Politics & Policy

Carly Fiorina Shows How to Address the Left on Climate Change

(File photo: Andrew Burton/Getty)

In the political battles over climate change, there are three distinct and relevant questions. First, does mankind have a material effect on the Earth’s climate? Second, if mankind does impact the climate, is that impact harmful? And third, if we assume that mankind is harming the environment, will any given American policy or collection of policies have a meaningful beneficial impact? So far, the conservative movement has mainly pushed back on the “scientific consensus” related to the first question — the extent of human influence over the Earth’s climate. To see a textbook example, watch Ted Cruz’s recent interview with Katie Couric earlier this year, when he confronted her with the miserable recent history of environmentalist predictions:

The short version of Fiorina’s argument is this: If the scientific consensus is that man-made climate change is real, there is also consensus that America, acting alone, cannot stop it. Indeed, the Chinese are only too happy to watch us constrict our economy as they capture the market in clean coal.

California enacts regulations that will make no difference in global climate. The Obama administration enacts regulations that will make no difference in global climate. Yet Americans are asked to pay the price for — to take one example — climate regulations that, by 2030, would only save the world the equivalent of slightly over 13 days of Chinese emissions. We’ve already been made to pay the price for the veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline when even the State Department declared that it would have “negligible impact” on the environment.

#related#The Left doesn’t seriously dispute the notion that American regulations aren’t going to save the planet, but they justify the demand for American sacrifice by essentially ascribing a mystical power to our national policies — as if our decision to fall on our own sword will so move India and China and the rest of the developing world (which has a lot of fossil fuels left to burn to lift its people out of poverty) that they’ll essentially have their own “come to Jesus” movement in defiance of national interest and centuries of national political culture. “America leads,” they proclaim. “The world laughs,” is the proper response.

Nations, as the saying goes, do not have friends, only interests. Our geopolitical competitors will not sacrifice their strategic interests for the sake of combating global warming. Nor will developing nations sacrifice their economies, or their people’s lives, by restraining their own economic growth.

Americans have proven time and again that they’re willing to sacrifice — if convinced that their sacrifice has a purpose, that it accomplishes an objective. There’s certainly room for Cruz’s climate-change skepticism in the national debate, but there just may be more room for Fiorina’s economic, scientific, and geopolitical realism. The Left is asking America to sacrifice for nothing — for no true economic benefit, no true climate benefit, and no true or meaningful “global leadership.” That’s a bad deal even for those who believe in man-made climate change, yet that’s the “deal” the Left demands.

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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