Sunday, May 1, 2011

Green scapegoating

It has been several weeks, but an asburd letter to the editor by Harvey Tallackson (link from Bismarck Tribune, with a subsequent reply) illustrated the dangers when people believe the unsubstantiated views of extremists on environmental issues. But the worrisome extremists are actually those serving up the short-sighted and self-serving rhetoric opposing sensible regulation intended to avert the trashing of our world and crimping of the future in pursuit of the quick buck for today. Tallackson is another who has drunk the corporate kool aid that protecting the environment equates to destroying the economy. Of course that is ludicrous at face value, but also the idea we are doing much to protect the environment is not accurate.

The extremists are the groups like the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, the Institute for Energy Research, and politicians of many stripes (though mainly Republicans who now seemingly have such belief as a litmus test) including Mitch McConnell who all simply dismiss efforts to rein in climate-altering carbon pollution by declaring it will "destroy" jobs and increase costs.

As much as I despise even linking to such hollow "arguments", I want to show how automatic, brain-dead, and from-everywhere the claims are. Any action attempting to head off the cost and suffering of climate change is dismissed with a handwave and some combination of a label of tax and claims of job losses and freedom taking.

To be abundantly clear, continuing to do nothing about climate change will destroy livelihoods and is a tax on the future. If you want to protect people's well-being, you must protect our home. And that does not mean protecting the right to use the environment as an unlimited dumping ground for pollution.

The Clean Air Act has a history of benefits far outweighing costs. Dealing with ozone depletion at the government level spurred technological advancement that limited the costs of action. A "cap and trade" mechanism has proven effective in addressing the problem of acid rain in North America. Climate change is a larger problem, yet that makes it even more exasperating that even the most meager efforts against it are demonized.

Of course many people can still dismiss anything like ozone depletion, acid rain, and climate change as something from scam, hoax, to complete non-issue in order because of the psychological block against any role for government in maintaining livability. Strange though where that opposition stops. If we have to pinch every penny no matter the ultimate cost to the environment and thus us a later, why not oppose schools and even construction of buildings - are those things not similar wastes of money that could be put to better use (or pockets) rather than in such "investments" for the "future"?

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