THE POLITICS OF RESENTMENT. Writing on global warming, a Jonah Goldberg correspondent wonders "If Al Gore were to be convinced that global warming WAS a natural phenomena, would he be so worked up about it?" before answering his own question, "I don't think so, yet the consequences would be the same." Jonah says this has been nagging at him for a while and comments:

What if science could prove 100% that the earth was warming dangerously but that this was 100% natural (i.e. from sunspots or some such)? I suspect this would scatter the current environmental coalitions and antagonists in all sorts of interesting and unexpected ways. To be sure, many environmentalists would still be concerned. But, I think, a large amount of the passion would be gone in certain quarters once the fun of blaming capitalism and mankind was out of the equation. I think the reluctance on the part of some on the right to fix the problem would evaporate while the reluctance to "tamper" with nature would cause at least some environmentalists to second-guess global warming science.

To me, this is a kind of fascinating foray into the conservative mind. Faced with a large-scale environmental problem and the question of what to do about it, they're fixating on the fact that they don't like environmentalists and believe, rightly or wrongly, that environmentalists would behave wrongly in a counterfactual situation. As it happens, I don't really like environmentalists either, but letting the world get hotter and hotter (and then hotter) as a way to spite Greenpeace doesn't make much sense.

Touching this all off was a fairly odd Robert Samuelson column arguing that "The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless." There's a certain truth to this, but engineering solutions don't emerge magically out of the ether. They're developed by engineers who get paid to work on the problems. If we took action to raise the costs of carbon emissions (i.e., taxes), then that would increase the amount of work being done on the engineering problem. But getting that done requires some crusading to try and convince people that it's a good idea. If we do nothing waiting around for a full-blown potential solution to emerge, the solution is never going to emerge. If we implement some half-measures, then we might start making progress and lay the groundwork for further action.

--Matthew Yglesias

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