The Good and Bad of Pruitt's Critique

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Although I was glad to see President Trump decide to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, I regard the decision as an example of breathing room for freedom, rather than the kind of fundamental change we really need. That assessment is partly because Trump does not have a coherent political philosophy (much less the kind such a change would require), and because our culture is not conducive to such a change, anyway. Similar to the withdrawal is Scott Pruitt's decision to launch a program to "critique" climate science. This is well-intentioned, but will also not go far enough.

The program will use "red team, blue team" exercises to conduct an "at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science," the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

"The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals ... provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," the source said.
The good news about this is the same as part of the bad news: a combination of law and court decisions requires the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. The good of this, such as it is, is that I am confident that science does not support the doomsday scenarios used to justify the severe rationing of the fossil fuels our economy requires. The bad news is that the law straitjackets the government into doing this when rationing fuel isn't at all one of its proper purposes. Stand by for this discussion to dominate the news and countless bull sessions among non-experts on both sides of the discussion -- and just wait for warmists to nitpick every point or dismiss findings they don't like altogether.) This will be a shame since the conversation we really need should move beyond this circumscribed question in two important ways: (1) Regarding the question of fossil fuels, we should, as energy activist Alex Epstein has pointed out, discuss all of the positives of continuing to use fossil fuels and all of the negatives of reducing their use. (Likewise for alternative fuels.) Note that positives of fossil fuels and negatives of alternatives are strangely absent or downplayed in most discussions. (2) We should also be having a discussion about the proper role of government. This is scarcely happening at all, with everyone on both sides of this debate assuming that the government ought to do something or not just on the basis of the scientific question -- and without regard to the proper purpose of the government or the larger context of the rest of our knowledge about energy.

Until and unless our conversation about the EPA is only about how we will abolish it, we are nowhere near winning this war on industrial civilization disguised as a scientific debate.

-- CAV


Today: Minor edits. 

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