Climate Change Is Our Only Existential Problem

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Michael Grunwald is no climate squish. He’s all in favor of radical action to fight global warming. But he’s not so sure about using it as a pretext to socialize the entire economy:

Then there’s the other climate radicalism, the GND idea that focusing on climate isn’t enough, that the entire system needs to change….The left is saying yes, we have a climate emergency, but also a health and jobs and justice emergency, all equally urgent. Conveniently, the left says the solution to all these emergencies is the same bold agenda the left pushed before the climate emergency. But politically, adding universal health care and the rest of the never-enacted liberal agenda to the climate ask seems risky, too.

I am willing to be less polite than Grunwald: this is madness. Either climate change is an existential problem or it’s not. If it is, then everything takes a back seat to finding a solution. If that requires progressives to compromise, then we compromise. What we certainly don’t do is pile on an endless list of additional demands that makes it ever less likely to gain a political consensus that we need to take serious action.

Climate change has already exposed the worst of conservatism, but it poses a test for progressives too. We have our own comfort zone and we naturally prefer climate plans that fit nicely into that zone. But what if the plan most likely to work is outside the zone? What if it includes some regressive tax elements? What if it requires that we expand our use of nuclear power? What if it takes priority over other things like universal health care and free college? What if it requires us to essentially bribe the fossil-fuel industry into cooperating?

I’m not saying it requires any of those things. But it might. Are we still willing to fight for whatever is truly most likely to work? How willing are we to move outside our comfort zone in order to avoid planetary suicide?

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