Year 2, Month 12, Day 18: You Know What Your Problem Is? Your Problem Is That You Don’t Play In The Middle Of The Beat.

The National Post (Canada) offers a forum to a not-completely-insane conservative named Ken Silber, who lives in a dreamworld where GOP voters can be persuaded by appeals to reality:

I have drafted a speech that may help some current or future GOP candidate achieve all of the above. Any candidate who wishes to use the following material is more than welcome:

My fellow Republicans,

I am a conservative and I believe that facing up to reality is essential to conservatism. Today I outline how I will lead our nation in addressing a difficult and complex – but very real – problem. That problem is climate change, and specifically the global warming that is being caused by humanity’s use of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

There is ample evidence that global warming is happening and that human activities are the key factor causing it. Scientists overwhelmingly agree the temperature rise is real. Moreover, they have examined possible factors ranging from volcanoes, to the sun’s fluctuations to cosmic rays that bombard the Earth from space. There is a strong scientific consensus that fossil fuels are the main cause – as pumping car-bon into our atmosphere creates a greenhouse effect that traps the sun’s energy and heats the Earth.

Science never gives us absolute certainty, but the real uncertainties here are about the future. We do not know how fast temperatures will rise over decades, or the full effects this will have on our world. We do know that the risks are great – for example, large sections of American farmland becoming unusable, coastal cities flooding, 100-plus-degree heat waves, massive wildfires and other extreme events becoming common.

We must address those risks but not by weighing our economy down with taxes and regulations. On the contrary, a dynamic free-market economy is crucial to limiting the risks and managing the effects that do occur. My plan does not involve picking winners among energy companies and technologies with subsidized loans. Nor is it a capand-trade scheme that includes handing out credits to the politically connected. And for that matter, I note that President Obama never actually managed to bring a climate-change plan to a vote in Congress.

My plan is straightforward and honest. We will raise taxes on carbon emissions across the board, while cutting taxes on payrolls and incomes. That means more money in people’s pockets, and more incentives for industry to develop cleaner and safer energy supplies.

Wow. What can you say to that? Here’s what I sent them on December 14:

Ken Silber’s almost-but-not-quite advocacy of a fee-and-dividend approach to reducing carbon emissions is a rare manifestation of sanity in the bizarre world of conservative science denial. The problem isn’t with taxing CO2 — an eminently workable idea that has won the approval of experts from all sides of the ideological spectrum — but with the notion that there are enough conservatives left who actually care what scientists and economists have to say.

For decades, conservatives have employed the language of anti-intellectual American exceptionalism: only liberals pay attention to eggheads. This approach, refined through many electoral generations, has succeeded in producing an entire political demographic that regards measurable reality (all those boring statistics) as the exclusive province of liberals — that is, anathema.

Just as his party’s rank-and-file reject humans’ role in global warming, Mr. Silber cannot accept conservative ideology’s role in making a political environment hostile to science and factuality.

Warren Senders

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