Political arguments about scientific issues such as global warming are deeply frustrating.
Inevitably, politicians and pundits end up debating something they know nothing about and lack credentials to address. Yet if a scientific issue compels us to public policy, the politicians are the ones we elect to make that public policy.
Into this void the politicians bring only their biases and, Lord knows, the ready experts of their philosophical niches.
Everybody can find a supposed authority, especially in this Information Age. I could write that global warming is hooey. Some blogger in Kalamazoo could say global warming is hooey and link to my column, citing the noted thinker in Arkansas. Then somebody in Butte could link the guy in Kalamazoo. And there you go. That's why they call it a Web.
On global warming, or climate change, this seems to be the prevailing science: Empirical data says that, yes, the Earth's climate is changing, indeed warming. This is serious business, our very planet undergoing basic changes that could alter the way we live.
Prevailing science also is that modern man releases a lot of damaging matter into the atmosphere — carbon, greenhouse gases.
This, then, seems to be the only sane dispute: Some say that these manmade emissions are sub-fractionally insignificant in nature's great and powerful expanse and that it's arrogant of man to think we're the cause of what, in the main, is nature's natural activity. In other words, God's doing it and our tiny little coal-fired electric plants can't compete with God.
Some say that science, while not specifically wrong, is always evolving, which is another way of saying it is always incomplete. That's why research never stops, labs never close, curiosity never ends.
The point of saying that is to argue that we should not go overboard making public policy based on what a majority of scientists are saying today.
So this happens: Arkansas' governor appoints a global warming commission. The commission hires a consultant. Then competing “experts,” in this case right-wingers friendly to utility companies who don't want to change their ways, say the hired consultant is biased, possessed of an agenda, a leftist one, and determined to go around state-by-state sounding a false alarm about global warming.
Alas, it's all political noise, fruitless, futile and frustrating.
I don't know the science. Leave me out of the science. I turn to John McCain. Yes, sir. John McCain.
He said in the presidential race that he believed global warming to be so and that modern man's activities were, to some disputed extent, responsible or exacerbating. But he said that, either way, it would be good of us to find a way to limit our unhealthy emissions, simply as responsible stewards of the planet.
And, he said, finding a way to limit our unhealthy emissions would create an entire new avenue of economic growth.
So why not be cleaner? It might deter, to some extent, global warming. And even if it didn't do so significantly, we'd be healthier and more responsible and we'd create new investments.
There are jobs in windmills, hybrid cars, recycling and energy-efficient retrofitting of buildings. That would be better economic practice than making bad mortgages and packaging bad securities based on bad mortgages.
So, yes, I preach the global warming gospel of John McCain, who was much better on that issue than on selecting someone to be an aged heartbeat from the presidency.
Do you see how I personalized and polarized the argument with a gratuitous political shot? I just wanted to show how it works.