EMERGENT MEME WATCH....

EMERGENT MEME WATCH. Joe Scarborough is a real problem for my channel-flipping habit. Every time I happen across his program, I pause, figuring I've found Friends, only to realize that someone gave Chandler a rightwing talkshow. It's no mere resemblance -- the two look precisely identical. It's such a shame, I never figured Chandler the Republican type.

Anyway, that's all digression. Yesterday, Chandler/Scarborough hosted a global warming segment with John Stossel, who was arguing that worries over global warming are not, in fact, about the logistical issues that will make Bangladesh unlivable, but about a deep-seated hatred of capitalism. Yes, if you're worried about global warming, you're a commie.

But Stossel is something of a laughingstock anyway, so I didn't take the segment very seriously. Jonah Goldberg, though, has changed my mind, offering up nearly the same argument over at The Corner. Jonah's formulation is less accusatory (you're not necessarily a Communist) and more affirmative: Our massive overproduction of greenhouse gases is simply because the "American economy sustains the planet, pulls millions out of poverty, keeps the sea channels open, develops most of the medical breakthroughs, provides most of the funding for international institutions (including the finger-waggers at the UN's environmental divisions), offers the best higher education to the world's leaders, and generally provides a blanket of security for much of the planet." The trick here is to set global warming advocates in opposition to, say, cancer researchers, whom we all know work in a field deeply dependent on fossil fuel combustion. It is, of course, crap. Our disinterest in renewables, absurdly low CAFE standards, weak public transport system, and overuse of automobiles explains our greenhouse production -- our higher education infrastructure does not.

I take on Jonah's argument a bit more fully at my other place, but the logical refutation is scarcely the point. The science of the issue is largely settled. More importantly, the American people are largely convinced: 60 percent think the issue requires action, while only 9 percent believe concern is unwarranted. So here comes the right's next tactic: Redefine global warming as the inevitable result of a strong, innovative, and growing economy, and smear efforts to curb emissions as too punitive to contemplate. This effort is no more honest than their last, and I'll leave it to the eminent economist Paul Krugman to refute:

There's some dispute among economists over how forcefully we should act to curb greenhouse gases, but there's broad consensus that even a very strong program to reduce emissions would have only modest effects on economic growth. At worst, G.D.P. growth might be, say, one-tenth or two-tenths of a percentage point lower over the next 20 years. And while some industries would lose jobs, others would gain.

And I promise, the nation's medical researchers will be just fine. Ignore the problem, though, and you better hope they come up with cure for drowning.

--Ezra Klein

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