The Fiddlers of Rome

Sneering, populist climate science denialism from a self-described Libertarian is nothing shocking, but it should be a bit beneath the New York Times science page. I’m beginning to think the best thing to do is just to sneer back, and keep asking questions about those lovely secondhand robes they’ve bought from the Emperor.

Leaving aside the question of whether libertarian philosophy is even flexible enough to mount a response to a problem with personalized rewards but socialized consequences, let’s make sure we understand why this is denialism, and not skepticism. Climate change “denialism” relies not on a single set of arguments, but on several tiers, whose only commonality is a defense of inaction on the issue:

  1. I don’t “believe” in climate change, because of X,Y, Z
  2. If you show that X,Y,Z are invalid, I will find new arguments U,V,W
  3. If you demolish U,V,W, I will say that even if climate change is happening, there is no evidence that it is anthropogenic because of A,B,C
  4. A,B,C become D,E,F through the same process that produced U,V,W
  5. When D,E,F fall, I will argue that there’s no evidence that it will be harmful
  6. When harm is shown, I will pass the buck to the next generation, assuming they will invent some whiz-bang technology to reverse the damage
  7. Why, under libertarian philosophy, anyone in the future would undertake a massive program whose only benefits are social will remain unasked; presumably in the future Libertarians will remain a fringe minority

The scientific consensus on plate tectonics is about as old as I am. It’s been around much longer than that, much like our understanding of the greenhouse effect. To certain generations of Americans, though, the Earth never moved. The geological revolution was a boon to oil and gas exploration, and the free market as a whole. If modern climate science had such a rosy picture to offer, would such an unfortunate gap have ever been opened in the last ten years between scientific consensus and public perception?

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