The Corner

Re: Palin’s Environmental “Extremism”

Ramesh, looking again at that Newsmax comment by Palin that you cite, I respectfully suggest that you (a) are vastly overstating the distance between what you are arguing and Palin’s position — in fact there’s no meaningful difference, and (b) are reading way too much into her summary use of the word “attribute” in a fleeting remark that was not further fleshed out.

You describe her as having said “that she would not attribute climate change to human activity.”  But here’s the full exchange: 

Q: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

A: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.

That sure sounds a lot like your take:  “the man-made/not man-made issue is something of a distraction: Even if we didn’t cause it, it might be worth doing something to reverse it.”  And based on what we’ve learned thus far about her record, that seems to be her position:  She accepts climate change in Alaska as a given and has been a lot more concerned about addressing the effects of it than in apportioning blame among the various factors that may cause it.

On that score, I don’t think it’s correct to suggest that by using “attribute” she was saying no part of global warming is man-made.  I think she meant that she is not one of those who is convinced that human activity is either exclusively or principally responsible for climate change.  That’s a very reasonable position — for what it’s worth, I happen to think it’s the correct one.  (If we all perished tomorrow but the planet went on, does anyone doubt that there would still be climate change?  There was quite a bit of it before we got here, after all.)

To draw an analogy, I often argue that I would not attribute Islamic terrorism to U.S. foreign policy.  I do not mean by that to suggest that U.S. policies are not factors that may at times exacerbate or ease the problem; I mean that they are not the main cause.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to have the best policy; just that we should have some humility regarding how much impact policy-tinkering is likely to have on the underlying phenomenon.

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