arguments aren't perfect, but at least they are coming, now that Donald Trump isn't there to help everyone pretend that a few executive orders and calling it all a "hoax" will be enough to defeat the existential threat this agenda poses to our economy and our national security.

The best example I have seen to date is a recent column in the New York Post by Dave Harsanyi. The title, "Biden, Climate Warriors Can't Face Costs of Going Green," both gives the general flavor and the limitations of what we're seeing at this point. And here's an excerpt:

Even people who mimic doomsday rhetoric seem to understand this intuitively. The average American says he or she is willing to spend up to $177 a year to avoid climate change, not the approximately $177 million per person it would cost to meet arbitrary dates to get rid of a carbon-energy economy.

The choice we're given now pits a thriving open economy against an economy weighed down by centralized (and unratified) worldwide climate-change treaties such as the Paris climate agreement that put little burden on growing economies such as China and India and all of it on you.

What does that burden look like? After shutting down a large chunk of its economy in 2020, and spending trillions to keep those affected afloat and avert a depression, the United States emissions only fell by 13 percent. Imagine what 50 percent might entail.
The good is that we're beginning to hear about the pain this plan will cause Americans and the fact that it would basically be for nothing. The bad is that, as usual with conservatives, the immorality of governments taking away our freedom and our money doesn't come up. The ugly is that, as much as many of these arguments seem to be profiting from the work of activists like Alex Epstein and Mike Shellenberger, they are not, as Epstein would put it, "arguing to 100." that is, these arguments are defensive, and will fail to drive a stake into the heart of what I've called the "Climate Change Monster."

To quote Epstein on the matter:
The Republicans' failure comes from the very nature of setting ideals and framing debates. The Democrats have set an ideal, framed the debate, and argued their policies to 100 and their opponents to -100. The only way to defeat this is for Republicans to argue for an ideal of their own and reframe the debate accordingly.

But Republicans have not challenged the Democrats' ideal or reframed the debate...
And later:
frame.jpg
Your "thousand words" will be wasted if someone else sets your context. (Image by Niclas Gustafsson, via Unsplash, license.)
In naming an energy or environmental ideal, it is essential to recognize that an energy or environmental ideal is not a primary -- it depends on the more fundamental question: What is the overall ideal we should strive for, in energy, environment, and everything else?

My answer is: the overall ideal is to maximize human well-being. While most Americans would agree with this ideal if and when it was made explicit, this ideal is almost never made explicit -- and it is not driving our energy debate whatsoever. The ideal that is actually driving our debate without being noticed, the ideal that underlies the anti-fossil fuel ideal, is the ideal of minimizing human impact -- which I will discuss in the next section.

In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, I explore the benefits and costs of fossil fuels and other forms of energy with maximizing human well-being as the moral standard. [links and emphasis in original]
Epstein elaborates, pointing out how he reframes this issue and citing examples of success at changing minds with this approach.

It is good to see some of the arguments that Epstein, Shellenberger, and others have used gaining wider currency. But if even a few pro-freedom intellectuals would also adopt Epstein's approach of re-framing this debate, it would be game-changing.

-- CAV

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