Lee Lane, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, challenges the conservative movement to think hard (and then think again) about its approach vis-a-vis climate change.
The United States needs a new vision of climate policy that deals soberly with both scientific and political realities. Although the environmental movement has arguably done the world a great service in popularizing scientific findings about climate change, its climate policy response is quixotic. Where innovation should be prized, it endorses the precautionary principle. Where careful weighing of outcomes and risks is called for, it scorns the use of cost-benefit analysis. Despite high uncertainty about how climate change will affect the United States, most environmental groups are trying to narrow our range of options to a strategy that amounts to stringent energy austerity. Faced with a problem that demands great suppleness, their main response is to engorge the administrative state.
The conservative and business groups that have borne the brunt of opposing these policies have probably saved the country large sums of money that would otherwise have been squandered on ill-advised abatement schemes. But, with some notable exceptions, they have badly muddled the scientific issues, and they may have harmed the conservative brand, losing well-informed voters who would otherwise be sympathetic to the right. By dogmatically asserting that no serious threat is on the horizon, too many conservatives have removed themselves from the debate about how to hedge our bets sensibly by finding ways of reducing the risks climate change poses while minimizing the economic impact.
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