Climate Change Morality

January 14, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Climate change is, indeed, a moral issue. Because the green plan for fighting it amounts to a war against the poor.

The more I think about an essay I read yesterday over at the WattsUpWithThat blog, the more I admire it. It’s called We have met the 1%, and he is us – a reference to the 1970 environmental slogan: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us.’

People have been saying for years that climate change is a moral issue, that fighting global warming is an ethical imperative. In both the first and last paragraph of this essay/book excerpt posted on the National Public Radio (US) website in 2006, Al Gore declares:

…global warming is not just about science and…it is not just a political issue. It is really a moral issue.

…this crisis is not really about politics at all. It is a moral and spiritual challenge. [bold added]

Four years later here he is telling students at Duke University:

Make no mistake, this is not just a political issue, not just a market issue, not just a national security issue, not just a jobs issue. It is a moral issue. [bold added]

Writer Willis Eschenbach also sees the climate campaign as a moral issue. But his sense of morality resonates with me because it takes into account poor people – whom environmentalists like to pretend don’t really exist.

The greens have been very clear. Climate change is due to too much CO2. Therefore energy use, which produces CO2, must be slashed. Therefore prices should rise sharply to discourage people from using energy.

No other serious analysis has been advanced by the big green machine. That’s the basic climate change argument. The problem is that this amounts to a war against the poor.

As Eschenbach points out, the consequences of this sort of thinking are disastrous for a large percentage of the world’s population. Over-privileged academics and bureaucrats might not notice if their home heating bill doubles – or if it costs twice as much to fill up their car. Many of these people might well consider the extra cost worth it.

Yes, there’d be less spending money in their pockets, they say, but surely the sacrifice would be worth it to save the planet. While being interviewed by a unionized employee of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last this summer, I was told pretty much that.

But here’s how Eschenbach explains matters:

The difference between rich and poor, between developed and developing, is the availability of inexpensive energy.

…The poorer you are, the larger a percentage of your budget goes to energy-intensive things like transportation and heat and electricity. If you double the price of energy, everyone is poorer, but the poor take it the hardest. Causing an increase in energy prices for any reason is the most regressive tax imaginable.

…I find it both reprehensible and incomprehensible when those of us who are in the 1% of the global 1%, like President Obama and Secretary [Stephen] Chu, blithely talk of doubling the price of gasoline and sending the cost of electricity skyrocketing as though there were no negative results from that, as though it wouldn’t cause widespread suffering, as though cheap energy weren’t the best friend of the poor. What Chu and Obama propose are crazy plans, they are ivory-tower schemes of people who are totally out of touch with the realities faced by the poor of the world, whether inside the US or out.

This is what I call placing the anti-climate change crusade in a moral context. Eschenbach’s conclusion is one that makes eminent sense to me:

…I’m sorry, but I am totally unwilling to trade inexpensive energy today, which is the real actual salvation of the poor today, for some imagined possible slight reduction in the temperature fifty years from now. That is one of the worst trades that I can imagine, exchanging current suffering for a promise of a slight reduction in temperatures in the year 2050.

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Read the entire essay here: We have met the 1%, and he is us

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h/t Doc Roc

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Entry filed under: Al Gore, ethical & philosophical. Tags: , .

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