In politics, the overwhelming trend is to pick a side and pick up a sword in an effort to avoid being inevitably devoured by both sides on any debate — it tends to be quite black and white. As a student of political science and philosophy, it’s more difficult for me to admit a lack of conviction at all than it is to declare defiance to my own political party or philosophical allies. That’s what makes this so difficult, yet so liberating.
I am confident that I don’t know where I stand on climate change.
I have read the studies, I have listened to the pundits, I have seen the charts, and I have heard the scientists. Between Al Gore’s inconvenient bloviating in the early 2000s and Republicans apparent blowing off of huge swaths of the scientific community, it’s difficult to find intellectual refuge on the topic. Both sides default to dogmatism — many Democrats view Republicans as being paid off by big oil, while many Republicans see Democrats view as an authoritarian scheme (or even some sort of plot devised by the Chinese government).
It’s an unfortunate byproduct of the times we currently live in. Hyper-partisan, polarized, and unwilling to see merit in arguments made from across the aisle, or at the very least, acknowledge that those making such arguments have benevolent motives. My inability to decisively choose between the two sides has rendered me perceptively unable to participate in the broader discussion, something that many Americans feel, I assume.
Now, I may not know if man-made climate change exists as environmentalists seem to, but I do know that most major studies on climate change indicate that nuclear power ought to be a major — if not the predominate — energy source explored to replace fossil fuels. Ken Silverstein of Forbes recently pointed out that while President Trump views climate change as a hoax, his policy on nuclear energy is “spot-on.” This is one of the reasons it’s difficult to take any Democrat — such as Bernie Sanders — seriously when they desire action on climate change paralleled with an absolute desire to shut down nuclear energy production. If we’re talking about the potential end of mankind — shouldn’t every option be on the table?
At the very least, Republican support for nuclear power coupled with scientific support, should provide somewhat of a middle ground on climate change — regardless if the motives between the two differs.
I also do know that the results of state action in response to climate change have real impacts on everyday Americans. According to the 2019 U.S. Energy and Employment Report, there are 625,369 Americans who rely on natural gas for employment, 197,418 who rely on coal, 799,531 on petroleum, and we can even toss in another 72,146 for nuclear. Those are massive numbers — all of which are in some way under attack by statist solutions to forcefully transition our energy away from their respective industries.
Regardless if you believe climate change to be a threat or a farce, it’s important to understand that these nearly 1.7 million workers are in the direct crosshairs of any state action on climate change.
I do know that suggested “fixes” for climate change, such as those outlined in Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ “Green New Deal” will heavily increase the powers of an already bloated central government. Setting aside the potentially massive costs to transition us to renewable energies within a relatively short span of time, doing so would result in massive reorganization of the United States economy via government orchestration.
Many on the left may not find issue with such expansion of government powers, but it is certainly an issue that any American skeptical of increasing the scope of government should be considerate of.
One does not need to believe in climate change to see that the issue is worth intensive discussion and debate, and one not need to disbelieve in climate change to critique some of the rhetoric and policy proposals coming from elected officials.
Undeniably, many partisans and zealots will find reason to critique my stance (or lack thereof) on this issue. Those who view climate change as an existential threat to our existence will find me to be just another cog in the pollution machine, whilst those who do not will not enjoy my unwillingness to admit climate change is just a statist plot.
I’ve met oil and gas workers, and I find no reason to believe that those who work, live, and raise their families in our communities to be willing accomplices to the destruction of our planet. As such, I’ve met climate change activists who overwhelmingly seem earnest in their convictions.
Harvard Professor Steven Pinker takes an interesting approach to the issue, stating in an article for The Breakthrough Journal that “Problems are solvable. That does not mean that they will solve themselves, but it does mean that we can solve them if we sustain the benevolent forces of modernity that have allowed us to solve problems so far…”
Pinker is full of optimism — even as a believer himself in climate change.
I may not have staked out a position on climate change, but I have concluded that it’s going to take an about-face from all of those engaged in the conversation if we are to ever make headway on the issue. Like Pinker, I’m optimistic — perhaps you should be as well.