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August 3 2017

Environmentalists and the Blame Game

by Charlotte Hays

Despite dire warnings of immanent catastrophe, the environmental movement has not achieved that much. Or so argues Shikha Dalmia at Reason magazine.

Some would reply that the environmental movement has been successful in putting economy-harming regulations in place. But, as Dalmia points out, there have been setbacks, including President Trump's recent withdrawal from the Paris climate agreements.

Why is the movement not more successful? According to Dalmia, it is because many in the environmental movement are more interested in playing the blame game than in practical solutions:

 Instead of treating global warming like a problem that needs to be addressed regardless of what caused it, the green left has been more obsessed with establishing humanity's culpability and embracing ever more extreme and painful mitigation steps, as if they were more concerned with punishing the perpetrators than solving the problem.

Global warming guru Al Gore in 1992 called for the elimination of the internal combustion engine from the planet in 25 years. But the accursed engine is nowhere close to going away given that auto sales (and not hybrids and electrics) are projected to grow for decades to come. Many environmentalists want to eradicate fossil fuels. This will never happen—or at least won't happen for a long, long time—especially in emerging economies that need cheap fuel to spur development and deliver decent living standards.

Another reason green solutions are unpopular is that they tend to require coercion:

But the further problem with all these remedies is that they suffer from what's called the collective action problem. Take, for example, forgoing children: If some people forgo but others don't, the former will suffer a deep personal loss and the planet will be no better off. Hence everyone waits for someone else to go first and the "solution" doesn't even get off the ground.

Moral shaming and coercion are thus the prime tools of the more extreme greens.

A global carbon tax--coercion--might be wildly popular with greens but the likelihood of the world's embracing it and then actually adhering to it are slim.

Dalmia argues that, if greens want to succeed, they must "forget about the fact that humans caused (and are causing) the warming and think of our problem like a meteor strike—a catastrophic event that humanity did not cause but from which it has to be saved."

I'd like to suggest they go a step farther: admit that the science on global warming is inconclusive and that we really don't know the degree to which it is caused by human activity.

So it's not just a matter of not shaming the culprit--humanity--but of humbly realizing that assigning culprit-hood takes more science than we have right now. 

But everybody wants a clean environment. All of us are able to see, for example, that certain bodies of water have been polluted. We yearn to see them restored to natural glory.

If the environmentalists would focus on practical solutions to situations more people can see and less on the unproven abstracts and can come up with solutions that do not impoverish large numbers of people instead of utopian schemes, they might have a great deal more success. 

Dalmia, by the way, proposes some solutions--all of which look to this reader prohibitavely expensive and highly unlikely to be implemented.

So not blaming is probably not enough: being practical and focused on the other hand, might help the environmentalists.  

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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