Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gore Ducks Climate Change Debate

Jonathan Adler over at the Volokh Conspiracy has an excellent post on Al Gore's dodging of a discussion with a prominent critic of his climate change theories. Adler draws on a WSJ article that details how Denmark's largest newspaper scheduled a discussion with Gore far in advance of his trip to the country. Yet right before the interview was to take place, Gore's team cancelled:

One can only speculate. But if we are to follow Mr. Gore's suggestions of radically changing our way of life, the costs are not trivial. If we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, the U.N. actually estimates that we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world. However, the U.N. Climate Panel suggests that if we follow Al Gore's path down toward an environmentally obsessed society, it will have big consequences for the world, not least its poor. In the year 2100, Mr. Gore will have left the average person 30% poorer, and thus less able to handle many of the problems we will face, climate change or no climate change.

Adler describes himself as a believer that human activity is contributing to the warming of the globe. But he criticizes Gore and his allies for refusing to engage in an honest discussion about the costs and benefits of that warming, and how best to address it. Adler's conclusion:

The issue to me is not whether human activities are affecting the climate system (it is almost certain they are). Nor is it whether there should be a policy response — I think there should be, even if it means measures that are otherwise in tension with my fairly libertarian views of government. Rather, the issues are how we assess a risk of this magnitude and how we develop policy responses when the costs of climate policy rival those of climate change itself. Neither apocalyptic environental claims, such as those put forward by Gore, nor ideologically convenient denial of the evidence, does much to advance this debate.

For me, it's refreshing to see someone who's willing to take a position on global warming somewhere between 'it's a baseless scare,' and 'it's the end of life as we know it.' Wherever the truth may lie, we cannot address it as an issue if defensible views are written out before the debate even starts.

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