Doubly Overblown

2007-08-19

As previously mentioned I'm starting to see parallels between alarmism about terrorism and alarmism about climate change. For instance, consider the following quote from John Mueller's book Overblown (pp. 143-144):

Current policy puts primary focus on preventing terrorism from happening and on protecting potential terrorist targets, a hopelessly ambitious approach that has led to wasteful expenditures, an often bizarre quest to identify potential targets, endless hand-wringing and political posturing, and opportunistic looting of the treasury by elements of the terrorism industry. By distinct contrast, the policy I propose stresses three issues. First, the country can readily absorb just about anything the terrorists can dish out, and policy should mostly focus on some limited preventive and protective measures, particularly those that might make the development of nuclear weapons more difficult, and on policing endeavors, particularly ones coordinated with governments overseas, where such measures have shown some success. Second, to minimize the damage terrorism can do, there should be efforts to reduce or limit the erratic and foolish fears it characteristically inspires, insofar as this is possible. And third, policymakers should seek to control their political instincts to overreact when provoked by acts of terrorism – something that, contrary to conventional thought, may be, however unnatural, entirely possible politically.

I'm starting to see that as eminently reasonable, and Americans could do with a large dose of such reasonableness. I'm sure those to the left of center would applaud (after all, they're the reality-based community, right?). But let's substitute "climate change" for "terrorism" and see what we find...

Current policy puts primary focus on preventing climate change from happening and on protecting potential environmental targets, a hopelessly ambitious approach that has led to wasteful expenditures, an often bizarre quest to identify potential targets, endless hand-wringing and political posturing, and opportunistic looting of the treasury by elements of the environmentalism industry. By distinct contrast, the policy I propose stresses three issues. First, the country can readily absorb just about anything climate change can dish out, and policy should mostly focus on some limited preventive and protective measures ... and on policing endeavors.... Second, to minimize the damage climate change can do, there should be efforts to reduce or limit the erratic and foolish fears it characteristically inspires, insofar as this is possible. And third, policymakers should seek to control their political instincts to overreact when provoked by reports of climate change – something that, contrary to conventional thought, may be, however unnatural, entirely possible politically.

Now the conservatives are happy and the liberals are not.

But what if they're both wrong about their particular brands of alarmism and both right about their particular brands of complacency?


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal