Those that read this blog know that I’m a fan of Dan Kahan, although I don’t know him personally and he and I don’t hang together in the same political spheres. Kahan has conducted some interesting research on cultural cognition as it relates to climate change and other controversial topics, like vaccines, that require an intellectual capacity (and willingness) to understand scientifically complex issues. But before delving into Kahan’s interesting results, a brief refresher on linear regression analysis. The higher the r-value, ranging from 1.0 to -1.0, the stronger the correlation between two variables. When doing linear regression, you can have both negative and positive correlations. It should come, therefore, as no surprise to learn that those who are more highly educated tend to have higher scientific literacy and comprehension than those less educated, r-value of 0.36, as shown by the histogram below. Full post over on Kahan’s blog here.
Michael Gerson, a conservative and former speech writer for Bush 43, has a very thoughtful article this week on the climate change debate. I have grown increasingly frustrated by those voices within the Republican party who, for whatever reason, refuse to consider the possibility that human activities are contributing to climate change. Yes, I know, environmentalists have overplayed their hand, made predictions that haven’t materialized, and have exploited fear to leverage action. The consequences have been greater cynism and, what I refer to as, a crisis of credibility. However, this crisis of credibility doesn’t diminish the very real possibility that climate change, caused in part by human activity, is occurring. However, as Gerson argues over in WashPo, politics is poorly suited to address global warming. Continue reading
Wanted to bring attention to a new blog, The Climate Conservative, the brainchild of my friend, Rob Sisson, over at ConservAmerica. I’ve long believed the topic of anthropogenic climate change (AGW) is an emerging issue that warrants thoughtful debate and discussion, but have witnessed the serious erosion of credibility by both the political left and right who have used the controversy to obfuscate and advance their own political agendas. Trying to “scare” the public into action hasn’t worked and won’t work by those who continue to play fast and loose with scientific facts and uncertainty. And the strategy of denial, relegating AGW to nothing more than a mere hoax, does nothing to advance the interests of wise stewardship if, in fact, humans are influencing the climate. Continue reading
I bring your attention to a great article by Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus as the IPCC releases this week its latest report on climate change. Pointing to the work of Robert Bryce, Steve Hayward, and even the Koch Brothers, the article begins,
Over the last decade, progressives have successfully painted conservative climate skepticism as the major stumbling block to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Exxon and the Koch brothers, the story goes, fund conservative think tanks to sow doubt about climate change and block legislative action. As evidence mounts that anthropogenic global warming is underway, conservatives’ flight from reason is putting us all at risk.
This week’s release of a new United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report opens another front in the climate wars. But beneath the bellowing, name-calling, and cherry-picking of data that have become the hallmark of contemporary climate politics lies a paradox: the energy technologies favored by the climate-skeptical Right are doing far more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the ones favored by the climate-apocalyptic Left. [continue reading]
Lest you dismiss this criticism of the climate-apocalyptic Left, Nordhaus and Shellenberger are dyed-in-the-wool liberal, environmentalists. The article is well worth the read.
Paul Sabin has an article in this weekend’s Boston Globe titled “The Decline of Republican Environmentalism.” Sabin, a professor of history at Yale and author of “The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble Over Earth’s Future,” makes a compelling case for the country’s current deadlock on forging solutions to important environmental matters, including climate change. However, I think the article could aptly have been titled the “Decline of Environmentalism” or “The Failed Gamble of Environmentalism,” rather than painting the GOP into a corner. According to Sabin,
Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, from the sunny decks of an excursion boat touring Boston Harbor, George H.W. Bush, then the Republican candidate for president, launched a fierce attack on Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee. Bush said that Boston’s polluted waters — “the dirtiest harbor” in America — symbolized Dukakis’s failed leadership. He “will say that he will do for America what he’s done for Massachusetts,” Bush declared. “That’s why I fear for the country.” By delaying a major cleanup of the harbor, Bush said, Dukakis had cost taxpayers billions of dollars and allowed the pollution to continue, making “the most expensive public policy mistake in the history of New England.”
Bush’s attack on Dukakis stands out as perhaps the last time a prominent national Republican turned an environmental cause into a weapon against a Democratic opponent. And in that 25-year gap lies a lost path and a giant missed opportunity. Republicans no longer seriously contest the environmental vote; instead, they have run from it. Largely as a result, national environmental policy-making has become one-sided, polarized, and stuck. Republican politicians mostly deny the threat of climate disruption and block legislative solutions, while President Obama tries to go it alone with a shaky patchwork of executive actions. A middle ground on environmental policy remains a mirage. Continue reading
A little tongue-in-cheek there in case you missed it. But everything these days seems to get blamed on climate change, rain, storms, snow, droughts, flooding, migration, violence, insecurity, depression, and bad hair. At some point it all becomes unbelievable and facile, and it’s regrettable when an otherwise serious scientific discussion morphs into a political charade. Chris Mooney, a politically left and perspicacious political journalist, has penned a thoughtful piece over at Mother Jones regarding the skeptical mind of conservatives and the modern role of science. Polls consistently reveal that conservatives and the political right are a skeptical bunch and far less inclined to believe in manmade climate change than are their liberal neighbors. Some have sought to blame this phenomena on conservative media, such as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, who indeed are prone to sowing seeds of doubt. But is that the root cause of conservative skepticism? Mooney isn’t buying it, Continue reading
Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate Rod Dreher’s contributions to environmental discourse and advancing the better elements of conservativism. Some may recall his work at National Review, where he was the king of Crunchy Con. It’s difficult to improve upon his Manifesto, which I’m reposting here:
- We are conservatives who stand outside the conservative mainstream; therefore, we can see things that matter more clearly.
- Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.
- Big business deserves as much skepticism as big government.
- Culture is more important than politics and economics.
- A conservatism that does not practice restraint, humility, and good stewardship—especially of the natural world—is not fundamentally conservative.
- Small, Local, Old, and Particular are almost always better than Big, Global, New, and Abstract.
- Beauty is more important than efficiency.
- The relentlessness of media-driven pop culture deadens our senses to authentic truth, beauty, and wisdom.
- We share Russell Kirk’s conviction that “the institution most essential to conserve is the family.”
- Politics and economics won’t save us; if our culture is to be saved at all, it will be by faithfully living by the Permanent Things, conserving these ancient moral truths in the choices we make in our everyday lives.
I would love to hear from anyone, liberal or conservative, with ideas on how this set of guiding principles could be improved.
This is where I think so many environmentalists go so terribly wrong. David Roberts over at Grist, who I think is a fairly smart fellow, couldn’t be more wrong in the way he views and discusses environmental problems, such as climate change. In an article titled, We are Consigning Hundreds of Coastal Cities to Destruction. Who Cares?, David laments:
Humanity’s difficulties dealing with climate change trace back to a simple fact: We are animals. Our cognitive and limbic systems were shaped by evolution to heed threats and rewards close by, involving faces and teeth. That’s how we survived. Those systems were not shaped to heed, much less emotionally respond to, faceless threats distant in time and space — like, say, climate change. No evil genius could design a problem less likely to grab our attention.
Is the title of a stinging new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council. For those who are unfamiliar with ALEC, it’s a non-profit composed of legislators, businesses, and foundations, and is strongly supportive of state rights, free-markets, and limited government. It’s a good organization and on balance promotes thoughtful ideas and policies on more effective government. The report itself was authored by William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), whose tagline is “Free Markets and Limited Government” and leans notably libertarian. So, right out of the start-gate, one can appreciate the underlying anti-EPA biases that may emanate from its pages. The raging battle is particularly acute with respect to national energy policies and air regulations (think climate change regulations), as reflected in a July 10 CEI report titled EPA’s Woeful Deadline Performance Raises Questions About Agency Competence, Climate Change Regulations, and “Sue and Settle”. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently weighed in with a report challenging EPA’s long-standing claim that more regulations yield more jobs. Make no mistake, this reflects an all out insurrection against a powerful and oft tone-deft Agency by freedom-loving, large-government hating groups. Continue reading
Am posting a thoughtful article by an anonymous House GOP staffer, writing under the pseudonym, Eric Bradenson, on why conservatives need to think and act differently on climate change. Eric, or whoever he is, has concealed his identity to protect himself and his boss. The article reportedly won second place in the “Young Conservative Thought Leaders” contest from the Energy & Enterprise Initiative at George Mason University. Whether or not you agree with Eric on his policy idea, he makes some good points.
How the GOP Could Win the Climate Debate
Someone in the GOP needs to say it: conservation is conservative; climate change is real; and conservatives need to lead on solutions because we have better answers than the other side.
From traditionalists like Russell Kirk to progressive conservatives (far from an oxymoron) like Theodore Roosevelt, to movement conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, conservatives have long fought to protect the natural rights and property rights of individuals, living and unborn, from infringement by environmental degradation and pollution. Continue reading
Listened to a sobering interview yesterday on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show, with Craig Simons, author of the new book, The Devouring Dragon, which chronicles China’s insatiable appetite for natural resources – an emerging global threat to biodiversity and water and air pollution. This story should make us all take pause.
China’s rise is assaulting the natural world at an alarming rate. In a few short years, China has become the planet’s largest market for endangered wildlife, its top importer of tropical trees, and its biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. Its rapid economic growth has driven up the world’s very metabolism: in Brazil, farmers clear large swaths of the Amazon to plant soybeans; Indian poachers hunt tigers and elephants to feed Chinese demand; in the United States, clouds of mercury and ozone drift earthward after trans-Pacific jet-stream journeys. Craig Simons’ The Devouring Dragon looks at how an ascending China has rapidly surpassed the U.S. and Europe as the planet’s worst-polluting superpower. It argues that China’s most important 21st-century legacy will be determined not by jobs, corporate profits, or political alliances, but by how quickly its growth degrades the global environment and whether it can stem the damage. Combining in-depth reporting with wide-ranging interviews and scientific research, The Devouring Dragon shines a spotlight on how China has put our planet’s forests, wildlife, oceans, and climate in jeopardy, multiplying the risks for everyone in our burgeoning, increasingly busy world. Continue reading
Eli Lehrer has a great piece today in The Blaze on the conservation legacy of President Reagan.
I’m proud of having been one of the first to recognize that States and the
Federal Government have a duty to protect our natural resources from the
damaging effects of pollution that can accompany industrial development.
— Ronald Reagan, July 14, 1984
Although Reagan certainly made his fair share of mistakes on the environment – the left-leaning NYT calling his legacy on the environment a stalemate – the Gipper’s instincts and actions largely helped to advance important conservation efforts through a judicious balance of traditional top-down regulations and market-based approaches. It’s a timely discussion as Congress continues to debate the future of the Farm Bill, with huge implications for conservation across the Nation’s landscape. According to Lehrer
By measures environmental groups typically use, Reagan’s environmental record should be considered a success. Under Reagan’s leadership, new lead production essentially ceased; particulate air pollution fell by 40 percent; a record 10 million acres of land received wilderness designation, the highest level of protection available; and the United States pushed for, and signed, a major agreement to eliminate chlorofluorocarbons, greenhouse gases that were driving the then-pressing problem of ozone depletion. Continue reading
Seems no one except special interest is happy with the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill passed today and which establishes U.S. Agricultural Policy over the next decade at the tune of nearly one trillion dollars. Folks over at Grist are fuming about the Senate’s version while other unnamed “environmental groups” in the NYT are saying it does some good, but not enough. The current bill cuts $24B from current spending and does a better job at saving jobs and helping the starving poor in this country, while cutting conservation by $3.5B. Some conservatives, like Senator Ted Cruz, are unhappy, arguing the Bill does more harm than good, spreading the love among politicians and special interests while perpetuating entitlements unrelated to agricultural policy – nothing new there. Unclear how this will be resolved in reconciliation, but given the Houses’s more aggressive cuts, more cuts are inevitable [Update: On June 20, in a 195-234 vote, the House rejected a five-year Farm Bill, with 62 GOP Members voting against the legislation in favor of a smaller more conservative bill].
The recent controversy over the U.S. Government’s increased proclivity to secretly paw through the electronic communications and telephone records of Americans has prompted some soul-searching by many. Is this just one more step toward fulfilling the Orwellian prophecy of 1984? Has the citizenry ceded too much of their freedoms and liberty for the sake of feeling safer and more secure?
Some conservatives, like Andy McCarthy, over at NRO, argue the hype as non-sense and claims the government’s action is not only constitutional, but completely appropriate and necessary to change and stop some very bad human behavior. McCarthy believes it’s not “big government” to blame but the little people in whom we’ve entrusted the keys to the government, and our human frailties. Jonah Goldberg, over at NRO, however, takes issue with McCarthy, and argues there is more behind the secret curtain that deserves our skepticism. Goldberg contends that we should look askance at new powerful mega-computers and technologies that equip us with the ability to crunch huge amounts of data heretofore never possible. Goldberg cautions
The arrival of “big data” — the ability to crunch massive amounts of information to find patterns and, ultimately, to manipulate human behavior — creates opportunities for government (and corporations) that were literally unimaginable not long ago. Behavioral economists, neuroscientists, and liberal policy wonks have already fallen in love with the idea of using these new technologies and insights to “nudge” Americans into making “better” decisions. No doubt some of these decisions really are better, but the scare quotes are necessary because the final arbiters of what constitutes the right choice are the would-be social engineers. Continue reading
Thank you to Robert Costa over at NRO for this week resurrecting the term Crunchy Con. Ever since Rod Dreher left NRO, I’ve missed his thoughtful and witty narrative on why it is okay for Republicans and conservatives to care about the environment. Sounds really silly I know, but so many on the political right have forsaken the conservative principles of conservation and environmental stewardship due to the unfortunate politicization of the topic. During a talk last Friday at the Reagan National Library, Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian conservative, and self-described “crunchy conservative,” wasn’t holding back his respect and love for the environment. Costa reports,
Long before he was famous for a filibuster, Senator Rand Paul was a cargo-shorts-wearing ophthalmologist who lived in Bowling Green, Ky. His political activity, beyond supporting his father, was relegated to reading through his bookshelf, which was stocked with the works of Austrian economists and obscure philosophers. He wore hemp shirts, bought organic vegetables, and canoed. But since winning his Senate seat three years ago, Paul has mostly kept that side of himself — his “crunchy conservatism,” as he calls it — under wraps. Instead, he has played up his tea-party persona, and focused on legislating in the buttoned-down Senate.
Paul’s unabashed crunchiness — the term was popularized by former National Review writer Rod Dreher to describe some conservatives’ taste for granola, Birkenstocks, and Mother Nature — wasn’t just a stylistic aside. He argued that his lifestyle is a reflection of his reform agenda for the GOP, which is founded on themes of local control, states’ rights, and free enterprise. He spoke about how the party needs to be a voice for those who love the environment but want the government to stop intruding in their lives and livelihoods. “When we as Republicans wake up and tell voters that we want to be the champion of the small farmer and the small businessman or woman, then we will thrive as a party,” he said. “Republicans care just as deeply about the environment as Democrats, but we also care about jobs.” Continue reading
Props to Todd Gartner, of the World Resources Institute, and Laura Huggins, of the Property and Environmental Research Center, for joining efforts to promote innovative new ways to protect threatened and endangered species. Todd and Laura are bold new voices on leveraging markets to accelerate the protection of habitat loss for many species struggling for their continued existence.
This work is absolutely essential for protecting T&E species of which over 75 percent can be found on private lands. While the Endangered Species Act is an important piece of legislation, serving as a backstop from keeping species from being driven into extinction, ESA can also create perverse incentives to landowners who, rather than conserve critical habitat, quietly eliminate it before ESA locks down the uses and economic value of their property. These new market-based initiatives encourage landowners to take proactive steps to conserve habitat before species are required to be listed under ESA. Our goal as a society
should must be to transform species protection into a positive rather than a negative. And the efforts of Todd and Laura are helping to change not only the economics but the dialogue and cultural valuation, which is even more important.
Spent several days this week in Racine, WI, at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread, which the H.J. Johnson Family (think SC Johnson Wax) has set aside to convene environmental leaders to think and go big on matters of environmental restoration. Great example of how a family who has been richly blessed in life and business can use the fruits of their labor to give back to society. We in the U.S. have a great opportunity to continue to advance and accelerate environmental restoration more than ever before through emerging innovative market-based approaches. One thing that drove me nuts during my tenure at U.S. EPA’s Office of Water was the development of national policy and regulations wherein the value of many services and attributes provided by nature (e.g., wildlife diversity, soil and plants, carbon, nutrient cycling, endangered species, wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, flood control, water quality) are not traded in the market place, not easily monetized, and thus are often undervalued or not valued at all. Think about it – what value do you place on having clean water to swim in, to fish in, or to drink from? If it’s not valued, how can society best protect these things that we depend upon for life and our standard of living? Groups, such as Ecosystem Marketplace, among others, are helping to fix that problem by creating markets – and the supply and demand – for these otherwise valuable things. Continue reading
I had the recent pleasure of sitting down with the English philosopher, Roger Scruton, to discuss his new book, How to Think Seriously About the Planet: The Case for Environmental Conservatism. It was my first time meeting Roger, and the evening lived up to every bit my expectation. I, along with my good friend, Tracy Mehan, spent an enchanting evening with Roger, tucked away in a second-floor corner of the quaint, Tabard Inn, here in the Nation’s Capital, swapping stories and enjoying each’s company over dinner and a couple of bottles of Verget Bourgogne.
A self-described conservative Tory, and author of over 20 academic books, Roger has made the most of life, sporting as a fellow of Blackfriars Hall, Oxford, a barrister, novelist, opera composer, journalist, former professor, teacher of aesthetics, church organist, radio personality, and anti-communist warrior. When he’s not ferrying across the pond to the U.S., where he is currently a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, he resides in Wiltshire with his wife, Sophie, and their two children, tending to the daily demands of an aging 250-year-old farmhouse surrounded by 35 acres of land.
Linking to a report over at ConservAmerica regarding the recent collapse of bee colonies here in the U.S. The cause is still not clear but, since 2006, over 25 percent of domestic colonies have died off from what is being referred to as Colony Collapse Disorder. If this trend continues, it could be devastating to agriculture that depends upon commercial bee hives for crop pollination. New research suggests that feeding bees high fructose syrup, as a substitute for honey, could potentially leave them vulnerable to disease due to a weakened immune system. Another possible explanation is poisoning from pesticides. Given the direct link to food production and prices, this is an issue that warrants more serious attention. Continue reading
Environmental rationality of course. But ever wonder how it is that some members of society, even experts, can hold such polar opposite views on the dangers of climate change, guns, nuclear energy, terrorism, or legalization of drugs? Perhaps I’m naive, but I find it baffling that seemingly intelligent and well-intentioned people on the political left and right can observe the same facts and reach such vastly different conclusions about the risks to individuals and society writ large. I posted previously my thoughts and concerns about society’s increasing obsession with conspiracy theories and environmental hysteria. And I link to a very entertaining Penn & Teller Bullshit clip on the rise of environmental hysteria – well worth the viewing – that sort of reinforces my point.
So how does society rationally function in an increasingly irrational environment filled with seemingly irrational actors? And how does government reconcile and ably govern within the penumbra of such contrasting cultural visions for society. This is the question of the century and one that must be addressed in the midst of some very challenging social, economic, and environmental issues facing our times. This is a tall challenge – but not nearly as tough as understanding why so many find Pee-wee Herman entertaining. Continue reading
Apparently so, if you’re a political moderate or conservative. A new study from the National Academy of Sciences confirms that moderates and conservatives are less inclined to purchase energy-efficient products, when the product is linked to climate change. (The study can be purchased here in its entirety) Just goes to show how polarizing the topic of climate change has become. According to the authors Dena Gromet and Howard Kunreuther (from U. Penn’s Wharton School) and Richard Larrick (from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business),
This research investigated whether relying on environmental concern to promote energy-efficient technology may, in fact, present an additional roadblock to increasing demand by deterring otherwise interested consumers from purchasing these products because of the message’s (unwanted) value connotations.
For those budding conservationists in high school or college in the U.S., or those with just a passing curiosity in the topic, I highlight an organization that helped to shape my interest and career in environmental stewardship, the Student Conservation Association, that you might want to consider. The SCA is not an environmental advocacy or lobby group – they do something more important. They help place young professionals in key internship opportunities that enable them to pursue an interest in environmental stewardship and conservation.
I first learned of this organization in 1988 when I was studying for a degree in wildlife management at the University of Maine Orono. After applying, I was offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work as a conservation intern for the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park to participate in a predator-prey study leading up to the reintroduction of the wolves in Yellowstone. Here I am, all of 147 pounds on Druid Peak, with Mount Norris in the background in the Lamar Valley area of the Park after a long day of tracking elk (with a can of bear spray on my hip). My team and I spent several months tracking 50 yearling around the Park documenting and researching predation rates and causes, including black bear, grizzly, and coyote kills. Continue reading
The pros and cons of living in Washington DC are receiving all sorts of invitations to political events, fundraisers, forums, policy roundtables, and various other sundry functions, all aimed at highlighting a special need, cause or accomplishment or raising awareness of some sort. Some are more memorable than others. And yet few have as important a value as the function I attended last evening, bringing together leaders of eNGOs, agriculture, industry, and civic groups to celebrate the future of conservation, exemplifying humanity at its best, not an earthly plague as recently recounted by Sir David Attenborough. Continue reading
Can one be a social conservative or member of the GOP and be an environmentalist? Although I’ve long argued what I believe to be the fundamental distinction between being an environmentalist and a conservationist – and perhaps that’s arguing the number of angelic beings dancing on the head of a pin – the obvious answer to the above question is a resounding yes. To me, it’s a rather silly question, but it’s one with legs. As with other social and cultural issues, the GOP’s environmental positioning has long been on the losing side of public sentiment, rhetoric and imagery. Continue reading
What can be more conservative than the impulse to protect and conserve earth’s natural resources, air, water, and land, which give and sustain life. Just as political conservatism is deeply rooted in the philosophy of providing stability and continuity in our political and social institutions, environmental conservatism is rooted in the notion of promoting and conserving those earthly tendrils that sustain life on earth. Continue reading