The Anti-Denialism Deniers

| Tue Oct. 27, 2009 11:25 AM EDT

In the LA Times today, Jonah Goldberg takes on the global warming movement:

The push in Congress for a huge new carbon tax is a dangerous farce. Yes, it's true that CO2 levels and global temperatures have risen since the Industrial Revolution, and that's something to take seriously. But the political reality is that truly meaningful global restrictions on CO2 emissions in the near future simply will not happen, and pretending otherwise is a waste of time, money and political capital.

....That's the case Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner make in their book, "SuperFreakonomics," which is already being torn apart by environmentalists horrified at the notion they might lose their license to Get Things Done as they see fit.

Is the atmosphere getting too hot? Cool it down by reflecting away more sunlight. The ocean's getting too acidic? Give it some antacid.

The technology's not ready. But pursuing it for a couple of decades will cost pennies compared with carbon rationing.

I've read a million anti-warming diatribes in the past few years, but something about this one irritated me more than usual.  I think it was the desperately flip tone.  Goldberg clearly doesn't want to be part of the outright denialist school — they're a wee bit too vulgar, I suppose — but he wants to deny nevertheless.  So he tosses out a few jokes, takes on the weakest possible arguments for addressing climate change (they want to kill your dog!), and then latches on to Levitt and Dubner's new book as a supposedly sober and scientific way of advocating total inaction.  Never mind that Levitt and Dubner themselves, as well as everyone quoted in their book, has stated clearly that CO2 reduction is essential, should be pursued with vigor, and that geoengineering research should be done in addition to, not instead of, greenhouse gas reductions.

And this, whether or not Levitt and Dubner intended it, is the problem with their book.  They may include sentences here and there implying that geoengineering is a last resort, not a first one, but that's very clearly not the lesson most people have taken away from their discussion.  The lesson most people have taken away is the one that Goldberg obviously took: we should throw a few billion dollars into 18-mile sulfate tubes, stop worrying about global warming, and get back to business.  L&D really owed it to their readers not to allow anyone to reasonably leave with that interpretation.

As for Goldberg, he wonders somberly why public belief in global warming has declined lately and decides (natch) that it's the Democrats' fault for actually trying to do something about it.  The fact that his side of the aisle has waged a blistering, no-holds-barred denialism war for the past few years apparently has nothing to do with it.  But he should be more willing to take credit for a job well done.  Conservatives hate international treaties, they hate business regulations of any kind, and they hate Al Gore.  Convincing the public that global warming is just a liberal fraud is sort of a trifecta for them.  Nice work.

Get Mother Jones by Email - Free. Like what you're reading? Get the best of MoJo three times a week.